Jazz Town Should Also Be Proud of Its Literary Links

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Byline: meic stephens

The old cathedral and garrison town of Brecon, where the Jazz Festival is now being held, has many literary associations that visitors may like to know something about. One of the earliest writers connected with Brecon was John Price, the Protestant scholar, who published the first book in Welsh in 1546. Another was William Aubrey, known as the Great Civilian, who was born near LLanfrynach, and whose son John was the author of Brief Lives (1831).

The poet John Lloyd was born in the town in 1797 and educated there at Christ College. He lived at Dinas. Two other poets born in Brecon were Walter Churchey, one of the pillars of the Methodist cause, and Jane Cave, the daughter of an excise man who was converted by the preaching of Howel Harris.

The novelist Alice Mallt Williams grew up at Talybont-on-Usk. She was a pioneer feminist and early member of Plaid Cymru, to which she made generous financial contributions.

The town also has connections with Henry Vaughan, the great metaphysical poet who is buried nearby, at Llansanffraid.

But in our own day the writer whose name is most closely identified with Brecon is poet, prose-writer and critic Roland Mathias, who has lived there since 1969.

He was born at Talybont-on-Usk in 1915, in a farmhouse that is now under the waters of a reservoir. After reading Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford, he became a teacher. He resigned from the headmastership of King Edward's Five Ways School, Birmingham, in 1969 and settled with his wife in Brecon, where he became a full-time writer. …