Bringing Local History to Life; Ever Wondered What It Would Be like Living in South Wales in the Past? Local Author Sue Barrow Tells Kirstie McCrum about Taking a Step Back in Time to Find out about Life through the Centuries with Her Two New Children's Books
Byline: Kirstie McCrum
HOW much do you know about the history of South Wales, the angry iron workers who marched through Merthyr in protest over their working conditions or the Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake in Cardiff? Two new books written for primary school children should ensure the next generation grow up knowing all about the big events which have shaped our local communities thanks to local author Sue Barrow.
The mother of five has produced two books in the Hometown History series, one on Cardiff and one on the Valleys.
The books are published by Hometown World, part of a series for children aged four to 14, which gets local authors to write about their own area with their own expertise as well as sound historical research.
Having previously written a novel for teenagers, Keeping Secrets, set in Pontypridd, 57-year-old Sue admits to being something of a flag flyer for the area.
She left Cardiff briefly in the 1970s to do a history degree in London before returning to her roots, and explains that it's her love of Welsh history which made the project such a joy to be a part of.
"Welsh history was a compulsory part of the syllabus when I was at school if you chose to do history for O-levels. I always loved history and liked reading historic novels.
"The Welsh history on the curriculum is still great these days. Children are taught the importance of knowing where they've come from and the contribution that Wales has made to the history of the UK," she says.
Putting together a fully illustrated history of the area was no struggle for Sue, who lives in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, where she was born and brought up.
As a child, she attended Rhiwbina Primary School and Whitchurch Grammar, now Whitchurch High School.
"Cardiff is such a fascinating city and the castle is there in the centre. The book goes right back to Roman times and right up to the present with all the work that was done in the Victorian era as well, so it's a great city to write about," she says.
Outside the capital, history is very rich in the Valleys too, as Sue explained.
"The Valleys has a lot of famous and very valuable history because it's what really shapes the Valleys today.
"If you think about the industrial past, the iron, steel and coal, it's now completely gone, but you can't drive through the Valleys without seeing reminders.
"It shapes the people; they're still living in Valleys as very tight communities," she explains.
Sue's knowledge of the Welsh Val-* One of the illustrations from Sue Barrow's book Hometown History, Welsh Valleys leys is first-hand as well, and she has a real fondness for the area.
"When my husband and I got married our first house was in Pontypridd.
"I loved Ponty so much; it's a place that's really full of character and that's why I based my first novel Keeping Secrets there.
"I liked the idea of somewhere which had real identity and it is the gateway to the Valleys."
The Hometown History books are easy to read, with colourful illustrations and photographs and real documentation from the past.
A fan of writing since childhood, Sue had thought about writing some historical fiction but it wasn't until the Hometown World project popped up that she got her dream - to write about the past in the place she loves.
She has combined the job with a part-time human resources role with the NHS.
"When one of my youngest daughters, who is 20 now, was in her last year of junior school, I went with her class on a school trip around Cardiff.
"We spent all of our time looking up because a lot of the buildings have dates on them. …