Alexander Cordell

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Alexander Cordell
Born George Alexander Graber
(1914-09-09)9 September 1914
Colombo, Ceylon
Died 13 November 1997(1997-11-13) (aged 83)
Denbighshire, Wales
Occupation author
Genre Novels
Subject Historic Wales
Notable works Rape of the Fair Country
Spouse Rosina (nee Wells)
Elsie May (nee Donovan)

Alexander Cordell (9 September 1914 – 13 November 1997) was the pen-name of George Alexander Graber, a prolific Welsh novelist and author of thirty acclaimed works including Rape of the Fair Country, The Hosts of Rebecca and Song of the Earth.

Personal history[edit]

Cordell was born in Ceylon in 1914 to an English family.[1] A major in the Royal Artillery, he retired from the British Army to civilian life as a quantity surveyor for the War Office and moved to Abergavenny with his wife Rosina and daughter, Georgina. It was from here that his obvious love for Wales began to grow; in later life he referred in his writings to his mother being from the Rhondda Valley.

Cordell left Wales for spells in Hong Kong and the Isle of Man. Yet he kept coming back to Wales. He settled at various times in Abergavenny, Chepstow, Milford Haven and Wrexham.

Before he died he lived on Railway Road in Stansty near Wrexham. He collapsed and died while walking near the Horseshoe Pass in Denbighshire. It has been suggested that he had gone there with the intention of committing suicide with brandy and anti-depressants, but he died of a heart attack. He is buried at Llanfoist, Abergavenny.

The Cordell Country Inn,[2] formerly The Royal oak , above Govilon, between Blaenavon and Abergavenny is named after him.

Writing career[edit]

Some of his most famous works— Rape of the Fair Country (1959), The Hosts of Rebecca (1960) and Song of the Earth (1969)—form the "Mortymer Trilogy", and are part of a series of Cordell novels that portray the turbulent history of early industrial Wales as vividly as any writer has achieved. Faithful to historical fact, he presents events like the birth of trade unionism and rise of the Chartist movement and the Newport Rising.

The Mortymer Trilogy is the story of the Mortymer family, commencing in 1826, and tells of the trials of several generations of the family, set against the background of the coal mining and iron industries. In 1985, at the suggestion of fellow South Wales author, Chris Barber, Cordell wrote a prelude to the trilogy, This Proud and Savage Land, which starts in 1800 and tells the story of sixteen year old Hywel Mortymer, who comes from rural Mid Wales to work in the coal mines and ironworks of the industrial South Wales Valleys, owned by early ironmasters and coalowners. It ends with the birth of his son Iestyn, with which the next book commences.

In 1963 he published The Race of the Tiger, a novel about an Irish clan, the O'Haras, who in the mid-19th century emigrate to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, to work in the booming iron and steel industry.

In 1972, Cordell wrote The Fire People, set in Merthyr Tydfil. It is set against the background of the 1831 Merthyr Rising, for which Cordell did considerable research. An appendix to the book presents evidence suggesting that Richard Lewis, known as Dic Penderyn, may have been unjustly condemned to be hanged, for which he has become known as the first Welsh working-class martyr.

Further reading & External Links[edit]


  1. ^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6. 
  2. ^ [1] Photograph of the Cordell Inn