|Born||Ronald Anthony Berry
23 February 1920
Blaencwm, Rhondda Valley
|Died||13 April 1997
|Genre||Short stories, novels|
|Spouse||Rene (nee Jones)|
Ronald Anthony "Ron" Berry (23 February 1920 – 16 July 1997) was a Welsh author of novels and short stories. Born in the Rhondda Valleys where he remained for most his life, his books reflect the working class of the industrial valleys though his vision is more optimistic and there is less concern for politics and religion which was expressed by many of his contemporaries. Largely ignored during his lifetime, Berry has been embraced by more contemporary authors including Rachel Trezise and Niall Griffiths.
Berry was born in 1920 in Blaencwm, a small village at the head of the Rhondda Fawr. The son of a coal miner, Berry left school at the age of 14, and he too took employment at a local colliery. He remained a coal miner until the outbreak of World War II where he served in the British Army and later in the Merchant Navy.
Berry undertook several roles in his younger days, including amateur boxing and also played association football for Swansea Town, reportedly scoring a vital goal in a cup match. Though a knee injury in 1943 ended his sporting career. He later became a carpenter, working around Wales and in London. He married Rene Jones in 1948, with whom he had five children, two sons and three daughters. He took up various jobs, and wrote some early essays and poetry for which he was unable to find a publisher. In the 1950s, Berry studied at Coleg Harlech, a further education college in Gwynedd. There he became an avid reader and honed his left-wing political views. A failed attempt to enter teacher training college saw he and Rene return to the Rhondda, taking up residence in Treherbert. It was in Treherbert, where he took on a job as the assistant manager of the local swimming baths, that he first began writing his first published novels.
His written works were never successful enough to allow Berry to be financially secure and in the 1970s he relied on several friends, and the support of Sir Wyn Roberts in obtaining for him a Civil list pension. In his later life he was plagued with arthritis and poor health and he died in Pontypridd in 1997.
Berry's first work was Hunters and Hunted (1960), which followed the sexual adventures of three men over three seasons in a Welsh valley. It received good reviews. Over the next ten years he published a further four novels. Travelling Loaded (1963), The Full-Time Amateur (1966), Flame and Slag (1968) and So Long, Hector Bebb (1970). After So Long, Hector Bebb, Berry's output waned. He wrote a personal account of watching peregrine falcons in 1987, entitled Peregrine Watching. The Bygone was published in 1996, a volume of autobiography, and History is What you Live (1998) and Collected Stories (2000) were both released posthumously.
Berry also wrote several short stories and essays, and wrote several plays for BBC television.
Berry's work borrowed heavily from life in the Rhondda Valley, though he turned away from fellow Welsh authors such as Jack Jones, Richard Llewellyn and Alexander Cordell, believing their portrayal of the valleys was false. Berry's Rhondda was clearly divided in two, between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', the little man that struggled for daily survival and the 'fat cats' who owned the wealth produced by the exploitation of the valley's coalfield. Although not possessing the lyrical style of Llewellyn, Berry was able to write a more authentic picture of working class life drawn from his own experiences.
Although writing during a sometimes bleak industrial period of Welsh history, Berry avoided falling into clichés of depressed miners and their families surviving everyday toil, with much of his stories exploring "a happier Rhondda". This was evident in his novel 'The Full-Time Amateur' in which social changes during a more affluent working class allowing the workers to purchase televisions, cars and even go abroad on holidays. Berry's Rhondda residents were also more sophisticated and hedonistic, and less concerned with religion and politics then those portrayed by the likes of Rhys Davies or Gwyn Thomas.
Regarded as one of the Wales' more significant post-war authors, along with the likes of Glyn Hughes and Emyr Humphreys, some critics have shown preference to his short stories, believing that the shorter text constrained his writing away from the sometimes over-lush prose style of his novels.
The Glamorgan County History series describes Berry as "...unjustly neglected... ...whose fiction thrives on those very aspects of Rhondda life that broke the spirit of Gwyn Thomas's imagination."
Despite being largely neglected during his lifetime, modern readers and writers have rediscovered his work. Niall Griffiths cites Berry as one of the most important influences on his writing style, being struck by the vanacular and ungrammatical language after discovering a copy of So Long, Hector Bebb at the age of nine. Rachel Trezise also picks out So Long, Hector Bebb as a notable Welsh novel, drawn by the 'fighting, boozing and fornicating' left out of more rose-tinted novels such as How Green was my Valley.
- Stephens, Meic (24 July 1997). "Obituary: Ron Berry". The Independent. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Edwards, Dave (31 July 1997). "The Rhondda Leader (31/07/1997)". The Rhondda Leader. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "The Times (24/07/1997)". The Times. 24 July 1997. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "Peregrine Watching (1987)". ronberry.co.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- Morgan, Prys, ed. (1988). Glamorgan County History, Volume VI, Glamorgan Society 1780 to 1980. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 365. ISBN 0-904730-05-0.
- "Niall Griffiths". BBC Wales. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
- Griffiths, Niall (17 December 2010). "Book of a Lifetime: So Long, Hector Bebb, By Ron Berry". The Independent. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
- Trezise, Rachel (19 May 2010). "Rachel Trezise's top 10 Welsh underground novels". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 29 December 2010.