|Born||George Alexander Graber
9 September 1914
|Died||13 November 1997
|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.
Cordell was born in Ceylon in 1914 to an English family. 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.
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.
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 first part of the "Mortymer Saga", 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 Saga 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 original 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. Cordell continued the Mortymer Saga into the 1990s with yet another trilogy, starting with Beloved Exile (1992), then followed with Land of Heart's Desire (1994) and The Love that God Forgot (1995) which concludes the story of the Mortymers at the turn of the new century in 1900.
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 began what is referred to by his readers as his second Welsh trilogy beginning with The Fire People, set in Merthyr Tydfil 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. The trilogy continued with Cordell's 1977 work, This Sweet and Bitter Earth, describing the slate quarries of North Wales in 1900, and later the Rhondda Valley coal mining industry, as seen through the eyes of Toby Davis. This second trilogy concluded in 1983 with Land of My Fathers which deals with both copper mining on the island of Anglesey and the iron foundries of Dowlais between 1838 and 1861 through the eyes of the character of Taliesin Roberts.
Further reading & External Links
- Cordell Country
- BBC Wales feature in Hall of Fame
- 100 Welsh Heroes
- Blaenafon Heritage Museum Feature