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By Fred Inglis

In his existence, Raymond Williams performed many components: baby of the Black Mountains, inspirational grownup lecturer, Cambridge professor, folks hero and guru of the left. during this first significant biography, now in paperback for the 1st time, Fred Inglis has spoken to people who knew this complicated and charismatic guy at each level of his lifestyles, from his boyhood within the Welsh border nation to his short years of retirement.

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He turned the rhythm of very varied and creative work, desperately hard and necessary labour much of it, together with the steady, responsible companionability and deep mutual dependence of the railway into the self-explanatory and natural rhythm of a life. He was a strong and unusual man—everybody who recollects him agrees with his son about that—eager for ideas, spirited in his class loyalty and its fine independence, and of a marked reflexivity. Yet the thoughts he had, coming from his deep capacity for feeling, could find no words with which he could teach his devoted son.

On the evening of Friday 30 April 1926 a telegram was pinned up on the noticeboard in the signal box, the telex message pasted in thin strips on the blue flimsy. ‘Executive instructs all members not to take duty after Monday next. ’ The arguments were all in London—Eccleston Square for the TUC; along the railway lines they just awaited the next telegram. In London the chief union brokers were Ernie Bevin, Arthur Pugh and Walter Citrine, who together roughed out a scheme actually to reduce wages in view of the possibility of a future bargain between the coal industry, the owners and the unions.

So the heavy metal industries, coal, iron and steel, buses and railways, gas, came out. In Border Country Harry says ‘I’ll stand by the miners, if it comes to it’,15 and that was the point. His closest friend in the novel is Morgan Rosser, who had no direct equivalent in Pandy but was an interesting compound of Harry and Raymond Williams on their entrepreneurial side, Violet James’s father, and the sometime mayor of Abergavenny in the late thirties, who was actually called Rosser and was Headmaster [sic] of the boys’ elementary school.

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