The dragon roars - English language magazines in Wales

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Magazines for Welsh language writers and readers have had a long and distinguished history. The first periodical in Welsh was published in Holyhead by Lewis Morris, printed on his own press in Holyhead.

It was called Tlysau yr Hen Oesaedd, and while it may have been a short-lived enterprise, it pre-dated English language magazines in Wales by nearly 50 years.

Welsh emigrants were well catered for in the 19th century, with America having more than 50 Welsh language publications and even Australia being able to boast two. But the first English language periodical back home in Wales did not hit the book stalls until 1773.

It was called the Cambrian Magazine and was published from the market town of Llandovery in Mid Wales. It was followed by the Cambrian Register, an annual publication that hailed from London, and in 1813 by the Cambrian Visitor which was printed and published in Swansea.

Much of the early periodical interest was centred on archaeology and antiquities. So, in 1846 Archaeologia Cambrensis was born, its birth leading to the creation of the Cambrian Archaelogical Association just a year later.

The first 'popular' English language journal in Wales was The Red Dragon, which was founded by Charles Wilkins in 1882. It was a monthly publication that printed articles in a wide range of styles and formats, clearly aiming to appeal to the educated middle classes. It was a hugely popular journal in an age when compulsory education had just begun and reading levels across Wales were rising every year.

In the 20th century, driven perhaps by the growth of secondary education in Wales, there was a sudden burst of English language publications. It began with The Welsh Outlook which was a monthly magazine published between 1914 and 1933.

This was an enormously successful and influential magazine, edited by Thomas Jones. It published a wide selection of articles on social affairs and family matters as well as pieces on politics and education.

Keidrych Rhys first established his literary magazine, simply called Wales, in 1937. Rhys was particularly interested in helping and giving a platform to young Welsh writers and he included the up and coming poet Alun Lewis and the already established Dylan Thomas in his list of contributers.

The magazine had three incarnations, partly due to the problems of producing a literary journal in wartime – 1937 to 1940, 1943 to 1949 and, finally, 1958 until 1960.

The writer Glyn Jones was another literary figure who tried his hand at editing an English language journal in Wales. Between 1939 and 1948 he produced The Welsh Review, initially as a monthly publication but later as a quarterly.

One of the most interesting literary experiments of the 20th century was the founding in 1949, by a number of poets and other literary figures, of Dock Leaves.

This magazine of stories, poems and articles was produced from the west Wales town of Pembroke Dock – hence its name – and even featured a print of a Sunderland flying boat as its motif for many years. Pembroke Dock was then the largest flying boat base in the world.

Instrumental in the founding of the magazine were the poets Raymond Garlick and Roland Mathias who were then teaching (Mathias was actually the headmaster) at Pembroke Dock Grammar School.

The magazine changed its name to The Anglo-Welsh Review in 1957, the name seeming to fit with Garlick's belief in what he termed an Anglo-Welsh school of writing. It continued to run until 1988.

The New Welsh Review replaced the old Anglo-Welsh Review in 1988. Together with Poetry Wales, founded by Meic Stephens in 1965, and Planet (1970 but re-launched in 1985) the NWR provided – and still provides - the main artery for Welsh writing in English.

In addition to the big three there have been numerous small English language magazines in Wales, some long-lasting, others more ephemeral. For several years the writer Arthur Smith lovingly produced the short story magazine Cambrensis from his front room in Cornelly.

In a 10-year period he gave many Welsh writers their first appearance in print and was only finally stopped in his mission by ill health and, eventually, by his untimely death.

Other examples of Welsh magazines include Red Poets and Roundyhouse, two poetry journals that seem to have survived the demise that usually accompanies such small press enterprises. There are many more, some specialist, others quite eclectic in their style and make-up.

English language periodicals may have come late but they have been enormously effective over the years, both for the writers involved and for the readers.

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