Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees

Clare Dudman, awardwinning writer and friend of Shedworking, has a new novel out - A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees - which features the shedworkingesque Welsh structure, the Ty Unnos. She writes for shedworking about its importance in the book which centres on the Welsh colonisation of Patagonia:
The Ty Unnos is famous in Welsh folklore. One of my ancestors was born in one. They were hastily-assembled, somewhat squalid places. The parts were often prefabricated and hidden around the village in readiness for rapid assembly. Although called a house (Ty means house, Unnos means one night), shed might be a more accurate term, but people were born and died in them.

It was thought that a house built overnight on common land, if it had smoke coming up through the chimney by six in the morning, then the house, and the land dictated by how far a man could throw a hammer from the front door, belonged to the builder. It is a romantic idea (although it is debatable if these shacks were ever truly legal) and one of these structures is an important feature of my book.

Enclosure acts allowed absentee English landlords to clear the land, and a house thrown up overnight could just as easily be pulled down again by the men of an absentee landlord. The landlords were often English and the tenants were Welsh. The only thing these dispossessed and desperately poor evicted tenants could do was to migrate: sometimes to the nearest big city, or sometimes, if they were brave, foolish or idealistic enough, to the ends of the world: Patagonia. And this is exactly what the characters in my novel did.

There, they found themselves in the windswept desert with little shelter. The only materials available to them was the wood used to make their bunks on ship, so they transported it ashore and built another Ty Unnos. Luckily, it turned out that in Patagonia, this emergency shed didn't have to last a life-time.
You can buy the book here and find out more about it at the micro-site here.

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1 comment:

  1. A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees is a lyrical and insightful evocation of the trials of the first Welsh Patagonian colonists as they battle to survive hunger, loss, and each other.
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