The for­got­ten mas­sacre of 100 Welsh women


Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS - Hy­wel Trewyn

A NOVELIST has brought to light a for­got­ten atroc­ity when more than 100 Welsh women were mur­dered by English Round­head sol­diers.

Jerry Hunter’s Dark Ter­ri­tory is set around the time of the English Civil War in the 17th cen­tury, and high­lights how vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with re­li­gious ex­trem­ism is noth­ing new.

Amer­i­can-born Mr Hunter, who lives in Peny­groes, near Caernar­fon, said: “It is rel­a­tively well known that dur­ing his bloody mil­i­tary cam­paign in Ire­land, Oliver Cromwell ap­proved the whole­sale slaugh­ter of civil­ians be­cause they were Catholics.

“But less at­ten­tion has been given to an­other mas­sacre suf­fered at his forces’ hands. It is the story of the Women of Naseby, a dark episode of Welsh his­tory which has been ab­sent from pop­u­lar his­to­ries.”

He added: “After the Bat­tle of Naseby in June 1645 the Par­lia­men­tar­ian cav­alry, in pur­suit of flee­ing Roy­al­ists, came upon a Roy­al­ist camp and a large group of women. Hear­ing them scream­ing in an un­known tongue, the English sol­diers as­sumed they were Ir­ish Catholics, and cut them down in cold blood.

The Pro­fes­sor of Welsh and Pro Vice-Chan­cel­lor at the Uni­ver­sity of Ban­gor added: “These women were cry­ing out in Welsh. Most of Wales had de­clared for the King, and these were the wives of sol­diers in Welsh Roy­al­ist reg­i­ments who had fol­lowed their hus­bands to war to cook and wash for them.

“De­spite over 100 of them be­ing killed on the spot, and the faces of oth­ers mu­ti­lated, their fate has largely been for­got­ten.”

Prof Hunter (be­low) said Dark Ter­ri­tory is a work of fic­tion and that he did not know where the women are buried.

The novel’s pro­tag­o­nist is “zeal­ous Welsh pu­ri­tan” Rhisiart Dafydd, whose be­liefs ini­tially lead him to em­brace Par­lia­ment’s cause and the vi­o­lence of Cromwell’s New Model Army, but whose con­vic­tion is tested by these atroc­i­ties.

De­scribed as “an epic his­tor­i­cal ad­ven­ture set dur­ing one of the most tur­bu­lent pe­ri­ods in his­tory”, the novel also poses ques­tions about vi­o­lence, power and re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

Prof Hunter said: “With this novel I also wanted to cros­sex­am­ine the ide­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tions of ‘ Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism’.

“For cen­turies politi­cians in the USA have re­ferred to the na­tion as a ‘shin­ing light’ for the rest of the world to fol­low. Through the prism of fic­tion, this work ex­am­ines the dark re­al­i­ties at the foun­da­tions of those be­liefs.”

Prof Hunter said this is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to­day in the age of Trump, when the “old myths of ex­cep­tion­al­ism are be­ing in­voked once again in an at­tempt to ‘make Amer­ica great again’.”

Lit­er­ary critic and au­thor Jon Gower de­scribed the novel as “the work of a mas­ter... noth­ing less than a clas­sic”.

Prof Hunter is best known as a Welsh-lan­guage au­thor and won Welsh Book of the Year for his aca­demic work, Ll­wch Cen­hed­loedd, and the Na­tional Eisteddfod Prose Medal for Gwend­dydd. ● Dark Ter­ri­tory, £9.99, Y Lolfa

● Cromwell at the Bat­tle of Marston in 1644 – a year be­fore his forces slaugh­tered the wives of Welsh sol­diers after the Bat­tle of Naseby

● Pro­fes­sor Jerry Hunter’s Dark Ter­ri­tory is set around the time of the English Civil War in the 17th cen­tury

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