Friday, September 25, 2009

RS Thomas and the Hell's Angels

I've mentioned before that esteemed Welsh poet, RS Thomas, occasionally crops up in popular culture. Perhaps the most unlikely reference to him occurs in Mick Norman's trash fiction, cult classic, Guardian Angels (1974) (see pic).

Published by NEL, Guardian Angels, is the violent story of a gang of Hell's Angels who emerge from their Llyn Peninsula hideaway to provide security for a touring American rock band. The bikers are made up of a renegade English chapter, The Last Heroes, and a Welsh chapter, the Wolves. A certain amount of anglo-Welsh tension exists between the two factions.

This is not a political novel but Norman (an English writer) comments on (sympathetically, I'd say) nationalist issues. How, for example, the indigenous Welsh-speaking population has declined, and given way to middle-class, English, holiday home-buying incomers.

There are Welsh characters such as Gwyn, Cyllell, Bardd, Ogof and Deintydd. Reference is even made to The Welsh Freedom Society - a fictitious cross between the Welsh Language Society and the Free Wales Army.

Then a local poet-priest from Aberdaron is mentioned – a certain RS Thomas. One of his poems, Welsh Landscape (you know the one – an impotent people/Sick with inbreeding), has been scrawled onto a wall and extracts are actually quoted in the text. It’s kind of a surprise but, to be fair to Mick Norman, his trash fiction is a cut above the usual NEL fare.

*I'm grateful to Rhys Wynne for alerting me to the fact that S4C recently did a documentary on a group of north Wales bikers known as The Wolves (Y Bleiddiaid). Wonder if Mick Norman's Welsh outlaws of the road were based upon these same bikers?