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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Shepherds' tales recalled in book
Erwyd Howells with his dogs on a mid Wales hillside - copyright Erwyd Howells
The way of life can be lonely and hard. Little is known about it outside farming
Erwyd Howells
Tales about shepherds in mid Wales stretching back some 200 years have been recounted in a new book.

The numbers who tend flocks are dwindling and author Erwyd Howells was "desperate" to record many old stories before they disappeared.

Good Men and True recalls memories of countryside characters that made them well-known among generations of shepherds.

It also charts how lonely and hard the profession can be.

Mr Howells, from near Aberystwyth, said the stories were about shepherds who worked the Elan Valley to Plynlimon areas of mid Wales.

A shepherd himself for 40 years, there are chapters in his book about quarrels between shepherds, shearing, faithful sheepdogs and battles with predators such as foxes.

Erwyd Howells' book
The book is selling abroad, said Mr Howells

Mr Howells also tells of shepherds' powers of observation, their incredible memory for sheep and their sense of humour.

But his favourite countryside character was Tommy Hughes, who died in 2003 aged 85.

"Tommy was the most interesting, amazingly informed individual that I have ever met," he said.

Among the stories about the old shepherd from near Rhayader, Powys, was about a trip to market.

"Several men had been counting a bunch of sheep and failed to agree on the correct figure," he said.

"Tommy counted them and got the right figure. Somebody asked how he'd done it and he said: 'Oh, I just counted their feet and divided by four.'

"Another time, a group of men were talking about boots and praising the ones they were wearing.

A shepherd and his sheep (generic)
The number of shepherds is dwindling in Wales

"Tommy, aged about 70 at the time, said the best pair he'd ever had were the ones he was wearing and he'd had them since he was at school."

Mr Howells added: "I was desperate to record memories and tales about these shepherds before they disappeared.

"I knew many stories myself, spoke to shepherds about their memories and carried out research at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

"The way of life can be lonely and hard. Little is known about it outside farming. Shepherds often work in inhospitable conditions too."

He added that 1,000 copies had already been sold and interest in the book had been shown in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Russia, as well as Wales.

Mr Howells has published the book himself.


SEE ALSO:
Road closed to remove dead sheep
27 Sep 05 |  Shropshire
Sheep flock disappears from farm
21 Sep 05 |  Hereford/Worcs


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