I first read this a VERY long time ago. I know it was a long time ago because it's on the first page of the 'F' section in my little book-of-books-read which started not long after I began work in libraries in 1971
Originally published in 1940 this is a new edition..... "rediscovered". I noticed it on the new books page of the library website and thought it would be good to re-read.
"I jumped out of the car, and the wind frogmarched me at a run to the back door. The door opened unasked, and I stumbled inside"
There are no maps in the book to show exactly where the farm was but it must have been somewhere just SW of Capel Curig with mountains on each side and Snowdon just down the road.
|Photo of a road map showing the area, the farm was on the southern slopes of the Glyders.|
It possessed strength and utility, and seemed to say "Well! Here I am. Take me or leave me. I have no frills, but I know my job" And the house did know it's job. No one who has not experienced them can believe the strength of Dyffryn gales, nor the destructive force of heavy rain flung at sixty or seventy miles an hour against stone and mortar.
Patrick Barkham, who writes the introduction to this new edition, says that by the time the book was published in 1940 Firbank had already left the farm due to the 2nd World War to join the Coldstream Guards. His marriage broke down during the war and he later gave Dyffryn to Esme where she carried on running it for many years with her new husband. The farm is now owned by the National Trust. Firbank was awarded The Military Cross and after the war he went on to write more books, lived and worked in England and Japan returning later to Wales where he died in Llanrwst in 2000 aged 90.
Re reading this now made me wonder if Elizabeth West (Hovel in the Hills etc) read this before her adventures in the area in the 1960s. There are similarities.
What a wonderful story of his life on the farm, and how he fought in WWII and was a hero, and he gave the farm to his wife, and where he lived after the war. That is good the farm is now in the National Trust.ReplyDelete
It's an interesting story and good to have an update on what happened afterwardsDelete
It sounds a wonderful story and I think I might look lout for it - on Wednesday (new month). :-) xxReplyDelete
out, not lout!Delete
It's interesting if you like sheep!Delete
I remember reading this too - probably back in the 1970s, when it was probably first published. The weather doesn't sound much fun. I am reminded of the Yorkshire Shepherdess - out in blizzards and whatever the weather throws their way.ReplyDelete
He made a very good age and sounds like he was a good sort of bloke. Not out for himself like so many folk these days.
It was first published in 1940 but I reckon republished in the 70s when I would have read it - now out again for a new generationDelete
Was he the beginning of the movement 'back to the land' I wonder, sounds a good character and book to read as well.ReplyDelete
It's an interesting read - I'd not remembered anything about it after 40+ yearsDelete
I enjoyed reading this book in the early 2000s after staying in Thomas Firbanks’ farmhouse (now a National Trust holiday cottage) with spectacular views over Snowdonia. The land around the farm is very steep, almost vertical in places and lots of dried stone walls to offer protection to the sheep during heavy snowfall. You would be very fit if you farmed that land. I have a clean first edition without its dust jacket but with a me-made hand marbled paper cover. My Barbara Pym first editions (all presents from my husband during the 1990s) are similarly covered. We have an old scruffy edition in the bookshop too, not sure of its date but it’s only a fiver, and I’m sure there are still plenty around. Sarah in Sussex.ReplyDelete
How lovely to have stayed in the house - it's not an area we looked at when we fancied moving to Wales - much too wet and windyDelete
An interesting title for the post. I had not heard of the book, so was wondering what it would be about as the page loaded. His wiki bio is an interesting read.ReplyDelete
Apparently the title was ironic, he knew that no one really owned the land - they just farmed it for their lifetimeDelete
What an amazing life they led. Makes very interesting readingReplyDelete
Alison in Wales x
It was good weekend readingDelete
Did he have family money or something to help him get started? He took on a lot at the age of 21. He had a busy life!ReplyDelete
I'm not sure where he got the money to get startedDelete
Yes he did, the Firbanks were an affluent family. Ronald Firbank, a writer was his uncle and Heather Firbank Ron's sister an Edwardian debutante had a beautiful clothes collection that in the V&A. Thomas Firbank lived on Dartmoor in the 1950s and wrote a book about that called 'Log Cabin'.Delete
TF sounds like a wonderful person. Very adventuresome and ready to take on something big and new. His purchase is amazing and he did quite well to make things work. His life is very interesting. It is great that the National Trust oversees this property today.ReplyDelete
I didn't realise it was now available to rent from the NT for holidaysDelete
An amazing life. His description of the weather in the Snowdon area is exactly my experience of hiking in Wales. I grew up in North Yorkshire, where I was used to shrieking gales, snow drifts and lambs born in them. So Wales wasn't quite enough of a change. He must have been a very strong and resilient person, great life.ReplyDelete
I'm very glad I live in the dryest part of the country. Probably a good thing we never moved to WalesDelete
I remember reading and enjoying this book Sue. Well worth a re-read.ReplyDelete
My re-read was almost a first time read as it was so long ago.Delete
I imagine this book would be very interesting.ReplyDelete
That sounds like a really lovely book.ReplyDelete
Ooh...interesting...as my father was in the Coldstream Guards during WW2.ReplyDelete
Love the sound of this, Sue. Will add it to my shelves on Goodreads to keep an eye out for.ReplyDelete
He was possibly very inspirational to Elizabeth West, she lived close to Llanrwst during her 'Hovel' years and a lot of the farming land in North Wales is very similar. Imagine being able to buy that much land and property for just £5,000 now!!ReplyDelete
VERY BELATED COMMENT. I read this book about seventy years ago!. I was not impressed at the time. "Back to the land" has an allure but even as a teenager I could work out that there was not sufficient land to give sufficient employment to the millions in the cities then without work. Those returning to the land would not have the author's ample resources (from an unexplained source I recall) to construct a hydro-electric system, buy the caravan etc. Lacking that money, the project was simply not viable. I can still recall details in the story, such as tea being made in the newly purchased caravan as it was dragged back to the farm. RoderickReplyDelete
I thought his mother had farming connections with the area so he was no stranger to N Wales. Also he came from a wealthy famlly so not such a struggle to buy up the land. Still I suppose it made for a good yarn.ReplyDelete