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The Cordell Collection - Dawson Smith & The Exciles

Music inspired by the work of Alexander Cordell - from Dawson Smith

© Dawson Smith

Alexander Cordell was an Englishman. He was born into a military family on the 9th September 1914 in Ceylon. He went on to be a soldier and rose to the rank of Major. Following his Army career Alexander moved to Llanellen near Abergavenney in South Wales. He worked for The Civil Service and as a part time journalist and writer. He quickly became interested and then obsessed with the industrial heritage in the area and began writing his first historical novel Rape Of The Fair Country, which was fist published in 1959. This was his masterpiece; set in Bleanavon in the early 1800’s the book follows the Mortymer family through their working lives, up to and including The Chartist uprising of 1839. Rape Of The Fair Country was followed by Hosts Of Rebecca, which is set in mid Wales during the Rebecca tollgate riots, and later by Song Of The Earth, The Fire People, Land Of My Fathers and Sweet And Bitter Earth. All these books are historical fiction, but are based on real events set against the background of the terrible working conditions and political struggles at the beginning of The Industrial Revolution (and Unionism) in Wales. Alexander Cordell died in Wales in 1997.

On my first album Valley Boy, there are two songs inspired by stories from Rape Of The Fair Country and Hosts Of Rebecca. These songs were highlighted in several UK folk magazines. This led to me being contacted by The Cordell Country tourism project (as I had credited the books and Cordell on the album sleeve). The Cordell Country Project is a series of heritage trails around the towns and historical sites that are featured in the books. I thought this was a wonderful idea and got to meet the Local Authorities and people involved, this led to the idea of me writing a collection of folk songs based on the books; The Cordell Collection.

Dawson Smith's Gigs

© Torfaen CBC

If you'd like to hear more of Dawson's music, then go along to one of his gigs - he is continually performing across the UK and usually attends the annual Cordell Festival. His gigs are all listed on his website.

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