Authorised biography of Welsh nationalist and activist John Barnard Jenkins, one of the most iconic figures in recent Welsh history. The leader of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC), he masterminded their 1960s bombing campaign protesting British state oppression and exploitation of Wales' natural resources. 49 images.
Publisher: Y Lolfa
Number of pages: 384
Dimensions: 215 x 140 mm
Dr Wyn Thomas was the author of Hands Off Wales (Gomer, 2013), a study based on his doctoral thesis. This previous volume analysed the nationalist militancy which characterized the heady 1960s, culminating in the violent protests which took place during the period just before the Investiture at Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969. Several government institutions in the various parts of Wales and Welsh water pipe lines were targeted and, sadly, there were to be a number of casualties as a result.
The view expressed by Wyn Thomas in the study is that the militant Welsh nationalism of the 1960s is now an integral part of our history as a nation and should certainly not be emulated in the 21st century. What, however, is clear to Dr Thomas is that the record of Welsh militancy in the 1960s tended to be airbrushed from history on the grounds that it was not wholly academically respectable and might well prevent the career progression of our Welsh historians.
In a sense the present volume is a natural offshoot from the earlier study for it examines the extraordinary life and quite unique career of John Barnard Jenkins who, at 86, still remains fully convinced of the justice of his cause to this very day. Jenkins spent his early career as an officer within the British Army and later assumed the position of the leading light within the nationalist paramilitary organisation Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru. It was he who was primarily responsible for organising the daring bombing campaigns of the late 1960s and was sentenced to a prison term of ten years. He was eventually released from Albany Prison in July 1976.
John Jenkins is one of the most alluring but hitherto understudied figures in modern Welsh political history. As is revealed in this book, it was his heartfelt conviction that the Welsh voice received no hearing in the corridors of power at Westminster which were ever ready to exploit the exploitation of the natural resources of Wales. The campaigns did undoubtedly achieve a measure of success, as they drew attention to the desperate need for a measure of administrative devolution for Wales and the holding of the first abortive referendum on 1 March 1979.
We are told by the author, 'After fifteen years of interviews and 21/2 years of write-up, I am happy and relieved to state that I have completed John Jenkins: the Reluctant Revolutionary?' The backbone of the research is a long series of interviews (conducted between 2004 and 2019) with John Jenkins who has clearly been outstandingly candid, if defiantly outspoken, throughout, and with a number of former police officers who worked (usually as low-key plain clothes officers) to counter the machinations of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru, other active supporters of the movement and various members of their families.
Much previously long-buried information has come to light and the dark world of the MAC, with its distinctive political and social background, has been probed as a result. Throughout the author's tone and approach is highly sympathetic, a feature which may well jar with some of the book's readers.
Full attention is given in these pages to John Jenkins's childhood and upbringing, his relationship with his mother Minerva and her own background, his early spirituality and Christian beliefs, his evolving political awareness, in part as a result of the horrific Aber-fan disaster of October 1966, and his personal life, including his marriage to his wife Thelma and their subsequent divorce in June 1972, and his role as a father to their two sons Vaughan and Rhodri.
Later sections of the book analyse Jenkins's gradual 'conversion' to the ideals embraced by the MAC, and, eventually, his comparative 'rejection' by much of Welsh society. The immediate and long-term outcomes of the MAC campaigns are then discussed. It was Jenkins's proud assertion only this year, 'Never again will Whitehall take us [Wales] for granted'. The vigilant reader must judge for himself the veracity of this bold assertion.
The MAC is compared with other contemporary protest movements, and the volume ends with a compelling, astute pen-portrait of the unrepentant John Jenkins as he is today. The volume discusses his 'legacy' and his so-called 'mortality'.
Finally, brief attention is given to history's verdict on Jenkins and his contribution. Throughout, one is struck by the completeness of the underlying research and the validity of the shrewd historical analysis.
The author also informs us: 'I am working on another title which addresses (primarily, although not entirely) the judicial process of the Tryweryn Reservoir Bill.' It will certainly be eagerly awaited. -- J. Graham Jones @ www.gwales.com