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Rich industrial history of north Ceredigion inspires new novel

A new historical novel celebrating the building of the narrow gauge railways in and around Aberystwyth is published this week by Y Lolfa.


By the Banks of the Rheidol is by Geraint Roberts and tells the story of Dafydd, a young lead miner forced to flee his home after he thinks he has killed a man in a fight. He arrives in Aberystwyth and is helped by an acquaintance, Gwen, to find work in the railway industry.


Geraint Roberts has a degree in Mining Geology and therefore, unsurprisingly, local mining history is one of Geraint’s interests.

“I wanted to bring to life parts of local history that I have read about and utilise the rich industrial history of  the area in the late 19th and early 20th century,” says Geraint Roberts, before adding:

“I also wanted to bring in the mines and the two local narrow gauge railways; the Rheidol and the Hafan. There is limited information and literature about industries in this area. When people talk about Welsh mining, the world thinks of coal.”


Mining was important in Ceredigion from the Bronze Age until the early 20th century, with ores such as silver, zinc and lead being mined in Cwm Ystwyth and the surrounding area, including the Rheidol valley.


The local railways also hold a fascination for Geraint. He currently works as Retail Manager at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, as well as having family links. “My great-uncle was a driver out of Aberystwyth shed up to the 1950s and my primary school was next door to the railway. So I was never far away from the ‘Lein Fach’ [Little Line].”


The book follows Dafydd to nearby Talybont, to help in the building of a new railway. After an period as an apprentice in Stafford, Dafydd returns to work on the new Rheidol railway which goes from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge.


The cover of By the Banks of the Rheidol features a beautiful painting of the old number 3 Rheidol, which actually features in the book, leaving the original Aberystwyth station. The painting is by renowned transport artist, Eric Bottomley and the original hangs in the National Museum in Cardiff.


“Once I had the background, the front story blossomed into one of human interest. By the Banks of the Rheidol should appeal on many levels – history, drama, romance.”


“Those with an interest in the history of the north Ceredigion area should find out a lot about Aberystwyth, Talybont, the local mines and the Rheidol railway.”