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Nigel Jenkins obituary


My cousin, the writer Nigel Jenkins, who has died aged 64 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, taught himself Welsh and went on to become a leading literary figure in Wales. He was born into an Anglo-Welsh family in Gower, the son of an auctioneer and farmer, and immersed himself in the language. He was also known as a performance poet, captivating audiences with his deep bass voice.

After attending Dean Close school in Cheltenham and studying at Essex University, he started his career as a journalist in Leamington Spa, but in time returned to Swansea and learned Welsh. He taught creative writing at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and was ultimately director of the creative writing course at Swansea University.

His first publication in 1972 was followed by numerous poetry collections, including Song and Dance (1981) and Hotel Gwales (2006), the travel book Gwalia in Khasia (1996), a study of Welsh missionaries in India, for which he won a national award, Ambush (1988), and a volume of essays and articles, Footsore on the Frontier (2001).

Nigel was elected as a bard to the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain in 1998. In 2007 he was a co-editor of the massive Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales (2007), now a standard reference work. He also wrote two books in the Seren Books Real series: Real Swansea One and Real Swansea Two, which, as classics of psychogeography in the making, delved far below the surface of the city. His Real Gower was left unfinished at the time of his death.

Nigel was married to Delyth Evans, a folk harpist, who survives him, as do their daughters, Branwen and Angharad, who is a member of the Welsh contemporary folk group Calan.

He spent much time encouraging others but he also had a ribald side. His poem Some Words for English Viceroys, Rugby Players, and Others, in Abuser-Friendly English to Help Them Con Televiewers That They Can Sing the Welsh National Anthem was inspired by the sight of the then secretary of state for Wales, John Redwood, failing to convince with his rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of our Fathers).

Nigel suggested a phonetic version for non-Welsh speakers:

"My hen laid a haddock, one hand oiled a flea
Glad farts and centurions, threw dogs in the sea
I could stew a hare here and brandish Dan's flan
Don's ruddy bog's blocked up with sand


Dad! Dad! Why don't you oil Auntie Glad?
Can whores appear in beer bottle pies
O butter the hens as they fly!"

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