Mrs Sally Roberts Jones: a love of books

To mark the announcement of our 2019 cohort of Fellows, earlier this year we invited some of those elected to reflect on their career to date.

Below, you can find details of one such Fellow.

Sally Roberts Jones being admitted by Sir Emyr Jones ParrySally Roberts Jones is a poet, biographer, critic, historian and bibliographer. For as long as she can remember she has “always written stories, poems, and playlets”. Born in London, but with a Welsh father, she has spent most of her life in Wales, initially in the north, where she studied at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. Following this, she studied librarianship at the North Western Polytechnic in London, but in 1967 returned to Wales as Reference Librarian in Port Talbot, where she has lived ever since. She recalls that “a love of books and, in the beginning, a degree of shyness that made being a teacher unlikely, led me into librarianship.”

While in London, Mrs Roberts Jones was a founder member of the Guild of Welsh Writers, and in 1968 was recruited by Meic Stephens to become the first Secretary/Treasurer of the English Language Section (ELS) of Yr Academi Gymreig (the Welsh Academy), a post which she held until 1975. She then remained a member of the Executive Committee of the ELS until 1993, when she became its Chair for the next five years. She has also been Secretary of the Port Talbot Historical Society since 1982 and is currently its Chair.

In 1999 she was one of the seven writers who pioneered the Royal Literary Fund`s Writing Fellows scheme and, for the next ten years, was then based at Swansea University. In 2002 she was awarded a Civil List Pension for services to Literature. From 2002-2014, Mrs Roberts Jones was the Secretary of Cymdeithas Owain Glyndwr (the Owain Glyndwr Society), which she is still a member of today.

She developed an interest in Welsh writing in English while still at school and has researched it extensively. She is now a member of the Association for Welsh Writing in English and has contributed to its conferences and Journal. She has also had a long-term interest in Welsh history, the Arthurian legend and children`s literature in Wales. Mrs. Roberts Jones has written on the local and industrial history of Glamorgan and is currently writing a biography of the labour hero and martyr, Dic Penderyn.

After 1971 Mrs. Roberts Jones became a freelance writer and lecturer, running workshops and courses for (among others) the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), the Extra-Mural Departments of Swansea and Cardiff Universities, and Trinity College, Carmarthen (now University of Wales Trinity Saint David). Reflecting on her current work, she says: “Much of what I do these days is in the local community, and I like to think that I can share what I have discovered over the years with others who might otherwise not hear about it. Also, being a librarian has meant that my interests tend to reach into unexpected places and make new connections.”

Sally talking with friends at the annual Fellows DinnerShe has given readings in Wales, England, Ireland and even Yugoslavia. In 1977 she and her husband set up a small press, Alun Books, and in 1997 she was one of the founding editors of the poetry magazine Roundyhouse. She has also contributed to the Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, The Dictionary of Welsh Biography and The New Dictionary of National Biography. Her own publications include five poetry collections, local history and biography, critical studies, and verse plays and children’s stories for radio.

Upon joining the Society, Mrs. Roberts Jones said: “being elected as a Fellow is my proudest achievement so far, because it validates my work. But also because it makes so much more possible.” She hopes to be able to contribute to the aims of the Learned Society, particularly the Wales Studies project, and to “act as a link between groups or individuals who might otherwise not meet” because “bringing people and information together is vital.”

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