Alexander Cordell

Alexander Cordell
Alexander Cordell was the pen-name of George Alexander Graber (September 9, 1914 – November 13, 1997), a prolific novelist and author of thirty acclaimed works including Rape of the Fair Country, The Hosts of Rebecca and Song of the Earth.

He was born in Ceylon. A major in the Royal Artillery, he retired to civilian life as a quantity surveyor for the War Office and moved to Abergavenny with his wife Rosina and daughter, Georgina. It was from here that his obvious love for Wales began to grow; in later life he referred in his writings to his mother being from the Rhondda valley.

Some of his most famous works— Rape of the Fair Country (1959), The Hosts of Rebecca (1960) and Song of the Earth (1969)—form the “Mortymer Trilogy”, and are part of a series of Cordell novels that portray the turbulent history of early industrial Wales as vividly as any writer has achieved. Faithful to historical fact, he presents events like the birth of trade unionism and rise of the Chartist movement.

The “Mortymer Trilogy” is the story of the Mortymer family, commencing in 1826, and tells of the trials of several generations of the family, set against the background of the coal and iron industry. In 1985, at the suggestion of fellow author, Chris Barber, Cordell wrote a prelude to the trilogy, This Proud and Savage Land, which starts in 1800 and tells the story of sixteen year old Hywel Mortymer, who comes from rural Mid-Wales to work in the coal mines and iron works of industrial South Wales. It ends with the birth of his son Iestyn, with which the next book commences.

In 1972, Cordell wrote The Fire People, set in Merthyr Tydfil. It is set against the background of the 1831 Merthyr Rising, for which Cordell did considerable research. An appendix to the book presents evidence suggesting that Richard Lewis, known as Dic Penderyn, may have been unjustly condemned to be hanged, for which he has become known as the first Welsh working-class martyr.

Cordell left Wales for spells in Hong Kong and the Isle of Man. Yet he kept coming back to Wales. He settled at various times in Abergavenny, Chepstow, Milford Haven and Wrexham.

He collapsed and died while walking near the Horseshoe Pass in Denbighshire. It has been suggested that he had gone there with the intention of committing suicide with brandy and anti-depressants, but he died of a heart attack. He is buried at Llanfoist, Abergavenny.

The Cordell Country Inn (formerly The Racehorse) in Govilon, between Blaenavon and Abergavenny is named after him.