How Green Was My Valley
Level 4
1700 headwords
British English
Leaving his home in a Welsh mining village for the last
time, Huw Morgan remembers his childhood. The valley
was green then, unspoilt by waste from the mine. The
happiness of his family and friends had not yet been
destroyed by cruel gossip and terrible pain. Since then,
so much has changed.
Series Editors: Jocelyn Potter and Andy Hopkins
For correlations to English Language Teaching exams,
please visit
How Green Was My Valley
Richard Llewellyn
Richard Llewellyn
Penguin Active Reading provides reading and language
learning at five levels, through full-colour, beautifully
illustrated Readers. As well as enjoyable stories and texts,
each book provides a range of integrated activities designed
to develop reading skills and consolidate vocabulary, and
offers personalised project work. Each book is supported
by an interactive CD-ROM which contains additional
activities and the complete audio recording.
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1700 headwords
How Green Was My Valley
Number of words (excluding activities): 28,342
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Richard Llewellyn
Cover photograph © Getty Images
with CD-ROM
and MP3
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Activities 1
What’s the book about?
Look at this picture. Discuss these questions. What do you think?
1 What was life like for the people who lived in this valley in Wales?
2 What does the title of the book suggest about the changes in the valley during
the storyteller’s lifetime? What were the reasons for those changes?
What happens first?
Look at these pictures of some of the children in the Morgan family. What do
you think? Write the letters.
Which of the children marries first?
Who leaves home after an argument with his father?
Who goes to school each day?
Who runs away to look after the older boys?
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Life in the Valley
‘Miners must fight together. It’s no good one mine striking.
All the mines must strike at the same time.’
am going to pack my two shirts and my best suit in an old blue cloth and leave
the Valley. I am worried about this old blue cloth. If I lose it, I will feel guilty
for the rest of my life. It belonged to my mother and she tied it around her hair
when she cleaned the house. Her hair was fair and thick, and always very pretty
even when it turned white. My father met her when she was sixteen and he was
twenty. He had just left a farm for a job at the ironworks. As he came singing
up the street one night, he saw my mother upstairs in the house where she was
working. She looked down at him, they fell in love, and they were married
six weeks after that. Later, my father went down the mine. We lived in a coal
mining village and most of the men worked there.
In those days, miners earned plenty of money. On Saturdays, the women put
on their best clothes and waited outside their front doors for their husbands and
sons. Black with dust, the men walked up the Hill. When they reached their
houses, they threw their wages to the women. Saturday was a good day.
TAW1 men coming up hill after work, black with coal dust
mine /maɪn/ (n/v) a deep hole in the ground that is dug to reach gold, silver or
other material
coal /kəʊl/ (n) a hard black material that is dug out of the ground and burned to
produce heat
wage /weɪdʒ/ (n) money that is paid for the number of hours, days or weeks that an
employee works. A minimum wage is the lowest amount of money that an employer can
legally pay to a worker.
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How Green Was My Valley
After they had bathed, my father and my older brothers put on their best
clothes. Saturday dinner was always special; on Sunday, of course, no cooking
was done because we spent most of the day at the chapel. When we sat down,
with me on my mother’s knee, my father shared out the soup. I can still smell
that soup. It was a smell that made me feel warm and comfortable.
‘Eat plenty,’ my father said. ‘Eat plenty, my sons.’
We did not speak when we were eating. After the plates were empty of soup,
then of meat and vegetables, there was cake with thick cream, and a cup of tea.
While my oldest sister, Ceridwen, washed the dishes in the kitchen, my father
and brothers sat in the next room. Sometimes I was allowed to sit on my father’s
knee. Then, if he and the boys were going to Town, my mother gave them some
money from the box on the shelf above the fire in the kitchen. My father always
said that we should not waste money, but there were not many things to spend it
on in those days. There were drinks in the bar of the Three Bells, and sometimes
trips to sing in valleys on the other side of the mountain.
Bronwen came from the other side of the mountain. My oldest brother, Ivor,
met her when he went over there to a singing competition. He started talking to
her in her father’s shop and he missed the competition.
My father laughed. ‘Beth,’ he said to my mother, ‘we’ll lose Ivor soon. He’ll
be the first to marry.’
‘Well,’ my mother said, ‘it’s time.’
One Saturday afternoon, we heard the sound of a horse outside the door. My
father and brother stood up to welcome the visitor. Ivor opened the door.
‘Father,’ he said nervously, ‘this is Bronwen’s father.’
By the time my mother had made the tea, they were friends. Bronwen’s father
got very drunk at the Three Bells before he went home that night. My father had
a couple of drinks too, but he always knew when to stop.
Then, one Saturday, Bronwen came over alone. I will never forget seeing her
on the Hill. It was steep and she was carrying a big, heavy basket, but she walked
up it easily.
‘Hello, Huw,’ she said.
I was so shy that I ran and hid behind the wall bed*.
‘What is it?’ my mother asked me. Then Bronwen called from the front door.
‘Come in, child,’ my mother said.
She looked at Bronwen for a long time and then she kissed her. In five
minutes my mother knew everything about Bronwen, and Bronwen learned
everything about Ivor’s childhood.
*wall bed: a bed in the kitchen that was pulled down from the wall at night
chapel /ˈtʆæpəl/ (n) a small church, or a special room, in which some Christians practise their
religion; the religious services held in a chapel
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Chapter 1 – Life in the Valley
Bronwen often came over the mountain on Saturdays after that first visit, but
I was always shy. I have loved her all my life. It is silly to think that a child could
fall in love, but I fell in love with Bronwen that Saturday on the Hill.
But that is in the past.
We had a good time at Ivor’s wedding. He wore a new black suit when he
married Bronwen in the chapel that every man in our village had helped to
build. Everybody said how beautiful Bronwen was. My mother and Bronwen’s
mother cried at the front of the room. My father and Bronwen’s father stood next
to them with my older brothers Ianto, Davy and Owen. I was with my sisters
and my other brother, Gwilym, standing with my aunts and uncles.
I shall never forget the party after the wedding. There was food in a big tent,
and drink in a small one. Everybody in the village and from all the surrounding
farms brought something. In the evening, we sat on the grass and sang songs.
There were prizes for the best singers, and I was chosen as the small boy with the
best voice. My father was pleased because singing was important to him. That
night he held my hand tightly all the way home.
Then Ianto married a girl who was staying in the village with relatives. He
went to work for her father and they moved away. My mother said that Ianto
mixed with the wrong people. He did not contact us for many years and Mother
always worried about him.
Davy was the clever one in the family. He wanted to be a doctor but our
doctor, Dr Richards, said that he was too old to start studying, so he too worked
in the mine. When there was an accident underground, the men always sent for
Davy. But he became very moody, and one night my father asked him why.
‘Father,’ Davy said slowly, ‘I’m not happy.’
‘What’s wrong, Davy?’ my mother asked.
‘Everything,’ Davy said. ‘Everything. But nobody seems to notice. And if
they do, nothing is done. Next week, the bosses are cutting our wages. Why?
There’s as much coal coming out of the mine – more than last year. But the
ironworks are closing and the men from the ironworks will come to our mine for
‘They’ll go anywhere that they can find work,’ my father said.
‘To our mine,’ said Davy. ‘And when those ironworkers come, some of them
will offer to work for less money and the managers will employ them. The older
and the better-paid men will lose their jobs. And you’ll be one of them, if you’re
not careful.’
‘That’s silly,’ my father said, and laughed. But that is what happened. The
ironworkers started to work in the mine for little more money than some of the
young boys. A lot of the more experienced men lost their jobs. Dai Griffiths was
one of them and he was one of the best workers in the Valley.
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How Green Was My Valley
My father was working above the ground as a checker. As the coal came up
out of the mine, he noted the amount and the name of the miner. The men
thought of him as a leader and expected him to solve their problems.
One night he came home from a meeting at the Three Bells.
‘Davy,’ he said unhappily, ‘we are going to strike.’
‘All right,’ Davy said quietly. ‘But what will you do when the managers
dismiss you?’
‘They won’t dismiss me,’ said my father angrily. ‘That’s what this fight is
about. We want fair wages, and working conditions that are acceptable to us
all. Why weren’t you at the meeting?’
‘I wanted to see what the men would do,’ said Davy. ‘Now I know,
so I can do something. You keep out of it, Father, and let me talk to the
‘No,’ my father said, ‘I will not. The men have asked me to speak for
them and I will.’
‘Then Gwilym, Owen and I will have to support the family. You’ll lose
your job like Dai Griffiths.’
Davy was right again. My father and two other men went to see the
managers and came back quiet and upset. The strike lasted for five weeks
before the men went back to work. Two days later, they were on strike again
because the managers dismissed twelve of them, including my father.
The second strike lasted for twenty-two weeks. There was very little food
and money in the village. My mother took money from our box to help
women who had big families. Poor Mrs Morris, who had fourteen children
under the age of twelve, had to ask neighbours for food. Her husband was so
ashamed that he killed himself.
My father spoke to the men again. He came back, worried.
‘We’ve ended the strike, Beth,’ he said to my mother. ‘But our wages will
come down. The employers aren’t getting the same price for coal, so they
can’t pay the same wages. We must be fair too.’
‘Have you got your job back, Gwilym?’ my mother asked.
‘Yes,’ my father said, but he looked at her strangely.
The men went back to work early the next morning. As they came out of
their houses, their wives and children stood on their doorsteps and watched.
My father was one of the first, with Davy. The men were pleased to see my
father. They felt that he had saved the village. But he quietened them and
started to sing. The men, women and children sang too, and their song was
strike /straɪk/ (v/n) as a group of workers, to stop working because you are unhappy
about your wages or working conditions
dismiss /dɪsˈmɪs/ (v) to end someone’s employment; to refuse to judge a legal case
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Chapter 1 – Life in the Valley
heard around the Valley. Lights came on in the farms up on the dark mountain,
and down at the mine the men waved their lamps in time with the music.
Everybody sang and there was peace again.
At that time, I went to school with Mrs Jenkins in a little house near the
village. Her husband, Tom Jenkins, had been burned by hot iron at the ironworks
and he was always in pain. He was blind, his nose was gone and his teeth were
black. He was about thirty years old. My father said that he had been a handsome
man and the finest singer in the
Valley. Now he could only make
strange noises in his throat.
We learned reading, writing
and sums, important dates, and
the names of rivers and mountains.
That was when I started to think
independently. It is important to
have strong beliefs, and to be honest,
although those qualities have not
always made me happy or successful.
They earn you the respect of other
people, but they do not make you
rich. My father and mother were
never rewarded for their honesty.
The first time I saw my father as
a man, not as my father, was the day
the men went back to work after
the strike. It was cold and wet, and
I was going home from school. The
checkers had their own little huts
at the entrance to the mines and
my father’s was the green one in the
As the other children ran past
me, I stopped and looked at the
space between the other two huts.
My father was standing there in the
rain. He saw me and held up his
finger. He was warning me not to
tell my mother.
respect /rɪˈspekt/ (n/v) a feeling of admiration for someone because they have good qualities
like fairness and honesty
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How Green Was My Valley
That night, I woke up and heard my father talking to Davy. My mother was
‘You’ll get nothing without a fight,’ Davy shouted. ‘I won’t allow my father
to stand like a dog in the rain. Miners must fight together. It’s no good one mine
striking. All the mines must strike at the same time.’
‘It’s not important if I freeze to death,’ my father replied. ‘Don’t use me as an
excuse for another strike. I won’t let people suffer because I’m standing in the
My brother Gwilym was lying in the next bed.
‘Gwil,’ I whispered. ‘What does Davy want to do?’
‘He wants to fight against the English mine owners,’ Gwilym whispered. He
was only fourteen, but already worked down the mine. He was the quietest of us
children, but now he was saying something that was truly terrible.
Ivor and Bronwen had their own house down the Hill, so Bronwen was often
with my mother. Ivor was upset about my father too, but he did not want to
‘What does Davy really want?’ Ivor asked my father impatiently. ‘He’ll get
into trouble at the mine.’
‘Davy wants Socialism*,’ my father said. ‘And he wants every working man,
all around the world, to belong to a union.’
‘That’s stupid,’ Ivor said. ‘But I agree with him about the miners.’
‘You can call it stupid, Ivor Morgan,’ my brother Gwilym said. ‘But there’s
more intelligence in Davy’s big toes than in your whole body.’
Then he ran off before my father could beat him.
My father was surprised and angry. ‘He’s like Davy,’ he said. ‘I can see trouble
coming to this family.’
I went to see Bronwen.
‘Davy’s going to fight the English,’ I said to her. ‘And I’m going to fight too,
because the managers of the mine left my father out in the rain.’
Bronwen put her arms around me.
‘That’s right, Huw,’ she whispered. ‘You must fight.’
‘What’s Davy going to do, Bron?’ I asked. ‘Nobody will tell me.’
‘You’re too young to know about such things,’ she said. ‘Davy is trying to
make things better. That’s all I know. Now go and call Ivor for me.’
* Socialism: A socialist government keeps important businesses away from private owners
and, through taxes, uses money from a country’s richer citizens to help poorer people.
union /ˈjuːnjən/ (n) an organisation formed by workers to protect their wages and improve
their working conditions
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