The Sealwomans Gift by Sally Magnusson

The Sealwomans Gift by Sally Magnusson

These are some of our comments about this book, the debut novel for Sally Magnusson.

Beautifully written, loved this book, rich in wording, descriptions superb, incredible quality of writing, lots of humour even in dire circumstances, superb language, clear storylines, based on a historical event which makes it particularly interesting, no unrealistic ending.

So what’s it all about:- In 1627 Barbary pirates rounded the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland.

Among the captives sold into slavery were the island pastor, his wife and their 3 children.

In this re-imagining Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Asta the pastors wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Asta meets the loss of her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home, the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of longing.

This book is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories, Icelandic ones to fend off a slave owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die.

The Sealwoman was captured with Asta and lay next to her on the slave ship. Her gift was the saga she recounted which enabled Asta to find peace when she finally returned to Iceland after many years away.

As well as all our comments we further discussed how advanced the Ottoman Empire was, how hard life sounded in Iceland, the decline and fall of civilisations throughout history

Some quotes from the book: “Forgetting gets easier, thinking gets harder”: “It is important to be known”: “Men’s stories come through history, women’s don’t”.



Gwenfo School Choir Event


In Gwenfo school their choir will be going to sing at saint Barnardos church on Monday 2nd of march. Go see Gwenfo school sing it’s worth it and Gwenfo choir has improved massively this month.

On March the 4th Gwenfo will celebrate saint David’s Day by wearing traditional Welsh clothes or red tops for the red dragon. Gwenfo school does competitions for best handwriting, best story, best art, best poetry and best drawing on a flag. Children are divided into houses Greaves, Whitehall, Ballas and Wrinstone. To see who can get the most house points. These houses are so competitive that the hall is like a rugby stadium it’s so loud in a competitive way. When a house wins, they go crazy and they feel happy for their team and their self.


We hope you all have a great half term from Gwenfo School.


Theo & Alex



What’s Coming Up in March


New Volunteers. – We would like to welcome our new volunteers Trisha and Paula. We are privileged to have an amazing team of enthusiastic volunteers who help us to run the library.


Meet the Author – Wednesday 18 March 2020, 7pm, Wenvoe Community Centre

Free entry but a donation to the library would be welcome.

Come listen to and meet Sam Hurcom as he talks about his book A Shadow on the Lens that is based in Dinas Powys.

  1. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland – her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of Betsan Tilny.


Gardeners’ Question Time,

7:00 p.m. Wednesday 15th April,

Wenvoe Community Centre

Join us for a good-humoured evening where an audience of amateur gardeners can put their horticultural questions to our panel of local experts. Chaired by Mike Tucker (Village Gardener) and his trusted panellists: Joyce Hoy and Gordon Jones. Tickets £2 available from Wenvoe Community Library during opening hours or £2:50 on the night.


Bus trip to Hay Festival

Saturday 30th May.

Watch out for further details


Book donations – We are always grateful for donations of good quality books. If you’ve finished the latest bestseller, have some books you’ll never read again or it’s just time for a clear out, you can donate your books to us. Please bring your books to the library during opening hours or if you contact us, we can arrange to pick them up.

Off the Shelf

This month’s book was a light read by Penelope Lively. How It All Began is a book of consequences. Charlotte in her late 70s is mugged and suffers a broken hip. The story describes the knock-on effects of this event. Charlotte’s daughter Rose works as Sir Henry’s secretary but has to attend to her mother. Sir Henry calls his niece Marion to cover Rose. Marion sends a text to her lover Jeremy to cancel their tryst. Jeremy’s wife reads the text, and so the story unfolds. We all agreed that this was a pleasant if not a challenging read and gave it an overall score of 5/10





New Bus Pass?

Do you have your new bus pass?

We have heard of a few applications that failed to register. From the 1st March the old passes will not be accepted.
You need to contact Transport for Wales to obtain a new pass who are encouraging people to apply on line at or you can contact the help line at 0300 303 4240. Help is also available from the library



Notice Board Shock


We had a bit of a shock when we found our noticeboard and bee hotel at the Community Orchard flat on the ground. This happened before storms Ciara and Dennis and it is clear that the very damp conditions on this site have rotted the posts. The structure itself is still more or less intact and our plan is to re-erect it and position the remaining posts in Metposts. The big challenge will be lifting it up as it weighs a lot.

Fallen Notice Board

When weather permits we have continued to plant the new hedgerow at Goldsland Farm and our thanks to residents who have donated saplings. The small pond has been installed and one benefit of the rain has been the speed at which the pond has filled up. We have another small pond to install at the Bee Loud Glade and then a large replacement pond at the Welsh Orchard. We shall by then have installed 5 ponds as well as keeping an eye on the Holland Pond and Watercress Beds.

We have been monitoring which plants appear to be good for pollinators so that they can be planted at the Bee Loud Glade. During January Mahonia was frequently visited by bees – mainly Queen Bumblebees which are on the wing during warmer sunnier spells. In February Hellebores tended to be the most popular as pollen and nectar sources, particularly the large, white-flowered varieties not just for bees but some of the larger hoverflies.

We are always on the look-out for help whether volunteering time or surplus benches, tools or stakes.



March Planning Updates

Planning updates for March

The following applications have received approval.

  • 5, Old Port Road, Wenvoe. Pre-fabricated cabin to be sited in the rear garden.
  • Dyffryn Gardens. A small extension to the recently completed compost bays
  • 73, Picca Close. Infill porch to front of dwelling set below existing roof overhang
  • Former ITV Studios, Culverhouse Cross. Construction of drainage ditch


The proposed level of charges for hall hire, allotments and cemetery fees for the forthcoming year were agreed

New proposed library building. The Council are still waiting for the Welsh government to approve our grant, almost four years after the money was first applied for. Our Assembly minister Jane Hutt has been asked to intervene to see if things can be progressed.

Playgrounds. The Twyn-yr-Odyn playground is now complete. Easy access for disabled persons is being investigated. Grange playing field redevelopment is progressing. The Redrow play area now has completed paths but still requires landscape work.

The VE Day celebrations public meeting was reasonably attended not withstanding the inclement weather, being St Valentine’s day etc. The project will be carried forward by interested parties. The Council has agreed to make limited funds available to cover agreed expenses.

A near accident was reported to have occurred on the steps from Tarrws Close due to the streetlight being obstructed by fencing. The matter will be pursued with the Vale. Indiscriminate parking in Old Market was reported on.

The Council has employed a specialist company to examine the safety of gravestones in the cemetery. A number of defects were recorded in their report. Owners of the listed plots will be contacted to have the faults rectified.

Discussion on the future of the Whitehall quarry and access road area are continuing.

Possible future use of a small area of unattended land in Dyffryn were discussed.



March Planning Applications

Planning applications fo March

10, St Andrews Road – Proposed Internal remodelling to include alterations to form a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom within the existing attic, plus roof alterations to include a rear dormer. No objections raised

34, Goldsland Walk, Wenvoe. Conversion of existing integral single garage into a living space. No objections

Wenvoe Village Hall, Work to tree covered by TPO no. 4 of 1973 – Removal of Cypress tree facing Old Port Road – The council objected to the application on the grounds that there was insufficient justification to fell a protected tree.

Brooklands Drive Retail Park, Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff. One single digital screen and one unit of three digital screens. Concern raised about any possible distraction to road users.



Bridgend POW Camp – 75 Years



It’s 75 years since the ‘Welsh Great Escape’ from the Island Farm prisoner of war camp near Bridgend. On the night of 10 to 11 March 1945, the largest German P.O.W. escape attempt in the UK took place and The Hut 9 Preservation Group are marking the occasion by staging a special open week-end event on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th of March.

Originally built as a hostel for female workers employed at a local munitions factory, the buildings were later used to house American troops in the lead up to D Day in June 1944. The camp then proved an ideal location for the many German POWs captured by the allies during 1944-5.


The prefabricated concrete huts surrounded by open fields were considered ideal, although the barracks had to be converted and barbed wire fences erected. The camp eventually held more than 2,000 prison-ers. The first POWs were a mixture of Italian and German troops, but the War Office soon decided that the camp was too comfortable for enlisted men and 160 German officers, including generals, admirals and field marshals were held there. Some were among Hitler’s closest advisers. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt for example, had been commander in chief of the German armies in Western Europe in 1940. Reflecting his status, von Rundstedt received certain privileges at the camp, including his own private suite, consisting of a sitting room and bedroom. Rundstedt returned to Bridgend after appearing as a defence witness at the Nuremberg trials. Deemed unfit for prosecution due to poor health, he was released in 1948 and died in 1953 in Hanover.


Gerd von Rundstedt is pictured (left) being given a ‘VIP’-style greeting at Bridgend Station.

Above – one of many paintings completed by German POWs while at the camp.

Soon after their arrival at Island Farm the POWs began escape efforts and on 10 March 1945, 70 prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug from Hut Nine. The tunnel was about 30 feet (9.1 m) long and breached the perimeter fence. Some of the techniques used by the inmates were ingenious and not too dissimilar to those in the war film ‘The Great Escape’ about Allied POWs. Excavating the tunnels was not easy because of the heavy clay soil. Cans, meat tins, and even knives from the can-teen were used as digging implements. Prisoners carried the soil outside in their pockets while oth-ers kneaded clay into balls and dropped them through a hole in a false wall they had constructed. To support the tunnel roof, oak benches were stolen from the canteen and bed legs were cut down when supplies of wood were depleted. A ventilation pipeline was made from condensed milk tins; air was forced through by a hand-operated fan. The tunnel even had its own electric lights, tapped off the mains supply. Noise was concealed by chorus singing.

The escapees were divided into groups, each of which was equipped with fake identity papers, a map, homemade compass, and food. At around 10pm on March 10, the prisoners made their move; a few stole the local doctor’s car and got as far as Birmingham and another group got as far as Southampton. However it seems that all the escapees were eventually recaptured,

If you would like to visit the camp, see the Hut 9 website:



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