To be a wife in Wales has rarely meant to be a mere appendage of the great man, and recent months have seen the passing of two remarkable examples of that fact. Caitlin Thomas earned headlines world-wide, where Mattie Prichard's fame was more local to the Welsh community, in London and Wales, but in terms of influence on the world in which she lived, Mattie Prichard had few equals.
Mattie Evans was born in 1908, at Gilfach Goch, just west of the Rhondda Valley. Her family soon moved to Cardiff, where she attended the High School for Girls and then trained as a teacher.
In 1933 she married Caradog Prichard, who was then working as a journalist for the Western Mail. Caradog was also a poet and at that point had won the Crown competition at the National Eisteddfod three times running. He went to work for the News Chronicle and the couple moved to London. Leaving Wales was not easy, but the lively London Welsh community helped to fill the gap, and Mattie Prichard became one of its most colourful figures.
During the Second World War, while her husband was in India in the Forces, Mattie Prichard worked for MI5, censoring international telephone calls; it was an unlikely task for one so fond of good conversation. After the war she turned to politics, working as Secretary to various Welsh members of Parliament, and then offering herself as a prospective Liberal candidate in local elections in London. These ambitions were not to be fulfilled, but Mati Wyn (the name she used for her column in the Welsh weekly Y Cymro) created a second career, as mother figure for the Welsh expatriate community.
Her salon in St John's Wood, complete with much-used harp, was a second home for all the more glamorous figures of the Welsh connection from actors like Richard Burton and Stanley Baker to politicians like Neil and Glenys Kinnock. Equally important was her generosity of time and practical advice for all those, famous or not, who needed them.
Lovers of Welsh literature owe her another debt. Like his near contemporary Dylan Thomas, Caradog Prichard did not always find life easy, and it was Mati Wyn's unfailing support that brought him through to a second, equally successful, literary career after 1961. In that year he published his remarkable novel Un Nos Ola Leuad ('Full Moon'), and in 1962, he tried for the Chair and won it. Mati Wyn and Caradog were devoted followers of the National Eisteddfod.
Perhaps she might best be described as one of the latest and finest flowerings of the London Welsh tradition. owes much to Mattie Prichard and those like her who promoted all things Welsh on the wider stage.
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