31 Stories in May at Hay!: Day 18 ‘Old People are a Problem’ by Emyr Humphreys

Every day throughout May, you will be able to visit the Library of Wales website to download your free story, drawn from Story, vols I and II - a collection boasting the finest Welsh short fiction ever written and featuring some of the most talented literary names from both past and present, including the legendary Dylan Thomas and the award-winning Rachel Trezise, as well as read all about the chosen author.


Day 18: ‘Old People are a Problem' by Emyr Humphreys

         (Taken from Old People are a Problem, 2003)



Emyr Humphreys, a former theatre and television director, drama producer and lecturer, in a long and illustrious career has written, both in Welsh and in English, twenty novels, several collection of short-stories and poetry, a cultural history of Wales, The Taliesin Tradition, and won several literary prizes during his career.

He was born in 1919 in Trelawnyd, in Flintshire and attended Rhyl High. Although an English-speaker, he learned Welsh after the burning of the bombing school on the Llyn peninsula in 1936, when his interest in Welsh culture was first awakened. He read history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and at the outbreak of the Second World War he registered as a conscientious objector, working on a farm, and later doing relief work in Egypt and Italy. After the War he worked as a teacher and then joined the BBC as a drama producer in 1955. He moved to North West Wales in the mid 1960s and became a lecturer in drama at Bangor University, but left in 1972 to write full–time. His first novel, Little Kingdom, was published in 1946.

Among many honours, in 1958 Humphrey went on to win the Somerset Maugham Prize for Hear and Forgive (1952) and the Hawthornden Prize for A Toy Epic (1958) as well as the Wales Book of the Year award twice, in 1992 and 1999.

Other classics he wrote are Outside the House of Baal (1965) and The Land of the Living, an epic sequence of seven novels charting the political and cultural history of twentieth-century Wales: Flesh and Blood; The Best of Friends; Salt of the Earth; An Absolute Hero; Open Secrets; National Winner, and Bonds of Attachment. Humphrey has also written and directed many plays for stage and television, as well as produced a number of screenplays.

He now lives in Llanfairpwll on Anglesey and is still busy writing. He is included in the University of Wales Press’ Writers of Wales Series, and several books have been published discussing his work. In 1999 he published his Collected Poems, and his most recent novel, entitled The Woman at the Window (2009), was on the 2010 Wales Book of the Year Long List. Humphrey is a Fellow of the Welsh Academi.


You can download the story in PDF format here. (If download does not start, then right click the link and select 'Save link as'.)


Selected bibliography

A Man’s Estate (Library of Wales, 2006)


Contributed to

Story I (anthology) (Library of Wales, 2014)

Story II (anthology) (Library of Wales, 2014)

Poetry (Library of Wales, 2007)



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