Welsh writer and doctor who relished the links between the Celtic cultures

Harri Pritchard Jones: October 3rd, 1933 - March 11th, 2015

 

Harri Pritchard Jones, who has died aged 81, was a Welsh writer, doctor and activist who acted as a powerful link between Irish and Welsh culture for half a century and whose life was permanent testimony to the vibrancy of small nations and smaller languages.

His Welsh-speaking parents were living in England when he was born, but moved back to Anglesey when he was a child. His exploration of his Celtic roots took its most adventurous step when he came to Dublin to study medicine at Trinity College.

In subsequent years he spent many summers as a locum on Aran, where he achieved a command of the Irish language, developing significant friendships there and in Dublin with kindred spirits such as Seán Mac Réamoinn, Ciarán Mac Mathúna and many others.

He had a long career as a doctor and psychiatrist in the NHS in Wales, to which he was fiercely loyal. He combined this with a passion for the arts, literature and languages and, on occasion, with linguistic activism, which once earned him a short prison sentence for objecting to the absence of a Welsh language television service.

He was the author of 15 volumes of novels and short stories, as well as works of literary criticism, translation, and – just before his death – a novel based partly on the lives and experiences of his own father and grandfather. His work has been translated into seven languages.

He acted as chair of the Welsh Academy and wrote several television scripts, winning prizes from the Eisteddfod. He relished the opportunities for contacts between Ireland and Wales that flowed from the appointment of an Irish consul in Cardiff. When cuts led to the disappearance of this post he felt it as a personal as well as an institutional loss.

His commitment to Wales found another, deeply felt, dimension in his loyalty to Welsh Catholicism and to its liturgy in the Welsh language.

He is survived by his widow, Lenna Owen Harries, a noted broadcaster, and their children, Harri, Nia and Illtud.