Elaine Morgan's tribute from Sir David Attenborough

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Elaine Morgan's tribute from Sir David Attenborough

Postby CEngelbrecht » Mon Mar 11, 2013 2:31 am

Cross posted from http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/AAT/

Link:
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales ... -32916459/

WalesOnline: Writer Elaine Morgan's glowing tribute from Sir David Attenborough

Olivia Goldhill
Mar 4 2013

She won an award for her Western Mail column and has been praised for her work on anthropology.

Now Elaine Morgan, one of Wales' most gifted writers, has won acclaim from Sir David Attenborough – among others – in a special documentary about her life.

The documentary, being aired on BBC Wales tonight, profiles Elaine and speaks to the people and colleagues she has influenced through her long and varied career.

Elaine, from Hopkinstown, near Pontypridd, won two Baftas – as well as being awarded an OBE for her contribution to Welsh literature.

She is best known for her books The Descent Of Woman, The Aquatic Ape, The Scars Of Evolution, The Descent Of The Child, The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis and The Naked Darwinist.

Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David was one of many well-known and respected people to praise Elaine in the programme, Great Welsh Writers.

He said: "I imagine her sitting at a desk, looking at the middle distance and conjuring up thoughts. She's a lone operator."

Commenting on Elaine's scientific work, Sir David said: "There she was, a writer, playwright, distinguished television playwright who was suddenly moving into this area.

"It's a remarkable thing that Elaine, once she got her teeth into it, she simply couldn't let it go."

Elaine's work was often influenced by her childhood and her life in South Wales.

An only child born near Pontypridd, she lived with her parents and grandparents.

Dai Smith, chairman of the Arts Council of Wales, said: "Elaine was always I think from the beginning exceptional. In some senses even amidst that relative poverty she had quite a cosseted upbringing.

"I have a sense of this little girl Elaine Floyd in these streets, observing things, looking at things. In a way it's as if she's always been an observer. A looker-out, somebody who regards and then comes back to tell us."

The Western Mail gave Elaine her first breakthrough aged 11, and paid her a guinea to publish a story.

Elaine later studied English at Oxford University, where she became chair of the New Democratic Socialist Club but returned to South Wales immediately after graduating.

Her life in Wales influenced her writing, with her first television series, A Matter of Degree about a Valleys girl who went to Oxford.

She later returned to the theme for Testament of Youth, which won a Bafta.

Broadcaster Trevor Fishlock said Elaine's work in TV meant she was on "the wild frontier" of writing

He said: "She saw opportunities to write about real lives. She knew how people lived in Rhondda in Pontpridd and so on.

"All of this experience and all of her feeling for women and for other pope, men included, comes through her own experience. It's true."

Sian Phillips, who starred in How Green was my Valley, written by Elaine, said: "There was a time when the writer was king and she was one of the stars. If you saw that name on your script then you really wanted to do it."

She added: "She's a wonderful plotter. She's a very good storyteller for a start so nobody ever had to do any tweaking. Not a word."

Elaine is also known for her scientific work, after she read Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape, which used human evolutionary biology to explain modern society, and found it too male-focused.

She felt the book didn't take women into account, and after pouring over the literature she wrote The Descent Of Women, which put forward Aquatic Ape Theory as an alternative hypothesis.

The book went straight to the top of the best-sellers list, and was translated into 25 languages while Elaine toured America three times. But it was not well received by the scientific establishment.

Sir David said: "There are some very odd things about the human body. One of them is why do we have no body hair. Another is why do we have layers of fat.

"The aquatic ape theory suggests that there was a stage in the evolution of early man in which those ancestors were living close to lakes and water and spent a lot of their time in water and that that is a reason why, amongst other things don't have body hair and are able to produce fat beneath their skin which keeps them warm.

"When someone comes along who hasn't got ostensible scientific qualifications, who hasn't gone through the mill, who hasn't done the hard work, there is a resentment."

More than 70 years since her first story was published, Elaine wrote again for the Western Mail, and in 2011, aged 91, was named regional newspaper columnist of the year.

Trevor Fishlock said: "The column was called The Pensioner but she didn't really sound like a pensioner.

"She sounded like a Valleys woman who had something to say and knew how to say it."

* Great Welsh Writers is on BBC1 Wales, originally broadcasted Monday March 4th 2013 at 10.35pm.
UK users can watch feature online untill circa March 25th 2013.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r3mm8
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