One of the world’s most famous children’s authors is Welsh. It is a little known fact that Roald Dahl, creator of The BFG and The Twits, was born, baptised, and schooled in the capital city, Cardiff.
In 1916 Norwegian parents Harald and Sofie Magdalene named their son after explorer Roald Amundsen. Roald was baptised in Cardiff Bay’s Norwegian Church, the church for sailors where his parents worshipped, and of which he later became its preservation trust’s first president in 1987.
Roald Dahl’s early life was had its share of sadness, with his older sister Astri dying when he was three years old, followed shortly by his father’s death. Harald Dahl had settled in Cardiff in the 1880s, founding the Aadnessen and Dahl ship-brokering company. He was buried in Radyr, Cardiff.
Sofie Dahl, true to her husband’s wishes, remained in Britain to school her six children. Leafy Llandaff was where the nine year old Roald Dahl first went to school. The Cathedral School, featured in his autobiography Boy was where he was unhappy, and caned, though mention of an amazing local sweetshop is rumoured to be the inspiration behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Leaving Cardiff to attend other schools in England, Dahl ended up working for Shell Oil, then as a fighter pilot during World War Two. He began writing in Washington, where he was an Assistant Air Attaché and was published in newspapers. But his real success was as a children’s author, with James And The Giant Peach (1961), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (1964), Fantastic Mr Fox (1970) and Danny The Champion Of The World (1975).
Now a part of Cardiff Bay is named after him – Roald Dahl Plass, formerly the Oval Basin, which stands at the entrance of the golden domed Millennium Centre. The Plass is an easily recognisable symbol of the newly regenerated Bay area of the capital, and with its 70ft tall stainless steel water tower, has been featured in TV sci-fi series Torchwood and Dr Who. Roald Dahl Plass is a key public space, hosting open-air music, food festivals and other events.
Dahl died in Buckinghamshire in 1990.
This article all about Roald Dahl was written for welshholidaycottages.com, a website for self catering holiday cottages in Wales, by Sue Bland.