Caught between a rock and a rock’n’roller

As a lifelong Elvis fan and aspiring connoisseur of this great country, my eye was caught by a reference to St Elvis in a gazetteer of Britain. But this isn’t just any gazetteer, it’s McKie’s local history of Britain.

McKie's Gazetteer

As a lifelong Elvis fan and aspiring connoisseur of this country, my eye was naturally caught and I’m quite baffled by St Elvis, an entry in this gazetteer. The great rock’n’roller may have become something akin to a saint in the eyes of his extraordinary fandom, but the advanced copy of the weighty tome I had in my hands is no history of popular music.

McKie’s Gazetteer: a local history of Britain is in fact a ‘journey thorugh the hidden history of Great Britain, from Castle Dangerous in South Lanarkshire to Defiance Platform in Cornwall’. And St Elvis, it turns out, is the name of a rock on the edge of the sea in Pembrokeshire, south west Wales (there’s also a farm). The saint flourished in the 11th century and his claim to fame is to have baptised St David (Wales’ patron saint).

McKie investigates further: some people in Wales apparently believe Elvis (the musical legend) was Welsh. Elvis from the Welsh saint’s name, and Presley from the Preseli hills in Wales. His father was called Vernon, a Welsh name, and his mother Gladys, and as McKie writes, “You can’t get much Welsher than Gladys”. And there’s more, not just about rock’n’roll legends and geology, but about all sorts of fascinating places and people around the country and through the centuries. Bound to add an extra layer of enjoyment to your travels around Britain. This paperback is 688 pages, so you won’t be wanting to carry it around in your backpack. But it’s a pleasure to dip into to add to the wonderful tapestry of Britain’s heritage.

David McKie was deputy editor of UK newspaper The Guardian, writing its Smallweed and Elsewhere columns. Published 2 September by Atlantic Books, it can be purchased on Amazon HERE!