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It's not unusual for Tom to be top

Think of Wales and several images spring to mind: rolling valleys, the leeks of St David and the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Unless you are Welsh, in which case you think of Tom Jones.

In a poll, conducted over several months, people in Wales were asked to vote for their favourite national hero. More than 41,000 nominations were received for 605 individuals, ranging from medieval princes to Hollywood princesses.

A shortlist of 100 nominees was published this week. Voters will now decide which of these is their personal hero. Ballots have been sent out to every Welsh school and college, and biographies of nominees have been published on the internet.

As The TES went to press, voting looked likely to mirror the initial nomination process, which gave 3,840 votes to singer Tom Jones. Mr Jones was well ahead of his nearest competitor, Aneurin Bevan. The former Labour home secretary, credited as the founder of the National Health Service, received only 2,740 votes.

At number three was Owain Glyndwr, a 15th-century prince who led a rebel uprising against the English. First World War prime minister David Lloyd George and Dylan Thomas, Wales's best-known poet, completed the top five.

But advancing the reputation of the Welsh nation is a fickle business.

Catherine Zeta Jones received 221 votes for her services to Hollywood and Hello! magazine. But St David only managed 392 votes, despite performing miracles and serving for centuries as Welsh patron saint.

Polls will close on February 23, and the results will be announced at a ceremony on March 1 - St David's day. John Curtis, of Culturenet Cymru, which is running the poll, is not concerned that a singer best known as the recipient of unsolicited underwear may be voted Welsh national hero.

He said: "There are some incredible Welsh achievements out there. For a country of 3.5 million, we're doing pretty well. Tom Jones has done a lot for Wales. There are people in America who might never have heard of us, if it weren't for him."

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