Saturday, June 03, 2006

Llanidloes, a typical Welsh town?

DNA, archaeogenetics - all exciting stuff for those of us with an interest in Welsh history - a chance to discover lost origins and population movements from the information locked within our own genes. It would help though if the scientists conducting the research had a little more understanding of old fashioned document based history when designing their tests.

Take studies in Welsh DNA, much of it based on three market towns tested for the BBC's Viking project, Llangefni, Llanidloes and Haverfordwest. Leaving aside Haverfordwest, which being in South Pembrokeshire is hardly typical of Welsh Wales, what about Llanidloes? Llani, as the locals call it, is slap bang in the middle of the ancient Welsh cantref of Arwystli, and in the sixteenth century this area was the scene of an Ulster style plantation organised by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Large numbers of tenants from Derbyshire and Lancashire were settled in the area at the expense of the local Welsh population.

Now as it happens, and mainly because both locals and incomers shared a common religious faith, this English plantation became integrated into the local population, indeed became thoroughly Welsh in speech and sentiment. The only trace left today of this is in common local surnames such as Ashton, Woosnam, Wigley, Jarman, Hamer, Breeze, Chapman, Cleaton, Bumford etc.

I wonder if the scientists were aware of this unique genetic background when they picked Llanidloes as one of their centres to test? More likely they just looked at the map and found what they assumed was a typical market town in the middle of Wales.

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