Saturday, May 26, 2007

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 36

This is an elegy by Lewis Glyn Cothi for Hywel Goch ap Rhys ap Dafydd ap Hywel Fain of Gwestun, Llangynllo:

No. 179, Elegy for Hywel Goch

The falcon with the long golden hair,
Who I saw in Rhiwlallt,
Today, he does not pay the costs
In the land of Gwestun.
He went, this great grandson of Hywel Fain,
Through the throng to the oak and the winding cloth.
He went, as if across a sea,
From Rhiwlallt, on a bier.
Hywel Goch, who would hunt the wicked,
Son of generous Rhys of the ready purse,
Famed throughout the land,
A bed of earth for Hywel ap Rhys.

He was a planted tree in Llangynllo,
He was tired after the planting.
God keeps a fair dwelling,
The vineyards of God are full of leaves,
There he cut down, after summer,
The tallest of the young growth.
Hywel was a very tall plant
From a straight, well-bred vine;
A useful plant where I played,
God is the carpenter who cut him down.
He cut down an oak tree of Maelienydd,
And now the woodland is weaker.
He broke a string with a talent
To sing out from the centre,
He broke a fine bow with a
Talent for aiming straight.
A fair, modest falcon has fallen,
By magic, as he flew.
A tree in the top of the river-cliff uprooted,
By the sun, the greatest in Rhiwlallt.
The hand of Rhys ap Dafydd
Has been hidden in the choir of Cynllo.

Rhys was a stag from the conquerors
His seven antlers were truly beautiful,
And the seventh, his favourite,
Has fallen beside Rhys.
Rhys was a tree for us throughout the dominion,
And upon it were seven roots,
Jesus with his axe one night,
Cut a good one from the seven.
There was a castle on top of Gwestun
With seven towers, one was shot down,
Once again one of the seven is broken
By a cannonball from heaven.

Many the wounds on my cheek,
Many the cries of woe for Hywel Goch.
No healthy man, not two, can sing,
No human laughter with the string music,
No-one who comes is cheerful,
No-one puts on weight because of Hywel.
Are not the sons of widows upon every bench?
Are not the youngsters in a wretched state/?
Is not the world unpleasant for everyone?
Are the brooks of Gwestun not weeping?
Hywel is where we cannot see him,
We have need of him this month.
There is weeping for the soldier,
Heaven is now his home.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Eye Spy, Something Beginning with C

Back in July 1903 the Automobile Club held a series of events in the Emerald Isle which it described as the Irish Automobile Fortnight. Here for example we find C. S. Rolls in a 70 horse power Mors winning the cup presented by the Cork Constitution newspaper for the fastest time over a two mile sprint course, Roll's time 1-49.6. But who is this in third place in a 50 horse power Wolseley in a time of 2-04.5? A Lieutenant Cumming, much better known to history as Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming. In 1903 Cumming was already director of the foreign section of the Secret Service Bureau, later he would become the first director of MI6, the legendary C of popular culture.

Cumming is better remembered as a sporting pioneer of motor-boats rather than cars, but he was the first of quite a number of individuals linked to the world of espionage who had racing connections. No doubt we will highlight some of them over the next few months.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Llandrindod, A Welsh Canberra?

On 9th June 1919 the Chairman of the local Urban District Council, Mr Jeffrey Jones, opened the Welsh Home Rule Conference in Llandrindod Wells with a promise that the council were ready to donate a site for a Welsh Parliament House. That week's conference was covered by the London papers, which is more than can be said for this week's discussions between Plaid Cymru, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats about forming a coalition government at the National Assembly. As far as the English press are concerned the remarkable possibility of Nationalists and Conservatives sharing the admittedly limited powers on offer in Cardiff might just as well be happening in Tierra del Fuego.

Another summer, another meeting in Llandrindod. Nearly 700 "leaders of Welsh political, cultural and industrial life", as the Times described them, met on the 2nd of July 1950 to launch a petition calling for Parliamentary Self-Government for Wales. Some 57 years later and of course we are still waiting for a genuine law-making Parliament in Wales, I wonder if the council still have a spare site?

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 35

This is a praise poem by Lewis Glyn Cothi to Henri ab Ieuan Fychan of Llansantffraid yn Elfael:

No 156, Praise of Henri ab Ieuan Fychan

Who is the apparent angel?
Who is the generous one in the parish of St Bride?
A long life filled with love
To you Henry, lion of half the land,
Son of Ieuan Fychan and like
Your forefathers, from the blood of Idwal,
Love from the father and the grandfather,
Proper authority to the righteous,
A leader where the great spears are splintered,
A bow of Elfael and Buellt,
A Bedwyr of Gruffudd ab Adam,
Let there be life for your mother’s son!
Arise and build for yourself,
The house of the father on the grandfather’s land.

Bryn Coch merits praise,
A hill of old wines and courtly song,
A hill of yellow gold and mead,
A healthy hill under a wide sky;
A hill of a noble baron’s line,
A hill of the bards and their eternal judgements.
For a bard and for a mere man,
Was there ever such a goodly hill?
Who made it, mead reared child?
Who? Cadwgan ap Hywel!
Ieuan was his natural son,
And after him his grandson Henri
Is in the courting place of his grandsons.
You come from Hywel Sais, from Lleision,
Generous one of your generation;
You’re a squire from Rhys Gryg,
You’re the fine linen of Tewdwr.
You began as a youth to share
The gold of the bank with all.
As a boy you gave me
The full bodied ale of Weobley;
A Goodman, for us at last there are
Gold and stallions, saddles and mead.
Never on this hill was born
Your better for sharing goods Henri.

You give us Henri, in one summer,
As much as a hundred since Henry the First.
You are the Henry of our day,
As brave as Henry the Third.
Henri you are, my lordship.
Henry of Derby was less than you.
Are you any worse for wine giving along
The banks of the Wye than Henry of Monmouth?
May you have health and a world of knowledge,
Henri your name will be recalled.
Their way one of riches,
May your hand have this Henri:
Half the lifetime that came to Moses,
May that be an added extra.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Book of the Month

Preacher's Son by Dewi Williams is an interesting book about everyday life in North Breconshire in the early 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a schoolboy - the son of the minister at Troedrhiwdalar. ISBN 1-84685-186-6, published by the Diggory Press.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Down Below

The 1950s saw the final flourish of that type of "gentleman" driver who had dominated the British motor sport scene in the pre-war years. Newer types, the garagistes and arguably in the case of Moss and Hawthorn that distinctly modern phenomenon - the pushy dad, were supplanting the toffs.

Two of the old-school were to be found just across the Radnorshire border amongst the hop-pickers of Herefordshire, although neither Grand Prix career could be described as distinguished. Peter Walker, a gentleman farmer of Shobdon Court, had a good deal of success in sports cars though, winning Le Mans with Peter Whitehead in 1951 and taking second place in 1953, when he partnered Moss. John Riseley-Prichard of Almeley competed in the 1954 British Grand Prix in his Connaught, although a career highlight was surely a works Aston outing in the 1955 Le Mans race, partnering Tony Brooks.

With their motor racing careers behind them both men's lives seem to have taken a downward, perhaps even a symbolic, course. It is reported that Walker eventually ended-up as an alcoholic down-out on the streets of London while Riseley-Prichard, a Lloyd's underwriter, was one of the original partners in the Ann Summers sex shop before it was sold-on to its present owners. It is further reported that Prichard became involved in child pornography, dying of AIDS in Thailand, hotly pursued by both the police and the British tabloids.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Setting the record straight

The well respected author and Lotus historian Michael Oliver recently found a witness to Innes Ireland's 1963 crash at Kent, Washington State. This is the crash where some idiotic track official parked his road-car at trackside which Innes proceeded to hit in his Lotus 19-Ferrari, with the result that his right thigh bone disappered eight inches up his backside.

Anyway this is what the "eye-witness" - he was a friend of the guy who parked the car - had to say to Oliver:

"Regarding Ireland's "injuries", my memory is that he didn't say a word to any of us on the turn when we asked him how he was. He sprinted across the track (with cars still running on the track), moved himself quickly up the hill toward the pits, and out of our sight. He may have been injured but there was no evidence of it to any of us on the turn."

Sprinted across the track eh! Luckily I was able to come-up with this picture which showed Innes before he was cut out of the wreckage. By the way Innes was allergic to morphia so was extracted without the benefit of any pain killer. Anyway the record was set straight and a piece of disiinformation hopefully put to rest.

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 34

This request poem by Lewis Glyn Cothi is addressed to Syr Huw Iolo - a priest - and his cousin Hywel ap Ieuan Coch of Llansantffraid yn Elfael. It's unclear whether the Earl of Pembroke mentioned at the end is Jasper Tudor or William Herbert.

No. 134, Request for a Bridle and Harness

Two generous men, the kindly sort,
Who give gifts of the same type;
One is ordained, by Non,
The other a layman with a cruel hand.
Syr Huw Iolo, his Welsh is good,
From the fair land of Elfael;
The other is Hywel son of
Ieuan Coch, a wise leader.
Hywel Fychan was a patriarch
From a noble stock of men,
And they, two young Welshmen,
Come from his body like two branches.
For all his land they are two good shepherds,
They’re his two guardians;
One with the propriety of law
And the other with his courageous spear.

In summertime Syr Huw wears
The ermine cape of the most supreme;
Hywel wears an iron helmet
And steel armour.]; there from our judgement
Syr Huw Iolo our teacher
In the college of Abergwili,
In holy Menevia, it’s true,
He is installed in the two lands.
Hywel, take battle throughout the world,
He also wages war on men,
There he is before one hundred
With a war horse and the silver spear.
The two kinsmen, yoked together,
Who maintain their strength.
In Llansantffraid they are one party,
One blood, one people.

Oh God, it is generous
For two men to give gold.
If Syr Huw Iolo is too generous,
Then Hywel is just as generous.
I am a bard who follows their path,
Unsteady in my old age;
Although I’ve had gifts from these fine goodmen,
Now I seek for more there.
I seek a bridle and a harness,
I’ll get a saddle from the Wye vale.
Two liberal stags shall give them freely,
Hywel and that saint Syr Huw Iolo.
On my shod colt I’ll go to Chester
For the Feast of the Holy Rood.
To hold his riddel as he runs
The flaps must be set tightly.
Stars, the work of a jeweller of Rouen,
This chip-style leather work.
My strong stallion wears
A chasuble of belts,
Across his forehead there are daisies,
And woodland leaves all down his flanks,
Upon his mane, leaves of the same work,
And upon his breast is a citadel of colour.
A fine harness like stars or frost,
Reed stems to hold a charger.

My white charger wears a dress of stars
Syr Huw Iolo, the stars of Hwlyn.
Too much of a gift for a man,
The two presents that they give,
These two give me their two presents,
The Earl of Pembroke must provide a stallion.