Saturday, June 30, 2007

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 37

In this jolly poem addressed to Ieuan ap Gruffudd Fychan of Gladestry, Lewis Glyn Cothi mocks a bardic rival called Hywel Bongam, none of whose work has survived.

No. 160, Praise of Ieuan ap Gruffudd Fychan.

You are a terror to the unwise,
Wise, silver-tongued Ieuan;
You are the liberal limb of yonder land,
A lieutenant over the land below.
Where you give, you are a Daniel,
A prophet, son of Gruffudd,
A Solomon seen throughout the March,
A Sir Ffwg of Llwythyfnwg and her lands.
Let the life of Gruffudd Fychan,
Be there upon your face, goodman.

Your strong word comes from the root,
It stands throughout Maesyfaidd
Like the green trees of Meifod
Stand above any snowfall.
You are a man who has grown wise,
An oak or some such tree;
Silver coins are your berries,
There is gold in the roots,
Under your branches, good prince,
I come quietly to shelter.

Yonder are my brothers.
We share an oath on the relics of Enlli;
Between us, by the image of Thomas,
There is a noisy battle for silver metal.
Hywel Bongam was very loud,
Not a single word is tolerable;
He comes from Manafon,
A servant of Morys ap John;
For myself, like office for the English,
If he deserves it, then I resign!
Jovial Dafydd asks you,
"Is every man to be a victor?"
This suitor is an adulterer,
The man has sought your patronage,
He seeks to seduce your oath;
For his own ends he does so.
I must insist, Ieuan,
To have my share from an Ifor Hael.
Men of poetry, my knave!
Who praise you in the dialect of Gwynedd!

You are a member of the chief council,
You are the Duke's right ear;
Do you deal justice fairly
Between the men there?
You are a foot in the land,
To uphold the office of the lord.
Along a road of propriety it should run
To the pathways of high law.
Ieuan, you are the right hand
Of the earl, watching over his share;
Hold that patronage like a harp string,
Through the means at your disposal.
Bring profit there for the Duke,
The Duke has given you good office.
Duke Richard brings and has given
The land of Llwythyfnwg to your ward,
He takes in Llanfar four lifetimes,
God will give you four lifetimes.

Friday, June 22, 2007


This unusal item was recently for sale on ebay.

A Bit of a Rant

We all know that English speakers can mangle Welsh names but what about some of the linguistic nonsense inflicted by Welsh speakers on the place names of Radnorshire.

A glaring example is Cwmdeuddwr which I guess most locals would pronounce Cwmteuddwr. Well Cwmteuddwr is infact the correct version, the full name of the place is Cwmwd Deuddwr (the Commote of the two waters if you like) and that d.D in the middle of the words naturally hardens to a T in spoken Welsh. So who decided the locals were wrong and inflicted the modern Cwmdeuddwr on the unfortunate inhabitants?

Here's another example Ffynnon Gynid - that's what the locals call the place, as did Lhuyd in his Parochiala of 1700. Nowadays the authorities insist on Ffynnon Gynydd, no-doubt they were convinced that the Radnorshire folk couldn't pronounce a DD. The fact is that what we have here is the Well of St Cynidr - the final r being dropped as in familiar words like ffenest for ffenestr. So a placename of some historical importance is mangled by the authorities presumably at the behest of a Welsh speaker who thought he knew better.

Next how about Llanyre - Llanllyr - the LL in the middle of a placename quite naturally being dropped in spoken Welsh as in the Cardiganshire Llanllwchaearn or Llanychaearn. The academic publishers of a Welsh atlas came up with the nonsensical version Llanhir. The old cynghanedd of the old bards showed that the local pronounciation is correct, spell it Llanŷr if you like. Something similar happened at nearby Nantmel where the experts decided that the brook must be named after honey or mêl - infact it's named after a person Mael.

A final example - generations of Llandrindod High school pupils have belonged to a house called Aran, named after a river - the Aran - which runs in a valley called Cwm Aran. Trouble is that there is no such place, the river was always called Cymaron by those real experts on Welsh placenames, the Welsh bards.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Whole Truth

If an article in this month's Motor Sport is anything to go by then John Surtees wasn't Innes Ireland's biggest fan. Innes he says had "a big tantrum" when the new boy crashed the Lotus 18 testing at Silverstone. Later Chapman wanted John as his number one driver for the 1961 season and asked him who he wanted as his number two.....Surtees chose Jim Clark. "But Innes Ireland wasn't happy at all. He said I'd kicked him out of his seat at Lotus and there was a lot of ranting and raving. So I walked away, just couldn't stand the pressure."

Now of course this isn't the first time Surtees has spoken on this subject. Here's his description of the same incident from an article in C&SC a number of years ago:

"Colin said to me, "John - you're my Number One and you can have your choice of team-mate, Innes or Jim. I don't know," I said. "I've had so many mechanical failures that I'm getting a bit suspicious of your green cars."

"Then we'll paint 'em black!" said Colin, and he prepared a contract giving me choice of second driver and saying that the cars would be painted black. I told him that I would like Jim Clark as my number two, as I got on well with him, but then a few days later Innes Ireland called me from Paris. He told me that he had a contract for 1960 and '61 which stated that he was Number One at Lotus and that he had choice of team-mate! "What the hell is going on?" he wanted to know.

I went to see Colin."It's not true." he said, "I've got no arrangement at all with Innes. We're fixing him up with the British Racing Partnership." Innes still insisted that he had everything in writing, so I fixed another meeting with Chapman, taking Innes with me. He brought his contract, which said exactly what he claimed, but Colin just shrugged the whole thing off, so I said "I'm sorry, but that's it" and I walked out."

So there you have it and no doubt Ireland's "ranting and raving" are a bit more understandable when you have the full story rather than the truncated version in the Motor Sport article.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Last Amazon

A new book has been published in France charting the life of Marie Marthe Camille Designe du Gast (1868-1942), the first woman driver to compete on equal terms with men, details here.

Camille's exploits are legendary: the parachute jump from a hot-air balloon in 1895; a 33rd place out of 122 starters in an underpowered 20hp Peugeot in the Berlin-Paris race of 1901 - she had been required to start last; the attempted duel fought on her behalf by the Prince de Sagan when the lawyer Barboux suggested that Camille was the model for a Gervex nude.

The ill-fated Paris-Madrid race of 1903 saw Madame du Gast among the leaders before she stopped to help the injured Englishman Stead, by the time the authorities had forced the abandonment of the race at Bordeaux she was still 45th out of 275 starters. Camille's reward, L'ACF banned women from competing in 1904!

Camille turned to the new sport of powerboat racing and was victorious in the ambitious Algiers-Toulon race of 1905. Not that she finished, her boat was closest to Toulon when she came to grief - the entire entry having been sunk by unseasonal storms.

A campaigner against bullfighting, her activities led in 1930 to the Minister of the Interior banning the "sport" in the department of Seine-et-Marne. Several thousand citizens marched through the town of Melun in protest, carrying an effigy of Mme. Du Gast accompanied by a cow and picadors riding asses. The effigy was burnt outside the prefecture to cries of Death! Now not many racing drivers can claim to have been burnt in effigy, not even Schumacher.