Saturday, September 29, 2007

Good Old Radnor Days

A newspaper report from 1879

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Welsh on the March

Which was the last county in England to have indigenous native speakers of a Celtic language? I guess most people would say Cornwall but infact Herefordshire and Shropshire are more certain candidates.

The last speaker of Herefordshire Welsh is said to have died in the parish of Clodock in 1883, although Ffransis Payne maintains that five or six native speakers lived on into the twentieth century in the Golden Valley. In 1878 the statistician E G Ravenstein found that the Shropshire parish of Sychtyn was overwhelmingly Welsh speaking, as was the western half of Llanyblodwel, with substantial numbers also found in Selattyn. Looking at the 1901 Census for the neighbouring Denbighshire parish of Llansilin it is apparent that the great majority of those born in the Shropshire parishes noted above and also in Oswestry itself are listed as Welsh speakers. The Welsh language must have survived well into the twentieth century in these "English" districts.

What I find interesting about this is the complete lack of interest in this survival of the Welsh language in Shropshire and Herefordshire. The topic does not seem to excite those interested in the history of either county. Why on earth is it that such an important part of each county's heritage is ignored? Do local historians in the two counties perhaps have some psychological hang-up about the subject?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 41

This ode by Lewis Glyn Cothi is addressed to Morgan ap Hywel of Croescynon, Llanbister.

No 160 Praise to Morgan ap Hywel

To you talisman of Llanbister through the three quarters
Of the world, be good health and a long life;
Your land which shall be tripartite,
will come to you in part.

Morgan, a man who shares, with a crested iron helmet,
The son of Hywel son of Philip,
Morgan the unbesmirched vineyard,
Who buys Burgundy wine by the pipe.

Tuns, pipes, with every finger
The soldier of Brwynllys gives;
A Tristan over part of the dominion,
A shield from Elystan's court.

Your gold, from the fair court, the bards' berries,
Son of the Wrist of Cymaron;
You gave the goods of this earth,
To minstrels as numerous as green trunks.

As the squirrel heads for the green trunks,
So we, the ten grades, to your hall, where there is praise;
By Mary and Egwad! I'll come to you,
Like the trout to the fishing line.

You bought from me a cywydd deuair,
Just as you would buy cattle at the market of St Mary's feast;
The man from the north who sells two heifers,
He knows the road to the fair.

Here I have a road to your house for my convenience,
A by-way is bad to a great fair;
A main road, a straight road is made to your hall,
Every course of worked stone fills my hand.

Twice as wide as the circulation of every groat,
The circulation of your chaired song;
Two courts, two lands were one word, for your father,
You'll rule two townships, two lands, three!

Morgan, your face will never be slandered,
Your spear, your breastplate, have been praised,
Your drove horses are fed on oats, in warfare
Your arms shine like dishes.

Your men wear steel, they are like haymakers,
Your stallions wear steel, your honour demands it,
And steel you've worn for your praise in Wales,
Your steel you'll wear down to the legs.

You turn above the perjures,
The turn of a wheel on a cart in springtime;
The turn of the harvest moon across the stars,
Like an eagle turning above the hens.

A just spear and sword,
That strike in battle to bring order;
Place a collar or two on petty squabbles,
Be a fetter upon the war host.

he'll not go for long without my laughter,
Morgan, I am nothing without you to praise;
By Christ, I'll not let you, by the relics,
be forgotten, not even one word from ten.

Anglesey, Man and Lundy will talk
Of your generosity and of your praise;
My tongue spills praise, a measured mass,
To you the apostle Paul of Llanbister.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bogged Down?

Back in the big freeze of 1963 Innes Ireland imported a VW engined Swedish Snow-Trac, which he proceeded to use taking supplies to remote farms in the Scottish borders. Ireland was so impressed - he called it the world's greatest sporting machine, despite it having a top speed of only 16mph - that he became the vehicle's UK agent. The picture shows Innes demonstrating the Snow-Trac to an American journalist.