Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maud Manville, an Early Sporting Motorist from Wales.

Maud Elizabeth Wallis (1872-1909) was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, the daughter of a wealthy East India merchant. In 1894 she married Edward Manville, later Sir Edward and chairman of the Daimler Motor Company.

In 1905 Mrs Manville competed in the Brighton Speed Trials in one of her husband's cars, winning the scratch race for 35 horse power Daimlers from Scott Montague. Later that year Maud was on the Continent participating in the Six Day Herkomer race, an event in which she also appeared in 1906.

The Times report of the 1906 event noted that Mrs Manville "the only lady in the competition, was loudly cheered and presented with a bouquet of roses. The only accident", the Thunderer continued, "happened to a Berlin car, which ran over and killed a peasant near Melk." Lucky Maud, unlucky peasant.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I'll Have a Pint of That

This letter appeared in the November 1965 issue of Motor Sport. I guess it was probably in reply to some comment that modern day drivers were pretty wishy washy in comparison with the racers of yore ...... a fairly regular theme even today.

Laid Back

Look, I seem to get a lot of comments when I post about sculpture, so when regular reader Plwm sent me this flyer vip invitation card, well I felt it just had to be posted here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Banished From Builth

With the promised inner-gateway public sculpture eagerly awaited by the art loving citizens of Llandrindod, it would be as well to remember the fate of this statue commemorating that fine Breconshire poet Harri Jones.

Once it graced the main thoroughfare of Builth Wells until scorned and emasculated by the perspicacious Wyesiders it was finally forced to retreat to the grounds of a Llangammarch hotel.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bill Sheen

Radnorshire must reluctantly lay claim to one of Nineteenth Century London's most notorious criminals, Bill Sheen, a man who must surely have been one of the models for Dickens' Bill Sikes.

Sheen came to prominence in 1827 when he cut off the head of his girlfriend's infant son. Fleeing from Whitechapel to Radnorshire he was tracked by a London constable, Robert Davis, to Penybont and eventually taken at the nearby home of a relative, Lane House, Llanbadarn Fawr.

You can read a report of Sheen's first trial here, He was found not guilty on a technicality, a confusion over the actual name of the murdered child. A second trial was held and Sheen was again acquited on the grounds that you could not be tried twice for the same crime.

This stroke of good fortune did not induce Sheen to follow the straight and narrow. By now something of a minor celebrity, his assaults and burglaries were widely reported in the press. A girlfriend, one Mary Anne Sullivan's throat was cut and she was left for dead after being brutally kicked, Sheen was jailed for two years. Perhaps the clearest evidence that Sheen may have been the model for Sikes comes from the fact that he kept brothels in Spitalfields which were also home to between 30 and 40 boys and girls, some aged as young as nine, who spent their days begging and thieving throughout the city. Read about them here, pages 149 and 150.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Harmonious St Harmon

A couple of months ago I posted about Radnorshire songbird Maralene Powell. A blogger asked about her current whereabouts and now I see he's posted a review online of Maralene and the Four Ps album "Just For You", see it here.

Now leaving aside whether the falsetto in Maralene's voice is a good thing or a bad thing, the really interesting information here is on the transcribed sleeve note. Maralene recorded an EP for Cambrian Records with Gareth Edwards, yes that Gareth Edwards!

Book of the Month

This isn't a new book, it was published in 2004, but it's a book I wish I had read forty years ago and qualifies as my book of the decade, never mind book of the month.

Why Spain and the International Brigade should have such a hold on the Welsh Left is something of a puzzle. Only a handful of the 150 or so Welsh Brigaders belonged to the Labour Party, the overwhelming majority were Communists. Apart from a sympathy with the Basques and Catalans, Plaid Cymru pursued a neutral policy during the Spanish Civil War, indeed one or two of it's leaders were pro-Franco, at least in private. Yet today both Labour and Plaid laud the Brigaders as if they were secular saints. Pacifists, too, cherish the militants, seemingly oblivious to the dreadful atrocities committed by some of the supporters of the Spanish Republic, mainly against priests and nuns. A puzzle.

Rob Stradling's book is the product of deep academic research, yet at the same time it is highly readable. Unlike Hywel Francis' influential but hagiographic Miners Against Fascism, Stradling tells it like it was. Here we read about the desertions and the probable executions of Welsh Brigaders. The driven commissar Billy Griffiths is the Rhondda's own Yezhov, happily pressing for the death sentence on his "butty" the tragic Alex Cummings. No wonder Griffiths' memoirs remain unpublished by an academic establishment who prefer to see things as they should have been, not as they were.

Hundreds of thousands of Welsh men and women fought on the side of democracy against fascism in the Second World War, and they rather than the Stalinists of the International Brigade deserve our unqualified admiration. It's said that Billy Griffiths found religion in later life, yet the truth is that his Communism was just as much a religion as anything found in a chapel. Maybe that is the answer to our puzzle, the continuing religiosity of many on the Left.

A Radnorshire connection? Nothing obvious so far ........ a motor sport connection? Well the memorial to the 34 Welsh International Brigaders killed in Spain was placed at the South Wales Miners Library in Hendrefoilan House, Swansea, the boyhood home of that "best type of amateur competitor" Sir Clive Edwards.

I'm a Celebrity

Following Ireland's twice in one day victories over Moss at Goodwood on 18th April 1960, see the Pathe newsreel of the race here and click view story, half of Fleet Street descended on New Radnor - no doubt the local publicans were glad to see them.

In this Autosport cover shot - by the way it's from the Formula 2 race - Innes still sports his old helmet, the familiar chequerboard design wouldn't appear until the Silverstone International Trophy meeting on 14th May.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


If you're one of our regular readers and there are getting on for 200 who check in at least once a week, then there has to be a chance that one or two of you are interested in the life and times of Innes Ireland.

I've already posted that author Ed McDonough is hoping to publish an edition of Innes's journalism with a second and maybe even a third volume to follow. I understand that the first volume will be published in the early summer but that photographs are still needed for subsequent volumes.

Of course sourcing photographs from the agencies is an expensive business, just one colour photo for the German translation of All Arms and Elbows cost $500 back in 2001, and that for a book with a print-run of just 500 copies. Those kind of prices mean that a lot of potentially useful books never see the light of day.

Anyway Dear Reader if you have any photographs of Innes and you own the copyright why not get in touch with Ed. He's already left his email address in a comment, so I hope he won't mind me giving it again:

Monday, February 04, 2008

Around the Lake

I've discussed might have been racing circuits in Radnorshire before, here. An anonymous poster even mentioned that TT rider Malcolm Uphill had assessed the possiblity of a track around Llandod Lake. Now a new fan of the blog sends me this cutting, from the December 1963 issue of Motor Cyclist Illustrated.

I guess it dates back to a time when the local council actually wanted to do something positive for the town.

Llandrindod's Inner Gateway

Who knew that Llandrindod had an Inner Gateway. I've always thought of it as a Victorian town but Powys County Council must have discovered some medieval town walls because they're ready to mark that inner gateway with some exciting new works of art. Phillipa Lawrence, see her work here and Tony Stallard, here, are the artists who are going to put Llandod on the map with works of "national importance".

Councillor David Peter urges the townsfolk to get involved. Well I'm not from Llandrindod but I'm certainly one of the County's long-suffering council tax payers, so here goes. The main argument used in favour of these works of art, at least when talking down to us philistines, seems to be bringing tourists into the town. OK, why not go for something big and vandal proof like the Giant Merino (pictured) .... maybe, given the town's sporting history, a couple of giant bowls ... one black one, one white one.