Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ms Evans de Lopez

A few years ago I seem to remember that S4C produced a drama documentary that suggested that Carrera Panamericana racer and Mexican film star Jacqueline Evans de Lopez was Welsh. Infact she was born in London, although there did remain the possibility that she belonged to the London Welsh community. Now some members of her family have been in touch with the blog to confirm that Miss Evans had no Welsh connections.

So Jacqueline is yet another "Welsh" racing driver who, together with Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jack Lewis, have been consigned to the ranks of the Englishry by this blog. Where will it end? Wales has had precious few four-wheel stars as it is!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Anyone Got A Time Machine

Not much time for blogging at the moment.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Oh dear, I've already nominated a book of the month and along comes this offering, which really is a contender for book of the year. There's not a lot of Radnorshire interest here, but we can forgive author Richard Suggett, who has not only devoted an entire book to Radnorshire houses, but has also provided fresh insights into the county's history, with his pioneering work on slander cases in the Court of Great Sessions.

The Witch hunting madness which possessed much of England, Scotland and continental Europe largely passed Wales by. Interestingly the same is true of the other Celtic speaking regions including Brittany. Despite the fact that only five Welsh witches were condemned to death between 1594 and 1655, Suggett pulls off quite a coup by revealing the close link between the authors of two anti-witchcraft books and the first of these judicial victims, Gwen vz Elis. If any Welsh film-maker is looking for a plot, well look no further.

There is a great deal more in this book of course: folk beliefs, Catholic survivals, cursing wells and conjurers, as well as the wider historical context. The book is the product of what must surely be years of diligent and inspired research, and it is written in a thoroughly enjoyable and readable way. An outstanding contribution to Welsh history.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Crime in Radnorshire

Nothing in the Mid Wales Journal? Why not have a browse around the National Library's Crime and Punishment site, who knows you might come across some old relatives. Here’s poor Mary Morgan, hanged for infanticide in 1804 and her body delivered to the surgeons. Her gravestone in Presteigne a permanent rebuke to her betters.

Sheep maiming and hedge breaking were popular Radnorian sports although, no doubt, the class struggle was at the root of the matter. While Cecil Parsons, the Presteigne lawyer and cottagers’ champion, won a libel case against one local gent who described him as “a base, mean, dirty, unprincipled, good for nothing fellow, a consummate ass and a conceited fool.”

A noteworthy crime was rescuing a prisoner from the arms of the law, something that is still occasionally attempted in the wilder Mid-Wales market towns. Blackpatch Godwin, up before the court in 1747, sounds like my kind of gal, oh and one of her co-accused went by the name of Nimrod Powell. Blackpatch and Nimrod, there are two forenames that are due a revival.

Let's be honest, the handful of sexual cases have a certain tabloid fascination. One wonders if Thomas Barber’s profession of breeches-maker played any part in his trial for sodomy, while convictions for rape seemed particularly hard to obtain. Nancy Beavan was found guilty of perjury for making such an accusation and whipped for her troubles. Finally what of poor William Shakespeare of Knighton, falsely accused of attempted bestiality with a mare in 1826. Wasn’t it his more famous namesake who said “The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well?”

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Book of the Month

Look in the index of many a book about the English Civil War and you'll be lucky to find more than a couple of passing references to Wales. Perhaps that name, English Civil War, gives the game away a little, ignoring as it does the involvement of the other countries of the British Isles.

Professor Stoyle's book, published in 2005, looks at the period in a new way. The often disregarded English nationalism of the Roundhead cause is contrasted with the underestimated role of the Welsh, Cornish and Irish on the Royalist side. The King relied heavily on non-English troops.

This Welsh support for the King is motivated in large part by a fear of the extreme anti-Welsh attitudes of the Parliamentarians. However, similar prejudices on the Royalist side see the Welsh gradually withdrawing from the fight and the establishment of patriotic third forces such as the quaintly named Peaceable Army.

This is all very interesting stuff and wholly relevant to the current political situation in Britain.

UPDATE: Mr Stoyle has recently published an article, called The Road to Farndon Field, in the latest issue of the English Historical Review. This discusses the atrocity committed against Welsh women camp-followers by the Roundhead cavalry after the Battle of Naseby. Over a hundred were killed and many more mutilated. An atrocity made possible by an unprecedented stream of anti-Welsh Puritan propaganda. As the EHR is not readily available from the shelves of Llandrindod's Dug-Out newspaper emporium, please feel free to send me a copy.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Small Explosion in Crossgates

I've posted about this incident before, but here's a report from the Canberra Times detailing the 1952 attack on the Elan Valley pipeline. Of course it should read the Fron aqueduct, near Crossgates and three cheers for the Mid-Wales Constabulary for working out that it was an act of sabotage. Interesting that the total cost of the Claerwen dam was only £15.5 million, heaven knows how much it would cost today.

The attack was carried out by members of the Welsh Republican Movement, one of the more serious fringe nationalist groups. Founded in 1949, the WRM folded in 1957. Interestingly one of its better known members Gwilym Prys Davies, now Lord Prys Davies, was the defeated Labour candidate in Gwynfor Evans' historic by-election win in Carmarthen in 1966.

Girl Power

From an Australian newspaper dated February 1882. Presumably this would have concerned lawlessness associated with the fisheries. Rebeccaism certainly seems to have been quite a factor in Nineteenth Century Radnorshire life - not that you would realise the fact from watching Llandrindod's quaint Victorian festival.

A Forgotten Radnorian

While Llandrindod celebrates the promised influx of visitors attracted by the erection of its "internationally acclaimed" inner gateways, spare a thought for another locally born sculptor - Doris Lindner.

Miss Lindner, who was born in Llanyre in 1896, is best known for her work for the Royal Worcester factory. see the illustration of the great racehorse Nijinsky.

As well as her porcelain pieces Miss Lindner, who died in 1979, also took on larger commissions, the statue of Arkle at the Cheltenham racecourse for example.

Given the "success" of the current gateways, perhaps a third gateway could be erected on the town's western approaches and one of Miss Lindner's bulls would surely fit the bill.