Monday, September 27, 2010

Around the Radnorshire Blogs

Llandod exiles might be interested in the Radnor Bird blog and their excellent snaps of the feathered inhabitants of the Spa town's famous Lake. Plus, of course, the newly arrived family of otters. See here.

I seem to remember that some of the last otter hunts would have been on the Wye around Builth in the mid 1970s. So some things, at least, have changed for the better.

Y Dysgwr Araf has recently revived his Welsh language blog. While landodlip seems to have called it a day after being threatened with m'learned friend.

Presteigne blogger Ian Marchant was recently lifted for non-payment of parking fines. See his old blog, or the new website. Now I was recently in Presteigne and ended up in the car park above the High Street, off Heol Joe Deakins. The pay and display machine was out of order and, by the look of things, had been for quite a while. Of course there were plenty of the usual signs threatening dire consequences for failure to display the necessary ticket. So what should a visitor do? Risk leaving the car and ending up with a fine or clamped by infallible authority, or just drive on? No wonder the car park was virtually empty.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nothing In the Papers

In the summer of 1844 the English papers highlighted a Radnorshire wedding in the parish of Llanstephan. A blind former blacksmith from Glasbury, one William Thomas, aged 87, married Margaret Pugh, a 16 year old local girl. No doubt the papers would have been even more shocked if they had followed the story through, as by the time of the 1851 Census the happy couple had three children.

Unfortunately the Census also informs us that William, who was indeed a blind former blacksmith, was a sprightly sixty four year old, while wife Margaret was thirty eight, ages which are confirmed in census returns both before and after their marriage. I wonder what the marriage certificate says?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The National Newspaper of Wales

OK let's be fair, maybe they can't do an ลต!

Oh and did Catrin really have a surname? Anyway enough of statues to victims, how about a memorial to Owain's daughter Gwenllian of Cenarth, St Harmon. According to some her household carried on fighting well into the 1420s and she was also the subject of some very fine poems.

The New Remembrancers

"Ripping up the stereotypes" the Western Mail boasts of its new series on the history of Wales. I wonder if at the end of the exercise we'll have to add "and creating some new ones."

It would help if in his introduction Dai Smith would call a spade a spade. "A tsunami of truth-telling unwelcome to myth-makers and know-nothings alike." That sounds great but what does it mean? If the know-nothings include that embarrassing stuff you find on tea-towels such as Welsh being the oldest language in Europe, all well and good. But who are the myth-makers? Gwynfor Evans? I'd like to know.

Anyway exiles and skinflints can read the first contribution "Did we really descend from the Celts?" here. I can't say I was impressed - on the printed page it looked a right mess - and shouldn't an article on Welsh origins at least mention DNA.

I think it's a bit of a scandal that so little DNA testing has been done in Wales. As far as I can see we still seem to be relying on the tiny samples taken during the BBC's "Blood of the Vikings" series a few years ago. The sample sites for that were particularly ill-chosen: Llangefni, Llanidloes - slap bang in the middle of a 16C plantation that gave rise to surnames such as Wigley, Jarman and Peate, and Haverfordwest. All interesting locations in themselves of course but hardly typical. If anyone can point me to some recent work on Welsh DNA please do.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Drawing Lines On Maps

No doubt Radnorshire always proved a bit of a nuisance to the one-size-fits-all delusions of the Boundary Commission.

Back in the 1940s they wanted to amalgamate the county with Breconshire and Herefordshire. As much as I would like to see the return of those parts of the March lost in 1535, I'm sure the proposal was more about extending the borders of England rather than those of Wales.

By the early Sixties the Commission had come up with another wizard idea, to merge Radnorshire and Breconshire with Monmouthshire. The Times even had an editorial about it, they were worried the proposal might dilute Monmouthshire's Englishness!

In the end of course they created Powys. Why? Because Welsh counties had a lower average population than those in England. Oh and because bigger counties would save cash. Yeh right.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cors y Llyn,

The stunted Scots Pines at Cors y Llyn

Old Ad

By 2010 you'd be hard put to purchase a pair of Y-fronts in the Spa town, never mind upmarket, posh stuff. Thank heavens for Tesco's.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Greater Radnorshire

Since the American Senate functions with just 100 elected members, Powys County Council can hardly complain about the Boundary Commission's proposal to axe 15 councillors and reduce the chamber to 64.

Radnorshire Councillors are to be congratulated on trying to maintain the county's separate identity during this process of redrawing of constituency borders. At the same time merging Aberedw with Erwd has a lot of merit. No doubt our members see it as a Breconshire takeover, but that needn't be so. It was just an oversight of the 1535 Act that Builth Hundred was included in Breconshire in the first place, historically it was always tied much more closely to its Radnorshire neighbours. Simple solution, transfer all the Buallt seats to the Shire Committee for Radnorshire.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Llandeglau? Where's That Then?

You can't really blame Powys Highways for some of the rather dubious bilingual signs appearing on Radnorshire roads - after all they're only following the advice of Bwrdd yr Iaith's Place-Names Standardization Team.

The latest example I've spotted is Llandeglau/Llandegley. I can see how this name Llandeglau has been created, and it is surely a creation rather than a name with any historical validity. No doubt it originated with the book Rhestr o Enwau Lleoedd / A Gazetteer of Welsh Place-Names (Elwyn Davies, 1967) and comes about from a standardisation exercise where incorrect English spellings ending in ley are Cymricised as lau, for example Dolgelley/Dolgellau. Now Llandegley is an incorrect spelling, but of Llandegle not Llandeglau. Richard Morgan's little book has an example of Llandegle dating back to 1291, while it is also the form used in the 15C bard Lewis Glyn Cothi's praise poem to a local patron, one Ieuan ap Llywelyn Fychan: Hyd Glud a Llandegle wen - to the Radnor Forest and fair Llandegle. The spelling Llandegley appeared much later on the scene in 1557. More recently Ffransis Payne, who lived in the parish, used the form Llandegle in his wonderful volumes about Radnorshire, Crwydro Sir Faesyfed.

The sensible solution would have been to just use the correct Welsh spelling Llandegle on the signs. This would have been cheaper, historically accurate and would not leave Radnorians thinking that their pronunciation of the name was English, when in reality it is Welsh and as old as the hills. Hopefully someone will get it right when they do the bilingual version of this.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

From A Family Album, 1

My great grandparents Charles and Mary Jones and their offspring in a photograph taken around 1897.

Mary was born in Llansawel and brought up in Llandeilo Fawr in Carmarthenshire - she's always shown in the census returns as speaking both Welsh and English. Her husband was born in Llandrindod and is always shown as speaking only English. At the same time my grandfather, he's the lad with his hands in his pockets, said that the two sometimes conversed in Welsh.

Two of Charles' brothers, who moved away from Radnorshire, are shown in the census returns as being able to speak Welsh. One was married to a monoglot Welsh speaker from Llangammarch and the other, with a Radnorian wife, lived in Bargoed where the entire family is shown as being bilingual. I found a similar situation with my mother's family and it does make me wonder if Welsh was quite as dead in Victorian Radnorshire as most suppose.

I once asked my great uncle, the little lad seen sat on his father's knee, about his parents ability to speak Welsh, I might just as well have accused them of being thieves. I think his animus suggests that the situation in Victorian Radnorshire, well in the west, was similar to that in Victorian Limerick where:

"Up to about 1830, or so, the entire Rathkeale countryside spoke Irish. Then the new schools, the pro-English clergy , the influence of the landlords and agents, as well as the political leaders, the use of English in the law-courts, at gatherings and public meetings, in sermons and religious functions, the growing public feeling that Irish was a dying language, a mark of a degraded people who were not 'decent' - all this combined to produce a new people who from youth were pledged to speak no Irish. And so in West Limerick you had many who persisted in trying to speak a broken English and never again uttered a word in the old tongue they knew so well."

I wonder if that last sentence might be echoed in O. M. Edwards' reported comments about Radnorshire speech:

"Such a jumbled up, untidy hybrid language, that isn't proper Welsh or English."

Given the context I think Edwards was speaking about the west of the county next to Builth Hundred rather than the older Herefordshire influenced dialects of the east. I wonder when Edwards formed this opinion? If it was earlier in his life then it would make sense in describing a generation of older Welsh speakers trying to get by in English. A few years later and it wouldn't be an accurate description of west Radnorshire speech at all, in which case he might just have been being rude.

Never Had It So Good

It seems that an A35 van from the Automobile Palace was the machine of choice for many a discerning Radnorshire motorist of the late 50s and early 60s. OK so maybe it might have had to be reversed up the steepest hills but, hey, you didn't have to pay purchase tax! What a pity the photographer failed to focus on that all important FO number plate in this grey example.

The FO plate lasted from FO1 released in 1903 up until OFO 303N, which was no doubt issued by Mr Hinksman from the Gwalia in September 1974. I presume ditching local number plates was another of Ted Heath's great ideas.

This post was inspired by Radnorian blogger in exile Gwenddolen who reminisces about her family's green A35 here. Of course former racing driver James Hunt also used a green A35 van as his road car, his philosophy being that a car was only fun to drive at it's limit and the limit of an A35 wasn't too far over the legal speed limit - I guess it was also useful for transporting his budgies.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Welsh Genealogies Online

Back in 2006 I was excited to read a BBC news item announcing that Peter Bartrum's lifetime's work of bringing order to the old bardic genealogical manuscripts was going online. Of course reading the small print of the article was a bit of a dampener, since the project would take three years to complete. It's getting on for four years now and, as far as I can tell, the searchable online database is yet to appear. What has appeared are scans of pages from the 26 volumes of Bartrum's published Welsh Genealogies, I'd guess that around half of the pages of Radnorshire and surrounding interest have appeared so far.

As well as helping family historians, the genealogies make sense of many of the names in the bardic poetry and other historical documents. Take this page for example, which Bartrum designates Elystan Glodrydd 9. Here we find the family background of the great Welsh captain and bardic patron from the 100 Years War, Sir Rhisiart Gethin - a man wealthy enough to loan Joan of Arc's executioner, the Duke of Bedford, a thousand pounds in order to pay the English troops in France. According to a recent book, his father Rhys Gethin of Llanwrtyd was Glyndwr's general and, incidently, the mythical leader of the firebombing campaign of the 1980s.

Without a placename index these scans will be difficult to navigate to those of us unfamiliar with the published volumes. To help any Radnorians with an interest in these old genealogies and who are impatient for the fully searchable resource to appear, the following list - and I'm certain to have missed some - of family groups of local interest might be useful:

Elystan Glodrydd, everything really from 1 to 48 - not all these are up yet, Rhys ap Tewdwr 14 to 26 - not all are up, Bleddyn ap Cynfyn 5 & 46, Cogfran, Y Dean Du, Drymbenog 1 & 2, Einion ap Llywarch 11, Gwirfaeth, Herast, Hywel Athro, Hywel Fain, Ieuan Ddu of Maelienydd, Irien, Llowdden 7, Llywarch ap Bran 9, Madog Cristyn, Padriarc 1 & 2, Paen of Ludlow, Philip Baker, Rhirid Flaidd 2.

Some to look out for as they appear:

Aubrey, Baskerville, Bull, Havard, Heilin Du, Hoby, Holl of Harpton, Hywel Gethin, Knill, Llywarch ap Bran 10, 11 & 12, Philpot, Whitney,