Monday, February 28, 2011

Gwynt Teg

I see that Llandod blogger and defeated LibDem councillor David Peter would like Powys to "re-join" England. I'm guessing this isn't official LibDem policy. Surely there must be an easier way for Mr Peter to escape the clutches of Greater Cardiff?

UPDATE: With the Republic having recently given up its hard-won independence in exchange for a loan to pay off other people's debts and now with Ireland beating "the Hun" at cricket, perhaps we'll soon be seeing the 26 counties "re-joining" England. Lord help them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Once We Were Heroes

Thanks to Karen for these snaps of the fabulous Llandod football team of the early Sixties.

The great thing about that all-conquering team - check out their League record in the 1961-62 season, 3 points dropped and an average 4 goals a game - was that so many of the team were Radnorians, not mercenaries from Swansea or Liverpool.

It was my delight to cycle in to Llandrindod on my Triumph Palm Beach, newly purchased for passing the 11 plus, to watch the men in blue. Sometimes for lack of funds we'd be forced to sneak onto the Broadway field, across the brook and through the hedge, to avoid paying at the gate. Then positioned beside the goal to watch ace forward Barrie Gittoes knock in a few more winners.

Sad to relate Barrie has just passed away - in my memory at least his goals were all spectacular and like the very best players he had aeons of time - a trap, a turn and a thunderous shot into the back of the net.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thought for the Day

Andrew Pierce, a columnist at the Daily Mail, contrasts the political representation of Wales and Massachusetts. The American state, he says, has a mere ten elected representatives while Wales has 40 MPs and 60 AMs. Pierce forgot about the 4 MEPS.

So is Massachusetts really run by just 10 representatives? Of course not. Apart from its 2 US Senators and 10 Congressmen, it also has 40 State Senators and 160 members of the State House of Representatives.

It's an unfortunate fact but a lie does indeed go half way around the world before the truth gets its slippers on.

Epynt Races, Part 2

There's a great site detailing the Epynt races of the late 40s and early 50s, see here.

Hope the site owner won't mind me ripping this fabulous snap showing the start of a race in 1948. It's not just the bikes but the people in the crowd which reminds me of how things used to be. The past another country? Indeed.

Epynt Races, Part 1

Thanks to Builth remembrancer SGP for showing me this programme from the 1951 Epynt motor cycle races.

Someone should revive these races, but for historic bikes. Would make a change from the ghastly over-painted, over-powered, often badly driven rally cars which dominate the hills nowadays.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Shebeening isn't a word that you find very often in the popular press nowadays. Back in Victorian times it was common enough and not just in Ireland or the Scottish Gaeldom. Shebeening, the keeping of an unlicensed drinking establishment was also found in Radnorshire during the building of the Elan Valley dams.

Policemen disguised as navvies roamed the hillsides, calling at lonely farmsteads and asking for a glass of ale. Farmers or their wives who obliged and accepted payment were dragged off to court to be fined - £10 plus costs or a month in jail for example- more than £4000 in comparison with today's average earnings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

One for Miss Marple

So is this latest piece of Innes Ireland Memorabilia really worth £35? At least it's genuine, unlike many of the "original" photographs you currently see for sale. Originally copied from magazines and books that is.

Llandrindod Cover Girl

Curigwen Lewis (1936)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Spike

It comes as something of a shock to realise that I'm old enough to have worked with a fellow who was born in Rhayader workhouse, or the Spike as they were called. Anyway Radnorshire had an interesting relationship with the New Poor Law responsible for such places, some of which is explored here. Indeed Thomas Frankland Lewis of Harpton, New Radnor was chairman of the gang of three Commisioners who oversaw the operation of the new act in England and Wales, he was succeeded by his son George Cornewall Lewis in 1839.

Edmund Head, who we recently met endorsing the view that the Welsh were a "miserable race of Celtic savages", was the assistant commissioner responsible for Central Wales and Herefordshire. One of his tasks being to set-up the six Poor Law Unions covering Radnorshire - Rhayader, Builth, Hay, Knighton, Kington and Presteigne. Mr Parker's article, linked to above, shows that Head deliberately sought to weaken Radnorshire influence over these Unions:

"The inhabitants of the central part of Radnorshire are exceedingly ill disposed towards the Board ... the only way of enforcing the Act is to unite as many (parishes) as possible with unions in England or on its borders."

By doing so Head hoped to "raise the character of the Radnorshire farmers." elected to serve as Guardians overseeing the Unions and would, presumably, learn from the superior character of their fellow Guardians from east of the border.

Of course Head was correct to mistrust the good folk of Radnorshire who were surely ill-disposed towards the Malthusian world-view which inspired the new laws. Builth Union - which included 10 Radnorshire parishes - resisted building a workhouse for 38 years until forced to do so in 1875, while Rhayader Union resisted until 1878. The Radnorshire guardians seemingly happy to continue with the outdoor relief, often in cash, which our Malthusians saw as an encouragement to the poor to breed.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Here's some jolly correspondence between three thirtysomething pals dating back to 1837, which might provide a clue as to the atmosphere that marked the rapid retreat of the Welsh language in Radnorshire during the early decades of the Nineteenth Century.

First off we have George Clive, future Liberal MP for Hereford, expressing his "fervent prayer" that the devil would fly away with the Welsh or "this miserable race of Celtic savages" as he describes them/us.

"Amen" echoes the recipient of the diatribe Ed Head, a future Privy Councillor and Governor of Canada, who in deference to the third of our correspondents asserts that "Wales begins just beyond New Radnor". Ed does however see some hope for the Welsh since "the railroads .... may civilize them in about three centuries."

The third of our Liberal pals is George Cornewall Lewis, "Radnorshire's most distinguished son" and a future Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose monument once dominated the main road into Mid Wales. Of course Lewis lived at Harpton, hence the need for friend Head to push the English border a couple of miles further west. Six generations of marriage to English brides combined with an Eton education had certainly expunged any memory of what had once been a distinguished Welsh family and Lewis is quick to agree with Clive's opinion of the intelligence of the Welsh. However, he laments "how that intelligence is to be raised, while they retain their villainous Celtic language, it is not easy to see."

Cornewall-Lewis considered the Welsh to be cowardly and timid, perhaps he had a point. His letters are available here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Coming Soon - Hopefully

A couple of frustrations this morning, firstly it's impossible to get on to the London government's new site "" to check out local crime, but more importantly the National Library's Welsh Journals site is playing up. Now for the good news: it's obvious that they have just added the Radnorshire Society Transactions to the journals available online. Hopefully the present search difficulties will be sorted out soon.

I've never been a member of the Radnorshire Society, it always seemed far too bourgeois an organization for a young council house hot-head such as myself. OK no doubt I got that all wrong and it is infact a wonderfully welcoming society open to all. One gripe I still have though, why is it I can pick up a current copy of Brycheiniog - journal of the Brecknock society - in local bookshops, but not the Radnorshire Transactions? Surely it, and especially works as important as the recent translation of Payne's Crwydro Faesyfed, should be available to as wide an audience as possible?

Anyway it looks as if those earlier, hard to find issues of the Transactions will soon be on-line for all to read.

UPDATE: Four of the top ten violent streets in England and Wales turn out to be in Wales. Not very good considering that on a population basis it should be one in the top twenty. Perhaps it's time to hand over law & order to the Assembly.

FURTHER UPDATE: Radnorshire Transactions are there now. See here. Bravo!