Thursday, July 05, 2012

Frontier Post

Although the road from Walton to Presteigne flits to and fro across the border, it's easy enough to tell where you are; the Herefordshire sections being in such a worse state of repair than those of Radnorshire.  Arriving in Presteigne it's reassuring to see Owain Glyndwr's standard flying in the High Street. Some might argue that the reality was that Owain's forces sacked the town, but that would be to forget Edmund Mortimer's call for the Welshmen of Presteigne to give their allegiance to Glyndwr.  Clearly some still do.

On a recent visit I took the opportunity to purchase Mr. Parker's excellent history of the town, it's a book I read when it first came out in 1997 but this was a fairly recently updated edition.

If I have a criticism of this deservedly much praised volume. it's that only about 10% of  the book concerns the medieval town.  Perhaps local historians could make more of Welsh sources.  The public chastisement of the bard Ieuan Dyfi, he was symbolically whipped eight times around Presteigne church in 1501 after admitting adultery with Anni Goch - the basis for the bardic dispute between Ieuan and the female poet Gwerful Mechain.  Then there are the poems by Lewis Glyn Cothi to the lord of Stapleton, Dafydd Goch.  He came from the Fron, near Crossgates.  Or what about Morgan Elfael, the bard from Diserth who lived in Presteigne for at least twenty years and whose burial is recorded in the parish register, now found in Hereford Record Office - As an aside I find it interesting that Morgan was known by his bardic name in the public records (here for example in the lay subsidy for Presteigne, nine lines from the top).  And of course Elen Gethin lived out her days in Nash.

Moving on to a more general point, historians seem to get a bit sniffy when they use Welsh genealogical and historical sources.  They'll qualify a source by mentioning their unreliability or the bard's proneness to exaggeration.  As far as I can see these Welsh sources are no less reliable than the English records.  Are English lawyers and landowners and churchmen always reliable?  I'd make a guess that they were just as much a parcel of rogues as our present day establishments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Inciteful article.Made me think about who I would like to whip around Presteigne church symbolically or otherwise.i fear the list is too long to print here.