Friday, August 31, 2012

Radnorshire Welsh

A fascinating comment has been left on an old post from 2008.  Anyone interested in the story of the Welsh Language in Radnorshire should check it out, you can find it here.

The comment also draws my attention to Meic Stephens' recent autobiography Cofnodion, which I see discusses the author's Radnorshire roots -  his father was born in Walton.  What to make of this blurb on his publisher's site though: "an account of how the young boy from an English-speaking household grew up to be a Welshman."  As Stephens was born in Treforest I would have thought he was a Welshman from the moment he gulped in a lungful of Glamorgan air.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Herefordshire Will

While wilfing around some Herefordshire sites, this one in particular, I saw a brief reference to the case of Lewis Powell of Craswall who in 1749 had left what property he had to his wife Mary.  The will was disputed by Lewis's brother William and this led to an enquiry into the circumstances under which the will was made.  It was written and witnessed by 42 year old Thomas Price and also witnessed by 49 year old Ann Griffiths.   Both witnesses told the same story. In Ann's statement we read: "... immediately after drawing the same, the said Thomas Price read over the said will to the said testor in English and immediately afterwards began to explain the contents and substance in Welsh to him .."

You can find the will and the various statements here, courtesy of the National Library and I think we can agree that Thomas Price was bilingual and that Lewis Powell, if he was not a monoglot Welsh speaker was at least far more familiar with that language than he was with English.  Ann Griffiths too must have had sufficient grasp of Welsh to know that Price was explaining the contents of the will to Powell. 

This ties in with other evidence for the survival of Herefordshire Welsh into the 18C.  According to those who have examined the relevant records, of nine defamation cases in and around Craswall/Clodock between 1712 and 1774, eight were in Welsh.  While in a 1757 court case a 19 year old  from Michaelchurch Escley, one Lewis Jenkins, was said to be "a strainger to the English tongue able to speak or understand but very few words."  The last Welsh-speaking native of Clodock is said to have died in 1883.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Radnorian Family in Manitoba

In some ways the Patagonian migration reminds me of the Welsh contribution to the Spanish Civil War.  They were both minor chapters in a much bigger story and their importance has been exaggerated by interested parties for political and romantic reasons.  Just as the 150 or so, overwhelmingly Communist, Welsh volunteers to the International Brigade count for not very much when set beside the hundreds of thousands of Welsh folk who took part in the actual war against Nazism; so the 2000+ migrants to Patagonia were dwarfed in numbers by the tens of thousands who upped sticks for America, Canada, Australia etc.

These less celebrated migrants also have their stories and this one starts with my father, who told me that every Christmas his family would receive a box of apples from Canada.  That was all he knew, but an elderly aunt added that these relations lived in Selkirk, Manitoba and that once a girl called Ann Miller had visited Radnorshire from Canada.  Given the large families common in the late Victorian period, my grandfather was one of nine and his father one of eleven, there was plenty of choice as to who these migrants might have been.  Recently I tracked them down in the Canadian census, a Benjamin Davies who had married my great-great-aunt Anne in Diserth Church in 1836 and who had migrated to Canada in 1881.  And yes, they also had a grand-child - one of around thirty born in Manitoba and British Columbia - called Anne Miller.

Without boring the reader further I'll just comment on a couple of aspects of their lives:  Firstly the pioneering spirit.  We hear a lot about this, but in the case of Benjamin Davies and family, and others like them, I wonder if it was true.  It's not as if they sailed to Patagonia in a 447 ton clipper or crossed the prairie in a covered wagon.  Infact Anne and her children sailed on one of the most modern liners of the day, the Parisian.  The voyage from Liverpool to Quebec taking just eight days and from there to Manitoba, well I guess they would have taken the train. 

Secondly there is the question of ethnicity.  The Canadian census included a question on this topic and it was directed at second and subsequent generation Canadians as much as at recent immigrants.  In the 1891 census Benjamin and his entire family are recorded as ethnicity - English, religion - Baptist, unforgivable!  A weak excuse: at the time of their migration they had infact been farming in Shropshire.  Benjamin and Anne had one son and five daughters, they all married spouses of Scottish descent, except for one who married an Irish Anglican from County Cavan.  In subsequent censuses some of the daughters recorded their ethnicity as Welsh, others as Scotch, perhaps their husbands filled in the forms.  The one son died young and his children also took their mother's ethnicity when it came to completing a census - they too were Scotch.

Cwm Irfon to Cwm Hyfryd

While Llandrindod celebrates its annual Victorian fantasy its worth recalling that there were those in Wales who were eager to get as far away as possible from the great Queen and her Empire.   Given the linguistic situation at the time Radnorians were hardly likely to play a part in the establishment of the Welsh-speaking colony in Patagonia.  There is mention of a colonist named Jemima Jones of Llandrindod, but I've not been able to find out anything about her; while in the 1911 census there's a 20 year old draper's assistant called Hughes, living and working at Llandrindod's Central Wales Emporium. He lists his birthplace as Patagonia.

To find a more substanial figure in the history of the Welsh settlement we need to cross the Wye into Builth and to a farm called Tymawr in the parish of Llanafanfechan, the childhood home of Thomas Dalar Evans - his middle name celebrating the chapel at Troedrhiwdalar on the Newbridge-Beulah road.

Here's one of a number of youtube videos featuring Mervyn Evans, great grandson of Thomas Dalar, who has recreated the original watermill built by his family at Nant Fach in the beautiful Andean foothills of Cwm Hyfryd:

I'm afraid Mervyn's Spanish is a little too fluent for me, but we know that Thomas Dalar went to Patagonia in 1875.  There he married a girl, Esther Williams, who had come from the little remembered Welsh colony in Brazil.  The couple had ten children with significant names such as Irfonwy, Buallt, Brychan, Briallen, Eurgain etc.  I'm told that some of Dalar Evans' descendants came back to Builth a few years ago and discovered that while they still spoke Welsh, their stay-at-home connections did not.  In this one case at least the aim of the heroic migration had been a success.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Better Late than Never

There's a cartoon in the current issue of Private Eye of a young lad writing a comment at the end of an article in his father's newspaper.  As Dad points out, the printed page isn't the internet, it doesn't do comments. Anyway a few days ago I purchased an old copy of Cronicl Powys, the Powys Family History Society's journal.  It contained an article called "The Mantles of the Ithon Valley" and since my grandmother was a Mantle from said valley - although she was soon removed to the mining village of Fochriw - it was something I wanted to read.

Having read the article I felt a bit like the boy in the Eye cartoon.  I wanted to leave a comment, one I'm sure would have been of interest to the author and to anyone else interested in the Mantles of Radnorshire.  The author, who notices that there are no Mantles in the 1670 Hearth Tax, believes that the family "probably arrived in the Ithon valley between 1670 and 1680."   I'm not so sure that there were no Mantles in the Hearth Tax, there were certainly Mansells and as a Bufton was wrongly transcribed as Buston, well who knows.  But in any case the Mantle family were certainly in Llanbister a good 80 years or more before the author's estimate of their arrival.

Proceedings in Chancery between 1596 and 1616 involved a Thomas Mantle of Llanbister, who was accused of defrauding Sir George Carew of various local rents and leases.  This Thomas Mantle made a will in 1617 which mentions his sons John, Richard and Griffith, daughters Mauld, Margaret and Johan and various properties belonging to the family in Llanbister and Llanddewi Ystradenni.  It also mentions a mill in Stottesdon in Salop, which may give a clue to where they came from before they entered Radnorshire.  Later on in the 17C we find wills or bonds for a William Mantle (1637), Griffith Mantle (1661), Gwenhwyfar Mantle (1661) - all of Llanbister - and William Mantle of Llanddewi (1695).

I wonder why local societies don't make more use of blogs and the opportunity they afford for timely comments and follow-ups.  Of course, as the editor of Cronicl points out, their magazine is archived at the NLW,  whereas a blog can easily disappear into the ether at the whim of its author or host.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Forgotten Radnorian

It's something of a mystery, at least to me, but every one of the fifteen Treasurers of the United States appointed since 1949 has been a woman, indeed five of the last six have been Latinas.  It must be a quaint custom in a far off country of which we know less than we think.

To avoid any misunderstanding, the Treasurer is not responsible for the corruption and on-going destruction of western capitalism.  No, that would be the similarly named but quite separate Secretary of the Treasury.  But still it's an important role and was even more so in 1789 when George Washington appointed the son of an old friend to the post.  The son was Samuel Meredith and his father, Washington's friend, was one Reese Meredith, born in Llandegley in 1708.  You can read about Reese and his connections here.

To listen to some accounts you'd think Radnorshire was a remote backwater which the speaker had personally discovered.  The truth is that the county has been as much at the centre of things as anywhere else.  Examine the will of some humble fellow who died 300 years ago and one shouldn't be too surprised to find a reference like this:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Same Old Same Old

It's significant that the London media - and especially its more "liberal" wing, which has been wallowing in a faux unionjackery since the London Olympics - failed to carry even a mention of the death of Eileen Beasley, never mind an obituary.  Obviously such a significant figure in the history of modern Wales is of no interest to these outraged defenders of the human right to kick off in a Moscow Cathedral.  The newly discovered Britishness of the metropolitan elite clearly doesn't encompass anything as unfashionable as the recalcitrant Welsh, or the independently minded English working class for that matter.

UPDATE:  I see the Guardian did get around to publishing an obituary.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Frontier Defended

The world is full of territorial disputes but at least this one, between the blameless Radnorians and an avaricious neighbour, seems to have been settled fairly.  More modern maps show the disputed ground to be within Radnorshire.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Legacy

By Jingo, the unionists and the agenda driven BBC think they've got Alex Salmond on the run.  I doubt it. Not much evidence, around here at least, of those flag-bedecked cars you see during the big rugby and soccer tournaments.  Does anyone really believe that political and national loyalties are influenced by how well TeamGB does in the Lightweight Double Sculls?

Your blogger did learn one useful thing during the two week, red white and blue extravaganza though, the natives of Flint are adamant we should say "off Flint" rather than "from Flint."  Why?

Meanwhile back in the real world ............

Tuesday, August 07, 2012