Tuesday, December 25, 2012

End of the world as we know it

I thought I should take a break from making my Christmas plate of beans on toast to note the somewhat pleasing fact that "Nadolig Llawen" has been trending worldwide on twitter this morning.  Perhaps the Mayans were on to something after all.

I would have thought "saturated" would have made the top ten as it seems to be a word that dominates our news broadcasts nowadays.  I know English is really a Norman-Saxon pidgin but what's wrong with waterlogged?  I'm told that "surrender" was the only French word in Churchill's "fight them on the beaches" speech, couldn't our broadcasters follow his lead and dump "saturated" into the nearest standing water?

Anyway  back to the microwave and Nadolig Llawen i bawb o'm darllenwyr.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Not a Posh Boy, Knew the Price of Milk

This is Clem Edwards, the Knighton born trade unionist, journalist, barrister and politician, pictured at the age of 25 in 1894. By which time he had already:

Assisted Ben Tillett in founding the Tea Operatives and General Labourers Union.

As Assistant Secretary of the Dockers Union played a leading role in the London Dock Strike of 1889.

As General Secretary of the newly formed Federation of Carrying Trades built up a union with 130,000 members.

Organised the great Hyde Park rally of female laundry workers in 1891.

Masterminded the Progressive Party's clean sweep of the East End in the London County Council elections of 1892.

As Labour Editor of the Sun newspaper organised the fund which raised £67000 (around £3 million in modern terms) for the striking miners of Wales and the English Midlands in 1893.

Of course in later years Edwards, always a conciliator, opposed the Leninists and those who sought to use the trade union movement for their own more revolutionary ends.  Sylvia Pankhurst called him "the notorious anti-socialist."  Perhaps this is the reason his contribution to the New Unionism has been largely ignored.  Personally I would knock down the monument in New Radnor to "Radnorshire's... most distinguished son" and replace it with a statue of Clem Edwards.  Not much chance of that though, he didn't even get a mention in the recently published history of his home town.

A Christmas Tale

Long before Father Christmas took to clambering down chimneys in the middle of the night, a Montgomeryshire sweep called Richard Thomas figured that the aperture would prove an excellent means of  gaining admittance to the Kinnerton home of Mrs Lloyd.  So it happened that on the night of 16th December 1793 the terrified widow awoke to find the sweep in her bed chamber, where he demanded that she hand over her money or be murdered.

Mrs Lloyd gave the rogue what cash she had, it amounted to three shillings, and he made his escape.  To no avail, since he was soon caught and tried at the Radnor Assizes.  Found guilty, according to the Newgate Calendar if not here, Thomas was executed the following summer.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Anglicisation, that's not the name of the game

Anglicisation, now there's a word whose use needs to be severely curtailed in Wales.  It's a word that suggests that there's a shrinking heartland, a proper Wales if you like, and then a watered-down version where most of us live and which is well on the way to becoming England.

I just did a google search using the term "anglicisation of Wales" and got 309,000 hits. By contrast searching for "anglicisation of Ireland" came up with less than 20,000. Most of those Welsh hits refer to just one topic - language shift, and perhaps that would be a better term to use.  There are very few people in Wales who never speak English and in that sense they are anglicised, as are people who read English newspapers, watch English television, shop at Tesco or whose ancestors adopted an English style surname.  Indeed the Welsh have been adopting English ways since before the good folk of Chester complained that it was hard for them to spot a Welshman because they had started wearing trousers!  We are all anglicised to an extent and to pretend that there is some Pura Walia is daft.

Now I tend to accept that the British state, either deliberately or by default, has always sought to extirp Wales's separate identity.  If that is their intention then they're not making a very good job of things.  A hundred years ago the Valleys were full of English migrants, today the census figures show that these are the areas of Wales where the highest % of the total population identify themselves as mere Welsh.  Even Newport with 55.5% of the population choosing an exclusively Welsh identity, outstripped Ynys Mon (54.7%) and the Monmouth council area at 44% only just failed to outscore Ceredigion (46.6%).  Not much evidence of the two Wales model there.

Of course those low figures in North and West Wales are the result of recent in-migration, especially of the old and economically inactive. What the census does tell us is that most Welsh born people feel Welsh and nothing else.  Using my rough and ready calculation (see earlier post) the figure for those born in Wales and identifying as solely Welsh (not British and Welsh) are: Ynys Mon 82%, Gwynedd 88%, Conwy 76%, Denbigh 76%, Flint 72%, Wrexham 75%, Powys 87%, Ceredigion 84%, Pembroke 80%, Carmarthen 85%, Swansea 78%, Neath 83%, Bridgend 81%, Vale of Glamorgan 75%, Cardiff 73%, Rhondda 83%, Merthyr 83%, Caerffili 80%, Blaenau Gwent 80%, Torfaen 78%, Monmouth 73%, Newport 71%.  What these figures* show is that there is one Wales, a Wales that, whatever its first language, feels Welsh.  Like Ireland it is an identity that could well be strong enough to survive the further marginalisation of the language.

Incidentally I believe the language stats are not as bad as some believe.  The figures for school age children are more believable than in 2001 and old people attracted to the Costa Geriactica surely cannot pose the threat to the future of the language their numbers might suggest.  A greater problem is the new class of here-today-gone-tomorrow managers in local government, you must have heard them blundering through the bilingual declarations on election night.  Bring back democracy!

* By the way a large majority of the half million Welsh born folk living in England also tracked down and ticked the Welsh only identity box.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Census

Look back at government statistics for Radnorshire in the 19C and even some quite emminent historians have been led up the garden path.  This is because they fail to differentiate between the historic county of Radnorshire and the registration county of the same name.  Most of southern Radnorshire, the hundreds of Colwyn and Painscastle, were included in the Breconshire statistics, while much of the east of the county eventually ended up being listed under Herefordshire.  Meanwhile the Knighton district, which was indeed counted as being in Radnorshire, also covered parishes in Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Look at yesterday's census release for Powys and a similar anomaly needs to be borne in mind.  Powys is the only authority in Wales where those identifying themselves as Welsh actually exceeds the number born in Wales.  This is because so many locals were born in hospitals in Hereford and Shrewsbury, it's a factor to remember when the more detailed community level figures for Radnorshire are published in the new year.

We can all remember the huge propaganda effort made during the summer Olympics to convince us that we were all British.  The Census figures tell a quite different story.  Less than 17% of the population of Wales opted for an exclusively British nationality.  In every authority in Wales from Newport to Ynys Mon the % of the locally born population opting for an exclusively Welsh identity was in the 70% to 90% range*.  Around a fifth of Wales's population were actually born in England and some 50% to 60% of these opted for an exclusively English identity.  In England itself 70% or so of the population opted for an English identity.  Only in London, with around 30% plus, and Northern Ireland, 40%, did Britishness have any purchase whatsoever.  I wonder what our rulers will make of all this?  More propaganda I expect.

* I've arrived at these figures by showing the exclusively Welsh respondents as a % of the locally born.  In Pembrokeshire for example that would be 80%.  Of course there will be those born in England or elsewhere who quite rightly ticked the Welsh box, but they would only have skewed the overall figure by a couple of percentage points at most.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Christmas Shopping

I see 1960s Newbridge-on-Wye racing driver Liz Jones's Mini is currently for sale at £25K.  The snap shows Liz, or Rosemary as she was known locally, at the Paris start of the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally, accompanied by co-driver Daphne Freeman..

As far as I can tell Liz competed in the Monte Carlo rally on three occasions, in 1963 as above in car 92, in 1964 starting from Minsk with Shelagh Aldersmith in car 27, and again from Minsk in 1965 in car 89 with Tish Ozanne.  On each occasion in an Austin Mini and all non-finishing.

Monday, December 03, 2012

They came, they saw, they took photographs

Hippie Nostalgia from Llanbister, Pont-ar-Elan, Rhayader and Clyro Court.  See here

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Billionairess J K Rowling wants me to sign a petition, so do Emma Watson and Tom Watson, Dorset squire Billy Bragg, lovable Stephen Fry and a host of other cultural icons and rich people.  Sorry guys, no can do, not even for Alastair Campbell.

We all know that Cameron was panicked  into setting up the Leveson inquiry by the Digger's snooping into such modern-day saints as the Rev Chris, Blessed Charlotte of Cardiff and Max Mosley.  Dave said he would implement its recommendations as long as they weren't bonkers.

Now that the great tome has been published perhaps Cameron should just be honest enough to admit that this lawyers' beanfeast is indeed bonkers.  How else to describe a proposed coercive system of "self-regulation" that would make a non-compliant paper liable for its own legal costs, even in libel cases it had won, or which envisages a kitemark for state-approved journalism.