Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hands Off Wales - The Radnorshire Connection

The author of the new book Hands Off Wales, Wyn Thomas, is a Radnorian.  On his website Dr Thomas mentions that he left Llandrindod High School without qualifications, only returning to education later in life.  The author's English-speaking, non-academic background must surely have been a help in empathising with the Welsh nationalist militants of the 1960s,  who, in the main, were working-class, English-speaking and uncorrupted by either chapel or university.

In a way this weighty book - 424 pages - is a bit like one of those BBC4 documentaries on punk rock, very detailed, very informative ..... as long as we remember that most people were listening to the likes of Abba, David Soul and the Muppets.  For those of us interested in Welsh history it is a fascinating and well-written account of another minority pursuit - physical-force nationalism.  The book is mainly taken up with a thoroughly researched narrative about Tryweryn, the Free Wales Army and John Jenkins.  The right questions are asked, the protagonists allowed to speak for themselves, leaving us to draw our own conclusions.  A short final chapter offers opinions, but these are predictable enough and provide no surprising insights.

What about Radnorshire?  There is new detail about the only action ever carried out by the Free Wales Army - the botched sabotage of the Fron Aqueduct in 1967.  We also learn that a planned attack on the Birmingham pipeline in Knucklas was called off by Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru because of the possibility of damage to houses in the village.  The very successful attack on the pipeline in West Hagley is said to have been carried out by a cell from Newtown and Llandrindod. Really?  Later in the book the author casts doubt on the existence of any such a cell, although he does mention an English resident of Llanbister (for some background on this individual see here and here) later associated with the historical group Cofiwn, who seemingly had links with John Jenkins.  Finally, the young Anglesey county council employees imprisoned in 1969 were said to have been instructed in the art of bomb making at Graig Farm, Llandegley - leaving many suspicious of the involvement of an agent provocateur.

Update: Wyn Thomas talking about Eileen Beasley, see here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hands Off Wales

The first military action taken by modern day Welsh nationalists - and by this I mean those who didn't actually want to get caught - was the bomb attack on the Fron aqueduct, near Crossgates, on October 19th 1952.

I've always been aware of that event since it was covered in national newspapers which also happened to carry a photograph of your blogger, merrily waving a Union Jack outside Llandrindod railway station.  The occasion was the visit of the Queen to open the Claerwen reservoir and my excuse for such an uncharacteristic display of British enthusiasm?.... I was just three years old.

Given the early connection between Radnorshire and the subsequent 1960s militancy, which is the subject of this new book from Gwasg Gomer, it's somehow fitting that the author was born and brought up in Llandrindod.

I'm off to read it now.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The BBC - redacted version

It's not really fair is it, that the                 of          County Council, on a salary of £            per annum, pays the same              licence fee as a poor sod on the minimum wage.  Would all these folk who worship at the temple of the                               Corporation be so pleased if they had to pay the same proportion of their salary as Joe Soap, say £1500 a year.  I bet we'd hear less tosh about how it was such splendid value.


If we must have a                             , and of course the                 are eager beaver to extend the charge to computers and mobile phones as they've just done in Sweden, then how about a bit of devolution.  Perhaps Welsh licence fee payers could see their hard earned cash going to support         and an English language television channel for Wales.  Maybe the two channels would end up with less cash to waste than the present arrangements but that might be a good thing.  Think about it, no more                   no more                and no more David               talking            about over-population and                       .  As Jimmy Leveson used to say                       .   

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cambrian Swains

I shouldn't watch BBC history programmes, they only leave me bellowing at the screen.  Janina Ramirez may have ditched her stilettos but she still managed to clump her way around France going on and on about the English, the English, the English.

Let's be fair, Nina did point-out that King Edward III and his commanders were, in truth, Frenchmen; but what about the archers and spearmen who actually slaughtered the continent's nobility at Crecy?   It's likely that the majority were Welsh, although that's a word that is unlikely to pass Janina's lips.  For example, Kent was the English shire asked to raise the most recruits for Edward's army - 280.  For most English counties the figure was less than 200, in many cases just 60.  Total up the recruits expected from the lordships - Maelienydd, Gwerthrynion, Radnor and Elfael - that would later go to make up insignificant little Radnorshire and you get a figure of  430.

Should we mind?  Well I think we should, deprive a country of its history and you eventually deprive it of its identity.  From the Daily Mail to all those politically-correct schoolboys who pass for comedians nowadays, there's a constant campaign to diminish and denigrate the Welsh.  Ieuan Brydydd Hir got it right some 240 years ago:

The false historians of a polished age
Show that the Saxon has not lost his rage,
Though tamed by arts his rancour still remains:
Beware of Saxons still, ye Cambrian swains.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Clearly the 2011 Census figures appeals to my inner nerd; although it seems, from the deluge of comments such posts engender, this interest is not widely shared. Here's a last look at some snippets that caught my eye.  No more, I promise.


A few years ago the good folk of Tidenham in Gloucestershire held a vote aimed at swapping their  Newport postcode for a Gloucester version.  Some of the town's residents being incensed at the indignity of receiving bilingual utility bills and the like.  As it turned out not many bothered to vote and 40% of those who did opted to stay with Newport.  Here are the 2011 census figures:  English-only 46%, Welsh-only 15%, British-only 22%

Quite a Welsh flavour to this Gloucestershire town.


Berwick Rangers may play in the Scottish Football League but how do the citizens of this Northumbrian town feel about their national identity?.  Here are the figures:  English-only 55%, Scottish-only 12%, British-only 19%. Cameron 1 Salmond 0 I'm afraid.

Maelor Saesneg

In the 1880s there were plans to hand over the detached portion of the old Flintshire to Shropshire, it never happened.  It's the one part of Wales where any demand to adjust the border in England's favour might have some historical justification. Even here though it's probable that the majority of the locally born population opted for a Welsh-only identity.

Hanmer:  English-only 38%, Welsh-only 24%, British-only 30%
Willington:  English-only 38%, Welsh-only 20%, British-only 32%
Bronington:  English-only 43%, Welsh-only 18%, British-only 27%
Maelor:  English-only 37%, Welsh-only 28%, British-only 22%
Overton:  English-only 25%, Welsh-only 35%, British-only 28%
Bangor:  English-only 26%, Welsh-only 38%, British-only 23%
Isycoed:  English-only 26%, Welsh-only 41%, British-only 22%

Along the Radnorshire Border with Salop

If the majority in South Herefordshire have opted for an English-only identity then the old Marcher Lordship of Clun is even more anglicised.  Only along the Radnorshire border are there many folk willing to admit to a Welsh identity.  Clearly playing in the Mid-Wales soccer leagues has failed to promote any feelings of camaraderie amongst the locals:

Betws y Crwyn:  English-only 64%, Welsh-only 8%, British-only 16%
Llanfair Waterdine:  English-only 54%, Welsh-only 9%, British-only 28%
Stowe:  English-only 55%, Welsh-only 16%, British-only 22%
Bucknell:  English-only 67%, Welsh-only 6%, British-only 16%

Along the Radnorshire Border with Herefordshire

It's no surprise to find not a single person in Kington, - birthplace of  Ffransis Payne - claiming Welsh as their main language.  It is a surprise to find that the Welsh-born element in the town is so small.

Brampton Bryan:  English-only 65%, Welsh-only 8%, British-only 20%
Stapleton:  English-only 58%, Welsh-only 7%, British-only 20%
Byton::  English-only 64%, Welsh-only 4%, British-only 16%
Titley:  English-only 53%, Welsh-only 9%, British-only 22%
Kington Town:  English-only 61%, Welsh-only 7%, British-only 17%
Kington Rural:  English-only 62%, Welsh-only 6%, British-only 17%
Brilley:  English-only 54%, Welsh-only 8%, British-only 19%
Clifford: see previous post

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Gwalia Irredenta

As the recent programmes on S4C about Tryweryn made clear, the first direct action at the site was carried out by patriots from what commentators insist on calling anglicised Wales; in the case of Pritchard and Walters this being Monmouthshire.  I've already complained about the use of the term anglicisation to describe the process of language shift, see here.  If we want to see what anglicisation really means we have to look at somewhere like South Herefordshire and the national identity question in the recent census..

The last Welsh-speaking native of South Herefordshire is said to have died in the parish of Clodock in 1883.  Certainly there is documentary evidence to show that the language was spoken in places like Michaelchurch Escley and Craswall during the 18C and Welsh placenames and surnames are common throughout the area even today.  If more than 50000 natives of Cornwall could go to the trouble of writing-in a Cornish only identity in the 2011 Census, then surely there might be some evidence of a continuing Welsh identity in an area that spoke a Celtic language for just as long, if not longer, than Kernow?

In reality an English-only identity rules the roost throughout the old districts of Ewias and Erging.  Just as much of the population of eastern Germany is made up of thoroughly Germanised folk who happen to be of Slavonic and Baltic origin - Mrs Merkel for example - so South Herefordshire appears thoroughly anglicised, a people who no longer regard themselves as Welsh.

Is there any evidence of a continuing Welsh identity amongst even a small minority in the area?  There are a handful of parishes where the figure identifying as Welsh is greater than the figure born in Wales, but the numbers are small and there could be various explanations.  The most interesting anomaly are parishes where the number identifying as English-only is much lower than the Herefordshire average and the figure identifying as British-only is much greater.  Does this indicate some distinct ethnic awareness?  We also have to remember that, like rural Wales, Ewias and Erging are areas that attract incomers.  Anyway here are some figures for some of the parishes involved:

Herefordshire:  English-only 64% Welsh-only 4% British-only 16%
Clifford:  English-only 52% Welsh-only 8% British-only 28%
Cusop:  English-only 51% Welsh-only 15% British-only 19%
Dorstone:  English-only 54% Welsh-only 7% British-only 26%
Newton:  English-only 55% Welsh-only 9% British-only 27%
Abbeydore:  English-only 55% Welsh-only 5% British-only 23%
Longtown:  English-only 53% Welsh-only 11% British-only 21%
Llangarron:  English-only 56% Welsh-only 8% British-only 24%
Welsh Newton:  English-only 47% Welsh-only 8% British-only 30%
Ganarew:  English-only 50% Welsh-only 12% British-only 26%
Rowlestone:  English-only 50% Welsh-only 8% British-only 26% 

Friday, February 01, 2013

Little England No More

It came as something of a surprise when I found out that the term landsker - it describes the supposed frontier between north and south Pembrokeshire and turns up in nearly every article on the county you care to read - was actually coined as late as 1939.  The more I've read, the greater the realisation that Little England Beyond Wales is just a myth, an attempt to divide our country on purely linguistic grounds with no regard for history, family origin or national sentiment.

So what does the national identity question in the 2011 Census tell us about the folk of South Pembrokeshire, do they regard themselves as English or even Flemings?  Now Pembrokeshire is a long way from my Radnorshire beat but here are some brief stats for a few representative communities:

Haverfordwest:  54% identified as Welsh only, 69% of the community were Welsh born.
Tenby:  50% identified as Welsh only, 64% of the community were Welsh born.
Pembroke Dock:  55% identified as Welsh only, 70% of the community were Welsh born.
Dale:  50% identified as Welsh only, 62% of the community were Welsh born.
Stackpole:  40% identified as Welsh only, 57% of the community were Welsh born.
Marloes:  48% identified as Welsh only, 61% of the community were Welsh born.
Angle:  53% identified as Welsh only, 66% of the community were Welsh born.
Carew:  53% identified as Welsh only, 65% of the community were Welsh born.

So there you have it, the great majority of the locally born population identify as Welsh only.  Perhaps the rest of us can now stop insulting the folk of South Pembrokeshire with this Little England nonsense.