Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jessica's Radnorshire Roots

Not having access to a television - well at least one where I have any control of the remote - I'd never heard of the actress Jessica Raine, she was the star of the BBC series Call the Midwife.  I came across her name while checking out some Kington history, Raine is an ex-pupil of the town's Lady Hawkins school.

Like another ex-pupil, the singer Ellie Goulding, there seems to be some ambiguity about Jessica's nationality, she being described in various mainstream articles as a Welsh actress.  The cause of this mix-up in Goulding's case was the inability of Warburton's Wales's national newspaper to distinguish between Kington and Knighton.  In the case of Raine it seems to stem from an early interview where she said she was from near Hay-on-Wye, no doubt correctly surmising that this was the only place anywhere near her home in Eardisley, Herefordshire a London journalist might conceivably have heard of.

Ms Raine herself has had something to say about borderland ambiguities, remarking on the "Welsh twang" of her local accent and that she "grew up in Herefordshire on the borders with Wales, so it was neither one nor the other."  All quite interesting but more was to follow when I discovered that her real surname was Lloyd and that she was connected to the Lloyds of Baynham Hall, Michaelchurch-on-Arrow, a branch of the well-known family of Radnorshire bonesetters.

In the days when agriculture was less mechanized than it is today a bad back could easily bring ruin to a family.  Radnorshire farmers had little faith in the medical profession to be of any assistance, whereas bonesetters were trusted and sought after.  An interesting article here.  Many of these local bonesetters were descendants of Hugh Lloyd 1770-1856, as indeed is Ms Raine.  In 1969 Jessica's father unveiled a memorial tablet in Michaelchurch parish church to commemorate the original Hugh Lloyd.  The memorial repeats the verse on the bonesetter's original tombstone.

A talent rare by him possessed
T'adjust the bones of the distressed
Whenever called he ne'er refused
But cheerfully his talent used
But now he lies beneath this tomb
Till Jesus comes t'adjust his own.

A few year's ago I may have done something to cast doubt on the family's connection with that figure of local folklore Silver John, see here.  It was not my intention as there is usually some element truth in these old legends.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Welsh DNA

Dafydd Iwan "descended from Welsh kings who ruled England" said the headline in the Daily Post, which seems all to typical of the high falutin' claims that usually ensue when DNA meets MSM.

This was all publicity of course for an upcoming project, backed by S4C, the Post and the Western Mail:

Other celebrities will be tested including Kath and Bryn and also members of the general public who will have paid up to £200 for the privilege - I'm guessing the celebs will get a freebie.  So what we have here will be a self-selecting sample and a good deal of what the project may well tell us we already know.  South Wales is full of folk with ancestors from Ireland, the West of England and further afield for example.

Mind you even more rigorous sampling gets things wrong, remember the Blood of the Vikings series which picked out Llanidloes as a likely place to find Welsh DNA.  Of course the town is slap bang in the middle of the 16C Arwystli plantation, typified by surnames such as Wigley, Ashton, Chapman, Jarman, Peate etc.  You could end up with Y-chromosome results more typical of Derbyshire and Lancashire than Montgomeryshire.

Of course a large sample of Welsh DNA is to be welcomed and hopefully that is what the project will achieve. It could find out more about the supposed Balkan hotspot around Abergele or the hinted "Pictish" DNA in Central Wales or who knows what else.

A large pinch of salt however, conclusions in this branch of science are open to frequent revision.  Time was  there was no Neanderthal blood in modern humans, then there was, then there wasn't, now there is.  Same goes for the out-of-Africa theory.

Meanwhile things could get a bit bothersome for S4C as a result of the controversy between the scientists behind the project and those at UCL.  It's already been the subject of an editorial in the magazine Nature and UCL have dedicated a section of their website to the matter.  Scroll down on this page to 24 September 2014 for a taster.

Anyone interested in joining the project can do so here.  Hopefully they'll get involved in the hope of uncovering something about the prehistory and unrecorded history of Wales and the Welsh people rather than just to bore the pants off us all with daft claims of being descended from Svein the Viking.  

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Old Block

Feeling a bit of sympathy for Andy Mountbatten - hasn't the guy done his level best to win Central Asia for the West?  And how is he repaid?  By having his face splashed all over the front page.  What is the point of the cleptocracy owning the media if they can't keep an officer and a gentleman out of the papers.

Anyway this blog needs to get in touch with its yé-yé girl roots, so for Andy and especially his dad here's the best-connected woman in the history of pop to sing a little ditty: