Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Violette Morris

How many people realise that the young lady with the necktie in Brassai's famous picture "Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle" is the French racing driver Violette Morris. A sporting all-rounder: world shot put and discus record holder, soccer and water-polo international, champion weightlifter, boxer, racing cyclist, feminist icon, German spy and Gestapo torturer.

This winner, in 1927, of the 24 Hour Bol d'Or race was assassinated by the Resistance in 1944.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Major Rupert Robinson

A reader enquires who was Major Rupert Robinson who helped Innes Ireland purchase his first Lotus XI at the tail end of the 1956 season?

Innes's brother Allan was at that time a captain in the Royal Artillery. I've read a contemporary report in Autosport, which gives the Major's initials as R. C. Robinson. If that is the case then this was probably Major Rupert Chater Robinson R. A., an Old Marlburian, something of a sportsman - Squash and Cricket. I'm not aware that he had any motor sport connections other than his friendship with the Irelands?

In his Autosport profile of 21/10/1960 Innes has this to say about Major Robinson, who is described as being in the "Airborne Artillery":

One day he offered to buy me a car and run it for me. I just couldn't believe it. He finally convinced me that he meant what he had said and bought me a Series I Mk II Lotus. I had my first race in it in September (1956) at Goodwood where I came fourth in one event and second in another. The next week we went to Aintree, where I gained two seconds and broke the club lap record.

"This, of course, was a tremendous break for me and I just cannot find the words to express my gratitude to Major Robinson. However at the time I promised him that should the day ever come when I found myself making money out of racing, I would repay every penny he spent in giving me that golden opportunity. Now I am reaching the position where I can fulfil that promise."

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 15

This Wedding Ode was composed for the marriage of Robert Whitney of the tiny Marcher lordship of Whitney, now just across the English border in Herefordshire, and Elis, the daughter of Tomas Fychan and Elen Gethin of Hergest, Kington. The neithior, wedding feast held before the marriage was an important element in the bardic tradition, for it was here that the apprentice bard graduated. This long and perhaps, for the casual reader, tedious awdl is full of historical interest.

123. Wedding Ode to Robert Whitney and Elis vz Tomas Fychan

Oh God, who on the Wye bank has wit?
Master Robert of Whitney,
Staunch eagles from the houses of the cross,
From the line of Trussell, with no lesser blood.

The line of marriage causes no more worry,
The daughter of Tomas ap Rhosier,
Mistress Elis, is chosen,
It is like choosing a sun from a company of stars.

Every courser of their court is a star
Food and drink fill the table,
I feel a chill when I see his ward,
Strange to be without Robert’s tower.

In his father’s tower, Robert
Is surrounded by money, more than in Newgate,
By stallions and spearmen in the embrace of battle,
More numerous than parishes, in their plate armour.

In her curtained tower, Mistress Elis
Has money and treasure, jewels and dresses;
On Monday she’ll wear clothes of damask silk,
Matching chamlet and velvet,
With a train of gold over her head and cheek,
She’ll wear garlands and scarlet,
And pray to Jesus for a fruitful life,
Nine lives she’ll bring to estate.

Generous Master Robert calls Elfael his country,
A master who shares his wealth freely with me.
Here he is a fair and equitable magistrate,
He sits on many councils of escheat,
No treachery may be proved against him,
None ever will be, no case would stand,
While there is a boat or a ship anchored at sea,
While the sky has colour, while the moon exists.

In the lord’s court everyone has their place,
Henchmen and yeomen are not refused,
Golden coursers whinnying,
Trumpets, bowmen, stags bleating,
The greyhounds of Whitney, a hundred hunting dogs,
A host of huntsmen in uniform,
The Epiphany kitchen busy with cooks, butler, cellar men, chattering carpenters,
And outside the court laughing peasants,
And outside the tower a minstrel without an invitation;
And from the bride, progeny and a supreme lineage,
And from the groom issue and lineage and seed.

Amen! Seed and lineage as she would desire
From the Lord of Whitney;
In their court a place of Alsace wine,
In their white towers and their houses.

The contracted court of my lady,
The courts of my lord like sunshine,
Her saintly tower is a sanctuary.

The tower of Master Robert, an ash,
A better tower than the White Tower,
A brilliant-white square storybook tower.

What house is that in the shape of five dice
Yonder, like Sandwich?
Is it not Elis’s court upon a headland?

A citadel on the Wye bank,
With her it is greater than
The tower of Joshua, than Caesar’s tower.

Set on a beach it is no less,
This Nudd’s house in fair Whitney,
Than the houses of charity that Lazarus built.

These two are no less,
With their wine for me,
Than the flowers of the south through all the earth.

More free the gifts
From his hand, as hers,
Than the flow of a river, to a guileless scholar.

Fair the gifting
Of gold given to Mary,
Like snow for Jesus from Balthasar.

From their mine of gold and their mead,
From their goods in like manner,
From their feats, the two friends would not refuse me.

The rents of their lands
I’d have and gowns,
Various vegetables, food on a spit.

A variety of sea food,
The wealth of vale and mountain,
More spirits, various birds.

An Arthur will not refuse me,
As tall as an ash tree,
And she, too, is Gwenhwyfar.

Ugh! To the Saxon up
From their stronghold which he hates,
A cold life to him who loves not the Welshman.

Deiniol, St Denis,
Cedwyn has protected them,
Dewi, Non, Elis, Dwynwen, Ilar.

To them the life of Moses,
As long as Old Noah,
Two lives of two trees, an oak tree and an oak wood.

A start in good health
Mary, grant them,
Long their conquest and a distant parting.

Let their parting be distant, let their lifetime
Be longer than the oldest unto Monmouth,
To scatter gold upon the Arrow,
To fill the banks of the Wye with wine!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Jack Lewis in Formula Three

After a couple of lessons with the Cooper Racing Drivers' School, 21 year-old Jack bought the ex-Ivor Bueb Formula 3, Cooper-Norton for the 1958 season. During the year he competed in 13 meetings:

18thMay, Brands Hatch, Junior F3 race, 2nd
24thMay, Full Sutton, F3 race, 1st
7thJune, Oulton Park, F3 race, 1st
5thJuly, Crystal Palace, F3 race, 8th
26thJuly, Oulton Park, F3 race, 1st
27thJuly, Snetterton, F3 race, ?5th
4thAug, Brands Hatch, World Sports Trophy, 2nd (won heat)
9thAug, Silverstone, Commander Yorke Trophy, 2nd
30thAug, Brands Hatch, Lewis-Evans Trophy, 4th
7thSept, Snetterton, F3 race, 3rd
20thSept, Oulton Park, F3 race, ?retired
5thOct, Brands Hatch, World Sports Trophy, ?

Highlights of the year included a 2nd place to established Grand Prix ace Stuart Lewis-Evans at the World Sports Trophy race at Brands and another 2nd in the 100 mile Commander Yorke Trophy at Silverstone, a race won by Trevor Taylor. Jack had some bad luck in this race as he had fitted an extra fuel tank, considering that the extra weight would be more than compensated for by not having to refuel. Unfortunately the tank split and the car was forced into the pits.

Any corrections or additions to the record welcomed.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

When they Burnt the Union Jack in Middleton Street

The small balcony where Sir Francis Edwards spoke can just be seen by the pole holding the Victoria Hall sign.

Here's a taste of life in Llandrindod at the start of the last century which seems a million miles from the somewhat staid gentility portrayed during the town's annual Victorian Festival. It comes from G. W. Gibson's memoir "Llandrindod in the 'Nineties" published in the 1945 RadnorshireSociety Transactions:

...political feelings ran high in Radnorshire in the late 'nineties and the early nineteen-hundreds, and practically everybody in Llandrindod was either a keen Tory or Radical. I well remember the Parliamentary Election of 1902, when Sir Francis Edwards was returned as Member for the county. He came to Llandrindod on the evening of the day after the election, and was met at the station by a crowd of his supporters with an open carriage, to which ropes were attached, and pulled up to the Victoria Hall. An equally big crowd of Conservatives was waiting in Middleton Street, and as soon as the carriage stopped it was assailed with a shower of eggs. Sir Francis, who was sitting inside the carriage, immediately hopped out and up the steps into the Victoria Arcade, but Alderman Evan Bufton, who was on the box-seat, could not get down so quickly, and he became the target for most of the eggs. It was said afterwards that when he got home to Brynteg he had to be soaked in the bath before he could get his shirt off.

As soon as the egg throwers had got rid of their missiles, Sir Francis tried to address the crowd from the little balcony that used to stick out in front of the Victoria Hall, but a group of Tories hoisted a Union Jack and started singing a patriotic song. Among them Mr Jack Lewis, the butcher, then living at Gordon House, one or two of the Swettenham boys, and a very tall man who was working in the town at the time. A party of Radicals, led by Mr. John Williams, then residing at "Craig-y-Nos," Craig Road, made a dash for the flag, and there was a fierce melee in which many blows were struck. Eventually, the flag-staff was broken, the flag hauled down and set on fire in the middle of the street. Next day, the Conservative newspapers of South Wales carried big headlines: "Radicals Burn the Union Jack at Llandrindod Wells."

Thanks to Domhnall Ó Murchadha for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Flying the Flag for Wales, Jack Lewis

After a race long struggle with Rodriguez in the works Ferrari Jack Lewis, at the wheel of his Ecurie Gallois BRM, settles for third place in the 1962 Pau Grand Prix. The red dragon is clearly visible by the car number (see photo)

Today Lewis is one of the forgotten men of Formula One, but in the early Sixties his driving of the privately entered Coopers marked him as one of the smoothest and most promising racers on the grid.

A fourth place in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix encouraged Lewis to purchase an ex-works BRM for the 1962 season. Disillusion set in as the car was suspiciously underpowered. At the Monaco Grand Prix young Jack equalled the practice time of the works BRM driver Ginther, only to be excluded from the race to make way for slower but better known competitors. The car was returned to BRM who reimbursed the £7000 selling price and Lewis had to compete for the rest of the season in his tired old 1960 Cooper.

At the end of the 1962 season Lewis retired from the sport to farm near Llandovery, he was still only 25 years old.

Jack Lewis's F1 and F2 record

Lavant Cup, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 11th
British Empire Trophy, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 14th
Aintree 200, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 7th
Prix de Paris, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 1st
GP de Pau, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 7th
Coupe de Vitesse, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 10th
GP de Rouen, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), accident
Trophee d'Auvergne, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 8th
Kentish 100, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), did not qualify
Coupe de Salon, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 2nd

Oulton Park Trophy, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), accident
GP de Bruxelles, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 8th
GP de Pau, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), not classified
Aintree 200, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 12th
Prix de Paris, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 2nd
GP des Frontieres, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 1st
Solituderennen, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), retired
German GP, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), disqualified
Vanwall Trophy, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 2nd
Kentish 100, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 7th
Lombank Trophy, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 1st in class (6th overall)
Coupe de Salon, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 1st
Lewis Evans Trophy, Cooper T45-Climax (F2), 2nd

GP de Pau, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 5th
GP de Bruxelles,Cooper T53-Climax (F1), excluded
Aintree 200, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 8th
London Trophy, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 7th
Silver City Trophy, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), retired
Belgian GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 9th
French GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), retired
British GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), retired
German GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 9th
Modena GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), did not qualify
Italian GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 4th
Oulton Park Gold Cup, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), retired

GP de Pau, BRM (F1), 3rd
International Trophy, BRM (F1), 9th
Dutch GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 8th
Monaco GP, BRM (F1), excluded
GP de Reims, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 10th
French GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), accident
British GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 10th
German GP, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), 10th
Oulton Park Gold Cup, Cooper T53-Climax (F1), retired

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Parry Thomas

Parry Thomas, a sketch by Algernon Rowe

Welsh Success at Le Mans, 1931

Tim Rose-Richards and Owen Saunders-Davies (right), celebrate their third place at the 1931 Le Mans Twenty Four Hour race.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 14

This poem illustrates some of the social functions of the bard: as genealogist, herald, soothsayer and political agitator. The academics, who don't know much about Radnorshire, place Dafydd's home in the parish of Llanbadarn Fynydd although it is obvious from this poem that he lived in the Fron district of Llanbadarn Fawr. Dafydd held the castle of Stapleton near Presteigne after the battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461.

No. 174 Praise to Dafydd Goch

You are privileged and of noble blood,
Baron of Stapleton, good evening!
Dafydd Goch, God protects
And James creates calm about you.

You are a son of Maredudd
Who brings me profit, a grandson of Adam,
Son of Madog, from his dwelling,
Son of Adam, hawk of the wide earth,
Son of Rhys, that generous apple of paradise,
Son of Ifor, his inheritance still lives,
Son of Gruffydd, with his ruddle stallions,
Son of Ieuan you are, none better,
Son of Ifor, songster of the sweet wine,
Son of Philip, with the five war colts,
Son of Einion, the heart of the Wye shore,
From a kindred from Uwch Conwy,
Son of Llywarch, respected to the grave,
Son of Bran, an emperor of Gwynedd,
Son of Dinawal of the province,
Son of Einudd, a high earl of the nation,
Son of Aelaw, who was in Aberffraw,
Son of Alser the unrefused,
Son of Tudwal, like the men of Maelor,
From the land of Anglesey, son of Rhodri Mawr.

From the highest nobility, Dafydd,
You are a shoot, as talented as Nudd.
You are the finest in terms of pedigree
From Anglesey to the land of Menevia.
And I am over Cymaron
In your house, high on the Fron,
Calculating, by the little clock,
Your hours and your four lines of descent.
I prophesied an Englishman without office
And an evident castle for you, lord,
And a fair tower and houses,
And a barony and its privileges.
A Taliesin to an Elphin
I’ve become, as I grow, for you Dafydd;
Like Adda Fras to the realm
Of Llywelyn, protector of our nation;
Like Meugant, when he played on his pipes
A fine speech for Gwrtheyrn;
When I divine, I’m like Myrddin,
You are an Emrys in the March.
At two feasts, Iolo said,
He was his lord’s bard,
“Good teeth without a tongue, the day will come,
A clumsiness in the recess of the mouth.”
You have good teeth without a tongue,
So I would be it with my lip.
Dafydd the talent will be reflective,
It will be a remembrancer, it will be just,
It will be silent and do much,
Hurry to all to give a spur.
Raise your banner Dafydd,
For Mary, carry the day for Wales!
A lion with the three ravens of
Llywarch Ap Bran, respected by all,
Your three ravens have a silver field
And a black chevron like the chapel of Dewi.
Your ancestors had a privileged place,
The privilege of the holding of three ravens,
The most loved birds
In all of prophesy are the ravens.
It will go well for you, no worse,
For three ravens, to turn into a barony.
You are the baron of the ravens,
You’ll have an ancient earldom from a fair man.