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.

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