Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Howey Choir c1912

There's no better book on Radnorshire than Ffransis Payne's two volume travel book Crwydro Sir Faesyfed. The inhabitants of Howey might not agree, however, with his dismissive comment about their village: Fel y dywedais yn barod yr oedd y lle hwn yn adnabyddus am ei gôr meibion hanner canrif yn ôl, am a wn i nid yw'n adnabyddus am ddim heddiw - "As I said before this place was well known for its male voice choir half a century ago, as far as I know it's famous for nothing today."

Well Mr Payne was wrong on one count at least as the choir in question was mixed rather than male voice. Here is a picture dating back to perhaps 1912, and in order to placate any wounded spirits perhaps we should try to put a name to as many of these faces from the past as we can.

Back Row standing (left to right): Stan Jones, Bill Lloyd, a Mr Tidman, George Thomas, Sid Thomas, a Mr Smout, David Charles Jones, Les Brick. Middle Row seated (left to right): Nelly Thomas, Ada Jones, Ida Webb, Veenie Jones, Phillip Gough, Nelly Cadwallader. With the cup: (?) and (?). Kneeling (left to right): Anne Jones, Dolly Jones, Katie Hughes. Any corrections or additions welcomed.

Fred Melenydd Roberts

This young fellow doesn't look particularly happy about things, although he was an heir to a great musical tradition - y delyn deir-res or triple harp. It's well known that the triple harp tradition was kept alive by members of the Romany clan, the Woods, at a time when a combination of Methodism and the fashion for pedal harps had all but driven the instrument out of the cultural mainstream.

Llandrindod Wells with its thousands of visitors was a lucrative market for the triple harp players and young Fred - a great great great grandson of Abram Wood, the clan patriarch - was the son of the harp player John Lewis Roberts (1853-1928), himself a son of the leading player of the nineteenth century, John Roberts, Alaw Elwy (1816-1894). Fred's uncles also played in the town, you can read about the Roberts family here.

At the time of the 1901 Census young Fred and family were living at Bank Cottage in Builth moving to Oak Cottage, Llanyre in 1902. Fred's mother Eliza Davies was from Llanbister and his grandmother Eleanor, who was born in Rhayader, was the daughter of another famous harpist Jerri Bach Gogerddan (1778-1867).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

London Gazette

The London Gazette is a good source for filling in the biographical gaps for some of the more obscure pre-war racers. The Welsh-born Brooklands driver Philip Turner is a good example, the Gazette records his change of surname in 1919, the collapse of his business in 1935 and his death in Brighton on 30th March 1949. Irene Schwedler, her real name was Ilse, was a well-known competitor before the war who seems to have disappeared without a trace as far as the motor-sport world is concerned. What happened to her? The Gazette shows a change of name to Sadler in 1947.

Another good thing about the Gazette, you can check which of your neighbours has ended up in the bankruptcy courts.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Silver John

Silver John is dead and gone
So they came home a-singing.
Radnor boys pulled out his eyes
And set the bells a-ringing

According to W. H. Howse in his book Radnorshire this little ditty was sure to provoke trouble if recited in the presence of a New Radnor man, commemorating as it does the murder of the charmer and bone-setter Silver John by a gang from the village in the late eighteenth century.

According to this site Silver John was a member of the Lloyd family of bone-setters and the deed was done in 1830. Meic Stephens, a descendant of the Lloyds, in his Oxford Companion to Welsh Literature agrees that Silver John was John Lloyd and tentatively dates him as living between 1740-1814.

The records of the Court of Great Sessions have a different tale to tell. Here Silver John is named as John Jones of the parish of Llanfihangel Rhyd Ieithon. Now there is no reason at all, given the longevity of the Welsh patronymic system, why a John Lloyd should not also be known as John Jones. The murder however is dated to 12th December 1773, the body not being found until the following April.

Jones was described as an idle drunken person, who had been very troublesome on the night of the murder and had to be dragged out of the house of Edward Breese, a New Radnor carpenter. Others indicted with Breese were David Bedward, know as Edwards, also a carpenter; Margaret Herbert (alias Morgan); Jacob Holl, butcher; William Holl; John Meredith, labourer; and Alice Price (alias Phillips). The verdict "No True Bill" - no case to answer.

Monday, July 23, 2007

You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

Time was we blamed bad weather on the wrath of the gods and placated them by sacrificing a virgin or some such. Nowadays we blame bad weather on the new god of global warming and are asked to sacrifice ….well, our cars.

According to the Independent; “It's official: the heavier rainfall in Britain is being caused by climate change, a major new scientific study will reveal this week, as the country reels from summer downpours of unprecedented ferocity. More intense rainstorms across parts of the northern hemisphere are being generated by man-made global warming, the study has established for the first time ­ an effect which has long been predicted but never before proved.”

Well done the scientists, although it took them long enough. After all the UK record for rain in an hour was set as long ago as 12th July 1901 in Maidenhead, 3.6 inches. Most rain in a day, Dorset, 18th July 1955, 11 inches. Funny how July keeps popping up in these records. Reminds me of the great Howey flood of 9th July 1853.

Anyway thank heavens the scientists have finally worked out the reason for all these unprecedented downpours, I’m off outside to slaughter the Metro.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 40

Here is another praise poem to Philip ap Rhys and Gwenllian of Cenarth, St Harmon. Ffransis Payne considered it the best of the poems composed for the family. It is the only surviving work by the bard Ieuan Gyfannedd.

Praise of Philip ap Rhys and Gwenllian vz Owain Glyndwr (IG)

Philip, a generous royal stock,
Ap Rhys, there‘s mention of you,
Lover of our song;
And much, too, of Gwenllian;
Honour to you and this goddess,
Famed Arthur of Gwerthrynion.

You dwell in the house of fame,
You and the girl from Glyn;
You are firmly seated
On the bench of the men of estate;
Loyally the bards, all who would cultivate
Your land, would not leave its support
In summer or in winter,
God’s blessing on your house.

I’ve composed a wide acre of praise
In the borderlands, it’s honourable;
Like an agreement for joint-ploughing,
I refer to you in furrows of harmonious praise.
The datgeiniaid have sung, have harrowed,
Have dug over an acre of song.

It has been sown a hundred times
With the blessings of the weak.
Chieftain of our land, your praise was ever
A fresh shoot, like that of Rhys,
It has been sown, like the seed corn
From the wheat, the world’s blessing.
Your dominion is more than a saint’s,
The land has been sown with a chaired poem
In your praise, Mary’s blessing upon you;
The world has been sown, unto the grave,
With songs to the girl from Gwynedd.

This tall house in the hill’s fold
Is the wheat store of blessings;
You are the best of men, with a fair wife
And a house for every charity;
Your hall has been stitched
With good poetry, your delight;
The carpenters of praise measure their trunks
By a man’s goodness, not with greenwood;
Today, Rhydderch’s nephew, is lifted up
By the work of carpenters of love,
And on high, the belfry of their praise
Will be ready by morning.

A long life to you and the girl from Gwynedd,
To give there in mead and song.
A long life was given to Moses,
Old Noah lived to a great age,
You and Gwenllian will grow old
In the land of fame, in the hill’s fold.

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 39

Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth, St Harmon was the son-in-law of Owain Glyndwr. After Maredudd, Owain's son received a pardon from Henry V in 1421 it seems that Philip refused to surrender and continued the war against the English. In this poem the bard Llawdden praises Philip, still at large in the woods of Arwystl.

Praise of Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth (10)

I’d love to go with a fine poem,
Merlin’s gift, to where great fame is found,
Dear Philip, form of a stag
The lover of this southern land.
The stag of Rhys loves to give
Gold and a steed, in maintenance,
A lord from Philip Fychan, a true support
A Bendigeidfran of provision.
More than anyone he’s our life,
The face of Arthur for Gwerthrynion,
Another Ieuan Llwyd, lord of Glyn Aeron,
On to victory, chieftain!
Proof of the spirit of the nobility
Is found with this heir and his mead,
The wood in the apple-tree then
That causes its branch to sprout on high.
Philip ap Rhys is a tree from
The highest bud of the Isle of Honey,
The fine customs of a baron,
Generous God bestow on him,
The generosity of Einiawn’s race,
The face of a Goodman with the fairest look.
Majesty was given to my eagle,
The manner of a falcon amongst the goodmen,
A fine sight on a stallion, without ugliness,
Princely, God’s salvation for him!

There’s a longing amongst his nation
For the fair governance of Cynan’s grandchild.
In our land none but the birds and
The woodland branches care for him,
No minstrel, we who once made merry,
None can be found to salute him.
A fine journey awaits me, for love of him,
By the three months of summer,
I’ll cross yonder Pumlumon
With poems as gifts for him;
By my faith, how distant the respected one,
I’ll meet with my swan.

Jesus, I have a great longing,
He was in his beloved land,
A generous ruler, tall son of a chieftain,
When he left, a hunting ground.
Give him, powerful ruler,
A blow like Owain ab Urien;
In his story he succeeds,
Like the man on the Llychwr shore.
Old and fitting was the one who made,
A long campaign, a fine outlawdom,
Until he had justice and land and houses
From on high, he did not make peace.
After the nobleman’s son fled,
Philip is the equal of the Goodman:
He has rejected unjust rule,
And calls for victory,
Until which he dwells where he wishes,
Free like one of the stags.

As long as there is a fine mead feast
In the bright lands of Arwystl,
Swiftly to our land from Powys
A fair chieftain will come.
Where the houses and haunts of the father are found,
And the cultivated land of the great grandfather,
There one as old as Rhys’s son will dwell,
There he’ll deign to be by Christmas,
Let a long lifetime of fame and affection
Be given to the nephew of Rhydderch!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Book of the Month

After Lewis Glyn Cothi the bard Llawdden was perhaps the most prolific of the Fifteenth Century poets writing to patrons in and around Radnorshire. At least half the poems in this newly published book in the University of Wales's Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies' series Beirdd yr Uchelwyr have a Radnorshire interest. As usual the book is full of genealogical and historical interest for students of local history with copious notes on every poem.

It seems that Llawdden retired to farm in the parish of Cefnllys and what was to become Radnorshire was certainly his main area of bardic activity. Of particular interest are the five poems to the family of Phylib ap Rhys of Cenarth, St Harmon, poems to patrons at Croescynon and Garddfaelog in Llanbister, a fine obituary to Elen Gethin of Hergest and poems to patrons in what is now Herefordshire

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's in a Name?

Some of the old mechanics, who were around in the late 50s when Ireland first started to make a name for himself in the world of Motor Sport, still call him McGregor, rather than Innes. Why so? Well the answer is that this was the name that Innes himself used at that time. Here's an example from the 1958 Telephone Directory, where Ireland is described as a Sports Car Builder, his previous Rolls Royce repair business at the same address having closed as his interest turned to sport.

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 38

This is a translation of a cywydd by Lewis Glyn Cothi in praise of the Sion and Hywel, two sons of Ieuan Coch. Lewis composed a number of praise poems to members of this family living in various parishes in Elfael Uwch Mynydd

No 155, Praise to the two sons of Ieuan Coch

Two generous men in fair Elfael,
Two braves, two oaks,
Two good sons and heirs
Of Ieuan Coch, a generous chieftain,
Both grandsons of Cadwgan,
The stags who break castles;
Sion with his successful look,
And Hywel, no-one is more generous.

There’s no more than an archer’s mark
Of woodland between their liberal homes,
And I am Lewis the strong archer,
Their two courts are my target,
I’ll shoot a poem from
My jaw at the two marks;
I’ll shoot a cywydd across the Ithon
At Sion, that is my office;
And then a bolt to where Hywel comes,
An ode of gwawdodyn metre.
I know well an idle game
Of bars between these two pure stags.
My feet have been running
Down between their fair homes.
I’m as swift as a swallow
As I follow after them.
I’m quicker to the sons of Ieuan
Than a breath of wind to a high bank,
Than white snow along the moorland,
Than a brown falcon to the forest,
Than an old eagle to the great cliff,
Than a wounded roebuck to the river cliff.
I’m a man of no use, in Llanfaredd,
For Sion, rose of the tribe.
I do not need to call for poems
From a book, just for Hywel his brother.

There are two more brothers
Who both learn the books of the others.
They’re four saplings from one oak,
They’re four fledglings.
There is no feebleness with these on side,
They’re loyal to a man.
Sion is the trunk in place of Ieuan Coch,
A stag, whom you know;
Hywel is the longest branch,
An old coffer I’ll get from him.
Two stags in the two battles,
Two swords of their country.
God gave Moses two tablets,
Golden images in two cloths;
Two are earth and sky,
Two bodies which are related;
Two days were one for a man,
For Roland against his enemy.
Two brothers are the men who permit us,
Stags, the same charity.
Two stars are special,
Two men dwell to turn steel aside.
Jesus, he who is an old man
Would give an age to these two men.