Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book of the Month

I'm really enjoying dipping into this book at the moment, another excellent offering from that marvellous Herefordshire publishing house Logaston Press. The book has been out for quite a while and I'm afraid I must have dismissed it as one of those fey works about Wales you sometimes get from English authors. Big Mistake. The book is solidly historical and it's 250 plus pages are full of interest and many facts about Radnorshire of which I was blissfully unaware.

A few minor quibbles, but just one for now. The author repeats the story of Elen Gethin of Hergest Court deliberately killing her cousin Sion Hir during an archery contest in Llanddewi Ystradenni churchyard. Like many an author before him Mr Palmer translates Gethin - not a surname of course - as meaning terrible. Now Elen was the subject of many bardic poems, all of which call her Gethin - something they would be unlikely to do if it meant terrible! No the sobriquet Gethin in names like this means olive-skinned, so Elen the olive-skinned, not Elen the terrible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Keep Chiseling Away

Weird Fact: The most comments I've ever received for a post on this blog concerned sculpture.

No doubt the sculpture vultures of Mid Wales are eagerly awaiting the artistic treasures to be unveiled at Llandrindod's newly discovered, indeed newly invented, inner-gateway. With the promise of bandaged trees, clothes pegs and neon lights on offer, the Victorian group pictured must seem very old hat. It is a work entitled The Death of Tewdric, King of Gwent by the Brecon born sculptor John Evan Thomas (1810-1873)

Now I'd like to say a word or two in favour of this work, and not just because Evan Thomas's mother, Jane Evans, came from the tranquil Radnorshire parish of Aberedw. For this is a revolutionary work, completed in that year of Revolution,1848. It appeared at a time when the very idea of Wales had been expunged from the consciousness of the British state with the abolition of the last surviving Welsh institution, the Court of Great Sessions in 1830. In a legal sense Wales no longer existed.

The work won the prize of 70 guineas at the Eisteddfod at Abergavenny organised by Lady Llanover and it was surely these romantic nationalists who planted the seed of later national revival. So yes, it is a revolutionary work, a work that shouted out in defiance that Wales continued to exist, despite the obvious wishes of the British state. Will the works promised for the inner-gateway have similar fire in their belly? Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Innes Ireland Remembers

Hot from the presses Ed McDonough's collection of Innes Ireland's journalism published by Mercian Manuals. Here's the blurb:

Innes Remembers

Innes Ireland was a successful racing driver, all-round sportsman, patriotic Scot, lover of classic cars and a prolific writer. His books have always been very popular but for many years he was also a contributor to a wide range of automotive magazines including Classic Cars, Road & Track, Autocar, Car Graphic and many others.

His love of motoring and racing began at a very early age in Scotland and over the course of his long career in journalism, he wrote down many of the tales of his childhood and youth, as well as his adventures as a Grand Prix driver for Lotus and exponent of long distance sports car racing. He knew a vast number of people associated with racing and other sports and was given a free hand to recount his stories. Some of the tales are very personal, many reflect on the highs and painful lows of racing, and there are episodes clearly born out of his love of driving good cars.

Motor racing historian Ed Mcdonough has taken the original transcripts of Innes’ articles, with the co-operation of Jean Ireland, and edited them into this collection of tales, adding many photographs not previously published. They demonstrate the depth of Ireland’s passions and his skill as a writer and story teller.

Price: £34.95

Now where have I seen that cover photo before?

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Here's a little site about the Radnorshire hamlet of Evanjobb. Now why the author should confuse Evanjobb and Evancoed I don't know; while the origin of the name he dismisses, seems perfectly acceptable to me. Richard Morgan's scholarly study of Radnorshire placenames gives examples of Emynghop from 1304 and Emyngehope from 1328. By 1544 a process of Cymricisation gives Evyngeopp and by 1612 it is Evengeobbe. It also appears that the present-day villagers are most annoyed about a welsh version, Einsiob, appearing on local roadsigns.

One fact that the author fails to note in his brief historical sketch is that during the sixteenth century Hugh Myles of Evenjobb was the owner of the Book of Taliesin, one of the most important sources for Welsh, if not World literature. By the way the bard Lewis Glyn Cothi had seen the manuscript at nearby Harpton a hundred years before it came into Hugh Myles' possession, see here.

I'm afraid, like it or not, as soon as you begin to study Radnorshire's history in any depth, its essential Welshness comes bursting through the thin veneer of Anglicization.


In my review of the Guto'r Glyn biography, I made the point that bardic poetry can provide us with colourful insights that are often missing from the official records of the period. Of course these records can occasionally provide colour, as for example in E J L Cole's article Clandestine Marriages, The Awful Evidence From A Consistory Court, which appeared in the Radnorshire Society Transactions for 1976.

The Consistory Court was a church court which exercised authority in matters such as marriage and adultery, punishments meted out were based on humiliation, often involving ritual whippings around the local church. Mr Cole quotes some examples from the Hereford diocese involving people from what would become Radnorshire, I believe a couple of these individuals are also mentioned in the Bardic poetry of the period.

Firstly we have Res ap Phelpot of Whitney, a bachelor who associated with a married woman called Joan in Staunton, and who appeared before the court in 1469. There has to be a good chance that this is Rhys ap Phelpod, the subject of this bardic poem by Lewis Glyn Cothi. Rhys appeared before the court claiming to have married Joan in Beguildy but before the matter could be proved, both had left the diocese. Secondly in Eardisland on 26th April 1475, an Agnes Holl of Old Radnor was accused of contracting a secret marriage in Bryngwyn. There has to be a chance that this is Elis Holl, another of Lewis's patrons, see here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Up For The Cup!

OK, it's 1927 and Cardiff City have just won the FA Cup. So where better to parade the trophy than that home of the Bwgyites ...... Rhaeadr Gwy! Um ... we are sure that's not the Aspidistra Cup aren't we?