Sunday, December 28, 2008

Downhill All the Way

Any Radnorian prospects for the 2012 Olympic Games or even the 2010 Winter Games, which I assume isn't being held on some artificially constructed Alp in Essex?

Come to think of it has a Radnorian ever won a medal? Clifton Hugh Lancelot de Verdon Wrottesley's grandmother was a Gibson-Watt, and he came fourth in the skeleton in the 2002 Winter Games, sensibly representing the Irish Republic, anything better than that?

Wrottesley's father, the somewhat disappointingly monikered, Richard Francis Gerard Wrottesley, was an amateur racing driver who almost ended-up sharing an Elva with Innes Ireland in the 1965 Monza 1000km race. In the end Innes took up the better offer of one of Colonel Hoare's Ferraris and finished sixth. Wrottesley Snr was also a great sledger and it was maybe this connection which saw Innes taking his chances on the Cresta Run. Pictured is Ireland's St Moritz Tobogganing Club car badge, which turned up on ebay a few moons ago.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Evan Meredith

Here's a jolly Radnorian tale from 1919 which may even be true. There was an Evan Meredith, but living at Penglaneinion rather than Penhoeleinion, and certainly near Nantgwyllt church.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Man Who Cannot be Killed

The mention of Harcourt-Wood brings to mind a much more famous Bentley Boy with Builth connections. Winner of the 1930 Le Mans 24 hour race with Woolf Barnato, Glen Kidston was called, by the popular press of the day The Man Who Couldn't Be Killed. The Kidstons had made their fortune in Clyde shipbuilding industry, but young Glen's childhood home was at Glanwye just outside Builth. In the end the grim reaper got his man, and here is Time magazine's report, detailing just a few of Kidston's narrow squeaks - although it doesn't mention his affair with Barbara Cartland!

"Glen Kidston, rich, young and debonair, was sometimes called "the man who cannot be killed." A naval cadet at 15, he was aboard the training ship Hogue when it was torpedoed, was rescued hours later and transferred to the Aboukir which likewise was torpedoed. A grown man and sportsman, he flew with the late Belgian Banker Alfred Loewenstein and crashed. He was piloting a speed boat at 60 m.p.h. when it broke in two. In 1929 he was one of two survivors of the crash of a Lufthansa plane in England which killed six. Lately he bought a specially built Lockheed monoplane, flew it from London to Cape Town in 6 1/2 days for a record, despite a crackup in Africa. Last week Commander Kidston and his friend Capt. T. A. Gladstone were flying from Johannesburg to Natal in a Puss Moth biplane. They encountered a duststorm in the Drakensberg Mountains. A wing was wrenched off. Commander Kidston and friend crashed. Both died."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beris Harcourt-Wood (1902-1968)

Harcourt-Wood was one of the lesser lights in that speed mad bunch of pre-war toffs known as the Bentley Boys.

Wood's best individual result was a fourth place driving a works Bentley in the 1929 Eireann Cup race in Phoenix Park. That year he also finised sixth in the 1929 Brooklands 12 Hour race, co-driving Brian Lewis's Riley. In 1930 Wood was all set to compete in the Le Mans 24hrs with Jack Dunfee in Dorothy Paget's Blower Bentley. Unfortunately the fuel over-heated and the car was unable to start.

So where did Harcourt-Wood pick up that unusual given name? Well, his father Captain Charles Harcourt-Wood owned the Caerberis estate in Builth Wells and the Bentley Boy must have been fond of the area as, although Caerberis had been sold long before, Harcourt-Wood returned to the district, where he died in 1968. Co-incidently the family of a much more successful racer, Tim Rose-Richards lived at Caerberis for a while after the First World War.

Musical Interlude

No Radnorian, Cymreig or Motor Sport connections as far as I know, I just really like this girl's Sixties voice. Louise Cordet was the daughter of French/Greek nightclub singer Hélène Cordet and Prince Philip was her godfather, or even her father if some of the gossip sheets are to be believed. Anyway after her music career faded away young Louise took a job with Marianne Faithfull, which doesn't sound like a particularly wise career move.

UPDATE: A sign of the close connection between Louise Cordet and the royals is the fact that she and her brother were invited to watch the Coronation with Prince Charles. I wonder where she is today?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fine Old Radnorshire Names

Bump into someone called Lleucu or Tangwystl and chances are that your average Radnorian is going to categorise them as someone outlandish, probably North Walian and possibly involved in burning down holiday cottages. The truth is, of course, that names like these are just as much a part of Radnorshire's cultural history as anywhere else in Wales.

Such names were once popular, even in that supposedly anglicised part of East Radnorshire that falls within the diocese of Hereford; and since Welsh marriage law caused apoplexy amongst the English churchmen, they are recorded in the Fifteenth Century Consistory Court records. Here we find Lleucu the wife of Gruffudd ap Richard shacking up with Deio Impton of Norton, while in Cascob a certain Gwerful's husband had moved in with his mistress. In Ednol Hywel ap Ieuan Du had kicked out his wife Gwenhwyfar, while Tanglwst verch Hywel of Presteigne had married a distant cousin and Ieuan ap Gwilym of New Radnor had illegally married his mistress Dyddgu. Scandalous.

It has to be admitted that by the 1580's such traditional names were falling out of favour, not just in Radnorshire but all over Wales. I once did a study of women's names in Radnorshire wills of the period and found just three Angharads, two Dyddgus and one Tangwystl. Gwenllian was still a very popular name though, as was Goley from Goleubryd. It also has to be said that Radnorians favoured the Welsh spellings of the popular French names - Elin, Catrin, Mallt and Anest rather than Elinor, Catherine, Maud or Agnes.

Traditional names continued here and there into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while Gwenllian never disappeared completely from Radnorshire.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Forgotten Radnorian

Born in Presteigne in 1865, the son of a stone mason, Thomas Griffiths emigrated to Australia, enlisted as a gunner in 1886 in the Victorian Artillery and rose through the ranks to become a Brigadier General in the Australian Imperial Force. His Australian Dictionary of Biography entry has him being educated in Wrexham, which may be true, although the 1881 census still shows him living at home in Presteigne and working as a carpenter.

Described as one of the great figures in the Australian Army, how far would Griffiths have progressed if he had enlisted in the British Army? I think we all know the answer to that!