Saturday, January 31, 2009

Musical Interlude

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, your blogger has been under the weather. Let's end the month with one of the best things on youtube.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tŷ Unnos

Folk history is not something you come across very often today, education and the mass media have seen to that. An example you still sometimes hear in Radnorshire is a memory of the tai unnos - the houses built by landless families on commons. Build a house in a single night, throw an axe from the doorway and the building and the land as far as the axe fell was yours.

Radnorians believed that this right was enshrined in the Laws Of Hywel Dda, and by the early Nineteenth Century many hundreds of such homes existed on common land across the county. Of course incoming purchasers of these old manor lands, such as James Watt, had more faith in the laws of England, especially since at a local level they were in the hands of chaps just like himself. In 1827 Watt started destroying the homes of the squatters. Surprisingly their cause was taken up by a Presteigne solicitor, Cecil Parsons, and the Whig MP Walter Wilkins, and in 1835 they managed to have the squatters rights recognized and the evictions overturned.

The tai unnos were initially built of clods, later being replaced with more permanent rubble walls and thatch roofs. as at Great Maens, Llanbadarn Fynydd (see picture). Heaven help anyone who tried to build such a house today, alien planning authorities, far more draconian than Mr Watt, would soon put a stop to that. A planning system to meet local needs is as far away as ever.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Duchess of Offa's Dyke

She may have been the Duchess of Offa's Dyke but the famous transsexual April Ashley was never a Grand Prix driver, despite what you occasionally read in the press. Here's an example from the Sunday Telegraph:

"ON APRIL Fool's Day, 1977, in a gesture intended as a snub at central authority, Richard Booth, bookseller of Hay-on-Wye, declared the town independent and had himself crowned King.

After a coronation at the foot of the castle steps, the King and his consort, the transsexual Grand Prix driver April Ashley (or "the Duchess of Offa's Dyke", as she likes to be called), went walkabout. After watching a fly-past by a biplane of the Hay air force and the launch of Hay-Ho, the first rowing-boat of the Hay navy, the coronation party adjourned to the pub where the King handed out Cabinet posts"

Heaven knows how this piece of misinformation started, possibly a confusion with another transsexual, Roberta Cowell, who certainly was a racing driver, if not a Grand Prix driver. By the way you can download Cowell's autobiography here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Edward Rice

The bare outline of Edward Rice's life can be sketched from the public records. He was born in Llanwrthwl around 1808 and by the late 1830's he was farming at Dolyfallen in that parish. Rice must have been successful, in 1840 he married Ann Lloyd of Nantmel parish and in the 1841 census they had four servants living in at Dolyfallen.

By the time of the 1851 census Edward and Ann had two sons, Edward and John Lloyd and the family were farming 150 acres at Dolelfa in St Harmon parish. Later that year Ann Rice died and Edward eventually remarried. He died in 1882, aged 74, his two sons continuing to farm Dolelfa into the twentieth century.

Why should Radnorians remember Edward Rice? Well, according to a letter written to Boulogne in France and addressed to local squire Thomas Lewis Lloyd of Nantgwyllt, Edward Rice was the leader of the Rebecca movement in the Rhayader area during the anti-toll gate uprising of the 1840s.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Radnorshire and the 2001 Census

In one of those all too frequent displays of Metropolitan arrogance, the Office of National Statistics went out of its way to make sure that there was no tick box on the 2001 census to indicate Welsh identity. In the event, if Welsh people wanted to identify themselves as such, they had to write-in using the Other box, usually reserved for Azerbaijanis, Zambians and the like.

Of course most people were unaware that they could ignore the British tick box provided and use the write-in section, but the figures for those who did, give an interesting insight into comparative Welsh national feeling in the various Radnorshire communities. Here are the figures:

Abbeycwmhir 6.9%, Aberedw 12.8%, Bugeildy 3.3%, Clyro 7.1%, Diserth 9.6%, Gladestry 9.1%, Glasbury 7.9%, Glascwm 16.3%, Knighton 4.2%, Llanbadarn Fawr 13.5%, Llanbadarn Fynydd 3.8%, Llanbister 10.9%, Llanddewi Ystradenni 7%, Llandrindod 10%, Llanelwedd 10.8%, Llanfihangel Rhydieithon 8.6%, Llangynllo 4%, Llanyre 13.5%, Nantmel 13.7%, New Radnor 4.9%, Old Radnor 3.6%, Painscastle 8.3%, Penybont 10.7%, Presteigne 2.6%, Rhayader 14.7%, St Harmon 9.1%, Whitton 4.2%.

Given that only 19% took the trouble to self identify in a community as "Welsh" as Machynlleth, I think that these Radnorshire figures are quite encouraging for those of us of a patriotic outlook. After all we Radnorians have been in the frontline of the struggle against anglicisation for much more than a thousand years. So well done to Glascwm for topping the league.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wye Valley Resort

I remember trying to buy a ticket to Llandrindod at Euston in the 1970s. They were adamant the station had closed! Back in the 1950s things were a little different, even if British Railways weren't too sure about the town's exact location.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

We're All Going on a Summer Holiday

Time was when Llandrindod had a summer season, although I guess an artist would be fairly depressed when their agent booked them into the town's Grand Pavilion rather than Blackpool or Scarborough. Mind you the occasional big name could look back on a Radnorshire booking. In 1920 the Spa-rklers concert party, including Tommy Handley, Bobby Howes and Leslie Henson, played the Rock Park. Seemingly they were not to the town's genteel taste.

The summer bookings staggered on into the 1950s, the final season seeing organist Arthur Raymond engaged in 1958. It was hardly Rock and Roll. Pictured is "England's greatest female trumpeter", Evelyn Hardy, who appeared in the town during the War years.