Saturday, March 21, 2009

Never Mind Llandegley International

Talking of planes, here are a couple of Innes Ireland snippets from the days when he was flying in and out of Radnorshire. The Beech Bonanza is still flying.

That Dam Consarn!

Back in April 1912 two aviation pioneers Leslie Allen and Corbett Wilson decided to fly their machines from Hendon to Dublin. This, of course, involved crossing the Irish Sea, something which had never been successfully completed by plane.

The trip ended in tragedy for Allen. He was seen flying over Holyhead but was never heard from again. Wilson landed in Crewe, Almeley in Herefordshire before touching down in the Radnorshire parish of Colva. On enquiring of a local farmer where exactly he was, Wilson was reportedly told "thee bist in my fild, by my reckoning, so be pleased to take thyself and that dam consarn out of it!"

As it happened Wilson spent the night in Colva, taking off for Fishguard the next morning, by which time a crowd of 500 had gathered at Pentwyn to witness the event. From Fishguard Wilson's Bleriot succeeded in reaching Ireland, landing near Enniscorthy, County Wexford. The world was becoming a smaller place. You can read some more about Corbett Wilson in this book review.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Behind the Wire

Here's an atmospheric snap of Mid Wales motor cycle legends J A Bates (crouched) and J E Lewis (standing) chatting with a member of the American team - actor Steve McQueen - at the 1964 International Six Day Trial in Erfurt, East Germany.

Read some more about the event here.

Of course McQueen, a buddy of Radnorshire resident Innes Ireland, was also a fine performer on four wheels, taking second place with Peter Revson in the 1970 Sebring 12 Hour Race, a round of the World Sportscar Championship.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Radnorshire Surnames, Part Two

The map shows the distribution of the surname Bufton in 1881. You can check out other names here.

In our sample of surnames taken from Radnorshire marriages 1813-1822, around 24% do not derive from the traditional patronym system*. Not all these names are of English origin, some come from local placenames, Dyke and Hergest for example; while others are what were Welsh speaking families of French origin from Breconshire like Havard and Awbery.

This leaves some 728 individuals with names of English origin. In every parish Welsh names are in the majority , even in the traditionally ethnically mixed border towns of Presteigne and Knighton. At the same time in 25 parishes more than a quarter of the names are English. The most frequent names in our sample are 24 Hamers, 23 Buftons, 16 Bounds, 15 Worthings, 12 Wildings and Ingrams and 10 Sheens.

It would be wrong to think that this English element maintained any separate identity, at least away from the Presteigne area. Indeed we find examples of Buftons, Ingrams, Hamers, Bounds, Bywaters, Hopes etc among the last generations of traditionally Welsh-speaking Radnorshire folk detailed in the early 20C censuses. Over 300 of the 728 individuals have surnames that had been established in the county by the time of the 1670 Hearth tax or even a century before. They had long ago intermarried and integrated with the local population. The same is true of that group of surnames originating in the sixteenth century English plantations in Montgomeryshire.

Whilst the English families moving into Radnorshire integrated with the local Welsh-speaking population, they must surely have helped to increase the extent of bilingualism and bilingualism was the first necessary step in the process of language shift. Later arrivals - by which I mean arrivals in the second half of the eighteenth century and more especially those who looked towards Knighton and Presteigne as commercial centres - would not have needed to learn Welsh to converse with their neighbours.

* Of course the occasional Watson, Wilcox and Moore might have had a traditional patronymic origin just as the odd Jones or Williams might have arrived from England.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Filthy to Eat.

Has the curlew disappeared from the skies of Radnorshire or don't I get out and about as much as I should do? Time was the curlew's song was the herald of spring and you could hear it everywhere. I guess the doom-sayers will blame it's disappearance on global warming, but it was getting rarer when they were still worrying about the next ice age. Anyway here's a virtual curlew, if like me you miss the bird's song.

Oh and if any hungry Radnorians should come across a curlew they would do well to remember the wise words of motor-racing toff John Clotworthy Talbot Foster Whyte-Melville Skeffington, 13th Viscount Massereene and 6th Viscount Ferrard, Baron of Lough Neagh and Baron Oriel - I don't make this stuff up by the way - in one of his rare, but eagerly awaited speeches to the House of Lords - "curlews are" he advised his fellow peers "filthy to eat."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Radnorshire Surnames, Part One

Now and again I do some research on the development of surnames in Radnorshire: based on sixteenth century wills - when the traditional patronym system was still widespread; the 1670 Hearth Tax - when English style surnames exist side by side with patronyms and hidden patronyms*; and finally a sample of 3110 individuals who married in Radnorshire between 1813 and 1822 - when the modern surname system was more or less in place.

Looking at the 1813-1822 figures we find that the ten most popular surnames in the county are Jones (10.5%), Davies (7.2%), Price (6.6%), Evans (4.8%), Williams (4.7%), Lewis (3%), Griffiths (2.7%), Morgan(s) (2.5%), Powell (2.2%) and Lloyd (2%). Of course, all these names are derived from the old Welsh patronymic system and if we take the most obvious of these we find that that they account for 83% of the surnames in Rhayader Hundred, 80% in both Colwyn and Painscastle, 75% in Cefnllys Hundred, 70% in Knighton and 62% in Radnor.

The figures highlight some interesting differences between the six Radnorshire Hundreds. These Hundreds, which continued to exist as District Councils until Heath's disastrous local government re-organisation of 1973, were based on the traditional cantrefs and commotes of independent Wales - an organic structure rather than one imposed by dim-witted bureaucrats. The name Watkins, for example is the 4th most common in Painscastle and is also common in Colwyn and Radnor, elsewhere it is found only infrequently. The name Edwards is an exact opposite, common in Rhayader, Knighton and Cefnllys but hardly found in the old Elfael (Colwyn and Painscastle). The name Powell is infrequent in the old Maelienydd (Cefnllys and Knighton) while Prosser is common in Painscastle but absent elsewhere. A final example, Williams is found everywhere, although infrequently in Cefnllys, but in Painscastle Hundred it is far and away the most popular surname of all.

I wonder if these naming traditions reflect an ancient cultural difference between the more South East Wales orientated hundreds of Colwyn, Painscastle and Radnor and the north of the county.

*By hidden patronyms I mean how what appears at first glance to be a settled surname actually changes in each generation, so John Davies might have a son called David Jones etc.

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Radnorshire Murder

Mary Ann Hathaway's mistake was not to go to chapel on the evening of 8th June 1884. Instead, she stayed on to help with the chores at the Nantmel farmhouse where she had commenced service just a few days before. Mary Ann's surname is not one you normally associate with Radnorshire, her father being an Oxfordshire born labourer, although her mother Mary Evans came from a local family. The girl, she was seventeen years old at the time, had lost her mother five years before, while her father had subsequently left the district for the South Wales coalfield.

Mary Ann's master and mistress had, perhaps, enjoyed an easier life than Mary Ann. Both came from a wealthier than average background and now, in their thirties, were farming a substantial 280 acre holding. There was a worm in the bud however, for the mistress, Margaret Jane, had been acting strangely and her husband, John, had taken to hiding his shotgun away from the house in an outbuilding.

At around 9pm Margaret called for Mary Ann to come upstairs and as she appeared on the landing, shot the young maid servant dead with her husband's shotgun, which she had seemingly found and smuggled into the house. Why did she kill Mary Ann, the police asked, had she done anything to upset her mistress? "Nothing whatsoever, I merely did it to be hanged."

Margaret wasn't hanged, she was sent to Broadmoor, while her husband moved away from Nantmel and took a farm in Herefordshire. By the turn of the century his wife had been released and joined him there, they lived on well into the twentieth century. Mary Ann Hathaway was buried in an unmarked grave at Dolau chapel. She might have lived long enough to see the first episodes of Coronation Street on the television, but that was not to be.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Motor Sport History

MotorSport magazine have finally got around to publishing a CD covering all the issues of the magazine from 1924 to 1949. At £39.99 that's got to be a bargain, since the original magazines would cost a small fortune to purchase second hand.

It's hardly surprising that much of motor sport history is concerned with rivet-counting, after all the cars are where the money is. Prove that a certain machine, or at least part of it, won Le Mans and you are on to a nice little earner. Given that, I was somewhat taken aback to read the opinion of one well-respected author that time could profitably be spent discovering "did he beat his wife?" or "was he a drunkard?. Now I don't disagree with this, as I think the human aspects of racing are too easily overlooked. Of course my anonymous expert was actually saying that this was more profitable than spending time finding out dates of birth and death etc. Here I disagree because these basic details provide the framework on which the story needs to be built.

Take Jarrott, the first British motor racing star. Everyone assumes that he was a toff, after all he married the wife of an earl. How much more interesting he becomes when you discover that he was born the son of a blacksmith's labourer. I've harped on too much of late about Miss Levitt, but the truth is that no-one knows where she appeared from or what became of her. She might just as well be a Martian. Motoring racing historians assume too much, that 50s car owner the Vicomtesse de Walckiers for instance, you'll find plenty of references to her on google but only on motor-sport sites. Who was she? I'm sure there's an interesting story to tell. No those boring dates of birth and death do matter.

Now I'm going to be first in line to pick up the 1924-1949 CD, but really a digital archive of the News of the World would probably be just as valuable in getting to grips with the lives of many of the motor racing crowd.