Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Walk in the Park

Can't think what came over me posting modern stuff like Jemma Griffiths, apologies. Now here's some Sixties pop genius from Coventry schoolgirls The Orchids. Oh and if you want to complete your collection of Adamsdown Soul, here's Tawney Reed and My Heart Cries, the B-side of her second and final single.

Daydreaming Over a Map

So many books touching on the Welsh language reproduce the maps of W T R Pryce, which use returns from Anglican churches to map the state of the language across Wales at a particular date. The illustration shows Radnorshire circa 1850, with monoglot Welsh and English areas divided by a bilingual zone, the darker shading.

Now I think that these maps, especially those for earlier years, are misleading as far as Radnorshire is concerned. It seems to me that Anglican churches in Radnorshire dropped Welsh services as quickly as possible, as soon as the last generation of monoglot Welsh speakers had died, if not long before. For example Nantmel is shown as part of the English monoglot zone in the mid-Eighteenth century map, at least a hundred years before that was infact the case.

Where the 1850's map gets somewhat ridiculous is in linking up Cwmteuddwr and Abergwesyn - where by the way there was precious little English fifty years later - into a bilingual area based on the language of Anglican church services. The only language heard over most of this peopleless "zone" would have been the song of the skylark and the occasional bleating sheep.

Bilingualism and Radnorshire Farmers in 1901

Some evidence of how the Welsh language persisted in North West Radnorshire, long after the academics had it buried, is provided by the numbers of bilingual farmers found in the 1901 census.

The figures shown on the map are for the parishes of Cwmteuddwr, St Harmon, Abbeycwmhir and Nantmel; and range from 88% in Dyffryn Elan to 5% in Coedglasson. Of course the figures include farmers who have moved into the county from elsewhere (although most are locally born) and disguises the fact that children were being brought up as English speaking monoglots

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's in a Name

I'm not sure how much of a connection there is between Colin Chapman's outfit and the new Team Lotus which will be returning to the F1 grid in 2010. Perhaps as much as that between Stan Chapman's pub on the Tottenham Lane and it's current incarnation as the Funky Brownz Shisha Lounge. Of course what is important is the name and history which the new team will no doubt seek to capitalize on, no matter how tenuous the link.

An old Lotus mechanic once informed me that it was the likes of Innes Ireland, Cliff Allison and Graham Hill who took the development risks from which later drivers like Clark benefited. Those were the days when Chapman's cars usually fell apart during the race, and the mechanics could be found still welding a chassis on the grid.

Anyway, I wonder if anyone will remember that it was Innes who scored Lotus's first ever F1 victory and who also gave the team their first World Championship win? Of course even in the Eighties all that counted for little. Lotus sponsor Camel held a big post-race party to which all the F1 journalists were invited, with the sole exception of the correspondent of the American magazine Road and Track, who was somehow overlooked ..... one Innes Ireland.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lost in Translation

Welsh has been added to Google Translate. Now there are some fairly dire Welsh language translations out there already, but just wait until our public bodies latch on to this.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Book Review

I'm almost resigned to the fact that any new book about Radnorshire is going to quote that old chestnut about Richard Fowler of Abbeycwmhir and his five hundred a year. Conradi's At the Bright Hem of God, Radnorshire Pastoral doesn't fail in this respect, although, justifiably, he is quoting his friend Iris Murdoch. He also makes a good point by saying that the doggerel reflects the preponderance in the county of small independent farmers rather than big landlords.

Conradi makes no bones about the fact that this is an outsiders book, the natives providing a romantic backdrop for those who retreat to the county in search of "inwardness". The book deals almost exclusively with writers and Conradi's Radnorshire is drawn rather large - George Herbert, Henry Vaughan and Thomas Traherne are the subjects of one chapter for example. Indeed Marcher Pastoral might have been a more accurate subtitle for the book.

We should be grateful to Conradi for bringing Ffransis Payne to the attention of a wider audience and the book does not ignore some of the great Welsh language poetry composed for patrons living in the county. I do wish the translation of Elen Gethin as Elen the Terrible could somehow be abolished, it means olive or swarthy skinned. Does anyone really think that bards like Lewis Glyn Cothi and Llawdden would have called Elen terrible to her and her family's face? One thing the book does make apparent is the paucity of Radnorshire born writers, even Hilda Vaughan was born in Builth.

Did I learn anything new about Radnorshire? Yes, quite a lot, perhaps if I had paid more attention to the Mid-Wales Journal I would have known of R S Thomas's Presteigne connections for example. All in all there are enough "ideas" in the book to keep your blogger in topics for quite a while. Conradi shares Kilvert's ability to paint a picture in a few words and at just £9.99 this Seren publication should certainly find a place on any Radnorian's bookshelf.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Who Knew?

I must admit that I couldn't stand Simon Dee in the days when he was the BBC's "golden boy." On reflection and comparing him with the likes of Graham Norton and Russell Brand, well, actually he was just as bad.

Anyway perhaps my opinion of Simon might have been different if I had known he was a namesake of that proud Radnorian, the Elizabethan polymath Simon Dee ...... at least that's what this Independent book review calls someone the rest of us know as plain John. OK we've all made similar mistakes, but it did make me smile.

Anyway expect a favourable review of the Conradi book before too long. I haven't read it but any author who claims that Radnorshire "has been the central repository of the true spirit of Welshness since the 12th century" gets my vote!

What's the Welsh for Wilfing?

OK, I guessed that Welsh language blogs dealing with Radnorshire topics would be thin on the ground but there are a couple. Y Dysgwr Araf seemingly lives in Llandrindod and you certainly have to agree with his comments in this post. No translation necessary surely!

The author of O'r Parsel Canol lives in Aberystwyth but her posts seem to indicate a Radnorshire connection. There's mention of an old primary schoolmistress of mine on the blog who I seem to remember teaching us about the likes of eighteenth century Republican Jac Glan y Gors - pretty heady stuff for Radnorshire in 1960. I like this blogger's use of colour, as in this photo of some tiles at Old Radnor church. It makes me want to dust off my cameras and start snapping.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mynyddoedd y Cambrian?

The only time i buy a copy of the Western Mail nowadays is on a Saturday for the TV and radio magazine, after all there are only so many letters from the likes of Gwilym Levell that you would want to inflict on yourself in one lifetime. Two columnists in the magazine who I usually read are Tryst Williams, who I find annoyingly sanctimonious, and Lefi Gruffudd, whose mildly anti-establishment viewpoint makes a refreshing change from the usual politically-correct consensus in Wales.

This week Lefi criticises the mountain bike community for inflicting names on the countryside like "Windy Alley" and "Italian Job", completely ignoring the Welsh names for such places. You get something similar in the world of rallying with monstrosities such as "Sweet Lamb". So far so good, but then Lefi spoils it all somewhat by asking for the establishment of a national park to cover the Cambrian mountains. Why anyone would want to hand over control of any part of Wales to an unelected body is beyond me. I well remember an article in one of the English magazines back in the Sixties, New Society perhaps, which advocated putting up a fence around the area, expelling the locals and populating the hills with bear, wolves, beaver and reindeer. I'm sure such ideas are still knocking around in the back of the minds of the environmentalists, with the addition of a few wind-farms of course.

Anyway Lefi spoils his article somewhat by referring to the area as mynyddoedd y Cambrian - surely the district has a perfectly good Welsh name already ...... Elenydd.