Thursday, April 29, 2010

Howey was Howey when Llandrindod was a pup, Howey will be Howey when Llandrindod's buggered up!

It seems that the Radnorshire village of Howey has awakened from its slumbers to seek fame and fortune in the BBC and Big Lottery Fund Village SOS competition. Good luck to them.

Looking at the before and after pictures in the bilingual directory, it's something of a shock to realise that your blogger is more familiar with the village in its late 19th Century guise rather than the present day. Certainly nothing much changed until the 1970s, when the Pentis - the old wooden smithy (middle distance) and the bakehouse (foreground) were knocked down. The less said about the Bridgend Inn being renamed the Laughing Dog the better.

Incidentally, I wonder if the regenerators of Ashfield are aware that the site was originally called Shimne Wen?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Equal Treatment?

I'm trying to avoid this fantasy election but I couldn't help noticing that all the London based parties, including the saintly Nick Clegg, are now demanding that immigrants have to learn English. Can you imagine the kerfuffle if someone suggested that incomers to Meirionydd, for example, should have to learn Welsh?

In a sane country it might happen but in Wales not a chance. Even the Assembly is quite content that 30% of the public servants in it's Caernarfon office can't speak Welsh, while in the Carmarthen and Aberystwyth offices monoglot English speakers make up a whopping 70% of the staff.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Land Speed Record

click to read

I can't say I'm very interested in modern-day motor sport. Take rallying for example, time was it tested road car reliability, stamina and navigational skills. Nowadays road cars are pretty reliable, you can find your way with satnav and driving for long periods without a break is seen as irresponsible. Modern day rallying has retreated to the forests where a series of short sprints are the order of the day. What is the point?

Formula racing might have a purpose if it contributed to the most important motoring issue of the day - sustainability. As it happens 1950s Grand Prix racing - when the cars ran on ethanol for example- was far more eco friendly than the current over-blown circus.

Perhaps the most pointless exercise of all is the Land Speed Record. Who but a few eccentric Englishman would want to charge around at 700mph? Everyone else gave up when technological development meant landing on the moon, not sitting on the end of a four-wheeled rocket belting across a dried out lake.

Of course it once had a point and the holder of the land speed record at 125mph between 1914 and 1924 was one Ligurd G Hornstead - or was it? Now Ligurd is a pretty rare forename and no such person as Ligurd Hornstead exists in the public records, I once put forward the theory that the speedsters real name was Lydston Hornstedt, a son of a former British consul, born in Moscow. Now the above extract from the 1911 census seems to clinch that identification.

"the backward and pagan county of Radnorshire"

The Religious Census of 1851 would certainly have added weight to the view of mainstream non-conformist Wales that Radnorshire was a pagan county. The bare figures show just 50% of the population attending a place of worship on 30th March 1851 compared with 105% in devout Cardiganshire.* Even the heathen city of Cardiff managed a 70% turnout. Only the Rhayader district 72% shows a degree of religiosity, while Presteigne 49% and Knighton 37% are firmly in the camp of the damned.

The figures have to be treated with a degree of caution however, because they are based on Registration districts not the administrative county boundaries - it's a difference that continues to catch out researchers today. Ten Radnorshire parishes were counted in the Builth district 61% and nine with Hay 65%. Meanwhile the Knighton district contained seven English parishes while Presteigne contained fourteen Herefordshire parishes including the town of Kington.

The figures from the 1910 Report on Religious Bodies in Wales have been published on an administrative county basis and these show little difference between Radnorshire, 40% of the population shown as being a member/communicant of a religious body, and neighbouring Breconshire 44% and Montgomeryshire 45%. Yes Radnorians still lagged behind the Cardis 64% but were well ahead of Monmouth 24% and Glamorgan 31%.

Radnorshire was no doubt a less chapel frequenting county - in 1910 the Anglicans on 41% of the religious still outnumbered the Baptists on 36% - but was it quite as pagan as the 1851 figures might suggest?

*The figure was arrived at by comparing the number of worshippers with the population, of course some attended more than one service and would be counted twice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We'll Keep a Welcome

I'm probably way out of touch with this but I've finally noticed that Radnorshire is now covered by Google Snooper. Ex-pats especially will welcome being able to check out all those sights they know and love from back home - vandalised shop fronts for example.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Elf and Safety

There seems to be a bit of an internet campaign against Icelanders at the moment because of their belief in elves - see picture.

I can understand the tendency towards Icelandophobia given the recent history of cash and ash, but, honestly, are we any more rational with our trust that computer simulations can predict chaotic systems?

Anyway, with a population a little over twice that of Powys, Iceland is certainly punching above its weight on the international stage at the moment.

Radnor Lily

No, not a good time girl from Llanbadarn y Garreg but Radnorshire's very own native flower, see here.

Anyway if you're fed-up with Cleggophilia, volcanomania or Britain's Got Talent, why not check out Radnorian flora and fauna with this useful site.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


One thing that gets on my goat are well-off folk who pontificate about the wonderful value for money of the BBC's licence fee.

Maybe it is, although £145.50 is quite a large sum for a low paid worker earning, say, 8K a year. A couple on the average wage would be paying out over £900 if they were charged at the same percentage of their income, while a couple of middle managers in the public service would be forking out £1500. Still good value for money or would we start to hear some squeals?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Forgotten Radnorians - Sir Harford Jones

With a collection of his papers recently selling at Sotheby's for £217k, Presteigne born Harford Jones (1764-1747) can hardly said to be forgotten by those with an interest in the history of Iran and Iraq. An adventurer, linguist, agent of the East India Company, jewel merchant, author and ambassador to the court of the Shah of Persia, Harford Jones spent the years between 1783 and 1811 in places that feature prominently in today's headlines; Basra, Baghdad and Tehran.

Of course Radnorians will be interested in his local connections - what for example happened to the three children, by his Armenian mistress Maria Gorjee, brought back to Boultibrooke by his wife?

In his recent book on Radnorshire politics Keith Parker describes Harford Jones as pompous, yet many will surely sympathise with his enlightened political standpoints. Jones was a supporter of parliamentary reform and of the cottagers in their struggle against the enclosure of the commons, he also opposed tithes and was a campaigner against the abolition of the Court of Great Sessions.*

* Many people seem to think that an independent Welsh legal system ended with the laws of Hywel Dda. Infact the Court of Great Sessions was a separate and powerful Welsh institution until it was abolished in 1830.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Oh Look It's Snowing!

No doubt there will be plenty of April Fool posts out there on the internet today, but really what is the point when reality is so much more far-fetched. Llanwrtyd's bog-snorkelling listed as one of the world's top 10 events, Llandrindod as the best place to go out in Britain - that's go out, not get out of - and anyway shouldn't it really be Rhayader. Of course Llandrindod does seemingly have four single women for every man, not much point taking them to Rhayader for a curry though, who is going to look after the kids.