Wednesday, November 30, 2011

South will meet with North

For too long all roads led east, little wonder that Wales was an end-of-the-line country with a dead-end economy. Radnorian salutes the workers who completed this section of the north-south link ahead of time and on budget. We look forward to the by-passing of Builth and a Radnorshire in the middle of Wales rather than the middle of nowhere.

Tip: If you don't like the soundtrack mute it or better still play this.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ignorance, Drunkenness and the Clergy

No doubt peeved by the unexpected defeat of Frank Edwards in the 1895 General Election by the Tory candidate Powlett Milbank, the newspaper Cymro returned to a familiar theme of the Victorian Welsh language press, the immorality of the Radnorshire population. How the 48.7% of the electorate who had actually supported Edwards fitted into their paganistic fantasy I don't know.

Meanwhile Baner ac Amserau Cymru put the defeat down to drunkenness, ignorance and the clergy. If that sounds a little similar to the usual Unionist accusations against the priest-ridden Irish then it was a tad ironic that Milbank's campaign had been supported by Ulstermen shipped into the county to canvass on behalf of the anti-Home Rulers. Poor Radnorshire in need of fire and brimstone missionaries from both the unionist and nationalist perspective.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Daniel Carter - Who He?

I thought my copy of Meic Stephens' Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales was pretty well-thumbed but, somehow or other, one entry of Radnorshire interest managed to escape attention for the last 25 years.

Daniel Carter, it seems, was the author of a book-length descriptive poem published in Llanidloes in 1863 entitled Rhaiadr Gwy. Now this poem, the Radnorshire Museum have a copy, may well be worth reading for its "notes historical and topographical, antiquarian and archaeological." The Oxford Companion also mentions two other works - The Legend of Devil's Bridge and The Rose of Pont Vathew - although these have so far escaped the notice of the internet.

So who was this Daniel Carter, whose "life's work" was as Master of the Foundation Grammar School at Rhayader, an institution which seems to be as obscure as Carter's connection with the town? In 1840 when he wrote Rhaiadr Gwy he was living, by his own account, at Ffynnon Fair Cottage in the town. His full name was Daniel Pepper Carter, born in Lambeth around 1808 with no apparent connection to Wales. I can first spot him in the 1851 Census when he was living in Newtown and described as a teacher of languages. His wife Elizabeth, they had recently married, was from Hay, or more likely Betws Clyro. By 1861 the couple had moved to Ashby de la Zouch and Carter had promoted himself to be a professor of languages. In 1871 he is at Hereford, an author-miscellaneous and blind. Carter died a few weeks later on 30th June 1871.

Does someone know more about the elusive Mr Carter or his Foundation Grammar School at Rhayader?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Till the people will bear it no more.

A journalistic view of the Rhayader district from 1843

I wonder how accurate a description it was? Stuffing rags or turf in a window opening doesn't sound very likely. I know there was something similar in the Blue Books, turf walls, leaking roofs, dung heaps, but I do wonder if there is a degree of culture shock behind these viewpoints. Surely the Radnorshire housewife would have demanded as much comfort as possible in her hovel, a dry roof at least. While the dung/compost heap against the wall sounds like a good source of heat. I'm surprised that the councils haven't made it compulsory.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Er ... and the other 31% are what exactly?

Click to enlarge. As to the gist well it sounds like a good idea but what about the malicious and frivolous accusations it's bound to engender? More jobs for the salaried classes of course, more pressure on low paid carers doing their best to cope. Out-of-hours, unannounced, get-up-go-round-and-gaze inspections rather than relying on the current announced paper-trail visits might be an idea. Mind you this would involve public servants getting up in the middle of the night, so it's probably a no-no.

Oh and isn't there already a body who investigate all allegations of physical abuse...... the police.

Musical Interlude

Obviously the revival of Irish hasn't gone quite as well as it should have.

But never mind, here we have the best motor sport song since Arriva Tazio by Trio Lescano, plus some epic bad driving and a guest appearance by everyone's favourite rally marshal.

Nothing on the Blog?

No new posts? I'm blaming a bit of a breakthrough I recently made on the family history front in finally identifying a great grandfather from Monmouthshire's Black Domain. This led to far too much time spent investigating such interesting topics as the anti-Irish riots in Pontlottyn in 1869 - an idea for a future post here, Radnorians involved in South Wales riots.

It turns out that this difficult to track down ancestor's paternal line ends up in New Quay in Cardiganshire or Cei Newy as his father informed the census enumerator. The maternal line goes back to that little bit of Radnor irredenta that is the Herefordshire parish of Huntington.

More posts to come? Well Piers Corbyn is predicting a December as cold and as snowy as that of 2010. So hopefully enforced shopping trips, at least, will be at a minimum.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hamlet the Dane

The Welsh Land Commission, set up by the government to enquire into the relationship between tenants and landlords, came to Rhayader to take evidence in May 1894. As well as hearing from tenants who had suffered injustices, such as being evicted without compensation for the improvements they had made to their holdings, the commissioners also took evidence from tenants who had nothing but praise for the landowning class. One such claimed that he doubted if many tenants would come forward to complain, "We take pride in believing that we are descended from Hamlet the Dane. We are not exactly Cymro in Radnorshire."

"Then how came you to have the name David Lloyd?" asked commissioner Rhys to laughter from the audience.

"A colony of Danes settled in Radnor from whom I say we are descended" replied the tenant, which was no doubt news to the eminent chair of Celtic at Jesus College, Oxford.

So why did Mr Lloyd claim kinship with the Danes? A hint of something had been reported in Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1881: "I have heard a legend in Radnorshire that the 'Denes' (Danes) ploughed the hills; and if you ask who the 'Denes' were, you will be told simply that the 'Denes' were red men."

So there may well have been some legend or other floating around. The real reason though must lie with the attitudes of the day. The Welsh, for "Radnorshire's most distinguished son" George Cornewall Lewis and his circle of Liberal Old Etonian chums, had been "a miserable race of Celtic savages." Meanwhile scientists obsessed about negrescence and the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon to the Celts of Wales and Ireland. Little wonder that the occasional Radnorian might clutch at the straw, however farfetched, of belonging to a Teutonic tribe.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Myfanwy Fenton

While wilfing around the internet I came across this reprint of a book originally published in 1863, you can actually read an online version if you have the time to spare!

So who was this Myfanwy Fenton who also translated a book from Icelandic, published in 1877, called Three Sketches of Life in Iceland and a book of poems, St. Lawrence Orphanage published in Copenhagen in 1874?

Myfanwy was the grand-daughter of the Pembrokeshire literary figure Richard Fenton, in the 1851 Census she is living at Glynamel, Fishguard with her uncle John Fenton. She is described as being a governess, 25, born in Waltham, Lincolnshire. From other sources she can be identified as being the daughter of John's brother Richard, a clergyman.

John Fenton was an interesting character, an artist, a musician and archaeologist and Examiner at the Foreign Branch of the War Office. According to his nephew he was "a man of dissipated life, learnt in the circle of Carlton House and association there with the Prince Regent and his companions."

Myfanwy/Myvanwy was an unusual name in Wales in the first half of the 19C, with just 3 examples in the 1851 Census, although maybe there were a few more transcribed incorrectly. In the 1841 Census John Fenton is recorded as staying in the Denbighshire home of Jane, wife of his brother-in-law the Welsh scholar Aneurin Owen. The Owens also had a daughter Myvanwy, born around the same time as Fenton's niece.

Myfanwy Fenton isn't found in any census after 1851. In the 1870s she was a language teacher living in Copenhagen. The book of poetry she published there was dedicated to Baroness Mohrenheim, wife of the Russian envoy to Denmark. Given her uncle's association with the War Office I'd like to imagine that Myfanwy was a spy.