Monday, September 22, 2014

That Scottish Vote

I'd been hoping to read some of my favourite Welsh bloggers' analysis of the Scottish vote - not much so far, perhaps they're disappointed?  If so they're surely wrong, as that 45% was a deathblow to the glorious Union.  Here's what I think:

1. If the Scottish pattern for English-born voters was reflected in Wales, the Welsh-born would have to vote 57-43% Yes in order to scrape a victory.  We shouldn't allow political correctness to block-out this reality.

2. The 65-and-overs voted No by a 3 to 1 margin and won the referendum for the Union.  They are the luckiest generation in history - of course they were going to stick with a status quo that has served them well.

3. Ah but what about all those folk who lost their jobs in heavy industry? Well they probably didn't live long enough to vote last Thursday - life expectancy for Glasgow men, for example, being 68 years compared with 76 years in solidly pro-Union East Renfrewshire.

4. One thing is certain, everyday some elderly No-voter kicks the bucket and a young Yes-voter becomes eligible to join the register.

5.  You can't just blame the OAPs, the Yes side were weak on their exit strategy.  Plan B?  Just print your own fiat currency like everyone else and let it find its own exchange rate - it's not as if Brown and Darling have much of a record on financial matters.

6.  The EU?  If they don't want you then just go it alone,  oil-rich Norway isn't doing too badly is it?  In any case a truly independent Scotland would have a far stronger voice in the UNECE, the body that really draws up the economic rulebook.

7.  Don't assume the British government would have honoured a Yes vote.  There would have been hardball negotiations followed by an insistence on a second referendum - Operation Fear on steroids.

8.  Jack Straw thinks it perfectly reasonable to pass a law that makes any vote for the break-up of the UK illegal without the go-ahead of the English MPs.  The only fly in the ointment for this cunning plan is the American Irish lobby who will insist it doesn't apply to the Six Counties.

9.  In the Ukraine the British government and media show their true colours when it comes to democracy, ethnic cleansing and the killing of ordinary folk.  Don't think it couldn't happen here - the times they are a-changin' and Scotland has it's very own Right Sector, ripe for exploitation by the London government, in the form of the Britannia singing unionist thugs attacking the Yes supporters in Glasgow's George Square.

10.  One benefit of the No vote - we're not stuck in a room with just England and the Ulster Orangemen for company.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Musical Interlude

They spilt your blood yesterday
They put your head on an oaken post
A little way from your corpse.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Radnorshire, some Scottish connections

Britishness died with the British Empire and the vote in Scotland is more about sorting out the estate of a recently departed and somewhat unloved relative.  While we await the long-delayed funeral arrangements of this increasingly putrid corpse, let's spare a thought for some of Radnorshire's Scottish connections.

When the racing driver Innes Ireland moved to Downton House near New Radnor in 1960 he claimed that it was the nearest place to London that reminded him of the Scottish Highlands and perhaps that has been the motivation for other Scots who made Radnorshire their home.  Despite his Caledonian baronetage there was precious little Scottish about a previous occupant of Downton, Sir William Cockburn of that Ilk.  Cockburn helpfully informed the authors of the Blue Books that "New Radnor was planted as a Saxon colony by Harold, after his victory here over the Britons, two years before his death at Hastings. This people have never since had any sympathies with the Welsh in language, nor many in habits." Hogwash of course but given the prejudices of the time perhaps he thought he was doing his neighbours a favour.  The current occupant of Downton, Sir Andrew Duff Gordon, might well be the last of the Lewises of Harpton, a family that once patronised the bards but which long ago declined into Britishness.

The most famous Scot to find a home in Radnorshire was, of course, James Watt - so famous that he graces the £50 note.  In 1801 he purchased Doldowlod, then a local farmhouse, to enjoy as his summer retreat. We cannot blame the elder Watt for the enmity his family subsequently engendered by their attempts to extract rent from the occupants of the tai un nos on their recently purchased crown manors.  It all led to a court case that had to be retried in Hereford, the local jury having "perversely" found in favour of the squatters.  A minor land war ensued with bailiffs battling the populace and the destruction of the Watt's property by Rebeccaite gangs.

Who knew that Walter Scott's novel The Betrothed had a Radnorshire setting.  It was based on the story of Moll Walbee and the disastrous Welsh attempt to lay siege to Painscastle in 1198.  Don't all rush out to get a copy though, it's been described as a work that "would score high marks in a competition to decide which was the dreariest and stupidest book ever produced by a writer of genius."

A few years ago Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote a tome called the Invention of Scotland, one of those "look what I've discovered works" that excite the metropolitan elites.  Much of what passed for a Scottish identity, the author claimed - including the Osian poems - was made-up. Of course Roper discovered nothing that wasn't well-know to anyone with even a cursory interest in Scotland.  The poems having long ago been exposed, not least by Radnorshire's Edward Davies (1756-1831) - he was born at Hendre Einion in Llanfaredd parish. You can read his book, published in 1825, demolishing the Ossian forgery here.

Scottish bailiffs and gamekeepers could always find employment with local landowners suspicious of devolving responsibility to the untrustworthy locals.  Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame - beloved by arch-snobs everywhere - is descended from one such bailiff called Mackintosh employed by Lord Ormathwaite.  The bailiff's daughter, Fellowes' grandmother, regailed the youngster with tales of life at Penybont Hall where she worked as a maid.  Perhaps Radnorshire should claim a share of the export earnings?

Scottish shepherds also found employment on the Radnorshire hills, one such family by the name of Scott arrived in Cwmteuddwr in the early 1800s from Roxburghshire.  Look at a list of the last Radnorshire natives clinging on to a knowledge of Welsh well into the 20C and the surname Scott is one of the most striking.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Welsh patronyms in Herefordshire c1540

To do a proper job on patronyms in 16C Herefordshire you'd have to use the Lay Subsidy but with second hand copies of Mr Faraday's transcription selling for over £60 I've used his Muster Rolls instead.  These are lists of men aged over 16 liable for military service - against a French invasion in 1539 (it never happened) and a war against the Scots in 1542 which did.

I have counted all names containing an ap and also triple or quadruple names which don't, but which are obvious patronyms eg Davyd John Gwylym Gryffyth.  I could have counted adjectival names such as John Vaure and patronymicals where the ap had disappeared but the apparent 'surname' probably changed in each generation, I chose not to do so.  The map therefore underestimates the amount of Welshness in 16C Herefordshire, where even occupational surnames may hide a Welshman.

Three new hundreds had been formed by the Act of Union from lordships transferred to the county from the March of Wales.  Ewias Lacy was very Welsh as was most of the new hundred of Huntington, Wigmore however was very English with only a handful of small Welsh districts around Presteigne. 

A puzzle is the rarity of patronyms in that part of the old cantref of Ergyng covered by Wormilow hundred.  There are many Welsh placenames in the area and Welsh surnames were common.  Perhaps language shift had already occurred or there was some other cultural factor at work.

The isolated parishes in the east of the county surely shows the impact of recent or even temporary settlers rather than any long term survival.  The same must be true of the road into Hereford from the west and lying north of the Wye.  In Hereford City itself the muster roll for 1539 had 11% Welsh patronyms rising to 14% in 1542. Clearly the city was a magnet for Welsh people in a way that other towns, Leominster for example, were not.

My base map shows modern parish boundaries and these were sometimes different from the townships used in the 16C.  For example there were parts of Eardisley and Vowchurch which were quite Welsh and others which were more English, my map doesn't show these minor variations.

It's easy to spot that the Teme and Lugg valleys were open to the influence of very English areas in North Herefordshire, the Wye valley less so. This would have had an impact on subsequent language shift in Radnorshire.

Monday, September 01, 2014

It's not possible to be a decent person and vote no?

I expect most readers will have already seen former British ambassador Craig Murray's description of the United Kingdom as a rogue state - if not then it's well worth a listen.  Now I don't usually have much time for the tribal nonsense that sees, for example, a Carwyn Jones, or heaven forbid a Tony Blair, as being somehow morally superior to their Tory opponents, so can a 'no voter' be a decent person?  Well I suppose you could argue that as the SNP hopes to remain a  member of both NATO and the increasingly aggressive EU, then plus ├ža change.

What a yes vote will do is pose an existentialist threat to one of the cornerstones of the rogue alliance currently headed-up by America's out-of-control neocons - both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried frankly insane, pro-war opinion pieces this last weekend.  At least the SNP want to kick the nuclear missiles out of Scotland, there are those in Washington and London who sound all-to-eager to use them.

If I was a Scot I would certainly vote Yes, despite the timorous attitude of their leaders towards real independence - a currency and a foreign policy of their own.  I wouldn't think a Yes vote would lead to independence though, the rogue state has a lot more tricks up its sleeve before it would allow that to happen.