Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Days

It seems that yesterday was Battle of Britain Day, an occasion to celebrate the Few - that happy crew of public school boys, Tories to a man - who saved Britain from Hitler's tyranny.  The new Labour leader, it's widely reported, committed sacrilege by attending the cathedral service in a scruffy shirt collar and by failing to sing God Save the Queen, sacrilege in cathedrals only being permissible if carried out in Moscow by feminist punks attacking Putin.

I suppose I should be more supportive of Battle of Britain Day since the 15th of September 1940 would have found my late mother, a few days past her 20th birthday and already a one year veteran in the WAAF.  Faced, as a regular, with signing on for a further seven years, she left the airforce in 1942 to work in a factory at Cox's Corner near Watford.  Who is to say which service was the more valuable, the mythologised Few - the majority of whom were not public schoolboys by the way - or the Many, including the millions of factory workers who actually won the war.  As one expert claims, more people were killed building Spitfires than flying them, although the uniforms were certainly much smarter in the WAAF.

What started out as Civil Defence Day in 1942 was soon hijacked by the RAF and the Beaverbrook press and abandoned in favour of a day that celebrated the elitist Few rather than the proletarian Many:

Which brings us to Owain Glyndwr Day, again not an occasion that is going to get me pumped up with national pride, it being increasingly doubtful if the Welsh will ever get to celebrate a success rather than a glorious failure.  Perhaps it would be useful though to mention some Radnorshire connections with the great prince.

Foremost among them was the battle of Bryn Glas when the men of Maelienydd switched sides to win a  victory for the Welsh.  Our last?

Less well known is the fact that Owain's daughter Gwenllian was the wife of Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth, St Harmon.   The couple were the subject of many praise poems by the likes of Lewis Glyn Cothi (some of his finest), Llawdden and one by Ieuan Gyfannedd, which Ffransis Payne considered the best of those composed to the family.

I think it's beyond argument that, Owain's general, Rhys Gethin was from Buellt - a cantref that fits a lot better with those of Radnorshire than half-French Brycheiniog - but less accepted is the claim that his kinsman Philip ap Rhys of Cenarth continued the fight after Owain's son Maredudd called it a day and begged forgiveness from the English king.  This reminds me that I should attempt a translation of Llawdden's poem to Philip requesting a sword on behalf of Siancyn y Glyn, another of Owain's sons.


Anonymous said...

"Maredudd called it a day and begged forgiveness from the English king."
Can you reference this?

radnorian said...

OK begging for forgiveness is a bit unfair, of course it's well known that Maredudd accepted a pardon in 1421 and went on to serve the English crown in France.