The National School, Llanidloes in 1945 John A. Williams
Robert Owen’s Newtown David Pugh
Averting Armageddon Lembit Opik MP
Following the footsteps of an Edwardian Field Society Rachael Jones
“Are you Church or Chapel?” – Part 2 Disputes and Diapasons Michael Brown
Independents from Llanbrynmair Reverend Malcolm Tudor
The Gentleman Hood – Part 4 Tyler Keevil
The Judge’s Lodging Gay Roberts
Summer in Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams
The Great Mid Wales Land Grab – Part 2 Gay Roberts
Aspects of Mid Wales Reginald Massey
The Arwystli Debate – Report of Dr David Stephenson’s Lecture
Murder in Garth Beibio Gay Roberts
Fitting In Tony Jones
Slate John Hainsworth
Hunter’s Moon R.S. Pyne
Two Poems Reginald Massey
The Tortoiseshell Combs Norma Allen
The Map of My Life Maggie Shepherd
Editorial PenCambria Issue 5 by Gay Roberts
Well, I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine. As a matter of historical interest, 30 years ago during the 1976 drought which started in July, for several weeks there was not a blade of grass to be seen on the hills of Mid Wales. The poor hungry sheep had eaten the fields to the bare earth and no rains came to grow any more. The only greenery to be seen were the dark patches of the hedges and the forestry. It was bad enough for plans to be prepared to raise the level of the Craig Goch Dam in the Elan Valley – just as there are murmurings now about putting in another dam in Mid Wales to supply water to the south-east of England. It was shelved again in the 1970s, as plans to build a dam in Twlych had been in 1966. Let us hope plans for any new ones here go the same way. Our well ran dry in 1976, as it always does in a dry summer and that year I was doing our washing on a stone in the River Dulas, just like the countrywomen always did until the installation of internal plumbing and the washing machine, that masterstroke of modern invention – and as so many do today in the poorer corners of the world. But that’s enough of my memories.
John Anderson will bring back all sorts of other memories of the National School in Llanidloes and some of you may even recognise yourselves in the photograph! John is one of a number of new writers who have joined our merry band during the last few months and I am delighted to welcome them and to introduce them to you in strictly in alphabetical order.
John Hainsworth is better known for his campaign to preserve the Llanfyllin Workhouse, about which more in a future edition of PC. In the meantime, he has shown an unexpected (for me at any rate) talent for poetry and has written a quite remarkable and moving poem about the slate quarrymen of North Wales.
Rachael Jones is a mine of information on local history, being in the process of completing her master’s degree in this very subject. She will be such an asset and I am delighted that she is willing to share her knowledge and expertise with us. I could not have written the article about the murders at Garth Beibio if she had not pointed me in the right direction. Her articles on the BBC website are a delight to read. For this edition she has written about a group walk from Welshpool to Madog’s Wells near Llanfair Caereinion in the footsteps of one made in 1910.
Tony Jones, whose column as “Newcomer” many of you will have enjoyed reading in the County Times, has turned his talent for lateral observation to PenCambria and I do hope you will all enjoy looking at life in Mid Wales from his gently humorous and slightly oblique angle.
When he is not serving his constituency interests as Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire Lembit Opik’s passion is for astronomy, for which he is well known. In this issue he tells us all about his background and family interest in stargazing and his part in the campaign to set up the observatory at Knighton and to bring about Spaceguard, the asteroid watch. I have observed in the past how Mid Walians seem to delight in travelling as far afield as possible and I think outer space is about as far away as one could get.
R.S. Pyne is another very welcome new author to The Dragon’s Crypt. A West Walian, from Ceredigion, R.S.’s little spine chiller is based on a true incident. I look forward very much to reading more of his stories.
David Pugh, President of the Newtown Civic Society is a great fan of Robert Owen and he shares with us his observations on how the great man would have seen Newtown in the 18th and 19th centuries compared to how it is today today. David did mention to me last year that he was thinking about writing some biographical articles on Robert Owen. Robert Owen’s part in our social history is so little known about today and as a consequence, so under-appreciated. I do hope I am not being premature in looking forward to him presenting them to PenCambria so that we can all learn about him and give him the respect he deserves. Incidentally, mea culpa and my profound apologies for describing David Pugh as the Chairman of Newtown Civic Society in the last issue of PenCambria. He is of course the President. My grateful thanks for pointing this out go to John Napier, who holds the position of Chair.
Our regulars have been hard at it with quill and pen – or rather, keyboard and mouse this spring.
Tyler Keevil reveals just how much influence Murray the Hump had with Al Capone and his part in St Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago.
Michael Brown continues the saga of the chapel organ, which is finally ordered and delivered on time – just.
Reverend Malcolm Tudor has been looking at a family of Independent Congregationalists from Llanbrynmair who were born to the pulpit, it seems.
Catherine Richards brings us up-to-date with Powys Archives and from PenCambria point of view, special mention must be made of the late Carol Davies’ photographic archive of some 3,000 photos that Christina Edwards has very kindly presented to Powys Archives for the benefit of the community.
Llandrindod Wells in summer inspired some memories which Joel Williams has sent us from his new collection.
Reginald Massey has been browsing in the Great Oak Bookshop and come across all sorts of books about Mid Wales and by Mid Walians. He has also contributed two beautiful poems that I am delighted to publish this month.
Once again The Dragon’s Crypt contains a lot to surprise and delight. As well as R.S., John and Reginald, young women going off to do their bit for the war effort sparked off Norma Allen’s imagination, and Maggie Shepherd shows us once again what delightfully original talent she has for articulating life’s experiences.
My own offerings this month are an account of the 1906 tragedy at Garth Beibio as related in the County Times of that year, how the 12th century Normans settled into the Welsh Marches, a report of Dr David Stephenson’s fascinating talks on how the legal processes to determine the fate of Arwystli in the 13th century gripped the attention of Medieval Europe and a snippet about the Judge’s Lodgings at Presteigne.