What was in PenCambria: Issue 32 Summer 2016

EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 32            SUMMER 2016 

Dear PenCambrians,

Well, what a turn round for us all during these last few weeks – leaders resigning, underlings scrabbling for power and, despite everything thrown at him, only one prepared to stand his ground, all credit to him. As I write this introduction a new leader for Conservative Party has just been announced. In the meantime, Diana Brown gives us a very entertaining glimpse into the murky world of 18th and 19th century politics with a look at the Watkins Wynn brothers of Montgomeryshire. Plus ça change indeed.

This year we have been commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, to that date the worst battle ever experienced on European soil. The only people who can possibly know what it must have been like are men who are or have been soldiers themselves. From Brian Lawrence’s remarkable month by month record of the First World War as experienced in Rhayader and the surrounding villages, in this issue we find out what was happening to the men themselves, some in France but many elsewhere in places such as in Turkey and Egypt. We also have news of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory Project devoted to the Battle of the Somme.

In the last issue as part of an article observing the changes in transport during the 19th-20th centuries Brian Poole included an interview with Evan Mills, published in the Montgomeryshire Express in 1940. Following this I was delighted to hear from his great-granddaughter Elizabeth Day, who has corrected three mistakes in the original interview and also provided a lovely, fuller piece on both Evan (giving me chance to correct three mistakes which have gone unremarked for the past 70 years) and his daughter Chloris, also mentioned by Brian, and Elizabeth’s great aunt. Chloris was quite an extra woman – a suffragette, a writer and poet, a teacher and a potential headmistress who could not however, stay away from her beloved mid Wales – well, we all know how that feels. Some of her work will appear in future editions of PenCambria. Brian Poole himself has found a corner of mid Wales just outside Newtown, containing three houses – Glan Hafren, Middle Scafell and Red House – that have been the inspiration for three published writers of quite different fields.

In this 90th birthday year of Her Majesty the Queen, Chris Barrett has been looking at the various progresses of Elizabeth II throughout Wales since she became Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne. Meanwhile, Roger the First refers not to a monarch but to the first person in Wales recorded as having the surname Jones this being one of Lawrence Johnson’s most entertaining articles. The Dakin Brothers of Llanidloes were hugely influential in the wool trade in this part of mid Wales and in Merthyr Tydfil in the 19th century and their rise and demise as recorded by their descendants, Andrew and Keith Dakin as part of their research into their family history gives us yet another glimpse into the complex world of mid Wales before the First World War.

C.S. Lewis is the subject of a lively pen portrait by Michael Apichela, who used to live in his house in Oxford. As well as pictures of his residency, Michael can be seen wielding C.S. Lewis’s walking stick, which was left in the house when he moved in. In chapter 5 of E. Ronald Morris’s book on Chartism in Llanidloes the instigators of the riot have been caught and are brought to trial. In Llawryglyn our retired lady’s lambs are determined to evade capture.Finally in our non fiction section, a lively look at the Carnival and Fancy Dress in Llanidloes with thanks to Robert Parker Munn for memories recorded at Llanidloes Day Centre as part of his oral history archive and published in The Llani Weaver in 2003.

The Dragon’s Crypt in this issue is full of wonderful writing to get your imaginations going. Bruce Mawdesley is struck by Moonlight, while Martha Fosberry is struck by her childhood memories of Nant-y-sgiliwch, the house where Bruce and Glenys lived in Llawryglyn. Bringing us down to earth Norma Allen imagines what it might have been like being involved in the building of the new War Memorial Hospital.

 

CONTENTS

Our Boys from Radnorshire Brian Lawrence

Evan and Chloris Mills Elizabeth Day 

The Queen in Wales Chris Barrett

Roger the First Lawrence Johnson

The Dakin Brothers of Llanidloes and the Mid Wales Wool Trade Andrew Dakin

C.S. Lewis and Wales  Michael Apichela

Chartism in Llanidloes: Chapter 5 E. Ronald Morris

The Parish Corners with Three Authors Brian Poole

Van Institute Exhibition of Photographs, Postcards and Paper Collection

Put Out to Grass: part 19: Colditz Hero Diana Ashworth

Bubble and Squeak Diana Brown

The Battle of the Somme – Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory Project

Good Times in Llani Gay Roberts

Mid Wales Arts Centre

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

  The Dragons Crypt

Nant-y-sgiliwch  Martha Fosberry

The New Hospital 1962  Norma Allen

Moonlight Bruce Mawdesley

 

GOOD TIMES IN LLANI: Carnival and the Fancy Dress from Llanidloes past.

Gay Roberts

Llani has always known how to have a good tine and if we can raise money for a good cause, so much the better. We had two great regular collective events in which everyone can take part  – the Carnival, which was originally organised in 1932 to raise money for the War Memorial Hospital, and the Fancy Dress, when almost the whole town dressed up, which was started in 1969 to raise money to fund the Community Centre.

Llanidloes Carnival

Dressing up is something most of us love to do from childhood and many of us carry on doing it in one way or another into a ripe old age. Carnival is one of those occasions and it is a tradition which goes way back to time immemorial in all societies, including Llanidloes, although from 1932 onwards, its main purpose has been to raise money for the hospital. The syllable ‘carn’ in Carnival means meat, implying that meat was an essential part of this occasion and, as anyone who watches Time Team will know, archaeology has shown us just how important and frequent were festive occasions when huge quantities of meat were consumed. These days while the barbecue and the hog roast are a vital part of the provisions, it is the dressing up, the parade all through the town, led by the Llanidloes Silver Band, down to the football field on Victoria Avenue, and the games that we all enjoy that is important, the Carnival Queen taking pride of place.

In 1932, when the current Llanidloes Carnival began after a break at the end of the First World War, the Queen was the Rose Queen and they were known as the Rose Queen Carnivals. They were held specifically to raise money for the hospital, which, before the National Health Service began in 1948, was paid for by subscription, donation, sponsorship and general fund raising. The General Organiser and Chairman of the Executive Committee that revived the Rose Queen Carnival in 1932 was Mr. W.E. Dakin who can be seen on page 16 as a small boy and one of the weavers in the High Street Factory. He was a very enthusiastic and energetic fundraiser for the War Memorial Hospital, and in the eight years prior to the outbreak of World War Two the Rose Queen Carnivals raised on average over £200 a year, totalling £1,716 altogether, a very satisfactory sum for the time. His wife was a vice president in 1954 and although I have no details to hand I believe she was just as enthusiastic in this cause as was her husband.

The pre-war Rose Queens were Dorothy Benbow (1932), Iris Wood (1933), Dorothy Worthington (1934), Annie Ashton (1935), Margaret Ingram (1936), Beryl Phillips (1937), Morfydd Ingram (1938) and Florence Evans (1939). To be 18 years of age and single are still the usual qualifications to be a Carnival Queen, who is chosen by the public at a special dance; and on Carnival day, rather like her wedding day, it is the one day when she gets to be beautifully dressed and treated like a queen before real life sets in.

Left: Dorothy Benbow, The first Rose Queen in 1932.

Right: Marie Jones, whom many of us remember as Marie Ingram, crowned as Rose Queen in 1954,

The Rose Queen Carnivals carried on after the end of the war in 1945 and the picture below, very kindly given by Gaynor Waters shows the crowd in Great Oak Street cheering the parade in 1953.

Left front are Ann Evans and Margaret Jenkins.

Centre grouping are Mrs Lithgow and her daughter Stephanie, Elsie and Betty Hughes, Olwen Edwards, Phil and Rita Owen (neé Edwards) and their daughter Julie (in the pram).

On the right are Peter Jones with his nephew Brynmor, standing at the back, and Gaynor herself in the front. Do let me know if any of you recognise anyone else in this picture, and I will pass it on to Gaynor.

Fun is the essence of Carnival and the late Carroll Davies told me of the time he and a friend decided to dress up as German officers. They couldn’t get hold of real uniforms so they dressed up in what would pass for such at a glance, including the peaked caps. They took a jeep down to Llangurig and burst into the Black Lion, thinking everyone would laugh. The place went dead quiet as everyone looked at them as if in a time warp, and Carroll wondered just for a moment whether they had done the right thing. Then, everyone started to laugh and said, “It’s alright. It’s only Carroll!” and to the profound relief of everybody, drinks were had all round.Finally, passing the residents of Maesywennol, who had been brought out to Smithfield Street to see the parade this year, as they passed them the Llanidloes Silver Band played ‘Hello Dolly’ as a special tribute to them and the general enjoyment of all.

Llanidloes Fancy Dress

When I first came to Llanidloes in 1972 it seemed to me that the Fancy Dress was an opportunity for everyone – male and female – dress up in drag, especially as good-time girls. Great Oak Street was closed to traffic and filled to bursting – you could hardly move from place to place for fishnet tights and shiny bras let alone get to a bar to get a drink. There must have been as much beer spilling out of the pubs as there were bodies, and the scent of more exotic stimulants also filled the air. The Dance at the Community Centre started at 10pm and finished around about 2am. But one or two revellers could still be found staggering around town at 9am the next morning. And everything was cleaned up by then too, which was a great credit to the organisation. It wasn’t a competitive event, not for the adults, anyway. It was just a great street party. Children’s competitions were introduced a few years later but they didn’t really seem to reflect the spirit of the Fancy Dress, which was just to dress up and have a good time. And there was no trouble.

In the 1980s as word got round, more and more visitors began to make a point of coming to Llani for the Fancy Dress and soon busloads of party goers were coming in from places as far afield as Telford, Birmingham and even London. It began to be known the Llani Mardi Gras, after the similar festivities in New Orleans in the USA. Unfortunately, as the years went by, many of the revellers would be well oiled with drink before they arrived and inevitably there was trouble. In the early days the need for policing was minimal, probably just to redirect the traffic. By the 1990s it was a major operation. In 2004 5,000 people filled the streets. Inevitably it became too expensive to police and in 2005 it was temporarily suspended over concerns for public safety; in 2012 it was cancelled altogether. But you can’t keep a good Llani girl, male or female, down and, while it is no longer held as a festival, that particular Friday is still Fancy Dress night when we can climb into our fishnets, take to the streets and have a good time. 

The second part of this article gives voice to the people in the town sharing their memories with Robert Parker Munn in FANCY THAT! Published in The Llani Weaver of Summer of 2003 and gives a wonderfully vivid picture of the fun and enjoyment that Idloesians have at the Carnival and the Fancy Dress

Margaret said Victor Davies was an ex police sergeant who was the “Mr. Fancy Dress”. He was the one who used to organise it. Ivor said it was a Mr. Roberts who started it all. He was a solicitor’s clerk with Milwyn Jenkins. Ivor was a treasurer for the Fancy Dress once.

Margaret said the early fancy dress must have been in the 1960s but Doug said he remembers it in 1955 when he was in digs in Picton Street. He went as King Arthur. Everyone said it’s all for the alcohol now and not so much for getting friends together like it used to be.

Margaret said people don’t realise the Fancy Dress has always been organised by the Fancy Dress Committee and not the Council. Peggy remembered the fancy dress was a dance night in the community hall. After the carnival they would be dancing in their costumes. The carnivals went back to the 1930s at least. Beryl recalled a “Tramps Dance” too, there was something on every night in carnival week.

Ceridwen said the procession used to start from the old station. There was lots of space before, no industrial estate. There would be a figure of eight march through town to the football ground. Billy or Beryl Vaughan would lead it all on a piebald horse. Then there was Monty Morgan’s homemade penny-farthing bicycle. The Vaughans supplied the horses. When Billy died it was Berty Bull (Berty Slawson) who walked up front. Berty used to be a drummer in Llani Silver Town Band.

Beryl said Ernie D.T. and Nelly Griffiths used to do an act. Nellie was short and he would push her upon a horse and she’d fall off. You’d laugh at Harry Crisp as a Zulu too. Denzil Crisp and his brothers had motorbikes with planks across them.

Ynys said carnivals were brilliant affairs. 20 to 30 good dance troupes from all over performed. There were comic football matches with people dressing up as anything. The floats were fantastic. “I always remember a man on stilts catching money in his box hat.”

Beryl said there was the crowning of the Queen and competitions. Carnival always ended up with a confetti battle in Great Oak Street outside the town hall.

Peggy said that in the carnival there was a prize for the best dray pulled by stallion horses.

Carys said that everyone used to make their own clothes. Ivor said he was the treasurer for the Carnival in Llanidloes for 5 years. The carnival fell out for a few years in the 1940’s.There was a jazz band that often played there. “The Cambrian Jazz Band” Len Davis (Merle Davis’s brother) played for it. He was coming from the Cambrian leather factory. They dressed up as Spaniards and Dick Evans the Angel was in it. Carys remembered them marching to the sound of “The Isle of Capri.” There were often Morris Dancers. There was Llanidloes Football Team for Ladies for fun in the 1940s. They’d turn up on Carnival Day in the evening. The men would have a tug of war. There were other jazz bands too.

Peggy said, “We went as Llani football team. It was after 1941 sometime. We were a married group. We were walking. We were all ladies. We won the first prize. The second year we went as bunny girls. We won a prize then too. And we went as Black and White minstrels. Another time we dressed as babies with dummies. A woman was dressed up having 8 or 9 ‘babies’. We all had dummies and wore nappies. We won another prize like that. We went once as the Land Army girls. Another one was as the Salvation Army. I still have the photos. We had lots of fun preparing for it. We made it all ourselves. We went for the fun of it. We never had such fun after. It was very odd really that our husbands were letting us go in for it.

Eileen Meredith. I was from Llangurig. In 1932 I was a Scotch girl on a lorry in the carnival.

Doreen was 13 when she was the first carnival queen at Rhayader, in 1930. She wore a special dress to keep. They went round the schools to choose; about 7 of them. They would pick the ones to go on the lorry. Peggy said you had to pay for all the bits and pieces. Peggy said Llani Carnival Queen was called a Rose Queen.

 

REFERENCES

– The History of the War Memorial Hospital Llanidloes 1920 – 1948 Brian Owen published by the League of

Friends Llanidloes Hospital 1998  

– 1954 Rose Queen Carnival Programme and Timetable

– The Llani Weaver Summer 2003

– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llanidloes

https://llanidloes.com/llanidloes_carnival/index.html

 

 

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 31 Spring 2016?

 EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 31            SPRING 2016

Welcome to the eleventh year of Pencambria, and I hope will find its contents as interesting/absorbing/ entertaining and/or thought-provoking as you have in previous years. While writing this introduction, I am on my best literary behaviour, determined that my efforts do not come to the attention of Professor Pedanticus in the puzzles section of the Saturday edition of the Guardian. How mortifying to have my grammatical gaffs spread out for all Guardianistas to tut and gloat over.

The closure of John Mills Foundry in Llanidloes was a great loss to the economy of Mid Wales. Douglas Hurd worked there for thirty years and he remembers some of the extraordinary machines that were made there. In the meantime, as he strides the hills once more, Lawrence Johnson looks for traces of that legendary Welsh bard, Taliesin, in the landscape. In contrast Brian Poole has taken to the river as he finds traces of timber being floated downstream to its destination, a mode of transport, long gone since the coming of the railways and the long-distance lorry.

If there is one object that can be said to be iconic as regards the heritage of Wales it has to be the harp. Wales has given birth to many truly great harpists and none more so than the Roberts family of Montgomeryshire. The most famous of this family was John Roberts the bicentenary of whose birth is being celebrated this year in several places in Wales, most notably here in mid Wales in Montgomery, where there will be a series of workshops held by Amanda Munday and one of the great contemporary virtuosos of the Welsh triple harp, Robin Huw Bowen, culminating in a concert in Montgomery town hall in May. Chris Barrett tells us all about John Roberts himself in the second part of Life On The Road, her lively account of the gypsies in Mid Wales and this article is published below as a tribute to this great Welsh harpist who, when he finally settled down, made Newtown his home.

On 1st June 1889 the town of Johnstown in Pennsylvania was wiped out by a flood when a reservoir above it collapsed after one of the most violent storms ever experienced in that area and in total some 5,000 people lost their lives. Johnstown was the home of a large number of migrants from mid Wales, especially from Newtown and Llanidloes. Several people managed to send letters describing the disaster, back to their friends and families in Wales and the newspaper reports give a particularly vivid account of the flood and its aftermath. Two of these letters plus the account transmitted in a Reuters telegram published in the Montgomeryshire Express are printed in this edition.

Having looked at the history of the Liberal Party in Montgomeryshire, Diana Brown goes for political balance by examining the influence of the Conservatives in this very politically  independent area of Wales and finds families entrenching their positions in a struggle for political supremacy that is, assassinations aside, comparable to the military manoeuvrings of the medieval period that preceded them.

Meanwhile, in Chapter 4 of Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40 E. Ronald Morris covers the political struggles of those much lower down the social scale: the Chartists riot for which the town is famous or notorious depending on which side you were on.

Using household account books of the period, Val Church shows us just how different were lives of the rich and the poor in Montgomeryshire in the nineteenth century.

Our retired lady from Llawryglyn discovers the joys and pitfalls of attempting to become a Welsh speaker. Let us hope she does not come across Henry, the Welsh learner whose fate is described by Val Church in a tale in the Dragon’s Crypt. There we also find A Strange Encounter as related by Gaynor Jones, the apprehensions on Leaving Home reflected on by Norma Allen, a child’s Hope of seeing her daddy again when he goes away to war expressed in a poem by Amber Louise Robinson, and Bruce Mawdesley’s inimitable variation on the immortal Song of the Weather as previously observed by those masters of wordplay, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann.

Pasg hapus i chi – a Happy Easter to you all.

CONTENTS

The Foundry, Llanidloes  Douglas Hurd

A Welsh Hero  Reginald Massey

“I was a Salmon, I was a Dog”  Lawrence Johnson

A Harp for Rhiew Bechan School

Whigs vs Tories :Montgomeryshire politics prior to the 19th century Diana Brown

Chartism in Llanidloes: Chapter 4 E. Ronald Morris

The Johnstown Flood Gay Roberts

Gregynog Festival : Eire

Put Out to Grass: part 18: Reflections on Language Diana Ashworth

A Celebration of Welsh Gypsy Harping

The Lost Welsh Kingdom John Hughes

Two Lifestyles and What was in the Soup at Dolanog Val Church

Life on the Road: Part 2: The Roberts Family Chris Barrett

Mid Wales Arts Centre

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

  The Dragons Crypt

The Seasons Bruce Mawdesley

A Strange Encounter  Gaynor Jones

Leaving Home : 1962  Norma Allen

Hope  Amber Louise Robinson

Death of a Learner Val Church

 

LIFE ON THE ROAD by Chris Barrett 

Part 2: The Roberts Family

There are three things a man ought to have in his home:  a virtuous wife, his cushion in his chair and his harp in tune.”

Welsh Triad (Stephens, 1901, p203)

The history of gypsies in Wales from the 16th century to modern day was presented in Part 1 of this article (PenCambria, No 30). Part 2 focuses on the talented harpists and violinists of the Roberts family of Newtown, descendants of Abram Wood – the great gypsy patriarch whose presence in north and mid-Wales is documented from about 1750. Abram Wood married Sarah and it is through their son, William, that the Roberts branch of the Wood’s family tree developed. Many of the Roberts family members became renowned as musicians. The most famous of this talented Teleu was John Roberts, born 1816, this year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth.  He was known as Telynor Cymru, the Harpist of Wales. A book about John’s life and his family, “With Harp, Fiddle and Folktale”, was first published in 1978 in Welsh. A considerably revised English edition by E. Ernest Roberts, John’s great-grandson, was published in autumn 1981. Unfortunately, Ernest died in June 1981 and did not live to see his published work. Roberts (1981 p27) praised Abram’s astuteness and foresight in adopting the Welsh triple-string harp, in which his Teulu was to excel.  Some brief explanatory notes may be useful before exploring the Roberts’ family story.

The Triple Harp is known to have been used during the reign of Charles I, around 1630, and was very well known in Britain by the beginning of the 17th century (Roberts, 2000).  It is believed that the first Welsh triple harp was made, towards the end of the same century, by Elis Sion Siamas of Llanfachreth near Dolgellau (www.clera.org/saesneg/harp.php)An early description of the Welsh harp is provided by the harpist John Parry (Bardd Alaw) (1776–1851) in the preface to the second volume of his collection; The Welsh Harper (London 1839). Genetic studies have shown that the Romanies/gypsies originated in India (Kalaydjieva et al, 2005) and, therefore, may have brought the “Welsh” harp to Britain in the 16th-17th centuries as they travelled across Europe. There are reports of similar style harps being played in Europe, especially in Italy, before its arrival in Britain.  Davies (1901), in an appendix to Stephens’ book “Welshmen”, describes the Welsh Triple harp thus; there are no pedals on the Welsh harp, it is held on the left shoulder and produces a different sound to the English or pedal harp – notes which are clear, sonorous and rich, a household or family instrument. Davies considered it possessed three “enormous advantages of cheapness, simplicity of design and a rich tone” (p243) and, most importantly for travelling players, it was lighter and more portable than the pedal harp. Davies suggests possible improvements to the harp, stating that it had not been structurally modified in the past 200 years! In his opinion the contemporary decoration, on English and American harps, were more pleasing and Welsh harp makers were continuing to reproduce bad features such as being “troublesome to maintain in tune due to the great number of strings” and “manipulation owing to the closeness of the strings”. However, Sebastian Erard is known to have improved the Triple harp in the 1790s, producing a double action mechanism) which he later patented (http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk). 

The violin may also be called a fiddle and to all intents and purpose they are similar. The term fiddle is often applied when the music played is folk-song, celtic or gypsy. (Abram Wood played the violin, rather than the harp).

Penillion singing, cerdd dant, is an old Welsh form of poetry in which a harpist plays and sings or is accompanied by other singers. The harp player always opens the performance with the main melody (alaw/cainc) but both player and singer(s) then add a counter melody (cyfalaw), harmonies and rhythms before finishing their presentation together. The website cerdd-dant.org traces the history of penillion from its beginnings to present day. The earliest recording of this type of singing was in the 12th century. In 1885 Idris Fychan published the first known penillion guidelines and listed 64 penillion singers of the day. Trevelyan (1893), in describing Welsh singing, states that penillion ranges from “grave to gay, from quick movements to slow and from sprightly tunes to melancholy wailing” (pp106-107). In John Roberts’ time the harpist traditionally played the Welsh harp airs and the vocal counter melody was improvised. In old collections the “song” is the lyrics and the “air” is the tune. Modern penillion singing has become more structured.

Welsh Harpists are known to have been employed by Royal families in England, at court and in battle, since the reign of King Henry VII (1457-1509). They played single and double row harps and had adopted the triple harp by the 1660s (Roberts, 2000).

Enough of technicalities, let’s move on to the Roberts musicians themselves! John Roberts Alaw Elwy (1816-1894) was the eldest son of John Robert Lewis and Sarah Wood. His father was a Welshman, from Pentrefoelas, a parish and village in North Wales. His mother, Sarah, was the grand-daughter of Abram Wood. John was born at Rhiwlas Isaf, Llanrhaeadr, Denbighshire. His nomadic gypsy childhood, often within a small family group, was challenging. Roberts (1981) provides evidence that John experienced poverty and hunger and when the family desperately needed money he would be sent back to work on a relative’s farm near Llanhaeadr. In 1830, aged just fourteen, John decided to join the army. He reasoned that (p38) during a “wilful cold winter” in Breconshire he enjoyed seeing the soldiers on parade. Also, John knew his own father had been in the army and reportedly fought at Waterloo. After enlisting at Brecon Barracks, John spent about nine years as a drummer in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (23rd Battalion). However, he deserted twice, firstly in 1839 when he was captured in Swansea. He absconded again four months later and stayed on the run for four more years during which time he earned enough money performing to purchase his service discharge in 1844. John was obviously a very resourceful person, as illustrated by his ability to survive for five years as a deserter during which he moved around the UK (Roberts, 1981 pp38-40).

Because of the strong family ties in the gypsy community John would have known many other harpists, too numerous to discuss in a short article, for example; Richard Roberts (1796-1855), from Caernarvon, who was blind from the age of 8 yrs and a well-known and accomplished harpist, penillion singer and teacher. The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, available on the National Library of Wales website (wbo.llgc.org.uk/en/s-WOOD-sip-1500html), lists many of the Woods/Roberts Teulu who were talented harpists and fiddlers. They were welcomed by Welsh gentry to entertain their guests and some individuals were employed long-term by the nobility as their resident musician. But John’s talent was exceptional and by 1886 he was widely known as Teylnor Cymru, rather than Alaw Elwy, following his investiture in a bardic gorsedd near Llyn Geirionydd. In addition to his extraordinary musical talent his resourcefulness, imagination and ability to write and to tell a good story seems to have contributed to a “larger than life” persona. Literacy was not common in his social class at that time. John’s correspondence to Frances Hindes Groome, written in 1887-9, are in Romani and English and are an entertaining mixture of affection for his “nephew”, storytelling, and descriptions of gypsy music and lifestyle.

John had played the harp since boyhood and was steeped in the traditions of gypsy music, poetry and song. During his military life as a drummer he learned about many other musical instruments and improved as a harpist. He played the harp for various members of Royalty including Princess Victoria (in Portsmouth in 1834 and Winchester in 1835), the Grand Duke Constantine of Russia (in Aberystwyth in 1847) and Prince Leopold 1, later the first King of Belgium (in Swansea in 1848).  In his letters to Francis Hindes Groome he identified many notable families of Welsh gentry he had entertained on request. He had married his first cousin Eleanor Wood Jones (Perpinia), in 1839.  Her father was a well-known musician, Jeremiah Wood Jones, who worked as a harpist at Gogerddan (the home of the Pryse family since the 14th century). Once John and Eleanor were married, and during the time he was an army deserter, they entertained people in many different venues from inns and hostelries to fine country homes. But John’s reputation grew when he won Eisteddfod medals and prizes for his playing and singing (at Abergavenny in 1842, and 1848 and at Cardiff in 1850.)

John Roberts, picture reproduced from flyer and archived in the National Library of Wales

In 1850 John and Eleanor settled in Newtown, mid-Wales, a place which was to remain his home until he died some forty-four years later. They brought up a family of thirteen children who were born between 1840-1865. And it is here that the focus of the Roberts family moves from John to his many talented offspring. Apart from Abraham, Sarah and Ann, his remaining ten children were instrumentalists, singers and performers (see Table 1).

When John and his nine sons performed together they were known as The Cambrian Minstrels. They practiced at home in Newtown to become a “trained and disciplined orchestra…that toured a circuit that included Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Tywyn, Dolgellau, Corwen and Bala” (Roberts 1981 p76). Table 1 illustrates each individual’s competence to play different instruments but only suggests the co-operation that must have been required to achieve cohesion of the group members. John appears to have acted as agent/manager of the Minstrels, confirming events and travel and touring arrangements as well as deciding the programme from their vast repertoire.

The Minstrels’ reputation was bolstered in their home town by local performances including balls held in the Pryce Jones Warehouse. When Queen Victoria visited Wales in 1889 she stayed with Sir Henry Robertson, of railroad building fame, in the beautiful mansion overlooking the River Dee, Pale Hall. The Cambrian Minstrels solely provided the evening entertainment for the royal visitor. Roberts (1981) describes in detail the family’s preparations for their performance and their journey to Llangollen and onward by a special train to Llandderfel station. Interestingly, the current website of the Pale Hall Hotel describes the occasion as; the Queen was “serenaded by a local Welsh choir”!  Following a year of declining health John had a stroke in 1893 and sent his triple harp to his friend, Mr Nicholas Bennett. The family turned down a trip, all expenses paid, to the World Fair in Chicago. John died in 1894 and was buried in Newtown, in the parish churchyard of St David’s church.

Table 1: Musical ability of the family of John Roberts 

Date of Birth  Name Place of Birth Area of recognised competence Other comments
1840-1869? Mary Ann Neath Welsh Harp, Violin, singing Eisteddfod prizes, 1850 & 1858
1844-? Lloyd Wynn Llanuwchllyn Welsh, English Harp Eisteddfod prize, 1865Harpist to Lady Londonderry
1850-1852 Abraham Brecon Died aged 2yrs
1852-? Madoc Brecon Mainly English Harp, and Welsh Harp Eisteddfod prizes, at least 9
1852-1919 Sarah Welshpool
1853-? John Newtown Welsh and English Harp, Singing Eisteddfod prizes, at least 10Played for the Empress of Austria
1855-? James England Holywell Flute, Flageolet Twin: Reuben
1855-1949 Reuben France Holywell Welsh Harp, English Harp, Violon-Cello, Double Bass, Piccolo. Mandolin Twin: JamesHis eldest son was Ernest France, the father of Eldra (1917-2001) and taught her to play the harp. Eldra taught gypsy tunes to Robin Huw Bowen
1858-? Albert Kington Welsh Harp Eisteddfod prizes, at least 19.Bardic title and Chief Harpist.“The ablest musician of the family” *

Played for the Empress of Austria

1860-1897 Ann Newtown —–
1862-1962 Ernest Aberystwyth English Harp, Violin, Double Bass, Singing
1865-? Charles (Charley) Aberystwyth Cello and Harp Twin: William
1865-? William Aberystwyth Mainly Violin, English Harp Twin: CharlesPlayed at London Palladium and Phoenix Theatre

 *(Roberts, 1981 p67)

It is important to place the achievements of the Roberts family in context. Musicality is recognisably part of Welsh history, culture and folklore. In the 12th century Gruffydd ab Cynan held an Eisteddfod at Caerwys, Flintshire, “for the purpose of regulating minstrels, whither travelled all the musicians of Wales” (Stephens 1901, p200). He is credited also with increasing the popularity of the bagpipe in Wales, where it was often regarded with contempt (pp200-202). At this time “the harp ruled supreme” and “strangers were entertained with conversation of young women and the music of the harp, for…almost every house was provided with both” and in “every family, or in every tribe they esteemed skill in playing on the harp beyond any kind of learning” (p203). Karen McCauley has studied the Celtic Bards in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Her descriptions of wandering minstrels and mournful harps are available on several websites, including a chronology of Welsh Songbooks 1794-1927 and many examples of Welsh harp airs, songs and penillion arrangements. (crowdsourcingbard.pbworks.com).

Despite present day recognition of the Roberts family’s abilities, wandering minstrels and Gypsy/Romany musicians may often have been on the fringe of the music scene in Wales –  as they were in much of society generally. In many European cultures Romani music was only partially assimilated into national culture. Gypsies and their way of life stimulated fascination and fear.  For instance, in Hungary gypsy costumes and music were emblematic, national symbols. However, gypsies themselves and their folk music were later to be discriminated against and ostracised. In the UK in the 18900s Trevelyan wrote “Glimpses of Welsh Life and Character”. In Chapter 7, which was devoted to “Welsh singing and song”, she declares this activity to be “as natural to the Welsh as to the birds” (p105). She reproduces the words and music to many songs which “are to be heard from house to house in Wales, and perhaps never to better advantage than in the open air” (pp110-113). This could be assumed to be a reference to gypsy singers but the rest of her writings make no mention of travelling or Romany musicians. Her descriptions are of farming folk in rural areas, milkmaids and workers. Marie Roberts’ book The Harpmakers of Wales (2000) does include a description of the “folk harpers” (p26-28) who travelled the Welsh countryside carrying their harps on their back.  Also, she lists 58 makers and repairers of harps and includes John Roberts. John and his sons would have been skilled at maintaining and repairing their harps. Marie describes their ability to renovate old instruments (p127). Indeed, Roberts (1981) includes a letter from John to Mr Morley of Morleys harp makers in London. It discussed the technical aspects of the Welsh harp and the desirable quality of a pure Welsh harpist as “one who has love for his country … and a Tear in his eye” (pp94-9).

Today the harp, like the gypsies, is still a part of life in Wales. To mark the two hundredth anniversary of John Robert’s birth there has been a celebration of Welsh Gypsy Harping(telynor.cymru/en/hanes.php). A series of harp workshops and concerts has been held throughout Powys. Robin Hugh Bowen has played the harp airs in the traditional Welsh manner- resting the harp on his left shoulder. He has many talents and is a harpist, folk group member and publisher. Other contemporary Welsh harpists have achieved international fame, including Elinor Bennett and Catrin Jones. In the 19th century Wales gained a reputation as the Land of Song and in Welsh the harpist doesn’t play but sings the harp – Canu’r telyn! Throughout Wales, Welsh love spoons, silver and wooden, are found with a heart and harp entwined. It is often said that music is heard by the ears but the harp touches the heart and in Ireland the harp is said to reflect immortality of the soul. It seems fitting to end this article on Welsh gypsies and the talented Roberts’ family with the opening words from Chapter 9 in the book written by EE Roberts about his great-grandfather; Telynor Cymru:

“John had a deep and abiding love for the Welsh harp.”

REFERENCES

Davies (1901) Appendix on the Welsh Harp In Stephens (1901) Welshmen 2nd Ed Western Mail Ltd. Cardiff.

Jarman, E & AOH (1991) The Welsh Gypsies: Children of Abram Wood, University of Wales Press.

Roberts EE (1981) With Harp, Fiddle and Folktale, Gee & Son, Clwyd.

Roberts M (2000) The Harpmakers of Wales. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Wales.

Short R S Rev (1885) The Roberts family of Welsh Harpists Aberystwyth Gazette July 18th 1885.

Stephens T (1901) Welshmen 2nd Ed Western Mail Ltd. Cardiff.

Trevelyan M (1893) Glimpses of Welsh Life and Character. John Hogg, London.

McCauley K https://www.academia.edu/1511674/Crowdsourcing_the_Celtic_Bard_Wandering_Minstrels_and_Mournful_Harps and crowdsourcingbard.pbworks.co.uk.

Letter from John Roberts http://www.morleyharps.co.uk/general-articles/historical-documents-from-the-clive-morley-collection/

2016 Anniversary Workshops: telynor.cymru/en/hanes.php

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 29 Summer 2015?

Issue 29 Introduction and Contents at a glance

INTRODUCTION 

Well, what profusion of centenary commemorations we have this month! Continuing with our tributes to the war time generation, this issue remembers both world wars. Brian Lawrence has documented month by month Rhayader’s involvement in and reaction to World War I and this time we hear something about life from January to July 1915. Brian Poole has been investigating the contribution of the men of the Cambrian Railway, specifically three men from Caersws, to the war effort and Diana Ashworth has been looking through back numbers of the Montgomeryshire Express to find how VE day was celebrated in 1945in mid Wales.

Lawrence Johnson considers the bloody history of a pile of bones found in the church of St Llwchaiarn at Llanmerewig in 1892.

Richard Meredith treats us to another aspect of his extraordinary family history – the builders, and their lasting legacies of edifices of all kinds from houses to chapels to bridges and a reservoir are still part of our everyday environment.

Another centenary is celebrated this year at Bryn Tail Cottage which has housed an Outdoor Summer School for Central Secondary School in Birmingham since 1915. Richard Fryer tells us all about it. While researching the life of the late Emlyn Hooson Diana Brown found out so much about the Liberal Party and its links with Montgomeryshire that she decided to write about it for this edition and cover Emlyn’s life in a later issue.

Jo Florin was one of those souls that come to mid Wales after a very much out-of-the-ordinary life elsewhere and find a haven here to settle down and develop a life away from the stresses of modernity and to end their days, which indeed Jo did last year. Andy Scrase knew her well and has written an appreciation of her which will chime with all those who knew her. In Llawryglyn our retired couple hope they can give their dog benefit of the doubt regarding the wound on their dog’s leg, which they hope has come from an heroic stand taken to defend a sheep against an intruder hound.

A crop of interesting books has been brought to our notice this month. Newtown History Group has published two very different books – A Brief Survey of Public Houses, Inns and Taverns of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn, and Letters from the Front 1914-1918, a collection of letters sent home to Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn by some of the men involved.   The Dolanog Booklet Group has brought out a  booklet all about Dolanog. Meanwhile this month Gwen Prince reviews a recently published book about climate change by George Marshall; and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales have published two new books: one about the history of the slate industry in north Wales and the other about their discoveries of Roman life from their excavations of the Roman villa at Abermagwr, near Aberystwyth. For those of you eager to read the next instalment of E.Ronald Morris’s account of the Chartists’ uprising in Llanidloes, lack of space prevented its appearance in this issue, so it will continue in the next edition out at the end of October.

In the Dragon’s Crypt Gaynor Jones paints a beautifully sensitive picture of a mother taking her child to be admitted to school for the first time; Norma Allen completes her tale of the Welsh migrants’ journey to Patagonia; Reginald Massey expresses his love of Wales in some wonderfully heartfelt verse (SEE BELOW); Bruce Mawdesley remembers summers of childhood brought to life by John Selly’s illustration, and Amber Louise Robinson asks us what happens when we silence the world – a profound question from a 17 year old.

 CONTENTS

ROD Brian Poole 

Victory in Europe –  VE Day in Mid Wales Diana Ashworth

Blood and Fire Lawrence Johnson

A Legacy in Stone, Bricks & Mortar Richard Meredith

Don’t Even Think About It : Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change :

George Marshall book review Gwen Prince

Bryn Tail Cottage Richard Fryer

A Local Gladstone vs Disraeli Diana Brown

World War One in Rhayader : January to July 1915  Brian Lawrence

The Story of Jo Andy Scrase

Put Out To Grass : part 16: Dog Days Diana Ashworth

Roman Life in Abermagwr: Villa Finds Go On Display In Ceredigion Museum RCAHMW

New Publications reviewed:

Dolanog – Village on the Vyrnwy

From the Newtown Local History Group

–  A Brief Survey of Public Houses, Inns and Taverns in Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn :

–  Letters from the Front 1914-1918 Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn

From the RCAHMW:

Welsh Slate: Archaeology and History of an Industry

  The Dragons Crypt

School Admission Gaynor Jones – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -43

Mimosa Journal  Norma Allen – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  44

Lines from Llani Reginald Massey – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  51

“All on a Summer’s Day” Bruce Mawdesley, illustration John Selly– – – – – – – – – – – 52

A Song in Silence  Amber Louise Robinson  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 53

LINES FROM LLANI

I now proclaim my immense wealth.
I live in Wales, the Land of Bards.
I know it rains and winds are cold;
But grass is green and sheep are hard.

I am not Welsh by blood nor birth
But they have taken me to heart.
And hence I thank the Welsh nation;
They are indeed a world apart.

My London friends still think I’m mad
That I deserted them for Wales.
But I never made a better choice;
I love the oaks, I love the gales.

The Mid-Walians possess warm hearts
And have a sense of decency.
They are the salt of God’s good earth;
I love them all and they love me.

Reginald Massey

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 24 Winter 2013?

Pillow Talk Lawrence Johnson
The Shrewsbury Drapers and the Mid Wales Cloth Trade Dr. David Stephenson
Out & About with the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments in Wales
Capel Gerisim Brian Poole
An Evening with R.S. Thomas Glyn Tegai Hughes
Sir William Jones Reginald Massey
1st World War Centenary Commemoration Request
In Living Memory – H.B. ‘Gurra’ Mills Diana Ashworth
Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit
Cefn Gaer & Owain Glyn Dŵr Gay Roberts
Cefn Gaer : visit by the Arwystli Society Gay Roberts
Christmas at Dolwen Gaynor Jones
My Roots : Part 4: Polecats & Pigeons Richard Meredith
Put Out To Grass : part 11 Pumpkins, Myths and Toadstools Diana Ashworth
Farming Between the Wars 1920-40 part 1 Women’s Work R.M. Williams
A Good Read : two books reviewed by Norma Allen
Newtown Local History Group Honoured by the Queen Joy Hamer
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Wales

The Dragon’s Crypt:

Portrait or a Policemen Bruce Mawdesley, illustration by John Selly

The Parish Hall R.M. Williams
Back of the Bus Siôn Rowley
The River Severn in December Gaynor Jones
Final Choice Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 24 by Gay Roberts
With all kinds of interesting things in this issue, we begin with Lawrence Johnson, who has been walking the wilds of mid Wales again, going rabbiting, so to speak, investigating the pillow mounds above the Elan Valley.
Once Wales finally came under total English rule and disputes over sovereign territory were at an end, mid Wales wool producers began a war, of words rather than arms, over the monopoly of their wool sales enjoyed by the Shrewsbury Drapers, and Dr. David Stephenson, who I am very pleased to welcome back to the pages of PenCambria after a couple of years’ break, puts the case for the grievances of both sides.
The chapel traditions that mushroomed in Wales after the 1689 Acts of Toleration allowed Non-Conformists to practise their faith without fear of penalty, are remembered with the example of Capel Gerisim, high in the peat-cutting district, between Bwlchyffridd and Adfa, by Brian Poole, whose wife grew up in that parish. R.S. Thomas was greatly influenced by these isolated communities, and his thoughts were often part of the conversations that he had with Glyn Tegai Hughes, who shares some of them with us now, at the end of this year, which is the centenary of the great poet’s birth.
Yet another forgotten Welsh genius has come to Reginald Massey’s attention. This is the noted linguist, lawyer and orientalist Sir William Jones, whose family hailed from Anglesey.
A genius of quite another sort has been tracked down by Diana Ashworth. Gurra Mills was, among other things, a footballer of international quality who despite offers from several professional teams including Arsenal, Swansea and Shrewsbury, could not bear to leave this area, which he loved so much.
Owain Glyn Dŵr has been conspicuously absent from the pages of PenCambria as no suitable article has been forthcoming. This month, however, we have an account of a visit by the Arwystli Society to the house he owned in Pennal, near Machynlleth and where in 1406 he wrote the famous Pennal letter asking the king of France for aid in his campaign to secure his position as Prince of Wales. He also asks the pope at Avignon for help in establishing an independent Welsh church and two universities. The house is built on a Roman fort and is full of history. To accompany the account of the visit, I have included a very brief history of Owain Glyn Dŵr’s life, how he got to that moment and what might have been going through his mind as he wrote the letter.
The delights of a growing boy’s life in the 1950s are fondly remembered by Richard Meredith; Gaynor Jones relishes memories of Christmas during this time at Dolwen; while the joys of grandchildren and Hallowe’en in the 21st century are fondly related by our retired lady and gentleman from Llawryglyn.
Women’s work in St Harmon Parish between the two world wars is detailed by R.H. Williams. With no electricity or modern conveniences such as the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner, it was an entirely different life from that of today – and a hard but uncomplaining one too.
The RCAHMW has had a very active and interesting six months finding a Roman fort from cropmarks in a field near Brecon, restoring a bridge over the Kymer canal near Kidwelly, engaging with the Somalis of the Butetown, young and old, in tracing changes in their community using the Britain From Above material; and finding a long-lost carved medieval stone at Silian. They have also launched a new dimension to their access system, Coflein, which now allows users to search the National Monuments Record directly and explore the collection in far greater depth.
Norma Allen has found two excellent books to read and has reviewed them for your delectation.
Meanwhile in the Dragon’s Crypt there is lots of good reading, starting Bruce Mawdesley who remembers, in his own inimitably lyrical fashion, the village policeman, and once again it is illustrated by the delightful drawing of John Selly.
As well as a chronicler of the changes in St Harmon Parish R.H. Williams is also a dab hand at a bit of verse and here is the ballad he wrote for the centenary and the demise of the Parish Hall at Pantydwr.
Siôn Rowley, a new writer who I am very pleased to welcome to the pages of PenCambria, tells a story about a schoolboy who finds the courage to overcome the bully on the bus.
Gaynor Jones has also turned her hand to poetry this month, inspired by the river Severn in December.
Finally, a ghostly revenge from the pen of Norma Allen.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 23 Summer 2013?

Aberystwyth: the Biarritz of Wales Gaynor Jones
My Roots: Part 2 – Cor Hafren Richard Meredith
Cor Hafren Photographs
Mid Wales Railway and Associated Lines to Brecon: 50th Anniversary of Closure Anon, submitted by Colin Breeze

The Naming of Parts Lawrence Johnson
A Secret Legacy Diana Ashworth
An English Admiral and a Welsh Hill Reginald Massey
The Montgomeryshire Bench in the 1870s Rachael Jones & Gay Roberts
The Reality of Lambing Without Spring Diana Ashworth
Grus Grus at Caersws Brian Poole
Put Out To Grass part 11: Raining Cats & Dog Diana Ashworth
The Water Mills of Radnorshire R.M. Williams
Riot on the Mid Wales Railway: Llanidloes and Newtown Telegraph article submitted by Brian Lawrence

Coronation Day Diana Ashworth, the County Times and a few others
Freedom of the City of London for Reginald Massey
Knit for Britain From Above Campaign Natasha Scullion and Sandra Bauer

The Dragon’s Crypt:

Saturday Night Dance Norma Allen
Letter from the Llyn Bruce Mawdesley, illustration by John Selly

Editorial PenCambria Issue 23 by Gay Roberts
It is the summer holiday season once again and, up to the date of printing, we appear to having the sort of summer that has been just a distant memory for so long. Well, to celebrate, or rather to commemorate, we start with a memory from Gaynor Jones of more summer holidays in Aberystwyth in the 1950s. This article is a follow-up to her first memory there of a holiday, aged three years old, as printed in PC22.
Apart from the Cardiff services, from a network that covered the whole country, there are only three railway lines left in Wales. This industry, along with coal and various metal works, once provided the work that made Wales prosperous in so many ways. All these industries are now reduced to a wraith of their former services, and so it is very pleasing to be reminded of how integral they were to life in Wales. This we can enjoy in an article, author unknown, written in 2004 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the closure of lines through mid Wales to Brecon.
Mid Wales is famous for its highly descriptive names of features in the countryside and Lawrence Johnson has been investigating the wilds of Plynlimon once again, this time as a lexicographer – he has been finding out what some of the names up there might mean.
Diana Ashworth has had a really busy few months on our behalf. Long before the advent of the NHS, we kept ourselves well with herbal remedies, a practice for which Wales has been famous for generations. As a retired GP, she has been looking into this from the point of view of a modern practitioner, and has shed a very interesting light on some of the remedies used, in comparison to today’s knowledge, with a particular emphasis on Nicolas Culpeper, the 17th century herbalist whose work still provides the standard body of knowledge for anyone learning this ancient art.
This year has been terrible year for Welsh sheep farmers and as Diana and her husband now have a small hill farm, she takes us through the hardship and heartbreak of those months. But, not to be beaten, the retired lady and gentleman from Llawryglyn still appreciate the funny side of life with their hearthside animal companions.
Reginald Massey has been visiting the Montgomeryshire borderlands, and at Breidden he came across Rodney’s Pillar, the tale of which he relates here. He has also become a Freeman
of the City of London, for which we must congratulate him, and you can read all about that too.
Richard Meredith remembers another choir with which he sung, this time Cor Hafren. With so many members, I have printed two different photographs so that you can enjoy seeing who was who in the 1950s.
I am very pleased to welcome local historian Rachael Jones back into the pages of PenCambria. She has been researching the Montgomeryshire Bench in the 1870s and we have a very interesting article based on a talk she gave to Powysland Club in April this year plus an account of a trial in Newtown 1869 to which I have added my own thoughts.
Rhayader has always had a mind of its own, so to speak, and Brian Lawrence has uncovered more riots in a very uncomfortable episode that happened between the Welsh and Irish navvies when the Elan Valley dams were being built. Calming things down a bit, in the gentle countryside of Radnorshire, R.H.Williams gives us tour around the water mills of St. Harmon Parish.
Royalist or republican, Protestant or Catholic, 1953 was one of the two years that marked the beginning of modern Britain. In 1945 the Atlee government that gave us the NHS, full state education and the Welfare State. In 1953 the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the start of a brighter, more hopeful age after the dreadful slaughter of the two world wars and the years of greyness and austerity which followed as Britain struggled to recover from near bankruptcy. It was also the first event that virtually the country watched as it happened on the newly available television sets. Many people have all sorts of memories of that day sixty years ago and now, thanks to Diana Ashworth once more, we have a literary snapshot to complement them.
How are your knitting skills? One of the most delightful projects I have ever come across is the brainchild of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales. This august body would like us all to Knit Aeroplanes for Britain From Above – yes, really! Natasha Scullion and Sandra Brauer will tell you all about it, including how to get hold of the knitting patterns.
In The Dragon’s Crypt Norma Allen goes out dancing while Bruce Mawdelsey contemplates evening on the Llyn Peninsular.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 22 Spring 2013?

April: a Playful Month Cynric Gwrol
Saint Richard Gwyn: Our Local Saint Diana Brown
Bell, Bones and Stones Lawrence Johnson
The Fowlers of Abbey Cwm Hir and the Lloyds of Clochfaen Cecil Vaughan Owen 
History Matters at Ty Mawr Medieval Hall Gary Ball
My Roots Richard Meredith
Everyone Can Sing Norma Allen
Powys Paradwys Concrit Cymru Brian Poole
Driving and Drovers Routes R.M. Williams
How Aberystwyth Became Norma Allen
A Trip to the Seaside Gaynor Jones
The Old Forge Bruce Mawdesley
Put Out To Grass part 10: Safe in the Gleam of Tony Blair’s Smile Diana Ashworth
The Second Rebecca Riots Brian Lawrence
The Oldest Working Brewery in Britain: Three Tuns, Bishop’s Castle Diana Ashworth
Mid Wales Arts Centre – A Sense of Place

Another Journey for the Little Red Dog Lesley-Ann Dupré
The Voice Lesley-Ann Dupré
Wartime Wedding Diana Ashworth
Nemesis Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 22 by Gay Roberts

What a fickle Spring this has been! So many things seem to have conspired to prevent me to get this edition on time that I began to wonder what disaster have I avoided by being late! Because of the snow, car repairs and snow again, I have been house-bound for two of the last three months and with more snow forecast for Easter, it could be still more days tucked into my blissful but tricky little dingle. As a result, not only have I been unable to get this issue by Easter but there are also a few photographs that I have been unable to pick up unless I put back publication for even more weeks. I decided on balance to put it out with my profound apologies to Gary Ball and the Royal Commission for pictures omitted. I am sure I will be able to find a space for them in a later edition. Despite these setbacks, there is quite a light-hearted tone to begin 2013.
For one of our number, Cynrig Gwrol, the beginning of April seems to be a particularly inspirational time of the year. However, it was October that spelt doom for Llanidloes’ St Richard Gwyn who, on 15th of that month in 1584, was executed for high treason. Diana Brown brings us the grisly details. It is the ancient past that has taken Lawrence Johnson’s arm and led him into the wilds of Llangurig to an area called Cistfaen, not far from Cwm Clochfaen. The history of Clochfaen Hall and its occupants was described very entertainingly by the late Cecil Vaughan Owen in An Arwystli Notebook Part One, which the Arwystli Society have very kindly allowed me to reprint in this edition of PenCambria.
Historical re-enactment is all the rage these days and in one instance it goes hand in hand with the development of Ty Mawr, a medieval hall rescued and reconstructed by Powis estate and Cadw. Gary Ball tells all about it.
Richard Meredith is looking back to his boyhood and the debt he owes to Llanidloes’ great choral tradition. Norma Allen, in one of three highly entertaining items, tells us, on the other hand, all about the coping mechanism of that rare creature: a Welshman who cannot sing.
Brian Poole praises the contribution of concrete to the architecture of Powys, another pioneering venture started in Mid Wales.
R.M. Williams wanders far and wide with the drovers of Mid Wales, particularly the routes of Radnorshire.
Norma’s second piece looks to Rudyard Kipling and Ted Hughes for inspiration to speculate on the origins of Aberystwyth. This makes the perfect introduction to new writer Gaynor Jones’ remarkable memory of a trip to the seaside at Aberystwyth aged just three years old. Meanwhile Bruce Mawdesley waxes lyrical once again about crafts of the countryside, this time about the skill of the blacksmith.
Our retired lady at Llawryglyn finds herself coping with the emergency services and a clutch of new-hatched chicks.
Salmon poaching, that time-honoured tradition of the Welsh countryside, caused riots in Rhayader in the 19th century. Brian Lawrence tells us all about them.
The Three Tuns brewery is one of the four oldest breweries in the country and although it is in Bishop’s Castle, nevertheless it is close enough to interest us here on the Welsh side of the border. After all, with the various border changes over the years, it may well have wandered
into our jurisdiction at time or another. Diana Ashworth recounts its history after having spent an aromatic morning there.
The Royal Commission has been busy last year, especially with its future as an independent body in the balance. You can read all about their activities in the second Friends’ newsletter which they have very kindly allowed me to print in this edition of PenCambria.
Mid Wales Arts Centre has a lively and inspiring programme of events scheduled for this year and I do hope you will go along and enjoy some if not all of them.
I was unable to get in touch with the Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit in time for this edition but do get in touch with them or visit their website (see page 10) to find out what is going on. They will be delighted to see you and to hear from you.
The Dragon’s Crypt is full of good things, as usual, with more from about the travels of Lesley-Ann Dupré’s Little Dog and a complementary poem about the finding of a voice; Diana Ashworth brings the poignancy of a war-time wedding to life; and Norma Allen brings this edition to a close with a cautionary tale of chance, hope, jealousy, revenge and retribution.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 18 Winter 2011?

A Forgotten Industry: the Coal Fired Gasworks of Montgomeryshire Brian Poole
The Maggot Roger Garfitt
Kington & Radnor Bank in Rhayader Gay Roberts & Gwynne Jones
From the Glog to the Giant’s Grave Lawrence Johnson
Lumberjacks & Backwoodsmen: Put Out to Grass pt. 7 Diana Ashworth
More Winter Memories of Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams
Llanidloes Town Hall Gay Roberts
Saint Harmon Parish Monty Williams
John Wesley and Methodism in Llanidloes Gay Roberts
Round Perdition’s Corner Gay Roberts
The Hafren Circuit: Final Stage the Heart of Montgomeryshire David Jandrell
Witchcraft and Magic in Wales Richard Suggett

Radnorshire Felicity Vale
Flight Plan for the Island Lesley Ann Dupré
Journey South Janet Williams
Verbascum thapsiforme Bruce Mawdesley, illustration by Jane Keay

Editorial PenCambria Issue 18 by Gay Roberts

This month we have a real taste of Radnorshire, I am pleased to say. Monty Williams shows us around St Harmon Parish by way of another article based on his book, A Glimpse of Beautiful Mid Wales. We get a look at the history of the Kington and Radnor Bank together with banking practice from another era with Gwynne Jones, former manager of the Midland Bank in Rhayader. The late Felicity Vale wrote paean to Radnorshire and this is published by kind permission of John Pugh. Finally we have some more winter memories of Llandrindod Wells provided by Joel Williams.
That forgotten industry, the coal-fired gasworks in Montgomeryshire is the subject of a well-needed tribute and Brian Poole is the man for this. Gas was the first source of power to literally shed light on a whole community, delivered from a single source rather than from individual candles and torches. Not since the Moors left Spain had the streets in Europe been lit so efficiently. It was the stepping stone to so many other chemical-based facilities that we take for granted today. It was a dirty, dangerous industry and the men who operated it deserve our heartfelt thanks for risking their health and their lives in such conditions to lighten our darkness and put bread on their tables.
Lawrence Johnson’s peregrinations have taken him to the Glog, an area full of prehistoric monuments, behind Dolfor and Mochdre. Coming into the present era, early motoring in The Maggot is what Roger Garfitt remembers in this final excerpt from his autobiography, The Horseman’s Word. David Jandrell completes the Hafren Circuit with a nostalgic trip down memory lane through the heart of Montgomeryshire by road and rail from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth. This has been a wonderful series which has taken us to some beautiful and little known places in the valley of the Hafren and I do hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have done – and if you can keep a dry eye reading the epilogue than you are made of sterner stuff than me!
John Wesley visited Llanidloes several times in the course of his preaching tours around the country. There has been a small exhibition celebrating this history and also the installation in the Wesleyan Chapel in Longbridge Street, of a bust taken from the statue of him outside his birthplace in Lincolnshire. This bust, created by Sue Thornton, the sculptor of the statue in Epworth, is unique to Llanidloes. The Arwystli Society visited the Wesleyan Chapel in the course of an afternoon trip around Llanidloes this September and the talk given was based on the article in this edition of PenCambria. We also visited Llanidloes Town Hall and you can read all about that as well.
Our retired couple in Llawryglyn have been planting trees and finding their way through a forest of regulations under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. Spreading our wings a bit further afield, in the second part of my article on Welsh pirates, we find ourselves back on the high seas with Captain Henry Morgan and Black Bart in wooden ship quite possibly built with Montgomeryshire oak.
It is October and not just the season of mellow fruitfulness but also of melancholy, magic and all things that go bump in the night. Wales is nothing if not the Land of the Fey and in 2008 Richard Suggett published a book entitled the History of Witchcraft and Magic in Wales and that same year he gave a talk about it to the Arwystli Society and has very kindly agreed to let me publish a transcript.
The Dragon’s Crypt contains a feast of poetry in this edition. As well as Felicity Vale, Lesley Ann Dupré and Janet Williams both take flight and Bruce Mawdesley meditates on the humble mullein with another beautiful illustration by Jane Keay.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 13 Spring 2010?

Black Vaughan of Hergest and the Vaughan Clan in the 15th Century Mary Oldham
Put Out To Grass 2: The Phantom Tup Diana Ashworth
1834 – A Fateful Welsh Journey, Siluria versus Cambria  Colin Humphries
A Shadow, a Lion, a Bicycle, a Pit Prop and a Prop Shaft Brian Poole
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 3 Owain Glyndwrto Machynlleth David Jandrell
Robert Owen and the Co-Operative Movement William P. Watkins
The Medieval Chatelaines of Powis Castle: Part 2 Dr David Stephenson
The Gentleman Hood: part XII End of an Era Tyler Keevil
Park House (Parc Pen Prys) Talk by Dr David Stephenson transcribed by Diana Brown
At the Bright Hem of God: Book Review Reginald Massey
The Great Fire of Llanfair Caereinion 1758 Part 2 Bryn Ellis

Margaret Collier Michael Brown
February Janet Williams
Carys’s Story Norma Allen
Time Is? Bruce Mawdesley

Editorial PenCambria Issue 13 by Gay Roberts
Well, I am sure that many of you were glad to have something to read, maybe even PenCambria, during the weeks we have been snowed up this past winter. For myself, we were snowed in from 20th December to 16th January. Luckily we had the foresight to be stocked up with provisions for two months, taking us well into February. Our neighbours’ landrover was also a lifesaver for one of our cats who, beset with a blocked bladder, needed an emergency dash to the vet. It was the end of February before we were finally free of snow on
our driveway.
However, from what I have been told before, this still does not measure up to the winter of 1947. The ladies of Clochfaen Hall, Llangurig, always remembered the snow starting on 23rd January and it being the middle of March before they were able to get supplies from the village about half a mile away. It was July before the snow finally disappeared. Do send me your winter memories if you will since I know so many of you like to share these things.
Black Vaughan of Hergest gets this edition off to a rollicking start. Mary Oldham has been researching that great Welsh family, the Vaughans, and the article she has written for us concerns the Hergest branch, in particular one Thomas Vaughan who may have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his finest detective novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Another mysterious animal, but definitely not in the Dartmoor tradition, is the phantom tup that features in this next episode of Diana Ashworth’s memoire of retirement to a Welsh hill farm in Llawr-y-glyn.
A 19th century geological feud that literally split Wales in two is related by Colin Humphries.
Newtown’s shadow aircraft factory has inspired a most interesting feature on the Lion Works by Brian Poole. The history of industry rarely gets the coverage that it deserves and yet the importance of this factory to the conduct of World War II can hardly be overstated.
The history of another medieval lady of determination is related by Dr David Stephenson. Indeed, her very nickname, Hawise Gadarn, Hawise the Hardy, gives us a glimpse of the life she had to endure.
From Llanidloes to Machynlleth and then over the top to Llanerfyl is the route that David Jandrell takes on his next stage of the Hafren Circuit, his most enjoyable and comprehensive tour around the outskirts of Montgomeryshire.
With Robert Kennedy’s pursuit of the Outfit, the national trauma of President Kennedy’s death and the Gentleman Hood’s own demise, this month Tyler Keevil brings his epic work on Murray the Hump to an end. We have been following the career of this extraordinary Welshman by parentage for all but the first edition of PenCambria, from the next issue it will be very strange not to be looking forward to it any more. Tyler has created a hard act to follow.
Park House just outside Caersws was one of the most important houses of its day. The Arwystli Society was privileged to visit it in 2007 with Dr. David Stephenson as historical consultant and Diana Brown has transcribed a report of this visit.
A Radnorshire Pastoral by Peter Capaldi has caused Reginald Massey to wax lyrical.
We have the third of our essays on Robert Owen, this one by William P. Watkins, who looks at the Co-operative movement that Robert Owen inspired.
Bryn Ellis has produced another inventory from the 1758 Great Fire of Llanfair Caereinion that he invites our help with in the deciphering.
In response to a letter in praise of Brian Poole’s article on the lost Clywedog Valley, archaeologist Richard Scott Jones has provided a wealth of information about the uplands of Plynlimon.
Joel Williams brings us some more memories of Llandrindod Wells in Spring.
In The Dragon’s Crypt, Norma Allen has been inspired by the story of Rhiannon and Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed in the First Branch of the Mabinogion; and Michael Brown has written a poignant portrait of a woman who finds herself in the sort of dilemma that has been much in the news lately. Janet Williams’ poem celebrating February looks forward to the coming year while Bruce Mawdesley calls Time on this edition of PenCambria.

What was in PenCambria Issue 11 Summer 2009?

Things That Last Forever Diana Brown
In Living Memory: Sustainable Farming Diana Ashworth
Yr Hen Garchar, The Old Roundhouse Gay Roberts & Richard Meredith
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 2 Kerry Hills and our Radnorshire Cousins David Jandrell
Robert Owen: part 2 Margaret Cole
An Afternoon at the Old Ffinnant Bruce Mawdsley
The Great Fire of Llanfair Caereinion 1758 Part 1 Bryn Ellis
The Lost Clywedog Valley Brian Poole
In living memory: Antediluvian Tales of the Clywedog Valley Diana Ashworth
Pigs, Paddle Boats and Paper Petticoats: Llandrindod Wells 1940s and 1950s  Norma Allen
LLandidrod Wells, Sheikh Joseph Audi Joel Williams
When Shropshire Belonged to Powys Dr David Stephenson
The Welsh People in Patagonia: part 2 Living in South America David Burkhill-Howarth
The Gentleman Hood: part 10 Tyler Keevil

Midge Bellingham Michael Brown
Dogroses and Harebells: two poems for Summer Roger Garfitt
Loyoute Sans Fin: chapter 3 Brian L. Roberts

Editorial PenCambria Issue 11 by Gay Roberts
Mid Wales has given birth to a remarkable number and variety of great men for such a small and sparsely populated corner of the world. Robert Owen from Newtown whose life we are celebrating at the moment, was perhaps the world’s greatest social visionary; David Davies, the philanthropic industrialist of Llandinam and his son, David the first Lord Davies, who amongst countless philanthropic deeds was instrumental in setting up the League of Nations which, despite its apparent failure, eventually grew into the United Nations; Owain Glyndwr, who very nearly achieved independent nation status for Wales; Sampson Lloyd the Second of Dolobran who set up the great banking institution that we know today as Lloyds TSB, which despite its current troubles is still thought of as the country’s most reliable bank; Murray the Hump, the Chicago gangster whose life has been enthralling us for the past nine issues, was very protective of his Carno ancestry, and with his outstanding intelligence, ruthlessness, sense of strategy and achievement, he could have left such a different legacy had the government of the United States, and particularly local government not been so corrupt; we can only mourn the loss of his talents to society as a whole.
Talents that are much less sung in public are those of the women of Mid Wales. Reginald Massey has done the world of literature a great service by getting the works of Newtown’s Eluned Lewis back onto the book shelves; however the women in PenCambria do tend to be written about in their private capacity rather than for their public achievements. This is understandable bearing in mind that until recently ‘history’ meant the history of men and their politics and battles with women being noted for the most part for their deeds or lives that encroached on these areas. (Do discuss and comment. I shall be pleased to publish your responses.) So this month sees the first in a series to bring some balance to this view. Diana Brown is researching the business women of Mid Wales and in this issue celebrates the life of Laura Ashley, the designer, who, from designing tea towels at her kitchen table went on to build one of the world’s biggest dress, fabric and household design and production companies. Her primary aim was to provide work for the people of mid Wales, specifically, Carno, and she maintained this until her death at the age of 61. It is worth noting perhaps that Laura Ashley’s aim and area of industry was not a million miles from that of Robert Owen, although educational aspect of Robert Owen’s dream had been fulfilled by the state by the time Laura Ashley began her career.
Our other Diana, Diana Ashworth, continues her quest for the oral history of the Llawr-y-glyn area. With the drive towards sustainable living these days she has discovered how countryfolk lived sustainably for hundreds of years, until very recently in fact; and to
complement Brian Poole’s journey back through the history and prehistory of the Clywedog Valley before it was flooded in the 1960s, Diana Ashworth also finds out what life was like for the inhabitants before the arrival of the Clywedog dam, the winter of 1947 being an especially memorable time.
A Llanidloes building with a fascinating history is Yr Hen Garchar or the Old Roundhouse. Built as a gaol in 1838, it fell into disuse as a place of penal confinement and then became first a rented residence, then, after coming into the hands of John Jones Meredith, the filter house for the town’s water supply, then a storage place for Council bits and pieces and now, back in the hands of the Meredith family it has been reconverted to a residence.
We follow David Jandrell on Stage 2 of the Hafren Circuit, which takes us from Snead to Dolfor along the Kerry Ridgeway, out to the Bryn Dadlau Wind farm and down to Abbey Cwm Hir.
Bruce Mawdsley captures the magic of a musical afternoon at the Ffinnant in Trefeglwys
Bryn Ellis brings to light the Llanfair Caereinion Great Fire of 1758 and the losses incurred by one of its residents.
More memories from Llandrindod Wells both of childhood from Norma Allen, whose home it was and, courtesy of Joel Williams, of a very exotic pre-WW2 regular summer visitor – Sheikh Joseph Audi.
When the question of where the Welsh Assembly should be sited was mooted, although it was not taken seriously, Shrewsbury was suggested. With Dr David Stephenson we find out just why this was not quite so outrageous as it might have seemed at the time.
David Burkhill-Howarth takes us deeper into the hinterlands of Patagonia and Tyler Keevil shows us just how Murray made a mint in Las Vegas.
In the Dragon’s Crypt Michael Brown tells us a cautionary tale about the perils of PC (not PenCambria), Roger Garfitt’s poems have just the right aroma for summer and Brian L. Roberts brings his story of social and political change to a rousing conclusion by taking us storming down the pages of Chartism in Llanidloes.
Finally, please let me apologise to Robert James Bridge for getting his name wrong in the introduction to PC10. I inadvertently introduced him as Robert Shoebridge. I am pleased to say that I got it right on the story, Kinmel Revisited, itself.

What was in PenCambria Issue 10 Spring 2009?

Hafren CurcuitIn Living Memory : the post at Llawr-y-glyn Diana Ashworth
The Hafren Circuit : part 1 David Jandrell
A Visit to the Hall at Abbey Cwm Hir Norma Allen
Remembering Ossian Gordon Diana Ashworth
Musicians of Llanidloes Michael and Diana Brown
Mary Powell’s Story David Jandrell
Robert Owen-Industrialist, Reformer, Visionary 1771-1858: part 1 Margaret Cole
Owain Cyfeiliog: Prince, Poet, Patron: part 2 The Ruler Dr. David Stephenson
The Schools Heritage Project Rachael Jones
The Welsh People in Patagonia: part l David Burkhill-Howarth
Gentlemen of the Road Bruce Mawdsley
The Gentleman Hood: part 9 Tyler Keevil

Kinmel Revisited Robert James Bridge
Two Poems for Spring Roger Garfitt
Loyoute Sans Fin: Chapter Two Brian L. Roberts

Editorial PenCambria Issue 10 by Gay Roberts

Well, I hope you all survived the winter with relatively few problems. Here in Tylwch the temperature went down to -12°C every night for the first fortnight of January and not much above that during the day. I think it did once go to 3°C but mostly it was -4° to -5°C. Then we were snowed in for the first ten days of February. The last time I remember such low temperatures for such a long period was in the winters of 1980-81 when it went down to -23°C and 1981-82 when it was about -18°C and Mid Wales was cut off by a blizzard that blew in during the night of Thursday 5th January. Both winters were so cold the diesel in lorries and vans turned to gel and we had vicarious spectacle on the television of drivers lighting fires under their vehicles to liquefy their fuel so that they could go on their way. I believe that diesel has now been treated so that this no longer happens. Do you have any memories of life under unusual weather conditions? If so, do let me know because I am sure our readers would like to share them with you. The 1976 snow in June followed by the drought in July are two that come to mind.
The weather is certainly something you will need to take account of if you go on some of the walks suggested by David Jandrell on the round-Montgomeryshire route he has devised and called The Hafren Circuit. David comes from Mochdre but now lives on the Shropshire border since he retired from the day job. He has combined his love of Montgomeryshire and his love of walking into this 130-mile Circuit, divided into 10 stages, which take us all around the Montgomeryshire border and following much of the river Severn. He will narrate these walks for us, enlivening them with various titbits of history associated with the places he visits.
David Burkhill-Howarth takes us a great deal further this time – to Patagonia no less, where many people from Wales, including some from Mid Wales emigrated in the 19th Century in order to create a community based on their own Welsh language and culture as opposed to the English way of life that was being imposed on them in their homeland. This is a remarkable story of settlement and survival which will keep us riveted to these pages for this and the next two editions of PenCambria.
One of the most remarkable men to come from Mid Wales was Robert Owen, the socialist pioneer of the Co-operative movement. In 1971 the Robert Owen Association published a booklet of four essays to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth. The booklet was republished in 1989 by the Robert Owen Museum in Newtown and as it is now out of print they have very kindly allowed me to publish these essays in PenCambria and you will be reading them over the next four issues.
Llanidloes is famous for its musical tradition and perhaps the most notable family in this field is the Mills family, known in musical circles as the Millsiad. In the 19th century the Montgomeryshire Express published a series of articles on the musical members of this remarkable family and the town’s other musicians too; and these articles were published later as a small collection, now out of print. Diana Brown is a member of this family, although not
the musical branch, and she and her husband Michael have adapted this booklet for PenCambria and it will be published over a number of issues starting with this one.
PenCambria wouldn’t be the same without Murray the Hump and Tyler Keevil now brings us right to the top and Curly’s influence over the White House.
In a lighter vein we have some memories of the postal deliveries at Llawryglyn collected by Diana Ashton, who also writes a very moving study on a commemorative walk ending in Llawryglyn. Another piece of family history comes from David Jandrell regarding his great-grandmother Mary Powell of Trefeglwys. Rachael Jones lets us into the classroom, so to speak, with an account of one of her local history teaching sessions. Norma Allen visited Abbey Cwm Hir House and tells us all about the tour. We also have some delightful observations on the former Gentlemen of the Road by Bruce Mawdsley.
We have a feast of reading to recommend including Eluned Lewis’s The Captain’s Wife reviewed by Reginald Massey.
Ninety years ago in the aftermath of the First World War armistice of 1918 a regiment of Canadian soldiers were billeted at Kinmel near Conwy, awaiting a ship to take them home to Canada. The intolerable conditions and interminable wait caused them to riot and in the Dragon’s Crypt Robert Shoebridge has written a short story based on their plight, which deserves to be far more widely known. We also have the 2nd episode of Brian L. Robert’s story set against the background of the Chartist Riot in Llanidloes in 1839 and finally two very beautiful seasonal poems by Roger Garfitt.