What was in PenCambria: Issue 8 Autumn 2008?

Saving Llanidloes Hospital Gay Roberts

Dr Graham Davies Gay Roberts

A Life Well Spent Eileen Williams

“Being at Montgomery” Part 2 Gay Roberts

The Deadly Tablet  Cambrian Railways 1921: Part III David Burkhill-Howarth

More Summertime Memories from Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

Cwmdauddwr Gravestone Opens a Window on the Napoleonic World Part 2 Nick Venti

Livestock, Timber & Retail Therapy Dennis Duggan & the Welshpool Oral History Project

The Gentleman Hood: Part VII Tyler Keevil

The Princess Who Was Vain Part 1 Michael Brown
Haikus Reginald Massey
A Rural Idyll? Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 8 by Gay Roberts
Hovering over all our small and not so small communities is the threat of closure of all our small and not so small but thoroughly convenient hospitals. So, while in no way taking a party political stand, I make no bones about including in this issue the story of Llanidloes War
Memorial Hospital, how it was created and funded until the National Health Service took it over, what it means to the community and the prospect for us when/if it is closed. While this is the history of the Llanidloes institution, nevertheless all communities will recognise it as their own experience and for any of you reading this, who find your own hospital under threat of closure too, I hope you will all take heart and use it in any way you choose to keep your own hospitals open. I and my family have been very grateful for its services in the past as have so many of us, not just in the Llanidloes area, but many from elsewhere as well, as Lembit Opik, for example, is always very keen to affirm after his life-threatening fall. Meanwhile I dedicate this issue to the Campaign to Save Llanidloes Hospital and wish it every success. Following the history of the hospital is a small cameo of Dr. Graham, whom I know most people who knew him in Llanidloes will remember with great affection.
Another affection tribute this month is paid by Eileen Williams to her grandparents, especially her grandmother, who did so much to make sure she had a happy childhood and a positive upbringing.
We reach the final part of The Deadly Tablet this month with the inquest on the 1921 train crash at Abermule and find that it has become famous throughout the world as an example of how to avoid such an incident on a single track railway.
Murray the Hump forsakes politics and turns to the glittering prospects of Hollywood. Tyler will be taking a ‘natural break’ from Murray after this month to concentrate on his creative writing studies at Aberystwyth for a year. That should give us all chance to digest everything that he has uncovered so far. That the son of a Mid Walian should become the driving force in such a murky world…
Major Edward Jones storms Badajoz in the Peninsular War this month and Nick Venti deserves great credit for bringing the exploits of this valiant son of the Elan Valley to our notice so long after the event.
Our pensioners from Welshpool continue with their reminiscing – this time it is being combed for head lice, seeing the ponies being brought down from the hills for a life in the pits, and the Co-op divvy, amongst other things – and I am sure their memories will be familiar to so many of you as well.
Other memories of summer in Llandrindod are recalled with nostalgic pictures of the lake as told to Joel Williams in Voices of Llandrindod Wells Vol. 1.
In the second part of the Arwystli Society’s outing to Montgomershire, we are taken round the town on a guided tour and come across fake windows, fake timber framed buildings and the mysterious patch of bare earth on the robber’s grave.
Catherine Richards brings us up-to-date with the work of Powys Archives and has sent us a lovely picture of fishing in the Wye.
And there are all kinds of events going on this summer both for learning and leisure.
In The Dragon’s Crypt this month Michael Brown goes from fact to fiction with part one of a Gothic tale of Gormenghast dimensions.
Reggie Massey paints a picture of the season with his customary succinct yet beautifully expressive haikus.
Norma Allen’s tale of settling to life in the countryside will ring a bell with all of us who found this place after living in the city and wouldn’t even think of going back – back? Where’s that?
And now, if it still raining by the time you settle down with this copy of PenCambria, at least it will give you something to take your mind off this dreadful summer. And maybe by the time you finish it, we will be into a lovely autumn. Well, one can but dream…

What was in PenCambria: Issue 7 Spring 2007?

If Only These Stones Could Talk… Eileen Williams

Disturbing the Dead Rachael Jones

The Gentleman Hood: Part VI Tyler Keevil

Montgomeryshire’s Man of Many Parts Reginald Massey

The Deadly Tablet, Cambrian Railways 1921: Part II David Burkhill-Howarth

Montgomery in the Civil War Part II Dr David Stephenson

More Springtime Memories from Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

Family History Appeal for Morley Bennett Lloyd Morgan Vanessa Dutton

Cwmdauddwr Gravestone Opens a Window on the Napoleonic World Nick Venti

“Being at Montgomery…Part I ” Gay Roberts

Margaret Collier Michael Brown
Sold For A Shilling Norma Allen
I HapPEN to Know Harry Scharf

Editorial PenCambria Issue 7 by Gay Roberts
There is a decidedly stony feel to this edition of PenCambria. We begin with a vivid picture of daily life in the rocky hillsides of Wales in the early 19th century from Eileen Williams; next we have Rachael Jones’ researches into the history behind a gravestone in the churchyard of Christ Church, Welshpool; Nick Venti has uncovered an extraordinary history of military action by a Rhayader man, commended for his valour in the Napoleonic Wars from 1807 onwards and especially in the Peninsular War of 1811. Nick’s article is especially relevant as, despite their reluctance to go on crusade in medieval times, so many men from Mid Wales have left the country over the centuries to go a-soldiering, and Welshmen were indeed highly esteemed abroad for their fighting qualities. He has found a quite remarkable report albeit it anonymous from an ordinary soldier that is in marked contrast from the
Colonel’s dry terse account of the same battle and it is a description that today’s soldiers would recognise too.
Warfare of an earlier age is the subject of Dr Stephenson’s feature this month as he completes his article on Montgomery and the Civil War. For those of you who have missed part I, this appeared in the Spring 2006 edition of PenCambria, back numbers of which are available from for this and any other issue, details on the back page of this magazine.
Montgomery is in fact in the spotlight this month with the first part of my report of the Arwystli Society’s very enjoyable visit to this town last September, when our first port of call was the Old Bell Museum, and it is the subject of one of the recommendations for your bookshelf.
Coming across a number of books written by David Davies, the 1st Lord Davies of Llandinam, including The Seven Pillars of Peace and A Federated Europe, Reginald Massey has been struck by both the vision and the achievements of this man, the more so that his ideas are so relevant to today and that his work is so little known. The latter Reginald hopes to remedy starting with his article in this issue.
Murray the Hump consolidates his position in this episode of Tyler Keevil’s excellent series on the Chicago gangster of Carno parentage. This time he dips his toe into the murky world of American politics and finally eliminates one of his hated rivals.
After the crash, care for the casualties, counting the dead and clearing the line are priorities of the all those involved in the 1921 Abermule train crash as recounted in the second episode of his gripping account of this tragedy by David Burkhill-Howarth. So many of you will find familiar names in these lists, I am sure.
Joel Williams provides with a whisper of springtime in Llandrindod Wells with a memory from Miss Mary Abberley recounted in his book Voices of Llandrindod Wells.
Logaston Press has published two more very fine books, which are well worth adding to your collections of books about Mid Wales. The Celtic Christian Sites of the Central and Southern Marches by Sarah and John Zaluckyj is an excellent compliment to the books on history and ancient sites mentioned in previous issues of PenCambria. Dr. David Stephenson once said that while the history of Wales as told through the churches and chapels of the Principality is well established, that told through those other great cultural institutions, the inns and taverns is hardly known. The Pubs of Radnorshire by Tony Hobbs goes a long way towards redressing the balance in this direction and is a most enjoyable and instructive read on this aspect of our culture. Also recommended for your bookshelf this month is A Story of Montgomery by Ann and John Welton, a book that is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of this town.
Powys Archives have been having their annual stocktake and once more Catherine Richards updates us on some of their content and to the access facilities of Ancestry.com for all those of you researching your family history. Speaking of which, we have another request for information and contact from a lady of the Morgan family of Llanidloes whose grandfather, born in 1888, emigrated to South Africa. Speaking of family history, if any of you researching your family history come across any interesting stories and would like to have your findings published in PenCambria, do please get in touch with me and I should be very pleased to do so.
Into The Dragon’s Crypt once more to enjoy the fertile imaginations of our creative writers: Michael Brown, who entertained us all last year with the installation of the China Street organ, ponders the dilemma of the supreme act of friendship; Norma Allen has been inspired by an item in the last edition of PenCambria about wife selling; and Harry Scharf (only one f, not two as I mistakenly printed last time – mea culpa and profound apologies, Harry) meditates on the tool of the writer’s trade.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 5 Summer 2006?

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.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 4 Spring 2006?

The Gentleman Hood – Part 3 Tyler Keevil

“Are You Church or Chapel?” – Part 1 Michael Brown

The Kerry Tramway Brian Poole

Father Gillespie O.F.M. Llanidloes and Rhayader E. Ronald Morris

Llywelyn ab Gryffyd Memorial Gethin Gruffydd

Walk Around Newtown with David Pugh and the Arwystli Society – Part 1 Gay Roberts

Springtime in Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

Water Mills of Radnorshire Gay Roberts

Playing with Molten Lead David Rowlands talks to Dennis Duggan

Civil War in Montgomeryshire – Part I Dr David Stephenson

Gordonstoun in Llandinam Reverend Malcolm Tudor

Memories of Mid Wales Reginald Massey

The Great Mid Wales Land Grab – Part 1 Gay Roberts

My Foundry Days Eric Jervis

Llanidloes Gateway Sculpture

The Oldest Script Roger Garfitt
Lovers’ Leap Norma Allen
Falling in Love August Mullen & Matt Maus
Haiku Reginald Massey

Editorial PenCambria Issue 4 by Gay Roberts

Since the launch of PenCambria last Spring and I am delighted to find how much interest it has generated and how far afield its name and reputation is spreading. This is a credit to all our writers to whose talents this is directly due. We had our writers’ lunch at the Black Boy in Newtown on 19th January this year and a good feed and good conversation was had by all, most of whom had never met before and so some new friendships were forged as well.
Interest over the internet has been generated too, with enquiries as regards help with tracing family history and surprise at finding information about a certain ancestor, namely our roguish friend, Murray the Hump – he gets more roguish in every episode – you should read this one! I am also very pleased that The Dragon’s Crypt is giving such pleasure.
One quite serendipitous contact has been as a result of Reginald Massey’s article about the Newtown writer Eiluned Lewis. Her niece Janet contacted me, after having been sent a copy of the article by a friend and as a result Reginald and his wife Jamila treated Janet, Eiluned’s daughter Katrina, her husband Richard and myself to a delightful afternoon tea and conversation despite the snow.
I know that there were several errors in PC3 for which I must apologise and for which, apart from one, can only blame lack of proper proof reading and my haste to get out the magazine, which was already six weeks overdue. The most glaring of my own errors was not to spot in the third paragraph of the article Past and Present that although technically it has been over a thousand years since the Romans rested on Esgair Perfedd, two thousand years would give a more accurate indication of when they passed through to the lead mines of Cardiganshire. My thanks to Chris Lord Smith for pointing this out. The other mistake for which I am indebted to Lady Hooson for pointing out and allowing me to make the correct attribution is that the Gregynog Festival was re-started by Glyn Tegai Hughes with the artistic support of Anthony Rolf Johnson, not the University of Wales. My information came from his own excellent booklet on Gregynog in which he, with all modesty, does not mention his own part in the re-starting of the festival, implying that the driving force was University rather than him.
I should also like to apologise for the lack of content about Radnorshire in this edition. My attempts to find people willing and able to write about Radnorshire are not bearing very much fruit. I am very grateful to Peter Dean for his interview about the hotels and some of the more colourful characters of Llandrindod Wells last year and to Joel Williams for agreeing to send in items from his oral history collection from the same town and also to Keith Parker for last year’s item of the Gaolbreakers of Presteigne, and whom I also hope to interview for further article about Presteigne’s history. My own efforts have been limited to information from the Powys Archives Digital History Project and to Paul Remfry’s book Castles of Radnorshire. But if any of you are willing to send in material on Radnorshire, I should so much appreciate
it if you would contact me; or if you know of people who might be willing to do so, do please give them my contact details and if possible let me know how I can get in touch with them. We have a growing readership in the county and I would very upset to have to disappoint you all for lack of material. My very grateful thanks to you all on this matter.
In this issue we have all kinds of interesting goodies including the next stage in Murray the Hump’s career with Chicago Mob; fun in fundraising for the chapel organ; a portrait of Father Gillepsie, whom so many of you will remember with affection, I am sure; a campaign to raise a permanent memorial to Llywelyn ab Gryffydd; a bijou look at Springtime in Llandrindod Wells; a chat with David Rowlands as he looks back at his family’s history with the County Times and his own career as the manager of the Lake Vyrnwy and Llyn Celyn estates; the beginnings of the 1642-46 Civil War in Montgomeryshire; part one of the makings of the county of Radnorshire; walks all over Mid Wales including the Kerry Tramway, part one of a walk around Newtown and a brief look at the water mills of Rhayader and Presteigne for those of you who like to explore the by-ways and little-trodden paths. We have our update from Powys Archives and the calendar of events. The Dragon’s Crypt has attracted some first class storytelling and poetry this month about which, I shall say no more. Finally, we have several people requesting information regarding their Mid Wales forebears. So if any of you can help I am sure they will be more than grateful.

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 3 Autumn 2005?

Capel Bethel Cemetery, Llanidloes E Reginald Morris

A Victorian Industrialist Reverend M Tudor

The Gentleman Hood: Second part of the history of Murray the Hump-Life on the mean streets Tyler Keevil

Past and Present Bryan Lawrence 

Some letters of General Valentine Jones, who built the Trewythen Arms, Llanidloes Nick Venti

The Ancient Monasteries of Arwystli Dr. David Stephenson

“Come away from the window, you’re not supposed to look at that” Dennis Duggan and the Welshpool Oral History Project

Gothic Parker Gay Roberts
Gregynog – The Butterfly of Mid Wales Gay Roberts
Down and Out in Rhayader and Saint Harmon Gay Roberts
Unsung Heroes Gay Roberts

The Pebble Maggie Shepherd
The Conjuror of Llandinam Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 3 Gay Roberts 
First of all, please accept my apologies for the late publication of PC3. I broke my arm in August and, not being able to drive for two months, was unable to get out about collecting material or indeed put what I had into the computer until a couple of weeks ago. Consequently for some of this edition I have resorted to that most modern of information sources, the internet about which more later.
For those of you who were among the first buyers of PenCambria number 2 and would not have had the slip I sent round a week later, I must also immediately correct a mistake in the article by E. Ronald Morris’s. On page 11 please note that in the second paragraph from the bottom, “Dolhafren cemetery” should be substituted by “the churchyard”. So the passage should read as follows: “A ‘running sore’ was the fact that if Nonconformists wanted to be buried in the churchyard, rather than the cemetery just off High Street, they had to submit to the rite of the Church of England. Because the Church of England owned the churchyard, they were not allowed to perform their own rites over the deceased.” The original insertion was due was a misunderstanding by the editor, not a mistake by Mr. Morris. My sincerest apologies go to Mr. Morris for any distress he has felt as a result of this misprint.
In his article for us in this issue, about the Capel Bethel Nonconformist cemetery in Llanidloes, Mr. Morris shows just how Llani draws people back, its hiraeth, to such an extent that however far away they may have strayed in their lifetimes, after their deaths native Idloesians want to come back and spend eternity here.
At the other end of life, we have a vivid picture of childhood in the 1930s as told to Dennis Duggan by five members of Welshpool’s senior community as part the Welshpool Oral History project.
Nick Venti has been continuing his search for General Valentine Jones, who built the Trewythen Arms Hotel in Llanidloes. In this issue we join him in Canada in 1770s commanding the Northern District of the American Colonies in Quebec, hearing in his own words how he is at his wits end trying to find and finance provisions for the soldiers under his command, before returning to London in 1779.
The Reverend Malcolm Tudor pens a brief sketch of the great Llandinam coal magnate and philanthropist David Davies, while at the other end of the spectrum Tyler Keevil continues his search into the murky underworld of 1920s Chicago in his quest for Carno’s grandson, Murray the Hump.
Brian Lawrence brings us a breath of the bracing Radnorshire air as he walks the Cwmdauddwr hills, pondering the struggle of the small farmer to survive in this hard, unforgiving environment and looking at the military time capsule left there in the form of relics from the two 20th century World Wars and the ruins of the Roman military occupation of Wales.
The ancient monasteries in Arwystli are David Stephenson’s topic this month, specifically the ‘clas’ communities of Llangurig and Llandinam and, with an interesting twist, the legal expertise of one of its medieval abbots.
The Arwystli Society had an afternoon at Gregynog in May and this inspired the article about the families who occupied it from its foundation until the University of Wales took it over in 1963.
In June I was delighted to be contacted by the BBC who, as part of their regional network policy, were interested in forging a link between them and PenCambria as a source of information. PC is now linked to the BBC Mid Wales web site and on their newsletter list and as a result, I am now pleased to be able to include an internet round-up based on their site, of all kinds of news and snippets relating to Mid Wales. Inspired by this, during my incapacity, I found quite a few more internet goodies and was able to put together a look at the life of the poor in Rhayader during the 19th century based on the Rhayader mini web site at http://history.powys.org.uk
Another Arwystli event inspired An Unsung Hero, a look at commandeering of horses during wartime and one relating specifically to a member of the British Army Veterinary Corps during the First World War who retired to Llanidloes.
Powys Archives have sent us their updates and a lovely photograph of Plas Winton Square in Llandrinod Wells in the early 1900s.
Finally, in the Dragon’s Crypt this month we have a bewitching tale of love and fulfilment from Norma Allen and a fascinating exercise in litho-empathy (work it out for yourselves!) from Maggie Shepherd, a student in Llanidloes’ Creative Writing Class. As a new and very talented writer, I am delighted to be able to publish her work and hope it will inspire her to write more.