What was in PenCambria: Issue 34 Spring 2017

EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 34           Spring 2017 

Dear PenCambrians,

Welcome to another year of trailing round and trawling through the highways and byways of Mid Wales

Last winter’s edition saw the final episode of our serialisation of E. Ronald Morris’s comprehensive account of the Chartist Riot in Llanidloes Chartism In Llanidloes 1839-40. In September last year, I came across an account of another riot with political connotations in Llanidloes in 1721, written by Dr Melvin Humphreys and published in The Montgomeryshire Collections volume 75 in 1987. This got me wondering about the tradition of political expression in Llanidloes and Mid Wales in general and I came across some very interesting history. So, as a preliminary to the riot, in this issue I have given brief history of  rioting in Wales and of Parliamentary government, which is the background to the main event, which you can read about in the next issue.  Diana Brown adds to this account with the first part of her examination of the Laws of Hywel Dda, the Welsh king of Deheubarth who codified the laws as a fitting way to provide a good, just and fair life for his subjects.

Gaynor Waters pens an affectionate portrait of her grandmother, Mary Jane Northam, whom some of you older readers in Llani may remember. Andrew Dakin is very keen to hear from you if you have information regarding another of his forebears, Richie Dakin. Always keen to ensure that knowledge is not lost, Brian Poole has been researching the invaluable work women did on the railways in the Severn Valley during the Second World War. Still in Newtown the Newtown Textile Museum re-opened last year after very nearly being closed permanently. Janet Lewis, who chairs the Committee dedicated to saving it tells us all about its history and its regeneration. This provides some very useful information if you too are involved with a similar project.

Lawrence Johnson has been immersing himself in the waters of Radnorshire, literally at one point, as he checks out the spa at Llangammarch Wells and it most illustrious guest, Kaiser Wilhelm II, he of First World War fame, or notoriety, no less. Norma Allen, meanwhile takes a much more leisurely trip down memory lane on the Boating Lake at Llandrindod Wells. Wales is the land of the bard and Brian Lawrence provides a moment of history in poetic form with an account of wedding sent to him by a reader in Abbey Cwm Hir.

PenCambria has been involved with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ‘Living Memory’ project since last year and in this issue, Nathan Davies, Project Officer for the Powys War Memorial Project gives an account of the restoration of the Builth Wells Roll of Honor (sic) and its unveiling in November 2016. To complement this article, and as part of the CWGC project Chris Barrett has written about one of the soldiers who fell during the First Battle of the Somme, Glyn Hilton Jones, from Llanidloes.

Now, I don’t quite know how to tell you this, how to cushion the blow. I suppose directly is best. So, here goes. This edition sees the last episode of Put OutTo Grass. No longer will we be entertained by the ups and down of the retired lady and gentleman as they settle into hill farming in Llawryglyn. No more anecdotes about the wily antics of the sheep, no more playing catch up with some of the locals, no more squeals from squeamish offspring. No more marvelling at the mysteries of life in the hills. However, don’t despair. I am sure we can persuade the retired lady to turn her talents just as entertainingly and insightfully to other aspects of mid Wales.

Some very interesting books are reviewed this month: Dr. David Stephenson’s much needed reappraisal the history of Medieval Powys, the mystery in verse of another David by Dr. Maria Apichella and Changing Times, a collection of memories of the 1950s and 60s – those were the days indeed…

Mid Wales Art Centre has a veritable feast of art exhibitions, workshops and poetry events scheduled for this year. If you are feeling creative this is the place to go for an outlet for your self-expression. The Royal Commission is settling into its new premises in the National Library in Wales and has a full and ongoing programme of events and projects, especially this year to cherish the coastline of Wales.

As ever, the pens of our own poets and writers have been busy on the paper – or should it be fingers on the keyboard these days and in the Dragon’s Crypt, Gaynor Waters presses the memory button with her memories of Llani of Old; we go up the Alaskan creek to pan for gold with the late Lesley Ann Dupré; Bruce Mawdesley, after being beguiled by the butterfly last month, muses on the moth in this edition; finally, the ills and irritations of modern life get up the nose of one Homo Insipient.  

CONTENTS

Mary Jane Northam Gaynor Waters
Letter re Richie Dakin from Andrew Dakin.
Llanidloes: a Riotous Town? Part One: Rioting in Wales, Witangemot to Parliament Gay Roberts
The Railway Ladies of the Upper Severn Valley, 1940-1945 Brian Poole
The Birth, Near Death and Renewal of a Museum Janet Lewis
The Boating Lake Norma Allen
A Frog, A Pig … and Kaiser Bill? Lawrence Johnson
Put Out To Grass – Part 21: Hopeless and Three Quarters Diana Ashworth
The Vicar’s Wedding – a true story Brian Lawrence
Powys War Memorials Project Builth Wells Roll of Honor (sic) Nathan Davies
A Welsh Soldier at the Somme Chris Barrett
Hywel Dda and His Law – Part One Diana Brown
Book Reviews :
–  Psalmody by Maria Apichella reviewer Reginald Massey
–  – Changing Times by Deirdre Beddoe reviewer Norma Allen
–  – Medieval Powys – Kingdom, Principality and Lordships by Dr. David Stephenson,

   reviewer Jim French

The Dragons Crypt

Llani of Old Gaynor Waters
Alaskan Gold Lesley-Ann Dupré
Moth Memories Bruce Mawdesley
Homo Insipient “Eeyore”

 THE VICAR’S WEDDING – A TRUE STORY

Brian Lawrence 

Several years ago when I was editor of the Radnorshire Society Field Research Section Newsletter I appealed to members of the society to forward to me any poems of local interest.  The following poem was sent from a member in Abbeycwmhir. She relates that she can remember older members of her family talking about this wedding that didn’t take place. For obvious reasons the names of both the vicar and his intended bride have been changed in the poem. The poem is a social document which vividly portrays the religious hypocrisy of that time, a time not so far distant.

 

It is evident that not all Church of England vicars were so bigoted for the Rev. J. Prickard of Dderw, Cwmdauddwr laid the memorial stone at the new Baptist Chapel, at Cefnpawl, Abbey Cwm Hir,  on November 6th 1885.


 

THE VICAR’S WEDDING

 

 

In a quiet pretty village

Among the hills of Radnorshire

Where the pretty river wanders

Happened what I tell you here.

 

To the vicar who resided

In is mansion hale and well

Just beside the parish churchyard

Known by name as Mr Fell.

 

He a bachelor and lonely

Having none to share his bed

Went about to seek a partner

For resolved was he to wed.

 

I a homestead near the river

Just in view of Mr Fell

Dwelt a fair and sprightly maiden,

She was known as Miss Gazelle.

 

After due advice and counsel

From a friend of Mr Fell,

He resolved to broach the subject

To the maiden, Miss Gazelle.

 

But to smooth the way to help him

To the hand of Miss Gazelle

He a costly present took her

Did the parson, Mr Fell.

 

It was a lady’s bike most splendid

Ivory handle, guard and bell.

And the maiden smiled in taking

This bright gift from Mr Fell.

 

“Now”, thought he, “the way is open

I’ll propose without delay”,

So he did, and was accepted

And they named the happy day.

 

 

‘Twas to be in dewy April

Just about the Easter tide

He, the vicar of the parish

Was to wed his charming bride.

 

But the lady was a dissenter

She whom he had made his choice

And the church folk all cried “No sir”,

In an undertone of voice.

 

And they murmured and they mumbled

Till it reached the bridegroom’s ears

And his congregation dwindled

While his heart grew full of fears.

 

But the day was fixed and settled

And he could not well draw back

Though his party frowned upon him

And the clergy whispered “sack”.

 

For the lady of his choice sir

Was not christened or confirmed

When the wedding day came round sir

And this fact herself affirmed.

 

Only in the river yonder

Once upon a Sabbath day

Been baptised by Pastor D…. Sir

In the Apostolic way.

 

But this rite would count for nothing

With the Bishop or the See

For unless she was confirmed sir,

How could she a Christian be?

 

Early on the bridal morning

To the home of Miss Gazelle

With his mind sore troubled

Went the Reverend Mr Fell.

 

 

And he begged the maiden’s mother

To postpone the happy day

To some more convenient season.

But she sharply answered “Nay”.

 

“Have we not the guests invited

And the wedding breakfast spread.

If this day you’re not united

You to mine shall ne’er be wed”.

 

“Have they not the bower erected

And the bridal carriage brought

Do you think that all this show sir

Is for you to pass for naught?”

 

Then he piped his eye and muttered

To his fair one Miss Gazelle,

“Don’t you know that all Dissenters

Are upon the road to hell?”

 

“And we clergy regard you Baptists

Just like the infidels.

And to marry you endangers

Soul and living, Miss Gazelle.”

 

Then the maiden’s eyes flashed anger

And she spoke with scorn and pride,

You can go to heaven alone sir,

I’m content to stay outside.”

 

“If in all I must confirm sir,

To your creed and to your rules,

You can have your heaven without me

As a paradise for fools.”

 

Then he wiped his tears and whimpered,

“Have I lost you Miss Gazelle?

All through mother church and holy

Whom I’ve sought to serve so well.”

 

But the lady, under pressure

Of her friends and guests at home,

After much delay consented

To the alter she would come.

 

And the uncle of the bridegroom

Was the marriage form to read.

While the parson from the vicarage

Came in haste the rite to speed.

 

Up the aisle and to the altar

Sped the bridegroom on his way.

Then he cried “The time is up dear.

And we cannot wed today.”

 

“See the legal day is over (1)

Hark! ’tis three by yonder chime

And today we can’t be married

It must be some other time,”

 

Then he turned and left the altar

And the maiden at its side,

While the friends and guests were wondering

At the bridegroom and the bride.

 

While the people, all who gathered there

To gaze upon the scene

For the vicar to be married

Cried and muttered “Oh, how mean!”

 

And the church folk and the wardens

Cried “our parson has gone mad

Thus to treat a fair dissenter

At the altar was too bad.”

 

But the maiden kept her heart up

And the tears she shed was dry

As she gazed hard at the bridegroom

And to him she did thus reply.

 

“Go and seek some church-bred maiden

One whose age is near two score

For with me before the altar

You will stand sir, never more.

 

“Or some buxom widow lady

Who had wed a priest before,

But as bride and bridegroom never

Shall we pass through yon church door.

 

Then he hastened to the vicarage

Did the Reverend Mr Fell.

But as he passed down the churchyard

Someone rudely tolled the bell.

 

And the vicar still is seeking

For a partner and a bride.

And the maiden still is tripping

Freely by the riverside

 

Some wiser, none the worse sir,

For this escapade in life.

And resolved to be John Ploughman’s

Rather than John Parson’s wife!.

 

(1) Weddings at that time could only be held between sunrise and sunset


 

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 30 Winter 2015?

Issue 30 Introduction and Contents at a glance

INTRODUCTION

With this issue we complete 10 years of publication and my thanks go to all of you, writers and readers, for your support during this time. Don’t worry, this is not a resignation piece, just an expression of my profound thanks appreciation of all of you who help to make PenCambria what it is today. When I look back over the years I am pleased to say that, apart from the brief instruction that we cover local history, heritage and creative writing, there is no set pattern that we follow, and, apart from being “legal,decent, honest and truthful”, no rigid guidelines about the material published as far as I am aware. Because it is all about us and our interests here in mid Wales nothing you have ever sent me has been totally rejected as irrelevant although I may have occasionally suggested modifying the approach to suit the general theme.

Every issue is different from the previous one and I always hope that in each issue all you readers will find something of interest.

We have been so fortunate in our regular writers: Brian Poole with his indefatigable thirst for discovering our industrial past – something sadly neglected by so many historians; Lawrence Johnson who walks the hills tirelessly and uncovers so many quirky things about the countryside; Diana Ashworth and Chris Barrett with their passion for oral history and to whom we owe such a debt for reviving our presence on the internet;Diana Brown who has become a fund of local knowledge about Llanidloes; Norma Allen whose modest appearance belies the vivid literary imagination that can always fill a corner in the Dragon’s Crypt; similarly Bruce Mawdesley who told me once that PenCambria has got him writing again after a long period of stagnation. We are indebted to Reginald Massey, who is a professional writer but who has been so taken with PenCambria since its inception that he never fails to make a contribution if he can and publicises it whenever he feels it is appropriate.

In this issue I am very pleased to print articles from two of our very first writers and without whose encouragement PenCambria would not have got off the ground. Since his arrival here in 2004 Dr. David Stephenson has become the recognised authority on medieval mid Wales. A formidable intellect and a compelling speaker – in his mind he lives in the 11th century but comes back to the 21st to eat and sleep – David very generously wrote something for each of the first 15 issues, giving them an authoritative substance that enabled me to build a network of expert writers who would be willing to contribute either regularly or occasionally. He is an incredibly busy man these days but is still willing to write for us when he has time. E. Ronald Morris, leading light of the Arwystli Society for many years, also encouraged me from the very beginning with contributions from his invaluable archive. We have been so lucky to have been able to draw on such a talented pool of writers with such varied interests. Unfortunately space prevents me from listing everyone here so please forgive if I don’t mention you or your favourite writer but I would like to highlight a few just for the variety: Nick Venti’s interest is in the Napoleonic period and in the early issues he introduced us to several soldiers from mid Wales of that period; the Reverend Malcolm Tudor provided us with a few pen portraits of some interesting local characters; Richard Meredith and his family that has played such an important part in providing the bricks and mortar of mid Wales, Brian Lawrence who is a mine of information about Rhayader and similarly R.M.Williams of St. Harmon; David Jandrell took us all around the outskirts of Montgomeryshire on his Hafren Circuit. The Abermule Train Crash was David Burkhill-Howarth’s introductory article and from there he took us all the way to Patagonia. Michael Brown was one of most our most entertaining writers first with his account of the  installation of the China Street chapel organ in Llanidloes, then in his stories for the Dragon’s Crypt. Further afield, Tyler Keevil, also a writer from issue number 1 and now an award winning novelist,introduced us to gangland Chicago with his tour de force on the extraordinary Murray the Hump, Al Capone’s second-in-command, whose family were from Carno. Mid Wales Art Centre and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales keep us up-to-date with the cultural and historical events that they host.

One of the things I am most pleased about is that PenCambria seems to give many people something to do in their retirement. However, retirement usually means getting older and sadly some of them are no longer with us. Jonathan Sleigh, one of those great could-have-beens, passed on the year after we began; Reverend Malcolm Tudor, David Burkhill Howarth and Michael Brown are all great losses to our pages. As I said earlier, I should also like to thank all you readers, especially those of you whom have subscribed from the beginning and without whose support PenCambria would not still be in print. Whether we shall be having another such appreciation in ten years’ time only Providence can tell, but in the meantime I do hope this issue gives you as much pleasure as much as the previous one.

Gay Roberts

CONTENTS

Introduction – The First Ten Years

An End and a Beginning: VJ Day in Mid Wales Diana Ashworth

The Demise of the Stagecoach and the Advent of the Railway Brian Poole

Girls in Green Diana Brown

“We Have All Done Our Bit” Lawrence Johnson 11

Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40: chapter 4 E. Ronald Morris

The Royal Courts of Mid Wales Dr. David Stephenson

A Local Gladstone vs Disraeli Diana Brown

The Perennial Traffic Problems in Rhayader Brian Lawrence

BLAST! Bishops Castle Story Telling Group

Life on the Road in Wales: part 1 Chris Barrett

Oriel Davies Open Writing Competition

Put Out To Grass : part 17: Prejudice and the Eternal Conundrum Diana Ashworth

The Not So Humble Mince Pie Bruce Mawdesley

Christmasses Past: Memories from Local People collected and edited by Gay Roberts

The Lost Arc Glenda and Paul Carter

Mid Wales Arts Centre

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

Mid Wales Events Horizon

The Dragons Crypt

A Different Child Gaynor Jones

The Winter Garden Amber Louise Robinson

Mimosa Journal – a sequel Norma Allen

Existentiale Reginald Massey

 

The next issue will be out at the end of MARCH 2016

 

CHRISTMASES PAST – memories from local people collected and edited by Gay Roberts.

This article was first published in December 1994 in The Llani Gazette, the Community Newspaper of Llanidloes & District

Christmas is a very special time of year for all sorts of reasons. Historically it is the winter solstice, when people of all cultures in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate the Sun’s return on the day after the longest night of the year. Lights and warmth were the most important feature of this coldest of seasons so it was a time for candles, bonfires and feasting; and, in gratitude for having survived the rigours of winter, it was a time for giving and receiving presents. This is the aspect that dominates our culture today. It was the time of the Roman Saturnalia and the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas also has different meanings according to the various stages of our lives. We get the most enjoyment from it as children, or when children play a major part in our lives, particularly as parent and grandparents. When children are no longer around, for many people Christmas loses much of its magic and meaning.

In this article people from all walks of life living in Llani have given their thoughts on what Christmas means to them and a few have described Christmas times they remember. Llanidloes has a quite cosmopolitan population, so as well as from Wales, contributors have added their memories from England, Germany and Australia.

Karen remembers childhood Christmases in Germany. The season began on 6th December when all the children put their shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with sweets., Excitement builds up to the big day, which is Christmas Eve, when the tree and all the decorations go up. Presents and sweets are given and Christmas dinner is eaten that evening. Christmas day itself is quiet. Her overwhelming memories are of lights, marzipan and smell of spice. It is a very special family occasion and “What I can’t get used to here”, she says “are all the parties”.

Bill Davis remembers Christmas on the farm at Cwm Belan. The animals still had to be fed and tended so Christmas Day was a day much like any other except that no ploughing was done. One blessing of the chapel was that the Bible said that six days shalt thou labour and the seventh shall be a day of rest. Otherwise, the farmers would have had them working all the hours they could get out of them every day of the year all for only six shillings (30p) a week.

When told about Father Christmas, Margaret remembers being absolutely terrified at the thought of a strange man coming into the house. Her sister felt exactly the same. Her mother reluctantly reassured her when she was four and a half years old why she had no reason to fear his presence.

Mike misses going from shop to shop in China Street for a convivial drink on Christmas Eve after 5.30 pm closing time. The hyper commercialisation upsets him too. Although it is his busiest time of year, “it can be depressing when people come into buy presents and, when they see the prices these days, they just cannot afford them. What I really look forward to now is shutting the shop on Christmas Eve and going straight across to the church where anything goes. Anyone can come in and take part. All the children are given a bit of costume – as a shepherd or an angel or something – and a candle and we all have a really good time” ‘ Carol spent some childhood Christmases with his grandparents on the farm in Pant-y-dwr, where particularly after the war, there was no money and nothing to buy. They were not religious and they lived too far from the chapel to walk there. So it was much like any other day. Grandmother baked bread in the oven beside the open fire. Nearly all the food – poultry, eggs, butter, fruit and vegetables – were produced on the farm; and nearly every day people would call for supper. The battery radio was a great thing in the house. But most important of all, people talked and talked. For entertainment on Christmas Eve in town, he remembers going out from the Trewythen Arms after closing time to watch the fights.

Another farmer, with most of his family having flown the nest, is glad to dispense with the competitive spending of Christmas time. His greatest pleasure now comes with the simple home-made gifts from the travellers that pass his way. G. remembers Christmas in Sydney, Australia in 1966 in a temperature of 100º F (38ºC) in the shade. Despite this, traditional European decorations prevailed – artificial fir trees, cotton wool snow, Santa sweltering in red suit, white wig and beard and black wellies. “In the department store where I worked, Christmas coincided that year with an Italian theme week. Their prize exhibit was a full-sized fully endowed plaster replica of Michelangelo’s 16 foot (5 metres) statue of David, planted firmly in the middle of the perfume counter, much to the interest of the local Sydney feminae. I spent most of Christmas Day dutifully with my family exchanging presents and noshing roast turkey and Christmas pud. but, as soon as I decently could, I hi-tailed it back to the city as, this particular year, the US, Canadian, Australian and Royal Navies were exercising in the Coral Sea and all 16,000 sailors were roaming the streets of Sydney looking for a good time. No single girl worth her mini skirt could let that go by without partaking. To cut a long story short, two days later in the company of a ship’s doctor, who looked more like a Greek God than the David, I received my most memorable Christmas present. But taste and decency require that I draw a veil over the details.

Anon, remembers his earliest Christmas, 1944. “London, you may have heard, was receiving sundry nasties from our European chums; and a piece of German hi-tech, that had fallen on our street sometime before, had removed the roof, windows and most of our doors along with 24 lives. The roof was now artfully draped with a tarpaulin and the window glass was replaced with a kind of cardboard. Although most of the doors were back in place, the blast had removed nearly all the lamp shades and most of the curtains. The Christmas tree was a broom handle with twigs tied to it, stuck in a bucket of rubble, which was the only thing in plentiful supply. A doll was tied to the top for a fairy and the decorations were those pre-war ones that had survived the bombing and others made by us children from whatever we could find lying around at the time. The cake I was told later, was made mainly from the contents of a U.S. food parcel (God bless America!). It had no icing, but was adorned with one candle – the 6” type we took to bed – and a sprig of holly from who knows where. I do not remember what presents were given, except for one. Money was even scarcer then, so my uncle Les, ever the comedian, gave everyone a festively wrapped toilet roll – very apt, remembering what had been falling on us out of the sky for the past five years. Despite the gloomy setting, we kids had a thoroughly jolly time that only youthful optimism can deliver. How sad we have to grow up.

Finally, Dorothy remembers at 9 years old her mother still evading the crucial question. Determined to find out, she conceived a fiendish task. She had two dolls – a boy doll and a girl doll. In her letter to him on Christmas Eve she asked Santa to send a set of pink clothing for each of her dolls. When she woke on Christmas day, she knew in her heart the clothes would not be there. But there, on the end of her bed, glowing pink in the pale light of dawn, were a suit for boy doll and a dress for girl doll.

Merry Christmas!

THE WINTER GARDEN by Amber Louise Robinson

The sugar-dusted petals

are blushing in the winter air,

cold and silent

yet so beautiful,

like snow crowning

a marble statue.

They are tired now,

wilting slightly

but standing strong.

‘A weaker winter.’

the flower scoffs,

but perhaps it is,

instead,

A stronger flower

What was in PenCambria: Issue 16 Spring 2011?

The Early Gwalchmai Family : part I Gwalchmai Sais
“Not Much of a Hill”? Lawrence Johnson
The Red Road Gay Roberts
Bunford’s Bus Business at Trefeglwys Brian Poole
Wales and the Essex Rebelllion Mary Oldham
Llanidloes – Its History and Its Historians Diana Brown
Odd? Not really, when you think about it: Put Out to Grass part 5 Diana Ashworth
Leaping the Marteg R.M. Williams
Miss Lizzie Barker: School Mistress Extraordinaire! Brian Lawrence
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 7 Along the Shropshire Border David Jandrell
Roman Roads, Prehistoric Monuments and the Morning Surprise Gay Roberts
A Song of the Scythe Bruce Mawdesley (illustrations by Jane Keay)
Owen Owen: part 3 Gay Roberts
The Stefan Knapp Project Gay Roberts

The Strange Tale of Dai No-Socks Peter A. Tudor
Sharing Secrets & Southwell Cathedral Elizabeth Briggs
To TSE Reginald Massey
Fashionista Tyler Keevil
Bluebell Wood Janet Williams

Editorial PenCambria Issue 16 by Gay Roberts

Well, after the second year in a row of being snowed in for several very wintry weeks following what certainly didn’t seem like one of the hottest summers on record in this part of the world, it is difficult to believe in global warming in mid Wales at the moment. However, this has not put us off getting a very interesting group of articles together for your delight, delectation and edification this Spring.
There can be very few people in Wales who have not come across the beautiful pictures of the artist Jane Keay and I am especially pleased this month to be publishing a set of her drawings illustrating Bruce Mawdesley’s matchless prose in an elegy to the scythe, that once ubiquitous tool that harvested the wheat for our daily bread, the hay to feed cattle and horses and the straw for their bedding, the thatching for our houses and so many other uses.
The great Calvinistic Methodist preacher Humphrey Gwalchmai is legendary in the Non-Conformist tradition of Wales. He was born to a Montgomeryshire family and one of his English descendants, Gwalchmai Sais begins a family history and opens this edition of PenCambria with an introduction to the 17th century members of this dynasty.
In a fascinating speculation as the meaning of the name of Pumlumon/Plynlimon or any other orthographic variant, Lawrence Johnson takes us on a trip through the bogs of etymology and tradition as well as those in the wilds of the Cambrian mountains where the unwary can get sucked in as much by the mire of myriad meanings as they can by the peat.
Bunford’s at Trefeglwys was one of those small bus services scattered throughout the country that we all took for granted and to whose fate and service to our communities we never gave a thought as we bought our cars and drove off down the highway of history. Alun Bunford has talked to Brian Poole about his father’s business and provided a nostalgic set of photographs with views which I know many of you will enjoy.
It can’t be many articles that begin with an early 17th century hanging, drawing and quartering and Mary Oldham captures vividly the mood of the rebellion by the Earl of Essex as he attempted to seize the throne from Queen Elizabeth I, supported by two Welshmen from the Marches, Robert Vaughan and Sir Gelli Meyrick, the latter whose fate it was to suffer this end.
Dr David Stephenson’s recently published book, Llanidloes: a history, is the latest in a line of books seeking to define Llanidloes through its history, each one adding to the knowledge of its predecessor. In an article by Diana Brown each of these historians and their work are assessed and each one gives a fascinating glimpse into world that they knew and the history that they themselves had researched.
Continuing their adventures renovating a hill farm in the hills of Llawryglyn, our retired couple have now got the roof on and daughter, who is not country-savvy in the ways in which her mother is now totally au fait (!), come to stay.
The perils of country walking around St Harmon are also vividly described in a fishy little tale by R.M. Williams, a newcomer to our merry band of scribes and whose tales I look forward to reading a great deal more in PenCambria in the future.
Brian Lawrence introduces us to Miss Lizzie Barker, the school mistress of Bwlchysarnau who forsook our beautiful Radnorshire hills for the wilds of South Africa to teach the Boer children in the concentration camps there.
On Stage 7 of the Hafren Circuit David Jandrell takes us out of Wales on a brief diversion into Shropshire, along the Vyrnwy from Llanymynech to Crewgreen..
Two years ago Bob Silvester of Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust gave one of the most interesting talks it has been my privilege to hear, all about Roman roads, prehistoric sites and squatter settlements (tai nos) in mid Wales. Based on his talk, I have written and article which I do hope you will enjoy it as much as I did listening to the original.
We come to the final part of Owen Owen’s biography when Owen having consolidated his success in business turns his eye to marriage, children and finally returning in some measure to his birthplace in Machynlleth.
Cathy Knapp has now established her sculpture park, housing the collection of Stefan Knapp at Mid Wales Art Centre and you can read all about him, his works and all the other events going on there and elsewhere in mid Wales this summer.
The Dragon’s Crypt contains a feast of poetry, a toe dipped into the murky waters of the Paris fashion scene and the strange tale of Dai No-socks.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 14 Summer 2010?

A Worker’s Paradise!!! Brian Lawrence
Hamers and Hughes Families: book review Gay Roberts
The Abermule Train Crash – post script Transcribed by Brian Poole
The Dylife Postbus Lawrence Johnson
Madame Despard Gay Roberts with E. Ronald Morris
Put Out to Grass: Episode 3 Hi-Ho! Farm Electrics Diana Ashworth
A Peculiar Hissing Sound in Rock Park
Freemen of Llanidloes Diana Brown
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 5 Around Lake Vyrnwy David Jandrell
Hare and Hounds Gay Roberts
Robert Owen John Harrison
Owen Owen by David Wyn Davies: part 1 of a detailed synopsis Gay Roberts
Radnorshire: A Historical Guide by Donald Gregory part I of a detailed synopsis
Gay Roberts
“Those Were The Days” at Llandrindod Joel Williams
Medieval Chatelaines of Powis Castle part 4 David Stephenson
A Family Affair/Pagans & Polytopes Gay Roberts
Ty Duw Bruce Mawdesley

Life Support Tyler Keevil
Midsummer Janet Williams
The Shepherd Over The Water Norma Allen

Editorial PenCambria Issue 14 by Gay Roberts

Once again we have a journal packed full of good things which I hope you will find interesting. Some of our writers are new; some are familiar friends. As ever, some pages will make you think, some will make you chuckle, some will bring a glow of reminiscence, some
will offer you something totally new.
The construction of the Elan Valley dams in the 19th century brought in a huge number of workers all of whom had to be housed, fed and cared for. In order to attract the best quality of workman a model village was built at Llanwrthwl and an insurance scheme set up to provide top quality care paid for via premiums taken out of the men’s wages. Brian Lawrence has researched this aspect of the project and provides a fascinating insight into the lives and the health of the men who worked on these dams.
Joyce Hamer has put together the family history of the Hamer and Hughes families of Newtown and Llanidloes in a book which is a model of how to present such research in both an informative and an interesting way. One member of the family went to the site of Great Train Crash at Abermule in 1921. He wrote an account of it to his daughter who was studying at Bangor Normal College at the time and Joyce has very kindly allowed me to print it for you.
With friends in the area, Lawrence Johnson has been a frequent visitor to mid Wales for many years much of which he has spent walking the hills and the valleys, which he probably knows better than many of us who spend all our lives travelling them by car. His first venture into the wilds of PenCambria is his reminiscences of the round trip to Dylife by bus from Llanidloes.
Llanidloes has rightly been proud of the part it has played in the history of social reform and the Chartist movement. However, this did not extend en masse to supporting for votes for women. The esteemed suffragette Madame Charlotte Despard got a very rough ride when she came to the town and you can read all about that with grateful thanks to E. Ronald Morris who proved me with the information.
Meanwhile the Freemen of Llanidloes had a much more respectful reception as Diana Brown discovered from family papers and as reported in The Montgomeryshire Times.
The retired lady and gentleman from Llawryglyn find themselves at the mercy of their ancient electrics whilst converting their barn in this episode of Put Out To Grass.
The Hafren Circuit takes us around Lake Vyrnwy and up to Llangynog, taking in the Anne Griffiths Walk to Dolanog, the glimpse of wild Snowdonia at Bwlch-y-groes and the beautiful Pennant Melangell. I have also included an impression I wrote of the visit to Pennant Melangell and Llanyblodwel with the Arwystli Society several years ago. Bruce Mawdesley finds a similar peace on the Llyn Peninsular.
This month we come to the final essay on Robert Owen, this one by John Harrison who discusses the great man and the communities he founded.
Owen Owen by David Wyn Davies and Radnorshire: an Historical Guide by Donald Gregory are two books which I hope will interest you and I have begun a detailed synopsis of each one this month.
Dr David Stephenson takes us into the Grey areas of Powis Castle with Jane Orwell proving as attractive and fertile to Edward Grey, then Lord Powis, as another Jane, this one Grey by descent, was at the same time proving to be to the English monarch of Welsh descent, Henry VIII.
Joel Williams revives some more memories of Llandrindod Wells in summer.
An exciting new addition to the arts world in mid Wales is the Maesmawr Arts Centre at Caersws. Opened in October 2008 it is really on its feet now and you can read all about in this edition. To complement this article you can also read all about the Wade family of Tylwch all of whom are artists in their own special way and who all took part in a family exhibition in June this year at Maesmawr, each one displaying their own original talents.
Summertime is festival time and of the huge number to pick from I have chosen two each of a very different character to tell you about: the Machynlleth Festival which includes art and music of the highest quality; and at Pontrhydfendigaid is the Festival in the Shire which is devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings, hobbits and all things to do with Middle Earth. A new trail around sixteen relatively undiscovered places of worship in North Montgomeryshire, Living Stones, was inaugurated in May and I am sure many of you will be keen to go on that too. I have also included brief details of walks organised in and around the
Elan Valley by the Elan Valley Trust and those further afield, Trail Tempters 2010, by Powys County Council.
Meanwhile for those of you with Arthurian interests, Old Oswestry Landscape and Archaeology Project are holding a seminar in October entitled A Time For Arthur? Western Britain Without the Romans. This should be a real treat.
In The Dragon’s Crypt after his tour de force with Murray the Hump this month Tyler Keevil takes a well earned breather with a short story all about the tenacity of life; Janet Williams finds poetry in midsummer; and finally Norma Allen gives the Second Branch of the Mabinogion, the tale of Branwen and Llyr, a modern day twist.

What was in PenCambria Issue 12 Winter 2009?

“And Now ‘Bryn Calfaria and Thank You’ ,Llanidloes SS Male Voice Choir Richard Meredith
Llanwnog Church from a talk by Dr David Stephenson transcribed by Diana Brown
The Millsiaid of Llanidloes Cynthia Mills
The Old Hall Air Crash Diana Brown
The Hafren Circuit: Stage 3 Wye Valley and Plynlimon David Jandrell
Put Out to Grass: A Mid Wales Retirement Part 1 Iolos Revenge Diana Ashworth
Eden in Wild Wales Gay Roberts
Memories of Hafod and Peacocks in Paradise Reginald Massey
Robert Owen and Trade Unionism John Butt
More Winter Memories from Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams
The Medieval Chatelaines of Powis Castle: Part I The Lady of Cyfeiliog Dr David Stephenson
The Welsh People in Patagonia: Part 3 David Burkhill-Howarth
The Welsh in Iowa: Book Review Gay Roberts
Brennin Llwyd David and Mark Burkhill-Howarth
The Gentleman Hood: part 11 Conspiring with the enemies Tyler Keevil

Dog Tags Brian L. Roberts
Vespers Bruce Mawdesley
Radnor Vale Janet Williams
Last Reminisce Gail Standen
Winter Doves Janet Williams

Editorial PenCambria Issue 12 by Gay Roberts

We start this issue on rather a sad note, I am afraid. David Burkhill-Howarth whose has been such a staunch and enthusiastic contributor since he first came across PenCambria in 2006 has died after a long battle against cancer. Indeed, it was only because of his and Michael and Diana Brown’s enthusiasm and willingness to take over much of the editorial work that I was able to start PenCambria again in 2008.
In the spring of 2008 I chanced across David in the Great Oak Café in Llanidloes. He was recovering from chemotherapy and looking for a new project to keep his mind active and when I suggested, never really expecting he would say yes, that he could take over the editorial responsibility and get PenCambria back on its feet again, he jumped at the chance. Six months previously I had asked Michael if he would like to become the Richard Ingrams of Mid Wales by doing the very same thing and within a week of his agreeing he had been struck down by an illness which prevented him from taking on such a task. However, he was partially on the road to recovery when I asked David and the two of them, with Diana, came to a very satisfactory arrangement. Michael and Diana would concentrate on local subjects and David would cover the wider topics, which he has done in such an interesting way with the history of the Welsh in Patagonia.
His articles were full of information and he always wrote in a direct, easy to read manner, tinged with humour where appropriate. He originally presented me with his ‘credentials’ in the form of a three-part exploration of the 1921 Abermule train crash, which resulted in a world-wide system of rules governing single track railways. This was his first contribution and it was published in PenCambrias 6, 7 and 8. His first piece after the relaunch was an account of a walk he had undertaken in the Ratgoed Valley. He then began a major opus on
the history of Welsh people in Patagonia, such an interesting series about a Welsh migration that most us probably have heard about but know little or nothing of the details. I have certainly learned a lot about this, knowing absolutely nothing before except that Patagonia was just above Tierra del Fuego at the foot of South America on the Atlantic side. His own interest in it was kindled many years ago when he was there in person. Although he never said as such, I think that PenCambria gave him the opportunity to write about his knowledge and experiences of this remote finger of the continent and to bring it to people’s attention in a way that he had not been able to before.
This edition contains the third part in the series along with something in a lighter, yet darker vein. Cader Idris is famous, or rather notorious for the legends and strange experiences that many have when they climb that craggy mountain. Perhaps the most well-known is that anyone spending the night on its summit will come down either mad or a poet. A few years ago David’s two sons, Mark and Gareth, did indeed spend the night on Cader Idris and his last article is an account of that night taken from the notes that Mark kept of their excursion. This issue of PenCambria, which is dedicated to David’s memory, is published on 31st October 2009, Hallowe’en, and a very appropriate day for such tale.
I shall miss David’s writing very much as I think he was just beginning to get into his stride with PenCambria. Fortunately I am very pleased to tell you that Mark and Gareth are very keen not only to finish the work he had in hand but also to write for us on their own account. Mark’s interest in Welsh folklore I know will be a great asset and I really look forward to hearing more from them.
There is a musical note to some of this edition with Cynthia Mills account of the Millsiad, the well-known family of ‘musical Mills’ in Llanidloes, coupled with Richard Meredith’s history of the Llanidloes Social Service Male Voice Choir. Close by, Diana Brown tells us about the 1947 aeroplane crash at Old Hall. We have an account of the Arwystli Society’s visit to Llanwnog Church in 2008 with Dr David Stephenson who also begins a series on the medieval Chatelaines of Powis Castle beginning with the feisty Hawise, wife of Gruffudd ab Gwenwynwyn. We have the first in highly entertaining series by Diana Buck of her experiences of coming to Wales two years ago and settling in as a novice farmer in Llawr-y-glyn. The Robert Owen Museum in Newtown has kindly allowed me to print the second of the essays in their booklet: Professor John Butt’s essay on Robert Owen and Trade Unionism. Joel Williams sends us some more winter memories of Llandrindod Wells. With David Jandrell we travel Stage 3 of the Hafren Circuit: from Abbey Cwm Hir to Llanidloes with a trip around the Hafren forest to Plynlimon and the source of the river Severn. Hafod, near Cwmystwyth, is one of mid Wales’ verdant miracles. Based on Peacocks in Paradise by Elizabeth Inglis Jones Reginald Massey tells us about Thomas Johnes, who occupied it and built it up to the sylvan spectacle it became in the 18th century while I have provided a background history of life in the valley and the Cardiganshire uplands. Two more books to read are Bob Pitcher’s novel In At the Deep End and, continuing with our American connections, Cheryl A Walley has written a book about the Welsh migrations to Iowa entitled The Welsh in Iowa which I have reviewed; and Tyler Keevil reveals just how Murray the Hump helped to get John F. Kennedy elected. In The Dragon’s Crypt we are in reflective mood as Brian L. Roberts tells us a story for Armistice Day about a First World War find, complementing a piece by Bruce Mawdlsey reflecting on a pilot he knew during World War Two. Janet Williams finds enchantment in the Radnor Vale and Gail Standen offers a last reminisce.

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.

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 6 Autumn 2006?

Life in Radnorshire Eileen Williams

“Are You Church or Chapel?” – part III Michael Brown

Bob Hyde Rachael Jones

The Deadly Tablet: The 1921 Abermule Train Crash – part I David Burkhill-Howarth

Working at the Post Office in the Winter of 1947 Joel Williams

The Llanfyllin Union Workhouse John Hainsworth

Town Planning in the Upper Severn Valley – Medieval Style Dr David Stephenson

The Use of Modern Technology for Research Rachael Jones

Caersws, Moat Lane and the Cambrian Railways Brian Poole

The Gentleman Hood – part V Tyler Keevil

The Great Mid Wales Land Grab – part III Gay Roberts

A Trip to the Old Homestead Eileen Williams

Rain? Diana Ashworth
Song of the Van Cynthia Mills
A Cat’s Party Harry M. Scharff
Do You Remember the Gooseberries? Norma Allen
A Woman’s Prerogative Ellen Hywater

Editorial PenCambria Issue 6 by Gay Roberts

Well, after one of the hottest summers ever, it seems as though we are plunging earlier than ever into the cold of winter. If any of you have memories of Wales during notable weather periods I shall be very happy to publish them. The winters of 1947, 1963 and 1980-2 are the ones that spring to mind immediately, as well as the summer of 1976, which I mentioned briefly in the last edition. I was not here in 1947 or 1963, but I remember the early 1980s vividly. For several weeks over the 1980-1 winter months, temperatures dropped to -23 degrees centigrade – it was far too cold to work it out in Fahrenheit – and many trees were killed by the resulting permafrost. Diesel turned to jelly and drivers were lighting fires under their vehicles to get the engines warm enough to turn over. In 1982 temperatures dropped to about – 18°C and on the night of Thursday 5th January it snowed a blizzard. We woke up to a world of white and Llanidloes was cut off from the outside world by a 10 foot snowdrift down the pitch. With no daytime warmth to melt the top of the snow and form a nice crisp covering the snow stayed powdery. On the Friday morning I had to walk the four miles from Tylwch to Llangurig, with sledge, to get cat food and other supplies. On the Saturday I had to walk the same distance, with sledge, to Llani to get chicken feed. Once I was on the A470, it was easy, but walking the two miles there from the house – our normal B-road was out of the question – was like wading through talcum powder.
This month’s main feature is the Abermule train crash of 1921. David Burkhill-Howarth has written a very lively, detailed and comprehensive account of this disaster, which is known throughout the world wherever there is a single line railway system. It is published in two parts and in this issue he deals with the events leading up to the crash. David is one of the five new writers who I am very pleased to welcome this month.
Eileen Williams is a native of Radnorshire and has written two delightful pieces about rural life in the county. The first gives an insight into the medical practices, smock-making and wife-selling in the “good old days”; the second is of a chance visit she made to yours truly in the summer. Her grandmother had lived in my house and as part of the family continuity, she wished to show it to her daughter and granddaughter, who came with her. We had a very pleasant afternoon and I am pleased to say that she has agreed to write for us.
Diane Ashworth is a newcomer to Mid Wales, but she has certainly got the feel of the place and the language. The fluidity of her prose flows from her pen – or keyboard – onto the paper like the rain she has observed so imaginatively permeating Wales and its culture.
Harry Scharff came across PenCambria on a visit Llanbadarn Fynydd while his wife was looking for her Welsh ancestors. A talented writer, Harry’s muse, dormant for sometime, has been re-awakened by the idea of The Dragon’s Crypt and his first story for us, The Cat’s Party, will, in its way, remind many of you, I am sure, of the French film, La Ronde.
Ellen Hywater shows how internet dating should be approached with caution.
Of our established team, Michael Brown brings the story of the China Street organ to a rousing finish. Many of you will, I know, be aware of the campaign to restore and preserve the Llanfyllin Workhouse, Y Dolydd, and John Hainsworth, who wrote that very moving tribute to the men of the North Wales slate quarries in the last issue, is one of the leading lights in this campaign, which he tells us all about in this issue. Railways are Brian Poole’s passion and this month he goes into the rise and fall of the railways in Mid Wales, the subsequent development of the bus services and the importance of Caersws and Moat Lane as the gateway to the rest of Wales and the Marches. Joel Williams takes us back to the winter of 1947 in Llandrindod Wells.
In her previous article re-creating an early 20th century walk to Madog’s Wells, Rachael included a picture of Dr Bob Hyde. For this issue she has sent us a profile of Dr Hyde whose extraordinary career has brought him to the bookshop in Knighton. This was previously published in Mensa Magazine. She has also written of her experiences tracing a family through the internet, a very popular pastime these days. As part of the studies for her MA in Local History, she was recently awarded a distinction for her project on the historical significance of the Devon landscape in comparison with the Llanidloes area of the Montgomeryshire landscape, for which, Rachael, our heartiest congratulations.
Dr David Stephenson gives us an insight into how our towns in the Severn Valley were planned. Logaston Press have published some fine books on the architecture and prehistory of Wales this year and you can read all about these too. Tyler Keevil has delved even deeper into the murky world of 1930s Chicago with Murray the Hump. Finally we emerge to draw a welcome breath of clean Mid Wales air with Norma Allen reminiscing about gooseberries and Cynthia Mills lifting our eyes, voices and hearts to the hills.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 1 Spring 2005?

Proud to be Radical – A look at the radical past of Llanidloes Gay Roberts

Newtown Textile Museum Gay Roberts with Eva Bredersdorf

You Can’t Have Any More, There’s a War on Gay Roberts with Carroll Davies
The Gaol Breakers of Presteigne Keith Parker
The Mystery of Mathraval Dr. David Stephenson
Arwystli – the Key to Wales Gay Roberts
The Pantydwr Patient – Reflections of the NHS in Mid-Wales Jonathan Sleigh
The Marion A. Mills Collection Cynthia Mills
In Search of General Jones Nick Venti

Haiku Reginald Massey
Anchorage Tyler Keevil
Blaidd Spirit Matt Maus

Pen Cambria Issue 1 Editorial by Gay Roberts
“To begin at the beginning”, to quote Dylan Thomas, welcome to PenCambria.
What is and why PenCambria? I hear you ask. PenCambria is a magazine devoted to local history, heritage, culture and fiction all centredon Mid Wales, i.e. Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire. Pen being both Welsh for above and English for a writing tool, Cambria being Wales and the arched lettering being a symbolic pictogram of our beautiful hill countryside.
There is a huge interest in history with new books and television programmes every day, but they are nearly all about great events and grand people that have influenced the nation or the world. While they draw us in a general way, we all want to know about what has happened in our part of the world. What makes our town or village tick. In many ways it is an extension of the gossip factor. But this is usually too parochial for the national media unless there is some other factor to interest them.
Mid-Wales is quite an extraordinary place. It has given birth to people and ideas whose ideas have influenced nations and who have formed major communities abroad, particularly in the United States of America. The people who live here travel widely but wouldn’t live anywhere else. It attracts people from all over the world to on its uplands and in its valleys; and yet the current tranquillityof its hills hides ancient struggles for power as bloody as any by comparison over the border in England. The Romans, the Saxons, the Normans and the English have all left their marks of conquest – as you will find out in these pages.
But history is not just about the large picture. It is also about the small, local, family events. So many people spend their time researching some corner of their locality, a particular person or family, perhaps, maybe the history of a building or an incident that happened long ago. Perhaps they might publish a book about it. They often attract an audience at the local historical or cultural group. But very often they deserve to reach a wider readership. It is also about contemporary experiences being recorded for tomorrow’s historians. And that is where PenCambria comes in.
There is also a huge wealth of creative talent in the area and that certainly deserves an outlet and by including a section with short stories, poetry and other literary material, maybe PenCambria can bring these artists and writers to the attention of an appreciative readership.
If there is a preponderance of articles about Llanidloes in this issue, it is because PenCambria is Llani-based and it is Llanidloes people and events that have got this magazine off the ground and on to the shelves. In this regard I should like to pay tribute to Carroll Davis, who has always given me unstinting support in my writing activities, and whose boyhood wartime memories you will read about a little further on. Sadly Carroll died before PenCambria came to fruition and so I would like to dedicate this issue is to his memory. I hope it will inspire many more of you with interests in the wider areas of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire to want to write for us.
This is a magazine which I hope will appeal to people with a wide range of interests, particularly in local affairs and who like, above all, a good read.
Like planning a menu for a good meal, there will be articles you can dip into for a bit of a taster and there will articles you will want to linger over, to give more thought to. There are some really meaty ones, some a bit lighter and sweeter, some a bit tangy and then there is the bombe surprise at the end.
So, settle down in your favourite chair, take the phone off the hook and enjoy your read. Gay Roberts