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 29 Summer 2015?

Issue 29 Introduction and Contents at a glance

INTRODUCTION 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 CONTENTS

ROD Brian Poole 

Victory in Europe –  VE Day in Mid Wales Diana Ashworth

Blood and Fire Lawrence Johnson

A Legacy in Stone, Bricks & Mortar Richard Meredith

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

George Marshall book review Gwen Prince

Bryn Tail Cottage Richard Fryer

A Local Gladstone vs Disraeli Diana Brown

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

The Story of Jo Andy Scrase

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

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

New Publications reviewed:

Dolanog – Village on the Vyrnwy

From the Newtown Local History Group

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

–  Letters from the Front 1914-1918 Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn

From the RCAHMW:

Welsh Slate: Archaeology and History of an Industry

  The Dragons Crypt

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

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

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

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

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

LINES FROM LLANI

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

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

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

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

Reginald Massey

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 28 Spring 2015?

Issue 28 Introduction and Contents at a glance 

IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL BROWN

Dear PenCambrians

This issue is dedicated to the memory of Michael Brown, one of our great contributors and staunchest supporters who passed away in February this year after a long illness. Michael brightened our pages for many issues from 2006 starting with “Are You Church Or Chapel?”, his witty account of the installation of the organ in the Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Llanidloes in numbers 4-6. He then went into creative writing and produced some fine stories:  Midge Bellingham (number 11), about a woman who unwittingly falls foul of the Race Relations Act; Margaret Collier (number 13), a woman who has to make a decision to help out an old friend; and The Princess Who Was Vain (numbers 9 and 10), a wonderfully Gothic tale about the search for a suitable suitor for a princess who was a martyr to her own vanity.

In 2008 Michael was poised to take on a major editorial role with PenCambria when he had a massive stroke which severely curtailed his verbal communication both in speech and writing and so that never happened. Instead we have been so lucky that his wife Diana has put her own not inconsiderable talent at the disposal of the magazine and she has written regularly for us since then, and to some of those articles Michael was able to make a contribution.

When I first asked him if he would like to take over the editorial side of PenCambria, working with David Burkhill-Howarth, I suggested that he might like to become the Richard Ingrams of mid Wales, as I saw PenCambria as somewhat in mould of The Oldie. He laughed and agreed to it. Diana told me that it was a few days later when he was wondering if he should take it on that he had his stroke, and she commented “Well, you didn’t need to go that far to get out of it.” He will be much missed. An appreciation Reginald Massey follows this introduction.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and Our Roll of Honour commemorates Private David Bennett Jones of Llanwnog, who sacrificed his life as a Chindit in that often forgotten campaign in Burma. We are profoundly grateful to his niece, Linda Evans for introducing him to us.

Sacrifices of a different sort continue the theme this month as Lawrence Johnson and Brian Lawrence remind us of those communities that lost their lands to, among other things the great reservoirs of mid Wales created to supply the water and electricity needs of west Wales and the City of Birmingham. Lawrence reminds us of so many places that Wales has lost by inundation. Meanwhile Brian cordially  invites us, courtesy of the City of Birmingham Water Department, to the King Edward VII’s visit to Rhayader on 21st July 1904 on the occasion of His Majesty’s Inauguration of the New Water Supply in the Elan Valley.

Trefeglwys celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its Eisteddfod this year and Margaret Jones traces this history of this remarkable cultural event along with a short history of this once pivotally important community.

When the going gets tough the girls go shopping and Val Church provides a bit of retail and entertainment therapy Victorian style.

This year is the 175th Anniversary of the Chartist Riot in Llanidloes and in the 2nd chapter of his booklet, Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40 Ronald Morris describes the situation leading up to this event. Llanidloes was politically charged at this time and the ruling classes were very uneasy.

Michael Apichela takes us much further afield, to Pennsylvania, where there is a large and fiercely enthusiastic Welsh immigrant community.

Our retired gentleman at Llawryglyn buys a second hand digger and the culvert burst its banks into the field after a particularly heavy downpour – thank heavens for the digger – if he can get it to work!

Spring is here and the activity centres are opening their doors. So there are lots of things happening to satisfy the needs of the mind and the body.

In The Dragon’s Crypt, taking inspiration from various sources of the voyage of the Mimosa, the ship that took so many immigrants from Wales Patagonia 150 years ago to start a new life, Norma Allen has created a fictional diary that brings home so poignantly what those voyagers must have experienced. Part 1 is in this edition. Amber Louise Robinson sings a song in silence. Finally Bruce Mawdesley presents a paean to the Trannon Valley, illustrated once again by Jane Keay whose beautiful drawings I am so pleased to be able publish once again

Gay Roberts, Editor

 

CONTENTS 

Michael Mackenzie Brown – an appreciation Reginald Massey

Roll of Honour: Private 14639680 David Bennett Jones – Chindit Linda Evans

Drowned Worlds Lawrence Johnson

Making Waves – Events along the Montgomery Canal

Trefeglwys: the 100th Eisteddfod (2015) Margaret Jones

Bryn Tail Cottage Invitation Richard Fryer

Clywedog Bus Services Brian Poole

Shopping & Entertainment for Young Ladies in the 19th Century Val Church

Boo Boo Mawdesley-Bevis Requiescat in pace Tom Lines, illustration John Selly

Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40, Chapter 1 E. Ronald Morris

A Very Special Day Brian Lawrence

The Welsh in Pennsylvania Michael Apichela

The School Bus Run from Y Fan to Staylittle Brian Poole

Put Out To Grass : part 15: The Big Freeze Diana Ashworth.

Stretching the Mind & Body

–        Gregynog Festival

–        Mid Wales Arts Centre

–        Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

–        Mid Wales Events Horizon

 

  The Dragons Crypt

Mimosa Journal  Norma Allen

A Song in Silence  Amber Luise Robinson

Trannon Bruce Mawdesley, illustration Jane Keay

Article submission

For each issue we select one article to be published on the website. The following is the first part of a riveting piece of creative writing, based on historical fact, by Norma (one of our regular contributors and a member of the editorial team).  

MIMOSA JOURNAL Part 1  by Norma Allen 

In May 2015, it will be one hundred and fifty years since the Mimosa; a Clipper[1] converted to a Barque, set sail from Liverpool to Patagonia. The ship carried around one hundred and sixty people from all over Wales who were seeking a new life in Argentina, South America. These included Abraham Matthews, a Minister, born in Llanidloes in 1832, along with his wife Gwenllian from Aberdare and their daughter Mary Annie, born in 1865 in Merthyr Tydfil.

The story of what led to this journey as well as what happened when they arrived in Patagonia, some seven thousand miles and two months later, has been well documented.  Pencambria published a very informative and interesting article in two parts written by the late David Burkhill-Howarth in 2009 on both the journey and the start of the colony in Patagonia. There is a wealth of material online and further reading in Susan Wilkinson’s two books. I have drawn heavily upon her book, ‘Mimosa –The life and times of the ship that sailed to Patagonia’ for much of the factual detail which enabled me to construct the fictional journal (see details below).

Several of the travellers kept diaries or journals giving some account of life on board. Although the journal that follows is based on facts known about the voyage, together with mention of the names of some of the passengers and crew, you will not find any Edith Pryce or her brother Elwyn on the passenger list for the Mimosa, as they are fictional characters.

References

Burkill-Howarth, David, The Welsh People in Patagonia – Article: Parts 1 and 2, 2009.

Pencambria, Issues 10 and 11.

Wilkinson, Susan, 2007. Mimosa – The life & times of the ship that sailed to Patagonia

Y Lolfa, Ceredigion ISBN: 9 78086243 952 3

Wilkinson, Susan, 2007. Mimosa’s Voyages –Official Logs, Crew Lists and Masters.

Y Lolfa, Ceredigion ISBN -13: 9 780 86243 983 5

www. glaniad.com/ The voyage of the Mimosa, 1865

Edith Pryce’s Journal 

Thursday May 25th 1865 At last we have been let on board the Mimosa and will sail out of Liverpool as soon as the tides are right. I fear our journey will not be a pleasant one for our quarters are cramped and barely adequate for all the people travelling. The sleeping quarters for single men, and for women and their families, are separate. We are on the main deck with our own communal washing area; the men are on a lower deck and kept away from us by iron bars and separate hatches to the upper deck, so I am parted from my brother Elwyn at night. We each have a narrow bunk with communal washing area. There is no privacy and only four privies to serve us all. We have brought our bundles of blankets and pots with us but any other possessions must be stored in the hold. It will have to be endured though and surely cannot be worse than the hardships we have borne in our lives already.

Elwyn is barely seventeen and a sickly lad. I pray he will make the journey without any further illness. We lost our parents and two younger sisters to the fever and I was barely able to scrape a living for us both as a servant. As soon as I heard about this trip to Patagonia through our chapel, I was determined we should go. We did not have enough to buy the tickets for it was twelve pounds for each of us, but our chapel helped us out and we will repay it when we can.  The rest of our savings was used up in Liverpool where we have had to wait four long weeks before the ship was ready. It is only through the kindness and generosity of others waiting to travel that we managed to remain. Some families had to give up and return home as they had no more money or any means of getting any.

We are promised one hundred acres of land for each family and even though Elwyn isn’t strong, I am in good health and only in my early twenties. I believe he will thrive in a better climate and will rise to the challenge. It has been hard to leave our relatives and friends, knowing we may never see them or the land of our birth again. Yet, we are told it is the chance for a new start where we Welsh will make a land for ourselves and will not have to obey the English parliament, who some say, want to stamp out our language and culture.

Sunday May 28th 1865 This morning the Red Dragon of Wales was raised and we all sang an anthem in welsh to the tune of God Save the Queen. Mimosa was attached to a steam tug, the anchor was raised and with the help of a pilot who knew these waters well, we were steered safely out of the estuary into the ocean.

Elwyn and I, along with many others, watched the Perch Rock Lighthouse recede with a mixture of excitement and fear. Like most of the other passengers, neither of us had been much beyond our village in Wales, near Bala, before we travelled to Liverpool and it was difficult not to wish for a return to everything that was familiar to us. I have had little rest for the last two nights for there is so much noise and restlessness in our sleeping quarters. Several of the families have babies and young children and it seems as soon as one child stops bawling, another begins.

Captain Pepperell conducted a short, Anglican service this morning. Sunday School was arranged for the children this afternoon and this evening we are to have a non-conformist service. But the water has been rough all day, the ship plunges and rises constantly and we passengers who are unused to sailing are suffering from bouts of seasickness. Some are more afflicted than others. I cannot decide whether to go on the deck to get air and grow nauseous as I see the movement of the waves or to lie on my bunk below with others who are constantly vomiting.  Elwyn is struggling but I hope we will soon become accustomed to the movement.

Monday May 29th  At four this morning, those of us who had fallen into a fitful slumber were awakened by a great storm –– the wind roared, the rain was torrential and the ship was buffeted like a matchbox by the waves. Nearly everyone was sick and lay clinging to his or her bunk –– the infants wailing and the younger children sobbing with terror.  Most of us were frightened for our lives as the timbers creaked and groaned around us.  I worried about my brother on the lower deck. I cannot find out how he is doing while we are all in our own quarters. We did not know if the Mimosa would withstand the onslaught. We were only just off the Anglesey coast and heard a life-boat had put out to take us back to shore but Captain Pepperell refused the help and we struggled on. All I wish at this moment is we were back home. Our roof may have been leaking and there were draughts through the windows but at least the floor remained still. We are told by the crew who are well accustomed to such storms, that we will soon get our sea-legs.

Tuesday May 30th  The storm had abated by morning light and the Mimosa is now in full sail. We passed the Scilly Isles, Cornwall and the Irish coast under clear skies. Everyone is feeling better and there is a cheerier atmosphere, even though the women have had a day of it clearing up after yesterday’s sickness. This is no easy task as we are allowed to wash clothes and bedding on only two days a week, fortunately this was one of them. We have to put everything in large tubs of sea-water on deck. The washing comes out cleaner but dries as stiff as boards and our hands are already chapped and raw. I feel for the babies in their stiffened diapers and the infants with their tender skin. Elwyn managed to come out onto the communal deck this afternoon. I was much relieved to see him with a little colour in his cheeks. He complains little but I know he’s having a hard time. He is one of the younger ones and unused to the rough language and ways of some of the other men.

Friday June 2nd  The ship is sailing well now and we are off the Bay of Biscay. We have had some celebration today for Lewis Humphreys, one of the three ministers on board, married William Hughes and Ann Lewis, both from Abergynolwyn. They are not young, both in their thirties, I believe and Ann is with child. They could have wed earlier but perhaps decided they would like to do it on board the Mimosa, as they sailed out to a new life together. Elwyn is feeling more settled now the sea is calmer and is no longer vomiting. His health is benefitting from the sea air too and he talks excitedly of how it will be when we get to Patagonia.

Thursday June 8th In the last day or two we have all been anxious about little Catherine, the two- year-old daughter of Robert and Mary Thomas from Bangor, who is suffering from a bad dose of croup. The doctor, Thomas Greene, has moved the child to the sick cabin and applies warm fomentations to her throat to try to alleviate the spasms. One or both parents are in attendance at all times but it is pitiful to hear the child’s hoarse, croaking cries. We all pray for her.

Friday June 9th   All our praying and the best efforts of the doctor could not save the child. Little Catherine died today. My heart goes out to her grief-stricken parents.

Saturday June 10th  At ten o’clock this morning the child was buried at sea. She was placed in a special box weighted with stones at one end and cast overboard. Captain Pepperell read the prayer book service for the burial of the dead. Catherine’s parents could scarce contain themselves as the coffin slipped into the ocean. Her mother clung to the hand of the child’s five-year-old sister as if nothing would ever part them.  All passengers and crew were in attendance and there were many tear-streaked faces and all in sombre mood.

If that was not enough to bear, worse came late this evening when we heard that James, the two-year-old son of Aaron and Rachel Jenkins, had also died. The child was suffering from some hideous disease that causes gangrenous inflammation of the face and sometimes afflicts young children. It may have been a merciful release for the child, since I’ve heard the cheeks redden and swell as the insides of the mouth slough away. Certainly, we have all noticed the foul odour emanating from the child. His mother is heavy with another pregnancy and we pray the shock will not have caused any harm to her unborn child.

Sunday June 11th This morning, Mary Jones from Mountain Ash went into labour. The doctor moved her to the cabin serving as a hospital but we were all able to hear her screams and howls as the birth progressed. It put some of the other women in mind of their birthing pains and we had also to endure their gory descriptions of blood loss, still births, babies strangled by the birthing cord and so on. I went up on deck when I could endure it no longer. There was nothing to view but the vast expanse of ocean with a few sea birds flying high above but the day was clear and the air felt fresh. I went back below to hear the welcome sound of the infant’s first cries.  It is a boy and he is to be called Morgan. We were all greatly cheered by the news after yesterday’s tragedies.

Tuesday June 13th We are now in the Tropics and have just passed the island of Madeira. It is as if we have entered another world. The heat is overwhelming and the ocean is a sparkling expanse below the blue sky. There was a wondrous sunset last night. It is hard to describe the glowing colours in the sky as the sun slipped below the horizon. Although we were a few miles away we could see the island through the crystal clear air  –– whitewashed houses with palm-frond roofs and other hovels which seemed to be made of gorse. The sand is bleached white and we can see terraced plantations laid out across the hillsides. We have all been out on deck despite the heat but there are reddened faces and forearms now and many of the children are whimpering as their tender skin peels, many parents having paid no heed to the doctor’s advice to keep the youngsters covered and out of the sun.

Thursday June 15th Today we saw the Canary Islands and the mountain of Tenerife in the distance. I am thankful to our father, who was a scholar and a schoolmaster before he became sick and we fell on hard times, who made sure to give all his children an education. It means I do have some knowledge of where we are in the world and how far we have travelled. We make progress but I know we have many more weeks on board the ship before we reach our destination. Also, I am able to write this journal, which provides a record of our journey as well as an outlet for my thoughts. Many of the passengers are quite illiterate, especially the women and are curious about what I write. Sometimes they ask me to write letters for them, which will be sent at some stage of the journey. I am happy to do it. The heat has become unbearable, especially in our quarters below deck. The aroma rising from our hot, sweaty bodies, along with the stench from the privies, is now a great deal worse. Tempers are becoming short in the heat and quarrels break out between families.

Friday June 16th This has been a most upsetting day. Captain Pepperell discovered that some of the passengers have head lice. He said that the women’s hair should be cut and their heads washed with soap and water. I was on the quarter deck when young Jane Huws, was advanced upon by one of the crew who was brandishing a pair of shears, intent on obeying the captain’s orders. Her screams of terror soon brought many other passengers onto the deck, including her father, Rhydderch Huws. He and Hugh Hughes confronted, the captain, demanding the girl be let go.  Captain Pepperell grew very angry and there was a loud exchange of words as we all looked on. The men would not back down and the captain drew his revolver and pointed it at Hugh Hughes’ chest. We were all silent, fearing what would happen. Still the men stood their ground whereupon the captain raised his revolver and fired –– into the sea. Rhydderch kept on pleading for his daughter to be let go so Captain Pepperell ordered John Downes, the mate, to manacle him. Downes is not an agreeable man and plainly enjoyed approaching Rhydderch, jangling the irons and sneering at him. Before he did so however, the Captain, aware of the mounting antagonism arising from the other passengers, changed his mind and finally a compromise was reached. It was decided that he and the doctor, Thomas Greene, would examine all heads for the presence of lice. Fortunately, both Elwyn and I are free from infestation. We are told that in order to prevent the spread of infection, passengers are not allowed access to the quarterdeck. This leaves us with even less space for fresh air and exercise.

Wednesday June 21st Today we saw many sharks in the waters near our ship. Fish were leaping high out of the sea, one landed on deck and was seized.  It was a wonderful to see such creatures. Despite the danger from the sharks, some of the bolder young men plunged into the ocean and allowed themselves to be towed along on a rope tied to the bowsprit. We all applauded as the waves rose and fell, lifting then submerging the men. Still, I felt fearful for their safety and was glad when they were all back on board. They strode about the deck, drying off, telling us what an exhilarating experience it had been. Elwyn was envious but he would never have had the strength for such an adventure and for that I was thankful. There will be plenty more new experiences when we start our life in Patagonia.

Sunday June 25th The wind has picked up in the last few days and today we sailed into a tropical storm. Once again the ship heaved and creaked leading to the return of sickness to some. Above the sound of the wind and waves we once again heard the howls of a woman in labour. The doctor has little to alleviate the pain so it must be borne. The child, a girl to be called Rachel, was a daughter for Rachel and Aaron Jenkins, who lost their son James just a fortnight ago.

Tuesday June 27th We have crossed the equator and passed into the southern hemisphere. There was a celebration to mark ‘Crossing the Line’. The young male passengers were chased by the crew and had water thrown over them, while we women looked on, enjoying the spectacle. It was all taken in good part. I saw Elwyn getting soaked a time or two but the heat of the sun soon dried off the victims. Later Captain Pepperell invited some of the passengers for drinks in his cabin. There were reports of drunkenness by those unused to such an amount of liquor but no lasting harm, I suppose.

Wednesday June 28th During the early hours of this morning, John Davies, the eleven-month-old son of Robert and Catherine Davies from Llandrillo, died as a result of complications caused by ‘water on the brain’. We had all observed the poor infant’s unnaturally large head and his struggles as his little body wasted away. We stood on deck at eight this morning, with great sadness, as the Chaplain performed the funeral rites and committed the infant’s body to the ocean. My heart goes out to his parents but it is a blessing that the baby will suffer no more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was in PenCambria: Issue 23 Summer 2013?

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

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

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

The Dragon’s Crypt:

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

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 21 Winter 2012?

The Upheaval: the Clearance of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys 1892 Diana Ashworth
John Paddison Gay Roberts
The Welshman and the Kilt Lawrence Johnson
Bacheldre Mill Reginald Massey
The Good Life: “It’s Been Such Fun” Doreen Gough talks to Lesley-Ann Dupré
Mother’s Aberystwyth Mariners Gay Roberts
Grand-dad, What was it like in the Olden Days? Part 2 David Jandrell
Getting the Best from Britain From Above Natasha Scullion
The Species Habitat Protection Group Brian Allen
Superorganisms Tony Shaw
Talking with the Dead Professor Peter J. Conradi
The Bedtime Apple Lesley-Ann Dupré
On the Move in Radnorshire R.M. Williams
The Wildlife Artist of Llanidloes Reginald Massey
Put Out To Grass part 9: Green Sheep & the Rout of the English Knights Diana Ashworth

Winter Memories of Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams
October Thoughts Janet Williams

War Wounds Tyler Keevil
The Devil’s Dues Norma Allen
The Little Dog : Growing Up Lesley-Ann Dupré
Evensong Bruce Mawdesley, illustrated by Jane Keay

Editorial PenCambria Issue 21 by Gay Roberts

Welcome to the final issue of 2012. It will also be my final year as the general editor of PenCambria. After eight years in the big chair it is time to let someone bring in fresh ideas. That someone is Lesley-Ann Dupré who has been helping me as commissioning editor for this past year. She has already made some welcome changes to the layout as well as some very imaginative contributions to The Dragon’s Crypt. I am very grateful that she has agreed to take on the task of encouraging our established writers and finding new ones to help fill the pages of this magazine and you will find her contact details on the contents and back pages. I shall still be in the background, on the production and publication side and dealing with various technical and subscription matters and I shall still be delighted to hear from those of you who wish to keep in touch with me.
We have quite a personal tone to this issue with several articles of biography and family history. Diana Ashworth has been talking to John Pugh about how the Elan Valley clearances in 1892 affected his family, as described in the memoir of his ancestor, Emiline Price.
John Paddison was a remarkably talented sculptor who retired to Llanidloes from Wolverhampton in 1993. He was a great friend of Dr. Andy Scrase, who has allowed me to use an essay about him, written by Roger Holloway, as the basis of a profile that I hope you will enjoy as well as pictures of some of his sculptures, his “other children”, which appear on various pages of this magazine.
In 2009 we had a series of essays about Robert Owen, the great philanthropist from Newtown. Lawrence Johnson has followed these up with an article on a neglected aspect of Robert Owen’s vision – the kilt as an essential garment to a satisfactory and comfortable life.
Mid Wales is remarkable for its ability to nurture entrepreneurs. Two such are Matt and Ann Scott who came to Montgomery from Hampshire and established Bacheldre Mill, whose organic stone ground flour now enhances the lives of so many of us. Reginald Massey is so impressed that he has written a profile of them. Reginald has also been talking to Chris Wallbank, the wildlife artist who lives is Llanidloes and whose work is often seen in exhibitions at Maesmawr Art Gallery. You will also some of his delightful pictures seen on pages in this magazine.
Another person who is active in the preservation of wildlife if Brian Allen. He has written an article all about the protection of wildlife habitat, in particular, barn owls in the Llandinam area and his photo of a barn owl must be one of the most delightful that I have had the privilege to publish.
Professor Peter J. Conradi, who wrote that wonderful book about Radnorshire At the Bright Hem of God, has just published a book about a most extraordinary poet and wartime helper of the partisans in Yugoslavia, Frank Thompson. This is story we should all know about.
David Jandrell finishes his answers to questions posed by his granddaughter about life in the ‘Olden Days’. This will be his last work for us for the time being. David, you have kept us entertained with your travels round the Hafren Circuit, and your various family memoirs for four years. I shall miss you, I know, and so will so many of our readers. But if the muse does strike you again, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Joy Hamer has completed the third volume of her remarkable family history researches. This time we go to sea with Mother’s Aberystwyth Mariners.
Transport in Radnorshire from the horse drawn carriage to the coming of the railway and now the motor car has been on the mind of R.H. Williams. The Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales has acquired a huge archive of aerial photographs of Britain taken between 1919 and 2005 which they are very keen to share. You can find how to do so and see an example of Llanidloes in 1932.
Tony Shaw discusses how the bee functions as part of a single body, superorganism, as opposed to an individual and how this relates to human society.
Doreen Gough came to Old Hall to lead ‘The Good Life’ in 1981 and she tells Lesley-Ann Dupré all about it and how things have changed since then.
Diana Ashworth entertains us with yet another episode in the life of the retired couple from Llawryglyn.
Joel Williams has some more winter memories of Llandrindod Wells and Janet Williams shares some October Thoughts.
Gripping reading, as ever in The Dragon’s Crypt with Tyler Keevil’s War Wounds, Norma Allen giving the Devil his due, Lesley-Ann Dupré’s Little Dog and Bruce Mawdesley and Jane Keay bring the year to a close with Evensong.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 20 Summer 2012?

Gwendolen Nasty Brian Poole
Sarn Sabrina Adele Hopkins
The Full Monty Gay Roberts
Walking the Montgomery Canal Tim Chilton
The Long and Winding Leat Lawrence Johnson
Cementing the Future Diana Brown
Put Out to Grass: part 9 Abby and the Earthquake Diana Ashworth
Glyndwr’s Daughter John Hughes
Bathing Beauties
“We pulled half of Llani down!” Ivan Evans Reminiscences with Lesley-Ann Dupré
Quiet Time Lesley-Ann Dupré
St Harmon Parish – the Black Years 1939-45 R.M. Williams
The Bleddfa Centre for the Creative Spirit James Roose-Evans
Rhayader Mayfair: Never to be forgotten! Brian Lawrence

Grand-dad, What was it like in the Olden Days? Part 1 David Jandrell
Bees of Montgomeryshire Tony Shaw
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales : Friends Newsletter

Harold and the Widow Norma Allen
The Apple Tree Bruce Mawdesley
Dirge Hatton Davidson

Editorial PenCambria Issue 20 by Gay Roberts

The first thing you will notice in this issue is the change of format in the text from single column per page to, for the most part, two columns per page. As well allowing more reading material on the page, which in view of the reduced number of pages, I am sure you will agree is better value for the money, it also makes easier reading, particularly when some articles might need particular concentration. I do hope you like the change. For my part I think it is great improvement and my special thanks go to Lesley-Ann Dupré, our new commissioning editor for suggesting it.
This month, despite the extraordinary and prolonged downpours, PenCambria is full of articles about walks in mid Wales, one newly created, one restored and one not exactly neglected as it is not a formal trail but which for the experienced walker is worth following.
Firstly, following his portrait of Gwendolen Williams in last month’s PenCambria, Brian Poole has been looking at another Gwendolen who left her mark on mid Wales, but not such a pleasant one. This was Gwendolen, mother of Sabrina, the maiden who gave her name to the river Severn. Coupled with this is an introduction by Adele Hopkins to the Sarn Sabrina Walk, which, starting from Llanidloes follows the river Severn, to its source on Pumlumon. This walk was created by Nick Venti, whose name will be familiar to many PenCambria readers, and Richard Dix.
With Tim Chilton our restored walk follows the Montgomery Canal, which was built in 1794 to transport lime to the upland farms of mid Wales but fell into disuse when the railways
and the roads came into greater use. I have preceded this article a history of its construction and current use.
Our neglected trail is the leat that once brought water from Llyn Nant Ddeiliog to the mines at Dylife. This is the walk taken by our intrepid Lawrence Johnson.
One uncommon hazard of the outdoor life is the possibility of bee stings. Bee keeping is a well established tradition in Wales and Tony Shaw introduces us to the art and some of the problems of bee keeping in Montgomeryshire. Livestock of the more conventional kind have been running rings around our retired lady from Llawryglyn.
David Jandrell begins his last article for us for the time being, this time part one of a two-part imagined conversation with a child of today telling him about his own childhood on the farm in Mochdre, and inspired by questions from his granddaughter.
Memories of Llanidloes in more industrial times are recalled by Ivan Evans, while Lesley-Ann Dupré enjoys a quiet moment.
There is a quality of stillness and an altered sense of time on the hills of Radnorshire that can induce feelings of tranquillity that open the mind to a range of creative possibilities suppressed by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In the tiny hamlet of Bleddfa is the Centre for the Creative Spirit in which these possibilities can be explored. We are privileged to have an article by its founder, the distinguished British Theatre director James Roose-Evans telling how the Centre was created and extraordinary patronage he was able to obtain to get it off the ground and functioning.
In this spirit we have a substantial arts section this month with news of the re-opening of the Wyeside Theatre in Builth Wells and the programme of events from Mid Wales Arts Centre. John Hughes also tells us how he was inspired by the poems of three Welsh medieval bards to write a novel about Owain Glyndwr’s daughter, Gwenllian, who lived in Gwrtheyrnion, the ancient kingdom that is now Pantydwr and Tylwch.
Elsewhere in Radnorshire, Brian Lawrence remembers all the fun of the Rhayader Mayday Fair while R. M. Williams remembers the wartime years in St Harmon.
The Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales is very keen to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of its function and its facilities, especially its archives and data base which are, for the most part free to use, and to this end it has created a Friends network. You can read all about this as well as some of the many activities they are currently investigating as well as the concern they have over a proposed merger with other organisations including the Welsh heritage body Cadw. A summary of their newsletters will be a permanent feature of PenCambria.
In the Dragon’s Crypt Norma Allen points out that men who appear to be a soft touch may not be as keen to have their feathers ruffled as the fancier might believe. An apple tree inspires Bruce Mawdesley’s peerless poetic prose and we finish with Hatton Davidson’s Dirge, a rumination on the selfishness of love.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 19 Spring 2012?

Musical Words Lawrence Johnson
Ty Coch Water Mill at Pontdolgoch Tim Chilton
Two Pen Portraits Bruce Mawdesley
“Don’t Push Until We Get You Into Bed” Connie Howells with Lesley-Ann Dupré
The Gwalchmai Family of Mid Wales : part 3 Gwalchmai Sais
The Mount and China Street Gay Roberts
Baron Moyle of Llanidloes in the County of Montgomeryshire Diana Brown
Homage to Gwendolen Williams Brian Poole
New Friendly Society of Rhayader and Llansantffraid-Cwmdauddwr Brian Lawrence
Saint Harmon and the British Heresy R.H. Williams & Gay Roberts
Digging up my Roots David Jandrell
Put Out To Grass part 3: Beginner’s Luck Diana Ashworth
Meg Lesley-Ann Dupré
Aberystwyth Printmakers

Welshpool Sheep Market Jane Keay
The Little Dog’s Journey Lesley-Ann Dupré
Lord Edric’s Fairy Wife Hatton Davidson
Walking the Hills and Hearing the Wind Lesley-Ann Dupré

Editorial PenCambria Issue 19 by Gay Roberts

Welcome to PenCambria number 19, the first issue of 2012. With this edition I am very pleased to welcome Lesley-Ann Dupré as our new Commissioning Editor. You will already know her name from some of her very imaginative poems and prose published in The Dragon’s Crypt in the last few editions of this magazine. Bilingual in Dutch, Lesley has had extensive experience in editing and translation and she is already a valuable asset to the team. She is very good with snippets and so we can enjoy a few more of those in future. She also has a keen interest in oral history and begins a series for PenCambria with an interview with Connie Howells, the former Llanidloes midwife who remembers very different practices from those today.
As usual, we have lots of good things for you to read. Lawrence Johnson has been researching John Hughes, the 19th century Llanidloes stationmaster whose alter ego was that great Welsh poet Ceiriog. Well, there must have been a lot of time between trains and once he had finished his chores… Tim Chilton was looking to buy a period residence in the Cotswolds or South Wales and ended up with the water mill at Pontdolgoch near Caersws – haven’t so many us found ourselves here quite by chance? With the third instalment of his researches of the Gwalchmai family history Gwalchmai Sais comes to the end of his account for the time being. From 1920 until his death Lord Arthur Moyle of Llanidloes was a great socialist and member of the Labour Party who sought to improve the conditions of working men and women through his support for the trade unions and whose position as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Clement Attlee enabled him to play an active part in the introduction of the welfare state and the National Health Service in the late 1940s. Diana Brown has been researching into his life and has shed some light on this neglected worthy of our heritage. With the help of Dr David Stephenson I have been able to put you all in the picture as to how the Mount in Llanidloes came to be and its subsequent history and how China Street got its name – something which I know has puzzled so many people in the past.
In times of sickness, old age or any other kind of adversity, until the creation of the Welfare Stare and the National Health Service, the only thing that stood between the working man and his family and the Poor House, the Work House or starvation were the Friendly Societies, a form of insurance that paid out benefits to its members so long as certain stringent conditions were met. These societies need to be remembered for the good they brought to their members and as the result of his research into the social welfare life of Rhayader and the surrounding districts, for this issue of PenCambria Brian Lawrence has given us an account of the New Friendly Society of Rhayader and Llansantffraid Cwmdauddwr. Continuing his Glimpses of Beautiful Mid Wales, R.H. Williams begins a two-part look at the religious life of St Harmon Parish beginning with a brief look at its early medieval history and the Pelagian heresy that was integral to the establishment of St Harmon church. From there he touches on Francis Kilvert, vicar of St Harmon Parish for a short time, the long vanished St Harmon Monastery and Abbey Cwm Hir.
After his tour of the Hafren Circuit around the edges of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, David Jandrell has settled back at his home on the Shropshire border and has been digging up the roots of the Jandrell family tree – and a fascinating dig it is too, going right back to the late 14th century and lucky, no doubt to survive the Black Death. Our retired couple from Llawryglyn face their first lambing season, observed with wonderful wry humour as ever by Diana Ashworth, PenCambria’s “Pam Ayres in Prose”. A book shop and the coach station provides the venue for two more of Bruce Mawdesley’s beautifully penned character studies. Brian Poole makes an interesting and quite unexpected diversion from his industrial pursuits by venturing into the cultural life of Newtown and has discovered yet another forgotten artist, Gwendolen Williams, a sculptor, who although a north Walian by birth, nevertheless spent a lot of time here with her closest friend, Eveline Lewis, and much of her work is still in the area.
In the Dragon’s Crypt in a poetic change from her usual pen-and-ink studies, Jane Keay shows us a very poignant perspective of Welshpool Sheep Market from the point of view of the sheep. In the classical tradition of the medieval English ballad Hatton Davidson recounts the tale of the fairy wife of Lord Edric of Shrewsbury. Finally Lesley-Ann Dupré takes us on a journey up into to the realms of the Infinite with her little dog, and coming back down to earth again to the sublime hills of Mid Wales.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 18 Winter 2011?

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

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

Editorial PenCambria Issue 18 by Gay Roberts

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 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.