What was in PenCambria: Issue 27 Winter 2014?

Issue 27 Introduction and Contents at a glance

Following on from the summer edition in which we were able to mention just a few of the many men who fought and died in the First World War, where appropriate, starting with this edition, we will begin a Roll of Honour, a series of mini-biographies of the men and women of mid Wales who fell in this ghastly conflict and who deserve to be more widely known than they may be at present. Peter Watson and Nia Griffiths are doing valuable research in this cause and between them they have provided details of eight more men from mid Wales. Nia has also given us details of a most interesting part of the project in which she is involved – the contribution of Llanidloes Schools to the War Effort.This war could not have been conducted without the contribution of the railways and while it may not have been directly involved, Dolwen Station provided a vital link for life in the Severn Valley, as Brian Poole shows. Lawrence Johnson takes us much further back in time, to medieval mid Wales and the influence of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem – the Knights Hospitaller – especially the memory they have left in Carno.Richard Meredith entertains with another episode of his family history as he goes looking for his roots.Newtown Local History Group are rightly proud to announce that in recognition of their contribution towards the study of local history, they have received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to produce a book containing letters written from the Front during the First World War.

If you go down to the woods tonight you may see more than just the ghosts of trees. Norma Allen has been talking to Rory Evans, who will take you on a ‘Ghost Walk’ around Caersws and will chill your blood with all the spooky happenings that are known to occur –  Whoo-oo-er! Just the thing for a dark November evening!Winter in Llawryglyn and the sheep must fed by our intrepid retired couple, who are enchanted by the sight of a back fox and its cub.R.M. Williams provides us with another glimpse of mid-20th century St Harmon, this time his own life, which was hard but fulfilling. Hard, too, was life in the 19th century and, following Diana Ashworth’s excellent comprehensive account in PC25 of the Chartist uprising in Llanidloes in 1839, E. Ronald Morris has given me permission to serialise his own booklet, which was first published in 1989 on the 150th anniversary of the uprising. Here, in chapter one, he sets out the historical background. Following his delightful book based on the tradition of Owain Glyndwr’s daughter living in the Pantydwr area, in what would at that time have been Gwrtheyrnion, John Hughes, with the help of Dr David Stephenson, now turns his novelist eyes to Llywelyn ab Gruffudd, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, who was assassinated near Builth Wells and whose body was buried in Abbey Cwm Hir.The Chapel has a very special place in the hearts and culture of Wales and as part of their digital history project, in conjunction with Adoldai Cymru, RCAHMW are in the process providing digital images of the chapels in Wales. So, via your screen, you can now pay the chapels a virtual visit although any singing will have to be your head – for now. In Concrete Across the Clywedog Brian Poole charts the history of the Clywedog Dam including the importance of concrete as its construction material and his book, published by the Powysland Club is reviewed by Reginald Massey.

So many Welsh men and women crossed the Atlantic Ocean to find fame and fortune in the New World and Chris Barrett looks at some of their lives through  the book 150 Famous Welsh Americans by W. Arvon Roberts. A famous Welshman who stayed at home was Emlyn Hooson QC, who died, sadly, in 2012. Derec Llwyd Morgan has written a portrait of him through his essays and reminiscences, which Diana Brown has reviewed briefly here with the view to writing a fuller account of his life next year.

In the Dragon’s Crypt

  • Gaynor Jones tells us a haunting story of Welsh migrants;
  • Michael Apichela is inspired to write a poem about his stay at Mid Wales Arts Centre;
  • the war is over for Selina and she must try and bring some peace to shell-shocked George in this concluding part of Norma Allen’s trilogy In Time of War;
  • finally try as he might, despite John Selly’s charming illustration, Bruce Mawdesley fails to experience even a frisson of fairy fingers in his poem Mything Out.

 CONTENTS Issue 27

Introduction  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  1

Roll of Honour Peter Watson  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –   2

The Contribution of Llanidloes School to the First World War Nia Griffiths – – – – – – –  – – – 5

A Welcome in the Vale? Lawrence Johnson  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — –  8

Dolwen Station Brian Poole – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  12

My Roots : Part 6:  Who Do You Think You Are? Richard Meredith – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -16

Newtown Local History Group and The Heritage Lottery Fund – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  21

Post Card from Newtown   – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  21

‘Spooked in Caersws’ Ghostly tales from Rory Evans as told to Norma Allen – – – – – – – – -22

Emlyn Hooson: Essays and Reminiscences book review by DianaBrown – – – – – – – – – – –  26

Put Out To Grass : part 15: The Big Freeze Diana Ashworth. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 27

My Life in St Harmon R.M. Williams. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  29

King Edward VII in the Elan Valley postcard from Sterling Mullins – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –30

Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40, Chapter 1 E. Ronald Morris – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –   31

Llywelyn John Hughes  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 39

Virtual Chapels in Wales RCAHMW . – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — 41

Saga of the Clywedog Dam book review by Reginald Massey – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  42

150 Welsh Americans book review by Chris Barrett – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –   43



  The Dragons Crypt

A Welsh Ghost Story Gaynor Jones  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  47

Cathy’s House or an Ode to the Mid Wales Art Centre  Michael Apichela – – – – – – – – – – – 49

In Time of War: part three: an End and a Beginning Selina’s Birthday Norma Allen   – – – -50

Mything Out Bruce Mawdesley, illustrated by John Selly – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –  53

The next issue will be out at the end of MARCH  2015



Sample article from PenCambria number 28

150 FAMOUS WELSH AMERICANS  W. Arvon Roberts (2008)

Llygad Gwalch, Ysgubor Plas, Llwyndryrys, Pwllheli, Gwnedd LL53 6NG  ISBN 1-84524-077-4 Paperback 208 pages.

Reviewer: Chris Barrett

This is a review of a 1st Edition (2008) copy of this book which is available from Powys Libraries. Llygad Gwalch is the brand name of Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, originally a Welsh language publisher, which now brings out books in many more languages. The press takes its name from Carreg-y-gwalch (falcon rock) which is reported to hide a cave which was the C15th sanctuary of local rebels after the Owain Glyndwr War of Independence. W. Arvon Roberts is a Welsh American historian and writer who currently resides in Pwllheli, Gwynedd. He has published in American and Welsh journals and newspapers. The bibliographic notes that informed the writing of this book are held in the National Museum of Wales, Aberystwyth.

The author states that he enjoyed researching and writing this book. The 150 Americans he selected are a personal choice from the many individuals who left Wales for new lives and opportunities in America. Thus, the selection is eclectic, including the famous, infamous and less well known characters. The content is arranged alphabetically and searching for ancestors, when the family name or person’s occupation is known, is an easy task. The focus of the book is purely to catalogue these famous people, not to explore the social and political reasons for immigration. (For detailed background information about the significant immigration waves from Wales to America see: http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Sr-Z/Welsh-Americans.html).

Approximately two thirds of the profiled 150 individuals are prominent orators, statesmen and politicians (36), poets, academics and writers (29) and musicians, singers, composers and artists (16) and clergymen, missionaries and theologians (12). Since the Welsh have long been recognised as passionate communicators, entertainers and hymn writers, talents in these fields will come as no surprise. Some individuals acquired fame through their professional ability in medicine (5), in law (6), in military activity (9) and in business, investment, engineering and industry (15). The remaining 22 entries reflect the environment these individuals found across the Atlantic, which was probably markedly different from their native land. The pioneers, ranchers, trappers, map makers and abolitionists are all represented and the colourful and intriguing wild-west characters who became rodeo champions, Red Indian scouts, gangsters and desperados. The inclusion of an antique collector (Daniel L. Jones) may seem tame in comparison but he has another claim to fame in that he persuaded the US Government to include a commemoration to Wales in the Washington Monument in 1885. The words engraved on the stone, which was imported from Swansea, are:

Fy Iaith, Fy Ngwlad, Fy Nghenedl, Wales, Cymru Am Byth!

Researchers of Welsh Americans seeking specific information may regret there is no cross referencing facility that connects, for example, the ancestor Edward Evans of Mold, Flintshire to his famous grandson Edward Herbert Rees, a US Congressman born in Kansas in 1886. For that type of search, Dear Reader, you will need to read the whole book as I did!

There is also no means of cross referencing for place of birth in Wales within this otherwise useful and informative book. For many entries the author has been able to identify the town, village or even the house in which the individual originated as in Samuel Milton Jones (p124), a millionaire, inventor and politician, who was born in Ty Mawr, Nantmor, near Beddgelert, Caernarfonshire. Sometimes there is a tenuous link to Welsh ancestry, rather than evidence. Earl W. Bascom (p17), an artist and rodeo champion and Thomas Bibb (p20), the 2nd Governor of Alabama are both stated simply to be direct descendents of Welsh settlers. Where there is a dispute about place of origin this is carefully explained, as with Roger Williams (p198), Founder of Rhode Island who is reported to have originated variously from London, Glamorganshire or Carmarthenshire. The famous Americans listed below may be of particular interest to PenCambria readers as their Welsh ancestors are identified to have lived locally.

A theme which emerges from the book, if read as a whole, is best expressed by the uniquely Welsh word hiraethus; missing the homeland or longing for something. Welsh-American immigrants maintained strong ties with Wales, and “Welshness” was promoted in America, where many still spoke Welsh after fifty years in the USA. The pioneers established Welsh Colleges, edited and published Welsh-American newspapers and books and developed the Eisteddfod and Welsh Societies and translated hymns, bibles, textbooks and novels into Welsh. The newspapers included Y Drych and Baner America and notable publications included Hanes Cymry America and the first Welsh book to be published in the USA; Annerch i’r Cymry. Given the realities of travel during the1880s and onwards the willingness of these pioneers to return to Wales, sometimes several times, is striking. Their journeys were in relation to research and academic work, forging links with the church/chapel and missionary work. It is clear that visits linked with music and art were important and particularly participation in the Eisteddfod. Personal reasons are often cited such as visiting family, and notably, to seek another Welsh wife after bereavement.

Stated place of origin in Wales Famous Welsh-American Page in2008 Ed.
Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire William Bebb 17
Darowen and Cemaes, Montgomeryshire Llewellyn Breese 23
Bala, Merionethshire Benjamin Childlaw 33
Llandygwydd, Cenarth, Newcastle EmlynTeifi Valley Prof. Phillips G. Davies 39
Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire William Henry Harrison 79
Llanbrynmair, Montgomeryshire Ezekiel Hughes 87
Y Castell, Carno, Montgomeryshire Llewelyn Morris Humphreys 96
Llanwyddelan, Montgomeryshire George Jones 112
(Unknown) Montgomeryshire John Edward Jones 117
Machynlleth, Montgomeryshire Edward Morgan Lewis 135
Berriew, Montgomeryshire orBala, Merionethshire Thomas Morris 150
Meifod, Montgomeryshire William W. Vaughan 195

Only nine women are included within the 150 entries. Eight of these achieved fame as respectively as singer (3), evangelist (1), author (2), Hollywood actress (1), and US President’s wife (1). The ninth female entry is Betsy Ross who made the first United States flag. She lived 84 years, spanning seven President’s terms of office and saw the number of stars on the flag increased from 13 to 26 and her fame is ensured by the establishment of the Betsy Ross society. But what of the many other women who supported all these Famous Welsh-American men? Very little is written about the aspirations and dreams of these women, of their strength and courage and about their success in creating homes and societies in a new land. There are some notable Welsh-American women whose careers are well documented and could have been included the book such as Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her Great-grandmother came from Llanddewi Brefi.

Simply “dipping-into” this book will reveal a range of human stories on every page. One such tale is of the famous statesmen, William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States, born 1773, whose great-grandfather was a poor smallholder in Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire. He was the first US President to die in office but, regrettably, not the last! Then there is Mari Jones Judson, one of the few female profiled in the book. She was born in 1918 in Ystradgynlais, Breconshire and found fame as a singer, conductor and musician performing on television, film soundtracks and at many prestigious venues in the Western States. In contrast, the oldest Welsh-American recorded, Thomas Morris, lived a very quiet life as a butcher, shoemaker and farmer. He is known to have been born in Wales in 1794, either in Bala or Berriw and was still alive in 1916 but the date of his death is unknown. Some individuals defy categorisation. Thomas Jones is simply referred to as a Wild West Character whose exploits are thought to have included cattle stealing and who was hanged with his twin sister in 1885. Likewise, the three Hughes brothers, Jesse, Thomas and Elias were Scouts and Indian fighters and they had many adventures, worthy of a Wild West Hollywood film, from the late 1700s to 1840s. Many Welsh immigrants had background knowledge of mining and farming and took leading roles in America’s industrial development including Samuel Milton Jones in the petroleum industry, David Thomas in iron manufacture and Hugh W. Thomas in slate production. The latter, left his impoverished background in Nasareth, Caernarfonshire in 1857, aged 21, and become very rich within ten years and famous as the Slate King of America!

This small book (200 pages) would be of interest to many readers including researchers, ancestry seekers or it may be read simply for pleasure. A 2014 version, re-issued by Llygad Gwalch, is available in paperback and on-line (£12.00)

What was in PenCambria: Issue 16 Spring 2011?

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

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

Editorial PenCambria Issue 16 by Gay Roberts

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

What was in PenCambria Issue 10 Spring 2009?

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

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

Editorial PenCambria Issue 10 by Gay Roberts

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 5 Summer 2006?

The National School, Llanidloes in 1945 John A. Williams

Robert Owen’s Newtown David Pugh

Averting Armageddon Lembit Opik MP

Following the footsteps of an Edwardian Field Society Rachael Jones

“Are you Church or Chapel?” – Part 2 Disputes and Diapasons Michael Brown

Independents from Llanbrynmair Reverend Malcolm Tudor

The Gentleman Hood – Part 4 Tyler Keevil

The Judge’s Lodging Gay Roberts

Summer in Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

The Great Mid Wales Land Grab – Part 2 Gay Roberts

Aspects of Mid Wales Reginald Massey

The Arwystli Debate – Report of Dr David Stephenson’s Lecture

Murder in Garth Beibio Gay Roberts

Fitting In Tony Jones

Slate John Hainsworth
Hunter’s Moon R.S. Pyne
Two Poems Reginald Massey
The Tortoiseshell Combs Norma Allen
The Map of My Life Maggie Shepherd

Editorial PenCambria Issue 5 by Gay Roberts

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 2 Summer 2005?

The Gentleman Hood – first part of the history of Murray the Hump, notorious accountant for Al Capone. Tyler Keevil

Walking the Van.  Brian Poole

The Beginning of Education in Llanidloes.  E Ronald Morris

Trefeglwys Engineers Reverend Malcolm Tudor

The Origins of Llanidloes Dr. David Stephenson

Eiluned Lewis Reginald Massey

Llandrindod Wells – An Exceptionally Fashionable Town Peter Dean

Jonathan Sleigh – A Tribute Alan Sillitoe

The Parthenon of Wales Gay Roberts

The Powis Family Album Gay Roberts

Welsh Tradition Tune Club Gary Northeast

The Lamplighter Norma Allen
The Day It Happened August Mullen
The Case of the Lingo Larceny Matt Maus

Pen Cambria Issue 2 Editorial by Gay Roberts

Welcome to PenCambria No.2 and before I go any further, my very grateful thanks are long overdue to everyone who helped me get the first issue off the ground and who are still supporting on its second outing as well as all our new contributors and distributors.
I am very pleased with the response to PenCambria No.1. It has been available in shops in Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire since April. We also have eight new contributors to this issue, I am delighted to say, as well as four from last time. There would have been five but Nick Venti’s findings on General Valentine Jones will be published in the PenCambria No. 3.
This issue has quite a different flavour from the last one. As part of our oral history, we have a very entertaining piece about the hotels of Llandrindod Wells and some of the town’s colourful characters as told to me in conversation with Peter Dean, whose family has lived in the area for 400 years.
Teachers are perhaps Wales greatest export and education came very early to Mid Wales, albeit a religious one first of all. Ronald Morris, who as so many of you know is an absolute gold mine of information about Mid Wales and Llanidloes in particular, has written a most informative piece about the beginnings of education in the town in the 19th century.
Tyler Keevil has turned from fiction to fact for this issue and has been researching Murray the Hump. In the first of a four-part series he begins to dish the dirt on one of Mid Wales’ most notorious characters.
The Arwystli Society was treated to a very enjoyable talk by Brian Poole on the Van Railway and he has described a walk he took along the old railway track from the Van mines to Caersws in the process of updating a book on the subject in which he has collaborated.
From Trefegwlys to Sardinia, it is extraordinary how Mid Walians have brought the benefits of technology to the some of the most remote areas of the world. Malcolm Tudor gives us a glimpse of one such in the person of Benjamin Piercy,
A writer from Newtown who was compared with Jane Austen thirty years ago but who now all but forgotten in her home area, Eiluned Lewis was rediscovered by Reginald Massey who reminds us of just how important a writer she was and of the company she kept.
In our first edition, Jonathan Sleigh gave us a very moving and much appreciated account of his experience as a cancer patient. This was to be the first of two, maybe several episodes of the progress of his recovery. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with this scourge of our time and died at the end of April. His friend Alan Sillitoe (no, not THAT Alan Sillitoe) has very kindly sent me a copy of the tribute he paid at Jonathan’s funeral service and gives us an insight into the life of this man who had such a variety of jobs and interests and gave so much of himself to his friends and his family. The last time I saw Jonathan, he suggested that we might have a series of articles on people who had moved into Mid Wales and stayed here. I think this was a series he himself was planning to write. I would like to think that this portrait of him might be the first of such a series.
I have been out and about on guided tours of the paintings and statues of Powys Castle and, with the Arwystli Society, of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and you can read all about these as well.
The folk music tradition is alive and well in Mid Wales and Gary Northeast tells us about the tune club he formed in Llanfyllin last year and invites anyone who is interested to go along.
We have an update on Powys Archives from the manager Catherine Richards.
The Dragon’s Crypt is full of goodies this month with a charming but slightly edgy story that will have your heart in your mouth from Norma Allen, a tale of the heart in the classic Edgar Allen Poe tradition from August Mullen, and another philological tour de force from Matt Maus that will having you reaching for your dictionary of English grammar. Play it again, Matt.
Finally, the pictures filling in the spaces between the articles are all from the recent Work Together exhibition of painting, photography and sculpture at the Minerva Arts Centre in Llanidloes.