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 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 24 Winter 2013?

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

The Dragon’s Crypt:

Portrait or a Policemen Bruce Mawdesley, illustration by John Selly

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

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 22 Spring 2013?

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

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

Editorial PenCambria Issue 22 by Gay Roberts

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 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 13 Spring 2010?

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

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

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

What was in PenCambria Issue 9 Winter 2008?

The Ratgoed Valley Walk David Burkhill-Howarth

The Penstrowed Quarry Brian Poole

Geraint Goodwin Reginald Massey

Local Studies as a Resource for History Teaching Rachael Jones

The Medieval Development of Rhayader C.E. Smith

Owain Cyfeiliog (C1125-1197) Prince, Poet and Patron Dr. David Stephenson

Owen Davies, Clockmaker E. Ronald Morris

The Gentleman Hood: Part VIII Tyler Keevil

A double centenary: Llanidloes Gay Roberts 

ER Horsfall Turner Dr David Stephenson

Frank Shaler: Architect John Napier

Family History Appeal for Frederick J. Griffiths. Andrew Woodland

Newtown 1901 Newtown Local History Group

The National Monuments Record of Wales: Collecting Our Past Gay Robert

The Chronicles of Cynllaith – Llansilin Anniversary Pageant Gay Roberts

Was There Anybody There? Ghost Tour of Powis Castle Gay Roberts

The Princess Who was Vain: Conclusion Michael Brown
Loyoute Sans Fin: Chapter One Brian L. Roberts
More Rain? Diana Ashworth

Editorial PenCambria Issue 9 by Gay Roberts

Welcome to PenCambria Number 9 and do please forgive me for the year’s break but after the publication of number 8 last summer I was completely overwhelmed by the demands of the day job among other things that it has taken until now and a team of excellent assistants to get PenCambria back into print. I should like to add that it was also at the behest of many of
you, too, who were so kind as to tell me how much you have missed it. I am deeply touched and would like to thank you all for your past and continuing support and hope that you will enjoy it as much in the future.
As I said we now have a team of assistant editors and sales and media support, and I should like to take this opportunity to introduce to you. You will recognise most of them as have contributed much excellent reading matter in the past. David Burkhill-Howarth will do what he can in the way of local and sometimes not-so-local history, Michael and Diana Brown have taken on the heritage side, especially helping with reports of the Arwystli Society talks and visits; because they are always so interesting, these and reports of the Powysland Club lectures will take a much more prominent role in future issues. Norma Allen and Tyler Keevil are developing the creative writing content, Reginald Massey is our Consultant Editor, Christina Edwards and Diana Buck are our sales and distribution team and Nick Venti is hoping to fix the web site, desperately in need of updating. I am also indebted to Christina for her recent offer to help with editorial collection. My thanks to all of you for taking so much of the burden of my shoulders.
As ever, in this issue, we have a lot of good things for you to read. First we take a walk in the beautiful Ratgoed Valley with David Burkhill-Howarth. Then we get down to the nitty gritty of quarrying with Brain Poole, who has done an enormous amount of research on a totally unsung but vital part of life in Mid Wales – the Penstrowed Quarry outside of Newtown. This quarry and the men who worked it have provided the roads we use, the houses we live in, the bridges we use to cross the rivers, and all manner of basic infrastructures. His article gives an insight into the geology and history of the quarry, how it was worked, what it supplied and its future prospects. On to Newtown and we discover another of the town’s forgotten writers, Geraint Goodwin, with Reginald Massey. Next Rachael Jones takes us on a short course researching local history which many of you aspiring historians will find very rewarding, even you don’t end up in the dock at Welshpool’s old Assizes Court, as did one of her students! South to Rhayader with Chris Smith, a professional archaeologist and Rhayader resident, who provides with a fascinating insight on the development of Rhayader during the medieval period along side the fate of Cwmddaudwr. Back to North Powys again with Dr. David Stephenson and the exploits of the medieval Prince Owain Cyfeiliog and, after a brief detour to Llangurig with E. Ronald Morris and a local boy who made it good, we complete the round trip with Tyler Keevil and the piece you have all been waiting for – the next episode in the extraordinary career of that grandson of Carno, Murray the Hump.
2008 is the centenary of the opening of Llanidloes Town Hall. One of the driving forces behind it was E. Horsfall Turner, headmaster of Llanidloes County Intermediate School and completely unsung water colourist. The Arwystli Society talk in April this year celebrated the both the anniversary of the Town Hall and the life and work of this man. A month later, John Napier gave the society a talk on Frank Shayler, the architect of this building, and of many others in the Mid Wales area. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did listening to them.
In August I was privileged to receive an invitation to the press launch of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales’ centenary exhibition at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. Its title is Collecting Our Past and the theme is the work of the National Monuments Record of Wales. You will find an account of this exhibition in this issue as well as a brief preview of the television series following their work, due to be screened in November. I would urge you, if you can, to go and see the exhibition before it closes on 22nd November this year and to bookmark the series on BBC2 Wales as part of your winter’s viewing.
I was also sent a very entertaining DVD of the pageant put on by the community of Llansilin in 2005 to commemorate fifteen hundred years of life in this community since the establishment of St. Silin’s church in 500 AD to the present date – and, being a border area, much has happened there indeed. It was also conceived to mark the departure after twenty
five years of the then Vicar, Reverend Kit Carter, a very talented man by way of writing and performing for the theatre as well as for his priestly activities. You will find a synopsis of this pageant further on.
To chill you blood, Christina, another friend and I went on the ghost tour of Powis Castle last year and you can read all about those spooky goings-on as well.
We have our regular report from Powys Archives as well details of two new books, and a calendar of some of the things that are happening in Mid Wales during the next few months. Finally, in the Dragon’s Crypt we find out exactly what fate had in store for the Princess Who Was Vain, we have the first chapter of a story about a weaver and his family set against the backdrop of the Chartists’ uprising in Llanidloes in 1839 and we have some more observations on our current precipitation preoccupation.
All in all, plenty for you to enjoy reading during the long dark months of winter.

What was in PenCambria: Issue 8 Autumn 2008?

Saving Llanidloes Hospital Gay Roberts

Dr Graham Davies Gay Roberts

A Life Well Spent Eileen Williams

“Being at Montgomery” Part 2 Gay Roberts

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

More Summertime Memories from Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

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

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

The Gentleman Hood: Part VII Tyler Keevil

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

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 7 Spring 2007?

If Only These Stones Could Talk… Eileen Williams

Disturbing the Dead Rachael Jones

The Gentleman Hood: Part VI Tyler Keevil

Montgomeryshire’s Man of Many Parts Reginald Massey

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

Montgomery in the Civil War Part II Dr David Stephenson

More Springtime Memories from Llandrindod Wells Joel Williams

Family History Appeal for Morley Bennett Lloyd Morgan Vanessa Dutton

Cwmdauddwr Gravestone Opens a Window on the Napoleonic World Nick Venti

“Being at Montgomery…Part I ” Gay Roberts

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

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

What was in PenCambria: Issue 3 Autumn 2005?

Capel Bethel Cemetery, Llanidloes E Reginald Morris

A Victorian Industrialist Reverend M Tudor

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

Past and Present Bryan Lawrence 

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

The Ancient Monasteries of Arwystli Dr. David Stephenson

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

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

The Pebble Maggie Shepherd
The Conjuror of Llandinam Norma Allen

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