EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 32 SUMMER 2016
Well, what a turn round for us all during these last few weeks – leaders resigning, underlings scrabbling for power and, despite everything thrown at him, only one prepared to stand his ground, all credit to him. As I write this introduction a new leader for Conservative Party has just been announced. In the meantime, Diana Brown gives us a very entertaining glimpse into the murky world of 18th and 19th century politics with a look at the Watkins Wynn brothers of Montgomeryshire. Plus ça change indeed.
This year we have been commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, to that date the worst battle ever experienced on European soil. The only people who can possibly know what it must have been like are men who are or have been soldiers themselves. From Brian Lawrence’s remarkable month by month record of the First World War as experienced in Rhayader and the surrounding villages, in this issue we find out what was happening to the men themselves, some in France but many elsewhere in places such as in Turkey and Egypt. We also have news of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory Project devoted to the Battle of the Somme.
In the last issue as part of an article observing the changes in transport during the 19th-20th centuries Brian Poole included an interview with Evan Mills, published in the Montgomeryshire Express in 1940. Following this I was delighted to hear from his great-granddaughter Elizabeth Day, who has corrected three mistakes in the original interview and also provided a lovely, fuller piece on both Evan (giving me chance to correct three mistakes which have gone unremarked for the past 70 years) and his daughter Chloris, also mentioned by Brian, and Elizabeth’s great aunt. Chloris was quite an extra woman – a suffragette, a writer and poet, a teacher and a potential headmistress who could not however, stay away from her beloved mid Wales – well, we all know how that feels. Some of her work will appear in future editions of PenCambria. Brian Poole himself has found a corner of mid Wales just outside Newtown, containing three houses – Glan Hafren, Middle Scafell and Red House – that have been the inspiration for three published writers of quite different fields.
In this 90th birthday year of Her Majesty the Queen, Chris Barrett has been looking at the various progresses of Elizabeth II throughout Wales since she became Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne. Meanwhile, Roger the First refers not to a monarch but to the first person in Wales recorded as having the surname Jones this being one of Lawrence Johnson’s most entertaining articles. The Dakin Brothers of Llanidloes were hugely influential in the wool trade in this part of mid Wales and in Merthyr Tydfil in the 19th century and their rise and demise as recorded by their descendants, Andrew and Keith Dakin as part of their research into their family history gives us yet another glimpse into the complex world of mid Wales before the First World War.
C.S. Lewis is the subject of a lively pen portrait by Michael Apichela, who used to live in his house in Oxford. As well as pictures of his residency, Michael can be seen wielding C.S. Lewis’s walking stick, which was left in the house when he moved in. In chapter 5 of E. Ronald Morris’s book on Chartism in Llanidloes the instigators of the riot have been caught and are brought to trial. In Llawryglyn our retired lady’s lambs are determined to evade capture.Finally in our non fiction section, a lively look at the Carnival and Fancy Dress in Llanidloes with thanks to Robert Parker Munn for memories recorded at Llanidloes Day Centre as part of his oral history archive and published in The Llani Weaver in 2003.
The Dragon’s Crypt in this issue is full of wonderful writing to get your imaginations going. Bruce Mawdesley is struck by Moonlight, while Martha Fosberry is struck by her childhood memories of Nant-y-sgiliwch, the house where Bruce and Glenys lived in Llawryglyn. Bringing us down to earth Norma Allen imagines what it might have been like being involved in the building of the new War Memorial Hospital.
Our Boys from Radnorshire Brian Lawrence
Evan and Chloris Mills Elizabeth Day
The Queen in Wales Chris Barrett
Roger the First Lawrence Johnson
The Dakin Brothers of Llanidloes and the Mid Wales Wool Trade Andrew Dakin
C.S. Lewis and Wales Michael Apichela
Chartism in Llanidloes: Chapter 5 E. Ronald Morris
The Parish Corners with Three Authors Brian Poole
Van Institute Exhibition of Photographs, Postcards and Paper Collection
Put Out to Grass: part 19: Colditz Hero Diana Ashworth
Bubble and Squeak Diana Brown
The Battle of the Somme – Commonwealth War Graves Commission Living Memory Project
Good Times in Llani Gay Roberts
Mid Wales Arts Centre
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
The Dragons Crypt
Nant-y-sgiliwch Martha Fosberry
The New Hospital 1962 Norma Allen
Moonlight Bruce Mawdesley
GOOD TIMES IN LLANI: Carnival and the Fancy Dress from Llanidloes past.
Llani has always known how to have a good tine and if we can raise money for a good cause, so much the better. We had two great regular collective events in which everyone can take part – the Carnival, which was originally organised in 1932 to raise money for the War Memorial Hospital, and the Fancy Dress, when almost the whole town dressed up, which was started in 1969 to raise money to fund the Community Centre.
Dressing up is something most of us love to do from childhood and many of us carry on doing it in one way or another into a ripe old age. Carnival is one of those occasions and it is a tradition which goes way back to time immemorial in all societies, including Llanidloes, although from 1932 onwards, its main purpose has been to raise money for the hospital. The syllable ‘carn’ in Carnival means meat, implying that meat was an essential part of this occasion and, as anyone who watches Time Team will know, archaeology has shown us just how important and frequent were festive occasions when huge quantities of meat were consumed. These days while the barbecue and the hog roast are a vital part of the provisions, it is the dressing up, the parade all through the town, led by the Llanidloes Silver Band, down to the football field on Victoria Avenue, and the games that we all enjoy that is important, the Carnival Queen taking pride of place.
In 1932, when the current Llanidloes Carnival began after a break at the end of the First World War, the Queen was the Rose Queen and they were known as the Rose Queen Carnivals. They were held specifically to raise money for the hospital, which, before the National Health Service began in 1948, was paid for by subscription, donation, sponsorship and general fund raising. The General Organiser and Chairman of the Executive Committee that revived the Rose Queen Carnival in 1932 was Mr. W.E. Dakin who can be seen on page 16 as a small boy and one of the weavers in the High Street Factory. He was a very enthusiastic and energetic fundraiser for the War Memorial Hospital, and in the eight years prior to the outbreak of World War Two the Rose Queen Carnivals raised on average over £200 a year, totalling £1,716 altogether, a very satisfactory sum for the time. His wife was a vice president in 1954 and although I have no details to hand I believe she was just as enthusiastic in this cause as was her husband.
The pre-war Rose Queens were Dorothy Benbow (1932), Iris Wood (1933), Dorothy Worthington (1934), Annie Ashton (1935), Margaret Ingram (1936), Beryl Phillips (1937), Morfydd Ingram (1938) and Florence Evans (1939). To be 18 years of age and single are still the usual qualifications to be a Carnival Queen, who is chosen by the public at a special dance; and on Carnival day, rather like her wedding day, it is the one day when she gets to be beautifully dressed and treated like a queen before real life sets in.
Left: Dorothy Benbow, The first Rose Queen in 1932.
Right: Marie Jones, whom many of us remember as Marie Ingram, crowned as Rose Queen in 1954,
The Rose Queen Carnivals carried on after the end of the war in 1945 and the picture below, very kindly given by Gaynor Waters shows the crowd in Great Oak Street cheering the parade in 1953.
Left front are Ann Evans and Margaret Jenkins.
Centre grouping are Mrs Lithgow and her daughter Stephanie, Elsie and Betty Hughes, Olwen Edwards, Phil and Rita Owen (neé Edwards) and their daughter Julie (in the pram).
On the right are Peter Jones with his nephew Brynmor, standing at the back, and Gaynor herself in the front. Do let me know if any of you recognise anyone else in this picture, and I will pass it on to Gaynor.
Fun is the essence of Carnival and the late Carroll Davies told me of the time he and a friend decided to dress up as German officers. They couldn’t get hold of real uniforms so they dressed up in what would pass for such at a glance, including the peaked caps. They took a jeep down to Llangurig and burst into the Black Lion, thinking everyone would laugh. The place went dead quiet as everyone looked at them as if in a time warp, and Carroll wondered just for a moment whether they had done the right thing. Then, everyone started to laugh and said, “It’s alright. It’s only Carroll!” and to the profound relief of everybody, drinks were had all round.Finally, passing the residents of Maesywennol, who had been brought out to Smithfield Street to see the parade this year, as they passed them the Llanidloes Silver Band played ‘Hello Dolly’ as a special tribute to them and the general enjoyment of all.
Llanidloes Fancy Dress
When I first came to Llanidloes in 1972 it seemed to me that the Fancy Dress was an opportunity for everyone – male and female – dress up in drag, especially as good-time girls. Great Oak Street was closed to traffic and filled to bursting – you could hardly move from place to place for fishnet tights and shiny bras let alone get to a bar to get a drink. There must have been as much beer spilling out of the pubs as there were bodies, and the scent of more exotic stimulants also filled the air. The Dance at the Community Centre started at 10pm and finished around about 2am. But one or two revellers could still be found staggering around town at 9am the next morning. And everything was cleaned up by then too, which was a great credit to the organisation. It wasn’t a competitive event, not for the adults, anyway. It was just a great street party. Children’s competitions were introduced a few years later but they didn’t really seem to reflect the spirit of the Fancy Dress, which was just to dress up and have a good time. And there was no trouble.
In the 1980s as word got round, more and more visitors began to make a point of coming to Llani for the Fancy Dress and soon busloads of party goers were coming in from places as far afield as Telford, Birmingham and even London. It began to be known the Llani Mardi Gras, after the similar festivities in New Orleans in the USA. Unfortunately, as the years went by, many of the revellers would be well oiled with drink before they arrived and inevitably there was trouble. In the early days the need for policing was minimal, probably just to redirect the traffic. By the 1990s it was a major operation. In 2004 5,000 people filled the streets. Inevitably it became too expensive to police and in 2005 it was temporarily suspended over concerns for public safety; in 2012 it was cancelled altogether. But you can’t keep a good Llani girl, male or female, down and, while it is no longer held as a festival, that particular Friday is still Fancy Dress night when we can climb into our fishnets, take to the streets and have a good time.
The second part of this article gives voice to the people in the town sharing their memories with Robert Parker Munn in FANCY THAT! Published in The Llani Weaver of Summer of 2003 and gives a wonderfully vivid picture of the fun and enjoyment that Idloesians have at the Carnival and the Fancy Dress
Margaret said Victor Davies was an ex police sergeant who was the “Mr. Fancy Dress”. He was the one who used to organise it. Ivor said it was a Mr. Roberts who started it all. He was a solicitor’s clerk with Milwyn Jenkins. Ivor was a treasurer for the Fancy Dress once.
Margaret said the early fancy dress must have been in the 1960s but Doug said he remembers it in 1955 when he was in digs in Picton Street. He went as King Arthur. Everyone said it’s all for the alcohol now and not so much for getting friends together like it used to be.
Margaret said people don’t realise the Fancy Dress has always been organised by the Fancy Dress Committee and not the Council. Peggy remembered the fancy dress was a dance night in the community hall. After the carnival they would be dancing in their costumes. The carnivals went back to the 1930s at least. Beryl recalled a “Tramps Dance” too, there was something on every night in carnival week.
Ceridwen said the procession used to start from the old station. There was lots of space before, no industrial estate. There would be a figure of eight march through town to the football ground. Billy or Beryl Vaughan would lead it all on a piebald horse. Then there was Monty Morgan’s homemade penny-farthing bicycle. The Vaughans supplied the horses. When Billy died it was Berty Bull (Berty Slawson) who walked up front. Berty used to be a drummer in Llani Silver Town Band.
Beryl said Ernie D.T. and Nelly Griffiths used to do an act. Nellie was short and he would push her upon a horse and she’d fall off. You’d laugh at Harry Crisp as a Zulu too. Denzil Crisp and his brothers had motorbikes with planks across them.
Ynys said carnivals were brilliant affairs. 20 to 30 good dance troupes from all over performed. There were comic football matches with people dressing up as anything. The floats were fantastic. “I always remember a man on stilts catching money in his box hat.”
Beryl said there was the crowning of the Queen and competitions. Carnival always ended up with a confetti battle in Great Oak Street outside the town hall.
Peggy said that in the carnival there was a prize for the best dray pulled by stallion horses.
Carys said that everyone used to make their own clothes. Ivor said he was the treasurer for the Carnival in Llanidloes for 5 years. The carnival fell out for a few years in the 1940’s.There was a jazz band that often played there. “The Cambrian Jazz Band” Len Davis (Merle Davis’s brother) played for it. He was coming from the Cambrian leather factory. They dressed up as Spaniards and Dick Evans the Angel was in it. Carys remembered them marching to the sound of “The Isle of Capri.” There were often Morris Dancers. There was Llanidloes Football Team for Ladies for fun in the 1940s. They’d turn up on Carnival Day in the evening. The men would have a tug of war. There were other jazz bands too.
Peggy said, “We went as Llani football team. It was after 1941 sometime. We were a married group. We were walking. We were all ladies. We won the first prize. The second year we went as bunny girls. We won a prize then too. And we went as Black and White minstrels. Another time we dressed as babies with dummies. A woman was dressed up having 8 or 9 ‘babies’. We all had dummies and wore nappies. We won another prize like that. We went once as the Land Army girls. Another one was as the Salvation Army. I still have the photos. We had lots of fun preparing for it. We made it all ourselves. We went for the fun of it. We never had such fun after. It was very odd really that our husbands were letting us go in for it.
Eileen Meredith. I was from Llangurig. In 1932 I was a Scotch girl on a lorry in the carnival.
Doreen was 13 when she was the first carnival queen at Rhayader, in 1930. She wore a special dress to keep. They went round the schools to choose; about 7 of them. They would pick the ones to go on the lorry. Peggy said you had to pay for all the bits and pieces. Peggy said Llani Carnival Queen was called a Rose Queen.
– The History of the War Memorial Hospital Llanidloes 1920 – 1948 Brian Owen published by the League of
Friends Llanidloes Hospital 1998
– 1954 Rose Queen Carnival Programme and Timetable
– The Llani Weaver Summer 2003