Dear Pencambrians, Just to update you on the progress of our Editor, Gay Roberts, She is healing well, and is up and about and on her way to a full recovery. However, it is with regret that she has asked me to inform you that PenCambria will not be produced in 2020 in view of the Corona shutdown. 2020 subscriptions will be carried over to 2021. If you would prefer an immediate refund please ring Gay.
Further update 22/07/2020
Gay is making excellent progress after her accident and has moved house.
New contact details for Gay Roberts are: 3 Hafren Terrace, Llanidloes, SY186AT
Tel: 01686 413227 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Unfortunately the PenCambria Founder and Editor; Gay Roberts, had a fall before Christmas resulting in hospitalisation and surgery. She is recovering well. However, at present, she is unable to resume her role.
She has made the decision that a Spring edition of the journal will NOT be published.
We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to supporting her in producing the Summer 2020 edition.(PenCambria editorial team)
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 42 Winter 2019
Welcome to the final edition for 2019 and I am pleased to say that not only are there no more farewells to be said at present but on the contrary I am delighted to welcome a few more new writers to our fold.
Roy Hayter retired as the landlord of Lloyds Hotel in Llanidloes a few years ago and he provides a delightful eye opener into the pleasures and perils of running a small hotel. With the gems of local history drawn from all over mid Wales that he has in his archive and that he is now sharing so generously with us, David Peate has to be the Cartier of PenCambria. This issue begins with his observations on Plygain, that wonderful Welsh tradition of Christmas singing, and for Hallowe’en he tells all about the phantom horsemen that roam the countryside of mid Wales.
I,for one, love hearing about childhood in Wales. While I am sure many that were and are not magical, today when only the worst experiences are considered to be authentic, it is a delight to be reminded that not every adult is a monster for children to fear, that in rural areas certainly, we did feel safe to roam the countryside at will – and the sun always shone! In the late 19th century, Mary Janetta Buxton spent her childhood in Kerry. She recalled it in a memoire transcribed by her daughter Jessica Hawes who has very kindly allowed us to serialise it in PenCambria.
Fifty years ago mid Wales was buzzing furiously with the prospect of yet another valley being flooded to provide water to England. In the last issue Gareth Morgan introduced us to the background of the Dulas Valley project and in this issue he takes us right to the heart of the Inquiry set up to justify the authority’s actions in doing so.
Austin Gwesyn Lewis, who lives in Llanidloes, is a lively intelligent, independent centenarian whom Gaynor Waters discovered from an article in the County Times. Meanwhile Richard Meredith uncovers more of an extraordinary branch of his family, the Manuels of Trefeglwys.
Who would have thought that sleepy Dylife on the mountain road from Llanidloes to Machynlleth was once a thriving mining community of at least 1,000 people? A post card seen in a local exhibition this summer set Chris Barrett off on a quest to found out more about this remote village set in the wasteland of abandoned lead mines high in the Plynlimon range. After leaving Parliament in 1929 David Davies 1st Lord Davies continued with his efforts to bring about world peace although events were building up a momentum which would culminate in the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939. His health began to pay the price and Peter Lewis charts his final years in Part 5 of his biographical sketch.There are a great many saints in Wales. Almost every llan has one attached to it. Lawrence Johnson has hung up his boots this month and gone on an indoor trek looking at three of these saints – Gwynnog, Gildas and Cattwg – and comes up with all sorts of interesting information that give us food for thought.
For thousands of years, until the 18th-19th centuries, the grain that formed our staple diet was harvested by hand. The introduction of machinery, from the simple threshing drum to the modern combine harvester, changed a whole way of life almost within living memory. Brian Poole is collecting memories of these changes in rural practices and in this issue he looks at the threshing drum.
Christmas is another institution that has changed so much in our lifetimes from being a communal event to being a more private home-based, one might almost say sofa-based celebration today. Therese Smout has been looking at Christmas as it was reported in the newspapers 100 years ago, the year after the end of the Great War and it is quite sobering to see how those years were still dominating all aspects of life in our country.
Diana Ashworth goes batty with bats in her blog. Michael Limbrey charts a very successful year with the Montgomery Canal. We have two books from the RCAHMW to read during the dark winter hours. Richard Suggett’s Welsh Witches: Narratives of Witchcraft from Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century Wales was published in 2018; and Wales and the Sea 10,000 years of Welsh Maritime History, an epic study of Wales’ maritime history, published in English and in Welsh, was launched earlie this month on 24th October.
The Dragon’s Crypt houses its usual treasure of prose and poetry. Bruce Mawdesley awakens your imagination with another of his exquisite tales based on his countryside childhood, John Mauel roams down the memory lanes of Llanidloes and the Old Mrket Hall; Julia R. Francis looks into the Void before the Beginning; and we leave you this moth with Norma Allen’s encounter with a werwolf.
Blwyddyn newydd da I pob. Gay Roberts
Plygain David Peate
An Innkeepers Reflections Roy Hayter
Dam Tylwch and Flood the Dulas Valley: part 2 Gareth Morgan
My Childhood in Wales: part 1 Mary Janette Buxton
Postcard from Dylife Chris Barrett
Coming Home Gaynor Waters
First Lord Davies of Llandinam: part V Peter Lewis
Who were the Manuels Richard Meredith
The Tenth Order Lawrence Johnson
The Hum of the Threshing Drum Brian Poole
The Phantom Horseman David Peate
A View From the Hills: Long-Eared Brown Bat Zöe Spencer
Christmas and New Year in Montgomeryshire 100 Years Ago Therese Smout
Bats Diana Ashworth
The Dragons Crypt
The Awakening Bruce Mawdesley
In Celebration of Llanidloes and the Old Market Hall John Manuel
Before the Beginning Julia R. Francis
Encounter with a Werewolf Norma Allen
The Editor selects one article from each Issue of PenCambria to be posted on this website. Below is her choice, which is very seasonal.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR IN MONTGOMERYSHIRE 100 YEARS AGO
The discussion of events this past year, concerning the centenary of the end of the Great War, made me wonder what had been going on in the locality over Christmas 1918 and into the new year of 1919. There was a lot of information in the newspapers relating to post war issues, such as from The Montgomeryshire War Pensions Committee. They communicated the news that discharged and disabled soldiers or sailors, who were unfit to carry on with their pre war occupation, could join a training course such as the ones in Forestry at Llanidloes or Basket Making at Newtown. There were also adverts for metal miners, machine men and labourers to work in the Van lead mine.
The weekly casualty list, produced by the War Office and Air Ministry, was still mentioning local men in December 1918. Edward Adolphus Matthews (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) from Llanidloes, was listed as “missing” and F. Davies (Welsh Guards), also from Llanidloes, was listed as “wounded”. Mr and Mrs Hopper of Station View, Llanidloes, had received the sad news that their son, Sgt. Albert Henry Hopper, had died at Minden camp in Germany on 26th October from pulmonary phthisis. He had been buried in the cemetery for prisoners of war in the presence of his comrades. He had been reported missing, but then his parents were overjoyed to receive 3 letters from him, telling them he was well and unwounded but begging them to send food. They had already lost another son, George Hobday Hopper, who went down with the mine-sweeper Mignonette in 1917.
It was sad to see the reports of a soldier’s death after the war had ended. Pte. J. Rowlands from Freestone Lock, Newtown died in a London hospital, Pte. Edward Stephen Jones from Maes Cottage, Llangurig, died in France and Pte. E. Jones from Severn Porte, Llanidloes died in hospital in Alexandria, all passing away in December from pneumonia.
The Police Gazette dated 31st December, listed William Alfred John Wood (The Welsh Regiment) a woollen worker of Llanidloes in the “Deserters and Absentees” list. He was 18 years old, 5’5” with brown hair and blue eyes and had been missing from Lowestoft since 19th December.
Released prisoners of war from Germany, were arriving back in England, including W. M. Lloyd of Llanidloes.Pte. Evan Hartwell Jehu returned to Llanfair Caereinion and received a warm welcome home “from the clutches of the Hun”. The following piece from the newspaper explains what happened to him. “Pte. Jehu was captured in the big offensive in March and was one of those unfortunate men who were compelled to work behind the German trenches in France. There he suffered all the brutality which the average German took a fiendish delight in inflicting upon British prisoners-heavy work, brutal treatment, insufficient nourishment, filthy accommodation-in every respect a contrast to the “kid gloves” method of treatment metered out to German prisoners by the English”.
The Montgomeryshire Quarter Sessions sentenced Hugo Suck, a German prisoner stationed at Welshpool, to 9 months hard labour for stealing a sheep. He was working at Forden for a farmer called Mr Rogers and admitted to killing and cutting up a sheep from a neighbouring farm. He explained that he had killed it because he had not received the customary parcels from home and was hungry.
It was noted in an Army Council Instruction, that non-commissioned officers and soldiers, when in mourning, could now wear a black band around their left arm, above the elbow. Previously only officers and warrant officers had been permitted. The Merioneth and Montgomeryshire District Wages Committee adopted a resolution, urging the desirability of establishing village clubs as a memorial to the men who had fallen in the war, in those rural localities where no such facilities were provided. At a public meeting in the village hall in Caersws, there was a discussion on the form their memorial should take for Llanwnog parish. Mr Richard Jones, Chairman of the parish council, wrote a letter stating that he was convinced more than ever that the most fitting memorial would be a monument with the names of the deceased men inscribed thereon, to be erected near the Cross in Caersws.
Forden Rural District Council received offers of free gifts of land for the erection of houses to be used as homes for ex-soldiers from the parish. Those giving the land expected the council to erect well-built cottages with not less than 3 good bedrooms, a pig sty in the garden and have at least one sixth of an acre of land attached to them.
“The Comrades of The Great War” was a worldwide association whose chief object was the welfare of discharged and disabled soldiers and the dependants of those who had fallen. In Montgomeryshire, it was reported, they had dealt with 560 cases and secured increased pensions and grants to start men in business or stock a farm.
Cambrian railways announced their train arrangements for Christmas 1918, with various alterations, but on Christmas Day there were no trains at all between Llanfair Caereinion and Welshpool. Further particulars, however, were given on handbills to be obtained at stations. The Cambrian Railways first and second prizes for the best kept horse, harness etc. were awarded to Carters John Jones and T. J. Probert, both of Newtown. Moat Lane (West) and Newtown both got prizes for the high standard of cleanliness and neatness of their signal cabins.
The Border Counties Advertiser published a letter in their Christmas Eve edition. It was “My Christmas message to women workers” by Mrs Lloyd George. It was thanking them for their efforts, but contained this passage
“Away back in those far-away days before the war, when thousands of our womenfolk were content to spend comparatively useless lives and to whom the great gift of time was often itself a burden, I held a firm conviction that in times of emergency these same women would not fail to exhibit the noblest qualities of our sex and race”.
Private Nicholas Bennett from Cilhaul, Llawryglyn, wrote from Egypt to the secretary of the War Contributions Committee. He confirmed the safe arrival of his last parcel and was most pleased with the contents. He thanked them for all the useful articles which had been sent out and commented that the cigarettes had often been a regular God-send. He fancied that most of the committee would be as pleased as they were that the war was over at last and trusted that they might spend a very happy Christmas.
St. Mary’s church at Llanfair Caereinion held 4 services on Christmas day. Holy Communion at 8am, 10am, 11am and Evensong and carol singing in the evening. The services were well attended throughout the day. Miss Maggie Jehu sang the solo parts of the carols and the collections were given to the Waifs and Strays society. A band of choristers also paraded the town singing carols in aid of St. Dunstan’s Home for the blind. “A large number of the boys were home on leave, looking very fit and enjoyed their peaceful Christmas to the full”.
Christmas was quietly celebrated in Welshpool, but on Christmas Eve the streets were crowded and the shops were besieged with purchasers. There were 3 celebrations of Communion at St Mary’s church and a shortened service in the evening.
Miss Matilda Hamer, aged 15, was buried in Beulah churchyard on Christmas day, after being in a nursing home in Baschurch for 18 months and having her leg amputated the week before.
Oakley Park Literary Society held a successful entertainment on Christmas night, and the schoolroom was filled. The first part was by the school children and the second an operetta entitled “Inspector for an hour”. Special mention was made of Mr Gwilym Morgan, whose acting of the bogus Inspector “brought the house down”. In the third part, letters were read out from the boys serving with the forces, thanking the society for the parcels etc. received.
John Kinsey Jones of Llanidloes died on 29th December after a long illness. He was a Chemist on Long Bridge St, a Town Councillor and Mayor of Llanidloes from 1897 to 1899. There was a vote of congratulation at the monthly council meeting in Llanidloes, on the return of the Mayor’s son, Sgt. Davies, who had been a prisoner of the Turks.
There was a discussion on the question of obtaining German prisoners to work on the roads, with the Clerk confirming that they would have to pay local rates and if a prisoner was killed they would be responsible, if the War Office later decided to pay compensation. A rummage sale was held in the National school, organised by Mrs Jones of The Vicarage and the Church sewing class. They raised £27 for the church war fund.
There was a special sale of army horses and mules (due to demobilisation) on every Saturday in January 1919 at the Raven Repository in Shrewsbury and a sale had been proposed in Newtown. However, this caused great concern to the Montgomeryshire War Agricultural Executive Committee, who had passed a resolution asking that no horses (with the exception of Food Production Dept horses already working here) should be sold there, as it was a horse breeding county. They were worried that by bringing in cheap horses it would reduce the quality, the reputation and prices of Montgomeryshire horses. The committee also had a lengthy debate on the “plough quota” for the 1919 harvest. Although the official view was that the food position was as serious as ever, they felt that owing to the cessation of hostilities, orders to plough should not be insisted on where it would be necessary to plough up valuable grasslands in order to comply. The quota of “pivotal” men (those who created work for others, such as blacksmiths and wheelwrights) had been increased so that the Montgomeryshire quota was now 90. There were also 480 soldier workers. The distribution of coal in the county was uneven. The only coal merchant in Llanfair “hadn’t a ton yesterday” and the Caersws and Tregynon threshing machine was held up because they couldn’t get any to work it”.
In an advert for Rinso washing powder it claimed: “For your country’s sake you must save coal. For your own sake you can’t afford to use coal to boil clothes-it means less coal for cooking and warming purposes. Rinso washes in cold water. Sold in packets everywhere by all Grocers, Stores, Oilmen, chandlers etc”.
The Montgomeryshire Butchers Association, chaired by Edward Hamer of Llanidloes, met at the beginning of January to discuss “the frozen meat question”. The Ministry of Food was trying to send frozen meat from abroad to be sold in shops and the local butchers were not happy. Mr Sayce (Welshpool), William Jones (Trefeglwys), William Jones (Caersws) and Martin Harris (Newtown) said they had canvassed their customers and not had one favourable reply. After much discussion they decided to try the experiment and small orders were lodged. However, a letter writer to the County Times who had obviously not been asked their opinion, wrote “Had I been approached on the matter I would have unhesitatingly said, “Give me anything that a steel knife can cut and you can keep the fibrous material over which I have wasted cash, coupons, teeth and knives for 2 years”.
Poultry keepers were not happy about the price of eggs being controlled. Feed was expensive and difficult to obtain and it did not pay to keep hens. A similar situation had previously occurred with butter. Controlling the cost of butter to below the cost of production had caused producers to stop making it and a shortage to ensue.
At Llanidloes sessions, with Mr S.P. Davies as chairman, the following case was heard. Mr William Savage of Emporium, Trefeglwys, was charged by the food inspector, of selling currants to 2 customers above the maximum price. He had charged 1s 3d per pound, when the controlled price was 1s 2d. At the Police Court, Mrs Mary Morris, Greengrocer of Short Bridge Street, Llanidloes, was charged with selling apples to 2 customers at above the maximum price.
Meanwhile, Welshpool Food Control Committee was complaining that they were getting inferior margarine to Oswestry and the Postmaster of Oswestry was being approached by Llanfyllin Town Council, to try to get an earlier delivery of letters.
Miss Beatrice Beresford Wood, of Llwyn-on, Newtown, had returned from Russia where she had been staying with Princess Radzwill throughout the war. She afterwards went to Minsk, where she witnessed and heard of instances of the frightfulness of the Bolshevik, but was not subjected to any annoyances herself.
On Thursday the 2nd January, a football match had taken place between the wounded soldiers and the Newtown county school boys, which resulted in a 4-2 win for the soldiers. At a Newtown Urban Council meeting, the medical officer warned that all precautions should be taken against the influenza epidemic, but unfortunately this had not been done. The unfortunate result was that there were several fresh outbreaks, particularly in the country districts. He earnestly advised those contemplating getting up entertainments of any sort to postpone doing so for the present. It was hoped that all would take notice of the Doctor’s remarks and stop, if possible, the spread of the epidemic. An account of the inquest into the death of a Llanwddelan woman who died after an attack of influenza, stated that owing to the prevalence of the epidemic, the doctors were too busy to attend her. A doctor who gave evidence said that even if he had had time to attend, he could have done nothing. She died from wasting paralysis.
Llanidloes County Intermediate School was advertising itself, claiming it had every facility for boys and girls, from 11 to 19, under a staff of specially trained teachers. They had a science lab for the teaching of chemistry, physics and agriculture, a library and typewriting room, a workshop, a kitchen for cookery and laundry teaching and cottage rooms for instruction in housewifery. Meanwhile the proportion of women electors in Montgomeryshire, was reported as being about 3 to 5 men.
A Cow belonging to Mr Joseph Grice of Salop Road, Montgomery, had given birth to 3 Heifer calves and all were alive and doing well. Mr Grice, aged 68, was a general labourer on a farm. Early lambs were reported from a ewe belonging to Mrs Evans of Caethro, Welshpool, which had been born on 19th December.
The “lost and found” section is invariably interesting. A 2 yr old Hereford bullock had been lost from Welshpool Smithfield. Any information was to be rewarded, but there was also the warning that anyone found detaining the bullock after this date would be prosecuted. A 5s reward was offered for the return of a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles lost on 23rd December in Newtown Railway Station. Also, very specifically, “Lost from a field close to Welshpool about a week ago, 3 sheep. Information to Police, Welshpool”.
The “Wanted” section is also an interesting read. Along with 2 respectable farm labourers able to milk, a farmer wanted “a strong boy, to run milk and make himself useful”. A “good chap” was wanted to work in light timber haulage at Glasbwll, Machynlleth.
In the “Sales by Private Treaty” section, a piano was being sold from Oswestry, for £24 or so, because the owner had been disabled through the war.
The Lloyd-Verney family of Clochfaen Hall in Llangurig showed seasonal kindness as usual. They gave gifts of coal, tea and rice to the aged and indigent of the parish. The “Tommies and Jacks” native to the parish were also remembered with gifts of tobacco, stationary, books and domino sets.
- Harold Thomas of Welshpool Motor Garages, was advertising 1919 cars. They were the sole district agent for the new modal 20 h.p. Austin. It had a self-starter, concealed hood and detachable wheels for £400. A 20 h.p. Ford cost £250.
Apart from the war references, not so very different subjects from the ones that concern us today, I decided.
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 41 Summer 2019
Well, after wondering if our unusually hot, dry spring was a sign of global warming, our summer seems to have settled into its usual unpredictable state albeit on the fine and dry side as I write this introduction. Summers were always fine in our childhood memories and Gaynor Waters evokes some wonderful memories of cinema going in Llanidloes in the 1950s and 60s.
Still in Llanidloes, the annual exhibition of quilts is a great visitor attraction and Chris Shercliff, a trustee of The Quilt Association gives a fascinating account of its history and some of the exhibits. Diana Ashworth takes to the choppy waters on a brief visit to Bardsey Island, hunting the chough. Does she find one? You will have to read and out.The centenary of the 1st World War and its aftermath continues to affect our lives and in this edition Peter Francis takes a journey across mid Wales using the war memorials as markers. So many names on them, so many young lives taken.The life of the First Lord Davies of Llandinam was also touched by the 1914-18 World War, so much so that he was driven to campaign for the formation of the League of Nations to try and prevent a future war. This and his many other activities are touched on in this excerpt from Peter Lewis. Fishing is an integral part of life in rural mid Wales and Val Church looks at the impact of the Vyrnwy dam on the migration of trout and salmon at Dolanog.
Time was when every other vehicle you saw on the roads in mid Wales was a Land Rover. Not so now with a huge variety of 4x4s to choose from, Brian Poole has fond memories of the Land Rover and its workhorse capacity and he takes us through them with illustrations which will surely bring back memories to many of us as well. It was a magpie and a buzzard that stopped Lawrence Johnson in his tracks in the hills above Carno and Trefeglwys and he found himself musing how nature gets along very well, much better in fact, without us. This observation is certainly reinforced by Gareth Morgan’s account of the proposal in 1966 to make a reservoir out of the Dulas Valley with a dam at Tylwch to provide water for the south east of England. There was a vigorous campaign against it in which he, along with several other legal professionals, such as Emlyn Hooson, gave their services for free to ensure the project would not go ahead. Marian Harris, born and bred in the Dulas Valley, has written a book about it which was published in April this year and reviewed in this edition by Chris Barrett. Meanwhile Gareth himself has written a two-part article for PenCambria about the event and in this issue he looks briefly at the history behind flooding valleys of Wales to supply water to English towns and cities and the preliminary build up to the Public Enquiry, which will be the subject of his article in the October edition.
Phil Brachi discovered the magic of mid Wales some 40 years ago when he made a new life here for himself and his family. The Upper Cledan Valley is his special place and here he found many things that challenged his severely intellectual outlook on life, not the least being the Tylwyth Teg, those faerie phenomena that just catch your eye when you’re looking the other way… Life along the Montgomery Canal continues to thrive and Michael Limbrey has us a report on the progress of its restoration and the annual triathlon event held there and filmed for television in May this year. It is part of the Restore Montgomery Canal! Appeal, which in 2018 was enhanced by the appearance of Timothy West and Prunella Scales.
Mid Wales Arts Centre has a full programme of exhibitions of paintings and sculpture this summer, and sculpture, pottery and printing workshops for adults and children. A Poetry Party in September will be great fun, so do along if you can. The King’s Rent Hole and the Red Lady of Paviland are our topics from the Royal Commission this month. Read the article to find out what they are about.In the Dragon’s Crypt a surprise at the Show from Bruce Mawdesley, summer musings from Julia R. Francis and from Norma Allen, a story based on the tale of the man who was wrongfully hanged in Montgomery in 1821 and whose grave has been a source of mystery ever since. Enjoy your read. Gay Roberts PenCambria Editor and Founder
CONTENTS PenCambria 41
- Llanidloes Cinema Gaynor Waters
- The Quilt Association, Llanidloes Chris Shercliff
- Bardsey Island Chough Hunt Diana Ashworth
- How We Remembered: the War Memorials of Mid Wales Peter Francis
- The First Lord Davies of Llandinam: part II Peter LewiS
- Trout and Salmon in the River Vyrnwy above Dolanog Val Church
- Remembering the Land Rover Brian Poole
- We Do Not Belong Lawrence Johnson
- The Dulas Valley Victory and the Treweryn Factor – book review Chris Barrett
- Dam Tylwch and Flood the Dulas Valley Gareth Morgan
- A View from the Hills : Little Wing Zöe Spencer
- The Truth Fairy Phil Brachi
- Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust
- The King’s Rent Hole; the Red Lady of Paviland Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
Article in PC 41 selected by the Editor to be reproduced in full on this website:
DAM TYLWCH AND FLOOD THE DULAS VALLEY : The 1966 threat to build another reservoir in mid Wales: Part 1, by Gareth Morgan
As a solicitor, I found that once a case was closed and the decision made, it became a closed book. No more was heard of it. However, Tryweryn and the threats to flood the Dulas Valley do not to fit into that category. After 50 years or more they both still have a life of their own!
The year 2019 saw the publication of an excellent account of the campaign to save the Dulas Valley from being flooded. Entitled The Dulas Valley Victory, and the Tryweryn Factor. It has been written by Marian Harris, who was born and brought up in the Valley. The launch took place at Chatwood in Llanidloes on the 18th April 2019. It was a sell out. The story is still alive in the minds of many people. I doubt there has been a better book launch in Llanidloes; venue packed to the rafters, and many standing outside on the pavement.
The episode clearly still resonates with so many people. At the time I was often told that “all former attempts to stop the powerful machine preparing to flood your valley, had failed”. Mind you, I recollect someone telling me how David Lloyd George had been the only successful solicitor in this respect when an attempt was made to flood the Ceiriog Valley in an era lost in time. A part of our history never recorded in print. A big “Thank you” to Marian Harris for ensuring that the Dulas experience is recorded for posterity.
This publication seems to have revived raw memories of the many Welsh Valleys that had been flooded to supply water to English cities. The most celebrated was the drowning of the village of Capel Celyn in Merioneth in the 1950s to create the Tryweryn reservoir supplying water for the city of Liverpool. Prior to this there had been the construction of the Vyrnwy Reservoir in North Montgomeryshire to supply a city in England. Tryweryn, built in the 1950s, seems to have left the greatest hurt in the Welsh mind and memory. After 70 years it is still a sensitive point in Welsh history. I doubt it will ever heal. It has even prompted the construction of one of Wales’s most famous pieces of graffiti. On a roadside wall in Ceredigion near Llanrhystyd, there is painted on a lay-by wall the words “Cofiwch Dryweryn” “Remember Tryweryn”. These are poignant words, challenging everyone who passes on the main coast road never to forget how Capel Celyn was taken against the will of the people to satiate the needs of a large city in England.
Occasionally one sees film of the opening ceremony when a large crowd tried their best to disrupt the ceremony. Plaid Cymru had led and sustained a long campaign to try and stop the project. This was a period when Plaid was a rising political force even though it had not at that time seen anyone elected to Parliament as its representative. It also led to the seed being sown that enabled the founding of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg, an organisation that has without doubt helped enormously to raise the cause for saving our language. It was against this background that we entered the 1960s and 70s in Wales. The Welsh conscience had been roused by Tryweryn. No other valley was to be flooded in Wales. If every Welsh Member of Parliament had voted against it, as was the case with Tryweryn, the huge majority of English M.P.s were more than enough to drive it through. Consider for a moment that all the Welsh M.P.s totalled a mere 36, in those days. Very small in number compared to the total of 650 members in the House of Commons. I mention this background, because it shows that political pressure alone was insufficient to stop the Parliamentary machine when it embarked on a programme to legislate enabling it to acquire the land to build a reservoir in Wales.
The early 1960s brought the news that the Severn River Authority, as it then was, had identified 24 sites in Montgomeryshire that were potential reservoir sites to supply water for the South East of England. There is some doubt as to whether this information had been made public at that stage. Later in 1966 it became publicly known that 29 sites in Montgomeryshire (including the Dulas Valley) were being examined as potential reservoir sites. These sites were being investigated on the instructions of the then Secretary of State for Wales the Rt. Hon. James Griffiths M.P. He was the first Secretary of State for Wales, a new office with a seat in the Cabinet, created by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson. He had set up a Welsh Water Committee to advise him on water matters. There also existed a Water Resources Board charged under the Water Resources Act 1963 with taking “all such action as they may from time to time consider necessary and expedient, or as they may be directed to take by virtue of this Act, for the purpose of conserving, redistributing or otherwise augmenting water resources in their area, or of transferring any such resources to the area of another authority”.
At this time industrial growth was expected to accelerate along with significant increases in population in the south east of England. The Central Electricity Generating Board was by now responsible for the investigation and selection of sites in both England and Wales for large sources of water to meet future demand for water abstraction from the river Severn to provide water for electricity generating purposes. At the time, demand for water was growing year by year for cooling purposes at power stations. It is believed that there was a need to double the daily flow of water over the measuring gauge on the Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire. That gauge still plays a vital part in Severn river flows from the Clywedog reservoir outside Llanidloes. There is a statutory obligation in the Clywedog Reservoir Joint Authority Act of 1965 to maintain a minimum flow over the gauge. In 1966 it was stated that future demand as then estimated required a daily flow of 300 million gallons of an “unfailing supply” of cold water. The high rainfall in Montgomeryshire coupled with its topography, and low population, classified the County as a suitable area to conserve water to meet the future demands of England.
Publication of this information produced huge concern and considerable unrest in the County. The then M.P. was the Liberal Mr Emlyn Hooson Q.C. who had been elected in a by-election in 1962 following the death of his predecessor the Rt Hon. Clement Davies Q.C. who had been the Leader of the Liberal Party for many years. There was so much consternation, that a county wide defence committee was created comprising representatives of all the areas affected. The Secretary was Mr R.P. Davies the County Secretary of the Farmers Union of Wales all under the Chairmanship of Mr Leslie Morgan the owner of an agricultural engineering business and ironmongers in Llanfair Caereinion.
The Dulas site was not only situated in Montgomeryshire but it also extended into Radnorshire close to the village of Pantydwr. The main dam or buttress was proposed to be erected adjacent to Tylwch rocks. In view of the inclusion of part of Radnorshire, the Labour Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnor, Mr Tudor Watkins was a member of the Defence Committee. Mr Watkins was the member from 1945 until the early 1970s when he retired and became the first Chair of Powys County Council. By this time he had been elevated to the peerage, becoming Lord Watkins of Glantawe. He was known for his diligence as an M.P. and for the care and attention he gave to his constituents.
The arrival of crisis point, that is the threat posed by 29 reservoir sites, led to Emlyn Hooson Q.C. the distinguished member for Montgomeryshire obtaining an emergency Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on Friday the 27th May 1966. Mr Hooson delivered a masterful speech. A poignant sentence in his speech is worth quoting:
“ in response to a request of mine, the Authority (Severn River Authority) sent me a plan on the 8th April and I think that all who have seen it will agree that it is a horrific document in itself because it purports to show, by way of illustration, about one-third of the land surface of Montgomeryshire under water.”
He went on: “ In the hearts and minds of most of the people affected it was a preliminary step which would eventually lead to the submergence of their valleys. The production of the map and plan, more than anything else, had a deep psychological impact on the population of the area. I feel justified in saying that in many cases people have been caused needless anxiety and fear by these proposals.”
He concluded: “ It would be a great help if the Secretary of State (now The Rt. Hon Cledwyn Hughes Labour M.P. for Anglesey) were today to make the authoritative statement which I have asked for as to precisely what the Government’s policy is and what kind of proposal he would definitely not even consider on sociological and economic grounds. It might be possible for him to announce today the elimination of these sites from any further consideration. I hope he will do so.”
An English poet wrote:
“ Breathes there the man, with soul as dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land!
Never was this matter so well expressed, even though it was expressed by an English poet. It expresses the feelings of many of hundreds of my constituents who are affected by this proposal.
The Member of Parliament for Denbigh Mr W.G. Morgan also spoke in support of Mr Hooson. In his reply the Secretary of State made some cogent comments for example “ I am quite sure that the Welsh Committee (the Water Committee) and the river authority will take the most careful account of the sociological objections before they make any final recommendations……. Let me say now, so that there may be no more misunderstanding or further misconception, that as Secretary of State for Wales I do not propose to consent to the drowning of any villages in Mid Wales ….. I can assure the hon and learned Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman the member for Denbigh that communities count as far as I am concerned. The need for preserving first-class agricultural land will also be very much in my mind”.. The Secretary of State concluded “I intend to see that the interests of our country and its people are fully safeguarded. This is my responsibility and privilege as Secretary of State for Wales.”
What was the result of this debate and these assurances extracted by Mr Emlyn Hooson? We know that Secretaries of State change from time to time and even though they have a seat in the Cabinet, they may not be there for too long. Cledwyn Hughes did in fact deliver good news. It did appear on reading the debate that some lessons might have been learnt following the Tryweryn debacle. In September 1966 it was announced that no less than 19 sites were eliminated, but this left a further 10 in the melting pot. Further investigations were carried out by Binnie and Partners Consulting Engineers who then reduced the number to 6.which still included the Dulas Valley. The latter was presented in the form of two different projects, still in the valley but differing in capacity.
After much deliberation by the promoting authorities ( there were several representing their area of benefit, with the Severn River Authority as lead authority supported by the Water Resources Board) the decision was made to publish an application for consent under section 67 of the Water Resources Act 1963 for compulsory powers to carry out trial borings at Tylwch near Llanidloes in connection with the proposed Dulas Regulating Reservoir. At this stage it was clear that 17 farmhouses and their outbuildings were to be inundated as well as 6 other residences and a further 20 farms were to be affected by land acquisitions. The Severn River Authority admitted “disturbance would be relatively high and disruption appreciable”. That was an understatement if ever there was one. In fact 50% of the valley with a total population of 380 persons was to be affected.
Shortly after this a draft Order was published by Severn River Authority, and the date of the Public Enquiry to consider the application was announced. At this the stage the Dulas Defence Committee had no legal representation and at most about 6 weeks before the hearing. This called for urgent action. This will be outlined in part 2 of the story.
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 40 Spring 2019
Do you ever feel that some divine harvest is being gathered? Firstly, two friends and a close family member, yes the Celtic triplet, all intimately associated with PenCambria, have departed this life in the last half year. Diana Brown left us last August, Jim French slipped quietly away in the New Year and Pedro, the dog whose exploits were integral to the life of the retired lady and gentleman from Llawr-y-glyn in the long running series Put Out To Grass also hung up his lead earlier this year. Added to these, one of our greatest supporters Lady Shirley Hooson passed away just under a year ago and two of us said good bye to our husbands in the past four months: another Celtic trio, this time of our supporters. Empty, shell-shocked, these hardly describe feeling at the moment. However, in the general run of things, nature abhors a vacuum, so when a space becomes vacant, we can usually hope for it to be filled sooner or later and, while this issue is full of familiar faces, there are glimmers on the horizon of new writers, and hence new and different interests to come. Tributes to both Jim and Pedro appear in the pages of this issue.
In the meantime, we begin this edition with the first part of a biographical sketch of the First Lord Davies of Llandinam. This is part of the booklet A Biographical Sketch of David Davies (Topsawyer) 1818-1890 and his Grandson David Davies (1st Baron Davies) 1880–1944 by Peter Lewis, part one of which detailing the life of David Davies, Top Sawyer, appeared in the last edition of PenCambria.
Building on the initiative by the RCAHMW and Jim French’s article in the last PenCambria, Norma Allen has been investigating place names in the Llandinam area. This is project in which we could all take part, so if you feel like finding out about the place names and history or any stories behind them, do please get in touch and let us know what you have found. The RCAHMW are also very keen to know what has been found in you area too, so if you want to get in touch with them, contact details can be found further on in this magazine.
Brian Poole has been tackling the Caersws Smithfield and has come up with some very interesting information as well as some wonderful archive photographs. Andrew Dakin describes the long march of his family back to Llanidloes. Lawrence Johnson is back on the uplands of Plylumon among the remnants of lost communities there.
Glove making was one of those essential trades in centuries gone by that, apart from gardening gloves and woolly mitts for the winter, we scarcely consider these days. Jim French’s final article, which amazingly he made sure he completed before his death, is a search for the glove makers of Llanidloes and fascinating reading it makes too. Bruce Mawdesley in one of his exquisitely written pen portraits, remembers Old Morty. Her memory jogged by the tribute to her friend Lady Shirley Hooson, Gwyneth Garner relates a few of her own war-time memories, hopefully the first of many such recollections. In Andrew Dakin’s article Tales From the Footplate: Tylwch in PC37, he mentioned a tragic accident that happened in 1883. Derek Savage sent me the newspaper article detailing this accident, which I have reprinted here and I do hope you will forgive me including the gory details.
Wales is above all a land of thwarted ambitions and especially so after the death of Llywelyn ab Gruffudd, the only native Welsh declared Prince Of Wales, who was assassinated in 1282. Two other princes followed in his footsteps in the following century: Owain Glyndwr at the end of the 14th century but 30 years before that came Owain of Wales, also known as Owain Lawgoch, and it is his story, facts, myths and legends that I have included in this issue.
Michael Apichela, as part of his love affair with Wales provides an insight into the mining connections between Wales and Pennsylvania.
The renovation of the barn in Wales Arts starts the year with a new, more intimate space for exhibition, workshops and performances. Last year the RCAHMW highlighted a monument on Moel y Golfa in north Montgomeryshire, commemorating the Romani Chell, or leader, Ernest Burton, and there is also an update on their project regarding the place names in Wales.
Lots of goodies in the Dragon’s Crypt. Diana Ashworth turns her talent to fiction this time with a tale all about the dangers of tunnelling, with enchanting illustration by Wendy Wigley; Julia R Francis has a poem all about the first day; Norma Allen whets our appetite with Apple Crumble and Custard and Chris Barrett, also in a lighter frame of mind, has some entertaining thoughts on life in general. Good Reading to you all Gay Roberts.
CONTENTS OF PENCAMBRIA 40
First Lord Davies of Llandinam, Part one Peter Lewis
Musings on some Welsh Place Names in the Llandinam Area Norma Allen
The Caersws Smithfield Brian Poole
Tumbled Worlds Lawrence Johnson
A Long March Home Andrew Dakin
Was there ever a Glove Making Industry in Llanidloes? Jim French
Old Morty Bruce Mawdesley
Accident at Tylwch – report from the Montgomeryshire Express
The Prince of Wales over the Water Gay Roberts
Love in Wales Michael Apichela
The Master of his Fate – Jim French 1946-2019 Gay Roberts
R.I.P. Pedro Diana Ashworth
Mid Wales Arts – news
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales – updates
In the Dragons Crypt
Where The Wild Garlic Grows Diana Ashworth
Day One – poem by Julia R. Francis
Apple Crumble and Custard Norma Allen
Comedies : some reflections on life Chris Barrett
Time is Running Out for the Pangolin Zoe Spencer
MUSINGS ON SOME WELSH PLACE NAMES IN THE LLANDINAM AREA by Norma Allen
Although I was born and brought up in Wales, I am not a Welsh speaker and I take note of the warning published by the Ordnance Survey in their ‘Welsh Origins of Place Names in Britain’:-
‘There are many pitfalls for the unwary, attempting to understand place names and indulging in the indiscriminate, uninformed and naïve interpretation of elements on the basis of the place names as they appear today.’
Therefore, I apologise in advance for any inaccuracies that have come about in my attempt to understand and to reflect on some of the place names in the area.
Many towns and villages in Wales with names beginning with ‘Llan’ are named after the patron saint who founded them –– Llan is generally accepted as meaning church, or the area around the church –– although other interpretations suggest it might mean an enclosure, settlement or even village green. The Llan is followed by the saint’s name, for example, Llanidloes after Saint Idloes and Llangurig after Saint Curig. This is by no means always the case though; Llandrindod Wells, for example, is named after the Trinity (Y Drindod in Welsh). Other towns beginning with Llan have no church connections. Llandaff, despite its cathedral, is named after the River Taff.
Llandinam is also one of the exceptions. The settlement is said to have been founded by the sixth century Saint Llonio, with the parish church being named after him. One might therefore expect the village to be called Llanllonio rather than Llandinam. ‘Dinam’ is often interpreted as meaning ‘without a fault’ but B Bennet Rowlands believes that it more likely to mean ‘the church of the fortress’ as it was partly built of stone obtained from the ruins of the ancient city of Caersws and could be the old name of the iron age hill fort Cefn Carnedd (‘Cefn’, ridge, ‘Carnedd’, heap of stones), the remains of which are found on a hill on the western edge of the village. He cites the Rev C.K. Hartshorne who stated that in his opinion Cefn Carnedd could well have been the true position of Caractacus’ final battle.
B Bennett Rowlands, who was born in 1836 at Pwllan Farm, Llandinam, recollects that the land by the church tower was raised well above the adjoining ground, suggesting traces of what might have been a fortified camp. Adding weight to the argument are the ruins of a dwelling on a hilltop on the opposite side of the village –– ‘The Gaer’, (a mutation of the word Caer meaning stronghold or fort).
When the present church was substantially re-built in 1865 by Edward Jones of Llanidloes, he discovered two cartloads of human bones that give rise to the conjecture that they were the result of a bloody battle on that spot at sometime in the past. Whatever the truth of the matter, St Llonio’s is built on a hill in a commanding position overlooking the village and surrounding countryside –– access these days is up a steep slope that often causes parishioners to arrive at the church gasping for breath!
Place and house names in most areas are named after the surrounding landscape. My home, Troedyrhiw, is aptly named as it is tucked into the surrounding landscape with a hill rising above it. The literal translation is foot (troed) of the (yr) hill (rhiw) or bottom of the slope. The houses of Aelybryn are set in a row along the edge (Ael) of a hill (bryn) and in this hilly area there are many houses with ‘Bryn’ in their names.
The Italianate-style mansion, Broneirion, was built on the site of Broneirion Farm for David Davies (Top Sawyer) in 1864. It stands on the side of a steep, wooded valley, with stunning views over the river Severn valley and the village. It is now the home of Girl Guiding Cymru and a Conference Centre.
Finding out the possible meaning of the name Broneirion has proved difficult. ‘Bron’ is breast (of the hill) and it has been suggested that ‘eirion’ may be ‘jewel’ thus making ‘jewel on the breast of the hill’, which would fit well now. However, this theory seems doubtful since Broneirion Farm would probably have been a much more humble dwelling than the present magnificent building. Further down the road are the farms: Lower, Middle and Upper Gwernerin. Does eirion come from erin? Gwern is alder, or place of the alder, eirin in Welsh is plum or berries. Broneirion had an apple orchard on its slopes. Whether this had anything to do with the name is pure conjecture.
One other puzzling name is that of Caetwp Farm. Literally translated Cae is ‘field’ and ‘twp’ is stupid or silly. One wonders how a field could be thought of as stupid. Was it stony, boggy, an awkward shape or did twp mean something different in days gone by? As with all of the above we can only surmise and use what evidence has been found to try to work out the meanings of these Welsh names today.
‘Llandinam A Glimpse of the Past’ Jeremy Pryce, Cambrian Press 2002
‘A History of Llandinam and Parish’ B. Bennett Rowlands 1836 -1915 Published by Jeremy Pryce, The Forge, Llandinam SY17 5BY 2011
‘Llandinam Meandering Byways & Pathways to the Past’ Publisher Jeremy Pryce (as above) 2008.
Ordnance Survey Limited (GB) www. ordnancesurvey.co.uk ‘Glossary of Welsh Origins of Place Names in Britain
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 39 Winter 2018
Well I hope you have all managed to cool down after the hottest summer since 1976. I certainly never thought that I would have to be carrying drinking water to the house again, especially for so long. Luckily there is a laundrette in Llanidloes now so I didn’t have to go and stand in the river to do the laundry like I did then.
We have had a sad loss to the PenCambria team this month: Diana Brown, who was a stalwart of our local history and heritage articles, died quite suddenly in August. We will miss her greatly and you will find an appreciation of her beginning this month’s issue. We have had glimpses of the illustrious career another colleague; Reginald Massey, and earlier this year he received another accolade, the P.D. James Award, for which he receives our hearty congratulations. For centuries, leather and leather goods manufacturing were one of the staple means of income in Llanidloes. Alas most of that has now gone and Diana Ashworth has been talking Llanidloes leatherman, Len Davis, who is the last of his kind, and what an extraordinary career he had, too. Shivering around the coke stove, far from the heat of this summer, Norma Allen remembers her school days in Llandrindod Wells.
Ivor Davies has had a book on 18th century veterinary practices in his family’s possession for many generations and he and Brian Poole have written an article integrating a commentary on that and bilingualism in Aberhafesb over the centuries. The Davies family of Llandinam are well known for their philanthropic support for so many projects in mid Wales especially in the fields of culture and the arts. Their wealth came originally from David Davies’s enterprises in the south Wales coal fields and Barry docks. Peter wrote a biographical sketch chronicling the lives of David Davies and his grandson David Davies, the 1st Baron Davies, and this is will be serialised in the next few editions of PenCambria. This month’s chapter is all about the first David Davies, or Top Sawyer, as he was known.
Trust between man and bird, and a butterfly are the subjects of Bruce Mawdesley’s exquisite little pieces this month.Richard Meredith is in pursuit of the Manuels whose name he bears.
After Chris Barrett’s introduction to megaliths in mid Wales, Lawrence Johnson has been on a strenuous hunt for a stone circle high in the moorlands behind Carno. Michael Apichela, on the other hand, shows us the delights lower down in the seaside town that is Aberystwyth. Michael has a love of all things Aberystwyth and he just cannot keep his feelings in check with both a piece of prose and a poem celebrating this seaside resort and its traditions and introducing us to one of its artists, Karen Pearce.
In 2014 we began our commemoration of the centenary of the First Word War with Brian Lawrence’s account of the Home Front in Rhayader with a compilation of reports from the newspaper, council and other groups. This year sees the centenary of the end of this dreadful conflict and the documentary section of this magazine ends with his compilation of accounts relating to 1918 up to the armistice in November of that year.
Last year the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales began a project on place names in Wales. The history of Mid Wales, more so than north or south, can be said to be revealed in our place names so I have suggested to our writers that we could do something similar here. Jim French has started the ball rolling. If any of you would like to send me information about place names in your area I should be delighted to hear from you and perhaps we can add it to what we already have.
In the Dragon’s Crypt, thrills and chills for Hallowe’en from Norma Allen, Michael Apichela’s Ode to Aberystwyth and two beautiful poetic meditations on birth and death at the turn of the year from Paul Hodgon.
CONTENTS OF PENCAMBRIA 39
Diana Brown, 14th August 1932-13th August 2018, an appreciation compiled by Gay Robert
Reginald Massey awarded P.D. James Award
The PenCambria Quiz number 2
Last Leatherman in Llanidloes Diana Ashworth
Veterinary Practice and Bilingualism in 19th Century Aberhafesb Brian Poole
David Davies(Top Sawyer) 1818-1890 – a biographical sketch Peter Lewis
Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire: book review Lawrence Johnson
What’s in a Name? Richard Meredith
The Butterfly Bruce Mawdesley
Will the Circle be Unbroken? Lawrence Johnson
Karen Pearce : a Welsh Artist of Many Hues Michael Apichela
From Coke Stoves to Computers Norma Allen
In Praise of Old Aberystwyth Michael Apichela
The End of the Great War – Rhayader 1918 Brian Lawrence
Fields and ‘Edges Jim French
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales – Latest Research into Abermagwr
AS USUAL THE EDITOR HAS CHOSEN ONE ARTICLE TO PUBLISH ON THE WEBSITE IN FULL
LAST LEATHERMAN IN LLANIDLOES by Diana Ashworth
In the 1549 record of the Court of Great Sessions there is a reference to Stryd Gwyr y Gloferiaid (Street of Glovers) suggesting a flourishing glove making trade in the town of Llanidloes. Leather working would seem to have been an obvious enterprise for a town like Llanidloes – an economy being an industrial ecology system with inter-dependant enterprises fuelling each other’s success. Leather working certainly fitted snuggly with all the other enterprise in the town and there was much enterprise during the industrial heyday of the town. A leather industry needs hides in plenty (a by-product of the meat produced from cows and sheep by local farms), bark for tanning from the oak trees felled for building and for pit props for mining. The hills around Llanidloes had been mined for lead since Roman times. Lead was mined at Bryntail from 1708 and the ore shipped down the Severn to the sea in small boats. A rich lead seam was discovered in the Van in 1865 and it became the boom industry – in 1876 it produced 6,840 tons of lead, more than the total production of the rest of Britain and supported hundreds of workers. A new light railway was built to link the mine with the rail network at Caersws. Oak bark was also a by-product of charcoal burning and charcoal was also important, before coke, to fuel the blast furnaces used to smelt the lead ore. The remains of blast furnaces can still be found along the footpath on the north bank of the Clywedog River as it enters the town.
For almost any industry you need power – it is no accident that the wool processing factories in Llanidloes were called mills – mills originally powered by water. Water crashed down over the paddles of the great water wheels that powered local industry before the extravagant days of steam. Even in the little settlement of Llawr-y-glyn the gardens of the present houses are criss-crossed by the earthworks of ancient mill leats. Water was needed for tanning and dyeing and to carry away the chemical effluent from the factories. Tanning continued in other places after it ceased in Llanidloes so there are still some people who can remember how every few days their river would run a different colour, according to the colour of leather in production that particular week!
There are three other things you need for a buoyant industry – investment, transport links and a skilled work force. With the success of the mines, the flannel mills, farming and the iron foundries (which grew up to support the mining and the railways and really took off in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century) the town was prosperous and there was no lack of investment. With plentiful work and railway links to the rest of Britain, the town grew and with a strong tradition of religious non-conformity there was a lively Welsh culture and a relatively sober, educated workforce with a strong work ethic. So Llanidloes was perfectly situated to have a thriving leather industry.
In 1878 there were three tanneries listed in the town: Thomas and Edward Davies, skinners, of Short Bridge Street of Crybine and Phoenix-stream mills; Robert T Foulkes of The Nant and David Swancott of Great Oak Street. Later in the century there were skinyards on Lower Green in Cwmdu and later still, Spring Mill flannel mill, over the Short Bridge, was bought by Edward Hamer and converted into a skinyard and tannery by his son T Pryce Hamer. When he was killed in the First World War the business was taken over by his brother George F. Hamer. In 1931 George Hamer acquired another defunct flannel mill, the Cambrian flannel mill, which he converted to a leather factory which he ran in conjunction with Spring Mill. These premises were large, impressive industrial buildings. The Cambrian Flannel Mill had two large three story blocks with an oblique chimney that voided the smoke from the steam boiler at a distance from the factory so that soot did not get deposited on the acres of flannel that used to be pegged, with tenter hooks, on frames on the nearby hillside to dry. These great mills and the foundry must have dominated the town landscape in a way that is hard to believe today.
By the second World War these works, now producing fine leather, employed more than 100 people, a quarter of them women. Rough hides were processed at Spring Mill, cleaned and de-greased and turned into leather which then went to the Cambrian Leather Works to by dyed and softened – a process known as finishing. There are still people who remember the drying rooms, where hides were pegged to dry on frames that slid into drying cabinets heated artificially. These were up on the hill, above Spring Mill and behind what until recently was Shirley Houson’s house. Gloves continued to be made in the town up until the Second World War and at that time there was still a tannery on the river at the rear of Victoria Avenue. Sandringham Leather Goods Ltd occupied the first floor of the Cambrian Works from 1939 making belts, wallets etc before moving to new premises in 1953. In that year there was a major fire at the Cambrian Leather Works but the factory was rebuilt and continued until the 1960’s although latterly, I am told, the premises were leased and run by at least one other leather producer before being sold to BSK who ran it as an engineering workshop. By 1970 leather production in the town had ceased. However there remained in the town many skilled leather workers, men who could handle and match hides by second nature and skilled machinists. One man who had been born in the town recognised this.
Enter Len Davies who was born in Cae Gwyn, Llanidloes, and left school in 1955 and went to work at Titley Evans in Cambrian Place. The company had been general dealers for over 100 years, buying goods and selling direct to the public. They had two salesmen — one for south and one for north Wales. They went from door to door and took orders from housewives (who were at home in those days), posted them back to Llanidloes where Edward Williams, the manager of the business and uncle of the two young women who had inherited it, ably assisted by Len, would make up the orders and deliver them. Len was interested in the fabrics and haberdashery and he was paid £2 per week. But those were the days when you could have a night out in Newtown, by train (cinema with friends and a bag of chips) for two shillings and six pence (2/6) — that’s 13p in today’s money! Len was born at just the right time; he missed the last call-up for National Service by a matter of weeks. Many of his friends from the new Llani High School, opened in 1951, had gone that year into the Welsh Guards who always recruited in Llanidloes. Len was ambitious and when, one day, he was stopped in Newtown by a man from the Youth Employment Department he was interested in the opportunities that were on offer. Before he knew it he had applied for a job at a famous department store on London’s Buckingham Palace Road. This was Gorringe’s, opened by Frederick Gorringe in 1858 though later taken over by Selfridges. This was a very exclusive emporium with several royal warrants – they were silk mercers to the Queen Mother and hatters to the Queen! To complete his application Len had to enclose a photograph of himself. That was a problem — these were the days before digital photography. One or two people might have a Kodak box camera with which they took tiny black and white snaps on holiday which took a couple of weeks to get developed, or you might have a studio photograph taken by a professional photographer in the nearest big town at great expense. There was a photographer in Llanidloes who took pictures at weddings, Len sought him out and explained his quandary – “I’m doing a wedding on Saturday – meet me outside the church and I’ll see what I can do.” Len got himself all dressed up in his Sunday best and was outside the church the following Saturday and a very respectable photograph was produced and duly sent off. Len got the job and off he went to London.
He presented himself at Gorringe’s — a very grand place indeed in a building not unlike the present Harrods building but just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, opposite the Royal Mews. He wore his new brown suit, a cream shirt, a splendid tie and new ox-blood shoes, of which he was very proud. “Oh dear! You won’t do at all,” said the floor manager at Gorringe’s shaking his head – there was a strict dress code for employees. They wore smart black or navy suits, black shoes and socks and the house tie. However they were accommodating to this innocent from the Welsh hills; they dressed him appropriately (deducting 2s 6d from his weekly pay for the hire of the suit while his own was made which in the end he got for free. They adjusted the way he spoke (I always wondered what had befallen his Welsh accent!) He lived in the staff hostel and was payed 24s 6d per week (£1.22½p in new money!) In London he earned a lot less than he had in Wales but they sent him to the College of Distributive Trades in Charring Cross Road in the evenings where he got a good sound grounding in retail and business (including window dressing) and was teased by the snooty young women who worked at Gorringe’s, Harrod’s, DH Evan’s, Derry and Tom’s and the like. These were young Mrs Slocombes and this time of his life was like finding himself in a scene from “Are You Being Served?” But if he felt homesick he could stand on the steps of Gorringe’s and watch the men of the Welsh Guards, stationed at Chelsea Barracks, marching past with their band and nod at 2 or 3 lads from home who he recognised as they went to change the guard at Buckingham Palace! He certainly cut a suave figure when he returned for his holidays to Llanidloes and from these sound foundations his career in the fashion industry blossomed. He trained as a buyer for Freeman’s, the mail order people. – travelling all over the world, to Paris, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona and Portugal – buying for the catalogue and spotting the latest trends at fashion shows and in the expensive shops all over Europe that could be copied and sold through Freeman’s catalogue – it was a fabulous job!
They were building a factory in Ireland but had to sell their product outside Ireland. Len went to work for Peter and learned the arts of selling. Later Len decided he would like to be involved with manufacturing leather clothing and where better to do this than in his own home town where as we have seen, the leather industry had run its course but where there remained so many skilled machinists and leather workers. In 1970 Len rented the old Cambrian Mill for £5 per week and set up Cambrian Fashions Ltd, manufacturing leather clothing, producing up to 1000 jackets per week and the Phil Read range of motor cycle racing leathers (Phil Read was the Grand Prix motor cycle road racer, World Champion and TT winner!) But he could turn their hands to other things – fulfilling one order for 24,000 pairs of pyjamas! At that time there was also a leather coat factory at the old station building.
The 70’s was a challenging time for business in Britain –it was the decade of high inflation, tight fiscal control, poor industrial relations, political instability, the three-day week with the downfall of Edward Heath’s government, the return of a Labour government with Harold Wilson succeeded by James Callaghan and in 1979, the winter of discontent with widespread industrial action. At the end of the decade Mrs Thatcher came to power and took on the power of the unions about which passions in Wales still run high. Whatever your politics it was undoubtedly a difficult decade! It proved the downfall of many businesses and heard the death knell of much manufacturing in Britain and many enterprising men and women found themselves in unenviable positions due to circumstances way out of their control. Leather clothes are no longer made in Llanidloes.
In 1975, 76 and 77 the workers at Cambrian Fashions Ltd took to the streets in paramilitary uniforms – not to protest — it was carnival! Llanidloes Carnival was in its heyday and Len and all the girls (for they were mainly girls at the factory) threw themselves wholeheartedly into the spirit of the thing. They were clothes manufacturers after all and their machines hummed with enterprise, making white trousers with black stripes down the sides and smart burgundy jackets with brass buttons, epaulets and gold lanyards. Hats were made –peeked flower pots with crossed sword cap badges. Brian Crisp was drum major and the girls were taught to march. Brian in his blue suit with white accessories wielded a baton made from the missing snooker cue to which an equally illicit knob had been fixed and sprayed with gold paint. The company flag was born by the factory manager and protected by armed guards with cardboard rifles and ammunition. There were 60 in the band – playing kazoos, disguised as bugles and with the boss playing the drum. They practised their music and their marching and on the day they went down a storm, marching out of the old Cambrian Mill, playing and twirling as they went through the town, passing all the crowds waiting for the floats, up to the station where they joined the back of the parade to do another whole circuit of the town – the Cambrian Fashions Marching Band!
Thanks are due to Len Davies for sharing some of his memories and acknowledgement to E. Ronald Morris, whose book Llanidloes Town and Parish – An Illustrated Account proved so fascinating and helpful in preparing this article.
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 38 Summer 2018
Well, here we are sweltering through another blisteringly hot summer and for those of you who enjoy it, I don’t begrudge you the pleasure as it so rarely occurs. However, for those of us with less or no tendency to leathering, I shall breathe a sigh of relief when it is all over.
Earlier this year saw the death of Lady Shirley Hooson. Llanidloes born and bred, the spirit of the town ran through her veins with her blood. Her devotion to Llanidloes led her to spend as much of her life as she could in promoting its welfare. Her public life is well documented elsewhere so this issue carries a personal profile and tribute to her from friends and family members who knew her informally as well as formally, and reveals a woman of great strength, integrity, warmth and friendliness, cultured as well as down-to-earth, as much at home on the streets of Llani as in the great halls of state, full of interest in people and passionate about Llanidloes.
In March this year Mary Oldham gave a fascinating talk to the Llandinam History Group about the private lives of the Davies sisters of Gregynog. Helen Edwards summarised this talk for an article in the Llandinam Listener and she has very kindly allowed us to include it in this issue of PenCambria.
With all the consternation this year regarding changes in the British High Street, Gaynor Waters has remembered how shopping used to be in Llanidloes in the 1950s. The establishments may have changed hands several times over the years but the layout of the town is still the same and any empty windows tend to fill up again relatively quickly.
Aberystwyth has also seen enormous changes in the past twenty years or so is and Lawrence Johnson takes a jaunty pub crawl around the town, visiting the original chat rooms. Therese Smout, a new and very welcome addition to our team of researchers, shows what gems can be gleaned from a letter found behind some old lathe and plaster during renovations to a house. Farming practices remained the same for centuries until the introduction of modern machinery and the demand for increased production during the wars of the 20th century. Brian Poole, together with Ivor Davies of Alltyffynnon, Aberhafesb takes us through these changes with a look at some traditional farming techniques and the introduction of the tractor.
Wales is full of prehistoric megaliths especially in the Preseli area of south west Wales, and a veritable culture has grown up around them. Thirty years ago Chris Barber and John Williams published a book called The Ancient Stones of Wales giving a concise overview of everything that was known at the time about these great phenomena from their physical composition to the legends surrounding them and providing a gazetteer with the locations of all those known in Wales. Chris Barber has updated this book and taking it as her guide Chris Barrett has written a fascinating article on this feature of our landscape and our history. Chris has been very busy for us this month. As well as working on the megaliths, she has reviewed two very interesting, lavishly illustrated books about Shropshire and the Mid Wales borders by Ellis Peters, creator of Brother Cadfael, the Welsh medieval detective monk cloistered (in theory) in Shrewsbury Abbey. The first, Strongholds and Sanctuaries, is co-written with architect and writer Roy Morgan; the second, Cadfael Country” is co-authored by renowned photographer Rob Talbot and author, TV director and producer Robin Whiteman. She reports on the Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society visit to the workhouse at Llanfyllin earlier this year and finally, she has come up with a new, regular and very entertaining feature for you all – The PenCambria Quiz, a list of 10 questions, the answers to which can all be found somewhere in this magazine.
Coming a bit further forward in time following my tale of how I came to mid Wales I am now letting you into the secrets, well, some of the secrets of how I got on in my first months here.
We have two letters regarding family history and research, and two laments: one for missing swallows by Reginald Massey, the other on a farm sale by Bruce Mawdesley.
Mid Wales Arts celebrates its 10th Anniversary in September and it is interesting to see how this unique feature of the cultural landscape of Mid Wales has developed and thrived. The RCAHMW has a new website to explore and a new book exploring 10,000 years – yes, 10,000 years of Welsh Maritime History.
Shirley Hooson, Lady of Llanidloes, an informal tribute compiled by Gay Robert
Gwen and Daisy at Home and Abroad Helen Edwards
Llanidloes Shops of a Bygone Time Gaynor Waters
Chat Rooms Lawrence Johnson
New Book: Iolo’s Revenge
The Lost Letter Therese Smout
Farming in Montgomeryshire in the 1930s Brian Poole with Ivor Davies
Megaliths for Beginners Dr. Chris Barrett
First Months in Tylwch and Llanidloes Gay Roberts
Farm Sale Bruce Mawdesley
Where Have All the Swallows Gone? Reginald Massey
The Bright Field of Mid Wales Arts Gay Roberts
The PenCambria Quiz
CHAT ROOMS by Lawrence Johnson
“Negatory ……I’m burning rubber in Clocktown……heading for the Big A.”
Sounds like ancient history now. Does anyone remember the CB radio craze? It was certainly popular in Mid Wales in the late seventies before fading and being wiped out by the mobile phone revolution. In case you are struggling here is a translation: “No…… I’m driving through Machynlleth, heading for Aberystwyth.”
I remember having to stifle a giggle in the back of that car as the US-type jargon was filtered awkwardly through a Welsh accent. However, every time I visit Aber – and it is a favourite trip of mine, especially by train – I am aware that by Mid Wales standards it is very much a case of bright lights, big city. Sometimes I get off at Borth and head over the cliffs to come down Constitution Hill. (Can it really be true that this name simply derives from the belief that regular walks up and down were good for your constitution?) Alternatively, from the station I can cross the Rheidol and climb up to Pen Dinas, with its summit ringed by Iron Age earthworks and crowned by an 1852 memorial to the Duke of Wellington. Sometimes I prefer to track the Ystwyth round to Plas Tan y Bwlch and across the shingle back to the harbour. Much of this walk overlooks the site of the trotting racecourse and reveals the new line of the Ystwyth, diverted in the 18th century with huge boulders and a deep trench to take it to the Rheidol and the sea. This engineering had the bonus of creating the beach of Tan y Bwlch. There are also paths and fine views from Penrallt, the field paths by the golf course and near the woods above Clarach.
While I am not particularly strong on self-analysis, I have long suspected that much of this, admittedly healthy, exercise is driven by guilt. Whatever business I have to transact in Aber, I cannot deny that the real pleasure in the trip lies in the pub crawl that covers the town. This has various routes depending on factors such as where I actually arrive but the ingredients are usually the same. The walking prevents excess and salves my wretched conscience. Over the recent past my starting point has been in one of two pubs. On the outskirts of town on the road out towards Penparcau is a new one, The Starling Cloud. This takes its name from the greatest free show in Mid Wales, when thousands of the birds swoop down in gloriously creative patterns to roost at dusk under the pier. The visitwales website estimates 50,000 birds locally yet the starling is on the Red List of threatened species. The flock or murmuration, a mainly silent process until they have settled under the pier, is believed to be a defence against predators, safety in numbers. This roost with water below provides even greater security. Try late October, early November, advise photographers and you can see some of the splendid images by putting Aberystwyth starlings into a search engine. As the birds swoop, hesitate and come and go the spectacle is gloriously prolonged.
From the new pub I can cross the railway and walk through the park to Northgate, home of Andy’s Records. Independent record stores and bookshops have had to fight to survive but my visits have always brought dividends. Andy’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for music, allied to his ability to get hold of the obscure and difficult mean I cannot avoid a visit. Siop y Pethe, then Ink and Ystwyth Books at the top of the town are favourites too.
Over Penrallt, past the Welsh Books Council and down to the seafront to the Glengower the end point of my other trek across the cliffs. In November 2017 it was so unseasonably warm you could sit outside. On most trips, however there has been evidence of storms and wind battering, traces of sand and shingle. The Atlantic gales that destroyed beaches on the Dingle and Ring of Kerry had retained enough power in their flight across the Irish Sea to wreck the bandstand and scour the promenade. Clearing up has become a regular chore for the council.
The Glengower at lunch town is popular with tourists and diners but the space to the rear indicates a student presence. Aber is one of many towns and cities whose economy is based in good measure on the student pound. Student numbers range from 9,000-10,000 out of a population of around 16,000 including Comins Coch and Llanbadarn Fawr. Reaction to this has been mixed. In the days of the old licensing laws, pubs had to close in the afternoon, normally from 2.30 to 5.30 pm. Market days were the exception and Aber’s was Monday. Opposite the station, a stern notice outside the Cambrian Hotel read: No students served on Mondays.
Things change. The last time I went in, the walls and ceiling were festooned with adverts for cocktails and the bar stocked with fruit ciders and coloured vodkas. It is probably gin these days. No pub can afford to turn the young away for long. Right in the centre of town the renamed pubs, the Varsity and the Scholar reflect this. I derive a secret and perverse pleasure from putting the average age up by walking in. It would not be fair or accurate to suggest that these pubs, or the Castle Hotel down by the harbour, are exclusively student dens. Aber has faced criticism in the past for not sorting its identity out – neither seaside resort nor university town – but this seems nonsensical to me. It is the mixture of people that makes it, a coexistence that, for the most part, works. This dual identity is not new. Ward Lock’s 1933-4 Guide to Aberystwyth often reads like an advertisement, saying that the town “has been called the Brighton of Wales” and “is the most important watering place on Cardigan Bay”. It goes on to compare its winter climate with that of Bournemouth but gives prominence to the University as well at a time when student numbers were about 700. Wynford Vaughan Thomas got it right in the Shell Guide To Wales when he described Aberystwyth as “a fascinating amalgam”.
Further along the front, turn in to Pier Street. To reassure those who may be disappointed by the idea that pubs have become somewhat sanitised and lost their edge, in the Pier pub I once witnessed a minor brawl between two of the oldest combatants I can recall. The dispute revolved around whether the cousin of one was or was not a local footballer of some repute. The climax of the contretemps went after this fashion:
Elderly Combatant A, leaning casually on bar: X had a good few games for Aber
Even More Elderly Combatant B, perched precariously on bar stool: Never
E.C.A: He did, boy, loads of times
E.C.B: Never played for Aberystwyth Town, never
E.C.A: You’ve no****** idea
E.C.B: Anyway, he was a f****** w*****!
As may be readily imagined this precipitated a delightful geriatric scuffle until broken up by a friend of mine and the grinning landlord who interposed themselves between the parties but only after a delay sufficient to provide a brief cabaret for the onlookers. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un – eat your hearts out! The Pier was always good for small scale incidents. Another accident prone pal of mine once opened a bag of salted peanuts with so much force and so little finesse that 80% of the contents exploded across the length and length of the room. On returning two months later, I was informed by the put-upon landlord that he was still finding peanuts all over the pub, most notably behind the clock when he had taken it down for its annual clean. I have no hesitation in awarding the prize for the best notice seen in an Aberystwyth pub. This goes to the Nag’s Head c. 1980 for:
MYSTERY TRIP TO DEVIL’S BRIDGE : BRING BOTTLES
In Last Tango In Aberystwyth and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being In Aberystwyth Malcolm Pryce has re-imagined the town as the haunt of crooks, gangsters and a druidic mafia. In reality Aber has often been much closer to the stereotypical image of the laced and corseted chapel town. Monty Python’s Life Of Brian was banned there in 1979. By a wonderful turn of events, Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith Iscariot in the film, became Mayor of Aberystwyth and presided over a charity screening event that included Michael Palin and Terry Jones in 2009. It achieved another kind of fame in 2009 when a plague of ladybirds descended. Kids with ice cream cones covered with the pests made the national dailies. Apparently they could bite.
To enter a pub can open up new worlds. This may surprise those people who look with disapproval at big screens, fruit machines and juke boxes. Moreover, most pubs are just as vulnerable as the rest of the universe to the curse of the mobile phone, ipad, tablet and laptop. A press report of February 2018 had three students of Dundee creating the “Sociometer”, a device that shows how many people in a pub are using mobile phones.
I am usually guilty of burying my head in a newspaper. All these are conversation killers. Nevertheless, anyone familiar with the Crown in Llanidloes, Ty Brith in Carno, the Red Lion in Machynlleth, the Druid in Goginan or the Ship and Castle in Aber will know that there is still life in the body. Many years ago the Royal Oak in Rhayader had a clutch of regulars who held a Saturday morning “parliament” where the world was put to rights.
Two recent Aberystwyth experiences underline this, both from December 2017. When I walked into the Inn On The Pier it was empty and the bar untended. After a few minutes a young woman emerged from the back to serve. She had red hair and a few words persuaded me that she was probably Irish. Not so – from the Isle of Man and what’s more a Manx speaker. She spoke a few words to me in what I had sadly assumed to be a dead language. So too did Unesco’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, pronouncing it “extinct” in 2009. However it now says “critically endangered” with 1800 speakers or 2% of the island’s population of 88,000. Although the last native speaker died in 1974, the work of the Manx Language Society (1899) and Language Unit (1992) has obviously borne some fruit. The Wikipedia page on Manx is detailed and provides comparisons with other Celtic tongues. I have some form with Celtic languages. The first pub I visited in Cornwall, The Queens in Botallack, near St.Just, provided me, within one hour, of my first experience of Cornish, another language I never expected to hear. Internet scouring shows just 300-400 speakers out of a population of 536,000. UNESCO have upgraded it from “extinct” to “critically endangered” but it has no official status despite some encouragement from the county council. On brief exposure, I can say that neither Manx nor Cornish has the throaty quality of Welsh. Having seen more than one grave of “the last native Cornish speaker” I realise that this term needs more thought and research. Dictionary definitions leave room for doubt. Cambridge says “spoken since a baby” while Collins goes for “someone who has spoken it as a first language rather than learning it as a foreign tongue”. I suppose both Manx and Cornish may have died as spoken languages at some point only to be revived in some establishments and households and then passed on to children.
Less than two hours later I was the first customer in Welsh-speaking Yr Hen Llew Du at the top of the town. This time the young woman who had both let me in and served me had blonde hair and once again drawing on my trusty reserve of stereotypes, I guessed from eastern Europe. Wrong – by quite a few miles. She was Ladin and as a bonus averred that she was one of only 10,000 speakers of that tongue. Cursory research may indicate a figure as high as 31,000, mainly in three provinces of northern Italy. Ladin is recognised as a minority language in 54 municipalities with speakers forming 4.5% of the population of South Tyrol and 3.5% of Trentino. It was originally a Vulgar Latin tongue. Again, basic websites such as Wikipedia are extensive and footnoted.
Further – a couple of years ago, on a train back from Aber to Caersws, I had sat opposite a mother and small son and become intrigued at their conversation. It emerged that they were talking in Afrikaans and she was at pains to say how proud she was to speak it and how determined to do her bit to keep it alive. There is an argument about whether this language is endangered in South Africa and Namibia but with 7.2 million native speakers, 13.5% of the population, it is certainly a long way from the level of the Celtic tongues.
It might be wrong to depict Aberystwyth as a melting pot of languages and cultures but the student influx and tourism have added to the Welsh/English mix. Walk along the promenade at certain times of the year and you will see flags of minority nations, cultures and tongues like Catalonia flying in the westerly breezes.
A while back I was in a student pub in Manchester. A single occupant at a nearby table was hailed by a newcomer who came over and sat down. “I haven’t seen you in ages, how are you?” Brief pleasantries then – silence. Both men were at their phones. I looked round at the other tables. More silence, more phones. People in the room – yet not in it. A new world. Facebook, Instagram and smartphones lack appeal but I do like chatrooms – as long as they are real world. No PC or mouse required, just the opening of a pub door. You can listen or talk and listen. Of course there is a risk of trolls or bores (I am not the former but must have been the latter more than I care to admit) but there is always a short walk and another place. I don’t need to unfriend or press delete and clearing the head on Aber seafront is preferable to logging off. The mix of people in the town adds to the fun. My email was once interrupted with a message inviting me to join with people similar to me in exchanging emails. I forget its name, probably because of the horror I felt. Hell is other people? No – hell is other people like me! Out in the pub world you never know what lies through the chatroom door.
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 37 Spring 2018
Well, it is early 2018 and we are already in “interesting times” with nerve agent poisoning, suffocation by plastic and the ever more intricate Brexit manoeuvres, to name but three current crises on the table. Oh for the days when bombs and famine were all we had to worry about.
When I started this introduction it was a beautiful warm spring day outside, although we were promised rain and a drop of 8 degrees in temperature. Finishing it now, we are snowed in for the third time in six weeks with another deep drift blocking our driveway. Since no-one can get in or out this has delayed deliveries including the paper and covers for this magazine. So if it is a bit later than expected, this is the reason and I hope you will forgive me.
We start this year with news and, in the Dragon’s Crypt, some verses of a 19th century poet from Dolanog, rediscovered by Val Church, whom she affectionately describes as Montgomeryshire’s McGonagall. I find him more wry, more tongue-in-cheek, intentionally more humorous than William McGonagall. Indeed, I have quite fallen in love with his verses and hope you do too. For a seemingly out-of-the-way place like Tylwch there were a remarkable number of railway accidents in the days when the line went through. Those and other incidents caused this hamlet to be mentioned relatively frequently in the local newspapers. Andrew Dakin has come to Tylwch in the course of researching his family history and he tells us all about them in the first of his Tales From the Footplate.
Brian Poole, meanwhile, continues his journeys by bus, this time taking us from Newtown to Shrewsbury in the 1950s. Our intrepid Lawrence Johnson goes trekking on foot across Trannon Moor in search of the site of an ancient battlefield.
So many people have come to Wales in the past and still do for all sorts of reasons; many pass through en route to other places; many others come to stay, mixing with the local community or forming their own. A recent book by Cai Parry-Jones looking at the history of the Jews in Wales was published last year and Chris Barrett reviews this book. She also refers to it in her own article on this fascinating subject.
Are you missing the tales of the retired lady and gentleman from Llawryglyn? I know I am. However, they have just been published under the title of Iolo’s Revenge, of which we get a sneak preview from Diana Ashworth. Another book which came her way is a novel by Brecon writer Jan Newton which is the first in a detective series about D.S. Kite, who comes to Radnorshire from Manchester and will no doubt later find mid Wales steeped in murder, rape, arson and all the other perversions found in Midsomer. Sounds like a real treat. Diana also tells us about the Chicken Whisperer of Trefeglwys.
Even in the towns and village we can all still get close to nature if we wish and Julia R. Francis muses on the Red Legged Partridges that come into her garden in Llandinam. The simple childhood thrill of wearing a hat came to Bruce Mawdesley’s mind for this issue.
Somewhat emboldened by my interview with Michael Apichela last year, and as Diana Brown is unable to carry on with her series on the laws of Hywel Dda at the moment, I had some space to fill, so I thought you might like to know how I ended up in Llanidloes. The RCAHMW have two new projects in the go. The one on places names sounds particularly interesting – and there is plenty to get your creative talents going at Mid Wales Arts Centre. Are you a retired or semi-retired engineer? If so, you may be interested in a job opportunity that has arisen on the Montgomery Canal Project, which you can also read all about in this issue.
The Dragon’s Crypt is full of poetry and prose this month with lines by Paul Hodgon to stir the solitary soul, verses by Reverend G.R.G Pughe to make you smile, an homage to Edward Thomas and the railway station at Tylwch by yours truly, a special bus timetable by Dennis Bedford and a new sighting of the Fairy Horseman by Norma Allen
Lost in Translation – Reverend G.R.G Pughe of Dolanog Val Church
High Rise Chickens? Diana Ashworth
Tales from the Footplate: Tylwch Andrew Dakin
And a Partridge beneath an Oak Tree Julia R. Francis
A Bus To Shrewsbury Brian Poole
Book Review – The Jews of Wales Reviewer Dr Chris Barrett
Picton of Picton Street Reginald Massey
Want a Fight? Lawrence Johnson
A Tenacious People: The History of the Jews in North Wales. Dr Chris Barrett
Yale University and the Indo-Welsh Connection Reginald Massey
How I Came To Llanidloes Gay Roberts
The Hat Bruce Mawdesley
IN The Dragons Crypt
Solitary Paul Hodgon
Megan and the Horseman Norma Allen
Three Poems Reverend G.R.G Pughe, submitted by Val Church
Not Adlestrop But Tylwch Homage to Edward Thomas by Gay Roberts
A New Bus Timetable 1.4.2018 Dennis Bedford
PICTON OF PICTON STREET by Reginald Massey
A short and narrow one-way alley in Llanidloes connects the Church car park with Short Bridge Street. Interestingly it passes under an arch just before it meets Short Bridge Street. It is named after Sir Thomas Picton who was born in Haverfordwest on August 24, 1758.
His father was a country gentleman and his uncle was General Sir William Picton under whom Thomas Picton started his illustrious army career. Military records reveal that he was the highest ranking British officer who died in the battle of Waterloo. He was also an MP at the time. In fact he was dancing at the Duchess of Richmond’s famous ball in Brussels when an aide-de-camp riding at full gallop delivered a message. Napoleon was almost at the door, less than ten miles away. The ball was unceremoniously abandoned and the generals rushed off to their command posts. Wellington however stayed on to finish his dinner.The Duke’s sang-froid was legendary. This must have irritated Napoleon no end as he considered his opponent to be a mere ‘sepoy general’, a term which alluded to Wellington’s years in India.
There are many conflicting versions of how Picton was killed but there is no doubt that he led his division, known as the Fifth, in a bayonet charge against Marshal d’Erlon’s corps with extreme valour. It also emerged that he had been shot in the hip but rather than handing over to his second-in-command and being carried off in a stretcher he bandaged the wound himself and confronted the enemy. There is also a rumour that Picton led the bayonet charge wearing a top hat.
Wellington for some reason did not like Picton very much though he recognized Picton’s worth as a field commander. The Duke described Picton in the following words: “a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived”. The historian Alessandro Barbero wrote that the Welsh general was “respected for his courage and feared for his irascible temperament”. Picton never sought popularity and often proclaimed that it mattered little if he was hated so long as he was feared. In a despatch to Earl Bathurst, the Minister of War, Wellington wrote, “In Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton His Majesty has sustained the loss of an officer who has frequently distinguished himself in his service; and he fell, gloriously leading his division to a charge with bayonets, by which one of the most serious attacks made by the enemy on our position was defeated”. His body was sent to London where it was buried in St. George’s Church in London’s Hanover Square. Later it was re-interred and buried next to Wellington’s grave in St. Paul’s Cathedral. A monument in Carmarthen was erected in his memory and there are memorials to him in Canada and Australia.
Picton started his army career in Gibraltar and then, from 1807 – 1814, served under Wellington with distinction during the Peninsular War. He expected a peerage but was passed over possibly because of a serious error he committed when he was Governor of Trinidad (1797 – 1803). The island had been a Spanish colony and had only recently been acquired by Britain. Picton ruled the islanders with an iron hand. He authorised the torture of a mixed race young woman named Luisa Calderon who, as it happened, was not a slave. The news reached Britain and Picton was summoned to London and put on trial. The winsome Luisa Calderon also came to London and described to the court how she was tortured. The case was widely reported and both the public and the press started baying for Picton’s blood. During cross examination by the brilliant lawyer William Garrow, who detested slavery, it emerged that Picton had been involved in the buying and selling of slaves through his mixed race mistress Rosetta Smith. Picton was sentenced. However, with the help of wealthy plantation owners Picton immediately appealed. A case was made out that the inhabitants of Trinidad were used to Spanish law under which torture was permitted and that Picton was merely applying the law that people were used to. It was a rough and ready system of justice and the Trinidadians understood it. In other words, argued Picton’s lawyers, the blacks and mulattos were not yet ready for the niceties and nuances of English law.
Picton got away by the skin of his teeth. However, the stain on his character haunted him for the rest of his life. Perhaps on the very last day of his life (Sunday, June 18, 1815) he redeemed himself to some extent. So much so that the town of Llanidloes named a street after him.
EDITORIAL: INTRODUCTION TO PENCAMBRIA NUMBER 36 Winter 2017
The Welsh migration in the 1860s to Patagonia to form a colony that spoke only Welsh, worshipped as they chose and celebrated their own culture free from the restrictions of the English government, in essence to form a new Wales, is pretty well known, especially after their 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015. What is possibly not so well known is that originally what is now the state of Pennsylvania was to be a Welsh colony in North America and that for over 100 years prior to the Patagonian migration there had been a constant trickle of Welsh people, especially from rural Wales, to North America desperate to escape the grinding poverty of their homeland. In this issue we read about one of those communities, built in the heyday of the slate industry, which, despite its decline, has managed to maintain its Welsh culture due to the determined efforts of the minister at the local chapel. The history of the Rehoboth Chapel is a very welcome feature in this edition.
Life in Wales is a constant flow of people coming in and going out and also in this edition we have the extraordinary account of a couple who retired here from Lincolnshire but who arrived there having escaped the worst excesses of Partition in India in 1947. Lyn Wells, who related her account to Diana Ashworth as part of Diana’s In Living Memory oral history project, and her husband Clarrie, have also been in the news this year for having been married in the same year as the Queen and having received a suitably royal card of congratulations from Her Majesty earlier this year.
To begin with, however, we have a portrait of the Reverend John Idloes Edwards and his connection with the Llanidloes Debating Society sent in by his granddaughter Julie Evans who has very kindly furnished us with E. Ronald Morris’s translation of the Reverend’s obituary in “Y Blwyddiadur 1905“ Deaths of Ministers and his Will and also a piece about him from The Children’s Treasury 1904.
Andrew Dakin comes to the end of his very entertaining and informative series of articles chronicling his researches into his family history.
The fight to save St. Mary’s Church at Pont Llogel which was damaged as the result of a nearby plane crash during WW2, is very much on Val Church,s mind.
Brian Poole reflects on the part that the ox and bullock have played in our history.
A daredevil attempt by the Marquess of Powis and her maid to spring her husband William Maxwell from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for his part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 is beautifully told by Lawrence Johnson.
Meanwhile Dr David Stephenson provides us with the historian’s perspective of the legend of the massacre of the bards of Montgomery which appeared in the last issue of PC.
Love makes the world go round they say, and love has to be proved by various deeds, or at least some sort of effort, so Chris Barrett has been looking at Welsh courting customs as presented by Catrin Stevens in a book of the same name some years ago.
40 years ago here in these quiet backwoods of the United Kingdom at Carno, the world’s biggest drugs bust took place. Code-named Operation Julie, Jim French takes us through the whole business from the history and the arrival of the drug manufacturers and their dealings to their eventual arrest and imprisonment.
Meanwhile in the Dragon’s Crypt Norma Allen eavesdrops on a group of locals who have heard that not all the drugs were recovered during the heist and that big rewards may be paid to anyone who finds them.
The Royal Commission is going from strength to strength in its goal to make its facilities available to all and their programme of events is a must-to-attend for all those interested in the history and heritage of Wales.
Finally in the non-fiction section although who knows? I succumbed to Michael Apichela’s persuasive techniques to include something personal in this very eclectic publication.
Elsewhere in the Dragon’s Crypt Julia R. Francis takes us on a walk through the year, “Eeyore” laments the closure of Lloyds Hotel and I leave you with a tale for Halloween inspired by a picture hanging in a friend’s back room, the stories that came with it and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Spooky!
Reverend John Idloes Edwards and the Llanidloes Debating Society Julie Evans
The Demise of the Dakins of Llanidloes : Part Two Andrew Dakin
The Long Arm of the War Val Church
Oxen of Bullocks? Brian Poole
Castle, Cottage and Tower Lawrence Johnson
The Tragic (and Completely Untrue) Story of the Bards of Wales D. David Stephenson
Fred Carno’s Army: the Story of Operation Julie Jim French
In Living Memory : The Partition of India Diana Ashworth
Rehoboth Church : A Piece of Wales in Pennsylvania Gay Roberts with Sterling D. Mullins
Courtship the Welsh Way! Book Review by Chris Barrett
Gay Roberts : a Woman of Many Parts a Profile by Michael Apichela Ph.D
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
The Dragons Crypt
The Reward Norma Allen
Walking the Year Julia R. Francis
No More Room at the Inn Bruce Mawdesley
The Cobblers Field Gay Roberts
THE LONG ARM OF THE WAR
During the last week of June we learned, with some sadness, that St. Mary’s Church at Pont Llogel, in the parish of Llanfihangel-yng-Ngwynfa, has been closed. The reason, we understand, is that it is no longer safe, and cannot be insured until certain repairs have been carried out. Needless to say, the necessary repairs are expensive, and the church authorities feel that with the current decline in congregation numbers, the cost of maintaining the fabric of the building is not warranted. Until and unless the problem is solved, services are being held in the village hall.
The nature of the safety problem lies in the visible bowing of the main church window, and requires its removal and re-setting, together with some modifications to the surround. The cost is currently set at about £1300. Â However there is also electrical work to be done, and additional money needed to pay current debts and ensure future maintenance. It is estimated that the total amount needed to save the church is in the region of £30,000.
There may be a clue to this misfortune, which dates from the Second World War, some seventy-five years ago. Apparently the RAF was in the habit of carrying out anti-submarine sweeps over the Bay of Biscay and along the French coast. On at least two occasions the Wellington planes used for these sorties had to be abandoned, once because of engine failure and a second time because the plane ran out of fuel. Details of one of these disasters were recounted in a publication called Wings over the Border, a History of aviation in North-east Wales and the Northern Marches, by Derek Pratt and Mike Grant.
It is suggested that on each occasion bad weather caused the planes to become hopelessly lost, and to overfly their home base in South Wales. One of them crashed in Dyfnant forest. Piecing together reports from several RAF monitoring locations, signals from the plane had been picked up in the area two or three times before being lost , and the dates and times recorded from these posts match the discovery of its remains at a currently unknown spot in the forest.
According to the account given in the book mentioned above, discovery of the debris was made by one Pte. Watkin Jones, a member of the Llwydiarth Home Guard, who was making his way back from seeing a security film in the village hall, past Parc Llwydiarth to Tynfedw, his home. Suddenly he stumbled over a large cylinder lying across the track. By the dimmed light of his torch he could make out the word Oxygen stencilled on the side.
Looking around by the light of his torch, Pte. Jones saw debris of all kinds scattered over the forest floor, and suspended from trees. He noticed that many of the trees had been neatly topped as if by a giant scythe.
Upon his arrival home, he was naturally anxious to know if anyone had heard anything strange, but nothing but the howling of the wind in the chimney had been heard by his family. He felt, however, that the matter should be immediately reported to the authorities, and dutifully braved the storms and darkness to make his return journey to the village where he telephoned his superiors in the Home Guard. Meanwhile the Intelligence base at Wrexham were receiving reports of an aircraft crash, and of a German pilot who had baled out of his doomed aircraft, and been taken prisoner by the Home Guard unit guarding the Vyrnwy dam. Other reports told of German parachutists in the vicinity of the hairpin bend at Boncyn Celyn down river from the dam, resulting in a full-scale invasion alert. Several arrests were made of survivors of the crash, all of whom turned out to be members of a Polish air unit stationed in Pembrokeshire. The last person to leave the aircraft before it crashed was the Polish pilot. He broke his leg on hitting the ground and was in such pain that he forgot the few words of English he knew, which would have enabled him to explain his predicament.
Since the plane had crashed into a heavily forested area, the impact on the plane itself was relatively light. The bombs and depth charges it was carrying did not explode. However it was necessary that these weapons of war should be destroyed, and this was done by means of a series of controlled explosions. A day and a time was fixed, people advised to leave doors and windows open, and to lie flat on the ground outside their houses.
Some damage was done to local houses, and here I quote from the book: Nothing could be done about the windows of St. Mary’s parish church, Llwydiarth, even today many of them still show traces of bowing, severe in places, as they withstood the blast. It was not certain then, and is even less so now, whether all ordnance had been removed from the wrecked aircraft.
The War Damage Commission was set up to organise compensation for damage done to property and buildings as a result of enemy action. Responsibility for payment was taken over by local authorities, and the scheme finally wound up in 1964. Had a claim been made in the early years it is likely that repairs would have been paid for, but it is probable that the scheme was not widely known about, particularly in small rural places far from the heavily bombed areas.
Whether the damage done to the church windows has worsened over the last seventy-five years we do not know. It is likely that health and safety issues are taken more seriously today than in the past, and maybe today the bowed windows pose no greater threat to the public than was the case in 1942.
However, the building cannot be used if it is not insured, so, as matters stand today St. Mary’s Church faces an uncertain future.