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.