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WALES’S MAGAZINE c a m b r i a

cambria The National Magazine of Wales DECEMBER 2009 RHAGFYR

Cylchgrawn Cenedlaethol Cymru £3.50 €3.50

d e c e m b e r 2 0 0 9 r h a g f y r

In Search of Justice: Michael O’Brien Eleanor and Llywelyn The author of our National Anthem A Christmas Quiz

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Former Archdruid of Wales ROBYN LÉWIS shares his memories of the happenings in and around Caernarfon Castle in July 1969.


best known of the trio known as the Cardiff Newsagent Three who spent 11 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.


THE AUTHOR OF OUR ANTHEM on the the prolific poet Evan James author of the best known and most often heard Welsh words ever - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau GWYN GRIFFITHS

ELEANOR AND LLYWELYN continues her series on Welsh heroines with the story of the marriage of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd the last Prince of Wales to Eleanor de Montfort.


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Recovering the Welsh calendar



The career of Ivor Novello






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Great ideas for gifts with a difference.






The best places to eat in Wales






FOURTEEN, Llandudno; FEATHERS ROYAL, Aberaeron



North Wales Boat Show, Pwllheli








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on Cuba


on AG Prys-Jones

on the publishing scene in Wales

Passing Strangers

chooses the questions on Wales

Telynores Anne Griffiths; Composer Mansel Thomas CHRIS KINSEY



on Great Tits and Titmice on Charles Burton The Llanover Garden School

The exotic Norman Lewis

on a Christmas custard pie


guide to events and exhibitions around Wales

© 2009 Carl Ryan




is Canon Librarian of St Davids Cathedral and a cambria veteran.


MEIC STEPHENS, is a journalist and poet and has written, edited and translated some 150 books about our country’s culture.


Henry Jones-Davies

represents cambria in the press section of the National Assembly.



Jan Morris D. Huw John Siân Phillips Dr R. Brinley Jones Professor Hywel Teifi Edwards John Elfed Jones John Hefin Dr Arturo L Roberts Mary Lloyd Jones Meredydd Evans

SIÔN JOBBINS is a regular and valued contributor to Welsh periodicals. ROBIN LÉWIS

is a former Archdruid of Wales.

GWYN GRIFFITHS is a journalist, author and renowned authority on Breton history, art and culture. JOHN A. EDWARDS

is a Welsh motoring journalist of many years experience.

teaches at a university in the Middle East. Her publications include articles on Medieval women.


Frances Jones-Davies POLITICAL EDITOR






Professor Meic Stephens Aneurin Jones Jonathan Adams Myrddin ap Dafydd Wil Aaron Menna Elfyn Elisabeth Luard David Gravell

is a garden historian who writes extensively about Welsh gardens. DR CAROLINE PALMER

CARL RYAN is a professional photographer specialising in extreme sports photography.

is the music critic of the South Wales Argus


Rhobert ap Steffan MOTORING EDITOR




David Williams, Carl Ryan, Mari Sterling, John Keates

is a professional photographer specialising in the landscape of Wales.


is a poet who won the 2008 BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year Competition.


- THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE OF WALES © 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced by any means without the prior permission of the publisher in writing. cambria is published bimonthly by Cyhoeddwyr Cymrica Cyfyngedig, PO BOX 22, CAERFYRDDIN/CARMARTHEN, SA32 7YH, Cymru/Wales. ISSN: 1366-0675. All material submitted must be accompanied by a stamped, selfaddressed envelope. The publisher will not be held responsible for loss, damage or any other injury to unsolicited manuscripts or artwork (including drawings, photographs, and transparencies). We cannot guarantee a response to unsolicited matter. cambria magazine has made every effort to ensure that proper permission has been obtained for the reproduction of all illustrations in this issue, and we apologise unreservedly for any errors or oversights. Views and opinions expressed by individual writers in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or the publisher. All information in this publication has been verified to the best of the authors’ and publishers’ ability; however Cyhoeddwyr Cymrica Cyfyngedig does not accept responsibility for any loss arising from reliance on it. Subscriptions for 6 issues: British Isles £18 - All other countries £28. Single copies: £3.50 plus 70p postage. The first copy of a new subscription application will be mailed by second class post for addresses in the British Isles, and by surface mail for the rest of the world. Please allow 6 weeks for overseas delivery. Argraffwyd gan: HSW Print, Tonypandy. cambria




Chris Jones

is distributed throughout Wales, and is available at all good newsagents, Siopau Lleol Cymraeg, and selected Asda, Cooperative, Morrisons, and Tesco stores. Should you experience any difficulty obtaining supplies of CAMBRIA, please call 01267 290188







Alison Mostyn 01267 290188











C a mbr i a

cambria gratefully acknowledges the financial support of its literary pages by the WELSH BOOKS COUNCIL



IT IS NOW ALMOST CERTAIN THAT AT SOME POINT in the not too distant future, we will have a referendum on the question of increased powers for our National Assembly. The problem is, how will the question be couched? The reality is that what is on offer is less than Scotland has at the moment, but the wording of the question may not reflect this; it may imply something quite different. In the last referendum several people we know didn’t vote because not enough was on offer, and rebellion of this type suffers in the same way as ‘irony being lost on Americans’. Every vote is vitally important, it is probably the one action we can take and all be truly equal. Much is said about rights, the right to vote, the right to have a child, rights to benefits, and so forth, when, in reality there are no such things as rights in absolute terms. Rights are fought for and have to be maintained. We are immensely privileged because in this country, despite the growth of Big Brotherland and the nanny state, we do still all have the right to vote, we have plenty of clean water, we don’t need to starve or die without medical treatment; a child is most definitely not a ‘right’ but rather the greatest gift that life can give. As you can tell I dislike the word ‘right’, for when something is designated a ‘right’ it becomes taken for granted and that which made it precious becomes lost. There will be a great deal of voting coming up over the next couple of years, and please use your vote and encourage others to use theirs. However, there is one ‘right’ that doesn’t come under this umbrella, the right to free speech. Built into this are certain parameters dictated by manners, but the respect of this freedom is a measure of the true greatness of democracy. Cambriapolitico - a website independent of the magazine but to which a number of our writers contribute - has been under attack recently, its webmaster does police it for offensive language but does not exercise censorship. Politicians need to be reminded that they are the servants of the electorate. Listening to the news one evening after Carwyn Jones had won the Labour leadership contest it seems that much is owed to the miners’ strike for the present raft of politicians, across the board. I have heard many in Plaid cite this as the main reason for their politicisation and lo and behold it is the same for Carwyn. As Clive Betts points out, CAMBRIA doesn’t yet appear frequently enough to enable us to give up to date news coverage to political events. Although it is now after the event, we have included Clive’s excellent analysis of the leadership race. As usual, it is spot on. All too soon this year I became used to writing 2009; despite that it still only feels that we have had about four months to the year, and it has sped by at tremendous speed. Now Christmas and New Year are upon us and I would like to say a big thank you to all of our readers, contributors, advertisers, our printers, Friends and advisors, for all your support, letters, emails and telephones calls, time and advice. Please continue in the same vein! We would like to express very special thanks to John Uzzell Edwards who had donated a sizeable percentage of his limited edition proofs to us to give as Christmas gifts to the Friends of Cambria. He has been kind enough to say that Cambria has been the inspiration for much of his work over the last few years.


Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi i gyd!



Freedom lies in being bold. ROBERT FROST

(1874-1963) American Poet


C a mbr i a


letters princess nest - the ‘helen of wales’: shame about the spin EDITOR

I was looking forward to reading the article on “The Helen of Wales” in the last edition of Cambria especially because it was by a Welsh writer. After so much promotion of the recent book entitled Princess Nest of Wales, Seductress of the English by the English historian and writer, Kari Maund, where ‘our’ genuine Princess and great heroine was treated to still more ‘spin’ after some nine hundred years. But I felt that yet again, ‘our’ heroine was not given her true and real place in Welsh, European and World history. And, why the discrepancy in the use of her name? The biggest sadness was the writer’s focus on Nest’s progeny to the exclusion of any thing else about her. Her most lasting legacy was her ‘dynasty’, but surely, as befits a Princess, there was so much more to her than her offspring. Our exquisite Princess Nest ferch Rhys ap Tewdwr is a legend not just because of her children but also because of her incredible courage and her ability to use whatever gifts she possessed to her own people’s advantage. As Simon Jenkins wrote in the Guardian recently, “Half of Wales must have Nest’s genes in their blood”. Princess Nest could also truly be said to be the mother of present day Ireland. A plaque on the quay at Wexford confirms “The Geraldines of the Welsh Princess Nest; founder of Ireland. May 1st. 1169”. Known as “The most beautiful woman in Wales”, the Helen of Wales, Kari Maund called her a “seductress”, but I wonder who



seduced whom? Gwenllian Meredith refers to her “rather notorious career” and “her promiscuous behaviour” in her article, so I begin to question why is there so much conjecture still being promulgated about ‘our’ Princess? Why did Nest have so many children? Were her marriages and other liaisons beyond the norm, as Gwenllian Meredith states? As Simon Jenkins wrote; “In the pantheon of female history she suffered one handicap. She was Welsh” David Petersen Efail y Tyddyn Sanclêr Sir Gâr

remembering trefor EDITOR

I read the article on the late Trefor Morgan with great interest. He contributed greatly to many aspects of Welsh life and business. My memory of Trefor is with his Insurance Cap on forming Undeb Insurance based in Aberdare. He insured our garage and business for many years and at renewal time always contacted me personally. Trefor, along with many prominent Welshmen should certainly be remembered - perhaps in a Roll of Honour at the Senedd. Long may Trefor be remembered, the insurance business is difficult and I certainly was proud to know him. David Gravell Gravells Limited Cydweli Sir Gâr

pure fantasy EDITOR

One of the reasons given for blighting our beautiful countryside with monstrous, industrialising wind generators, is the claimed justification that they will help reduce atmospheric emissions of CO2 - so a good number of...ahem..respected and trustworthy scientists would have us believe! Then what are we to make of the latest revelations from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit? The director, Prof Phil Jones, is actually stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change (AGW). This reminds me of my childhood Saturday cinema matinée attendances, and those exciting Western films and the well-worn saying, “White-man speak with forked tongue!” But give me a Western any time, as you knew where you stood with them: pure fantasy? Dave Haskell Boncath Sir Benfro

knackers nicked! EDITOR

I was amused at Roy Jones’s memories of the Investiture and particularly the antics of our very special Swansea-based secret police, whose two members, Messrs Thomas and Hughes were regular callers at my family home. However, Roy’s story reminded me of another associated with the

Canolfan Rhiannon Centre, Tregaron SY25 6JL 01974 298415

Yr Arbenigwyr Aur Cymru The Welsh Gold Specialists yn dymuno Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i’n holl gwsmeriaid wishing all our customers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


letters events of 1969 and the incredible clackhandedness of our guardians. The story goes something like this. As our prince began his tour through his fiefdom, certain undesirable elements were given guardians for the day, depending on the whereabouts of HRH. The idea, of course, was to keep such elements away from where ever he might be. On the day he was due in south Wales, via Carmarthen, the late and much missed Phil Henry and others (I think Ted Holley was one, I’m not sure of the others) were provided with minders kindly provided by West Country police. Noting it was a nice day for a spin, Phil suggested a run in the country. Now policemen from the West Country may know their way around Bristol, but not the narrow and winding roads of Wales, and of course had no idea where they were going. After a little driving around the party ended up in Carmarthenshire just in time for open tap, and alighted at the Torbay Inn, Ffairfach. Phil et al suggested that they pass the time playing darts; Wales versus England. What Phil neglected to tell his hosts was that the Inn was alongside the route to be taken that day by the aforesaid prince. Remember that this was the late sixties and, in addition to the media warning of the dangers to our prince, individuals with non-local cars and indeed strange, West Country accents, raised suspicions with mine host who sneaked off into the back room to call the local constabulary. The way Phil told the story went something like this. After a few games of darts - and of course beer kindly provided - all hell broke loose. Big Carmarthen coppers in countless cars pulled up outside in a cloud of dust, and burst in ready to nick these obvious baddies. Phil, of course, chatted to the local plod in the language of heaven, but his



companions (whose sponsors and bosses had neglected to tell anyone who they were and what the hell they were doing in Wales), despite showing identification and attempting to explain their mission were allegedly carted off. I forget how Phil got back home after this event. I suspect he stayed on and enjoyed Carmarthenshire hospitality for a little longer.

ground! His addiction to sop did him no harm as he was still gardening when he died at the age of 86. He would sometimes add an infusion of Redshank seeds to his sop to relieve rheumatic pains - a countryman through and through. One of his assertions was that it was preferable to wear out rather than rust away, and that ‘creaking gates hang the longest.’ Couch potatoes take note!

Dr John Ball Penllergaer Swansea

‘Of shencin & shinkin’ EDITOR

I was intrigued by recent letters concerning the above. My grandfather, a gardener by trade, moved to Glamorganshire from Radnorshire in 1908. In the early fifties I can vividly remember his ritual breakfast which he called ‘sop’. This comprised two thick, generously buttered rounds of bread cut into squares and placed into a basin. He would then pour over two tablespoonfuls of Nestles’ condensed milk and fill the basin with hot steaming tea. This would be downed with a well used wooden spoon and was always accompanied by a sizeable chunk of cheese. He claimed that such a breakfast would sustain him until lunchtime, whereas he would be hungry by late morning after a ‘fry-up’. Interestingly, his trademark spade was worn to half normal size and yet one of his peers reckoned he could shift more soil in an hour than two men wielding full size spades. He put it down mainly to his breakfast of sop, but joked that at only 5’6” he also had the advantage of being much nearer the

Vyvyan Harris, Llandrindod


We are always delighted to receive letters of every opinion. It may prove necessary to edit letters for space and clarity. Letters should be exclusive to




Clive Betts

The three-way scramble for Labour’s future


AMBRIA doesn’t yet appear frequently enough

to enable us to give worthwhile coverage to the election for the leadership of the Labour group in the National Assembly. But as the job is that currently held by Rhodri Morgan and the new incumbent will be Prime Minister of Wales (in Welsh, anyway), it would be foolish not to give some thoughts about the individuals who are battling to head the current coalition government. The fact that two of the three candidates downgrade the importance of coalition for the future running to the Welsh Assembly we can safely ignore. Some journalists and bloggers hopped up and down a bit when Carwyn Jones, the most likely winner, said his aim was for Labour to win both the coming Westminster election, and the Assembly elections in 2011. But surely he would say that - party members are far more likely to vote for a leader with fire in his belly and visions, however unlikely they might be, before him of total success. Edwina Hart, Health Minister, gave the most academically believable answer to the coalition question: It’s the electorate who decide whether there’ll be a coalition, and we have to live with it. Huw Lewis, AM for Merthyr and Rhymney, the third contestant, has nothing to say on the issue in his manifesto. Whatever he has said in the party’s five regional hustings is unknown, as the press have not been allowed in (pretty standard for Labour). His publicity material gives prominence to his refusing to continue as a Deputy Minister when Mr Morgan signed the coalition deal with Plaid Cymru (a step too far for a professed left-winger). But he fails to mention his long period as a deputy minister in the Lab-Lib Dem coalition after the fall of Alun Michael as First Minister. Apparently he could work well enough with those rightwing Lib Dems... But then he wouldn’t want to mention that he had been sacked from that job. He had protested too publicly against an Assembly-ordered land-fill site (to deal with foot-and-mouth carcases) in his own constituency.

Ask senior Plaid people what they think of Mr Lewis and you immediately get a big giggle and the mention of Penarth. “We hope he’ll win,” said one. “It’ll make our task that much easier in 2011!” No-one less than Carwyn Jones, the minister at the time, was too pleased either; in fact Mr Jones was told off in plenary session by a fellow-Labour AM for the incompetent way he had dealt with the issue, making sacking pretty much inevitable. So, perhaps we don’t take too much notice of what Mr Lewis says about coalitions. Indeed, is Mr Lewis the left-winger he claims to be? Some time ago I came across a Welsh Communist Party website which said bluntly that he was a rightwing Blairite. And a blogger recently likened him to John Cruddas. The MP for Dagenham is certainly a leftie - he took on Tony Blair, charging that Blair was ignoring his traditional constituency in order to chase middle-class voters. Living in Dagenham - a god-forsaken part of the world he would certainly know all about such issues. But Huw Lewis doesn’t quite fit the mould, although it would seem quite a few accept his own view of himself. An unofficial count on the web found 40% supporting Mr Lewis, 36% Mr Jones, and 25% Mrs Hart. So seemingly a very close run thing, with ‘leftie’ Huw in the lead. A YouGov poll at the end of October offered more reliable figures, based on approval ratings for the candidates from Labour voters. These put Mr Jones first at 33%; followed by Mr Lewis at 27%, and Mrs Hart at 16%. All well and good, but how can a working-class hero live not his own constituency (Merthyr) or that of his AM wife (Pontypool), but in leafy Penarth, in the catchment area (for their two sons) of one of the swankiest state primaries in the South (although I hear it has since been somewhat on the decline!). Ask senior Plaid people what they think of Mr Lewis and you immediately get a big giggle and the mention of Penarth. “We hope he’ll win,” said one. “It’ll make our task that much easier in 2011!”

Mr Lewis’s bid is seriously weakened by the severe shortage of AMs backing him. Not much more, in fact, than the usual suspects, a tiny gang who have been persistently weak in supporting any sort of advance for Assembly powers. Two of them even voted against Wales introducing a smoking ban in advance of England arguing that it might cause problems in their north-eastern border constituencies. The other two candidates promise some interesting policies if they win. Don’t expect a revolution the day that Mr Morgan hands over the keys to his fifth-floor office in the Assembly to Mr Jones. A lot of issues for the future of the Labour Party in Wales have been dodged. After all, one of Mr Jones’s aims has been to win the formal backing of as many MPs as possible - 14, so far compared with five for Mrs Hart, and just four for Mr Lewis. This means that Mr Jones currently opposes any change to the anomalous relationship within the Welsh party (which doesn’t exist separately in legal terms, unlike the Scottish equivalent). In other words, constitutionally, the Welsh party is just like the Labour party in West Yorkshire. No doubt Mr Jones realises correctly that when a Tory Government arrives the entire situation will be turned upside down. Then, with Cardiff forming the political front-line, the legal status of the party’s Welsh executive will have to be rapidly upgraded somewhat. Some of Mr Jones’s policy proposals are extremely interesting. This magazine has already mentioned that the electrification of the Great Western main line to Swansea should be followed by putting wires on the Valley branches. Mr Jones thinks so too. And on the North coast line (where electric trains are currently hauled by diesel engines!) as well. And on the Wrexham to Liverpool line. Were Mr Morgan to hand the keys to Mrs Hart we would expect to see yet more changes to public services in Wales. Clearly, she has not been deterred by her suc-

cess with the NHS (there’s a big query from the Lib Dems about how many senior officials are being retained on full pay with nothing to do because of a no-redundancies deal with the unions) over major changes in October. Mrs Hart’s aim had been to simplify the NHS. Perhaps significantly, Mr Jones in his manifesto promises no further NHS reorganisation. But Mrs Hart has added almost as big a target for the medium-term future. Her words on the future of local government - in particular the number of councils - will have several chief executives quaking in their boots. Her most controversial policy concerns Welsh-medium schools in cities in the South. She complains that some such schools have very few “blacks” on their rolls. She warns against the Welsh language “becoming the exclusive preserve of a self-appointed minority”. This is the language of cultural apartheid, and I would have expected better from Mrs Hart. Instead she is just parroting the mantra of race-relations zealots who, although they may send their children to such schools, see the state of the language and the battle to resuscitate it entirely through a race-prism in which they elevate the interests of immigrants out of all sensible proportion. The best news for the Welsh language could, oddly enough, come from a victory for Mr Lewis. His manifesto bluntly argues the importance of the Welsh-speaking areas, and he raises the possibility of launching a Welsh-language daily - a dream cruelly crushed, apparently by Rhodri Morgan, a little over a year ago and of a better financial deal for the National Eisteddfod to help it move around Wales each year. What is interesting about this contest is the number of critical ideas for the future of Wales raised by the bidding trio. With Labour heading for opposition in London, expect considerable thinking in the party on the way forward for itself here. Now that such issues have become the property of the entire party in Wales, conservatives in London (i.e. Welsh Labour MPs) will have little chance to stifle the acres of debate which are needed.

CLIVE BETTS and others with much more on Welsh Politics

.com Irreverent and relevant ! THE political blog of Wales!


Huw Lawrence



he summer (2009) issue of Y Ddraig Goch carries a piece by Plaid Cymru’s Director of Policy, Nerys Evans, asking for members’ contributions to ideology. Right next to it on the same page is an article by Alun Ffred Jones, the Assembly Culture Minister, entitled, ‘Cofio Cewri Penllyˆn’, a piece that does not reappear in translation in Y Ddraig’s sister magazine, The Welsh Nation. The founding fathers of Plaid Cymru and the famous act of political arson with which they burned down a bombing school on the Llyˆn Peninsula are commemorated in Welsh only. Can we see in this a failure of nerve in relation to members who may be antipathetic to language-nationalism in areas that Plaid is hoping to win over? If so it shows insufficient faith in what is testified to by the growing strength of demand for Welsh-language education in those areas. Here is how Nerys Evans’ appeal reads as translated in Y Ddraig Goch’s sister magazine, The Welsh Nation: Being a member of a political party means a firm commitment to the development of that party, by increasing membership, gaining electoral success and in developing our ideological base. I’m sure you as members have been active in the first 2 of these, now is your time to contribute to the third.

What is that if not ingenuous? On the Welsh page, however, the juxtaposition of the two articles will associate ‘ideology’ in the one article with the brave early days commemorated in the other. Given present problems between modern Plaid and its grassroots, some members may pick up an unspoken signal here, Plaid remembering an older, purer self and candidly turning back to what its grassroots cherishes. These implications are absent in the English of The Welsh Nation because Alun Ffred Jones’ article is absent. The hidden message is for Welsh-language faithfuls, whom Plaid may fear it has alienated. So the faithful may also see in it also an underlying Plaid worry that the unpopular British policies of its coalition partner will stick to Plaid in the run up to the Westminster elections, and most especially the way that its association with power seems to have affected Plaid’s behaviour and attitude. This is worth taking a look at, bearing in mind its appeal for help with ‘ideology’. By the year of Plaid’s coalition with Labour in 2007, Labour had enjoyed ten years of Westminster power, showing itself to be a party whose policies went against almost every principle Plaid Cymru ever held. With its eyes wide open, therefore, Plaid allied itself to policies of centralisation and relocation. These were policies which,

combined with a spurious obsession for house building, had brought about a shift out of English urban areas into rural parts of Britain from which the young nonetheless continued to depart in search of work. Y Fro Gymraeg had been left with comparatively little Welsh heard in it any more. It was quite plain by 2007 that Labour was a party that refused to see ‘relocation’ as damaging to communities and ascribed no value to cultures. At one time local authorities naturally tended to put local people first, but legislative and financial measures took control away from local authorities, diminishing local priorities to zero status, inflicting enormous damage on our communities. For a thimbleful of power Plaid climbed into bed with policies that had deprived us of much of the say we’d previously had in our own lives in our own square mile, while expanding and diluting our communities to the point where they could scarcely be called Welsh any more. Plaid could have joined the alternative ‘rainbow’ coalition or simply stood alone, in either case speaking out against what was happening, and showing it had the courage to stand up to ridiculous accusations of racism in the English press. After all, let’s face it, white English people perceiving themselves as victims of British ‘racism’ is nothing less than good material for a stand-up comic, especially an Asian one. But Plaid did not stand by those it was voted in to represent. Instead, it collaborated with enemy policies. If it had not done this, it would now find itself benefiting from having opposed those same policies, which are finally bringing about a great weight of British disillusionment and anger against the kind of Britain Labour has brought into being - anger at a country of damaged communities, overcrowded prisons, illegal immigration, groaning transport system, debased education and a top-heavy public sector, to name just a few favourites from the popular press. And this got accomplished while politicians played fast and loose with their expenses. Now, as if suddenly realising its position on the eve on a general election, with Assembly elections just a couple of years off, Plaid’s Director of Policy, all innocent-sounding, asks for help with ideology. Well, Nerys, here is my contribution for what it is worth. The ‘ideological base’, as you call it, is made up of motivating beliefs from which policies consistent with those beliefs emanate, beliefs which a party forgets at its peril. Its ideology is a political party’s raison d’être, not something with which an honest party usually needs to appeal for help. Of course, a dishonest, power-greedy, authoritarian party like Labour in Westminster, willing to steal its opponents’ clothes and sell out all its core beliefs in a massive betrayal of its grassroots, yes, a party like that needs help, probably of the psychiatric sort. But Plaid isn’t like that, is it? So, should we accept Plaid’s appeal at face value and see

it as opening the door to debate? On page 2 of The Welsh Nation, Dafydd Iwan, a genuine icon of the Welsh language movement, writes of a party and a politics “which engages with the people, devolves power to the communities and is not afraid of honest, open debate.” The people of Gwynedd, however, feeling they received no such thing, have kicked Plaid out of County Council control by forming their own opposition party, Llais Gwynedd, putting a question mark behind the idea of honest debate. The right platform for such debate would be a quality daily newspaper, but unfortunately Plaid Cymru shut the door on that possibility a year ago when it knifed Y Byd in the back on the brink of launch. Plaid’s grassroots, shocked to the marrow, found themselves asking: Is this really a nation-building party? Sabotaging such an important and prestigious vehicle and symbol of national identity as a daily newspaper in your own nation’s historic language (something that virtually every other cultural minority has already got), simply does not testify to nation building. Without some major reversal, like resurrecting Y Byd (something even the Tories have promised), to what possible consensus can this bewildering Plaid Cymru make the appeal that it is leading Wales to nationhood? Nor is nation building just a symbolic and institutional thing. There is a basic question of Welsh jobs, a point made by Plaid AM, Rhodri Glyn Thomas in a recent issue of Cambria. “The Arts can stimulate economic, social and artistic regeneration,” he writes, adding that “every £1 invested by the Arts Council . . . is the lever that generates £3 of other income.” (Let the Arts Lead Wales out of the Recession, Cambria, July/Aug 2009). Y Byd, asking for a grant of £600,000, would have generated an estimated 30 good, full-time posts with additional spin-offs like printing work, distribution and the benefit to local businesses from the spending of 30 new incomes. Ironically enough, Rhodri Glyn Thomas was Y Byd’s most visible executioner. Recently, yet another question mark has arisen as to how much this Party is any longer a fit guardian of our language and culture. The Assembly Commission, a body providing services for the Assembly, announced in August that it would stop translating into Welsh those parts of the bilingual Assembly Record initially made in English. Of the five Commission members two are Plaid, including the Presiding Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, without whose agreement it is hard to see such a decision being arrived at. The barrister Gwion Lewis, in an article in Barn (Sept 2009, p4), argued that the move was illegal. The Welsh Language Board (whose first Chairman was, ironically, Dafydd Elis Thomas) sought legal advice. The Commission compromised, offering first a reduced service and then a full review of all its Welsh language services by the end of January, with legislative

affairs translated overnight in the meantime and with full Assembly sessions translated within 3-5 days. If the aim was to save money then the new arrangement didn’t save much. It just saved face. And it would be of little use to reporters, who might now possibly mislead the public with their own translations. Assembly members of all political persuasion rallied and made it clear that a debate was imminent if the Commission didn’t yield. It was a countdown. Then, presumably to avoid the indignity of being made a laughing stock by its own president (the Assembly President is Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas) the Assembly did concede to the compromise which he offered as Presiding Officer of the Commission. We can now expect a review (a face-saving at public expense) in which the whole question will get mixed up with other questions and obfuscated, with the probable outcome that overnight translation will be reinstated. Dafydd Elis Thomas and the Commission know full well that if language equality is not built into the foundations then County Councils and other institutions, including the private sector, like the banks, will quite likely follow the Commission’s precedent. Plaid’s grassroots, that cast votes with the language and culture primarily in mind, once more looked on in awe, wondering what had happened to the ‘One Wales’ policy for a truly bilingual nation, in which the Welsh language, in the recent words of Peter Black, A.M., was meant to “survive and flourish as part of daily life and business?” So Plaid’s plea for contributions to ideology comes at a moment in political time when grassroots members cannot really fail to see it as Plaid belatedly counting the cost of its past arrogance towards them, in terms of how much door knocking and poster sticking may have been lost in the heartland. ‘Come on in,’ it suddenly invites, ‘come into the warm kitchen of policy and let’s have a cosy chat about, er, yes, ideology. We’ve found it again in a cupboard behind some long knives we picked up in a Labour car-boot sale. Dear members, we dearly would appreciate hearing what you have to say about ideology.’ Please believe us, won’t you? And before the ink has set on the appeal Plaid’s biggest gun shoots the language in the back at the Commission. Plaid’s grassroots have had to grow up in a hurry and aren’t any less intelligent than the erstwhile Left that is no longer there for Labour. Labour’s disarray and fundamental lack of ideological support is what Plaid is relying on to benefit it most in the future. Yet this absurd Party seems intent on losing its own grassroots. Here is one voice from among them. Cut the crap about ideology and tell us what you are offering. That surely can be the only response to such a Party, till it shows it is back on the ideological path that defined it before it became degenerate on half a pint of power.

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Siôn Jobbins

On Dwynwen’s trail


elsh romance may sound like an oxymoron to some, but every year thousands of hopeful singles and smug couples celebrate our patron saint of love, St Dwynwen’s Day, on 25 January. Dwynwen was one of the twenty four daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog, the sixth century king of southern Wales. Dwynwen’s love for Maelon against her father’s desire lead to an unhappy ending with Dwynwen asking for three wishes including never to marry and to be the patron saint of love. The church at Ynys Llanddwyn on Anglesey is dedicated to her and has been a place of pilgrimage for over a millennium. But although the Dwynwen story is fifty generations old it may surprise many that today’s celebration, unlike St David’s Day, is not an unbroken nation-wide celebration. It has more of the whiff of paint on road signs and hair-sprayed flicks than the smell of ancient boar sweat and wolf prints. Yes, the Dwynwen tradition only tenuously outlived the zealots of the Reformation and Welsh Methodism, but how and when did it become a new tradition celebrated across Wales? Intrepid reporter that I am, I went in search of the anonymous tradition inventor - of St Dwynwen’s Day. All traditions were invented sometime. Some traditions were once fashionable art forms which were left in cultural rock pools as the tide of fashion drifted away. This happened with the triple harp for instance. And if a new tradition is invented then the anonymity of its inventor is seen as a mark of success, conferring on it a suggestion of mythic legitimacy and longevity. This was the trick Iolo Morganwg failed to pull off when he invented the Gorsedd of the Bards. St Dwynwen’s Day has managed to do so successfully on both counts. So, by whom and how was the modern St Dwynwen’s Day invented? If anyone can be credited with helping Dwynwen step out of obscurity and speak the modern Welsh of greeting cards then it’s the softly spoken Anglesey writer, Jane Edwards. Brought up in Niwbwrch on Anglesey, Jane was aware of the legend of Dwynwen from an early age. Local lovers would make romantic wishes with offerings of a cork spiked with a pin and thrown into her well at nearby Ynys Llanddwyn. Jane’s cultured primary school teacher, W. H. Roberts, also taught his pupils the story of Dwynwen and the love poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym in an age when such things were not the norm. ‘I forget the year, but it was about 1965. I’d been asked by the producer, Ifor Rees, to appear on a St David’s Day



programme or something of that sort, with Gwyn Griffiths of the Cymro weekly paper, the Archdruid Cynan and lecturer Nora Isaac, to talk about a place in Wales we like to visit. In any case I spoke about Ynys Llanddwyn and the legend of Saint Dwynwen and it created quite an interest.’ From then on, Jane was frequently asked to tell the story of Dwynwen on radio and in print. ‘I became an unofficial spokesperson for Dwynwen in a way. But it wasn’t a deliberate effort to create a ‘Welsh St Valentine’s Day’ as they say - although, I’m very glad it’s become that,’ said Jane who has now returned to the mother island after living in Aberystwyth. So, unlike Iolo Morganwg’s calculated effort to reinvent the Druids, Jane Edwards didn’t start out with a deliberate blueprint to make St Dwynwen’s Day a national holiday. But Jane Edwards is also being too modest. It’s not a coincidence that it was she who was chosen to appear in Ifor Rees’s programme nor, more importantly, that it was she who saw the beauty and the human need in Dwynwen’s story. She was uniquely placed. I’d argue that if it wasn’t for Jane Edwards then St Dwynwen’s Day would not be celebrated today at all. Jane Edwards strode into the Welsh literary scene of the early 1960s like a young woman wearing a miniskirt to a chapel. She rewrote the rules of sexuality and women in Welsh literature. Her early novels Dechrau Gofidiau (1962) and Byd o Gysgodion (1964), brought sex into Welsh literature in a way not seen since the red-hot love poetry of the great Dafydd ap Gwilym of the fourteenth century. In her MPhil of 2008, Nia Angharad Watkins notes that Jane Edwards’s novels portray the age of ‘existential vacuum’ as the focus of a woman’s move from the hearth to the body. Her novels dealt with previously taboo subject such as contraception and abortion. Professor Jane Aaron describes Jane Edwards as being the first écriture feminine in Welsh where the author gives honest expression to the urges, senses, emotions and experiences of the flesh which are unique to the female sex. It was her fame and courage which made Ifor Rees chose her to give some colour to his black and white programme. And it was her cultural upbringing in Niwbwrch combined with her ability and wish to express female needs which led her to be so touched by Dwynwen’s story and, indeed, Ynys Llanddwyn as its location. But why did Santes Dwynwen catch on? Why not Santes Melangell - patron saint of animals, or Sant Teilo as patron saint of apples who could have lent himself to an Oktoberfest-style cider festival? And without a committee, well, how can you organise anything in Wales? But maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the fact that no one committee or government body or pressure group initially

took it upon themselves to promote Dwynwen that gave it the anonymous legitimacy which allowed it to ferment in Welsh society. And Dwynwen’s ageless appeal to lovers certainly helped propagate itself. The 1960s and ’70s were the summers of love after all - even in sliced-white-breadmunching Wales. The media also played its part. With the launching of BBC Radio Cymru and Radio Wales in 1977 there was more need than ever for Welsh news items. Dwynwen’s story fitted the bill perfectly. Were our universities of true Welsh outlook they’d have degrees in ‘Cultural Enterprise’. The degree would make use of the scribbled beer mats, badly-typed lobbying letters and the sheer determination, guile and experience of the generations of people who’ve diverted their energy to making Wales a country which is culturally richer … though, not themselves materially better off. When such a course exists (and why not, it’s surely more worthwhile than an economy built on the alchemy of the City of London?), then the next stages of the invention of the Dwynwen tradition could be a module. The Dwynwen story was too good to be left quietly fermenting in the cultural cellars of society. And Cof y Genedl (Nation’s Memory) a Welsh history society, seem to have been the first to produce Dwynwen cards. The Society’s founders, an idealistic, flared-trousered couple, Edryd and Moelwen Gwyndaf, post-graduate students at Bangor, newly married and with a baby daughter, Siwan, produced Dwynwen merchandise for the 1977 St Dwynwen’s Day. Using the newly formed Gwasg Gwynedd printers, another enterprise started by young nationalists, the poet Gerallt Lloyd Owen and Alwyn Williams, Cof y Genedl printed ‘Dwynwen scrolls’. ‘Some 250 scrolls were published on a parchment type material with love poetry written on them. There were four different poems, including I remember, ‘Crys y Mab’. As Cof y Genedl, we believed it was a way of publicising what we thought was an important and exciting part of Welsh identity and history,’ remembers Edryd. So, two potent passions were fused then; love for a person and love for a country. The protesters and activists with paint in their hands knew that if Welsh was to survive it had to be the language of romance as well as road signs. Dwynwen therefore became a fully paid up member of the Welsh Revival. This Welsh Spring saw a quite exceptional generation of young people change the face of Welsh culture in the 1960s and ’70s only to be stopped in their tracks by the failed referendum of 1979. This Revival could be compared to the Catalan Renaixença, but whereas any good guide book to Barcelona will discuss the Catalan revival, the Welsh one is shamefully

ignored. The scrolls, and later other Dwynwen cards, were sold through the new informal network of independent Welsh language book shops. The first of its kind, Siop y Pethe, was opened in Aberystwyth in 1967 by another idealistic young couple of the Welsh Renaixença, Megan and Gwilym Tudur. Gwilym gives another insight to why he believes the Dwynwen tradition grew in popularity. ‘Many people then - and now - feel their Welsh isn’t good enough to write a love letter,’ he says. ‘The Dwynwen cards, therefore, give them the perfect opportunity to write some loving comments without showing their perceived linguistic failings.’ But despite making great gains in popularity since the early days, Dwynwen is still unknown to many, if not most, in Wales outside Welsh-speaking culture. In many respects, the celebration of St Dwynwen as opposed to St Valentine, marks the great split in Welsh society; not so much linguistic, but the split between the people of the village chapel and the people of the village carnival. The descendants of ministers and chapel goers ‘Pobol Capel’ - seem more likely to celebrate Dwynwen, whilst for the carnival people, it’s St Valentine. It’s the split between Welsh and mainstream Anglo-American culture. It’s the difference between Sali Mali or Mickey Mouse; the Urdd or Scouts; Disc a Dawn or Top of the Pops... even Plaid Cymru and Labour. And whilst one understands Dwynwen could never compete with the global capital and lure of Valentine it doesn’t seem either to have won the hearts of those who are strident in their dislike of commercialism and globalisation. After all, St Valentine’s Day has as much to do with love and romance as the Xmas Sales with the birth of the Son of God. It’s mostly tat for the tasteless. Why then aren’t those with too much hair and a liking of purple clothes or our worried warriors with the world on their shoulders, celebrating Dwynwen? For, if ever there was a local, non-globalised celebration financed by what is at best a cottage industry, then Dwynwen is that. But, maybe Fairtrade is just for foreign goods? Maybe the name Dwynwen is just too difficult for people to get their tongues round? Dwynwen, it seems, may need to be more of good-time girl and less of a good chapel girl if she wants to be better known. As the poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym, a man who was a fan of Dwynwen show, sonnets of smut, of muttondressed-as-lamb, of romance and fancy words, are all part of the Welsh culture of courtship. Reviving Dwynwen from the cloister of obscurity was a beautiful idea, for Welsh is a language of many things, but most of all a language for love.


C a mbr i a




s you have been reminiscing fondly about the Caernarfon Investiture of Charles Windsor - the Pretender as titular Prince of Wales forty years ago, there are some matters of which I feel your readers need reminding or informing. Having read Royston Jones’s My Investiture in your July/August issue, I am motivated to recall that I, too, “had an Investiture” in 1969, and that it was held on “my patch”. In 1967 I had been adopted Plaid Cymru candidate for the Caernarfon constituency, where I also lived, and still do. So that from 1967 until the General Election was called in June 1970, I was “nursing” this possibly winnable seat, which had been held for Labour by Goronwy Roberts since 1945. There were very many people in Wales who were fiercely opposed to the Investiture. An antiinvestiture rally of thousands was held on the quay at Caernarfon, where the Heddlu Cudd/Secret Police present in scores - were busily engaged in photo-



graphing us all. When my wife Gwenan espied one police detective from Pwllheli - husband of a friend of hers - attempting to photograph her, she stopped, beamed at him, straightened her cap, and said: “There we are then. You can take my picture now if you want to.” (The poor fellow was covered in confusion.) Many were subsequently persecuted, just for their beliefs, and just as if they lived in a police state. I found myself in and out of police stations and courts on a regular basis, attempting to safeguard their liberties and their interests. As a Republican, I am opposed to Royalty and all its ways: I have always held republican views, even when I was a member of, and candidate for, the Labour Party. Even to the extent that I invariably remain seated during the so called “loyal toast”. I made those views clear, even if it might mean losing votes come the Election: if votes

I was opposed to the Investiture on principle, both as an anti-monarchist and a Welsh patriot - also on the ground of the astronomical cost

were to be lost, then so be it. I was opposed to the Investiture on principle, both as an anti-monarchist and a Welsh patriot. I was also opposed to it on the ground of the proposed astronomical cost. So I girded my loins, and went public with those views. TEGWYN JONES

“Oh come, let us adore him”


Police State?

There were two main local supporters of the Investiture. The first was the then Mayor of Caernarfon, the late Councillor I B Griffith. IB went over the top, telling us all that Charles would be the ideal “ambassador for Wales” wherever he went, and that Wales needed him “to be our head of state in effect, since Wales had [then] no head of government”. They fooled IB. He was conned into supporting all and every aspect of the event. But you never ever see a Welsh flag when Charles goes overseas - it’s always the Union Jack and those three wretched white feathers, but never Y Ddraig Goch. It is perfectly clear, and was to the rest of us (if not to IB) even then that Charles had - he still has - no interest in being Prince of Wales. He’s just marking time to be King of England. It is equally clear by now that the wait is proving longer than he would like. The other fervent supporter of all things royal was the late John Eilian,

Editor-in-Chief of the two Caernarfon weeklies Yr Herald Cymraeg and the Caernarfon & Denbigh Herald. When opposition to the Investiture started building steam some two years previously, he announced majestically that he would allow neither of his papers to be used to express anti-investiture views - or “disloyal sentiments” as he called them. Throughout those two years, he published letters and articles galore in favour of royalty and the investiture, but allowed not one single word to the opposition. If that isn’t blatant censorship and propaganda at their worst, I don’t know what is. It is widely believed that had both I B Griffith and John Eilian been as resolutely opposed to the Investiture as they were in its favour, Harold Wilson would not have dared to stage it, that oleaginous lickspittle George Thomas notwithstanding. It should also be recalled that IB Griffith was a staunch Labour sup-

porter and friend of Goronwy Roberts, while John Eilian was a perfervid Tory who had thrice stood for his party in Anglesey. Was there real grass-roots support for anti-Investiture views? There was. I recall warning our supporters during the subsequent election that we were likely to have four matters thrown at us: the Investiture, the Bombs, the Painting of official and road signs, and the daubing of slogans. No one at all raised any of these four matters with my supporters or myself (to my surprise, I must admit). At the previous Election in 1966, Labour had had a majority of almost eleven thousand over Plaid. At the 1970 Election - less than twelve months after the Investiture Plaid slashed Labour’s majority to just over two thousand. In 1974 the Arfon seat fell to my successor, Dafydd Wigley, and Goronwy Roberts was sent packing to the Lords. Plaid has held the seat ever since. Need I say more? Gwynfor Evans was firmly of the opinion that the Caernarfon Investiture of 1969 helped him lose Carmarthen in 1970. All I can say is that, from far-away Caerfyrddin, distance must have lent enchantment to the view (of Royalty). Gwynfor’s views made me wonder whether, were it not for the Investiture, Caernarfon might not have fallen to Plaid in June 1970! Of late, there has been much talk of a new prison in Caernarfon. For goodness sake let us dump the wretched thing in the Castle. The walls are thick enough, and it will forever stop the Windsors (and our own home-grown sycophants) from staging yet another royal circus for the next Pretender in years to come. Cartoons from 1969 courtesy of Tegwyn Jones


C a mbr i a




he wrong place at the wrong time; a convenient stooge; a nightmare chain of events. A decade after having a murder conviction quashed, and one year after his book about the case was published, Cambria talks to Michael O’Brien. Having spent 11 years in jail for a crime he did not commit, as did Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood O’Brien, the best known of the trio collectively known as the Cardiff Newsagent Three, discovered a new purpose in life and an unsuspected determination. Often quoted in the papers about his own, and other, miscarriages of justice, he has become something of a celebrity - more so since the publication of his book The Death of Justice (Y Lolfa, £9.95).

Cambria: You’re moving in a new direction now Michael, your first book has sold well. What project are you working on at the moment?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN: My second book is called Prisons Exposed. I want to have a look at the whole criminal justice system and the prison system, to try and make it better, to look at the failings and see how we can address them, because I think it’s important. Some of the issues are strongly Welsh issues. Why should prisoners in Wales have to spend their time in English prisons when their families are suffering and being kept away from their families because they can’t afford to travel up there? Something has to be done about that. You wouldn’t have somebody in Northern Ireland being sent to a Welsh prison, so why should you have Welsh people going to an English prison? It doesn’t make sense.

tences. I don’t think it is right. If they can find the money for other things, then it’s important they should do the same thing for us as well.


Cambria: There is also the issue of people not being allowed to have Welsh language services in prison. Prisoners have been banned from talking in Welsh, have not been allowed Welsh language correspondence - birthday cards from their children and things like that - even a Welsh Bible has been held back by these people.


I saw some of that when I was in prison. In some of the English jails they didn’t like it, and if they couldn’t translate it they wouldn’t give it to you. You might have to wait weeks until they’d translated it, if then they gave it to you at all. I think it’s appalling. Would they do that to, say, a Pakistani person or someone of any other nationality?


If someone writes in Urdu, do they translate it?


Yes they do, and I think the only reason they do so is because the Prison Service is afraid of being accused of racism. So they do deal with that. Why are we being singled out as a Welsh nation, and being discriminated against in relation to our Welsh history and our Welsh language? It’s very important that these matters are addressed.

Cambria: They’ve recently decided not to proceed with building a new prison in North Wales, which means prisoners from North Wales will have to continue going into England.

Cambria: I think from your point of view the issue you really want to settle is that of miscarriage of justice. You’ ve obviously written a very good first book about your own particular case. You’ve been involved in other cases, campaigning for people who have suffered miscarriages of justice, but from a personal point of view, you want to move on to new areas?



I just think it’s appalling that they haven’t built this prison, because it’s badly needed. Not just this one prison, but a number of prisons - particularly for long term prisoners, both women and men. Most women’s prisons are in London, Bristol, places like that. It isn’t fair. We’re being sent to another country to serve our sen-



Yes I do. I’ve learned new skills, I’ve gone to university, I’ve got television presenting skills now - I passed all the courses. I’m qualified to work in television and commercial radio, so there are quite a lot of other things that I want to do. Whether I get the lucky breaks or not is another matter. But I’m lucky in the sense that I have got

a good history with television, because I’ve done about 19 or 20 documentaries over the years, and I’m still a regular contributor to television and radio and to newspapers. So I hope the crossover won’t be too difficult. Cambria:

How long would you say that it took you, and to a degree I suppose it’s still taking you, to get over that horrendous experience of being locked up for something you didn’t do?

I don’t think you ever get over what has happened - the most important thing is you learn to live with it, because that’s all you can do. What’s gone is gone, what’s done is done, I cannot change it. I used to hanker to get the 11 years back. I jokingly said to somebody once, “I’m not 42 - I’m 31’, and they laughed because they knew exactly what I meant. And I do feel 31 not 42. But it’s not worth harping on about the past. There are only so many times you can go on about it, and you have to move forward as part of the healing process. But there are some long-lasting issues from my miscarriage of justice: I still suffer severely from post-traumatic stress disorder, I’m on a hell of a lot of medication to cope with that. I get good days and bad days still, but I am determined to rise above all that, cope with it and then do something more positive.

at home with me and I thought if I go out with somebody or find somebody nice they’re not just going to have to accept me, they’re going to have to accept both my son and me as a package. That’s why I thought of the Dating for Parents site. It works both ways. And so I met Claire. She stood out because she said she was a writer. She writes poetry, she sounded nice; we made contact and have been inseparable ever since. We’re getting married very shortly, to put icing on the cake. My family life is brilliant. I can’t fault it at all!



In adopting that attitude you’re in a different position from a lot of other miscarriage of justice victims, aren’t you, because there are a lot of other people who have not coped as well as you have?


I’m obviously saddened by anyone who has not managed to pull through it. I know the Cardiff Three1, some of them are in a terrible state still, Annette Hewins 2 is in a terrible state, as is one of the Darvell Brothers 3, and I just think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. I’m very lucky - I’ve managed to distinguish the wood from the trees, but it took me nearly seven years after coming out of prison before I started, slowly, to recover. Where I live now was part of my new start; I moved away from my old friends - who for some reason or other didn’t support me when I was in prison. I lived a quiet life which gave me time to reflect and rebuild. Cambria:

You’re going to be a father again soon. You’re living together happily with your girlfriend. How long have you known her and has that affected your recovery?


I think meeting Claire was one of the best things that happened to me. I met her in 2007 on an internet dating site called Dating for Parents. I had my son living


What advice would you give other people? There are a great number of people suffering miscarriages of justice - there are still a great number of innocent people in jail - and yet there doesn’t seem to be much hope for them. I guess it’s very easy for people to lose hope, when they can’t see a way forward.

O’BRIEN: There

are always good days and bad. I had days when I thought I was going to be in prison for the rest of my life. But then I used to get angry. I thought ‘no, I’m not just going to sit here and take this.’ And that’s why I did what I did, by studying law, looking at my case, looking at other people’s cases, so my message to anyone inside is to study law. Then you’ll understand what has gone wrong with your case, you’ll pull out points of law, and then you’ll pull out new grounds for appeal. And it’s quite surprising, once you get that new legal knowledge, how much you can uncover. Bear in mind I didn’t have a solicitor until 1996, and by that stage I’d been in nearly nine years, and yet I managed to get a number of television documentaries made and newspaper articles written about us which made our case high profile. And that’s what you’ve got to do, to get your case in the public eye, you’ve just got to be selfish and think only of one thing: getting out and clearing your name. That was the foremost thing on my mind and it should be the most important thing on the minds of those in similar situations.


THE CARDIFF THREE: Yusef Abdelahi, Tony Paris and Steven Miller - wrongly convicted of the 1988 murder of Lynette White. Convictions quashed on appeal following evidence of serious police irregularities.


ANNETTE HEWINS: Wrongly convicted of arson with intent to endanger life following the death of a young mother and her two children on the Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil in 1997. Conviction quashed on appeal.


THE DARVELL BROTHERS: Wayne and Paul Darvell - wrongly convicted of the murder of Swansea sex shop worker Sandra Phillips in 1986. Convictions quashed on appeal following evidence of serious police irregularities.

The Death of Justice by Michael O’Brien. £9.95 from


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The Author of our Anthem GWYN GRIFFITHS


e wrote the best known and most often heard Welsh words ever, sung by Welsh singers from Bryn Terfel to Tom Jones, from Cerys Matthews to Shirley Bassey. Yet he is remembered for little else and only a handful of poems by this prolific poet ever lit up a printed page during his lifetime or for many years after. Evan James, one of 14 children, was born October 14, 1809, in a weaver’s cottage in the centre of Caerphilly. A shy, well-liked, bookish man of many talents his immortality rests solely on having penned the words of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Fame enough, especially as the two most popular Welsh poets of the nineteenth century, John Ceiriog Hughes and John Jones (Talhaiarn) had been busting a gut trying to achieve what he did, write an anthem for the Welsh people. How the anthem came to be written was extensively documented in 2006, the 150th anniversary of its composition. This year, it’s Evan’s turn, and his alone. His father was a weaver with a love of learning and poetry and his mother, a Stradling, probably a descendant of the St Donat’s family, for centuries patrons of Welsh poetry and culture. The James family soon moved to the Ancient Druid Inn, a woollen mill, public house and a DETAIL FROM THE MEMORIAL, PARC YNYSANGHARAD, PONTYPRIDD: EVAN JAMES IS ON THE RIGHT, HIS SON JAMES ON THE LEFT.




Evan was no chapel-goer - it is worth noting that in all three verses of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau there is no reference to God nor to queen - which may also be a little surprising recalling the Empire jingoism of many Welshmen of the period

row of to this day picturesque cottages on the outskirts of Hollybush on the way to Tredegar. They later lived on a farm, Ffos-yr-hebog, on Gelligaer common where local memory recalls them to be a relatively well-off family. Evan, when he married, moved back to the Druid and it was there that his first and most famous son, James, composer of the air of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, was born. An older brother, Lewis, established himself as a cobbler in Cwm Erdderch, near Ebbw Vale, and built a pub called The Boot. Other brothers were weavers - and poets - and Mary, the only sister, married the son of Yr Hen Dafarn, Pontaberbargoed, right on the old border between Glamorgan and Gwent. There is still a pub on the site - now known as The Gold Mine! Yr Hen Dafarn (The Old Inn) was an important gathering place for the family. Every Easter the family and their friends would gather for a week of feasting, drinking, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the harp at a charity event called Pastai’r Bont. The food came in the form of two huge pasties, one well-peppered and savoury to ensure the thirst to appreciate the home brew. Evan, we assume, was inspired by this annual event. From an early age he was writing poetry and by the age of 20 had mastered cynghanedd, the traditional Welsh metres of intricate repeating consonants and internal rhyming, and was submitting englynion to the local eisteddfodau. According to his obituary in the Pontypridd Herald, he was from a young age “a formidable competitor”. In the programme of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Eisteddfod 1838 a list of poets expected to honour the festival with their presence includes Evan’s bardic name, Ieuan ab Iago (twice!), and that of Dewi ab Iago, possi-

bly David James, one of his brothers. It was a spectacular event with Lady Llanover and the Rev Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) presiding and the presence of the Breton deputation led by the great collector of folk ballads, Théodore Hersart de la Villemarqué, contributing to the commotion. When Evan eventually brought his family to Pontypridd in 1847 to take a lease on the woollen mill and factory in Mill Street his reputation preceded him with local poets welcoming him in verse. Griffith John Williams, later Professor of Welsh at the University College, Cardiff, in the 1946 Mountain Ash National Eisteddfod said that he knew of “no other town with such eisteddfodic and druidic enthusiasm nor a community where the poetry clubs in the public houses were held in such esteem.’ Adding: ‘Eccentrics from all over Wales flocked to the town.’ Evan fitted in well. One of his neighbours in Mill Street was a clockmaker and repairer from the Vale of Glamorgan, Edward Davies or Myfyr Morganwg as he eventually came to call himself. Myfyr stepped into the void after the death of Taliesin Williams, son of Iolo Morganwg, and Carnhuanawc and took it upon himself to tidy the site of the Rocking Stone on Coedpenmaen Common above Pontypridd and create a Gorsedd Circle, with other embellishments, around it. The Rocking Stone is a remnant of an ice age, but Iolo Morganwg had been convinced that it was of some druidic significance. On the summer solstice of 1850 Myfyr presided over his first gathering of the Gorsedd of Glamorgan and Gwent. The poets marched in magnificent procession from The New Inn, Pontypridd, to the Rocking Stone THE JAMES MEMORIAL, PARC YNYSANGHARAD, PONTYPRIDD



where Evan James was one of five initiated to the ranks of poet. Three months later, on September 28, the equinox, Evan stood on the Rocking Stone and greeted the poets with a short awdl - ode in strict metres. His ode was read from the same spot by Archdruid Selwyn Iolen on the 150th anniversary of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in 2006. Evan remained an active member of Myfyr’s Gorsedd until his death in 1878 - despite the condemnation of Myfyr and his druids by the ministers of the town, notably Edward Roberts of Tabernacle and Henry Oliver of Sardis. Evan’s wife, Elizabeth, was a member of Roberts’s congregation no doubt sat in embarrassed silence as the minister thundered his disapproval of the “neo-druids”. Evan sometimes entered the fray with poems in praise of the druids and druidism with expressions of dismay towards their attackers. Evan was no chapel-goer - it is worth noting that in all three verses of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau there is no reference to God, nor to queen which may also be a little surprising recalling the Empire jingoism of many Welshmen of the period. In all his poetry there are two or three poems to the Sunday School and an englyn or two to ministers of religion whom he evidently liked and admired. The sermon delivered by the Rev Edward Roberts at his funeral described Evan as a good father and husband, a kind neighbour and a generous and wise employer. Most of the sermon argues the case for life after death, which may suggest that the congregation that afternoon included some serious non-believers. Whether Evan was himself an atheist is debatable. His poem celebrating the opening of the Taff Vale railway from Pontypridd to Merthyr suggests that he had read



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Thomas Paine. Evan, unlike his fellow Pontypriddians Brynfab and Glanffrwd, did not long for the idyllic preindustrial Llanwynno and Rhondda. He was a romantic, a druid, his love of the language and Welsh history could not be disputed. But he was also a businessman - and industry brought people and people brought trade. Evan would agree with Paine that “universal peace, civilization and commerce” were the answer to the world’s ills and that war and high taxes were the root of all evil and that private enterprise “was the most effectual process … of improving the condition of man”. In an essay he submitted to an eisteddfod held in the Lamb Inn, Pontypridd, around 1860 he quoted the Scottish philosopher David Hume and showed he had read Adam Smith, whose ideas on free trade are as popular in certain circles today as they were over 200 years ago. Paine, who died the year Evan was born, was also an advocate of deism, as was David Williams (1738-1816), another son of Caerphilly, who succinctly defined his belief in the words “I believe in God. Amen.” Evan James came in the wake of the eighteenth century of the Welsh radicals from Glamorgan, who the late Professor



Gwyn A. Williams described as belonging to the Enlightenment. Men like Lewis Hopcyn, craftsman, tradesman, farmer, poet, whose Llandyfodwg farmhouse was full of Welsh, English, Latin and French books; William Edwards, congregational minister, town planner and builder of bridges, notably the Pontypridd bridge; Dafydd Niclas the harpist poet and family tutor to the children of Aberpergwm; and Morgan John Rhys of Lanbradach who translated the ideas of the French deist Constantin François Volney and published them in the Cylchgrawn Cymraeg (Welsh Magazine) in 1793. Evan was a weaver and brewer, a harp maker - we can assume that he made at least two, one of which is in the Museum of National History at St Fagan’s - as well as a poet and probably a harpist, too. He was widely read. Some of the books he owned can be seen in Pontypridd Museum. These include bound copies of The Controversialist magazine which argued issues such as Is The House of Lords Beneficial to the Country? He owned the two volumes of Gweirydd ap Rhys’s Hanes y Brytaniaid a’r Cymry (The History of the Britons and the Welsh) bound in the finest leather. Evan, as has been suggested, was not short of a bob or two. Newspaper reports of an address he delivered while presiding at the Gelli-gaer Eisteddfod, circa 1848, suggest that he had read the History of the Anglo-Saxons by Sharon Turner with particular attention to an Appendix, A Vindication of the Ancient British Poems, which appeared in later editions. His poems suggest a man greatly concerned with the welfare of his less fortunate countrymen. Although seemingly a shy man he was active in the Eisteddfodau, whether competing, adjudicating or presiding, and in Myfyr’s Gorsedd. His other love was The Ivorites, a Welsh language working-class charity and he wrote many poems to be sung or read at their dinners and Eisteddfodau. On the date of his birth (October 14) the Caerphilly drama group Cwmni Cwm Ni, aided by Côr Cwm Ni, Dawnswyr Nantgarw, harpist Eleri Darkins and soloists Dafydd Idris and Llinos portrayed the story of Evan James’s life in the poet’s own words. A subsequent performances was held at Pontypridd Museum (October 21), formerly The Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Chapel. It was there that Edward Roberts threatened Evan and the Pontypridd Druids with fire and brimstone. That night Evan had the last word. Gwyn Griffiths has edited a volume of Evan James’s poems, with translations and a detailed introduction, recently published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. He also wrote LAND OF MY FATHERS which was published in 2006 on the 150th anniversary of the Welsh National Anthem.

Recovering the Welsh Calendar PATRICK THOMAS


e all have heroes. One of mine is Dr John Fisher, a genial scholar from Llandybïe, who became Canon Librarian and Chancellor of St Asaph Cathedral, and died in 1930. His most famous work is the four volume Lives of the British Saints which he produced in collaboration with a fellow cleric, the colourful Sabine Baring-Gould. When I was an impoverished research student, I was startled and delighted to come across a set of ‘Baring-Gould and Fisher’ in a second hand bookshop in Aberystwyth. “They’re very rare - we hardly ever see all four books together,” the bookseller commented when I consulted him about the price. He looked dubiously at my rather shabby garments and named an astronomical sum. I did some hasty calculations. If I didn’t eat for a week - or possibly a fortnight - and spent nothing on anything else I might just about afford them. It was a difficult decision. Feeling deeply ashamed, but also extremely hungry, I went back to my attic and made myself some lunch. The un-bought volumes haunted me. I went back to the shop to gaze at them a few days later, but they had already been sold to a better-heeled book collector. Years went by and I continued to ponder on that terrible moment of weakness which had deprived me of such a fascinating and useful (if also dated and not always desperately reliable) source of information. To children of the Wikipedia era, gleaning their information from the internet, this doubtless seems a bit peculiar. But to those of us who belong to the dwindling company of bibliophilic dinosaurs, real knowledge still comes in real books. Clerics from obscure parishes would ring me up in the depths of the night, searching for information about some obscure sixth century hermit after whom their church was named. A call from Llys Esgob would come early in the morning: “The Bishop says it’s Saint Cynidr’s day and he would like to refer to him in his sermon tonight. Please could you let him have everything you know about Saint Cynidr by lunch-time.” And I would have to drive miles to the nearest library that possessed a copy of Baring-Gould and Fisher’s tomes, while inwardly cursing those pangs of hunger that had allowed them to escape me in my student days.

Clerics from obscure parishes would ring me up in the depths of the night, searching for information about some obscure sixth century hermit after whom their church was named...

Then a miracle happened. Twenty-three years after the fateful day in Aberystwyth, I was browsing in a secondhand bookshop in Swansea when, to my astonishment, I caught sight of the four green volumes of Lives of the British Saints. Fortunately my parishioners had been generous with their Easter offering that year. I reserved the books, dashed over to the building society, withdrew my savings, and ran back and bought my very own ‘BaringGould and Fisher’. Mind you, I had a great deal of explaining to do when I got back to the rectory in Brechfa. Fortunately my wife trained as a librarian, so she was perhaps more understanding than she might have been. Lives of the British Saints wasn’t John Fisher’s only work. He edited some Welsh poetic manuscripts, William Salesbury’s Kynniver Llith a Ban (the first translations of the liturgical epistles and gospels into Welsh), and Allwydd Paradwys, John Hughes’ fascinating seventeenth century Roman Catholic devotional manual. However the publication of his for which I have a particular fondness is a slim grey paperback published in 1895 and entitled (perhaps somewhat dauntingly) The Welsh Calendar: The Festivals Philologically and Historically Treated, with an Account of the Gwˆyl Mabsant or Patronal Festival. Despite its insignificant appearance, this pamphlet contains a wealth of information on Welsh sacred time. Thanks to John Fisher, we are able to recover the outline and rhythm of a Welsh year that might otherwise have vanished almost completely. In common with other Celtic countries it originally started at Calan Gaeaf (November 1st). On the other side of Offa’s Dyke there was a degree of confusion, which inevitably had an impact on Wales. From 1066 to 1155 the year commenced on January 1st, but from


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1155 to 1751 it began on March 25th because, as a note in early Welsh Bibles assures us, that was the day both of the creation of the world and of Christ’s conception in the Virgin Mary’s womb. In 1752, however, a new calendar was introduced and New Year’s Day went back to January 1st - losing several days in the process That caused riots in England and a great deal of upset in Wales, where January 1st had become Y Calan - a major part of the post-Christmas celebration. Among those whose expressed their irritation was the poet Goronwy Owen. His birthday, formerly on January 1st, was now transferred to January 12th, and he felt that a chunk of his life had disappeared. The people of the Llandysul area still gather in church to celebrate Calan Hen, while the folk of Cwm Gwaun continue to enjoy the Hen Galan. A mid-nineteenth century Welsh writer quoted by Fisher remarked that old people had a soft spot for ‘yr hen ddydd Nadolig’ (the old Christmas day), as well. The Christian religious cycle starts in Advent, which, these days, tends to be submerged by Christmas preparations. Its most prominent legacy is the Advent Calendar, increasingly secular in design and usually filled with chocolates. This mild form of pre-Christmas indulgence masks the fact that Advent is essentially a penitential season, as its old Welsh name Grawys Aeaf (‘The Winter Lent’) shows - though I would imagine that for most people the thought of giving up chocolate for Advent (not to mention the pre-Christmas round of parties and dinners) might seem a step too far. Fisher notes an old Welsh manuscript that refers to a forty day Winter Lent which was known as Grawys Helias (‘Elijah’s Lent’) in memory of the tough old prophet’s lengthy fast. This began at Gw ˆ yl Martin (Martinmas - November 11th) and lasted till Y Nadolig (Christmas). Our forebears made up for their Advent self-denial by making the most of Y Gwyliau (‘The Holy Days’ - the Twelve Days of Christmas). They would have found the modern habit of trying to squash everything into one day, and then feeling bloated, hung-over or let-down, very peculiar. Their celebrations continued until Yr ˆ yl (‘The Star Ystwyll, otherwise known as Y Seren W Festival - Ystwyll coming from stella, the Latin for a star). This is the English Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem. In seventeenth century Wales Plygain services, with especially composed carols, would be sung before the dawn of Yr Ystwyll, as they had been before the dawn of Y Nadolig. On the following Monday life went back to normal. This was Dydd Gw ˆ yl Geiliau (‘the Festival of the Sheepfolds’), when, according to a Welsh proverb from Gwent, people had to go back to eating barley bread and



wearing old footless stockings over their boots to keep the cold out. There was a sudden infusion of excitement before Lent with Dydd Mawrth Ynyd (Shrove Tuesday). Ynyd comes from the Latin initium (‘beginning’), according to the philologist Edward Lhuyd in 1707, though a hundred and sixty years earlier William Salesbury translates Ynyd as ‘Good Tyde’, which may suggest that he was thinking fondly of pancakes. Some Dydd Mawrth Ynyd customs have vanished. The disappearance of a brutal and self-explanatory sport called dyrnu’r iâr (‘thrashing the hen’) is a relief. Hel Ynyd or blawta a blonega involved begging from door to door for the ingredients for pancakes, and has no doubt been killed off by prosperity and embarrassment. Crempogau or pancws (as we used to say in Brechfa) are themselves, however, still a pleasant prelude to Garawys or Grawys (from the Latin for 40), the Lenten fast which begins on Dydd Mercher y Lludw (Ash Wednesday). In the days when the fast meant more than a temporary abstention from chocolate, people would say ‘Dydd Mercher y Lludw, codi’r cig i gadw’ (‘Ash Wednesday, pick up the meat to put it away’). They would count the Sundays through the season. The Sunday before Lent was Dydd Sul Ynyd, then came Dydd Sul Hefyd (‘Sunday Also’), followed by Dydd Sul a Ddaw (‘Sunday will Come’) and Dydd Sul Gerllaw (‘Sunday Nearby’). The equivalent of English ‘Mothering Sunday’ was Dydd Sul y Meibion (‘The Sunday of the Sons’). Then, as Lent really began to bite, there was Dydd Sul y Gwrychon (‘gwrychon’ were peas that had been soaked overnight, then dried and boiled before being eaten). Dydd Sul y Blodau (‘Flower Sunday’) is still the Welsh for Palm Sunday -- and we continue to decorate family graves with flowers on that day in West Wales. Fisher notes that English-speaking people in South Wales and Monmouthshire in his time called it ‘Flowering Sunday’. He also remarked that it is known as ‘Flower Sunday’ in Bohemia. The same is true in Armenia. Finally came Pasg a’i Ddyddiau (‘Easter and its Days’) or Pasg y Wyau (‘Easter of the Eggs’), the Welsh name coming through Greek and Latin from the Hebrew Pesach (Passover). The Sunday after Easter is Pasg Bychan (‘Little Easter’). To early Christians in sunnier climates it was known as Dominica in Albis (‘White Sunday’) as baptisms were held on that day, but the Welsh and the English waited until the weather was a bit warmer, christening their children on Sulgwyn (Whitsunday). An old Carmarthenshire proverb refers to ‘Calon lân Pasg a dillad newydd Sulgwyn’ (‘A pure heart at Easter and new clothes at Whitsun’). Another sartorial saying pinpoints Dydd Iau Dyrchafael (Ascension Thursday) as the moment when the temperature

improves: ‘Na ddiosg dy bais cyn y Dyrchafael’ (‘Don’t take off your petticoat before the Ascension’). Sul y Drindod (Trinity Sunday) was introduced in the eleventh century and became a Sunday on which many people in Wales visited their local holy well and drank its water mixed with sugar. From the thirteenth century the following Thursday became Corpus Christi, a celebration of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Its Welsh name was Gwˆyl Dduw (‘The Feast of God’), and in parts of Flintshire there was a custom of strewing herbs, flowers and ferns in front of people’s doors on the eve of the festival. The Virgin Mary had a significant place. Her celebrations began on February 2nd with Gw ˆ yl Fair y Canhwyllau (‘The Feast of Mary of the Candles’: Candlemas or the Purification). The Annunciation on March 25th was Gw ˆ yl Fair y Cyhydedd (‘The Feast of Mary of the Vernal Equinox’). Gw ˆ yl Fair yn yr Haf (‘The Feast of Mary in the Summer’) or Gofwy Mair (‘Mary’s Visitation’) was on July 2nd. Two of the Marian festivals fell in harvest-time: the Assumption (August 15th) was Gw ˆ yl Fair Gyntaf yn y Cynhaeaf (‘The First Feast of Mary in the Harvest’), while Lady Day (September 8th) was Gw ˆ yl Fair Ddiweddaf yn y Cynhaeaf (‘The Last Feast of Mary in the Harvest’) or simply Genedigaeth

Mair (Mary’s Birth). The sixth festival was the Conception (December 8th), which was known as Ymddwyn Mair (‘Conceiving of Mary’). Fisher collected far more material about the old Welsh Calendar than can be tidily condensed into a single Cambria. Certainly the Gwyliau Mabsant (Patron Saint’s Festivals), which played such an important part in Welsh religious and social life for so many centuries, deserve to be treated on their own. So I’ll finish by looking at the antiquary’s comments on a day that has a particular significance for my corner of Carmarthen. The heart of my parish is Heol Awst (which has given its name to the notable Annibynwyr chapel presided over by my distinguished friend and neighbour, the Reverend Towyn Jones), otherwise known as Lammas Street. Its name comes from the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest held on August 1st each year. In Wales this was known as Gw ˆ yl Awst (The August Festival) and was a major festival. The English ‘Lammas’ is, of course, derived from ‘loaf-mass’, as the first loaf made from the produce of the new harvest would be consecrated at the Mass on that day. I wonder if the timing of the National Eisteddfod at the beginning of August stems from a lingering memory of the Gw ˆ yl Awst festivities? I’d better ask Towyn, he’s sure to know the answer.


Eleanor and Llywelyn GWENLLIAN MEREDITH


heir story can be as flat and soulless as the chroniclers portray or it can be resurrected to resonate with all the love and passion of which Eleanor de Montfort and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd proved to be capable. They married, he an acknowledged Prince of Wales, she the daughter of a disgraced but once great baron. Tragic in its entirety, the chroniclers reduced their history to a sadly hollow, one-dimensional picture. On both sides they inherited strength of will and character. Llywelyn, grandson of Llywelyn the Great, inherited his grandfather’s ambition and leadership qualities. R R Davies says ‘Llywelyn’s masterfulness is not in doubt. Through skill...he had assembled a native principality that was more extensive than even that of his grandfather’. Llywelyn spent his life fighting for Wales, freedom from English rule, and throughout remained loyal to the woman he loved. Eleanor de Montfort’s descent was both noble and royal. Her father, Simon, endowed her with French nobility and she received her mother’s gift of royalty as the elder Eleanor was sister to Henry III. Tragedy struck them both before they could fulfil their desire to be together. Her father’s death at the battle of Evesham in 1265 left her with no option but to accept exile in France with her mother and two surviving brothers. While in exile, Eleanor received offers of marriage from men such as the Count of Brittany. Apparently her beauty reconciled suitors to the fact that she had nothing but a tainted name to offer. Yet, she refused quite substantial offers. Instead, she kept faith with her Welsh prince and remained at the religious house of Montargis as her mother’s companion until 1275 when her mother died, then she took matters of her future into her own hands. She wrote to her cousin Edward I asking permission to formalise her proxy marriage with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. The king finally acquiesced, and Eleanor in company with one of her brothers, set sail for England. But here, Edward had other plans. He was still being harassed in Gwynedd by Llywelyn. In typical Edward fashion, he hired pirates to capture the de Montforts. Her fate was a royal ‘velvet’ prison at Windsor, while her unfortunate brother Amaury, a priest, was sent to the



Their courage, love and sacrifices deserve a sacred place in Welsh memory. Llywelyn merits remembrance as more than ‘the Last’ and she more than the mother of an orphaned daughter. prison at Corfe castle to suffer torture and uncertainty. At Windsor, in company with Edward’s queen, the king successfully used her and the prospect of their marriage to bring Llywelyn into line. In 1278, three years after Eleanor’s capture, Llywelyn finally signed the Treaty of Aberconwy. This addendum virtually stripped Llywelyn of the overlordship of Welsh princes and confined his authority in Gwynedd to west of the Conwy river, although the king allowed the Welshman to retain his title as Prince of Wales, a hollow concession to the 1262 Treaty of Pipton. Edward also granted him permission to marry his chosen bride, Eleanor. Yet by this time, 1278, the light had been removed from Llywelyn’s star, what did he have to offer a bride whose ‘beauty was such as befitted the consort of a prince’? And Eleanor too had next to nothing to offer her prince other than her ‘remarkable beauty’, a disgraced name, no inheritance, and a dangerously close kinship to Edward I. Nevertheless, the two apparently desired this marriage of love, not convenience. After granting permission, Edward freed Eleanor from Windsor and brought her to Worcester Cathedral where on 13 October 1278, she and her prince married at the church door. Edward was not yet done. He delivered his final insult just prior to the nuptials by insisting that Llywelyn sign an additional clause to the Treaty of Aberconwy which stated that Llywelyn’s heirs, should he have any, would not succeed him. Llywelyn signed, otherwise no marriage. Once again Edward asserted a sinister authority over Wales. Putting a further ‘seal’ to this authority, he not only attended the wedding, but paid for the entire celebration including a sumptuous feast. He royally gave the couple their life together, but made sure they felt his presence. Yet In spite of all the years and sacrifices, as is chronicled, Llywelyn finally won ‘with a heart that leapt for joy, his beloved spouse, for whose loving embraces he had so long yearned’. It was surely mutual, for during

their four years of marriage, the couple, inseparable, planned methods of breaking the English yoke. Eleanor had become Welsh by default through love and a loyalty she had seen all her life with the sacrifices of love made by her mother. Both these women forfeited lives of relative ease and comfort to be with men they loved. Their men also recognised the dangers of marriage to women so close to the English crown, but they exhibited courage

and chose enduring love and loyalty rather than paths of egocentric cowardice. Eleanor made many sacrifices, even sending deceptive letters to her cousin the king, insisting ‘as his devoted kinswoman, was sure that Edward who had shown her husband and herself so much honour, such great kindness at Worcester, would never allow them unheard to be the victims of false aspersions’, referring to Llywelyn’s plans to revoke the Treaty of Aberconwy. Eleanor’s loyalty PHOTOGRAPH OF THE GRAVE OF LLYWELYN EIN LLYW OLAF AT ABATY CWMHIR BY RHOBERT AP STEFFAN extended not just to her prince, but to Wales, she adopted the land, its people and customs, was given the titles of Princess of Wales and Lady of Snowdon, never wavering for an instant in support of either adopted land or husband. Sadly their happiness was cut short. Within four years, both were dead. She to die in childbirth and be laid to rest in the Franciscan House at Llanfaes in Anglesey; he murdered through betrayal and ambush; his head chopped off, sent to Edward in Anglesey where he displayed his victory trophy to his army, then sent it to ‘grace’ London Bridge until pecked to bits by carrion birds of prey. The final ignominy occurred when Edward took their infant daughter to Sempringham, ‘dedicating’ her to the Church. Much has been written about Gwenllian, certainly a tragic aspect of her life was not knowing her native land or tongue, or even how to pronounce her own name correctly. But there is so much more to the story of Eleanor and Llywelyn than this bare outline. Who were these two people, so often overshadowed in history by their famous or infamous forebears


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and what actually brought them together? Was it a marriage of mere convenience as some histories would have us believe or was it truly a romance between two people separated by political stratagems and distance? Their story deserves its place in history which is comprised of people with real emotions, who, to achieve their hearts’ desires, whether for personal ambition, country, love, or even survival, made sacrifices, and had the courage to face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Her father Simon made his name fighting for baronial rights. His wife Eleanor, a young widow, sister to the king, endowed her daughter with some of her own fighting spirit. After meeting Simon, she revoked her religious vows of chastity and insisted on marrying him. During their marriage of more than thirty years, she bore seven children, one of whom died in infancy. She became a vocal supporter of her husband even after his death at the battle of Evesham in 1265. This was the atmosphere in which the younger Eleanor lived. The question of age and probable disparity between Eleanor and Llywelyn cannot be accurately addressed. Modern documents put her birth at 1252, but there is nothing in the originals to confirm this, only assump-



tions by late nineteenth century historians. She could easily have been the eldest daughter of Simon and Eleanor, born anywhere between 1245 and 1252. As for Llywelyn, his birth date is also unmentioned in the chronicles, only assumptions because he signed the Treaty of Woodstock in 1147, but he could have been as young as fourteen or fifteen at the time. Age appeared to be irrelevant, what is significant is that by 1278 neither had anything to offer. If Edward did indeed use Eleanor as a bargaining chip between 1275 and 1278, the question arises, how effective would a bargaining chip be if the two did not want to marry as neither possessed anything of substance to bring to a marriage? She could easily have dismissed the entire arrangement, annulled her original proxy marriage with Llywelyn, married the Count of Brittany or stayed comfortably in Montargis. The proxy marriage did not even take place until after her father’s death at Evesham but was conducted in Montargis under the auspices of her mother and brothers. De Montfort was dead, Eleanor was disgraced and Llywelyn was fighting his brothers and the king in a bid for survival. Not promising for either party. Through all this, Eleanor prevailed with Edward. Llywelyn, though he could have said no treaty was worth marriage to the daughter of a disgraced baron, signed the Treaty of Aberconwy. They chose to pursue their love and union amid uncertainty, deception, and political chaos, which their life together proved to be, but through it all, they remained loyal to one another and after her untimely death. Llywelyn apparently suffered so much that his military acumen palled. He allowed himself to be lured into a death trap, deceived by Welshmen for whose freedom he spent his life fighting. Near Builth just six months after his wife’s death, Llywelyn struck out with only a small guard into an ambush where he was ignominiously cut down. The accounts mention that the sorrow of his wife’s death left him without the will to live. A tragic loss and ending for Eleanor, Llywelyn and for Wales. Their courage, love and sacrifices, heroic indeed to Wales and for each other deserve a sacred place in Welsh memory. Llywelyn merits remembrance as more than ‘the Last’ and she more than the mother of an orphaned daughter. Eleanor displayed qualities inspired by love, loyalty and an infinite courage earning her an honourable place in Welsh memory.

The Land of Might Have Been MEIC STEPHENS

considers the career of Ivor



he statue of Ivor Novello put up outside the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay last June is a welcome, if belated, move to commemorate a great Welshman, a man of the theatre who, in his heyday, was adored by his many fans and regarded as one of the most popular song-writers of all time. As the author of such hits as ‘Keep the home fires burning’ and ‘We’ll gather lilacs in the Spring again’ his name lives on as that of a musical genius who captured the spirit of the interwar years and who is fondly remembered now for his musical shows, in particular Glamorous Night (1935), The Dancing Years (1939), Perchance to Dream (1945) and King’s Rhapsody (1949). He was also a renowned filmstar, the most popular actor in British cinema between 1919 and 1934, starring in some of Alfred Hitchcock’s early films such as The Lodger (1926) and writing scripts for MGM. With ‘the most famous profile in British cinema’ and a beautiful speaking voice in which the vestiges of a Welsh accent can be heard, he played many heart-throb parts and was idolised by his female admirers - despite his homosexuality. He was for thirty-five years the lover of the actor Bobbie Andrews but also had other affairs, notably with the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Born David Ivor Davies in 1893 at 95 Cowbridge Road East in Cardiff, a house known as Llwyn-yr-eos which has for long had a blue plaque on it, he moved with his family to 11 Cathedral Road a few months later. His father was employed by Cardiff Council and his mother, the formidable Clara Novello Davies (she was named after an Italian tenor), was a professional singer and conductor of the Welsh Ladies’ Choir whose ambitions for her son knew no bounds. She would attend all his first nights attired in extravagant furs and loved basking in the limelight that Ivor’s astonishing success provided. David, as he was known as a boy, competed at eisteddfodau and was sent to Magdalen College School, Oxford. Trained as a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service, in 1916 he was grounded after crash-landing his plane on his first solo flight, and spent the rest of the war doing clerical work.

His first hit was the song ‘Keep the home fires burning’, written in 1914 shortly after the outbreak of war. Said to have been written after he watched the maid putting coal on his fire in his London flat, it immediately captured the public imagination, a process helped by his mother who - long before the wireless paid street musicians to play it in London’s theatreland. The song brought him money as well as fame and by the end of the war had made enough to keep him in comfort. It is typical of Novello’s work in its sentimentality, British patriotism, romantic nostalgia and simple but unforgettable melody. The same can be said of the songs in his stage-shows, most of which ran for years in London’s West End and broke box-office records time and again. Some transferred to the cinema, which brought him international fame. The music of these productions, for which Christopher Hassall usually wrote the libretti, reflects Novello’s dreamy take on Ruritania, in which virtue is always rewarded and evil punished, and where love is the key to the secrets of the human heart. Spectacular, charming, schmaltzy and lightweight though they were, they were also the pre-war equivalents of today’s Phantom of the Opera. But who cannot respond to such songs as ‘We’ll gather lilacs’, ‘Some day my heart will awake’, ‘I can give you the starlight’, ‘Shine through my dreams’ and ‘The land of might have been’? There was only one dark episode in Novello’s life. In 1944 an admirer gave him a number of coupons for black-market petrol and he was reported to the police for what was then a serious offence. Tried before a judge who was a well-known homophobe, he was sentenced to a month in prison, from which he emerged a broken man. There was widespread sympathy for him, but it did not stop the wags singing ‘Keep the home tyres turning’. He died in 1951. The composer’s name lives on in the Ivor awards, presented annually by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Artists. He was also played by Jeremy Northam in Robert Altman’s film Gosford Park (2001), in which Maggie Smith’s character, an imperious countess, groans as he goes on playing some of Novello’s hits at the piano, ‘Oh don’t clap, it only encourages him’.


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ike many students in the 1960s I, too, had the obligatory poster of Che Guevara on my wall and dreamed of revolution - in Wales, Cuba, wherever - in a vaguely off-hand, unrealistic sort of way. Che and Fidel Castro were standing against the world and, like most youngsters, I identified with them rather than the middle-aged representatives of conformity I saw every night on TV. Marriage and children put an end to all that but the image of Che, in beret and beard, still lurked at the back of my

consciousness. It was inevitable that, at some stage, I would have to visit Cuba to see what had happened in Fidel and Che’s brave new world. Cuba is a Caribbean island although, in terms of topography, it has more in common with nearby Florida than the West Indies. To call it a country of contrasts is something of a cliché but, then, like all clichés, the statement is true. This is a land of exquisite beauty and mind-numbing poverty, a land of great generosity but also one of corruption on a grand scale. It is, quite simply, a fascinating place. “There’s a hurricane cutting across the island,” we are told as we check in at Gatwick Airport. “You’ve been diverted to Havana.” As we are due to fly into Holguin, some 700 miles east, that makes for an interesting problem

Old 1950s American cars in Havana, beautiful - and a real tourist attraction.



This is a land of exquisite beauty and mindnumbing poverty, a land of great generosity but also one of corruption on a grand scale. but I guess we can tour the island in any direction and accept the change with as much equanimity as we can muster. The flight is bumpy but nine hours later, with the hurricane gone, we land in Cuba’s capital city and head off for our hotel. It’s palatial and substantial, hardly what we’d expected on an island where

The Castle of San Pedro, once sacked by Welsh pirate Henry Morgan

we’d been warned not to expect high standards of accommodation. “Russian gangster money,” says Trudy, sagely, as we sit in the lounge watching the hookers ply their trade. The process is intriguing. Each girl sits at the bar until one of the hotel security men beckons her over. They leave and, a little later, the girl returns - when the security man takes her to one side and relieves her of his cut. I certainly don’t sit in judgement on the girls, they do what they have to do to stay alive - the real corruption comes from the hotel that condones and even promotes the operation in the first place. We’re given the lie to the hotel’s

real quality later that night when the sound of dripping water wakes me from a jet-lagged sleep. The air conditioning unit has broken and there’s a pool the size of Lake Niagara on the bedroom floor. Despite several phone calls, nobody comes to check the system and we leave, tired and dishevelled, next morning with the problem unresolved. The pool is probably still there. Sitting in our coach as we head out of Havana I have time to think. They don’t recommend car hire in Cuba - the roads are bad and signposts just don’t exist - so to travel by coach or taxi is the easiest way to get around. We join a party of tourists to get us from one place to

La Bodequita, Hemingway's old haunt - overpriced and crowded

the next; then when we arrive at our destination we shoot off and do our own thing until it’s time to board the bus again. There are more than a few similarities between Cuba and Wales. Both have their mountains and both have glorious stretches of coastline. More importantly, they have both endured political and economic oppression from powerful near neighbours. The Cubans fought for their independence, several times. The dream of Welsh independence is, really, still in its infancy. “This is where Che and Fidel hid out in the 1950s,” Trudy tells me as we negotiate the Sierra Maestra Mountains. “Just fifteen of them when they started and in the end they led an army strong enough to knock Batista out of power.” The image of Che is everywhere, on posters and hoardings, in sculptures and statues, even on the banknotes. But I’m thinking more of my Welsh roots. These mountains saw a huge influx of Welsh workers back in the 1850s when they developed the copper mines of El Cobre. Swansea, of course, was “copper kingdom” in those days and dozens of experts came here from the Swansea valley. Lots of them died, cut down by diseases such as yellow fever, but some made their fortune and went back to Wales. I can only imagine the courage of those men and women, abandoning all they knew for a country that, to them, lay at the end of the world. Camaguey is an old colonial city, full of narrow streets and sudden, unexpected squares or courtyards. We spend our time wandering the cobbled alleyways, meandering from bar to bar, drinking Cuban rum and, eventually, finding a superb paladar for dinner. Paladars restaurants in private homes - used to operate “outside the law” but in


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Shacks litter the hillside - a Cuban village

1995 they were legalised by the government. They rarely cater for more than a few people at a time but the food is invariably good and the atmosphere always superb. Our hotel in Camaguey is the Colon. It’s a throwback - no air conditioning, just round fans in the ceiling, and the coolers in the bar are genuine American refrigerators from the 1920s. Most of the party we’re travelling with hate it and can’t wait to get back to the soulless hotels of the new Cuban tourist industry. Trudy and I love the place. “I swear I saw Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the other bar,” I tell her one evening. “You can’t mistake him in that white DJ.” Trudy frowns. “You’ve had too much rum,” she says. “Was Peter Lorre with them?” We find more Welsh connections when we get to Santiago del Cuba. The Castle of San Pedro sits at the mouth of the inlet leading to the city. It’s a magnificent spot with views out over the Caribbean and up the coast towards Guantanamo Bay. The castle was built to protect the place from pirates and, of course, many of those privateers were Welsh. They were brutal, hard men, certainly not the roistering buccaneers of legend, sailors who



had received their commissions from a King and a government jealous of the gold provided to Spain by her colonies. The most notable privateer was Henry Morgan from Monmouthshire. He sacked the town in 1662, landing along the coast and making a forced march through dense vegetation to fall on the fortress from behind. The slaughter was, apparently, horrendous. We’re not thinking of such things when, one lunchtime, we’re sitting on the veranda of a bar in the centre of town. The band is playing Guantanamera - there’s always a band, in every bar or restaurant and if there’s not one there when you arrive there will be ten minutes later. And they’re always playing Guantanamera. Some lines of light verse come into my head and I jot them onto my napkin You sit down for a quiet beer, Guitars and trumpets in your ear. I really think, it must be stated, Musicians here are all related Whichever bar, whatever name, The bands all sound the bloody same!

“That’s not fair,” says Trudy, stubbing her finger into my chest. “They’ve got to make a living.”

Chastened, I promptly give the band a hefty tip and for the next five minutes I’m serenaded with eight different songs. My ever-loving wife smiles benignly and slips away to the dress shop next door. Suddenly a figure appears in front of me. “Spare a dollar?” he asks. You get this all the time, wherever you go in Cuba, and I have devised a standard response. “Why?” I expect the usual reply - “To buy food” or something similar. To my surprise the man shrugs. “I want to buy a bottle of rum,” he says. Astounded by his honesty I give him five dollars and watch him skip happily away. Back to Havana it’s time to follow the Hemingway trail. The old writer and legendary boozer - surely America’s version of Dylan Thomas - lived here for years and based several books on Cuba. We try La Bodequita, the bar where he supposedly drank his mojitos, and are decidedly unimpressed. They charge two dollars extra for each drink, just because of the Hemingway connection. And the inscriptions and graffiti on the walls - written, they claim, by bohemians and authors from all over the world could have been put there by anyone. Cojimar, just outside Havana, is better. It’s where Hemingway moored his boat, El Pilar, and the restaurant overlooking the bay is wonderfully relaxed. We spend the afternoon there, eating pork, rice and black beans, drinking Cuba Libre as the waves lap at the pilings below our feet and the sun shines.

ets. Remember the hotel balcony scene in The Godfather? The hotel’s still there, along with the period cars. The old American vintage cars are part of the appeal of the city, works of art that even a technophobe like me can appreciate. Hard as it is to admit, the revolution was never wholly successful. But then, Fidel was not a Communist when he overSuperbly atmospheric, a corridor in the Hotel Colon in Camaguey threw Batista; that came later after the Bay of Then, towards dusk, we take a taxi Pigs, the CIA backed invasion that across to the Hemingway house at pushed him into the arms of Soviet San Francisca de Paula. Normally Russia. Afterwards he was, for years, you have to stand outside the villa the bogeyman of world affairs. Now and gaze in through the open winthere is real poverty around, even dows. But there’s nobody else though a system of rationing does around and the guides happily offer the most basic of human invite us inside. It’s a privilege but, needs. Coffee, a sack of rice and ultimately, the place is dead - artebeans - it’s hardly substantial and facts from a forgotten life - and I not really enough to live on. can’t say I caught much of Tourism is currently seen as the Hemingway’s soul. golden saviour, and for many it is, Havana is a bustling, beautiful but you know something is wrong city, the old part having been when one University professor we declared a World Heritage Site and meet tells us he has given up teachbeen massively restored. And yet, ing to work as a tour guide despite the restorations, it all retains “Much more money,” he declares. a slightly seedy atmosphere - seedy Cuba’s problems began after the but hugely attractive. This was break-up of the Soviet Union at the where American gangsters, until end of the 1980s. Soviet trade and Fidel’s revolution in 1959, hid their subsidies had propped up the econmoney and ran the gambling rack-

omy for years; now, overnight, they were gone. American embargoes on trade only made matters worse. And it has led to a degree of corruption that is sometimes staggering. Flying into one airport on the island, our group has over $1000 stolen from them by airport officials, the money being filched as they pass through the X Ray machines. Nobody seems to want to do anything about it. “File a report,” the police say and the matter is forgotten. It’s hardly surprising that there is such an attitude but, thank God, it’s not universal. One morning I try to change money in a bank in Trinidad. Standing in the queue I feel a hand on my arm. ~or,” says a middle-aged man, “Sen “you have dropped something?” When I turn around I find that over $300 dollars has fallen from my back pocket and is now lying on the floor. It would have been a fortune for the man and his honesty reaffirms my faith in human nature. Things are changing in Cuba. The country has only recently embraced tourism and at the moment there is a degree of caution, maybe even resentment towards wealthy foreign tourists. When we were there everyone was excited at the prospect of Barack Obama becoming President of the USA and by the potential dropping of American restrictions. Of course such a move is to be welcomed. It can only bring prosperity and many of those who left the island in the so-called Freedom Flights of the late sixties will be able to return to the country of their birth. Yet, I can’t help thinking that the country will lose something too. For years the Cubans defied the might of America - it would be a shame to see the country and Fidel’s revolution defeated by the power of the almighty US dollar.


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Literature Sense of Place

Of Poets, Surfers and Metal Bands TOM ANDERSON


s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness draws in, showering Wales as a whole in colour and acute beauty, I am reminded yet again of the reasons why my town is so close to my heart. Porthcawl will still exist in its bubble, fed by the sea-air that provides its individuality. Autumn, delightful though it may be, has its distinctive look throughout the adjoining Vale of Glamorgan and Margam Flats: quiet, reddening leaves and crisp cooling air. Here though, it is the season of tepid seas, which magnetise the winds off the land each morning. On an almost daily basis I can watch the glassy ocean surfaces holding light from the evening sun, while the once hectic sea front prepares to hibernate. Likewise winter, while coating the rest of South Wales in its frosts, is again a reminder of how being on the coast makes life so different. For Porthcawl’s year-long inhabitants, December becomes a period of wet



atmospheres and angry seas. A chance to wonder at capricious Nature and her loyal servant the feisty north Atlantic - or, in the case of the hundreds of mad men and women who descend upon Coney Beach on Christmas Day, it’s a chance to endanger your life (with a smile on your face of course) by swimming in a freezing mass of briny. Perhaps searching out a way of being a little different, or quirky, is innate to Porthcawl’s people. Maybe it’s the sea air, or the effect of being isolated for one half of the year and inundated by visitors during the other. Perhaps it’s because almost the entire population turns in to Elvis Presley for one weekend in September (for the annual Porthcawl Elvis Festival, which now attracts ‘professional impostors’ from the USA). Or maybe, and I’ve heard this said with all seriousness before, there’s simply something in the water. Second to the ocean though, the reason I love my town is its characters. Wherever one may go in Wales, people will always raise an eyebrow when I say, with pride, that I come from Porthcawl. Here is a town where the elderly swim without wetsuits in January, where poets take to the same stage as metal bands and once outlawed surfers visit the local comprehensive school to give out awards, where a well known elderly man rides the seafront on a buggy blaring out eighties

Perhaps the story of the Maid of Sker had eluded them - and of the ghost that still haunts the flatlands around Rest Bay pop-music and dog-walkers get towed along on skateboards. Half the summer population here is not local (and usually either drunk or sunburnt), while considerably more than half of the winter inhabitants are retired. It’s a place where a harbour and promenade sit within yards of derelict caravan sites which nature and dunes are reclaiming on a daily basis, while luxury, designer apartments sit defiantly empty. My town is also home to one of the best theatres in Wales - although again, it’s often overlooked. The artdeco Grand Pavilion stands, iconic among the changing face of the MARI STERLING

promenade as a reminder of a town proud of its past and heritage. For decades the Miners’ Eisteddfod would celebrate, through song and poetry, the communities surrounding the threatened coal industries of the nearby valleys. For this they would use the Pavilion where they were always welcome, always part of the bubble. It was yet another event which would generate that buzz about town - audible just above the ever-present lapping of the sea shores. Perhaps one of the most rewarding moments of my own life as a Porthcawl resident though (apart

from when I get to do a reading somewhere more cosmopolitan and announce where I come from), was when the place appeared on the BBC’s Coast - the attempts of which to gentrify this humble town on the edge of the Bristol Channel made us all chuckle. As a presenter tried to embellish a story of escaped German prisoners of war, claiming it to be the significant event of Porthcawl’s hidden past, I took comfort in how little the rest of the world appeared to know of my town. Had they looked harder, they may have been able to investigate the wreck of the Santampa, visible only on the biggest tidal swings of the year - the same surges that send the surfers dashing east to chase the

Severn Bore. Perhaps the story of the Maid of Sker had eluded them - and of the ghost that still haunts the flatlands around Rest Bay (whom I saw personally late one night during my teens). Either way, being misunderstood or underestimated is something my town has always enjoyed. After all, for me it’ll always be that sense of standing out from the rest of the crowd that gives Porthcawl its place along this coast. Having humbly submitted ourselves to the sea and its mysterious whims centuries ago, my town has danced to a different drumbeat ever since I first knew it, and, as seasons change and building come and go, I take comfort in knowing that this one virtue will always be Porthcawl’s to keep.

and to show that they, too, have their message.” Writing about this early publication in The London Welshman in 1964, he said that he was on the staff of Dulwich College at the time, having been rejected for military service for medical reasons. He writes, “Patriotism was the temper of the time. This inspired me to show that men and women of Welsh blood had a distinctive English voice in verse, in addition to their age-old native heritage of poetry.” 1917 is a significant year. We could say that it was the year in which ‘Modern Poetry’ was born, with the publication of T.S.Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations. We could also say that, with PrysJones’s anthology, it was the year when Welsh writing in English as a category was born. Prys-Jones included twenty-two poets, mostly unknown today. He included three poems of his own: ‘A

Song of the Welsh’; ‘A Ballad of Glyndwˆr’s Rising’ and ‘Madonna’. The second is included in Meic Stephens’s capacious anthology, Poetry 1900-2000, (Parthian, 2007). It has conviction and vigour: “My son, the winds are calling, and the mountains and the flood/ With a wail of deep oppression that wakes havoc in my blood./ And I have waited, waited long through the bitter years/ For this hour of freedom’s challenge and the flashing of the spears:”. The poem ‘Madonna’ signals the poet’s Christian faith. In 1948 Prys-Jones published a selection of his own verse under the title Green Places. Poems of Wales. Their subject-matter was taken from Welsh history and storytelling. The poem ‘Henry Morgan’s March on Panama’ is graphic and rhythmical: splendid for recitation during a junior school play featuring pirates: “Twelve hundred rattling skeletons/ Who sprang to life, and then/ Like a wild wave took




rthur Glyn Prys-Jones, born in Denbigh in 1888, left his mark on the Literature of

Wales. In 1917 he published an anthology of poetry: Welsh Poets. A Representative English Selection of Contemporary Writers. In his Introduction, Prys-Jones quoted, “..let each one of you learn to act in such a way that in him men shall respect and love his country.” He continued, “Mazzini epitomised the duty of the good patriot. It is in a modification of these words that the purpose and scope of this volume may be discovered. It is to give collective utterance to the Englishspeaking poets of Modern Wales


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Panama/ For they were Morgan’s men.” In 1968 he published another collection: High Heritage Poems of Wales. The poem ‘At Trawsfynydd’ uses the ‘pathetic fallacy’ in evoking sadness at Hedd Wyn’s death in 1917: “You hear remembering/ The cry of birds along the windy moors/ And the slow feet of autumn bringing sleep.” In 1955 he published Gerald of Wales and in 1972 a two-volume The Story of Carmarthenshire. He lived in Cardiff and worked as an Inspector of Schools. He also made a contribution to the organisation of the Festival of Britain in 1951. In contrast to his other work, he wrote humorous verse, which was collected in the volume A Little Nonsense (1954). There are some witty poems here, including ‘Three

The Gwent County History Vol. 3, The Making of Monmouthshire, 1536-1780 Madeleine Gray and Prys Morgan (eds) (University of Wales Press, £65) SAM ADAMS


his, the third of five projected volumes that will eventually embrace the history of the south-east corner of Wales from prehistory to the end of the twentieth century, carries the reader from the Acts of Union, through the period of the Protestant Reformation and the Civil War to the Restoration. At the outset it deals with the anomalous situation of Monmouthshire, clearly part of



X (after E.E.Cummings)’. In his London Welshman article, Prys-Jones refers to the “..inhibitions, pretences and repressions created by a century and a half of earnest, narrow Nonconformity..” But he considers that the main impetus behind his ground-breaking 1917 anthology was, “..because I had known so much generosity, self-sacrifice, nobility and integrity in the Welsh communities of my youth.” His background in the Vale of Clwyd must have brought him into close contact with farmers. He drew some of his love for Wales and its people from what he had seen and heard in the landscape around his home, especially in the Hiraethogs to the west.. His sense of their character is severely different from how Caradoc Evans presented the coun-

try inhabitants of Carmarthenshire, in their backwardness and meanness. Prys-Jones’s countrymen are stoical and wise: “They have been here for centuries/ The man, the horse, the rustling plough,/ Taming these harsh, high hills…” ‘Salt Marshes’ is an outstanding poem. Written in free verse, it carries his voice and conviction: “These marsh-lands evoke sorrow:/ I can feel/ The ancient grief of grass, the gloom of water/ The sense of lurking terror/ Which haunts the landscape here…The black dykes gurgle like small children choking/ In quick convulsions, speechless and afraid,/ And the grey flock of frightened sheep/ Moves in a huddled mob to shelter.” After a long and productive life, A.G.Prys-Jones died in Kingstonupon-Thames in 1987.

Wales under the 1536 Act, less clearly so under the 1543 Act, which brought the county within the jurisdiction of Westminster courts. The first parliamentary elections took place at the turn of 1541-42. As might be expected, seats at Westminster then and for a long time thereafter were the preserve of the great landowning clans, Somersets (ennobled as earls of Worcester), Herberts (earls of Pembroke) and Morgans (of Tredegar), which dominate the history of the entire period. The

chapter on ‘Patterns of Everyday Life’ does not, as might be supposed, deal with the peasantry, some 95% of the population, because they kept their heads down as best they could while religious and political conflict raged about them, and left no note of their coming and going. It is about the minor gentry in the main, literate, but with few pennies to rub together, whose best hope of survival was to hang on to the coat tails of one or other of their wealthier brethren. It is difficult to imagine now just how arduous travel was to and within this Welsh-speaking region. As late as 1767 a traveller wrote, ‘from Chepstow to the halfway house between Newport and Cardiff [the roads] continue mere rocky lanes … the first six miles from Newport they were detestable’. What movement

occurred was overwhelmingly eastwest even then, and it was anyone’s guess what was going on further inland up the Gwent valleys. No wonder Catholicism hung on in the remoter parts, especially since, despite the political necessity of subscription to the Protestant cause, the earls of Worcester and the Morgan family retained Catholic sympathies and did not discourage the active presence of priests. We might ponder why women predominate in the lists of Catholic recusants and, later, in the mid-seventeenth century, among radical nonconformist groups. Many of the latter would have been influenced by the remarkable William Wroth, rector of Llanfaches, who, having undergone a damascene conversion about 1625-26, preached his own brand of Puritan idealism to such effect that he gathered about him the first congregation of independents in Wales, and sent out evangelising leaders of Protestant dissent. Central to this volume are the chapters dealing with the period 1642-1790, encompassing the Civil War and developments in ‘politics and power’ that followed. The opposition of King and Parliament, Whig and Tory meant a great deal to those with wealth and position to lose or gain, not much to ordinary folk. Charles I at Raglan Castle was deeply disappointed that so few recruits came willingly to his cause, and those pressed into service ran off at the first opportunity. Over the county boundary in Glamorgan, in 1644 Royalist troops mutinied and called themselves ‘the Peaceable Army’. When a parliamentary commander arrived, thinking to take on the mantle of leadership, they arrested him and said they were ‘independent from England, both King and Parliament’ – a

brief triumph for common sense and the common man. The editors of this splendid volume have assembled a fine team of contributors, whose writing is not only informative, but often elegant. It has a great deal to offer to the thorough reader or to those who prefer to dip and browse, and will be an important reference source for anyone interested in the history of Gwent.

History on our Side Hywel Francis (Iconau, £9.99) GWYN GRIFFITHS


he story of the 1984-85 Miners Strike in South Wales is one of loyalty and solidarity that embraced much of Wales. The role of the Welsh Council of Churches was unique, as was that of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Dyfed farmers, gay and lesbian solidarity groups and the women of these embattled communities who were often more leaders than supporters. The women of Coelbren and Hirwaun were made honorary members of the Italian Resistance, an indication of a world-wide working class sympathy. Hywel Francis, now Labour MP for Aberavon, was in a remarkable position. The son of a miners’ leader, at the time of the strike he was an adult education tutor living in the Dulais valley. With Dai Smith he had written The Fed, the official history of the South Wales Miners Federation, later the South Wales Area National Union of Mineworkers. Much of the material in this book is drawn from a

secret diary he kept during the strike. The level of confrontation, harassment and police surveillance was such that he felt it necessary to keep it hidden. The solidarity for the strike was strongest in the South Wales valleys although initially miners at many pits had to be picketed out. Arthur Scargill’s abrasiveness didn’t go down well in the valleys. Hywel’s politically and culturally inclusive father, the genial communist Dai Francis, former General Secretary of the South Wales NUM and first Chair of the Wales TUC, operated differently. Scargill, and the Yorkshire coalfield, had failed to support the South Wales miners in their fight to save the Lewis Merthyr colliery a year earlier. But Hywel, like his late father, is generous to a fault. Kim Howells, the then influential NUM research officer and now supporter of the Colombian military and who proclaims his shared values with Saudi Arabia, is referred to as a “friend”. Praised even. There is a hint at rehabilitating Neil Kinnock, still despised by some former miners for not getting support from other sections of the labour movement for the strike. Nevertheless, this proud and passionate book left me with an even greater feeling of admiration for the mining community and those who gave it their unstinting support. Their slogan that ‘The NUM Fights for Wales’ was no empty rhetoric, and Hywel Francis him-


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self played a valiant role as chair of the Wales Congress in Support of Mining Communities. It may have been short-lived but I would suggest it was influential in securing that Yes vote for a Welsh Assembly years later. Hywel Francis may yet write the definitive history of the heroic part played by the South Wales miners in the strike. This is a priceless contribution to that stirring, and ultimately tragic story. The title is a reference to the role of the miners in bringing down the Heath Government a decade earlier. But the Thatcher Government was out for revenge. The full state apparatus - police, magistrates, much of the press was mobilised in an assault on working class communities reminiscent of the 1920s. Despite much of what has been written recently, history may still prove to be on the side of the miners.

At the Bright Hem of God Peter J. Conradi (Seren, £9.99) SIÔN REES WILLIAMS


eter J. Conradi, better known for his biography of Iris Murdoch, turns his attention to what has often been seen as a neglected part of both Wales and the United Kingdom: Radnorshire. Whereas the north of Wales is often considered as ‘the land of



castles’ (and marketed as such), and the south being traditionally the home of heavy industries such as coal and steel, the ‘green desert’ of mid-Wales has often been disregarded, both by Welsh people and the English. Too often the borderland with Wales has been considered ‘too English’ by some Welsh people, whilst the English, in accordance with the border that exists between the two nations, have not considered it as an important part of their realm either. It is appropriate then, that he often invokes the theme of borders in this book; both the tangible ones between Wales and the Welsh, and England and the English, in addition to those internal frontiers that the author himself has had to negotiate. He provides us with a galaxy of writers and poets from Giraldus Cambrensis in the 12th century to Ruth Bidgood in the present century, taking in the metaphysical poets Herbert and Vaughan, the Romantic Shelley, the diarist Francis Kilvert and the great 20thcentury poet, R.S. Thomas, all of whom have expressed their affinity and relationships with this most remote part of Wales. It is part of their experience, and undoubtedly his own that the place has ‘always been out of fashion’. Consequently any ‘outsider’ can feel at one with nature (it comes as no surprise that he admires the work of Wordsworth), and also appreciate it as a means of escape from all the stresses and anxieties of modern, contemporary living. Yet his work should not be written off either as a recluse’s handbook to mid-Wales, or as a manual on how to drop out from society. He writes convincingly of place to be sure, but also of his innermost quest for a place for himself in his new community (the border metaphor once more). It is note-

worthy that being a Buddhist he seeks Nirvana through quiet contemplation. It would seem that Peter J. Conradi has found it for himself in the Welsh March, and that in providing a book that shows his love for the place, At the Bright Hem of God can be accessed and enjoyed by both natives of Radnorshire and the newly-arrived, so that all can partake fully of this all too often misunderstood part of Wales.

The Stoat Judith Maro (Y Lolfa, £9.95) GARETH MILES


he past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.’ They drive around in Austins, Metros and Morris Minors, for instance. Pubs close in the afternoons and at 10.30 p.m. Smoking, even chainsmoking, is not regarded as a vile, anti-social habit.There are Welsh Nonconformists who know more about the history and geography of Palestine than about those of their own country. Jewish agencies are still hunting down Nazi war-criminals, world-wide and left-wing Zionism has not been expunged by chauvinism, religious fundamentalism and the malign influence of U.S. patronage. Wales in the early eighties of

the last century is as beautiful as ever in fine weather and attracts visitors even in September, including Ilana, a young Israeli woman who pitches her tent in the campsite of Garth Engan, the 150-acre upland farm of chapel stalwart, Gwilym Lewis. Although duly appreciative of the Meirionydd countryside and the friendliness of the Lewis family – Gwilym, his wife, Alys and children Lefi, a Radio Cymru journalist, Marc who’s stayed at home on the farm and Lowri, a brilliant Celtic scholar and Cymdeithas yr Iaith activist – Ilana, whom the natives call ‘Elin’, seems more interested in their neighbour, Andersen of Tyddyn Isaf, a post-war refugee from eastern

Europe. Ilana/Elin and Yehuda Zambovsky, her superior in one of the Israeli secret services as well as her surrogate father, are not the only ones investigating Andersen’s past. Inspector Delme Ifans of South Wales Police leaves the ‘troglodytes in the Valleys’ for the ‘open skies and the plotted yet halfwild landscape’ of the North at the request of Scotland Yard to look for possible links between the Polish recluse and the recent murder of Maria Walenska, a widow of the same nationality and a resident of Hampstead. As the story unfolds, reaching its climax in a siege of Tyddyn Isaf by Welsh police and civilians and

Israeli agents, the author compares and contrasts different nationalisms and national consciousnesses – Welsh, Israeli, Polish and Irish (Lowri Lewis having just married the charming, hard-drinking, Sinn Fein-supporting Conal). We are also reminded of the horrendous suffering endured by the Jewish population of Eastern Europe during the thirties and forties of the twentieth century. One of the book’s chief attractions for Welsh readers will be the perceptions, both critical and appreciative, with regard to ourselves and our country, of a sympathetic in-comer who has lived amongst us for much, if not most, of a long life.

MA in Celtic Studies A postgraduate distance-learning programme which allows you to study in your own home at your own pace.

Modules: The Celts: From Origins to the Modern Era, the Mabinogi, Gerald of Wales, the Sociolinguistics of the Welsh Language, the Celtic Arthur, Welsh Folk Life, Beginners/Intermediate and Advanced Welsh, Beginners’ Irish,Translation, Study and Research Methodology,Women in the Middle Ages: Sources from the Celtic Regions.

nts registering for the first time For a limited period only (2009-2010) international stude rather than the usual £10,719). pay the same fees as Home/EU students (i.e. £3,390

Department of Welsh, University of Wales, Lampeter SA48 7ED

Contact: Dr Jane Cartwright +44 (0) 1570 424870



Books Relax with a good book over the Christmas holiday MEIC STEPHENS


f you can read Welsh and are able to take a break from the Christmas festivities, curl up with a good book by a Welsh author. There’s plenty of choice and reading is so much more satisfying than watching telly. You’ll remember what you read much longer than what you see on the box. You want proof of that? Ask yourself what you can remember about the TV programmes you saw last week and then what you can recall of the last book you read. One of the most fascinating books I’ve come across lately is Y Cawr o Rydcymerau (Y Lolfa, £14.95), Emyr Hywel’s splendid biography of D.J. Williams - writer, hero of Penyberth, indefatigable worker for Plaid Cymru and one of the sunniest characters in Wales, who died at the age of 85 in 1970. The book is a study of D.J.’s religious faith, which occasionally wavered, his politics, which he lived with utter devotion, and his prose writings, notably his stories and autobiography. But the most revealing part is the one consisting of excerpts from his diaries which he started keeping in 1913. Here is D.J. with his slippers on, as it were, although the private man was not all that different from the public one. Staunch in his commitment to the cause of Plaid Cymru, for which he worked at a local level in Pembrokeshire, and caustic about



many like Alun Talfan Davies and Iorwerth Peate who deserted the party for their own ambitious ends, he could be funny, perceptive and generously warm-hearted towards his fellow-man in a most attractive way. Among the people he knew well were Saunders Lewis, Waldo Williams and Gwynfor Evans. This is a book all patriots should read because it shows what can be achieved for Wales when the Welsh put their shoulders to the wheel. If you can’t read Welsh, try the three latest titles in the Library of Wales: Jack Jones’s Black Parade (Parthian, £8.99) is a novel set in Merthyr Tydfil in Victorian times; Glyn Jones’s The Valley, The City, The Village (Parthian, £7.99) is also a novel set partly in Merthyr, and partly in Carmarthenshire and Cardiff; Alun Richards’s Dai Country (Parthian, £7.99) is a selection of stories that take the author’s hometown of Pontypridd as their backdrop. All three are big-hearted books that capture the zest of Valleys life and the special character of their hardworking people. Lastly, if you’d prefer a book just to leaf through while taking time out between the mince pies and the apple sauce, there are three worth looking at. Martin Turtle of Abersoch has produced a terrific set of photographs for Llyˆn (Carreg Gwalch, £20); it has a bilingual text that includes extracts from Welsh poetry as well as some of the most stunning pictures I’ve seen of this part of our beautiful country. Peter Lord, our most distinguished art historian, has put together a selection of images reflecting the personal, social and political identity of Wales in The Meaning of Pictures (UWP, £50), together with a number of essays written in his trenchant style. At the book’s heart is the visualisation of y werin, the common folk who have been central to the

This is a book all patriots should read because it shows what can be achieved for Wales when the Welsh put their shoulders to the wheel. Welsh perception of ourselves over the centuries. One of the chapters deals with a painter called Archie Rees Griffiths, an Aberdare boy who grew up in Gorseinon and might have had a more brilliant career had fortune smiled on him in a less lopsided manner. As it was, he died ‘depressed, crumpled and monosyllabic’ in London in 1971at the age of 71. In a closing chapter the author, an Englishman who has learned Welsh and become a fervent nationalist, describes his longstanding feud with the National Museum and his attempts to persuade it to take Welsh art more seriously. He also took on the Welsh Arts Council’s Art Committee, setting out his stall in a monograph entitled The Aesthetics of Relevance which I edited for Gomer in 1992. Peter is nothing if not prickly in his manner and many are the noses up which he has managed to get. Particularly bruising was a brush with Glyn Tegai Hughes, Warden of Gregynog (‘that soulless house’), who while interviewing him for a fellowship enquired, ‘Don’t you think you are in danger of being holier than the Pope?’ Needless to say, he wasn’t appointed but it didn’t stop him from going on to show in his books that Wales has visual art of which we should be proud. He is a necessary figure.

POETRY PASSING STRANGERS It was cold, the sky clear And above the glow Of Barry town stars shone The way they had Before man was born. But dead on time Two more appeared Swooping up and over us From the west In line astern. Spellbound we watched Them hurtle past Before disappearing like Lights switched off Towards the east. Shuttle and space-station With men aboard Marking the new age Riding the heavens In space and time. And after they had gone Amidst the stars I saw the Plough And old Polaris Still pointing north. JOHN BROOKS

BARDDONIAETH The publishers are most grateful to the trustees of the HARRI WEBB FUND who have generously sponsored this page. A fee will be paid for every poem published. Poems for consideration should be sent to: DR MEIC STEPHENS, 10 HEOL DON, WHITCHURCH, CARDIFF, CF14 2AU. Please send a stamped address envelope if you want your poems to be returned.

MEIC STEPHENS ALSO RECOMMENDS • Brian Lee, Cardiff: Remember When (Breedon, £16.99) • Ioan Roberts, Bro a Bywyd W. S. Jones (Barddas, £11.95) • E. Wyn James & Bill Jones (eds.), Michael D. Jones (Carreg Gwalch, £9.50) • Siân James, Return to Hendre Ddu (Seren, £7.99) £12)

• Beryl H. Griffiths (ed.), Ifor Owen: mewn Meysydd Eraill (Carreg Gwalch,

• Jon Gower, Dala’r Llanw (Gomer, £7.99)

• David Lloyd, Tales of an Aber Lad (Y Lolfa, £9.95)

• Elin Meek, Celebrating the Welsh Princes (Carreg Gwalch, £6.95) £8.99)

• Chris Cope, Cwrw am Ddim (Gomer,

• Ceiriog Gwynne Evans, Once upon a Time in Goginan (Y Lolfa, £14.95)

Bore Newydd (Carreg Gwalch, £6.50)

• Myrddin ap Dafydd,

• Ieuan Parri (ed.), Cerddi Tec Lloyd (Carreg Gwalch, £5.50)


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History 1 Which British tribe fought at the battle of Catraeth c. 595? 2 Who was the only Welsh king to be called ‘the Good’? 3 What event was held at Cardigan castle in 1176? 4 In which year did Owain Glyndwˆr rise against the English king? 5 Whose army defeated Richard III at the battle of Bosworth? 6 For what was Griffith Jones famous?

in 1949 that later became The Anglo-Welsh Review? 5 Who was the editor of The Oxford Book of Welsh Verse published in 1962? 6 Which magazine was published first: Planet, Golwg,, Poetry Wales, Barn, Barddas, or The New Welsh Review? 7 Who edited The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary, published in 1995? 8 What is the name of the farm in two famous novels by Islwyn Ffowc Elis?

7 What was Pantycelyn’s real name?

9 What is the name of the woman who is the central character in a notorious novel by Saunders Lewis?

8 Where was the first meeting of the Gorsedd of Bards held?

10 Huw Morgan is the narrator of which famous novel about Wales?

9 What was Dic Penderyn’s real name? 10 Who was the first Independent Labour M.P. elected in Wales?

Literature 1 The Blue Books reported on what aspect of life in Wales.

Politics 1 Who was the princess who lamented the fall of the House of Powys? 2 By what name was Llywelyn ap Iorwerth also known? 3 In what year was the first ‘Act of Union’ passed?

2 Whose translation of The Mabinogion appeared between 1838 and 1849?

4 On which town did Welsh Chartists converge in 1839?

3 How many lines are there usually in an englyn?

5 For which constituency was David Lloyd George elected in 1890?

4 What was the name of the periodical founded

6 What famous political document was published in 1912?



7 In what year was Plaid Cymru formed? 8 For what constituency was Aneurin Bevan elected in 1929?

Independents and Baptists founded in 1639? 5 To which American State did Welsh Quakers emigrate in 1682?

9 In what year was Cardiff officially declared the capital of Wales: 1945, 1955 or 1965?

6 Which denomination is known as Yr Hen Gorff?

10 Who was the first Secretary of State for Wales?

7 For what was Thomas Charles of Bala famous?


8 For what was Evan Roberts famous?

1 Where did the Druids make their last stand against the Romans?

9 In what year was the Anglican Church disestablished in Wales?

2 In what town was Hen Wlad fy Nhadau composed in 1856?

10 What was the last district to vote for ‘Sunday opening’ in 1996?

3 What was the name of the composer who was Professor of Music at Cardiff University? 4 Which member of the gentry is usually credited with having promoted Welsh folk-music? 5 Who is the singer who made the song Colli Iaith famous?

How well do you know your nation?

6 Who wrote the words/music of Colli Iaith?

THE CAMBRIA CHRISTMAS QUIZ 7 What is a crwth? 8 Who wrote Hymns and Arias? 9 Who wrote Welsh words to the tune Finlandia? 10 Who wrote the opera Hywel a Blodwen?

is just the thing to tax your mind over the Christmas festivities with some badly-needed intellectual exercise. Answer all of our quizmaster Heraclitus’s 50 carefully selected questions correctly on a sheet of paper and send to:

11 What was Ivor Novello’s real name? THE CAMBRIA CHRISTMAS QUIZ

Religion 1 Which Welsh saint died c. 589? 2 In what year was William Morgan’s Welsh translation of the Bible published? 3 Which Catholic martyr was executed in 1584? 4 Where was the first ‘gathered’ Church of


The first correct entry will be selected at random on January 26th (St Dwynwen’s Day) and the winner will receive a subscription to CAMBRIA magazine for himself/herself or a friend. Dal ati - a mwynhewch!


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this Christmas Wales’s National Magazine makes an ideal gift for family and friends - wherever they are Your Cambria gift options:

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doubt whether you could have heard a better concert of harp music anywhere in the world than what you have just heard here this afternoon.” Ann Griffiths, international concert harpist, music historian, teacher, composer and publisher spoke emotionally and briefly at the end of a concert to mark her fifty years of very distinguished service to the harp and its music on Sunday, November 8). Former pupils and friends came to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff, to honour her huge contribution to all aspects of harp music. The Weston Gallery was full of admirers and people whose lives had been touched and enriched by having met and known her. Born in Caerphilly and brought up in Maesteg she took an honours degree in Welsh at Cardiff University before going to the Paris Conservatoire. There she became the first ever British harpist to be awarded the Premier Prix in the class of the legendary Pierre Jamet. Her professional career began in a style worthy of the YSGOL Y DELYN, PANTYBEILIAU, GILWERN 1961



Ann Griffiths has championed the Welsh triple harp. She was one of the first to take it up and certainly the first to research and explore its classical repertoire.

glittering career that followed - a performance of Handel’s Concerto for Harp at the Royal Festival Hall in April 1959. She was then appointed Principal Harp at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and proceeded to teach at the Royal Academy of Music, Cardiff University and the Welsh College of Music and Drama. Yet for all her recordings and splendid performances on the international stage she saved her best for Wales. “She brought the French technique and style and the continental harp tradition back with her from the Paris Conservatoire passing it on to generations of pupils who in turn passed it on to their pupils who were to distinguish themselves on the international stage,” said Caryl Thomas, one of three of Ann’s former pupils now teaching at the Royal Welsh College’s internationally renowned harp department. The other two are Meinir Heulyn and Valerie Aldrich-Smith. “She was a fantastic teacher - the harder you worked the harder she pushed you. I remember going as an eleven-yearold to her home in Pantybeiliau, Gilwern. We all enjoyed so much kindness and generosity - and a lot of fun and mischief from Ann and her husband, the late Dr Lloyd Davies.” There, at Pantybeiliau, in 1961 she organised the first of her Ysgol y Delyn residential harp courses


until they became so popular that she had to hold them at Bangor, Aberystwyth and Ferryside. She has a consuming interest in the history of the harp - and has championed ANN GRIFFITHS the Welsh triple harp. She was one of the first to take it up and certainly the first to research and explore its classical repertoire. As the late Nancy Richards, Telynores Maldwyn, told her during the first Ysgol y Delyn in 1961, “Ann, the mantle of Lady Llanover has truly dropped on your shoulders.” So true. She eventually inherited a triple harp made at Llanover, Lady Llanover’s costume, and is a former Chair of the Lady Llanover Society. Adlais, her publishing company, is a remarkable commercial success as well as having made a hugely important contribution by providing harp arrangements for traditional Welsh music and classical music. She has also contributed greatly to research and scholarship and received an MA from Birmingham University for her research on the development of the harp. Welsh harp music has an international reputation, for which Ann and Meinir Heulyn - who have both ventured into music publishing - must been given credit. I remember, a few years ago, attending a concert given by a harpist in Provence. After playing a number of classical pieces, as an encore she played John Thomas’s Ffarwel y Telynor (The Harpist’s Adieu). When I mentioned this to Meinir she said simply, “Welsh harp music is highly GILLIAN GREEN, BENJAMIN CREIGHTON GRIFFITHS (AGED 13), ANN GRIFFITHS




rated by the French.� Ann’s status as a figure of international stature is secure. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the World Harp Congress and is Honorary President of

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the Wales International Harp Festival 2010. The programme in her honour was a fascinating mix of rich connections. Cân Ramantus for harp and horn by Grace Williams had its first ever public performance. Cân Ramantus (A Romantic Song) was Grace Williams’s wedding present to Ann and Lloyd Davies on May 2, 1959. Lloyd was himself an accomplished horn player. It was performed by Meinir Heulyn and a student, Beth Nolan-Neylan. Meinir, now Head of the Harp Department at the Royal Welsh College, was one of Ann’s pupils and for many years was Principal Harp of the orchestra of Welsh National Opera. Helen Davies Mikkelborg, formerly of Newport, came from Copenhagen to perform Galarnad a Dawns, one of Ann’s compositions, and Carolan’s Concerto by Turlough O’Carolan. Helen was Ann’s very first pupil and her first appointment was as harpist of the Irish Radio Orchestra. She performed the two works on Ann’s own Irish harp. Ann’s second pupil was Valerie Aldrich-Smith, now Principal Harp of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, who gave a performance of Mansel Thomas’s Variations on Yr Hen Erddygan. Cambria, an arrangement by John Thomas of traditional Welsh airs for five harps, was reduced to two harps and stirringly performed by Bethan Semmens and Gwenllian Llyˆr; an ensemble of eight young students performed Ravel’s Suite Ma Mère l’Oye; and Oliver Davies and Rowena Bass performed E. Parish Alvars’s re-arrangement for piano and harp of Carl Maria von Weber’s Aufforderung zum Tanze (An Invitation de Dance). Andante de Haydn by J. B. Krumpholtz was charmingly performed by 13-year-old Benjamin Creighton Griffiths, another of Ann’s protĂŠgĂŠs, who said the support he is getting from her is nothing less than “inspirationalâ€?. Another former pupil who lavished tributes on Ann was the talented and successful teacher, Gillian Green. She would arrive at Pantybeiliau on a Friday night and was often not allowed to leave until Sunday evening - being kidnapped in the nicest possible way. In the words of Caryl Thomas: “What’s the difference between a terrorist and a harpist? Answer - you can negotiate with a terrorist!â€?

Music Making time for composition: THE CENTENARY OF MANSEL THOMAS



nnovation often comes easily to small music festivals. Unencumbered by the administrative complexities of bulk, they can do things in original ways. At this year’s Llantilio Crossenny Festival of Music and Drama, between Monmouth and Abergavenny, one of the evening events was a lecture, illustrated with slides and live music and marking the centenary of the Welsh composer, Mansel Thomas. It was delivered at the village’s St Teilo’s Church by Terence Gilmore-James, the composer’s son-in-law, who is doing so much with his wife, Grace, to collate, catalogue and make available for performance Thomas’s subMANSEL THOMAS: BROUGHT SKILL AND INTELLIGENCE TO HIS MANY COMPOSITIONS.

stantial body of work. St Teilo’s setting in the lee of Ysgyryd Fawr, the ‘Holy Mountain’, was Thomas territory. He had settled down at Llantilio Crossenny after early retirement in 1965 as head of music at BBC Wales to devote himself to composition and help found the festival that for many years had as its director the amiable Handelian Charles Farncombe. A musical administrator, which Thomas was at the BBC for thirty years, is often someone whose work as a composer must needs be intermittent or eternally deferred. Yet Thomas appeared to have few of the anxieties that can bedevil but also inform creativity. A kind and loving family man and a selfless promoter of others, he was essentially a moving spirit at the BBC, though as conductor of the early BBC Welsh Orchestra, often performing his own music, his role in consolidating and expanding a musical tradition was crucial. He died 23 years ago, at the age of 76. Terence Gilmore-James has no doubts about his Rhondda-born father-in-law’s qualities, which took much but not all from contemporary developments in the work of, among others, Howells, Holst, John Ireland and Vaughan Williams, especially those in which tradition was being re-clothed with new and exciting vestments. Mansel Thomas’s idiosyncrasies were significant, too. He was modest and almost playfully prolific. “Mansel was very unassuming,” he said. “But his wife, Megan, told him that he should do something about his own compositions. She had the correct, go-ahead attitude in supporting him but he always said he was not that sort of bloke.” Megan’s encouragement led Terence and the composer to embark on putting the manuscripts in order and in a fit state for publication, the first catalogue of 150 works appearing in the 1970s, a decade in which Thomas’s surging, post-retirement activity was, however, stalled by a stroke. “We went to his studio at the house in Llantilio Crossenny, emptied all his cupboards and listed everything we could,” Terence said. “Then we printed hundreds of copies which were sent all over the world.” Several more catalogues are now available in hard copy and online and three ever-more-adventurous periods of his composing career have been identified. The setting up of the Mansel Thomas Trust in the late 1980s allowed this work to continue with the help of grants and individual generosity. It now means much travelling and refining of workaday manuscripts for Terence. Such was the composer’s often relaxed attitude to composition - he might be asked for a song and then post it to the recipient and think little more of it - that editing of, and copying from, the composer’s originals has been crucial and time-consuming. That they are elegantly written originals goes almost without saying. Luckily, the


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BBC had kept everything he wrote - in big brown envelopes - and copying of handwritten, edited editions is now done by computer. “We are still not sure how much more music remains out there,” said Terence. “Not only that, but we don’t know who has got it and we don’t know they know we would like to have sight of it! By this time, of course, I had long realised that Mansel was a wonderful and intelligent musician, gifted with perfect pitch and so kind as well as very critical. And, of course, extremely skilled as a composer.” Such skill went into sheaves of work mostly for choirs and solo singers but also for instrumentalists, many to commission and with accompaniments of great surety and subtlety. They included a Requiem, and an early Theme and Variations (1934) once played by the London Symphony Orchestra with the composer conducting. He wrote in a basically diatonic style but with borrowings from others which always became a natural part of the mix, growing even more adventurous, but not inaccessible, as he became older and could spend all his CONDUCTING, AS HERE AT LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL, WAS ONE OF MANSEL THOMAS’S MANY MUSICAL ABILITIES

time composing. Grace, who is the Trust secretary, said: “My memories of my father are of a warm, loving and modest person with a great sense of humour, who was very supportive and proud of my sister, Sian, and myself - also a very generous person, not only to us but to other young people. Composition preoccupied him from his earliest years - at a desk, on a train, anywhere in fact - and I remember my mother pulling manuscript paper out of the suitcase when going on holiday.” Among the great champions of the song settings are international Welsh singers Bryn Terfel and Jeremy Huw Williams (Terfel is the Trust’s president). Choir repertories have long been studded with his original works and settings. Such was his self-effacement and love of family that he even wrote for Terence’s choirs and students when the son-in-law was on the staff at various English schools, on one occasion contributing no less than five arrangements of Welsh folk songs for an inaugural concert. Terence is now planning to write a compendious life of his father-inlaw. In a competitive world, Mansel Thomas’s work is worthy of special promotion, which it has received since the 1970s and especially in this, his centenary year. What it does not need is justification, for it speaks - or sings - for itself with direct and uniformly expressive utterance. Do you have information about any Mansel Thomas works that might be unknown to the Trust? And are you, or do you know, anyone interested in performing those now catalogued? Contact Terence or Grace at the Mansel Thomas Trust, Ty ˆ Cerbyd, Station Road, Ponthir, Newport, NP18 1GQ. T: 01633 421299. W: E: Sales and inspection copies of the music are handled by: Banks Music Publications, The Granary, Wath Court, Hovingham, York YO62 4NN. T: 01653 628545. W: E: banks



Chris Kinsey

Nature Diary


t’s been a good year for titmice judging by the mixed flocks sweeping down onto my suet feeders and thronging through the riverside alders and willows. Great Tits are generally king of the feeders, along the river, blue and willow tits tend to be evenly matched; all give way to volleys of long-tailed tits when they’re on a roving raid. These birds remind me of musical notes especially when they land on the staves of power lines. However, their constant, thin, calls sound like someone trying to blow a tune from a spit-blocked, descant recorder. It’s their acrobatics more than their recitations that detain me, especially when the inky juveniles are having their induction into foraging - pinkishness only colours the plumage in adulthood. During early September, the tit gangs annoyed the kingfisher which shrilled downstream to strafe blue tits from favourite, over-hanging perches and even pursued them into the blackthorn thicket. Another bird to attract my attention with strident calls was the dipper. I thought it was in dispute with another bird, but as the morning grew lighter, all I could see was a dipper-sized dollop of flood debris lodged in the fork of a branch stuck conveniently at the foot of the weir. It was curtseying and carrying on prior to wading in under the water’s skin, to feed on the river bed. They favour fast-flowing stretches of water, and walk or swim head down. Their eyes have powerful lenses. They move upstream, tilting their backs and opening their wings so that the pressure of flow sticks them to the bottom. Dippers spend about three quarters of their time searching for food: larvae, nymphs, small minnows, sometimes turning over stones and leaves in the river’s splash zone, but mostly directly from the river bed. This one soon emerged, white bib fronting the dark feathers, and whirred off.



For every walk during October, the opening lines of W.B. Yeats’s The Wild Swans at Coole, played in my head. “The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry...” It’s rare to find them so, particularly if I take the cattle path up through Bryn Woods. All this changed on Halloween. Mid-Wales dropped most of its palette of crimson, scarlet and yellow in one night of fierce squalls. I waded through a seething mix of fallen leaves, climbed to my favourite corner where a small cluster of hornbeams shoulder beeches and oaks, and sat out some of the storm astride a smooth, silvery, fallen EMRYS BOWEN trunk. Hornbeam is a very hard wood, harder than oak. It is often used for butcher’s blocks and previously for cart axles, mill cogs and ox yokes. It was a valuable fuel since its charcoal burns hot enough to smelt iron and also known as lanthorn because it burns with such a bright light. I was mesmerised by the sway of top branches for a while then the bombardment of beech masts, acorns and winged hornbeam nutlets drove me on to the bare hill top. From this height I could see the river Severn, which had lain low in its bed for so long, was rampaging with hackles raised. The dipper’s curtseying rock and the kingfisher’s defended branches were lost in the torrent. OPERATION GREYHOUND Swansea Greyhound Track Closure Regular readers will know that my two rescue greyhounds are accomplices to my Nature Diary. They are better than binoculars for helping me spot what’s out and about. Inside the house they’re peaceful and companionable. On the 7th November Swansea Greyhound track held its last races. Over thirty greyhounds have been handed in to Greyhound Rescue Wales, more are expected to be in need of homes. If you can help with adopting, fostering, sponsoring or volunteering e.g. transporting, or if you wish to make a donation towards the costs of caring for the dogs, please contact: Tel: 0300 0123 999 (Calls charged at a local rate) Or Email:


Coming from outside FRANCES DAVIES

osing my way in the quiet, leafy, back roads of Penarth I had to ring the Burtons for guidance over the last stretch. Charles Burton answered the telephone sounding wonderfully and artistically vague and swiftly handed me to his wife who, he said, is ‘better at these things’. On reflection, the expected confirmation of my sweeping assumption that artists are ‘not really of the same world as the rest of us’ was dealt a hefty swipe when I remembered that Charles Burton’s wife, Rosemary, is also an artist, and I remind myself that I actually know several who are extremely practical. When I pull up outside a large Victorian house,

Rosemary is waiting, welcoming, at the gate. Inside Charles Burton is divesting himself of a paint-splattered smock, and his round face and crinkled eyes radiate an impression of good humour accompanied by a ready smile. Charles Burton, was born in 1929 ,in Treherbert, and grew up in the Valleys. In 1946 he attended the Art College in Cardiff. National service

Charles Burton:

oil on canvas 2009 (34 x 44)



Charles Burton:


Oil on panel 2008 (46 x 61)

followed and in 1953 he was accepted by the Royal College of Art in London, where he achieved a scholarship after his first year. In 1956 he became head of painting at Liverpool College of Art, and in 1970 he moved back to Wales as Head of Art at the Polytechnic in Barry. After retiring from teaching he devoted himself entirely to painting, and he has his studio in Penarth, Glamorgan. Burton says he liked Liverpool because ‘Liverpudlians were so proud of everything Liverpool’. Whilst there, a millionaire offered to support him if he gave up work and devoted himself entirely to painting. He is not entirely sure why he didn’t take up the offer, it wasn’t just because he enjoyed teaching - it simply didn’t seem right. At Liverpool College of Art he taught John Lennon who, he says, was ‘very noticeable’ even then and ‘definitely talented - but didn’t have the temperament for a painter’. ‘You need to be more contemplative to paint,’ he says, adding that Lennon ‘was likeable with considerable charm, but some people were afraid of him. He had a pow-


C a mbr i a


Charles Burton:


Charles Burton:




Oil on canvas 2009 (30 x 30)

Oil on canvas 2009 (30 x 30)

erful personality. He really wanted to study graphic design because he wanted to illustrate his poetry.’ Burton’s own paintings are full of warmth, ‘painting is a way of being friendly’ he says. Having grown up in the Rhondda his pictures represent the Valleys as he remembers them, a place both happy and safe, redolent with a collective concern for the children and community, where neighbours helped each other and looked out for each other. ‘These paintings are my Rhondda,’ he adds, ‘not anyone else’s.’ In general things came to him easily; he was good academically and speaks very warmly of his old school, Porth County. There he learnt that the only standards worth anything were one’s own. The school didn’t have an art teacher but let him pursue his interest in art anyway, and since he was a hard worker in addition to having promising natural talent he succeeded in securing a place at Cardiff College of Art. He spent his National Service in Egypt, and occupied much of his time teaching art and history of art to fellow servicemen. He tells me with evident and quiet satisfaction that a couple of them changed their occupations on return and went to art college. Burton seems very laid back and easygoing, and the atmosphere surrounding our meeting is one of quiet calm. He doesn’t paint for exhibitions but for people’s homes ‘I like them to be comforting,’ he says, ‘and better than aspirin’. And for this very reason he always makes sure that his pictures don’t have reflective surfaces. Since he is best known for his town and landscapes, I am surprised by a kitchen full of abstracts, about which he is very serious but which he has never shown. Once offered a scholarship to go to Crete, he found he couldn’t draw there,

wasn’t inspired to. However, he loved the icons of Orthodoxy and the colours and started to paint abstracts – ‘you need the simplest forms to explore and enjoy colours just for themselves,’ he tells me. ‘they don’t depict the environment, but are designed to influence an environment. It’s not about pattern making, it’s all about a feeling of repose. Painting can reflect on the painter’s feeling - but also on what is missing in his life.’ ‘Art has its own grammar’ Burton explains, as I wander about his studio. He paints most days, but isn’t always driven to do so, although he draws all the time. He always carries minute sketch books with him – perhaps only a couple of inches square - and likes to sit in cafes and restaurants sketching. He has drawn ever since he can remember; the art came naturally to him, and he was very good at it, describing the experience as being somewhat like ‘playing a different instrument: whether drawing, singing, painting, or playing the piano.’ ‘I love the word partake,’ he continues, ‘it is an important concept. Charles Burton:


Paintings aren’t completed until they are placed, so that people can respond.’ He says wryly. ‘A painting should have no beginning, no end, with lots of facets.’ ‘There are two kinds Charles Burton: GLENRHONDDA Oil on canvas 2008 (48 x 48) of painters, those who paint the pictures and those who shouldn’t have to strain themselves allow the picture to paint them.’ to respond to a work of art, the Sometimes Burton feels that it isn’t work of art should speak for itself. him who is painting, the inspiraRather like your reaction, say, to tional process seemingly coming Mozart. If you like his music it from ‘outside’. ‘To paint really well becomes your friend, your soulmate.’ you need to empty yourself,’ he says. Out in the conservatory there is a ‘Picasso would start a landscape and large picture of a soldier, which gives it would end up as a portrait.’ The the impression of forward movement process is so intense that when he – it has a dark, unhappy face; and has finished when I remember it, I remember Oil on canvas 2009 (25 x 25) a picture he Burton telling me ‘Paintings are feels he will completed when they can be ignored never paint or if you have discovered something again. awkward. If something appears awk‘The ward to the viewer then it will also more pasbe awkward for the painter. Perhaps sionate the we should talk of paintings being painting, resolved rather than completed.’ the tighter Burton rarely signs any of his the organipaintings saying that there isn’t ususation has ally room for a signature, which, he to be, as feels, can spoil a picture’s effect. with any Should someone want him to sign a work of art. work? ‘Well, it can always be signed Take on the back!’ Mozart’s St. Charles Burton is exhibiting at the Matthew MARTIN TINNEY GALLERY, 18 ST ANDREW’S Passion,’ he CRESCENT, CARDIFF CF10 3DD throughout explains. the month of December. ‘People


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Gardens opportunities during the day to potter off to enjoy it. You eventually set off home, your existing knowledge complemented by new and fascinating plants, places and ideas, and that is that; not a single learning objective has been measured, not a single personal development target met. An old fashioned idea, perhaps, knowledge just for CAROLINE PALMER the pleasure of knowing things, but what a refreshing day that makes. The Garden School, is the brainhe great thing about the child of Elizabeth Murray, present Llanover Garden School is occupant of the mansion and that its not a bit like an descendent of that colourful Victorian promoter of Welshness, adult education class. There are no Lady Llanover, who among other consumer-satisfaction questionachievements is largely credited naires, no spurious quizzes designatwith the design of the Welsh ed as assessments of the extent to national costume. The first day which the pupils have learnt anyschool of the series, on 7th thing. The formula is simple, you October, was a sell-out occasion, go along, for coffee, you listen to a every one of the 40 seats in the outreally good speaker, you are enterhouse lecture theatre was full. tained to an excellent lunch in the First to illuminate us was Helena handsome dining room, and then Atlee, author of the phenomenally you troop off to hear another successful Gardens of Wales (see speaker before tea. The historic garreview in Cambria, March 2009) den beckons and there are several Starting from Giraldus THE STREAM LEAVES THE WALLED GARDEN THROUGH AN ARCH Cambrensis’s assertion IN THE WALL that “the Welsh have neither orchards nor gardens” (a view also echoed by The Oxford Companion to Gardens published as recently as 1986!) she set about correcting the record and romping through five centuries of garden history at the same time. And really, garden history is so easy. Broadly speaking, it goes like this: (1) terraces, avenues and straight lines controlling

The Llanover Garden School


Neither chemicals nor fertilisers feature high on her agenda on account of her enthusiasm for bees, hoverflies and butterflies nature, (2) Brown and Repton’s idealised nature with the corners smoothed off, (3) the Picturesque squires extolling the craggy and the irregular, and (4) the Arts and Crafts designers making giant cosy cottages with deep herbaceous borders and ample steps sprouting Erigeron daisies. Wales furnishes splendid examples of all these types, and Helena Atlee illustrated her talk with sumptuous photographs by Alex Ramsay. After a most congenial lunch we reassembled for a talk by Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennial Plants. Here was the perspective of a trained ecologist who, following studies at Bangor and Oxford Universities turned her intellect to setting up a nursery. Neither chemicals nor fertilisers feature high on her agenda, the former on account of her enthusiasm for bees, hoverflies and butterflies, and the latter because lush fleshy MARINA CHRISTOPHER

overfed plants are so much more prone to mildew and inclined to fall over or require staking. Delving into several buckets of fresh samples from her garden she took us through an extensive roll call of plants for SeptemberOctober borders. She showed us a dazzling variety of flowers of the daisy family - many of them native American wildflowers, ranging from the petite to the 12 foot tall. Her grasses spanned a similar size range, if gardening on this scale one certainly does not want to have to keep untangling things and propping them up. We met dahlias less blousy than the show bench varieties, and a spectacular variety of species of Salvia. The mansion, historically known as Tyˆ Uchaf, is an odd looking building, a tall red brick Georgian wing attached unconformably to a rambling much older house by eighteenth century purchaser, Benjamin Waddington from Nottinghamshire. (In the nineteenth century a quite different house, Llanover Court was built for his successors, Lord and Lady Llanover, but by the early twentieth century this was abandoned to ruin). The main landscape features relating to the surviving house were laid out for Benjamin Waddington around 1792. A ha-ha overlooks an extensive park, the course of the Rhyd y meirch stream was adapted to enhance the garden. Highlights in October were Cyclamen hederifolium carpeting the roots of the venerable plane tree adjoining the house










front, a beautiful cut-leaved beech and a gnarled mulberry propped up, as is usual with these ancient trees, by a number of sturdy forked props. Walks from the house lead through a choice modern collection of trees and shrubs, many distinguished by bizarre fruits and burgeoning autumn colour. We clustered in groups racking our memories for scientific names. Here some dangling plant labels would have been helpful. The garden’s most outstanding feature is the round walled garden built in Waddington’s time, to incorporate a pre-existing circular pigeon house and margined on the other side by a cascade and pond THE GEORGIAN WING OF TY ˆ UCHAF LOOMS OVER THE EARLIER HOUSE

from which a stream traverses the Christmas workshop making garden.. Water is as much a barrier wreaths and table arrangements, as are walls and I suppose only the and day schools on 24 February, most determined rabbit can breach 5th and 10th of March. its defences, lolloping brazenly Photography by Caroline Palmer across the little stone bridges bearing the path, or marching in More details available from: through the main gate. A new projLlanover House & Garden School, ect is underway, the complete Llanover, Abergavenny NP7 9EF redesign of a great stretch of border or within the tall wall. The soil stood enticingly empty and freshly prepared. Visitors who go to one of the spring garden schools will One of the most remarkable gardens in the country find the new planting underway, to a design by one of last year’s Garden School speakers, Mary Payne. The Spring speakers will be also unlikely GRAHAM RANKIN to disappoint: they include Aberglasney Gardens contains a collection of Christine rare and unusual plants within a stunningly Skelmersdale, beautiful historical setting Noel Kingsbury, Excellent Shop, Plant Sales and Café Tim Open all year Richardson, and Bunny Llangathen, Carmarthenshire SA32 8QH Guiness. Tel: 01558 668998 The future programme 4 miles west of Llandeilo, 12 miles east of Carmarthen included a

Aberglasney Gardens

• Domestic & Commercial Lawn and Grounds Care Equipment. • Walk-behind mowers, ride-ons, lawn, garden and compact & highway tractors. • Main dealers in South Wales for Jacuzzi hot tubs and hydrotherapy spas. Oaklands Mansion, Cwmffrwd, Carmarthen, SA31 2ND TEL:

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Gifts with a difference Blaenau Ffestiniog Print by John Uzzell Edwards


his limited edition print is from a painting inspired by a quilt in Saint Fagan’s Museum of Welsh Life. There are names that resonate in the recent history of industrial Wales, and Blaenau Ffestiniog is one. This quilt was made in the early twentieth century with scraps from the woollen suiting used by quarrymen for their work-clothes. And there is a strange red line, a square spiral, off-centre,which catches the eye. John Uzzell Edwards, one of the greatest artists of today’s Wales, sees these quilts as an example of the artistic expression of our forebears, and therefore a very important part of our Welsh culture. Limited Edition of 75 prints, signed and numbered. Image size approx 24" x 20". Price: £95 inc. p&p. Order by phone 01639 830485 or email: or mail: Plas Coedffaldau, Rhiwfawr, Swansea SA9 2RL.

‘The Bardic Chair - Y Gadair Farddol’ by Richard Bebb and Sioned Williams. £25.00 “The Bardic Chair merits the lasting tribute of a classical Welsh praise poem... we have been given a book to treasure” - Hywel Teifi Edwards

‘Welsh Furniture 1250-1950: A Cultural History of Craftsmanship and Design’ by Richard Bebb “It should be, as they say, in every Welsh library” - Jan Morris SAER BOOKS , 31 BRIDGE ST, KIDWELLY, CARMARTHENSHIRE SA17 4UU TEL:

44 (0)1554 890328


A Christmas Gift for the Cultured Person!


gift which lasts all year and not only gives pleasure to the recipient but supports one of greatest institutions in Wales: Membership of the Friends of The National Library of Wales is great value at £20. The Friends of the National Library of Wales receive: • an invitation to the openings and private views of exhibitions at the Library • 10% discount off many gifts at the Library shop • a newsletter to keep them in touch with the Library • An opportunity to meet interesting and like-minded people CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FRIENDS 1960-2010 For further details please contact the Secretary, Pedr ap Llwyd, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth SY23 3UB ( Tel: 01970 632952


Norman Lewis as exotic as his cars JOHN A EDWARDS


orman Lewis was one of the most multi-talented Welshmen of his generation. Travel writer, novelist, journalist, photographer, camera importer, spy and racing driver - my knowledge of this intriguing man comes from Julian Evans’ comprehensive biography: Semi-Invisible Man. Lewis was born in 1908 at Enfield, where his parents Richard and Louisa had moved from Carmarthen to further Richard’s career as a pharmacist. But the middle class Lewis family didn’t quite fit into this largely working class area of London and combined with Norman’s academic brilliance and insular personality made him a natural target for school bullies. At the age of ten this led to him being sent to spend a year with his widowed grandfather David and three maiden aunts at Wellfield Road, Carmarthen - “to make a Welshman of him” as his grandfather said. This was an eccentric household with David, an overbearing character who made his fortune by selling at huge profit tea recovered from a ship sunk in Swansea harbour, and his three daughters who were constantly bickering. But Norman seems to have been happy there going to Pentrepoeth School and enjoying the countryside climbing Pen-lan and walking along Afon Tywi to Llansteffan.



However he apparently never became fully conversant in the Welsh language but gained a love of Wales and always considered himself Welsh, rather than English. Typical of many writers, he had a talent for self-concealment hence the epithet “semiinvisible man” - and in the end neither Wales nor England NORMAN LEWIS AT THE WHEEL OF HIS FIRST BUGATTI, A TYPE 30. THE WINGED RADIATOR CAP (FROM A SUNBEAM) IS AN UNFORTUNATE ADDITION. could contain his “cosmopolitan rootlessness” as Julian Evans tent rather than outstanding racing aptly puts it. driver, coming fourth at Brooklands One would have to read the book in 1939, and taking third-in-class at to learn of his two brothers who Shelsley Walsh hill climb in a died in childhood, three wives, six Bugatti 51 with the obligatory maschildren and worldwide peregrinasive twin rear wheels. tions as well as WW2 service in the Other cars owned include a rare Intelligence Corps in North Africa front-wheel-drive Alvis, a famous and Italy. Alfa Romeo 8C reputed to have But my focus here is on Norman won at Le Mans in 1933, and a luxLewis the car enthusiast and someurious Pontiac Parisienne he bought time racing driver. He mainly drove off the stand at the 1963 London Bugattis, then as now, the most Motor Show. iconic of cars and owned, or partHis love of motor sport also gave owned several including - a Type him an excuse to return to Wales 30, Type 40, and Type 51. where he raced motorcycles on He seems to have been a compePendine Sands.


That he was able to afford all these exotic vehicles is a testament to his business acumen as well as prolific literary output. Bugatti has always been at the top end of the market, with today’s Volkswagenbuilt Veyron for example costing an astronomical £839,000. But like his Bugatti cars, Norman Lewis himself could never be described as in any sense ‘ordinary’. Graham Greene called him “one of the best writers…. of our century”. Praise indeed. He died in 2003 aged 95.

New POLO - VW play safe


riving a manufacturer’s test car for a few days usually gives me a fair insight into its character but the experience can never quite match actually owning a car on a year-round basis. Our family is currently on its fourth consecutive Volkswagen Polo which shows a remarkable degree of loyalty or perhaps merely a lack of

imagination! So, recently, when I had an invitation to drive the latest fifth-generation Polo at Tal-y-llyn in mid-Wales with Cader Idris as a dramatic backdrop, it was a doubly interesting event for me as I could wear both my professional and private hats. Our current Polo is a 1.2 with the 65 PS 3-cylinder petrol engine and for the new model the power has been increased to 70 PS. Also available is a 60 PS version but this is really a marginal power output for a car that has grown progressively larger even if it is now slightly lighter. Living as I do in the flatlands of the Welsh Marches I find the hilly terrain of mid-Wales to be a great performance leveller, and a buyer’s living location could well influence their choice of Polo with more powerful 1.2 TSI and 1.4 petrol engines and 1.6 diesels also available. Ride comfort, refinement and high quality interior have always been the Polo’s strong points, and these are further enhanced in the new model. And a crucial factor for me, the rear head restraints now

fold away to make it easier to create a capacious vanlike rear - which is often the case in the d-i-y Edwards household. But as I’ve often noticed before, not everything is necessarily better on a new model. For example Volkswagen has deleted the previous power struts which assist bonnet opening (cost saving?) and while the brightwork on the new dash looks very snazzy, it causes annoying reflections in the door mirrors. Still, it’s nothing a small tin of matt black paint wouldn’t cure! In the current financial crisis superminis are increasingly popular, and while the new-generation Polo has rather bland looks, this might be a deliberate policy to prevent the premature ageing that could be caused by a too avant garde design. Technically however the newcomer is a step forward, with a sophisticated Electronic Stabilisation Programme as standard, and significantly better economy with, for example, the 1.2 70 PS model returning a combined consumption of 51.4 mpg compared to the 47 mpg of the previous less powerful 65 PS version. In fact the Polo now looks remarkably similar to the slightly larger Golf, and gives Volkswagen fans the chance to downsize without too much loss of space or prestige. Unless the neighbours are car nuts they probably won’t notice the difference anyway! Trim levels are S, SE and SEL plus Moda which adds various gizmos aimed at attracting younger buyers. Prices of 3-door models start at £9,435 and 5-door models at £10,035.



Restaurant with rooms and cottages


A charming 18th century country house, with four luxury cottages in the grounds.

Grove hotel Narberth

& R E S T


The Grove Restaurant serves modern country food using locally sourced food wherever possible.

The Grove, Molleston, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, SA67 8BX TEL:

+44 (0)1834 860 915 +44 (0)7881 673 592 EMAIL:


Alistair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay Rick Steves Guide to Britain I-Escape, Fodor’s Visit Wales 4 Star TripAdvisor 94% • 4.5 Stars

Welsh Rarebits Wales in Style Penderyn Restaurant Award Good Food Guide 2008 Good Hotel Guide

boutique rooms • restaurant • gallery



T I O • 01824 704830

manorhaus, Well Street, Ruthin, Denbighshire, LL15 1AH


Falcondale Mansion Hotel Relax : Indulge : Refresh


SIR GAERFYRDDIN THE ANGEL, Salem, Llandeilo,Tel (01558) 823394 Former Welsh Chef of the Year Rod Peterson has built up a well deserved reputation for top quality produce and cooking at this highly acclaimed restaurant cum pub which features in The Good Food Guide. Swansea bay mussels with Thai green curry sauce, roast saddle of venison served with prune boudin, all done to perfection. Breads and ice creams are also freshly made on site. Two AA rosettes. From £20. From £22

FAIRYHILL BAR AND BRASSERIE @ MACHYNYS, Machynys Peninsula, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. Tel: (01554) 744994 (for Brasserie bookings) Looking onto the Loughor Estuary and the Gower, the ethos is consistent with that of Fairyhill at Reynoldston and the ambience is assisted by contemporary wood and slate. The Bar offers hot griddled paninis, and local pork sausages, mash & onion gravy, while the Brasserie serves dishes like real prawn cocktail & spicy sauce, and Machynys fishcakes, warm tartare sauce and steamed greens. Starters from £3.25, Main courses from £10.00.

Y FFIGYSBREN - THE FIG TREE, Dryslwyn Fawr, Llanarthne, Tel (01558) 668187. Converted from a threshing barn this stunning contemporary restaurant is Routier Listed with menus which include delicious slow roasted lamb shank in a port and black cherry sauce and pan fried chicken supreme with chorizo and sunblushed tomatoes. Wonderful home made puddings and ice creams also feature on the Sunday lunch set menu - £16.95. Accommodation available in 51cottages from £60.00 per day .

CEREDIGION THE FALCONDALE MANSION HOTEL, Llanbedr-pont-steffan / Lampeter, West Wales. Tel (01570) 422910. This Victorian mansion is situated at the head of a forested valley, overlooking the university and market town of Llanbedr-pontsteffan/Lampeter, in fourteen acres of parkland with a ten-acre lake. Signature dishes on the Brasserie menu include Pantysgawn goats’ cheese croute, braised lamb ‘Henrietta’ with a honey and mustard sauce, and banana fritters in cinnamon sugar as a dessert. From £18

GWYNEDD BODYSGALLEN HALL, Llandudno, Tel (01492) 584466 A magnificent seventeenth century country house surrounded by wonderful gardens, with traditional country house style cooking. Sample the baked Welsh goat’s cheese soufflé, baked turbot with noodles and a Provençale dressing and chocolate fondant to finish. From £22

PLAS BODEGROES, Pwllheli, Tel (01758) 612363

Lampeter, Ceredigion 01570 422910

Crug-Glas Country House 22222 Situated near St Davids, 1 mile inland from the coast, offering accommodation of the highest standard, rooms with copper baths to double spa baths and four poster beds. In the dining room we offer outstanding food using the finest local produce. ABEREIDDY, SOLVA, HAVERFORDWEST, PEMBROKESHIRE, SA62 6XX TEL: 01348 831302 EMAIL:

Elegant, romantic and unpretentious. A very pretty Georgian house set in beautiful grounds with something for every season. A classic menu with style: seared breast of pigeon on bubble and squeak, smoked chicken and celeriac soup, kebab of mountain lamb on a bed of cous cous, apricot and ginger parfait. Michelin Star Sunday lunch £17.50 Appetiser and three courses £40

MORGANNWG FAIRYHILL, Reynoldston, Gower, Nr Swansea, Tel (01792) 390139 This charming hotel has ample grounds to explore, including woodland and a trout stream. A wide variety of choices on the menu include chicken and laverbread sausage, Welsh Black fillet of beef with a crispy won ton and chilli sauce, followed by seasonal poached pears in red wine. From £18.95

CASNEWYDD / NEWPORT THE CHANDLERY RESTAURANT, Newport, NP20 EHTel (01633) 256622 Beautifully restored Grade 2 listed building – a relaxing place to dine. Former National Chef of Wales, Simon Newcombe and wife Jane have achieved accolades in all major food guides, including 2AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Seasonal à la carte and business lunch menus updated regularly on website. Enjoy Trio of Duck (potted duck, Lady Llanover salt duck, foie gras), Roast Loin of Brecon Venison with balsamic braised red cabbage, pommes cocotte, Hot Chocolate Fondant with white chocolate mousse, milk chocolate sorbet. 3 course a la carte approx. £27.00. 3 course business lunch £12.95.

PENFRO LLYS MEDDYG, Trefdraeth / Newport. Tel (01239) 820008 A cosy bar, walls hung with paintings by Peter Daniels, an open fire and candlelight, provide an intimate atmosphere. To start, try the DoubleSmoked Salmon Surprise, followed by Supreme of Organic Chicken with Ginger, Lime and Green Onion, and the Chocolate Orange Truffle Cake for dessert. From £19.

POWYS BARN AT BRYNICH, Brynich, Aberhonddu/Brecon, Tel (01874) 623480 Converted 17th Century barn restaurant in a beautiful courtyard setting with panoramic views of the Brecon Beacons. Also self catering accommodation adjoining. Superb seasonal menus featuring home grown and local produce including Welsh Black Beef and Breconshire lamb. Main courses from £9 to £18.

CARLTON RIVERSIDE (formerly Carlton House) Llanwrtyd Wells, Tel (01591) 610 248 This restaurant with rooms has changed location but maintained its strong culinary identity in Britain’s smallest town. With an impressive backdrop, the menu is as breathtaking as the scenery that surrounds it, inside and out! The menu embraces the ingredients of Wales but unleashes them in a European style that shows itself in such dishes as the Warm Salad of Seared Scallops, which incorporates Carmarthen ham and the Roast Fillet of Local Beef with a morel and Madeira sauce. Daily Menu £35 for four courses. Room rates from £40

FELIN FACH GRIFFIN, Felin Fach, Nr Aberhonddu/Brecon, Tel (01874) 620111 This is a traditional, farmhouse style inn, with a very relaxed atmosphere. It has a good variety of seasonal soups, gazpacho being one of them, divine Wye salmon, accompanied by new potatoes with chive butter, and home made chocolate mousse, making it simple yet still managing to get the taste buds going! From £18

LAKE VYRNWY HOTEL & SPA, Llanwddyn, Powys, SY10 0LY Tel: 01691 870 692 Our menus reflect a genuine enthusiasm for food, using the very best local ingredients and classical bases and reductions to produce modern British cuisine. Our restaurant overlooks the stunning Vyrnwy reservoir and dishes include: Seared tuna loin, glazed with Welsh rarebit on a tomato and red onion salad, followed by Roast shoulder and cutlet of lamb, smoked bacon, pea and leek compote with braised shallots and garlic. For dessert Rhubarb clafoutis tart with vanilla ice cream, served in a tuille basket. 3 course lunch £19.50, 5 course dinner £39.95

MYNWY THE BELL AT SKENFRITH, Monmouthshire, Tel (01600 750235) (OS 457200)

THE DRAGON INN, Crughywel /Crickhowell, Powys NP8 1BE. Tel (01873) 810362 www.dragoncrickhow-

More a restaurant with eight extremely comfortable rooms, The Bell is perched on the banks of the River Monnow, surrounded by beautiful Welsh countryside. The regularly changing menu offers fresh, seasonal food from mainly local suppliers with vegetables, herbs and fruit from The Bell’s own kitchen garden. Scallops, Fillet of Welsh Beef and Steamed Sponge Pudding, Earl Grey Syrup and Jam-on-Toast Ice Cream are some of the hot favourites. The wine list is extensive and very good value. After eating, try one of The Bell’s very popular walks. This Grade II2, Visit Wales 32, historic Inn on Crickhowell High Street has been providing hospitality for over 400 years. Under head chef Robert Duggan the restaurant offers a combination of traditional British and modern European dishes, sourcing local meat and vegetables. Fish is brought in daily from Plymouth and Swansea. Dishes include Monkfish & Prawns in a creamy, garlic sauce; pheasant with Stilton and bacon on braised red cabbage and port wine sauce; breast of duck on wilted Pakchoy with egg noodles and honey & soy dressing.

If it’s not here, how can we recommend it?!


A centuries-old inn set in the heart of the beautiful Ceiriog Valley - “The Valley of the Poets” - some of the most breathtaking countryside in Wales. Superb cuisine, freshly prepared from locally sourced produce with a minimum of fuss and formality and, of course, drinks for every taste. Comfortable accommodation in ‘Character’ and ‘Country’ rooms, maintained to the highest standards.


01691 60 06 66 E:


Llangoed Hall


Voted Wales' Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year 2010


01874 754525


01874 754545

The Dragon Inn

Some of the finest food in Wales Please contact us for up to date special offers or visit LLANDRILLO, NR. CORWEN, DENBIGHSHIRE, NORTH WALES LL21 0ST 01490 440264 FAX 01490 440414 EMAIL



The hotel is open all year for lunch and dinner except Sunday evenings. The Dragon is a superb base for exploring Powys, Gwent and the South Eastern Valleys.

5 star country house hotel. AA finalist 2009/10, Landlady of the Year. Restaurant open to non-residents Friday to Saturday.


Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa

LLANDYRNOG, NR. DENBIGH, LL16 4LA Tel: 01824 790732 Email:


Lake Vyrnwy Hotel & Spa, Llanwddyn, Powys, SY10 OLY

Telephone 01691 870 692 to make a booking EMAIL:

TEL: 01492 585486


TheWelsh Kitchen


A custard pie for Christmas


hristmas and New Year are around the corner and we should be celebrating and being festive; in the cold and dark of Winter this is an affirmation of our thanks and appreciation for the gift of life and all the beauty and goodness it has to offer. My turkey is, at the moment, happily gobbling away (turkeys are nice, gregarious creatures, if you talk to them they talk back) and running about the place. I know mine has had a very good and happy life, probably a longer life than most, and he has been fed well. I am going to make sure that I make him (or her) as delicious as I can and that every single morsel, from neck and gizzard to carcass are used. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case for many birds. Chicken doesn’t really taste very ‘chickeny’ these days. Mostly, it is a bland, ‘non-threatening’ (no bits of gristle or lumps of discernible fat) pale meat which lends itself well to a variety of flavourings; the inevitable outcome of a very short (and quite probably miserable) life on an uninteresting diet, and a catalogue of antibiotics to boot. It is strange to think that once it was a luxury, kept for special occasions, perhaps even for Christmas. Happily, awareness of the horrors of factory farmed chicken is now quite widespread and the majority of eggs bought by the public are of the happier sort. Recently, I went to a very pleasurable evening at Y Polyn in Nantgaredig, hosted by Freedom Food (the highlight of which was a fantastic, light custard tart served with plums baked with honey and cider). The Freedom Food label shows that the RSPCA’s standards of animal welfare, from birth to slaughter, have been met. In essence, they want the public to vote with their feet - the majority of eggs used by the catering trade, meaning anything from factories to restaurants, are still battery farmed. Freedom Food would like the public to make a point when they visit restaurants or cafes, or buy sandwiches, of asking what type of eggs are used, and make it clear that they would prefer happily laid eggs. In the country, of course, most of us are lucky enough to have quite a few ethical egg farmers around; many of them run an honesty box system or are quite happy to supply passers-by who drop in. Y Polyn, in Nantgaredig, Sir Gâr, has rightly becomed famous for good food and great atmosphere. You may have followed the television series about Simon Wright and his efforts to supply good organic produce fror the Polyn’s kitchen. Here is Y Polyn’s delicious Custard Tart. The pastry recipe allows extra for mince pies, at this time of the year I always make double the amount, it will keep for several days in the fridge and mince pies actually keep for quite a long time. If you are too busy, bought pastry is actually pretty good too. Y Polyn’s Custard Tart INGREDIENTS PASTRY:

12oz flour 1/2lb butter



3oz caster sugar 1 egg yolk Ice cold water FILLING:

8 egg yolks 1 pint of double cream 3oz sugar METHOD FOR THE PASTRY:

Butter a 20cm flan dish - I find metal ones work best, the pastry ends up crisper. The blender works very well with pastry; I use the pulse button and start with just the flour and butter, giving a few quick bursts until it is the texture of breadcrumbs, then I add the sugar and egg yolk, (Maryann of Y Polyn suggests adding a pinch of nutmeg to the pastry too), and give another burst or two (if it does seem too dry a bit of ice cold water) until the pastry starts to cling together. Then push it into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll out to about the thickness of a pound coin and line the flan dish. Prick with a fork - this stops air bubbles forming - cover with greaseproof paper and pour rice or dried beans over to weigh it down. Bake in a moderate oven, gas mark 5-6 or 180C for 12–15 minutes. Remove the greaseproof paper and beans (these can be used again and again), paint the pastry with beaten egg and put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes. Bear in mind the pastry case will keep well, so it can be done a day or two ahead.


Bring the cream to the boil, beat the sugar with the egg yolks, remove the cream from the heat and whisk them in. Pour the custard mix into the cooked pastry case, grate some nutmeg over the top and bake at 120, or gas mark 3 for about half an hour. It may have a slight ‘wobble’, but this is fine, as it will carry on cooking for a short while, but if it still looks raw in the middle, put it back in for a bit longer.

Good hot or cold, its deliciousness lies in its simplicity. MWYNHEWCH!

EGG SUPPLIERS: • Efail Fach, Llanddarog Road, Capel Dewi, T: 07899 808220

• BirchgroveTrawscoed, Aberystwyth, T: 01974 261286 RESTAURANT :

Y Polyn, Capel Dewi, Nantgaredig, Sir Gâr SA32 7LH. 01267 290000. E:


Hotels & Restaurants FOURTEEN Chapel Street Llandudno Conwy LL30 2SY T: 01492 876437


wanted to keep this to myself but since it’s coming up to Christmas I’ll share a little secret with you. My first visit to Llandudno was made very special by a stay in one of the most comfortable hostelries I’ve yet experienced. Simply named Fourteen (yes, you’ve got it) this small hotel (‘B&B’ just isn’t appropriate) occupies a neat and charming Victorian house (built circa 1846) which once served as a vicarage, in a leafy street just a stone’s throw from Llandudno’s corniche, and a short walk away from the town’s centre. Run by energetic and enthusiastic mother and daughter team Posi and Sarah, Fourteen has just two luxury double en-suite rooms each named, designed and decorated in unique and immaculate style with a great deal of thought, care and panache. The duo are fiercely dedicated to their craft, they are both fully qualified cookery teachers and Master Chefs, so it will come as no surprise that the hotel boasts a 4-star restaurant with seating for 20 guests. Booking is essential and meals are cooked to order from an well-conceived à la carte menu designed to feature the very best of locally-sourced pro-

duce. There is an extensive wine-list and a fully-licensed bar. Since I was attending a conference dinner during my stay I wasn’t able to sample Fourteen’s menu, however I am destined to return and will do so in the near future. However I thoroughly enjoyed a fine breakfast with local bacon, organic eggs and an array of home-made breads and croissants. And test of all tests for the seasoned traveller...the coffee was spot on. Since there was, obviously, only one other couple staying, breakfast could be enjoyed in quiet and leisurely fashion. Fourteen is definitely a place for the mature and discerning, and it will please many to know that they don’t accommodate children. Pleasant surroundings, delightful service and a friendly welcome. It can’t get much better than that, can it? C L-P Restaurant reviews continued on page 70


Ancre Hill Vineyard Cottage

Newly refurbished luxury three-bedroom cottage in idyllic rural position overlooking the vineyard and the Wye Valley, yet only 10 mins walk from the centre of Monmouth. Sun trap patio with BBQ & use of tennis court. Welcome pack on arrival, with Estate Wine. Discounts on cases of Estate Wine. Mid-week and weekend breaks available as well as weekly lets. £495 - £750 per week/2 persons. £50 extra per person over 2. TEL:

also in aberystwyth

01600 714152 FAX: 01600 713784 EMAIL:





The amateur arts deserve a better deal JERRY FONGE


here is an old adage: better the professional amateur than an amateur professional. And the Arts Council for Wales needs reminding of this during the formulation of its plans for a cashstrapped future, because the Council’s recently-published Investment Review strongly suggests that support for the amateur sector will be, at very least, lukewarm. This is what Council has to say: "Amateurs and volunteers are as much a part of the cultural DNA of Wales as our award-winning artists and national companies. Much of their activity is unfunded, has its own structures and economy – it’s largely the business of no one else other than those who choose to use their leisure time in this way. By and large this won’t be an area of Arts Council priority, but we need to be careful. A heavy handed emphasis on clear cut distinctions between amateur and professional can in some cases be culturally irrelevant, even damaging to emerging arts practice." Our real concern must lies in the statement that the amateur arts are



"largely the business of no one else other than those who choose to use their leisure time this way." This implies, at best, that those involved in the amateur arts are of little value to society; at worst, they are akin to the practitioners of bondage. Thus the term "cultural DNA" stands purely as cliché, for the artistic DNA of the amateur must at all times enjoy the potential to develop into the professional of the future particularly, and most importantly, among young people. Remember that two of our finest singers of today, Marc and Wyn Evans, were both products of the highly-successful Carmarthen Youth Opera. To what extent would Jason Howard, the former fireman, and Paul Potts, the former mobile ‘phone salesman, been able to develop their talents (long after finishing their formal education) had it not been for their involvement in a vigorous amateur sector? The list of other such successes would be too long to publish, but the point is made: out of the world of amateur performance have emerged many of Wales’ ‘awardwinning artists’ and World-class professionals. Moreover, it is the DNA of the amateur forum at a youth level which sets in place much of the knowledge, experience and cultural references which drive ambition and sustain standards in all disciplines at in the professional arena. So it would be dangerously flippant to suggest that our formal education system ought to be perfectly capable of encouraging and developing our ‘award-winning’ artists of the future. Not so: it is in the amateur sector, well beyond the school gates, that our young people are best able to explore, develop and perfect skills way beyond the expectations of the curriculum. Many a

young musician has discovered that achieving Grade 8 is one thing: becoming immersed in a mixed-age, amateur orchestra is an experience almost more valuable than the exam certificate hanging on the bedroom wall. However, we must remember, particularly, that in Wales, the need for a financially strong and artistically vigorous amateur arts sector is vitally necessary - for two compelling reasons. The very geography of the country effectively restricts the professional sector to the M4 and A55 corridors, wherein live the best opportunities for developing and sustaining substantive audiences. In the meantime, a vast swathe of the nation remains ill-served, save for visits by those companies which need little more than a Transit van to transport them from venue to venue. This is not to disparage such companies, be they devoted to dance, music or drama: they do sterling and invaluable work, but (as always, there is a but) their efforts can rarely be fully appreciated if their audiences are sparse and, moreover, lack an understanding of artistic performance through their own paucity of amateur endeavour. Almost inevitably, it is from within an active amateur sector that a true demand for professional performance arises. The second compelling reason is possibly the more important. Our communities are becoming increasingly socially-fragmented; the power of television and the internet is often irresistible. Sophisticated marketing techniques seduce us away from our communities and into the arms of entirely commercial, mass entertainment ventures. The arts at an amateur level - given the backing they deserve - should strive to counter this, and help rebuild the spirit of those commu-

sionals should best placed to manage their "own structures and economy" (for they would not otherwise be deemed professional) and mull on the following. Television, the commercial entertainments sector and the recording and film industries have upped the ante: audiences for amateur performances expect

higher standards than existed 30 or 40 years ago - as do amateur performers. The professional sector - in its most apparent and constantly available form - has set bench marks for its amateur equivalent. Here, in West Wales - well beyond the point where the M4 dissipates into A roads, and A

TheWales Yearbook The Annual Reference Book of Public Affairs in Wales Wales in Westminster: Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Secretary of State, The Wales Office Register of MPs’ Interests, etc Guide to the 2010 General Election: Electoral facts, History and Analysis Profiles of Constituencies Members and Candidates Prospects and Predictions The National Assembly for Wales: The Assembly Commission Membership of Committees Questions & Contributions to Debate Register of AMs’ Interests, etc

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nities which increasingly exist only as geographically-defined administrative settlements. Only the amateur sector can produce small orchestras involving musicians covering a 60-year agespan. Only the amateur sector can draw kids away from their computers - and single pensioners from their lonely hearthside - to bring together a pantomime. Only in the amateur sector can those who have chosen not to perform at a professional level continue practising their talents. Only through the amateur sector can those professionals who live within communities (the secondary-school drama teacher, the former TV director, the writer, the retired musician) inject into those communities the full benefits of their skills and experience. But above all, only - and only in the amateur sector can whole families share in the spirit of achieving and succeeding If anyone should suspect that the Arts Council assumes that the amateur sector is better able to ‘mend and make do’ than its professional counterpart, they need look no further than the key sentence: "Much of their activity is unfunded, has its own structures and economy – it’s largely the business of no one else other than those who choose to use their leisure time in this way." The Council is treading on dangerous ground here. Let us set aside the passing thought that profes-

roads give way to B roads, and narrow lanes trickle along valleys to isolated settlements, professional performances are forever welcome, but infrequent. So it is left to the amateur performers - the singers, choirs, dancers, musicians, comedians, orchestras, theatre companies and bands who live within our communities - to fill the void and

keep the cultural pulse pulsing and the continued social decline of our communities at bay. Thus it is ironic that, while the Assembly Government constantly frets about the economic and social well-being of rural Wales, the Arts Council appears to be quietly abandoning the one area in which so much could be achieved in re-invigorating

our communities - and for relatively little outlay. So let the Welsh Arts Council be unequivocally reminded: in rural Wales, the importance of the arts extends well beyond the purely artistic. Throughout history the, very foundations of community cohesion and activity have been sport and artistic endeavour.

Hotels & Restaurants THE FEATHERS ROYAL HOTEL Sgwar Alban Aberaeron Ceredigion SA46 0AQ T: 01545 571740


or many years the town of Aberaeron has relied on one restaurant for top class food and now, at last, there is another. The Feathers Royal is one of Wales’s old coaching inns situated in the heart of this popular seaside town in Ceredigion. Recently totally renovated by its new owners Richard and Lee Collier this three



star accommodation now has two restaurants, one for bar meals and snacks and the other for fine dining. Both are under the supervision of head chef Colin Davies who has definitely added his mark to the food produced. It is of the highest standard both in taste and presentation, and yet the cost of the meals are very reasonable, something else that both visitors and local customers will be pleased about. My partner and I had previously eaten bar meals there and were amazed at the quality and value for money so we now wanted to sample the dinner menu. The choice is manageable with a good variety of options and there is an accompanying wine list with a wide range of good value options. To start with I had a warm salmon and smoked fish terrine with beurre blanc which was soft, moist and full of flavour; my partner had pan-seared scallops with black pudding, apple and balsamic syrup all of which combined to make a really interesting taste experience. To accompany the starters, we had a selection of home-made breads including a heavenly walnut one. For our main courses I had a trio of Welsh lamb (roasted rack, braised shoulder and pan-fried

liver) all of which were cooked to perfection and accompanied by fondant potato and a rosemary sauce. My partner had a succulent, soft, tenderloin of pork wrapped in Carmarthen ham, on a rösti potato and with a grain mustard sauce, all of which complimented each other perfectly. A side dish of fresh, perfectly cooked, seasonal vegetables was also enjoyed. For wines, my partner tried the house French Chardonnay and Merlot, both of which were excellent value. To end our gastronomic evening I had the most delicious dark chocolate terrine with fresh raspberries and my partner had a raspberry brulée with shortbread biscuits. These really were some of the best desserts I have tasted in a long time. This restaurant is really making a mark on the food map of Ceredigion and is a place that I shall definitely be revisiting in the future.R J




dych chi erioed wedi meddwl am liwiau? Byddai bywyd yn ddiflas iawn pe tai popeth yn ddu a gwyn!

neu’r cyfryngau eraill yn pardduo eich enw achos eich bod chi’n enwog? Y tro nesaf rydych chi’n darllen rhywbeth cas am berson enwog, meddyliwch amdanyn nhw â pharddu drostyn nhw!

Gwyn - mor wyn â’r eira Coch - mor goch â thân Mae pawb yn gwybod am y Ddraig Goch, wrth gwrs baner Cymru. Os mae bochau person yn mynd yn goch achos bod y person yna yn teimlo’n swil, neu yn teimlo cywilydd, rydyn ni’n dweud bod y person yn cochi. Byddech chi’n cochi pe taech chi’n gweld cylchgrawn coch.

Glas - mor las â’r awyr Y dyddiau yma, mae glas yn golygu lliw clychau’r gog ond amser maith yn ôl roedd glas yn golygu lliw glaswellt (“gwellt glas”, hynny yw). Os ydych chi’n gweld y gair glas neu las mewn enw tref neu enw tyˆ, fel arfer yr hen ystyr sydd yn yr enw. Pan mae’r tir yn glasu yn y gwanwyn, mae e’n dangos glesni y planhigion newydd. Rydyn ni’n defnyddio’r gair glas i ddisgrifio glesni pethau naturiol fel glaswellt, coed, caeau a bryniau. Rydyn ni’n dweud gwyrdd am bethau fel ceir a dillad. Achos bod y gair glas yn disgrifio planhigion newydd, ifanc, rydyn ni’n dweud glasfyfyriwr am fyfyriwr sy’n dechrau yn y brifysgol, ac wythnos gyntaf y tymor cyntaf yw Wythnos y Glas. Wrth gwrs, yn y brifysgol mae pob myfyriwr yn ceisio ei orau glas i gael gradd dda. Os ydych chi’n rhoi dw ˆr mewn llaeth, mae’r llaeth yn troi’n las golau, golau. Rydych chi wedi glastwreiddio’r llaeth felly (“dw ˆr glas”).

Melyn - mor felyn â’r haul. Mae hi’n drist gweld hen lyfr neu hen bapur newydd a’r tudalennau i gyd wedi melynu. Weithiau, os ydy llyfr wedi bod mewn ystafell damp, mae’r tudalennau yn llwydo hefyd, sy’n drueni mawr. Mae dannedd a bysedd rhai ysmygwyr yn melynu hefyd, gwaetha’r modd. Diolch byth, mae pawb yn gwybod, Nid aur yw popeth melyn.

Du - mor ddu â bol buwch ddu Y dyddiau yma, mae llawer o bobl eisiau bod yn enwog fel Tom Jones neu Bryn Terfel. Ond faint o bobl sy’n meddwl pa mor ofnadwy y byddai hi pe tai’r papurau newydd

Yn ogystal â golygu lliw’r eira, mae gwyn yn gallu golygu hardd. Unwaith eto, os ydych chi’n gweld y gair gwyn, wyn, gwen neu wen mewn enw tref neu enw tyˆ, fel arfer mae e’n golygu hardd. Os mae mam (neu dad) yn meddwl bod ei phlentyn yn berffaith, a byth yn gwneud dim byd drwg, rydyn ni’n dweud, Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw. Ond does dim ots pa mor hardd mae person, dros amser mae pawb yn mynd yn hen ac mae gwallt pawb yn gwynnu. Mae mwy o eiriau i ddisgrifio lliwiau - arian, euraid, llwyd, gwyrddlas, llwydlas, piws, oren - ond, gwaetha’r modd, dwi ddim yn gallu cofio dim dywediadau lliwgar amdanyn nhw. Ond ydych chi wedi clywed am y Tebot Piws? Geirfa

Arian ceisio ei orau glas clychau’r gog Coch Cochi at ei glustiau Dywediad, dywediadau Euraid Glasfyfyriwr, glasfyfyrwyr Glastwreiddio Glasu Glaswellt Glesni Gwelltyn, gwellt Gwyrddlas Gwyn Gwyn y gwêl y frân ei chyw Gwynnu Lliwgar Llwyd Llwydlas Llwydo Melynu mor goch â thân Nid aur yw popeth melyn Oren Parddu Pardduo Piws Wythnos y Glas

silver to try one’s level best blue bells red, obscene to blush to one’s ears saying golden fresher to dilute to become green grass greenness straw turquoise white, beautiful The crow thinks her chick is beautiful. to turn white (hair) colourful grey blue-grey to go mouldy to become yellow as red as fire All that glisters is not gold orange soot to vilify purple Freshers’ Week




wlwm Celtaidd (Celtic Knot) is an “international” Celtic festival with representation from every Celtic country in dance, music and song. I’ve attended every one since it started in 2002 and have witnessed its success and growth over seven years. This year it was sponsored by Llanelli’s Felinfoel brewery who provided their range of ales including their new, aptly named, “Celtic Pride” bitter weighing in at a strong 5%abv. Derec Smith, the ever-busy festival organiser and founder of Celtic rock group Mabon, is the driving force behind the festival, ably assisted by a loyal team of deputies who man and woman the stalls, arrange the venues, sound systems etc. ensuring everyone can relax in convivial manner. I was thrilled to see such a wide range of concerts and activities being held this year. Dance groups included Landers (Eire), Christine Williams Dance Party (Alba), Perree Bane (Man) and Traed ar Dan, Dawnswyr Penyfai and Tawerin (Cymru). The range of musicians was equally impressive and wide ranging including: Brigyn. Gwyneth Glyn, Calan, Gwelloc’h, The Mollag Band, The Midden, Colum Regan, Reeling Stones, and the list goes on, suffice it to say that all six Celtic nations provided some of their best indigenous talent. If you want variety then there’s something here for every possible taste in Celtic music: pipes, fiddles, percussion, Celtic rock and traditional all under one roof! The festival kicked off on Thursday evening with an opening concert featuring the Red Hot Chilli Pipers at the Grand Pavilion. It finished in the small hours of Monday morning and comprised afternoon and evening sessions on two main stages at Coney Beach. During this long weekend the bars and restaurants are always open. Each evening ends with a Gaelic (Manx, Irish or Scottish) Ceilidh, Welsh Noson Lawen or Breton Fest Noz where everybody can join in, let their hair down and dance till they drop! This year I’ve whittled down my personal favourites to four outstanding performances. The first was by the up



and coming Welsh band Calan led by Angharad Jenkins, daughter of the noted poet Nigel, from Abertawe. I had seen them the previous week for the first time at CeltFest in the Cardiff International arena on the day of the Wales/Ireland match. I’d prefer to forget about the match, which Wales lost in the dying moments, but will never forget the impression made by Calan on myself and the rest of the 3,000 strong audience. Their talent shines through as does the arrangement of their set pieces. You’ll hear more about them as the word gets around. The Mollag Band from Ynys Manaw offered something new and refreshing in their style of singing. The lead singer was outstanding in both Manx and English as were his three female accompanists. Gwyneth Glyn sang almost entirely in Welsh and one has to understand the language to appreciate the beauty of her carefully crafted lyrics. She uses her memories, colours, the weather, and various animals to paint clear images in your mind’s eye. Very impressive. My other favourite was The Harriet Earis Trio who describe themselves as “Celtic Jazz Fusion” playing harp, bass and drums. It is obvious that Harriet enjoys her music enormously as she smiled and laughed her way throughout her time on stage. She has the ability to play at full throttle whilst retaining outstanding clarity and style. Mabon were at their usual best on Saturday night and Gwelloc’h provided us with the opportunity to join in a Breton “gavotte”, which always goes down well with festival goers. If you are interested in the Celtic music scene and would like to socialise with fellow Celts, then Cwlwm Celtaidd is a must. It offers a wonderful opportunity to meet and make friends, to enjoy the exciting atmosphere and savour the kaleidoscope of cultures that are to be found in the concert halls, bars and eateries. 5th – 7th March Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl TEL: 01656 766667


The Corner House Gallery Oriel Tyˆ Cornel An artist-run Fine Art Gallery Original Landscape & Wildlife paintings of Wales by Wendy Powell-Jones, Anthony Richards, David Bellamy, Jenny Keal

Meirion Jones Originals and Prints OPENING HOURS: 9.00 - 5.30 MONDAY




01239 621370

Sunset at Rhossili by Anthony Richards

Thinking of what to give for Christmas? We stock a wide variety of Original Paintings and Limited Edition prints depicting the landscape and wildlife of Wales. We also provide Gift Vouchers.

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NINNAU (pronounced nin-eye means ‘us, we also’) is the monthly newspaper published with you in mind. It features news of people and events in the W e l s h community in the US, Canada, and W a l e s, with articles on W e l s h history, music, legends, culture, language, travel, genealogy and much, much more. DON'T MISS ANY OF WHAT NINNAU HAS TO OFFER YOU! One year subscription (11 issues) to Great Britain by surface mail send £15 (airmail £25); for US surface mail $20.00 (CAN $26.50), air US $35.00 (CAN $45.00), for other countries: surface US $25.00, air US $35.00, to:

NINNAU PUBLICATIONS 11 Post Terrace, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920, USA T: (001) 908 766-4151 F: (001) 908 221-0744 E:

ALSO AVAILABLE AT WELSH BOOKSTORES ADVERTISERS: NINNAU is your key to the North American Welsh market. Fax us your request for ad rates.

Below Tryfan by Wendy Powell Jones

If you would like to learn to paint or build on existing skills, we run Painting & Drawing Courses and Workshops throughout the year. Tutor:Wendy Powell-Jones

GALLERY OPENING TIMES 10.00 -5.00 Tuesday – Saturday 38 QUAY ST., AMMANFORD Tel: 01269 594959 A Collector Plan Gallery


hot in Wales

ALAN PERCY WALKER EXHIBITION AT THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES The NLW will be holding an exhibition of the works of Alan Percy Walker. A Detailed Look will be on show throughout December and January until 12 February 2010. The exhibition will feature mostly locations across Wales, including The National Library of Wales and Portmeirion. Walker, is best known for his detailed watercolour townscapes and marine landscapes, and has been commissioned by ALAN PERCY WALKER: ‘Portmeirion’

various institutions: the National Trust, several universities, and also, on several occasions, to paint the gold medal-winning garden at the R.H.S Chelsea Flower Show.


AT THE ROYAL CAMBRIAN ACADEMY Upper Gallery: Richard Wilson: Life and Legacy. It is hard to believe that before the middle of the eighteenth century natural landscapes were regarded as unpleasant wasteland. Richard Wilson (1713–1768) was part of the artistic movement that influenced a change in this attitude. Richard Wilson: Life and Legacy is an exhibition of his paintings which provides a rare RICHARD WILSON: ‘Neath Castle Glamorganshire’

(Brinsley Ford Collection-16)

opportunity to view his work, this is being held at the Royal Cambrian Academy until 23rd December. Known as ‘the father of English

landscape painting’, a description that sat uncomfortably with him, his reputation as a major landscape painter in London and Rome was established by 1760, and enabled him to make his own country fashionable as a subject. He was a great influence on Turner and many other painters of that era. For opening times see or call 01492 593413 This is an excellent opportunity to view rarely seen work by the eighteenth century Welsh artist. 24th October-23rd December 2009


held in Abergavenny, if you are looking for Welsh delicacies and specialities the participants and winners provide a good starting place. A comprehensive list can be found at Deiniol ap Dafydd of Blas ar Fwyd Cyfyngedig in Llanrwst was named True Taste Champion. He and his wife opened their delicatessen in 1988. They stock wines and foods from all over Wales and from across the world, the shop is packed with an amazing selection of basic ingredients as well as on-farm Welsh cheeses, almost everything else is own-made, including jams, pickles and chutneys, pâtés, salads, cakes – the list is endless. 01492 640215


situated behind the West Wales Art Gallery in Fishguard doubles as a facility for music recitals, lectures and meetings; the Café is fast establishing itself with a high reputation for fine food and wines in restful and pleasing surroundings. It also has a small delicatessen. Open during gallery hours, it has recitals, wine tastings and various themed events on occasional evenings. Telephone to add yourself to their database and you will receive advance notice of these 16 West Street, Fishguard, SA65 9AE

01348 873867

Cambria Magazine Winter 2009  

Cambria magazine Winter 09 issue

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