cyfrol/volume 13 rhif/number 2
this issue’s cover n
Plaid Cymru Leadership
We speak to the three candidates
The life and times of photographer Terry Morris
The NBGW approaches its teens Y CLAWR / THE COVER: Kelly Jones, Terry Morris
features & regulars n 05 Editor’s Letter Welcome to this issue
n 06 Letters & Comment Letters and comments from our readers
n 09 Be Swift Before It’s Too Late Jeremy Fonge on the declining swift numbers in Wales
n 10 Confused Dr Alan Sandry on the language of politics, place and identity
n 11 Obituary The passing of a committed political activist
n 18 How to secede Siôn Jobbins keeps it tidy
n 20 Henry Richard Gwyn Griffiths looks at the life of the “Apostle of Peace”
n 24 Arthur and the Twrch Trwyth Margaret Jones of the trail of a mythical boar
n 26 The Scranton Connection
n 40 Jonah Jones A polmath of the arts
n 46 A View of the Straits Eluned Meredith visits the Menai Straits
n 48 Golf Byron Kalies twists the Dragon’s Tail
n 50 Rygbi Miranda Morton dons a red shirt
n 52 Books and Reviews Meic Stephens has a quiet post-Christmas read, and our reviewers look at some recent publications
n 58 A Taff in the Land of the Gogs Tom Davies answers a New Year urge
n 60 Opera Norma Lord discovers ‘much ado about lurve’ at the WNO
n 62 Music & Film Reviews
The rich Welsh musical history of Scranton, USA
Boyd Clack, a labourer in love; an exploration of the Breton national anthem
n 25 Welsh Waves Over the Rules
n 64 Motoring
Vicky Moller hopes for changes for the better
John A. Edwards looks far eastwards
n 28 Nature Diary
n 66 The Welsh Kitchen
Chris Kinsey squelches into spring
Elizabeth Luard enjoys a fine meal out
n 30 Pass Storming at Night
n 70 What’s Hot in Wales
Keith Fainchey looks back at a night on the passes
Upcoming events to take note of
from the editor
cyfrol/volume 13 rhif/number 2
meic stephens is a journalist and poet and has written, edited and translated some 150 books about our country’s culture. siôn jobbins is a regular and valued contributor to Welsh periodicals 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. norma lord is a lifelong opera lover and music journalist. carl ryan is a professional photographer specialising in extreme sports photography. john keates is an award-winning photographer and contributor to international news magazines. chris kinsey is a poet and winner of he 2008 bbc Wildlife Poet of the Year Competition.
founder Henry Jones-Davies patrons & friends Jan Morris D. Huw John Alan Jobbins D.W. Bevan Berwyn & Martha Jones Howard Potter Aneurin Jones Helga Martin Meredydd & Phyllis Evans Peter N. Williams Sam Adams Professor Meic Stephens Wil Aaron
mari owen is a professional photographer specialising in the landscape of Wales. tom davies is an adventurer, journalist, travel writer, diarist and novelist. adam salkeld is a writer and television executive who lives in Llandeilo and Zanzibar. He is currently Head of Programmes at Tinopolis in Wales and a director of the Aga Khan’s Nation Media Group in East Africa.
cambria - the national magazine of wales © 2010. 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 bi-monthly by Cyhoeddwyr Cambria Cyfyngedig, po box 22, caerfyrddin/ carmarthen, SA32 7YH, Cymru/Wales. issn: 2046-2409. All material submitted must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed 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 Cambria 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.
If you believe in Cambria and would like to be a part of it, become a shareholder or help in any way, please call: 07810 648 438
Chwefror 2012 February 2012
from the editor
editor Frances Jones-Davies
political editor Clive Betts associate editor Jeremy Fonge literary editor Meic Stephens editor-at-large Siôn T. Jobbins motoring editor John A. Edwards art direction Louise Waring photography David Williams, Carl Ryan, Mari Owen, John Keates webmaster Chris Jones
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wedi ei greu a’i gyhoeddi gyda balchder gan y cymry yng nghymru proudly produced and published by the welsh in wales
y thoughts for the last few weeks have been dominated by the news that we were not successful in our bid for continued support under the Periodical Franchise Grant via the Welsh Books Council. For the last six years we have been recipients of a small grant under this scheme, it was not enough to make a significant difference overall to Cambria but it did enable us to pay (some, those directly concerned with book sales or literature) contributors. From an editorial point of view it gave the power of commission, and very importantly, in the current climate in which the possibility of payment for writers is narrowing, anything that broadens that range is to be welcomed. We have, for years, contested the parameters of the grant; it does not present a level playing field for applicants. In its current set up the only way to achieve success is to go head to head with one of the current recipients. The panel, made up of some of our leading academics and intellectuals has little practical experience in the business of editing and publishing aimed at a wider audience. I believe that the return we gave on this investment, under the guidance of Meic Stephens, was outstandingly good value, not only in terms of space given over to books but wider readership. Their letter of notification however, was not all bad news: ‘The Panel listened to your comments about the remit of the grants and considers that the time is ripe for a review of the financial provision for English-language magazines in Wales. An independent panel will be appointed to undertake this review in 2012/13. This will be an opportunity for you to discuss various aspects of magazine publishing and contribute to discussion that will help to shape funding policy in the future. One aspect that will be considered is whether the remit of the grant ought to be broadened in order to fund a greater variety of material.’ The literary section will change but Meic Stephens will carry on with his overview of the publishing industry. Looking back over the last few years, especially now when St. David’s Day is so recent, what has Cambria contributed to the Wales of today? The Parade in Cardiff was given birth in the offices here. Henry Jones-Davies and Tony Lewis re-created the royal standard of Owain Glyndwr in celebration of the 600th anniversary of his rising, we had 500 made, and it flew in remembrance of 1400 at our stand at the Llanelli Eisteddfod. Within three or four years they had become commonplace. Articles from Cambria have inspired painters, sculptors, television programmes and writers. Between the light commentary and beautiful photographs there have been some hard hitting articles and discussions of topics some would prefer to see swept under the carpet. It is a celebration of Welsh life and culture, past, present and future and hopefully, sometimes, just a little uncomfortable. Ymlaen!
MYFYRDOD Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge. Cicero (106-43 BC)
letters a lot more to port talbot Dear Editor, It was good to see Steven Stokes’ portrait of Port Talbot (Cambria 13/1) but there’s a lot more to the town than steelmaking and sandcastles. Its Famous Five (Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Sheen and, at a pinch, Ivor Emmanuel and Rob Brydon) were the product of Port Talbot’s rich cultural life. This has included both a choral and an operatic society (in which Sheen and his father took part), at least two male voice choirs, a Little Theatre, the YMCA Players (where Hopkins learnt his trade) and the Taibach People’s Theatre, as well as a history society and a Town Forum, where locals met to discuss the political issues of the day. Later, came the Margam Festival. Each chapel and church had its own set of cultural activities, as did the schools. In 1964, for example, Burton’s old school, Dyffryn, boasted no fewer than nine societies run by the pupils, including two devoted to music and drama (in which Sheen’s uncle and aunt took leading roles). Burton’s mentor and foster father, Philip Burton, wrote of his time at Dyffryn in the 1930s: “The proportion of acting talent in that school was higher than in any comparable group I have met since.” The most outstanding, T. Owen Jones, made it to RADA and Olivier’s Hamlet at the Old Vic but was killed in WW2. Port Talbot and the Afan valley have continued to produce dozens of other talented performers, musicians and artists. Some of these, such as the opera singer Rebecca Evans and the poet John Davies, deserve their own blue plaque; whilst others, like Christina Modestou and Lloyd
Langford, are still on the way up. As with the Famous Five, they all developed their skills through the town’s schools and societies. The history of this cultural infrastructure is every bit as important as that of the steelworks and housing estates described by Stokes. Yours, David N. Thomas, Ciliau Aeron, ex-Baglan.
Siôn Jobbins’ “Scotland” Dear Editor, I do think there is more than language in the making of a nation. A strong political and ‘ethnic’ selfconsciousness, and confidence in its economic capability and potential, are needed, with an optimism about the future, strong enough to take hold of any incoming groups such as modern international or UK companies and to bond them into the national fabric. This is about a national collective psychology. [As for Siôn Jobbins’ questioning of Scotland’s ‘right’ to independence] Scotland’s original legal and educational systems remain to this day, while it also has a dis-established democratic, Presbyterian church. Wales needs to examine its energy needs and potentials, and agree a tough, determined, political thrust to free its policies from London. We need to control our destiny in Europe, for exclusion from Europe will be a long-term disaster when the recession is over. We need to encourage a desire for the language and literature for their own sake, yet too often we exclude useful professional expertise because of a lack of Welsh. We need to create one society
in Wales to push for independent identity as a nation state. As Alex Salmond said ‘If you live and work in Scotland you are Scottish’. Wales has not quite got to that point, but it must if it is to have strong internal support for increased independence. Seamus Stewart, Gwynedd.
Siôn Jobbins’ “Scotland” Dear Sir, I read Siôn Jobbins article on Scotland with some interest. I was there at University in the 1960s and then worked there, off and on, in the Oil Industry in the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s. My main impression was that of a mature country, full of self confidence and self esteem, unlike may I say, Wales over the same period. It is and was a diverse identity, with a latent understanding of its differing ethnic origins, from Welsh speaking Strathclyde, the Norse Northern Isles, the Irish Gaelic west Dal Raita, to the English speaking south east. But this had gone under a process of ethnogenesis to make a Scottish identity, similar in way to Gwyn Alf William’s comment that Wales had to remake itself every century. What it was not, apart from the opinion of a few Academics was a “Celtic Country”, and anyway the difference between Goedelic and Brythonic is vast. We should not compare Wales to Scotland, the difference is huge, we have no old urban centres and urban traditions like you find in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen. In addition, compared to Scotland the Industrial Revolution missed Wales, we had no great thinkers like Adam Smith, no great
engineers like Telford and Watt and compared to Glasgow’s iron trade, Merthyr Tydfil is a non runner. Having said that, I like the Scots, and I wish the Welsh could be more like them, more confident, more self assured but I don’t think its in our nature. Yours, John Owen.
comment Response to Siôn Jobbins’ “Scotland” article last issue Siôn Jobbins asks: “If the defence and promotion of a unique language is not the driving force for independence, what is?” The answer depends on the circumstances. The American colonies did not fight to preserve their language; nor was language at the heart of the wars from which much of present-day South America emerged. Brazil broke from Portugal, and now dominates the Portuguese speaking World. The second misconception is that English was in some way forced on Scotland, which has been a majority anglophone country for longer than it has been part of a unified Britain. Gaelic has been a minority language for most of the time there has been a Scotland, although language maps can give a misleading impression. Gaelic areas often had a low population density and were difficult to reach, except by sea. Conversely, the more populous lowlands, where the Royalty of the time was located, spoke a distinct branch of English dating back many centuries. Attempts to suppress Gaelic in the 19th Century could hardly be said to have imposed English on
anything but a tiny minority of the populace. Equally, less than 2% of today’s population is Gaelic speaking, so the many attempts to promote its re-emergence are unlikely to resonate with the population of Scotland at large. The third misconception is that Scotland might be a ‘Celtic’ nation. It is not. It is a mongrel nation and proud of it. While the West may be Celtic and Gaelic, the East has always looked North and East, as was likely in a time when land travel was harder than sea. Walk the streets of Aberdeen and you will hear an English dialect which owes more to Norwegian than Gaelic. Go to the Northern Islands of Shetland and the Norse connection is predominant. In short, while Wales has a single linguistic tradition, Scotland has at least two (arguably more if you include Norse) which go back to its very origins. The final misconception is that Scotland lacks Celtic connections because it is not closely identified with Wales. The history of Scotland is incomprehensible unless you take account of the massive shared experiences between Scotland and Ireland, which Siôn Jobbins manages not to mention. Scots Gaelic is, in fact, a development of the language of Ireland, thanks to the historic traffic of people across the narrow stretch of water which separates the countries. This was particularly so during the Plantations under James I&VI (a colonialist imposition on the Irish which benefited many poor lowland Scots farmers), and the potato famine, which brought a vast influx of Irish refugees to Glasgow. Today, Glasgow (rather than Edinburgh) is the beating heart of ‘Celtic’ Scotland. The strength and vitality of the folk music scene attests to the closeness of Irish music, and the ‘Old Firm’ matches between Celtic and Rangers recall the battles of Ulster on many a weekend.
Even though the Crowns of Scotland and England were united, Scotland was not absorbed into England as Wales had been earlier, possibly because the King (in retaining his primary power base in Scotland) had to defer to that base to preserve that power. He could not afford, therefore, to damage Scots institutions such as its own Roman-based legal system. And this latter point is crucial to Scotland’s identity, for a legal system is one of the basic building blocks of a nation. Even today, there are substantial differences between the Scots and English legal systems in areas such as property, criminal, trust, evidence, inheritance and family laws – all areas which can impact on the daily life of any individual. One could argue, therefore, that the Scots did a pretty good job - when negotiating the Act of Union - in making sure the separation of legal systems was real and not entirely symbolic. Equally significantly, while a new branch of Christianity was created in England at the King’s behest to serve his purposes, in Scotland something very different occurred. There, each Minister is primarily answerable to the Elders of his Church, who have the power to hire – and fire. This ‘ground up’ approach applies even to the Monarch. As Head of the Church in England, she visits the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland as a guest - however honoured she may be. Moreover, the General Assembly is presided over by a Moderator who holds office for one year only, while Ministers have always been free to speak out on behalf of the underdog without fear of a Bishop putting them in their place. So, from these legal and religious foundations a society has arisen which is simply different and, yes, more Nordic. Social attitudes are more egalitarian than in England: indeed, it could be argued that the seeds of devolution began to sprout because Margaret Thatcher failed to
recognize that even Scots Tories were part of this different society. Her appointment of Michael Forsyth as Secretary of State was tantamount to announcing: “I no longer wish to be told what Scotland thinks and govern accordingly. I have decided to tell Scots what they ought to think.” That decision not only lost a lot of the Scottish Tories to the Nationalists, but probably did more than anything to force a reluctant Tony Blair to deliver on his devolution promise. And yet the essentially Metropolitan ‘New’ Labour was equally culpable in its ‘dismissal’ of
Scotland – despite the presence of leading Scots MPs in the Cabinet. And so a revived Nationalist Party read the Scottish wind correctly and became Nordically social-democratic. Alec Salmand may come to regret being handed the flaming torch of independence as it burns ever closer to his wrist, but of one thing I’m certain – when we talk of independence it’s not the language that counts, it’s the history and politics. Bob Owen.
Please keep sending us your letters and emails. We love to hear from our readers, and promise to read each and every letter we receive. Cambria, PO Box 22, Caerfyrddin, SA32 7HY, Cymru.
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Be swift Before it’s too late jeremy fonge An abiding memory of my first night in Wales was of the sound and sight of swifts screaming and looping through the dusky skies above the grey-stoned, almost traffic-less village in which I was staying. And now, as I recall that evening, I realise the swifts which used to herald the gloaming of a summer’s evening high above my house have long since gone. But when did they disappear? I cannot tell, but they have gone and time has slipped by without me realising that these wonderful birds are no long a part of my summer’s life. The cause of this sudden reminiscence was a browse through of ‘The State of Birds in Wales, 2010’*, which revealed that the swift numbers had alarmingly fallen by more than 50% since 1995. But why, when the populations of great spotted woodpeckers and stonechats, for example, have more than doubled in the same period? Even the RSPB (which believes there 85,000 pairs of nesting swifts in the UK) is puzzled by the decline - to the extent swifts are now on the Society’s ‘Amber List’ of birds of ‘conservation concern’. One suggestion is that nest sites for swifts are being destroyed as increasing numbers of old buildings are improved or even demolished – and, unlike the noisy, messy swallow with which it’s often confused when on the wing, the swift is a more discreet and thus less obvious occupier of our buildings, entering and leaving silently through crevices no more than 70mm wide and 30 deep. Their nests are well hidden and they leave few, if any, droppings around the entrance holes. Yet swallow numbers have increased in Wales by 34% since 1995, and they too are as equally dependent as the swift man’s ability to supply them with suitable nesting sites. But this is a wronged-headed comparison: while the swift (which is no way related to the swallow) prefers the old stone buildings we have so assiduously modernised or demolished, the swallow’s needs are more obvious therefore more obviously catered for. As a result, it has cheerily hauled itself up into the rafters of modern-day buildings on modern-day farms, and has continued to demand our attention from these echoing heights with its unabated chatter. So how can we revive our swift population? The RSPB recommends artificial nest boxes that either fix to walls or replace a house brick. However, because swifts
need height to take off, single-storey buildings are not particularly suitable. The Society goes further, in providing advice and guidance to house owners, builders and architects on the retention and creation of environments attractive to nesting swifts. And remember, swifts and their nests are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence intentionally to kill, injure or take any wild bird. It is also an offence intentionally to take, damage or destroy the eggs, young or nest of a swift whilst it is being built or in use. So something can be done to ameliorate the bird’s continuing loss from the skies above our homes. But the action needs to start now, not later. As for ‘my’ swifts, I have no idea where they nested, because swifts hunt far and wide from home – there is no telling where ‘my’ long-gone swifts may have laid their eggs. So the mystery of Wales’ declining swift numbers may remain unsolved for many years to come; and, too late, we may well discover that a wonderful, mysterious, exhilarating element of our warm summer nights has possibly been lost forever. * a joint publication from RSPB Cymru, the Welsh Ornithological Society, Countryside Council for Wales, BTO and Wildlife and Wetlands Trust
The Language of Politics, Place, and Identity Alan Sandry In this age of instant opinion, political sound bites and intellectual surfaceskimming, it is well to re-call the words of the philosopher Rudolf Carnap who argued that we have “to analyse all knowledge, all assertions.... in order to make clear the sense of each said assertion”. This is important, because language diffusion and interpretation does not always take the instinctive, casual, sloppy or visceral form that we are all guilty of from time to time but is often deliberative, and politically motivated. For example, at the height of the so-called ‘Euro Crisis’, Members of the UK Parliament spun themselves into an emotional maelstrom as they discussed ‘Britain and Europe’. All pretty straightforward, one imagines, but take note of the topic, and focus on the ‘and’ - not ‘in’, or the ‘UK’. It is interesting to calculate Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU), or ‘Europe’, as it is metonymically styled; though how any ‘external’ relationship can exist with something that you are ‘part of’ requires clarification. What is all the more confusing is that this Britain and Europe ‘relationship’ cannot even exist. This is down to the fact that Britain is not a member of the EU, the UK is. That is
the United Kingdom, as in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as opposed to Britain, which consists of England, Scotland and Wales. Therefore, Team GB, that embellished Olympic football incarnation, immediately precludes, by its very name, Northern Ireland. So no Ulstermen gracing the Old Trafford turf come July? I think not! Back to ‘Europe’, that byword for revulsion and jingoism that stretches from The Lords Chamber to the offices of the vituperative Daily Mail scribes. Whether one is pro- or antithe political and social philosophies and structures incorporated within the institutions of the European Union, the ‘Europe’ of much of our regular language – which induces ‘Europe’ in our mind’s eye – is depicted, to the peoples of the isle of Britain, as something distant and niggardly. Noticeably, there is never any discourse concerning ‘our mainland’, which it indubitably is because we are a segment of Europe; indeed we – if we assume ‘the British position’ – inhabit an island within Europe. Further to this, the public is constantly informed that it is having regulations ‘imposed by Brussels’. Brussels meaning either/or the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Court of Human Rights (which is actually based in Strasbourg) or the European Court of Justice (in Luxembourg, not Brussels). Perplexingly, in all of this rhetoric of institutional legalism, there never appears to be any talk of regulations ‘imposed by London’. London, as we are attuned to accept, meaning, in effect, the Houses of Parliament, the
Whitehall ministries, and so forth. The media, those guardians and purveyors of accuracy and objectivity, commonly report from Brussels. Helpfully, they display captions with ‘Brussels’ (in its entirety?) in the top left hand corner of our TV screens. But, as our conduits for information, shouldn’t they surely instruct us as to where precisely in this dark, strange ‘otherworld’ called ‘Brussels’ they are broadcasting from? Why not say the European Commission or the European Parliament? It might then give us a location to add to our limited knowledge of this seemingly amorphous and omnipotent entity. It is not as if they don’t have a precedent for a more exact approach, because when reporters air from London they have ‘Westminster’, ‘Downing Street’ or ‘The Department of Transport’ over their right shoulders. Correspondingly, when we glimpse our capital city, reporters have ‘National Assembly’ or, sometimes, ‘Welsh Assembly’ as their tag; though apart from our indigenous S4C, and the undaunted ITV Wales, broadcasters don’t tend to opt for ‘Senedd’, as this label is deemed too much of a political ‘hot potato’. In addition, when transmitting beyond our border, if they did flash up ‘Senedd’ it would be assumed that some of the more callow viewers, not just east of Offa’s but also a number who live just a mile or two from Cardiff Bay, would be bamboozled. But why this attitude, and how could it have become embedded? It is probably pertinent to recall, at this point, that the ostensibly urbane David Dimbleby, in his most expressive colonial mode, and with a nod to Isaiah 33:19, once displayed his contemptuousness for Wales, and matters Welsh, when he dubbed its native language “the incomprehensible tongue”. Touché, David! Nevertheless, even a decade plus into the evolutionary process of devolution, ‘Dimbleby’s Law’ stands firm. In the eyes, and through the pens, of those that purportedly
matter, Wales, a la Europe, is little more than a modification of Dante’s Inferno. But, as we know, it doesn’t take the utterance of an Establishment broadcaster to persuade us to fire the proverbial bullet into our own feet. We have resident talent aplenty to do that, thank you very much! Geographical disorientation is another intermittent predicament for many. A pristine meteorologist, broadcasting from White City, recently graced us three times in one forecast with the expression ‘EnglandWales’; ‘EnglandWales’ coming across as one word rather than the triadic ‘England and Wales’, to which we have become acclimatised. So, Wales, according to this undeniably enthusiastic, but remarkably naive, weather presenter has been vacuum-sucked into England. We are its tail. Or, to quote the inimitable Harri Webb, we are still, in 2012, “looking up England’s arsehole”. On the often-encountered ‘England and Wales’ phraseology, it is fascinating how Snowdon, our premier mount, is regularly referred to as the ‘highest peak in England in Wales’. Note how Wales is, as usual, the junior partner in this Victoriana environmental setting, although Snowdon, according to any Ordinance Survey map is....say it quietly....actually in Wales! The UK’s foremost mountain, Ben Nevis, has never, to my knowledge, been labelled ‘the highest peak in England and Scotland’. Therefore, why Snowdon? Why Wales? Is it because, on a clear day, you can see Snowdon from Shropshire? Hence, joint sovereignty for Snowdon can be claimed. Even the Visit Snowdonia website informs us that the topography of Snowdonia offers us “the biggest, boldest mountains in Wales and England”. Chwarae teg, at least they made the effort to place Wales prior to England! If locating Wales and England ties some people up in knots, the problem multiplies when Britain, and more specifically British or ‘Britishness’, is assessed. Over a Sunday morning
Y Senedd coffee, Andrew Marr asked the habitually flummoxed Ed Miliband the de rigueur question, “what is British?” His timorous response was “the NHS and the BBC”. Even allowing for the exertion required to provide a swift reply under the gaze of the studio lights, his answer speaks volumes about the contracted vision of Miliband, and many of his contemporaries. The NHS hasn’t been British since the advent of devolution in 1999: we now have the Welsh NHS, English NHS, etc. So in the manner initiated by Nye, the National Health Service is not ‘national’. Though, in reality, it is now more ‘national’, in its purest, precise sense, than ever before. Miliband’s other choice – the BBC – is, all said and done, a media organisation; fine institution though it may be. If he had responded to Marr with Burns Night, Eisteddfodau, and Straw Bear Day, then his personal poll ratings may well have increased. You’ll observe that the three listed here are Scottish, Welsh, and English customs and traditions: British in their amalgamated guise. Northern Ireland cannot be on this list, obviously, as it is not in Britain: though they do have a Northern Ireland NHS and a BBC Northern Ireland, those ‘British’ institutions so beloved by Miliband. Furthermore, Straw Bear Day - celebrated in the
Fenlands of Eastern England – is in fact a tradition emanating from Saxony; thus exposing (no doubt very uncomfortably for UKIP supporters) England’s Germanic cultural roots. Continuing with the Teutonic hue, one of the most famous questions asked in that famous parlour game, Name Five, is ‘Name five German cities starting with B?’ After the inevitable Berlin, Bonn and Bremen people start to lose track. Budapest – capital of Hungary – is sometimes offered, as is Borussia Monchengladbach, one of Germany’s top football teams, based in the city of Monchengladbach, with Borussia being a Latinised form of Prussia. Now if we alter the question slightly to ask ‘Name five famous ‘national’ moments or events’, would the people of Wales respond with King Alfred defeating the Great Heathen Army, Magna Carta, Waterloo, Winston Churchill’s funeral, and Geoff Hurst’s 1966 World Cup hat- trick? Or would they regale the quizmaster with The Laws of Hywel Dda, Glyndwr’s Rebellion, William Morgan’s translation of the Bible into Welsh, Tryweryn, and Shane’s last match at the Millennium? So it is the ‘national’ that confuses. It is the big one. National = Wales, nationwide = across Wales. International = beyond the national. Thus, Gloucester and
obituary Meic Stephens
pays tribute to a leading figure in the Basque Nationalist movement
Lake llyn llydaw, Snowdon Liverpool are international (external to the ‘national’) cities. If I produce pies in Wrexham and sell them to a shop in Birkenhead then I am trading on an international basis. Nevertheless, in our nation there is a narrative that denies our actually being situated ‘here’, and, in conjunction, negates our existence ‘from here’. Witness the tendency to say ‘in Wales’ when we are already ‘within’ our nation. Therefore, why not just say ‘here’, if we are indeed ‘in Wales’. We talk about Wales as if it is an exotic, distant land, time zones away; the metaphor of Dante’s Inferno is regurgitated by our own people on a daily basis. There is talk of ‘North Wales’. Why not ‘the north’? People will generally talk about ‘the north’, meaning Lancashire or Yorkshire, not Caernarfon or Ruthin. Similarly, ‘The Midlands’, rather than ‘The English Midlands’, when ‘The Midlands’, for us, is the range of ground between
Brecon and Bala, or thereabouts. So what on earth makes us conjure up images of Dudley or Derby? Why have we become so complicit in this falsification? Clearly the hegemonic storyline is vital. Use of language is indicative of hegemonic positioning; it is also a pointer to political persuasions. Study the common parlance attached to ‘government’. Our government is a Labour Government. That is because Labour is in control at the Senedd. The Senedd is the seat of our National Assembly (that ‘national’ word again!). The UK Government is the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The Con-Dems are in control at Westminster. Westminster is the seat of UK State – not ‘national’ – power. Hence, why do people here use the term ‘The Welsh Government’? Why not just say Labour Government. Alternatively, there is daily talk of ‘The Con-Dem Government’, or ‘The
Government’, but not so much about ‘The UK Government’, unless it is said in reference to global events. Admittedly, language – especially political language – can be complicated. But we have to try to get it right. Unless, naturally, it suits us, or those who oversee us, not to.
The militant Basque Nationalist José Luis Alvarez Enparantza (generally known by his nom de guerre Txillardegi) has died at the age of 84, he was a key figure in the political and cultural life of his country for more than half a century. Txillardegi was an engineer, writer, socio-linguist, public intellectual, journalist, member of the Basque Academy, Senator and one of the founders of ETA (the group responsible for much of the bloodshed in the Basque Country) whose calm presence and intelligent analysis were in great demand among those who struggled to resist the Franco regime and - against overwhelming odds - to build an independent Euzkadi. The dangerous circumstances in which critics of the Fascists lived from day to day was underlined by an incident on the night before Txillardegi was to take his seat in the Madrid Parliament as a Senator representing the left-Nationalist alliance Herri Batasuna. He was dining with other politicians and journalists when a gang of rightwing Spanish paramilitaries burst into the restaurant firing as they came. Txillardegi had the presence of mind to fling himself under the table but one of his comrades was killed and another seriously injured.
The date was 20 November 1989, the anniversary of Franco’s death. He served his first term in prison for his part in forming a clandestine students’ union that led to the founding of Euzkadi ta Askatasuna (Basque homeland and language). In the 1960s ETA was regularly using violence against symbols of the Franco regime, and soon against its representatives in the Basque Country - such as the Chief of Police in Irun, who had used torture against Nationalist and Socialists. Txillardegi was one of many militants who were rounded up and gaoled but he escaped from prison and went to live in France. I first met him by sheer chance in a café in St. Jeande-Luz while he was living at nearby Hendaye, on the French side of the border. It was he who explained to me the significance of the slogan I had seen everywhere: 3+4=1; that is, the three Basque provinces under Spanish jurisdiction and the four under French made one country, Euzkadi. It was this illumination that inspired me to write my book Linguistic Minorities in Western Europe (1976). Txillardegi eventually resigned from ETA because he believed it had been infiltrated by Marxist-Leninists who placed the class struggle before the national struggle, so drawing ETA into the orbit of the Spanish Left, which he deplored. Returning to Donostia / San Sebastian after the dictator’s death, Txillardegi worked tirelessly to give expression to the conviction: ‘Until Basque revolutionaries can tread the narrow path that brings [the social and national] struggles together, there will be no future for the Basque Country.” His polymathic talents were put to work on a wide front but always with a view to rebuilding the Basque nation after the oppression of the Fascist years. He helped create Euskera Batua, the standardised version of the Basque language now in widespread use, and brought his mathematical training to bear on socio-linguistic questions which were successfully applied to the work of
restoring the language. His novels tackled the great questions of human existence. He also wrote for the daily paper Berria, often commenting on developments in other countries, including Wales, which he visited several times and about which we saw to it he was well-informed. Enparantza was born in 1929 in Donostia / San Sebastian, where his father owned a small printingworks. He was brought up speaking Castilian Spanish, as was common among the aspiring middle class in those days. He had hardly learnt a few words of the language at school when it was banned and disappeared from all textbooks and bookshops; he nevertheless began teaching himself the language from old books he picked up illegally. He was a small child during the Civil War and lived through the bombardment of the town by Franco’s fleet out at sea. Soon afterwards, he told me, he saw lorries trundling through the streets with the slogan Viva la Muerte! (Long live Death!) painted on their sides. After ETA broke a year-long truce in 1999, Txillardegi became a severe critic of the group which he thought had lost its ideological direction and had become an impediment to selfgovernment for the Basque Country. He joined a new group, Aralar, and then Bildu, a centre-left party which, having reaped the peace dividend in recent years, took a quarter of the Basque vote at local and regional level in 2011, outstripping the centrist Madrid parties and coming close on the heels of the Basque National Party in the Basque Parliament. The last time I spoke to my friend on the telephone, he seemed frail but full of confidence for the future of his country. After all, Euzkadi has won a greater degree of autonomy than what we have in Wales and shows no sign of relaxing its will to win more. He died in his beloved Donostia on 14 January 2011 and is survived by his wife Jone and their three children, one of whom, Joseba, is a leading figure on the Basque Nationalist left today.
March 15th will prove a seminal date in Plaid Cymru’s often turbulent history, when one of three leadership contenders will be charged with bringing the party face to face with its and Wales’ future. Cambria spoke to the three contenders... person who climbs the greasy pole. However, Dafydd El (as he’s known) often tells his party what it just doesn’t want to hear.
Dafydd El Who would have thought that the bookies’ outsider candidate for Plaid Cymru’s leadership had once been the party leader and had presided over the formative years of the National Assembly? But that’s where Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas finds himself. Possibly this is because he’s very much his own man - a quality not greatly appreciated in the world of politics. It’s usually the ‘yes’
Take the thorny subject of independence. This is the holy grail amongst party members, yet many Plaid supporters - according to recent opinion polls - don’t themselves want independence. So, all too often, party leaders in the past have treated the issue like an elderly relative in the corner of the room - to be tolerated, ignored even, but never rejected. That’s not the Elis Thomas way. He jumps in feet first: “I am very much in favour of devolution, and am even more in favour of what the Scots call ‘devo max’.” So while strongly in favour of devolution with greater powers, he’s equally dead against “the creation of a Welsh nation state on the 19th and 20th century models, I think those are dead”. But the old academic in him comes out when pressed on where he sees the devolution road leading. “I don’t see devolution and independence in Europe as different
routes - I see them as part of a wider field, which I would call (in the way I was taught in political sciences during the ‘50s and ‘60‘s) ‘comparative federalism’.” He pulls no punches on Plaid’s last election campaign and what went wrong. His answer is simple: “They forgot that they’d been in Government. Plaid has learnt from long experience how to lose but has not yet learnt how to win, or to celebrate its victories.” He expressed great wonder that, while he was seeing off Llais Gwynedd in his Dwyfor Meirionydd constituency, “the party campaign was continually attacking Labour, the party which been our comrades in government, yet it forgot the Tories, who should have been our main target. After all they were the party leading the UK government.” He even refused to join the party’s high command in staging - as he describes it - “stunts such standing outside hospitals and claiming they were about to be down graded and all sort of stuff.”
should be in continual engagement with the public on policies and pragmatic issues, not engaged in trying to recruit converts. This is a serious issue, because some people sound like the religious right of the USA. They seem concerned that people must believe ‘properly’ in political positions. This is posturing, and not about listening too and co-operating with all the citizens of Wales and offering them pragmatic and helpful policies.” His response to the idea of a ‘vision for the future’ is, in its way, the hallmark of his approach to politics, for he questions the very premise of the question. “I’d prefer discussing insight rather than vision. There are too many alleged visionaries around. The important thing is to have insight into the political and social content of a particular time. Where we are now is hugely exciting, with what’s happening in Scotland.”
And his reasons why are absolutely clear: “I think the politicisation of the health service is one of the most dangerous things Plaid’s been involved in these last few months. What it’s trying to do in Wales - or to get the Labour Government to do in Wales – is follow the Conservative line in England. In other words, it is interference in the clinical management of the health service.”
Yet Dafydd El puts much of Alex Salmond’s success down to the failure of his opponents. “That has been his great advantage. He is, of course, a very clever politician, as are the others in his cabinet. Nobody has produced an insight into Scottish politics and the future of Scotland the way they have. But this is also against the background of the failures of the Scottish Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties - and the ability of the SNP to gather those votes across the political spectrum.”
But for Dyfydd El, Plaid will only win when it starts to engage with the voter. It has to “listen to people. Unfortunately, over the years it has become a rather sectlike organisation. A political party
Above all, he points out somewhat pointedly: “The SNP would never argue -like some members of Plaid - that the party has to target only a particular section of the electorate for votes.”
Photograph: David Williams
Leanne Wood If anyone is looking for a latter-day continuation of the Welsh radical tradition, then Leanne Wood has to be the answer. Her pedigree is that of probation officer, Women’s Aid support worker, tutor at Cardiff University and local councillor in Rhondda Cynon Taf. First elected to the Assembly in May 2003 as AM for the South Wales Central region - which covers Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Rhondda Cynon Taf - she lives close to her roots in Penygraig in the Rhondda, where she grew up. She is currently Plaid Cymru’s Housing and Regeneration spokesperson. Leanne’s interests include the environment; poverty, unemployment and social justice; issues affecting women and young people; international politics and the anti-war movement; and criminal justice. Leanne has experienced politics on the frontline as Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on the Environment and Sustainability, and Social
Justice. She is now Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Housing & Regeneration. Almost needless to say within the contemporary radical tradition, her political interests include the environment; poverty, unemployment and social justice; issues affecting women and young people; international politics and the anti-war movement; and criminal justice. As chair of the all-party PCS Union group in the Assembly and chair of the board of trustees at Cwm Cynon Women’s Aid, she believes that Plaid Cymru “must advocate ‘real independence’ - not just constitutional independence - an independence that enables us to protect the things that are important to us so that we can create a prosperous and more equal and sustainable economy, we can safeguard the Welsh language and promote a message of peace to the wider world. Independence is a means to an end, not an end in itself.” All of this raises an issue that would be at the heart of Plaid Cymru under Leanne: can Wales still afford the union? Until now, the debate has been framed the other way round, suggesting that Wales would face economic oblivion were it to leave the union. But, she argues, if we continue to be administered by Westminster governments that have no real intention or ability to deal with the structural problems facing Wales (which in fact contributes to a deepening of those problems while they remain untreated) then where will this lead us? But this is all thought for the future: in the meantime, Leanne
believes that Plaid’s poor showing in the last election amounted to it having “no unique selling point to differentiate us from the other parties”. She suggests that this was largely down to what might be termed a ‘fuzziness’ of philosophy and thinking. “We must be able to say ‘Now it is our turn: the buck really does stop here – this side of the Severn Bridge’. We must stop using London as an excuse to sit on our hands, but at the same time leave UK ministers in no doubt that we expect the powers to fully manage our own affairs. The state of the economy demands it.” And much of this re-alignment of Plaid’s image within the electorate would, under Leanne, come from a ‘bottom up approach’. “We need to transform our local communities and the Welsh economy by encouraging people to join together to ensure their communities have the facilities they needs. We should also make a concerted effort to appeal to trades unionists and young people. We must focus on the issues that matter to people like jobs and public services while working towards a long term economic plan which is designed to transform the Welsh economy.” Inevitably the ‘AS’ question enters the equation, as in: why has Alex Salmond been so successful in pushing Scottish independence to the forefront of UK political debate? To Leanne, the answer is simple: “Alex Salmond has won the trust of the Scottish people for his party. Under his leadership the SNP
have shown they are competent in government and they have built a strong economic case for independence. Salmond has also ruled out working with the Tories, one of the factors which have allowed the SNP to sweep to power in Labour’s heartlands. But comparisons with Scotland end there: whatever the issues north of the border, Leanne’s sole concern is that “Wales becomes a truly independent, bilingual, more equal, peaceful democratic republic which is made up of a network of communities where people live within their environmental limits, where everyone is empowered to participate and where everyone is encouraged to reach their full potential.”
Elin Jones Elin Jones has the unusual distinction of being the only Welsh AM to receive death threats – a measure of the enormous political and social backlash which followed her
decision (while Rural Affairs minister) to allow the culling of badgers in an attempt to control bovine TB. Currently among the favourites to lead Plaid Cymru, she was born in Lampeter and gained a B.Sc. in Economics at Cardiff University, followed by a Masters in Agricultural Economics at Aberystwyth – both providing a springboard for a career in economic development with the Development Board for Rural Wales, which involved liaising with businesses, communities and social enterprises. Little wonder then, that Elin Jones was to develop an interest in local democracy and politics which saw her gain a seat on Aberystwyth Town Council (where she eventually became Mayor) in the name of Plaid Cymru – an experience which was to take her into the Welsh Assembly in 1999 as AM for Ceredigion. With Plaid in opposition, she first became their spokesperson for Development, and then for Environment, Planning and Countryside. It was the creation of the ‘One Wales’ coalition with Labour in 2007 which saw her appointed minister for Rural Affairs and brought about her brush with threatened death. Looking back, Elin Jones now appears entirely relaxed about the affair. “I got a lot of nasty E-mails,” she recalls, “but most of them did not appear to be an obvious threat - they were from other parts of the world, or were obviously the result of hasty anger. Even so, any minister who takes a position on animal rights has to take account of security, but I tried to keep a level head and keep going.”
Since the coalition ended, the proposed cull has is still ‘on the agenda’ of Labour minister ??????, but he is yet to take a final position. Since leaving the coalition, Elin Jones has been Plaid spokesperson for Health, a subject close to her heart since she has been heavily involved in the controversies surrounding the future of Aberystwyth’s Bronglais Hospital. She points out: “I became concerned about the downgrading of Bronglais when Plaid were in opposition before 2007, so when we entered government with Labour, we insisted on protection for and investment in Bronglais. This led to an investment of £32 million in the hospital, yet now Labour is in control again, the centralization elsewhere of Bronglais services is once more on the agenda. “However, I am campaigning not just for Ceredigion but all of MidWales in preserving Bronglais’s role; after all, how many communities in the region are within safe distance of a good District General Hospital”. But she is also very much concerned with the bigger political picture, and is not afraid to state outright: “My long-term ambition is for Wales to be a successful independent state within the European Union. This will not happen overnight, but only when the people of Wales decide.” That said, her vision of an independent Wales within the EU does not necessarily extend to Wale’s automatic membership of NATO - a question, she says, “which would have to be decided by the new independent government”.
More immediately, Elin Jones believes the day-to-day work of Plaid Cymru is to see the transfer from Westminster to Cardiff of more functions relevant to Wales economy, governance and national identity. “Some obvious possible areas,” she argues, “are policing, criminal justice, broadcasting, and control over energy and water resources. I am working with the new Silk commission, which is looking at transfer of fiscal powers and some executive and legislative powers”. Elin Jones also believes that Plaid’s less-than-expected support at the last election was the result of a poor strategical approach to the poll, and not an indicator that the party is in electoral decline. She points out:. “I believe 100% of our focus during the early part of last year was on getting a Yes vote in the referendum, while other parties focused less on this and more on the election. Therefore, Plaid had to switch its efforts into election mode almost overnight, so the message to vote for Plaid did not crystallize succinctly.” That said, Elin Jones believes Plaid Cymru “must expand its support base. We must be more relevant to a wider audience; we must break out of our ‘comfort zone’. We’re too reliant on farmers’ unions, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, and demonstrations: we must go into rugby clubs and British Legion halls and extend our reach to more sectors of society”. As to the ‘big question’ (why has Alex Salmond been so successful in Scotland?) Elin Jones sends out a warning to all those who are all too happy playing the short-term political ‘game’ without any thought
for the long term outcome – and to the romantics who fail to appreciate the real politik facing Plaid Cymru. She points out: “Alex Salmond has built up his reputation over a long period of consistent advocacy. He is also a very shrewd politician who is unrivalled. The SNP success is also due to his team, which is wholly focussed on independence. That level of consistency and focus has endeared them to the Scots electorate and gained its loyalty. “Unfortunately, a lot of Plaid Cymru supporters hope that an Owain Glyndwr will suddenly appear and romantically lead the nation to independence. “Modern politics is more about the hard slog and keeping commitments; they are about getting arguments right in order to gain the confidence of the public.”
Plaid Cymru held a national leadership debate on Tuesday February 21st, which offered an opportunity for all those interested in the election to listen to the Plaid leadership candidates and to ask questions. You can watch the debate online here: http://www. english.plaidcymru.org/ news/2012/02/23/videonational-leadership-debate/
How to Secede Siôn Jobbins Since 1991 over a dozen new independent states have been created in Europe. During that time dozens of Welsh organisations have also seceded from the UK. Does any one know how many? Of course not, but it’s these little histories of secession which interest me. These little patches of independence create a new terrain. They are the slow, wobbly, cudchewing, tortoise-like acts of institutional independence. They may at best get a story in the straight-torecycle internal newsletter or possibly a write-up with accompanying new logo in the Western Mail. Outside their bubble, they’re barely noticed by the public; they are the daily weather reports in the climate change of national history. However, in the soon to be written history of a self-governing Wales, the mostly unwritten history of little acts of secession should be as important as the nail-biting referendum. For, it will be these little acts of secession which will make Wales free before it’s independent. Keep Wales Tidy (KWT), for example, isn’t a bastion of rabid Welsh republicanism by anyone’s standards. One can hardly think of a more sensible organisation; diligently keeping itself to the non-political, non-confrontational side of the environmental debate. How did this unfashionable, vest-wearing type of environmentalism find itself on the slippery slope to independence? It started when the UK body decided its aims would be best achieved through Vertical Integration Model strategy (jargonese for lobbying Government and county councils), the Welsh branch wanted to follow a different agenda. Their vision was to develop a stronger
grass-roots movement to implement change and also of course, lobby the Welsh, not Westminster, government. The creation of an independent entity in fact lies as far back as the 1972 nationalist revolution which saw the formation of the KWT campaign. Even though this amounted to nothing much more than an office, a logo and finance from the Welsh Office. By the late 1990s the Welsh branch was contributing £60,000 annually to the central organisation to pay for literature, technical back-up and support and it was from the head office in Wigan that the majority of the development programmes and projects were made. It appears that this became a source of growing disquiet, aided by an increasing divergence in priorities lead by the newly established Assembly in 1999. There was a lot of opposition to secession – there always is. Inevitably the views of ‘impartial experts’ were canvassed –the ‘boffins in the white coats’ were wheeled out, armed with papers and documents proving beyond doubt that little Wales couldn’t run it’s own KWT Campaign. Tegryn Jones, the Chief Executive of KWT from 2004 to 2010, considers the secession ‘a very important decision for Wales, We had to move from being dependant to being independent. There were issues to do with personnel and production over which we now had control. These services were going to be produced and supplied in Wales and so strengthen the Welsh economy.’ Tthe UK/England body lost some £250,000 in annual income from the secession of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Jones joined the organisation shortly after it had decided to secede
(along with Scotland and Northern Ireland) from the main UK body, ably lead by the late Chair of the Campaign, Rhiannon Bevan who died in 2005. The facts certainly back his confidence. In the six years he was Chief Executive the campaign’s income increased from £1m to £3m. Staffing increased from 20 to 60 employees. In addition, Wales is now a proud member of the Foundation for Environmental Education in its own right, standing shoulder to shoulder with the other ex-UK countries enjoying international recognition as a nation alongside states as diverse as China, Iran and Russia. ‘We would never have had that status under the old regime,’ added Tegryn. So much for the ‘experts’. What can we learn, if anything, from the KWT experience? Firstly, that we’re all part of a larger canvass. KWT wouldn’t have become self-governing were it not for the advent of the Assembly which dramatically changed the landscape. Secondly, change depends on the One Great Leader – a concept which makes many Welsh nationalists uncomfortable. I have no idea if Rhiannon Bevan was a card carrying nationalist or not, but, it was her determination to get the best for her Welsh organisation and uphold the dignity of her nationality and morality, which drove the process forward. And then there’s probably the element of simple governance – good or bad, and the power of irritation with the irrational. In the case of KWT it’s management had to be re-organised in the 1990s for legal reasons to do with VAT, which meant it’s management board had to include a majority of members from the trustees of the UK board. It was little things like this which came to be seen as irritants. With the advent of Devolution this ‘norm’ became viewed as irrational and a new common-sense approach eventually prevailed. Despite the unmitigated success
of the secession of KWT from the UK set-up, I’m still surprised that it happened at all. Even accounting for the leadership of Rhiannon Bevan and then Tegryn Jones’s how did an organisation carrying so many English connotations take a nationalist path? In his seminal book on nationalism, Imagined Nations, Benedict Anderson notes that 19th century ‘print capitalism’ contributed to the concept of a nation. It was print capitalism with mass literacy which helped create nations based on language and a shared history and discussion. That’s all fine, and helps explain the success of the national linguistic movements in Eastern Europe, but doesn’t fully explain the present Welsh experience. From the point of view of a public which actually reads and partakes in Welsh print discussion on a regular basis, in either language, then Wales is almost pre-industrial and illiterate! Throwing into the equation Welsh tv and radio one could possibly increase this number to around half the population. With this in mind and with an unknown, un-Freedom of Information requested application on the percentage of people in positions of governance in Wales who are not Welsh – senior civil servants, heads of industry, academia – then I’m at a loss to find the pool of people who would discuss their work and challenges within a Welsh context. Where’s the cultural space to create such radical political change? Without wanting to labour the point, maybe, we have in Wales a constituency of people whom Anderson refers to as the ‘Creoles’ in Latin America: people who were not of the indigenous pre-Columbian population, but rather of outside, Iberian, background. It was these people, Anderson claims, who ‘invented’ the nationalities of Peru, Venezuela, Argentina – they were the revolutionaries like Simon Bolívar and San Martín. Though culturally and linguistically the same as the Spanish
‘peninsulares’ the Creoles were denied vertical promotion. It was this class then based on the narrowed, embargoed economic horizon of their South American provinces discussing within their localised print capitalism which created a cultural and political space and invented the new American nations. Is there a Welsh parallel with the American Creole class? Are these the ubiquitous but invisible class which play such a pivotal part in Welsh politics and society? There is no vertical bar on promotion for any UK subject and nor is there geographic distance. The two hour journey from Cardiff to London may be tedious but it doesn’t compare to the six thousand Andean and Atlantic miles between Lima and Madrid. And nor is there, it seems a Welsh print capitalism – or one which is wide enough to include a substantial constituency of public informers. So, what is it that makes people, the ‘Welsh Creole’, coalesce around a nationalist narrative like that which made KWT secede from the peninsulares of the UK body? How can we have a ‘print capitalism’ without there being a ‘print’ and, heavens, hardly any ‘capitalism’ in Wales!? Maybe that’s the answer. Capitalism is so weak in this country the state has had to step in to take the role which merchants and industrialists fulfil in other countries. The state is the capital. What we have in Wales is ‘state capitalism’ or maybe more precisely, ‘third sector’ or ‘public sector’ capitalism. It was the state, in the form of the then Welsh Office in 1972 and then the Assembly from 1999 which helped finance KWT and countless other Welsh bodies. The governing class – be they ‘indigenous’ or ‘Creole’ – work within the horizons of Welsh state capitalism. It’s this state capitalism which creates the cultural space to discuss and form a community of interest and it is this state capitalism which also finances this class. Put simply, it would have been mad for KWT not to secede. Added to that is a second insight
by Anderson to the new nationalism of Latin America – the alignment of people like Bolívar with the ideas of emancipation and revolution. It was these ideas which also influenced and inspired the Creoles to break free of Madrid. The direct heir to the French Revolution is the ‘progressive’ left wing politics of our own age. Is it too fanciful to say that the legacy of the philosophy of the French Revolution was also a contributing factor in KWT breaking free of the centre? After all, the Welsh organisation wanted to follow a ‘progressive’ strategy of grass-roots participation whilst the centre followed a more institutional and conservative approach. That is, Creoles and indigenes could coalesce around a national project which included greater personal freedom and responsibility for both groups within their own territory; greater freedom to follow and implement a political philosophy which appealed to Creoles irrespective of their own cultural affinity and lastly, the common sense of working and optimising their own ‘state capitalism’. The ‘imagined community’ became a vehicle for political and personal ambition. Tegryn Jones knows that secession was best for Keep Wales Tidy but there is one thing which still bugs him. During the hours of discussion and politicking, one symbolic clause passed unnoticed - ‘intellectual property’ - ‘When the UK organisation came to an end we should have dissolved the UK company. We didn’t and so the English organisation kept the intellectual rights over the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ title. They still use it – although they have no remit outside England!’ But then, maybe, that shouldn’t be such a surprise. After the Velvet Divorce, the Czech Republic continued to use the old Czechoslovakia flag much to the chagrin of the Slovaks. It was a Freudian slip which only confirmed what many believe to have been the case all along.
history & heritage
history & heritage
Henry1812Richard - 1888 Apostle of Peace and Patriot Gwyn Griffiths Henry Richard was the best known Welshman of his day. Yet, today, his name is rarely heard, which is strange when we consider the relevance of his views on such issues as peace and war, Wales and the Welsh language. His swift and cutting response to the infamous reports of the commissioners of the infamous 1847 Enquiry into the state of education in Wales, (Brad y Llyfrau Gleision) shook the English establishment. His Essays and Letters of Wales, published in 1866 were written to enlighten the English about the Welsh. W. E. Gladstone testified that they had totally changed his views on Wales. But equally important they inspired a new confidence and pride in the Welsh people. A. G. Williams the first Archbishop of Wales after Disestablishment, described Richard as “a commanding figure among Nonconformists in England, [and] their supreme leader in Wales.” Williams, who was no friend of Richard’s, went further and stated that no “political leader in Wales ... ever commanded among the Nonconformists an influence so unchallenged and so profound as the influence at that time of Mr Henry Richard.” Before his election as MP for Merthyr and Aberdare in 1858, Welsh MPs had been lukewarm and pretty useless, but Richard by example changed all that. Welsh matters were being thrashed out for the first time on the floor of the House of Commons.
Henry Richard’s pacifism cannot be completely divorced from his Welshness. Being a Welshman had taught him to detest the warring instinct of the English. But there is a radical and pacifist vein to the English which has been pushed under the carpet of their history. We can assume that Richard discovered that vein when he left the conservative Methodism of his Tregaron childhood for the independently minded radicalism of the Congregational denomination (yr Annibynwyr) at Highbury College and then as minister of Marlborough Congregational Chapel in the Old Kent Road. Ordained in 1835 he spent 15 successful years building up a thriving chapel - and gathering many useful connections. These included members of the AntiCorn Law League and the Free Traders. He discovered an alternative to the nationalism of imperialism – a nationalism comfortable with nations thriving alongside each other in an informal internationalism through the exchange of goods and ideas. Richard would identify with such aspirations. He believed that appealing to state leaders was futile and that public opinion had to be moulded which in turn would be harnessed to bring pressure on Governments. After being appointed General Secretary of the Peace Society in the spring of 1848, he and his American counterpart, Elihu Burritt, set off to organise a Peace Congress in Brussels which was held in September. In that congress resolutions were passed urging Governments to settle their arguments by arbitration and not to take sides in the quarrels of other nations, but to seek to help them by offering mediation. This was followed by the Paris Peace Congress of 1849, at which the poet and writer Victor Hugo famously anticipated a United States of Europe. The Frankfurt Peace Congress of 1850 was a stupendous feat of organisation and among the 500 delegates from Britain was Samuel Roberts (SR) of Llanbrynmair who was greatly impressed by Richard’s organisational skills and eloquence. Writing in Y Cronicl SR suggested it would be pleasing if an open door were found for him somewhere in Wales so that he could promote the cause of peace in Parliament.
henry richard statue In 1850, Richard resigned from the ministry announcing that arguing the cause of “peace on earth” was as important as preaching about the “Prince of Peace” on Sundays. The backbone of the Peace Society in its early decades was the Quakers with their unconditional opposition to war. This, too, was Henry Richard’s position, but under his dominant leadership the society took a more secular stance welcoming “conditional pacifists”, politicians who opposed war because of the suffering of ordinary people and the damage to economy and trade. Despite the efforts of Richard and the Society, the Government was hell-bent on going to war against Russia in the Crimea – a war “popular beyond belief ”, according to Queen Victoria. In the face of the jingoism whipped up by the popular press, the “conditional pacifists” melted away. Richard, and a handful of supporters, continued to thunder his opposition in the newspapers and on any platforms which would accommodate him – in spite of the scorn
of opponents and even physical threats to his person. Then, as the horrors and shambles of that war became known public opinion changed. When hostilities ceased in 1855, a conference was arranged in Paris for the countries that had been at war to agree a Peace Treaty. Richard decided to go to Paris and lobby the representatives of the various countries to include in the Treaty some public statement of support for arbitration. Again he had no support from the “conditional pacifists”, but Joseph Sturge, an uncompromising but ageing Quaker, and Charles Hindley, the Chairman of the Peace Society agreed to go with him. After three frustrating weeks of knocking doors they managed to persuade the representatives to include a paragraph that expressed a desire that “States between which any serious misunderstandings may arise should, before appealing to arms, have recourse, so far as circumstances might allow, to the good offices of a friendly Power.” It was by no means binding, but it expressed a qualified disapproval of the resort to war and set an important principle which proved valuable later, notably at the establishment of The Hague Tribunal in 1899.
history & heritage
In 1873, five years after he was elected MP for Merthyr and Aberdare in the historic election of 1868, Richard presented a resolution on International Arbitration to the House of Commons, something he had been working towards for years. By a combination of hard work, quick thinking and luck – and despite the opposition of Prime Minister Gladstone – Richard managed to get the House to approve the following resolution: “That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to instruct Her Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to enter into communication with Foreign Powers with a view to further improvement in International Law and the establishment of a general and permanent system of International Arbitration”. His unexpected success, and his own powerful speech, attracted great excitement in Europe and the entire debate was translated into most of Europe’s major languages.
Government, had been acted upon by HMIs and teachers the Welsh language would be in a much healthier state today. His very last act, weeks before he died, was to chair a meeting to draft the Charter for the University of Wales. What would he think today? He was buried in Abney Park Cemetery and among the many inscriptions is the verse, in Welsh, from the 10th chapter Book of Esther:
There was, Richard argued, no “regular and recognized means” to settle disputes between countries. And since the sword was “the only acknowledged solvent of international disputes”, these nations believed that their only choice was for every nation to provide itself with the largest possible force. The total cost of all these armies was an astounding £550 million a year – an intolerable burden on tax payers. He spoke of the working class labouring, below and above the ground, on the surface of the oceans to earn money which was then swept into the bottomless abyss of military expenditure. A soldier, said Richard, produces nothing – he eats and destroys the produce of other men. Richard and his wife then set off around Europe on a “pilgrimage of Peace” urging politicians to follow his example and present similar resolutions to their executives. Rarely, if ever, was any British Member of Parliament on an unofficial visit to a foreign country given such a reception. Similar resolutions were successfully presented in a number of European states as well as in the USA.
(Henry Richard – Apostle of Peace and Welsh Patriot by Gwyn Griffiths will be published in March by Francis Boutle, London, price £14.99. Cymdeithas y Cymod will be holding a vigil at Tregaron on March 23-24 and an exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of Richard’s birth will be opened in Tregaron on the evening of Friday, March 30).
It is easy to count his failures and not so easy to assess his successes. He managed to persuade the Government not to become involved in the FrancoPrussian War of 1870. Had Britain done so it would probably have been a slaughter on the scale of World War I. As A. J. P. Taylor pointed out, in matters of foreign policy – particularly war – in the 19th century, history has shown that the awkward squad, led by Henry Richard, were invariably proved right. Not that this was much comfort to those who suffered in those dreadful conflicts.
history & heritage
yr oedd yn fawr gan ei genedl, ac yn gymeradwy ym mysg lluaws ei frodyr, yn ceisio daioni i’w bobl, ac yn dywedyd am heddwch i’w holl diriogaeth” “Because he was great among his nation, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren,; seeking the good of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.”
henry richard jug Although he lived in London from the age of 18, Richard never missed an opportunity to preach or lecture in Welsh. He attacked the 1847 Enquiry into the state of education in Wales – Richard did not do defence – so fiercely that one of the commissioners felt obliged to publish a pamphlet in his own defence! He had defended the Daughters of Rebecca. His attacks on the Church of England and advocacy of Disestablishment were relentless. Shortly after his death Gladstone recalled a comment made by Richard in the course of some ecclesiastic debate in the House of Commons: “You, English, have an excellent and priceless translation of the Holy Scriptures, and I hope that you appreciate it, as you should. But I trust that you will not be offended when I say that we Welsh people have a much finer translation. It is finer, not because your translators were negligent in any way but because the Welsh tongue is finer than the tongue of this country.” In his final years he did remarkable work on the Royal Commission to inquire into the state of Education in England and Wales. If the recommendations with regard to Welsh language education, and which were accepted by the
henry richard’s final resting place
history & heritage
ARTHUR and THE
TWRCH TRWYTH When boar hunting was common in Wales, the story was told of the great Welsh hero, Arthur, who, with a vast army of warriors, chased a magical wild boar known as the Twrch Trwyth across the length of South Wales. The Twrch Trwyth had come from Ireland with six pigs, furiously intent on ravaging the land of Arthur in revenge for the death of one of his pigs. The Twrch landed near St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire, Arthur landed near Milford Haven and the chase began. This spectacular boar hunt extended from Pembrokeshire to the Severn Estuary, with many battles taking place along the way and many of Arthur’s champions savagely killed by the Twrch Trwyth and his brood. Finally, all the pigs were killed except the Twrch, who was caught, first of all in the Severn Estuary, and subsequently, in Cornwall. The account of Arthur’s boar hunt comes from the story of Culwch and Olwen, Culwch having been charged (among other things) to capture the boar in his bid to win the hand of Olwen, and is the first written record of Arthur. It can be read in the Mabinogion, a medieval collection of Welsh Myths and Legends. Strange magical gods and heroes, giants, and fabulous animals come to life in this tale of cunning, sorcery and witchcraft, pitted against the courage of Arthur and his warriors. The strongest most powerful creature is the Twrch Trwyth; shape-changed from a noble prince to see out his days incarcerated in the body of a pig, this creature is a cunning, treacherous foe. He has the power
to lead the unsuspecting to the edge of the underworld, and he harbours a great personal hatred for Arthur, who has stalked him across many countries and killed his offspring. Arthur calls on every source of magic, skill and strength he has at his disposal, even that of Gwyn ap Nudd himself, King of the Underworld, and brings together the largest army he can muster, including many well known friends such as Bedwyr and Cai (in later tales known as Bedivere and Kay). Such a rich story deserves to be celebrated, so a story-themed trail is being developed across South Wales to mark the chase, and highlight significant points in the story where men and beasts were joined in battle. Margaret and Alun Isaac, who have been researching the story for the past three years, have, to date, received encouragement and advice from the Welsh Assembly Government; Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark. Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh, Cardiff University sees the project as a most exciting venture and has offered her help and the project is being promoted by Literature Wales. Margaret has written a book called Arthur and the Twrch Trwyth to accompany the project. APECS are delighted to have permission from Margaret Jones to use her beautiful illustrations on the interpretive panels and in the book. The Amman Valley is a major focus of the hunt as it is where Arthur manages to kill most of the herd, so it is appropriate that Cwmaman Council has commissioned the first three interpretive panels to be set up in the Valley, while a pilot launch of the project will take place at the Black Mountain Centre Brynaman in late March. The Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark have also given valuable advice and support for the project from the outset.
OVER THE RULES vicky moller Ysbaddaden (left); Arthur’s warriors drive the Twrch into the Severn (right), Margaret Jones The Twrch Trwyth Trail will enable visitors to access information regarding the story, and other local attractions, via the interpretive panels and the websites; this enables a variety of people from serious and not so serious walkers to those who wish to enjoy themselves by car, cycle or on horseback, on a journey following Arthur’s hunt, and envisaging for themselves the excitement of the story. It is hoped that Cwmaman will be the first of eighteen key community centres identified across South Wales to become involved in what promises to be a most exciting and long called for celebration of a unique insight into Welsh Culture. Two websites relating to this interesting topic are currently being developed: www.arthurandthetwrchtrwyth.org.uk www.aattt.org.uk
Eighty years ago our town and country planners introduced the idea of ‘zoning’ in an attempt to address conflicts of interest between industrial, residential and agricultural development and the more (at that time) ‘unspecific’ needs of wildlife and amenity etc. The result is that today (partly due to the presence of three National Parks) one third of Wales’ landmass and three quarters of its coastline are subject to some form of designation or other, the highest of any of the UK nations. The result is that almost all developments, however modest, face a forest of tripwires, from the sensible to the insane.
However, with the new law-making powers enjoyed by Wales, a consultation has begun which hopes to sweep the board clean and return to rules which work on simple principles applicable to all sectors. The source of this new thinking (perhaps surprisingly) is the staid, uncontroversial Environment Agency Wales. For decades this body has quietly got on with the necessary job of preventing the pollution of air, earth and water, the depletion of fish stocks and the protection of wildlife by using the three principles of advice, permission and statutory action as its ‘enforcement’ tools. It has also experienced an uneasy alliance with the non-statutory Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and an arms-length relationship with the Forestry Commission. Now the three are to be merged into one body, so offering up the opportunity for a radical remoulding of all regulation relating to planning processes and the environment. With this in mind, the Environment Agency Wales has produced ‘Sustaining a Living Wales’, a consultation paper which proposes to melt down the current rules and recast them into something pure of form and honed to provide the framework for a long-term future for society and planet. “We believe there is significant scope to tackle environmental challenges by streamlining current
regimes,” the EAW states. “With the new law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales, we now have an opportunity to refresh the systems that have grown up over the years and put in place a more unified, purposedesigned approach.” The new approach is proposing something never before attempted, yet so obvious you wonder why not: combining economic strategy with environmental protection. The idea is that we consider our natural resources to be the foundation of all our wealth and so set in place management principles which ensure that they continue to provide for our needs, and for the needs of our fellow species. It is called the Ecosystem approach, and includes a simple premise that has needed stating very badly: humans are part of the natural ecosystem. The ecosystem approach is catching on across the world and the EAW believes that Wales has a unique opportunity to apply this as an underpinning framework that will drive all parts of Government. The Agency consultations argue: “Wales can show the way on tackling these issues because of our scale and evolving governance arrangements.” But what is an ‘Ecosystem approach’? What might that look like? An essential element is to end the long separation between the needs of humans and nature. One example of this can be found at Henfaes research farm, clinging on the bleak North Wales coast and is the longest-running sylvo-pastoral research station in the UK. Since 1992 the 14 hectare site has hosted a flock of Welsh mountain ewes grazing in and amongst several blocs of sycamore and alder trees, planted in various patterns and spacings. The idea of the experiment is to measure the effects of the productivity of both the sheep and the trees compared to a control next door where trees and sheep are kept entirely separate.
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history & heritage
connection Peter N. Williams In 1872, an article by ‘Herald Cymraeg’ - which was first published in Wales and then reprinted in the United States - applauded Welsh immigrants for maintaining their Welsh character across the Atlantic. “Before politics,” the article stated, “the Welshman thinks of his chapel, his Bible and his eisteddfod”’, and much the same applies even today - over 130 years later – in northeastern Pennsylvania, where the 2012 North American Festival of Wales will be held in Scranton between August 30th and September 2nd for the third time. Scranton’s strong links with Wales are tied to the vast anthracite field in Lackawanna County, which became one of the major areas of Welsh settlement in the United States. As early as the 1830s, two Welsh preachers who had travelled to Carbondale in Lackawanna County were promptly sent home to recruit additional miners. But it was after David Thomas’s successes in Ystradgynlais with smelting anthracite (glo caled, or hard coal) in 1837 that the ‘glo rush’ began in Pennsylvanie, where the ironmasters – who had previously not considered the fuel to be suitable for blast furnaces - had been “watching like cats at mice-holes for any break in the cloud which seemed to hang over their fortunes.” Now the rush to extract the precious mineral began in real earnest, as Welsh workers and their families flocked in their thousands to northeastern Pennsylvania, with the majority settling in Scranton and the surrounding area. And one can understand the attraction, for they could earn $1.00 to $1.50 a day -- about double the rate in Wales. The growth of the iron, steel and – later - tin-plate industries between 1850 and 1910 also prompted the creation of Welsh communities in cities like Johnstown, Sharon and Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvanian, where men also found jobs - from 1840 onwards - in the bituminous coal fields. While the slate industry of York County also brought Welsh workers to South Central Pennsylvania, but it is to Scranton, however, that we look for the greatest influx of Welsh immigrants in mid and late 19 century. It was in Scranton that the Ivorites Benevolent Association was chartered in 1867 to cater for the rapidly-
history & heritage
expanding Welsh population; that Benjamin Hughes, the general mine superintendent for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Coal Company between 1865 and1899 effectively brought 5,000 Welsh newcomers to the Hyde Park section of the city; that an estimated 50 plus bards were to raise Scranton’s reputation as the home of philosophers, orators, poets and musicians. Consequently, Hyde Park became known as the ‘Great Merthyr’ or ‘Welsh Athens’ of America. As late as the end of the 1920‘s, many West Scranton citizens lovingly recalled the Welsh Philosophical Society, which was organized in the 1860’s by Thomas Eynon and Benjamin Hughes (pictured right). The Society held discussions and debates on all questions of the day and stirred interest in the whole community. Membership was looked upon as a badge of standing. Educationally and socially, the Welsh Philosophical Society was a leading factor in the intellectual milieu of the city. Nearly every prominent old Hyde Parker of Welsh blood or ancestry was a member at one time or another. and a good number of Hyde Parkers owed their prominence, in part, at least, to reputations acquired in Philosophical Society discussions. With the passing of years and the injection of new blood into the organization, the society changed its name to the Hyde park Literary and Debating Society. Following an eventual waning of interest around 1908, before disbanding, the few remaining members donated the society’s collection of books and pamphlets to the Scranton Public Library. A condition of the gift was that a branch of the library should always be maintained in Hyde Park. Unfortunately, over the years, the valuable holdings of the Welsh Philosophical Society have been lost. Although they were originally set up in the library as outlined above, it is thought that much of the collection was eventually sold to private collectors. On Feb 27th, 1867, the Welsh of Scranton made yet another valuable contribution to their city - by establishing a Miners’ Co-operative Association to reduce the cost of living. For a time the business succeeded, but sadly - with the onset of strikes and an industrial depression in the 1870’s - there was little or no work in the mines, and the co-operative store was forced out of business. Although these ventures speak volumes for the pioneering spirit of the Welsh immigrants to Scranton, it is in the field of music - especially choral singing - that they made their biggest contribution to the city, county, state, and nation. The Eisteddfod was introduced at Carbondale in 1850, and became one of the most loved
of the Welsh festivals, with winning choirs from Scranton becoming nationally famous. And not all of the district’s choirs were male voice: in fact, the Scranton Republican reported that most of the participants in the 1875 Eisteddfod were women, while - at another Eisteddfod in Scranton in 1905, “...in an angry response to an allmale banquet hosted by the Cymmrodorion Society, a Daughters of Gwalia committee was formed to prepare a rival feast.” Whatever their make-up, however, Scranton choirs won success after success: at the 1879 Centennial Eisteddfod in Philadelphia, a Scranton choir conducted by Howell Jones defeated the Anthracite Male Chorus - a choir from Plymouth, Pennsylvania under David Davies - and other choirs from Schuylkill and Carbon counties. Three years later, five, 300-voice choirs from the Pennsylvania coal regions attended the Eisteddfod at the Philadelphia Bicentennial celebration to compete for prizes of up to $1200. Then, at the 1893 Columbian Centennial Exposition in Chicago, the Scranton Choral Union - led by Hayden Evans - defeated the Cymmrodorion Society of Hyde Park, led by Daniel Protheroe; the Salt Lake City Mormon Choir, led by Evan Stevens; and the Western Reserve Choir of Ohio, under Jenkin Powell Jones. On its return to Scranton, the Choral Union was greeted by huge crowds “flocking the railway station and lining the route to town.” Two years later, a Scranton Choir of 300 voices (the majority of whom were Welsh men and women), organized and led by John T. Watkins, won both first and second prizes at an Eisteddfod held at neighboring Wilkes-Barre. It then won all the prizes at the celebrated Arion Festival, Brooklyn, New York against choirs from New York and Brooklyn. In 1904 Watkins’ famous ladies choir won at the Wilkes-Barre Festival, while in July of that year, the 350-member Scranton Choral Union won all the honors at the great St. Louis Eisteddfod - including the top prize of $5000. On their return, it is estimated that over 30,000 people filled the streets to greet them. The choir’s greatest days were yet to come, however. In 1913 the International Eisteddfod - probably the greatest of all the Eisteddfod festivals -- was held in Pittsburgh and saw the 300-member Scranton Choral Union compete against all the great choirs of the country, The last to perform, it won hands down: even the five judges joined in a standing ovation. The great reception given the choir by the people of Scranton on its return is reported as being “most memorable and unprecedented.” The Scranton Choral Union was still going strong in the 1920’s, even winning the coveted prize for best choir at the at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in 1928, presided over on that day by former Prime Minister Lloyd George. He had visited Scranton five years earlier, when in October, 1923 he stayed at the home of Judge G.W.
Maxey for a rest after a “strenuous day in Philadelphia.” He was met by “thousands of citizens [who] stood in a downpour of rain cheering, as factory whistles and church bells heralded his arrival. A Welsh choir of several hundred male voices sang old melodies of his native land.” The famous Wartime leader then gave an address at the Scranton armory before leaving for New York City. It wasn’t just choirs that made Scranton America’s ‘City of Music’. One of it’s most famous singers was Thomas L. Thomas, who emigrated with his musical family from Maesteg in 1911 to become an early star of radio and TV, so making him famous nationwide. In 1937 he became the youngest singer (and only Welshman) to have won the Metropolitan Opera’s annual radio auditions. In February, 1941, Thomas sang the title role in Damrosch’s opera Cyrano at Carnegie Hall. Afterwards, Damrosch wrote to Thomas: ”With your exquisite voice, which you owe to your Welsh ancestors, and with your great artistry, you had already achieved a commanding position on the concert stage - but in your portrayal of ‘Cyrano’ you have developed so fine a perception of the requirements of opera, that that career is also open to you if ever you choose to undertake it.” However, Thomas preferred a career as a concert singer, becoming a fixture on the radio (and later television) programme “The Voice of Firestone” from 1942 until 1957. He maintained his connection with Wales throughout his life, returning there to sing in 1955, 1956, and 1958, and always including a Welsh song in his recitals. He made one last trip to Wales in 1978, when he was received into the Gorsedd for his distinguished contribution to Welsh culture. He also participated in the launch of S4C in 1982, via a filmed interview in which he sang Nos Galan. Thomas died on 17 April 1983, aged 73. As with many immigrant groups, the Welsh gradually assimilated into the larger American society; with many of their cultural institutions fading as a new ‘Welsh American’ identity developed. But unlike many other ethnic groups who very consciously cast off their associations with their home countries, the Welsh did not abandon their own ethnic cultural patterns entirely. Although Americans of Welsh ancestry number only an estimated 1.98 million (about 0.6 of the U.S. population) evidence of a resurgence of pride in their heritage is now being found in many Welsh-American communities across the land. So when hundreds of Welsh Americans and visitors from Wales gather in Scranton this August, they will celebrate a wonderful heritage which - with their efforts - will surely continue for many years to come. To learn more about the Welsh in Scranton, read “Wales in America: Scranton and the Welsh, 1860-1920,” by William D. Jones which offers a revealing look at the lives and culture of the 80,000 or so Welsh immigrants who settled in the coalrich region of northeast Pennsylvania.
nature diary chris kinsey
At the turn of 2011/12 we are back to mildness and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ beloved, “wildness and wet”. As I squelch beside the otter-brown Severn, watching mergansers ride and dive in the scrawling currents, I recall the cruel fairytale beauty of the last two years’ freezes: the river receding under thick gums of ice, a fierce spat between a robin and a goldcrest in a snowy pine against copper sulphate skies and a Boxing Day makeover by The Snow Queen. It was minus 15 degrees and within 15 minutes of walking I had thick frost mascara. This Boxing Day I can hear goldcrests in the conifers around Ystrad Einion metal mine. There are plenty of gnats for them and not much competition. The circular buddle pits are aflame with gorse – nothing unusual about gorse being in flower now but it spurs me to remember the dandelion with a full mane of florets I saw on Christmas Day, also daisies and hogweeds blooming out of season. Shortly after solstice, a honeysuckle extended three pink claws and one has clutched enough light to trumpet in New Year. On 4th January flowering butterbur is out like a rash on one patch of riverbank. Periwinkles stare, yet I haven’t seen any snowdrops. This year, the only illusion of frost in Cwm Einion under the shelter of Mynydd Coronwen, comes in the form of fern fronds and foliose lichens: the elegant evergreen non-fruiting leaves of hard fern, miniature bracken, branches of Ramalina and scrubby scribbles of Usnea. Brown tongues of Nephroma lick out from sumptuous saturated
mosses probably indicating a much older forest legacy than the current plantation. My husband, an experienced cave and mine explorer, leads me into the slightly flooded mine adit. Even a long way from the light of the entrance arch the walls are silvery with lichen and blotched with moulds and mineral stains. I’m delighted with a boot-sized outcrop of brilliant blue copper compound. Evan tells me to look out for the moths which like to rest in mines. Our headlamps pick out a couple of male Winter Moths almost perfectly camouflaged apart from some slight sooty scallop patterns within their triangular outlines. Then I spot a magnificent Herald Moth. The bottoms of its wings like singed brown paper with veins and bands of white but the main parts are inlaid with violin coloured varnish. I turn abruptly. These moths are particularly sensitive to light and this one is responding to my stare by vibrating. I don’t want to trick it into warming up its flight muscles and break out of hibernation.
Pass Storming at Night Keith Faichney Late in the 1950s, while working at the Ellesmere Port oil refinery, I hit on the idea of traversing all of the major mountain passes in North Wales on a motorbike – by night. This, we must remember, was at a time when many of the passes were impassable for cars, and would involve covering around 300 miles between mid-evening and dawn. My bike was a standard DMW with a 225cc Villers two-stroke engine, and a friend bravely rode pillion, carrying cans of spare fuel in a rucksack and clambering off and on to open and close the many gates that marked our frequently rugged route.
illustration: Keith and his brave pillion
And so, at eight o’clock one evening we set out from Neston in the Wirral in fog so thick the full moon (which we thought would help light our way) was entirely obscured. But the DMW’s powerful headlight carved through all but the thickest mist as we crossed the River Dee at Queensferry and headed for Mold, beyond which we picked up the unclassified road that would lead us to the top of Bwlch Pen Barras. We knew the route well, as the pass was often used in local rallies. Moreover, with the mist all but cleared, we were able to climb swiftly to the top, where we paused briefly to admire the twinkling lights of Ruthin below, and the rest of the vale bathed in the cold light of the moon. Minutes later we were swooping down to join the main road a mile
Bwlch Pen Barras or so away, only to leave it after a few yards to take another narrow lane that ran through the villages of Graig Fechan and Pentre Celyn and so to the foot of the Nant y Garth pass. We hurried through this mini gorge and its many tricky bends to emerge at the summit of the Horse Shoe pass.
Again we made a short stop to relish the deep peace and praise the little bike that was going so well, only to find ourselves - minutes later - groping our way through fog so thick it seemed our attempt of the thirteen passes may have to be abandoned. But gradually the visibility improved and soon the
DMW was bowling along again on a wide throttle. About two miles before Llangollen we turned right onto a lane that makes its way along the north side of the river Dee to Carrog, and then - after the river bridge at Glyndyfrydwy - we branched right again to take us steeply - and in first gear - to the top of the Llantysilio Mountain leading over to Bryneglwys. This pass, the Bwylch y Croes (not to be confused with the pass near Dinas Mawddy that we were to ascend later during the journey) was at that time little more than an un-made track that required care during daylight, but at night it was real trials stuff. Reaching Bryneglwys we hurried back across the mountain by taking another unclassified road to Carrog, where we crossed the River Dee for the second time to join the A5 and hurry along to Corwen. Soon after passing through the town we turned left onto a B road leading to the villages of Cynwyd and Llandrillo, stopping briefly there to top up the DMW’s tank from one of the containers my friend was carrying in his rucksack. We did so under a solitary village light - and presented the empty can to a group of startled villagers who eyed us with suspicion as we roared away into the night. A few more miles saw us at the top on the Milltir Cerrig, or ‘Mile of Stones’ - an old Roman road that crosses the Berwyn Mountains along the borders of Powys and Gwynedd. From this wild and lonely vantage point we should have been able to look down a long steep-sided valley, with the road carved into the sheer mountainside. Instead, while the tops around us were bathed in ghostly moonlight and the heavens were filled with stars, the valley itself was enveloped in thick mist. It was a wonderful sight, and I recalled the story of the Hounds of Hell
river dee at carrog who haunt the Berwyn Mountains pursuing weary travellers and claiming them for their master. But it was time to move on, down into the fog, which soon cleared so allowing us to pick up speed as we headed for Llangynog and Pen-y-bont-fawr, where a right turn took us deep into the forest. Eventually we reached the the Vyrnwy dam from which Liverpool takes its water. We were now speeding along a narrow, but deserted lane towards pass number six, The Hirnant. Seven miles long, the rutted track over the Hirnant it would lead us from the North end of Lake Vyrnwy to Bala. The pass was steep in several places and deeply cut across with rain courses – little wonder warning notices proclaimed it ‘Impassable for Motor Vehicles’. And we did briefly contemplate this advice before selecting first gear and pressing on. And for mile after mile we held first gear before eventually reaching a modestly surfaced road along which we now hurried towards Bala. A mile before the town we turned onto the B4403 and sped towards Llanuwchllynm - and beyond it Bwlch y Croes, the highest pass
in Wales at 1,790 feet. Despite an over-enthusiastic approach to one or two sharp bends on the way up, we climbed safely to the summit, where - for a few minutes - we tucked into cold bacon sandwiches and hot sweet tea. Once more we were now above the mist and enjoying what we could see of the surrounding mountains, but we needed to press on, down the Dinas Mawddwy side of the mountain as we headed for pass number eight, The Bwlch Oerddrws, or The Pass of the Cold Door. And cold it was as we roared toward the Bwlch, where a short twist near the summit had us down to first gear again - even on this, the main road that connects Conwy to Cardiff! The fast run down into sleeping Dolgellau was exhilarating, for there are few bends to hinder the rider until the road nears the town. From here the route took us onto the arrow-straight, Roman road through the thickly wooded valley of Ganllwydas as we headed for the neat little town of Penrhyndeudraeth and pass number nine - beautiful Aberglaslyn. Beddgelert lay silent as we swept to the top of Gwynant above the
slate-cold waters of Llyn Dinas and Llyn Gwynant. Here the road levels for a short distance before reaching the Pen Y Gwryd Inn, famous for its association with the mountaineering fraternity. But in the dead of night there was no hope of stopping for a quick ‘snifter’, so we hurried on towards possibly the best-known pass in North Wales – Llanberis. Steeper and steeper we climbed, but quickly pressed on from the top down towards the town itself. At the north west end of Lake Padarn, we left the A486 to enter a maze of unclassified roads that took us up Deiniolen and across the lonely moor behind the Penrhyn Quarries, south of Bethesda to reach the A5, leaving the town itself deep in slumber. With just two more passes to ‘conquer’, the journey home was still a long time coming. We were tired, cold and hungry, and the three miles to the top of Nant Francon seemed endless, and then came a 25-mile run across the Carnedau to pass number 13, the Sychant. The road up to the top of Nant Francon levels at around 1,100 feet then descends at a rate of a hundred feet per mile before reaching Capel Curig, five miles away. We huddled over the machine and let the DMW rip. Was it our imagination or was the sky getting lighter as we paused by the Ugly house at Capel Curig to refuel the bike before turning up a lane to take a short cut over to the Conwy valley? Again more first gear work, up and over a little pass we were not even counting in our list of thirteen. Ruins of past activity appeared here and there over this short section, Disused Lead mines, gear heads staring up into the sky and naked spoil tips gave a ghostly feeling to these places before we dropped down through thickly-
Penmaenmawr planted conifers to join the B5106 and on to Conwy.
and directed us to the last pass on the list, the Sychnant.
With the end in sight and the prospect of turning for home ever closer, we missed our way and found ourselves in the middle Conwy. There, under the walls of the famous castle, the bike made funny little ticking noises as the engine cooled and we consulted Ordnance Survey maps. Suddenly the long arm of the law appeared. What were we doing, where had we been? We explained everything to the young constable, who invited us to the police station where he gave us tea
But we too tired to be impressed by the climb, and gratefully joined the main coast road at Penmaenmawr to head for home at full speed. We crossed the Dee at Queensferry again - eleven hours after we had ridden in the opposite direction fresh and eager for the task ahead. But, cold, stiff, tired and hungry our thoughts were only of warm fires, bacon and eggs, lots of tea and hot baths.
The Art Collector Melancholy nights on Znamensky Lane – Trubetsky Palace, Moscow of the Tsars, Bitter grisailles beneath indifferent stars. Muscovite Maecenas, tortured and in pain – Both his sons and a brother suicides, Beloved wife, too, of a sudden gone – Alas, for fortune that but in wealth resides, Alas for Shchukin, broken and alone. Dismissed by Paris as a crazed buffoon, Lunatic collector, he filled each room With double rows of pictures, cherry-red, Brilliant blue and green; nightly bound for bed, Worshipped with his gaze the artists of France: At a turn in the stair – Matisse’s ‘Dance’.
Illustration: the adventurers head home
A Terry Morris portrait has become one of the must haves for celebrities not just in Wales but further afield. The Llanelli based photographer’s striking style has captured, among others, Shirley Bassey, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones and Charlotte Church. He has photographed all Britain’s leading chefs and is the in-house chronicler of the prestigious Chateau Belle Vue wine estate in Bordeaux.
Terry Morris: Wales’ leading celebrity photographer
“Come on in the door’s open,” Terry shouts as I knock on the door of his Victorian home. I enter, “I have lived in this street all my life, my dad lives just over the road, no-one’s going to rob me,” he adds, grinning I had expected to find Terry poring over a lightbox or on the phone to an impossible showbiz publicist. Instead he is cleaning a brush and wiping his hands next to a half-finished canvas. There are several more stacked up and no sign of photographs. “I had come to see you as Wales’ leading celebrity photographer,” I stumble. “Just have a look at these first”. Terry has been painting for a few years now, but he is only just ready to show and talk about it. The stark black and white oils do follow on from his celebrity work, portraits of Alex Fergsuon, Rhys Ifans and even the Queen. “You’ve never photographed the Queen have you?” “Yes just once here in Llanelli. I only had about 45 seconds with her so not exactly a formal portrait. This is more from my imagination and public images of her.” The painting
shirley bassey has just been bought for the Tate Collection in London – a Diamond Jubilee present perhaps. Like Andy Warhol, Terry Morris understands celebrity and its hold on the modern world. IQn the paintings, his stark monotones seem like a reaction against the softening airbrush routinely demanded by those in the public eye. I put that to Terry: “I have been a photographer for fourteen years and I feel nowadays
that you are held to ransom by briefs and image consultants and corporate identity guidelines. With painting I can do it exactly as I think it should be done. Then you either like it, or you don’t.” Luckily plenty do. He has already sold paintings in Wales, London and New York and is talking to galleries about long term representation. “I am still developing my
sir alex ferguson painting style. I am going to stick with the black and white - that comes from my love of black and white photography. There’s so much you can do with it.” He employs the stark graphic quality of his work as a challenge, asking the audience to work a bit harder, “I want people to put a little time and effort into looking, maybe cause debate, maybe think a bit”. Time and effort have been
crucial to Terry’s success as he has followed an unconventional route to his art. After school in Llanelli he joined the army, making his way to the Paratroop Regiment. “We don’t talk about the war,” he says with another smile, so I skate over that. When he left the army he worked in Llanelli at various jobs, labouring, delivering meat, then as a welder. He did that for around ten years.
“I got really cheesed off with welding. I was always been interested in photography, so I signed up for night classes at Gorseinon College.” When he had learned his way around a professional camera, he persuaded the Llanelli Star to give him the odd weekend shift as a photographer. Then came his big break. The Star offered him a week’s full-time work. He called in sick to the welding company and went off
on the rounds of photographing cheque presentations, official visits and functions. “Lots of handshakes”, Terry remembers, “Grip and grin, I called it”. Unfortunately his boss at the welding firm found out about the moonlighting and sacked him on the spot. “Best thing that ever happened to me. I still see him and we have a
charlotte church laugh about it, ‘You made,my career’, I tell him.” He became a full time photographer, working at the Llanelli Star until 2005, by which time he felt confined again, this time by the predictability of local news photography. “It hit me one day when they sent me out to take pictures of double yellow lines in the town centre. I thought to myself, ‘I can’t
be doing this anymore’ ”. Luckily Terry had a further escape route. He had long wanted to do a collection of portraits of Welsh celebrities. By coincidence the Noah’s Ark Appeal, a Welsh charity building a dedicated children’s hospital in Cardiff, was looking for fundraising projects. He persuaded the trustees to give him access to their celebrity supporters. In return he would photograph them to raise money and
profile for the charity. The Cool Cymru Collection was a great success. Terry took portraits of Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Ryan Giggs, Bryn Terfel, Rhys Ifans, Charlotte Church and many others. He even persuaded Gavin Henson to get into a cage topless. “To tell the truth I was bricking it before the first session. But once I got into the swing of things I really enjoyed it and learnt more in those days than I had ever done before”. The original prints and a book of the collection were sold for the appeal. ITV Wales broadcast a television series about the project. The pictures were exhibited in the Wales Millennium Centre and the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. Best of all Terry’s work got noticed. “Before Cool Cymru I had to ring and ring to beg celebrities to let me take their picture. Afterwards they were ringing me.” This happened one afternoon when he was at home with his young daughter on his knee. “This guy rang up and just said, ‘Hi it’s Tony, can you come and take my portrait’, I recognised the voice and I was thinking, ‘Which Tony is this?’ He was talking about dates and I didn’t want to seem rude, so I just carried on. It took a while for the penny to drop, it was Anthony Hopkins.” A few days later Terry was in Los Angeles visiting Hopkins at his beachfront home in Malibu. “I had planned what I wanted, but when I got there, it seemed so had he. He said to me, ‘I want to be photographed on the beach, on my own.’ It was a bright day, so I told him the sun would make him squint. It would be a photographer’s nightmare - no control over the light. He said, ‘No problem, I will wear sunglasses’. Another issue, the eyes are usually what tell the story in a portrait”. However the picture was a success and after the shoot Hopkins quizzed Terry for an hour or more about what was going on back at
Ferguson loved the picture. As have many of Terry’s subjects. Terry’s is the only photographic portrait Shirley Bassey has of herself on the wall in her Monaco apartment. She even used it as her Christmas card. Charlotte Church says his is the best portrait she has ever had taken, “Oh I am sure she’s just being polite.” Terry says, “She has had lots of lovely portraits”. Terry is campaigning for a National Portrait Gallery of Wales. He points to the success of the portrait galleries in Edinburgh and London. “Portraits are a great way of getting people into art. We all love looking at pictures of people, especially famous people, and that gets us onto discussing whether it’s
a good image or not. That is what art is all about. If we could have a National Portrait Gallery it would work on so many levels – education, tourism, building a sense of national pride.” He has a role as Carmarthenshire’s Ambassador for the Arts, mainly working in schools encouraging children to think about creativity. You can see a passion for using the arts, especially the visual arts, for social and economic improvement, when he talks about the Welsh National Portrait Gallery, “No one comes to Wales to look at art. Why not, we have some great works here? We don’t have a place to celebrate our national heroes. Why not, everyone else does? Kids don’t learn enough about being creative.
Why not, it’s the future?” Terry’s future is busy. He is off to Morocco shortly, with the charity Shore to Shore, on a project teaching photography to street kids. The results of their work will be shown at the Arts in Marrakech festival. Then its Hong Kong, New York...... sadly most of his work is abroad, he is very rarely commissioned or offered jobs here. Marrakech, Malibu, Manhattan, why stay in Wales, in Llanelli, when there is demand all over the world? “I could never leave this place. It’s home. It’s me. I’ll stay in this street probably. That’s why I love the painting. I can do it here and sell it there.” A final very infectious Terry Morris smile.
Heston Blumenthal home in Wales. Second cup of tea in and I ask Terry about how he plans a celebrity shoot. Does he always have a firm idea in his head? “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, yes. You usually get plenty of run-up time with a celebrity, so I think about it. What environment I want them to be in, what I want to say about them, which aspect of their personality I want to major on.”
“Give me an example,” “Well with Alex Ferguson I knew he had to be in Old Trafford, that is his arena. But I also knew we are used to seeing him in front of the crowd on a match day, so I went for a day when it was empty. I wanted to show how he lives and breathes Manchester United. Then I used the perspective of the rows of seats to bring the eye straight to him, hinting at the incredible focus he has.”
Thanks to the very generous Terry Morris, one of our lucky readers can win one of his photographs! To win... 1. Have you noticed anything about the front cover? 2. Heston Blumenthal is clearly figured in the painting (see above), but what is on the right of the image? Please send your observations either on a post card to the address below or by email to: admin@cambriamagazine. com. All correct answers will be entered in a draw. Cambria, PO Box 22, Caerfyrddin, SA32 7YH.
jonah jones Jonah Jones (1919-2004) was a sculptor, letter cutter and printer; a maker of stained glass windows, watercolourist and draughtsman; a teacher and arts administrator, novelist, poet, essayist, broadcaster, raconteur and prolific letter writer. A typical Welshman then? In fact, he came from Tyneside, but believing his grandfather was a true Cymro, Jonah set about finding his roots – to discover that, although John Jones worked in the South Wales coalfields, he was born in Somerset. No matter, because Jonah - who was christened Leonard but opted for the nickname he acquired as a wartime medic - adored Wales and ended up living here for most of his life. Jonah Jones: an artist’s life is by his son the historian Peter Jones, who tells the story in an informative, amusing and workmanlike way.
A miner’s son who grew up in grinding poverty, Jonah went to school in Jarrow, that legendary seat of heroic, working class dissent. His grandfather was a bible-thumper whose severity was a way of making up for a whiff of unrespectability in the family (some of his 19th century forebears were deported to Australia for petty crimes) while his father, Norman, would organise long country walks, and cycling expeditions to the Lake District, and even bought a piano on the ‘never-never’. But he had been psychologically damaged by the First World War, and became a drinker who treated his wife Florrie like a skivvy. She learned to turn the other cheek, and scrimped and saved to give her children a decent upbringing. Given this background it isn’t difficult to see why Jonah would have become “someone quite lost, a loner, practically demanding... to be brought into human contact”, in the words of his wife after his death). The local library opened a
different world and a love of literature blossomed into political awareness. Jonah also discovered Quakerism, becoming a committed pacifist – which maked his war years particularly fascinating. A conscientious objector, he endured harrowing interviews before being ordered to fell trees in Exmoor, Wensleydale and Kirkcubright. But in 1944, his hatred of war gave way to a loathing of tyranny, and he enlisted as a medic in 224 Parachute Field Ambulance - in Jonah’s words: “an odd assortment of awkward squads: rationalists, vegans, Quakers, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists and rebels of no known grouping...’ John Petts, who founded the Caseg Press in North Wales, became a friend and after the war Jonah worked at the press for several years. In Belgium in December 1944 Jonah found himself being bombarded by mortars and Stukas as he drove through enemy lines in the dark and freezing conditions to save wounded men. In the Netherlands the 224 PFA were faced with starving civilians, and in March 1945 they crossed the Rhine, Jonah having to parachute to safety when his Dakota ‘tilted from some flak’. To his surprise he took several German soldiers prisoner, before they then set about rescuing the wounded using a horse-drawn dray. Operation Varsity was the biggest airborne action in history and marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. After the war, 224 PFA was sent to help the British peace effort in Palestine (soon to become Israel) and faced vicious reprisals by the Stern gang. While working in an education unit on Mt Carmel, Jonah met his future wife, Judith, a Jewish army officer from Odessa. The war was a brutal initiation to life, but had its compensations: many of the courageous and talented people Jonah met during that terrible time became friends – including the future BBC managing director Huw
Wheldon, and the printer, John Ryder. Peter Jones’s book has many striking passages covering the periods when Jonah contracted and overcame TB; learned letter cutting at Pigotts, the Buckinghamshire workshop begun by sculptor Eric Gill; converted to Roman Catholicism; and when he and Judith moved into the first of their romantic but semi-derelict houses on the Llŷn Peninsular. Then there were the periods spent working at Portmeirion with Clough Williams Ellis or designing wall sculptures for Mold Law Courts, Harlech College and the North Wales Police Authority. He mastered stained glass making for Ratcliffe and Ampleforth Colleges; produced beautiful calligraphy and carved inscriptions; illustrated a book on the lakes of North Wales; and enjoyed the friendship of Kyffin Williams and many other interesting people. Then, of course, there were the stone carvings: the gutsy, chunky, sometimes awkward and urgent pieces that Jonah Jones produced throughout his career in clear homage to Brâncuşi (who he called “the most complete artist of the 20th century) and the Romanian sculptor’s great student, Isamu Noguchi. A passionate believer in art for all, Jonah was also one of the policymakers who re-invented Britain’s post-school art education during the 1960s and 1970s. He took the work seriously and spent a great deal of time visiting art colleges and talking to staff and students. Even though his years as an arts administrator (with the Welsh Arts Council and the National College of Art and Design in Dublin) were often frustrating, his dedication shines through this book. Peter Jones has been deft enough to set his father’s life in a context which sheds light on many wider political and social issues. Jonah was an old-fashioned parent and his word was law, but Peter Jones plays
Ampleforth Madonna & child fair with a father he obviously misses a great deal. Thus his fondness for a remarkable, unusual man gives this wellwrought book a welcome personal edge.
Peter Jones, Jonah Jones, an artist’s life, Seren, 279pp; Jonah Jones, The Gregynog Journals, Scene & Word, 116pp; review by Caroline Juler.
The NBGW approaches its teens caroline palmer I’ve not been out and about as
much as I would like recently. There was Christmas and the almost uninterrupted rain, and then at last three clear cold days in January bringing the first proper frost to our coastal location. The osteospermums in pots had been flowering obliviously
right through December – it came as a shock to them to finally get their foliage frozen limp. Had they been in a glasshouse they’d have carried right on. By sheer coincidence these three days corresponded with a catastrophic water main failure in my house and the builders haven’t left since.
This is just the stimulus which might send me off to a restorative bask among the tropical plants in the Aberglasney winter garden, or the orchids in the John Belle Glasshouse in the walled garden at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Or to commune with the luckier and better protected osteospermums in the Great Glasshouse. However, trapped as I am amongst the pipes and jackhammers, the most I could do was slip away in the evening to hear Dr Rosie Plummer bring us up to date on the fortunes of the NBGW. The garden, she reminded us, is a just a baby at 12 years old, and a baby which has had many changes of parent and guardian and no Trust Fund. Unlike the other national botanic gardens: Kew, and Edinburgh , which receive about 2/3 of their income from government, it has to earn most of its own
photograph: caroline palmer
living, and gets only about 1/3 of its funding from the Welsh Assembly and Carmarthenshire Council. Little wonder that there have been crises in its upbringing, and a substantial turnover of Directors. Rosie robustly compares her position to that of the wives of Henry VIII. As the sixth Director of the garden, she hopes to survive! Her enthusiasm is infectious, and she is clearly a shrewd negotiator. For the display rooms attached to the Great Glasshouse she has acquired the travelling exhibition “From Another Kingdom” the UK’s first major multi-media exhibition on fungi, complete with massive model toadstools, following its sixmonth stint at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It will be among the attractions of the garden until February 2013. Her tag line for the talk is “conservation education, inspiration”
and the NBGW is breaking boundaries in all three. Many people forget that the garden is much more than its walled gardens, glasshouses and the broadwalk with meandering rill. In all, the site is 560acres in extent and much of it, Waun Las, is now a National Nature Reserve, run as a commercially viable but strictly responsible organic farm. Welsh black cattle, Llanwenog and Lleyn sheep are used to achieve different grazing patterns which favour the rich native flora. And the 12 years of careful management have favoured an abundance of the exquisite grassland fungi, the waxcaps. The garden offers 40 different educational programmes integrated to the National Curriculum, and welcomes numerous school parties. It also hosts theatrical and musical performances, film crews (the Tardis landed in the Great Glasshouse for a
recent Dr Who) and 125 weddings a year. Serious laboratory-based science now takes place in the laboratories behind the walled garden, and NBGW is prominent worldwide for its part in the Barcode Wales project, which is obtaining a DNA fingerprint for every native species of flowering plant in the Principality. With 1143 species analysed so far, Wales leads the world in this international endeavour. Why do this, asks the mud-on-boots gardener? The applications will be far reaching, for a plant will be identifiable from the tiniest fragment. Mud on his boots could indeed, in the future, identify precisely where he had been, just as the genetic profile of pollen grains will give unrivalled information as to what bees and other pollinators, beetles, hoverflies and bugs may have been up to.
photograph: caroline palmer
The garden is a living collection, with a number of specific conservation functions. The Great Glasshouse is devoted to collections of plants from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Such climatic zones represent just 1.3% of the land surface, but account for 27% of the world’s plants. It is now rated the finest collection of this type in the world. Another function is the conservation of native rarities: oddities like the dishevelled Derwydd daffodil, a rare Whitebeam found only in a few spots near Merthyr Tydfil, and Cotoneaster cambricus a low-growing native of the limestone crags of the Great Orme which is inconveniently willing to hybridise with garden species. But its core mission must always tap into the inspiration people get from looking at the beauty and diversity of plants. These are the visitors and repeat
rhos pasture visitors who flock through the garden’s entrance, and pay, ultimately for its upkeep. Regular readers of Cambria will remember that in addition to gardens, I have another loyalty, to modern man’s evolutionary partner, the dog. Otto, my Lhasa Apso is particularly looking forward to the plans mentioned on the website to trial ‘Doggie Days’ at NBGW. I do hope that this experimental
dr. rosie plummer admission of dogs with their owners will prove successful, for in my experience a great many gardeners also have a canine family member, whom they would much rather not leave locked up in a car.
For further information: www.gardenofwales.org.uk
photograph: caroline palmer
A View of the Straits Luned Meredith It’s not often we look at a man-made structure in a rural setting and consider it a worthy addition to the landscape. We believe nothing can improve on nature and we will do all that we can to preserve the wild natural beauty of our country. But bridges are different. Bridges are romantic and beautiful and often hold great significance in joining community to community as well as river bank to river bank. In particular, Thomas Telford’s nineteenth- century bridge across the Menai Straits is different. It has the grace and elegance that make it a thing of beauty in its own right. It was one of our regular Saturday afternoon strolls from our home on the outskirts of Bangor. Down the hill, over the Menai Bridge to Ynys Môn, loitering to wonder at the swirling waters far beneath, past the Anglesey Arms and the Mart (now Waitrose) and through the woodland of Coed Cyrnol - now home once more to our native red squirrels - down to the shores of the Menai Straits. A few hundred yards away from the traffic of the A5, there’s a peaceful walk along the shore along a track known as Belgian Promenade, built by Belgian refugees during the first world war, which leads eventually to Lôn Cei and under Telford’s suspension bridge towards Porthaethwy (Menai Bridge) itself. This stretch of the shore - and indeed the water of the straits too
photograph: david williams - is recognised as an important conservation area. Ahead, as you walk down from Coed Cyrnol, is the short causeway to Ynys Tysilio or Church Island. The path takes you around the island, eventually reaching the small 15th-century church with its wonderful oak door. Walking through this graveyard and passing the familiar gravestones is a strangely reassuring and companionable experience. And there can’t be many graves in Wales with a better view. In the evening sunshine, it’s wonderful to stand on the high ground of the island and enjoy the panoramic sweep of the Straits and watch the movement of the tides. To the east is the suspension bridge, even more imposing from sea level, with its huge swags of chains and high arches. Beyond lies the village of Porthaethwy - the site of the ferry crossing before the bridge was built - and beyond that, although it can’t be seen from here, the stunning corniche bends of the Beaumaris road, with its glimpses of the glittering water through the trees.
To the west is another nineteenth-century bridge - Stephenson’s tubular bridge, the Britannia Bridge, built originally to carry the railway line but now carrying as well the A55 road on its way to the port of Caergybi (Holyhead). The shore just the other side of the Britannia Bridge and not visible from this spot, or indeed from many other spots, is the unlikely site of a large statue of Nelson. The only land access to the shore here is through the graveyard - strewn with wild garlic in early summer - of another church, Llanfair (St Mary’s) which gives its name to nearby Llanfair PG. Here he stands, forever gazing out from his high plinth, upon the waters which he described as among the most treacherous in the world. If you had stood on this spot on Church Island in the early 1950s, you would have witnessed the end of the impressive nineteenth-century battleship, HMS Conway. It had seen service in the Crimean War and in the Caribbean. For many years, it was a familiar part of the
landscape, an impressive black and white wooden ship, moored near the grounds of Plas Newydd, home of the Marquess of Anglesey’s family, and used as a training ship. It was the largest vessel to have passed underneath the suspension bridge. But it only managed it once. In 1953, it ran aground on the Caernarfonshire side of the Straits on its way to Birkenhead. Here the great sad hulk languished for several years until it was totally destroyed by fire in 1956. If you had stood here on Church Island even further back, around 60 AD, you would have witnessed the arrival of the first of the Roman armies, intent on conquering Môna and its troublesome druids and encountering fierce resistance. The historian Tacitus described the scene: By the shore stood an opposing battle-line, thick with men and weapons, woman running between them, like the Furies in their funereal clothes, their hair flowing,
carrying torches; and Druids among them, pouring out frightful curses with their hands raised high to the heavens, our soldiers being so scared by the unfamiliar sight that their limbs were paralysed, and they stood motionless and exposed to be wounded. One of Wales’ most popular poets, Cynan, is buried on Church Island, his grave facing towards the Britannia Bridge and perhaps in the direction of the Llyn Peninsula where he was born. The Reverend Albert Evans-Jones, and later Sir Cynan Evans-Jones (1895 -1970) was poet, dramatist, preacher, lecturer and broadcaster, and lived not far from the place where he is now buried. As Archdruid, he introduced formality into the public ceremonies which, together with his sonorous voice, brought dignity to the proceedings. There is a wonderful black and white photograph of Cynan taken by Geoff Charles during his time as
photograph: david williams Archdruid. He is sitting in the back of an open convertible, some time in the ‘50s, resplendent in his ceremonial robes and looking like Hollywood royalty. Some people regarded him as formal and aloof. Whenever I pass his grave, however, I remember the avuncular figure who taught my sister and me to play pontoon - or vingt-et-un - during a family visit to his daughter’s seaside chalet one wet summer afternoon. I think (but I may be wrong) that we played for matches.
photograph: david williams
Nefyn and the Dragon’s Tail Byron Kalies Nefyn and District must rate as the most spectacular golf course in the whole of Wales. It is a simply magnificent course to play or even to just walk around. The views are stunning and it shares the claim of Royal Porthcawl that there is a view of the sea from every tee. As you stand on the thirteenth tee looking across the edge of the cliff with the sea roaring beneath you, you must wonder if there is a more beautiful place to play golf in the world, or a more demanding tee shot.
Nefyn, a cliff top course continually featured in the top half a dozen courses in Wales and amongst the very best of Britain, overlooks the Irish Sea with the breathtaking backdrop of the mountains of Snowdonia. On a good day there is a view of the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, a mere fifty seven miles away. The course is nestled in the north-west corner of Wales on the Llyn peninsula known as the Dragons Tail. This area of Wales is a finger of land 24 miles long with a culture all of its own. In a recent BBC wales documentary the area was
described as “a place where battles which have been lost in other parts of Wales are still being fought, battles about language, culture and society.” This unique area of Wales hosts two other superb golf courses, On the southern coast of the peninsula is Pwllheli Golf club. The course was designed by the legendary Tom Morris in 1900. A few years later James Braid, designer of a number of courses including Gleneagles and Carnoustie, had a hand in the redesign of the course. Further south along the coast is the acclaimed links course of Abersoch designed by phenomenal golf course designer Harry Vardon, multiple winner of the Open. The club was officially founded on Boxing Day 1907 and opened in 1908. Nefyn itself is a small town that has been dependant on fishing and ship building for much of its history. The coat of arms for the town features three herring. There has been a settlement here since at least 300 BC. 170 stone huts and rampart have been discovered at the Iron Age fortified village of Gam Bouduan built on the hill overlooking the town. It also appears in the writings
of Gerard of Wales and became a free borough in 1355. In contemporary times Welsh pop singer Duffy caused controversy in 2008 describing Nefyn, where she grew up, as a place ”where pipe dreams are quashed in order to prevent you from being disappointed”. The fishing village of Porthdinllaen was famous for shipbuilding and smuggling. There are tales of smuggling rum, tea and all manner of goods at Porthdinllaen and all along the Llyn peninsula. A customs house and storehouse were built on the coast in the early 18th century in a bid to limit the illicit trade. In the 1840s it was an incredibly busy harbour with over 900 ships entering the port each year. Later as railway and industry grew Porthdinllaen became a major port on the route from Dublin to London. Today the village is in the care of the National Trust and a popular destination for tourists with its beach, cycle trails and coastline walks. The golf club of Nefyn and District itself was founded in 1907
after a meeting at the Ty Coch pub on Porthdinllaen beach. The pub still exists and provides a useful resting place if you take a slight detour between the 13th green and the 14th tee. Or, if the golf isn’t going so well, it is the perfect ending to your round. In 1907 the course was laid out as a 9 hole course. It stayed that way for a number of years until it was developed in the1920s and 30s by two of the ‘Great triumvirate’ of golf of the day. The Triumvirate consisted of three golf legends all with strong associations with the area: Harry Vardon, JH Taylor and James Braid. The latter two were involved in the development of the course in 1933, adding a further nine holes and enhancing the first nine. The course was completed to the obvious satisfaction of both men and the members at the club. James Braid described the course as ‘‘situated on one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen.’ The course is unusual in that it is the only 26 hole golf course in the world, rather than the traditional 18. The opening 10 holes are played on all occasions. The course then breaks
into 2 courses, the ‘old’ final 8 holes wind their way along ‘The Point’. These are the holes played along the cliff edge and are a must for visitors. A former secretary of Nefyn Golf Club described conditions on a windy day to writer George Houghton in ‘Golf Addict Invades Wales’ as the ‘nearest thing to playing golf on the upper deck of an aircraft carrier’. The ‘New’ course tends to be played by the members in their competitions. The course is loved by many who have had the honour to play it. The reviews of the course are superlative and it has earned its honour as one of the top 100 courses in the U.K. The writer John Hopkins grew up playing the course, in his review of the course in ‘Golf Wales’ he concludes that ‘Nefyn is sporty, difficult on a windy day, and above all else, plain good fun…. It has remained the course I love above all others for the past 50 years.” Nefyn & District Golf Club www.nefyn-golf-club.co.uk +44 (0) 1758 720 966 email@example.com
llumanwr, llumanwyr linesman
ar bigau’r drainon tenterhooks
llinell, llinellau line-out
Y Gêm Genedlaethol Cyn Bo Hir Bydd
asgellwr, asgellwyr wing
llwy bren wooden spoon
bachyr, bachwyr hook
maswr, maswyr outside-half
blaenasgellwr, blaenasgellwyr flanker
mewnwr, mewnwyr inside-half
Pencampwriaeth y Chwe Gwlad yn cychwyn, ac am gwpl o fisoedd byd cefnogwyr yn byw trwy deimladau cryf gobaith, hapusrwydd, tristwch a rhyddhad, heb os, ond efallai llawenydd pur neu anobaith llwyr hefyd. Mae pob cefnogwr rygbi ar bigau’r drain yn ystod y bencampwriaeth. Y chwe gwlad yn y bencampwriaeth ryngwladol yw Cymru, Lloegr, yr Alban, Iwerddon, Ffrainc a’r Eidal. Eleni, mae timoedd rygbi’r Alban, yr Eidal a Ffrainc yn dod i chwarae yn erbyn Cymru yn
Stadiwm y Mileniwm yng Nghaerdydd ac mae tîm Cymru yn teithio i Ddulyn a Twickenham i chwarae yn erbyn Iwerddon a Lloegr yn eu tro. Os dych chi’n mynd i wylio’r gêm ar y teledu, beth am ei gwylio hi ar S4C, a gwrando ar y sylwebaeth yn Gymraeg? Os nad yw’r gêm ar S4C, beth am wylio’r gêm ar y teledu heb sain a gwrando ar y sylwebaeth ar Radio Cymru? Os dych chi’n byw mewn gwlad sy ddim yn debygol o ddarlledu’r gemau, mae hi’n bosibl gwrando ar Radio Cymru dros y we. Dyma rai o’r geiriau byddwch chi’n debygol o glywed wrth i chi wrando ar y sylwebaeth. Yn gyntaf, mae’n rhaid i chi nabod enwau’r mathau gwahanol o chwaraewyr mewn tîm rygbi: yr asgellwyr a’r blaenasgellwyr, y blaenwyr a’r cefnwyr, y bachwyr a’r olwyr, y maswyr a’r mewnwyr. Y dyfarnwr yw’r person sy’n rheoli’r gêm ac mae’r llumanwyr yn ei helpu
blaenwr, blaenwyr forward cais, ceisiau try
fe. Os oes eisiau, mae’r dyfarnwr yn rhoi cic gosb. Pan mae llinell, mae’r dyfarnwr yn sicrhau bob popeth yn iawn, a neb yn symud yn rhy fuan. Sut bydd y sylwebydd yn disgrifio’r gêm? Mae’r chwaraewyr yn pasio’r bêl ac yn cicio’r bêl ac yn ffurfio sgrym. Mae chwaraewyr da iawn – neu lwcus iawn, efallai – yn sgorio trwy wneud cais ac yna drosiad. Pan mae chwaraewr yn paratoi i gicio’r bêl, yn ei hanelu hi at y pyst ac yna ei chicio hi, mae pawb sy’n gwylio yn dal eu gwynt. Ac wedyn? Mae rhai cefnogwyr yn gweiddi â llawenydd ac mae rhai yn ochneidio â siom.
Er bod chwe gwlad yn cystadlu yn y bencampwriaeth y dyddiau yma, ar un adeg dim ond Cymru, yr Alban, Lloegr ac Iwerddon oedd yn cymryd rhan. Os mae un o’r timoedd yna yn curo’r tair gwlad arall, mae’r tîm buddugol wedi ennill y Goron Driphlyg. Os mae un wlad yn curo pob un o’r pump arall, mae’r tîm buddugol wedi ennill y Gamp Lawn. Mae’r tîm sy’n gorffen y bencampwriaeth â’r sgôr isaf yn ennill y llwy bren. Tybed a fydd un o’r chwe gwlad yn ennill y Goron Driphlyg neu’r Gamp Lawn eleni? A phwy fydd yn mynd adref gyda’r llwy bren?
olwr, olwyr half-back os oes eisiau if need be
Camp Lawn Grand Slam
pencwmpwriaeth, pencampwriaethau championship
cefnogwr, cefnogwyr supporter
post, pyst rugby post
cefnwr, cefnwyr back
cic gosb, ciciau cosb penalty kick
sylwebaeth, sylwebaethau commentary
Coron Driphlyg Triple Crown
sylwebydd, sylwebwyr commentator
dal eu gwynt to hold their breath
teimlad, teimladau emotion
dyfarnwr, dyfarnwyr referee
trosiad, trosiadau conversion
gwe, gweoedd web
yn eu tro respectively
heb os no doubt (“without an if ”)
The pleasures and pitfalls of biography, and that kiss. The post-Christmas period is always a quiet one in the Welsh publishing calendar. The publisher who bucks this trend (as so much else) is Parthian, the small but enterprising imprint run by Richard Davies out of Aberteifi/ Cardigan town. For the last twenty years he and his diligent staff have produced many of the most attractive books on the market: they are nicely designed in a contemporary format and printed to a high standard. What’s more, and this makes it even more special, Parthian makes a real effort to sell its books, never missing a trick when it comes to publicity, marketing and sales outlets. The three most recent titles in the Library of Wales (now comprising 32 titles) are: Raymond Williams, The Volunteers (£8.99), Gwyn Thomas, All Things Betray Thee (£8.99), and Dannie Abse, Goodbye, Twentieth Century (£9.99). That all three writers have appeared in the series before has not gone unremarked, but these books take their undisputed place in the Welsh Pantheon. In addition, Parthian has published a new edition of Raymond Williams’ The Long Revolution, one of his most important books. Its title refers to the third revolution of culture that followed the democratic and industrial revolutions of the 19th century and explores the influence of the mass media, literacy and the socioeconomic forces which have shaped our own times. Something of popular culture can be glimpsed in two small anthologies edited by Gareth Williams: The Great Crowd Roars: a selection of the best Welsh football writing
(Parthian, £7.99) and The First XV: a selection of the best rugby writing (Parthian, £9.99). The first of these has contributions by Hywel Teifi Edwards, John Toshack and Trevor Ford, while the second has Dylan Thomas, Gwyn Thomas, Richard Burton, Gerald Davies, Alun Richards, Eddie Butler and Rupert Moon. For those like me who enjoy rummaging in secondhand bookshops, Bill Rees has written The Loneliness of the Long Distance Book Runner (Parthian, £7.99), an entertaining run-around of some of the best (and worst) shops in Europe from the Hay to Madrid, with quirky anecdotes about the treasures, books and people, he picks up on the way. An hilarious insight into the trade. Herbert Williams is one of our oldest, and most distinguished, writers. Although he is primarily known as a poet, I am glad to see him still publishing the proseworks on which his reputation as a writer now so firmly rests. His latest books are Tiger in the Park (Alun Books, £5.99), a collection of stories, and Nice Work If You Can Get It (Cinnamon, £8.99), his autobiography, in which he describes his early years in Aberystwyth, his battle against TB and his subsequent career as a journalist and professional writer. Aficionados of the work of R. S. Thomas will want to read Daniel Westover’s book, R. S. Thomas: a stylistic biography (University of Wales Press). Concentrating on the poet’s craft, and on the poems themselves, rather than the curmudgeonly personality, this American critic has written a percipient study of our greatest poet in English. It is always a pleasure to come across a book by a writer of whom I have never heard. Such a one is Vanessa Gebbie’s novel The Coward’s Tale (Bloomsbury, £16.99). Don’t be put off by the corny nicknames and the shades of Under Milk Wood. This is a brave novel about kinship, guilt and atonement set in a recognisable Merthyr that has some memorable characters and a poetic quality which is rare in contemporary Welsh writing. The most substantial biography to appear in Welsh in recent months is Alan Llwyd’s Kate (Y Lolfa, £19.95). It is, of course, thorough but, given that so much has already been written about Kate Roberts’ life and work, covers much the same ground as what we already know about the novelist. Much has been made in the Welsh press about the author’s claim that Roberts was bisexual, an assertion based on her having relished been kissed by ‘a butcher’s wife from Pontardawe’ after staying at her home in the 1930s. The frisson caused by this tibit of information has to
be set against the fact that the woman’s grand-daughter has now come forward to point out that the biographer got some of his facts wrong and to cast serious doubt on whether the kiss took place at all. Alan Llwyd is not a man who takes kindly to being corrected but it seems this time he has egg on his face.
Meic Stephens also recommends: • Bethan Mair (gol.), Hoff Gerddi Natur Cymru (Gomer, £7.99) • Alan Llwyd, Sut i greu englyn (Barddas, £5.95) • Elin Haf, Ar Fôr Tymhestlog (Carreg Gwalch, £7.50) • Geraint H. Jenkins, The Swans Go Up! (Y Lolfa, £4.95) • Ioan Kidd, Un o Ble Wyt Ti? (Gomer, £8.99) • Euron Griffith, Dynpobun (Y Lolfa, £7.95) • Anthony Evans, Canfas, Cof a Drws Coch (Carreg Gwalch, £5) • Ifan Morgan Jones, Yr Argraff Gyntaf (Y Lolfa, £7.95) • A.D.Carr, Medieval Anglesey (Anglesey Antiquarian Society, £19.95) • Alan Llwyd, Stori Hedd Wyn / The Story of Hedd Wyn (Barddas, £7.95) • Dag Pike, Hidden Harbours of Wales (Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson, £13.95) • Nigel West and Madoc Roberts, Snow: the double life of a World war II spy (Biteback, £20)
reviews My Failings and Imperfections The Diary of Rees Thomas of Dol-llan, 1860-1862. Edited by Steve Dube
(Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and Ceredigion Histrorical Society, £12.00) byron rogers This is a book so extraordinary that, were it not for its elaborate introduction, editorial notes and index, I would have thought it a spoof. It is the diary of a
Llandysul squire, a mid 19th century bachelor in his late 30’s, who filled his days by planting fruit trees, quarrelling over money with his relatives, falling out of his coracle into the Teify, before going on the most appalling three day benders and sleeping in turn with his maid servants when they weren’t bullying him, this in his grand Georgian house, and, in the fields, with his neighbours. The rest is prayer. You might have found him on most days in the woods above his mansion praying that, with the exception of the fruit trees, he could put it all behind him. This is the diary of an industrious man, fuelled by guilt and raisin wine, and mad as a badger.
It was of course a time when, with Nonconformity at its flood tide, much of the Welsh population (including two of his brothers ) was quietly certifiable. “Bewildered,” writes Rees Thomas as he emerges from yet another bender, as you and I might, with booze, sex and the chapels padding behind us. Which is perhaps why the diary has lain, ticking away like a time bomb, in its case for a century and a half, in the files of a Haverfordwest solicitor and then in the Pembrokeshire Records Office, where the journalist Steve Dube came upon it and could not believe his luck. For this is not our social history as purveyed by respectable Welsh historians (with the exception of Russell Davies in his Secret Sins), but then neither is it stealthy erotica as in Pepys (there are no details of what happened under the counterpanes): My Failings and Imperfections is the agonised confession of a man on the run who longs for death ( and had just three years left him before that longing was achieved ). But there is humour, for the maids he seduces are not victims ( as they are in that Victorian stud-book My Secret Life). The only victim is Rees Thomas himself who has to endure their tantrums as they gang up on him and go on strike, refusing to cook his meals but, apparently, never his sexual attentions. In fact a good sub-title might have been Trouble at Harem, or Hunger. His great fear was impregnation, so the only details given are those relating to coitus interruptus successfully accomplished, so no wonder the women were bad-tempered, having to endure the Squire with his paraffin lamp peering under
the sheets after each encounter. If you have a taste for black comedy then this is the book for you. Alas, all that care and agonising were in vain : the diary stops abruptly when one of the maids becomes pregnant. We are not told what became of her or the child. There are some remarkable glimpses of Welsh preachers, one of whom, officiating at a funeral, is so drunk he falls asleep during the service. Later he kicks his wife and gives her a rupture, after which, understandably, she runs off. It was all go beside the Teify in the 1860’s, especially as a crowd watches the Squire, smashed, fall into it from his coracle. “Oh, what a talk there is today about me.” What’ll the neighbours say, what’ll the neighbours say? But then there were the fruit trees. The Squire loved fruit trees and the only idyllic moments in his diary are when he plants these on his estate and watches them come into bloom. Cherry, plum, pears. “O what a beautiful sight to see the buds and blossoms of spring transmuted into flowers and foliage.” And for a moment, a single fleeting moment, he seems happy before the maids and the booze close in again. Then it is over, and The Welshman is mourning an industrious farmer and a benevolent neighbour, while, unseen, unread, the diary is ticking away. Mr Dube is to be congratulated on introducing us to a frantic running man who at one level seems to belong to the horror stories of M.R.James, being just out of reach of his pursuers, but still a man redeemed by fruit trees.
In Search of Welshness Peter Daniels (Y Lolfa, £9.95)
gwyn griffiths Over the past year I have read three books on the theme of Welshness – two of them by writers seeking to re-discover that Welshness. This is reassuring at a time when the English, frantic that the Scots are hell bent on going their own way and Wales might follow, are revisiting their roots and airbrushing us Celts out of British history. If you don’t believe me try watching Time Team on Channel 4. As a friend from the other side of Offa’s Dyke, who shares my fury with this series asked me recently – “Do you speak Iron Age?” Peter Daniels, Llanelli-born but who has spent his working life in London, records a lifetime pursuing his Welshness. It is a leisurely, life long experience. He is obsessed with rugby. London Welsh RFC – Bowls Section - and Llanelli feature prominently as do the London Welsh chapels with their singing and table
tennis league. He spoke some Welsh in his childhood but was discouraged by a South Pembrokeshire mother – “Latin is essential” - and a Tory-voting father. His is the story of a group of clubbable Welsh exiles, singing away their Saturday nights, getting older and rummaging with increasing desperation for halfforgotten roots, re-learning the language and watching their own children move further away from those roots. He is much influenced by books written in the 1970s by Trevor Fishlock and Ned Thomas. He is annoyed that Wales is increasingly sidelined by Anglocentric TV and newspapers. He is concerned – rightly - that Wales is becoming invisible in a “national” media with no interest in what happens here. At times depressing, other times he cheers the reader up with his conclusions that there are Welsh values worth preserving – our humanity, radicalism, friendliness and sense of fun. All those qualities come out in this delightful book. He sees us as less socially stratified, more liberal, less grasping and disdainful of one-upmanship. The cameos of his drinking mates, the older generation, at Old Deer Park many of them also in search of their Welshness, joining choirs and attending Welsh classes offer a valuable picture of the Welsh in exile. The Welsh connection of a few of them is pretty tenuous, but no matter. My favourite story in this part of the book is that of the father of David (Dafydd) Davies who left Penrhyndeudraeth and arrived at Euston station with hardly a word of English. He was spotted by a Welshspeaking policeman who within a day had introduced him to a Welsh butcher who gave him a job as head cowman on a large dairy farm in Essex. As a child Dafydd often had to be his father’s interpreter. Daniels’ efforts to re-learn Welsh brought him into contact with a young generation also learning the language – like Heinke from Friesland who went as a nurse to Morriston hospital and fell in love with Wales and a lad from Lampeter. And Clare, a young barrister, whose Welsh connection was that her father came from the border village of Llanymynech, near Oswestry. The last word has to go to Akiko, a Japanese girl on her way to study at Cardiff. When she landed in Heathrow a customs officer asked her how long she was staying in England. “Just for today,” she replied. “I’m passing through on my way to Wales.” She had the right idea.
Bred of Heaven Jasper Rees
(Profile Books, £12.99) Jeremy Fonge The publicity surrounding the launch of ‘Bred of Heaven’ suggested the book might just have been the product of a ‘wheeze’: the outcome of an amusingly novel idea designed to provide Jasper Rees’s work with an airing on Radio 4’s Book of the Week and a subsequent sales boost to match. And at times one does feel that Rees’s access to the Wales of today was a little too easy. Who else could hope to lunch with Bryn Terfel in his native Snowdonia (“There is a mixed message in the blue eyes… They defy and they beseech. It’s a very Welsh look”), or so easily become a member of the Pendyrus Male Voice Choir as it prepares a triumphant return to the National Eisteddfod? But this is not to carp. Rees (the London-based product of Harrow School, which his Welsh father also attended) clearly relishes discovering the Wales both of his grandparents and his own generation. Not for him the maudlin: the hankering after the days of pithead baths and the great heroes of amateur rugby; the ‘boyo-ness’ of being among one’s butties in the choir as they raise beerlubricated voices to the pub roof. In a beautifully crafted, lively and ever-humorous piece of work, Rees offers us a fresh look at Wales: an affectionate look which combines both pride and pleasure. The child of a family which cheered as they crossed the Severn Bridge back into England, Rees clearly realizes that there is a far greater depth and breadth to the country which was once a part of his childhood self but which had (as his life developed in a very English work and social milieu) become little more than a geographic presence west of England. Rees slips elegantly and easily between the present and the past, and back again . Family history and the writings of H.V. Morton, George Borrow Daniel Defoe and Gerald Cambrensis are skillfully interwoven with Ree’s quest to learn Welsh, understand role of the Eisteddfod and religion in today’s society, put the remnants of the Welsh coal industry into context and experience the timelessness of hill farming. He shares the comradeship of achievement which is the very essence of male choirs, and walks the lonely lengths of Offa’s Dyke. ‘Bred of Heaven’ is not so much an ‘Oh woe is Wales’ requiem, but a brisk ‘Oh wow is Wales’ cantata – and, if nothing else, Jasper Rees is to be thanked and congratulated for achieving this alone.
Best day walks in Snowdonia John Gillham
(Frances Lincoln Ltd., £12.99) Jeremy Fonge The first book to sell as I ventured into the world of Amazon was a walkers’ map of Snowdonia; the second a little pocket book of walks in the Wye Valley. The spirit of the great Wainwright is still very much alive, and John Gillham helps maintain that tradition in an illustrious form. ‘Best day walks in Snowdonia’ introduces us to 30 hiking sorties within the area, each graded from 1 to 5 for difficulty. Beautifully illustrated with photographs, maps and line drawings, each walk is described on a point-bypoint basis – and not without wit: “Carnedd Llewelyn gets bigger and more bulbous with every step – like an over-indulgent prop forward’. John Gillham is an assiduous walker and guide who also involves us in the history of the region as it relates to each walk: of the medieval farmhouse at Nant Pasgan, (walk 19) he tells us “this was the scene of a brutal robbery in which a wealthy drover ….. was murdered for his money”.
Rounded off with guidance as to the best maps to buy, the public transport facilities available and towns and villages in which to establish a ‘base’, ‘Best day walks in Snowdon’ even includes a guide to place names and basic Welsh pronunciation.- and all within a handy pocket size.
Edwardian Country Life – The Story of H. Avray Tipping. Helena Gerrish
(Frances Lincoln, £35.00) CAROLINE PALMER Until this book appeared there was little accessible information about the prolific scholar, writer and garden designer H. Avray Tipping, who was born in 1855 and died in 1933. Certainly his name crops up today in relation to Arts and Crafts gardens and restorations where he designed or advised, and those thumbing early numbers of Country Life encounter his name repeatedly. Important early 20th century tomes such as English Homes: Architecture from medieval times to the early part of the 19th century ( 9 volumes) and Gardens Old and New (3 volumes) also bear his witness to his industriousness as an editor and descriptive writer. But the man himself has remained little celebrated, perhaps not least because on his death, and on his own instructions, his principle heir the head gardener, destroyed all his personal papers, and in due course sold his estates. Helena Gerrish has left no stone unturned in remedying this gap, revealing much about the forgotten life of a man who, like many of his circle devoted himself to the Edwardian ideals of beauty and culture but left no descendants to keep that memory alive. Initially, I imagine, her interest was fired by her and her husband’s purchase and restoration of High Glanau, Tipping’s last home and perhaps the most personal of his creations, a generously sized Arts and Crafts ‘cottage’ built on a
virgin site overlooking Monmouth, with Sugar Loaf and Skirrid on the western horizon ( See Cambria Vol. 12, No 3). Tipping was one of four boys a born to a wealthy couple whose inherited wealth derived from his the grandfather, a prominent Lancashire corn merchant. His middle name, Avray, which became his given name, commemorates his place of birth: Chateau de Ville d’Avray in northern France. Reared at another fine estate, Brasted Place in Kent, he duly went up to Oxford, contemporaneously with Oscar Wilde, and dabbled in thespianism with OUDS and in the aesthetic movement. There may have been connections with Lewis Carroll – certainly one of Tipping’s close friends and collaborators the architect George Herbert Kitchin was among Dodgson’s photographic models as a child. But Gerrish paints her biography cautiously: it is easier to show a connection in place and time than to prove close influences with so little direct evidence to draw upon. With the death of his father and his brothers Tipping became steadily richer, and a different character might well have elected not to work at all. Tipping however always worked prolifically, and among the less elusive members of his circle are Christopher Hussey his protegé and later successor as architectural editor of Country Life, Gertrude Jekyll, Lawrence Weaver, and Harold Peto of Iford Manor ( with whom he went on cycling holidays). He restored or built from new a number of fine houses in his adopted county of Monmouthshire: the restored Mathern palace ( which he occupied with his mother until her death in 1911) Mounton House and finally High Glanau. This is a lavishly illustrated book which, as it reveals connections with so many influential figures of the early 20th century, provides an enjoyable glimpse of many familiar people and places. It is presumably for this reason that the publishers have titled it ‘Edwardian Country Life’, while its real subject, H. Avray Tipping, is relegated to a subheading. This may be a clever marketing ploy, drawing in readers searching for material about Country Life the magazine, or those with a general interest in the Edwardian period, but I think it is a pity. The words deserving of greater prominence on the cover are ‘H. Avray Tipping’, and ‘Helena Gerrish’ herself. It may be her first book, but it is a very good one, because it is not just a reworking of the generally known, but a retelling of much which has been forgotten.
dear editor Going for Gogol Dear Editor, I enclose one of my short essays, in the hope that you may find a corner for it in Cambria. My reason for sending it to you is perhaps worth noting. Wales now, apart from Planet and New Welsh, both filled with a handful of ‘big names’, has no literary journal to display the work of its many writers. The loss of Cambrensis and the more recent failure of Blue Tattoo and Linkway have left a very big gap indeed. There are a few small publications and one or two occasional ventures but this gap is I suspect a matter worth of literary investigation by someone like the worthy Meic Stephens. There are degree and postgraduate and PhD level Creative Writing courses in almost all of our established and very new universities across the country. As well as scores of writing groups between Bangor and Barry, and courses run by bodies of all kinds and inclinations. Where and when do these writers publish? The answer is rarely, if ever, and almost certainly not in Wales. Of course given the involvement of universities and the cost to individuals inspired to write, there’s a sort of inverse ‘economy of scale’. Why follow a course at any level, anywhere, if there’s virtually no possibility of being published? I’m not just penning this because I’m researching a Ph.D in Creative Writing but because I think a little investigation might bring some response from readers. Incidentally, I haven’t named the establishment where Gogol was misplaced but it has a similar postcode to that of Cambria. I gained an MA there, in Creative Writing, naturally! Rob Morgan, Morriston, Swansea.
Now, I’m a lifelong admirer of Gogol. Not just as a superb ‘Russian’ prose writer and dramatist, though in fact he was Ukrainian, but also as a writer of pan-European stature. He had it all, the tormented existence, the troubled mind, destroying his finest manuscript at the bitter end. And what a bitter end. His brilliant play ‘The Government Inspector’ is one of the very few satires of the modern age which could relocate to any ‘civilised’ country in the world. As for his stories of ‘Village Evenings..’ well, far more convincing plots than Emmerdale for a start, and some of the country tales would give that nice Miss Marple a run for her money. I’ve been dipping into his wondrous works for pleasure of late, and if truth be told a little inspiration. So. There was I. In the Arts and Social Sciences library of one of our newer universities and thought, with an hour to while away, I’d pick something of Nikolai Vasilevich’s substantial portfolio from the shelves and pass the time enjoyably out on the Steppes. I typed the name Gogol into the catalogue system. Up came a decent list of his writing and some biographes and critical essays. The works. Now, not being entirely familiar with the layout of this vast, recently extended and tastelessly refurbished edifice, I asked the librarian at the desk to point me in Gogol’s direction. My choice wasn’t there. I asked again, perhaps it was on loan? No she answered me firmly, clicking impatiently at her keyboard, Gogol’s Diary of a Madman was in the library. On the shelf. In its place. Helpfully she led me to the remote spot where it would be found. Here, she said irritably, slipping the volume from the shelf and thrusting it into my hand. She walked away muttering, I glanced up. In this bright new hall of academic excellence, Gogol’s literary masterpiece was listed under the category of ‘Mental Health Nursing’. Ah well.
A Taff in the Land of the Gogs Tom Davies
Alice Thomas Ellis After what seemed like a month of solid rain and freezing cold a bright warm sunshine broke out over the mountains of North Wales like a second Christmas. Everywhere you looked there was new life and colour in the land from the bright yellow press-ups of the new daffodils to the shy white stammers of snowdrops in dark corners. Even my wife and I felt the urge to get out into it all after our long winter hibernation so we decided to celebrate our new Christmas by travelling over the Berwyn mountains down into the very heart of wild Wales to pay homage to an old and much-missed friend, Anna Haycraft, or Alice Thomas Ellis, her writing name. The mountains all around us were covered in a heavy brown bracken as we crossed into Powys and took the road down into Pennant Melangell, a hamlet tucked away right at the end of a valley. We stopped outside the longhouse where she once lived and she stood outside to greet us, her hair died an appalling red and her eyes as full and black as a boxer dog’s. She’s no longer with us, of course, having died some six years ago, cut down by cancer. She’d already had one of her lungs chopped out in Birmingham when I last called and had received the last rites, although she still looked pretty terrific and was as funny as ever. “They gave me a list of options about what might happen to me in this operation,” she told us. “The first was death and the last was something like indigestion. But I agreed to the last rites immediately even though the priest admitted that he didn’t know much Latin. Now I’m fully insured and paid up for whatever might happen next.” We’d been friends for fourteen years – and there were a few noticeable changes. Having just one lung meant she could no longer smoke, so she kept the yearnings at bay by incessantly chewing gum. She could no longer drink either and once liked a drop of the hard stuff - to put it mildly. “If I can’t smoke there doesn’t seem any point in drinking,” she said, with the sort of illogic which was very much her trademark. What her punky red hair was all about was anyone’s guess. This longhouse was very much a part of her and her writing and I had fond memories of some mighty boozing
sessions here with some of her great friends like Beryl Bainbridge. The living room was always book-scattered with huge black, flagstone floors and low beams. You might even be back in the medieval times when this place was built and I was pleased to see that the new owners from Gloucestershire, Wendy and Clive Little, have not changed the place a jot; they just stepped straight into it and did nothing. It is still stuffed with books although the one difference is that there are dozens of exotic birds of every sort in cages and running around sheds in the garden, twittering in the mindless way that birds do. Anna would have liked that: she adored any form of gaiety. ‘I loved this place as soon as we saw it about three years ago and it would have been nonsense to change anything at all,’ said Wendy. ‘Everything about it is wonderful.’ Many of Anna’s famous books like Unexplained Laughter grew out of her life in this longhouse with weird laughter heard in the nearby mountains at night and ‘a thing’ going around bashing an anvil. The local vicar came down and exorcised ‘the thing’ and Anna remained disappointed, ‘the thing’ went missing thereafter. Her husband, publisher Colin Haycraft, had a complete aversion to the countryside and anything green but even so found this house nearly forty years ago and paid £11,000 for it. The house had been built on the foundations of an old convent and, when Anna first saw the place, the roof and floorboards had gone and a river ran through it. It took five or six years to make it habitable and she and her family often slept here without roof or window. But she kept on working on it, recently refurbishing the outbuildings for holiday lets. “Thomas Mann said that when a house is finished life is over,” she said. With its wonky stone floors and walls the place always had a deeply soothing effect on me, particularly with the religious emblems dotted all around – the religious statuary and illustrations of such as the Sacred Heart dotted on various window sills. She was a bit of a prophet was our Anna. “I just love living here because there is a unique and magical quality about the Welsh countryside which is not easily distinguished from heaven,” she told me. “There’s something immeasurably ancient yet vital in the landscape. Something which makes you think of God. I love the greenness of the green, the greyness of the walls,
the sheer ancientness of it all.” She struggled long and hard to get close to God and her understanding of Him was deep-rooted, dating from a religious experience she had in her teens which made her change course and want to become a nun. “The experience was of hell. It was unremitting light with no shadows: the absence of God. It could, of course, have been a nervous breakdown but it’s impossible to talk to someone about it who hasn’t been there.” She did indeed become a nun for a couple of years and escaped over a wall one afternoon and met Colin Haycraft with whom she had five children. When we last met she had sold her vast house in Gloucester Terrace, setting up all her children with the proceeds. Her daughter would get the longhouse, although there were a lot of impending problems with death duties. “I’ve got to last another four years or they’ll get saddled with all that.” She was still writing diligently to the end, turning out a regular column about God for The Oldie and recently putting together a thick book about cookery called Fish, Flesh and Good Red Herring, A Gaullimaufry. She’d been fiddling with it for five years and you’ll get some idea of its quirkiness when I tell you one section has a man who actually vomits into the stew but refuses to throw it away, claiming it will enhance the taste. But there was an inescapable sadness with her – even when she was roaring with laughter - she never really
recovered from the loss of her son Joshua who died, aged nineteen, after a fall. More recently she had lost Colin and they were both in the local graveyard where you knew she was now longing to join them. My wife knew her better than I did and we both left the longhouse brimming with warm memories before going to the graveyard in Pennant Melangell to pay our last respects. The graves were smothered in a warm sunshine but I was soon cold with disappointment. Joshua and Colin have lovely tombstones which had been designed and put there by Anna. But Anna herself had been completely forgotten with just an old wooden peg in an unruly mound of grass. There was not even any record of her name. It was the same with Dylan Thomas’ grave and I couldn’t help but wonder why we Welsh always dishonour our prophets in this way. But we do. Her family has also much to answer for with this disgrace, leaving this great woman unmourned and unmarked, a prophet forsaken and rejected even by those she always loved so avidly.
Much ado about “lurve”... norma lord It is presumably a sad mark of financial stringency that the WNO Spring season lacks a new production in but there is still much to enjoy. Berlioz’ opera-comique Beatrice and Benedict, rarely performed anywhere, and not here since the Company moved to WMC, proves a thoroughly entertaining evening in a revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1994 staging. I had not seen this work before, but Robin Tebbutt had retrieved a tight and pacy performance which it is hard to imagine being less fresh than the original. There were also winsome additions including Gary Griffiths’ Claudio. It’s an odd piece, sliding from sublime music to low satire (much of it at the expense of musicians!) through Shakespearean dialogue, pantomime plots and a very vocal hound we were never to meet, but, except to the
most meticulous purist, all these aspects are rewarding, if occasionally a mite gear-crunching. One of the stars of the show is Michael Yeargan’s classic Italian piazza set, with its luminous Sicilian sky and truly spoony moon. Even on a freezing February evening one felt warmed to the toes just looking at it, and the café-bar afforded great hiding places for the gulling of Benedict and other antics. Berlioz replaces the Dogberry/Verges comic scenes with Somarone, a choirmaster who attempts to draw wedding music from a musically moth-eaten and decidedly patchwork choir. These scenes benefited hugely from the comedic skills of Donald Maxwell, the original WNO inhabitant of the role, attired in the image of Berlioz himself, as depicted in Gustav Dore’s famous caricature. The often cumbersome plot and large chunks of dialogue were all well managed and served to point up the luxury of Berlioz’ spectacular musical ensembles rather than interrupt them, as can sometimes happen in buffo works. Performing here in English was a bonus, allowing not a nuance of the comedy to be lost, and allowing Shakespeare’s own text to be used. Amid lots of glorious singing, the nocturne at the end of Act 1 shone under the rising moon as a superb highlight. Anna Burford as Ursula sang with particularly lustrous tone alongside the Hero of Laura Mitchell. This is so beautiful I found it hard to believe I hadn’t heard it before, and I shall make a point of seeking out a recording. The all-female sicilienne, adding Sara Fulgoni to this pair, was another flawlessly sung and beautifully staged treasure, and the Beatrice of Miss Fulgoni was in itself very arresting, with perfectly focused vocal delivery and full, round tone. Her characterization was, perhaps,
photograph: Johan Persson
a trifle tomboyish for a Victorian lady, and boy(!) did those crinolines swirl as she rampaged. Robin Tritschler’s Benedict was acted with spirit, and lyrically sung, albeit with a little less than full voice as a result of an infection. Gary Griffiths (Claudio) is arguably one of the best actors WNO has ever had, and his fine baritone continues to ripen. His contribution to the dialogues was not only pleasing to the ear, but noticeably promoted the pace. Polish newcomer Piotr Lempa made a swash-buckling debut as Don Pedro, adding exotic charm to the comedy, without much opportunity to demonstrate his vocal capability. This production would make a first-class introduction for those nervous of opera. Also concerned with affairs of the heart, but this time with no happy ending, was La Traviata, with European debutante Joyce El Khouri in the title role and a last-minute substitute Alfredo in the shape of ItalianAmerican tenor, Leonardo Capalbo, replacing Carlos Osuna, withdrawing for “personal reasons”. This is the production which Cambria reviewed when it opened in 2009, and some advantageous revisions have been made to the stage positioning, notably of Alfredo, if my recall is accurate. It remains beautiful to watch, and strikingly powerful in its retrospective and fatalistic presentation. The floor of the stage is a tombstone, and the bailiffs are shown pricing up Violetta’s estate during the overture as well as playing cards whilst waiting for her death in the final scene. I still find the manipulation of the stage by means of those horribly metaphoric curtains chilling in the extreme. As light relief, the appropriately titillating dance routines returned band-box fresh.
Cast-wise, we missed Greek soprano Myrto Papatanisiu, for whom Joyce El Khouri was regrettably no substitute as Violetta, though she sang well enough, and without the comparison would have made a credible consumptive. Capalbo was a bonus, with passionate singing, plenty of almost tangible emotion and a distinct sense of foreboding from the fist act. Jason Howard received a huge ovation at curtain-down, obviously hugely welcome in his return to the Company after some time across the Atlantic, but also thoroughly deserved for a powerful yet thoughtful portrayal of Giorgio Germont. Sian Meinir made a touching Annina, and, with fellow chorus-member Martin Lloyd as Dr. Grenvil, contributed to a particularly fine “death-quintet”. Conductor Julia Jones has an impressive CV around Europe but appears to have performed little in her native UK. Whether this is of personal choice or, dare we suggest, gender-prejudice hereabouts, this has been our loss, and I hope to see more of her in the future. Her reading of both Verdi’s score and David McVicar’s wonderfully unsentimental production were profoundly intuitive. The WNO orchestra responded in kind, and the result was world-class, a much stronger musical experience than the original performances. At the time of going to press, Cambria has yet to visit the third of this season’s offerings, The Marriage of Figaro, but at least our readers will, for once, not miss the Llandudno and Swansea performances when our comments are published!
photograph: Johan Persson
Labourer of Love Boyd Clack
gavin Wilson Welsh-Canadian singer Boyd Clack will probably be best known to many through his television roles in Welsh sitcoms Satellite City and High Hopes - both of which he co-wrote as well as various other TV and film appearances. That he should also be a songwriter and musician will probably come as no surprise. He has a distinctive but pleasing baritone with a natural vibrato that lends itself
to a range of musical styles from folksy pieces such as The Girl In My Bed and Cathedral Road, the pop whimsy of Summer With Monica, and Jane (who was apparently as “pretty as an angel, pretty as a kangaroo”), detouring via the “Rockabilly nightmare” of Pauline Won’t You Set Me Free, to the driving rock stylings of AK21Z09, Do You Still Love Me Terry, and Marilyn, the latter concerning the legends of the Vanishing Lake of the Glyn Mountains. The twilight of love “when you know that love you once shared is
Kan ar Galon – Bro Gozh ma Zadoù Mikael Baudu
Aneirin Karadog As a half Welsh, half Breton who speaks both languages, I was intrigued to receive this dvd which explores the Breton national anthem and its origins. The half hour long documentary by Mikael Baudu, a respected and experienced journalist
and filmmaker in Breizh (Britanny in Breton), is available to view in both Breton and French so accessible to a wider market than Breton speakers alone. The opening scenes tell us that Brittany and Cornwall share the Welsh national anthem and have quite similar lyrics, which immediately raises questions in the viewer’s mind. How and why is this the case? From which country does the anthem originate? Is it recognised nationally or by mere
dying” provides the theme to both The Girl In My Bed and Cathedral Road; indeed, much of the album has a bittersweet flavour. Clack explains in the sleeve notes that the “songs on Labourer of Love are inspired by people and places I have loved and in some cases lost...” but that “...it is also about love in the greater sense, love as the purpose, love as the Holy Grail; love as magic.” Somehow, however, he also manages to squeeze in songs about both industrial criminality and the death of Mickey Mouse. Labourer of Love is an impressive collection of songs in a variety of different styles which combine to hang together nicely as a whole, demonstrating the songwriting talents of Boyd Clack. It makes you wonder if he has any other potential feathers in his cap.
factions within the three Brythonic Celtic nations? I hoped that the next half hour’s viewing would answer these questions. Baudu’s film opens with Bro Gozh Ma Zadoù being sung by thousands in the Stade de France in 2009 when two Breton teams, Rennes and Guingamp battled each other in the final of the French Cup. With Gwenn ha du flags creating a current of Breton nationalism to go with the flow of the national anthem, and none other than Alan Stivell himself there to lead the singing, never before had the national anthem, and indeed the Breton language, been allowed to breathe so freely in the centre of Paris. French newspapers carried Breton headlines and although one team had to lose on the day, all Breton people present in the stadium and viewing the game at home felt that something bigger had been gained.
To explain the significance of this moment, if people think that the Welsh language is still on the edge and faces an insecure future, then Brezhoneg (the Breton language) is on such a thin ledge that its existence hinges on chance encounters between two Breton football teams in the final of the French cup. In Brittany, there exists a strong pride in being Breton with its rich musical and gastronomic heritage, but there is also a passive acceptance that the principal nationality is French. The French unitary state has succesfully quashed efforts at devolution but the fight for survival of the Breton language goes on, through initiatives such as Breton medium schools (skolioù Diwan) which receive next to nothing in funding from the French state, and mayoral efforts in various towns and villages in Breizh to use
the language in official settings and events. With that context in mind, let’s return to the content of the film and whether or not it succesfully answered my questions about the origins of the anthem. I’m glad to say that it did, as it took me from Wales with the Eisteddfod and its Gorsedd, to Cornwall and Brittany where similar institutions were established. Through the medium of talking head interviews with several people, including members of Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain, we are told that the original Welsh verison of the anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, was written by Evan James and his son James. The Bretonisation of the Welsh anthem came about through William Jenkyn Jones, a Welsh Protestant missionary in Quimper. Jones influenced the composer of the Breton version of the anthem François Jaffrennou, later known as Taldir after being received in the welsh Gorsedd. The Cornish version of the anthem, Bro Goth Agan Tasow, was then tranlated
by Henry Jenner, a Cornishman with connections to Brittany and the Welsh Gorsedd, thus creating a Brittonic triumvirate of shared culture. One interesting point that Baudu makes is that the anthem has proven its worth as a uniting force in Cymru, Kernow and Breizh alike. The Welsh love to sing it before a rugby game, at the end of concerts, eisteddfod ceremonies, and down the pub when the wheels are well oiled. The people of Cornwall take pride in singing it as they fight for any kind of acknowledgment of their national identity from Westminster, and as they seek to rekindle the flame of the Kernewek language. The people of Breizh are not only bound through it in the final of the French cup, but also at times of crisis in their recent history – in the nazi camps as well as in public meetings to condemn the polluting of the coastline caused by the Amoco Cadiz oil spillage in 1978. The shared anthem is therefore a reminder of the ties between the Brythonic Celtic countries, a bond often forgotten by many. If there is a criticism to be made of the film, I would say that the framing of the camera shots on many of the talking heads leaves a lot to be desired, but perhaps this was the intended style. On the whole, an enjoyable half hour, though you will need to have a grasp of either French or Breton to be able to view the film. One more thing, don’t be alarmed: if this film gives you your first glimpse of the Breton folk rock band, Tri Yann – not all people in Britanny have mad bleach blond hair and a sboran in the form of a crab! Mad tre!
m t ring John A Edwards
KIA - YOUNG AND PRECOCIOUS In the world of car production, Kia is a new kid on the block and a very precocious one at that. The Korean company started out in 1944 in the archetypal way, first making bicycles then motorcycles and progressing to small 3-wheeled commercial vehicles. In 1991, they entered the passenger car sector with the Pride, and following common industry practice at the time, based it on another manufacturer’s discontinued model – in this case the Mazda 121. But it was none the worse for that, offering as it did a proven family hatchback at a realistic price. What was significant was the ground-
breaking 2-year warranty and today Kia continues to lead the field with its 7-year (100,000-mile) warranty – a major selling point especially for the private buyer. Now part of the Hyundai/Kia Automotive Group - the fourth largest motor manufacturer in the world – Kia is one of the fastest growing. It boasts a young and comprehensive model line-up ranging from the Picanto small hatchback to the Optima large saloon. Latest models are the Rio and Optima. The Rio slots into the Kia range above the Picanto and contests the big-selling supermini class. It features a new ‘face’ with the Kia badge now moved from the grille onto the bonnet. Rio is the work of
Chief Design officer Peter Schreyer formerly of Audi where he penned the iconic TT model. With the Rio, he shows that he has lost none of his flair. Available in three and five-door form, the Rio is undoubtedly one of the best looking of today’s crop of superminis and the 3-door model has a sporty ‘coupe’ look although providing the same accommodation as the 5-door. There is a choice of two petrol engines (1.25-litre 83bhp and 1.4-litre 107bhp)and two diesels(1.1-litre 74bhp and 1.4-litre 89bhp). Both petrol engines return over 50mpg (for manual models) and over 70mpg for the diesels. Trim levels are ‘1’, ‘1 Air’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ with even the starter model coming with essential features such as Electronic Stability Control and Emergency Brake Assist, in what Kia calls ‘democracy in safety’. A policy that will be welcomed by many buyers is the ‘1 Air’ trim level which offers the comfort of air conditioning without the need to upgrade to one of the upper models. Rio prices range from £9,995 to £14,295.
The new range-topping Optima takes Kia into the 4-door large saloon class, a now shrinking market sector, but still providing generous rear legroom and large, secure boot which should appeal to the more traditional buyer. Just one engine is offered - a 1.7-litre 134bhp turbodiesel with auto or manual transmission. There are ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ trim levels with the last of these adding sat/nav, leather upholstery and glass sunroof complete with blinds. Prices range from £19,995 to £25,995.
*Gravells with showrooms in Kidwelly, Narberth and Fforestfach have been Kia dealers since 2007 and General Manager Jonathan Gravell says,
“Kia has been an excellent addition to the business and the new range of cars and industryleading 7-year warranty continues to impress customers.”
forgotten dreams - kieft cars
The new Kia Rio must be a contender for the ‘best looking supermini’ title.
Wales has never exactly been renowned as a car producing country but over the years there have been exciting glimmers of latent promise which flourished all too briefly before fading into obscurity. Into this category comes Kieft Cars of Bridgend which started up in 1950 making Formula 3 racing cars – tiny little open-wheel models preempting current Formula 1 design by having the engine mounted at the rear. However the similarity ends
there. In the post-war austerity era the power units were JAP or Norton motorcycle engines of 350cc, 500cc or 1,100cc but the chassis design was more sophisticated than today’s karts, now the ‘nursery class’ for fledgling racing drivers. The company was the creation of Cyril Kieft who was born in Swansea in 1911 and educated at Wellington School. He then followed his father Alfred into the steel industry and by 1939 was managing the family’s giant steel works in Scunthorpe. Y Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) takes pride of place on the Kieft badge.
Following the war with the impending nationalisation of the steel industry, he decided to diversify and in 1946 opened a tool making factory in Bridgend which at one time was also making domestic items such as electric kettles and lamps. Incidentally, they made 50% of all the picks used in the country and Cyril had firsthand experience of picks having worked at the coalface for six months as part of his management training! In 1949 he took up motor racing entering a Marwyn-JAP 500cc Formula 3 car in a hillclimb at Lydstep in Pembrokeshire but having a young family he decided that racing was too dangerous and turned his interest instead to building cars (because of his strong views, he would never employ any driver who had children). Having skilled workers in his tool making business, he was ideally placed to make drop forgings, wheels etc for the new Kieft cars which proved very successful in
hillclimbs and track events. In 1950 Kieft cars, driven by a young Stirling Moss and Ken Gregory who later became his manager, set 13 world speed records at Montlhery near Paris. In 1951 Stirling won first time out at Goodwood and went on to dominate Formula 3 that year. The decision was then made to move operations to Wolverhampton where Kieft went on to make some attractively styled 2-seater sports cars with fibreglass bodies but they enjoyed only limited sales success. The company was then sold to fellow-Welshman Berwyn Baxter who was active in club racing and hillclimbs. In 1955 with John Deeley he drove a Kieft with a 1.5-litre Coventry Climax engine in the Le Mans 24-hour race, the horrendous event which cost the lives of 83 spectators when Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes left the track. The Kieft developed mechanical problems and only completed 4 laps which, in the circumstances, was possibly fortuitous. But good fortune did not shine on the new Kieft company which survived by modifying various racing cars. Plans for new Kieft models failed to materialize and the company was wound up in 1960. Cyril Kieft, was the founder member of the Welsh Motor Racing Club. He retired to Spain where he enjoyed sailing in the Mediterranean in his motor cruisers. He died in 2004 aged 92.
Stirling Moss enjoyed early success with a Kieft F3 car.
KITCHEN Y Ffarmers
Elisabeth Luard It’s been two years now since Rhodri and Esther Edwards took over the pub which fronts the square of the pretty village of Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn, some 7 miles inland from Aberyswyth on what was once the drover’s road to Brecon and a stopping-place for pilgrims on their way to Strata Florida Abbey. Success came fast. Last year the enterprise was awarded a silver medal by The True Taste Awards, which would come as no surprise to its mostly-local clientele. The place is not easy to find even for me, living as I do no more than a few miles away across the sheep-cropped hillsides. The decor is cosy, with a log fire in winter, tables and chairs in dark polished wood, bright walls and an elbow-friendly bar. The menu changes daily, with a traditional roast on Sunday. There’s a childrens’ menu too, since this is very much a family
restaurant, while grownup portions are generous enough to satisfy a hill-farmer’s appetite. Esther manages front-of-house, while Rhodri, graduate of the busy little kitchen at the back of Spanish deli-cum-restaurant Ultracomida in Aberystwyth, cooks what might best be described as international farmhouse fare: locally-reared duck prepared as a confit is served with a creamy potato gratin, Bryn Derw chicken tops a saffron-flavoured paella prepared with Dovey Estuary seafood. There is talk, too, of the best place to source Cardigan Bay prawns, who can supply lobster from Aberaeron and the excellence of crab from a local source in Borth. Not so long ago, the fishing fleet of Cardigan Bay sent huge hauls of herring to the London market. A century and a half ago, the herring shoaled so thickly in the Bay that a man might walk dry-shod all the way to Ireland - or so they said. The traitional occupation of the region is sheepfarming for meat and wool, cattle-rearing and dairy, while up to 30 years ago, most families kept a milk-cow and fed the whey from the buttermilk to the household pig. But when I ask Rhodri what he’d recommend as a traditional dish of the region, he shook his head and smiled: “We’re Ceredigion - there’s only so much you can do with a cawl. We serve a traditional Sunday roast, but if we stuck with what’s regional and Welsh, there wouldn’t be much choice. What’s good about Wales is great ingredients: beef, lamb, pork, seafood - and there we have it all.” The Farmer’s has built its reputation on locallysourced ingredients of named provenance. Vegetablesuppliers are Nantclyd Organics, beef and lamb come from the Yswyth Valley’s Rob Rattray, while Birchgrove eggs partner Penlan gammon in the always-popular fryup. And if the appetiser of the day on a packed Saturday evening at the end of January is Ultracomida’s beautiful translucent slivers of serrano ham and hazelnut-studded chorizo to eat with olive-oil and home-baked bread, then Aberyswyth was always a trading-port and imported ingredients come with the territory.
Ingredients: • About 4 tablespoons olive oil • 2-3 cloves garlic • 1 red or green pepper, de-seeded and chopped • 500g round-grain rice (paella or risotto) • 1 small chicken, jointed into a dozen pieces • About 250g squid, cleaned and sliced • About 100g raw prawns or shrimp • About 500g mussels in shell • Generous pinch of saffron • 3-4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin of plum tomatoes) • Salt
Directions: 1. Warm the oil in a large frying pan or proper paella pan (if so, you’ll need a broad heat-source - a charcoal barbecue is perfect). 2. Add the garlic and peppers let them sizzle for a moment. Add the chicken joints and fry gently for
15 minutes or so, turning the pieces regularly, till the chicken is just cooked through. Stir in the squid and sprinkle in the rice. Stir it over the heat for 2-3 minutes, till the grains turn opaque. Add the tomatoes and saffron and let it all bubble up. Add enough water to submerge all the rice grains completely - the usual proportion is 3 parts water to 1 part rice. Add salt, bubble up, then turn down the heat and leave to cook for 15-18 minutes, till the surface of the rice is pitted with little holes. Add more water if it looks like drying out: the finished result should be juicy but not soupy. 3. Add the prawns or shrimp and mussels 5 minutes before the end of cooking, so that they cook or open in the steam. 4.When the rice is tender but still a little nutty, remove the pan from the heat, cover with a clean cloth, and let it rest and soak up its juices for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon-quarters.
The Farmers Arms / Y Ffarmer, Llanfihangel-yCreuddyn, Aberystwyth, SY23 LA. Tel: 01974 261275 www.yffarmers.co.uk Open Tues-Sunday (lunch only).
Chicken and seafood paella The paella is one of those amiable onepot dishes which take their name from the pan in which they are cooked. Vary the ingredients to suit your shopping basket.
Continued from page 25...
OVER THE RULES vicky moller The site (Henfaes) is owned by the School for the Environment and Natural Sciences at nearby Bangor University, where Ian Harris is the research farm manager. “What we’re demonstrating here at Henfaes,” he explains, “are the multiple benefits that can be achieved with a sylvo-pastoral system. There are the obvious benefits to the sheep - who are sheltered in the winter and shaded in the summer - and also to the trees which benefit from nutrient cycling by the sheep and grazing which controls competitive seedlings.”
Henfaes sylvo-pastoral farming
But Ian Harris and his team have discovered some surprising, less obvious benefits. “Both the soil structure and fertility have been improved by the tree roots themselves and their associated mycorrhizae, and also by the leaf matter which brings in earthworms, microbes and biota. The alder blocs demonstrate that nitrogen can be fixed naturally in the soil using agro-forestry while the indirect benefits we’ve demonstrated include improved water infiltration and increased biodiversity as the trees bring with them their own micro-habitats and food chains.” The model Ian Harris describes has been practiced for centuries in temperate orchards around the world where farmers have made the most of a rich crop of spring grass before the trees come into leaf. Although the results of the experiment show no measurable increase in the performance of the ewes under agroforestry there is, importantly, no measurable decrease either, suggesting that the presence of the trees is at least not detrimental to the flock.
An ecosystem approach looks for symbiosis between the needs of the environment and the demands of humans, unlike zoning which – to overcome the conflict inherent between the demands of various economic, social and environmental sectors – placed one demand (be it economic, social or – to a very much lesser extent – environmental) ahead of all others. However, it is essential that this new approach be underpinned by science and not pure ideology. Adding trees to a pastoral agricultural system, for example, not only provides us with food, but a future supply of building materials which lock up carbon and enhance the landscape. But this is only an insight into a highly-complex issue. There is a long way to go in achieving an improved, ‘slimline’ approach to the management of our planning system – even further to go, perhaps, in the achievement of a sound, ‘ecosystem approach’, but Wales - for once – is in a position to not just lead the UK but a much wider world.
a healthy sycamore
what’s hot in wales
The Eisteddfod Bro Morgannwg will feature the UK premier of Karl Jenkins’ ‘Beirdd Cymru, with soloists Dennis O’Neill and Rebecca Evans joining the 200-strong Eisteddfod Choir on August 4th. The work is based on the epic Hungarian poem ‘A Walesi Bardok’, which is considered an allegory for the Hapsburg tyranny over Hungary. Translated to Welsh from the Hungarian by Twm Morys, the oratorio was first performed in Hungary last year. Written by Janos Arany in the mid-19th Century, an English version of the poem appeared in the spring 2003 issue of Cambria. Tel: 0845 4090 800 www.eisteddfod.org.uk
The Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter
presents its 4th exhibition: A Quilted Bridge The Amish Welsh Connection, March 10th – November 3rd 2012 Beautiful quilts from the world renowned collections of Jen Jones and the American Museum in Bath are on display. The Welsh and Amish lived side by side in America. But is this reflected in their textiles? Bold flannel and fine wool geometric patchworks from 19th century Wales and Amish America will allow visitors to view, study and draw their own conclusions as to which culture influenced the other? The Old Town Hall, High Street, Tel: 01570 422088 or 01570 480610 www.jen-jones.com
Musical Dinners - Noriko Ogawa and Philip Smith will be playing piano
music for four hands at Lampeter House, Narberth on March 16th and 17th. This will be Ogawa’s third appearance at this small rural venue – a particular ‘coup’ because her complete recordings of Debussy are regarded by many as amongst the best in the world. Tel: 01834 869323 www.lampeterhouse
Austin, Texas will be turning
Welsh this month as musicians and businesses from across Wales descend on ‘South by South West’, one of the world’s biggest and most important music festivals. Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales (in association with Sŵn Festival) will bring Wales to the party with three acts at the British Music Embassy in the centre of the festival strip on Wednesday March 14th. www.cerddcymru.com www.sxsw.com
Cambria Photographer, Ewa Kadewska, and Art Dot (a
group of artists from the Twyi Valley) are exhibiting their work Swansea Grand Theatre, between 6th and 24th March, on 10th of March there is an open day to meet the artists between noon and 4pm.
On the 10th
of April at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, in The Dora Stoutzker Hall, Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate (1999-09), introduces his eagerly awaited sequel to Treasure Island - Silver - featuring a cast of noble seamen, murderous pirates and tales of love, valour & terrible cruelty. He also gives readings from his latest book and other works followed by a book signing. Tel: 029 2039 1360.
Oswestry Literary Festival, Eleven
days of events celebrating words written, spoken and sung from 10th-20th March, headlining Frank Cottrell Boyce, Gillian Clarke and Reggie Perrin creator, David Nobbs. For details see: www.oswestrylitfest.co.uk. To reserve tickets email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 01691 662244.
Sophie Lewis, general manager of Sinfonia Cymru was
named the Association of British Orchestras / Rhinegold Publishing ‘Orchestra Manager of the Year’ at the ABO’s recent conference in Liverpool. Established in 1996, Sinfonia Cymru is a rare champion of young musical talent and works in partnership with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.