Category Archive 'Wales'

14 Jun 2018

Welsh Pied-a-Terre, Anyone?

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The Independent describes a relative real estate bargain.

An entire island off the coast of Pembrokeshire is on sale for £400,000 – less than the cost of a one-bedroom flat in London.

Stack Rock Fort is a Grade-II listed fortification built between 1850 and 1852 to protect Britain from French invasion under the rule of Napoleon III.

The large, circular building offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding waterways and is connected to the mainland by a short boat ride. Interested parties (and seasickness sufferers) should note that there won’t be any viewings taking place in bad weather, Ross McKenzie of Purplebricks, the property agent looking after the fort, has confirmed.

Although the island is currently uninhabitable, the property “represents an enormously lucrative and exciting opportunity, with limitless development potential”, says McKenzie.

“Imagine, for example, a cable car being built from the mainland which ferries guests over to a unique, boutique hotel? With the right imagination and investment, it could become a stunning property which would do wonders for the local area.”

Made up of three floors connected by spiral staircases, the building was once armed with sixteen 18-ton guns and manned by up to 150 men. It was manned by a small consignment of men during the First World War.

01 Mar 2017

St. David’s Day

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St. David

Chambers Book of Days:

David, popularly termed the titular saint of Wales, is said to have been the son of a prince of Cardiganshire of the ancient regal line of Cunedda Wledig; some, also, state that he was the son of Xanthus, son of Ceredig, lord of Ceredigion, and Non, daughter of Gynyr of Caergawh, Pembrokeshire. St. David has been invested by his legendary biographers with extravagant decoration. According to their accounts, he had not merely the power of working miracles from the moment of his birth, but the same preternatural faculty is ascribed to him while he was yet unborn!

An angel is said to have been his constant attendant on his first appearance on earth, to minister to his wants, and contribute to his edification and relaxation; the Bath waters became warm and salubrious through his agency; he healed complaints and re-animated the dead; whenever he preached, a snow-white dove sat upon his shoulder! Among other things,—as pulpits were not in fashion in those times,—the earth on which he preached was raised from its level, and became a hill; from whence his voice was heard to the best advantage. …

His pedigree is here deduced from the Virgin Mary, of whom it makes him the lineal eighteenth descendant! But leaving the region of Fiction, there is no doubt that the valuable services of St. David to the British church entitle him to a very distinguished position in its early annals. He is numbered in the Triads with Teilo and Catwg as one of the ‘three canonized saints of Britain.’ Giraldus terms him ‘a mirror and pattern to all, instructing both by word and example, excellent in his preaching, but still more so in his works. He was a doctrine to all, a guide to the religious, a life to the poor, a support to orphans, a protection to widows, a father to the fatherless, a rule to monks, and a model to teachers; becoming all to all, that so he might gain all to God.’

To this, his moral character, St. David added a high character for theological learning; and two productions, a Boole of Homilies, and a Treatise against the Pelagians, have been ascribed to him.

St. David received his early education at Menevia, (derived from Main-aw, ‘a narrow water,’ firth or strait), named afterwards Ty Ddewi, ‘David’s Rouse,’ answering to the present St. David’s, which was a seminary of learning and nursery of saints. At this place, some years after, he founded a convent in the Vale of Rhos. The discipline which St. David enjoined in this monastic retreat is represented as of the most rigorous nature. After the Synod at Brevy, in 519, Dubricins, or Dyvrig, Archbishop of Caerleon, and consequently Primate of Wales, resigned his see to St. David, who removed the archiepiscopal residence to Menevia, the present St. David’s, where he died about the year 544, after having attained a very advanced age. The saint was buried in the cathedral, and a monument raised to his memory. It is of simple construction, the ornaments consisting of one row of four quatrefoil openings upon a plain tomb.


Back in 2009, the Telegraph explained the Welsh practice of wearing leeks on St. David’s Day:

The Welsh custom of wearing leeks into battle is, like so many military customs, both ridiculous and moving. There’s a heart-rending photograph of some Welsh soldiers taken during the Second World War. The young men are cheerfully pausing on some god-forsaken battlefield on St David’s Day to eat raw leeks and drink champagne, standing on upended crates.

The ancient tradition of eating and wearing leeks on St David’s Day supposedly goes back to the 6th century. It is said that St David ordered his Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their helmets in battle against the despised Saxons and that the leeks won them victory. This is pure legend. But soon the association between leeks and war was firmly cemented in the Welsh mind. In the 14th century Welsh archers adopted green and white for their uniform in honour of the leek. And to this day the Royal Welch Fusiliers uphold the tradition of eating raw leeks on 1 March.

In a ceremony known as Eating the Leek the youngest member of the regiment is meant to eat an entire raw leek while a goat is paraded around. The poor 15-year-old boy charged with this duty in 1956 recalled how ‘traumatic’ it was. It was deemed ‘an insult not to eat every last bit’. He managed the feat but, ‘Ten minutes later I dashed to the latrines and was violently sick.’

The Prince of Wales, in the uniform of Colonel of the Welsh Guards, wearing a small leek in his cap.


Some Welsh singing from “How Green Was My Valley” (1941).




29 Dec 2016

Suo Gan

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Pre-1800 Welsh Lullaby, commonly sung as a hymn.

13 Sep 2015

Weatherman Liam Dutton Smoothly Pronounces “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch”

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11 Nov 2014

Before Lewis & Clark

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In 1953, the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a plaque commemorating the discovery of America by Prince Madoc on the shores of Mobile Bay, Alabama. The plaque was removed by the Alabama Parks Service in 2008 and put in storage.

Roads and Kingdoms notes the rediscovery of the pre-Lewis-and-Clark Western journey of discovery by John Evans in search Welsh-speaking Indians via Evans’s descendant Gruff Rhys’s book, album, film and “investigative concert tour.”

In 1792 John Evans, a 22-year-old farmhand and weaver from the village of Waunfawr in the mountains of Snowdonia, Wales, responded to a plea from the great Welsh cultural mischief-maker Iolo Morganwg to settle, for once and for all time, the quandary of whether there was indeed a tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans still walking the Great Plains, descendants of Prince Madog, who was widely believed (especially by Welsh historical revisionists) to have discovered America in 1170. With the aid of a loan from a gullible friend, Evans set sail to Baltimore to begin the greatest of adventures, whereupon he set off on foot and disappeared into the Allegheny Mountains with one dollar and seventy-five cents to his name, in search of the lost tribe.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

01 Mar 2013

St. David’s Day

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Put a leek on your hat and a daffodil in your lapel, it’s St. David’s Day.

And we can’t celebrate St. David’s Day without some Welsh singing.


25 May 2010

“One of the Three Futile Battles”

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Mark Williams, a junior research fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, serves up the newly discovered text of a Fifth Branch of the Mabinogi.

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi – Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan and Math – are the greatest works of medieval Welsh prose. They are based on a rich vein of orally-transmitted folklore and mythological material, but were synthesised in the early 12th century by a redactor of genius. They take the form of four roughly chronological and interlinked short-stories, termed ‘branches’, which are set in a pre-Christian, pre-Roman Britain which resembles an idealised version of the redactor’s own high medieval era. His humane, sober style contrasts fascinatingly with the violence and shape-shifting which loom so large in the four tales. Translations into English are numerous; the most recent is that of Sioned Davies (Davies, The Mabinogion (Oxford, 2007)), which is particularly good at drawing attention to the techniques of the oral storyteller discernable in the text.

But the existence of the ‘fifth branch of the Mabinogi’, Amaethon uab Don, was unsuspected until very recently, when a hitherto-unknown medieval Welsh manuscript was discovered in the library of Judas College, Oxford. The MS itself is of a decidedly heterogenous character. It contains a series of verse prayers, a version of the ladymass, and a partial collection of legal triads. Unusually, a significant amount of agricultural material is also found in the MS, in the form of a list of activities to be performed by the farmer according to the months, and a tract on the diseases of livestock. Amaethon uab Don is the only narrative text contained within the MS. It is tempting to connect the agricultural bias of the MS with elements of the story, which, as noted below, shows an overriding concern with fertility and the natural world, as its presiding character Amaethon suggests. (Amaethon from British *Ambactonos, ‘Divine Ploughman’.) …

Before the rediscovery of the MS, the sketchy lineaments of our tale were known from three other sources. These, when placed together, point to the existence of a tale recounting a battle between Arawn, lord of Annwn, the Welsh otherworld, and the sons of Dôn, Gwydion the enchanter and Amaethon the Ploughman. Arawn plays an important part in the first branch, and Gwydion is the central character in the fourth. This skirmish, termed ‘One of the Three Futile Battles of the Island of Britain’ in one of our three sources, was brought about because Amaethon stole a hound, a roebuck and a plover from Arawn’s kingdom. When Arawn and his armies clash with those of Gwydion and Amaethon, neither side may achieve victory because each contains a kind of palladium, a warrior who may not be defeated as long as their name remains unknown. Gwydion discovers the name of the magical warrior on Arawn’s side by means of three extempore verses, which are preserved in a version rather different to that in our text. He also enchants the nearby trees, so that they acquire human form and become warriors attacking the forces of Annwn. The totemistic warrior on the side of the sons of Dôn is revealed at the last to be a woman, named Achren.

The inspiration for the pastiche can be found in the Cad Goddeu.

Hat tip to Thor Ewing.

19 Mar 2009

Samsung Finds New Things to Do with Sheep

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Samsung promotes its new LED TV using a flock of sheep, some shepherds, some border collies and some LEDs on a hill-side in Wales.

2:45 The Baaa-Studs:”Extreme Shepherding”

From Terrierman via Karen L. Myers.

30 Nov 2007

Use of Racist Pejorative Punished in Wales

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Daily Mail:

A grandfather has been given a prison sentence for racial harassment after calling a Welsh woman “English”.

Mick Forsythe used the term during an argument over a scratched car in his Welsh home town.

He called the vehicle’s owner, Lorna Steele, an “English bitch”.

She and her husband took great offence at the jibe and decided to take him to court.

The 55-year-old former lorry driver was found guilty of racially aggravated disorderly behaviour, and received a ten-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

Yesterday Mr Forsythe attacked the prosecution as a waste of time and money.

“I find it unbelievable that I’ve been prosecuted for this,” he said.

“I’m originally from Northern Ireland so I’m an adoptive Welshman.

“I’ve travelled all over Europe as a lorry driver and never had any problems with anybody and now they’re officially calling me a racist.

“It’s political correctness gone mad.

15 Aug 2006

Caractacus’ Capital Found

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The South Wales Echo reports:

A 2,000-year-old city – one of the most important sites in British history – is believed to have been uncovered in South Wales.

According to experts from the Ancient British Historical Association (ABHA), a field at Mynydd y Gaer, near Pencoed, is the fabled fortress city of King Caradoc I, or Caractacus, who fought the Romans between 42 and 51 AD.

Historians Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett used old manuscripts to narrow their field of search and aerial photos from the Google Earth website, which provides detailed maps and satellite imagery, to find the exact spot.

Their findings have yet to be verified, but the team are now positive they have found the long-lost site.

Mr Wilson said: ‘What we have is a clearly-defined walled city in exactly the place the records tell us it should be.

News Wales

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