Monday, 28 February 2011

Dydd Gwyl Dewi - St David's Day, Get Your Daffs On!

It's St David's Day tomorrow and as I know all of you relatives (and readers!) will be celebrating (from Texas to Orkney!) here are some pertinent facts from celtnet. I have changed the usage of "CE" (Christian/Common Era) to "AD" (Latin: Year of Our Lord), as is traditional. Sorry if I missed any.

St David's is an important day, full of celebration in Wales.

I would only wish a few things:

  • That the day would bring more Welsh people back to the Catholic Faith and the Sacraments as celebrated by St David.
  • That more of the English and Scots would celebrate St George's and St Andrew's (I need not mention the Irish!). I'm not greedy, I would like nationhood to be a shared joy, and our Catholic heritage likewise.

The History of Dewi Sant (St David)
The Literary Sources

Dewi (David) is the patron saint of Wales, whose feast day is the 1st of March. He lived about 580 AD, about a century after the withdrawal of Rome from the British Isles and some half century after the time of Arthur (effectively during the time of the final Anglo-Saxon conquest of England).
In Wales, this is the 'time of the saints' where the Cymry (Welsh) were finally completely Christianized (possibly as a result of the Saxon threat) and where the majority of modern Churches (llanau — literally 'sacred enclosures' were established).
David himself is known primarily from early Medieval texts in Latin and Welsh known as the Buchedd Dewi (Life of St David) and it is in these that we find out most about David as an historical character. This was written during the 11th century by Rhigyfarch, eldest son of Sulien Ddoeth (Sulien the Wise, who was Bishop of St David's between 1071–78 and 1080–85). Rigyfarch probably wrote the Life of St David with the express aim of could establishing some independence for the Welsh church, which was risking losing its independence following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. This failed, as Rhigyfarch's father was the last independent Welsh bishop of St David's.
Outside the Buchedd Dewi other references to Dewi occur. The first of these was a stone that used to sit in the doorway to the chancel of the Chapel at Llanddewibrefi (see below) that probably dated near the foundation of the church (c 650AD). The stone is broken now, but it was recorded during the 18th century. Dewi is also mentioned in the catalogue of Irish saints (c 730AD). A further Iris text from c 800AD (the Félire Oengusso Céli Dé [Martyrology of Angus the Culdee]) names St David and gives March 1st as his feast day, the first known reference to St David's day.
Dewi is also mentioned in the Life of Paul of Léon written in 884 AD. The next reference comes from Asser, author of the Life of King Alfred (completed c 893 AD). Interestingly, Asser must have been a Welshman for he uses the Welsh form of Dewi's name Degui in this work, rather than the Latinate form and he refers to the 'Church at St Davids and the bishopric thereof'.
The next reference comes from a poem in the Book of Taliesin know as Arymes Prydein Fawr (The Great Prophecy of Britain). This was written c 930AD and there are several references:

To god and Dewi did they commend themselves
Through the intercession of Dewi and Britain's saints.
may Dewi be the leader of our warriors

Here, Dewi is invoked as the protector of the Cymry (Welsh) and these are the first references we have to him as Wales' patron saint.
Of the British patron saints David is unique in that he is native to the country he represents and he's a well-documented historical figure. Indeed, in many ways more is known about him than many of his contemporaries. Though most of the information we have comes from Rhigyfarch's 'Life of St David' and also from the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) who wrote a book about his travels through Wales in the 12th century.

Greg Mulholland MP and the Call for English Anthem Usage

500 AD and Glastonbury is still held by "Welsh" tribes
After a minor kerfuffle from my last post, it seems that at least one MP agrees with me, that God Save the Queen is indeed the anthem of the UK and not of England.

As Wikipedia says:

On 20 April 2007, Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds North West, introduced an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, proposing that England have its own national anthem. The EDM called for all English sporting associations to "adopt an appropriate song that English sportsmen and women, and the English public, would favour when competing as England."[3] There has also been an EDM calling for "Jerusalem" to be given official status as the national anthem of England, proposed by Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative Party MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham on 18 October 2006.[4]

In April 2008 Greg Mulholland called for the England national rugby league team to replace "God Save the Queen" with an English national anthem at the Rugby League World Cup (RL World Cup) to be held in Australia in autumn 2008[5] and on 28 April he put forward another EDM in the House of Commons, noting that Scotland and Wales who are also taking part in the RL World Cup, will all have their own national anthems, and therefore calling on England to use an English national anthem rather than the British national anthem, with the proposal that English rugby league fans should be given the chance to choose an English anthem.[6] However, God Save the Queen was used.

On St George's Day, April 23, 2010, the Commonwealth Games Council for England launched a poll to allow the public to decide which anthem is to be played at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Voters could choose between God Save the Queen, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory with the winning song being adopted as the official anthem for Team England. [7] Jerusalem was declared the winner on 30 May 2010, securing 52% of the vote. [8]

If the English wish to have Jerusalem as their anthem who am I (Welsh, part-Irish and so devoid of any rights on such matters apparently) to say otherwise. It is certainly very stirring (moreso than God Save the Queen may I dare to opine?)

Of course, if Our Lord Jesus Christ did indeed come to the West Country, brought by Joseph of Arimathea so folk-tales say, then of course it was still part of Welsh Britain, where the native tribes would have spoke ancient Welsh, perhaps intermixed with some Latin).

The arrival of the English was some 400+ years away, apart from some mercenaries fighting for the Romans as the Empire crumbled, to protect the East Coast of what became England from raiders. Some historians say these mercenaries became the settlers that the "invading" Germanic tribes came to join - I believe it's a moot point. The West Country itself remained "Welsh" for much longer of course (eventually only Wales and Cornwall as we recognise them today were left separate of Anglo-Saxon tribal kingdoms and their vessel fiefdoms)

Still it's nice to think that Jesus Christ may have come to these islands and met the natives later called Welsh (or "foreigner" in old Anglo-Saxon English, they gave similar names to peoples in what would become Belgium and Italy). If only because the Welsh kept the Roman and Christian Faith, and via the Welshman St Patrick exported it to Ireland where monasticism really took off and thrived as Europe as a whole entered what has been called the 'Dark Ages.'

P.S. I don't know if Greg Mulholland is English or not. Does that negate his argument for asking for an English anthem as opposed to the British one?

Britannia After the Roman Withdrawal

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Do the English Know Who They Are?

Mergers and Acquisitions
I have just watched a less than impressive Wales win their match in Rome against Italy. Not great, but a win is a win.

Then, after a swift stretch of the legs and my ablutions, I returned to the gogglebox to see the run-up to the start of the England - France game.

Now one of my bugbears: do the English know who they are?

At the start of every rugby match they will insist on singing the (anti-Scottish) God Save the Queen which is, of course the British national anthem (despite being against the Scots). That's why the Northern Irish sports teams sing God Save the Queen (because they don't have their own anthem, as a Protestant planter-enclave, they sing the British one to show they don't think they're Irish).

The English anthem is, of course, Land of Hope and Glory.

Why don't the English know that? Does it really take a Welshman of part-Irish extraction to tell the English what their national anthem is?

Now it's almost half time and France are holding the English at 9-9... Vive La France ;-)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Chad Hurley - Splott Market, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and My Farm

Chad Hurley is the co-founder and CEO of You Tube.

He was born in 1977.

That's two reasons to be mildly jealous. But resist that green eyed monster dear reader. Has he grown up in Wales? Did he go to Splott Market for his jeans?

I think we all know the answer!

Growing up in America it is doubtful he has ever shed an emotional tear at the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) as the Welsh team lined-up to take on all comers for the glory and honour of our nation.

You see how much he has missed out on?

So Chad, if you're looking in, drop me a line and you can hire me and I will take you to Splott Market for a pair of jeans, sit next to you in the executive box at the next Welsh home match. No problem. I'd be happy to help. It would be a great act of charity.

And before anyone accuses me of kissing butt or seeking recompense, all I ever wanted was a small holding (imagine - more chickens) with a few pigs, sheep etc. Is that so wrong?

So don't be so nasty towards Chad, dear reader. If he is willing to buy me a small farmhouse for my services as a guide - wouldn't it be rude to say no?

So Chad - let's prove all the naysayers wrong and embark on a week-long Hurley adventure. We could even take in some of the landmarks of my childhood (just promise not to run onto the forecourt of Marlborough Carpets and press buttons on the forklift truck, or someone might tell your mum!).

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Carwyn Jones: Is Libya on the Brink of Anti-Welsh Revolution?

As a young whippersnapper I would sometimes be found on the legendary Bob Bank cheering on the best team in the world.

Yes, Cardiff City.

As an old curmudgeon I now look on from afar, but the fortunes of the team still raise my spirits from time to time (or as often than not have me wondering at the vaguaries of the sporting professions).

One memory of those far off days (did they really play with a pig's liver?) was a certain chant.

Mr. Gaddafi wearing his Bluebirds colours
With the news from the Barbary Coast of North Africa and the Middle East of uprisings, rioting and general unquiet, I couldn't help but recall the football chant of the Cardiff fans:

"Gaddafi, Gaddafi, Gaddafi is a Taffy"

This of course at the time when Mr. Gaddafi was an international pariah.

One wonders what the football-going community (everything's a community today!) will make of this last week's events, and whether Gaddafi is still indeed a Taffy.

Will they bow to the demands of the uprising? Will they embrace some other world statesman who is currently, to borrow from Ireland's days of Imperial oppression, beyond the pale?

Perhaps more worryingly, is Mr. Gaddafi's Welsh heritage a factor in the violence - and if so will the Sennedd move to quell such blatant stereotypical discrimination?

Watch the news fellow Hurleys, Welshmen and all in between!

If you see evidence of inflatable sheep, cat-calls of "baaaa," or wheels of Caerphilly cheese being ceremoniously burnt on the streets of Tripoli: then we will know the awful truth!

Can someone notify Carwyn Jones? Better safe than sorry.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

From Kinsale to Mumbles the Hurleys have Travelled

I had a pleasant surprise today, whilst visiting Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. Well, visiting one of their second homes. Well, in truth visiting the town where one of their homes is located.

My visions of grandeur ne'er cease.

On our journey to the seaside town of Mumbles (for thither we sojourned to partake the bracing sea air), I spied the sign welcoming visitors as they crossed the town's threshold.

It seems that the seaside town of Mumbles is twinned with the Irish port town of Kinsale, from whence my own paternal grandfather traveled to settle in Cardiff.

Then, just afterwards, strangely enough one of the family noticed a "Vivian Hall" building, Vivian being the name of my maternal grandfather.

The twinning sign itself boasted of a 'Britain in Bloom' award. Now if it were the Britain in Bloomers award, I know my Nanna Huzzey would have won that one! The sight of bloomers on her washing line was, as the family knew, a "sight for sore eyes!"

We didn't see Michael and Zeta, but it was still quite a day!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Heol-y-Plwcca & City Road: Growing Up Where Two Welsh Martyrs Were Killed

St Philip Evans
I still remember to this day coming across a small plaque on a wall at the very bottom end of Crwys Road, where it met Mackintosh Place, Albany Road, City Road and Richmond Road, quite a thoroughfare in Roath, Cardiff.

I believe it was on the wall of a branch of Nat West Bank which stood on the corner between Crwys and Richmond Road - but I might be wrong there (lap it up, it may be the last time ;-) ).

Anyhow, this plaque struck me because it told me that I was standing on the spot where two Catholic Saints were martyred for their Faith.

It seemed weird to read that in the middle of urban Cardiff with cars whizzing by in all manner of directions (a five way junction is a startling place by anyone's reckoning).

Here was the place where St John Lloyd and St Philip Evans met their fate on the scaffold, merely for being Catholic priests in Wales. That is how terrible (in its real sense) those penal times were, when men could be killed for offering the Mass to those who were practising the religion that their forefathers had, for many generations.

You might even say that Welshmen had witnessed the Sacrifice of the Mass since the time of the Roman Empire, since circa the third Century A.D.

Maybe I was crass in my ignorance not to have hitherto known this historical reality, but to discover that two Saints had died on that spot really made an impression on me as a teenager (yes, I have a good memory, before anyone quips in!)..

The B4261 is City Road, the A469 is Albany Road
So it was the other day on researching some part of Cardiff's history I fell upon a reference to the Saints being martyred at a place called Pwllhalog.

This struck me as strange, as I quite literally grew up just around the corner from the spot where the martyrs were hung. Yet I had never heard of Pwllhalog as a place.

I know enough schoolboy Welsh to know that Pwll means Pool, but more than that? Just lake Manuel in Fawlty Towers I had to state "I know nothing."

On researching this further, it seems that the place name may well be Pwll Halog and translates as Unhallowed Pool.

According to the Real Cardiff site, City Road used to be called Heol-y-Plwcca:

Up until the middle of last century it was known as Heol-y-Plwcca after the gallows field at its northern end. Here, in a plot known as 'the Cut Throats', more or less where the Road has its junction with Albany, stood the town gibbet. Nearby were plots called Cae Budr (the defiled field), Plwcca Halog (the unhallowed plot), and Pwll Halog (the unhallowed pool). Today they've got side streets built across them and are happily called Strathnairn, Glenroy and Keppoch. The grimness has been vanquished, buried under backgarden clay and foundation, forgotten.
 According to the site/page Walk Down City Road:
City Road used to be called Plwcca Lane.
Plwcca means reeds or rushes. Before the houses were built this part of Roath was rough scrub land. People used to come to collect the rushes to make baskets.
In 1829, the building that is now the Mackintosh Institute was a mansion out in the countryside. It was called Roath Castle because the tops of its walls looked like the turrets on a castle.
In those days, City Road was called Castle Road because it led to Roath Castle.
In 1905, Cardiff was granted the status of city rather than simply a town and Castle Road became City Road.

So we are left to wonder did Heol-y-Plwcca gain its name from the rushes that people gathered there, or from the gallows where the Saints met their end? Plwcca seems to mean plot and/or scrubland, with Halog (unhallowed) seeming to be the part of the name(s) from the area linked to the death of the guilty and possibly the burial-site on unconsecrated ground of 'criminals.'

I wonder if the 'unhallowed plot' refers to a burial plot where the Saints may well have ended up, discarded as common criminals by the government officials that oversaw their martyrdom?

If so (and I realise I am taking a little poetic licence here) might the fact that "today they've got side streets built across them and are happily called Strathnairn...." mean that the street I spent most of my youngest years on (the same Strathnairn near the City Road end), be at least near the place of their martyrdom, if not even closer to the site of their burial?

I have found one reference to their being hung, drawn and quartered (a particularly brutal manner of death - the fate of William Wallace in the film Braveheart), but other information seems scanty, so I simply do not know if they ended up being scattered around Britain as a warning, or put in unmarked graves locally.

But how fascinating to find out more of the background of Heol-y-Plwcca, which would become City Road.

When I was up my Nan's, Anne Huzzey's house in Pentwyn a few years before she passed away, she told me about when she was young, growing up on Strathnairn Street and her Uncle Walter would come home from working on the railways and send her around to City Road to buy fish and chips.

It's funny that two Welsh priests found martyrdom at the end of City Road, where my Nan bought fish and chips, where I spent my very earliest, formative years and later would return to drink in the Roath Park - a pub which made it into one of the tabloid papers for being in the top ten "worst pubs in Britain." I still remember starting a tour of Cardiff's pubs on my 18th birthday at that very establishment.

As a youngster in the late 70s I remember City Road being full of car dealerships (seems weird now) and someone once told me it was in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world's greatest concentration of car dealers in a road. I still don't know if that was an urban myth.

Isn't it weird how one single road can change so much and encapsulate so much?

From Heol-y-Plwcca and the Martyrdom of two Saints to City Road, take-aways and allegedly one of the worst pubs in Britain.

Life rolls on...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

When I Sent Evel Knievel Crashing to Certain Doom (Down the Stairs)

Evel Knievel, American daredevil of the 70's
I was pottering this week and sorting out old papers and mags for packaging (yes, here I am again, single-handedly saving the planet) when I came across an article in the Telegraph Magazine (TM) which brought memories flooding back.

The article in question was in the TM's Flashback series, and revolved around Kelly Knievel remembering the exploits of his famous stunt-riding father Evel Knievel, who (I read somewhere) died in 2007 at the age of 69.

Albeit just a few hundred words, the feature was interesting, not least to discover that Mr. Knievel (that sounds so wrong, like calling Big Daddy the wrestler Mr. Daddy) went from fame and fortune, getting $6 Million for a show at Wembley in 1975, to being bankrupt just two years later.

But why, you are wondering, is Evel Knievel of such import to me?

Well, let us travel back in time to the mid 1970s (harps sounds, picture wobbles, sepia tones apply).

The Evel Knievel Stunt Bike. Yowzer!
Look! There at the top of quite a large set of stairs is a little boy in his brown pyjamas (very with it!) turning a handle on a lump of red plastic like mad! What on earth is he doing? See the anticipation in his eyes. His brow furrows, he grits his teeth and finally a little man on a bike whizzes off to crash at the foot of the stairs.

What fun.

Yes, we just saw little Gareth playing with his Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Ah! halcyon days. How many times can a poseable figure fly down the stairs to crash at the bottom? How many stars are in the sky? How many Jammie Dodgers could a young boy munch in one sitting?

After all, what could be more exciting than having your very own daredevil flying down the stairs?

Little Gareth could so easily imagine a grown man on a roaring bike flying over umpteen double deckers, or his own little (carpeted) mountain. And despite the crashes, spills and Evel being generally thrown off his bike in the most startling of bone-crushing ways, the hero would live to tell the tale and do it all over again just a few moments later.


Simple fun. Violent in its own way, but nobody was hurt and innocence was retained.

Bobby Dazzler!

How the Stunt Bike worked. Stairs were way better, PJs optional.
So it was that the feature in the TM brought all these memories flooding back. The stairs in our home in Alma Road were superb for Evel Knievel, for not only did we we have three sets of stairs, in what to me seemed like a wonderfully rambling home (especially for hide and seek), but even one set that went down from the front door/living room level to the kitchen back-room level! If you include the coal cellar we had four sets of stairs!

I remember learning progressively to jump down the stairs from an ever higher vantage point. How on earth I didn't end up in the Royal Infirmary (for that) I'll never know. Evel Knievel was always able to do better than me, yet invariably ended up having to be twisted back into shape (possibly in 'real life' too).

I am sure, back in the day our little hero (Gareth, not the wee man on the bike) thought he was playing with "Evil" Knievel, no doubt because the naughtiness of sending a motorbike crashing down umpteen flights of stairs went against all pre-conceived ideas of what was proper behaviour in the home (being told off umpteen times for jumping down the stairs being a prime example).

I don't know about you, but when I come across things as I rush around being a working dad that remind me of specific things from when I was a child (every time I see a snotty tissue I can't help but remember a gypsy child in the waiting room of Cardiff's Royal Infirmary putting used tissues from the floor in his mouth! Arrggghhhh!), but as my own children say, "yes Dad, but that was before the war."

Cheeky little scamps.

Now, if I ever catch them jumping down the stairs there'll be what for! ;-)

Welsh Victory at Murrayfield. Worth Waiting For.

Shane Williams about to score a try!
Hurrah! Wales won.


The drought is over.

I'm glad the Welsh coaching team found time to read my last post, and the team learnt to trust each other, fight and take out the man before them.

Especially when they were down to 13 men - they kept their calm, defended well, and kept the scoreline steady.

Such a shame that England had a huge victory over Italy (59-13), now we have more days of Brian Moore and Co. lauding English rugby.

Oh well, I mustn't be bitter. Wales won and that's the main thing.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Welsh Rugby and the Lessons of Culloden

At Culloden ruthless efficiency gave the redcoats victory
So Wales lost 26 - 19 to the old foe last night in Cardiff.

It's not the end of the world. Honest.

OK, so tears welled up in the eyes and the blood of Welsh rugby legend HVP Huzzey ran cold in my veins. But life goes on. The world revolves.

Oh but the thought of the media and commentators of a certain hue wittering on for weeks about this match does have a black cloud hovering over my head.

It's the same old story for Welsh rugby: failure to take points when the opportunities arise; lack of depth in a squad which means when players like Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins are injured our scrum doesn't perform; and what is it with Welsh line-outs? OK, we don't lose as many as we once did, but we certainly don't try and steal the opponents' ones.

More than that I think there is a lack of self-belief in the squad as a whole. Last night was another "if only" game, like those against South Africa, Australia and (dare I bring myself to say it?) Fiji last year.

The Welsh team is missing that cold, clinical edge to their game that teams like New Zealand possess in abundance and other teams like France and Ireland possess at times (like the Welsh they ebb and flow).

I don't know the answers, but professional sportsmen need to win scrums, win line-outs, go for more turn overs and more than all these combined: believe in themselves!

The scumbag that was the Duke of Cumberland only got his accursed redcoats to beat the Highlanders at Culloden (1745), finally ending the Jacobite dream of enthroning Charles Edward Stuart, the genuine heir to the crowns of England & Scotland in place of the Hanoverian thieves, by teaching each soldier to trust the man next to him to do his job, stand his ground, and take out the man in front of him.

With this cold efficiency the Hanoverians won and the sad fact was that the Jacobite victories of the previous year were all for nought.

If the Welsh team can use the same tactics, trusting each other to do their job on the field, taking out the opposition assigned to them, acting together, as one, to defeat the old enemy, then a year from now all this might seem like a bad dream.

Cymru Am Byth.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Breathe a Sigh of Relief: Maynard's Snowed-In

An update from our New England correspondent:

We had about another foot of snow yesterday and they are predicting another foot on Saturday. We have a good three to four feet so far and are finding it difficult to find a place to put it. Don't think we'll get into our detached garage for a while. Oh well, it has always been gone by June and am sure it will be again this year. Miss you all and hope to see you all soon. Don't think we'll get into our detached garage for a while. Temp here this AM was 0 degrees Fahrenheit  -18 degrees Celsius.

As you will see, the cold and delirium has set in, he is repeating himself. Though many a wise person says this has been happening for many years...

Queensland Floods, Lockyer Creek, Toowoomba

This link was sent to me by Stephen Smith who's helped me gaining info on the 9 Para Battalion in Normandy 1944 (see past posts).

As he says, this is "Toowoomba flooding near my folks place."

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Wild West Snow News

News from America from (non-blood!) relative Maynard:

When we returned from Florida this past Monday this is what greeted us as well as -3 degrees Fahrenheit or -20 deg Celsius. We had left 64 degree Fahrenheit and it was great. Almost a 70 degree difference. It has done nothing but snow since and the next two days we are supposed to get another 12 - 24 inches with high temperatures in the teens.  We Love It. 
Word is that things haven't been as frosty since the whisky ran dry in the Winter of '94.

Though apparently people in Florida have been celebrating for a few days for some reason...

British visitors/readers can only stare in wonder at the sight of U.S. rural roads cleared of snow in -20 temperatures and two feet of snow! Authorities here have a job clearing motorways and town centres in conditions half as bad.