Category Archives: Blogs
So I have a random hobby; A hobby that seems utterly left-field considering the macho, sports-driven and party-loving entourage I am often found relaxing with; A hobby that tends to be more popular amongst middle aged tourists from afar with huge paparazzi-like cameras than a local 20-something utilising the full benefits of a small trendy mobile to capture images. The hobby is random, this fact is inescapable.
In pursuit of my hobby the looks I get from dishevelled and sweaty couples struggling with the castle’s demands as I push past them are sometimes bewildering. Despite the fact I’ve barely come 20 miles and they’ve sometimes travelled thousands, I tend to be the person totally out of place best displayed by my lack of cliched tourist baseball cap, packed lunch and various guide books. Yes indeed, Castles appear to be the sole domain of geeks, pensioners and amazed foreigners lost on the historic trail from London.
Curiously I don’t remember having a particular fixation on castles as a child. You do sometimes see children running around dressed up as Knights, with toy swords defending their imaginary kingdoms, but I can’t say that I ever did. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then Football were the dominating creative outlets throughout my childhood, both of which just reinforces the randomness of this adult obsession of mine. This was evident not many weeks ago on a night out where I grew excited at some ancient ruins in a city centre, captivated by the way this behemoth of a previous time was now absorbed by the modern buildings around it. It did strike me that this is a castle I had previously spent almost two decades aware of, yet totally ignored. Now I can just stop amongst the hectic throng of the inner city crowds and just concentrate fixatedly on the one-time impressive structure. This is no longer an isolated incident, it happens regularly. Every reasonable journey I now take involves Google maps and Wikipedia, pinpointing whether exactly there is a castle worth visiting in the vicinity. If there is one thing working in my favour it is that every night I lay my head to rest in a nation acclaimed as the ‘land of castles’. Wales is readily acknowledged as having more castles per square mile than anywhere else in Europe, a permanent memorial to its turbulent and storied past. The majority of castles that now stand in ruins along the rugged and mountainous terrain of Wales are an acknowledgment of its oppression by its larger neighbour in England, most of them being English creations in the bloody and eventually succesful attempt to bring the Welsh people under their control. Symbols of power, the looming structures were built in many historically strategic points and were the bastions of strength that represented the English Crown in an unruly and hostile area.
Having become initially entranced with this turbulent history of our fascinating nation, researching and enjoying tales of Welsh rebellions and Princes it was natural that the sites of so many of these stories would come to the forefront of this obsession. With a burgeoning feeling of pride in the country, the logical step was to take advantage of the plethora of local history sites during my prolonged absence from work. Everyone in the region where I live is aware of Carreg Cennen Castle but this amazing ancient structure remains almost unloved and lonely within its community, especially amongst the ignorant adolescents. This generation fails to take interest in the architectural wonder that sits almost perilously on a crag cliff high above the fields and hills of rural Carmarthenshire. Sitting on remains on the edge of the deep and dramatic cliff face is a moment of immense serenity, the kind people in the cities pay outlandish fees to receive from their masseuse. Apart from the gale of the wind and the occasional sound of local wildlife, the quiet is intact. If wildlife-inclined, there is also a vast array of various animals that can be sighted, from the high soaring Kite’s or the wild Rabbits that loiter perilously close to the edge of the abyss. Even the breathless walk up to the Castle brings the inevitable contact with rural Welsh sheep, one having to almost chase back the dozens of fluffy ewe’s that block your access to the rubble. The base of the outer walls still stands, entrenched into the limstone precipice onto which it was constructed, and although barely standing a few feet high in many places it does allow one to mentally picture where the castle actually began and ended. Whilst the castle itself (view notwithstanding) is very much the typical norm, one popular part of Carreg Cennen is the dungeon, a sloping descent into darkness made notable for the fact that as one descends into the cliff the small lookholes in the cliff-face again allow magnificent and as yet unrivalled views across the Brecon Beacons. Naturally built with defence and not scenery in mind, the castle stood up to a siege from Owain Glyndwr and his rebellious forces in July 1403, extolling the virtues of building such a structure high above any risk from attack. With the sounds of bowmen, cavalry charges and dying screams long gone, if there is a place to get away from the troubles of the world, to relax with ones thoughts, then on top of a cliff looking out over the Brecon Beacons is up there with the very best National Geographic can offer.
With my local castle undoubtedly being my favourite, there are numerous others I have come across on my travels that deserve some column space. Barely a matter of miles across the Carmarthenshire landscape also lies another castle which whilst not having the scenery of Carreg Cennen does possess a standing of greater historic importance to the region. Dinefwr Castle is situated in the grounds of the National Trust-run Dinefwr park which lies on the edge of Llandeilo town centre and rises above the Towy valley. Noted as the seat of the Principality of Dehubarth, Dinefwr Castle was basically the Medieval equivalent of Buckingham Palace for the Kingdom in which it was situated. Amongst those giants of Welsh history whom came into possession of the esteemed Dinefwr Castle included Hywel Dda, Rhodri the Great, Rhys ap Gryffudd as well as both Llewelyn the Great and Llewelyn the Last. Similar to its sister castle at Carreg Cennen, Dinefwr was yet another castle that was unsuccessfully beseiged by Owain Glyndwr during his attempt to free English rule from Wales. The castle itself is reached by yet another tiring walk to the top although a pleasant one and the castle itself is still in decent shape, the main attraction being the spiral staircase to the top of the keep that allows extensive views of the valley floor that is spread out below the castle. Whilst less to see and do than at Carreg Cennen, Dinefwr is a melancholy place where Kings and Princes used to roam and is therefore worth a visit any time.
North-East Wales can be considered the ‘goldmine’ of Welsh castles, the magnificently massive Conwy Castle and Caernarfon Castle considered national treasures and two infamous tourist destinations. In their shadow somewhat is Harlech Castle, forever immortalised in the military march “Men of Harlech”. Similar to Carreg Cennen, Harlech is also based atop a gigantic cliff albeit a cliff that is not only at the foot of Snowdonia but on the edge of the Irish sea, a strategic position that has played a vital part in the castle’s history. As soon as you step into the town of Harlech the castle dominates the skyline, rising unimaginably high above the street in a way that must have been terrifying for a mediavel people unaccustomed to skyscrapers and their ilk. Build by Edward I as part of his conquest of Wales, the castle was one that was actually captured by Owain Glyndwr who held it between 1404 and 1409. Later still, during the War of the Roses between the vying Royal Houses of Lancaster and York the castle came under siege for Seven Years, the longest such siege in British histor and which thus formed the inspirational basis for the ‘Men of Harlech’ song that has remained in the consciousness of the Welsh to the present day. Perhaps the greatest attribute that Harlech Castle posseses is the impressive and complete gatehouse that greets the visitor, an hulking mass of brick that allows yourself to be transported back to a bygone era as you climb the steps into the castle. A mythological castle in the true heart of Wales.
Travelling further across the green and sloping lands of this small nation, signs for castles are a regular occurrence. Despite the many dozens to choose from and regardless of when they were built, each structure offers a unique and individual history, adding to the poignancy as you explore the remains of what used to be living quarters, prisons and kitchens to whole generations of families. One of the redeeming features for many visitors is the scenes you usually find in Hollywood epics – the castle siege. Every castle has its war history, particularly during the decade of Welsh rebellion at the cusp of the 15th century, led by the aforementioned national patriot Owain Glyndwr. During this period castles were lost and recaptured, and thousands were killed in the process. Indeed these castles are long lost graveyards to the fallen men given the unenviable teak of breeching the mammoth and imposing stone walls in the face of fierce attack. Aside from the symbolism of what these castles stand for, the brutal subjection of the peasants to a higher ruling class, they also offer the chance for childish adventure, a playground of epic proportions for child and adult alike. From discovering the ancient weapons of Caerphilly to climbing the skyscraper-like towers in Harlech, there is nothing like discovering passageways and views for the first time. Yes, a random hobby. But one I truly love.
- Caerphilly Castle
- Cardiff Castle
- St Fagan’s Castle
- Carreg Cennen Castle
- Carmarthen Castle
- Dinefwr Castle
- Dryslwyn Castle
- Kidwelly Castle
- Laugharne Castle
- Llandovery Castle
- Llansteffan Castle
- Harlech Castle
- Raglan Castle
- Carew Castle
- Haverfordwest Castle
- Pembroke Castle
- Picton Castle
- Tenby Castle
- Brecon Castle
- Oxwich Castle
- Weobley Castle
- Oystermouth Castle
- Pennard Castle
- Swansea Castle
- Manorbier Castle
- Llawhaden Castle
- Narbeth Castle
- Lamphey Palace
- Skenfrith Castle
- Ludlow Castle
- Chepstow Castle
The Football League Play-Off’s are often described as the height of drama and excitement, of unadulterated joy and unequalled heartbreak. A chance for the nearly men to redeem themselves and gain one more opportunity for promotion and for the rank outsiders to launch a late and unexpected burst of freedom into the exciting confines of a higher league.
As a neutral, they are fantastic to watch, particularly the Championship duel which is regularly stated to be, at £90m, the single biggest game financially in world sport. You tend to see an equal measure of perennial contenders always on the cusp of promotion and the historically lower-league clubs thrown into this volatile end of season lottery, providing irresistible viewing. In recent years for example, there has been a varied mix of clubs such as Birmingham and West Ham reclaim what they may consider their rightful place amongst the elite whilst Burnley, Hull City and Blackpool have spoiled their respective fanbases with excursions to Anfield and Old Trafford via their Wembley play-off victories.
Inaugrated in 1987 after the Football League decided to reduce the sizes of the divisions, the Play-Off’s have in some eyes rejuvenated the last months of a league campaign and ensured that non-title chasing teams still have something to play for as opposed to drifiting into mid-table obscurity with much of the campaign left to play for.
Much like the majority of football fans, when as a neutral I love the concept, and cheering on random ‘smaller’ teams in an effort to see some new blood in the increasingly ring-fenced Premier League. However I also hate them. Hate them for the way my team Swansea fell at the final hurdle in the 2006 League One final by a couple of blundered penalties, a heartbreaking conclusion to an exciting season that lasted well into the next one. I also hate them for how they dropped out of the Championship play-off reckoning with 2 games left of the 46-game season last year to be overtaken by a Blackpool team who eventually went up. With my beloved Swans hanging onto the final spot with their very fingertips at the end of last season, every weekend brought more misery as our place became more unstable and precarious until the inevitable result of our place being usurped.
Are the Play-Offs worth the drama, excitement, heartbreak and unbearable tension in remaining in the 4 vital spots after 46 games and then manoeuvring through 3 more? In the interests of football I would say almost certainly. They offer incredible tension and excitement on par with any of World football’s major events and it’s great to see fans of constantly struggling clubs getting their one day on the big stage that they have perhaps never experience before or will never experience again. As a fan of a club who have secured their place in the end of season lottery (thank god after last season’s bottling!) with two games left and thus with a vested interest in the current season’s outcome as opposed to a neutral, I’ll let you know after the final whistle has rung at Wembley on May 30th. If we fall at the first hurdle or even worse at the national stadium just as we did 5 years ago then you will no doubt know my feelings surrounding this sporting import from across the Atlantic. And should we be victorious and our captain climbs the infamous steps to claim the Play-off trophy to raise to the heavens, then I will be the greatest supporter of the Play-off’s in the nation. Fickle, moi? Never.
The generation of the Smartphone is nigh and despite the spirited challenge of the Android phones, two fruit-based brand names still loom large over the industry as the market leaders and proverbial top dogs. Apple. Blackberry.
In a similar way to sports fans defence of their team in the face of furious criticism whilst praising them in the event of success, consumers of both companies have become almost cult-like in their loyalty to the cutting edge manufacturers whom provide their gadgets. As the iphonevsblackberry.com domain name clearly implies, it hasn’t taken long for users of each reputable product to turn on each other in that competitive way men tend to do. “Mine is faster/stronger/better/clearer and more durable/entertaining/practical/fun than yours” can be used to describe almost any thought process in the male mind – please delete as applicable.
To act like a typical man, it only seems right to delve into this mobile-war and present you with my humble opinions, both as a consumer, employee of a mobile network and also a gadget geek. Granted, those of you whom know me understand me to be a complete addict to my Blackberry Bold 9700 but I will try and remain as impartial as possible despite having seemingly succumbed to the Crackberry academic. I’ll also base the review around both organisation’s flagship products, namely the aforementioned Bold 9700 and Iphone 4.
Now these are two different phones, built for two different markets but with a sizeable mutual target range. Stereotypically, the Bold is a phone built for business and the Iphone is a phone created for leisure, although of course this is not the way the handsets are universally used. For the benefits of the number’s fans out there who love comparing the specifications, here’s a quick run down of the facts.
The recently released Iphone 4 comes in both 16gb or the massive 32gb version complete with a 5 mega-pixel camera to go with the new retina display. The Apps are constantly growing and as the sales motto goes, “there’s an App for everything”. Another new feature is the innovative FaceTime video calling feature as well as HD video recording. 3G and wi-fi access as well as all the other basics of modern mobile phones round off the most anticipated handset of all time.
With the Blackberry Bold 9700 now over 6 months old it’s features may not be as cutting edge as the Iphone but it does compete in other ways. The camera is 3.2 mega-pixel’s with 3G and wi-fi offering quick internet access. The Blackberry’s unique selling point is the ease it can flip between heavy applications on the phone making it the perfect tool for a busy person. PDF’s, Microsoft Works and many other desktop-based packages are available on the handset, easily updated using the full Qwerty keyboard for efficient input. The push email on the phone and its innovative Blackberry Messenger service are market leaders in their own right, providing instant notifications to business or personal matters.
So comes the inevitable question of which phone is better. I’m going to have to sit on the fence on this one as, annoyingly I admit, almost all other websites seem to be doing. As explored earlier, both phones are simply built for differentiating purposes and it truly does depend on what the individual is looking to get from their phone. The Iphone undoubtedly is the greatest pleasure phone ever created. If it’s games or pictures or any other form of entertainment one is looking for, then this phone is the choice. The App Store is extreme in that everything you can possibly imagine is available. The picture qualities are almost unrivalled and if there is an amateur cameraman in you dying to get out then the Iphone 4′s new video recording is a great place to begin. The downside is, ofcourse, the signal issues that have blighted the handset’s launch although Apple appear to have appeased this with the offer of free cases and software updates and the brittleness of the screen has yet to be seriously evaluated.
The Blackberry Bold’s push messaging service has set it apart from rival’s basic log-in services and is the perfect companion for lengthy writing (as this blog itself is being done) or for the person who deals in email communication on a daily basis. Whilst the AppWorld is not as accomplished or “fun” as the Apple version it is certainly growing and is a useful, practical phone that was not designed to use up spare time but to be a companion for those busy times.
With both phones taking and implementing the best of each other’s services (Apps on the Blackberry and Instant Messaging on the Iphones) the lines are sure to become more blurred in the future as they continue to hold off the upcoming threat from Android-based devices. So which one is the best? I know my answer but I can’t answer for anyone else. YOU decide.
Late 18th century Wales was a period of relative calm when contrasted with the continuous upheavals of previous generations. The fall of the Tudor Dynasty, Civil War, the continuous changing of monarchs with different religions causing dissent in the Kingdom, it was a hectic era. Importantly for the peace of the natives, Welsh revolt against the English crown had largely subsided and the people went about their daily lives.
A significant change in the country during that this period was the Welsh Methodist Revival which prompted great religious and social changes. Traced back to the religious conversion of Howell Harris in 1735, he began a movement of non-conformism along with David Rowland and the noted poet William Williams Pantycelyn. They were thus the de facto founders of the Presbyterian Church in Wales, which would eventually disestablish itself from the state-supported Church of England in 1851. This branch of Methodism grew quickly in the northern Carmarthenshire area where the founders were so influential with their preaching, which were emotional outbursts based on the gospels and enthusiastic hymn singing.
It was in 1770 that Peter Williams published the first Welsh bible to be printed in Wales, which became immensely popular in the Carmarthenshire area where it was published. Most families had a copy and it helped to keep the area away from becoming anglicized. The chapels also become that social hub for the communities, a gathering place for the villagers to come together and pray.
The Methodist revival claimed to preach to the heart of its followers rather than the reasoning of the mind, it encouraged the people to concentrate on saving their souls from eternal damnation. Customary pastimes, amusements and interests were regarded as devilish traps, painting a picture of a serious society overburdened with a continuous sense of sin and guilt. The Methodist’s considered human existence only as a preparation for death and the after world, the salvation of the soul. It was a dull and strict ideology.
It was with this in the background and during the time of King George III that William Griffiths lived, residing and operating the Tre-Wern farm between Talley and Llansadwrn. The rolling hills and vast fields of the Cothi Valley provided ample fields for such men as William to set up their enterprise. Talley or Tal-y-llychau, which aptly means “heads of the lakes”, is a village roughly 7 and a half miles from the town Llandeilo in the heart of Carmarthenshire, particularly noted for the medieval ruins of the once majestic Talley Abbey.
The Abbey was unique when it was constructed, in being the only one of its kind to be constructed for the monastic order of the Premonstratensians. It was also noted for being the place where the Lord Rhys Ap Gruffydd, the historic Welsh prince, settled in the 1180’s. His great-grandson Rhys Fychan would be buried in the grounds in 1271. With Henry VIII on the throne during the 16th Century, his spectacular fallout with the Vatican led to the English crown seceding from the Holy Roman church. The temperamental and supremely powerful ruler instructed his close ally Thomas Cromwell to destroy the famous Abbey’s, the legacy of this ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries’ evident on the historic and picturesque site next to the Talley lakes.
An entry in the “Topographical Dictionary of Wales”, written in 1844 by an S. Lewis suggests that the small community had over a thousand residents surrounding the two impressing lakes that gave the place its name. Lewis goes on to describe the parish as a “continued succession of hill and dale, sideland and mountain top, and is rather woody”, picturing a rural scene ideal for agriculture and farming, much like today without the ease and quickness of modern transportation.
The two lakes next to the abbey are just as spectacular as any to be found in South Wales, but are often overlooked in favour of the more well-known bodies of water that are often more accessible to tourists. The lakes used to be used for fish farming to support the monks. After the aforementioned dissolution, the stones from the ruined Abbey were used to build much of the present village including the chapel that now resides next to the historic structure.
Born in Llandeilo in 1772, William Griffiths spent the majority of his life tending to his Tre-Wern farm, on the vast green landscape between Talley and nearby Llansadwrn. The farm was around 20 acres and it was here that he not only grew his crops and worked, but also where he raised his family. William married a local girl named Anne and by 1801 she gave birth to their daughter in Llandeilo, the nearest town. They named the child Sarah.
Anne was born to Margaret and Walter Thomas and was the granddaughter of Margaret John. Margaret John seemingly married twice, first to David James in nearby Caio in 1735 from which their daughter was born and after her husband’s death in circa 1743 she remarried. Margaret John, Davies and then finally Thomas passed away in 1797 at the age of 77 and is buried in Llansadwrn church. Similar to her grandmother, Anne Griffiths lived until she reached 73, a respectful age for the time, dying on April 17th, 1849. She was laid to rest at the picturesque Talley church, in a graveyard sandwiched between the lakes and the abbey. Reaching the twilight of his long life, the widower William left Tre-Wern and went to live with his daughter and her husband, who were by this time raising their own family.
Born at the beginning of the century in Llandeilo, Sarah Griffiths grew up with her parents at their Tre-Wern farm helping out the family business whilst planning for her own future as a wife and a mother. Her teenage years would have been spent learning of her mother how to create a home for when she got married. Lessons would have been in cooking, housework and vital skills of the time such as knitting stockings or basket weaving, all of which would contribute to the survival of the household. In some cases, the woman would sell these products to supplement the husband’s income to further provide food. Women would also join in the farm work, helping out of the primitive wooden ploughs or even riding on the horses and other farm animals to help sort out the crops.
A report in 1776 by a person who was visiting Carmarthenshire showed that the people of the Llandeilofawr area lived on a diet of barley or oaten bread and cheese, with meat maybe once a week. It wouldn’t be until a couple of decades later that potatoes would become a dietary mainstay for the poor working classes, an easy vegetable that could be grown in any form of soil.
At the end of the 18th century the earnings of small farmers remained very low, especially considering the work on the fields tended to be long and arduous. Most days were from 6am to 6pm in the warm summer months and then from dawn to dusk in the brisk and chilly winter. The typical housing conditions were also poor, even amongst the better class of farmers. Many of the cottages the families resided in often consisted of single rooms with mud walls, unpaved floors and thatched roofs.
After meeting and marrying a local carpenter from the nearby hamlet of Laine, Sarah settled down and began a busy decade of raising her children. Her husband David Davies was born in 1798 and initially kept up his previous job as a carpenter, putting the great natural resources to use and making everyday items such as chairs and tables. Some time between 1841 and 1851, David came into the possession of 60 acres of farmland. Llwyncelyn, as the farm was known, stayed in the family for over a century, serving as the home for over three generations. It is in fact still a working farm 150 years later. Their children had already been born by the time David moved his wife and offspring to the farm, undoubtedly a time of excitement for the young ones as moves often tend to be. Their eldest child, William Davies, was born 1827, soon followed by Hannah in 1834, Joshua in 1838 and Elizabeth in 1839.
The first four decades of the century, 1800-1840, were tough years for the people of Carmarthenshire. The growth of the population increased competition for farms and agricultural employment. The wages were low, food prices were high and the rents were also rising uncontrollably. A succession of bad harvests, importation of foreign corn, a slump in the overall price of livestock and a number of disastrous floods had left many of the regions farmers on the verge of destitution and hopelessly bankrupt. With food already scare, the country finally erupted into chaos when new tollbooths were built on the roads crisscrossing the county. The tolls were charging exorbitant rates for the farmers to pass daily, rates that just weren’t feasible during these financial tough times. The riots against the booths soon erupted into a nationwide rebellion, and went down in history as the ‘Rebecca Riots’.
The middle of the century proved turbulent and joyous for the Davies family at Llwyncelyn, with the children growing up and branching out into lives of their own. Joshua got married to Rachel, a woman the same age as him who was a daughter of the Richards family of Cymbyr farm and who would have had a similar upbringing to her new husband. Together they had three children; Mary, Elizabeth and Rachel, who took her name after her mother. Joshua’s sister Elizabeth also met and married a person known in the local community, David Thomas from Llansadwrn. As her parents drifted into old age, she took over the everyday running of the family premises, playing the dutiful wife role as well as giving birth multiple times.
Tragedy struck in the first half of 1866, when the elderly family patriarch William Griffiths passed away on May 1st. He lived to the remarkable age of 95, especially when taking into account the limitations of medicine available to the poor working classes in the early Victorian age. He was laid to rest at Talley Church and next to his wife Anne.
His granddaughter Elizabeth was pregnant during his traumatic episode and Sarah Thomas was eventually born on the 27th October 1866. Death wasn’t far away however, David Davies passing away just two and a half weeks after the birth of his granddaughter Sarah. He died on November 15th aged 68. He would also be buried at the local Talley Church, not far from his in-law’s. It would prove to be a dismal end to an emotional rollercoaster of an autumn.
Only a few years later the Thomas and Griffith’s were again back at the Talley Church they had frequented so often, this time laying to rest William Davies. He had passed away during the night of October 13th, 1870, almost four years later than his father and the grandfather for whom he was named after. He would not however reach the age his resilient ancestor did, leaving the world aged only 43.
During this up and down period, Elizabeth overcame the triple blow of losing her grandfather, father and brother to successfully mother a brood of children with her partner David. After the birth of their first child Sarah, a year later she celebrated her first son Benjamin Thomas (1867), rapidly followed by John (1869) and David (1870), who was named for both his father and grandfather, the two men who meant the most in his mother’s life.
After the birth of three strong boys in a row, Elizabeth again confounded the odds by giving birth to four girls successively. Jane Thomas was born in 1872, Anne in 1874, Eliza (Lizzie) in 1876 and the youngest of eight Mary in 1881, when Elizabeth was 42 years old. Like the rest of their ancestors, the children were born in Talley, the lack of capable travel not allowing a pregnant mother to travel too far from the home to give birth.
Elizabeth Thomas’ life was punctuated by the highs of giving birth to a number of children and the lows of losing a host of her loved ones prematurely. In her mid 40’s she encountered the terror of every mother, her youngest daughter Mary, the baby of the family, dying at the tragic age of just 6 years old. It was April 20th 1886. A heartbroken Elizabeth lived for another 18 years, passing away in the cusp of a new century on the 22nd September, 1904. She was aged 65 and was survived by the rest of her children, a small mercy in a lifetime defined by the deaths of those closest to her.
37 at the time of her mother’s death, Sarah had already left the family farm at Llwyncelyn, Talley to set up her own home with her husband and children. Her husband was a man originally from Pembrokeshire rather than the Talley are previous generations had tended to marry from, highlighting the increasing ease of travel as the 20th century began. John Edwards was born in 1872 and was around 6 years younger than his wife. His father was allegedly Thomas Evans, the name that would appear on his marriage certificate, suggesting John was in fact an illegitimate son. Illegitimacy was a taboo subject at the time of John’s birth and would remain so in the eyes of the law until the Legitimacy Act was passed in 1926 allowing bastard son’s to inherit equally from their parents. This may have been a stigma for the young John growing up and made his productive years troublesome. It could also have played a role, along with job opportunities, in him relocating from the area of his birth.
At the time of his betrothal John was also employed at a farm, ideal considering his marriage into a family of proficient farmers. Having moved from the coastal county of Pembrokeshire further inland and into the Pontardawe area, John was working at Nantygaseg Farm in Cwmgors, employed as an agricultural labourer. This would have been tough strenuous work but although the pay was low-wage, the job was important for John to provide for his burgeoning family. Soon after their marriage the first child was born, Sarah naming the child Elizabeth in honour of her mother and a pleasant lasting memory for the woman who would pass away a short while later.
The 27th June, 1901 also brought the couple their first son, continuing a family tradition from the maternal side of the family by naming him David Robert. Mary soon followed in 1906 and the youngest child Tom Emrys two years later completed the Edwards family.
In the same tragic way of her mother, Sarah would also suffer the heart wrenching pain of losing not one, but two children whilst they were still young. Mary passed away in 1912 aged only 6, whilst Elizabeth managed to reach adulthood and indeed have two surviving children and a husband. She was only 21 when she died from tuberculosis. Before her untimely death she married Thomas Dawkins Williams and had two children, Sally and William John, whilst a third continued the horrible family curse and died whilst still in infancy.
Only a short time after her children’s births, and indeed it was whilst they were still babies Elizabeth contracted the contagious lung disease of TB. Despite the BCG vaccine having been recently discovered it would be another 20 years before it would be put into production. Even then it would be hard to get for the lower classes. In the early years of the 20th century, Britain was suffering from a TB pandemic, a disease that was known to be particularly virulent amongst the working classes straddling the poverty line. It was commonly referred to as the “endemic disease of the poor”. It was the middle of this hysterical panic that Elizabeth succumbed to the symptoms of the horrible disease, and due to the economy of the time was tragically buried in a pauper’s grave in Cwmllynfell Chapel.
Elizabeth’s eldest son, David Robert, married when he was 35, reasonably late compared to the tradition at the time. He was wed to Catherine Matilda Jane, a daughter of the George family from Solva, Pembrokeshire. The George’s had operated a woolen mill at Porth-Y-Rhaw on the coast since the middle of the 19th century, which would remain in business until the death of Matilda’s father in 1955.
David Robert, known popularly as Bob and his wife Tilly were wed on the 30th October 1936 when both bride and groom were in their mid-30’s. They would suffer two painful losses in their first four years of marriages, their daughters Mair and Mary dying shortly after their births, in 1938 and 1940 respectively. During the war Tilly finally gave birth to two children who would survive their infant years; Grace was born in 1942 and followed two years later by Muriel, by which time she was already 43 years old.
Bob originally spend his early years, much like the rest of south Wales, underground working the treacherous mines. It was hazardous conditions with a constant worry of disaster. A former churchwarden, Bob was also for many years branch and benevolent secretary of the British Legion and was thus granted his life membership certificate in 1944. As he got older he switched careers, becoming a locally respect member of his community as a Justice of the Peace. He was first elected to Llandeilo Rural council in 1946, serving over 25 years and becoming the third in seniority on the council. He was also chairman of the council in 1957-58 and also became chairman of the council’s rent arrears committee, before being placed on the Commission of Peace for the county of Carmarthenshire. Serving in the executive of the Divisional Labour party, Bob had also been secretary of the council’s Labour group for many years as well as secretary of the Brynaman, Cefnbrynbrain and Ystradowen joint wards. After living to see the births of his grandchildren Paul and Catherine Salter by Grace and her husband John, and Gail, Michelle, Gregory and Alethea Davies by Muriel and her husband Randall, Bob passed away on the 8th December 1971. He was 70 years old and was buried in Cwmllynfell, the community he had served well throughout his life.
His living wife Tilly remarkably survived her husband by almost 30 years, spending the twilight of her life surrounded by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, something she once professed she thought she’d never see. Tilly passed away in a Swansea hospital in October 2000 aged 98 after being admitted originally with a broken hip. She was buried alongside her husband at Cwmllynfell chapel, a place where she had regularly played the organ.
His younger brother Tom Emrys Edwards was born on April 17th, 1908. He was born in the Brynmelyn Cottages which were opposite the colliery high up on the Gwryd mountain. Not enamoured with school, Tom Emrys would often miss school in order to work on the farm by his parent’s new residence. The farm, on the Rhosfa area just outside Rhosaman, was a more pleasurable venue for the young boy rather than the stifling surroundings of the classroom although he never lost his capability for maths and numbers. Upon reaching adulthood, he began working at the Bryn Enllys colliery in nearby Ystradowen, employed as a foreman on the coalface. Respected by his colleagues, he helped out a great number of them from exploitation by using his natural ability for mathematical sums by calculating the amount of bonuses each individual was due from the owners. Many workmates often praised his helpful attitude for ensuring they took home a decent wage to support their families. Tom Emrys was also present during the 1926 strike that occurred in Fishguard, working for the only time in his life to that point away from the coalface as a labourer. After falling foul of his bosses concerning his disobedience regarding his stature as the mouth of the workers, Tom Emrys initially worked for a short period in a concrete works before obtaining a role at the Ysgu Colliery, also in Ystradowen. Falling ill, he ended his working life and concentrated on returning to health whilst vacationing in his caravan in Aberaeron for parts of the year.
Having met and married Margaret Moses, Tom Emrys also settled into fatherhood, his wife giving birth to Mary Elizabeth (Bessie) in 1928, Charles Garon and then John Elwyn in 1932. Losing his wife in 1934 at the young age of 28, Tom Emrys lived out his live raising his young family before passing away at the age of 69 on the 21st January, 1978.
Today the original Griffiths family has dispersed and multiplied into numerous small knit family units, each individual in name and location, all linked irrevocably by their common ancestors William and Anne Griffiths. Today the blood and legacies of the Griffith family lives on in the many branches of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Ok, I’ll admit I did fly for ten hours around our creaking and groaning Planet, to get to my destination. Once arrived however, I could sense the modern inventions that are slowly eroding the environment back home wouldn’t be such an issue in my rustic home for the next month. Kashmir, the mountainous region with the troubled and violent history is a place far beyond the luxuries of the West, a place untouched by the clutches of industrial pollution and the like.
Our 14-seater bus from the airport wouldn’t leave until every seat and floor space was occupied, an efficient use of transport in this country. The bus-pool system cuts down on the number of vehicles rampaging through the streets as well as being affordable for the financially-burdened proletariat.
These journeys can be valuable, the locals giving advice more helpful than any WH Smith guidebook. I was dumbstruck at the beguiling rural-ness of this southern tip of Kashmir, the vast horizon in front of me occasionally punctured by small houses, wildlife and trees.
Staying in the Mirpur district, the dominating fixture of the village was the behemoth that is the Mangla Dam, a body of exquisite blue water that is the 12th largest dam in the world. With no boats and no toxic chemicals, there’s just calm water for as far as the eye can see and an abundance of animals around the edges. It’s can be a cooling respite from the at-times unbearable heat of this exotic paradise.
My six weeks in this environment mainly consisted of playing board games since there are no x-box’s here! Another usual activity was the villagers getting meeting under candlelight, chatting amongst themselves and gossiping the nights away over a cup of Cha and biscuits. Ah yes, the food.
Basic in premise, unrivalled in taste. Most meals are based around a variety of herbs, potatoes, chapattis and meat, all locally grown ingredients contributing in a variety of ways to whet even the dullest of palates. Noted for their agricultural skills, the people rely mainly on home grown goods; A freshly killed Goat with its succulent meat can feed large families for days, along with the local fruit trees in the area and the ever-present rice grain.
Walking into the village there are a scattering of simple stores; a sweet shop in a wooden shack that also curiously sells live chickens, a vegetable stall selling local produce and also a barbers where the men congregate in the day. The tools of choice? A razor and a pair of scissors. Oh, and a hand mirror.
The evenings consisted of sitting on the flat roof tops chatting or having a quick game of cricket. With the air being so clean and pure, it’s actually possible to pick out and spot all of the famous star constellations you only read about in books or see in films. The saucepan, Orion’s belt and so on, it’s truly a postcard image on a massive scale. A fantastic way to end an environmentally conscious trip abroad…except for the plane out!
The ECB…Where’d The W Go? Something has been bothering me for a while now, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Why the hell is the England and Wales Cricket Board officially and popularly abbreviated to ECB. Where’d the W Go?
The Lord’s-Based governing body was set up on New Year’s Day in 1997 as an amalgamation of previous bodies to be a modern organisation capable of moving the domestic cricket game into the 21st Century, on the sporting side as well as the business side. Arguably they’ve been successful in their endeavours, hosting World Cup’s, winning an Ashes Series and bringing in millions of pounds in sponsorship and ticketing revenue to further aid the sport’s protracted growth. It is however, a governing body which oversees the game in both England and Wales as the full name suggests. So why the altered abbreviation?
Of course, the English cynics amongst you may start to state we have a chip on our shoulders and that it’s irrelevant, but how can anyone seriously expect to gain core support in a region that has been unsubtly deleted from the team badge. Cricket does not enjoy the cult status in Wales that it does across the Severn Bridge, only attracting that hardcore element you tend to find sitting in the rain during a drab and dull county championship game in an half-empty ground. Evidence of this can be seen during the Ashes’ Series. As someone who resided in England during the famous ‘05 series, it seemed everyone was talking about spin, swing and Freddie Flintoff’s latest injury crises. The pubs do brisk business just by switching on a couple of television sets and the workplaces are alive the male version of gossip – Sports talk. So why is the England team treated passively in a country it’s supposedly meant to be representing. It is surely all in the name. Max Clifford and his all his PR skills would not be able to market an ‘England’ brand within the borders of Offa’s Dyke. No Welsh sports fan, brought up in a country where Anglo-Welsh rugby and football games have always elicited fierce patriotism, can get behind a team named England. A similar situation would be the West Indies operating as Jamaica. The Grenadian’s and Trinidadians would never accept such a thing.
The 2009 Ashes Test in Cardiff went off without relative controversy, safe for a few boo’s when God Save The Queen played, and helped to bring this anomaly to the consciousness of casual cricketing observers. There was something unusual at seeing an England team play ‘at home’ in Wales. If they want cricket to ever catch on in the principality a welcome start would be the reinstatement of the ‘W’ into the abbreviation or an acknowledgment of Wales in the team name. When the ‘Welsh Taffia’ came to power within the corridors of Lords in 2004, there was hope that the issue would be resolved, but chairman David Morgan’s plans have yet to come to fruition. The issue has even gained support of prominent Englishmen, ex-Chairman of Selectors David Graveney stating in 2004 that the “point David Morgan makes is a very valid one. The full title is the England and Wales Cricket Board but its never stated like that”. A further possible solution is an independent Welsh Cricket board complete with its own competing team. With Ireland and Scotland making recent World Cup appearances, Wales has been conspicuous in its absence, most people missing the point that Wales have ‘technically’ been at every Cup. Just not in name.
The bigwigs are becoming more commercial and market-savvy in these sporting capitalist times, but surely they are missing a potential merchandising goldmine. The Welsh are known for how they get behind their national teams through the good and the bad. A major boost to the international home games is the casual and passive fan, not particularly well tuned on the nuances of the game, but hooked on “supporting the boys and supporting their country”. Adding that small ‘W’ to the official badges, giving some recognition of the Welsh contribution, will surely enable everyone to benefit in the long term. Increased support for the England and Wales cricket team, increased merchandise sales, and an increase player-pool from a possible player-boom in the valleys who would now have models to look up to. Everyone would benefit…but this idea is of too much common sense to ever be implemented by those in charge.
In what is becoming almost tradition, Swansea City will enter the new season under the leadership of yet another new manager, this time Ulsterman Brendan Rogers picking up the reins after the Iberian glitz and glamour of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa.
With Sousa having jumped ship after only one season to a club of arguably a similar size it wouldn’t be surprising to find the Jack Army faithful despondent and nervous about where the club now find themselves; indeed season ticket sales have been reported as slow. So under the guidance of the relatively untested yet highly-rated Rodgers, what can the Swans expect for the impending season?
Despite a promising 2009-2010 season the fans look back on it with one word in mind – failure. The disappointment at missing the play-offs at the death masks over what was an excellent final position and one many people would have grasped at with both hands if offered on the eve of the season. Despite the disappointment I dare say the same fans who agonised at finishing one place outside the play-offs would state they would be content, even happy, if they were to achieve 7th again under Rodgers.
Under Martinez the team were an exciting attacking force with rave reviews from across football. Under Sousa the team had one of the meanest defensive records in sport. The hope for the coming season is that Rodgers will be able to adapt the best features of both manager’s playing styles and create a consistent and ultimately successful operation. With him pledging to play “offensive, attacking football, but with discipline” the reign of Rodgers has all the hallmarks of being a potential love affair between Jose Mourinho’s old number 3 and Jacksville.
Player-wise, former fan favourite and cornerstone of the club’s transformation from barren lower-league nobodies to potential top flight material Leon Britton has jumped ship to Sheffield United. It has to be regarded as another risky move in an horizontal direction rather than the more ambitious and understanding leap to the Premier League, thus earning the ire of his former devotees. Lee Trundle has finally left the club and moved into semi-retirement by dropping into the Welsh Premier and allowing other players to rise up and claim the spotlight.
Despite the potential crippling exodus for the second season in succession, the fans appear more optimistic this time around after last season’s desperate scrambling. Two new, bargain signings in Scott Donnelly and Neil Taylor have impressed in pre-season friendlies. Taylor adds a steel to the left back position that will complement the strong quartet of Dorus De Vries, Ashley Williams, Garry Monk and Angel Rangel as the team’s first choice defence with fan hero Alan Tate again unselfishly backing up each position. Darren Pratley, Joe Allen and Ferrie Bodde will all be returning from injury soon and with the return of the rejuvenated Stephen Dobbie from Blackpool’s promotion-winning campaign, the squad has received a timely boost of quality to add to the air of quiet confidence.
Another guaranteed goalscorer to support Dobbie is a must however, as is the continued progress of young academy graduates such as David Cornell, Casey Thomas and Jazz Richards to flesh out the 25 man squad and to stop the team faltering when the first team inevitably picks up some injuries. Fringe players under previous regimes such as David Cotterill and Jordi Lopez also have the chance to impress under new, more favourable tactics and may be about to embark on their breakout seasons. Rumoured signings of Jack Cork and Brian Stock are indeed a must to add genuine quality to the squad list, whilst the stream of poor quality trialists and penny-pinching may come back to haunt the club come later in the season.
With the club firmly settled in its Landore-based home and now into its 3rd season in the new renamed N-Power Championship, the upcoming campaign represents an important cross roads for the club. Do they cement their position as a consistent upper Championship club and above or will they plummet to the foot of the table and back into the lower league abyss. The Championship is a table where mid table obscurity doesn’t tend to exist until the season reaches its zenith. Will the Swans sink or swim? Time will tell. Well…to be precise 46 games will tell.
Due to unfortunate circumstances such as the need to drive or the need to work, its not often I can sit down during the day and crack open my favourite drink – a can of Lager.
Therefore, what tends to fill the void is the boring yet socially acceptable can of Diet Coke or if I’m feeling extravagant maybe a can of Dr Pepper. For every hour I seemingly scrape through in work, five minutes is spent trundling sheepishly to the can machine in the corner to part with a hard-earned 60p in return for one of the Coca-Cola company’s offerings.
Something changed the other day. Rather than ruefully place my coins into the hulking machine and wait for that satisfying clunk to signify my cold, dull can is now waiting for collection I decided to brighten things up by taking the unusual step of leaving the office and try the corner shop opposite. It is probably just a small exaggeration when I state I was almost temporarily blinded by the exotic choices available outside the dour grey walls of our office habitat. Forget your safe choices of Coke and Lilt. Here was Lucozades, cream sodas, Powerades, Orange Juices, even Ribena’s!
I still remember the moment the small blue can caught my eye, the sunlight reflecting off the shiny gleam. Wow! Shandy Bass! Even though I was standing rooted to the spot facing the fridge in a small store, mentally I was instantly transported back to when I was a nervous 10 year old barely able to see over the counter of the local Chinese in my village. My mission was always to get a can of shandy without it being detected I was…shock horror…only 10 years old! Indeed, to my child mind shandy was a forbidden drink containing Lager, that old people’s poison, yet magically we were able to buy it from the chinese for reasons our young minds were unable to comprehend. There was something exhilarating, dangerous and grown-up in swigging the mysterious taste of shandy.
One other memory that was replaying in my mind at the same time was when I hijacked my father’s shandy from the fridge one night and retreated to my bedroom as though I was a rebellious underage alcoholic. It was with confusion I eventually found out a few years later it was infact very legal for young people to drink shandy as the lager content was negligible.
After stocking up from the shop that day, I now strive to have a shandy as often as I can. Partly for the sweat taste. Mainly because lager is banned in work and although Shandy Bass only has 0.5% ABV, one must embrace the small mercies in life.
With the recent passing of the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII’s ascension to the throne, the previous year has re-established the Tudor King in the minds of the nation he once ruled over as well as foreign visitors.
With a plethora of exhibitions, books and the attraction of Hollywood, Henry is as much in demand as he has ever been. This current renaissance of England’s most notorious King has once again thrust his actions into popular psyche and led leading historians and amateur fans to once again ponder – “Was Henry really an evil tyrant or simply an effective leader and a product of the times?“
Recent portrayals of the 16th Century ruler paint him as a barbaric gargantuan of a man, a hard-hearted genocidal maniac with a lust for beheading wives. What tends to be overlooked is the reasons behind his behaviour and what influenced the actions that have left him demonised to subsequent generations.
Many events are used as evidence against the King, the most conjured tend to be surrounding his six wives. With the country being a firm catholic nation under the strict doctrinne of papal jurisdiction and authority, marriage was deemed a highly important union before God which was binding until the death of one partner. Henry’s “Great Matter” of the late 1520′s changed the fabric of the country from a deeply pious Catholic one to a divided country on the brink of another civil war, this time on religious lines between the followers of the “one true faith” and the new Protestants or Reformers influenced by the teaching of Luther on the continent.
Henry’s official reasoning for his attempt to have his marriage annulled by the Pope was due to a previous betrothal of his wife to his dead elder brother, thereby believing himself t be living in Biblical sin. The more likely reason is that after 20 years of trying for a son with wife she had only given birth to one surviving daughter after numerous others died in, during and after childbirth. What is often missed is that the older Katherine was in a marital abyss after the death of her husband, Henry’s elder brother Arthur. She was unwanted and unneeded by both England and her native Spain. Henry resolved to save this woman and married her as soon as he inherited the stone. Despite this however, his eagerness and obsession to have a healthy heir to the throne his father had physically won on the battlefield is what can most likely be attributed to his decision on annulment rather than religious conscience, his focus becoming more resolute as the young and virile court maiden Anne Boleyn caught his eye. Not receiving satisfaction and with a greater number of Protestant reformers and scrupulous new nobles within Henry’s influential circle than ever before, Henry’s idle threats began to become more serious and he withdrew his subservance to the Holy Father, isolating his kingdom from Europe and inserting himself as head of the new Church in England.
With far-reaching consequences that are still felt today, Henry instantly forced everyone to submit to his supremacy as he began his journey to becoming the most powerful monarch in the isles history. The outcome was that he married Anne Boleyn, exiled his shunned ex-wife and beheaded all who refused to accept him as the Supreme Head of the Church, including his mentor and friend Sir Thomas More.
After seemingly getting almost all that he wanted, namely the exotic and virile young Boleyn girl and the excessive power that comes with being God’s so-called “anointed one” in his Kingdom, Henry turned his world upside down yet again after Anne repeatedly failed to live up to her boasts of providing the as-yet heir-less monarch with a son. Her erratic and allegedly scandalous behaviour as well as the political aspirations of yet more new nobles prompted rumours of Witchcraft and the King aptly annulled the marriage, signed her death warrant and executed her and others for adultery and treason.
Contemporary defenders of Henry claim there was irrefutable evidence of her infidelity and the pious King may have truly believed he was in the midst of an instrument of the Devil whereas the more cynical historians claim it was simply the cruel King casting aside another woman only capable of providing a female child and moving on to yet another, younger, woman. Anne Boleyn’s story has captivated minds for centuries, her status as the most infamous Queen Consort in history a secure accolade. Contemporary theory painted her as a treacherous witch, whilst the truth is more likely that she was a willing pawn in the never ending and often fatal ambitions of noble families attempting to gain power of the King for personal greed. These families had everything to gain by having their blood linked to the King via the birth of an heir. No longer would they be struggling to remain in the good graces of an almost bi-polar monarch, but rather would be inextricably tied by plasma. In Anne’s case it was the scheming of her father and devious uncle, who as Duke of Norfolk was the most powerful noble in the land already, which led to her dramatic downfall, both of whom survived whilst she perished.
His short-lived marriage to plain but virtuous Jane Seymour resulted in the only mortal thing he craved, a healthy and legitimate baby son and male heir to the Tudor Dynasty. Her piety and good nature captured the King’s heart and when she died in the aftermath of a catastrophic childbirth Henry went into a prolonged period of mourning the woman he had elevated into a Madonna-type figure. An over-the-top reaction to a short marriage perhaps, but she became the prototype for perfection in the misty eyes of the King because of the fate of nature that was her giving birth to a male.
Resolving never to marry and even placing himself into semi-delusional retreat from court with only his fool for company, Henry’s right hand man Thomas Cromwell, and successor to Cardinal Wolsey as the alter rex, had began to grow alarmed at how the Protestant reformation he had fought hard to initiate was now stalling. Worried that the King, whom although broken from papal authority had yet to reject Catholic rituals, had gone cold on the process Cromwell felt that a Protestant marriage-cum-alliance was imperative to further the movement and also avoid England becoming isolated within Europe. He thus began probing the King. Finally succumbing to the incessant enquiries and on the assurance that his new bride was a beauty to soothe him into old age, Henry was enraged when he first came across his new wife. Considering Anne of Cleves a “flanders mare” he declared “I like her not” in a thunderous temper that within 6months had brought down his marriage and Cromwell’s influence. Apart from sexual attraction, Henry actually treated Anne well and moved her into many luxurious palaces where she was publicly lauded as “thy Kinges sister”.
Despite the setback, the King’s libido and lust had returned and the ever-alert Duke of Norfolk resolved to put another of his neices, Anne Boleyn’s precocious young cousin Katherine Howard, into the eyesight of his Lord. A promiscuous teenager whom knew how to use her womanly charms in a way made eternally famous by her tragic older kinswoman, she was used to ensnare the King with desire. Unbeknownst to him yet seemingly public knowledge amongst the court, Katherine was a vivacious lady with loose morals for the time, even continuing a love affair during her regency and unashamed to conceal it. After initially being disbelieving of the rumours, the King apparently sobbed for days before taking out complete wrath on all involved. Heads rolled, literally, and Katherine became the second Queen of her prominent family to be beheaded, although unlike Anne she remained unrepentant to the end. Taking one more wife more closer in age to himself and off an intellectual disposition rather than mere look, Katherine Parr nursed Henry to his death and helped patch up his fractured relationship with all three children, a small mercy that concluded the life of the most infamous married man in history.
Apart from the sometime brutal treatment of some of his wives, critics point at other aspects of Henry’s reign that support claims of barbarian behaviour. As briefly explored earlier, his break with Rome in order to secure a simple annulment from his first wife Katherine of Aragon directly led to many thousands of deaths and innumerable plots against the Crown that has never been fully eradicated. The battle of power and faith between warring denominations of Christianity may have eventually erupted without his significant input, but Henry’s vanity to be seen as “Supreme Ruler of England” and removing papal authority only accelerated it. Further influenced by staunch Protestant Cromwell, Henry allowed him to investigate and consequently pull apart old holy orders of monasteries around the land. Whilst enjoying a reputation for doing good work in the local communities, Cromwell’s investigations uncovered alleged corruption, fake relics and dubious moralist behaviour un becoming of priests. More significantly to the King, who’s vast inheritance and treasury had long been laid to waste with Palaces and War, the monasteries contained a gold mine of wealth which was instantly annexed to the crown. This once again helped enrich the King at the expense of his nemesis the Pope.
The brutal way Cromwell’s men dissolved the monasteries led to an uproar in the strong Catholic northern England and led to a rebellion called the “Pilgramage of Grace, led by Yorkshireman Robert Aske. Henry had the rebellion sharply and viciously suppressed at the hands of best friend Charles Brandon’s armies and had Aske and his collaborators executed en masse.
Having reimbursed his coffers with confiscated funds Henry continued to spend lavishly and recklessly, even commissioning Nonsuch Palace at a modern cost of £101m, whilst parts of his nation, although not uncharictaristically for the time, was ravaged with poverty and disease.
All of these events and actions are continually used against the ruler, painting him as a tyrannical despot, a temper tantrum throwing man-child who got what he wanted and simply executed people who dared to fall in his way. Cardinal Wolsely fell afoul of the Boleyn faction and was excluded until his mysterious death whilst being transported to imprisonment. Sir Thomas More was beheaded for refusing to cast aside his belief of the Pope being God’s only anointed head of the Church whilst Cromwell was also executed, all of whom were at one point or another his trusted number two’s. It is also estimated he ordered the deaths of between 50,000-75,000 people throughout his reign.
But what of the flipside? What good did King Henry VIII of England, France and Ireland do during his length reign, or was he simple the spawn of Satan and a genocidal, murderous heretic as believed by Continental Catholic Europe during his lifetime. One of the biggest disappointments of Henry’s later life was when his body began to let him down. The enduring view of him is that he was a gigantic man with a 50-plus inch chest who had to be lifted in and out of bed. In actuality, the King spent the majority of his life in fantastic shape, and was a wonderfully strong athlete whom regularly won jousting competitions amongst others. Whilst his body was the physical image and suitable metaphor for his strength as a King, mentally he considered himself a humanist and surrounded himself with learned scholars such as the aforementioned Sir Thomas More and Erasmus. He regularly agonised with the idealistic More over his duties as a humanist and his duties as a King. Central humanist principles such as peace simply didn’t collaborate with Kingly duties such as War. The famous conundrum of “is it better to be loved or feared” often gripped Henry in his younger days, his desire for the greater good often being overshadowed by his unrelenting responsibility for his Kingdom.
Henry was acknowledged as being a magnificently clever monarch and regaled in his in-depth debates with More amongst others granted such a distinction to speak freely around His Majesty. Deeply enamoured with Greek mythology and such new pursuits as Astronomy and the arts, Henry had a great desire to be a perfect King, an ideal combination of part academic, part warrior. He was greatly responsible for dragging the secluded island out of the dark middle ages and into the lavish and extravagant renaissance that was already in full-flow on the continent and which would be perfected under his daughter Elizabeth. His overwhelming desire to be considered the greatest King in Christendom directly led to his patronage of various artistic pursuits. Supporting and funding the best artists, musicians and poets in Europe, England was transformed from a ‘wild people’ into the leaders of European culture, which as briefly mentioned earlier peaked under his daughter’s “Golden Age” and Shakespeare.
A further policy of Henry which was to have dramatic effect within his Kingdom was that he allowed his daughters equal tutoring rights to males. Indeed, the Princess Mary and in particular Princess Elizabeth were two most well-taught youngsters in the land, something which inadvertently became useful when both ascended to the throne in their own right. On a similar note was Henry’s implementation of state education for children as opposed to their working as soon as physically possible. Despite his reputation as a King who jeopardised his country with his personal temper tantrums, the face remains that he took a troublesome, war-torn provincial island state and made it into a major continental power by the end of his substantial reign. Whilst his foreign policy was up and down, sometimes vain glorious and often constantly on the verge of war, his actions still established England as a regional super power.
His early peace treaties, albeit created by his trusted right-hand man and expert statesman Cardinal Thomas Wolsely established him as a respectable King and highlighted his promising humanist ideals in a world continually fractured by ambitious and war-mongering leaders keen to establish immortal reputations. Although the peace invariable crumbled , it was still an innovative ideal considering the tempestuous times.
A further implementation taken by Henry was his emasculation of the historic and often quarrelsome noble families, disempowering them and ending their right to raise private armies, something which had often been troublesome and in some cases fatal to previous monarchs. With the nobility losing much of their physical power, the crown subsequently became stronger than any time previous time, many felt this turned the King into a tyrannic dictator with complete control. The fact remained however that he had secured himself against renegade pretenders and allowed his realm to grow without the constant threat of the civil war that had decimated the people only a generation before. Whilst modern theory holds Henry guilty for the disastrous crime that was the dissolution of the monasteries for personal monetary gain, it is undisputed that some of the holy houses were engaging in duplicitous moral behaviour unbecoming of their station as well as severely undermining the King’s authority by paying homage and rent to a foreign power in the Pope. On the subject of money, a further allegation aimed towards the free-spending King was his obsession with new warships. He increased the nation’s fleet from 5 to 40, inadvertently becoming on of the recognised founders of the royal navy which would become irreplaceable in defending the realm and expanding the empire in subsequent centuries.
Whilst his break with Rome for personal, arrogant reasons has been condemned, he indirectly helped push the English language into constant growth until, 500 years later it has become the de facto language of the globe. Until Henry’s reign the language of court and thus officially was a mixture of French inherited from the Norman roots of the Plantagenet dynasty and Latin as the spoken-word of the church. English was a very fractured language radically different in the many distant communities. After the break from Rome Henry introduced the Tynsdale Bible, the first holy book written in a language other than Latin. The result was that for the first time a nation was, literally, on the same page and singing from the same sheet, bringing together the divided people.
Henry’s reign has seen many accusations levelled at him, both as a King and as a man. A tyrant, a despot, neglectful father and wife-killer are many of the labels thrown towards the monarch. It seems that despite honest, good intentions, the pious young man was irrevocably altered by court politics and the need to maintain a grip on his crown by being a ruthless ruler. What is indisputable is that his reign seems to be a case of means to an end. For all his faults, by the time he died his actions had left England on the cusp of becoming the world’s greatest superpower. He had taken a medieval, fuedal and unstable kingdom and set into action the policies and groundwork for what would subsequently become the most powerful empire in recent memory. So was Henry a good man who lost his way or simply an evil incarnation of the devil. As this article has proven, its never as easy as that.
We live in an age where once something begins to trend in a major way, the parodies, spoofs and complete rip-offs are never far behind. For teenage horror flicks, refer to the terrible Scary Movie spoof franchises and for music Weird Al Yankovic was probably more renowned that most of the acts he has sent-up over the last four decades.
Ever since global icons Jay-Z and Alicia Keys premiered their smash dedication to their hometown New York last Autumn not only has part I and part II become a classic tune, it was inevitable that it would inspire countless parodies and replies in response including Katy Perry’s dedication to LA in California Gurls. A quick search on Youtube shows that almost every state in the US has their own replies, ranging from good to amateur disasters. A week ago however something began stirring on Youtube and Twitter a couple of hours after it was posted. Lily Allen branded it “amazing”. Rob Brydon stated it was “great”. The Sun, Metro, Western Mail and Telegraph all wrote about it and how it had rapidly accrued half a million hits. It has even made the “And Finally” part of the ITV News!
“Ymerodraeth State of Mind” is the Welsh version of the massive hit venturing from the city of Newport and proclaiming all of the things which Welsh people can relate to, from Rugby, Traffic, Nights Out and even Gavin Henson fighting bouncers.
Produced by up and coming young direct Morgan-Jane Delaney and starring Alex Warren as “Welsh Jay” and Carmarthenshire girl Terema Wainwright as “Welsh Alicia”, the track proudly proclaims such quotables as “big up to Plaid Cymru, and the Welsh Assembly…Big Up to Millenium, we don’t need no Wembley” and “Tom Jones, Steve Jones, Zeta-Jones, Traffic Cones…If you come and visit use the Designated Parking Zones”.
This is a song that will hopefully gain clearance from Miss Keys and Jay-Hova and be released into the charts. A potential number one? You betcha.