Glen Johnson

Dec 072015
 

CHINA TO RHIGOS

Not so long ago I wrote about the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project, and developer Vattenfall’s use of bribery to win over or silence the local populace. (Click here and scroll down to the section Vattenfall of Money.) Well now I know the route by which the turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be arriving . . . from China. Yes, China.

Because despite what it says on the Pen y Cymoedd website about, “Siemens, our turbine supplier”, they were not made in Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. We have here a Swedish nationalised industry with a German partner importing wind turbines from China! A journey of some 10,000 nautical miles by the quickest route and taking 22 days at 20 knots. Twenty-two days of a huge ship belching smoke, spilling oil, ‘accidentally’ emptying the bilges, and all manner of things falling overboard.

Though in fairness, it is suggested that these turbines, each in three sections (plus blades and spindle), will be shipped from China to Immingham (the major container port just south of Hull) in one consignment, before being broken down into smaller cargoes for trans-shipping to Swansea. The distance from Immingham to Swansea is 606 nautical miles so if, as suggested, coastal vessels are used, each carrying the component parts of a single turbine, this adds up to a further 92,000 nautical miles (counting return trips)!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

With its turbines shipped in from China to Immingham and then shipped on to Swansea, with a total distance covered of some 102,000 nautical miles (plus 532 return lorry trips between Swansea docks and Rhigos), the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project has the environmental credentials of a dozen coal-fired power stations, each run by a thousand spectacularly flatulent cows. Perhaps we might get a comment on this from La Bartolotti or those competing to succeed her as regional mouthpiece for the Green Party of Englandandwales.

Consider this, also . . . The European steel industry is suffering from Chinese steel being ‘dumped’ on the global market at prices with which European producers cannot compete. These Chinese-made turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be landed in Lincolnshire, yet just a few months ago, and not far south of Immingham, it was announced that steel production will cease at Redcar with the loss of 1,700 jobs, and there are to be more redundancies at Scunthorpe. On top of which, the turbines are to be landed at Swansea docks, within sight of Port Talbot steelworks! Insult upon injury.

The turbines for Pen y Cymoedd are built in a country where environmental considerations are laughed at, then lugged across oceans, around coasts, and up steep gradients, before each of them is implanted in a concrete base the size of a football pitch in what had previously been virgin moorland. These turbines will provide no permanent jobs in Wales and the profits they generate will go to Sweden or Germany. All we shall see is the annual bribe, the pretty beads paid to the backward natives while their land is raped, again.

Let’s face it, ‘Green energy’ is a massive con. And few projects are proving to be a bigger, or a more insulting con, than Pen y Cymoedd. The turbines there will probably have to run for about 300 years just to pay off the ‘debt’ to the environment incurred by making and transporting the bloody things.

UPDATE 21:00: On Friday the 4th, a few days before posting this, I sent an e-mail to Vattenfall at Pen y Cymoedd asking where the turbines for the site were made. This afternoon I received a ‘phone call from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, a charming young lady who was able to give me a few more facts.

First, she confirmed that the turbine towers were made in China, but the blades and the spindles were made in Denmark and Germany. When I asked whether the turbines had come in through Immingham Ms Faull said no, and that on November 22nd she was at Swansea docks to see “64 sections” arrive on the good ship Amethyst from China. Though if this is the right ship, then it does not appear to have docked in Swansea on November 22nd, though at that time it was en route from Spain to the Netherlands.

Whatever, 64 sections represents 16 turbines (they come in 4 sections, not 3 as I thought), so there would still need to be another four similar voyages to bring the rest of them from China. Though Ms Faull was able to confirm that the transformers were landed at Immingham, and moved by road to Pen y Cymoedd. I’m not sure where the blades and spindles were landed, or how they reached Pen y Cymoedd if they weren’t landed at Swansea.

In a part of the conversation I had some difficulty following, Ms Faull said that it had been hoped to build the turbines at the Mabey Bridge works in Chepstow, but Mabey Bridge felt it was not worth taking on workers only to lay them off again after the Pen y Cymoedd contract was completed. There was also mention of the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what role those clowns played I have no idea.

I have sent Ms Faull another e-mail (07.12.2015) to clarify the remaining details.

UPDATE 18.12.2016: I received the reply today from Ms Faull. It reads:

“Many thanks for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.

Amesthyst landed on 22nd November and I visited the ship on 24th November. The attached photo was taken at Swansea Docks on 23rd November and 64 tower sections were on board. The remaining tower sections will also come via this route. As I said on the call Mabey Bridge were lined up for the tower manufacture, but subsequently withdrew from the bidding process.

The ship came from China and the only stops required would have been for refuelling and personnel changes.

The blades have not yet been shipped, but 192 of these will come from Denmark, with 26 coming from Canada and will again be off-loaded at Swansea Docks.

The size of the wind farm means that means that the operations and maintenance team of around 30 individuals will be based on-site and early next year the team will make a special effort to recruit skilled individuals locally.

With regards to the transformers, these were manufactured at ABB in Bad Honnef, Germany, each of which weigh in at around 125,000 kg and are around 6 metres wide and 8 metres long.”

Pen y Cymoedd, Amethyst, Swansea docks

So in addition to China, Denmark and Germany, we now have components for Pen y Cymoedd also coming from Canada. The environmental credentials of this project, never good, are now compromised beyond redemption. The jobs referred to “early next year”, for which it is hoped to recruit some locals, is not a “maintenance team” at all, this team is on site solely for the erection and installation of the turbines. Once that’s done there will probably be no jobs at Pen y Cymoedd.

The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm is all about money, it’s not about the environment, or even about the generation of electricity. The hundreds of thousands of miles taken up in transporting the components from around the world, by sea and by land, means that the project’s contribution to the environment is entirely negative even if it were to run at optimum output for centuries. Pen y Cymoedd is the most blatant ‘green energy’ rip-off I have ever encountered.

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ABERYSTWYTH, THE NEXT RHYL?

Some of you may recall reading about five or so years ago that there was a terrible shortage of student accommodation in Aberystwyth, the poor dabs were dossing on the promenade, or else the lack of accommodation had driven them to outlandish places such as Corris where, it was rumoured, locals stared at strangers. Here’s one tale from the BBC in August 2011, and another from Aber Student Media a month later.

To answer this shortage of accommodation there seem to have been three separate responses. One was the university itself embarking on a building programme of ‘student villages’. The second response was that of investors buying up more large properties in the town for student lodgings. Third, local housing associations got in on the act – using public money, of course.

But now I hear that the bubble has burst, leaving the university with under-occupied ‘student villages’ that make 1960s East German architecture look attractive; private investors with Houses of Multiple Occupation suffering a dearth of multiple occupants; and overstretched housing associations . . . for example, the word on the street is that Tai Cantref is already docked up Shit Creek with its crew roistering in local taverns.

Aber student accommodation

What had once been attractive and easy-going Aberystwyth University, three years by the seaside for an undemanding 2:2, started slipping down the league tables a few years ago. In July 2014 the decline was being reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement and by October even the students were getting worried. The continuing decline was reported in May 2015. Inevitably, this resulted in a drop in the numbers of students applying to Aber’ – at the same time as there was more accommodation for them than ever. What to do?

I suggest one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to predict that with so many properties now available in a Welsh seaside town, properties almost all of which are designed to house single people, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start arriving from over the border. (Thank God there’s still a railway line from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.) I’m thinking now of the drug addicts and the petty criminals, and of course those recently released from prison, because some of the bigger properties in the town will be ideal as ‘halfway houses’ and bail hostels. (See ‘Tragedy in Pontypridd’ below.)

All this results from Wales having a higher education sector that is too big, a higher education sector that has been encouraged to grow irresponsibly, with no reference to the effects of this unwarranted growth on host communities. While the universities willingly played along, adopting a ‘stack ’em high’ philosophy dictated by business models and profit margins that inevitably resulted in falling standards. Leaving Aberystwyth caught in a vicious circle, a refuge for third-rate academics and students who can’t gain admission elsewhere, with this inevitably deterring those who can read walls.

And now there may be a heavy price to pay. Which would be sad, because like most people, I’m very fond of Aberystwyth, I’ve had some good times there, drunk and sober. But if Aber’ is on its way to becoming the Rhyl of Cardigan Bay, in order to protect the investments of local big shots and housing associations, who will dare challenge this development?

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A LETTER FROM CEREDIGION

It’s been a while since this blog visited Cardigan Castle, but Lady Tucker and friends have been busy, and the results will take the project even further from the trust’s stated objectives of preserving the place “for the benefit of the people of Cardigan and the nation”.

The main contractors, Andrew Scott Ltd, have long since departed with their loot, leaving a very long snagging list of botched jobs behind them. A professional painter and decorator who visited recently commented that it was hard to believe from the state of some of the paint and plasterwork that the site had been handed over little more than six months ago.

But the departure of Andrew Scott has not meant that building work has ceased. Tucked away behind the main house and a small cottage is an outbuilding which was renovated by Andrew Scott Ltd to serve as a garage for guests staying in the 5 star self-catering East Wing. This is now being converted into accommodation for disabled visitors, and when it is finished early next year, it will join the three B&B rooms above the usually empty restaurant, the East Wing (sleeps six) and the Gardener’s Cottage (sleeps two).

And there are more exciting developments on the drawing board.

The old stable block which was restored from its ruined state at huge expense to serve educational purposes has been ear-marked by Lady Tucker for conversion into yet more tourist accommodation. This will not come cheap, and expect building work to continue well into 2017.

Also offering exciting potential for reconversion into tourist accommodation is a small house over on the eastern fringe of the castle complex.

Converting these buildings will mean ejecting the current occupants, including a popular cynghanedd class, and the removal of the only locally based groups still using the site to be re-housed well away from the castle by mid-2016.

No longer will well-heeled paying guests have to face the awful prospect of mingling with scruffy locals speaking gibberish, and the Cadwgan Trust can get down to the serious business of marketing the place as luxury tourist accommodation and a venue for weddings and corporate jollies. Or what we locals call a posh hotel.

Paving the way for this is a Wedding Fayre on 6 December, a time of the year when all but the most self-obsessed brides and their mothers will have other things on their mind.

Cultural heritage

The cultural bit will be confined to a few events (Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, etc.) in the summer, while as a sideline, non-resident visitors willing to part with a fiver will be allowed in to gawp at the large expanse of lawn and spend a few minutes in the couple of rooms containing exhibitions of old tat. “Look Jeremy, a smashed up old 1940s typewriter which once belonged to the old girl who used to live here!”

After an injection of £12 million plus, including all the funds raised locally and countless thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work, the people of Cardigan will find that just a year after opening, the castle will to all intents and purposes have reverted to being a private fiefdom, this time run by Lady T and her friends from Aberporth.

Spin cycle

Other recent developments include a parting of ways with Equinox, the Cardiff-based firm which tried to steer the castle through the PR catastrophes which dominated much of 2015.

PR is now being handled in-house by Sue Lewis whose portfolio of responsibilities also includes “facilities”.

When not working for Cadwgan, Sue moonlights for the dire Cambrian News, which also employs her hubby to report on local news.

Not long after it ran its notorious “Incomers are Nazis says Plaid candidate” headline, the Cambrian News was at it again with a piece which suggested that Hefin Wyn, the respected local author, journalist and prominent critic of the Cadwgan Trust, had run a campaign of harassment and “virtual persecution” against Glen Johnson, who has resigned from Cadwgan’s board and various committees more often than most of us have had hot dinners.

It subsequently turned out that the newspaper had published these very serious accusations, including a claim that Mr Johnson was having to resign to protect his family, without actually checking the facts or asking the castle’s history man for evidence to back up his claims.

The paper has refused to disclose who wrote the offending article or to hand over to IPSO, the press complaints body, what it says are e-mails citing persecution and harassment it received from Glen Johnson some weeks later.

Whoever wrote the offending article, Sue has clearly been reading a copy of “Teach Yourself PR”, including Lesson One: The Importance of Creating a Narrative because it is now being put about that she feels threatened in Cardigan, and is reluctant even to drive in from Aberporth on her own.

The narrative is that critics of Cadwgan Trust are a bunch of dangerous bigots and fanatics who, we are asked to believe, are lurking behind every lamp post and municipal litter bin between Pendre and Pwllhai in this small market town.

If it’s not the wicked Hefin Wyn and the snipers Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffydd have posted above Siop y Cardi, it’s the stiletto-wielding assassins of Cymdeithas y Chwiorydd and the suicide bombers of Merched y Wawr.

We’ll probably be able to read all about it soon in “Wales’ biggest selling weekly newspaper”.

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TRAGEDY IN PONTYPRIDD

Some of you will have read accounts from the trial of two men recently convicted of murder in Pontypridd. One of the killers, and the victim, were residents at the Morning Star Inn, on Llantrisant Road. (The second killer was said to be of no fixed abode, but I suspect he too has a connection with the Morning Star.) As you might expect, I got to wondering about the Morning Star, and it’s quite a story.

The Morning Star was, until closed after the murder on February 28th, run as both a pub and a bail hostel or halfway house for released criminals. Owned and / or run by “former Egyptian police officer Saad Taha”. Here’s a report from July 2013 of a public meeting organised so that various authorities and local politicians could hear locals voice their concerns about the Morning Star. They relate things they have witnessed first-hand only to be met with a wall of denials and evasions.

According to DePlod despite reports of knife-carrying, discarded needles and bad behaviour in and around the Morning Star “there is little evidence this came directly from the Morning Star”. Of course not, it was pure coincidence. The incredulity increased when I read that Taha wants us to believe that even though these ex-cons are living above a pub, they are not allowed to drink in the pub! I battled through this storm of bullshit and made further enquiries.

In July 2007 there was a planning application (07/1389/10) for a “raised patio / bar extension – beer garden”, and in March 2008 (08/0393/10) for a “rear balcony”. The first application was submitted in the name of a Mr D Watkins and the second in the name of Saad Taha, so is it reasonable to assume that the Morning Star was still being run as a pub in 2007 but the premises changed hands some time in late 2008 or early 2009 and was then run as both a pub and a halfway house? Both applications were withdrawn.

Next, on September 20th 2011, Taha made an application (11/1140/10) for “Conversion of existing bar areas into bedrooms (Change of use).- amended plan received 25/11/11 – reduction in total number of bedrooms from 17 to 16 – amended location plan received on 26/01/12.” With the first floor already being used to house ex-convicts it appears Taha now sought to convert the ground floor (pub) area and even the basement (cellar). This plan was very wisely turned down by RCT council.

But then, on December 14th, 2012, another application (12/1293/09) was lodged, “Application for a Lawful Development Certificate for an Existing use as a public house and hostel.” Which I take to mean that Taha was now asking for retrospective planning consent for a building already being used – without permission – as a hostel. Planning permission was refused.

I find it significant, and rather confusing, that in his rejected planning applications of September 2011 and December 2012 Taha is asking for a “change of use”. Also confusing, is that the earlier of those applications states that there are already 16 bedrooms at the Morning Star, yet according to the WalesOnline report of the July 2013 public meeting the place only has only “seven beds”. Which is right?

Morning Star reviews

So here’s the question. Seeing as retrospective planning permission for a change of use to a hostel was refused in 2011 and 2012, why was the Morning Star allowed to operate as a hostel? Everybody in the area knew what the building was being used for, including the police and the council, so was it somehow allowed to operate as a hostel without the required planning permissions? If not, then perhaps someone at RCT council can direct me to the approval for the Morning Star to be used as a halfway house for criminals.

Another teaser is, who owns the Morning Star? Having checked on the Land Registry website using the correct post code I can find nothing under Morning Star or 59 Llantrisant Road. So we can’t be sure if Taha actually owns the property (as he claims) or if he’s merely an agent for someone else. Presumably Rhondda Cynon Taf council knows who owns this place, and if it is Saad Taha, why doesn’t he register his ownership with the Land Registry? He’s had long enough.

There’s something odd about the Morning Star saga. Not least, how does a former Egyptian copper end up running a halfway house in Ponty? And what checks were done into his background? Where do his ‘clients’ come from? And who supplies them?

Anyway, undeterred by the minor inconvenience of a man being beaten to death on the premises, and before those charged with the murder had been tried, Saad Taha was again thinking of profiting from the Morning Star when, on August 26th this year, he submitted a planning application (15/1170/10) that reads, “Proposed change of use from existing public house and bedrooms to 6 no. self contained flats”. Wording that raises yet more questions.

For example, why does it describe a home for ex-cons as “bedrooms”? Or is this more evidence that no permission was ever granted for the property to be used as a hostel? Though a bigger worry for the local residents should be, who is going to live in these flats? Given the record of Saad Taha, Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and the pooh-pooh police, locals have every reason to be concerned.

Sep 142015
 

One of Wales’ many pockets of totalitarianism went through what its defenders would have us believe approximates to democracy last Thursday when the beleaguered clique running the show emerged briefly from behind the PR defences to hold the Cardigan Castle AGM 2015. A gathering from which television cameras were banned, perhaps because the Castle had gained some rather unflattering coverage from the BBC on the very day of the AGM. (Translated, the headline reads, ‘Has Cardigan Castle lost its way?’)

Seeing as Lady Tucker, the grande dame of the whole shooting-match, had herself gone through the charade of a ceremonial abdication (in order to be almost immediately restored to power) Hedydd “Over my dead body!” Jones began the scripted and rigidly controlled meeting by announcing that no awkward questions about staffing or other sensitive issues would be allowed! Which set the tone for what followed. Though, to the surprise of many there gathered, she said this in Welsh. In fact, I’m informed that the meeting was conducted largely in Welsh with translation facilities available. Clearly, recent criticism of the direction the project is taking have had some effect.

One question that did slip through PR company Equinox’ net was why the Castle doesn’t get better reviews on TripAdvisor. To which Dr Jones haughtily replied that she didn’t bother herself with such things. An odd response. Here we have a project that has been steered away from its original Castlecultural and historical focus to become just another dreary tourist attraction, yet those responsible for this subversion are unconcerned that a website likely to be consulted by potential visitors gives such mixed reviews! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, some unkind souls even suggest that most of the positive reviews on TripAdvisor have been written by Sue “English!” Lewis. (Reviews aren’t much better on Google. Though I do like “Community-run”!)

Among other issues raised by those prepared to risk being ostracised were: Why there was so little interaction with the volunteers, and why was the membership list not made public before the AGM and the election of new trustees (as it should have been).

Tony Tucker, consort to Lady Tucker, was applauded when he made the bland and vacuous appeal for ‘Everyone to pull together . . . make the project a financial success . . . Father Christmas . . . kittens . . . blah, blah, blah . . . zzzzzzzzzzz . . . ‘. The applause came in the main from Aberporth residents who had been bused in for the meeting, and most of whom had walked through the town of Cardigan unrecognised by locals. Tucker’s contribution is another reminder of the tactics being employed under the tutelage of Equinox. Anyone who criticises the Gang of Five (I have promoted Timms) is trying to ‘wreck’ the project; when in reality the critics are the ones trying to save the project and keep it to its original course.

Another questioner asked why the trustees did not engage with their critics, rather than dismiss them (as Sandra “Bigots!” Davies did) as “bigots”. For some reason, answering this question was left to Councillor Gareth ‘Clettwr’ Lloyd, the representative of the county council. He argued that the term had been used by the media, not by the trustees. Another example of misinformation. Or, to be generous to Cllr. Lloyd, perhaps he had not read the Pembrokeshire Herald article, nor seen the original e-mail. If so, then that’s rather worrying, seeing as Cllr. Lloyd is a trustee.

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Other information has reached me in the form of comments to my previous post, by that prolific writer Anon. One comment adds to the mystery surrounding the ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson.

Resignation AGM

This tells me two things. First, due to those running the project getting so much adverse publicity someone thought it best to get the AGM done with sooner rather than later, then batten down the hatches and ride out the storm before the 2016 AGM. Second, the timing makes Glen Johnson’s ‘resignation’ look ever more suspicious. Either ‘Joff’ Timms is psychic, or someone said to the ever-obliging Johnson, ‘Look, Glen, you’re standing down anyway, so why not render the project a great service by letting us stage-manage your resignation?’

Other matters raised by ‘Anon’ are jobs claimed to have been created by the Castle, most of which are almost certainly being done by agency staff and are unlikely to add up to the number of FTE (full-time or equivalent) jobs claimed. Then there are the bookings to stay in the Castle’s accommodation, again being handled by an agency, which will take its cut and thereby limit the Castle’s profits. Though as ‘Dai Dom Da’ points out, there are precious few bookings of any description. For example, despite being open since April, and spending £100,000 on a permanent marquee, the Castle will not see a single wedding this year! ‘Brychan’s comments are also worth reading as he picks out some interesting points from the Annual Report.

Finally, Ian Perryman throws fresh light on the role of Sue ‘English!’ Lewis in the creation of the post of Facilities Officer, the job that she came to fill after beating off dozens of other applicants who’d seen the job advertised in all the local ‘papers. (Yes, that’s sarcasm; and as my old mate Meic Phillips would say, “laid on with a trowel, boy”.)

Anyway, what Ian says is this: If the job was created when Sue Lewis knew she was getting the elbow from the Tivy-Side Advertiser then clearly she would have had a hand in the dirty work. But the trustees counter this suggestion by arguing that the ‘re-organisation’ – of which the new post was a part – had been planned a long time before. But Sue ‘English!’ Lewis was a trustee for many years, which means that whenever the job was created she put herself in breach of Charity Commission regulations by taking a post she had been instrumental in creating when a trustee.

Charity Commission trustee to employee

Unless of course clearance was sought from the Charity Commission for her to take up the post. Though if not, why not? And if, as I suspect, the Charity Commission is ignorant of how the post was created and allocated, then someone should inform them. In fact, I might do it myself.

Symptomatic of a project in serious trouble, in so many ways. Public bodies have given over twelve million pounds of our money to a venture that was to have been a celebration of Welsh history and culture but has now degenerated into little more than the most expensive B&B in Wales. This change of course can be attributed to the Gang of Five, possibly others, but as ‘Dai Dom Da’ reminds us, there has not been a single wedding yet. So Cardigan Castle fails both as a heritage project and as a commercial ‘venue’.

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While in the background we still hear the rumblings about the lack of contracts awarded to local companies, and the suspicion of favouritism, or pre-existing connections, that attach to some of the contracts awarded. Why, for example, did the Castle feel the need to go to a firm in Leicester for a £44,400 quote for a website, something that a Welsh firm could have provided for £5,000 or less? (That was obviously too greedy, but this outfit still got the contract to provide Fort Knox-level display cabinets for the Castle’s rusty tat and old photos.) And was there really no firm nearer than Hampshire to supply the Castle with glasshouses?

Small wonder that funders and other stakeholders such as the local councils are now taking greater interest in the project; and that dealings with the media are controlled by Equinox, which uses its contacts to put out a stream of positive stories. Like this one in today’s Cambrian News. But even here, Councillor Lloyd has to admit to a “breakdown in communication”, and the CN writer refers to “the lack of dialogue bet­ween trustees and members of the community who had concerns about the inclusion of heritage at the site”. I think that’s meant to be a reference to the lack of a heritage element (but then, with the Cambrian News you can never be sure what it’s trying to say).

And yet, I guarantee that anyone coming on this saga afresh would soon come to the conclusion that the reason for the ‘breakdown in communication’, the reason for ‘the lack of dialogue’, the reason it ceased to be a heritage project (yet fails as a commercial venture), the reason there is an alarming turnover of both trustees and staff, the reason that a clear majority within the local population feels alienated . . . these and all the other ills can be attributed to those running Cardigan Castle.

The only way for this project to regain the affection and support of the local population, and thereby become commercially viable, is to remove those who have got it into this mess. If Cardigan Castle was a purely commercial venture then heads would have rolled a long time ago; but not here, for we are now in the parallel universe of the Welsh Third Sector, where vast amounts of funding are wasted on social enterprises and other excuses for an economy, projects that it can never be admitted have failed. So lies are told, truths are withheld, and more and more money is poured into sink holes.

Outside of the ‘developing world’ there are few countries where a scandal such as Cardigan Castle could happen. Unfortunately, Wales, thanks in no small part to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government, is one such country.

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P.S. In addition to the reluctance to communicate with the public at large, something else I should have remarked on is the lax record keeping. For example, I have just (20:50 Sept 14) been to the Charity Commission page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which still shows Glen Jonsonh (sic) as a trustee with the new trustees elected last Thursday not shown. It is not difficult to keep up to date on the Charity Commission website, I know, I’ve done it myself many times. You simply log in, make the necessary changes to the trustees, or whatever, and those changes appear on the website immediately.

It’s difficult to know whether this reluctance to keep records up to date is attributable to laziness, or the more general tendency of the Gang of Five to behave like a secret society. Either way, the law says that the records should be kept up to date.

Sep 012015
 

THE LATEST IN A SERIES OF POSTS ON THE MANAGEMENT, OR MISMANAGEMENT, OF CARDIGAN CASTLE. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE OTHER POSTS I SUGGEST YOU START WITH ‘CARDIGAN CASTLE – READY TO FALL?’

As was the case with most Welsh castles Cardigan changed hands many times, yet of all its occupants the most widely known is undoubtedly Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), ‘The Lord Rhys’, ruler of Deheubarth and patron of the first recorded eisteddfod in 1176, when he invited poets and musicians from all parts of Wales and beyond.

Perhaps understandably, those now controlling the Castle have sought to use The Lord Rhys in up-front displays to disguise their lack of any real interest in the history and cultural significance of Castell Aberteifi. This was to be done by having the great man’s coat of arms stamped on assorted gewgaws, banners, plus of course the famous oversized bardic chair. And yet . . .

Since I became involved with this issue I was aware of an undercurrent, a suspicion held by more than a few that someone, somewhere, had made a monumental cock-up, with the result that the Castle was using the wrong coat of arms! Let me explain.

The Lord Rhys, as I’ve said, was the ruler of Deheubarth, and grandson of Rhys ap Tewdwr, who in turn was descended from Rhodri Mawr (820 – 878). But Rhys ap Gruffydd is a name regularly encountered among the Welsh nobility and gentry in the medieval period. One reason why, in an age of almost universal illiteracy, coats of arms were so important – they told people who you were. And why poets and genealogists had to know the lineages. However, this proliferation of Rhys ap Gruffydds can lead the modern amateur into mistakes, and this is what seems to have happened at Cardigan.

In the hope of clearing up the confusion I took the advice of Rhodri Dafis and contacted Thomas Lloyd, Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. I asked him quite simply to tell me the coat of arms for The Lord Rhys who held Cardigan Castle in the second half of the twelfth century. His response can be found below.Coat of arms Lord Rhys caption

“The arms of The Lord Rhys are simply: Gules, a lion rampant in a border indented Or (ie: Red, a lion rampant gold, within a jagged gold border). These are the ancestral arms of the Princes of Deheubarth, as given to Rhys ap Tewdwr.

There has been confusion with his arms and those of Sir Rhys ap Gruffudd, Sheriff of Carmarthen 1322, died 1356, but he was descended from Ednyfed Fychan, and had quite different arms with six small lions on a red background above and below a jagged silver band across the centre bearing three ravens. (My apologies for non heraldic terminology, not knowing if you know the correct lingo or not!).”

Everything at Cardigan Castle purporting to be the armorials of The Lord Rhys (ap Gruffydd) carry the three ravens . . . of the much later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd (? – 1356), and these ravens in turn derive from Urien Rheged of the Old North. The confusion may arise because the Ednyfed Fychan (ap Cynwrig) (mentioned above by Thomas Lloyd) married Gwenllian, daughter of Yr Arglwydd Rhys, but daughters did not inherit their father’s coats of arms. Or perhaps because in the fifteenth century the line of Dinefwr was re-united with the House of Deheubarth when Thomas ap Gruffydd, married Elizabeth ferch John Gruffydd, descendant of The Lord Rhys. Their son Sir Rhys ap Thomas raised an army in support of Henry Tudor and is said to have been the man who killed Richard III at Bosworth. Though Sir Rhys’ grandson, yet another Rhys ap Gruffydd, was said to have been plotting with the Scots to make himself Prince of Wales, and executed for treason in 1531. Another route to confusion might be the fact that The Lord Rhys may have called Cardigan Castle home but he held many other castles, including Dinefwr.

Ravens display

So who might be responsible for this appalling mistake, this insult to heraldry, this marketing exercise masquerading as history?  From enquiries I have made the mistake seems to be a few years old, and the recently retired trustee Glen Johnson, who doubles as the local historian, denies any hand in the choosing of the coat of arms. The suspicion grows that certain persons who have been mentioned in this blog many times may be responsible.

Perhaps this awful mistake should serve as a salutary warning against relying on Wikipedia, where the entry for Yr Arglwydd Rhys makes the same mistake with regard to the coat of arms. The Wikipedia entry was updated as recently as Monday last week, August 24th, by someone called Dudley Miles, who lives in Finchley, London, and whose interests are Anglo-Saxon history and nature reserves!

The thing to remember about Wikipedia is that it’s a simple matter for anyone who has an account to sign into a page and make changes. If you go to the page for Rhys ap Gruffydd and look at the small tabs on the top you’ll see one that reads ‘edit’ and another ‘view history’. Click on the latter and you’ll find a number of pages listing changes; some of these are editing or removing what someone else has written and there is even talk of “vandalism”.

So when it comes to the coat of arms for Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys, we can either follow the ever-changing and consequently unreliable Wikipedia, or we can accept the description of the Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. The decision should be an easy one.

The inescapable conclusion is that the three ravens being used by Cardigan Castle are in no way connected with The Lord Rhys. They belong to the family of the later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd.

*

Regular readers will recall the curious business of how trustee Sue ‘English!’ Lewis, acolyte to Lady Tucker, was appointed to the newly-created post of Facilities Officer very soon after losing her job as editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser, and how the job was only advertised online, between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The post was obviously created for Sue Lewis, and ‘advertised’ in the hope that no one else would notice.

Despite this plan of Baldrick-like cunning there were other applicants, one of whom – possibly others – were better qualified than Sue Lewis. This quandary was surmounted with the bizarre decision to Sue 'English!' Lewisappoint what appeared to be two Facilities Officers, Sue Lewis and Carys Ifan. Though I have heard that as the year progressed Carys Ifan became the Events Co-ordinator while Sue Lewis moved on to become Acting Director, taking over the role vacated by the recently sacked and gagging clause-bound Cris Tomos. Maybe Cris Tomos was given the elbow to resolve the absurdity of having two Facilities Officers. Who knows what goes on at Cardigan Castle.

Either way, Carys Ifan has now handed in her resignation. She joins Cris Tomos and others who have left such as Rhian Medi Jones, who was the Education Officer at the Castle until the ‘reorganisation’ towards the end of last year which removed a number of posts as the excuse to create the job for Sue ‘English!’ Lewis. It may be coincidental, but almost all those who have been eased out or made to feel unwelcome by the Gang of Four are locals, with roots in the area. (I had to be careful how I phrased that lest I gave ammunition to Phil Parry at Wales Eye, for whom sacking people for being Welsh would not be racist, but complaining about it would!)

No doubt the advertisement for the post of Facilities Officer will appear in the Belgrade Evening News next week, one night only, next to the ads for chiropody services. And of course in Cyrillic.

*

Another curious and suspect practice by the controlling clique is to approach dissidents secretly and individually to offer private meetings with Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms who acts as secretary and front man for the Gang of Four, even though he lives over three hundred miles away in Kent. It is never promised that Lady Tucker or any member of her immediate entourage will be in attendance at these secret meetings, just Timms and perhaps one of the more ‘pliable’ trustees.

Seeing as all advances have thus far (to my knowledge) been rejected by dissidents unless Lady Tucker attends it’s difficult to know what Timms hopes to achieve by these meetings. Are they attempts to intimidate opponents? Attempts to win them over? Attempts to sow discord among the opponents of the current regime? Or a combination of all these? Maybe the set up will be ‘good cop, bad cop’, with Timms playing Mr Nasty and someone else pretending to hold him back as he polishes the brass knuckles.

As yet I have not been approached. But I am a man of principle and honour . . . consequently my silence will not come cheap.

*

The more I look at the Gang of Four + Timms the more I am reminded of those wise words spoken by Benjamin Franklin in 1776, just after he and the other Founding Fathers had signed the Declaration of Independence. He said, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately”. What he meant was that the breakaway colonists’ best hope of avoiding the noose was to stick together and see it through.

It may strike some as an odd analogy to make, but I see La Tucker and her cronies in a similar position. People are deserting them, their position becomes ever more exposed and isolated, and their only hope of survival is to stick together and brazen it out. Not least because while they remain in charge they have control of the records and other evidence of the way the Castle has been mismanaged these past few years, and its original mission subverted. Were they to be removed then those records – unless they went ‘missing’ – would become available to the new trustees.

The real concern now for those with the best interests of Cardigan Castle at heart should be that those whose job it was to independently monitor this project have either been negligent or else have fallen under Lady Tucker’s spell. To the point where the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW and the ‘Welsh’ Government may have a vested interest in seeing the status quo maintained to avoid an even worse scandal than we see now. If so, then this is a short-sighted policy that  can only result in the failure of this £12m project.

*

September 10th sees the Annual General Meeting of the Cadwgan Building Trust that runs the Castle, and even though 80-year-old Lady Tucker is standing down (to comply with the rotation system), she is expected to be immediately re-elected by her gang. In fact, she has already been nominated for re-election by Glen Johnson who, you will recall from my previous post, stood down from his role as trustee due to online ‘persecution’. Yet here he is still involving himself, still doing the bidding of Lady Tucker, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also allowed himself to be sweet-talked into serving as a ‘Patron’. He will also remain a guide. Some ‘resignation’ that was, Glen! Read it all here in the AGM agenda.

An outcome acceptable to the Gang has been assured by barring critics from joining, and attending the AGM. I have seen one very recent e-mail from ‘Joff’ Timms to someone who applied to become a member of the Cadwgan Trust. Timms wrote: “In the light of your well publicised criticisms of the trust, the trustees have asked Cllr —— —– and me to try to arrange to meet you to discuss ways in which you would be willing to support the trust in realising its objects. Following this meeting, Cllr —– and I would make a recommendation to the trustees about whether your application should be approved.”

In other words, ‘Submit, in advance, to the will of Lady Tucker and her cohorts or you will not be allowed to play any role in the running of Castell Aberteifi’. This way of doing things is comparable to a ruling junta in a third world country allowing ‘elections’, but restricting those elections to candidates who agree with the junta! And just in case any dissident sneaks through the screening process, there is a short and strict AGM agenda with “Any other business at the discretion of the chairman”. The chairman is presumably Timms, so if someone wants to raise an issue embarrassing to the regime he will refuse to allow it to be debated. This is what passes for democracy in Cardigan Castle – Joe Stalin would have approved!

Listen, Joff, or whatever your name is, this AGM should not be about maintaining your friend Jann Tucker and her gang in power; membership and participation should be open to everyone with the best interests of the Castle, the town and the wider area at heart. You are damaging the whole £12m project by reducing it to nothing more than a desperate struggle by you and your friends to stay in power against mounting opposition.

And who are you, anyway? You, living in Kent, with no known connections to Aberteifi; who are you to sit in judgement and decide which locals are allowed to serve their Castle? Who the hell are you to turn away people whose ancestors perhaps knew The Lord Rhys, and could have told your women friends that there are no bloody ravens in his coat of arms? Time is surely running out for you, them, and the hangers-on.

Aug 252015
 

The ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson due to “online harassment” and “virtual persecution” continues to reverberate, here’s an update. (Though what is virtual persecution? Is it something less than real persecution?)

To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the press release announcing the resignation was issued by Equinox, the Castle’s PR company. Given how these things are done, with the Castle paying the bills, it’s reasonable to assume that the press release was sent to Equinox ready-written, with instructions for the agency to merely issue it to its media contacts.

Glen Johnson Cambrian News

CLICK TO ENLARGE

One of those contacts was of course the Cambrian News . . . or maybe the Cambrian News got the resignation story directly from the Castle . . . or maybe the Cambrian News didn’t need to be informed at all . . .

Seeing as both my blog and I were mentioned in the Cambrian News report I wrote to managing editor Beverly Davies making it clear that the only references to Glen Johnson on my blog were positive, and so I should not have been mentioned in a way that obviously tried to implicate me in the alleged ‘harassment’. I was refused an apology but given a few hours to make a comment to a follow-up story . . . without being given any details of that follow-up!

Even so, I did give her a statement, though I doubt if it will be published. Here it is. ‘I want nothing to do with the Cambrian News because it cannot be trusted to report honestly on any issue where its over-riding political, ethno-cultural and constitutional prejudices come into play’.

In my exchange of e-mails with Beverly Davies I made the point that, “The Facilities Officer at Cardigan Castle is Sue Lewis, who was, prior to that job being created for her, a trustee. She is one of those I have criticised in my blog. She is also a freelance reporter for your newspaper, and her husband Mike is your South Ceredigion reporter. What a cosy arrangement!”

Beverly Davies responded with, “While Sue Lewis does do some freelance work for our paper, she only covers Aberporth Town (sic) Council and Cardigan Town Council meetings. She has had no involvement in our Cardigan castle stories.” My incredulity becomes clear in my response, “Do you seriously expect me, or any other sentient being, to believe that Sue Lewis has no input to articles written by her husband (or even his colleagues) about the place she works!”

But what if it’s true! Picture the scene chez Lewis, gentle reader, He: ‘I’m working on a story about the place where you work, Sweetie Pie, but you mustn’t tell me anything, or try to influence the article in any way – is that clear?‘ She (eyelashes fluttering): ‘Of course not, Big Boy, you know I wouldn’t do that, I’m an obedient lickle wifey‘. Yes, that must be how things are done in the Lewis household, or maybe not . . .

For there must, regrettably, be the possibility that that image of connubial bliss exists nowhere but in my imagination, and that in the real world the press release and the Cambrian News article were both written by Sue Lewis. In which case, is Glen Johnson just a willing dupe in the machinations of others? If not, if he is the author of the resignation statement, how does he feel about the trustees and the Cambrian News using his resignation to attack me, a man who has done him no wrong, and said nothing about him that was hurtful or even critical?

Let’s have some straight answers, Glen. Are you accusing me of harassing you? If not, how about correcting the impression your resignation has allowed others to create  – people you recently worked with – that I am some kind of ogre stalking the internet terrorising women and children. The time for vague allegations and innuendo is past. Things are coming to a head. Let’s have some straight answers, Glen.

Elsewhere, an old comrade, completely unprompted, complained to the BBC about its treatment of the Johnson resignation. His point about cut and paste journalism, and treating press releases as news items, are worrying reminders of the state of the Welsh media. Read it here.

Time now to turn to a recurring theme in the saga of Cardigan Castle, money being squandered.

*

WEBSITE? THAT’LL BE FORTY-FOUR GRAND, LOVE.

One of the complaints levelled again and again against the project is that there is little to see for the £12m expenditure. People go there and wonder what that vast sum was spent on. One specific complaint made more than once is that the display cabinets are of a similar standard – and cost – to those housing the English crown jewels in London, even though Cardigan Castle has little if anything of value to display. This complaint puzzled me, but recent information may throw some some light on this issue.

A former trustee has sent me a quote, from September 2012, to set up a website for the Castle. The quote comes from a firm called Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, in England. The quotation – just for a website, remember! – is £44,000. Read it here for yourself; read it through, item by item, and you’ll realise what a rip-off it would have been. Of course, this was three years ago, no doubt HSD would now charge £50,000.

This is what happens when public money is involved and there is no adequate oversight from the funders’ representatives, as is the case with Cardigan Castle. The customer thinks, ‘What the hell, it’s not our money!’ and the supplier rubs his sweaty hands thinking, ‘They’re getting millions in grants, let’s get our snouts in the trough’. Incidentally, I’m told that all the other quotes for a website came in under £5,000.

One obvious question is, why did the trustees ever go to a firm like this, so far away, so expensive, to get a quote for something that could have been provided by Dai Jones down the road for one tenth of the price? Does someone connected with the Castle know someone involved with HSD?

Thankfully, HSD did not get the website contract. An outlay like that would have been difficult to explain, even with the cosy relationship between Lady Tucker and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Gareth ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Gregory. The website now running appears to the creation of Sugar Creative of Cardiff, though there are many firms much nearer to Cardigan that could – and should – have been given the work.

Let us conclude this section by returning to Haley Sharpe Design, for despite losing out on the website rip-off contract the company was asked to fit out the Castle with display cabinets and similar equipment, and also to hold exhibitions. (See left sidebar when page opens.) Knowing how much HSD wanted to charge for a website we can be fairly sure that Cardigan Castle has paid over the odds for its display cases and much else. But then, it’s only public money.

I ask again, who is the link between Cardigan Castle and HSD?

Alas, problems rarely come singly, do they, boys and girls? and poor old Jac has also been assailed by that master of the vituperative, that Woodward and Bernstein of the Welsh blogosphere, Phil Parry of Wales Eye.

*

IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?

Every so often, when the bile rises, or I have criticised his belovéd Labour Party too effectively, Phil Parry girds his loins and sallies forth to engage with the evil dragon of nationalism – me! These attacks invariably take the form of Parry telling his vast readership that I am about to be banged up because someone has reported me to the police. This ‘someone’ is usually Jacques Protic, a Serbian gent living on Ynys Môn, a man who manages to be a Labour Party member while simultaneously believing that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! (No, I did not make that up, as the panel below testifies. It is a comment Protic made to a BBC blog.)

Parry’s latest assault on the dragon can be found here. I recommend that you be sitting down when you read it, and without a hot drink in your hand. (I should also warn you that in this latest piece Parry offers links to earlier works of fiction in which I star – apparently forgetting that these are behind a paywall!) Now, where to start?

Protic-Labour

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Well, Parry begins with some bizarre story about an investigation by GogPlod into comments on my blog. He writes, “An investigation was launched by North Wales Police after a complaint from a member of the public about the website ‘Jac o’ the North’, and the Editor, Royston Jones, was officially warned to remove abusive comments or it may be closed down, according to sources.” I have received no such warning. North Wales Police has not contacted me.

Other than that, almost everything in the article is a re-hash of what he’s written before. Protic predictably appears, there is yet another mention of the Cayo Evans photograph, the social housing petition is regurgitated, and then he flaunts his powers of investigation with, “Mr Jones is currently embroiled in a controversy which centres on Cardigan castle”. Wow!

The thing about Parry is that he is consistent . . . consistent in attacking me for things I have not done. Let’s start with Protic. The basis for this story is that Protic alleges he was threatened over the telephone and had his car’s tyres slashed, and all because of something I’d written about him on my blog. As if Protic doesn’t draw enough attention to himself by expressing his odious views on every forum he can find.

The Cayo Evans photograph. I don’t know who took it, I don’t appear in it, but putting it up on my blog makes me guilty of . . . well, something. The social housing petition was launched by Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndŵr. I put it on my sidebar because I’m unreasonable enough to believe that local people should enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing. And of course the ‘hook’ for the latest Parry article is that someone – but not me – wrote something some arsehole somewhere considers ‘racist’.

If online racism really concerns Phil Parry then let him visit MailOnline or Guido Fawkes or a host of other ‘mainstream’ sites, where he will find all the racist comments a man in search of them could desire, made against the Welsh and just about every nation other than the English. But of course Parry won’t do that, because he’s not really interested in racism per se; he is, just like the Cambrian News, and politicians in Wales and elsewhere, simply interested in using the slur of racism to silence people whose views he doesn’t like.

Though let us not be too harsh on Phil Parry for I fear he may be losing it, or maybe someone is playing jokes on him. In what I assume to have been a desperate attempt to say something new about me Parry wrote, “He retired as director of a Barmouth air conditioning firm . . . “ Who? Me! Accusing me of being a gun-toting, ethnic-cleansing, bodice-ripping, baby-eating nationalist I can live with, but you go too far when you accuse me of being a director of an air conditioning firm in – of all places – Barmouth!

I don’t know who, or what, you’re talking about, Parry . . . and neither, I suspect, do you.

*

IT WAS THE CAMBRIAN NEWS WOT WON IT!

Apart from learning that Beverly Davies has a sense of humour, something else I learnt yesterday was that Elin Jones AM has been asked for a comment on the Johnson resignation, and it will appear in this week’s issue of the rag. No doubt it will be in with the comments from the Pope and the mayor of Wagga Wagga, both outraged by my criticisms of certain Cardigan Castle trustees.

This, I’m told, is what she will say: “Glen Johnson has been a long-time champion of the castle and its history. He is one of the local experts and was influential in convincing me and others of the merits of the need to invest and restore the castle. I am sure he has spent years of voluntary effort in researching and supporting the castle. It is a travesty that he now feels pressured by social media to withdraw as a trustee. We need to thank him for all he has done and hopefully he can continue to contribute in other ways to the project.” So the local AM appears to have swallowed the Cambrian News story hook line and sinker . . . or maybe not, because here’s my interpretation.

Elin Jonres

Elin Jones will be standing for re-election next May which, let me remind you, is just over eight months away. She is very mindful of how the Cambrian News may have destroyed her colleague Mike Parker’s chances of becoming Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru MP just three months ago, in the May General Election. For anyone who has perhaps forgotten, check out my post, Mike Parker and Huw ‘Tipp-Ex’ Thomas in Full Agreement.

What the Cambrian News did with that piece of gutter journalism was deliberately misrepresent something Parker had written many years earlier. For soon after moving to Wales he wrote a piece for Planet magazine telling of his shock at realising many English people move to rural Wales to escape the multiracial towns and cities of England. (But he never used the word ‘Nazi’.) He also told us that many of the English who move to Wales look down on their Welsh neighbours with contempt. Read the original 2001 article here. Compare it with what the Cambrian News wrote and you’ll realise what a squalid distortion the latter was.

Remarkably, it was left to the Western Mail to put this story into its correct perspective, with Martin Shipton writing, “The purpose of this attack on Mr Parker, of course, is to dissuade people from voting for him.” In other words, it was an attempt by the Cambrian News to influence the outcome of the General Election in Ceredigion by telling lies about the candidate the ‘paper did not want to win. And it may have worked.

*

THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?

Its victory over Mike Parker, and the muted response from Plaid Cymru, has emboldened the Cambrian News, making it believe that it can control the political debate, certainly in Ceredigion, and perhaps beyond. Given who owns the ‘paper there is nothing surprising here.

The Cambrian News is part of the Tindle Group, still run by the eponymous, and 88-year-old Sir Ray Tindle. Sir Ray is a patriot of the old school, the man who told his editors, once Bush and Blair began their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”. (Read full article here.)

When it comes to Wales, we can be sure that Sir Ray’s views are unequivocally Unionist, which means doing everything possible to portray nationalists as a dangerous and evil enemy . . . especially when they look like winning. The only way dissenting voices can hope to avoid the Tindle treatment is to dissent as little as possible . . . the course Elin Jones has so clearly adopted. With the result that debate is stifled, truth takes a kicking, and democracy in Wales is further weakened.

This assault on truth and democracy in the service of English interests becomes increasingly more obvious as Tindle and other owners ship in journalists recruited in England, journalists who don’t know their patch, and thus make a mockery of ‘local journalism’. The pretence can only be maintained with the assistance of a ‘Welsh’ veneer provided by the likes of Beverly Davies.

The Cambrian News and many other ‘local’ newspapers are now a threat to the democratic process. They promote a viewpoint that is hostile to Welsh interests, they try to intimidate those who dare challenge them and their viewpoint, and they have lost that fundamental connection with local communities that should justify their existence.

The Elin Jones approach is nothing less than surrendering to the diktats of a warped old man who cares nothing for Wales. How does a Plaid Cymru politician justify such a stance, even to herself? The way forward must be to challenge the Cambrian News and all the other BritNat propaganda rags. If Plaid Cymru isn’t prepared to stand up to this bullying, then it does not deserve to survive.

UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yesterday, some 30 people, including ex-volunteers, gathered outside the Castle to make a presentation to sacked Director Cris Tomos. There were young and old there, Welsh and English, to present him with gifts, including a blooming apple tree, showing the gratitude of the townspeople for all the work he has done for Cardigan. Inside, the remaining trustees plotted at their monthly meeting.

UPDATE II 27.08.2015: In this week’s online South Ceredigion edition of the Cambrian News Glen Johnson seems to saying something different regarding his family. Last week it was, “The main reason for my resignation is to protect my family from the virtual persecution being dealt out . . . “. This week, the writer of the article says, ” . . . with his family bearing the brunt of ‘overheard conversations'”.

The implication is inescapable – nothing was said directly to his family. That his family overheard unflattering conversations around the town only proves what a hot topic the running of the Castle has become. Even then, I guarantee that if ‘them trustees’ were getting a slagging, it wasn’t Glen Johnson the critics had in mind. I’m beginning to worry that the saintly Glen Johnson may be developing a martyr complex.

Curiously, although the article is headed ‘AM steps into Cardigan Castle row’ there is no quote from Elin Jones. Perhaps you have to pay for the full edition to read what Elin Jones said. Which I’m sure you’re prepared to do, especially after seeing the subscription page.

Aug 192015
 

My first post on this subject was Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? on July 7th. Since then I have posted Cardigan Castle – It’s Getting Worse! (July 12th), Cardigan Castle: Gang of Four + One (July 21st), there was a section in Updates, etc (July 26th), then came Cardigan Castle: Guest Post by ‘Dyn Deche Rhys’ (July 30th), and finally, Cardigan Castle: Connections Keep A-Coming (August 3rd). IGlen Johnson‘m listing them in case you feel the need to refer to them as you read on.

The reason I’m returning to the subject now is that it’s all getting a bit naughty. Those I’ve written about, and others behind them, are pulling out the stops in order, not to answer the many questions being asked, but to silence those doing the asking. I suppose things came to a head yesterday with the resignation of Glen Johnson, one of the trustees. Mr Johnson cited as his reason for stepping down the need to protect his family from “online persecution”.

This is the report from the BBC Wales website. Here’s the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Finally, the Cambrian News report talks of “online harassment” and mentions my blog, even gives my name, thereby inviting readers to make the erroneous connection. But then, this is the Cambrian News, and this is the nature of the beast. No one should be surprised to learn that Mike Lewis, husband of trustee Sue Lewis, is a staff reporter, possibly deputy editor, on this rag. Perhaps more pertinent may be the fact that Sue Lewis herself freelances for the CN, as these minutes from Aberporth Community Council make clear. Could it be that Sue Lewis herself wrote the Cambrian News report on Johnson’s resignation?

The first thing to understand about Glen Johnson is that for months he’s been telling anyone who’d listen that he’d had enough, and was stepping down at the September AGM of trustees . . . and these declarations of intent pre-date anything I’ve written about Cardigan Castle. His FaceGlen Johnson Facebookbook page carries a few of these statements. Here’s a couple from July. (Click to enlarge.)

After reading the media accounts I went to my blog to check what I had written about him . . . as opposed to what people what you to believe I’ve written. I could only find two references to Glen Johnson in my blog posts and both were positive. The first in my post of July 7th and the second in the guest post of July 30th. Read both extracts below.

JULY 7: “So this place (Cardigan Castle) has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise (in history).”

JULY 30: “A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.

Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.

This is harassment! This is “online persecution”!

So if I haven’t been attacking him, what exactly is going on with this ‘resignation’? I am convinced that this whole episode can be explained by the press release issued to the media. Enquiries are referred to a Cardiff telephone number belonging to Equinox, Cardigan Castle’s PR agency. This resignation is nothing but a publicity stunt, one staged to depict critics of the Castle’s trustees as the sort of bastards who threaten the trustees’ wives and children. Remember! this man was resigning anyway, before I put out a word on Cardigan Castle, but someone, somewhere, saw the chance to capitalise on a long-planned resignation by twisting it into the sudden decision of a persecuted man forced out by internet bullies – i.e. me! And all designed to deflect criticism from the ruling trustees, and even allow them to shelter under the umbrella of victimhood.

Here’s my message to Glen Johnson. If your family really is being intimidated then you should have reported it to the police, not a PR agency. And if, as I suspect, you haven’t yet reported it to the police, get in touch with me and I’ll accompany you to the police station. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. But my best advice for you is, don’t allow yourself to be used by people much cleverer and more ruthless than you.

Glen Johnson’s stage-managed resignation is only the latest in a list of incidents which have been attempts to either frighten me off or have my blog closed down. Here’s an example worth recounting.

On August 12th a comment was made to my post, Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? of July 7th. The first comment to that post in a fortnight, and it came from ‘Charity Solicitor’. I responded and he / she came back the following day with a longer comment that contained, “It is, therefore, entirely ludicrous to claim, as you and your friends often do, that the trustees have their hands in the till.” I had never accused the trustees of that, and I made that fact clear; I also asked ‘Charity Solicitor’ to direct me to where, as he alleged, I had accused the trustees of theft.

Of course ‘Charity Solicitor’ could not find anything like this on my blog, for the simple reason that I had never written it. Others joined in the debate and eventually ‘Charity Solicitor’, realising he’d been sussed, admitted he was Dr (Charles) Robert Anthony. On August 14th he made what, for a lawyer, was an extraordinary statement, done in a pathetic attempt to laugh off the very serious allegation he had made against me only a few days earlier. He wrote, “‘Hands in the till’ is a figure of speech or metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” Sorry, pal , ‘hands in the till’ most definitely means stealing, there is no other interpretation. And for what, exactly, could ‘hands in the till’ be a metaphor?

Throughout this exchange with me and others Dr Anthony wasn’t clear whether he was speaking officially for the trustees or merely on their behalf, unofficially. Make your own guesses.

But yet again we have someone riding to the rescue but refusing to address the questions raised, and instead trying to steer the debate onto more promising ground by making me defend myself against things I never said. Very similar to what is happening with this ludicrously contrived resignation. I’m confronted with evasion, innuendo, non-sequiturs, smears, misrepresentation, and downright lies. So let me make my position clear.

I retract nothing I have written about Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. To see them hoping to hide behind poor, manipulated Glen Johnson is despicable, and it will not succeed. The questions are still awaiting answers.

  • Who is Jonathan Timms of Kent, and how did he get involved? Is he perhaps related to a trustee, or does he own a holiday home in Aberporth? Possibly both?
  • Why have so many trustees and staff walked away from this project (before I ever got involved)?
  • How many times did Sue Lewis shout ‘ENGLISH!’ in that now infamous e-mail?
  • How often does Jann Tucker crack open a bottle or twa with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s supposedly impartial representative, Gareth Gregory?
  • Was Hedydd Jones reprimanded for saying ‘Over my dead body” at the prospect of the Gorsedd visiting the Castle?
  • Why did the project – as Glen Johnson himself bemoaned – change from a historical and cultural icon into a tacky tourist venture that is financially unworkable?
  • What did Sandra Davies mean by saying, “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”? Was she asked to explain that insulting remark?
  • What did Jonathan Timms, the trustees’ contact point and secretary, mean when he described Rhys ap Sue Lewis fairy godmotherGruffydd and his sons as “savages”?
  • Can you provide satisfactory evidence of contracts being properly advertised and put out to tender? Evidence that would satisfy someone other than Jann Tucker’s drinking buddy.
  • The same applies to appointments, or were they all advertised – online only – from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, as was the case with the post created for trustee Sue Lewis almost immediately after she lost her job at the Tivy-Side Advertiser?

And yet, despite the slanders, I am greatly heartened that the Gang of Four’s defenders feel they need to resort to these tactics. I say ‘defenders’ because I am convinced that what we see now, with Johnson’s resignation especially, is intervention by persons who have come to realise that the Gang of Four are a liability, but to remove them would be an admission of defeat, so they have to be defended at all costs. It’s a difficult situation for them; and so desperate are they that someone must have thought this resignation stunt was worth a try.

Just stand back and consider the absurdity of the news coverage given. Here we have a nobody, in a small town, who resigns from a trust few will have heard of – but it makes the BBC News! This of course is the BBC we have come to know, this is the BBC of the Scottish independence referendum, the BBC of ‘British’ this and ‘Great British’ that, the defender of the British establishment. So in conclusion, let me reiterate . . .

Despite what has been alleged by the Cambrian News and others, nothing mildly derogatory, let alone threatening, has appeared on this blog in relation to Glen Johnson. Anyone persisting with these groundless accusations – or making fresh accusations – should be very careful what they say or write.

UPDATE 20.08.2015: La Tucker is to step down from her position of trustee at the AGM next month. Apparently, something to do with ‘rotation’ . . . are we talking turnips here?

Jul 302015
 

It was quite a week for the trustees of Cardigan Castle. What was supposed to have been a gradual build-up of excitement culminating in the Grand Opening Concert featuring Bellowhead, the English folk-rock group, turned instead into an epic PR disaster for the board, headed by Aberporth’s answer to Sepp Blatter, the 80 year-old Jann Tucker MBE.

Two rival petitions were launched calling for the reinstatement of sacked Director, Cris Tomos, and an extraordinary general meeting of the Trust to decide whether the current trustees are fit to go on running the £12 million project.

Meanwhile, the trustees themselves concluded their kangaroo court “investigation” into Mr Tomos, and paid him off in return for a gagging clause.

Cris Tomos was the third Director to leave the project, and all three are known to have departed in acrimonious circumstances because of micro-managing interference by a small group of board members.Castle

Two former trustees and a third prominent volunteer wrote to the Tivy-Side Advertiser to express their concerns about governance of the trust. They have been in contact with the Charity Commission to see what can be done about what they say are serious abuses by the clique which dominates the board of trustees. Under the trust’s constitution, ten members can call an extraordinary general meeting of the membership, and they are now gathering names. One of their objectives is to arrange an independent audit of the trust’s books.

All of this would be bad enough, but the trust has also found itself at the centre of a media storm, with the most startling revelations coming from Jac o’ the North himself, as readers of this blog will know.

This is a multi-million pound undertaking led and controlled by a handful of chums with homes and holiday homes in and around Aberporth, some seven miles to the north of Cardigan, with an official contact address in Kent.

A project which was meant to have the history of the Eisteddfod movement, and the Welsh language and culture at its heart, has been turned into a high-end hospitality venture for upmarket weddings, corporate bashes and a handful of well-heeled, braying visitors wishing to spend a few days roughing it in West Englandshire.

A shot in the arm for local economy?

Vanishingly little of the £12 million poured into the project has benefited local businesses, with even most of the tat in the gift shop having being purchased in Birmingham.

A huge chunk of the money went to Andrew Scott Ltd with insiders reporting massive waste and botched work; £40,000 went on high security glass cases used to display artefacts with little or no monetary value; and local businesses did not get a look in when it came to supplying the furnishings and fittings.

Serious questions are being asked about the tender processes, as well as the trustees’ appointment of one of their own to the post of Facilities Manager while scrapping the role of Education Officer.

All through the construction and restoration phase of the project contracts and jobs have gone to businesses well outside the local area, although large numbers of locals have worked as unpaid volunteers. The hope was that when the gates finally opened, paid employment would be created to benefit locals, but this has not happened either. There remains a heavy reliance on unpaid volunteers, while most of the real jobs have gone to non-Welsh speaking incomers.

It is now clear that the start-up phase of the project has brought almost no economic benefit to the town, and while this new attraction will undoubtedly bring more visitors into Cardigan during the short summer season, there has been further criticism of the tLady Tuckerrust for pricing the castle’s holiday accommodation at levels which will undermine existing local businesses. At the same time, the wedding venue business is being pitched at well-heeled clientèle from outside the area and priced at levels which will exclude most locals.

Gilbert and Sullivan

If the castle’s contribution to the local economy has so far been minimal, what of the castle’s cultural offering which is supposed to have the Welsh language and culture and the history of the Eisteddfod movement at its heart?

If you missed the Grand Opening Concert and Bellowhead, there are plenty more cultural events coming up, including a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon. Originally set in the Oxfordshire Downs, the story tells the tale of a dragon’s fraught relationship with the locals. The townsfolk bring in Saint George to rid them of the beast, but its life is eventually spared when they realise that the dragon is now a reformed character and not dangerous.

There seems to be a message in there somewhere.

Anyone hoping to see any sign of our rich cultural heritage, or the lively contemporary Welsh cultural scene, will search the castle’s forthcoming events schedule in vain.

A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.

Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.

The Welsh Language Learning Centre never came about, and the Welsh classes that are held in the castle are confined to outbuildings on the periphery behind heavy metal gates, padlocks and “no entry” signs.

Moreover, there are persistent claims that archaeological investigation of the site was kept to a minimum by the trustees who were much more interested in developing the castle as a high-end wedding, holiday and conference venue.

“Not much to see here”

Meanwhile, the trust’s efforts to market the castle have fared no better if Tripadvisor is anything to go by, with a very mixed bag of reviews. A common theme here is that visitors unfamiliar with the town were expecting a castle rather than a heavily restored Georgian house and a vast expanse of lawn, and there is not much to excite the interest of children.

This won’t help in an age where mums and dads tap their smartphones before deciding what to do with the kids on a wet Welsh summer’s day.Sue Lewiis 2

Pressure cooker

Which brings us to the trustees’ PR strategy. A leaked e-mail showed that Sandra Davies, a member of the inner circle, told Cris Tomos that the board had decided he should not contact critics of the project. They were bigots, and the best thing would be to let them run out of steam, she said.

By refusing to talk to local critics and disillusioned volunteers, the trustees instead created a pressure cooker.

Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffudd, a local group dedicated to celebrating the castle as the home of the Eisteddfod and a cradle of Welsh culture, wrote to the board three months ago to ask for a meeting and an opportunity to present constructive new ideas. The letter did not even receive an acknowledgement.

Negotiations with the Gorsedd to hold a special ceremony of blessing collapsed in acrimony, with Father Seamus Cunane, the trust’s unofficial spin-doctor-in-chief telling readers of the Tivy-Side Advertiser that the Gorsedd had behaved like a bunch of divas.

This week several of these chickens came home to roost, with damning articles in the Carmarthenshire Herald, the Tivy-Side and Golwg.

The piece in Golwg was notable for the appearance of an unnamed spokesperson for the trust who told the somewhat surprised journalist that the trustees would in fact welcome an opportunity to meet the Cyfeillion, and would welcome a grand ceremony of the Gorsedd.

This sudden U-turn clearly had nothing to do with the catastrophic response in the mainstream and social media, and the trust’s Cardiff-based PR agency is now desperately engaged in a fire fighting exercise.

Pressure is growing on the trust to open up its books, and for the octogenarian chair of the trustees and her inner circle to step down and make way for a new team to turn the project round and ensure that it works for the people of Cardigan, rather than friends and family.