Sep 022016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

Ystrad Fflur, or to give it its ‘English’ name, Strata Florida, is a quiet, remote and beautiful place. The Cistercians chose it as a site to build a great abbey and monastery precisely because it was off the beaten track, with huge expanses of grazing for their sheep and cattle and plentiful water from Afon Fflur, a tributary of the Teifi.

There are ruined monastic sites with more to see, but Ystrad Fflur has enough to fire up the imagination, and you can spend an hour or two wandering around with the place pretty much to yourself, except for a couple of times a year when Cadw puts on events to bring in the crowds. The highlight this year is a “Spooky Halloween Day” when you can follow a secret trail to discover ingredients for a witch’s spell.

Quite what Rhys ap Gruffudd, the abbots and monks would have felt about this combination of commercialised Anglo-American popular culture and the occult is not difficult to imagine because the whole point of Ystrad Fflur was to be a beacon of Welsh Christianity and culture, and a counterweight to the increasingly intrusive Anglo-Normans with their policies of military control and colonial assimilation.

What keeps the hordes away is in part the almost complete lack of facilities (no gifte shoppes or tea rooms here), partly the remoteness of the place, and partly because to make sense of Ystrad Fflur and why these fairly modest piles of stone are so special, you need to know something about Welsh history and culture. There is a sense of deep and abiding Cymreictod about Ystrad Fflur, and to understand the place is to understand the dreams and hopes of this nation.

Enhancing the visitor experience

All of this may be about to change thanks to some heritage industry “charities” which want to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ with government grants and huge dollops of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund in a scheme which would keep their bosses in clover for decades to come.

Brace yourselves for the Abbot’s Bar & Bistro serving heritage monks’ brew, herbal liqueurs made to ancient and “long-lost” secret recipes, sustainable medieval burgers and Brother Anselm’s Amusement Park for the kiddies.

The site is owned by the Church in Wales and managed by Cadw which sensibly closes the place for 5 months a year, but  visitors who want to save themselves a few quid and don’t mind the winter weather can nip over the fence and wander round for free.

strataflorida

The threat to Ystrad Fflur as we know it comes not from Cadw directly, although Cadw executives are almost certainly cheering it on, but from two charities called the Strata Florida Trust and the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust, formerly known as Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr.

High Tea in the Trenches

For those of you reaching for your dictionaries, that splendid name translates as the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, and it was under the Welsh name that the trust carried out the restoration of the Georgian patrician residence known as Llanelly House.

There was always something a little odd about the use of that Welsh name to cover all the sensitive financial and legal stuff, while steadfastly refusing to drop that Anglicising ‘y’ from Llanelly.

If Ystrad Fflur was built to be a beacon of Welsh culture against the rising tide of Anglo-Norman influence, the ‘y’ in Llanelly signifies that here is a genteel oasis of English culture in a sea of rough Welsh working class awfulness. More Gilbert and Sullivan than Sosban Fach.

Running the show in Llanelli is CEO and Company Secretary Claire Deacon, originally from Southampton, who says that she is passionate about restoring old buildings. The £7 million restoration of the Georgian mansion in Llanelli was indeed a fine piece of work, funded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh European Funding Office and ‘Welsh’ Government, with enthusiastic backing from Carmarthenshire County Council and the veteran Cllr Meryl Gravell.

Cllr Gravell, never a shrinking violet, likes to use Llanelly House as a backdrop for some of her many media appearances as evidence of how, in her own mind at least, she has transformed the town’s fortunes.

Other visitors come to enjoy a Palm Court High Tea, tapas evenings, murder mystery events, ‘Afternoon Tea with the Harmony Wellbeing Charity’, displays of military medals and Dad’s Army costumes, a Somme exhibition – and a special treat – a special showing of one (yes, 1) of those ceramic poppies previously displayed at the Tower of London.

What could be more patriotically British than a nice scone, a cup of Darjeeling and a lot of sanitised, misty-eyed reminiscence about British military achievements, minus any references to awkward characters such as Hedd Wyn or the criminal incompetence of the top brass?

Village People

Fresh from the triumph in Llanelli, Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr cast around for more Carmarthenshire buildings to save, and discovered the old YMCA building in Merthyr Tydfil.

A quick glance at the map showed the trustees that there was just one small problem here – Merthyr is not in Carmarthenshire. So the name and the ‘operational footprint’ of the charity were eventually changed to the more English-friendly Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust.

Once again, the trust managed to trouser phone-number size grants from the Welsh Government and local council as well as £2.6million from the Lottery. The plan was to bring ‘café society’ and 877 sq. m of new offices and work space for “the modern creative industries and the traditional professions” (a description that covers all eventualities from software development to massage parlours) to the good people of Pontmorlais, but so far it appears to have just been used for ‘reminiscing days’ and free tours of an empty shell for school kids.

Just how little progress has been made in the years since the trust acquired the YMCA building can be see from this family snapshot:

Merthyr YMCA Facebook

In the red

The Llanelly House project overran significantly in terms of time and money, but is now finally up and running. In the trust’s accounts for 2014-15 the chairman notes, “It is essential that we develop the skills and vicissitude necessary to ensure that Llanelly House becomes a sustainable business so that it act (sic) as a model and example to our future projects”.

The latest annual report which, incidentally, would fail an English GCSE examination badly, goes on to note that visitor numbers, average spend and the commercial operations at Llanelly House did not meet expectations, something which “has lead (sic) to the shortfall”.

The extent of the shortfall becomes apparent when we read the independent auditors’ report which notes that the trust had a deficit of unrestricted funds of £59,910 at 31 March 2015, “ indicating the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the Charity’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Needless to say, the charity’s director trustees took a different view, saying that they should still be considered a ‘going concern’ because (a) they have reached an agreement with Llanelli Town Council to defer indefinitely the repayment of a working capital loan, although it is doubtful if Llanelli Council tax payers have been consulted, and (b) put in place a ‘turnaround strategy’ for the activities of their commercial operating subsidiary running Llanelly House, which is running at a loss.

In addition to Llanelli Town Council, another major creditor is Finance Wales, and the accounts show a total of £437,527 outstanding in working capital loans. The trust is also pinning its hopes on renegotiating terms with Finance Wales, and a growing stream of consultancy revenue provided by CHRT Ventures Ltd.

This last hope remains something of a mystery, but consultancy is clearly something the CHRT trustees are very keen on. Claire Deacon (CEO and Company Secretary, remember) was paid £56,787 in consultancy fees, and the charity also spent £2,000 on undefined (consultancy?) services from CHRT Ventures Ltd, as well as borrowing £14,720 from the same source. Not to mention other services and loans provided by another company in the same group, Plas Llanelly House Cyf. (There was even Llanelly House Trading Ltd., which bit the dust in December 2014. Jac.)

All very odd.

In common with so many other modern, forward-looking charities, Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust (CHRT) is almost completely dependent on grants. Income for 2014-15 was £724,460, of which donations accounted for just £1,325.

Another change of operational footprint

Material uncertainty, targets not met, hope that the creditors will be forgiving, hopes of future consultancy income, lots of peculiar inter-company magic and rather less than bugger all in the bank. Combine that with the Chairman’s barely coded warnings that the charity has got to up its game, and you might think that the trustees would be wondering where their CEO (appointed back in 2011) is leading them.

With Llanelly House now finally up and tottering towards an uncertain future, and the prospect of another large project in Merthyr looming, you would think that the trustees’ enthusiasm for yet another ambitious scheme might have been exhausted, but in that same annual report for 2014-15 we read that the trust was ploughing ahead with the acquisition of Mynachlog Fawr (or Great Abbey Farm) at Ystrad Fflur.

A single donation of £200,000 was received in May 2014, and the trust took out an option to buy. The annual report notes that the lawyers were dealing with this while Ms Deacon “concentrates of (sic) further fundraising with our project partner, Professor David Austin”, about whom more in a moment.

Strangely, since the report was published, the farm was acquired not by CHRT but the Strata Florida Trust, chaired by Professor Austin, in July of this year.

Claire Deacon has come on board as Project Director for the Strata Florida Centre Project, reporting to the Strata Florida Trust, while Professor Austin will run a separate “Strata Florida Research Project” in parallel.

How CHRT fits in with all this is not at all clear, even though in its 2015 report CHRT was manifestly confident that it would be running the show and had received a £200,000 donation towards it.

The board of the Strata Florida Trust is made up of various academics, the great and good and a retired British Army Lieutenant-General, Jonathon Riley, whose interests include the history and “maintaining the military efficiency” of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Perhaps future visitors to Ystrad Fflur can look forward to floodlit military tattoos and, who knows, we may even get an assault course. (Continues after ‘The Life of Riley’.)


THE LIFE OF RILEY

At first sight it may look odd that a retired Lieutenant General from England whose interests are military history and warfare should become a trustee of a charity set up to determine the fate of a ruined abbey in Ceredigion founded to champion the cause of Welsh independence and Welsh culture, but it’s who rather than what you know that matters.

Jonathon Riley, who is among other things a Companion of the Order of the Bath, grew up in Yorkshire, Sussex and the Channel Islands. A product of English public schools and Sandhurst, he began his military career with the Queen’s Regiment before transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers as an experienced hand who could be trusted to keep the native recruits in their place.

Hobnobbing with the Windsors and the legion of upper middle class camp followers who surround them eventually resulted in marriage to upwardly mobile BBC Wales news reader, Sara Edwards.

Edwards’ extra curricular activities include being Vice Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and Duke of Edinburgh Awards and member of the council of University of Wales, Lampeter.

Having retired from the British Army, Riley was appointed to the plum establishment job of Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries. His rather sanitised Wikipedia entry says that he resigned from this job to undergo treatment for prostate cancer, but here is a snippet from The Independent from 2013:

“Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley, a retired infantry officer, former NATO commander and distinguished military historian, was suspended as Master of the Armouries over an auditing inquiry in May, only to resign from the post six months later. It can now be revealed that he was suspended after senior staff were given irregularly large pay increases at a time when the museum’s budget was being slashed.”

Jonathon Riley

click to enlarge

Honourable retirement on health grounds after this unfortunate revelation of rampant cronyism was clearly enough to salvage Riley’s reputation, and he went on to be appointed to two committees in Cardiff Bay where he now advises the ‘Welsh’ Government on how to commemorate World War One.

The departed souls of Welsh cannon fodder must be looking down and wondering what their deaths achieved, because 100 years on here is an English military toff, the successor of all those other public school generals who rounded up the Welsh and sent them off to walk slowly towards German machine guns, making sure that the Somme and other slaughters are remembered as the necessary sacrifice of brave British patriots who laid down their lives for the King.

Riley and Edwards, who have a holiday home in Carmarthenshire not far from Big Ears’ retreat at Llwynwormwood, together illustrate nicely how in 21st century democratic Wales, you can get yourselves appointed to numerous influential jobs and committees without ever having to face the voters or even spending much time here.

Any civil servants or grant dispensers tapped by Professor Austin’s charity for dosh are unlikely to put up any resistance knowing that there is a hot line to old Big Ears.


Bearing in mind that under Ms Deacon CHRT expanded its “operational footprint” to cover the whole of Wales, she has chosen to live about as far as she can get from most of the country by basing herself in Marloes. While Llanelly House is a mere 57 miles distant, Ystrad Fflur is 83 miles away along narrow country lanes, and Merthyr is a cool 95 miles.

If she is concentrating on Mynachlog Fawr, Llanelly House and Merthyr are hardly likely to get much of a look-in.

Mynachlog Fawr comprises a Grade II* listed farmhouse, some listed mid-nineteenth century stone barns and various other more recent structures.

The farm itself came into existence after the dissolution of the abbey, and certainly was never a part of the Cistercians’ landscape. It was the childhood home of Charles Arch, a well known personality on the Welsh farming scene, and appears to have been acquired at some point in more recent years by Lampeter University.

Although the house and some of the outbuildings are listed and attractive to look at, they are in relatively good condition and hardly of national importance. There are plenty more farmhouses and barns like them all over Wales.

How the farm came to be acquired by Lampeter University, presumably with public money, and whether it was the university which sold the place to Professor Austin’s trust are questions readers may be able to help with.

So why was CHRT, whose purpose is to “regenerate the physical and other heritage of Wales”, so keen to acquire a not particularly special group of farm buildings not in need of rescue?

The answer would seem to be that heritage industry Eldorado: millions and millions of lovely grant money to fund pet projects for years if not decades to come.

This grand scheme has been Professor Austin’s pipe dream since 1999, and he envisages turning the farm into a centre with all sorts of activities. “At the moment these fall under five broad headings, although these will undoubtedly expand as we develop our plans and talk to potential partners”, writes the professor on the Strata Florida project website, where just about everything is copyrighted to the great man personally.

It will be sustainable; enhance the visitor experience; there will be summer schools and workshops; ecological tourism; it will foster the arts and traditional skills; it will help locals to “advance senses of their own identity and wellbeing”; it will create events and activities to enhance human well-being in recognition of the abbey’s great infirmary and holy wells; and much, much more besides.

If that all sounds a bit, well, woolly, we can get a glimpse of a rather more tangible project design here on the website of architects Acanthus Holden who were commissioned to come up with a plan that includes a visitor centre and “a small exclusive hotel”.

One of the benefits of all this, of course, is the carrot of new jobs in Pontrhydfendigaid and the surrounding area. Whether the owners and employees of existing hotels, such as the nearby Black Lion, cafés and other local businesses would be quite so enthusiastic about having to compete with an entirely grant funded and heavily subsidised newcomer is another matter, and locals may find that the professor’s vision will entail the demise of established local businesses.

In another review carried out by The Prince’s Trust, the recommendation was for self- catering accommodation as opposed to the Acanthus hotel.

Mynachlog Fawr architects

No doubt Ms Deacon, Professor Austin and their friends have already come up with a business plan to explain how all these aims can be achieved and become commercially viable in a remote rural location, far from the coast and next to a ruined abbey which is closed for five months of the year. In a climate which is not exactly Chiantishire.

Even more confusingly, Professor Austin’s vision for Mynachlog Fawr and the wider Ystrad Fflur site appears to vary depending on his audience. Is it to be a New Age hangout for city types wanting to commune with nature in a sustainable and ecological sort of way, or is it to be a “small, exclusive hotel” with a visitor centre attached? Or is it to be the front end of what sounds in this video like the ultimate archaeological wet dream: a vast and endless dig extending across a swathe of countryside to uncover whatever is left of what the prof claims may be the largest Cistercian monastery in Britain, “if not Europe”. Or even the universe.

Where this forest of trusts and companies leaves Llanelly House and the Merthyr YMCA is an interesting question. Is Claire Deacon still CEO and Company Secretary in Llanelli? It would seem so. How did Mynachlog Fawr come into the ownership of Lampeter University, as it then was, and why did it end up being acquired by the Strata Florida Trust rather than CHRT with its expanded operational footprint, and on what terms?

Answers on a postcard please.

In the meantime, it may be a good idea to head up to Ystrad Fflur and enjoy it while you can before Professor Austin and Ms Deacon set about improving our experience and indulging their hobbies.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac says: While this piece was being written I though I’d try to help by doing some background work.

The first and obvious question was – ‘Who owns Ystrad Fflur / Strata Florida? The answer (as you’ve read) is that the Abbey ruins are owned by the Church in Wales. In 2008 the Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy, was appointed ‘Guardian’. Here are the relevant documents from the Land Registry.

That role of ‘Guardian’ may have been subsequently transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government, because in June 2010 “The Welsh Ministers” bought an adjoining parcel of land. No price is given, but unless Rhodri Morgan and his gang had a whip-round this land was purchased with public funding, and we are therefore entitled to know how much of our money was spent.

Ystrad Fflur for Cadw

What of the farm buildings, destined to become the Abbot’s Bar & Bistro – Get In The Habit!! On its website the Strata Florida Trust says, ” . . . the Trust has purchased the historic buildings which until recently formed the working core of Mynachlog Fawr or Great Abbey farm”. So naturally, I wondered how much had been paid.

I went to the Land Registry website, but found nothing under Mynachlog Fawr or Great Abbey Farm. Which I thought was a bit naughty, because if the Trust has bought the buildings then not filing the details with the Land Registry is simply a way of withholding information, and again, we are dealing here with the public purse.

(Though, confusingly, the website also says, ” . . . the Strata Florida Trust has acquired the buildings and some adjacent land”. So which is it – ‘purchased the historic buildings’ or ‘acquired the buildings and some adjacent land’?)

UPDATE 03.09.2016: I just unearthed this piece from the Cambrian News dated August 13 which can only be interpreted as announcing the purchase of Mynachlog Fawr. Which strengthens my belief that we are not being told the truth about who owns what, when it was bought, who paid for it, and how much was paid.

Poking around on the Land Registry website unearthed more recent land sales in the area. One involved land quite close to the Abbey and the farm, bought last year by David Thomas Arch and Eleri Arch. Here are the details. Mr and Mrs Arch were the owners of Mynachlog Fawr, so did they sell only the farm buildings, retain the land, and are they now adding to their land holdings?

We must know who owns what at Ystrad Fflur and how much it has cost the Welsh public purse

Over the years I have recounted many stories about the plundering of the Welsh public purse, this is another such tale. Yet another story of strangers to our land finding an old building or site, and instead of respecting a part of our history, appropriating it in order to promote themselves and boost their bank balances.

Claire Deacon of the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust already has two very expensive disasters to her name. Llanelly House may be impressive, but it’s now an economic millstone around the necks of the town and the county. Merthyr YMCA was never viable from the outset, yet the money keeps flowing. And now this woman – who managed, while running the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, to employ herself as a ‘consultant’! – wants more millions from the Welsh public purse to despoil and commercialise Ystrad Fflur.

Her partner in this lurid venture is Professor David Austin, an academic at Lampeter University, who has one eye on a very lucrative retirement and the other on an ‘Honour’. According to Austin Ystrad Fflur may be the biggest Cistercian monastery in the universe . . . in which case it’s too big a job for him and the Lampeter outpost of Trinity St Davids. I would prefer to see a team of French archaeologists with experience of Cistercian sites employed.

Then we have Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley. First, we have to ask what he brings to the party, for Ystrad Fflur is the site of a monastery not a castle? Whatever anyone may think Riley can contribute his profligacy with public funding whilst at the Royal Armouries should disqualify him from any other publicly-funded project, no matter who he knows or who he’s married to.

This squalid project being hatched in Ceredigion is only possible because Wales is a colony of England, with all that that implies. A primitive people unable to do anything for ourselves we must shower with money any shyster who turns up with a half-baked, self-serving bit of nonsense. Our chiefs like it that way because it saves them having to think of better ways of using the money.

There is one lesson to be drawn from the Ystrad Fflur project and one obvious recommendation.

The lesson – articulated on this blog more than once – is that Wales needs a genuinely national conservation body to replace the English National Trust, CADW, Landmark Trust, and all the Claire Deacons infesting our homeland.

The beauty of Ystrad Fflur lies in its remoteness and tranquility. To attract those who wouldn’t bother going had there not been a burger bar and a bouncy castle is to attract the wrong people for the wrong reasons. And the motivation for doing this is obvious.

So here’s the recommendation, for the ‘Welsh’ Government and all other funders:

Pull the plug on this lunatic scheme and leave Ystrad Fflur at peace.

*

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88 Comments on "Ystrad Fflur – The Heritage Industry Moves On"

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Jonathan Edwards
Guest

Spot on, as always. Thank you, again, for letting sunlight on these roach-infested corners of Welsh life
Jonathan Edwards

JE Lloyd
Guest

Yes, excellent article. General Riley would doubtless consider himself admirably suited to the Strata Florida sinecure. He has after all published a series of works “The First Colonial Soldiers: A Survey of British overseas territories and their garrisons”, the first volume of which covers the British Isles (presumably including Ceredigion).

It reminds me of the infamous application for the post of Chief Constable of “Carnarvonshire” in 1856 when one of the applicants stressed the relevance of his experience gained in service “against the hill tribes on the western frontiers [of British India] under Sir Colin Campbell”.

Plus ҫa change.

dafis
Guest

Mae dail y coed yn Ystrad Fflur, Yn murmur yn yr awel,,A deuddeng Abad dan y gro, Yn huno yno’n dawel.

Ac yno dan yr ywen brudd Mae Dafydd bêr ei gywydd, A llawer pennaeth llym ei gledd Yn ango’r bedd tragywydd.

T Gwyn Jones’ work was hammered home to us, a bunch of unappreciative youths, in Welsh lessons in the early 60’s. But it stuck with me with 1 or 2 words maybe changing slightly. And that is how I remember Ystrad Fflur, how it was on those few occasions that I visited as I advanced from youth towards the present day. Sometimes there would be others there but there was sufficient “space”, solitude yet a sense of “presence”, a calm that was hugely therapeutic without any fabricated stimulus.

I can’t think of any analogy that describes adequately the dismay of hearing that some tosser, or collection of tossers, want to modernise this place. Why, why ? Can’t they feed off what is there already, drink from the well of spirituality that exists in that place ? I despair. They should watch an old S4C programme when Lyn Ebenezer and one of his mates , Charlie Arch ? followed the monk’s path from Abaty Cwm Hir To Ystrad Fflur and spent time at the end contemplating – myfyrio ? – the place.

Let them all be cursed. Perhaps there is a restless monk somewhere in the ruins who will bring havoc on those who choose to sully such a great place.

Anonymous
Guest

my great grandfather John Rees came from there and my grandfather said we are part of arch Rees family.so any arch surnames there must be belonging to me.my family ran strata florid shop for years.any relatives out there I would be keen to hear from you.my e mail is donaldrees@hotmail.com

Big Gee
Admin

Very interesting – if I come across any I’ll let you know. Eleri Arch (mentioned in Jac’s Land Registry search) was in the same form as me in school, although ‘Arch’ is her married name.

On a practical note Donald, I wouldn’t advertise your e-mail address like you have. Spam bots trawl web-sites for e-mail addresses, when they come across a line with an “@” in it they harvest it add it to a mailing list and then sell it on. The result is you get tons of spam mail in your in-box.

Change the “@” to something like “at” so that humans that read it can understand it’s meaning, but spam bots can’t.

Fi
Guest

Great article. Now then… Tre’r Ceiri cable car and Giant’s Bun Butger Bar anyone? :-O

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Sadly, once again it’s the career paths of people who have little understanding and even less connection with the country whose heritage they (mis)interpret. I’m sure they will interpret part of the story, but I doubt it will include enough emphasis on how important the Cistercians were to the early stirrings of a modern Welsh identity.

It must be remembered that when Cadw was created in the mid 80s, the biggest part of it’s remit was the marketing of our heritage as a place for the bucket and spade brigade to visit when it’s raining, with heritage conservation and interpretation a somewhat beneficial by-product. The previous Ministry of Public Buildings and Works custodianship may have been a little pedestrian, but at least it preserved heritage sites from the canker of tacky commercialism that plagues many of our heritage sites now.

If they want theme parks, why don’t they bugger off to Disneyland? Oh wait… Wales IS a theme park!

Ianto Phillips
Guest

From its website –
“Is Latin double dutch to you? Strata Florida translates from Latin simply as the Vale of Flowers. Want to try the Welsh? Here you go. Ystrad Fflur.”

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/strata-florida-abbey/?lang=en

Ianto Phillips
Guest

And from the Welsh language website –
“Yn gyfarwydd â’r iaith Ladin? Y cyfieithiad Cymraeg o Strata Florida yw Ystrad Fflur.”
It was the other way round, you pricks.

Tim Saunders
Guest

Mae dail y coed yn Ystrad Fflur
Yn sibrwd yn yr awel,
A deuddeng abad yn y gro
Yn huno yno’n dawel …

TGJ

Marconatrix
Guest

Neis iawn, dwi´n meddwl hefyd. (Hyllo, ´Anselm´)

Myfanwy
Guest

The ongoing destruction to our Culture and natural environment marches on unabated. Who in Wales is in a position to stop this rape and why is nothing being done?

The National Trust is again in the news, with their proposed hydro scheme, that could turn the Conwy falls into a “trickle”, with the obvious destructive impact on the native environment.

So what do we all need to do, to stop this continuing madness?

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-37259351

dafis
Guest

This issue really winds me up. Last night I was in a good hwyl having just finished enjoying a good start to the season with Ospreys putting 8 tries on the Zebre, even stomached recorded bits of Ulster showing the Dragons how it’s done, when I checked my incoming mails and found Jac’s new post. Normally I’d mutter f*** it to myself and read it the following day but the subject was close to me, don’t ask why or how, but that’s how it’s been since I first went there as a kid.

I wrote that piece last night as an instant reaction and believe me I feel no different today. Now we have A.M’s and an M.P who must have been made aware of these antics. More pertinently, perhaps, where is Ceredigion Council or are they too wrapped up with the obsession with grabbing more grants ? Is there a local group, say a branch of Cymdeithas, or are they too busy tossing off outside M&S to address real heritage and culture issues ?
If a local farmer has been convinced to sell assets by these shysters then I have some sympathy because that industry is riddled with complications when seeking to realise value when confronted with things like inheritance and division of assets. However that is a side issue, the main problem are these hooray Henry’s and Henrietta’s spouting pseudo cultural bullshit as a smokescreen for getting their hands on some lottery or government loot. It’s a sacrilege greater than those buffoons who went driving 4 wheel drive trucks across those Elenydd paths and tracks that had fitted in with nature for centuries. They are all like big f***in’ kids who should be put to do a real job instead of wandering around engaging in abusive activities.

Big Gee
Admin

Dafis wrote: “. . . where is Ceredigion Council or are they too wrapped up with the obsession with grabbing more grants ?

The leader of Ceredigion County Council is Ellen ap Gwynne (Plaid) – need I say anymore? Hiding behind the sofa – pooing her knickers for fear of upsetting the English immigrants – like the rest of the prominent ones in her party.

Y Cneifiwr
Guest

Meanwhile in Carmarthenshire, the fate of Gelli Aur is back in the news. The house and the park, supposedly open to the public, have been prey to neglect, vandalism (by men in suits rather than teenagers) and several schemes which turned out to be scams for years under the stewardship of the county council. The place was sold to an art dealer in 2011, with Cllr Meryl Gravell warbling, “we look forward with much anticipation to watching this wonderful facility evolve”.

The public park, arboretum, café, etc. remained closed for most of the period since, but began to open occasionally last year. Funnily enough the reopening of the gates was followed in September by a £1 million grant from Meryl’s old pal, Edwina Hart. The grant was for the restoration of the park, and the award was widely welcomed.

But guess what, public access seems to have gone into reverse gear, with signs being taken down and the gates shut more often than they are open. The owner told a local paper that he thought this might be a requirement of the insurers who were worried about bad weather and the risk to visitors.

Perhaps Gelli Aur has its own mini climate different to Llandeilo and the rest of this part of the county.

Unsurprisingly to readers of the piece on Ystrad Fflur and Llanelly House, the new owner transferred responsibility for the house and park to a charitable trust, along with a debt of £1.45 million. Last year the trust was about to be struck off by the Charity Commission when, thank goodness, Edwina handed it the £1 million.

Brychan
Guest

Has there been anything going on the Pen-bre county park? Carmarthenshire Council spent millions on it, including, as stated at the time, state-of-the-art restaurant facilities. I decided to pay a visit, but all I could find was a burger van parked in the entrance field. The facilities block is all boarded up. Where’s all the cash gone?

Anonymous
Guest

good article.ive got relatives buried in that cemetery.

Big Gee
Admin

This breaks my heart. I was born and raised within walking distance of Ystrad Fflur. It is not only part of the historical culture of Cymru, but is somewhere with an even greater significance to locals who have been steeped in the almost mystical attraction of this quiet brooding location, where you get an immediate change in your emotions as soon as you approach it – without doubt it is one of the most serene places that I know of, that seems to ooze peace and tranquillity.

That poem ‘Ystrad’ Fflur by T. Gwyn Jones, which quite rightly, was part of the Welsh curriculum in the past, and learnt by our children across the nation, brings all those emotions that tie in to Ystrad Fflur to the surface. On the subject of poets. Gwilym ap Dafydd (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370), is buried at Ystrad Fflur. He is generally accepted as the greatest poet ever born in Cymru (forget the likes of Dylan Thomas – who has more prominence based on his exposure because he wrote in a language understood by the English & Americans). Gwilym ap Dafydd is also regarded as one of the leading poets amongst the greatest poets of EUROPE in the Middle Ages. He was also a Cardi, born in Brogynin, Penrhyn-coch in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr.

Ffair Rhôs is a small hamlet right next to Bont (Pontrhydfendigaid) where the ruins of Ystrad Fflur are. The great phenomenon is that it has produced a spectacular number of bards and poets. For a backwater unsophisticated hillside hamlet it seems to have punched miles above it’s weight when it comes to the more sophisticated and learned aspects of the arts and specifically poetic literature. Not only was it teeming with poets of significant quality, but has produced chaired bards in our National Eisteddfod. The theory proposed (as part of local folklore) is that the Cistercian monks may have had a part to play in this. It’s rumoured that the more wayward amongst these scholars would roam into the neighbouring communities during the long winter nights and had a great influence on the local population, even, it is rumoured, having more than educational intercourse with the local maidens! Hence the literary and genetic influence on the bards produced up to modern times in Fair Rhôs and Bont! No DNA tests in those days so who knows?

The abbey was originally founded in 1164. Around 1238, the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth held a council at Ystrad Flur. It was there that he made the other Welsh leaders acknowledge his son Dafydd as his rightful successor. Ystrad Fflur’s primary historical source for early Welsh history, the Brut y Tywysogion, was compiled at Ystrad Fflur.

For all the reasons above, and many, many more, the Ystrad Fflur ruins, it’s graveyard and it’s cultural, historic and spiritual significance, I believe, makes it akin to an ancient indigenous burial ground with huge cultural and historical significance for our nation, both past, present and future. It should therefore be recognised in the same way as other indigenous cultural sites have been protected across the world. l think that the following proclamation is valid for this site and moves should be afoot to make it so.

“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. The declaration emphasizes the right of Indigenous peoples, some of which include the protection of sacred sites and their religious practices. Articles 11, 12, and 25 of the Declaration specifically addresses these rights.
Article 11

Article 11 of the Declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature
States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

Article 12

Article 12 of the Declaration States:

Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 25

Article 25 of the Declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.

We need to get a move on. The tools are there.

dafis
Guest

I once saw a programme on one of those Nat Geo channels or similar, about the fate of the Lakota and particularly that last big conflict which saw Custer get killed but led on to the destruction of an entire way of life for the natives. An older native spoke of how Crazy Horse went to a sacred place to communicate with the spirit world and drew down his apocalyptic visions. Now I don’t hold such profoundly religious beliefs, not much at all, yet an hour at Ystrad Fflur recharges the “inner battery”, is that the soul ? I don’t know. I never had visions but it cleared my head and lifted my heart so that must be down to the tranquility which in people better wired than me equates to spirituality. It sure wouldn’t work if there were tea rooms and the other trappings of moronic venues bolted on to the site.

Jeremy
Guest

The poetry of Gwilym ap Dafydd (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370) really should be better known and would certainly entertain our young scholars, would certainy change their sanitised views of the past and might draw some into a wider appreciation of Welsh History.

Stan
Guest

An excellent article, thanks to the writer, with some equally good and thought provoking comments thereafter. I also enjoyed the titles chosen for each part of the article – very witty.

Once again, where are our investigative journalists, where are our Wales TV programmes like Week in Week Out when, for the umpteenth time, it is Jac’s blog that throws light on these stories of national interest? If a guest writer can dig out all this information about the rapid growth and worrying financial strength of the CHRT, of consultancy payments to Ms Deacon, of the magnum opus of Professor Austin, the dubious resignation of Lieutenant-General Jonathon Peter Riley, CB, DSO PhD MA FRGS FR Hist S, and their collective plans for Ystrad Fflur, what the hell are these full time journos doing? I can think of two things. Either they are just bloody hopeless, or I think more likely it’s the old Taffia Omerta, where any criticism of the established order and how public money is doled out on favoured projects to someone who probably knows someone else, must never be spoken about.

I’ve only ever visited Ystrad Fflur once, as a young man some decades ago. I echo those sentiments expressed by others about the serenity of the place. I suppose I’d better pay a last visit while I can, before the developers move in and the special ambience of that area is changed.

I did come across a Ceredigion Council document, I think it was its Tourist and Visitor Economic Strategy. Included in it was this statement:

Ceredigion will have to brand itself as somewhere new, distinctive and special; the “New Cornwall” or “New Pembrokeshire”.

Having seen the impact of mass tourism on towns, beaches and elsewhere in both those counties all I can say is best of luck with that then.

I really think those comments of Big Gee on the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People warrant a closer look by any official opposition that might arise to this proposal. Maybe that’s the sort of thing that when backs are against the wall could put the scheme into suspended animation.

Robin
Guest

Thank you for publishing this well-written piece. Ystrad Fflur is a truly special place and few locations can boast a cultural spine that includes Yr Arglwydd Rhys, Dafydd ap Gwilym and T Gwynn Jones.
I would speculate that the Trust has not actually acquired the farm. Rather, it may have agreed an option to purchase once it has secured the funds to do so. A number of obstacles still to overcome, hopefully, in terms of finance and planning. A number of these structures are probably listed, again restraining over-exuberant trustees.
Very much hope your correspondent continues to watch this with an eagle eye.

Big Gee
Admin

Any volunteers to write up a dossier and corresponding report to the Senedd? There’s plenty of contributors here with the ability for such a task, not least our ‘guest writer’ who initiated this blog post.

Failure to respond positively by the Senedd should then trigger a representation to the UN itself, outlining our concerns as an endangered indigenous race. It should trigger a bit of interest, even among the lazy, sleepers that pass as professional journos – after all mention of a small group taking their concerns to the United Nations would certainly make good copy – “makes them important looking see?”.

Hell it might even make news amongst the big TV channels! It would certainly slow things up a bit.

Keith Parry
Guest

Seem to recall Cadw being named Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh after its awful Castles campaign years ago.

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Shades of Castell Aberteifi here again folks. A similar set up of Anglophiles, outright colonialists and a few local Welsh lickspitters have spent £12m of heritage grants to despoil the venue, apparently with the blessing of all agencies and politicians who could not be bothered to scrutinize the objectives in a meaningful Welsh context.
The go-ahead was given to a glorified up-market accommodation with the added attraction of a wedding venue with scant attention given to the historical significance of the site. Indeed, the name Castell Aberteifi is highly misleading. There is no castle. Only a resurrected Georgian house. Thus the age-old moniker of Castell Aberteifi should surely be superceded by the more apt Georgian Pile – especially considering the make-up of the Cadwgan Trustee Board.

However – as always – there is hope. The soon to be held Gŵyl y Cynhaeaf (Harvest Festival?) three day festival is already being hailed as a massively imaginative and ambitious happening. It will celebrate the 50th anniversary of local poet Dic Jones’ National Chair winning ode ‘Y Cynhaeaf’ which is already regarded by poetic luminaries as the best ever written surpassing even the intricate strict metre poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym himself. The Georgian Pile itself will be the venue of some of the events.

It promises to be an eye-opener for the unimaginative and unambitious Cadwgan Trustees on how to harness our own tradition to a historical heritage venue and to honour our very own. No wonder Sian yr Hendre, Dic’s widow, felt she had to resign from the Trustee Board and air her frustrations and grievances publicly. Her voice was not being heard. She was ridiculed.

By burying the original site of the first recorded Eisteddfod in 1176, some 40 feet beneath the Georgian Pile, the Cadwgan Trustees have surely committed a cultural crime. What other nation would have been so negligent and inept? Therein lies the Court of Rhys ap Gruffudd who ruled the whole of the Deheubarth for over half a century and who moulded our national identity.

The Welsh Folk Museum at St Ffagans are currently recreating the court of the princes of Gwynedd. When finished Llys Rhosyr will even have accommodation facilities. What an experience. What vision. What a way to nurture a sense of nationhood. Cadwgan Trustees chose to ignore a Red Kite produced report commissioned by CADW on how to thematically develop the Courts of the Deheubarth. They had the jewel of them all in their hands.

When the bones of King Richard III were discovered underneath a car park in Leicester there was much ado. The English media went to town and rightly so. He was killed in 1485, reputedly by a Welshman, in the Battle of Bosworth. Nothing was spared in creating an interpretive centre of merit in his name. And rightly so. Is there further evidence required of the cultural and heritage crimes committed at Aberteifi?

My spur of the moment plea for the Cadwgan Trustees to resign enbloc 18 months ago was completely vindicated in conversation with Tony Tucker, a man very close to the membership, on the occasion of a Bellowhead headlined concert advertized as the official opening event of the resurrected Georgian Pile in July 2015. I was told that the evidence regarding the castle being the birthplace of the eisteddfod was very tenuous and was merely hearsay and hence should not be fussed about. I listened with incredulity and bit my tongue. I did not venture that the ‘hearsay’ was sufficient for us Welsh to be proud of the local connection.

I was told that the Gorsedd’s offer to stage a special pageant for the opening ceremony could not be accepted as the sum of £20,000 asked for was ridiculous and where would they find the money. I suggested that the £12m should cover the costs. No, I was told the heritage money could not be spent on such an indulgence. I was later told that the actual sum was in fact a mere £10,000 in order to cover their costs which was a mere 0.083% of the £12m. I refrained from suggesting the obvious that the Eisteddfod hierarchy should have been consulted from the start of the project.

I was then told that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were mere brigands and ruffians of no significance to a project which had to be economically viable just as any modern day tourist venue. The smoke which could have emerged from my ears had evaporated. I listened in stunned silence. To say that I was shellshocked would be an understatement. Rhys ap Gruffydd formed part of my own identity. What right had a colonialist to tell me otherwise? Tony Tucker has no empathy with Welsh historical matters. No surprise that an English only booklet was commissioned to tell the story of the ‘castle’. Surely, for a site of such national importance an established academic historian of integrity and merit should have been invited to produce a standard well-illustrated coffee-table volume.

However the highpoint of Gŵyl Cynhaeaf, on the last Friday of the month, is an extravaganza designed by Eddie Ladd, a local lass who has travelled and gained an international reputation for her innovative productions. She will interpret ‘Y Cynhaeaf’ anew with the aid of innumerable like-minded local people. Be there.

There is even talk of organising a tractor run to commemmorate Dic Jones’ feat. What other nation would honour one of its foremost poets with a tractor run and a ground-breaking cultural event simultaneaously? But Dic was equally at home at Mart Aberteifi as he was in any Talwrn or wearing the Archdruid’s regalia. That was the majesty of the man. A man of the people and as a poet a man for the people.

Cadwgan Trustees will soon hold their annual general meeting. Will they accept that the idea of a wedding venue in the area should be left to such venues as Rhosygilwen Mansion at Cilgerran with its recreated medieval hall? Will they accept that accommodation should be left to the various hotels in the vicinity? Will they accept that the sooner the Georgian Pile is dismantled the better and a court along the lines of Llys Rhosyr at St Ffagans be created in order to highlight our own South Walian heritage which would be appreciated by tourists worldwide?

I do not await with bated breath.

Gŵyl Cynhaeaf has been organised by local people not involved with the Cadwgan restoration and supported by local businesses not involved with the Georgian Pile.

dafis
Guest

Wyt yn taro’r hoelen ar ei phen. Da yw clywed fod rywbeth cadarnhaol yn datblygu tua ceg y Teifi ta beth.

I was horrified some weeks ago when I came across a news report that Castell Aberteifi had won some shitty award from some professional body – I copied it to Jac but lost the original, otherwise I’d have linked it in here. Perhaps Jac can do the honours if he’s able to retrieve it. Unbelievable that such a misdirected, wasteful project gets a “gong”.

If any of the alleged nonsense goes ahead at Ystrad Fflur we will have another travesty, potentially even bigger in its negative impact.

Hefin Wyn
Guest

The awards given at a posh reception in the Vale of Glamorgan back in May were RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) Tourism and Leisure Award, Project of the Year Award and RICS Building Preservation Award – a hat trick!

They were also shortlisted for the National Eisteddfod’s Architectural Gold Award for the Purcell Architects conglomerate’s design. Imagine if they had won. The irony would be as thick as marmalade – having buried the original Eisteddfod site under a Georgian Pile and refused the Gorsedd’s offer to participate in a glittering opening ceremony. Would the Archdruid have made any cryptic comments?

You will notice that the recently published ‘Cofio Dic’ refers to the relationship between the ‘Castle’ and the Eisteddfod as having ‘soured’ (suro) – page 190. What went wrong?

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

Impressively forensic & persuasive, until the reference to people ‘infesting our homeland’. That’s when I catch the whiff of a less wholesome agenda. Add the knee-jerk vilification of publicly funded initiatives (a point already made) & I start even to wonder how much I can trust the rest. A pity, as the central thesis is, I think, powerful and tenable.

dafis
Guest

Frank, believe me, when you see the antics of these cliques repeatedly turning up you end up describing them as an infestation. Public funding is vilified because it is so often an obvious waste except of course to those dishing out and receiving the largesse. We can all stand quietly on the touchline muttering “tut, tut” but at some point the sheer repetition of these “fouls” is bound to escalate the volume and tone of the critical response.

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

This is all true, Dafis. I’ve been there, But, in my experience, calling groups of people cockroaches and insects (or rats) wins neither allies nor arguments; instead, it gives a ready pretext to dismiss the real grounds of opposition. (Which – and I’ll say it again – are very powerfully articulated here.).

Big Gee
Admin

As an immigrant Britlander – which I suspect you are, especially with a name like Nesbitt that’s so common in that other colonial stronghold of the Six Counties, you would say that wouldn’t you? Why? because:

a) you’re probably a bigoted “up your own arse” royal colonialist
b) your level of knowledge about such matters as historic colonisation and exploitation is probably non existent and
c) your ignorance is twinned with the usual arrogance associated with Britlander ignorance.

We’ve seen these traits so many times, and heard the patronizing parrot like responses so often, it’s become very tedious.

Believe me, from where we stand it is most definitely an INFESTATION of the worst kind. Only our inbred Welsh politeness & hospitality stops many of us saying so to the face of the invaders (see Hefin Wyn’s contribution above where there’s mention of biting tongues, keeping quiet in an enraged state – all ingrained traits). Thank goodness for places like Jac o’ the North where a few of us can shock you with the truth.

I think I’ll dig out my “Wales is NOT England’s West Bank” T shirt before the infestation of shorts, flip-flops, human cockroaches & the Birmingham Navy leave our town once more at the end of summer. Sadly some will stay, others will move here with jobs provided by previous colonisers in the food and leisure tourism industries (most likely places like Castell Aberteifi, or in the future, Ystrad Fflur).

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Gwilym, regarding Welsh politeness and hospitality vis a vis biting tongue, keeping quiet in an enraged state:

At the time of the incident mentioned I was distributing a ‘Rhys ap Gruffudd Proclamation’, printed by E. L. Jones, and the elderly gentleman took a copy, spent a good ten minutes reading its contents before approaching me with his response. This I appreciated. I listened. I realised that his views were entrenched and diametrically opposed to mine.

It was not appropriate to respond with a rant. And neither would it have been appropriate in any way or form to invoke David Icke. As he had been polite in his use of language I thanked him for his response. I pondered upon what I had heard. I was glad that colleagues had heard the conversation.

I was both elated and disheartened by what I had heard. I had been told previously that the Cadwgan Trustees were disrespectful in their attitude towards any perceived sense of Welshness the project should uphold. But I thought this was an exaggeration. However I had been given ample proof on a plate that this was not so. What more did I need to know to realise the satirical ‘English Heritage Castle’ sung by Dewi Pws on Youtube was spot on?

In military parlance a general in such a situation would retreat in order to rethink his strategy. In a way I was grateful to the gentleman whom I later realised was the husband of Jan Tucker, chairman and leading light of the Cadwgan Trustees over the last decade. None of the actual trustees had approached me to engage in conversation. Glen Johnson appeared briefly at one point, took a copy of the proclamation – obviously under orders – and scuttled away.

Nevertheless, after revealing the background of the incident I wholeheartedly agree with you Gwilym that the usual response of the Welsh middle class in such circumstances is to remain silent, close up the hatches and possibly bide their time. It is probably the result of centuries of subservience to the notion of English superiority. Aberteifi is no different to Aberaeron in that respect. And then the small town syndrome where everyone knows one another and therefore keen not to upset any apple carts.

It is surprising though the number of eminent citizens who have vowed not to enter the ‘castle’ because of the perceived ‘annibendod’. At the same time Welsh classes and cynghanedd classes are held on the site. Ceri Wyn, eminent Meuryn and strict metre master, has composed a string of englynion emphasising the historical Welshness of the venue and in his usual succinct manner heralding its prolongation. The success of recent concerts by Y Tri Tenor and Only Men Aloud only proves there is a demand for the strengthening of the Welsh concept.

In such a context the concerts headlined by Bellowhead and From the Jam with token Welsh bands as support were an aberration. A leading English reggae band played there recently while the doyen of Welsh semi-reggae bands, Geraint Jarman, headlined at Gŵyl Crugmawr. An annual Celtic concert as there was in 1176 would not be inappropriate. But then to organise such an event would require imagination and foresight.

But I would agree with you that far more than biting tongues and keeping quiet is expected from elected representatives on this matter. Their silence has been woeful including the elected AM. But this thread is already long!

Big Gee
Admin

There is nothing I would disagree with there Hefin (although a bit puzzled how David Icke slipped into the response!).

What you say about our tendency “. . . to remain silent, close up the hatches and possibly bide their [our] time. It is probably the result of centuries of subservience to the notion of English superiority” – EXACTLY. We have a word for it, it’s ‘taeogrwydd’ (servility). It gets us nowhere, and worse still it sends out the wrong message to our oppressors.

It’s this ‘taeogrwydd’ that has plagued our nation – most noticeably amongst the ranks of Plaid – since the the days of the pacifist Gwynfor Evans. It does not work. In fact by demonstrating this servility we are in fact inviting more of the same.

I would not be stupid enough to suggest that there isn’t a time & place for everything, however never bearing your teeth suggests that you are not capable of biting. It’s a lot more biting we need to do to get people to the table. We’ve ample evidence of the success of that from parties like Sinn Féin and their followers. They don’t beg for mercy – they bite back. At least you want to be remembered for going down fighting, and not for lying down to be slain!

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

Thanks, Jac & Dafis.

As I said, I find the gist of this piece compelling and it is certainly borne out by my own experience. However, the ‘infestation’ metaphor has profoundly unfortunate historical resonances. (See, for example, Perry’s ‘Rhetorical functions of the infestation metaphor in Hitler’s rhetoric’ – available online). Big Gee’s ‘human cockroaches’ belongs to the same misanthropic lexicon. Hefin manages very well without recourse to such terms, which makes his argument that much more persuasive. (And persuasion is, surely, of importance?)

For Big Gee’s information, my surname (and that of my father) is Scottish. (Dad came from Airdrie.) My mother, however, was from west Wales. I speak, read and write Welsh and have never lived in the south of England. I think I have read most published discussions of Wales & (post)colonialism and related matters but I’m always very happy to receive suggestions so that I can expand my knowledge. I am republican in sympathies. I have also been called a ‘bigot’ simply for speaking Welsh in a public place and a ‘stupid Jock’ for having a Scottish accent when I speak English. To be called an ‘arrogant colonialist’ is both ironic and a sad testament to one person’s inability to sustain measured & focused debate.

Big Gee
Admin

In that case Frank, I willingly apologise for my wrong assumption that you were from the North of Ireland, but in my own defence, the surname ‘Nesbitt’ is closely associated with the colonisers that settled in the Six Counties. I also understand that many of those surnames originated in Scotland, in fact Nesbit was one of those Scottish ‘Borders’ area names that travelled to Ireland as part of the ‘Plantations’ in the 16th &17th centuries, that involved the confiscation of land in Ireland by the English crown and the colonisation of the Six northern Counties land with settlers – mostly Protestants from Scotland.

If we are to believe what you say – that you are a product of west Wales, and speak our ancient tongue, and write our language, then I can only assume that you are one of the ‘uneducated’ and British influenced Welsh in our midst (often through no fault of their own, but the fault of our Anglo-centric education system & media).

Whatever the case, your little tantrum at the use of the word ‘infestation’ and your further distasteful connection of what was written to Nazi Germany, convinces me that you are of an unhealthy mindset in these matters, because such an outburst (timidly camouflaged) tells me that you are in fact a coloniser at heart.

If you really want to draw parallels, then consider how the citizens of the occupied countries felt after the Nazi invasions in Europe. Also ask yourself who the colonisers were in that war . THEN try telling me that a subjugated citizen, who complains about the death of his ancient culture and language, and the flooding of his community with colonising aliens can be likened to a Nazi – just because he calls the perpetrators of this infestation cockroaches?

Your logic is upside down and inside out.

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

No, the point is not (primarily) that the Nazis used it but that it dehumanizes a whole group of people. If we start to think of people (whatever their misdeeds) as vermin, it becomes easier to treat them as such. (And ALL of them, whether they are individually culpable or not.) You can rehabilitate abstract symbols (although I hae me doots aboot the swastika), but not people-as-vermin. I don’t want to labour this further but I believe it’s much more than a matter of personal offence. And I’m only saying as much as this because, fundamentally, I agree with you on the substantive issues.

Big Gee
Admin

Ah! I see, so your fear is that a small handful of remaining indigenous people, are a big threat to a nation of 53.01 million (in 2011) who live next door to them, and are fast overrunning their country. I get it now. “If we start to think of people (whatever their misdeeds) as vermin, it becomes easier to treat them as such” – THAT is as stupid as the rebuttal that you get from English immigrants when thy say that they have the freedom to come and live here, because they don’t mind the Welsh going to England!!! You could fill England with every Welsh man, woman & child in Wales, and it would be akin to a gnats wee in the ocean. Now work it the other way around by trying to squeeze the number of immigrants we get from England into our country (most of whom are the dregs of the English inner cities or ‘white flight’ racist), then we simply disappear. To me that’s genocide (or am I not allowed to use that word because it may have Nazi connotations?).

PLEASE – do me a favour and stop insulting our intelligence.

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

I agree. But this isn’t the real point I was making. (And I apologise for the confusion.) My chief point is that aping the dehumanising language of the colonising power (by employing animal metaphors, etc.) is counter-productive. It’s also a sign of defeat. You’ll know the old adage: ‘Dim ond y taeog sy’n mawrygu’i dwpdra ei hun’ …? See Hywel Teifi Edwards, Simon Brooks et al on the long history of this pattern of behaviour in Wales. (Or, of course, just go to your local pub.)

Big Gee
Admin

A ble yr ydw i, sydd yn hollol groes i rywun taeog, wedi “mawrygu’i dwpdra ei hun’ …?”

I was a big friend of Prof. Hywel Teifi, his son Huw & I still exchange e-mail greetings at Christmas. We are all sons of Ceredigion. Hywel’s family hail from Aberarth – right next to Aberaeron & his sister Myfanwy married Wil Pantybeddau – one of the sons of Mynydd Bach – like myself.

Hywel epitomised the need for sharpness and brutal honesty in rebutting shit – he was famous for it. So famous that a lot of docile ‘Plaidies’ would shrink in horror when he went on the war-path with one of his red faced rants. I miss him greatly and his input into the struggle is sorely missed. There’s a big vacuum left from his passing, and I can’t see anyone on the horizon that comes close to filling his boots. If I had one hero, in the way you aggressively face stupid debaters – it would be him. He said things in public that others would only dare think in private.

Dr. Seimon Brooks and I along with a handful of others were the founding members of Cymuned. Seimon would often get his feet into hot water, by telling the truth, not cowering to criticism and for saying things that others (more especially the docile ‘Plaidies’) would only whisper in dark corners amongst themselves. That was during his time as editor of Barn. A magazine that I also contributed to on occasion.

So where you get the idea that Hywel Teifi and Seimon brooks (et al) have a habit of biting their tongue I really do not know. On the contrary that is the domain of the ‘taeog’ and both of those gentlemen were anything but.

You’ve picked two exceptionally poor examples there. Now someone like Cynog Dafis – yes.

You fight fire with fire as far as I’m concerned, and if someone complains that they’ve been burnt or hurt – well so be it. Sod this politeness and stoic acceptance of everything that’s said and done to you – that is for the ‘crachach’ o’r dosbarth canol, especially the sons of the manse in Plaid’s ranks, who I’m sure find the likes of me, Jac and others like us, to be terribly uncouth, uncivilised and brutal. FUCK them.

You don’t go into a fight wearing padded boxing gloves when your opponent is using bare knuckles.

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

Twpdra = barnu rhywun ar sail ei enw a’i linach dybiedig. Ydy Kitch yn llai o fardd neu wladgarwr oherwydd ei enw canol?

Ni ddwedais yn unman fod HTE na Simon Brooks wedi brathu’u tafodau.Dyma ddau ddadleuwr ffyrnig ac effeithiol ac fel y dywedwch, mae colled anferthol ar ol HTE a neb i lenwi’i esgidiau. Ond DADLAU yw’r gair allweddol yma – a hynny ar sail rhesymu cadarn, nid taflu baw, yn enwedig at bobl sy’n cyd-fynd a’ch prif amcanion. Un o brif rinweddau Hywel oedd ei allu i fagu ac ysbrydoli cefnogwyr newydd, a hynny am fod pobl yn credu ynddo ac yn gweld nad oedd tamaid o hunan-gyfiawnder na hunan-bwysigrwydd yn perthyn iddo. Dyn at wasanaeth eraill, os buodd un erioed. Dylid dilyn ei esiampl.

Big Gee
Admin

Dim o gwbl, mor belled ac yr ydw i’n gallu gweld, does yna ddim barnedigaeth wedi bod o unrhywun “ar sail ei enw a’i linach dybiedig” yn unig. Beth ddywedais i oedd bod cynnwys eich post, yn UNOL a’ch henw yn tueddu i gyfleu i mi eich bod o bosib o drâs rhywun Prydeinig a brenhiniaeth garwr eu hagwedd – beth sydd o’i le mewn dod i’r penderfynniad hwnnw?

Ers cael rhagor o wybodaeth yr wyf wedi ymddiheurio am y camgymeriad â wnês. A ydych chi nawr yn barod i ymddiheurio i fi am fy ngalw yn dwp? Y mae’n amlwg bod yna duedd yma i ddal at y camgymeriad gwreiddiol, er mwyn ymdrechu i ddal at eich dadl ddi-sail, gwan a di-swmp.

Credaf yn bellach fod eich casgliad cyffredinol am Hywel Teifi yn gywir OND mae’n amlwg eich bod heb ei adnabod yn ei grynswth. Un o’r pethau a oedd yn ei ddieithrio o wrth rhai ymhlith Y Blaid oedd ei duedd i ddweud ei farn yn ddi-flewyn ar dafod. Dyna yr union nodwedd ohono oedd yn apelio ataf i. Yn eironig, yr oedd rhai yn aml yn ei gyhuddo o fod yn rhy llym, ac yn rhy ymosodol, a thrwy hynny yn gwneud niwed i ddadleuon bonheddig a gwan y rhai yn ein plith sydd ac ofn damsgen ar draed yr estron.

Ond dyna fe, fe fyddech chi mae’n debyg, yn unol a’r gwan galon, yn galw hynny yn daflu baw.

Frank Nesbitt
Guest

‘Beth ddywedais i oedd bod cynnwys eich post, yn UNOL a’ch henw yn tueddu i gyfleu i mi eich bod o bosib o drâs rhywun Prydeinig a brenhiniaeth garwr eu hagwedd – beth sydd o’i le mewn dod i’r penderfynniad hwnnw?’

Dyma beth sydd o’i le arno. Mae fel dod i’r casgliad bod J Kitchener Davies yn Frenin-garwr ac yn Ymerodraeth-addolwr ar sail ei enw canol a rhyw linell o ddyfyniad anghydestunol o un o’i ddramau. (‘A fflangellu’r frenhines Buddig’ sy’n dod i’r meddwl.) A dyma chi’n gwneud yr un peth eto ar ddiwedd eich neges ddiweddaraf. Finnau’n meddwl bod Hywel Teifi yn ‘daflwr baw’?! Da chi, gyfaill, peidwich a rhagdybio pethau am bobl dydych chi ddim yn eu hadnabod. Mae hanesydd da – a dyna’r oedd Hywel, yn anad dim – bob amser yn sicrhau bod ganddo ddigon o dystiolaeth wrth law cyn mentro barn. Heb sail gadarn iddi, byr yw oes unrhyw dan. Mae’n dda gen i ddweud bod llawer iawn o’r cyfraniadau i flog Jac, yn fy marn i, yn parchu’r rheol honno ac yn gweld ei gwerth anhepgorol yn y frwydr sydd ohoni. Diolch amdanynt.

Hefin Wyn
Guest

Doeth fo’r dwl tra tawo. Gweld ein gilydd wnawn ni yn yr hen fyd ‘ma.

di-enw
Guest

The use of terms such as “infestation” are counter productive given that the media and press in Wales is 99% supportive of Anglocentric British nationalism. The use of “infestation” to describe migration from England into Wales is another bullet they will use to shoot at the idea of Welsh independence.

Double standards really as if the locals of say the Forest of Dean were to apply the term to London commuters moving to the Forest the story would get a sympathetic hearing from Guardian to Telegraph lamenting the erosion of the unique history and culture of the foresters. But off course the idea of an independent Forest of Dean doesn’t exist and therefore doesn’t need to be extinguished.

There is also the question is to whether “infestation” when applied to people who are relatively wealthy and exercising the rights and privileges that accompany wealth has the same implication as when it is applied to asylum seekers and penniless economic migrants.
An infestation of merchant bankers, is that dehumanizing.

Myfanwy
Guest

Here is a link to the Save the River Conwy Campaign, to stop the destruction, which will be caused by the proposed National Trust’s, Hydro scheme. It is vital that we all get involved and all do what we can to stop what is happening, our Culture and environment are literally being bulldozed before our eyes and time is of the essence.

https://savetheconwy.com/2016/

Pressure needs to be put on the National Trust, You can Email the main people involved with decision making, at the addresses below and post and comment on their social media feeds.

justin.albert@nationaltrust.org.uk

helen.ghosh@nationaltrust.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/NTWales/

There is a template letter on the website, the National Trust need to know how deeply unpopular their developments are with the people of Wales.

Is there a similar campaign group for the preservation of Ystrad Fflur, can we compile a list of people and organisations involved with the proposed developments, whom We can all put pressure on?

It is totally understandable, why emotions are fraught and why our anger runs, centuries deep, but it is vital We put all our justified anger into action, in a united and constructive way.

Guest Writer
Guest

As always, a lively and interesting exchange of views. I particularly appreciated one of the first contributions in this thread from Dafis, who I think summed up my feelings in a few deft lines.

I am certainly not opposed to the use of public money for conservation and research. The problem here is the scope of the proposals.

Ystrad Fflur and Llanelly House are fundamentally different. Llanelly House was in imminent danger of being lost, and needed a huge amount of capital to restore it. Once the restoration was complete, it followed that the project would need to make money, although I cannot for the life of me understand why the people running the place are so obsessed with the British armed forces. There is nothing in the history of the house to justify this.

That is emphatically not the case at Ystrad Fflur, which could continue indefinitely as it is. It does not need a hotel, self catering accommodation or any of the other commercial activities being planned. What emerges from the comments here is that people go there for the peace and beauty of the place and to use their imagination: Rhys ap Gruffudd riding up to the abbey with his retinue, the council held by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Dafydd ap Gwilym. the monks setting about writing Brut y Tywysogion and all the rest of the history, violent at times, of this place.

Perhaps I have read David Austin wrong, but it seems to me that his interest here is the archaeology, and that he sees the commercial stuff merely as a means to an end. Why can’t we fund more archaeology without turning the place into a theme park, no matter how upmarket and ecologically sustainable?

I am certainly no archaeologist, but in truth, what would a massive expansion of the dig yield? More outlines of old buildings, certainly, but probably little else other than bits of pots and ceramics, a few coins and possibly some old pilgrim badges. Noticeably absent from Austin’s plans is a museum at Mynachlog Fawr to house any finds.

So what can we do about it? Appealing to the United Nations, if it triggered any action, would kick start a process which would take years and years, with no guarantee of success. A much simpler course of action would be to start by writing to the Heritage Lottery Fund to express concern and to call for a public consultation.

One thing the HLF does not like is pushing ahead with projects where there is dissent. If nothing else, a healthy crop of well reasoned letters and adverse publicity in the press would cause delay. The precise details of what happened are shrouded in fog, but when Meryl Gravell was plotting the commercialisation of Parc Howard in Llanelli, strong local opposition stopped her in her tracks.

The HLF’s Welsh committee is, perhaps a story for another day, but looking at its members is pretty revealing. Only one member is from the north and is advertised as a Welsh speaker. All the others are based in and around Cardiff. Not one from the west, and most seem to have spent their careers and adult lives in London or working for English Heritage.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and get writing.

Heritage Lottery Fund Wales
James William House
9 Museum Place
Cardiff
CF10 3BD

E-mail: cymru@hlf.org.uk

Neu, gorau oll, yn Gymraeg:

Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri (Cymru)
Tŷ James William
9 Plas yr Amgueddfa
Caerdydd
CF10 3BD

E-bost: cymru@hlf.org.uk

Brychan
Guest

Agree with Guest Writer.

We don’t have to go far from Ystrad Ffur to point David Austin in a more acceptable route to an archaeological excavation. It is on Ynys Bŷr (Caldey Island in Norse). The island being owned and inhabited by a modern order of Cistercian monks. They had a desire not to destroy ‘the way of life’ and culture of religious tradition on the island.

The monks had strict controls on commercial activity, and it’s for this reason, an eminent predecessor of Mr Austin, namely Prof Grimes had enlisted both amateur archaeologists and the resident Brother James Van Nedervede of the monastic order to conduct excavations. In this case, of interest was pre-Roman occupation of the site and contrary to popular belief, there was significant evidence of independent occupation and advanced civilisation in West Wales. These excavations occurred throughout the 1970s.

It was not funded by lottery grants from gambling or bistros of posh food or boutique hotels. The archaeologists had to stay in cells, dine with monks and remain silent in daylight hours. It did yield, however, not just finds of the ‘modern era’ but also significant Palaeolithic and Mesolithic artefacts.

These were made in Ogof Yr Ychen a cave excavated and named by the ever-respectful of Wales, the late Brother James, originally from Flanders. Besides human bones of our earliest ancestors, the bones of mega-fauna, like Rhino and Mammoth, on which these ancient Welshmen dined were found. These discoveries were recently radiocarbon dated but strangely appear absent from the official narrative of Welsh history. The finds at Ogof Yr Ychen on Ynys Bŷr were instrumental in explaining human occupation before during and after the ice ages. They were all discovered and excavated in Wales.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v245/n5426/pdf/245453a0.pdf

It’s a real shame that David Austin seems to thing that property and land speculation is the only route to archaeology. I suggest he learns from his superiors and peers on how to do his work professionally; drop the candyfloss and disney theme park crap, employ and involve the local community.

I also ask the question – Why is it our museums are packed with all the kings of England crap, spend cash on Georgian mansions and paintings of English nobility, while the real history of Wales are hidden away in back-room archives and dusty boxes, even when they are of global significance?

Marconatrix
Guest

¨Why is it our museums are packed with all the kings of England crap, spend cash on Georgian mansions and paintings of English nobility, while the real history of Wales are hidden away in back-room archives … ¨

Not directly relevant, but I was just reading this review of a big, largely archaeological ´Celtic´ exhibition, what it includes, and importantly what it doesn´t. Perhaps of interest to some of you?

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/09/05/celts-a-review-of-the-nms-exhibition/

Jeremy
Guest

Visited Ystrad Fflur some 4 years ago and there was definetly a dig being conducted by the university in the field to the south of the car park, some 100 yards from the road. The supply of students as labour should make such digs cheap to organise.

Anonymous
Guest

Who is the anonymous guest writer?

Big Gee
Admin

Which ‘Anonymous’ are you who’s doing the asking?

Stan
Guest

I’ve had a bad day and needed a laugh. Thanks, Big Gee!

Big Gee
Admin
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