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.
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 trust 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.
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.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on the women running and wrecking the Cardigan Castle project (nor would I want anyone to think I plan on ignoring them!) but I couldn’t write this post without a mention of developments since my previous post. Here’s a selection.
Someone informed me that at one meeting Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms opined that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were “nothing but savages”. Which again raises the question: Who the hell is Jonathan Timms and who invited a man living in Kent, England, to get involved?
Another informant sent me a copy of a letter sent to the Carmarthen Journal about three or four years ago, which served to revive an earlier suspicion that the Castle project may be disguising an even more self-serving undertaking involving property grabbing, and that this explains the two trusts. (I would appreciate a good photograph of the Green Street properties.) Elin Jones’ remarks are worth noting.
I am indebted to a third informant for this link which suggests that the Facilities Officer vacancy – the post now filled by Sue “ENGLISH” Lewis – was advertised from December 23rd 2014 to midday on January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. How the hell were they allowed to get away with this?
Rumours persist that non-Gang of Four trustees are ready to jump ship, leaving mesdames Tucker, Lewis, Davies and Jones even more exposed. Moves are also afoot to call an Emergency General Meeting.
Equinox, the Cardiff PR firm working for the Gang of Four, has requested an urgent meeting with local critics. This panic move may have been instigated by the project’s funders becoming worried by the amount of shit now hitting the fan.
Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the case, is known to be in the pockets of the Gang of Four. Or should that be ‘handbags’? Or would that be sexist? Who cares?
Here’s the ‘Rhys ap Gruffydd’ Proclamation read out at 7pm on Saturday outside the Castle main entrance, which I understand will also be read out at the Meifod Eisteddfod.
Elsewhere, the Pembrokeshire Herald and its Carmarthenshire sister-paper ran full-page pieces using much of the information I’d supplied on my blog. I only have a photo of the article as I couldn’t get a copy of the newspaper to scan for you, but I was sent a transcript, which you can read here.
Saturday night saw the Bellowhead concert at the Castle. To judge by the photograph I was sent the audience was in the age group 55 – telegram from Beti.
However successful the Gang of Four may want us to believe the Bellowhead concert was I can’t help thinking that a performance of Wagner would have been more appropriate given the situation they’re in, for Götterdämmerung is surely approaching. I’d just love to see the lot of them in horned helmets, wielding spears and shrieking, as a local mob storms the castle. Well, laff!
STOP PRESS: I am now told that during the interval, and at her insistence, Vicky Moller, Plaid Cymru list candidate in Mid and West Wales, was led to the mic by compère, Brychan Llyr (Dic Jones’ son, of Jess fame). She gave a rousing speech, saying that without the diligence and hard work of Cris Tomos (now given the elbow) the renovation would not have been possible. Brychan expressed similar sentiments. Then the control freak Gang of Four tried to prevent Brychan from introducing Bellowhead, but after much heated discussion he did, before leaving the castle grounds.
Finally, the Aberporth connection has been strengthened with information about the bizarre, oversized ‘bardic’ chair to be found at the Castle. Here’s a photo I took on my visit a couple of weeks ago of my wife sitting in it. (No, she hasn’t got a round, flat, black head,) This chair is said to have cost £12,000 but no one seems to recall any tendering process. The artist responsible is a Paul Clarke of . . . Aberporth! He has done work in Aberporth, paid for by the community council, on which body we of course find Jann Tucker. I suggest you read the comments by ‘Rhodri’ to my previous post. He also suggests that the escutcheons and armorials employed are not authentic, having little or nothing to do with Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys.
THIS WEEK’S COMPETITION: Find someone living in Aberporth – or just having a holiday home there – who has not gained financially from the largesse of Lady Tucker of Cardigan Castle.
Not a subject I’d normally write about but friends of mine in Llanelli got to thinking about the ‘Welsh’ Government’s proposal to assume that if you don’t expressly say No then you agree to have your organs whipped out and re-used ASAP after your encounter with the Grim Reaper. The leaflet they were reading gave a phone number, and this took them to a call centre in Bristol, and a helpful young Bristolian. This, remember, was for enquiries into a ‘Welsh’ Government initiative.
The big question they asked was, ‘If I agree to donate my organs, or don’t opt out of any new scheme of assumed donation, will my organs stay in Wales (cos they’ll only get homesick otherwise)?’ ‘Er, no, they can end up anywhere in Englandandwales’. ‘Hang on, you’re saying there’ll be an opt-out system in Wales running parallel with an opt-in system in England?’ ‘Um, yes’. ‘Which will mean that the vast majority of the organs taken from Welsh stiffs will end up giving new life to our English neighbours?’ ‘Yup, that’s about the size of it’.
At this point my friends thought they’d be clever and demand the Welsh language service, as the leaflet said they could. ‘I’ll get someone to ring you back’, said the HYB. After half an hour or so the call came, again from Bristol. The Welshman they spoke with said he enjoyed working in Bristol because he and the other Welsh speakers get paid more than their English colleagues because they also answer calls in English. (Which must do wonders for workplace harmony and Welsh-English relationships!)
So there you are, if you agree to donate your organs, or don’t opt out of presumed consent, your kidneys could end up keeping alive a frothing-at-the-mouth Kipper, your liver in some Daily Mail journo. This is the kind of insane situation that can only arise when certain powers are devolved within an overarching Englandandwales framework. This is the sham devolution we have in Wales, and in this instance it appears that Wales is being used by England for organ harvesting – with the co-operation of the ‘Welsh’ Government!
OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME
I bet that heading surprised you! It certainly surprised me when I discovered that the poorest part of Europe, a country that has received billions in EU aid, is sending money to Africa. Let me explain.
On June 18th I posted ‘Welsh Poverty and “Welsh” Labour’s Third Sector Money Pit‘ and in that post I looked at the careers of husband and wife team Travers Merrill and Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill. Travers was at the helm when the good ship Rhondda Life hit the rocks, while Rose’s Third Sector racket is BAWSO. Together they also run a private endeavour called ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Nothing surprising there, seeing as Mrs Merrill is from Zambia.
Curiosity drove me to flick through the ABESU accounts, where I found that in the year ended March 31st 2014 ABESU had received £2,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Not a great amount, but why is our puppet regime down Cardiff docks giving anything to an organisation that doesn’t even operate in Wales? As is my wont, I submitted an FoI on June 22nd. On July 1st I received an acknowledgement that promised an answer by July 16th. When that hadn’t arrived by July 23rd I wrote again, and my answer came the following day. You can read that letter by clicking here.
I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:
1. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gave Abesu £2,000.
2. If confirmed, please explain the reason for the Welsh Government giving £2,000 to Abesu, and from which funding ‘pot’ the money came.
3. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gives funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales.
4. If confirmed, please supply a list of such organisations together with the amounts given, and from which ‘pots’ the funding is secured.
The response I got, from ‘the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office’ (‘Cabinet Office’ FFS!) said:
“I can confirm that a grant of £2000 was given to Abesu. This was by way of a grant from the Wales Africa Community Links project which was run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme.
I can confirm the Welsh Government does provide funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales. However, with regard to the list of organisations and the amounts given, I have estimated that it will cost more than the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request and because of this the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it.”
The letter went on to explain why I would not have a full response, ‘over the £600 limit’, etc. A couple of sentences in this explanation caught my eye, and you may also find them interesting. They said: “The Welsh Government’s finance system contains over 14,500 companies and organisations whose address is outside of Wales. During financial year 2014/15 there was (sic) 2,331 transactions made against these companies”. Suggesting that far too much of the money spent by the ‘Welsh’ Government is leaving Wales.
Anyway, returning to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Wales for Africa programme. With the best will in the world, it’s difficult not to see this as yet another excuse to give money to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector. This time by sending them on African jollies to “enhance their leadership skills” and have their photographs taken with ever-so-grateful Africans. For more information just follow the link I’ve supplied, and use the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page.
This kind of lunacy is almost bound to happen in the system of sham devolution we know in Wales. We have a bunch of pseudo socialists (many just pseuds) behaving as if they’re running a real government. And of course, the civil servants who really run Wales, and their masters in London, are more than happy to let these self-deluding buffoons waste our money.
Message to Carwyn and the gang: Stop playing stupid games; you are not a real government, Wales is poor, so we do not have money to spare for Polly and Dominic to go showboating in Africa.
When it comes to events and functions, weddings and conferences Cardigan Castle may not be seeing many paying customers, but one organisation that has been there a couple of times is Cantref, the housing association and white trash importer. A comment to my post The Colonisation of Wales: Help Needed tells us that things got a bit out of hand at Cantref’s AGM when, for some reason, the tenants were bused in for a hog roast and all the booze they could drink! Read the comment for yourself.
This munificence is surprising given that Cantref may be entering Shit Creek. (Regularly laying out a few grand on hog roasts and piss-ups don’t help!) For the comment tells us that some of the commitments Cantref has taken on, such as the student accommodation in Aberystwyth, may not be turning out as planned. Hardly surprising when we see Aberystwyth Uni slipping down the league table faster than Cardiff City. Boom! boom! (Couldn’t resist it!)
‘Insider’ also tells us that, “There is something else going on but the sleepy local rags haven’t got a clue yet . . . more news on that later as it’s too dangerous to mention that yet – no wonder three top directors left all of a sudden before year end accounts, local housing consultant David Hedges of Cyngor Da being one of them”. David Hedges is the son of the former Glamorgan cricketer Bernard Hedges, who died in February 2014. (Many is the time I saw Bernard Hedges play at St. Helen’s.) His website, particularly the bullet point ”Cyngor Da’s approach’ is unmitigated Third Sector bollocks-speak. And although the stars favoured him with a Swansea birth Dai seems to have headed into the sunset and relocated to Cardigan.
Naturally I tried to make enquiries into Cantref’s financial health, but unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose for them there’s no way of getting the figures. The problem is the status of housing associations. If they were charities then it would be a simple matter to visit the Charity Commission website and get the latest accounts gratis. If they were companies then it would be easy to get a financial picture from any number of sites, and pay for specific documents. These would also be available – and usually cheaper – on the Companies House website.
No doubt defenders of housing associations will tell us that there is usually an annual report available on their websites. Rubbish, just look at the Cantref Annual Report, it’s just flim-flam and photographs, no better than propaganda, and nothing like the audited accounts available for charities and private companies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, unlike your local council’s housing department . . . assuming your local council’s housing stock hasn’t been taken over by a secretive and acquisitive housing association.
I don’t believe that housing associations should be regarded as anything other than the private companies they are. Put quite simply, housing associations do not meet the criterion used by the FSA for Industrial & Provident Societies: “An industrial and provident society is an organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community“.
It is now anomalous that they are treated the same as community organisations and private members clubs. They are – in all but name – private companies, consequently there should be no more funding from the public purse.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Another subject you may be surprised to find me writing about. And while I can’t deny deriving a great deal of pleasure from seeing the bruvvers and sissters poking each other in the eyes this is, I assure you, an attempt to make a more profound observation.
Last Wednesday I watched a debate on Newsnight between three Labour MPs, Mary Creagh, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott. It seems that Creagh and Thornberry nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, but had no intention of voting for him, and were now worried that this ‘oppositional’ candidate might win! Abbott was there, presumably, to speak up for Corbyn.
We were also treated to a film of an increasingly wild-eyed and delusional Tony Blair telling his party’s members that if their heart said Corbyn then they should get a transplant! His former ‘advisor’, John McTernan, called those MPs who nominated Corbyn “morons”. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the most recent entry on McTernan’s CV is Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour in May. The political equivalent of being Custer’s chief scout at the Little Big Horn.
Anyway, the issue seems to be that the great majority of Labour MPs think Corbyn is too Left wing, but at the time of the Newsnight broadcast polls had him as the most popular choice, certainly with trade unionists and ordinary branch members. Which has left Creagh, Thornberry, Margaret Beckett (who’s admitted to being a ‘moron’!) and others suffering from Dr Frankenstein syndrome. It was one of the most enjoyable Newsnights I’ve seen for some time.
To justify rejecting Corbyn Creagh and Thornberry used the argument that Labour would be unelectable with Corbyn in charge, and unless the party wins the next election then Labour will be unable to help the people. Persuasive . . . until they expanded on that and you realised that for them winning elections is an end in itself, and this, they believe, can only be achieved through Labour being indistinguishable from the Conservatives.
The name Emily Thornberry rang a bell with me, but I had to check before I realised that she it was who had insulted the flag of England and those who proudly wave it. She was condemned as a snob for that episode, and watching her on Newsnight I could see why. It was an almost unique experience: she spoke well, her arguments were well marshalled, and yet . . . rarely have I heard anyone be simultaneously eloquent and repulsive.
She is clearly arrogant, to the extent that she kept cutting across Kirsty Wark! (Isn’t that a hanging offence?) But it was her patronising and condescending attitude towards Diane Abbott that really clinched it. She was, and in a way one rarely sees outside of the theatre or television, looking down her nose at the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
The Labour Party has a massive problem on its hands with this election, for it has exposed the chasm between the unworldly professional politicians in the Westminster bubble and those ordinary party members who oppose starving the poor, who believe in pursuing tax dodgers, and who are clearly unhappy with a Labour Party that is little more than the Conservative Party by another name.
My two recent posts on Cardigan Castle have generated an incredible response. On Thursday the 9th – when I was away in Pembrokeshire – my blog received a record 2,223 visits, and the ‘Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall?’ post has been shared on Facebook an incredible 534 times, another record. Since then, more information has been received, in comments to the blogs, and also in e-mails and DM tweets. To the point where I feel the time has come to lay out the allegations against those who are – allegedly – running this fiasco.
Those familiar with the saga will know that the four principals are Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker MBE, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis, Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies and Dr Hedydd Parry Jones. The ‘One’, and the only man, is Jonathan Timms. Between them, these five play various roles in the running of the project. Those roles will be explained below.
To recap: Cardigan Castle is an old pile that changed hands many times over the centuries, and as castles go, in a land that has so many, Cardigan is not one of our great castles. But for the people of the town it’s their castle, and for the rest of the nation it’s important because in 1176, when it was home to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), it hosted the first ever national eisteddfod.
It seems only fitting that we start with the grande dame of this enterprise, Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker OBE. She was born in 1935 in Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, the “only child of a well-to-do family” and was, I’m further informed, educated at an English boarding school. She now lives 7 miles north of Cardigan with her husband Tony in Aberporth, where they run a holiday homes business. She was awarded the OBE last year, as this report from the Tivy-Side Advertiser tells us.
By an example of happenstance such as litter this saga, the newspaper report was almost certainly written by Mrs Susan Joy Lewis who was then the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. I say happenstance because Mrs Lewis also lives in Aberporth. And as if that wasn’t enough happenstance for one paragraph, both are trustees at Cardigan Castle!
Jann Tucker and her husband strike me as the kind of people who like to ‘involve’ themselves. Perhaps because they know best. The Charity Commission website tells us that Mrs Tucker is also a trustee of Aberporth and District youth club, and also Aberporth village hall and recreation ground. Hubby is also a trustee of the latter body, and managed to upset locals with a plan hatched in 2008 to sell off part of the car park. And as might be expected, Jann Tucker also belongs to Aberporth community council, whose meetings Sue Lewis used to attend representing the Tivy-Side Advertiser.
It seems that Jann Tucker and Sue Lewis have been friends and neighbours for some years, and if one comment to my blog is to be believed, mutual back-scratching has been the norm. For according to ‘Wenda of the West’, “apparently back in 2006 ish Jan Tucker stole/claimed a parcel of land from Aberporth Primary School, who was chair of the school governors – Sue Lewis, she did nothing to stop her and Mrs Tucker added a nice piece of land to her estate”.
Jann Tucker joined Joined Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cadwgan’) on 21.03.2000, and Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Castell’) 28.03.2000. She still serves as trustee on both charities and also served as a trustee / director on Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.
The next up in our Gang of Four profiles is Mrs Susan Joy Lewis herself. So what do we know? For a start, she was born in Devonshire, England, in 1962. Until late last year she was the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. As we’ve already learnt, she lives in Aberporth, with husband Mike, who is also a journalist.
Sue Lewis served as a trustee on ‘Cadwgan’ from 18.03.2002 until 12.01.2015. (Though she is still shown as a trustee on the woefully out-of-date details to be found on the Charity Commission website.) She probably resigned from this charity to take up the paid post of the Castle’s Facilities Officer, something I shall return to in a minute. Though she still serves as a trustee on ‘Castell’, which she joined 19.12.2007. And she is also a trustee / director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd, which she joined 16.06.2010. Away from the Castle she is also a trustee / director of Small World Theatre.
I suppose it’s worth asking why there is no Welsh version of ‘Castle Enterprises Ltd’. Perhaps because it wasn’t formed until 2010, and Lewis was on board from the start, as was her neighbour, Tucker. Though that said, and despite its name, it’s a company that doesn’t seem to be that enterprising, with a net worth of £0 and doing hardly any trading. Which only serves to make more corporeal the spectre of yet another project that will forever be suckling on the teat of public funding.
A few lines back I mentioned Sue Lewis becoming Facilities Officer at the Castle early this year . . . very soon in fact after losing her job as editor at the Tivy-Side Advertiser. In the taverns and coffee-houses of Cardigan dispute rages as to how this came about. Essentially, there are two interpretations.
The first – and more charitable version – posits a scenario along these lines. With the Castle opening to the public in 2015 it was felt – in the latter part of 2014 – that a restructuring was needed to meet the fresh challenge. And so existing staff were laid off (but encouraged to re-apply for their jobs). It was simply unfortunate – but unavoidable – that the new post of Facilities Office (salary £25,000 p.a.) was advertised over the Christmas period, and only on the Castle’s Facebook page, which must have been visited by as many as . . . oh, I don’t know, a dozen people.
(UPDATE 25.07.2015: I am indebted to ‘M O’ for providing this link which seems to show that the post of Facilities Officer was first advertised on December 23rd 2014 with a closing date for applications of January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. This is how things are done when the post has already been allocated but the clique involved has to pretend otherwise.
That this was allowed strengthens my belief that what we see at Cardigan Castle is what the funders want – an English tourist attraction and events venue stripped of all Welsh content and significance. Though I’m not sure the funders fully understand that the project they’re supporting may be camouflaging the real estate ambitions of some of those involved, and others close to them.
What is now clear is that Sue Lewis became Cardigan Castle Facilities Manager by deception and nepotism. I would hope that the way this post was advertised and allocated broke both charity law and the rules applied by the funders. But even if it didn’t, Sue Lewis’ position is now untenable. She must go, from her post as Facilities Manager and from all involvement with Castell Aberteifi.)
The second – and less charitable version – portrays a different sequence of events entirely. Having been told in early December that she was about to get the chop Sue Lewis and her friends decided to capitalise on the already announced restructuring and use it to create a new post for her, and then go through the motions of advertising that post over Christmas. She may even have been tipped off about her redundancy before the restructuring was announced.
Proponents of both versions seem to agree on three important points:
1/ The post of Facilities Officer was inadequately advertised, if it was advertised at all.
2/ Sue Lewis was appointed to the post by her friends and neighbours.
3/ She has no experience of the duties she is now expected to fulfil.
The Small World Theatre is a company based in the town that, with its falling income, may see regularly performing at the Castle as its financial salvation. If so, then it was obviously a wise move to get Sue Lewis on board in May, 2012, and it’s already reaping rewards. For as this letter written to a local politician puts it, “It is also worrying to be told that over £15,000 has been given to Small World Theatr for putting on very English based summer activities for children without any opportunity for other Welsh theatre groups to bid for the money and offer more suitable performances. There is a very serious and corrupt edge to this development as Sue Lewis is a trustee of Small World . . . “.
Elin Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM, is a ‘Friend’ on Lewis’ Facebook page.
In fact Plaid Cymru, the party, has behaved in its usual manner when confronted with ‘awkward’ situations – it has slunk away to the shadows for fear of upsetting people. And in the process abandoned a Welsh cause. God! I hope Plaid Cymru is destroyed next May.
Next in line is Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies, born 12.06.1949. She is married to Meirion Davies, a teaching assistant some 17 years her junior. Having been born and raised locally she of course speaks Welsh, but like Jann Tucker, chooses not to. Now prepare to overdose on happenstance.
Mr and Mrs Davies live in Aberporth. (Where else!) Sandra Davies is the vice-chair of the governors of Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth. The chair, you will remember, is Sue Lewis! Meirion helps out at the local youth club, where other trustees are Jann and Tony Tucker. I stopped digging at this point because, quite frankly, there’s a limit to how many connections I can take. But I think I’ve established that we have here three people, Jann Tucker, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies, who are all trustees at Cardigan Castle, who all live in the same small village some 7 miles up the coast, and who all know each other very well, having worked together on other bodies.
We all say, ‘It’s a small world’, but humbling phenomena like this bring home to us how true that is. Oh, yes.
Sandra Davies is now retired but formerly worked at the English military’s weapons establishment in Aberporth which used to provide many jobs for local people, alongside the service personnel and the ex-servicemen (who always had priority for civilian jobs). Nowadays the base employs far fewer locals and is engaged in developing drones, for both military, surveillance and commercial use.
She joined ‘Castell’ 27.11.2013, but seems never to have been a member of ‘Cadwgan’, maybe because, as she claims to be the trustee-accountant or some such, she too is getting paid. She joined the spectacularly unenterprising Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd on 24.04.2013.
Though one perplexing chapter in her recent history is Keykeeper Wales Ltd, Company No 08517357. It was in existence from 07.05.2013 to 20.01.2015 but never made any returns or filed any accounts. It seems to have been one of those companies that are set up, do nothing, and then fold; leaving one to think, ‘What the hell was that about?’ Apart from the Davieses the only other directors were William Neil Chambers and Nicola Lesley Chambers.
To help you understand Sandra Davies, and other self-hating Welsh, I’ll recount her answer when it was suggested to have bilingual front-of-house staff at the Castle. “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”. World class staff! How much do they intend paying these ‘world class staff’?
If we pass the Davies residence and keep going up the road we soon come to the village of Tresaith, near to where we find Dr. Hedydd Parry Jones. On the one hand, it’s nice to get away from the stifling incestuousness of Aberporth, but on the other hand, we are of course moving further away from Aberteifi.
There’s not a lot to report about Dr Jones, she’s another who keeps a low profile. I’m told that before her retirement she was a GP in Castell Newydd Emlyn and is, I’m also told, married to a farmer in the Tresaith area.
She came relatively late to the Gang of Four, joining ‘Cadwgan’ on 18.11.2009, and ‘Castell’ on 25.04.2012. She served her time with Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.
One spectacularly offensive remark has been attributed to her. During a discussion on whether the Gorsedd should be invited to the spiritual home of the National Eisteddfod, she is reported to have contributed, “Over my dead body”.
Hedydd Jones is also on Facebook, and despite her being another shrinking violet, I have managed to secure a photograph.
It’s almost a merciful relief to be leaving the Ceredigion coast, but I don’t believe we should have to move as far as Kent, in England, for that relief, which is where we find Jonathan Richard Timms. ‘Who’, you cry, ‘is Mr Timms?’
Another figure of mystery is Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms. We know he was born in 1945, so he’s of a ripe age, and he joined ‘Cadwgan’ 15.11.2006. On the Charity Commission website he is even listed as the contact for the trust. (Click to enlarge panel on right.) He joined ‘Castell’ 18.04.2007.
As if that wasn’t enough, he and Sue Lewis seem to be the only directors left standing at Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd. So he appears to be the one person who is a trustee for both trusts and is also a trustee / director of the trading arm. So how does that work, with him living so far away? Does he make the 620 mile round trip to attend every meeting, or are meetings arranged for when he might be in the area? Though come to that, why would he be in the area at all? Well, boys and girls, you will not be surprised to learn that a dickie-bird tells me Mr Timms has a holiday home in Aberporth, and that he was almost certainly invited aboard the good ship Cardigan Castle by Jann Tucker.
A regular contributor to my blog, ‘Brychan’, had this to say of Mr Timms:
“The mysterious Mr Timms has moved.
When originally registered at the charity commission he declared he was resident at a period mansion, Glebe House, Mersham in the Weald of Kent. This property is Grade II listed. It was renovated by Talus, who are specialists in restoring period structures and sub dividing the property for sale. Half of this property is now up for sale for £950,000. I find no record of title change for the other parts of the structure. 12 other properties were built on associated land.
Mr Timms subsequently changed his address declared at the charity commission to another of his properties at 44 Oxenturn Road, Wye, a village some miles away, nestled in the North Downs.
It is quite evident, as his original Glebe House period mansion changed from detached to two semi-detached properties, that he specialises in buying and renovating period structures and then sub-dividing them for sale as separate units at vast profit. The ‘wedding venue’ and ‘events’ businesses that habit the property for a short period are merely ghost enterprises, the real cash is generated by the sub-division and subsequent piecemeal sale of a renovated freehold.
Do the good people of Aberteifi really know who they’re dealing with? I have assumed the ‘Welsh’ Government, CADW and Cyngor Ceredigion have done the precautionary background checks on this geezer. I wonder what he did with his bats? Did they move to Wye or Aberteifi?”
So Jonathan Timms appears to be a property specialist whose forte might be converting and flogging period and listed buildings, such as – dare I say it? – Castle Green House inside the Castle grounds. (Click to enlarge image.)
Also note that both trusts, in their declarations to the Charity Commission, state their objectives thus: “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Which suggests that certain persons’ ambitions may not be limited to the Castle.
I’m told Mrs Timms was acting as a ‘volunteer’ when Our Glorious Leader visited the Castle last month.
This is the situation now, but the problems with Cardigan Castle go back years, to when the renovation was being done. There are too many problems to list them all, but one worth mentioning is the complaint from local businesses that they were not invited to tender for the work being done on the Castle.
Now there could be a simple explanation for this in that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd of Port Talbot, was allowed to choose its sub-contractors and suppliers, perhaps arranging its own tendering processes. But if so, why did those representing the Castle not insist that the process be opened up to local contractors and suppliers?
Alternatively, if handing out the contracts to suppliers was within the gift of the trustees then local anger is understandable, and helps explain why a complaint I’ve heard more than once concerns the work given to Leekes of Cross Hands to supply furniture, fittings, sanitary ware and much else that could have been sourced cheaper locally. Inevitably, seeing as Jann Tucker was born in Cross Hands, people suggest she is related to the Leekes family. Possibly, though another option is that a member of the Leekes clan has a holiday home on the Ceredigion coast – Llangrannog has been mentioned – and is known to the Gang of Four, or some of them, or perhaps just one of them.
One of the most serious complaints I’ve heard is contained in the letter to a local politician I linked to above. (Here’s the link again.) The writer says, “We have at least 60 people in Cardigan who have asked to join (the trust, presumably) but have just been ignored”. This suggests that the Gang of Four doesn’t want anyone involved who isn’t going to toe their line. No elections, no applications; entry is by recommendation and invitation only, a methodology they might have picked up from their Freemason husbands.
Another regular complaint is that there seems to be no constitution for members of the public to consult, which charity law says there should be. Then there’s the issue of minutes being doctored, with the final versions bearing little resemblance to what took place in the meetings the minutes supposedly refer to. And as mentioned in the earlier posts, there is the absurdly high turnover in staff and trustees for the very simple reason that no one can work with the Gang of Four.
One of the more bizarre complaints is that the trustees spent £100,000 on a wedding marquee, a permanent structure but, of course, without foundations. This was done despite being told that weddings can only be in held in a building with three sides and a roof. As I say, this is one of the more bizarre complaints, but if true, then it displays a stupidity, and exposes a waste of public money, that should not go unpunished. Regarding this marquee, Jann Tucker averred that she didn’t want any “local riff-raff” getting married in it.
Sticking with the bizarre, another story I was told by, I suspect, someone who worked on the project, was that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd, was told by a local contractor that the sewage / drainage system was 300mm ‘out’. The advice was ignored and now the Castle is said to have problems with this system. Oh yes, the same source tells me that the Castle has bought two banana trees. I just hope these are traditional Welsh banana trees.
Cardigan Castle is clearly in deep, deep trouble. A £12m project is being run by people who are out of their depth. Incompetence would be bad enough, but they compound that failing by being unpleasant creatures given to venomous, insulting outbursts. Small wonder the townspeople of Aberteifi feel alienated. They see no one from their town involved in running the Castle, and local businesses excluded from the £12m bonanza! Welcome to Aberporth Castle . . . with the contact address in Kent.
That the major funders involved, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the ‘Welsh’ Government, have not stepped in to replace these women, and Mr Timms, with a board of trustees operating more transparently, a board more representative of Cardigan and the surrounding area, makes those funders complicit in and responsible for the malpractice now taking place.
Beyond malpractice we also have the clearly expressed sentiments of hostility towards the Welsh language, Welsh culture, and Welsh people. Outbursts that should disqualify these women from involvement in any project in Wales using public funding.
They themselves are the intolerant bigots they accuse their critics of being. Get rid of them!
I have just returned from a short break in Pembrokeshire. On the way down my wife and I stopped in Cardigan, and once there we were inevitably drawn to the castle. Now I may not have walked around with a calculator in my hand but I certainly came away wondering where twelve million pounds has been spent. While that may have been a mystery, what became very clear from my tour was that the history of the castle, and indeed the area’s history and culture, is relegated to a few posters, maps, models and videos that could not have cost much, and which will not be allowed to get in the way of the building’s prime focus from now on – as an upmarket conference / functions / weddings venue.
While in the castle I took the opportunity to enjoy the views, and among the sights to be seen from Rhys ap Gruffudd’s old pile were a couple of James Lynch’s establishments. He, you will recall, is a son-in-law to a long-standing trustee of the castle project, a local entrepreneur who appeared in the previous post. Here’s the view across the river to his holiday accommodation in a converted warehouse, and here’s the view of his pizza joint on the quay. Lynch also busies himself with glamping, weddings and associated businesses. As invariably happens when big city businessmen descend on ‘sleepy’ corners of Wales to re-invent tourism Jimbo has brought to Aberteifi high-skill, twenty-first century jobs, and the top-whack salaries that go with those jobs. (Sarcasm? Moi!)
But enough of James Lynch, as he awaits his opportunity in the wings. Let us focus instead on the leading players, those currently strutting the boards and hogging the limelight. Into this category come two women who are receiving much attention in the local media, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. All explained, on facing pages, in the most recent issue the PembrokeshireHerald. (Click to enlarge on all images.)
First, page four gave us further details on the ‘suspension’ of director Cris Tomos. Reminding us how bizarre this whole saga is becoming by relating that he was ‘suspended’ from his post on the day that marked the climax of Gŵyl Fawr Aberteifi. The Herald continued:
“Although the introduction to the official (GFA) programme contained a couple of references welcoming the opening of the castle (home of the Eisteddfod), the event was staged in the town’s 1960s redbrick leisure centre, while the castle hosted a sports awards bash.”
The Eisteddfod programme contained scores of adverts and messages of support from all sorts of companies, businesses and local organisations, down to the local milkman – but nothing at all from the castle. So, instead of the first chairing of a bard in the castle since 1176, the ceremony took place in a council sports hall.”
If any proof was needed of how those running Cardigan castle had turned their backs on the building’s history and its significance in Welsh cultural history, then this episode provides the proof. For here we see the home of the eisteddfod tradition shunning completely the local eisteddfod!
The bulk of the facing page was taken up with Sue Lewis defending herself against recent criticism of the way she runs things . . . or I think that’s what she was doing. It all got a bit confusing, so judge for yourself. She seems to be suggesting that someone is trying to “discredit” her – by using her own words against her. She went on to threaten legal action, but the Herald had heard nothing from any legal representative before going to press. But if they had, who would have been paying, Mrs Lewis or the Cardigan Castle Trust, in other words, the public purse?
Mrs Lewis is looking more and more discredited, her position increasingly untenable for a number of reasons (dealt with below). But one worth adding here is the remarkable workings of serendipity attaching to her appointment as Facilities Manager.
Sue Lewis was made redundant from her post as editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser just before Christmas. At that time she was a trustee, and one of a small group of trustees that removed three Welsh-speaking members of staff, including Rhian Medi, daughter of the late Archdruid, Dic Jones. Rhian Medi was the Education Officer. As a trustee, Sue Lewis sat on the panel that, we were led to believe, would appoint replacements. Not quite. It was decided that the Castle could manage without an Education Officer but definitely needed a Facilities Officer, and who better to fill that post than the recently redundant Sue Lewis herself! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all sit in on the selection process and give ourselves jobs!
Another woman whose position has become untenable through her own prejudice-betraying utterances is Sandra Davies, the trustee treasurer. She refers to local group Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffudd as “bigots” and orders (an at the time unsuspended) Cris Tomos to have nothing to do with them.
How many times have we heard anyone who speaks up in defence of Wales and Welsh identity condemned as a ‘bigot’, a ‘racist’, or a ‘narrow-minded nationalist’, done so that their views can be disregarded and debate stifled? By comparison, the true racists, those who want to destroy Welsh identity and replace it with an intolerant Englishness, are allowed to portray themselves as generous and liberal! What an indictment of modern Wales, of our media, our political class, that this colonialist distortion has achieved such dominance, and that a woman holding a position of authority with an iconic Welsh building can so freely and proudly exhibit this vile attitude.
Sandra Davies must go, and she must go immediately. If she is not removed then the suspicions attaching to the motives and intentions of the funders and others involved will be finally confirmed.
From whichever perspective one chooses to look at Cardigan Castle it can only be perceived as a disaster.
To begin with, the public was told that among the project’s objectives was that it should attract ‘ . . . visitors who are seeking leisure learning activities related to the Welsh language, culture, crafts, environment and horticulture and “using the Welsh language, and the cultural traditions of the Eisteddfodau, as a tool for tourism development and regeneration”’. This has not happened except in the most cursory and superficial manner.
Then there’s the commercial angle. In her ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails quoted in the Herald Sue Lewis justifies removing the Welsh dimension from the Castle project by arguing that herein lies the route to commercial success. (For ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails see panel above, ‘Cardigan Castle is “under siege”‘.) One well-placed source tells me that the Castle has seen just two conferences, one organised by the county council, the other by Tai Cantref, a local housing association with a lucrative sideline in the importation of riff-raff. The permanent wedding marquee has yet to hear a best man’s embarrassing jokes, or witness the tears of a bride’s mother, while the complex has seen not one paying guest.
Even the cafe, overlooking the High Street, the river, and the interior of the complex, was a loser as people had to pay to go into the castle before they could buy a drink or a meal! This has now been remedied by a new door allowing people to enter directly from the street . . . with bouncers dressed as medieval knights in Cross of St. George outfits ensuring nobody sneaks into the castle after their cappuccino. (OK, I made up the bit about the bouncers, but who was responsible for the original design!)
Then, from so many quarters, I hear horror stories about the main contractor, Andrew Scott of Port Talbot. These involve shoddy workmanship, jobs not finished on time, cost over-runs and sheer incompetence. Into the last category falls the story of the lift ordered for Castle Green House that was the wrong size because someone had not taken the correct measurement! Did this really happen? While a comment to my previous post alleges that very expensive kitchen equipment and furnishings came from a certain supplier due to that firm enjoying a family connection to a trustee, even though the very same equipment could have been sourced far cheaper in Cardigan. Though another suggestion is that a member of the Leekes clan owns an expensive holiday home at Llangrannog, and is a neighbour and friend to a person or persons connected with the Castle.
Another criticism is the lack of joined-up thinking (if that’s what it is). Last month the ‘Welsh’ Government announced a £300,000 grant for Coleg Ceredigion to develop a Welsh language centre at its Cardigan campus. We’re entitled to know why the ‘Welsh’ Government is funding another project on a separate site when it should be in the castle and covered by that project’s £12m budget. Some suggest a devious game being played by the Heritage Lottery fund, who had no intention of allowing Cardigan Castle to be ‘too Welsh’. If so, then perhaps the other big funder, the ‘Welsh’ Government, is simply falling into line.
This post, and the previous one, are not arguments against commercialisation based on some simplistic notion that sites like Cardigan Castle do not need to generate income. I know from experience that funders demand business plans, and all manner of credible projections to convince them that a project will remain viable after the initial funding has run out. But I can’t believe that any funder, or bank, or investor, would be happy with the shambles in Aberteifi.
First, we have the clear departure from the original and expressed intention that the project would promote and nurture the Welsh language and the culture associated with that language. This has not happened. Sue Lewis’ amazing ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails, and Sandra Davies’ rant against Welsh “bigots” make this abundantly clear. All we have now is lip service being paid to the Castle’s history, its role in Welsh culture, and the sensibilities of the people who have always lived in the vicinity.
This rejection of all things Welsh was justified – by Sue Lewis – as being commercially sensible. Mrs Lewis’ judgement is not being vindicated. And I can’t help but wonder what experience a journalist like Sue Lewis has that qualifies her to be the Facilities Officer for a twelve million pounds project. But then, she does appear to have been self-appointed.
And what of the trustees . . . or rather, who are the current trustees? And why is there such a high turnover among them? Does anyone have a complete and up-to-date list of the trustees? Certainly the Charity Commission doesn’t, but the law says it should.
As things stand, this project is approaching meltdown. It has alienated most locals and failed to justify that behaviour with commercial success. Staff have been sacked for no good reason (unless being Welsh qualifies). And the whole shooting-match now appears to be under the control of two women who are always right, and for whom measured responses are anathema. With friends like these Cardigan Castle needs no enemies.
The regeneration of Cardigan Castle started off with a fund of local goodwill upon which to draw; that fund has been all but exhausted by a combination of incompetence and lack of oversight, with the second of those allowing – if not encouraging – the takeover of the project by a prejudiced, self-serving group. The Castle and what it stands for is now resented and regarded with suspicion by the local Welsh, as it was when the Castle was in English hands, imposing English ways on the Welsh population.
Given my ideological outlook I don’t often quote Karl Marx, but I can’t resist this: ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’. Cardigan Castle is most definitely a farce. A very expensive farce.
A revealing piece on the Daily Wales website tells of the escalating controversy at Cardigan Castle where public funding is creating a tacky entertainment centre / wedding venue, with references to the site’s rich history and cultural importance being downplayed if not totally excluded. I urge you to read the DW piece before going any further with my contribution.
From the Daily Wales piece (and indeed other sources) it seems there has also been a worryingly high turnover in both trustees and staff that should cause concern to any body funding, or in any other way supporting, this project. Though despite the comings and goings there appear to be two constants, both trustees. These are Elizabeth Jann Tucker who – and this should not surprise you – is involved in tourism, at Aberporth, a few miles up the coast from Cardigan. The other is Richard Thomas, a veterinary surgeon, and the local James Herriot, having written the autobiographical Dic y Fet, and in English, the equally autobiographical, Taking Stock.
Seeing as we are dealing with a charity, the obvious place to start making enquiries was the Charity Commission website. I soon found the page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi (Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust), (Number 1122015), which tells us that the contact is Jann Tucker . . . but according to the Daily Wales piece, the contact should be a Jonathan Timms of Ashford, Kent. Clearly, there was something wrong. The answer came when I saw that ‘Dick Thomas’ is also a trustee of another charity named Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which makes no mention of Cardigan castle in its name. and it’s here that we find Mr Timms given as the contact. (He may also go, or at one time have gone, by the name ‘Joff’,) So why are there two charities? (Click to enlarge panels.)
Especially as they claim to be doing exactly the same thing. For the Charity Commission website, under ‘Activities’ says for both charities, “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Read it and tell me if you also think it says the same thing twice, or am I missing something? Also note that neither of these charities is confined in their activities to the castle. And which ‘nation’ is referred to?
For those curious about what the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 says, here it is: ‘“building” includes any structure or erection, and any part of a building, as so defined, but does not include plant or machinery comprised in a building;’. Er, in other words, a building.
To complicate the picture further, in addition to the two charities there is a company (limited by guarantee), Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd (Company No 07285463), which appears to be a trading arm for the charity / charities. The current directors appear to be Mr Cristoffer Wyn Tomos, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis and the mysterious Mr Jonathan Timms. Mrs Lewis is also a director of Small World Theatre Ltd (Company No 03294035), also based in Cardigan. The company involves itself in ‘Artistic and Literary Creation and Interpretation’. (Which may link with the reference below to the Mwldan Theatre and Bellowhead.) She is the former editor of the Tivyside Advertiser, which most people think has improved considerably since her departure. Her husband is Mike Lewis, who was editor of the South Wales Guardian before moving to the Cambrian News, which readers may remember for its scurrilous and unprincipled attack on the local Plaid Cymru candidate before May’s election. Both husband and wife are staunch and blinkered Britlanders.
Though if the Daily Wales piece is correct, and Cris Tomos has been suspended by the trustees from his post at the castle, then he is unlikely to be still serving as a director of the trading arm, especially as Lewis is one of the other directors.
I keep talking about ‘the castle’, so I think it’s time to remind ourselves of the history we are dealing with here. Cardigan castle was the home of Rhys ap Gruffydd, ‘the Lord Rhys’, who ruled Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197; an ally of Owain Gwynedd and, following the northern prince’s death in 1170, the most powerful of the Welsh rulers. In 1176 he organised at Cardigan castle what is generally agreed to have been the first national eisteddfod. So this place has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise. In fact, there seem to be more of the trustees involved with bed and breakfasts than with anything else.
This might explain why, it is rumoured, the Heritage Lottery Fund has now appointed (imposed?) a trustee who might know something about Welsh heritage, and also how to manage a project of this size. Though cynics might argue that it’s a bit late in the day, seeing as £12m has already been poured in. The name being mentioned is Gareth Gregory, who would appear to fit the bill. Whether this appointment will be welcomed by some of the other trustees, and some interested observers, remains to be seem. But I can understand why the Heritage Lottery Fund felt it needed to be done.
Locals have been dismayed at the slow pace of the project, often due to contractor’s cock-ups and work having to be re-done. No clear chain of command is another allegation levelled – “too many bosses”. Few in the town can understand, let alone see, where twelve million pounds has been spent. And many in Cardigan wonder why Jann Tucker, a woman of eighty, with business interests of her own, is still knocking herself out in this thankless work. Perhaps she gets help from her family.
For about ten years ago Jann’s daughter Siân came home from London with her property developer husband James Lynch and their four sons. Since arriving in Cardigan the two have bought Fforest farm, set up a glamping business, opened an upmarket pizza joint on the river, and also run a wedding service, with hubby keeping his hand in in the property racket with Granary Lofts, across the Teifi from the castle. Basically catering for middle class poseurs of the, “I may be a computer programmer with two kids and a crippling mortgage but I’m a free spirit, me, oh yes”. A man untroubled by modesty, our Jim. For as he says on his Linkedin profile, he is “currently working on re-inventing the Cardigan riverside”. And if this site is to be believed then his ambition extends to taking over a wider area! Note that the map for ‘the Republic of Fforest’ covers the town of Cardigan, including of course the castle.
There is a link on his Linkedin profile to the Do lectures site, as Lynch has given a lecture. Here it is, it lasts twenty minutes (but I bet you won’t!). As a contact described them to me, “The Do Lectures are phenomenally expensive. This annual event pulls in minor celebrities who teach well-heeled 30-somethings from London how to knit yoghurt”. (Nice one, R.) Though looking at it another way, the people connected with Do lectures strike me as just the kind of people who listen to folk-rock bands like Bellowhead. Because I guarantee that until the name was suggested to them Jann Tucker and Dic y Fet had never heard of the group. Then again, other sources implicate the luvvies at the Mwldan theatre where, it is suggested, can be found someone with connections to Bellowhead. Either way, I hope to God that this Do Lecture shower has not received any funding from the Welsh public purse.
Before leaving lovely Aberteifi it’s only right to tell you that within the castle walls is Castle Green House (see panel, click to enlarge), completely renovated with public funds. It would be difficult to visualise a better location for weddings . . . or tourist accommodation . . . almost guaranteed to appeal to the kind of ludicrous poseurs attracted to the area by the burgeoning Lynch empire and the yoghurt-knitters up at Do Lectures. Such a pity there seems to be little or nothing in the renovated castle for Welsh people.
Which explains why so many locals are angry over a project that could have served as a beacon for Welsh culture being subverted into yet another tacky tourist trap or subsidised stage for third-rate provincial luvvies that nobody’d pay to watch. So here are some questions for Huw Lewis, who is, I’m told, the minister in the ‘Welsh’ Government responsible for this project.
Who owns Cardigan Castle?
Given that the purpose of the charity (or two charities) is solely to oversee the renovation of Cardigan castle, why does its (their) remit extend to any building of interest “in and around Cardigan”. Are other projects lined up, and if so, will these be funded from the public purse, and who will appoint the trustees?
Are you satisfied with the oversight of this project by ever-changing combinations of trustees?
Seeing as Jonathan Timms, the secretary to the trustees (or one set of them), and also a director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises, is based so far from Cardigan can you explain how he became involved? Was he appointed by the trustees? Was he appointed by you or some other funder?
The last accounts filed by the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees with the Charity Commission (Y/E 31.03.2014) show that the project received that year £1,838,894 from the European Regional Development Fund and a further £289,911 from CADW. Seeing as ERDF funding is allocated to Wales for “economic regeneration projects promoted primarily by the public sector” do you believe that this project falls within that expressed purpose? And do you believe that the small number of jobs created justifies this generous funding, over two million pounds in one year from your government? Seeing as there are so few jobs being offered by this project can you assure us that the administration you represent will insist these jobs are allocated to genuinely local people?
In the most recent accounts of the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees ‘fixed assets’ are shown to be valued at £5.4m. This, presumably, is the value of the castle and its grounds, including Castle Green House. Whose valuation is this?
The town of Merthyr holds a special place in the hearts of those Welsh who know their history. The Rising of 1831 is still celebrated, and the execution of Richard Lewis aka ‘Dic Penderyn’ still resonates, with yet another petition being launched recently to have Dic pardoned. I have a soft spot for Dic and the others who died in 1831, but that’s not because I buy into the nonsense about the Merthyr Rising being part of some glorious UK-wide workers movement – strictly Unionist and pro-monarchy, you understand – that laid the foundations for the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party we know today. No, the Merthyr Rising was very local to the Heads of the Valleys, the rioters were largely ignorant of events outside of their region, but they knew enough to shout ‘Down with the King!’ . . . in Welsh, and like most of the rioters, Dic Penderyn himself spoke no English. One of the details BritNat Labour revisionists tend to overlook.
A more credible reason for Merthyr’s special place in Labour folklore is that it was the first parliamentary seat won by the party, when Scotsman Keir Hardie was elected in 1900 as the junior MP for the dual-member constituency of Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare. (Though what was to become the Labour Party remained the Labour Representation Committee until 1906.) Hardie had previously been elected MP in 1892 for the Independent Labour Party in the English seat of West Ham South.
Merthyr suffered badly during the Depression and subsequent decades, seeing its population decline from 110,569 in 1891 to some 57,000 today. Despite this fall, sentiment – and the political calculations of the Labour Party – decreed that Merthyr should remain a unitary authority in the 1996 local government reorganisation. Achieved by deciding on a 60,000 minimum population level for the new authorities, a hurdle that Merthyr just about cleared, while other areas – mainly non-Labour areas such as Montgomeryshire – failed to negotiate. To compensate for the decreasing electorate, but in order to keep the iconic name, Rhymney was added to give the seat its current name of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, though for brevity I shall continue to use ‘Merthyr’.
By the time I got to know Merthyr in the 1960s the place still had an ‘edge’, the turbulent, even violent, past was never far away; the drinking was fierce, and the antagonism towards ‘Plant Mari’, or ‘Aberdare Snakes’ and other exotic sub-species, was never far beneath the surface. (I had to be careful about declaring my Swansea origins because I swear some of the old guys had not forgiven the Swansea Yeomanry for its role in 1831!) The Labour MP at this time was Stephen Owen Davies, universally known as ‘S. O.’. Then, some time before the 1970 general election, the local Labour Party decided to de-select this man who had represented the constituency since 1934 in favour of a younger candidate, probably hoping S.O. would go quietly. They soon realised to their cost that S.O. was going nowhere . . . except back to the House of Commons.
One of the things about S.O. was that he wasn’t very good at toeing the party line if he felt something needed to be said, and this trait may have contributed to the Labour Party giving him the heave-ho. For example, following the Aberfan disaster of 1966 he was an outspoken critic of how the Labour government in London compensated the families of those killed. To the surprise of very few, following his de-selection, S.O. decided to run against Labour as an Independent. He beat the official Labour candidate, T J Lloyd, by 7,467 votes, taking 51.9% of the vote in a four-cornered contest that saw a 77.92% turnout.
Stephen Owen Davies died in 1972 at the of 86 (or possibly 93), and Labour regained the seat in the subsequent by-election. His successor was a young Edward ‘Ted’ Rowlands.
BARON ROWLANDS AND ‘DAI BASRA’
S. O. Davies was a hard act to follow, and Ted Rowlands didn’t even try, he was a party loyalist through and through. Baron Rowlands (as we must now call him) had first been elected to parliament for Cardiff North in 1966, a seat he lost in 1970. He must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when he secured the nomination for Merthyr following the death of S. O. Davies. In a dismally unspectacular parliamentary career spanning almost three decades (1972 – 2001) his most noteworthy contribution came in 1982, during the war with Argentina. To a startled House of Commons Rowlands revealed that the UK government was reading Argentine diplomatic traffic. Seeing as the Argentine military used the same system Rowlands was telling the junta they’d better start using other encryption methods. To the chagrin of many, he was not hung for treason.
Rowlands was succeeded in 2001 by another man with a keen interest in, but no knowledge of, military matters. This would-be Hannibal of Heolgerrig was David Stuart Havard, soon to acquire the nickname ‘Dai Basra’, after his frequent jollies in the sun many necessary visits to the city of that name in Iraq, occupied by British forces following the 2003 invasion of that country. For the benefit of younger readers . . . Iraq is a country in the Middle East that was invaded in 2003 by countries led by unbalanced ego-maniacs searching for the death ray machine with which Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein was threatening to blow up the whole solar system, including Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain. (Or was there some other, less plausible, reason for the invasion?)
Dai Basra rose to the heady heights of vice-chairman of the Commons’ Defence Committee, but his political career came to a juddering halt in March 2012 when, ironically, he was brought low – indirectly anyhow – by those same dastardly Argies who had done so much damage to the reputation of his predecessor. On a visit to the contested islands Dai, a keen equestrian, and a member of the British Horse Society, had been looking forward to a canter – he’d taken his riding hat with him – but his equine jaunt had to be cancelled at the last minute. This resulted in a clearly irritated Dai telling the Ministry of Defence number two on the islands to “piss off“.
Among his other claims to fame it’s worth mentioning that Dai Basra opposed an inquiry into the invasion of Iraq (which should surprise no one). He voted against reforming the House of Lords, he voted in favour of ID cards, and he went on a tour of WWI cemeteries, paid for by arms manufacturers! No I’m not making the last one up, read it for yourself.
Dai ‘Basra’ Havard is also a member of the Henry Jackson Society, a US think tank that believes it’s OK to invade other countries and kill the indigenes in order to teach them the benefits of’ democracy, or as the website puts it, ” . . . to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so”. The HJS also “Supports the necessary furtherance of European military modernisation and integration under British leadership, preferably within NATO”. Would that be a UK including Scotland . . . and a Europe with or without Greece, and the Donbass . . . and does anyone in the USA in possession of a full set of marbles seriously expect the French military to take orders from Uncle Sam’s errand boy? I’m told that the MP for the neighbouring constituency of Rhondda, Chris Bryant, is also a member of this loony tunes outfit.
Dai Basra stood down at the general election of 2015 and when the weeping and wailing had subsided Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney awoke to a new dawn with Gerald Jones as its MP. So let us now direct our gaze towards the successor.
2015, GERALD JONES AND COMPANY
For a start, who is Gerald Jones, what do we know of him, or rather, what have the dickie-birds told me? To begin with, Gerald Jones is from Caerffili, more than that, he was a councillor, indeed Deputy Leader, on Caerffili council, and Cabinet Member for Housing. He was one of the five-man panel involved in the infamous secret meeting that agreed to bump up the salaries of the chief officers. Here are the details. And despite campaigning against the ‘bedroom tax’ this did not stop Jones leading Caerffili council in prosecuting those who fought the bedroom tax!
Since being elected to Westminster two months ago Jones has been a busy boy building up a dynamic team of thrusters and go-getters such as only ‘Welsh’ Labour can muster. Here’s a run-down of who’s who in the Gerald Jones political empire.
Let us begin with his Senior Parliamentary Assistant, on a salary of £43,272, who is none other than his partner, Tyrone Powell. A picture of the couple can be found here. Tyrone is also a community councillor in the Darran Valley of Caerffili. Prior to taking over as his partner’s SPA Tyrone was a “housing professional” . . . but wait! wasn’t Gerald Jones Cabinet Member for Housing? Yes indeedy. How convenient. I can imagine the pair of them by a big log fire, whiling away those long winter evenings talking about . . . well, housing. Tyrone is also Chair of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney Labour Party. Does he still work as a housing professional, or has he given himself entirely to his new role? Either way, it is suggested that Powell was appointed without the post being advertised, even within the Labour Party.
Next up is Gareth Lewis, councillor for the Plymouth ward on Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council. The word on the Merthyr street is that Lewis has been appointed the new MP’s Office Manager, a post for which the salary could be as high as £38,121. This appointment raises the issue of conflict of interests. At the time of writing Gareth Lewis was still councillor for the Plymouth Ward, so does he intend staying on as councillor while also being the MP’s Office Manager? Even if he stands down he will still have friends and former colleagues on the council. There may be occasions when the MP will not see eye to eye with his local party / council, when that happens, where will Lewis’s loyalty lie? Again, people ask if the post was properly advertised.
Another who has boarded the Merthyr gravy train driven by Gerald Jones is Denise Toomey. ‘Who her?’, you cry . . . well she is the wife of Brendan Toomey, and he is the leader of Merthyr Council. Although head honcho among the Merthyr bruvvers Toomey’s Twitter account tells us that his “spiritual home” is north Gower, despite having his drinking there interrupted by some Merthyr malcontent. Brendan is another who’s seen plenty of helmets in his time, being a retired fire-fighter. It is strongly suggested that Mrs Toomey’s post was another not to be advertised, perhaps it was felt unnecessary seeing as she had previously worked for the unforgettable Dai Basra, ere he galloped off into the sunset.
A serious conflict of interest could arise here because Mr Toomey, as leader of Merthyr council, and being the good socialist he is, wants to sack and re-hire, on worse wages and conditions, one thousand council employees. What is the point of these council workers appealing to their MP if to do so they have to go through Mrs Toomey?
One further appointment from Merthyr may be worthy of mention. The new Women’s Officer of the Merthyr Constituency Labour Party is Jennie Davies, wife of councillor Dai Davies (Town Ward). She was appointed after her predecessor resigned in frustration over a number of issues. Mrs Davies is a podiatrist, which is someone who looks after feet. How this differs from a chiropodist I have no idea, and have no wish to enquire. Being the wife of a councillor we can confidently expect Mrs Davies to be less ‘troublesome’ than her predecessor.
And there may be other things going on in the Merthyr Constituency Labour Party of which I am unaware. So I would welcome any further information.
What are we to make of the behaviour of the bruvvers and sissters of Merthyr? First, I think I am not being overly-critical when I suggest that what the Labour Party is doing in Merthyr takes nepotism and contempt for the electorate to a whole new level, even by the standards of ‘Welsh’ Labour. It reminds me of the irresponsibility and contempt for others we see when groups or individuals believe they are beyond censure. But as history also teaches us, such behaviour is often closely followed by disaster. Wouldn’t it be sad if Huw Lewis, the local Assembly Member, paid the price in next year’s elections for his comrades’ arrogance? No, not really. I’d rejoice even if Ukip took the seat.
What a journey Merthyr has travelled since 1831. Back then it was the downtrodden masses rioting against those who exploited them. Now those who claim to be in the tradition of Dic Penderyn and Lewsyn yr Heliwr are the ones lining their pockets. Were this piece being written by someone more cynical than me then that person might suggest that the modern Labour Party in places like Merthyr is more self-serving than the Crawshay family and the other ironmasters ever were. For most of those grandees seemed to accept a certain responsibility towards their workers, even if it was little more than the guilt of the nouveaux riches, while by comparison the modern ‘Welsh’ Labour careerist seems a thoroughly odious little fucker devoid of any redeeming features.
As I write this, Carwyn Jones, the self-styled ‘leader’ of ‘Welsh’ Labour is travelling the country asking electors to ‘write’ the Labour manifesto for next year’s Assembly election. His tour starts today at Gorseinon in the Swansea constituency of Gower (wherein, remember, can be found the spiritual home of Labour’s Merthyr capo), a seat Labour lost to the Tories in May’s UK general election. On the assumption that Carwyn Jones is serious, here’s a suggestion. Bring on local government reorganisation and get rid of these foetid fiefdoms like Merthyr. Doing so would be welcomed by everyone except those I’m writing about here – are you really going to listen to these buggers any longer?
In recent years I have published many posts arguing that devolution is a sham. That’s because Wales is run by departments of the UK government in London. Decisions made by these departments are then implemented by civil servants based in Wales. These civil servants are, invariably, ‘advisers’ to ‘Welsh Ministers’, but the true relationship is more like puppeteer and puppet.
A perfect example, and one that I have dealt with more than once, is the Planning Inspectorate. We are asked to believe that Wales has its own Planning Inspectorate, based in Cardiff, answering to the ‘Welsh’ Government. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate, responsible for forcing tens of thousands of unneeded new dwellings on Welsh local authorities (in order to encourage English colonisation) is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, with a branch office in Cardiff. The Planning Inspectorate takes orders from London; and gives orders to Cardiff.
This situation of Wales being run by civil servants on behalf of the London government has been in place as long as we’ve had devolution. Usually it just rumbles along in the background, unnoticed, but recently Wales has seen two very important pieces of legislation that have exposed this system as never before.
One new law is the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. Now while this legislation plays to the gallery with tough talk on private landlords, protecting vulnerable tenants, etc., these are distractions from the real purpose of the Bill, which is to confirm beyond any lingering doubt that social housing in Wales is now part of an Englandandwales system. Which means that someone who qualifies for social housing anywhere in England can be allocated a property in Wales. A policy so insidious and damaging that housing associations, especially in rural areas, are now building and buying properties – with Welsh public funding – for which there is no local demand!
The Housing (Wales) Act contains thirty-nine references to ‘England’ By comparison, the Housing (Scotland) Bill has not one. Though absent from the Welsh Bill is any reference to the Welsh language, providing further proof that this is ‘Welsh’ legislation designed to serve England’s interests, as is so much else done by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Such as the funding that has gone into the Deeside Industrial Park, that runs almost up to the border, providing jobs for north west England and keeping the resultant mess, noise and traffic out of leafy Cheshire. Then there’s our failing NHS, especially in the north, which the UK prime minister and local Tory politicians have capitalised on, yet only a ‘racist’ would make the obvious connection between a failing health service and many tens of thousands of elderly English people moving into the affected region.
And the impression given that Wales is doing things differently, being tougher on private landlords, is just so much flim-flam, as I discovered a couple of days ago when making enquiries about the regulation of private landlords. Here’s the link, but the screen capture below makes it clear enough that – despite the Housing (Wales) Act – England and Wales are covered by the same legislation, but not Scotland.
The second piece of legislation worth highlighting is the Planning (Wales) Bill. This again was designed to bring Wales into line with England. As was made clear by the (now defunct) Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in its December 2013 Newsletter. Unfortunately the link provided in the newsletter is no longer working, so I can’t offer it to you, but among the things it said was ” . . . many of the proposed reforms resonate with those introduced in England.” And later, “Again reflecting change in England . . . “.
As might be expected, in its original form, this legislation also neglected to take any account of the Welsh language. That’s because, as with the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, it is English legislation, drawn up by English civil servants, for England, who neither understand nor care about Wales, who then stick ‘(Wales)’ in the title and tell some ‘Welsh Minister’ to run with it.
Those clowns down Cardiff docks masquerading as the ‘Welsh’ Government must know what’s going on, this explains why so many of them are reluctant to give interviews to explain or defend the legislation they’ve announced – they don’t understand it, and they don’t understand it because they had no input to it. But in return they are allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to introduce pet schemes for the sole purpose of giving the impression they’re in charge.
For who can forget the rejoicing – and the global media attention – that attended the abolition of ferret licences back in 2006. While the Zeppelin service between Penclawdd and Amlwch that took off in 2010 was universally welcomed . . . especially in Penclawdd and Amlwch. Now I hear that next year, just before the election, our ‘Welsh’ Government plans to bring in a vote-winning policy of free toothbrushes for the over 90s. Verily! our cup runneth over.
OK, so I’m taking the piss, but it’s publicity-grabbing and largely valueless legislation such as free prescriptions that the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to introduce as a reward for acting as puppets. These ‘giveaways’ are then used to distract us from the more weighty English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ in the name that is constantly being pushed through by civil servants of whom we know nothing.
To conclude . . . The post-devolution era sees a regular stream of England-only legislation in areas that have been ‘devolved’. What happens is, that after a decent interval, and in the interests of an undeclared policy of ‘harmonisation’, this England-only legislation is re-packaged with ‘(Wales)’ in the name and passes through the Assembly. To disguise what’s being done the re-packaged law may differ in a few minor details, but never in anything of substance. End result? The same laws in both countries for the convenience of the Planning Inspectorate and countless other Englandandwales organisations.
After sixteen years of devolution it is clear that Wales is not allowed to have separate legislation that is meaningfully different to England’s unless the ‘Welsh’ law actually benefits England. This is the sham of devolution, the polar opposite to what it was promised devolution would deliver, and it explains how ‘devolution’ is helping assimilate Wales into England more effectively than the pre-devolution system, for now it’s easier to introduce Wales-specific laws to achieve that assimilation. With the added attraction that because these laws have ‘(Wales)’ in the name too many people are misled into believing they’re designed to serve Welsh interests.
And yet if you think about it, there should be nothing here to surprise anyone. Since the introduction of this non-devolution, implementing the ethnocidal planning policies of a non-existent ‘Welsh’ Planning Inspectorate, the Notional Assembly has been under the control of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party. So we have a sham devolution run by a fake party, for a country that will soon exist nowhere outside of our imaginations.