PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
As if to prove that it’s a small world I sometimes post contributions from Jeremy Wood, a Kiwi who has immersed himself in the Welsh communities of Patagonia.
Because it is a small world, Covid-19 has obviously reached Y Wladfa, and one victim is Ysgol y Cwm, which you might remember reading about in an earlier contribution from Jeremy, Update from Patagonia.
I’ve used everything I received, including the message to me because it makes good reading. Jeremy writes: “You think things are bad in Wales with Labour? Come and taste all the worst cronyism, nepotism and corruption Argie style. Mr Julio de Vido, the Minister recently jailed under the previous government for Corruption with a Capital C, has just been freed and put under “house arrest” by the latest bunch (the current vice president was previously his boss).”
To which I would respond: “Jeremy, your local politicians might be marginally more corrupt than the shower down Corruption Bay, but they could never be more incompetent. I say that because sophisticated corruption demands a level of intelligence almost entirely absent from our political class.”
Now read on . . .
Well, I hope you’re holding up over there! We are in total lock-down and, because of the combination of the federal system of government and complete incompetence, nobody knows what’s happening. The Minister of Health for Argentina is well qualified for the job – for the last 8 years, he’s been Argentina’s ambassador to Chile.
Here in Esquel, we have 4 respirators (unknown if they actually work), so the classic bribery system will make the decisions as to who has the priority to use them.
You think things are bad in Wales with Labour? Come and taste all the worst cronyism, nepotism and corruption Argie style. Mr Julio de Vido, the Minister recently jailed under the previous government for Corruption with a Capital C, has just been freed and put under “house arrest” by the latest bunch (the current vice president was previously his boss).
Anyway, now they have closed our school, Ysgol y Cwm, and are refusing to pay our teachers, so we are looking into the abyss.
I wrote this this morning. Any help would be much appreciated!”
All the best
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) CLOSES WELSH SCHOOLS IN PATAGONIA – YSGOL Y CWM LAUNCHES A SPECIAL APPEAL
On Monday 16 March, all schools in Welsh Patagonia were compulsorily closed by the Argentine government.
For many months, the Chubut (the Argentina Province where all the Welsh towns lie) Government has refused to pay the Welsh and other teachers in the new Welsh school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm, claiming that they had no money. They pay only for a single administrator. The other Welsh schools in Patagonia, in Trelew and Gaiman, considerably closer to the seat of Government in the state capital, Rawson, and established for a longer period, today receive additional funding from the Government.
This Provincial Government has been racked for many years by intense corruption, leaving it as the most indebted (by head of population) in Argentina. In this province of “political favours”, the number of people employed by the province has risen from 22,000 to over 65,000 in recent years. And, despite natural riches, tourism, agriculture and fishing, the province has racked up a debt of almost one billion dollars, which includes 250 million paid for public works which were never carried out. The government was so broke that it couldn’t pay its public employees on time and, as a consequence, the militant teachers’ union went on strike, leaving most state schools closed in 2019 for months on end.
It was hardly surprising, given the chaos in the province, that parents were looking for a safe haven for their children.
They found it in Ysgol y Cwm in Trevelin, which has never lost a day through industrial action. Indeed, the school was so much in demand that it maintained a waiting list and dramatically increased the intake of children with no Welsh background, thereby securing a rosy future for the Welsh language in this beautiful part of Patagonia.
Sadly, now, with the advent of the Corona Virus (although there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Chubut), the rose is in danger of dying – the school had never been in a position to make any money. In fact, it was losing close on £1,000 per month, but much of the shortfall was made up by standing orders from “Guardians” who gave between £10 and £50 per month, as well as fund raising schemes in Patagonia and in Wales. But this latest hammer blow means that the school may no longer be in receipt of fees from the parents, but it must still maintain payments to its teaching staff. They are now very busy creating Welsh distance teaching solutions for the children at home in Trevelin.
The school desperately needs financial help to weather this storm. These can be made directly into the school’s bank account in London or, preferably, in the form of standing orders in favour of the school. All the details are on the school’s website. Every donation will help. A standing order of just £5 per month will not only help financially today, but it will help the school to plan for the future when it can anticipate its future income stream from Guardians.
Please help in any way you can. Hopefully, with a contribution; but if not, then please pass this message on to as many people as possible.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 20.03.2020: Just received a message from Jeremy Wood, which reads:
“Many thanks for the coverage! A few over here are pouting that I have cleaned dirty washing in public. I will continue to do so!!
I just spoke to my son-in-law. He works for a large wine/spirits distributor in Britain. He said that their sales are breaking all records. They are selling £500,000 more than their budget EVERY DAY. The majority of sales are for wine.
I am working on a Malbec-based cure!
All the best and stay healthy!”
A ‘Malbec-based cure’ would be lovely, but while we’re waiting, I’ll just carry on with the Malbec.
I first became acquainted with Jeremy through my old mate, the late Rhobert ap Steffan, known to the inner circle as ‘Castro’, who made a number of trips to Patagonia. I’d known Rhobert for many years, we spent the Investiture period in ’69 with a couple of other young rebels in Ireland.
We had a great send-off on the Swansea-Cork ferry from our Special Branch ‘tails’ (we each had two), who didn’t believe we were going. They followed our car in a convoy down to the docks, boarded the ferry, even bought us drinks, and then waved good-bye from the quayside as we sailed off.
God! it was a touching scene. Them: ‘The bastards really are going’. Us: ‘F### off, copper!’ Ah! Happy days!
But enough nostalgia. First, a biography of our guest writer, Jeremy Wood, and then he’ll bring you up to speed with events in Esquel, Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm and Bodega del fin del Mundo. (Ahhhh . . . Malbec!)
Jeremy Wood is one of the best-known authorities on Welsh Patagonia (to the extent of sometimes being referred to as ‘Mr Patagonia’). He lives in the home town of his Esquel-born wife, Cristina, and young son, Tomos. He is on the committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin and is actively involved in fund-raising for the town’s Welsh school, Ysgol y Cwm.
He featured extensively in Jon Gower’s 2015 book, Gwalia Patagonia, the sales proceeds of which have been generously dedicated to Ysgol y Cwm. He is involved in numerous projects relating to Patagonia and to the Welsh in Patagonia, about which he writes regularly for newspapers and magazines in the UK and the United States.
Jeremy has also contributed important, newly-discovered archive material to the Welsh museums across Patagonia, including a long lost manuscript regarding the murders of 3 young Welshmen in 1884 by John Daniel Evans, and has recently published a book on that tragedy.
He is also involved with film, writing Esquel (20:35) as part of the programme of twinning with Aberystwyth (which he initiated and completed). Jeremy also worked with Matthew Rhys to produce a Spanish version of Hollywood Gaucho. While as a film historian he has unearthed from the BBC archives 22 films made prior to 1980 about the Welsh in Patagonia and not previously seen in Patagonia.
He was asked by the producers of the Oscar-nominated film, Patagonia, to develop a special tour of Patagonia which follows in the footsteps of the film. He was the Patagonia-based ‘fixer’ for Huw Edwards’ Patagonia documentary released by the BBC in 2015. He has a special relationship with the Palaeontological Museum in Trelew, featured in David Attenborough’s 2016 documentary about the largest dinosaur (and animal) ever to have walked the Earth.
Away from movies and television Jeremy organises tours of Patagonia for small and large groups and has organised several musical tours, including two sell-out concert tours for tenor, Rhys Meirion.
Fittingly, he was one of only 30 Patagonians honoured to have been chosen to re-enact the landings of the first Welsh settlers in the 150th Anniversary celebrations in Porth Madryn in 2015.
Jeremy is a New Zealander and has studied Welsh at Ysgol Gymraeg yr Andes, the Welsh school in Esquel.
WELSH LANGUAGE IN PATAGONIA SHORED UP WITH EIGHT-INCH NAILS
Hoelion Wyth is a Welsh phrase for somebody who can be relied upon. It literally means an eight-inch nail, which was the longest nail used in the construction of chapels in Wales and, as such, had to be very strong and reliable. It is also the name of a Welsh society whose motto is “Nid rhwd anrhydedd hoelen”, which means, more or less, “A nail doesn’t wear rust with honor”.
Hoelion Wyth is a society to which honor and trustworthiness are very important. It was founded many years ago and the members (about 200 people) meet every month throughout Wales to enjoy wine and conversation. They regularly invite people with an interesting story to tell to attend their meetings and speak to them.
In 2015, I had the pleasure of taking 4 of their members for a trip around Chubut, the Argentinian province where all the Welsh towns and communities lie. In anticipation of their love of wine, I loaded 14 cases of Patagonian wine into my Toyota 4×4 and we travelled from Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast to Trevelin in the Andes for two weeks, meeting many members of the Welsh community, visiting homes, farms, schools and cemeteries, travelling to some of the most remote corners of Chubut to see our national parks, glaciers, deserts, geology and dinosaurs. And, with each Welsh Patagonian experience, we enjoyed Patagonian wine.
All my passengers were/are fluent in the Welsh language and use it in preference to English when they speak to each other. Outside Wales, the only place in the world where the language is still spoken is Chubut. Therefore, the most emotional moments we shared during our trip were when we met Argentinians who spoke Welsh and when we visited schools in Patagonia to see children learning and speaking Welsh.
Our visitors understand that the Welsh language is endangered in Chubut and that no money is available from any official source in Chubut to pay for Welsh schools. Therefore, when they returned to Wales, they talked about how they could combine the interests of their Society with the strengthening of the Welsh language in Argentina. The magic formula was then invented – to import wine from Patagonia to sell in Wales (and the rest of the UK) and to donate all the profits to our school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm (which means School of the Valley). At that time, in the early days of the project, they bought the wines from importing agents in Wales and added labels around the necks of the bottles to demonstrate the connection with the Welsh School in Patagonia. To date, they have already raised over $15,000 and haven’t taken a penny in profit themselves.
The group has just visited Patagonia again (much to the regret of my liver) and, on this occasion, we visited the Bodega del Fin del Mundo (literally, the Vineyard at the Bottom of the World), a Patagonian estate of almost 5,000 acres of 12 different grape varieties and with a production capacity of over 10 million bottles per year.
We spent the day with Julio Viola, the son of the founder of the vineyard, who insisted that we try over 30 different bottles from the estate, ranging from delicate champagnes to raunchy reds, and that we explain in more detail about the Welsh language still spoken in Trevelin (a few hundred kilometres south of the vineyard) and how the vineyard could help us raise more money for Ysgol y Cwm.
We left many hours later, most on wobbly legs, with a commitment from the vineyard to look seriously into a production run in Patagonia of a Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a label, in Welsh, explaining the presence of the Welsh language in Argentina and the continued teaching and promotion of it at Ysgol y Cwm.
For more information on the wine, please contact John Watkin – firstname.lastname@example.org
YSGOL Y CWM
The first Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia in 1865. In 2015, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of their arrival and there were celebrations throughout Chubut. In 2013, the Welsh communities in Esquel and Trevelin met to decide how they would celebrate 2015. (I live in Esquel and I am a member of the Committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin.) I suggested that we should not plan to do many things, but that we should plan only one thing and that we should concentrate all our efforts to do that thing very well. At that time, children and adults received their Welsh lessons by visiting classrooms in Esquel and Trevelin, but we did not have a full-time school. We decided to build a bilingual Welsh/Spanish school for children between 4 and 11 years of age! The school would teach the Argentine national curriculum in Spanish and Welsh!
The Governor of Chubut (Martin Buzzi) at that time promised to pay about half of the costs as part of his contribution to the 150th Anniversary celebrations. Of course, he paid nothing. Mario Das Neves, the next Governor, also paid nothing. The National Government of Cristina Fernandez paid nothing and the current National Government of Mauricio Macri paid nothing. In fact, the Minister of Education in Macri’s government said that it was the national policy not to support bilingual schools.
The Welsh Society in Trevelin owned some land near to the centre of the town. It decided to divide the land into building plots and sell the plots to raise money to build the school. It did not expect to sell all the plots immediately and therefore asked an Argentine-Welsh architect from Esquel to design a school which could be built in stages – a few classrooms at a time. As it sold more land, it could build more classrooms. Of course, it didn’t anticipate how quickly the Argentine peso would go down and how quickly inflation would increase. But, despite all these difficulties, the school was opened on time in 2016 with the first class of children. Each year since, it has introduced another class. In March 2019, it will introduce another class and open the 5 new classrooms, which are nearing completion (at the moment, the Welsh Society does not have enough money – about 5,000 dollars – to pay for a boiler, so there is a chance that the very picky Argentine inspectors may delay the opening).
Trevelin and the Welsh community in the Andes now have a nursery school and a junior school, which are recognized by the Chubut government and which are regularly inspected. The project has been so successful that it has a waiting list of parents who wish to send their children to the school. The reason for its success, despite being a fee-paying school, is that the school has “old-fashioned” values, that its teachers are committed and passionate and that it is not influenced by the politics of education at a national or provincial level. The majority of children who attend the school have no Welsh blood, but their parents recognize the above benefits, plus the internationally acknowledged merits of a bilingual education (irrespective of what the languages are).
The business model for the school is that the Welsh Association raises funds for construction and it provides the school buildings to a separate legal entity which operates and runs the school. This entity pays all the running costs, pays the teachers and collects the fees from the parents and from adult learners, who use the school facilities at evening classes. The school also receives assistance from the Welsh government, which provides the services of a Welsh teacher on a half-time basis (the other half of the teacher’s time is spent in nearby Esquel). However, the school receives virtually no financial support from the government in Chubut, which pays for one administrator and for 22 hours of teaching per week.
In 2018, the school employed a teacher from Wales, paid for from its own funds, and provided accommodation for her and her family. In 2019, an additional teacher from Wales will be recruited and paid for by the school. Your correspondent opened a bank account for the school in London and it receives money from supporters across the world in the form of standing orders and one-off donations. Trevelin is twinned with Aberteifi/Cardigan and they also hold fund-raising events for the school.
When the group from Hoelion Wyth came to the school, the children welcomed them with songs in Welsh and the ceremonial raising of the Welsh flag.
The Welsh society is now preparing another piece of land for sale to build houses. With the money received, it is planning the final phase – a small (400 seats) concert facility for use of the school and a permanent home for the annual Welsh festival, the Trevelin Eisteddfod.
For more information, please contact email@example.com
This is a bumper edition, some 3,600 words, enough to keep you going for a week. It comprises six different reports so you don’t need to gorge and make yourself ill, you can take it one piece at a time. Enjoy!
MRS AND MR MERRILL
Rose Mutale Merrill (née Nyoni), doyenne of the race relations industry in Wales, head of Bawso, and involved with so many other organisations, a Labour Party insider and enforcer, has figured on this blog many times. News now reaches me of yet another string to her bow.
For it is alleged that she has built up quite a property empire in some desirable locations in and around Cardiff. One such property being 6 Mitre Place, in Llandaf, quite close to the cathedral. This cost her £223,600 in May, 2005.
This was before her marriage to Travers Merrill in or around October 2008, he of Rhondda Life fame. ‘Rhondda Life?’ Well, yes, it was a venture which, according to this report, seems to have targeted the gourmet tourists with which the Rhondda Fach is inundated.
Or, to put a less generous interpretation on it, it was yet another non-starter claiming hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in an attempt to be seen to be doing something in a Labour heartland and, more importantly, providing cushy numbers for Labour Party time-servers.
Travers Merrill was chief executive of Rhondda Life, though when the inevitable collapse came about, Shippo of Llais y Sais was considerate enough to see that Merrill’s name did not appear.
Looking through the papers filed with Companies House I see that after the liquidators – based in Leicester! – had taken their pound of flesh Rhondda Life seems to have been left with 43 pence in the kitty. Another great success for the Poverty Party.
But let us hie again to leafy Llandaf.
What I found strange about the title document for 6 Mitre Place was that even though the property was bought before the nuptials in the autumn of 2008 the title document has been amended to show Mutale’s married name, but the erstwhile Raymond Blanc of Ferndale is not mentioned. Which suggests that she is the sole owner.
Not content with just one property she then purchased another not far away, opposite Llandough Hospital. And there have been other purchases since to give Rose Mutale Nyoni-Merrill what I’m told now amounts to quite a property portfolio.
My informant – who I’m sure is mistaken – suggests that there might have been ‘confusion’ in the purchase of 6 Mitre Place, confusion as to the source of the deposit for the property. Perhaps money got mixed up somehow. But as I say, my informant is almost certainly wrong.
Before bidding this formidable woman farewell, another informant tells me that Mrs Nyoni-Merrill is/was lined up – certainly, shortlisted – for the job of Older People’s Commissioner. Can this be true?
In 1968 our national rugby team made its first trip to Argentina. As might be expected, contact was made with the descendants of the Welsh settlers in Patagonia. The BBC’s Onllwyn Brace – former rugby international himself – made a wonderful film of Alun Williams and others on that trip south.
The Welsh Rugby Union has arranged another trip to Argentina for next month, playing two tests against Los Pumas. Given that this will be the fiftieth anniversary of that first tour, our cousins in Patagonia anticipated a visit, hoping that one of the test matches might be played in Trelew, or Puerto/Porth Madryn as on the last tour in 2006.
But it seems the WRU attaches no great importance to the Patagonia connection, or the Welsh language. As I discovered when our Patagonia correspondent supplied me with the information below.
Let me start by emphasising that the host country chooses venues for test matches involving touring teams, and for this tour Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) eventually gave the tests to the cities of San Juan and Santa Fe, both west of Buenos Aires and well over a thousand kilometres north of the Welsh settlements.
And even after the decision of the host country the venues still have to be confirmed by World Rugby.
When it became clear that no test match would be played in Patagonia the emphasis shifted to laying on entertainment and sight-seeing tours for WRU representatives, especially players, and of course fans, in order to raise money for the local Welsh schools. But for this to happen, the tour operators, responsible for arranging the fans’ itineraries, would need to play ball.
My source’s first contact with the WRU was a phone call on 27 September from chairman Gareth Davies (following a number of telephone calls to him and his secretary). Davies passed the job on to Mark Killingley, Head of Digital and Communications. Killingley appears to be an internet/PR expert who joined the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016 from its English counterpart the RFU
Following that telephone conversation my contact sent an e-mail reiterating the hope that the Welsh Rugby Union would – irrespective of where the test matches were held – show support for the Welsh language in Patagonia, specifically for the schools.
“As I explained on the phone, we would like to organise a series of events for both the fans and the WRU, with all money raised being used by the 3 Welsh language schools in Patagonia for the benefit of Welsh language teaching. To have the best chance of getting the UK Rugby tour companies on board, we would like to make an announcement as soon as possible. And, in order to get the best response from the Rugby Tour companies, we would like to have the open support of the Welsh Rugby Union.”
Contact was also made with Gullivers Sports Travel of Gloucester, the Welsh Rugby Union’s official travel agents. Because of course the WRU had said they wouldn’t do anything that conflicted with what Gullivers was arranging.
The representative at Gullivers that my source met – after travelling to England on other business – had never heard of the Welsh colony in Patagonia and showed no interest in learning. Gullivers would only go to Patagonia if the UAR held one of the games down there.
More bad news came with BBC Wales’ refusal to allow sales of the 1968 film I’ve linked to above, despite Cardiff University having prepared a transcript of the film to enable subtitles.
Even after the UAR announced the venues the Welsh community was still optimistic of getting fans to visit and were working flat out. As my source put it in another e-mail to Killingley, “We have a meeting of the Welsh schools in Patagonia this weekend, and I will travel to Trelew next Wednesday (600km!!), to try and finalise at least a programme for the fans.”
Making clear that the only thing being asked of the Welsh Rugby Union was an expression of support for what hard-working and dedicated people were doing down in Patagonia in the hope that tour operators would make it easier for fans to get down there.
E-mails continued to fly between Wales and Provincia Chubut in the desperate hope that the WRU might be persuaded do something – anything! – to recognise the Welsh colony in Patagonia and show support for it, for the Welsh language, and the schools helping keep it alive.
But it soon became clear to my correspondent that this was a forlorn hope.
The WRU made it clear that no players would be coming to Patagonia – ‘But we can send our CEO’.
‘No, I think people down here want to meet the players, but if they can’t come then how about donating some items that could be raffled to raise money for the Welsh schools?’
‘Oh, no, we couldn’t do that without a recognised charity being involved’.
‘For God’s sake these schools are recognised by the Argentina Ministry of Education – and we had to fight to get that recognition for Welsh language schools’.
On March 27, in what was close to the final communication, the Welsh Rugby Union was told:
“Throughout my communication with the WRU, we have tried to make a number of suggestions about how the WRU could help the survival of the Welsh language in Patagonia and each suggestion has met with resistance or rejection and never with any suggestion about how the WRU could help.
The WRU is obviously not willing to assist official representatives of the Welsh communities in Patagonia, who are asking for a simple endorsement of fund-raising initiatives which should align with the broad interest of a very public Welsh organisation. We have pointed out to you that this tour occurs 50 years after the first tour, where the WRU and the BBC went to great lengths to publicise the Welsh communities in Patagonia. You wear your commitment to the Welsh language very openly on your sleeves.”
As things stand, our cousins will next month be laying on events and food, entertainment and sight-seeing trips in the hope that fans will somehow make their way south from the northern cities. And it’s being done without any support whatsoever from the self-styled Welsh Rugby Union. Though in fairness, maybe Gullivers Sports Travel has now got the message, though it might have been garbled in transmission.
With its three feathers badge and its constant fawning over the English royals the Welsh Rugby Union is a national disgrace. Nothing exposes its ambivalent Welshness more than its attitude to the language, both at home and overseas.
Thank God we’ve got a national football team with a governing body far more supportive than the WRU of the language, perhaps even some of our footballers display a little more pride in their roots than many of our rugby players. For example, it was great to see Gareth Bale leave the field in Kiev on Saturday, after scoring his wonder goal, with the national flag draped over his shoulders.
Which seems to be part of a pattern.
For I’ve noticed in fifty years and more of following Welsh sport that our football fans seem to be increasingly dedicated to the team, and to Wales; whereas the death of heavy industry in the south seems to have robbed rugby of its traditional support base, for which spangly cowboy hats, inflatable daffodils and an endless supply of expensive beer are no real substitute.
But then, it’s all money.
DELTA WELLBEING LTD
Readers of this blog, and indeed other blogs, especially those focusing on Sir Gâr, will be alert to any mention of Wellbeing, the catchword for the private healthcare development, shopping mall, leisure centre, 86-lane bowling alley, and home for the Welsh space programme, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. Something of which we first became aware with the publication of this document (page 25, section 5.4).
The grand venture originally involved a company known as Kent Neurosciences Ltd, now, alas, dissolved. Among the directors of this enterprise we find a Professor Robert Marc Clement, a Turk by birth now expanding young minds at Swansea University.
Which is convenient, for Swansea University is a partner in the Delta Lakes project.
I have written nothing about Clement myself but he appears regularly on The Eye, a blog written by one of my biggest fans, Phil Parry, who is forever quoting me, updating his biography, and using my photos without permission. (You rascal, you!)
Kent Neurosciences’ place at Delta Lakes may now have been taken by Delta Wellbeing Ltd, Incorporated as recently as January this year with a single one pound share. The company was formed by a Russell Holmes Thompson from what I believe to be his home address in Wolverhampton.
So why would someone form a company in Wolverhampton that is obviously linked to Delta Lakes in Llanelli? Come to that, who is Russell Holmes Thompson? Well, he seems to have been involved in many companies over the years, a number of which are in the health and care sector.
He must have been previously known to Carmarthenshire County Council because on February 4 he ceased to be “a person with significant control” and a day later he was joined as director by Mrs Samantha Watkins, an employee of the council. On the same day the company’s address moved from Wolverhampton to the Dafen Industrial Estate in Llanelli.
Then, mysteriously, Watkins ceased to be a director on the 8th, but returned on March 20 accompanied by Owen William Bowen, possibly another council employee. So it was no surprise to see on March 23 Carmarthenshire Council listed as “a person with significant control”.
Which means that between February 8 and March 20 Thompson was officially the sole director despite having officially relinquished “significant control”. Odd, that.
As we know, Carmarthenshire County Council is simply Mark Vincent James, its chief executive (and Cardiff Bay property tycoon), by another name. And Delta Lakes is his gift to posterity, his lasting legacy for the grateful citizenry of Carmarthenshire, and nothing must be allowed to interfere with this vision.
So let’s keep an eye on Delta Wellbeing Ltd and the Delta Lakes project generally. Keep tabs on how much of the county’s money is used on this project, what other partners emerge, how much of the Swansea Bay City Deal money is diverted, what role is found for Marc Clement, how many new homes will be needed to help fund it, etc.
This could run and run!
CASTING A LONG SHADOW
The tragic death of Carl Sargeant AM last November lifted the lid a little on the links between politicians, their advisers, PR outfits, third sector parasites and other denizens of that cess-pit known as Cardiff Bay.
Fresh information reaches me that makes the whole business look even more distasteful.
I’m told that following Sargeant’s death, Christina Rees, MP for Neath and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, had to be forced by other Welsh MPs to make a statement of condolence. Because, I’m told, she, or perhaps her political adviser, former Cardiff councillor, Luke Holland, had been briefing against Carl Sargeant, and that the briefings continued against former AM Leighton Andrews, Sargeant’s friend and defender.
There was outrage within the Labour Party over the behaviour of Rees and Holland, which the bruvvers managed to keep within the party (easy given the absence of a Welsh media) but even so, Holland’s position became untenable and he left, or was forced to leave, Ms Rees’ office.
So what did the boy do next?
He did what everybody in his position does – he set up a PR outfit! This one called Cathod Du (Black Cats) Consultancy Ltd, Incorporated November 30. It seems to have no website and no presence beyond the few sparse documents at Companies House, but that may not matter, for it might now have a specific purpose, or a single client.
I’m told that Holland is a supporter of Vaughan Gething, who a few days ago announced that he was running for Labour leader in the Assembly. And in the best traditions of Welsh politics it is further suggested that Cathod Du may act as a conduit for funding the Gething campaign.
To complicate matters even further, Mark Holland is married to Louise Magee, the general secretary of Plaid Tlodi. Magee was heavily involved in Sargeant’s sacking on November 3. I believe it was she who sent the e-mail informing him of his dismissal.
Then, in a plot twist few writers would dare commit to paper – Magee was appointed by the party to be Jack Sargeant’s agent in his campaign to succeed his father! Understandably, the welcome mat was not rolled out for her on Deeside, so she booked into a hotel outside of the constituency and kept a very low profile.
And to round off this tale of betrayal and incestuous relationships I also hear that soon after being appointed the Poverty Party’s general secretary last April Magee gave hubby Holland the job of being her press officer, without the post being advertised and at a higher salary than other staff.
If so, this isn’t listed on his Linkedin profile, nor can I find information anywhere else, so can anyone confirm this?
I was told long before Carl Sargeant’s death that Vaughan Gething was Carwyn Jones’s chosen successor. Given how instrumental Jones’s staff and former staff were in the campaign against Sergeant, Magee’s role, and how that links with Holland, and how Holland may now be Gething’s bagman, it does make you wonder.
One of the few Twitter accounts I follow is the excellent Welsh not British and his On This Day feature, which last week reminded us of the Mold Riots of 1869. Just as well because I’m sure few of us know of this episode.
Like so many events in our history the Mold Riots have either been corrupted or ignored entirely. And yet, here we have Welsh miners suffering discrimination, being denied work, then arrested, with the episode eventually resulting in soldiers shooting down people in the streets of a Welsh town.
So how come ‘Welsh’ Labour doesn’t commemorate this event?
The simple answer is that any issue that pits Wales against England or Welsh against English must be avoided like the pox in case it encourages nationalist sentiment which might result in more people questioning the benefits to Wales of being in the Union with England.
But equally, taking the side of England or the English would be damaging for the party, so it’s best that certain issues and incidents are ignored entirely.
For when it comes to Wales the Labour Party is primarily a Unionist Party, everything else is secondary. The ‘socialism’ is just sloganising; the ‘concern’ for the downtrodden is nothing more than posturing to justify the maintenance of the party’s third sector auxiliary force; while the hostility to capitalism is an excuse to explain sheer incompetence from arseholes incapable of organising an economy.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mold Riots. The Poverty Party won’t commemorate the event but those who died and the others who suffered such blatant and racist discrimination should be remembered. They deserve it.
Let’s do it in 2019!
SEND US YOUR SICK AND YOUR ELDERLY, WALES CAN AFFORD IT!
The Conservatives have once again raised the issue of free prescriptions, and once again, they’ve done it without really grasping the problem.
As the article from Llais y Sais tells us, people have been getting Bonjela, Strepsils, and even deodorants on prescription, which is guaranteed to get ‘Apoplectic of Cowbridge’ choking on his single malt but doesn’t amount to much in the greater scheme of things. For the abuse of the free prescription legislation is only the tip of the iceberg.
That’s because free prescriptions attract into Wales large numbers of people who would otherwise be spending a sizeable amount of money every month on prescription charges, for there are no free prescriptions in England. These will be people with serious and long-term conditions.
I see such people every day in Tywyn, and they can be found in every other small town in Wales.
Quite obviously, the demands such people make on the NHS will not be restricted to prescription charges. In fact, prescription charges will be only one small part of the burden imposed by a high dependency group attracted to Wales in the first instance by free prescriptions.
For they will also require hospital treatment, therapy and carers, there may be a nurse calling regularly. Or perhaps it’s transport, from the Wales Mobility and Driving Assessment Service, funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Its headquarters are at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff but it has a northern office in Rhyl and ‘outreach’ services at Newtown, Oswestry and Pembrokeshire.
All of which adds up to a hell of a lot more in monetary terms than prescription charges.
Of course a high percentage of the people we’re discussing will be middle-aged and elderly, which helps explain why we also read in the article, “The number of ‘drugs for dementia’ items rocketed by 1,473% – up from just over 11,000 in 2002 to nearly 179,000 in 2017”.
An iron law of the relationship between Wales and England says: ‘Anything which makes Wales attractive to English people will result in large numbers of English people moving into Wales’.
It would be nice if this was a booming economy, an abundance of well-paid jobs, and a labour shortage, but it’s not. (Of course, many of the better jobs are reserved for English people, but that’s simply because of our colonial status.)
Apart from that, what attracts people to Wales in 2018 – especially the retired and other non-working groups – is cheap property prices (or easy access to social housing), nice scenery, few ‘ethnic minorities’, and free prescriptions.
Yes, Northern Ireland and Scotland also have free prescriptions, but they do not have large numbers of English people, moving in every year. Those that do move are more likely to be students than retirees.
It’s difficult to understand why the situation we experience today could not have been foreseen, and the problem mitigated with a residency period of say 10 years in Wales before anyone qualified for free prescriptions.
Or maybe it was foreseen.
Because if someone wanted to skew Welsh health and sickness statistics, over-burden our NHS, in order to paint a picture of we Welsh being unable to run our own affairs, then free prescriptions is a bloody good way of doing it.
I leave you with the words of a ‘Welsh’ Government spokesperson: “Free prescriptions were introduced in Wales as a long-term investment to improve people’s health”. The truth is that free prescriptions have made Wales a less healthy country.
The EU currently takes no position on the sovereignty issue but accepts Britain’s de facto administration of the Falklands-Malvinas on the basis of solidarity among member states, despite having a number of member states with profound and undisguised sympathy with Argentina’s claims. Surely, even this position of neutrality will disintegrate post-Brexit.
Currently, the only countries I have been able to identify that continue to support the British arguments are Canada and Taiwan. (The latter for very obvious and self-serving reasons, Jac.)
This must surely be the time for Wales, Scotland and Ireland to use the next meeting of the British-Irish Council to join the international consensus in urging the British state to commence discussions with Argentina immediately on the Falklands-Malvinas sovereignty issue.
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Jac adds . . . Until I started looking for links for this piece I hadn’t realised myself just how isolated Britain now is on the issue.
While digging I also came across the recently broken story that Israel had supplied Argentina with weapons during the war. Hardly surprising perhaps, given that Buenos Aires has one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. So with Jewish boys in the conscript army we should not be surprised by this revelation.
Though many of the accounts I read, including the one linked to, personalise it by attributing the decision to Israel’s prime minister at the time, Menachem Begin, who had fought against the British in the late 1940s. He was even quoted as having invoked the name of an old Irgun comrade hanged by the British by way of justification.
Other reports of this revelation inevitably described Begin as a ‘terrorist’, which got me to thinking . . . Why is it that all my life I have heard people around the world described as terrorists by the British media and British politicians – did these people come to England and terrorise people?
Of course not, these ‘terrorists’ – De Valera, Kenyatta, Grivas and all the rest – were in their own countries, defending their own peoples. Theirs was a fight against imperialism. Yet the British/English interpretation is that the empire was benevolence manifest, consequently only unhinged terrorists could want to break the imperial connection.
This new and ugly Englishness, and all its ranting prophets and hangers-on – particularly those in Wales – must be treated with a combination of contempt and ridicule. And if that fails, then we must do to them as they do to others and shout them down.
This is no time to retreat to the moral high ground. Fight fire with fire.
There are a few countries around the world with which Wales has long-standing and profound cultural, political and social ties. The other Celtic countries, of course. The United States, where, famously, 16 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh descent — with particularly strong Welsh connections with Pennsylvania (aka “New Wales”) and Ohio. However, one of the most celebrated and enduring international relationships is with Argentina.
Welsh Settlement in Argentina
When Michael D. Jones sought to establish a settlement for Welsh people free from the cultural repression and bigotry of the British state, it was the Argentine government that he approached for permission to locate Y Wladfa in Patagonia as a new country, a “little Wales beyond Wales”, where Welsh would be the language of religion, government, trade and education. And so it was that 153 Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia aboard the Mimosa, a converted tea-clipper, in a bay which they named “Porth Madryn”.
The context to this remarkable venture was the hostility of the British state to the language and culture of the Welsh people which had reached new heights in the mid-Victorian era. The official denigration and suppression of the Welsh language was legitimized and fuelled by the reports issued by the three English commissioners appointed by the Westminster parliament to head an “Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales”. Their Reports infamously declaimed:-
“The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales, and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people. It is not easy to over-estimate its evil effects …” (Read more.)
In Argentina, however, the Welsh settlers were welcomed, and the Welsh-Argentine community continues to this day centred on the towns of Gaiman, Trelew and Trevelin, where there are today at least 5000 Welsh speakers.
“Every Bloody Cause”
The long association between Wales and Argentina experienced tragedy in 1982 during the conflict in the South Atlantic.
Many Welsh-Argentines from Patagonia were conscripted into the Argentine forces occupying and defending the Falklands/Malvinas. One such Welshman, Milton Rhys, was sent as a young conscript as part of the Argentinian garrison to be a radio operator on the Falklands-Malvinas. Señor Rhys has given a poignant account of his experiences during the period of Argentine rule and the subsequent British invasion. Milton Rhys is the great-grandson of William Casnodyn Rhys, a Baptist pastor and Welsh patriot who emigrated to Patagonia from Port Talbot in the 1870s.
Of course, Welshmen fought on both sides of the conflict in the South Atlantic. Thirty-two Welsh soldiers of the British army’s “Welsh Guards” regiment were killed or severely wounded at Bluff Cove, with many suffering terrible burns, after they were left on board the ill-fated Sir Galahad logistics vessel for many hours awaiting orders to disembark – in a display of gross incompetence by the British military high command.
In these experiences on both sides of that senseless conflict, Alun Rees’s lines come to mind . . .
“Now Taffy is a fighter
when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt:
Taffy’s seen them all.
He’s fought the wide world over,
he’s given blood and bone.
He’s fought for every bloody cause
except his bloody own.”
Competing Legal Claims to the Falklands-Malvinas
The conflict in the South Atlantic arose out of a long-standing dispute over sovereignty of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands between the British and Argentine states. Here is a brief synopsis of the competing claims.
It is accepted by both Argentina and Britain that first country with a good legal claim to the Falklands/Malvinas was in fact France, which established the first colony there in 1764 and gave the islands their original name after the port of St. Malo – Les Îles Malouines (subsequently rendered into Spanish as the Islas Malvinas).
The French subsequently agreed to transfer her claims to the Falklands/Malvinas to the Spanish. The Argentine claim that they acquired those rights from Spain in 1810 according to a principle of international law known as uti possidetis juris (basically, principle of international law which provides that newly formed sovereign states should have the same borders that their preceding dependent area had before their independence).
The Argentine claims were not effectively challenged by Britain until a British naval squadron arrived in 1833 and caused the submission of the resident Argentine garrison under threat of force.
On repeated occasions since the British invasion of the Falklands-Malvinas in 1833, the Argentine government has restated its claims.
In due course, the status of the Falklands/Malvinas was recognized as a territory to be decolonized under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 of 14 December 1960, titled “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”.
Furthermore, earlier this year, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), sided with Argentina accepting their maritime claims and fixing the limit of their territory at 200 to 350 miles from their coast – so awarding the seas surrounding the Falklands/Malvinas to Argentina.
Although widely denigrated or misrepresented by the British government and much of the British media, the Argentine claims to the Falklands/Malvinas have considerable substance in law.
In a nutshell, the validity of the British claims to the Falklands/Malvinas rests on two questions:-
Was a plaque left by the British when they abandoned a brief settlement on the Islands in 1774 sufficient to entitle the British to re-assert a claim 60 years later (in 1833) and eject the existing Argentine settlement by threat of force?
Had France’s claims, which pre-dated any of the British claims, which France had transferred to Spain, and which Argentina had assumed on its independence, been extinguished by 1833?
To any objective observer, the basis of the British legal claims to the Falklands/Malvinas is decidedly shaky. When this was realised, the British government decided to switch the basis of their argument to one based on “self-determination”.
The self-determination argument has more than a touch of the Ealing Comedy “Passport to Pimlico” about it. How can a community of less than 3000 – smaller than Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen – and utterly reliant for all practical purposes on the umbilical cord with Britain, the colonial power, some 8700 miles away, assert a sovereign right of self-determination for its inhabitants? The Islanders are, of course, a transplanted population of British character and nationality. To attribute sovereign rights of self-determination to this tiny group of people is as ludicrous as astronauts claiming sovereignty over the moon.
Just as the British government and media persistently downplay and distort the basis of the Argentine claims to the Falklands/Malvinas, so too do they brush under the carpet the fundamental weaknesses in the basis of the claims of the British state to the islands.
Pragmatism and Self-Interest
Ultimately, the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty issue is not going to find its resolution in legal arguments over fine points of international law, since the arguments of both Argentina and Britain have been amply aired and found to be riddled with weaknesses. The time has therefore surely come for both states to consider rationally and pragmatically what the right result should be. For example:
Which country is best placed to administer these islands? Britain at a distance of 8700 miles or Argentina some 300 miles away.
Could the British state put the vast sums spent defending and artificially sustaining the tiny settler population to better use?
At a time of increased international tensions and security threats, should the British state be distorting its strategic defence priorities to defend the Falklands/Malvinas colony?
Can the British state continue to rely in the 21st century, and post-Brexit, on political and military support from the US, EU and any countries in South America to maintain its occupation of the Falklands/Malvinas colony?
Following the Brexit vote, and the pressing priority for the British state to establish and upgrade trading relationships beyond the EU, should the British government be perpetuating trivial colonial conflicts at the expense of valuable trading relationships with the emerging economies of South America?
The Future Role of Welsh Politicians
Given our unique, long-standing and treasured relationships with the Argentine government and people, isn’t it time that we in Wales stood up to the British state and voiced our opposition to the intransigent and counter-productive stance of successive governments on this issue?
Isn’t it now time for a rethink on this – especially following the election of the pragmatic President Mauricio Macri in Argentina?
Jac says . . . Not long after the conflict in the South Atlantic I got to meet a few of the surviving guardsmen. One of them, from my part of Swansea, was here to marry a local girl. And of course his mates turned up for the wedding.
People still talk about the first time these survivors of the Sir Galahad heard the low-flying RAF jets come down our valley. Regulars in a Welsh village pub saw Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at first hand.
I’m not sure how many of them are still alive. The bridegroom from Manselton died in 1995, and this sad entry tells us that in 2010 his grave still had no headstone.
That’s the personal, the human, aspect of this tragedy. The wider picture can only be appreciated if we by-pass the British media, for the truth is that England stands almost completely isolated, virtually no one supports her claim to the Malvinas.
The claim is founded upon imperialist aggression and sustained by a combination of lies and yet more aggression, with contempt for international law and UN Resolutions thrown in. The excuse used is self-determination, ‘the people of the islands wish to remain British’.
You might as well ask the denizens of the Shankill Road if they support a united Ireland. Or go to a meeting of the Abbasock Holiday Home Owners Association with a petition demanding that Gwynedd doubles council tax on second homes.
Finally, let us not forget that throughout that conflict in defence of democracy and freedom – so memorably dismissed by the great Jorge Luis Borges as ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’ – Britain relied heavily on intelligence and other support from Chile. A country then controlled by Margaret Thatcher’s great friend General Pinochet, a man with firm views on democracy.
I am delighted to offer you something different, a piece by Jeremy Wood on an obscure publication relating to the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Jeremy and I have never met but we have corresponded for quite a few years, having had a mutual friend in the late Rhobert ap Steffan (‘Castro’) who visited Patagonia a number of times over many years.
With the 150th anniversary of the arrival in 1865 of the first Welsh migrants to Patagonia looming, an English translation of a long-forgotten document has recently come to light. The pamphlet was written by Hugh Hughes (Cadfan Gwynedd) in 1862, when the emigration project was being pilloried in the Welsh and English press, in an attempt to address the criticisms and explain the project in detail. It was unearthed by Jeremy Wood, who lives in Esquel in Welsh Patagonia, in the Welsh museum in Gaiman in Patagonia. A number of copies of the Welsh-language original exist, but all are in museums, universities and libraries and the document has never been published on the internet nor have any detailed studies of it been published. Jeremy Wood digitally remastered the original work in Welsh and worked with Cynog Dafis, who produced an excellent English translation.
The first part of the “brochure” explains why the Welsh should leave Wales and set up their own colony overseas. Hugh Hughes was a passionate Welshman and didn’t pull any punches. He filled the first 19 pages with anti-English invective of such intensity that its publication would surely test England’s anti-discrimination laws today. He put forward a passionate case for the capability of the Welsh to run their own country and addressed individually the major criticisms raised in the press. He then went on to quote more than 20 reference works from explorers, sea captains and settlers to give the potential emigrants a good idea of what sort of place they’d be settling in.
When one reads Hughes’ account of the sorry plight of Welsh citizens having to give up their language to have any chance of progressing in life and having to live under the thumb of the English in all walks of life, one wonders what our politicians have been doing for the last 150 years. His predictions of increased English dominance were remarkably prescient. But nothing much seems to have changed and the lessons we could have learned, we have ignored.
Had Hugh Hughes actually told the truth about Patagonia (he Bowdlerised almost every reference he quoted and made up the rest!), few would have been brave enough to sign up for the first voyage on the Mimosa. But, of course, the Welsh did emigrate to Patagonia and their language and culture is still very much alive there. Hugh Hughes was, and still is, a Patagonian hero. We could do with men cast from the same mould in Wales today.
A trilingual version of Hugh Hughes’s pamphlet is due to be published next year. In the meantime, feast your eyes on some of the extracts taken from the first few pages of the book. Stirring stuff, indeed!