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
Last week’s offering was a bit of a beast at over 3,000 words so I’m slimming down for this week’s post.
After doing a bit of digging the old Jac whiskers are all a-quiver because I suspect something odd may be going on in Pembroke Dock.
FIELD MARSHAL MITTY
You may remember that last year I wrote about Admiral Wing Commander of the SAS Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen VC, Croix de Guerre, Iron Cross (1st Class), Purple Heart and the Order of Lenin, who laid out his plans for Fort Hubberstone in Milford Haven. His new company Camp Valour CIC promised to turn the old base into a wonderland for ex-service personnel.
But Hubberstone is not the only fort in the area. The Milford Haven Waterway has a number of old fortifications because they defend one of the finest deep-water anchorages on earth. All redundant because Johnny Frog is not going to be sailing with hostile intent up the Haven, and neither is anybody else.
Unlike medieval castles these fortifications from a later era don’t draw tourists, so they just sit there, attracting dreamers and schemers.
The title document and plan I downloaded last week from the Land Registry website tells us the site is owned by a local couple. So if VR 1844 Ltd has bought the Old Defensible Barracks it hasn’t been registered.
Returning to the Milford Mercury, we are told that, “New owner, VR 1844 LTD, is a mix of history lovers, town planners and property developers who specialize in restoring historic buildings.” On reading that my first thought was, ‘That’s a strange mix’.
The report continued, “VR 1844 Ltd office manager Tanya McDermott said: ‘VR 1844 believe people never truly own a building but are the buildings guardians for a period of time'”. Which also struck me as odd, because in my experience property developers are pretty hot on things like ownership, and profit. They’re certainly not renowned for getting sentimental over buildings.
But there you go, maybe I’m getting old and cynical.
The Mercury describes Tanya McDermott as ‘office manager’, and she’s presumably the wife of one of VR 1844’s directors, Jonathan McDermott. Another director is Emma Jane Morby. McDermott and Morby are also directors of Raglan Gatehouse Developments Ltd, and Raglan 1857 Ltd. Raglan Gatehouse being a similar project to the Old Defensible Barracks in Plymouth.
With Raglan 1857 we find Tanya McDermott listed as secretary.
Jonathan McDermott seems to be respected in his field and I can’t find any other companies where he’s served as a director.
Turning to Emma Morby though we find seven companies in addition to the two Raglan companies and VR 1844 Ltd. These are:
Let’s Shield Ltd, formed 24.10.2018. Since o7.03.2019 majority shareholder has been Joan James who did not become a director.
Which means that of those seven companies the only one still breathing with which Emma Morby is involved is Goa Group Ltd, but as I suggest, it’s near the door. I don’t wish to be harsh on Ms Morby, but that’s not a record that fills me with confidence.
THE RICHES OF THE ORIENT
If we go back to the Companies House entry for VR 1844 Ltd and check under the ‘People’ tab, we find, in addition to McDermott and Morby, Lai Heng Seto and Trevor Iain Walker listed as directors. Both are residents of Singapore.
VR 1844 Ltd started life on 14 August 2018 as Muniment Yorkshire Ltd, before becoming Walker Property Developments Ltd in July 2019, and adopting the current name on 2 October. The final change coinciding with the arrival of McDermott and Morby on 23 October last year.
And if you think that Emma Morby has been involved in a few companies in recent years, then Trev’s record will make you see how a real property hot-shot operates.
For after doing some digging I have found no fewer than 28 companies with which Trevor Iain Walker has been involved, and from what I can see, they’re all property companies. Here’s a list of them in PDF format, so click on the links to get the details.
What I find surprising about Trevor Walker’s business record is that the earliest entry I can find for him with Companies House is April 2014, when he was approaching his 52nd birthday.
What had he been doing before April 2014?
You’ll see that his early companies all carried the ‘Muniment’ name. (Muniment being a document or title deed proving claim to land or privilege.) Then there’s a two-year gap from December 2014 to December 2016, before Trev comes roaring back with two companies launched on the same day.
Also note that he was not in at the start with the first company, Muniment Ltd. This was Incorporated 12 September 2013, but as we’ve seen, Walker didn’t join until 8 April 2014. His seat was kept warm for him by Lai Heng Seto, who left on the day he arrived.
Ms Seto, you will remember, is also a director of the Pembroke Dock company.
The companies listed on the PDF document I’ve linked to are all companies of which Walker is or has been a director, with one exception, and that exception is Brigstock Campsite Ltd, a company registered in Northern Ireland. It is included because even though Walker was never a director he did control the company through Muniment Ltd owning most of the shares.
In the absence of Trevor Walker and Lai Heng Seto, Singapore was represented by Jody Cheoy Tho Eu and Lee Hung Lim. But it’s the other director I’d like to introduce, Alfred William Buller.
When he’s not fighting popery and a united Ireland, Alfie (as he is known) is a horse breeder and a businessman. In fact, he’s been a director of almost 200 companies. But he may also be bankrupt, which might put a question mark over his involvement in any company.
Going back to Trevor Walker and looking through his companies’ accounts a few things struck me. Let’s go to the oldest company in the portfolio, Muniment Ltd (current directors: Trevor Iain Walker and Lai Heng Seto), and open the latest accounts.
There you’ll see ‘Fixed assets’ and ‘Current assets’ totalling £9,652,355, which looks impressive, until you work out that 87% of that figure is accounted for by ‘Debtors’ (that is, money owed to the company).
Then, under ‘Creditors’ (money owed by the company), we see the figure £9,409,539.
Take one from the other and we arrive at the ‘Net assets’ figure of £242,816.
Go to the accounts for the previous year, 2017, where we learn that more than six million pounds has been taken out by Walker and Seto. Ms Seto is not mentioned by name in the 2018 accounts, so is the £3,578,457 she owes included in the Debtors column?
Will Ms Seto the director be asking Ms Seto the loanee to return the money she so generously granted herself? The same question could be posed to Trevor Walker. But then, when it’s your company, with no other shareholders, you can do what you like. Though to see amounts like that being taken out is unusual.
It makes me wonder where the money originates. Does it come from Singapore, go through the system, and then back to Singapore via Walker and Seto?
It’s worth mentioning that although I’m referring to ‘accounts’, none of these documents are audited, they’re just unverified ‘financial statements’ submitted to Companies House by the directors. In other words, those who are giving themselves millions of pounds.
One of the many failings of the regulatory system in the UK is that a company handling millions of pounds can submit back-of-an-envelope accounts. Or it can be done online. This may, as claimed, ‘remove red tape’, but it also makes it easier for those so inclined to be naughty.
(N.B. I’m not suggesting criminal behaviour by any of those discussed here.)
A WORD TO THE WISE
As with the case I dealt with last week, Anglesey County Council and the Shire Hall in Llangefni, I’m sure Pembrokeshire County Council would like to see the Old Defensible Barracks taken over and developed into an asset for the town.
But Wales sees rather too many ‘developers’ with over-ambitious or downright dishonest schemes. So before Pembrokeshire County Council, the ‘Welsh Government’, or Cadw goes overboard with red carpets and grant funding, I suggest they make a few enquiries.
Establish who actually owns the Old Defensible Barracks.
Investigate the business credentials of whoever you deal with and be sure where their money comes from. (Also, where it goes.)
Only if these enquiries return satisfactory results should you proceed with any project for the Old Defensible Barracks.
It may be Hallowe’en but you’ll find no ghosties or ghoulies here, just the usual parade of grotesques and exhibitions of idiocy and cupidity that haunt modern Wales. Night and day. All year round.
Seeing as I haven’t put anything out for over a week this is a bumper issue, around 4,000 words, but there’s no single, linking theme other than the sheer fuckedupedness of Wales. I have, as old Nennius said, ‘made a heap of things’. On the plus side, because this is a meal made up of a number of courses, you can take your time.
And if kids come knocking on your door, demanding money with menaces, set the dog on them.
THE OLIVE TRUST
In the previous post, Hate Crime, I told you about the insults aimed at me by Denise Kingsley-Acton, a very strange woman currently domiciled in Kidwelly. A very strange woman indeed. That anyone takes her seriously is difficult to believe, but if they do it may be due to the fact that she has a ‘minder’ in the form of Swansea Labour councillor for 43 years, and now Alderman, Alan Lloyd.
While Lloyd obviously opens doors for Denise Kingsley-Acton, it’s difficult to see what he gets out of it. But being a former Labour councillor we can be sure that he’s not acting as her guide and guarantor for altruistic reasons.
Since posting that piece last week a bit more information has come to light, some of which was added as an update, some of which will be fresh.
You no doubt shared my astonishment that this woman had been given a grant to educate young people about hate crimes. According to her Facebook page she had received a grant from the “Police Commissioner for Dafed (sic) Powys”. So I wrote to the PCC.
The initial response from the office of the PCC said, “The Police and Crime Commissioner has not awarded a grant to the Olive Trust. The grant was awarded from the Safer Dyfed-Powys Diogelach charity, to which the Commissioner is a trustee.”
After a follow-up e-mail I was told, again from the office of the PCC, “The grant was awarded to the Olive Trust as an organisation and it was for £1000.” The wording suggests that we should regard the Olive Trust as something unconnected with Denise Kingsley-Acton, when in fact she is the Olive Trust, and the Olive Trust is her.
I’m still waiting to hear if the grant offer has been withdrawn.
The latest entry on the Olive Trust Facebook page is shown below.
Denise Kingsley-Acton says I have harassed her “continually for many years”. The truth is that in 2012 I wrote about her attempt to screw £1,000,000 out of the Wales European Funding Office. There was a passing reference in September 2014, before two pieces about her in March this year after someone had drawn my attention to an article in Llanelli Online.
That was it, until the bizarre and slanderous allegations that came out of the blue on October 19. Had I not received those insults it’s unlikely I would have written about her ever again.
But if I learn that the Olive Trust or Denise Kingsley-Acton is trying to rip off the public purse, again; or if she posts slanders about me, again; then I shall write about her, again. And that’s a promise.
Mumbles and its pier is close to my heart. I can remember as a young boy riding the old Mumbles Train that used to clatter along the seafront.
In my early teens I spent many happy hours, whole days even, fishing. We’d usually cycle down, fishing rods strapped to our crossbars, bags on our backs containing tackle, bait, sandwiches (which often got mixed up).
At the pier we’d follow the tide out, which meant, once the two top bars of the safety rail around the eastern ‘well’ on the intermediate level became visible, working our way along, standing on the middle bar and holding tight onto the top one with one hand while holding our rod in the other, with bag on back, until we reached the far side, so that the fast ebbing tide could take our lines. And as the tide ebbed further the death-defying stunt was repeated on the bottom level.
I look back at what we did then and I wonder how we survived. Because anyone falling into the ‘well’ would either have been trapped under the floor and drowned, or else been taken out to sea so fast that they would have been lost unless a nearby boat could have reached them quickly.
From home to pier was a seven-mile ride, which was great on the first leg, partly because we were fresh and partly because it was downhill into town and then flat along the Mumbles Road. Coming home after a day’s fishing the pedals would always be heavier, especially if there were no nice fish to show your mam.
As an older teenager I did the Mumbles Mile on a Saturday night. Often after watching the Swans. We’d come out of the Vetch, have a bite to eat in a little caff we used in Wind Street, wash and brush up in one of those old public conveniences with an attendant, then catch the bus (was it the 77?) to Mumbles – White Rose, Pilot, Prince of Wales, Antelope . . . before walking home, which with diversions and digressions might mean getting home in time for breakfast
But then, I’m sure Mumbles and the pier plays a role in the life of anyone from Swansea and the wider area.
So it’s understandable why there is such interest in the proposed development. Now I shan’t comment on the development itself because it’s complicated – obstruction of views, etc – and I don’t have the space here, but there are a few points worth raising.
Someone we’ve encountered on this blog more than once is Lawrence Bailey, former leader of the local Labour Party, former Lord Mayor, and of course leader of the council. Or, rather, he was fulfilling these roles when he could tear himself away from his real interest of pornography. For which he was awarded the coveted Private Eye Pornographer of the Year award.
He also used to write to the Evening Post as Phyllis Evans of Cwmrhydyceirw, Disgusted of Dunvant, and a host of others who all seemed to support the Labour Party. Fancy! It seems likely that the Beans on Toast was complicit in this deception.
After these unfortunate revelations Bailey resigned from the council and branched out into public relations with a company called Whiterock, which first came to my attention when ‘Stan’ pointed out that this outfit was receiving regular payments from the dike-bashing MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris.
(Who, let’s be brutally honest, needs all the image-massaging she can get.)
Bailey seems to have used the Whiterock name for some time before registering it with Companies House in August 2015. Nothing else was ever filed with Companies House and Whiterock-Wales was dissolved in January 2017.
This is something I come across regularly, many different but similar names designed solely to confuse. So tell us, Lawrence, what is the name of your company and is it registered? Nobody’ll care if you’re just a one-man band. We all know you enjoy your own company.
Of course, Bailey’s big attraction for any potential client is that he knows the local Labour Party, he’s another like Lloyd who can open doors. So it should surprise no one to learn that he is representing owners Ameco who are hoping to make many millions of pounds from luxury housing in the vicinity of the pier as the ransom price for renovating the pier itself.
There was a meeting a couple of months back between the developers and the council, or at least, the council leader, Rob Stewart. Someone sent me a link to a secretly-filmed video, which I can no longer find, but fortunately I took a few screen grabs which you can see below.
Stewart is the one in the dark suit and Bailey is the grey-headed geezer.
This is all run-of-the-mill stuff for a Labour council, but now protesters are arguing something very odd may have happened around the time the outline planning application (2010/1451) was received by the council on 17 September, 2010.
This was during a period when the city was enjoying a respite from Labour rule with a Lib Dem-led alliance in charge. Which of course meant that Bailey’s political connections would have counted for naught.
What’s being suggested is that during a process of digitisation in 2010, by the council’s officers, the boundary of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was moved so that the land on which the housing development is now planned was somehow moved outside the AONB. Here’s a BBC report.
Now if this suggestion is true, then it could scupper the whole development. If the boundary change was deliberate rather than error, then who might be responsible? Names of people – who may or may not be connected with Lawrence y Garreg Wen – carry on zephyrs wafting up from Mumbles.
Anyone with information is welcome to get in touch, with the usual guarantee of anonymity. Either use the contact box in the sidebar or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE 03.11.2018: The whole thing has now been put on hold by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It seems Swansea council has the power to refuse planning permission but it does not have the power to grant planning permission.
UPDATE 07.11.2018: In a strange twist, Swansea council’s planning committee has unanimously voted to approve the scheme. Does this mean that the Labour Party in Swansea is starting to stand up to London’s management team in Cardiff? Does it suggest that opponents of the scheme may not be as representative of the wider public as they might like to believe?
A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST
You may recall that the chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark Vincent James, has a keen personal interest in property, with properties of his own in Cardiff Bay. I wrote about this in Baywatch and Baywatch 2.
Now I learn that he is branching out with a company called Cartrefi Croeso Cyfyngedig (CCC, geddit?) This report from 6 June tells us, among other things, that, “The council is the sole shareholder in Cartrefi Croeso, which will have five directors – two council officers, one councillor and two external appointees.”
As I say, that was early June, here we are at the end of October and according to Companies House there are just two directors, both employees of the council, and therefore answerable to Mark James not the elected representatives. But James’s hold over this new company doesn’t end there.
So we now have a company, Cartrefi Croeso Cyf, using public money, run by people answerable only to Mark James, but with no democratic accountability whatsoever. What the hell is the Plaid Cymru-led council doing?
A regular source whose judgement I trust reminds me that Cartrefi Croeso is another arms-length company of the kind that Mark James seems to favour as a way of running and controlling things without having to worry about answering to those who pay his salary. Or anyone else.
Another such company is CWM Environmental Ltd. (Carmarthenshire Waste Management.) Something similar has happened to social care, and leisure services will be next. While looming at Delta Lakes is the Wellness Centre Village, where the lame shall be made to walk, one-eyed Scarlets’ supporters will be blessed with 20/20 vision . . . and some shifty buggers will make a fortune from the public purse thanks to Mark Vincent James.
From the perspective of a man like Mark James setting up private companies run by his placemen offers many advantages. Like some Mafia don he controls things but his underlings take any flak. Being private companies they are not subject to Freedom of Information requests (as they would be as in-house council departments). And of course rules on the use of the Welsh language do not apply.
It is quite amazing how, in a Western democracy, the employee of a public body can take over that body and run it as if it were some private company he had created himself! Which would be bad enough, but neither the elected representatives of those that employ him, nor the superior level of government that should be holding him to account, are prepared to do anything!
But as I keep saying, Wales has more in common with the third world than with Western Europe: Poverty, colonialism, exploitation, colonisation, widespread corruption, no oversight and monitoring of public officials and public bodies, etc., etc.
A FAIT ACCOMPLI
Midnight yesterday was the deadline for submissions in a consultation process launched on July 10 about the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to farmers. It’s been pretty clear for some time that the whole issue is being controlled from London and that the management team in Cardiff docks is simply doing what it’s told, and saying what it’s told to say.
Though in fairness it was all play-acting, for his masters had decided the outcome long in advance. The showboating and the bluster, the trips to Edinburgh, the ‘strong words’ for Mrs May’s government, were designed to placate a certain audience that in Wales often seems to care more about the EU than it does about Wales.
As a direct consequence of the Labour management team agreeing that the London Government could effectively withdraw BPS we now face the destruction of Welsh upland farming, together with the jobs, plus the language and the culture, farming sustains.
But this has little to do directly with Brexit, for if Carwyn Jones had not surrendered powers to London Welsh farmers could be receiving the same treatment as their Scottish counterparts, who have been guaranteed the continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme.
The sad little mouthpieces of the collaborationist regime in Cardiff docks, are reading from scripts prepared for them by civil servants like those you see above, one of whom has been heard to say that he hates farmers! Making it clear that Welsh farmers are to be forced from their land to make way for more English settlers. I wrote about it in The Welsh Clearances.
I can hear the objections – ‘But you misrepresent the proposals, Jac!’ Do I? Let the readers decide.
Funding is to be withdrawn from farmers and given to environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and others without whose help Mother Nature would simply give up and go home. The losers will almost all be Welsh, while the winners will be overwhelmingly English, but we’re expected to believe that this is pure coincidence.
Though it must be said, that over many years there have been some people (especially in Plaid Cymru) who have been very supportive of this replacement population. In fact, some seem to have identified more strongly with incoming ‘environmentalists’ than with their own people.
While Remain fanatics argue that farmers have brought it on themselves by voting for Brexit. Ignoring the fact that this is a decision taken by the London government using Brexit as a pretext.
Wake up! This is undisguised colonialism. Taking land off the natives is what our masters are good at, they’ve been doing it for centuries. That so much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands is an affront to everyone in whose veins runs the blood of pith-helmeted district officers and their crinolined memsahibs.
THE DISASTER OF DEVOLUTION
Reading this blog can I’m told be both entertaining and informative, but often depressing. (It’s the same writing it, but I take my ‘medicine’.) While things at the moment may look more depressing than usual I’m strangely – perhaps perversely – encouraged by recent developments.
First, the crushing defeat dished out to Leanne Wood in the Plaid Cymru leadership election made her acolytes realise how little support there is for niche politics. And if there is little support within Plaid Cymru for such nonsense then there’s even less support in the wider population. But then, when you debate issues in echo chambers you can persuade yourself that everybody is discussing what you and a tiny group of friends think is important.
That said, I can’t see Plaid Cymru getting its act together over the longer term. It will fall back into its old ways, because despite being a minority, the niche left knows how to inveigle itself into positions of influence and authority, and to intimidate others into silence. The ‘nationalists’ will have to reach some compromise with LW’s supporters.
Which means that eventually, a new party will be needed to prioritise the needs and interests of Welsh people while working towards the independent state that alone can permanently safeguard those needs and interests. Ein Gwlad already exists, and will grow into that role.
Looking at the wider picture it should now be obvious that devolution is a sham. But worse than being a sham, devolution, and the existence of a ‘Welsh’ Government, allows the UK government to get away with things that might have been very difficult without devolution.
Let’s take a few very recent examples to explain what I mean.
THE FLINT RING
This ‘initiative’ came from Cadw, which is just English Heritage West, ensuring a ‘safe’ and acceptable interpretation of Welsh history. That being so, we can be sure that the Flint Ring idea originated over the border.
To give an example of how Cadw operates I’ll go back a couple of years to something I found on its website. Cadw was promoting, “It’s 1295 and peace reigns in Caernarfon”, before going on to paint a picture of English soldiers flirting with Welsh maids. (Yes, honestly!)
The truth is of course that in 1294/5 Wales was in rebellion, and Caernarfon Castle was taken by Madog ap Llywelyn’s men. Any English soldiers still in the castle would either have been lying dead somewhere or, if they were lucky, languishing in the dungeons.
After I put out a tweet Cadw immediately took the page down. But why did the body entrusted with interpreting and presenting Welsh history get it so wrong, giving out a picture of Welsh and English living happily together in conquered Wales, us Welsh not at all resentful?
Shit! I’ve just answered my own question.
Interpreting a colonial people’s history is fundamental to maintaining a hold over that people. This is Cadw’s role in Wales. (And of course, ensuring that no Welsh are employed at our castles and other monuments.)
Far easier to do this with a Welsh name and the pretence that Cadw is an agency of a ‘Welsh’ Government.
PRINCE OF WALES BRIDGE
Yes, I know, this was announced by Alun Cairns, Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, but Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones was involved from very early on, and to a considerable degree Jones’s approval was used to justify the whole thing. A kind of joint enterprise, sharing the blame.
Had the naming been imposed directly from London there would have been far more opposition, maybe even from within the Labour Party. Devolution served to confuse what was a clear, colonialist imposition.
This was another clear, colonialist imposition. But because the ‘Welsh’ Government, and Natural Resources Wales were so co-operative, and so devious about their involvement, it served to confuse the picture. It left those objecting uncertain who to blame.
Which, again, could not have happened without the ‘shield’ of devolution.
The ‘M4 improvements’ is a long-running saga.
‘Business’ believes that the M4 must be upgraded to do away with bottlenecks and speed up travel between England and Cardiff. Most politicians seem to agree.
Late in 2013 the UK/English government gave the ‘Welsh’ government power to borrow up to £1bn to spend on the M4. On Monday we learnt from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was now an extra £300m available, but only if it is spent on the M4.
Huffing and puffing, millionaire socialist contender for the purely figurehead positions of leader of the English Labour Party in Wales and First Minister, Mark Drakefraud, insisted it was up to AMs how the money was spent.
Small but perfectly formed SoS Alun Cairns retorted by saying that the ‘Welsh’ Government had asked for the money specifically for the M4. ‘Liar’ liar, pants on fire!’ shouted Drakefraud, at which point the exchange got too highbrow for this simple old Swansea Jack.
The bottom line is that improving the M4 will help England far more than Wales because improving communications to peripheral regions invariably works against those peripheral regions. It means what makes them attractive can be reached easier and what makes such regions valuable can shipped out faster.
If the M4 ‘improvements’ go ahead jobs will be lost because it will be easier to serve ‘South Wales’ from depots and offices in England, but Wales’s cheaper homes will be brought within reach of more English commuters to Bristol and the Thames Valley.
What the A55 has done for the north on a bigger scale.
How much easier it is to perpetrate this con with the help of a ‘Welsh’ Government that can’t see beyond Cardiff – and then get the silly buggers to put the whole country in debt to pay for it! Self-financing colonialism.
Just imagine no devolution, and the UK government saying it wanted to upgrade the M4 but that Welsh local authorities were going to pay for it.
UPDATE: On the very day this post appeared this letter was published in the Western Mail. I have no idea who David Gwyn Watts of Milford Haven is, but he’s right. (Though I think the Letters Editor went a bit overboard with ‘doom’.)
As you’ve read above, Welsh farmers will be forced from their land in a policy worthy of comparison with Clearances or ethnic cleansing. The orders come from London. Civil servants answering to London will implement the strategy in Wales. And Welsh politicians will pretend it’s their policy out of a combination of vanity, congenital deviousness, and contempt for those who’ll suffer.
If a government minister had stood up in the House of Commons and said, ‘Her Majesty’s Government plans to clear Welsh farmers from their ancestral land and replace them with English environmentalists, ‘re-wilders’ and the like’, there would have been uproar in Wales. There would have been demonstrations, riots even.
But no, get some stupid woman in Cardiff to pretend it’s a decision of her ‘government’ and it confuses the natives. Use devolution as a ‘screen’ and as with the Flint Ring, and The PoW Bridge, and the toxic mud, and the M4 money, and a host of other damaging schemes, we won’t know who’s really to blame, and who we should be attacking.
This confusion can only arise because of devolution. And because of the way London uses devolution, and because of the way our politicians allow devolution to be used. Strip away devolution and we’ll see colonialism for what it really is.
Forget the comforting bollocks about devolution being a ‘badge of nationhood’. Welsh nationhood is being destroyed behind the façade of devolution. Devolution is a Trojan horse.
I predict with certainty that if there is another Tryweryn or another Investiture, it will be presented as a decision of our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government, and because of that, it will be accepted by more Welsh people than if it had come in the form of a diktat from London.
If we had a vote to abolish the Assembly, I would vote to abolish. And I wouldn’t need to think twice about it.
It’s been a while since I wrote the previous instalment in this saga, August 6th to be precise, and even though I have no earth-shattering revelations for you, it’s clear that we are moving towards a conclusion.
In addition to this latest post being an update on the saga, I shall also use it to give some thought to what this incredible story tells us about the state of modern Wales. Basically, how the hell did Paul and Rowena Williams and their associates get away with so much for so long?
Because irrespective of what now happens to those you’ve been reading about over the past few months there are others who have questions to answer, and I might as well do the asking, because nobody else will.
WHY DID THEY GET A FREE RIDE?
The Daily Post‘s involvement in this saga is quite extraordinary in its willingness to publish any old nonsense. I have drawn up a list of the DP’s articles on Plas Glynllifon and the other Gwynedd properties since Paul and Rowena Williams first became involved.
Starting with this article on 10 June 2016 telling us that the mystery owner of Plas Glynllifon – speaking through property company Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) – said that the renovation would take three years, and would cost an estimated £5m.
The new year brought this piece on 22 February 2017 in which the Daily Post was graciously granted access, to be told by Rowena Williams, “We hope that the project will hold dear to the Prince of Wales, who enjoyed his investiture ball here and also takes a very keen interest in our heritage and historic properties such as Glynllifon. We hope that he will be an asset to the project.”
We were not informed if Carlo had been asked to cough up a few quid towards the “£5.5 to £6.5” needed for the restoration. Maybe it wasn’t needed, for a finance package had been agreed with “Together in Manchester”. And Team Williams was also “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”.
On 23 May 2017 we learnt that the owners of Plas Glynllifon had enlisted the help of Lord Newborough (whose family pile Plas Glynllifon had once been), and also helping Paul Williams were “Bangor University, the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates (at Bangor Uni), Gwynedd Archives, and other bodies”. The more the merrier!
There was now a gap until 26 November 2017, and an article headlined, “Take a look at stunning £16m transformation of historic mansion into five star hotel”, which was a bit naughty, because Paul and Rowena Williams have not spent anything approaching £16m at Glynllifon. There was no explanation for how the cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon had increased from £5.5m-£6.5m in May to £16m in November. Brexit, I suppose.
There was yet another video, this one without the Gruesome Twosome but with weird musical accompaniment. Then there were photos, of, er, scaffolding; while inside the building, we saw a bath, an organ, statues and a four-poster bed. This article, like previous ones, drew a number of positive comments, including one from ‘MarkoMarko’, who I suspect may not be local, and may even have been an employee of the Williams gang.
The final plug report of the year was on 4 December 2017. Now the focus switched to the Seiont Manor Hotel , lined up for a £5m expansion. This would involve, ” . . . extending the restaurant with the provision of a new lake view terrace, expansion of the existing leisure facilities to improve the changing and spa facilities and add treatment rooms, a purpose built lake side function suite with bedrooms above and luxury lodges in the grounds”.
The first article in the new year appeared on 7 February 2018 and the focus switched again, this time to a snowy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, which we were told Paul and Rowena Williams were buying. The obligatory video introduced ageing juvenile lead Rikki Reynolds, general manager of the Seiont Manor Hotel.
This new project included, “a 100 bedroom hotel with a pool, spa, restaurants and bars”. There was to be a seafood restaurant, and holiday cottages, with the Daily Post adding, “They (Paul and Rowena Williams) said the residential parts of the project will help with funding for other parts of this 240 job scheme and the ongoing restoration at Glynllifon and expansion of Seiont Manor in Llanrug, which they also own.”
Two hundred and forty jobs! This is bullshit piled so high that it must have blocked out the sun. But by this stage if Paul Williams had said he was Jesus Christ come to give us all another chance the Daily Post would have reported it without question . . . and of course with a video.
Just three days later, on 10 February 2018, the Daily Post returned to Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch, for which, we were told, “project proposals have come and gone”; but things were to be different this time with Paul and Rowena Williams and the boy wonder. Maybe, but the video was the same one we’d seen three days earlier. We also heard of a new player in “Developer Plas Glynllifon Group”, of which no one has seen hide nor hair since.
On 27 April 2018 a fire was reported at Plas Tŷ Coch. ‘Disgraceful’ behaviour according to Paul Williams (a man who knows a thing or two about disgraceful behaviour). The Daily Post took the opportunity to remind us that Plas Tŷ Coch would be restored (sic) into luxury period apartments with low density housing in the grounds of the mansion and the restoration of walled and formal gardens.
I’m losing track now of how many apartments, houses, lodges, are involved with the Williams’ properties. Add them to the hotels, restaurants, pools, spas, bars and God knows what else and it’s getting bloody crowded!
Did it never occur to anyone that this bloke might be a sinister kind of Walter Mitty?
On to 11 May 2018 when we were told that Paul and Rowena Williams intended to part-fund their ambitions in the north through the sale of those properties they owned in Powys and over the border. This was the £10m ‘sale’ to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, which was about as convincing as a ‘Welsh Labour’ Party manifesto.
The cost of renovating Plas Glynllifon was now £20m, up from £5.5m to £6.5m a year earlier. Inflation on this scale is no problem if you’re fluent in bollocks, pluck figures out of thin air, and are trying to wangle grants . . .
We only had to wait one day, to 12 May 2018, for the next intriguing episode headed, “Take a look inside stunning Plas Glynllifon as restoration continues”. And we were treated to yet another video and more photos of scaffolding and further examples of Victorian interiors at their worst.
Giving us an effect that is quite overwrought and claustrophobic. I can only assume that this bedroom would be the Edgar Allan Poe Suite. Who’s that in the mirror!
The Daily Post went for its hat-trick with three consecutive days’ coverage on 13 May 2018, with the emphasis now shifting to the parkland and pleasure gardens around Plas Glynllifon. For the headline told us “Mansion owners in ‘advanced talks’ to take ownership of Parc Glynllifon country park”.
If this carried on it was only a matter of time before Paul Williams approached Cyngor Gwynedd with an offer they couldn’t refuse to buy the whole bloody county.
The long-awaited news of open days at Plas Glynllifon was brought to us on 6 June 2018. There was yet another video, this one confirming that a number of deliveries had been received from the local garden centre, with photos of the happy couple, scaffolding, and the Edgar Allan Poe Suite.
The cobwebs were blown away when, on 9 June 2018, we were back to the bracing air of Plas Brereton on the Menai Strait, and among fresh proposals for the site was a fishing village! So if we add that to the apartments, houses, lodges and hotels, how much accommodation does that give us? How much extra accommodation does the Caernarfon area need?
We made another slight detour on 16 June 2018 as Paul Williams’ house-trained “expert in land and heritage conservation”, dragged up specially from Cornwall, tut-tutted about the state of Parc Glynllifon and suggested that it was in such a mess it should be handed over to Paul Williams at a knock-down price.
Of the accompanying photos two were of scaffolding. (They can grow on you!)
Maybe my blog was being read at the Daily Post, for the uncritical plugs stopped and the first cloud appeared in the Williams firmament with the report of 11 July 2018headlined, “Welsh Government considering whether grant funding to mansion developers can be recouped after hotels close”, a reference to the closure of the Radnorshire Arms Hotel In Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel in the town of that name.
For all I know there might have been other articles that I’ve missed, but the 18 I’ve listed here tell an alarming tale of a gang of shysters given free access to an important source of local news. For they were allowed to say anything they wanted with nary an awkward question, let alone any journalistic digging to find out who they really were.
But as the local ‘paper the Daily Post is more guilty than others of not doing its homework on these crooks. Indeed, the other news outlets may have been attracted to Glynllifon by the endless plugs they saw in the Daily Post. Seeing as they got it so wrong with Paul and Rowena Williams we have to ask if the Daily Post will identify the next shysters arriving on its patch, or will it be more free and uncritical publicity.
Because I can predict with certainty that the easy ride Paul and Rowena Williams received from the local media, the council and others, will encourage other crooks to chance their arm in Gwynedd.
Of course, I tried to post comments to the endless ‘Aren’t they wonderful!’ stories about Paul and Rowena Williams; trying to warn people, but I’m blocked from the Daily Post and WalesOnline websites.
The question for newspapers and other media outlets before repeating press releases, or running encomiums, must always be – ‘What do we really know about these people?’ And if the answer is ‘Nothing’, or ‘Very little’, then start digging!
THE FAT LADY IS WAITING IN THE WINGS
In the previous episode I told you that Leisure & Development Ltd was in the hands of receivers and the establishments involved locked, with CCTV installed. Since then I’ve heard that Paul Williams was still getting access to some of the buildings, for example, to the Knighton Hotel, either from the flat or ground floor showroom he still owns.
The latest information I have says that an offer has been made for the Radnorshire Arms by some local nobs who hope to start refurbishment work early next year. There is also interest in the Knighton Hotel and the properties in England and Cornwall, all of which might be offered for sale very soon.
In Gwynedd, things are also moving to a conclusion. For example, in the extracts you’ve just read from the Daily Post you’ll see that Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch crop up quite regularly, with ludicrous plans for fishing villages and God knows what else – but Paul and Rowena Williams never owned these properties!
They seem to have put down a deposit but never got around to paying off the balance. The deadline to complete the sale passed on Tuesday 18 September, and so, on the reasonable assumption that the balance was not paid, Paul and Rowena Williams are now left with Plas Glynllifon and the Seiont Manor Hotel, the latter run for them by drug-dependent Rikki Reynolds.
The Daily Post couldn’t forget old habits and tried to put a positive spin on the story, as if the deal would be finalised . . . as if non-completion was a mere oversight . . . nothing to do with the money having dried up . . . the other properties being in the hands of liquidators . . . everything falling apart . . .
STOP PRESS: But, finally, on Wednesday 19 September the Daily Post was forced to submit to reality and admit that the deal had fallen through.
I now visualise Paul Williams holed up in Plas Glynllifon, something like Jean Gabin in Le Jour se Lève, chain-smoking Gauloises and ready to shoot it out with the flics receivers. (God! I must lay off the Malbec!)
But enough of 1930s French movies and the Daily Post, what about other individuals and agencies we’ve encountered in this saga, how do their roles stand up to scrutiny?
UPDATE 21.09.2018:Today the Daily Post reported that Dyfed Powys Police had met with Powys County Council trading standards officers last week to discuss the now closed Powys hotels owned by Paul and Rowena Williams.
Paul Williams was quoted as saying, “We are unaware of any meeting allegedly held between the local authority and the police in Powys. However, we are pleased to hear that they are looking into matters as this will without doubt vindicate Rowena and I.”
The Daily Post‘s reporting was again abysmal. Just two days ago, Owen Hughes, the DP’s Business Correspondent – who has written all the puffs for Paul and Rowena Williams – told us that the deal to buy Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch had fallen through, but today he wants us to believe that they’ve “agreed the purchase” of these properties.
Can’t he remember what he’s written . . . or did somebody else write it?
Not only that, but he sticks to the Williams story about these Powys properties having been sold to convicted fraudster Keith Partridge, when everyone else knows this was just a ploy allowing them to slip away and lay the blame on somebody else.
Plas Glynllifon is a Grade 1 listed building. The Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne and the Knighton Hotel are both Grade II listed buildings. (Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch are also listed.) Which means that they come under the watchful eye of Cadw, or English Heritage (West) as it is more honestly known.
Cadw/EH(W) awards grants to those owning listed properties, and so, given Paul and Rowena Williams’ talent for sniffing out easy money, it would be reasonable to assume that they applied to Cadw/EH(W) for funding. And this is what I’m told happened. I’m further told that grant funding was given.
More specifically, large amounts were given to the Powys properties, enough for Williams to claim that grants had paid for the Knighton Hotel. While in Gwynedd, it’s reported that there was a dispute between Paul and Rowena Williams and Cadw/EH(W) over a grant given to Plas Glynllifon which appeared to have been diverted to the Seiont Manor Hotel.
In the hope of getting the facts I submitted a FoI request to Cadw/EH(W), but if the reply I received is to be believed then the Williams gang haven’t received a penny. Read it for yourself.
Which means that either my informants are mistaken, or else – and I hate to even consider this possibility! – Cadw/EH(W) is telling old Jac porkies!
With Paul and Rowena Williams’ empire now reduced to Plas Glynllifon and Seiont Manor it’s worth asking what roles have been played by the local council and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai which runs the adjoining Glynllifon Agricultural College.
Cyngor Gwynedd has remained tight-lipped, saying only that Plas Glynllifon is privately owned and has nothing to do with the council. Which I suppose is fair enough up to a point, but the council must have concerns when such a prominent local building is constantly changing hands between dreamers and crooks.
So how far did these talks progress? Were they concluded with an agreement to hand over land to Paul and Rowena Williams? In light of recent developments, how difficult would it be for Cyngor Gwynedd and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai to issue a statement assuring us that no deal was done? I suggest they owe it to us.
A name that has cropped up throughout this case is that of property company Lambert Smith Hampton, and in particular Dudley James Cross, who often seemed to act as a personal advisor to Paul and Rowena Williams, or perhaps even a partner, for at one time he was a director of Leisure & Development Ltd, the company that was ‘sold’ on 1 February to Keith Partridge, but then went tits up.
You’ll notice that on his Linkedin profile Cross is Regional Head of LSH based in Northampton, but when he was director of Leisure & Development Ltd he was apparently resident in Wales, with his address given as Plas Glynllifon.
So what sort of a company is Lambert Smith Hampton that it gets involved with crooks like Williams and Partridge? Where is Cross now? Is his role in all this being investigated?
A LAND READY FOR THE TAKING
The deeper I dig and the more I learn about how modern Wales is run the more I realise how easy it is for crooks like Paul Williams to come waltzing in demanding this that and t’other. And demand that we pay for it!
Just a few miles away, at Nebo, a gang set up in a farm, and a benefit claimant threw up a seven-bedroom mansion! The police eventually raided the place. I understand this is another case from which Gwynedd’s planning department does not emerge with any credit.
All this is happening in Gwynedd, which many outside the area think of as some impregnable fortress of Welshness. The truth is its walls have been breached, and from the inside.
And yet, perversely, when I see how easy it is for people who are obviously greedy and corrupt, but none too bright, to get away with all this, then in a curious way it gives me hope.
For I see that the political machinery is old and broken, with few taking any interest in its running; the social structures that once seemed so permanent are in a state of flux; people are discontented and looking for something new; while the traditional media is discredited and dying before our eyes.
We are at a stage in the history of Wales where enough determined people, with the right message, can generate enough enthusiasm and public support to direct the political and social agenda.
Seeing as no one knows what kind of Brexit the UK government wants, and because so much of what you’re reading and hearing on the subject is either biased or just ill-informed, it falls upon Uncle Jac to shed a little light on the matter. Because there are implications in Brexit for the unity of the UK, and these are already being addressed with covert strategies that may be reported in the mainstream media but are not identified for what they really are.
To make the best sense of what follows you must understand that the whole debate has moved beyond Brexit to the point where it is now about two unions, the EU and the UK, and also the future of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Not to be outdone the Labour Party is also confused, but there we also find other issues at play.
The overall UK vote was 51.89% Leave to 48.11% Remain. In Wales 52.53% voted Leave. By comparison, Scotland voted 62% for Remain.
Since then, from the UK government, it’s been a revolving stage of pantomime, tub-thumping jingoism, farce, soap opera and slapstick, but now, as the end approaches, things are beginning to take a darker turn.
But before getting to the creepy bits let’s consider where we are with the main UK political parties.
EU membership has been a divisive issue within the Conservative Party for half a century or more. In the hope of settling things prime minister David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum. He also stated that he would be campaigning to stay. When he lost, he resigned.
Since the referendum it has been almost impossible to separate what passes for ‘negotiations’ with the EU from the ongoing civil war within the Conservative Party, with the internecine fighting being a prelude to the inevitable leadership contest.
We’ve now reached the stage where it seems to be the incumbent Theresa May versus Boris Johnson. ‘Bonking Boris’, reviled by ‘progressives’ and opposed by many in his own party. Yet Tories of a more pragmatic bent may see him as a winner.
Not least because Boris Johnson has achieved that priceless political status of being universally recognised by his first name. How many politicians today can say that?
And don’t forget that Johnson was elected mayor of multiracial London in 2008, beating Comrade Livingstone, and increasing his share of the vote in getting re-elected in 2012, again by beating Livingstone. There will be a number in the Conservative Party who’ll see a lesson there for a future tussle with Comrade Corbyn.
At the time of writing this the elite against whom I and many others voted in June 2016 is pushing for a People’s Vote on the “final Brexit deal”. Having lost the vote in 2016 they’re hoping for a re-run and a different result . . . but believe me, it’s got sod all to do with ‘the People’.
The English Labour Party in Wales is generally supportive of this initiative because by and large our MPs and AMs want to remain in the EU. But their leader is proving more cautious, for Jeremy Corbyn seems to understand better than his Wales-based representatives why Labour voters in the post-industrial areas and the lower socio-economic brackets voted for Brexit.
Corbyn is reluctant to further alienate this white working class, and so, sure of the loyalty of his Momentum base, and believing that his ethnic minority and middle class voters have nowhere else to go, he seems to have concluded that the best option is to keep ’em guessing.
Others in Labour are less reticent about speaking out against Brexit and in favour of a second referendum. Here in Wales Labour politicos have reminded us how much money we’ve received from the EU, which doesn’t really help their cause because too much of that money has been frittered away by successive Labour management teams in Cardiff docks with no discernible benefits accruing to the areas in need.
But what the hell! – we’ve got the biggest third sector money can buy.
He’s not alone in seeing the possibility of Brexit breaking the UK apart – it’s one of the reasons I voted for Brexit – but I’m sure he takes the side of his Tory masters and will do his best to maintain the Union. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
But Carwyn’s masters are not blind to the danger either, and are implementing measures to counter the threat, certainly in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is, as ever, different.
Without knowing anything about the Flight of the Earls, the Plantation, Partition, or even the Troubles, most people are vaguely aware that the politics of ‘Ulster’ or the Six Counties is dominated by whether this part of Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or whether it should join the rest of the island.
(Though this does not apply to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems to have imagined a homogeneous population made up of individuals who take a pin into the polling booth.)
As things stand, those wishing to stay part of the UK remain in a majority, but a majority being whittled away year on year by demographic trends. So that by 2030 there will probably be a Catholic majority and a referendum on reunification could choose a united Ireland.
Brexit has added a new ingredient to the mix and might accelerate reunification.
Because the prospect of a ‘hard’ border after the UK exits the EU will not only be bad for business, it also raises fears of a return to violence. This has resulted in a number of people hitherto opposed to a united Ireland prepared to consider that option in order to stay in the EU. And let’s not forget that Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to Remain. The only party pushing a Leave vote was the Democratic Unionist Party, predictably following the BritNat line.
Yet one of the alternatives, that of somehow keeping the Six Counties within the UK and the EU by having the customs border somewhere in the Irish Sea, has Mrs May’s DUP allies shouting ‘No Surrender!’ and strapping on their Lambeg drums.
The other option seems to involve no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and a ‘soft’ or invisible border, with customs checks carried out by technology that doesn’t exist, or possibly by leprechauns.
The question of whether there should be a united Ireland could of course be resolved with a referendum, allowed for in the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (Schedule 1,2). But the power to call such a vote rests with the Secretary of State. As we’ve seen, at the moment that is Karen Bradley, who thinks people in the Bogside don Orange sashes when the humour is on them.
So we’re in the absurd position of the Secretary of State having the authority to call a referendum , ” . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Which, when you consider it, is a very good reason for the British government NOT to call a referendum.
The political situation is further complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and seems unlikely to get back on its feet any time soon.
There is little the British state can do to influence things in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons: 1/ the Republic’s government keeps a close eye on events; 2/ Ireland is now crucial for the EU because it will soon be a land border; 3/ there’s the interest from the USA, for no American politician can ignore the Catholic Irish-American vote.
And as I’ve suggested, the UK establishment is resigned to losing Northern Ireland in 10 or 20 years time anyway due to ‘the revenge of the cradle’, so the worst Brexit can do is hurry up that process. While never having to deal again with Northern Ireland politicians is a prospect most civil servants welcome.
In Scotland, things are very different.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum gave the UK establishment one hell of a fright and may only have been won at the last minute by the intervention of senior politicians promising everything short of independence in The Vow. Though Brexit is causing a rethink for the man behind it.
The Scots voting to Remain coupled with the growing prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit is increasing support for Scottish independence. This has prompted the UK state go on the offensive. It’s worth focusing on two, ongoing elements of this attack.
First there’s the crude and unambivalent ‘Britification’ campaign, most visible in the packaging of Scottish goods with the Union flag. In the image below we see whisky and, even weirder, that quintessentially Scottish delicacy, haggis, branded as ‘British’!
But the alternative name for whisky is Scotch. Can you imagine anyone going into a bar and saying, ‘Give me a large British, barman’? Which might get the response, ‘A large British what, sir?’ As for haggis, branding it with the Union Jack is liable to lose sales because people might think it’s counterfeit, something like Albanian ‘champagne’.
In the main it seems to be the supermarkets at fault rather than the manufacturers, for I’ve read that Lidl and Aldi, the German chains, have stuck with Scottish branding.
I can imagine a meeting deep in the bowels of Whitehall between representatives of the main supermarket chains and high-ranking civil servants to discuss ‘promoting a sense of shared Britishness in these difficult times’, and perhaps achieving the objective without even mentioning Scotland.
(But I warn them now, if they come to put a Union Jack on my laverbread they will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)
The other point of attack has been the allegations against Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish National Party and former Scottish first minister. Let me say that I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not, but the motivation behind them is crystal clear.
I first understood what it was all about watching Newsnight soon after the story broke. It had been broken by the Daily Record, the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror, and therefore the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, once dominant in Scottish politics but now languishing in third place as the Unionist vote coalesces behind the Tories.
The assistant editor responsible was a cocky Ulsterman named David Clegg, and without knowing his background I would hazard a guess that he has never voted for Sinn Féin. He was positively bouncing at being interviewed over his ‘scoop’ . . . and then something rather strange happened – he kept talking about Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor in both positions!
The light bulb flashed above the old Jac noggin, I took a sip of Malbec and nodded sagely.
And so it came to pass that where there had been unity of purpose in a political party determined to achieve Scottish independence, now they were at each other’s throats! Or at least, that’s what newspapers were reporting. And desperately hoping that the Scottish public would believe it.
What we see in Scotland suggests that secret polling has confirmed the British government’s worst fears – the Brexit cock-up has created a majority for independence.
Added to the blatant BritNat bias the BBC in Scotland has exhibited for some years we now have government-controlled newspapers in a constituent part of a democracy. Were this happening anywhere else it would be reported, and condemned . . . by the very media outlets that have so readily submitted to government control.
What absolute hypocrites!
Here in Wales the Britification campaign has been less obvious and offensive, partly because we have less indigenous produce to be plastered with Union Jacks, due in large part to the unwritten rule that says any successful Welsh company is only allowed to reach a certain size before being taken over by an English rival.
That said, the campaign has taken other forms, two examples will suffice to explain what I mean.
To begin with, early last year that most colonialist of ‘Welsh’ organisations, Cadw, announced that there was to be a ring of steel erected near Flint castle to celebrate the 2017 Year of Legends, one of the regular, tiresome, and often insulting tourism marketing ploys.
Ring of Steel is an obvious reference to the castles built by Edward I to encircle Gwynedd and subjugate its inhabitants. Cadw knew this. The proposed structure was soon dubbed ‘The Anus of the North’, an epithet that then seemed to transfer to Ken Skates, the hapless minister for culture or some such in England’s Cardiff management team.
After a public outcry, political opposition, and a petition that attracted 10,000 signatures in a matter of days, this squalid and deliberate attempt to celebrate English conquest was dropped.
But then came the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing as the Prince of Wales Bridge. Again, this was widely opposed, with little support from within Wales, but it went ahead in a secret ceremony.
The renaming idea is attributed to Alun Cairns, the oleaginous Secretary of State for Severnside, but I’m not so sure. I believe the idea came from the same source as the ‘request’ for supermarkets to smother Scottish produce under the Union Jack. Cairns was only too happy to oblige.
Alun ‘Tippy-toes’ Cairns is now one of the most ridiculed and reviled politicians in Welsh political history, even more so than some of his predecessors such John Redwood; for while we expected no better from them, Welsh-speaking Cairns is viewed as a turncoat.
Having mentioned Severnside, the renaming of the bridge and the removal of the tolls will begin what we are asked to welcome as the great property bonanza in the south east. In practice, no bridge tolls and cheaper property prices on the Welsh side of the bridge will encourage a population movement into Wales.
Replicating what we see in the north as commuters from Manchester and Merseyside are guided away from exclusive communities in Cheshire into the commuter communities planned for the A55 corridor.
These machinations on the part of the UK state, coupled with the cowardice and incompetence of the English Labour Party in Wales has predictably resulted in a reaction.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen the emergence and growth of YesCymru, the launch of new party Ein Gwlad, and the realisation within Plaid Cymru that a hard left party obsessing over issues that mean nothing to 99% of the Welsh population is going nowhere.
There can no longer be any doubt that there is a Britification agenda operating in Scotland and Wales. Because the BritNats driving the Brexit process are awake to the fact that if they win they risk the Union. More moderate elements can also see the risk to the Union and even though they might oppose Brexit they have little alternative but to join in the Britification offensive.
Yet Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest must push ahead because their political reputations and their places in history are now tied up with Brexit. They cannot afford to fail. If they succeed, they know it will be easy to use the rallying-call of ‘Save the Union’ to reunite the Conservative Party, and leave the other parties no alternative but to fall into line.
The real worry is that the Britification and dirty tricks we’ve seen so far in Scotland and Wales could be nothing compared to what we might experience after the Brexit shit hits the fan.
Here is my response to the e-mails received from you, set out in my previous post.
When I received your request on April 19th to remove the image I’d used, I asked myself, ‘Why has it taken him so long to see an image posted on September 30th 2017?
I concluded that the answer lay in the fact that the article from last September and the article current when you contacted me had one thing in common – a Labour politician who appeared in both articles but did not appear on my blog between those dates.
Upon receiving your first e-mail on April 19th I straight away removed your photograph which, let me add, had always shown, ‘Image: Robert Melen’. At no time did I try to present your photograph as my own, nor did I make any profit from the use of your photograph.
I hoped that was the end of the matter, but no, you came back with a threatening letter you had copied, as with the first, from the EPUK website. In this second e-mail you demanded payment of £150.
Before giving you my decision, let me explain where I stand. I believe that western legal systems – once stripped of religious observations, divine right of kings and other nonsense – are predicated upon, among other things, common sense and a belief in natural justice.
Applying these fundamentals to copyright law means that someone is entitled to compensation if an artistic creation of theirs is stolen or used without their permission by another person, or a corporate entity, to pass off as their own, thereby profiting from that deception.
And I agree with that. But the only element that applies here is that I innocently used your image without your permission, for which I apologise. But I remind you that it was removed immediately you requested its removal and it was always clearly attributed to you.
Further, I claim ‘Fair Dealing’ exemption in that your image was used in my reporting of current events. Namely, the re-opening of the refurbished Castle Bingo and gambling emporium in Morriston. Proven by the fact that the image originally appeared in this news story on the WalesOnline website.
I am driven to conclude that your behaviour has nothing to do with outraged copyright and is instead an attack on freedom of expression, and on my right to criticise – even ridicule – the political party (and its representatives) supported by your employer, the South Wales Evening Post.
Which is why I have decided not to submit to your threats. You will not receive the £150 you demand.
UPDATE 05.05.2018: Robert Melen has been in touch, we have exchanged a few e-mails, and I’m prepared to accept that this was all a misunderstanding. He seems to be a tidy boy just looking out for his young family. So if anyone has photographic work, Rob Melen‘s your man.
Those who contributed to my fighting fund have been notified and they all want their donations to be used either in support of the Argentine economy or else donated to Ein Gwlad. Requests to which I have willingly acceded.
TRENCHING AND TROUGHING AT FIVE MILE LANE, BARRY
In a recent post, News Round-up 25.04.2018, I told you about a road-widening scheme at Five Mile Lane, Barry, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The road in question being the A4226.
It is alleged that work on this site has gone beyond a simple road widening and in the process has damaged an important archaeological site or sites. You can get more information on the claims from the video below.
I contacted Cadw but received nothing beyond an acknowledgement, and so I assumed that the ‘Welsh’ Government source who replied was answering for Cadw (who were cc’d into the correspondence as ‘CADW Mailbox’). The reply came from a Regional Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology (South East Wales), but I can’t be sure if this person actually works for Cadw, which is now part of the WG.
Confused? I was. Though perhaps it’s explained with my contact telling me: “Cadw lies within the Economy and Transport section of Welsh Governments Economy, Skills and Natural Resource Group (ESNR). Our minister is Dafydd Elis Thomas.” Such familiarity! Lord Elis Thomas, surely!
Anyway, our exchange of e-mails continued and this person turned out to be most helpful.
As we knew, the road-widening scheme was ostensibly the responsibility of Vale of Glamorgan council, and I learnt that the council is being advised on archaeological matters by the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT), which is monitoring the site.
In my earlier post I said that the archaeological work, on the ground, as it were, was being done by Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of Irish company Rubicon Heritage Services. The subsidiary was liquidated in March 2018, so I asked the Regional Inspector where this left the Five Mile Lane project.
I was told, “Rubicon Heritage Services (UK) Ltd was a subsidiary which was liquidated prior to the start of the project and has had no role in the work at Five Mile Lane, Barry. Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd will continue to deliver the project at Five Mile Lane”.
Which fits with the Irish parent company recently opening a branch office in Cardiff, at the Ringside Business Park. I can’t imagine this being done without Rubicon having expectations of future work in Wales.
In response to my asking what was the ‘Welsh’ Government’s and Cadw’s opinion of the work carried out at Five Mile Lane I was answered: “Dr Jonathan Berry (Cadw Senior Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Archaeology) and I visited the excavations on 18th October 2017. We were given a detailed tour around all of the excavation areas exposed at that time and had an opportunity to discuss their interpretation and observe the quality of work. While this was not a formal inspection visit Cadw did not identify any issues of concern.”
October 2017 is long before the work was done that it’s claimed has caused the damage. When I pointed this out I was told: “I have contacted the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust and obtained reassurances that archaeological work has been undertaken to the standards required by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and according to national legislation for the excavation of burials.”
This e-mail also referred to “visits by independent curators” so, naturally, I asked who these are, and to whom they answer.
I was told: “The quality of the archaeological works at Five Mile Lane is monitored by two independent consultant archaeologist organisations: Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology.
Rubicon Heritage, Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountain Archaeology are all Registered Organisations of the Charted (sic) Institute for Archaeologists, to whom the organisations are accountable.”
I mention this because few things illustrate a people’s colonial status worse than having its past interpreted by strangers, especially when those strangers are representatives of the country that rules over that people.
I suggest that to understand what has happened at Five Mile Lane we need to consider the wider project, and its political importance. Explained in the Parsons Brinckerhoff document.
The widening of the A4226 is to improve access to St Athan (Aston Martin, etc?) and Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone. Despite being nominally the responsibility of the Vale of Glamorgan council, because the ‘Welsh’ Government puts up the money it’s the Bay Bubble calling the shots. So I think we can absolve VoG of any culpability.
What’s happening at Five Mile Lane links with the obscene amounts of public money ELPiW continues to pour into Cardiff Airport, and the bribes given to Aston Martin to move to Wales. For obvious reasons nothing must be allowed to interfere with these ‘investments’ and cause political embarrassment to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
What of the other players in this tragedy?
As we’ve seen, Cadw is now a department of the ‘Welsh’ Government, overseen by loyalist-royalist Dafydd Elis Thomas. Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust gets the bulk of its funding from Cadw, so no ripples from that direction. As for Rubicon, which is actually doing the work at Five Mile Lane, it’s not going to bite the hand that feeds it, especially with a new office in Cardiff. Anticipation of further work from the ‘Welsh’ Government also keeps Cotswold Archaeology and Black Mountains Archaeology on board.
Which means that to protect the ‘Welsh’ Government’s image important archaeological sites can be trashed and the graves of our ancestors desecrated.
Par for the course in a corrupt colony run by a bunch of collaborationist shites.
I quite like Brecon, and the wife is very fond of the town, insisting that we stop there if we’re heading south on the A470. But there have been news reports recently and information emerging suggesting that there are some pretty ugly people living thereabouts.
I can’t understand why a Finn serving in the British army would want to settle in Llansilin. Come to that, why did a Finn join the British army? Another mystery is the unnamed civilian defendant described in one report as the National Action ‘regional organiser’ who was jailed for three-and-half years. Why unnamed? Which region?
A further mystery is the weapons found “at two properties in Powys occupied by Vehvilainen” . . . but apparently they had nothing to do with him?
Moving down the scale of obnoxiousness we come to the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party. The party leaders are David Bevan, born in Neath, and Jonathon Harrington, born in London but living somewhere in the Beacons.
Their backgrounds are fascinating. Dai served in the British army and was chairman of the Cardiff branch of Ukip until that lot went soft on devolution. Jon’s family moved to a farm in the Beacons when he was eight, and when he grew up he took himself off to South Africa, and Rhodesia, when Smiffy was running things. As the result of a fall on Cader Idris (for some reason spelled ‘Cadir’ in his bio) he is paraplegic.
According to Harrington’s bio, the AWAP is needed in order “to represent the views of the great but silent majority.” This must be the same silent majority that wants to name the Second Seven Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Staying in the Brecon area we return to Wales for a United Kingdom.
The W4aUK Facebook page tells us that 70% of the people of Wales believe in CANZUK. While in what I suspect serves as the manifesto we read, “We have multiple admin running the page day and night so please feel free to message us with any queries.”
Or possibly a lone insomniac.
I must confess, I don’t recall being consulted about CANZUK. Was it restricted to that silent majority we keep hearing about? And has W4aUK thought it through? Because freedom of movement could result in all sorts turning up, demanding entry to this scepter’d isle.
Before you know it it’ll be digeridoo virtuosos on Britain’s Got Talent, big, tattooed buggers demanding to rub noses with you . . . but worst of all, there’ll be nothing to stop thousands of Frenchies moving here from Canada! What’s the point of getting out of the EU if the buggers start coming from the opposite direction?
For after studying History & Archaeology at the University of Wales he spurned oodles of ‘Welsh’ Government funding, and the chance to trash burial sites, in order to serve at the Coracle Fish Bar in Brecon. From where he seems to have moved on, via Harry Ramsden’s, to Kentucky Fried Chicken, rising from team leader to assistant under-manager.
Or perhaps the question is, what has the Brecon area done to deserve Finnish racists, yearners for Rhodesia, and boy wonder BritNats? And how many of them were actually born anywhere near Brecon?
THE BRITNAT LEFT AND ‘THE SHARED EXPERIENCE’
The ‘shared experience’ is one of the most powerful tools in the Unionist armoury because it gives people from different walks of life, different parts of the country, something to bind them together.
The most powerful shared experiences are of course war, especially World War One and World War Two, but even smaller conflicts such as that in the South Atlantic can fill the role. Or more recent adventures in the Middle East. The government sends soldiers and other combatants from every corner of the state, every area loses some young men, the media joins in – bingo! you have a shared experience helping to bind the state together.
Obviously, the WWII generation is nearly gone and the smaller wars don’t generate enough ‘patriotism’. Because while it was virtually impossible to argue against the necessity of going to war in 1939 ‘dodgy dossiers’ and other revelations make recent foreign military adventures easy targets for critics.
And so the state must play the shared experience card in other ways. For example, flooding our television screens with programmes called ‘Great British Bookshelves’ and ‘Great British Bollocks’ – ‘cos we’re all British, innit!’ The point being that when you have people in Derry, Dundee, Doncaster and Dowlais watching and enjoying the same television programmes then the state’s on a winner.
And in recent years it has been made easier by the state enforcing its control. To the extent that BBC Scotland and BBC Wales have become state propaganda outlets rather than national broadcasters for Scotland and Wales. For while a British shared experience must be promoted it must inevitably be done at the expense of a shared Scottish or Welsh experience.
Royal events inevitably play their role. When Princess Wilhelmina of Troutbridge-on-the-Wold knocks out another sprog all TV programmes must be interrupted with ‘Rejoice! Superior being gives birth to yet another superior being!’
This shameless exploitation of the monarchy is why another Investiture in Caernarfon cannot be ruled out.
Pushing a shared experience is becoming more difficult, hence the increasing desperation evident in the mainstream media. The difficulty being due to fewer people getting their information from newspapers, radio or television. When did you last see a teenager holding a newspaper that he or she wasn’t taking home for parents or grandparents?
The left in Wales has always bought into the shared experience.
Which explains why the Labour Party has always been the British establishment’s secret weapon and bulwark. The party of ‘King, Country, and a 40-hour week (but only if it’s agreeable to you, sir [doffs cap])’. A sell-out party.
In Wales, the fact that the Labour Party was largely built by non-Welsh migrants to the southern coalfield resulted in the party being contemptuous of Welshness, dismissing our ancestors as gibberish-speaking savages, their leaders as bandits, and even arguing that Wales didn’t exist before the Industrial Revolution.
It would be nice to think, after almost two decades of devolution, that the hostility to things Welsh was evaporating from what chooses to call itself the ‘Welsh Labour Party’. But no, it’s still there, and it surfaced again on May Day, with a piece in the Wasting Mule by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen.
The lengthy article trotted out the same old bigotry – Wales was nothing before the Industrial Revolution. Which also promotes the shared experience of industrialisation, far preferable to anything uniquely Welsh. Two for the price of one!
The Labour Party has betrayed Welsh people, it has betrayed the working class, and it has betrayed those communities that vote Labour. Which is exactly what it was intended to do. For a prosperous, confident Wales would be a threat to the Union, so Wales must be kept poor, and no one does that better than Labour.
We’ve had Labour on our backs for a century. Regrettably, what helps keep them there is more sincere socialists, and liberals deceiving themselves that the English Labour Party in Wales is ‘progressive’, and so they must align themselves with it against what they are told is the real enemy, in the form of the Conservatives.
Listen to me, and listen good. There is nothing ‘progressive’ about the Labour Party. It is the real enemy. The party attracts members motivated by self-interest and it operates like a Mafia, putting Labour interests above those of Wales, and defending the rackets of its colonial gravy train.
Perhaps what Wales needs at this juncture is a Welsh socialist party, one that concerns itself with Wales and Welsh interests. Because Plaid Cymru has failed in trying to satisfy everyone, and such a party could also attract the more sincere supporters of ELPiW.
For all those who need to be weaned off damaging BritNat socialism and the propaganda of the shared experience then the halfway house of a Welsh socialist party might fit the bill.
Llais y Sais (Voice of the English) is an alternative name for our much-reviled and laughingly self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’. It’s readership has plummeted over the years and I think it’s now down to me and some old bird in Ponty.
Yes, I still read it, but then, I’m a masochist; I have to be to stay in Wales and witness the idiocy, duplicity and corruption at all levels of our national life. What’s more, as a blogger, I feel it’s my duty to read it so that you may be spared, with me bringing you the occasional report here or on Twitter. (God! the things I do for you.)
Today is your lucky day because I’m going to give you four stories from today’s issue. So relax, and enjoy.
First up is a strange little story about someone complaining that a Santa Claus couldn’t speak Welsh. Does this really merit half a page?
As I suggest, this is a curious non-story designed to get the likes of Jacques Protic and Clements of Llangyfelach pounding their keyboards. It’s news value is zero, especially weeks after Christmas, which makes it nothing more than a ‘Welsh bastards!’ story designed to suggest intolerance or extremism on the part of Welsh speakers.
Which makes it entirely predictable that this ‘story’ originated with English Heritage West (aka Cadw) and ended up in Llais y Sais.
‘A BIGOT WRITES . . . ‘
It would be easy to dismiss this reader’s letter from today’s issue as more bigot fodder . . . but it comes from a bigot.
If I’m reading this letter correctly, then Dennis Coughlin believes that ‘Welsh’ Labour’s undemocratic internal processes are there to keep in power “dominant quasi-nationalists whose raison d’etre is to placate those of a direct lineage to the sons of Owen Glendower”. He seems to hate things Welsh so much that he can’t even bring himself to write Owain Glyndŵr.
As if that wasn’t enough, in his final paragraph he goes on to accuse these ‘quasi-nationalists’ of racism, for there’s no other way to interpret his reference to skin colour.
And yet, this idiot does represent traditional Labour in Wales – the anti-Welsh Labour Party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock. That party we’d hoped was behind us . . . but maybe it’s just been biding its time.
Is he a member of the Labour Party, and if so, will he be disciplined? And why did Llais y Sais publish such a disgraceful, anti-Welsh smear?
Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Dennis Coughlin’, and came up with this letter, published by Llais y Sais on January 8th. This man clearly has a problem with the Welsh language. Rather than pander to it maybe Llais y Sais should have a word with his family.
And not publish any more bigoted garbage like the two letters it’s published this week from Dennis Coughlin.
TAX AND SPEND
A regular columnist in Llais y Sais is economist Dylan Jones-Evans. I read him with no great enthusiasm but it helps pass the time. In today’s piece he again attacked the possibility – no more at this stage – of the ‘Welsh’ Government introducing a tourism tax.
Some of what he’s written deserves comment.
As you may know, I support a tourism tax because I would like to see the money raised spent on those areas suffering excessive levels of tourism. I live in such an area and I know that the great majority of local people see no benefit from tourism.
Worse, they are disadvantaged in a number of ways: tourism provides low skill, low pay and often seasonal employment; tourism results in people wanting to settle, which leads to higher house prices and, due to the age profile of these immigrants, increased strain on our NHS and other services; tourism also results in Anglicisation; then we have the issues of traffic congestion, environmental degradation, waste, etc.
So if we are to have a tourism tax then I would want to see the revenue collected used to alleviate some of these problems, perhaps by helping local young people get on the housing ladder.
But Dylan Jones-Evans questions if the revenue from a tourist tax, “will really go towards improving the tourism facilities as promised”. Promised by whom? What is the point of levying a tax on tourism only to put it straight back into tourism?
Any tourism tax in Wales must be compensatory or it’s not worth bothering.
Elsewhere he tells us that “the tourism industry generates nearly £9bn for the economy and supports around 242,000 jobs”. Which if nothing else, reminds us that when it comes to tourism figures can be plucked out of thin air, because there is no independent source for figures on tourism and no trustworthy verification.
Perhaps it came from some body run by tourism operators, which looks at towns like Llandudno and Tenby, or areas like Snowdonia and Gower, and concludes that everyone working there must be involved in tourism. Deceitful and deliberately misleading.
And the same can be said for the figure of £9bn.
‘AS LONG AS HE’S FROM CARDIFF’
As you probably know, I’m a football fan. Obviously I support the Swans and Wales, but I also watch games involving other clubs and countries. In this year’s World Cup I shall again be supporting Argentina, though I had hoped to be swearing at the telly wearing red, but a combination of bad luck and cynical Irish tactics put paid to that prospect.
So football coverage is one reason I buy Llais y Sais, though even this is marred by the contributions of Paul Abbandonato, ‘Head of Sport’, no less. But I should be used to it because I remember when that shyster Sam Hammam took over Cardiff City Abbandonato went into overdrive using photos of the National Stadium and insisting that Cardiff City would soon need to play there because they’d be entertaining the likes of Barcelona.
Hammam it was who played his role in Swans-Bluebirds relations by insisting that Swans’ fans should switch their allegiance to Cardiff City. And Abbandonato lapped it up. Abbandonato is not just biased towards the football club, he’s something of a Cardiff nationalist, singing from the ‘Welsh’ media’s Cardiff über Alles song sheet.
Today’s contribution from Abbandonato was in keeping with all that has preceded it except that it wasn’t a report or a preview of a game, instead it was an attempt to influence a decision soon to be made by the Football Association of Wales.
As far as Abbandonato is concerned the FAW’s decision is between Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, there’s nobody else in the frame.
Though if you read the article there is – given its subject matter – one glaring lacuna, and that is that despite bigging up his favourites he has nothing to say about their experience. Because quite simply they have none. Which means that Abbandonato wants our national football team to be managed by a man with no experience and for no better reason than that he comes from Cardiff.
But there are other considerations, especially with Giggs. To begin with, I don’t think most fans would accept him due to his reluctance to turn out for the national team when selected (which he has blamed on his manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson).
But then there’s a question mark over what kind of a man he is. I’m referring now to his eight-year affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife, which seems to have taken its toll on his brother. Do we really want such a man in charge of our national football team, and impressionable young men?
I believe that following the performance of our national team in Euro 2016 the FAW could aim a bit higher and get a top coach, someone with experience. So I urge the FAW not to be swayed by Abbandonato and the Cardiff lobby and to cast the net wider, find an experienced coach and a man we can all respect.
UPDATE 16.01.2017: And lo! it came to pass as predicted that the selection committee empowered by the FAW did appoint the aforementioned Ryan Giggs as the new manager of our national football team. The media was forced to admit that the news was not welcomed by all Welsh fans but tried to play down the hostility.
Unfortunately for the BBC it ran a poll which showed that only a minority thought it was a good decision. And this, remember, was on the UK BBC website, which means that a lot of Manchester United fans would have voted ‘Yes’ for a club legend. Which tells us that most Welsh fans oppose the decision.
So there you are, I’ve reminded you why you no longer read Llais y Sais – I bet you’re glad!
This is a bumper issue to keep you going as the nights draw in and I get on with a couple of jobs that must be done ere winter tightens its icy grip. The post consists of a number of items enabling you to take it in in easy, bite-sized chunks. (‘Bite-sized chunks’!)
NORTH WALES HOUSING LTD
News reaches me of another housing association heading for the rocks, this time it’s North Wales Housing Ltd. A body all too representative of ‘Welsh’ housing associations, especially with the retirement properties built by its wholly owned “commercial subsidiary” Domus Cambria. (Though it’s nice to see a bit of Latin being used.)
Looked at more critically, Domus Cambria helps explain what’s wrong with housing in Wales. The Welsh NHS is stretched to breaking point by the demands made on it by, among others, English retirees, yet in Conwy, where almost two-thirds of the pensioners were born in England (2011 census), the council is still giving planning permission for retirement flats that are marketed over the border!
Domus Cambria recently sold the last of its leasehold flats on Llandudno’s West Shore . . . after years of trying. Which explains why it is finally showing a slight profit, though as with Mill Bay Homes in Pembrokeshire, this ray of financial sunshine may be due to cash transferred from the parent body rather than any business acumen attaching to those running the subsidiary.
“Selling homes has proved challenging, but has been managed within the Group’s existing financial resources. Originally, homes were planned to be sold by May 2012. To date, 10 are provisionally under offer but remain unsold. The response from the Group to address the slow sales has drifted along with no real impetus. The mitigations put in place were reasonable but demonstrate the difficulties of the Board deciding to press ahead with this product in highly challenging market conditions.
Despite Domus Cambria’s difficulties, the leadership and some elements of the Board continue to press to undertake more business of this nature – even though phase 1 has fallen short of expectations.” (Something of an understatement considering sales were 5 years behind schedule.)
North Wales Housing Ltd is, like almost all housing associations, an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA website suggests that since 16 September 2016 NWH has also been in the consumer credit business.
This would have been around the time that The Olinda Trust succumbed to the sirens’ call.
I get the impression of a bunch of incompetents running a housing association too small to survive diversifying desperately in the hope that anyone witnessing this activity will be fooled into thinking those behind it know what they’re doing. They don’t.
Linked with it is Erw Villas Management Company Ltd, the kind of organisation we encountered when we looked into the Cardiff Bay property dealings of Mark Vincent James, chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council. An organisation that allows tenants a say in the running of the block of flats in which they live . . . unless of course Mark Vincent James and his associates get involved.
Erw Villas Management Company Ltd was originally registered to an address in Catford, East London. It was struck off in May 2008 but restored 31 January 2011. On 2 February 2011 the address was changed to that of North Wales Housing in Llandudno Junction. On the same day all the old directors resigned and North Wales Housing was named as secretary and director.
Though in the Annual Return of 12 August 2015, and even though Paul William Diggory, the North Wales Housing CEO at the time, is named as director, the two original directors – Raymond Marquis and Jonathan Colin – are still the only shareholders.
Diggory was succeeded as director by Owen Ingram, who has in turn been replaced by Helena Kirk, the current CEO of North Wales Housing.
No Annual Return for 2016 is available with Companies House, so I assume it has not been submitted.
So what is the connection between North Wales Housing, Raymond Marquis and Jonathan Colin, and Erw Villas on Conway Old Road in Penmaenmawr? Answers on a postcard, please. (And make sure there’s a stamp on it this time! cos I’m not bloody paying again.)
The more I looked into North Wales Housing the more clear it became how thoroughly English it is. Take a look at the Board; start with the chair, Tom Murtha, who retired in 2012 from Midland Heart and now seems to have a number of part-time jobs, including NWH. There may be two or three Welsh people on the Board of 12.
Even the job of designing the website was given to a company in England, Hallnet Ltd of Warrington, Cheshire. Is there no company in Wales that could have designed a website? Is this the Mersey Dee Alliance in practice, or is it just taking the piss?
Because it always makes me smile when I hear someone respond to complaints about Welsh organisations stuffed with English staff with, ‘Ah, yes, but you’ve got to get the best people for the job – no matter where they come from’.
North Wales Housing is on the brink of oblivion, brought there by bad management, so to suggest that the current shower, and its predecessors, are and were the best for the job is an insult to the Welsh nation. And that’s without considering the longer term consequences.
Domus Cambria sought, selfishly and irresponsibly, to increase the burden on local services by attracting to the Costa Geriatrica yet more elderly people – and all because the parent body was struggling financially!
‘Ah, but that don’t affect us down by ‘ere, look’. Yes it does, you thick-as-shit Labour-voting cretin! To prop up a failing NHS and social services burdened by the activities of Domus Cambria and others your Labour government down Cardiff docks will rob money from other budgets, and that affects us all, in every part of the country.
There is no reason to keep North Wales Housing afloat any longer, so let it be taken over by another RSL, one that is larger, more efficient, more responsible, and more Welsh.
‘Not more f###ing Latin!’ you scream. Well, yes, and from that hotbed of classical learning, Rhondda Cynon Taf. (Three valleys, geddit?)
Trivallis is another Registered Social Landlord aka housing association that I’m told is in trouble. Hardly surprising when we read in the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Regulatory Judgement of June 2017, “The Group has a number of unregistered subsidiary companies – Trivallis Ltd, Meadow Prospect, GrEW, Homeforce, Porthcwlis, Porthcwlis Homes and Bellerophon Project 1 LLP.”
In my experience, whenever a third sector body / housing association creates a ‘trading arm’ or a ‘subsidiary’ things go wrong, as we’ve just seen with North Wales Housing. That’s because these are set up by people who are used to being bailed out by the public purse and have little or no understanding of the realities of business.
Too often they are disasters waiting to happen.
The subsidiaries I’ve just just listed – some of which are dormant, having never got off the ground – are all being brought in-house, obviously heeding the recent recommendation of the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee on “diversification”. (Though I was unable to find anything at all for GrEW.)
In case you haven’t noticed, go to the Trivallis website again and look in the top right corner, where you’d expect to find the ‘Cymraeg’ option, or the flag. It’s not there, is it? The website is entirely in English, and that’s because of the strong ‘Welsh’ Labour influence at Trivallis.
Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and you’ll read ‘Powered by VerseOne Technologies Ltd’. Click on the link and you’ll see that the Trivallis website was designed by a Manchester company, with an office in Edinburgh.
Such commitment to Wales! But so typical of ‘Welsh’ Labour, and too many of its housing associations.
Maybe not, except that it’s not all ‘legs eleven’ and ‘two fat ladies’ in Morriston, for the club provides its customers with other ways to lose their money enjoy themselves on what look suspiciously like FOBTs, or approximations thereof.
So why was Carolyn Harris there, officially re-launching Morriston’s answer to Las Vegas? The justification seems to have been that Castle Bingo was giving Harris a cheque for GambleAware.
As I wrote this I got to wondering about Castle Bingo, and so I checked on the Companies House website. The company was Incorporated in December 1995. You’ll see that there were two directors; Mrs Diane Elizabeth Stockford of Pontprennau, Cardiff and Mr Jeffrey Charles Harris of Sketty, Swansea.
Stockford became Brierley, and moved to Rudry, while Harris moved to St Nicholas. Brierley resigned as director in September 2012 and was replaced by Lisa Mary Morgan as both secretary and director. All the while Castle Bingo was providing accounts as a dormant company, explained by the fact that both Stockford and Harris were also directors of Castle Leisure Ltd.
Parent company Castle Leisure Ltd began life in 1911 as The Central Cinema, Cardiff, Ltd. Somewhere along the way, and certainly before May 1988, the company became known as Castle Leisure Ltd.
Here’s the latest list of shareholders for the 235,533 shares. In the year ended 25 December 2016 Castle Leisure Ltd had an operating profit of £4,164,319 on a turnover of £30,591,231. The company has 661 employees at its 8 clubs in Wales and 3 in England.
Of course it would be easy to be snobbish, or judgemental, but after all is said and done, this is an established Welsh company, one that has branched out into England and provides hundreds of jobs giving a lot of people what they want.
That said, there are obvious benefits for all concerned: Castle Bingo operates in Carolyn Harris’ constituency; Castle Bingo gives Harris publicity and a little cheque in the hope that she steers MPs away from their business model; a mutually beneficial association which Labour-backing Trinity Mirror is happy to report having for years enjoyed ‘promotions’ and ‘partnerships’ with Castle Bingo.
Finally: A disturbing report reaches me of unseemly, drunken cavorting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton this week involving – it is alleged – Carolyn Harris and rugby-playing Tonia Antoniazzi, the Labour MP for neighbouring Gower.
I don’t want to believe this scurrilous allegation so I would welcome any further information. Especially photographic evidence proving that such an incident did not take place.
It’s not often that I get the chance to talk of good news and Cadw in the same report, so I’m going to make the most of this.
A good source informs me of a victory won by the natives of Cydweli, who can now enter their local castle for free. Of course they have to provide proof that they are local, and then sing the first three verses of God Save the Queen. (Joke . . . possibly.)
I’m told that the people of Caerffili enjoy the same concession, while in Conwy it’s just a 20% discount on the entrance fee. But why isn’t there a national scheme to allow all Welsh people into all Cadw premises for free? For God’s sake, it’s not as if Cadw built them, or owns them!
And how difficult would such a scheme be to administer? I mean, everybody nowadays has a passport, a driving licence, a bus pass or something that identifies them. Even if it’s only discharge papers from the Sea Scouts (which I still cherish).
The vast majority of those who visit Cadw sites are tourists, with more money than our people, so let them subsidise our visits. To do so would achieve the impossible – make tourism benefit Welsh people.
A national scheme such as I’m proposing could also introduce more of our people to their country’s history, but of course we’d need someone other than Cadw to interpret that history.
‘SPECIAL TRAIN FOR ATKINS’*
There are many people in Wales who take great pride in devolution, and especially in the thought of Welsh laws being made to serve Wales and her people. Obviously, I’m not one of these because without independence or at the very least a Welsh legal system there can be no Welsh laws.
Without independence or a separate jurisdiction what we are served up too often is simply English legislation with ‘(Wales)’ added to the name. We are given the chimera of legislative power but the real purpose is to keep us in line with England.
But I want to focus on the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. I have written about it before and pointed out that it gives homeless people priority for housing, and who would argue with that? Well, I would, because we are locked into an Englandandwales system that means a family of scruffs making themselves homeless anywhere in England qualify for accommodation in Wales ahead of locals.
Another curiosity of this legislation is that homeless ex-service personnel are also mentioned in the Act as being priority cases. Curious because homeless ex-service personnel do not qualify as priority cases in the equivalent English legislation. The reference can be found at 70 (1) (i).
So why are men and women who have served the English Crown, and suffered for it, not given priority treatment in England? And isn’t it all too predictable that England’s homeless, disabled ex-service personnel, and those suffering from PTSD, those with drug and alcohol problems, will be ‘directed’ to Wales?
Though perhaps the real question is, who inserted this sentence into the Bill? Was it the ‘Welsh’ Government, once again playing gesture politics? Or was it slipped in by a civil servant based in Wales but obeying his or her masters in London?
I’ve got no problem with looking after some poor sod who’s lost both his legs on a foreign adventure about which we were lied to from start to finish, but the way it’s being done looks suspiciously like Wales being dumped on, again.
I’ve taken the heading for this section from Kipling’s Tommy. It seemed somehow appropriate.
Having followed a series of excellent reports published by Jac related to the custodianship of our nation’s heritage, I should like to return to that telling mission statement of the National Trust for Scotland:-
“Scotland’s rich cultural heritage is not only an invaluable economic and social resource, it is what gives Scotland’s people a sense of belonging and identity; as such it is one of our nation’s most precious assets.” Read it for yourself.
A sense of belonging and identity …
So what are the priorities of the official custodians of our nation’s heritage? And what does that reveal about how they see the Welsh people and their identity?
Just to recap, the most prominent custodians of our nation’s heritage are:-
Cadw sets out its own three-fold mission statement with admirable clarity:-
“We conserve Wales’s heritage.”
“We help people understand and care about their history.”
“We help sustain the distinctive character of Wales.”
Worthy goals but, as we all know, there are mission statements and mission statements. Some provide organizations with clarity of purpose, motivation and a tool for making better decisions and focusing resources. Others are sidestepped and forgotten with the same ease with which they were adopted – in short, a complete waste of time and effort.
Let’s take a look at what Cadw does in practice. Their resourcing priorities, exhibitions and events, educational activities, and interpretation of historical sites, is overwhelmingly skewed towards the Edwardian Conquest castles – Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris, Harlech, Rhuddlan, Criccieth and Flint. These are, after all, the great draws for visiting English tourists, and for UK Lottery grants.
Furthermore, in its interpretation of historical sites, Cadw presents a very one-sided view of Welsh history. The significance of the conquest castles was encapsulated by Thomas Pennant in 1772 when he described Caernarfon Castle as “the most magnificent badge of our subjection”. It is for this reason that some have questioned whether CADW’s name was in fact an acronym for “Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh”.
Cadw fails utterly, for example, to link the construction of the conquest castles with the corresponding systematic looting and destruction of all of the sites, structures and artefacts associated with sovereign and independent Welsh power and authority – Aberconwy Abbey (the mausoleum of the Princes of Gwynedd), the royal “llys” at Aberffraw, the Welsh regalia including the “Talaith” (coronet) and “Y Groes Naid” (the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross).
So what is the aspect of the Welsh identity that Cadw seeks to present, in order to foster our nation’s understanding of our history and distinctive character? Subjection. English overlordship. The futility of aspiring to our own national destiny.
The secondary areas of focus for Cadw appear to be the castles of the Marches, those bastions of alien encroachment. Chepstow, Monmouth, Skenfrith, Grosmont, Tretower, Montgomery, Oxwich, Weobley, Kidwelly, Llansteffan, Cilgerran. Again, these are presented in a sanitized manner that utterly disregards the centuries of racial segregation of Englishries and Welshries, of penal laws excluding the Welsh from holding offices, or living, trading or owning property in the boroughs developed for English colonists under the protection of those castles.
Meanwhile, the recent article highlighting the “Powis” Castle experience showed how uninterested and ill-equipped the National Trust is to foster an understanding in our nation of our own history and distinctive character. The National Trust perpetuates the 19th century taxonomic convention: “For Wales, see England”.
For the National Trust, any historical interpretation of its sites beyond the superficial Downton Abbey upstairs-downstairs world of Anglo-gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries and their anonymous native servants falls well outside their comfort zone. This is the context in which their sites at Newton House (Dinefwr), Penrhyn Castle, Llanerchaeron and Tredegar are presented.
To illustrate further the stupendous bias of the custodians of our nation’s heritage in presenting our history, I have started to gather a list of the most neglected (or misrepresented) sites of primary importance in the history of Wales, focusing on sites that pre-date the Acts of Union (or Penal Assimilation Acts) of the 1530s.
Here is the list that I have gathered to date:-
Sycharth (“Llys Owain Glyndŵr“). This was the birthplace and home of Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the subject of Iolo Goch’s famous poem. The buildings were destroyed by Harry of Monmouth (later Henry V, King of England) in 1403. For a description of the shameful neglect of this site today, I commend this article.
Church of SS. Mael and Sulien, Corwen. The dedication to two Welsh saints of the 6th century indicates that this lovely 14th century building is located on the site of a church foundation of great antiquity. This is believed to have been the location where Owain Glyndŵr was acclaimed as the true and rightful Prince of Wales on 16 September 1400 in the presence of Ieuan Trefor, Bishop of St. Asaph. It is this event that elevates this site to one of primary importance in the history of our nation, and the proper focal point for annual celebrations of Owain Glyndŵr Day (Sept 16).
Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Pennal (Gwynedd). The church was founded in the 6th century, but was so re-named and dedicated by Owain Glyndŵr, Prince of Wales, in competition with the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, one of the chapels royal of his rival, Henry IV, King of England. Pennal was regarded with honour because of its status as one of the 21 llysoedd, the courts of the true Welsh Princes of Gwynedd. The real significance of this site stems from it being the location of the parliament at which Owain Glyndŵr set out his policy programme for the independent state of Wales, recorded in the famous “Pennal Letter” addressed to Charles VI, King of France. The enlightened policies which he expounded included establishing two universities in Wales, one in the North and one in the South, ending the subjection of the metropolitan church of St. David (St. David’s Cathedral) to Canterbury, re-establishing the independence of the Welsh Church, and ending oppression “by the fury of the barbarous Saxons”.
Bryn Glas (Pilleth) battlefield. The battle, which was fought on 22 June 1402, near the towns of Knighton and Presteigne (Powys), was one of the greatest Welsh victories against an English army in the open field. It paved the way for a truly national rising in Wales, the establishment of an independent state ruled by Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the alliance with France. The battle also provoked punitive expeditions by Henry IV (King of England) that were marked by many acts of brutality and rape.
Aberffraw “Llys/Maerdref”. This is the site of the “llys” (royal court) of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, from the 9th to 12th century, and symbolic throne of the Kings of Gwynedd until the 13th century Wars of Independence. The Llys was dismantled in 1315 to provide building materials for nearby Beaumaris Castle.
Abergwyngregyn. This site, surrounded by the most majestic scenery, was the seat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, and location of his brother Dafydd’s capture by the English invaders in 1283. Abergwyngregyn is also the setting for “Siwan”, Saunders Lewis’s masterpiece of Welsh language drama based on the marriage of Siwan/Joan (daughter of the King of England) and Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales.
Aberconwy Abbey (pre-conquest site). On this site a Cistercian house was developed under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great and his successors. This was the burial place of Llywelyn the Great, his sons Dafydd and Gruffudd. It was also seat of “Y Groes Naid” kept by the kings of Gwynedd, the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross, expropriated by the English (with the “Talaith” and other Welsh regalia) in 1283 and removed to London. In an act of deliberate symbolism, Edward I (King of England) destroyed this mausoleum of the princes of Gwynedd following the Wars of Independence in order to build his own castle on the site where the abbey had stood.
When will our nation have worthy custodians of our own historical, architectural and cultural heritage? When will the official custodians accept and apply the guiding principle in of the National Trust for Scotland that the nation’s heritage is so much more than an economic resource: it gives our people “a sense of belonging and identity”? When will they truly embrace the goals of helping our nation to “understand and care about their history” and sustaining “the distinctive character of Wales”?
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Jac adds . . . Anyone who is still in any doubt about Cadw’s purpose should know that in a few weeks time Caernarfon Castle will host an orgy of Britishness that will seek to engender loyalty to the most unequal and undemocratic state in Europe by cynically exploiting the butchery of the First World War. Yes, folks, the poppies are coming to town!
So get great-uncle Arthur’s medals out of the cupboard, bone up on the Somme, explain to the kids that Britain was defending democracy and freedom, and start whistling Tipperary.
Our guest writer mentioned Y Groes Naid, and while no one knows what it looked like, a few years back someone knocked up an imagined Groes Naid. I can’t be sure, but I’m reasonably certain it was somehow connected with Cambria magazine. Maybe someone reading this will know, so get in touch and I’ll be happy to attribute it. (Click to enlarge.)
Our guest writer also mentioned the coffin of Llywelyn Fawr; well I visited St Grwst’s earlier this year and I would recommend that all patriots do the same.
UPDATE 09.09.2016: Someone has made me aware of a consultation process being undertaken by the ‘Welsh Government on proposals for secondary legislation to support the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Here’s a link. Also available is Technical Advice Note (TAN) 24 asking for “your views on . . . detailed planning advice on the historic environment in Wales”.
Was anyone aware of this legislation, this ‘consultation’ process? Or was it restricted to interested parties guaranteed not to challenge the status quo? Anyway, the deadline is October 3, so tell them what you think.
According to the 1907 Act, the National Trust was established “ . . . for the purposes of promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest . . . ”
But for which nation?
In Scotland, this question was answered in 1931 by the establishment of a distinct legal organization formed “in order to carry out work and confer benefits in Scotland similar to those carried out in England and other parts of Britain”.
In Wales, this question finds its answer not in any Act of Parliament or of the Senedd but in the experience of visiting a National Trust property in our country. I recommend a visit to “Powis [sic] Castle”.
The magnificent red stone castle near Welshpool was the historic seat of the rulers of Powys – a kingdom with an unbroken history from the Roman civitate of Viroconium (Welsh: Caer Gwrygon; English: Wroxeter), from which the royal court moved to Mathrafal in the early eighth century, and thence to Castell Coch, the red castle, in the early thirteenth century. Today, this castle continues to be known to the National Trust as “Powis Castle”, with their rigid adherence the place names attributed by English cartographers of the nineteenth century (Carnarvon, Llanelly, Powis) and in resolute opposition to the norms of Welsh orthography.
The castle remained in the hands of the descendants of the Welsh royal dynasty of Mathrafal until the late sixteenth century, when it was purchased by a branch of the powerful Welsh lordly family of the Herberts who remained in possession until the early nineteenth century.
Is the Castle presented by the National Trust in the context of this extraordinary and enchanting history? The thousand year story of the kingdom of Powys and the descendants of its ruling dynasty? Nope. Seemingly of no interest to the National Trust.
The main exhibition presents some of the loot acquired by Clive of India, father of the British Raj, famed for his atrocities, maladministration and self-enrichment. This notorious nabob’s connection with the Castle? His son acquired it (by marriage) in the early nineteenth century.
Try asking for a guidebook for the Castle in Welsh as I did during my visit, and you will receive a response from the National Trust staff that is as replete with scorn and derision as it is unproductive.
There is no doubting for which nation’s benefit this property is being preserved by the National Trust. For the fellow-countrymen of Robert Clive, son of Market Drayton, and squire of Esher in Surrey.
As noted above, Scotland’s heritage under the custodianship of the National Trust for Scotland is managed by a board of trustees elected by the Scottish membership of the NTS. The guiding principle by which the NTS carries out its mandate is expressed as follows:-
“Scotland’s rich cultural heritage is not only an invaluable economic and social resource, it is what gives Scotland’s people a sense of belonging and identity; as such it is one of our nation’s most precious assets.”Read it for yourself.
How much longer do we have to wait in Wales for our own extraordinary historical, architectural, cultural and environmental heritage to be preserved, managed and presented by an organization answerable to our nation, and properly equipped and informed to fulfil its mandate for the benefit of our nation?
I agree with everything our guest writer says, and I would go further, adding that a nation with the interpretation of its past entrusted to those with an interest in effacing all memory of that past is as good a definition of colonialism as I can think of.
Some reading this might argue, ‘Ah! but don’t forget, we have Cadw‘. Really! Cadw is little more than English Heritage (West). And then we have the regional archaeological trusts, staffed with third-rate English diggers and their teams of willing young female volunteers, always looking for evidence of Anglo-Saxon settlement.
Returning to the National Trust, it’s not simply what it currently owns that angers me but its perennial acquisitiveness. I’m thinking now of the regular appeals for money to buy a Snowdonia farm – in case someone buys it, packs it up, and takes it home with them? Think about it – we are expected to buy a piece of our homeland for an English organisation! (Yes, that’s another definition of colonialism, and of stupidity on the part of those Welsh who fall for it.)
It is almost twenty years since we voted for devolution, and little if anything has changed in the fundamental relationship between Wales and England. The English National Trust is proof of that. At the very least we need something comparable to the National Trust for Scotland, if only as a stop-gap measure.
This nation should have no trust in the English National Trust or any similar body.
Regular readers might remember that I mentioned Powis Castle in a piece I wrote back in 2012 on nearby Dolforwyn. Here’s a link.
UPDATE 22.08.2016: The page from the Cadw website shown above was very quickly removed. I copied and posted the image late on Sunday night and when I checked at 11am on Monday, there it was – gone!
THE LATEST IN A SERIES OF POSTS ON THE MANAGEMENT, OR MISMANAGEMENT, OF CARDIGAN CASTLE. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE OTHER POSTS I SUGGEST YOU START WITH ‘CARDIGAN CASTLE – READY TO FALL?’
As was the case with most Welsh castles Cardigan changed hands many times, yet of all its occupants the most widely known is undoubtedly Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), ‘The Lord Rhys’, ruler of Deheubarth and patron of the first recorded eisteddfod in 1176, when he invited poets and musicians from all parts of Wales and beyond.
Perhaps understandably, those now controlling the Castle have sought to use The Lord Rhys in up-front displays to disguise their lack of any real interest in the history and cultural significance of Castell Aberteifi. This was to be done by having the great man’s coat of arms stamped on assorted gewgaws, banners, plus of course the famous oversized bardic chair. And yet . . .
Since I became involved with this issue I was aware of an undercurrent, a suspicion held by more than a few that someone, somewhere, had made a monumental cock-up, with the result that the Castle was using the wrong coat of arms! Let me explain.
The Lord Rhys, as I’ve said, was the ruler of Deheubarth, and grandson of Rhys ap Tewdwr, who in turn was descended from Rhodri Mawr (820 – 878). But Rhys ap Gruffydd is a name regularly encountered among the Welsh nobility and gentry in the medieval period. One reason why, in an age of almost universal illiteracy, coats of arms were so important – they told people who you were. And why poets and genealogists had to know the lineages. However, this proliferation of Rhys ap Gruffydds can lead the modern amateur into mistakes, and this is what seems to have happened at Cardigan.
In the hope of clearing up the confusion I took the advice of Rhodri Dafis and contacted Thomas Lloyd, Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. I asked him quite simply to tell me the coat of arms for The Lord Rhys who held Cardigan Castle in the second half of the twelfth century. His response can be found below.
“The arms of The Lord Rhys are simply: Gules, a lion rampant in a border indented Or (ie: Red, a lion rampant gold, within a jagged gold border). These are the ancestral arms of the Princes of Deheubarth, as given to Rhys ap Tewdwr.
There has been confusion with his arms and those of Sir Rhys ap Gruffudd, Sheriff of Carmarthen 1322, died 1356, but he was descended from Ednyfed Fychan, and had quite different arms with six small lions on a red background above and below a jagged silver band across the centre bearing three ravens. (My apologies for non heraldic terminology, not knowing if you know the correct lingo or not!).”
Everything at Cardigan Castle purporting to be the armorials of The Lord Rhys (ap Gruffydd) carry the three ravens . . . of the much later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd (? – 1356), and these ravens in turn derive from Urien Rheged of the Old North. The confusion may arise because the Ednyfed Fychan (ap Cynwrig) (mentioned above by Thomas Lloyd) married Gwenllian, daughter of Yr Arglwydd Rhys, but daughters did not inherit their father’s coats of arms. Or perhaps because in the fifteenth century the line of Dinefwr was re-united with the House of Deheubarth when Thomas ap Gruffydd, married Elizabeth ferch John Gruffydd, descendant of The Lord Rhys. Their son Sir Rhys ap Thomas raised an army in support of Henry Tudor and is said to have been the man who killed Richard III at Bosworth. Though Sir Rhys’ grandson, yet another Rhys ap Gruffydd, was said to have been plotting with the Scots to make himself Prince of Wales, and executed for treason in 1531. Another route to confusion might be the fact that The Lord Rhys may have called Cardigan Castle home but he held many other castles, including Dinefwr.
So who might be responsible for this appalling mistake, this insult to heraldry, this marketing exercise masquerading as history? From enquiries I have made the mistake seems to be a few years old, and the recently retired trustee Glen Johnson, who doubles as the local historian, denies any hand in the choosing of the coat of arms. The suspicion grows that certain persons who have been mentioned in this blog many times may be responsible.
Perhaps this awful mistake should serve as a salutary warning against relying on Wikipedia, where the entry for Yr Arglwydd Rhys makes the same mistake with regard to the coat of arms. The Wikipedia entry was updated as recently as Monday last week, August 24th, by someone called Dudley Miles, who lives in Finchley, London, and whose interests are Anglo-Saxon history and nature reserves!
The thing to remember about Wikipedia is that it’s a simple matter for anyone who has an account to sign into a page and make changes. If you go to the page for Rhys ap Gruffydd and look at the small tabs on the top you’ll see one that reads ‘edit’ and another ‘view history’. Click on the latter and you’ll find a number of pages listing changes; some of these are editing or removing what someone else has written and there is even talk of “vandalism”.
So when it comes to the coat of arms for Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys, we can either follow the ever-changing and consequently unreliable Wikipedia, or we can accept the description of the Wales Herald of Arms Extraordinary. The decision should be an easy one.
The inescapable conclusion is that the three ravens being used by Cardigan Castle are in no way connected with The Lord Rhys. They belong to the family of the later Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd.
Regular readers will recall the curious business of how trustee Sue ‘English!’ Lewis, acolyte to Lady Tucker, was appointed to the newly-created post of Facilities Officer very soon after losing her job as editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser, and how the job was only advertised online, between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. The post was obviously created for Sue Lewis, and ‘advertised’ in the hope that no one else would notice.
Despite this plan of Baldrick-like cunning there were other applicants, one of whom – possibly others – were better qualified than Sue Lewis. This quandary was surmounted with the bizarre decision to appoint what appeared to be two Facilities Officers, Sue Lewis and Carys Ifan. Though I have heard that as the year progressed Carys Ifan became the Events Co-ordinator while Sue Lewis moved on to become Acting Director, taking over the role vacated by the recently sacked and gagging clause-bound Cris Tomos. Maybe Cris Tomos was given the elbow to resolve the absurdity of having two Facilities Officers. Who knows what goes on at Cardigan Castle.
Either way, Carys Ifan has now handed in her resignation. She joins Cris Tomos and others who have left such as Rhian Medi Jones, who was the Education Officer at the Castle until the ‘reorganisation’ towards the end of last year which removed a number of posts as the excuse to create the job for Sue ‘English!’ Lewis. It may be coincidental, but almost all those who have been eased out or made to feel unwelcome by the Gang of Four are locals, with roots in the area. (I had to be careful how I phrased that lest I gave ammunition to Phil Parry at Wales Eye, for whom sacking people for being Welsh would not be racist, but complaining about it would!)
No doubt the advertisement for the post of Facilities Officer will appear in the Belgrade Evening News next week, one night only, next to the ads for chiropody services. And of course in Cyrillic.
Another curious and suspect practice by the controlling clique is to approach dissidents secretly and individually to offer private meetings with Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms who acts as secretary and front man for the Gang of Four, even though he lives over three hundred miles away in Kent. It is never promised that Lady Tucker or any member of her immediate entourage will be in attendance at these secret meetings, just Timms and perhaps one of the more ‘pliable’ trustees.
Seeing as all advances have thus far (to my knowledge) been rejected by dissidents unless Lady Tucker attends it’s difficult to know what Timms hopes to achieve by these meetings. Are they attempts to intimidate opponents? Attempts to win them over? Attempts to sow discord among the opponents of the current regime? Or a combination of all these? Maybe the set up will be ‘good cop, bad cop’, with Timms playing Mr Nasty and someone else pretending to hold him back as he polishes the brass knuckles.
As yet I have not been approached. But I am a man of principle and honour . . . consequently my silence will not come cheap.
The more I look at the Gang of Four + Timms the more I am reminded of those wise words spoken by Benjamin Franklin in 1776, just after he and the other Founding Fathers had signed the Declaration of Independence. He said, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately”. What he meant was that the breakaway colonists’ best hope of avoiding the noose was to stick together and see it through.
It may strike some as an odd analogy to make, but I see La Tucker and her cronies in a similar position. People are deserting them, their position becomes ever more exposed and isolated, and their only hope of survival is to stick together and brazen it out. Not least because while they remain in charge they have control of the records and other evidence of the way the Castle has been mismanaged these past few years, and its original mission subverted. Were they to be removed then those records – unless they went ‘missing’ – would become available to the new trustees.
The real concern now for those with the best interests of Cardigan Castle at heart should be that those whose job it was to independently monitor this project have either been negligent or else have fallen under Lady Tucker’s spell. To the point where the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW and the ‘Welsh’ Government may have a vested interest in seeing the status quo maintained to avoid an even worse scandal than we see now. If so, then this is a short-sighted policy that can only result in the failure of this £12m project.
September 10th sees the Annual General Meeting of the Cadwgan Building Trust that runs the Castle, and even though 80-year-old Lady Tucker is standing down (to comply with the rotation system), she is expected to be immediately re-elected by her gang. In fact, she has already been nominated for re-election by Glen Johnson who, you will recall from my previous post, stood down from his role as trustee due to online ‘persecution’. Yet here he is still involving himself, still doing the bidding of Lady Tucker, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s also allowed himself to be sweet-talked into serving as a ‘Patron’. He will also remain a guide. Some ‘resignation’ that was, Glen! Read it all here in the AGM agenda.
An outcome acceptable to the Gang has been assured by barring critics from joining, and attending the AGM. I have seen one very recent e-mail from ‘Joff’ Timms to someone who applied to become a member of the Cadwgan Trust. Timms wrote: “In the light of your well publicised criticisms of the trust, the trustees have asked Cllr —— —– and me to try to arrange to meet you to discuss ways in which you would be willing to support the trust in realising its objects. Following this meeting, Cllr —– and I would make a recommendation to the trustees about whether your application should be approved.”
In other words, ‘Submit, in advance, to the will of Lady Tucker and her cohorts or you will not be allowed to play any role in the running of Castell Aberteifi’. This way of doing things is comparable to a ruling junta in a third world country allowing ‘elections’, but restricting those elections to candidates who agree with the junta! And just in case any dissident sneaks through the screening process, there is a short and strict AGM agenda with “Any other business at the discretion of the chairman”. The chairman is presumably Timms, so if someone wants to raise an issue embarrassing to the regime he will refuse to allow it to be debated. This is what passes for democracy in Cardigan Castle – Joe Stalin would have approved!
Listen, Joff, or whatever your name is, this AGM should not be about maintaining your friend Jann Tucker and her gang in power; membership and participation should be open to everyone with the best interests of the Castle, the town and the wider area at heart. You are damaging the whole £12m project by reducing it to nothing more than a desperate struggle by you and your friends to stay in power against mounting opposition.
And who are you, anyway? You, living in Kent, with no known connections to Aberteifi; who are you to sit in judgement and decide which locals are allowed to serve their Castle? Who the hell are you to turn away people whose ancestors perhaps knew The Lord Rhys, and could have told your women friends that there are no bloody ravens in his coat of arms? Time is surely running out for you, them, and the hangers-on.
I had intended writing something similar to this post a while back, when I heard that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) was launching a new campaign. For those who’ve missed it; the ‘campaign’ has started, but seems to consist of nothing more than small groups chaining themselves to the gates of out-of-the-way government buildings where the chainees are ignored, by the media and just about everyone else. As campaigns go, this exercise in futility is going nowhere.
Having originally decided that CyI and the non-campaign wasn’t worth the effort of a post, I have changed my mind over the past few days for reasons alluded to in the title. The bigotry is that exhibited by the sad git working in some Cardiff shop, who said on Facebook, “I love wales and it’s beauty, but the welsh language gets right on my fucking nerves. Two girls in the shop at the moment speaking to each other in welsh. I’ve had to turn bobby womack up to 8”. As the piece in Daily Wales, and the comments it attracted show, there were attempts to explain or laugh off the outburst. One comment even tried to justify the bigotry by claiming that Welsh is not a “mellifluous” language. In which case, neither is German, or Russian, or countless other languages. While on the other hand, French is very ‘mellifluous’, but that never stops those who share Shop Boy’s anglo-insular views from detesting Johnny Frog and everything about him and his culture.
So, we start with a clear and indefensible case of bigotry, which should have been followed by apologies all round, apologies accepted, end of story. But, no; for this morning, the radio station misrepresenting itself as BBC Wales put out a phone-in programme asking why so many people are upset by the sound of the Welsh language. (Available here.) Note that the ground of the debate has now shifted significantly. In less than forty-eight hours it has become an established fact that the sound of the Welsh language is irritating; and this elevates Shop Boy to the status of martyr, standing up to tyranny on behalf of the silent majority!
Proving yet again that whatever independence the BBC once had is long gone. What’s more worrying is that the Beeb isn’t even being run by Tory central office, it’s being run by the intelligence services. Alex Salmond has a lot to answer for. Keep it up, Eck!
I wasn’t able to hear the whole show but one woman I did hear made cogent points about expenditure on the Welsh language. Which I think is where language campaigners have got it very badly wrong. It boils down to psychology. Put yourself in the position of someone who does not speak Welsh, is not hostile towards the language, but one day – maybe low on funds – has a revelatory moment when he receives his bilingual council tax demand or electricity bill, and says to himself, ‘How much am I paying to have my bill translated and printed into a language I don’t understand?’ At that point he switches from ambivalence towards the Welsh language to hostility. And there are hundreds of thousands like him. And it’s all so unnecessary.
It happens because CyI has, for decades, pursued the strategy of recognition and visibility. In essence, this demands – in addition to pointless tokenism – that the Welsh language must have equal legal status with English, and must be seen and heard, everywhere in Wales on a par with English. Which is fine . . . up to a point. That point being that Gwynedd is not Gwent, Maenchlochog is not Manorbier. While the most virulent bigot living in Gwynedd cannot reasonably object to expenditure on a language he hears spoken all around him, no one should be surprised when an otherwise proudly Welsh anglophone in Abergavenny questions similar spending in his area. Without I hope sounding like an Adferwr I think we have to accept these differences.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg’s refusal to accept them has had two consequences. First, comprehensive bilingualism, across the country, in every aspect of life, does not establish a bilingual country – it just pisses off too many people unnecessarily, few of them bigots. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, by quixotically pursuing this policy of national bilingualism Cymdeithas has left Y Fro Gymraeg undefended, and seriously damaged the language’s chances of survival.
For where was Cymdeithas yr Iaith a few years ago when Tesco opened its new store in Porthmadog and shipped in an English workforce of over 100? And what of the other retail chains and businesses doing the same thing in Gwynedd and other Welsh-speaking areas? Are we to believe that this doesn’t affect people’s ability to use their mother tongue in their everyday lives? That this doesn’t deprive Welsh speakers of jobs in their own communities? How can anyone argue that the survival of the language is better ensured by demanding ‘Talu Yma’ signs in Cardiff stores, or insisting that the proceedings of Merthyr council’s sub-committee on rat infestation are published bilingually? This begins to sound less like a strategy to save one of Europe’s oldest languages and more like job creation for those CyIG members and former members with translation businesses.
And don’t answer me with the old nonsense about ‘dividing’ Wales along language lines. Wales was already divided, and enforced bilingualism across the board is only exacerbating the problem. Worse, by turning people against the language you risk turning them against all things Welsh and losing them entirely. (Plaid Cymru being a good example.) To the point where a cynic – no, not me – could argue that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has, over the past thirty-odd years, failed miserably at what it claimed to be doing, yet has successfully queered the pitch for many others.
What is needed is a strategy to, firstly, defend what remains of Y Fro Gymraeg. Then take the fight outside of the heartland to those who want it. For example, by getting involved in any struggle for Welsh language education; or any fight against the overdevelopment of a community where the language is still relevant. Finally, reach out beyond these areas and groups to those who identify with Wales and are proud to be Welsh, make them see the language, not as a threat, or a waste of their money, but as a vital and desirable part of our shared heritage.
From now on, campaigners for the language need to be more realistic in their ambitions, they need to understand contemporary Wales better (perhaps by moving outside their own circles a bit more), and they need to be a lot more hard edged in their approach. Forget the idiots on radio phone-ins, they are not the real enemy, they are just ammunition for the enemy. The real enemy is those you hope to persuade with the reasonableness of your demands, the virtue of your case. Those who smile and sound sympathetic but are not the reasonable and fair-minded people you want (and they want you) to believe they are.
That is because every survey ever conducted has shown that Welsh speakers are more likely to want greater devolution and independence than English speakers. That being so, only a simpleton would believe that the UK government (or its civil servants who run Wales) will allow – let alone welcome – an increase in the numbers and percentages of Welsh speakers; or think that an anti-Welsh Labour Party down Cardiff docks – knowing that Welsh speakers are less likely to vote Labour – harbours anything but ill-will towards the language and those who speak it.
Understand that the UK Government, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, and many, many others have a vested interest in seeing the Welsh language dead. With a nice headstone erected . . . in Welsh, of course. (Translation available from the nice English lady at the desk, her with the CADW badge.)