One of Wales’ many pockets of totalitarianism went through what its defenders would have us believe approximates to democracy last Thursday when the beleaguered clique running the show emerged briefly from behind the PR defences to hold the Cardigan Castle AGM 2015. A gathering from which television cameras were banned, perhaps because the Castle had gained some rather unflattering coverage from the BBC on the very day of the AGM. (Translated, the headline reads, ‘Has Cardigan Castle lost its way?’)
Seeing as Lady Tucker, the grande dame of the whole shooting-match, had herself gone through the charade of a ceremonial abdication (in order to be almost immediately restored to power) Hedydd “Over my dead body!” Jones began the scripted and rigidly controlled meeting by announcing that no awkward questions about staffing or other sensitive issues would be allowed! Which set the tone for what followed. Though, to the surprise of many there gathered, she said this in Welsh. In fact, I’m informed that the meeting was conducted largely in Welsh with translation facilities available. Clearly, recent criticism of the direction the project is taking have had some effect.
One question that did slip through PR company Equinox’ net was why the Castle doesn’t get better reviews on TripAdvisor. To which Dr Jones haughtily replied that she didn’t bother herself with such things. An odd response. Here we have a project that has been steered away from its original cultural and historical focus to become just another dreary tourist attraction, yet those responsible for this subversion are unconcerned that a website likely to be consulted by potential visitors gives such mixed reviews! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, some unkind souls even suggest that most of the positive reviews on TripAdvisor have been written by Sue “English!” Lewis. (Reviews aren’t much better on Google. Though I do like “Community-run”!)
Among other issues raised by those prepared to risk being ostracised were: Why there was so little interaction with the volunteers, and why was the membership list not made public before the AGM and the election of new trustees (as it should have been).
Tony Tucker, consort to Lady Tucker, was applauded when he made the bland and vacuous appeal for ‘Everyone to pull together . . . make the project a financial success . . . Father Christmas . . . kittens . . . blah, blah, blah . . . zzzzzzzzzzz . . . ‘. The applause came in the main from Aberporth residents who had been bused in for the meeting, and most of whom had walked through the town of Cardigan unrecognised by locals. Tucker’s contribution is another reminder of the tactics being employed under the tutelage of Equinox. Anyone who criticises the Gang of Five (I have promoted Timms) is trying to ‘wreck’ the project; when in reality the critics are the ones trying to save the project and keep it to its original course.
Another questioner asked why the trustees did not engage with their critics, rather than dismiss them (as Sandra “Bigots!” Davies did) as “bigots”. For some reason, answering this question was left to Councillor Gareth ‘Clettwr’ Lloyd, the representative of the county council. He argued that the term had been used by the media, not by the trustees. Another example of misinformation. Or, to be generous to Cllr. Lloyd, perhaps he had not read the Pembrokeshire Herald article, nor seen the original e-mail. If so, then that’s rather worrying, seeing as Cllr. Lloyd is a trustee.
Other information has reached me in the form of comments to my previous post, by that prolific writer Anon. One comment adds to the mystery surrounding the ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson.
This tells me two things. First, due to those running the project getting so much adverse publicity someone thought it best to get the AGM done with sooner rather than later, then batten down the hatches and ride out the storm before the 2016 AGM. Second, the timing makes Glen Johnson’s ‘resignation’ look ever more suspicious. Either ‘Joff’ Timms is psychic, or someone said to the ever-obliging Johnson, ‘Look, Glen, you’re standing down anyway, so why not render the project a great service by letting us stage-manage your resignation?’
Other matters raised by ‘Anon’ are jobs claimed to have been created by the Castle, most of which are almost certainly being done by agency staff and are unlikely to add up to the number of FTE (full-time or equivalent) jobs claimed. Then there are the bookings to stay in the Castle’s accommodation, again being handled by an agency, which will take its cut and thereby limit the Castle’s profits. Though as ‘Dai Dom Da’ points out, there are precious few bookings of any description. For example, despite being open since April, and spending £100,000 on a permanent marquee, the Castle will not see a single wedding this year! ‘Brychan’s comments are also worth reading as he picks out some interesting points from the Annual Report.
Finally, Ian Perryman throws fresh light on the role of Sue ‘English!’ Lewis in the creation of the post of Facilities Officer, the job that she came to fill after beating off dozens of other applicants who’d seen the job advertised in all the local ‘papers. (Yes, that’s sarcasm; and as my old mate Meic Phillips would say, “laid on with a trowel, boy”.)
Anyway, what Ian says is this: If the job was created when Sue Lewis knew she was getting the elbow from the Tivy-Side Advertiser then clearly she would have had a hand in the dirty work. But the trustees counter this suggestion by arguing that the ‘re-organisation’ – of which the new post was a part – had been planned a long time before. But Sue ‘English!’ Lewis was a trustee for many years, which means that whenever the job was created she put herself in breach of Charity Commission regulations by taking a post she had been instrumental in creating when a trustee.
Unless of course clearance was sought from the Charity Commission for her to take up the post. Though if not, why not? And if, as I suspect, the Charity Commission is ignorant of how the post was created and allocated, then someone should inform them. In fact, I might do it myself.
Symptomatic of a project in serious trouble, in so many ways. Public bodies have given over twelve million pounds of our money to a venture that was to have been a celebration of Welsh history and culture but has now degenerated into little more than the most expensive B&B in Wales. This change of course can be attributed to the Gang of Five, possibly others, but as ‘Dai Dom Da’ reminds us, there has not been a single wedding yet. So Cardigan Castle fails both as a heritage project and as a commercial ‘venue’.
While in the background we still hear the rumblings about the lack of contracts awarded to local companies, and the suspicion of favouritism, or pre-existing connections, that attach to some of the contracts awarded. Why, for example, did the Castle feel the need to go to a firm in Leicester for a £44,400 quote for a website, something that a Welsh firm could have provided for £5,000 or less? (That was obviously too greedy, but this outfit still got the contract to provide Fort Knox-level display cabinets for the Castle’s rusty tat and old photos.) And was there really no firm nearer than Hampshire to supply the Castle with glasshouses?
Small wonder that funders and other stakeholders such as the local councils are now taking greater interest in the project; and that dealings with the media are controlled by Equinox, which uses its contacts to put out a stream of positive stories. Like this one in today’s Cambrian News. But even here, Councillor Lloyd has to admit to a “breakdown in communication”, and the CN writer refers to “the lack of dialogue between trustees and members of the community who had concerns about the inclusion of heritage at the site”. I think that’s meant to be a reference to the lack of a heritage element (but then, with the Cambrian News you can never be sure what it’s trying to say).
And yet, I guarantee that anyone coming on this saga afresh would soon come to the conclusion that the reason for the ‘breakdown in communication’, the reason for ‘the lack of dialogue’, the reason it ceased to be a heritage project (yet fails as a commercial venture), the reason there is an alarming turnover of both trustees and staff, the reason that a clear majority within the local population feels alienated . . . these and all the other ills can be attributed to those running Cardigan Castle.
The only way for this project to regain the affection and support of the local population, and thereby become commercially viable, is to remove those who have got it into this mess. If Cardigan Castle was a purely commercial venture then heads would have rolled a long time ago; but not here, for we are now in the parallel universe of the Welsh Third Sector, where vast amounts of funding are wasted on social enterprises and other excuses for an economy, projects that it can never be admitted have failed. So lies are told, truths are withheld, and more and more money is poured into sink holes.
Outside of the ‘developing world’ there are few countries where a scandal such as Cardigan Castle could happen. Unfortunately, Wales, thanks in no small part to the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government, is one such country.
P.S. In addition to the reluctance to communicate with the public at large, something else I should have remarked on is the lax record keeping. For example, I have just (20:50 Sept 14) been to the Charity Commission page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which still shows Glen Jonsonh (sic) as a trustee with the new trustees elected last Thursday not shown. It is not difficult to keep up to date on the Charity Commission website, I know, I’ve done it myself many times. You simply log in, make the necessary changes to the trustees, or whatever, and those changes appear on the website immediately.
It’s difficult to know whether this reluctance to keep records up to date is attributable to laziness, or the more general tendency of the Gang of Five to behave like a secret society. Either way, the law says that the records should be kept up to date.
I’m off to Scotland tomorrow and so, as Thursday sees the AGM of the Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust aka the Gang of Four + One, I have decided to put up a few of the many and varied documents that have come my way from all manner of sources (some very surprising!). They might help you better understand how this secretive and subversive grouping operates. A little light reading while I’m away, as it were.
As I possess neither smart phone nor iPad I am almost cut off from the world of the internet when I’m away from home, and my old steam-powered computer, unless, that is, I can get to a library or an internet cafe. So please bear with me if I’m slow to approve comments. (Though I might be able to persuade someone to do it for me).
However, I have arranged for someone to post news here if anything of note happens before, during or after the AGM. As I explained it to my stand-in, “I’m thinking now of some dramatic development like Dame Tucker eloping with Gareth Gregory or Sue ‘English!‘ Lewis announcing that she’s joined the FWA.” (I wonder how the Cambrian News would report that?) That’s enough light-hearted banter.
The obvious document with which to start is the Articles of Incorporation. There’s not a lot here to excite any suspicion, apart perhaps, from the following:
3 Reminds us of my long-standing question as to why the Trust’s remit covers any building in and around the town of Cardigan. I could understand if it said ‘in and around the castle’, but the way it’s worded suggests that the trustees could take on other projects. A cheering thought!
5.3 Goods and Services. Has any trustee benefited from this? I see no mention of a tendering process.
More generally, I am concerned that the document has been amended. By which I mean, the document is ‘topped’ and ‘tailed’ by the date 21st of March 2000 yet the body of the document has clearly seen changes because there are references to the Charities Act 2011. (Unless of course the trustees were employing a seer back in 2000. And if so, then I hope the vacancy was better advertised than was the job created for Sue Lewis.)
If the document is being updated, as it clearly is, then surely we are entitled to know when, why, and on whose authority those changes were made. As things stand we can see that some changes have been made, but we may be unaware of others.
It would have been clearer if the original document had been kept pristine, and another, working version maintained for updates, with all updates and changes highlighted and explained. This hybrid version we now see is both unsatisfactory and misleading as it is no longer the document that was signed in March 2000 and is, therefore, of questionable status.
Next up is the Collaboration Agreement between the trustees and Ceredigion County Council dated October 30th 2014. This substantiates the rumours saying that by the autumn of 2014, with the project falling behind schedule and needing to go to the Heritage Lottery Fund for an extra £1.5m, the local councils – both county and town – were becoming a tad concerned with the running of the whole thing. As the owner of the Castle the county council seems to have insisted on greater involvement.
This ‘collaboration’ is made manifest in the minutes of the meeting of the Joint Project Management Board held on on Wednesday 26th of November 2014 . (Despite this co-operation coming about at the insistence of Ceredigion County Council three of the council’s representatives couldn’t be bothered to turn up). What caught my eye:
6.01.14 Note reference to “staff restructuring”. This is said to have been planned a long time before, but I have yet to see evidence for this. Which raises the suspicion that the ‘restructuring’ was part and parcel of the ploy to create a job for Sue Lewis.
That said, doing away with the post of Education Officer and creating the post of Facilities Officer gives us a clear indication of how the project has now been subverted into something purely and crassly commercial.
6.05.2 “Equinox has been appointed as the marketing company”. There was, presumably, a transparent tendering process before the contract was won by a company run by a friend of Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the job.
The next document is the minutes of the December 2014 trustee meeting. I found these interesting for the following reasons:
12.03” . . . the meeting prior to the Full Trustee Meeting . . . “. There have been persistent rumours of the Gang of Four (+ One) holding secret and unminuted meetings, often conducted with Timms on the telephone from Kent. Is this a reference to such a meeting?
20.02 Under Any Other Business, almost as an afterthought, we find reference to the new post of Facilities Officer. This is the job referred to above, created for Sue Lewis by her friends Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones and Sandra Davies once she ceased working for the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Which probably explains why the three I’ve just named avoid being mentioned in 20.02.
The job was advertised, online only between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
Other documents that might interest you are the Minutes of the 2014 AGM. Note 5.01, this links with the aforementioned squeaky bum time in local council chambers regarding over-runs and appeals for more funding.
A little light is shone on this by a letter from the town council. No doubt the town council was happy to put money into a project employing local people, but the council clearly believes the trustees have a cheek coming back asking for more money after sacking five locals. Note in paragraph three the reference to the change from “project to operational phase” which the trustees use, in part, to justify the sacking. The final paragraph is a clear reference to the devious and secretive way in which Lady Tucker and her gang operate.
Here are some figures to get your teeth into from the Project Completion Programme dated December 17th 2014. And some more recent accounts where you will see, under ‘Generated Income’, ‘Car Raffle’. This refers to a car donated by B V Rees of Llandudoch, to be raffled off with all proceeds going to the project. A few weeks ago, totally out of the blue, and from a source I would not have expected, I was told that the Castle had made only very feeble attempts to sell those raffle tickets. The figure shown on this sheet is just £1007 – for a brand new car! What was the final figure?
This project has not gone well. It has taken longer to complete than forecast. It has cost more than predicted. It has failed to provide either contracts for local companies or jobs for local people. There are questions as to whether contracts were properly put out to tender, and whether vacancies were properly advertised. And as if that wasn’t enough, the project has deviated wildly from its original promise of celebrating Welsh history and culture to degenerate into little more than a glorified B & B that holds ‘functions’ . . . at a cost to the public purse of twelve million pounds, and counting.
All this has been achieved by a small clique acting secretively, and by behaving in this manner they have alienated too many within the local population. A small, self-electing and self-serving clique that seems guaranteed to continue due to, among other measures, demanding that anyone wanting to join the Trust, and vote at the AGM, must swear undying loyalty to the clique before being accepted!
As ‘Joff’ Timms of Kent, the clique’s front man, put it to one recent applicant: “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.” What next – brainwashing?
They defend this dictatorial behaviour by arguing that those who criticise the trustees want to wreck the project, when the opposite is true. For it’s quite obvious that the members of the clique are not up to the job, it is they who are wrecking the project. Those who want them removed have only the best interests of the Castle and the town at heart.
It is unlikely that the Gang of Four + One can be removed at a rigged AGM; that being so, then other routes must be pursued to save this project, and return it to its original promise.
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.
The ‘resignation’ of Glen Johnson due to “online harassment” and “virtual persecution” continues to reverberate, here’s an update. (Though what is virtual persecution? Is it something less than real persecution?)
To begin with, it’s worth remembering that the press release announcing the resignation was issued by Equinox, the Castle’s PR company. Given how these things are done, with the Castle paying the bills, it’s reasonable to assume that the press release was sent to Equinox ready-written, with instructions for the agency to merely issue it to its media contacts.
One of those contacts was of course the Cambrian News . . . or maybe the Cambrian News got the resignation story directly from the Castle . . . or maybe the Cambrian News didn’t need to be informed at all . . .
Seeing as both my blog and I were mentioned in the Cambrian News report I wrote to managing editor Beverly Davies making it clear that the only references to Glen Johnson on my blog were positive, and so I should not have been mentioned in a way that obviously tried to implicate me in the alleged ‘harassment’. I was refused an apology but given a few hours to make a comment to a follow-up story . . . without being given any details of that follow-up!
Even so, I did give her a statement, though I doubt if it will be published. Here it is. ‘I want nothing to do with the Cambrian News because it cannot be trusted to report honestly on any issue where its over-riding political, ethno-cultural and constitutional prejudices come into play’.
In my exchange of e-mails with Beverly Davies I made the point that, “The Facilities Officer at Cardigan Castle is Sue Lewis, who was, prior to that job being created for her, a trustee. She is one of those I have criticised in my blog. She is also a freelance reporter for your newspaper, and her husband Mike is your South Ceredigion reporter. What a cosy arrangement!”
Beverly Davies responded with, “While Sue Lewis does do some freelance work for our paper, she only covers Aberporth Town (sic) Council and Cardigan Town Council meetings. She has had no involvement in our Cardigan castle stories.” My incredulity becomes clear in my response, “Do you seriously expect me, or any other sentient being, to believe that Sue Lewis has no input to articles written by her husband (or even his colleagues) about the place she works!”
But what if it’s true! Picture the scene chez Lewis, gentle reader, He: ‘I’m working on a story about the place where you work, Sweetie Pie, but you mustn’t tell me anything, or try to influence the article in any way – is that clear?‘ She (eyelashes fluttering): ‘Of course not, Big Boy, you know I wouldn’t do that, I’m an obedient lickle wifey‘. Yes, that must be how things are done in the Lewis household, or maybe not . . .
For there must, regrettably, be the possibility that that image of connubial bliss exists nowhere but in my imagination, and that in the real world the press release and the Cambrian News article were both written by Sue Lewis. In which case, is Glen Johnson just a willing dupe in the machinations of others? If not, if he is the author of the resignation statement, how does he feel about the trustees and the Cambrian News using his resignation to attack me, a man who has done him no wrong, and said nothing about him that was hurtful or even critical?
Let’s have some straight answers, Glen. Are you accusing me of harassing you? If not, how about correcting the impression your resignation has allowed others to create – people you recently worked with – that I am some kind of ogre stalking the internet terrorising women and children. The time for vague allegations and innuendo is past. Things are coming to a head. Let’s have some straight answers, Glen.
Elsewhere, an old comrade, completely unprompted, complained to the BBC about its treatment of the Johnson resignation. His point about cut and paste journalism, and treating press releases as news items, are worrying reminders of the state of the Welsh media. Read it here.
Time now to turn to a recurring theme in the saga of Cardigan Castle, money being squandered.
WEBSITE? THAT’LL BE FORTY-FOUR GRAND, LOVE.
One of the complaints levelled again and again against the project is that there is little to see for the £12m expenditure. People go there and wonder what that vast sum was spent on. One specific complaint made more than once is that the display cabinets are of a similar standard – and cost – to those housing the English crown jewels in London, even though Cardigan Castle has little if anything of value to display. This complaint puzzled me, but recent information may throw some some light on this issue.
A former trustee has sent me a quote, from September 2012, to set up a website for the Castle. The quote comes from a firm called Haley Sharpe Design of Leicester, in England. The quotation – just for a website, remember! – is £44,000. Read it here for yourself; read it through, item by item, and you’ll realise what a rip-off it would have been. Of course, this was three years ago, no doubt HSD would now charge £50,000.
This is what happens when public money is involved and there is no adequate oversight from the funders’ representatives, as is the case with Cardigan Castle. The customer thinks, ‘What the hell, it’s not our money!’ and the supplier rubs his sweaty hands thinking, ‘They’re getting millions in grants, let’s get our snouts in the trough’. Incidentally, I’m told that all the other quotes for a website came in under £5,000.
One obvious question is, why did the trustees ever go to a firm like this, so far away, so expensive, to get a quote for something that could have been provided by Dai Jones down the road for one tenth of the price? Does someone connected with the Castle know someone involved with HSD?
Thankfully, HSD did not get the website contract. An outlay like that would have been difficult to explain, even with the cosy relationship between Lady Tucker and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Gareth ‘Yes, Ma’am’ Gregory. The website now running appears to the creation of Sugar Creative of Cardiff, though there are many firms much nearer to Cardigan that could – and should – have been given the work.
Let us conclude this section by returning to Haley Sharpe Design, for despite losing out on the website rip-off contract the company was asked to fit out the Castle with display cabinets and similar equipment, and also to hold exhibitions. (See left sidebar when page opens.) Knowing how much HSD wanted to charge for a website we can be fairly sure that Cardigan Castle has paid over the odds for its display cases and much else. But then, it’s only public money.
I ask again, who is the link between Cardigan Castle and HSD?
Alas, problems rarely come singly, do they, boys and girls? and poor old Jac has also been assailed by that master of the vituperative, that Woodward and Bernstein of the Welsh blogosphere, Phil Parry of Wales Eye.
IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE ME?
Every so often, when the bile rises, or I have criticised his belovéd Labour Party too effectively, Phil Parry girds his loins and sallies forth to engage with the evil dragon of nationalism – me! These attacks invariably take the form of Parry telling his vast readership that I am about to be banged up because someone has reported me to the police. This ‘someone’ is usually Jacques Protic, a Serbian gent living on Ynys Môn, a man who manages to be a Labour Party member while simultaneously believing that Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones are closet nationalists! (No, I did not make that up, as the panel below testifies. It is a comment Protic made to a BBC blog.)
Parry’s latest assault on the dragon can be found here. I recommend that you be sitting down when you read it, and without a hot drink in your hand. (I should also warn you that in this latest piece Parry offers links to earlier works of fiction in which I star – apparently forgetting that these are behind a paywall!) Now, where to start?
Well, Parry begins with some bizarre story about an investigation by GogPlod into comments on my blog. He writes, “An investigation was launched by North Wales Police after a complaint from a member of the public about the website ‘Jac o’ the North’, and the Editor, Royston Jones, was officially warned to remove abusive comments or it may be closed down, according to sources.” I have received no such warning. North Wales Police has not contacted me.
Other than that, almost everything in the article is a re-hash of what he’s written before. Protic predictably appears, there is yet another mention of the Cayo Evans photograph, the social housing petition is regurgitated, and then he flaunts his powers of investigation with, “Mr Jones is currently embroiled in a controversy which centres on Cardigan castle”. Wow!
The thing about Parry is that he is consistent . . . consistent in attacking me for things I have not done. Let’s start with Protic. The basis for this story is that Protic alleges he was threatened over the telephone and had his car’s tyres slashed, and all because of something I’d written about him on my blog. As if Protic doesn’t draw enough attention to himself by expressing his odious views on every forum he can find.
The Cayo Evans photograph. I don’t know who took it, I don’t appear in it, but putting it up on my blog makes me guilty of . . . well, something. The social housing petition was launched by Dennis Morris of Plaid Glyndŵr. I put it on my sidebar because I’m unreasonable enough to believe that local people should enjoy priority in the allocation of social housing. And of course the ‘hook’ for the latest Parry article is that someone – but not me – wrote something some arsehole somewhere considers ‘racist’.
If online racism really concerns Phil Parry then let him visit MailOnline or Guido Fawkes or a host of other ‘mainstream’ sites, where he will find all the racist comments a man in search of them could desire, made against the Welsh and just about every nation other than the English. But of course Parry won’t do that, because he’s not really interested in racism per se; he is, just like the Cambrian News, and politicians in Wales and elsewhere, simply interested in using the slur of racism to silence people whose views he doesn’t like.
Though let us not be too harsh on Phil Parry for I fear he may be losing it, or maybe someone is playing jokes on him. In what I assume to have been a desperate attempt to say something new about me Parry wrote, “He retired as director of a Barmouth air conditioning firm . . . “ Who? Me! Accusing me of being a gun-toting, ethnic-cleansing, bodice-ripping, baby-eating nationalist I can live with, but you go too far when you accuse me of being a director of an air conditioning firm in – of all places – Barmouth!
I don’t know who, or what, you’re talking about, Parry . . . and neither, I suspect, do you.
IT WAS THE CAMBRIAN NEWS WOT WON IT!
Apart from learning that Beverly Davies has a sense of humour, something else I learnt yesterday was that Elin Jones AM has been asked for a comment on the Johnson resignation, and it will appear in this week’s issue of the rag. No doubt it will be in with the comments from the Pope and the mayor of Wagga Wagga, both outraged by my criticisms of certain Cardigan Castle trustees.
This, I’m told, is what she will say: “Glen Johnson has been a long-time champion of the castle and its history. He is one of the local experts and was influential in convincing me and others of the merits of the need to invest and restore the castle. I am sure he has spent years of voluntary effort in researching and supporting the castle. It is a travesty that he now feels pressured by social media to withdraw as a trustee. We need to thank him for all he has done and hopefully he can continue to contribute in other ways to the project.” So the local AM appears to have swallowed the Cambrian News story hook line and sinker . . . or maybe not, because here’s my interpretation.
Elin Jones will be standing for re-election next May which, let me remind you, is just over eight months away. She is very mindful of how the Cambrian News may have destroyed her colleague Mike Parker’s chances of becoming Ceredigion’s Plaid Cymru MP just three months ago, in the May General Election. For anyone who has perhaps forgotten, check out my post, Mike Parker and Huw ‘Tipp-Ex’ Thomas in Full Agreement.
What the Cambrian News did with that piece of gutter journalism was deliberately misrepresent something Parker had written many years earlier. For soon after moving to Wales he wrote a piece for Planet magazine telling of his shock at realising many English people move to rural Wales to escape the multiracial towns and cities of England. (But he never used the word ‘Nazi’.) He also told us that many of the English who move to Wales look down on their Welsh neighbours with contempt. Read the original 2001 article here. Compare it with what the Cambrian News wrote and you’ll realise what a squalid distortion the latter was.
Remarkably, it was left to the Western Mail to put this story into its correct perspective, with Martin Shipton writing, “The purpose of this attack on Mr Parker, of course, is to dissuade people from voting for him.” In other words, it was an attempt by the Cambrian News to influence the outcome of the General Election in Ceredigion by telling lies about the candidate the ‘paper did not want to win. And it may have worked.
THREAT TO DEMOCRACY?
Its victory over Mike Parker, and the muted response from Plaid Cymru, has emboldened the Cambrian News, making it believe that it can control the political debate, certainly in Ceredigion, and perhaps beyond. Given who owns the ‘paper there is nothing surprising here.
The Cambrian News is part of the Tindle Group, still run by the eponymous, and 88-year-old Sir Ray Tindle. Sir Ray is a patriot of the old school, the man who told his editors, once Bush and Blair began their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, “to ensure that nothing appears in your newspapers which attacks the decision to conduct the war”. (Read full article here.)
When it comes to Wales, we can be sure that Sir Ray’s views are unequivocally Unionist, which means doing everything possible to portray nationalists as a dangerous and evil enemy . . . especially when they look like winning. The only way dissenting voices can hope to avoid the Tindle treatment is to dissent as little as possible . . . the course Elin Jones has so clearly adopted. With the result that debate is stifled, truth takes a kicking, and democracy in Wales is further weakened.
This assault on truth and democracy in the service of English interests becomes increasingly more obvious as Tindle and other owners ship in journalists recruited in England, journalists who don’t know their patch, and thus make a mockery of ‘local journalism’. The pretence can only be maintained with the assistance of a ‘Welsh’ veneer provided by the likes of Beverly Davies.
The Cambrian News and many other ‘local’ newspapers are now a threat to the democratic process. They promote a viewpoint that is hostile to Welsh interests, they try to intimidate those who dare challenge them and their viewpoint, and they have lost that fundamental connection with local communities that should justify their existence.
The Elin Jones approach is nothing less than surrendering to the diktats of a warped old man who cares nothing for Wales. How does a Plaid Cymru politician justify such a stance, even to herself? The way forward must be to challenge the Cambrian News and all the other BritNat propaganda rags. If Plaid Cymru isn’t prepared to stand up to this bullying, then it does not deserve to survive.
UPDATE 27.08.2015: Yesterday, some 30 people, including ex-volunteers, gathered outside the Castle to make a presentation to sacked Director Cris Tomos. There were young and old there, Welsh and English, to present him with gifts, including a blooming apple tree, showing the gratitude of the townspeople for all the work he has done for Cardigan. Inside, the remaining trustees plotted at their monthly meeting.
UPDATE II 27.08.2015: In this week’s online South Ceredigion edition of the Cambrian News Glen Johnson seems to saying something different regarding his family. Last week it was, “The main reason for my resignation is to protect my family from the virtual persecution being dealt out . . . “. This week, the writer of the article says, ” . . . with his family bearing the brunt of ‘overheard conversations'”.
The implication is inescapable – nothing was said directly to his family. That his family overheard unflattering conversations around the town only proves what a hot topic the running of the Castle has become. Even then, I guarantee that if ‘them trustees’ were getting a slagging, it wasn’t Glen Johnson the critics had in mind. I’m beginning to worry that the saintly Glen Johnson may be developing a martyr complex.
Curiously, although the article is headed ‘AM steps into Cardigan Castle row’ there is no quote from Elin Jones. Perhaps you have to pay for the full edition to read what Elin Jones said. Which I’m sure you’re prepared to do, especially after seeing the subscription page.
The reason I’m returning to the subject now is that it’s all getting a bit naughty. Those I’ve written about, and others behind them, are pulling out the stops in order, not to answer the many questions being asked, but to silence those doing the asking. I suppose things came to a head yesterday with the resignation of Glen Johnson, one of the trustees. Mr Johnson cited as his reason for stepping down the need to protect his family from “online persecution”.
This is the report from the BBC Wales website. Here’s the Tivy-Side Advertiser. Finally, the Cambrian News report talks of “online harassment” and mentions my blog, even gives my name, thereby inviting readers to make the erroneous connection. But then, this is the Cambrian News, and this is the nature of the beast. No one should be surprised to learn that Mike Lewis, husband of trustee Sue Lewis, is a staff reporter, possibly deputy editor, on this rag. Perhaps more pertinent may be the fact that Sue Lewis herself freelances for the CN, as these minutes from Aberporth Community Council make clear. Could it be that Sue Lewis herself wrote the Cambrian News report on Johnson’s resignation?
The first thing to understand about Glen Johnson is that for months he’s been telling anyone who’d listen that he’d had enough, and was stepping down at the September AGM of trustees . . . and these declarations of intent pre-date anything I’ve written about Cardigan Castle. His Facebook page carries a few of these statements. Here’s a couple from July. (Click to enlarge.)
After reading the media accounts I went to my blog to check what I had written about him . . . as opposed to what people what you to believe I’ve written. I could only find two references to Glen Johnson in my blog posts and both were positive. The first in my post of July 7th and the second in the guest post of July 30th. Read both extracts below.
JULY 7:“So this place (Cardigan Castle) has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise (in history).”
JULY 30:“A glimpse of what might have been is provided by A History of Cardigan Castle written by local historian Glen Johnson. Johnson is currently a trustee who has signalled his intention of stepping down from the role next year, but for years he was a persona non grata to the Aberporth clique running the show because of his awkward insistence on uncovering the archaeology and history of the site.
Bringing his story up to date, Johnson notes that, “in September 2007 Cadwgan B. P. T. revealed their plans to convert the front range of Castle Green House into a Welsh Language Learning Centre and the remainder of the building and all of the outbuildings into holiday accommodation”.
This is harassment! This is “online persecution”!
So if I haven’t been attacking him, what exactly is going on with this ‘resignation’? I am convinced that this whole episode can be explained by the press release issued to the media. Enquiries are referred to a Cardiff telephone number belonging to Equinox, Cardigan Castle’s PR agency. This resignation is nothing but a publicity stunt, one staged to depict critics of the Castle’s trustees as the sort of bastards who threaten the trustees’ wives and children. Remember! this man was resigning anyway, before I put out a word on Cardigan Castle, but someone, somewhere, saw the chance to capitalise on a long-planned resignation by twisting it into the sudden decision of a persecuted man forced out by internet bullies – i.e. me! And all designed to deflect criticism from the ruling trustees, and even allow them to shelter under the umbrella of victimhood.
Here’s my message to Glen Johnson. If your family really is being intimidated then you should have reported it to the police, not a PR agency. And if, as I suspect, you haven’t yet reported it to the police, get in touch with me and I’ll accompany you to the police station. Yes, I’ll hold your hand. But my best advice for you is, don’t allow yourself to be used by people much cleverer and more ruthless than you.
Glen Johnson’s stage-managed resignation is only the latest in a list of incidents which have been attempts to either frighten me off or have my blog closed down. Here’s an example worth recounting.
On August 12th a comment was made to my post, Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? of July 7th. The first comment to that post in a fortnight, and it came from ‘Charity Solicitor’. I responded and he / she came back the following day with a longer comment that contained, “It is, therefore, entirely ludicrous to claim, as you and your friends often do, that the trustees have their hands in the till.” I had never accused the trustees of that, and I made that fact clear; I also asked ‘Charity Solicitor’ to direct me to where, as he alleged, I had accused the trustees of theft.
Of course ‘Charity Solicitor’ could not find anything like this on my blog, for the simple reason that I had never written it. Others joined in the debate and eventually ‘Charity Solicitor’, realising he’d been sussed, admitted he was Dr (Charles) Robert Anthony. On August 14th he made what, for a lawyer, was an extraordinary statement, done in a pathetic attempt to laugh off the very serious allegation he had made against me only a few days earlier. He wrote, “‘Hands in the till’ is a figure of speech or metaphor. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” Sorry, pal , ‘hands in the till’ most definitely means stealing, there is no other interpretation. And for what, exactly, could ‘hands in the till’ be a metaphor?
Throughout this exchange with me and others Dr Anthony wasn’t clear whether he was speaking officially for the trustees or merely on their behalf, unofficially. Make your own guesses.
But yet again we have someone riding to the rescue but refusing to address the questions raised, and instead trying to steer the debate onto more promising ground by making me defend myself against things I never said. Very similar to what is happening with this ludicrously contrived resignation. I’m confronted with evasion, innuendo, non-sequiturs, smears, misrepresentation, and downright lies. So let me make my position clear.
I retract nothing I have written about Jann Tucker, Hedydd Jones, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. To see them hoping to hide behind poor, manipulated Glen Johnson is despicable, and it will not succeed. The questions are still awaiting answers.
Who is Jonathan Timms of Kent, and how did he get involved? Is he perhaps related to a trustee, or does he own a holiday home in Aberporth? Possibly both?
Why have so many trustees and staff walked away from this project (before I ever got involved)?
How often does Jann Tucker crack open a bottle or twa with the Heritage Lottery Fund’s supposedly impartial representative, Gareth Gregory?
Was Hedydd Jones reprimanded for saying ‘Over my dead body” at the prospect of the Gorsedd visiting the Castle?
Why did the project – as Glen Johnson himself bemoaned – change from a historical and cultural icon into a tacky tourist venture that is financially unworkable?
What did Sandra Davies mean by saying, “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”? Was she asked to explain that insulting remark?
What did Jonathan Timms, the trustees’ contact point and secretary, mean when he described Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons as “savages”?
Can you provide satisfactory evidence of contracts being properly advertised and put out to tender? Evidence that would satisfy someone other than Jann Tucker’s drinking buddy.
The same applies to appointments, or were they all advertised – online only – from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, as was the case with the post created for trustee Sue Lewis almost immediately after she lost her job at the Tivy-Side Advertiser?
And yet, despite the slanders, I am greatly heartened that the Gang of Four’s defenders feel they need to resort to these tactics. I say ‘defenders’ because I am convinced that what we see now, with Johnson’s resignation especially, is intervention by persons who have come to realise that the Gang of Four are a liability, but to remove them would be an admission of defeat, so they have to be defended at all costs. It’s a difficult situation for them; and so desperate are they that someone must have thought this resignation stunt was worth a try.
Just stand back and consider the absurdity of the news coverage given. Here we have a nobody, in a small town, who resigns from a trust few will have heard of – but it makes the BBC News! This of course is the BBC we have come to know, this is the BBC of the Scottish independence referendum, the BBC of ‘British’ this and ‘Great British’ that, the defender of the British establishment. So in conclusion, let me reiterate . . .
Despite what has been alleged by the Cambrian News and others, nothing mildly derogatory, let alone threatening, has appeared on this blog in relation to Glen Johnson. Anyone persisting with these groundless accusations – or making fresh accusations – should be very careful what they say or write.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on the women running and wrecking the Cardigan Castle project (nor would I want anyone to think I plan on ignoring them!) but I couldn’t write this post without a mention of developments since my previous post. Here’s a selection.
Someone informed me that at one meeting Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms opined that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his sons were “nothing but savages”. Which again raises the question: Who the hell is Jonathan Timms and who invited a man living in Kent, England, to get involved?
Another informant sent me a copy of a letter sent to the Carmarthen Journal about three or four years ago, which served to revive an earlier suspicion that the Castle project may be disguising an even more self-serving undertaking involving property grabbing, and that this explains the two trusts. (I would appreciate a good photograph of the Green Street properties.) Elin Jones’ remarks are worth noting.
I am indebted to a third informant for this link which suggests that the Facilities Officer vacancy – the post now filled by Sue “ENGLISH” Lewis – was advertised from December 23rd 2014 to midday on January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. How the hell were they allowed to get away with this?
Rumours persist that non-Gang of Four trustees are ready to jump ship, leaving mesdames Tucker, Lewis, Davies and Jones even more exposed. Moves are also afoot to call an Emergency General Meeting.
Equinox, the Cardiff PR firm working for the Gang of Four, has requested an urgent meeting with local critics. This panic move may have been instigated by the project’s funders becoming worried by the amount of shit now hitting the fan.
Gareth Gregory, the Heritage Lottery Fund’s man on the case, is known to be in the pockets of the Gang of Four. Or should that be ‘handbags’? Or would that be sexist? Who cares?
Here’s the ‘Rhys ap Gruffydd’ Proclamation read out at 7pm on Saturday outside the Castle main entrance, which I understand will also be read out at the Meifod Eisteddfod.
Elsewhere, the Pembrokeshire Herald and its Carmarthenshire sister-paper ran full-page pieces using much of the information I’d supplied on my blog. I only have a photo of the article as I couldn’t get a copy of the newspaper to scan for you, but I was sent a transcript, which you can read here.
Saturday night saw the Bellowhead concert at the Castle. To judge by the photograph I was sent the audience was in the age group 55 – telegram from Beti.
However successful the Gang of Four may want us to believe the Bellowhead concert was I can’t help thinking that a performance of Wagner would have been more appropriate given the situation they’re in, for Götterdämmerung is surely approaching. I’d just love to see the lot of them in horned helmets, wielding spears and shrieking, as a local mob storms the castle. Well, laff!
STOP PRESS: I am now told that during the interval, and at her insistence, Vicky Moller, Plaid Cymru list candidate in Mid and West Wales, was led to the mic by compère, Brychan Llyr (Dic Jones’ son, of Jess fame). She gave a rousing speech, saying that without the diligence and hard work of Cris Tomos (now given the elbow) the renovation would not have been possible. Brychan expressed similar sentiments. Then the control freak Gang of Four tried to prevent Brychan from introducing Bellowhead, but after much heated discussion he did, before leaving the castle grounds.
Finally, the Aberporth connection has been strengthened with information about the bizarre, oversized ‘bardic’ chair to be found at the Castle. Here’s a photo I took on my visit a couple of weeks ago of my wife sitting in it. (No, she hasn’t got a round, flat, black head,) This chair is said to have cost £12,000 but no one seems to recall any tendering process. The artist responsible is a Paul Clarke of . . . Aberporth! He has done work in Aberporth, paid for by the community council, on which body we of course find Jann Tucker. I suggest you read the comments by ‘Rhodri’ to my previous post. He also suggests that the escutcheons and armorials employed are not authentic, having little or nothing to do with Rhys ap Gruffydd, The Lord Rhys.
THIS WEEK’S COMPETITION: Find someone living in Aberporth – or just having a holiday home there – who has not gained financially from the largesse of Lady Tucker of Cardigan Castle.
Not a subject I’d normally write about but friends of mine in Llanelli got to thinking about the ‘Welsh’ Government’s proposal to assume that if you don’t expressly say No then you agree to have your organs whipped out and re-used ASAP after your encounter with the Grim Reaper. The leaflet they were reading gave a phone number, and this took them to a call centre in Bristol, and a helpful young Bristolian. This, remember, was for enquiries into a ‘Welsh’ Government initiative.
The big question they asked was, ‘If I agree to donate my organs, or don’t opt out of any new scheme of assumed donation, will my organs stay in Wales (cos they’ll only get homesick otherwise)?’ ‘Er, no, they can end up anywhere in Englandandwales’. ‘Hang on, you’re saying there’ll be an opt-out system in Wales running parallel with an opt-in system in England?’ ‘Um, yes’. ‘Which will mean that the vast majority of the organs taken from Welsh stiffs will end up giving new life to our English neighbours?’ ‘Yup, that’s about the size of it’.
At this point my friends thought they’d be clever and demand the Welsh language service, as the leaflet said they could. ‘I’ll get someone to ring you back’, said the HYB. After half an hour or so the call came, again from Bristol. The Welshman they spoke with said he enjoyed working in Bristol because he and the other Welsh speakers get paid more than their English colleagues because they also answer calls in English. (Which must do wonders for workplace harmony and Welsh-English relationships!)
So there you are, if you agree to donate your organs, or don’t opt out of presumed consent, your kidneys could end up keeping alive a frothing-at-the-mouth Kipper, your liver in some Daily Mail journo. This is the kind of insane situation that can only arise when certain powers are devolved within an overarching Englandandwales framework. This is the sham devolution we have in Wales, and in this instance it appears that Wales is being used by England for organ harvesting – with the co-operation of the ‘Welsh’ Government!
OVERSEAS AID PROGRAMME
I bet that heading surprised you! It certainly surprised me when I discovered that the poorest part of Europe, a country that has received billions in EU aid, is sending money to Africa. Let me explain.
On June 18th I posted ‘Welsh Poverty and “Welsh” Labour’s Third Sector Money Pit‘ and in that post I looked at the careers of husband and wife team Travers Merrill and Rose Mutale Nyoni Merrill. Travers was at the helm when the good ship Rhondda Life hit the rocks, while Rose’s Third Sector racket is BAWSO. Together they also run a private endeavour called ABESU, which, to quote the company’s website, is “a UK charity working in partnership with the ABESU Women’s Housing Co-operative in Zambia to self-build houses and establish sustainable livelihoods”. Nothing surprising there, seeing as Mrs Merrill is from Zambia.
Curiosity drove me to flick through the ABESU accounts, where I found that in the year ended March 31st 2014 ABESU had received £2,000 from the ‘Welsh’ Government. Not a great amount, but why is our puppet regime down Cardiff docks giving anything to an organisation that doesn’t even operate in Wales? As is my wont, I submitted an FoI on June 22nd. On July 1st I received an acknowledgement that promised an answer by July 16th. When that hadn’t arrived by July 23rd I wrote again, and my answer came the following day. You can read that letter by clicking here.
I asked the ‘Welsh’ Government to:
1. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gave Abesu £2,000.
2. If confirmed, please explain the reason for the Welsh Government giving £2,000 to Abesu, and from which funding ‘pot’ the money came.
3. Confirm or deny that the Welsh Government gives funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales.
4. If confirmed, please supply a list of such organisations together with the amounts given, and from which ‘pots’ the funding is secured.
The response I got, from ‘the Office of the First Minister and Cabinet Office’ (‘Cabinet Office’ FFS!) said:
“I can confirm that a grant of £2000 was given to Abesu. This was by way of a grant from the Wales Africa Community Links project which was run by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and funded by the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme.
I can confirm the Welsh Government does provide funding to other organisations that do not operate in Wales. However, with regard to the list of organisations and the amounts given, I have estimated that it will cost more than the appropriate limit established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request and because of this the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it.”
The letter went on to explain why I would not have a full response, ‘over the £600 limit’, etc. A couple of sentences in this explanation caught my eye, and you may also find them interesting. They said: “The Welsh Government’s finance system contains over 14,500 companies and organisations whose address is outside of Wales. During financial year 2014/15 there was (sic) 2,331 transactions made against these companies”. Suggesting that far too much of the money spent by the ‘Welsh’ Government is leaving Wales.
Anyway, returning to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Wales for Africa programme. With the best will in the world, it’s difficult not to see this as yet another excuse to give money to Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector. This time by sending them on African jollies to “enhance their leadership skills” and have their photographs taken with ever-so-grateful Africans. For more information just follow the link I’ve supplied, and use the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the page.
This kind of lunacy is almost bound to happen in the system of sham devolution we know in Wales. We have a bunch of pseudo socialists (many just pseuds) behaving as if they’re running a real government. And of course, the civil servants who really run Wales, and their masters in London, are more than happy to let these self-deluding buffoons waste our money.
Message to Carwyn and the gang: Stop playing stupid games; you are not a real government, Wales is poor, so we do not have money to spare for Polly and Dominic to go showboating in Africa.
When it comes to events and functions, weddings and conferences Cardigan Castle may not be seeing many paying customers, but one organisation that has been there a couple of times is Cantref, the housing association and white trash importer. A comment to my post The Colonisation of Wales: Help Needed tells us that things got a bit out of hand at Cantref’s AGM when, for some reason, the tenants were bused in for a hog roast and all the booze they could drink! Read the comment for yourself.
This munificence is surprising given that Cantref may be entering Shit Creek. (Regularly laying out a few grand on hog roasts and piss-ups don’t help!) For the comment tells us that some of the commitments Cantref has taken on, such as the student accommodation in Aberystwyth, may not be turning out as planned. Hardly surprising when we see Aberystwyth Uni slipping down the league table faster than Cardiff City. Boom! boom! (Couldn’t resist it!)
‘Insider’ also tells us that, “There is something else going on but the sleepy local rags haven’t got a clue yet . . . more news on that later as it’s too dangerous to mention that yet – no wonder three top directors left all of a sudden before year end accounts, local housing consultant David Hedges of Cyngor Da being one of them”. David Hedges is the son of the former Glamorgan cricketer Bernard Hedges, who died in February 2014. (Many is the time I saw Bernard Hedges play at St. Helen’s.) His website, particularly the bullet point ”Cyngor Da’s approach’ is unmitigated Third Sector bollocks-speak. And although the stars favoured him with a Swansea birth Dai seems to have headed into the sunset and relocated to Cardigan.
Naturally I tried to make enquiries into Cantref’s financial health, but unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose for them there’s no way of getting the figures. The problem is the status of housing associations. If they were charities then it would be a simple matter to visit the Charity Commission website and get the latest accounts gratis. If they were companies then it would be easy to get a financial picture from any number of sites, and pay for specific documents. These would also be available – and usually cheaper – on the Companies House website.
No doubt defenders of housing associations will tell us that there is usually an annual report available on their websites. Rubbish, just look at the Cantref Annual Report, it’s just flim-flam and photographs, no better than propaganda, and nothing like the audited accounts available for charities and private companies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, housing associations are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, unlike your local council’s housing department . . . assuming your local council’s housing stock hasn’t been taken over by a secretive and acquisitive housing association.
I don’t believe that housing associations should be regarded as anything other than the private companies they are. Put quite simply, housing associations do not meet the criterion used by the FSA for Industrial & Provident Societies: “An industrial and provident society is an organisation conducting an industry, business or trade, either as a co-operative or for the benefit of the community“.
It is now anomalous that they are treated the same as community organisations and private members clubs. They are – in all but name – private companies, consequently there should be no more funding from the public purse.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Another subject you may be surprised to find me writing about. And while I can’t deny deriving a great deal of pleasure from seeing the bruvvers and sissters poking each other in the eyes this is, I assure you, an attempt to make a more profound observation.
Last Wednesday I watched a debate on Newsnight between three Labour MPs, Mary Creagh, Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott. It seems that Creagh and Thornberry nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership, but had no intention of voting for him, and were now worried that this ‘oppositional’ candidate might win! Abbott was there, presumably, to speak up for Corbyn.
We were also treated to a film of an increasingly wild-eyed and delusional Tony Blair telling his party’s members that if their heart said Corbyn then they should get a transplant! His former ‘advisor’, John McTernan, called those MPs who nominated Corbyn “morons”. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the most recent entry on McTernan’s CV is Chief of Staff to Jim Murphy, leader of ‘Scottish’ Labour in May. The political equivalent of being Custer’s chief scout at the Little Big Horn.
Anyway, the issue seems to be that the great majority of Labour MPs think Corbyn is too Left wing, but at the time of the Newsnight broadcast polls had him as the most popular choice, certainly with trade unionists and ordinary branch members. Which has left Creagh, Thornberry, Margaret Beckett (who’s admitted to being a ‘moron’!) and others suffering from Dr Frankenstein syndrome. It was one of the most enjoyable Newsnights I’ve seen for some time.
To justify rejecting Corbyn Creagh and Thornberry used the argument that Labour would be unelectable with Corbyn in charge, and unless the party wins the next election then Labour will be unable to help the people. Persuasive . . . until they expanded on that and you realised that for them winning elections is an end in itself, and this, they believe, can only be achieved through Labour being indistinguishable from the Conservatives.
The name Emily Thornberry rang a bell with me, but I had to check before I realised that she it was who had insulted the flag of England and those who proudly wave it. She was condemned as a snob for that episode, and watching her on Newsnight I could see why. It was an almost unique experience: she spoke well, her arguments were well marshalled, and yet . . . rarely have I heard anyone be simultaneously eloquent and repulsive.
She is clearly arrogant, to the extent that she kept cutting across Kirsty Wark! (Isn’t that a hanging offence?) But it was her patronising and condescending attitude towards Diane Abbott that really clinched it. She was, and in a way one rarely sees outside of the theatre or television, looking down her nose at the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
The Labour Party has a massive problem on its hands with this election, for it has exposed the chasm between the unworldly professional politicians in the Westminster bubble and those ordinary party members who oppose starving the poor, who believe in pursuing tax dodgers, and who are clearly unhappy with a Labour Party that is little more than the Conservative Party by another name.
My two recent posts on Cardigan Castle have generated an incredible response. On Thursday the 9th – when I was away in Pembrokeshire – my blog received a record 2,223 visits, and the ‘Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall?’ post has been shared on Facebook an incredible 534 times, another record. Since then, more information has been received, in comments to the blogs, and also in e-mails and DM tweets. To the point where I feel the time has come to lay out the allegations against those who are – allegedly – running this fiasco.
Those familiar with the saga will know that the four principals are Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker MBE, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis, Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies and Dr Hedydd Parry Jones. The ‘One’, and the only man, is Jonathan Timms. Between them, these five play various roles in the running of the project. Those roles will be explained below.
To recap: Cardigan Castle is an old pile that changed hands many times over the centuries, and as castles go, in a land that has so many, Cardigan is not one of our great castles. But for the people of the town it’s their castle, and for the rest of the nation it’s important because in 1176, when it was home to Rhys ap Gruffydd (1132 – 1197), it hosted the first ever national eisteddfod.
It seems only fitting that we start with the grande dame of this enterprise, Mrs Elizabeth Jann Tucker OBE. She was born in 1935 in Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, the “only child of a well-to-do family” and was, I’m further informed, educated at an English boarding school. She now lives 7 miles north of Cardigan with her husband Tony in Aberporth, where they run a holiday homes business. She was awarded the OBE last year, as this report from the Tivy-Side Advertiser tells us.
By an example of happenstance such as litter this saga, the newspaper report was almost certainly written by Mrs Susan Joy Lewis who was then the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. I say happenstance because Mrs Lewis also lives in Aberporth. And as if that wasn’t enough happenstance for one paragraph, both are trustees at Cardigan Castle!
Jann Tucker and her husband strike me as the kind of people who like to ‘involve’ themselves. Perhaps because they know best. The Charity Commission website tells us that Mrs Tucker is also a trustee of Aberporth and District youth club, and also Aberporth village hall and recreation ground. Hubby is also a trustee of the latter body, and managed to upset locals with a plan hatched in 2008 to sell off part of the car park. And as might be expected, Jann Tucker also belongs to Aberporth community council, whose meetings Sue Lewis used to attend representing the Tivy-Side Advertiser.
It seems that Jann Tucker and Sue Lewis have been friends and neighbours for some years, and if one comment to my blog is to be believed, mutual back-scratching has been the norm. For according to ‘Wenda of the West’, “apparently back in 2006 ish Jan Tucker stole/claimed a parcel of land from Aberporth Primary School, who was chair of the school governors – Sue Lewis, she did nothing to stop her and Mrs Tucker added a nice piece of land to her estate”.
Jann Tucker joined Joined Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Cadwgan’) on 21.03.2000, and Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust (hereinafter referred to as ‘Castell’) 28.03.2000. She still serves as trustee on both charities and also served as a trustee / director on Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.
The next up in our Gang of Four profiles is Mrs Susan Joy Lewis herself. So what do we know? For a start, she was born in Devonshire, England, in 1962. Until late last year she was the editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser. As we’ve already learnt, she lives in Aberporth, with husband Mike, who is also a journalist.
Sue Lewis served as a trustee on ‘Cadwgan’ from 18.03.2002 until 12.01.2015. (Though she is still shown as a trustee on the woefully out-of-date details to be found on the Charity Commission website.) She probably resigned from this charity to take up the paid post of the Castle’s Facilities Officer, something I shall return to in a minute. Though she still serves as a trustee on ‘Castell’, which she joined 19.12.2007. And she is also a trustee / director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd, which she joined 16.06.2010. Away from the Castle she is also a trustee / director of Small World Theatre.
I suppose it’s worth asking why there is no Welsh version of ‘Castle Enterprises Ltd’. Perhaps because it wasn’t formed until 2010, and Lewis was on board from the start, as was her neighbour, Tucker. Though that said, and despite its name, it’s a company that doesn’t seem to be that enterprising, with a net worth of £0 and doing hardly any trading. Which only serves to make more corporeal the spectre of yet another project that will forever be suckling on the teat of public funding.
A few lines back I mentioned Sue Lewis becoming Facilities Officer at the Castle early this year . . . very soon in fact after losing her job as editor at the Tivy-Side Advertiser. In the taverns and coffee-houses of Cardigan dispute rages as to how this came about. Essentially, there are two interpretations.
The first – and more charitable version – posits a scenario along these lines. With the Castle opening to the public in 2015 it was felt – in the latter part of 2014 – that a restructuring was needed to meet the fresh challenge. And so existing staff were laid off (but encouraged to re-apply for their jobs). It was simply unfortunate – but unavoidable – that the new post of Facilities Office (salary £25,000 p.a.) was advertised over the Christmas period, and only on the Castle’s Facebook page, which must have been visited by as many as . . . oh, I don’t know, a dozen people.
(UPDATE 25.07.2015: I am indebted to ‘M O’ for providing this link which seems to show that the post of Facilities Officer was first advertised on December 23rd 2014 with a closing date for applications of January 2nd 2015. In other words, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. This is how things are done when the post has already been allocated but the clique involved has to pretend otherwise.
That this was allowed strengthens my belief that what we see at Cardigan Castle is what the funders want – an English tourist attraction and events venue stripped of all Welsh content and significance. Though I’m not sure the funders fully understand that the project they’re supporting may be camouflaging the real estate ambitions of some of those involved, and others close to them.
What is now clear is that Sue Lewis became Cardigan Castle Facilities Manager by deception and nepotism. I would hope that the way this post was advertised and allocated broke both charity law and the rules applied by the funders. But even if it didn’t, Sue Lewis’ position is now untenable. She must go, from her post as Facilities Manager and from all involvement with Castell Aberteifi.)
The second – and less charitable version – portrays a different sequence of events entirely. Having been told in early December that she was about to get the chop Sue Lewis and her friends decided to capitalise on the already announced restructuring and use it to create a new post for her, and then go through the motions of advertising that post over Christmas. She may even have been tipped off about her redundancy before the restructuring was announced.
Proponents of both versions seem to agree on three important points:
1/ The post of Facilities Officer was inadequately advertised, if it was advertised at all.
2/ Sue Lewis was appointed to the post by her friends and neighbours.
3/ She has no experience of the duties she is now expected to fulfil.
The Small World Theatre is a company based in the town that, with its falling income, may see regularly performing at the Castle as its financial salvation. If so, then it was obviously a wise move to get Sue Lewis on board in May, 2012, and it’s already reaping rewards. For as this letter written to a local politician puts it, “It is also worrying to be told that over £15,000 has been given to Small World Theatr for putting on very English based summer activities for children without any opportunity for other Welsh theatre groups to bid for the money and offer more suitable performances. There is a very serious and corrupt edge to this development as Sue Lewis is a trustee of Small World . . . “.
Elin Jones, the Plaid Cymru AM, is a ‘Friend’ on Lewis’ Facebook page.
In fact Plaid Cymru, the party, has behaved in its usual manner when confronted with ‘awkward’ situations – it has slunk away to the shadows for fear of upsetting people. And in the process abandoned a Welsh cause. God! I hope Plaid Cymru is destroyed next May.
Next in line is Mrs Sandra Margaret Davies, born 12.06.1949. She is married to Meirion Davies, a teaching assistant some 17 years her junior. Having been born and raised locally she of course speaks Welsh, but like Jann Tucker, chooses not to. Now prepare to overdose on happenstance.
Mr and Mrs Davies live in Aberporth. (Where else!) Sandra Davies is the vice-chair of the governors of Ysgol Gynradd Aberporth. The chair, you will remember, is Sue Lewis! Meirion helps out at the local youth club, where other trustees are Jann and Tony Tucker. I stopped digging at this point because, quite frankly, there’s a limit to how many connections I can take. But I think I’ve established that we have here three people, Jann Tucker, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies, who are all trustees at Cardigan Castle, who all live in the same small village some 7 miles up the coast, and who all know each other very well, having worked together on other bodies.
We all say, ‘It’s a small world’, but humbling phenomena like this bring home to us how true that is. Oh, yes.
Sandra Davies is now retired but formerly worked at the English military’s weapons establishment in Aberporth which used to provide many jobs for local people, alongside the service personnel and the ex-servicemen (who always had priority for civilian jobs). Nowadays the base employs far fewer locals and is engaged in developing drones, for both military, surveillance and commercial use.
She joined ‘Castell’ 27.11.2013, but seems never to have been a member of ‘Cadwgan’, maybe because, as she claims to be the trustee-accountant or some such, she too is getting paid. She joined the spectacularly unenterprising Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd on 24.04.2013.
Though one perplexing chapter in her recent history is Keykeeper Wales Ltd, Company No 08517357. It was in existence from 07.05.2013 to 20.01.2015 but never made any returns or filed any accounts. It seems to have been one of those companies that are set up, do nothing, and then fold; leaving one to think, ‘What the hell was that about?’ Apart from the Davieses the only other directors were William Neil Chambers and Nicola Lesley Chambers.
To help you understand Sandra Davies, and other self-hating Welsh, I’ll recount her answer when it was suggested to have bilingual front-of-house staff at the Castle. “We’ll never get world class staff if we have to rely on the Welsh”. World class staff! How much do they intend paying these ‘world class staff’?
If we pass the Davies residence and keep going up the road we soon come to the village of Tresaith, near to where we find Dr. Hedydd Parry Jones. On the one hand, it’s nice to get away from the stifling incestuousness of Aberporth, but on the other hand, we are of course moving further away from Aberteifi.
There’s not a lot to report about Dr Jones, she’s another who keeps a low profile. I’m told that before her retirement she was a GP in Castell Newydd Emlyn and is, I’m also told, married to a farmer in the Tresaith area.
She came relatively late to the Gang of Four, joining ‘Cadwgan’ on 18.11.2009, and ‘Castell’ on 25.04.2012. She served her time with Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd from 15.06.2010 to 28.01.2015.
One spectacularly offensive remark has been attributed to her. During a discussion on whether the Gorsedd should be invited to the spiritual home of the National Eisteddfod, she is reported to have contributed, “Over my dead body”.
Hedydd Jones is also on Facebook, and despite her being another shrinking violet, I have managed to secure a photograph.
It’s almost a merciful relief to be leaving the Ceredigion coast, but I don’t believe we should have to move as far as Kent, in England, for that relief, which is where we find Jonathan Richard Timms. ‘Who’, you cry, ‘is Mr Timms?’
Another figure of mystery is Jonathan ‘Joff’ Timms. We know he was born in 1945, so he’s of a ripe age, and he joined ‘Cadwgan’ 15.11.2006. On the Charity Commission website he is even listed as the contact for the trust. (Click to enlarge panel on right.) He joined ‘Castell’ 18.04.2007.
As if that wasn’t enough, he and Sue Lewis seem to be the only directors left standing at Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd. So he appears to be the one person who is a trustee for both trusts and is also a trustee / director of the trading arm. So how does that work, with him living so far away? Does he make the 620 mile round trip to attend every meeting, or are meetings arranged for when he might be in the area? Though come to that, why would he be in the area at all? Well, boys and girls, you will not be surprised to learn that a dickie-bird tells me Mr Timms has a holiday home in Aberporth, and that he was almost certainly invited aboard the good ship Cardigan Castle by Jann Tucker.
A regular contributor to my blog, ‘Brychan’, had this to say of Mr Timms:
“The mysterious Mr Timms has moved.
When originally registered at the charity commission he declared he was resident at a period mansion, Glebe House, Mersham in the Weald of Kent. This property is Grade II listed. It was renovated by Talus, who are specialists in restoring period structures and sub dividing the property for sale. Half of this property is now up for sale for £950,000. I find no record of title change for the other parts of the structure. 12 other properties were built on associated land.
Mr Timms subsequently changed his address declared at the charity commission to another of his properties at 44 Oxenturn Road, Wye, a village some miles away, nestled in the North Downs.
It is quite evident, as his original Glebe House period mansion changed from detached to two semi-detached properties, that he specialises in buying and renovating period structures and then sub-dividing them for sale as separate units at vast profit. The ‘wedding venue’ and ‘events’ businesses that habit the property for a short period are merely ghost enterprises, the real cash is generated by the sub-division and subsequent piecemeal sale of a renovated freehold.
Do the good people of Aberteifi really know who they’re dealing with? I have assumed the ‘Welsh’ Government, CADW and Cyngor Ceredigion have done the precautionary background checks on this geezer. I wonder what he did with his bats? Did they move to Wye or Aberteifi?”
So Jonathan Timms appears to be a property specialist whose forte might be converting and flogging period and listed buildings, such as – dare I say it? – Castle Green House inside the Castle grounds. (Click to enlarge image.)
Also note that both trusts, in their declarations to the Charity Commission, state their objectives thus: “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Which suggests that certain persons’ ambitions may not be limited to the Castle.
I’m told Mrs Timms was acting as a ‘volunteer’ when Our Glorious Leader visited the Castle last month.
This is the situation now, but the problems with Cardigan Castle go back years, to when the renovation was being done. There are too many problems to list them all, but one worth mentioning is the complaint from local businesses that they were not invited to tender for the work being done on the Castle.
Now there could be a simple explanation for this in that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd of Port Talbot, was allowed to choose its sub-contractors and suppliers, perhaps arranging its own tendering processes. But if so, why did those representing the Castle not insist that the process be opened up to local contractors and suppliers?
Alternatively, if handing out the contracts to suppliers was within the gift of the trustees then local anger is understandable, and helps explain why a complaint I’ve heard more than once concerns the work given to Leekes of Cross Hands to supply furniture, fittings, sanitary ware and much else that could have been sourced cheaper locally. Inevitably, seeing as Jann Tucker was born in Cross Hands, people suggest she is related to the Leekes family. Possibly, though another option is that a member of the Leekes clan has a holiday home on the Ceredigion coast – Llangrannog has been mentioned – and is known to the Gang of Four, or some of them, or perhaps just one of them.
One of the most serious complaints I’ve heard is contained in the letter to a local politician I linked to above. (Here’s the link again.) The writer says, “We have at least 60 people in Cardigan who have asked to join (the trust, presumably) but have just been ignored”. This suggests that the Gang of Four doesn’t want anyone involved who isn’t going to toe their line. No elections, no applications; entry is by recommendation and invitation only, a methodology they might have picked up from their Freemason husbands.
Another regular complaint is that there seems to be no constitution for members of the public to consult, which charity law says there should be. Then there’s the issue of minutes being doctored, with the final versions bearing little resemblance to what took place in the meetings the minutes supposedly refer to. And as mentioned in the earlier posts, there is the absurdly high turnover in staff and trustees for the very simple reason that no one can work with the Gang of Four.
One of the more bizarre complaints is that the trustees spent £100,000 on a wedding marquee, a permanent structure but, of course, without foundations. This was done despite being told that weddings can only be in held in a building with three sides and a roof. As I say, this is one of the more bizarre complaints, but if true, then it displays a stupidity, and exposes a waste of public money, that should not go unpunished. Regarding this marquee, Jann Tucker averred that she didn’t want any “local riff-raff” getting married in it.
Sticking with the bizarre, another story I was told by, I suspect, someone who worked on the project, was that the main contractor, Andrew Scott Ltd, was told by a local contractor that the sewage / drainage system was 300mm ‘out’. The advice was ignored and now the Castle is said to have problems with this system. Oh yes, the same source tells me that the Castle has bought two banana trees. I just hope these are traditional Welsh banana trees.
Cardigan Castle is clearly in deep, deep trouble. A £12m project is being run by people who are out of their depth. Incompetence would be bad enough, but they compound that failing by being unpleasant creatures given to venomous, insulting outbursts. Small wonder the townspeople of Aberteifi feel alienated. They see no one from their town involved in running the Castle, and local businesses excluded from the £12m bonanza! Welcome to Aberporth Castle . . . with the contact address in Kent.
That the major funders involved, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the ‘Welsh’ Government, have not stepped in to replace these women, and Mr Timms, with a board of trustees operating more transparently, a board more representative of Cardigan and the surrounding area, makes those funders complicit in and responsible for the malpractice now taking place.
Beyond malpractice we also have the clearly expressed sentiments of hostility towards the Welsh language, Welsh culture, and Welsh people. Outbursts that should disqualify these women from involvement in any project in Wales using public funding.
They themselves are the intolerant bigots they accuse their critics of being. Get rid of them!
I have just returned from a short break in Pembrokeshire. On the way down my wife and I stopped in Cardigan, and once there we were inevitably drawn to the castle. Now I may not have walked around with a calculator in my hand but I certainly came away wondering where twelve million pounds has been spent. While that may have been a mystery, what became very clear from my tour was that the history of the castle, and indeed the area’s history and culture, is relegated to a few posters, maps, models and videos that could not have cost much, and which will not be allowed to get in the way of the building’s prime focus from now on – as an upmarket conference / functions / weddings venue.
While in the castle I took the opportunity to enjoy the views, and among the sights to be seen from Rhys ap Gruffudd’s old pile were a couple of James Lynch’s establishments. He, you will recall, is a son-in-law to a long-standing trustee of the castle project, a local entrepreneur who appeared in the previous post. Here’s the view across the river to his holiday accommodation in a converted warehouse, and here’s the view of his pizza joint on the quay. Lynch also busies himself with glamping, weddings and associated businesses. As invariably happens when big city businessmen descend on ‘sleepy’ corners of Wales to re-invent tourism Jimbo has brought to Aberteifi high-skill, twenty-first century jobs, and the top-whack salaries that go with those jobs. (Sarcasm? Moi!)
But enough of James Lynch, as he awaits his opportunity in the wings. Let us focus instead on the leading players, those currently strutting the boards and hogging the limelight. Into this category come two women who are receiving much attention in the local media, Sue Lewis and Sandra Davies. All explained, on facing pages, in the most recent issue the PembrokeshireHerald. (Click to enlarge on all images.)
First, page four gave us further details on the ‘suspension’ of director Cris Tomos. Reminding us how bizarre this whole saga is becoming by relating that he was ‘suspended’ from his post on the day that marked the climax of Gŵyl Fawr Aberteifi. The Herald continued:
“Although the introduction to the official (GFA) programme contained a couple of references welcoming the opening of the castle (home of the Eisteddfod), the event was staged in the town’s 1960s redbrick leisure centre, while the castle hosted a sports awards bash.”
The Eisteddfod programme contained scores of adverts and messages of support from all sorts of companies, businesses and local organisations, down to the local milkman – but nothing at all from the castle. So, instead of the first chairing of a bard in the castle since 1176, the ceremony took place in a council sports hall.”
If any proof was needed of how those running Cardigan castle had turned their backs on the building’s history and its significance in Welsh cultural history, then this episode provides the proof. For here we see the home of the eisteddfod tradition shunning completely the local eisteddfod!
The bulk of the facing page was taken up with Sue Lewis defending herself against recent criticism of the way she runs things . . . or I think that’s what she was doing. It all got a bit confusing, so judge for yourself. She seems to be suggesting that someone is trying to “discredit” her – by using her own words against her. She went on to threaten legal action, but the Herald had heard nothing from any legal representative before going to press. But if they had, who would have been paying, Mrs Lewis or the Cardigan Castle Trust, in other words, the public purse?
Mrs Lewis is looking more and more discredited, her position increasingly untenable for a number of reasons (dealt with below). But one worth adding here is the remarkable workings of serendipity attaching to her appointment as Facilities Manager.
Sue Lewis was made redundant from her post as editor of the Tivy-Side Advertiser just before Christmas. At that time she was a trustee, and one of a small group of trustees that removed three Welsh-speaking members of staff, including Rhian Medi, daughter of the late Archdruid, Dic Jones. Rhian Medi was the Education Officer. As a trustee, Sue Lewis sat on the panel that, we were led to believe, would appoint replacements. Not quite. It was decided that the Castle could manage without an Education Officer but definitely needed a Facilities Officer, and who better to fill that post than the recently redundant Sue Lewis herself! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all sit in on the selection process and give ourselves jobs!
Another woman whose position has become untenable through her own prejudice-betraying utterances is Sandra Davies, the trustee treasurer. She refers to local group Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffudd as “bigots” and orders (an at the time unsuspended) Cris Tomos to have nothing to do with them.
How many times have we heard anyone who speaks up in defence of Wales and Welsh identity condemned as a ‘bigot’, a ‘racist’, or a ‘narrow-minded nationalist’, done so that their views can be disregarded and debate stifled? By comparison, the true racists, those who want to destroy Welsh identity and replace it with an intolerant Englishness, are allowed to portray themselves as generous and liberal! What an indictment of modern Wales, of our media, our political class, that this colonialist distortion has achieved such dominance, and that a woman holding a position of authority with an iconic Welsh building can so freely and proudly exhibit this vile attitude.
Sandra Davies must go, and she must go immediately. If she is not removed then the suspicions attaching to the motives and intentions of the funders and others involved will be finally confirmed.
From whichever perspective one chooses to look at Cardigan Castle it can only be perceived as a disaster.
To begin with, the public was told that among the project’s objectives was that it should attract ‘ . . . visitors who are seeking leisure learning activities related to the Welsh language, culture, crafts, environment and horticulture and “using the Welsh language, and the cultural traditions of the Eisteddfodau, as a tool for tourism development and regeneration”’. This has not happened except in the most cursory and superficial manner.
Then there’s the commercial angle. In her ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails quoted in the Herald Sue Lewis justifies removing the Welsh dimension from the Castle project by arguing that herein lies the route to commercial success. (For ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails see panel above, ‘Cardigan Castle is “under siege”‘.) One well-placed source tells me that the Castle has seen just two conferences, one organised by the county council, the other by Tai Cantref, a local housing association with a lucrative sideline in the importation of riff-raff. The permanent wedding marquee has yet to hear a best man’s embarrassing jokes, or witness the tears of a bride’s mother, while the complex has seen not one paying guest.
Even the cafe, overlooking the High Street, the river, and the interior of the complex, was a loser as people had to pay to go into the castle before they could buy a drink or a meal! This has now been remedied by a new door allowing people to enter directly from the street . . . with bouncers dressed as medieval knights in Cross of St. George outfits ensuring nobody sneaks into the castle after their cappuccino. (OK, I made up the bit about the bouncers, but who was responsible for the original design!)
Then, from so many quarters, I hear horror stories about the main contractor, Andrew Scott of Port Talbot. These involve shoddy workmanship, jobs not finished on time, cost over-runs and sheer incompetence. Into the last category falls the story of the lift ordered for Castle Green House that was the wrong size because someone had not taken the correct measurement! Did this really happen? While a comment to my previous post alleges that very expensive kitchen equipment and furnishings came from a certain supplier due to that firm enjoying a family connection to a trustee, even though the very same equipment could have been sourced far cheaper in Cardigan. Though another suggestion is that a member of the Leekes clan owns an expensive holiday home at Llangrannog, and is a neighbour and friend to a person or persons connected with the Castle.
Another criticism is the lack of joined-up thinking (if that’s what it is). Last month the ‘Welsh’ Government announced a £300,000 grant for Coleg Ceredigion to develop a Welsh language centre at its Cardigan campus. We’re entitled to know why the ‘Welsh’ Government is funding another project on a separate site when it should be in the castle and covered by that project’s £12m budget. Some suggest a devious game being played by the Heritage Lottery fund, who had no intention of allowing Cardigan Castle to be ‘too Welsh’. If so, then perhaps the other big funder, the ‘Welsh’ Government, is simply falling into line.
This post, and the previous one, are not arguments against commercialisation based on some simplistic notion that sites like Cardigan Castle do not need to generate income. I know from experience that funders demand business plans, and all manner of credible projections to convince them that a project will remain viable after the initial funding has run out. But I can’t believe that any funder, or bank, or investor, would be happy with the shambles in Aberteifi.
First, we have the clear departure from the original and expressed intention that the project would promote and nurture the Welsh language and the culture associated with that language. This has not happened. Sue Lewis’ amazing ‘ENGLISH’ e-mails, and Sandra Davies’ rant against Welsh “bigots” make this abundantly clear. All we have now is lip service being paid to the Castle’s history, its role in Welsh culture, and the sensibilities of the people who have always lived in the vicinity.
This rejection of all things Welsh was justified – by Sue Lewis – as being commercially sensible. Mrs Lewis’ judgement is not being vindicated. And I can’t help but wonder what experience a journalist like Sue Lewis has that qualifies her to be the Facilities Officer for a twelve million pounds project. But then, she does appear to have been self-appointed.
And what of the trustees . . . or rather, who are the current trustees? And why is there such a high turnover among them? Does anyone have a complete and up-to-date list of the trustees? Certainly the Charity Commission doesn’t, but the law says it should.
As things stand, this project is approaching meltdown. It has alienated most locals and failed to justify that behaviour with commercial success. Staff have been sacked for no good reason (unless being Welsh qualifies). And the whole shooting-match now appears to be under the control of two women who are always right, and for whom measured responses are anathema. With friends like these Cardigan Castle needs no enemies.
The regeneration of Cardigan Castle started off with a fund of local goodwill upon which to draw; that fund has been all but exhausted by a combination of incompetence and lack of oversight, with the second of those allowing – if not encouraging – the takeover of the project by a prejudiced, self-serving group. The Castle and what it stands for is now resented and regarded with suspicion by the local Welsh, as it was when the Castle was in English hands, imposing English ways on the Welsh population.
Given my ideological outlook I don’t often quote Karl Marx, but I can’t resist this: ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’. Cardigan Castle is most definitely a farce. A very expensive farce.
A revealing piece on the Daily Wales website tells of the escalating controversy at Cardigan Castle where public funding is creating a tacky entertainment centre / wedding venue, with references to the site’s rich history and cultural importance being downplayed if not totally excluded. I urge you to read the DW piece before going any further with my contribution.
From the Daily Wales piece (and indeed other sources) it seems there has also been a worryingly high turnover in both trustees and staff that should cause concern to any body funding, or in any other way supporting, this project. Though despite the comings and goings there appear to be two constants, both trustees. These are Elizabeth Jann Tucker who – and this should not surprise you – is involved in tourism, at Aberporth, a few miles up the coast from Cardigan. The other is Richard Thomas, a veterinary surgeon, and the local James Herriot, having written the autobiographical Dic y Fet, and in English, the equally autobiographical, Taking Stock.
Seeing as we are dealing with a charity, the obvious place to start making enquiries was the Charity Commission website. I soon found the page for Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Castell Aberteifi (Cardigan Castle Building Preservation Trust), (Number 1122015), which tells us that the contact is Jann Tucker . . . but according to the Daily Wales piece, the contact should be a Jonathan Timms of Ashford, Kent. Clearly, there was something wrong. The answer came when I saw that ‘Dick Thomas’ is also a trustee of another charity named Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Adeiladau Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust Charity (Number 1080667), which makes no mention of Cardigan castle in its name. and it’s here that we find Mr Timms given as the contact. (He may also go, or at one time have gone, by the name ‘Joff’,) So why are there two charities? (Click to enlarge panels.)
Especially as they claim to be doing exactly the same thing. For the Charity Commission website, under ‘Activities’ says for both charities, “To preserve for the benefit of the people of Cardigan town and of the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Cardigan town in buildings (including any building as defined in Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) of particular beauty or historical, architectural or constructional interest’. Read it and tell me if you also think it says the same thing twice, or am I missing something? Also note that neither of these charities is confined in their activities to the castle. And which ‘nation’ is referred to?
For those curious about what the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 says, here it is: ‘“building” includes any structure or erection, and any part of a building, as so defined, but does not include plant or machinery comprised in a building;’. Er, in other words, a building.
To complicate the picture further, in addition to the two charities there is a company (limited by guarantee), Cardigan Castle Enterprises Ltd (Company No 07285463), which appears to be a trading arm for the charity / charities. The current directors appear to be Mr Cristoffer Wyn Tomos, Mrs Susan Joy Lewis and the mysterious Mr Jonathan Timms. Mrs Lewis is also a director of Small World Theatre Ltd (Company No 03294035), also based in Cardigan. The company involves itself in ‘Artistic and Literary Creation and Interpretation’. (Which may link with the reference below to the Mwldan Theatre and Bellowhead.) She is the former editor of the Tivyside Advertiser, which most people think has improved considerably since her departure. Her husband is Mike Lewis, who was editor of the South Wales Guardian before moving to the Cambrian News, which readers may remember for its scurrilous and unprincipled attack on the local Plaid Cymru candidate before May’s election. Both husband and wife are staunch and blinkered Britlanders.
Though if the Daily Wales piece is correct, and Cris Tomos has been suspended by the trustees from his post at the castle, then he is unlikely to be still serving as a director of the trading arm, especially as Lewis is one of the other directors.
I keep talking about ‘the castle’, so I think it’s time to remind ourselves of the history we are dealing with here. Cardigan castle was the home of Rhys ap Gruffydd, ‘the Lord Rhys’, who ruled Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197; an ally of Owain Gwynedd and, following the northern prince’s death in 1170, the most powerful of the Welsh rulers. In 1176 he organised at Cardigan castle what is generally agreed to have been the first national eisteddfod. So this place has immense significance in Welsh history, yet I don’t think there’s a trustee other than Glen Johnson with any relevant expertise. In fact, there seem to be more of the trustees involved with bed and breakfasts than with anything else.
This might explain why, it is rumoured, the Heritage Lottery Fund has now appointed (imposed?) a trustee who might know something about Welsh heritage, and also how to manage a project of this size. Though cynics might argue that it’s a bit late in the day, seeing as £12m has already been poured in. The name being mentioned is Gareth Gregory, who would appear to fit the bill. Whether this appointment will be welcomed by some of the other trustees, and some interested observers, remains to be seem. But I can understand why the Heritage Lottery Fund felt it needed to be done.
Locals have been dismayed at the slow pace of the project, often due to contractor’s cock-ups and work having to be re-done. No clear chain of command is another allegation levelled – “too many bosses”. Few in the town can understand, let alone see, where twelve million pounds has been spent. And many in Cardigan wonder why Jann Tucker, a woman of eighty, with business interests of her own, is still knocking herself out in this thankless work. Perhaps she gets help from her family.
For about ten years ago Jann’s daughter Siân came home from London with her property developer husband James Lynch and their four sons. Since arriving in Cardigan the two have bought Fforest farm, set up a glamping business, opened an upmarket pizza joint on the river, and also run a wedding service, with hubby keeping his hand in in the property racket with Granary Lofts, across the Teifi from the castle. Basically catering for middle class poseurs of the, “I may be a computer programmer with two kids and a crippling mortgage but I’m a free spirit, me, oh yes”. A man untroubled by modesty, our Jim. For as he says on his Linkedin profile, he is “currently working on re-inventing the Cardigan riverside”. And if this site is to be believed then his ambition extends to taking over a wider area! Note that the map for ‘the Republic of Fforest’ covers the town of Cardigan, including of course the castle.
There is a link on his Linkedin profile to the Do lectures site, as Lynch has given a lecture. Here it is, it lasts twenty minutes (but I bet you won’t!). As a contact described them to me, “The Do Lectures are phenomenally expensive. This annual event pulls in minor celebrities who teach well-heeled 30-somethings from London how to knit yoghurt”. (Nice one, R.) Though looking at it another way, the people connected with Do lectures strike me as just the kind of people who listen to folk-rock bands like Bellowhead. Because I guarantee that until the name was suggested to them Jann Tucker and Dic y Fet had never heard of the group. Then again, other sources implicate the luvvies at the Mwldan theatre where, it is suggested, can be found someone with connections to Bellowhead. Either way, I hope to God that this Do Lecture shower has not received any funding from the Welsh public purse.
Before leaving lovely Aberteifi it’s only right to tell you that within the castle walls is Castle Green House (see panel, click to enlarge), completely renovated with public funds. It would be difficult to visualise a better location for weddings . . . or tourist accommodation . . . almost guaranteed to appeal to the kind of ludicrous poseurs attracted to the area by the burgeoning Lynch empire and the yoghurt-knitters up at Do Lectures. Such a pity there seems to be little or nothing in the renovated castle for Welsh people.
Which explains why so many locals are angry over a project that could have served as a beacon for Welsh culture being subverted into yet another tacky tourist trap or subsidised stage for third-rate provincial luvvies that nobody’d pay to watch. So here are some questions for Huw Lewis, who is, I’m told, the minister in the ‘Welsh’ Government responsible for this project.
Who owns Cardigan Castle?
Given that the purpose of the charity (or two charities) is solely to oversee the renovation of Cardigan castle, why does its (their) remit extend to any building of interest “in and around Cardigan”. Are other projects lined up, and if so, will these be funded from the public purse, and who will appoint the trustees?
Are you satisfied with the oversight of this project by ever-changing combinations of trustees?
Seeing as Jonathan Timms, the secretary to the trustees (or one set of them), and also a director of Cardigan Castle Enterprises, is based so far from Cardigan can you explain how he became involved? Was he appointed by the trustees? Was he appointed by you or some other funder?
The last accounts filed by the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees with the Charity Commission (Y/E 31.03.2014) show that the project received that year £1,838,894 from the European Regional Development Fund and a further £289,911 from CADW. Seeing as ERDF funding is allocated to Wales for “economic regeneration projects promoted primarily by the public sector” do you believe that this project falls within that expressed purpose? And do you believe that the small number of jobs created justifies this generous funding, over two million pounds in one year from your government? Seeing as there are so few jobs being offered by this project can you assure us that the administration you represent will insist these jobs are allocated to genuinely local people?
In the most recent accounts of the ‘Cadwgan’ trustees ‘fixed assets’ are shown to be valued at £5.4m. This, presumably, is the value of the castle and its grounds, including Castle Green House. Whose valuation is this?