In the days of old,long ago, with ts coastline of natural bays,coves and sheltered harbours,
Wales became renown for shipbuilding and maritime trade. So it was only a matter of time before some sympathetic seamen,seeing the potential for profit, precipitated to piracy.
Producing in the days of the Spanish Main the likes of the buccaneer, Hari Morgan( a pirate by another name) Black Bart,John Evans,Howells Davis,RobertEdwards,John Callis to name but a few. Historically it is said that more pirates came out of Wales per mile of coast than any other country in Europe.Then in more recent times, there was Potato Jones, A seamanwho found danger to be his comfort zone.
From this issue, the most noted are Black Bart who plundered the seas of the Spanish Main and Potato Jones who sought satisfaction from running the blockade of the fascist Franco during more contemporary times.
BARTHOLOMEW ROBERTS, known as BARTI DDU or BLACK BART was born in 1682 in Pembrokeshire and went to sea when he was 13. It was on the slave ship Princess that he was captured and forced to join the pirates by fellow Welshman pirate Howells Davis also from Pembrokeshire. Having been forced into piracy he give as good as he got capturing more than 400 ships.
His nickname was given not just because of his black locks and dark eyes.When this swashbuckling buccaneer had to fight for his prized he was merciless. Opposing crews were cut down and those surviving were hung from the yard arm or lashed at the masthead. Captain’s ears were cut off and presented to them as a reminder to listen harder when Black Bart told them what to do. The torture and butchery did not end until the last man had been dragged up and carved up in similar fashion.
His Jolly Roger flag featured him drinking with a skeleton and it is said that the film Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is based on his life.
David POTATO JONES was one of three Welsh sea captains who run the blockade of Northern Spain by Franco. All three were named David Jones, nicknamed Potato, Corn Cob and Ham ‘n’ Chips Jones to distinguish them. Potato Jones was the dominant character among them.
Skippering the Marie Llewellyn he ran potatoes under which was hidden guns, motor bikes and any other useful needs for the republicans. He also took part in moving thousands of refugees from Spain to safety in France.
He is reputed to have always worn a bowler hat when at sea.
Potato Jones Although now retired, 67 years old could not resist the chance once more and face the dangers, he brought many troops off the beaches of Dunkirk. He suffered a broken shoulder when German bombers attacked his ship. Although scarcely recovered he continued to cross the channel rescuing troops from the beaches.
He died in 1961, aged 91 years and will always be remembered by the people’s of Bilboa And the troops rescued from Dunkirk.
He was scorned, ridiculed, tortured, killed in great pain on a cross.
Despite this treatment and abuse, his message to all including his transgressors was ” Love one another as I have loved you”
Before giving up the ghost, with his dying breath , on the cross, his lips uttered the message ” forgive them”.
To feel such sentiments, whilst feeling such pain and prospects , surely makes him very special. To many the Greatest Man who ever lived.
Although his followers acclaimed him as the Son of God, he never refuted the title of RABI given him by the people of the time. Allegedly, he said “You do not have to believe in Me but believe in what I say”
Making the case….Behaviour is more important than just belief.
TO ALL MY READERS………….WISHING YOU A VERY HAPPY EASTER
When next in South Wales, find the time to visit Llandaff Cathedral and see the tribute paid to the Great Man by Jacob Epstein. His magnificent sculpture ‘Christ in Majesty’ held aloft over the main nave of the church by two flying buttresses. This modernistic representation caused much controversy when first unveiled. This indeed is a striking sculpture.aff
Henry Morgan was born about 1635 within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire. He left school early and was more used to the pike than the book.
Hari Morgan , although supposedly under license and some form of royal assent, making him a privateer,this most famous of Welsh pirates tended to make up his own rules of combat. In 1668with his 800 followers of rakes, rogues, mad rapscallions and broken gentlemen, the scum and scourge of the Southern seas, attacked El Puerto Del Principe. Defeated the local garrison and forced the men to surrender– by threatening to physically tear apart their wives and children.
Morgan also sacked Maracaibo, Venezuela and Portobello in attacks relying on surprise and speed, involving both land and sea raids.
It is said that in one such raid his men escaped by Morgan tricking the Spanishto point their guns in land whilst they escaped by sea.In another,his route of escape was blocked by three galleons, so he sailed a fire ship at them sinking one, badly damaging the second, capturing the third was captured and looted.
Buccaneers, or illegal 17th century privateers to their name from the word Bouchan, a smokehouse barbecue used by local Indians to cure the meat of sea cows. The bouchaneers who began by supplying ships passing by the island of Hispanola, with fresh meat, animal fat and skins.
Gradually became sailors themselves, creating “The Loyal Brotherhood of the Coast” and attacking the hated Spanish. They obeyed no laws but their own and were renowned for their cruelty. Hari Morgan was no exception, he enjoyed the torture of his prisoners with lighted matches under the finger nails and toe nails.
Hari Morgan considered his life a success. The King of Spain who lost much sleep with his exploits thought of him as a sinner. Where as the King of England give him much credit for the Country ‘s power in the Americas and as such was a saint in the King ‘s eyes and awarded a Knighthood and the governorship of Jamaica.
He was extremely wealthy and a celebrity in his later years. He died in 1688 from alcoholic poisoning and was buried in Palisadoes cemetery that sank under the sea after 1692 earthquake. Poetic justice?
The favourite images of the Saint for many are those of a devout earnest monk. Born circa 500, son of Sant, King of Ceredigion and Non, granddaughter of Prince Brychan (possibly niece of King Arthur). According to Geraldus Cambrensis, his conception, birth and eventual elevation to Archbishop were foretold thirty years earlier.But David was not the child of a love-filled marriage. It is said that he was born after his father seduced or raped Non, who went on to become a nun and later a Saint. She left her family and gave birth by the sea. The birth was so intense that her fingers left marks where she grasped the rocks. As David was born a bolt of lightening struck the rock and split it in two.
Folklore tells that a blind man was cured by the water used in his baptism.
David was taught by a blind monk Paulinus in a monasterySouth of Aberaeron. Again according to legend, David restored his sight by making the sign of the Cross. Realising that he was a special and holy person Paulinus sent him off to convert the pagan people of Britain. In the course of his travels, David is said to have founded twelve monasteries including Glastonbury.
David became a great church leader, not in the bishopric sense, but a prophet and a teacher. He was a renown preacher and large crowds gathered to hear him. At one such gathering at Llanddewi Brevi, somebody shouted “we can’t see or hear you” and the ground under his feet rose up and all could see and hear him.
Another tale tells of the Welsh defending their lands against the invading Anglo Saxons. A battle they were losing and in the heat of the battle one could not tell friend from foe. A monk noticed that this was becoming a grave problem. As the Welsh lost more and more ground. The monk cried out “Welshmen you must mark yourselves so that you can tell Saxon foe from your fellow Welsh” He then plucked a wild leek from the ground, “wear these so that you can know that any soldier who does not have a leek is your enemy” Soon every Welsh soldier was wearing a leek, with new impetus they attacked the invaders and the battle was won. The monk who came up with the idea was no other than Dewi Sant.
One tale of David ‘s kindness and consideration for others concerns an Irish monk who worked in the monastery gardens and had a passion for bees. After several years the monk became homesick. However each time he got on the boat bound for Ireland, the bees swarmed and followed him. He asked his abbot David what should he do. David just smiled and blessed the bees “take them with you we have more than we shall ever need” he said. So the monk sailed home with his swarm of bees,that so the tale goes, is how the first bees reached the Emerald Isle.
Despite these newsworthy events,David is mainly remembered for his reputedly simple life, his respect for nature and all the little things of life. Also his choice of settlement in the beautiful, sheltered Glyn Rhosyn, which is now known as the cathedral city of St. David’s, has endeared him to millions of pilgrims for over a thousand years.although Canterbury remained supreme in the Anglican Church, his monastery became a place of pilgrimage for Norman and Plantagenet Kings. After his canonisation in 1120 was second only to Rome. Indeed a variety of proclamations by Popes and chroniclers made it clear that twice to St. David’s equalled a single pilgrimage to Rome.
In the eighteenth century,St. David’s day began to be celebrated as a national festival.Since then millions of school children have dressed up in national costume to mark the Patron Saints special day. Daffodils and leeks have become the national emblem. Daffodils as Peter’s Leeks( Cennin Petr in Welsh) because they flower in spring time, close to 1stMarch, St Davids Day, and leeks because Dewi Sant, during times of prayer and fasting lived for many months on wild leeks and crystal clear spring water.
St. David lived for about a hundred years, and his final words were “DO THE LITTLE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE SEEN AND HEARD IN ME”
Curled up in my armchair watching the new detective series on B.B.C., 1 Wales, Hinterland, when they mentioned the folk tale Devils Bridge that I posted in February 2012 and then another Welsh folk tale, The Bells of Aberdyfi. It was the time when the West Wales coast was been lashed by devastating flood tides and gale force winds. To me that added realism to the tale we are about to tell.
It took place in the 6th Century,the Kingdom of Ceredigion had great wealth and vast lands but none were more fruitful than Cantre’r Gwaelod,low lying land that stretched into the sea. This prime agricultural land was protected by huge man made dykes. The guardianship of these dykes was awarded to two Noblemen, Seithennin andTeithrin.
Seithennin was a famous warrior, but he had one great vice, he drank too much. Where as Teithrin was devoted and dedicated to caring for the dikes.
One day, when Teithrin was on his daily duties inspecting his dykes, the wind got up and he heard a voice in the strong winds saying “Beware! The oppression of Gwenhudin is at an end” The reference was obvious, Gwenhudin a mermaid known to all as The Shepherd of the Waves. Other people heard the warning, were afraid and hurried to the higher ground seeking the King’s protection.
Teithrin thoroughly checked his dykes and in so doing noticed that the neighbouring dykes looked very unsafe and went to warn Seithennin for him to start repairs immediately. He took no notice of the dangers, insisting that the dykes had stood for years and would repel the seas fo many more. He invited Teithrin to stay the night and join him first in fun ,frolics and feasting, insisting that the faraway seas and foretelling, the formidable dykes would hold against them.
Before Teithrin could remonstrate about their repairable condition, a roar and the crashing of stonework aroused Siethennin from his drunken daze. Like a true warrior, he unsheathed his sword, leaped from the battlements brandishing his blade. The invaders the waves had scant respect for his bravery, engulfing and washing him away, never to be seen again.
The stormy seas seeking revenge, returned, reclaiming the land that was theirs. Breaching the dykes flooding Cantre’r Gwaelod, thus the oppression of Gwenhudin was at an end.
Thankfully Teithrin survived and joined the farm folk who had heeded the warning. After awhile life went on and the people’s of Ceredigion stopped sea as a stealer of their bountiful land an more of a highway to success. The Kingdom gained a reputation for shipbuilding and their ports becoming the most busy in the country. Trading with all the nations of the known World, including the Phoenicians, highly respected and valued, who came for tin and called the land Bri-tin, isle of tin.
Should you visit this exciting and attractive coast line, you will see plenty of evidence of the lost land of Cantre’r Gwaelod with tree stumps,and ruins uncovered at low tide. If you are lucky hear the chiming of the bells way out under the waves.
December,the days of Advent, Christmas, and the greatest story ever told, the world over. Respected, treasured and celebrated by all people’s in all corners, snow and sun alike. Told by artists, painters , poets, and players of music.
This month I shall forsake my folklore and compete or compare with the Christmas carol, but recall this sensational story of the first Christmas.
A teenage Virgin, heavy with child, along with her betrothed arrive in Bethlehem, Judea, to register for a national census. Seeking somewhere to stay they find no room at the Inn, have to share a manger with its animals. That night, Mary, that being her name, gives birth to a son. Only straw for a crib , this humble arrival is greeted with great joy by the shepherds in the fields, trooped by Kings and Wise men from the Orient, guided by a new star in the heavens to worship this new star on Earth.
This New Born came to preach, practice love and forgiveness. He was no zealot but the leaders of that time along with the priests and scribes feared what he taught, that we learn to love one another and teach tolerance.
His life was to change human history. We now celebrate the coming of the Christ Child with the giving of gifts and the sending of greetings.
In Wales,in the Shire of Carmarthen, we have the sleepy village of Bethlehem, its shepherds and country folk welcome visitors this time of the year, from far and wide, who come to post their cards to get the acclaimed Bethlehem Postmark.
If you wish to do likewise in this charming village, you will be more than welcomed by the country folk in this picturesque part of Wales.
The time the 19th Century; the place Merthyr Tydfil.
It was a period of poverty and prosperity. The workers, poor, living in narrow streets of low badly maintained cottages. The Ironmasters and Coal Barons in their lavish luxury towers.The lives of the workers lived in the darkest depths of the mines to the satanic skyline of the fiery furnaces,providing bare subsistence. , when survival was screened as success.
The people of Merthyr Tydfil became incensed by these harsh conditions, redundancies, cuts in wages and the last straw, the bailiffs moving in to repossess the goods of the unemployed.
In 1831,riots broke out in the streets.There being no police at that time, soldiers were called in to regain control.Mayhem ensued when the rioters charged the soldiers in front of the Castle Hotel. The soldiers fired on this rushing mob, killing sixteen rioters. Whilst no soldiers received bullet wounds one soldier was injured with a stabbing in the leg. He did not die and failed to identify his assailant .
Nevertheless, Richard Lewis, colloquially known as Dic PENDERYN and his relative Lewis Lewis with whom he was lodging at the time in PENDERYN were arrested for the assault.
Richard Lewis was not even one of the rioters but was well known as a working class leader, enjoying a reputation as a fighter for workers rights, losing his job on more than one occasion for his cause.
Lewis Lewis on the other hand was one of the riot leaders and to the fore front of all the unrest. A regular troublemaker.
They were both tried in the Cardiff Courts, found guilty and sentenced to death. However, Lewis Lewis had his sentence commuted to Transportation for Life(as a favour for protecting a special constable from the rioting mob)
Much was done, including a petition of 11000signatures for the reprieve of Richard Lewis. And despite an intervention of a local Ironmaster, the sentence was upheld by the Home Secretary, Lord Melbourne. It was a strange decision, as there was little evidence or proof that Dic was even involved in the deed, but the authorities thought otherwise, believing that the sentence would serve as a warning to others. Contrary to this, after his hanging, Dic became a working class martyr, a Folk Hero.
This apparent injustice and inhumane treatment of the young miner served not as an example to subdue unrest but actually encouraged the cause of The Chartists and Trade Union Movement.
After his death, thousands followed his coffin to his grave in St. Mary’s graveyard, Aberavon. He has remained a working class hero, and a memorial to him was unveiled at Merthyr Tydfil Public Library in 1977.
Finally, to end this story, it is recorded that in 1847, a man called Ieuan Parker, confessed to a priest in N. America that he and not Dic PENDERYN had stabbed the soldier. He had fled to America to avoid justice. Another man ,James Abbott, also confessed to having lied on the Witness stand at the trial.
None of this did any good for Dic Penderyn has he had long been dead.
The Normans built Ogmore Castle in the 12th century. Along with its neighbouring castles Coity and Newcastle to form a line of defence against the turbulent Welsh.
The whole area, known today as Ewenny, was considered to be in danger from the raiding Welsh Tribes, who descended from and returned to the safety of the hills.
The Castle and protection of the district was given over to William de Londres, the most warlike of the Fitzhamon Knights.
Folklore, tells of a time , whilst de Londres’ son was planning to hunt deer in the adjacent forest, a local lad was caught killing a stag. The disinherited Welsh, naturally when the chance presented itself poached these herds. The punishment for this crime was torture and death.
The young Welshman caught, was of noble descent, remained proud and bravely unrepentant,as the torture tools were heated up to high temperatures for his subsequent blinding. All the gathered onlookers were impressed by his courageous behaviour, especially the daughter of the Castle Lord.
In pleading his case, she reminded the Normans, that it was them that had taken everything from the native Welsh. She also reminded her father that it was the anniversary of her birthday, and on such a special occasion she was entitled to a favour, she requested the life of the prisoner. He granted her boon and taking advantage of his mood, she begged that the Welsh be given land on which to hunt freely.
He secumbed to her second wish, subject to the land he bequeathed be no greater than what she could walk around barefooted between ‘now and sunset’.
She agreed and started off at a great pace up the hillside, but the thorns and brambles took their toll, slowing her down. With her feet badly bleeding she struggled on as far as she could in the time allowed, across the hill top and down to the sea. By sunset she had returned to a point by the castle walls, now occupied by the old farmhouse, still standing.
The path she had taken had been marked by following soldiers and became Common Ground. Now known as Southerndown Common and has belonged to the people ever since.
Melangell is one of the most famous of Welsh women saints and her protective powers have become part of folklore.
Melangell lived in the dark ages, was the daughter of an Irish king. He had arranged for her to be married to one of his noblemen, where as she had vowed to remain celibate. She fled her father’s lands to these shores, taking refuge in the Tanat Valley in Powys, where she lived for fifteen years without the sight of a man.
One day Melangell in her devotions and prayers in a local thicket, was disturbed by a hare seeking refuge hid in the folds of her robe.The hare was escaping from the hounds of Brochel, Prince of Powys, out hunting for the day. The howling hounds, refused to go near the hare in its hiding, in spite of the demands of the huntsmen for them to seize their prey.
When the Prince arrived, he was amazedto find a virgin of unsurpassed beauty, in her devotions, protecting the solitary hare from his vicious hounds.
On hearing her full story, he bequeathed to God and in the care of Melangell, that parcel of land as a sanctuary for all who fled there, with the wish that she build an abbey on that very spot where she sheltered the forlorn hare.
She later became the Abbess of that religious community, died at a good old age and was buried in the neighbouring church , Pennant Melangell. Over the centuries it became and still is a place of pilgrimage.
Pennant Melangell is set in the Berwyn Mountains, built within a Bronze Age site, ringed by 2000 year old yew trees and has been totally restored for pilgrims.
St. Melangell’s Feast Day is 27th May, which is also my birthday.
Once upon a time, in the Mawddy Valley, lived a poor widow women named Mari and her baby son Robert.
This part of Montgomeryshire was renown for its wicked sprites that haunted and molested its people, rich and poor alike.
Out of necessity, poor Mari took her one and only cow to market, selling it for a goodly sum. On returning home to her little cottage, she counted the monies over and over again before hiding her treasure within the chimney.” Although still poor I can now pay the rent”she said to her baby son who smiled as though he understood.
Before going to bed that evening, she decided to count her gold again. To her dismay, she found the nook in the chimney empty.
I have not left the house all day, she said, so it must be here somewhere.
In great distress,she ran from room to room and found nothing, she then tried the outhouses. More misfortune awaited. Her two calves, all her poultry and bees had also disappeared.
She sat on her small stool in the hearth, brooding, when there came a knock on the door. It was getting dark, but Mari could see her visitor quite clearly.
Wearing a long green cloak with red lining was a very tall old lady leaning on a stick. ” Why are you crying” she asked.
Mari told her the full story.
“Take comfort” the old lady said,”I have much gold,enough to pay your rent and replace your farm stock”. She took out of her cloak a large purse and emptied it on the table. You can have all this gold if you give me what I ask.
Mari had never see so much gold. I will give you anything you ask , replied Mari, delighted at the thought of paying the rent and restocking her small farm.
“I only ask for this small child lying here in this cradle”.
On hearing this, Mari understood that the old lady was a witch and that it was the wicked sprites that had stolen her monies.
Before leaving the old witch declared that she would return the day after tomorrow. If you wanted the gold , “if you still want the gold give me the baby or discover my name”
The next day ,Mari visited the nearby town, seeking help from her relatives. But they were just as poor, having been raided by those wicked sprites.
On her way back home, she came across a band of fairies, dancing in the wood. Hidden,she stopped to watch. When unexpectedly the old lady in her red lined green cloak turned up and joined in the festivities. In fright, the fairies escaped into the trees, but the old witch carried on enjoying herself, dancing and singing,
“The sprites of Glen Mawddy
Will ring my old neck
It the widow discovers
I’m Twittin Glyn Hec”
The following day the old witch returned to Mari’s cottage,emptied her large purse on the kitchen table
“Give me the baby or tell me my name”
Your name is Twittin Glyn Hec, shouted Mari,which produced a wild scream, the old witch flew up the chimney followed by the sprites of Glen Mawddy.
With all the gold on the kitchen table, Mari restocked her small farm, prospered and was never bothered by those wicked sprites ever again.