Monday, 26 January 2015


I've finally got round to reading the book I got at the book launch at Booth's before Christmas.
And it's very good. Seriously - it's worth getting hold of a copy.
The idea is that the way words are used to describe things 'frame' the way you think about them, and it's very easy to manipulate people into thinking a certain way. Sometimes arguments have been going to and fro for so long that even the people making the arguments don't realise how they're being manipulated by the language - "economic growth", for instance - growth's a good thing, isn't it? Or could it be looked at in a different way?
I've certainly started to become more critical of stories in the news since I read this - and it also links in with some discussions I've been seeing on the web about films and TV shows - how the stories that are told shape the way the viewers look at the world. That's why Joss Whedon was being so subversive when he cast a dainty blonde girl as Buffy the vampire slayer, when film after film has the dainty blonde girl as one of the first victims of a vampire. He got people thinking that maybe girls weren't so helpless after all.
We're coming up to a major election this year, and politicians will be 'framing' the debate in the ways they want them to go for all they're worth. This book can help us see through their debating tricks and maybe look "behind the scenes" at the real issues we need to tackle.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Small Business Sunday

The Chemists - this is the very place where Major Armstrong bought the arsenic to poison his dandelions (or, allegedly, his wife and business rival).

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Back on Line!

I've been having computer problems. All my own fault - I tried to download something that I thought was innocuous, and it turned out to be something nasty instead.
However, the lovely Tim Pugh came round this morning, and now everything seems to be back to normal! Apart from working to save the Warren for Hay, he fixes computers out of the electrical shop on the Pavement.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Bee Quilt

Hereford Library have just proudly unveiled this quilt, which has been made over the last year or so:

The detail is amazing. It was all hand embroidered at the library sewing group, from images put together by pupils from Aylestone School with the help of artist Jaime Jackson, and then the pieces were machined together by three volunteers. It's part of a project on local beekeepers, which also included vintage photographs.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Small Business Saturday

Primrose Farm stall on the market - local organic produce. They are also known as the Primrose Earth Centre, where they also do sound healing and accomodation.

Friday, 16 January 2015

More from the History Group

After the talk about Agincourt, the meeting turned to the various projects that the History Group are involved with. They've been very busy!
Tim Pugh had come along from the Warren Club with a proposal for co-operation. At the end of the month, all being well, he should be handing over the money to buy the strip of land and fishing rights around the Warren. When he went to the Town Council to ask for some money towards the total, they said that they didn't want to be seen to contribute to something that would only benefit fishermen - it needed to be something that benefitted the whole community.
Tim Pugh has taken this to heart, and this is why he was approaching the History Group. There's a stretch of the old tramway (which was there before the railway was built) on the Warren. So he wants to produce a leaflet about the history, with a walking route, which can be sold by the Tourist Information office to raise money for them. The Tourist Information office is totally independent, and needs to raise it's own running costs. He'll also be talking to the Cheesemarket group, who run the Hay Tours walks around town. There was a lot of interest in the idea.
He was also able to give some information about old photos of shops that Alan, chairing the meeting, had brought along, including the fascinating story that digging around the cellar of what is now the St Michael's Hospice shop years ago had unearthed a Civil War era sword! The chap who found it took it home, though, so no-one knows where it is now. It's the sort of thing, though, that they are looking for to fill a museum cabinet of local history. They've been talking to Jayne at the Library, and she's keen to find a space for a cabinet in there.
Tim Pugh also knew something about the whereabouts of the gravestones that used to be outside the Catholic Church. In those days, it was the Presbyterian Church, and when the graveyard was cleared, the gravestones were sold to Boatside Farm, and stored in a barn there for years. They might still be there - or at least, someone up there might know what happened to them after that. There were gravestones at the Globe, too, but no-one's sure what happened to them.

Several people at the meeting have been writing books.
Eugene Fisk had brought along his book about Agincourt, illustrated by himself when he was artist in residence in the village, and for sale at £6.50.
Alan has been looking at local wills (less interesting than he had thought they would be for local information!), and is writing about the Wellington family who owned the Castle from 1720 to 1820. He discovered from parish records that one of the brothers of the man who bought the castle was the innkeeper at the Red Lion in Hay. This was possibly the building which is now Hay Wholefoods, but there is another house on Lion Street which mentions the Red Lion, near the Police Station, so there may have been two pubs of the same name.
He also showed a copy of a letter that had been found in an old wallet, from a Captain Crichton, who lived over at Wyecliff, on the Clyro side of the river, and who died, a month after he sent the letter, at one of the last major battles of the Boer War. He's been doing some research into the Crichton family, and it's possible that some descendants still live in the area.
Tim Pugh commented that the people of Clyro and the people of Hay never used to mingle, because of the toll on the bridge - you didn't just go over there for a walk because you had to pay!
David Bennett has written small leaflets for each pub in Hay, giving their history, and he has now combined them all into a thick booklet, which he brought along. It seems to concentrate on the public events that used to happen in pubs because there was no other large public space available, like auctions and inquests.
He also brought along his new book Major Injustice. He said he hadn't intended to write a book about the Armstrong case, but he got fascinated with the story to the extent that he has talked to Robin Odell (who wrote one of the standard works about the case) and looked at the court documents, and believes he has uncovered new evidence. He comes down on the side that says Major Armstrong should never have been convicted on the evidence that appeared in court, along with Martin Beales, the local solicitor who wrote the other standard work on the case.. This book is available from Haystacks record shop in Backfold, and it's a print-on-demand book from

Mari, who was co-chairing the meeting, is involved with the Castle at the moment, doing work to help them with their grant applications, as they need to show that they are involved in educational work. So she has been getting in touch with the local schools for various projects, like the poppy making last year, where they did their own small version of the installation at the Tower of London.
She's also trying to track down the ownership of Salem Chapel. The paperwork has been lost - last seen at Gabbs solicitors - and without it, they can't do essential building work. They were also thinking about contacting the congregations in the United States that grew from Salem Chapel, when the preacher there, John Miles, emigrated with many of the original congregation in the seventeenth century. He's a lot more famous in the States now than he is here and they might be able to do some fund raising.

Finally, a new group is starting in Cusop. The Cusop History Group is, at present, mostly interested in the buildings of the area - and there are some quite interesting buildings up Cusop Dingle, for example.

The next meeting of the History Group will be on 18th March, details to be arranged.

Thursday, 15 January 2015


Which is the French spelling of the village better known in English history as Agincourt.
It was the archer's battle, which is why I was at the History Group talk at the Swan instead of across the river at the Baskerville, singing. As an archer and historical re-enactor, I couldn't miss this one.
It was an evening of filthy weather, but even so, the room at the Swan was packed out. They had to find extra chairs, and one late-comer was almost sitting out in the entrance hall.
The speaker was Bryan Davies, ex-RAF and Intelligence, who has been indulging his interest in medieval history since he retired.
It all started when he was a boy, when there was a board in Brecon Museum listing the local men who had gone to fight at Agincourt. When he had time to do a bit of research, he wondered where those names had come from - how had anyone known? Which led him to a document called the Merbury Indenture. This was the list of all the men who joined up for the Agincourt campaign from South Wales, specifically the Duchy of Lancaster lands. They wore a blue and white livery, the Lancaster colours. Then, as now, the Duke of Lancaster was also the monarch - and that means that Henry V was, at one time, Lord of Hay! John Merbury was his Chamberlain in South Wales, and mustered the men. They gathered at Tretower and marched down to the fleet at Southampton, and from there they crossed the channel in a flotilla of a thousand ships, to besiege Harfleur.

Twenty men came from "Haysland" and their names were:
Richard ap John ap Gruffudd
Philip Bailly
Rees Fferrour
Llywelyn ap David
Gruffudd ap Hochekyn
Henry Lloyt
Jankyn Lloyt
Ieuan ap Gruffudd Ston
John ap Iowerth
Ieuan ap Philip Keheryn
David ap Howel ap Madoc
Rees Penduy
Ieuan ap John ap Howell
Thomas ap Daffydd ap Madoc
David ap Madoc ap Jake
John Saer
Thomas ap Gruffudd ap Madoc
Jankyn ap Eynon
John Bailly
Philip ap Ieuan ap Eynon

Mr Davies had helpfully printed out hand outs to be given out.
When he got to describing the battle, fought when the English were on their way to Calais and home, I brought out the arrows and arrowhead I'd brought with me. It's always easier if you can see an example - in this case a long bodkin arrowhead and a broad head. The long bodkins (named because they look like a needle) were used to penetrate chainmail, and later a shorter version was perfected with a more chisel-shaped point, and these were armour-piercing. The broad heads were most useful against horses.
Mr Davies is part of the group co-ordinating the celebrations of Agincourt's 600th anniversary in this part of the world. There is a website called and also an Interestingly, he dismissed the myth that the archers at Agincourt were mostly Welsh. It was only about ten years after the rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr, who was still at large and was never captured, so there was no recruitment from North Wales at all. Only 6% of the archers, therefore, were Welsh. Crecy, an earlier English victory, has a better claim to be the battle won by Welsh archers.
There are going to be quite a few events through the year commemorating Agincourt. I forsee a couple of trips to Brecon in my future, wearing medieval kit.
On Friday 20th March Professor Ann Curry will be speaking at Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon - free but ticketed, and he said that the tickets were going fast. She's a leading expert on the 1415 campaign and the battle. There will also be an exhibition on The Welsh Bowmen and the Agincourt Campaign of 1415.
On Saturday 20th June, in Brecon, there will be workshops for children in the morning followed by the Great Brecon Pageant in the afternoon, re-enacting the departure of the men of Brecknock for Henry V's Expedition to France. This is where the names of the participants becomes important, as they want to gather children aged between eight and sixteen, and give each of them a name from the Merbury Indenture to be their character for the day. They're not going for complete authenticity of costume, but something that's accessible for everyone who wants to dress up (so a hoodie can stand in for a medieval liripipe, for instance) but they are hoping to have some blue and white material available so the children can have tabards in the proper livery. The men at arms commanding the detachments will have more authentic costumes.
In August, there will be a medieval festival at Trecastle, and the Welsh Bowmen exhibition will be popping up here and there all year.
On Sunday 25th October, St Crispin's Day and the day of the battle, there will be a commemoration service at Brecon Cathedral, where wreaths will be blessed, one of which will be taken to Abergavenny Church to the tomb of Gwladys, daughter of Davy Gam. Davy Gam was one of the few men on the English side to die in the battle, but legend has it that he recieved his mortal wounds while rescuing King Henry himself on the battlefield, with several other Welsh gentlemen, and was knighted on the spot. (Kings could do that in those days).
There will also be events in Abergavenny, Raglan Castle, Tretower, and Newport. And Hay, of course, to be decided on soon, though I think that Professor Curry will be speaking at the Castle in September.