Sunday, 11 September 2016

Traditions, Myths and Legends at Theatr Brycheiniog

I went over to Brecon with Jane, for the second time in a day, to Theatr Brycheiniog. The hall at the side of the theatre was hosting a free talk and exhibition to start Brecknock History Week.
The place was packed out!
Around the sides were the displays, which we had time to look at before the talks, in the interval, and for a short time before everyone had to pack up and leave.
Just by the door were Alan Nichols and Mari Fforde, with a display about Hay Castle and Alan's new book Lords of Hay. I had to get a copy - he's done such a lot of work with the original documents to piece it all together.
The Regimental Museum had a stand, and there was another about World War One Battlefields, and one about Welsh soldiers of the First World War - they are collecting stories about Welsh soldiers who were involved.
Robert Macdonald was showing some of his paintings depicting Welsh legends - one of them is on the front of the History Week brochure, showing the legend of the birds of Llangorse Lake crying out for a true King.
Brecknock Museum had leaflets about volunteering - the work on the building is going ahead now, as the Curator said later in his talk.
There was a model of a graveyard, with all the different types of graves in the 19th century, made by the pupils of Llyswen School, including the lovely local tradition of lining a grave with moss and flowers for people who had been well-loved.
There were others, too, for Llanwrtyd Wells and there was a map of the Llangorse Lake area.

John Gibbs, of the Brecknock History Forum, introduced the speakers, who had all been given six minutes to tell their story or legend.
In the first half, we got the story of St Eluned, Daughter of Brychan, where Mike Williams contrasted St Winefred's Well in Holywell, North Wales (a magnificent building and tourist destination) with the field and patch of nettles that marks St Eluned's well.
Richard Davies, of the Regimental Museum, dispelled a few myths about Rorke's Drift, as seen in the film Zulu (144 mistakes and inaccuracies in a film that was only 90 minutes long!). He encouraged people to come to the museum to see the new display about one of the soldiers at Rorke's Drift, who had been portrayed in the film as a drunken Cockney but was in fact a teetotaller from Gloucestershire!
Alison Noble was trying as hard as she could to dissuade people from visiting Cwm Llwch! It's a bottomless lake near Pen y Fan, and there are many ways of ending up "dead within the week" depending on what you do there!
Finally, Nigel Blackamore, the curator of Brecknock Museum, told the sad story of Tommy Jones, aged five when he disappeared on the Brecon Beacons in 1900, and the couple who found his body just over a month later - legend has it that a dream led the lady to the exact spot.

After the break - refreshments, wine and soft drinks were available at the back of the hall for a donation - we got the story of Boughrood Dead House, the church that was built on a very early roundabout (and rebuilt by the de Winton family as a memorial to the de Winton vicar there, when his son became vicar in his place). After the cholera epidemic of 1848, dead houses were built to keep the corpses of the deceased until burial, rather than leave them in the family home, and the people of Boughrood are trying to renovate their Dead House and turn it into a small museum. Elizabeth Bingham also warned against looking up the term "bier house" on Google if you wanted to find a place where biers (used for moving coffins) were stored - she had found a great many German lager selling establishments!
Continuing the renovation theme, Mari Fforde spoke about Matilda de Braose and her association with Hay Castle - and her terrible death. Such was the outrage when she and her son were starved to death by King John, that it was one of the contributing factors towards the writing of Magna Carta.
Felicity Kilpatrick from Christ College talked about a legendary master at the school, around the First World War and later, and followed it up with the Legend of Bishop Lucy, whose handless ghost walks the chapel (allegedly)!
Finally, Hugh Thomas told us a spine chilling story, written down in the late 19th century, of the Llangynidr ghost.

It was a very entertaining evening, and I learned a lot about different projects happening throughout the county.

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