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owain glyndwr last days.jpg600 years since his death, Owain Glyndŵr is still one of the most important and fascinating figures in Welsh history. His fate during his last years is unknown, and where he was buried is an enduring mystery.

In The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr, which is published this week by Y Lolfa, Gruffydd Aled Williams, a leading authority on the subject, here rigorously assesses the evidence in oral tradition, manuscripts and printed sources, as well as on the ground, sorting fact from fiction.

He also investigates Glyndŵr family history and, based on new research, brings to light new information available in English for the first time on Wales’ most enduringly inspiring national hero, who led the war of independence in the early fifteenth century.

A descendant of the Princes of Powys through his father and of the Princes of Deheubarth through his mother, Glyndŵr was proclaimed Prince of Wales in 1400, the last native-born leader to boast this title. In the first years of the century, he led a successful campaign against the English rule of Wales under Henry IV, capturing strategically-important castles and winning key battles against the English army.

However, by 1409 the castles had been retaken and the last documented sighting of Glyndŵr seems to have been in 1412. What happened to him after that and the locations of his death and subsequent burial remain shrouded in uncertainty.

‘There are certain mysteries that can never be finally solved. One such mystery is that of the last days of Owain Glyndwr,’ says Gruffydd Aled.

‘This volume, therefore, has not been written with the intention of finally revealing where Owain died or where he was buried. Its aim is rather to survey the various traditions that have been recorded about Owain’s last days in detail and to evaluate them as far as is possible in the light of known historical facts and the broader historical context,’ he added.

The author’s original Welsh language book, Dyddiau Olaf Owain Glyndŵr (2015) – the first extended and comprehensive analysis of the subject -- was hailed as ‘outstanding’ and won the 2016 Wales Book of the Year ‘Creative non-fiction’ award.

The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr also discusses one or two new locations and traditions which have come to light since the publication of the 2015 volume, and which are significant from the point of view of tracing Owain’s last days.

The volume also includes colour photos by acclaimed photographer Iestyn Hughes.

‘It was my intention to fill a gap in Welsh historiography and to do that in as readable a manner as possible,’ added Gruffydd Aled.

Gruffydd Aled Williams grew up in Glyndyfrdwy, the district which gave Owain Glyndŵr his name. Before retiring, he lectured in Welsh at University College, Dublin and the University of Wales, Bangor, and was Professor of Welsh and Head of the Department of Welsh at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He delivered the 2010 British Academy Sir John Rhŷs Memorial Lecture on medieval poetry associated with Owain Glyndŵr, and contributed chapters to Owain Glyndŵr: A Casebook (2013). He is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, President of the Merioneth Historical and Record Society, and a member of Gorsedd y Beirdd (Gorsedd of the Bards).

The Last Days of Owain Glyndŵr by Gruffydd Aled Williams (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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Songs Of Remembrance

Hi from the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir,

The choir has an exciting season ahead, performing two afternoon Remembrance concerts in November with the 15th Field Regimental Band, followed by five Sounds of Christmas concerts. Our choir toured the Normandy beaches last spring as part of WW1 Centenary events. The memories are fresh in our minds.

For our first Remembrance concert on Sunday Nov.5th we sing at a new venue, Beth Israel Synagogue at Oak Street/West 28th Avenue in Vancouver, with entrance and free underground parking at 989 West 28thAvenue.

On Nov.11th, Remembrance Day, we perform at the South Delta Baptist Church in Tsawwassen. Please check the attachment for details. These Songs of Remembrance will lift your spirits, put a tear in your eye, and send you home singing a familiar melody.

A brief ‘heads up’ on the Christmas concerts; downtown Vancouver on Nov.30th, White Rock on Dec.2nd, New West with Winter Harp on Dec.3rd, North Vancouver Dec.8th, Shaughnessy Heights United Church Dec.16th.

Our website www.vwmc.ca has concert details at both the home page and the 'concerts and tickets' link. Remembrance tickets can be purchased online now, $29, $27, $12 or at the door. Christmas tickets will be available soon. 

We hope you will join us again.  



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Ysgol Sul - Silhouette

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-10-13

ysgol sul eventide.jpg"Toying with instruments to create magic that quells the disenchantment - their escape is ours too. It's powerful stuff." Gigwise

West Wales three-piece Ysgol Sul recently self-released their first collection of English language songs –“Eventide” to a warm reception.

Today they release “Silhouette” available on Bandcamp now. The opening track from their EP it's an affecting song replete with a sense of yearning. Singer Iolo Jones's wistful sigh meditating upon an unfulfilled summer. Framed by exquisite jangling guitars, the evocative interplay between bass and drums: swelling to glorious widescreen crescendos.

Brought together by a mutual love of the 90s underground, Iolo Jones (singer, guitarist), Llew Davies (drummer), Cian Owen (bass guitar), formed Ysgol Sul in 2014.

Having released several singles and an EP called “Huno”, the band has managed to earn a cult following within the Welsh language scene.

“Promise Me” sees a return to the trio’s early surfy sound, drenched in reverb. “Elsewhere” is an unholy union of haunting distant sounds and a fierce unrelenting beat. Introverted lyrics coupled with sweet harmonies are brought to the EP by “Dwell”. Krautrock locomotive, “Solitude”, closes the collection.

“Eventide” is a stark departure from the slacker and languor of their debut EP, and introduces a touch of darkness to the bands dreamy sound.




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Wales and the First Air War 19141918  Dr Jonathan Hicks.jpgThe sacrifice made by Wales’s airmen and airwomen during the Great War has been drawn together for the first time in a detailed research by an acclaimed military historian.

Wales and the First Air War 1914- 1918 by Jonathan Hicks is an account of Welsh involvement in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the First World War.

When the Great War began in 1914 aviation was in its infancy. Airmen took to the skies in wood and linen aircraft that were illequipped for the demands of mechanised warfare, and by 1917 the average lifespan of a newly-posted pilot was just three weeks.

Welshmen volunteered for the new service arm in large numbers and Wales contributed pilots, observers and ground crew to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force. The stories of these men are told here for the first time. Their deeds, gallantry and ultimate fates are recounted, as are those of the Welsh ‘aces’ who pitted their skills against those of their famous German counterparts.

‘Wales produced its own aces, and these men are worthy of remembrance for their heroism in fighting a war high up in the air, where the chances of survival, if aircrew or machine were hit by enemy bullets or shrapnel, were slim’ said Dr Jonathan Hicks.

Two air stations were constructed in Wales to house the new airships: one at Llangefni on Anglesey and the other at Milton in Pembrokeshire.

Wales also provided a pioneer of airship design. Ernest Willows from Cardiff was the first man in Britain to be granted a pilot’s licence and, on 28 December 1910, he made the first cross-Channel airship flight from England to France. He built his first airship when he was just 19. After the war ended, he continued his pioneering work until he was killed in a balloon accident in August 1926.

Dr Jonathan Hicks is an award-winning military historian and novelist. The winner of the Victorian Military Society’s top award for his work on the Anglo-Zulu War he was also awarded the Western Front Association Shield for his work on Barry and the Great War. He has also written novels on the battle at Mametz, including The Dead of Mametz and Demons Walk Among Us and also factual volumes, the bestsellers The Welsh at Mametz Wood (2016) and The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 (2017).

Wales and the First Air War 1914- 1918 by Dr Jonathan Hicks is available now (£12.99, Y Lolfa).

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A Kitchen Garden In The Backyard

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-09-29


One of our Western Hemlocks in the backyard recently suffered a catastrophic 'cascade failure' and we were forced to remove two trees that were threatening to collapse on the house. We did this with a heavy heart since neither of us wanted to see them go. You can see the havoc they wrought in this post .

On the plus side, however, we now have a lot more room and less shade so we thought we would develop a 'kitchen garden'. We have four growing areas and they are listed below together with a description of our current plans for them. 

Basically we are seeking ideas for crops that are easy to grow. Also, since we are new to this, we are wondering what proportion of our grocery bill we might realistically expect to save. What kind of crop yields are possible in an area like this given the soil quality (poor to medium) and shade (full and partial).

growing area partial shade.jpg


We are dividing this area into six rows. You can see the first two in the photo above). The soil here is of reasonable quality but needs enriching. The rows nearest the camera in the above view will have sunlight for most of the afternoon and early evening. The ones further away, nearer the shed, will have shade for most of the day. What might grow well here? Are there any shade loving food crops?

growing area poor soil shaded.jpg


Our potato towers will be set up to the right and at the end of the path in the above view. The area nearest us in the picture has poor, and very thin, soil and is in the shade for most of the day. How might we work/improve this are soil wise and, given that we can't knock the house down to increase the sunlight exposure, what might we grow here?

backyard terrace.jpg


'The Terrace'. We will be planting two trees here (probably Filberts) and as many fruit bushes as we can fit in. Given that we only want to plant native species does anyone have any suggestions for fruit crops that might grow well here?

bees and butterflies.jpg


This is our 'conservation' area. Basically we want  plants that will attract bees, butterflies and humming birds. Thus far we have Oregon Grape, Salvias, Fuchsia and Gallardia. Any suggestions for colorful and tempting additions?

Posted in: Lifestyle | 1 comments

pen ar y bloc.jpgThe next decade will be the most significant period ever in Welsh politics, according to BBC Welsh Affairs Editor, Vaughan Roderick, on the day of publishing a volume of his work to mark twenty years since Wales voted for a National Assembly.

In the book, Pen ar y Bloc, which is published this week, Vaughan says that ‘the tectonic plates are moving and questions that would have seemed ridiculous ten years ago are now reasonable’.

These movements, he says, mean that questions arise about the existence of some of the larger parties in their current form, and also could mean that the days of the politics of class could be nearing their end. He also predicts the possibility of the United Kingdom and the European Union breaking apart.

‘Will the United Kingdom, the European Union, or both, be likely to fall to pieces or can they succeed in re-creating themselves? We shall see’.

The book, written by Vaughan and his fellow BBC journalist, Ruth Thomas, reproduces the best of Vaughan’s successful blog, ensuring that his witty writings will not disappear in this ‘Digital Dark Age’.

Publishing the volume, which includes new material that explores some of the most important political developments since 1997, will mean that a completely indispensable record of Welsh history has been created.

The volume also pays tribute to former Wales First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, who died on the 17th of May this year. Vaughan wrote the tribute especially for this book.

Professor Richard Wyn Jones, head of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, said: ‘This is a world class political commentary: witty, wide ranging and broad its spirit. It stands as further proof that we have been extremely fortunate as a nation to have Vaughan Roderick guide us through all the twists and turns of two decades of devolution’.

Since the late 1970s, Vaughan has witnessed many of the events that have changed Wales - from the Cymdeithas yr Iaith protests, the miners’ strike, the fight for devolution up and the Brexit vote.

He did so on radio and television, and from 2004 by writing for the BBC online news service, initially through the O Vaughan i Fynwy column, and through his blog from 2007 onwards.

His editor, Ruth Thomas, says that Vaughan’s unique voice has defined ‘a generation’.

‘All that a journalist can do is report and measure the importance of a story as it appears at the time, through the glasses of our lives’ said Vaughan.

As a result of the his sharp analysis over the decades, Pen ar y Bloc is a comprehensive, vital and witty summary that anyone who has an interest in Welsh history and politics will enjoy.

Pen ar y Bloc will be launched at The Senedd at 6 o'clock on Tuesday, 19 September, with Vaughan Roderick, Ruth Thomas, Betsan Powys and Professor Richard Wyn Jones. It will include a panel discussion between Jane Hutt AM, David Melding AM, Helen Mary Jones and Kirsty Williams AM. The evening is organised by Y Lolfa and the National Assembly for Wales.

Pen ar y Bloc by Vaughan Roderick (£14.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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West Wales three piece Ysgol Sul will be self-releasing their first collection of English language songs –“Eventide”- on 30/09/17.

Brought together by a mutual love of the 90s underground, Iolo Jones (singer, guitarist), Llew Davies (drummer), Cian Owen (bass guitar), formed Ysgol Sul in 2014.

Having released several singles and an EP called “Huno”, the band has managed to earn a cult following within the Welsh language scene.

“Eventide” is a stark departure from the slacker and languor of their debut EP, and introduces a touch of darkness to the bands dreamy sound.

The EP opens with “Silhouette” – a song with a sense of yearning yet one of the band’s jangliest songs to date. “Promise Me” sees a return to the trio’s early surfy sound, drenched in reverb. “Elsewhere” is an unholy union of haunting distant sounds and a fierce unrelenting beat. Introverted lyrics coupled with sweet harmonies are brought to the EP by “Dwell”. Krautrock locomotive, “Solitude”, closes the collection.


Ysgol Sul Band Pic.jpg

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poetry from land between dyfi and teifi.jpgOut at the Bright Edge by Caroline Clark is a new collection of poems – ‘lovesongs to the landscape’ of north Ceredigion – which are inspired by the history, stories and life of the area between the rivers of Dyfi and Teifi.

The poems capture personally memorable moments while celebrating the beauty and historical resonance of the locations. They are in two sequences; historical and seasonal; with a short coda of poems of a more personal nature.

‘Some are snapshots of a particular event such as a fire on Pen Dinas, families on the prom after graduation or a big snowfall in the 1980s’ explained Caroline, ‘In others, such as Nant yr Arian Kites, I consider changing attitudes to death and in Ynyslas/Drowned Land, the mutability of our world’.

‘I have been writing poems over many years and these focus on the landscape rather than the people of the area whom I have known’ said Caroline, ‘They are about living out at the bright edge both in space and time’.

Born in Birmingham, Caroline Clark has lived in Aberystwyth for forty years. Since moving to Wales, she has been heavily involved in local community theatre, also organising festivals, adjudicating playwriting competitions for the Drama Association of Wales, and advising on Welsh Arts Council committees. Her poems and short stories have often appeared in anthologies, but this is her first solo collection.

The collection will be launched at Aberystwyth Arts Centre bookshop at 6.30pm Monday, 9th of October in the company of Caroline Clark.

Out at the Bright Edge by Caroline Clark (£6.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

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