Huw Llywelyn Rees


 

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31st December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-31

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Born on this day 1937 in Margam, near Port Talbot


Anthony Hopkins - Oscar winning actor.


Hopkins' schooldays were unproductive as he found that he would rather immerse himself in art, such as painting, drawing and playing the piano, than attend to his studies.  His life path altered at age 15, following a brief encounter with Richard Burton, who encouraged him to become an actor.   To that end, he enrolled at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff and then after two years national service, he moved to London  and was invited by Laurence Oliver to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  From that moment on, he was to enjoy a successful career in cinema and television, with his remarkable acting style reaching the four corners of the world.


In 1998, Hopkins gave £1m to the National Trust in order for them to buy a large piece of land on Snowdon and therefore save it from private development.  To learn scripts, Hopkins reads them out loud 250 times.  He also learns a new poem every week to exercise his memory.  




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Humphrey (VI) de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford(c. 1249 – 31 December 1298) - was an active participant in the Welsh Wars, who had inherited major possessions in the Welsh Marches from his mother, Eleanor de Braose.


1270 - Following the rebellion aganst King Henry III of England during the Second Barons' War of 1263–4 and the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267, at which Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was recognised as Prince of Wales by King Henry. Llywelyn had extended his territory into the Marches, taking much of de Bohun's land.  Therefore much of de Bohun's focus was on reconquering these lands through private warfare against Llywelyn.


1272 - While Edward I was away crusading, Llywelyn refused to pay him homage, partly because of the military actions of de Bohun, which Llywelyn saw as violations of the Treaty of Montgomery.


1276 - de Bohun was present at a royal assembly where a judgment was passed against Llywelyn.


1277 - Edward I declared war on Llywelyn, with de Bohun serving in Anglesey.


1282 - War with Wales broke out again; this time a full-scale war of conquest. de Bohun assuming the role as Constable of England.


1294–95 - de Bohun fought again in Wales, in the suppression of the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn.  




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Born on this day 1878 in Llanfihangel-ar-Arth, Carmarthenshire and brought up in Rhydlewis, near Llandysul.


David Caradoc Evans - journalist, author and playwright.


Evans's best known work is a series of short stories called My People in which he highlights the hypocrisies he sees in the piety of non-conformist Christianity with the harsh reality of people living in poverty.  The work attracted savage criticism from the press at the time and they referred to Williams as  "the best hated man in Wales".




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The Gop is a neolithic mound which lies north of Trelawnyd in Flintshire.  It is the biggest prehistoric monument in Wales and was probably built around 3,000BC.  Excavations have indicated that it was used as a look-out or hill fort and further down the hill there are are caves where burials date back possibly to 6,000 BC.


John Wynne (1650 – 31 December 1714) - the industrial pioneer and high Sheriff of Flintshire, was born and lived in Trelanwnyd


He had plans to turn Trelawnyd into the centre of the North Wales lead industry and an industrial town of some importance.  He built houses, established a weekly market and built the Nonconformist chapel in 1701 as well as a grammar school at "plas yn dre". He also obtained permission to rename the village "Newmarket" in 1710.  However his plans ultimately came to nothing, but Wynne was responsible for the village's growth and its population did top over 600 residents. 





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Ras Nos Galan


This is a race held in memory of Griffith Morgan (1700–1737) “the fastest man of his time”, known better as Guto Nyth Brân, from Llwyncelyn, near Porth.  It is run every year on New Years Eve at Mountain Ash, over the course of Guto's first ever race.  It has become a tradition of this race for a mystery runner to compete and over the years this has included Iwan Thomas, Linford Christie and Alun Wyn Jones  At the conclusion of the race, a wreath is then placed on Guto's grave in Llanwynno graveyard.  There is also a commemorative statue of Guto in Mountain Ash.


It was said that Guto's speed was first noticed, when he managed to catch a wild hare.  Another legend has it that he could run the 7 miles, to the local town of Pontypridd and back home again, before his mother's kettle had boiled. 


Seeing his potential the local shopkeeper, Siân o'r Siop (Siân from the Shop), became his trainer and manager and organised a race on Hirwaun Common against an unbeaten English Captain, for a £400 prize.  Guto won the race won easily and kept on winning, remaining unbeaten until he was 30.  Over the years, Guto and Sian had fallen in love and Guto decided to retire to enjoy a quiet life with Sian.


However, in 1737, a new champion runner had emerged, called the "Prince of Bedwas" and Sian persuaded Guto to have one last race against Prince, for a prize of 1000 guineas.  The race was over the 12 miles  from Newport to Bedwas and was a very even contest.  Nearing the finish, Prince held a slender lead, however one last lung bursting effort from Guto, saw him cross the line first.  However, in the celebrations after, Guto collapsed and died in Sian's arms.  




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Rowan Williams' 10 year term as Archbishop of Canterbury came to an end on 31st December 2012 and at a ceremony at Lambeth Palace, he gave the official robes  that he had worn on his enthronement to the president of the National Museum Wales, where they will be displayed and will remain the property of the people of Wales.   




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The traditional carol "Deck the Halls" originates from the Welsh melody first found in a musical manuscript by Welsh harpist John Parry Ddall in 1741,  It was subsequently published and named "Nos Galan" ("New Year's Eve") in 1784.  Subsequently, the tune spread widely, with Mozart using it in a piano and violin concerto and Haydn in the song "New Year's Night."  




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Born on this day 1860 in Newport.


Horace Sampson Lyne - who won five caps for Wales, before retiring and becoming the WRU's longest serving president.  Lyne is also notable as one of the six representatives that set up the International Rugby Board.  




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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore 31st December is the Seventh Day of Christmas.  


On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me - Seven Swans a Swimming. 


Several species of swan are found in Wales, but it is the mute swan that is most common, its population having recovered following the ban on lead fishing weights in 1987.  Small numbers of Bewick and Whooper swans, over winter in Wales, with both species specially protected due to their small and vulnerable populations. 


A history of  Swans


*  In Greek mythology, the story of Leda and the Swan describes Helen of Troy as being the daughter of Zeus disguised as a swan and Leda, Queen of Sparta. Other legends refer to the otherwise silent Mute Swan singing beautifully in death, hence the phrase swan song.


*  A coat of arms was originally a knight's personal badge and many depicted birds especially swans.  Later Henry V carried a swan on his pennon at Agincourt


*  From the 12th century, the mute swan was a valuable commodity and was regularly traded between noblemen.  It was also a favourite food of royalty and the owners of swans were duty bound to mark them by way of a succession of unique nicks in the beaks of their birds. It was and still is the duty of the Royal Swanmaster to organise the annual swan-upping and traditionally the British Monarch retained the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water. Today it serves as a check on the health of the swans


*  Swansea is thought not to be named after the Swan, even though Swansea City F.C have adopted the Swan as their emblem and nick name.  The name is considered to be of Viking origin.



 

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30th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-30

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Born on this day 1921 in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire


Ken Jones - arguably, Wales’ greatest ever all-round sportsman.


 Jones was not only a Welsh and Lions international, who won 44 consecutive caps for Wales and whose most famous score came in 1953, against the All Blacks.  His pick up and try from a Clem Thomas kick gave Wales a famous victory and is still the last time we beat New Zealand.  He also triumphed as a sprinter at the Olympic Games of 1948, when he was part of the Great Britain 4x100 metres relay team that won silver and later won a silver medal in the 220-yard sprint at the 1954  European Championships, when he had the honour of captaining the British team.  




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Born on this day 1931 in Dyserth, near Rhyl. 


Sir John Houghton -  A world-renowned expert on global warming, who was the lead editor and  co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) scientific assessment working group.


He was brought up as an evangelical Christian by devout Christian parents and strongly believes in the connection between the environment and Christianity.  He is currently an elder at Aberdovey Presbyterian Church.


Among his career achievements are;


*  Professor in atmospheric physics at Oxford University.


*  Chief Executive of the Met Office.


*  Founder of the Hadley Centre, which is one of the United Kingdom's leading centres for the study of climate change.


*  Chairman of the John Ray Initiative, an organisation which seeks to connect the environment, science and Christianity.


*  Founder member of the International Society for Science and Religion.


In 2013, Sir John was anounced as an Advisory Board member for Sure Chill Technology, a technology that allows refrigerators to stay at 4C for more than 10 days without power and is used mainly in Africa' to store vaccines and other medical supplies.   




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Twm Sion Catti


Twm Sion Catti, was born Thomas Jones in Tregaron around 1530, the illegitimate son of Catherine Jones and the local squire.


Twm was brought up as a Protestant, so when the Catholic, Mary I became Queen, he went into hiding and initially earned his living by robbing the rich of West and Mid  Wales.  However as the law officer started to close in on him, he fled to Geneva and only returned when the Protestant Elizabeth I ascended to the throne and gave him an official pardon.


One tale tells how when a farmer was looking for him for stealing one of his bullocks, Twm disguised himself as a beggar and gave the farmer directions to Twm's house and offered to mind his horse whilst he went in.  Twm then, not only galloped off on the farmers horse, but convinced the farmers wife that her husband was in serious trouble and that he needed to return with money.  Suitably convinced the farmers wife gave Twm the money, who the rode off for London


Twm is also remembered for the caring way he treated his many victims, who is reported to as firing an arrow at, to pin them to their saddle rather than killing them.  Twm  arch enemy was the Sheriff of Carmarthen, whom he hid from in a cave on Dinas Hill, near to the village of Rhandirmwyn.


Later in life, Twm changed his ways and married Joan, a wealthy heiress in theTregaron area and even became a respected Justice of the Peace.  




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Christmas Customs in Wales. 


The Mari Lwyd. 


This was the Welsh tradition during the Christmas season of carrying a horse-figure  from door to door by a group of  Mari Lwyd singers.  Although now extinct in most parts of Wales, it is still performed in some parts of Glamorgan., where it is not yet completely extinct.  The group would often be invited into the house, where they would be given food, beer or money and then entertain the household with a  farewell song.  




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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore 30th December is the Sixth Day of Christmas. 



On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me - Six Geese a Laying. 


The Brecon Buff is one of the few native breeds of geese in the UK, however, many species of  wild geese over winter in Wales.  However, the Greenland white fronted goose  is becoming increasingly rare, with its last remaining population in Wales to be found on the Dyfi Estuary.


A brief history of the goose; 



*  About 3 000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians deliberately fattened geese for eating.


*  The Greek poet Homer mentions Goose Husbandry in 700BC. 

*   The Romans in c 625BC recorded an efficient system for keeping geese for their meat, fat and feathers.  They were also used as guard animals, famously saving Rome from the Gauls in 390, by  raising the alarm. 

*  In the early middle ages, geese were an important part of the European peasant economy, as they were cheap to keep and  gained weight quickly. 

*  In the 18th Century, geese accompanied cattle, when Welsh drovers took them to English markets.  They were fitted with protective boots and were fast travellers as they could graze as they moved.  There was also an increasing market for their feathers for use as ink quills.


*  During the 1930’s and 40’s goose fat was used as a remedy for colds. 


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29th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-29

Cardigan Castle - Birthplace of the Eisteddfod.


A cultural gathering of poets, singers and musicians was held in Cardigan Castle over the Christmas period of 1176.  It was a significant moment in Welsh history as all subsequent eisteddfodau owe their origin to this first event.


The aftermath of the Norman Invasion of 1066, saw a period of intense and constant warfare between the Marcher Lords of Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford and the Welsh princes.  However, by 1155 Rhys ap Gruffydd (the Lord Rhys) had managed to bring all of Deheubarth under his control and felt sufficiently secure to organise a cultural event that would underline his position as a far-sighted ruler and as a major supporter of artistic endeavour.  So decided to hold a competition for poets and musicians, with bardic chairs to be awarded to the victors. The tournament attracted competitors from all over Wales, as well as from Ireland and France.  




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Born on this day 1970 in Bangor and raised in the Welsh-speaking community of Llandegfan on Anglesey.


Aled Jones singer best known for his single of 1985, "Walking in the Air", from the animated film "The Snowman".


Jones was signed up by the record company Sain, after coming to their attention as the lead soloist of the Bangor Cathedral choir at age eleven.


His recording career was paused after hiss voice broke, but by this time he had recorded 16 albums, sold more than six million albums, and sung for Pope John John Paul II, the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales and had the distinction of being the first artist to have two classical albums listed simultaneously in the popular music charts.


In recent times, Jones has presented various television programmes, such as Songs of Praise, Escape to the Country, Cash in the Attic and ITV Breakfast programme Daybreak. In 2014, he became the host of the ITV show, Weekend.  




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Patagonian settler Llwyd ap Iwan, the son of the Welsh settlement's founder, Michael D Jones, was murdered on the 29th December, 1909, some say by Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid but more probably by members of their gang.   He was shot dead in the co-operative store, of which he was the supervisor, close to his home at Nant y Pysgod, about thirty miles from Esquel in the foothills of the Andes.   




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Born on this day 1971 in Coventry

 

Dominic Dale - Welsh snooker player, who grew up in Penarth and is proud of his Welsh roots.

 

Dale has won two world ranking tournaments in his career, as well as the Welsh Amateur Championship and was runner up at the World Amateur Championship in 1993.  He is the only player to have ever won multiple ranking tournaments without ever reaching the world top 16.





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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore 29th December is the Fifth Day of Christmas.


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me - Five Gold Rings.


Welsh gold occurs naturally in two distinct areas.


* A band stretching from Barmouth, past Dolgellau and up towards Snowdonia, which was mined mainly at the Gwynfynydd Gold Mine, near Ganllwyd, which was discovered in 1860 and was active until 1998 when it was closed because Health and Safety issues regarding the mine discharge into the River Mawddach and the Clogau Gold Mine near Bontddu, which following the gold rush of 1862 developed into the largest and richest of its kind and continued as a major operator until 1911. It still re opens occasionally for small extractions


* A small area in the valley of the River Cothi at Dolaucothi, midway between Llandovery and Lampeter. It was the neolithic Britons of the late Bronze and Iron ages who originally opened Dolaucothi, perhaps as early as 600 BC and it was then further developed by the Romans in AD 75, under the military control of their fort near the present village of Pumsaint, producing gold destined for the Imperial Mint in Lyon. Mining recommenced at the site on a small scale in the 17th century but it was not until the 19th century, that there was expansion beyond the original open cast, culminating in a shaft to a depth of 140 metres, which produced large amounts of ore during the 1930s. However, by 1938 the mine was no longer commercially viable and when it flooded, it was not re opened.



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28th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-28

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Ivor the Engine was first released on television on 28 December 1959.


Ivor the Engine is a children's television series that tells of the story of a little green locomotive living in the "top left-hand corner of Wales". His friends include Jones the Steam, Evans the Song and Dai Station.  The series was later revived in 1975 when new episodes in colour were produced for the BBC.


The series was written and narrated by Oliver Postgate, with his friend Peter Firmin providing the artwork, which originally consisted of cardboard cut-outs painted with watercolours.  It was produced in a disused cow shed at Firmin's home near Canterbury, with the sound effects being endearingly low-tech, for example, the sound of Ivor's puffing was made vocally by Postgate himself. 


Postgate drew inspiration for the series from a World War II encounter with Welshman Denzyl Ellis, a former railway fireman, who described how steam engines came to life when steaming them up in the morning. Postgate decided to locate the story to North Wales, as he considered it more inspirational than the flat terrain of the English Midlands.  




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Born on this day 1861 in Swansea


David 'Dai' Gwynn - former Wales rugby international, whose playing career was notable for being in the side for Wales's first home game, at St Helens's against England in 1882 and then in 1890, being in the team that beat the English for the very first time.  Gwynn later moved north and played for Oldham and when he retired, he became heavily associated with Swansea Cricket Club and umpired for the club.   




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Charity fundraiser Andrew Craig made his 52nd ascent of Snowdon, on 28th December 2011  to end his marathon of climbing Snowdon every week for a year.


Craig from Caernarfon braved snow, ice, fog, heavy rain and blistering heat to raise money for Breast Cancer.  It was the idea of his wife, Lynne, who suggested he should do the challenge after one of her best friends died from the disease and another had been recently diagnosed.  




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O Little Town of Bethlehem (in Wales)


The Welsh Bethlehem is a remote and peaceful village that lies in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons in the Tywi Valley, to the northeast of Llandeilo,  However in December every year, thousands of people visit the village, to receive a Bethlehem postmark on their Christmas cards, which results in the local post office, that usually only opens on Tuesday, having to open for six days of the week.


The Welsh Bethlehem is overlooked by an old Iron Age fort, Carn Goch, with both the Welsh castle of Dinefwr and the Norman fortress of Carreg Cennen located nearby.  The name Bethlehem came into common parlance in Wales once Bishop Morgan translated the Bible into Welsh in 1588 and while the village was originally known as Dyffryn Ceidrich, the name Bethlehem was soon given to the local chapel and by the time of the Methodist Revival in the mid 19th century, the village was also being called by the name of its chapel.  




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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore 28th December is the Fourth Day of Christmas.


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me - Four Calling Birds


Calling appears to be an Americanisation of Colly, the Old English term for ‘black,’ Colly birds, therefore, refer to the common blackbird. 


The blackbird was the fifth most spotted bird in the 2013 Big Garden Birdwatch in Wales.


The Common Blackbird was seen as a sacred in Greek folklore and like many other small birds in medieval times, it was trapped as an easily available addition to the diet.  A sixteenth-century amusement was to place live birds in a pie.

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27th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-27

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The Dan yr Ogof Caves were first discovered on 27th December 1912, by Tommy and Jeff Morgan, who were trying to find the source of the river Llynfell that flowed through their farm land at the base of the cliffs at Dan yr Ogof.


The brothers had tried previously but had been prevented from penetrating far into the mountain by a large lake. Undeterred they returned with coracles, candles, a piece of rope and an old revolver, using arrows in the sand to find their way back.  They crossed not one lake but four and discovered a labyrinth of caves, passages and chambers, a 330 million years old wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites.  They were eventually stopped by a small passage that was too small to crawl through.


Not long afterwards, they started charging a small entrance fee to take people into the caves by candle light and opened the caves properly to the public in 1939.  However, during World War II,  the government closed the caves down and used them to store ammunition and works of art. Water from the caves was also piped to Swansea when the water mains were damaged by bombs during the blitz on the city.


 In 1963, a local girl called Eileen Davies, a member of the South Wales Caving Club, managed to crawl further into the caves, to discover over 10 more miles of caves and passages, with expert cavers believing that there are still more to discover.  




 


 


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Born on this day 1931 in Swansea. 


John Charles - former Wales soccer international, who is considered by many to have been the greatest footballer that Britain ever produced.  He was a world class centre-half or centre-forward, who could also play full-back or midfield, if required.   At 6ft 2ins and 14 stone, Charles had an tremendous physique, but he was also extremely agile for a big man.  He possessed a delicate first touch, good control and was masterful in the air.  There is no comparable player with that kind of versitility in the history of the game.


Following his transfer from Leeds United to Italian giants Juventus in 1957, he became probably the most successful import to Serie A where his name is still revered. 


 




 


 


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On 27th December 2013, Maria Leijerstam from the Vale of Glamorgan became the first person to cycle to the South Pole.  The 500 mile journey took her 11 days to complete. 




 


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Born on this day 1972 in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham 


Colin Charvis - former Wales rugby captain and Lions international.  Charvis earned 94 caps and scored 22 tries.


 




 


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Dinefwr Castle, associated with the princes of Deheubarth, occupies a place of great affection in the minds and traditions of the Welsh people.  It lies on a steep ridge near Llandeilo overlooking the River Tywi.


A timeline of the history of Dinefwr Castle;


c. 871 - Traditionally, a castle was first constructed  by Rhodri the Great.


c. 900 - Dinefwr became the chief seat of Rhodri's grandson Hywel Dda, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Deheubarth and also most of Wales.


1155 - 1197 - Rhys ap Gruffydd (the Lord Rhys), ruler of Deheubarth rebuilt the castle. 


1197 - On Rhys ap Gruffydd's death the castle passed to his son Rhys Gryg. 


1233 - When Rhys Gryg died his son Rhys Mechyll inherited Dinefwr and his other son Maredudd inherited Dryslwyn, only five miles away.


1244 - When Rhys Mechyll died, his son Rhys Fychan allied with King Henry III of England against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd who was supported by Maredudd.


1256 -  Llywelyn ousted Rhys Fechan from Dinefwr giving Maredudd control of Dinefwr.


1257 -  Rhys Fychan accepted Llywelyn as overlord and had his lands, including Dinefwr, restored.  Maredydd, in turn switched sides and paid homage to Henry III.


1277 -  King Edward I of England invaded Wales and captured Dinefwr.  The castle was put into the custody of a constable.


1316 - The castle  burnt during the rebellion of Llywelyn Bren.


1317 - The castle was given to Hugh Despenser, the favourite of King Edward II of England.


1403 - The castle was unsuccessfully besieged by Welsh forces during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr.


1467 - Dinefwr was in the possesion of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who marched with Henry VII against Richard III and was instrumental in Henry's victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.  The poet Guto'r Glyn implies that Rhys himself was responsible for killing Richard with a poll axe.


 1531 - Rhys ap Thomas's grandson was executed for treason and the castle was confiscated by the crown.  The family were later able to recover it, but abandoned it in 1600, for a new house built on the site of the present Newton House.


The castle is now under the ownership of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and managed by CADW on their behalf.


 




 


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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore, 27th December is the Third Day of Christmas.


On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me - Three French hens.


There is certainly no shortage of French or other types of hens in Wales and they have been around for a long time.


The chicken is regarded as the first domesticated animal, the first bird and consequently, the first descendant of the dinosaurs.  They were first domesticated from the Indian and Southeast Asian red jungle fowl and appear in China about 6000 BC and in India about 2000 BC.  There are artistic depictions of the bird adorning Egyptian royal tombs and they are recorded as accompanying Roman armies, where apart from being an important part of the diet, their behavior was carefully observed before battle, with a good appetite indicating a likely victory. According to Cicero, when one contingent of hens refused to eat before a battle at sea in 249 BC, the angry consul tossed them into the sea. History records that he was defeated.


The rooster plays a crucial role in the Gospels in helping to fulfill the prophecy that Peter would deny Jesus “before the cock crows.” and Pope Nicholas I, ordered in the ninth century that the rooster should be symbolized on top of every church as a reminder, which is why some churches have cockerel-shaped weather vanes. 



The fact is that the male of the species can be quite a fierce animal, meant that they have been bred and trained for fighting and in the parts of the world where it is still practiced, it has claims to being the world’s oldest continual sport.  Cock-fighting was outlawed in Britain in 1849 and the idea of exhibitions took root as a way of continuing competition, with the first Standards being produced in 1865 for just a handful of breeds to try to maintain uniformity.  Then at the turn of the century, with the importation of breeds from the continent and America, the number of traditional and hybrid breeds increased dramatically.


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26th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-26

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Christmas Customs in Wales. 


Gwyl San Steffan (St. Stephens Day or Boxing Day) 


"Holly-Beating" or "Holming." was a Boxing Day tradition in some parts of Wales, in which young men would beat the arms and legs of young women with sprigs of holly until they bled. In others areas, the custom was for the last person in bed in the morning to get the beating.  Thankfully,  these customs died out by the end of the 19th century.   




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Born on this day 1990 in Caerphilly


Aaron Ramsey - Wales soccer international, who started his career at Cardiff City, before moving to Arsenal in 2008 in a £5 million deal. His career stalled significantly however after he suffered a broken leg, but he has gradually returned to full physical and mental fitness and is now a key player in the Arsenal and Wales teams.  




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The animated children's television series, Fireman Sam, which follows the adventures of Sam and the other inhabitants of the fictional town of Pontypandy, was first broadcast as Sam Tan in Welsh on S4C on 26th December 1985.  It was later broadcasted in English on BBC1 in 1987.  




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On 26th December 1614, William Jones bequeathed a substantial amount of money for the funding of the Monmouth Alms Houses and the Monmouth Free School.


William Jones, who was originally from Monmouth, made his fortune as a haberdasher and merchant in Germany.  He established a charity in 1613, run by the Haberdashers' Company to found the Monmouth Alms Houses, then in 1614, he founded the free school in Monmouth.


The original Monmouth Alms Houses of 1614 were rebuilt in 1842 and 1961 and a fourth version of the Monmouth Alms Houses is scheduled for completion in 2013.  The Haberdashers' Company  served as the trustee of the charity from 1613 until 2011, when the trusteeship was transferred to Bristol Charities. 


Almshouses are houses provided by charities to typically elderly people who no longer earn enough to pay rent.  They are also provided to the poor of a locality and those from certain forms of previous employment, or their widows.  




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Born on this day 1837 at Buttington Vicarage in Montgomeryshire.


Professor Sir William Boyd Dawkins, who is regarded as Britain's first true Engineering Geologist.


Dawkins was a cave hunter, geologist and archaeologist, who is noted for his research on fossils and the antiquity of man. From 1870, he gave increasing time to 'the practical side of geology', which involved him in the important engineering projects of the day, such as a tunnel under the Humber and a Channel Tunnel attempt. 


In 1859, he moved to Somerset to study classics with the vicar of Wookey and led excavations in the Wookey Hole Caves. His work also proved the existence of exotic animals that lived in England prior to the ice ages, such as the Cave hyena, Cave bear, Bison and a large cat, possibly a relative of the Sa bre Tooth Tiger.  




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Born on this day 1858 in Llanuwchllyn, near Bala.


Sir Owen Morgan "O.M" Edwards - historian, educationalist and writer, who was described as being a strong cultural nationalist.


In his autobiography, Sir Owen tells of his early education in Llanuwchllyn and how he was regularly given the "Welsh Not" to wear, for speaking Welsh.  He later studied history and philosophy at  Aberystwyth, Glasgow and Oxford, before being appointed a lecturer in history at Oxford.  Edwards was briefly elected MP for Merionethshire, but decided not to pursue a parliamentary career, instead, becoming the first Chief Inspector of Schools for Wales and actively encouraged the teaching of Welsh in Welsh schools.


Edwards established the periodicals Cymru and Cymru'r Plant in an attempt to inform the people of Wales about their language and history and also wrote several books on Welsh history.  His second son, Ifan ab Owen Edwards, was the founder of Urdd Gobaith Cymru ("The Welsh League of Youth").   




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Born on this day 1933 in Aberystwyth. 


Owen Edwards - described as 'a giant of the broadcasting world' was the first chief executive of S4C.  He was the son of Sir Ifan ab Owen Edwards, founder of  Urdd Gobaith Cymru (Welsh League of Youth).


He was a presenter on the early Welsh-language television programme Dewch i Mewn during the 1950s.  Then from 1961 to 1966 he presented Heddiw, the BBC's early evening Welsh-language news magazine programme.  In 1967, he was appointed Programme Organiser with BBC Wales, Head of Programmes in 1970 and Controller in 1974.


 He became head of BBC Wales in 1974, before taking the same position at S4C in 1982.  




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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day, therefore, 26th December is the Second Day of Christmas.


On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me - Two Turtle Doves.


 Perhaps because of Biblical references, where two turtle doves are recorded to have been sacrificed for the Birth of Jesus, its mournful voice and the fact that they form close breeding pairs, turtle doves have become emblems of devoted love. 


They are no longer found as a breeding bird in Wales and their population in the UK has declined by over 90%

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25th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-25

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Welsh soldiers in the Christmas truce of 1914. 


On Christmas Day 1914, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers were involved in one of the most moving events of any conflict, whilst fighting on the front line in Northern France during World War I.


Private Frank Richards from Blaina recalled in his memoirs how two men put up a board, with Merry Christmas written on it and then climbed up the trench with their hands up.  Two German soldiers did likewise and the two pairs of soldiers then walked into no-mans land and shook hands.  Then soldiers from both sides threw down their arms and joined them and exchanged gifts such as beer, cigarettes, plum puddings and chocolate.  They then sang carols and organised a football match.


The following morning Capt Stockwell of the Welsh Fusiliers climbed up the trench and held up a sign with "Merry Christmas" on it.  A German commander then appeared with a sign saying "Thank You".  Both men saluted each other, fired three shots into the air and then climbed back into their positions and the war recommenced.   




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Christmas Customs in Wales. 


The Plygain Carol Service


This was held on Christmas morning, sometimes as early as 3 a.m. but more often at  6 a.m and it was custom with many people to stay up all night, before attending, making cyflaith (treacle toffee) or singing, dancing and playing the harp.  In  Tenby, Laugharne and Llanfyllin there are reports of, crowds carrying torches or candles in a procession, where the young men of the parish, escorted the clergyman from his house to the church.  The bringing in of the candles was seen as an important part of the service as it symbolized the coming of the Light of the World.  




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Born on Christmas day 1766 at Esgaer-waen in Llandysul


Christmas Evans - Nonconformist minister, who is regarded as one of the greatest ever preachers in the history of Wales. 


Evan's father was a shoemaker, who died when Christmas was only nine and his family had to apply for relief from the parish poor law.  Evans himself was forced to travel to Herefordshire to find work and it was while there that he went to a rowdy fair and lost the sight of his right eye when a youth struck him with a cudgel.


When he returned to Wales in the early 1780s, he took employment on the farm of Rev. David Davies at Castell Hywel and  began to attend a local chapel, at about the same time as a spiritual awakening in the Twrgwyn area of Cardiganshire. 


Evans then became a preacher and moved to North Wales in 1789, settling in Llangefni on Anglesey, where he spent 35 years building up a strong Baptist community and funded many of the sixteen new chapels built at that time, through preaching tours to South Wales.  In 1826, Evans accepted an invitation from a congregation in Caerphilly, where he tripled the membership in two years and then accepted an invitation to the pastorate of Tabernacle chapel in Cardiff where his preaching attracted large congregations.  He continued to make frequent tours of Wales and it was while preaching at Swansea in July 1838, that Evans was taken ill and died.   




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Murder at Abergavenny Castle on Christmas Day 1175


Seisyll ap Dyfnwal was a Welsh Lord in the Kingdom of Gwent and a brother-in-law of   the Lord Rhys , King of Deheubarth.  On Christmas day 1175, along with his eldest son Geoffrey and other Welsh  leaders from the area, Seisyll was invited to Abergavenny Castle by Norman Baron William De Braose to try and resolve their differences following a period of conflict.  However once inside the castle walls, they were cut down without mercy and De Braose and his men then rode out to Seisyll's home where they murdered his younger son, Cadwalladr aged seven and captured his wife.


 The effect of  De Braose's actions was to have a negative impact on Anglo-Welsh relations for generations to come, with the de Braose family name becoming a byword for dishonourable dealing and De Braose himself earning the nickname the 'Ogre of Abergavenny'.


In 1182, Hywel ap Iorwerth, the Welsh lord of Caerleon, avenged the death of, by storming Abergavenny Castle and putting De Braose to flight. De Braose later died in exile  




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William the Conqueror was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.


William the Conqueror's interaction with Wales;


William immediately began to build castles to control the native population and maintain their control of the kingdom, the word castle, deriving from the Norman castellum.  The early Norman castles were called motte and bailey, basically, an earthen mound on which was built a wooden tower surrounded by a wooden palisade.   These wooden castles were to be gradually replaced by larger stone castles.


The Wales of 1066 was one of dynastic disarray, as a result of the death of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn in 1063.  However it is argued that this made Wales harder to conquer as when the Normans reached the borders of Wales, they were confronted by a number of smaller kingdoms rather than one single kingdom.  William, therefore operated a policy of establishing the Marcher Lordships, a series of powerful earldoms in the borderlands, whose barons had complete jurisdiction over their subjects, without recourse to the king. These barons were then encouraged to push gradually westward into Welsh territory, erecting castles to hold each parcel of territory they carved from Welsh holdings. 


1067 - William Fitzosbern was created Earl of Hereford and overran the kingdom of Gwent, establishing castles and garrisons at Monmouth, Clifford, Wigmore and the first stone castle in Wales, at Chepstow at the mouth of the Wye, where it served as a base from which the Normans continued to expand westward into Wales,


1071 - Hugh d'Avranches (Hugh the Fat) was given the earldom of Chester, were he built a large motte-and-bailey castle, from where he struck deep into Gwynedd, 

1071 - Roger de Montgomerie was created Earl of Shrewsbury and pushed deep into Powys.  Around 1086, he built a motte and bailey castle at the ford of Rhydwhiman across the Severn and named the place Montgomery.  


1071 -  The first Benedictine monastery was built at Chepstow.


1081 - William visited St David's, ostensibly to show his respects but in reality as a demonstration of his power to the native rulers. He did, however, recognise the rule of Rhys ap Tewdwr in Deheubarth and accepted that of Iestyn ap Gwrgant in Morgannwg.


1086 - Caerleon Castle established and the Kingdom of Gwent extinguished.


1087 - William died and his eldest son, William Rufus took control. The lowlands of Morgannwg fell to Robert Fitzhamon, who built the Norman castle at Cardiff in 1091, Rhys ap Tewdwr was killed and Brycheiniog was seized in 1093 and the Earls of Shrewsbury drove through Powys and Ceredigion to southern Dyfed where they established a castle at Pembroke also in 1093. 




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Traditionally in the Western Church, the First Day of Christmas is Christmas Day.


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me - A partridge in a pear tree.


Partridges are are ground-nesting birds of the pheasant family.  In Wales, the population of the grey partridge has decreased by over 50% during the past 30 years, mainly because of the loss of insect food on arable farms and seed food on grassland farms.

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24th December


By Huw Llywelyn Rees, 2013-12-24

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Miles FitzWalter of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford, Lord of Brecknock - died 24th December 1143 and was buried in Llanthony Priory. 


FitzWalter was High Sheriff of Gloucester and Constable of England and a significant adversary of the Welsh during "The Anarchy" in England (1135 - 1154).


The Anarchy was a conflict in England, characterised by a breakdown in law and order. It originated with a succession crisis towards the end of the reign of Henry I. Henry's attempts to install his daughter, the Empress Matilda, as his successor were unsuccessful and on Henry's death in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois took power. Fitzwalter was initially a supporter of Stephen but later switched his allegiance to Matilda. 


1136 - Miles Fitzwalter, founded the priory Llanthony Secunda Priory Hempsted, Gloucester for the Augustinian monks of Llanthony Priory near Abergavenny in The Vale of Ewyas seven miles north of Abergavenny after persistent attacks from the Welsh.


1137 - The whole of South Wales rose in rebellion, with Owain Gwynedd and Gruffydd ap Rhys successfully capturing considerable territories, including Carmarthen Castle. 


1142 - Miles Fitzwalter was made lord of Abergavenny by Matilda and the holder of Abergavenny Castle.


1143 - On Christmas-eve Miles Fitzwalter was slain while hunting by an arrow shot at a deer. A dispute at once arose for possession of his body between the canons of Llanthony and the monks of Gloucester. The case was heard before the bishops of Worcester, Hereford, and St. David's, and it was decided that he was to be buried in the chapter-house at Llanthony.  




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Christmas Customs in Wales. 


Noson Gyflaith (Toffee Evening) was a traditional part of Christmas in some areas of Wales when families would invite friends to their homes for an evening of making toffee and storytelling. 


When the toffee had boiled it was poured onto a greased slate or stone slab. Then people would cover their hands with butter and while the toffee was still warm, people would pull and twist it until it was a golden yellow colour.


Housewives would also sell their toffee, which was also called taffi, dant, fanny or by the name of the person who made it, such as e.g. losin Mag.


The Recipe; 


three pounds soft brown sugar


half a pound salted butter


juice of one lemon


quarter pint boiling water (or a little more according to the consistency of the sugar)


Using an enamel or steel pan, gradually melt the sugar in the boiling water over a low heat. Stir it continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is thoroughly melted. (This usually takes from twenty to thirty minutes.) Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the lemon juice and the softened butter, and stir in the sugar. Boil this mixture fairly briskly for a further fifteen minutes without stirring it. 


Gently drop a teaspoonful of the mixture into a cupful of cold water, and if it hardens at once it has reached the required consistency. Pour the mixture slowly on to a large, flat dish previously greased with butter. (Do not scrape the pan clean as this mixture might turn the toffee back into sugar.) Butter the hands and 'pull' the toffee into long, golden strands while hot. Cut into smaller pieces.





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Born on this day 1905 in Houston, Texas (of Welsh decent)



Howard Hughes - aviator, film director and famous recluse.





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The Red-Headed Bandits of Mawddwy  were a band of outlaws, robbers and highwaymen from the area of Dinas Mawddwy in the mountains above Dolgellau, an area where there were great difficulties in preserving law and order.


They became famous in folk literature and they are remembered by a number of place names in the area, such as Llety'r Gwylliaid (bandits lodging), Llety'r Lladron (robbers lodging) and the bandits reputed meeting place, the Brigand's Inn at nearby Mallwyd.


The bandits were eventually captured and on 24th December 1555  a staggering 80 of them were executed, with a burial mound at Rhos Groch (the Red Moor) said to be where their bodies are buried.    




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On 24 December 1930, Harry Grindell Matthews  demonstrated his new invention, the "Sky Projector" in Hampstead Village, London 


Considered, one of the greatest British inventors of the twentieth century, Mathews lived in seclusion high in the remote Welsh mountains near Clydach.  He was the classic stereotype of the eccentric inventor, but his ideas were so revolutionary and far-reaching, that the British Government dismissed him as a fraudster and a crank.  However, his achievements and world firsts make for impressive reading.


*  The 'Death Ray'


*  The world's first Mobile Phone


*  Sound-film synchronization,


*  Wireless communication with a plane in flight.


*  Automatic Pilot


*  Submarine Detection


*  The Sky Projector


*  Aerial Mines  




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In 1647, the feast of Christmas was abolished  in Wales and England by the Puritan Parliament and replaced with a day of fasting. 


During the later part of the English Civil War and the subsequent rule of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, Wales and England were ruled by a Puritan Parliament. 


Puritans saw Christmas as a Roman Catholic festival and disliked the waste, extravagance, disorder, sin and immorality associated with it.  What they wanted was a much stricter observance of holy days such as Christmas, Easter and Whitsun.  Despite pro-Christmas protests and rioting, the ban remained until the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. 

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