Llangollen, music and boats

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Llangollen to me means two things, beyond the beauty of the town of course, – the international music eisteddfod and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, so when we visited the UK for our self drive, self catering holiday with our Australian friends, Llangollen was on the list.

In 1943 the British Council organised for members of governments in exile (remember WW2 was in to its fourth year) to attend the 1943 National Eisteddfod, which was held in Bangor, North Wales.

It was such a success that the following year an international music festival was held, and again it was successful. In 1945 it was suggested that an international choral festival be added to the 1947 Welsh National Eisteddfod, but this was rejected because arranging the National Eisteddfod was a big enough job on its own.

W.S. Gwynn Williams – a well known Welsh composer, click on his name the for one of his most famous works, who was born in Llangollen, along with George Northing, the chairman of Llangollen town council, drummed up enough support from the local people that planning for an International Eisteddford would take place in Llangollen in 1947.

In June 1947 things looked like there were not going to work out as planned because the French rail workers had gone on strike, and the organisors were worried that many of the European musicians would not be able to attend.

The first to arrive was the ladies’ choir from Oporto, they arrived by bus. The Hungarian workers’ choir completed their journey by hitch hiking from Basle, because of rail strikes.

The eisteddford was brought to a close with a concert on the Sunday evening featuring Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra.

In 1949 the first German choir took part and the organisors were worried about the reception that the Germans would receive only four years after the end of the war. When the train carrying the German choir arrived at Llangollen station the town’s people welcomed them with tea and cakes. The railway station can be seen on the right hand side of the above picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe river in both pictures is the River Dee that flows, via Chester, in to the Irish Sea.

I have a personal link with the National Eisteddfod because my mother was a member of the Birkenhead Welsh Choral Society, and they sang at one of the eisteddfods, and I believe won.

BWCSThe badge of my mother’s ‘uniform’ for the completion.

Badge

The badge used to pin the cloth badge to her blouse.

Mum

The shield and certificates can be seen, but I am unable to read them even after ‘blowing up’ the picture. When I was younger I am sure I was shown her medal or some commemorative item, but for the life of me I cannot find it, which isn’t surprising after moving to Australia!

My mother is front row, fourth from the left. She was born in 1909 and moved to England when she was twelve (she didn’t speak English until she moved to England). In 1925 she would have been sixteen and the competition was held in Pwllheli. I mention this because of the cost of getting there from Birkenhead, very few had cars. The other thought is that in 1929 the eisteddfod was held in Liverpool, which is a ferry ride across the River Mersey from Birkenhead.

The Welsh National Eisteddfod has been held in each of the traditional Welsh counties, as well as most of the major Welsh cities, except for St Asaph – don’t ask me why . . .

As a foot note – when I was about thirteen or fourteen I was in my school choir (in Birkenhead) and we used to sing in concerts and the occasional  international competitions.
One year my choir was asked to host a German choir, and I had a German boy, of similar age to me, staying in my home for about a week. It was an interesting week because he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, and the only other language left was Welsh (Mum), which was of little help.
I can remember him now; we wrote to each other as pen pals, but at that age writing letters was a pain, and it eventually stopped. I often wondered how his life panned out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other interesting point about Llangollen is that it is not all that far to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is down river from the town.

Pontcysyllte Aquaduct
Llangollen Canal
North
Aerial
Canals
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TransportIt is not a railway bridge but a canal on piers to carry the water and the canal boats over the River Dee. There are 18 arches, the canal is cast iron, it took ten years to build, it was opened in 1805, and it is 126 ft (38 mtrs) high, which makes it the highest navigable aqueduct canal in the world. The above picture is off the internet.

2008-06-10 183r.jpgFrom the beginning of the ‘bridge canal’.

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The above two pics show the ‘pool’ where the canal boats wait for their turn to cross.

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A canal boat on its way through.

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Don’t look down to the River Dee.

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Keep going, and hope the canal doesn’t spring a leak . . .

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Get moving . . . . . . . .

A number of the above pictures are thanks to KI, one of our traveling companions.

 

 

Plas Newydd x two

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Plas Newydd (or New Hall in English) overlooking the Menai Straits, Anglesey, where I lived for three months when training at HMS Conway.

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The site was originally occupied in the 13th century and was known as Llwyn-y-Moel, but by 1470 it was owned by the Griffith family, and they created a hall-house. Over the centuries through marriages, it became the home of the Marquis of Anglesey.

In 1533 Ellen Griffin married and she and her husband lived in Llwyn-y-Moel and their grand daughter married Lewis Bayly, and it was Lewis Bayly who renamed the property as Plas Newydd during renovations. Lewis Bayly’s grandson gained an Irish Baronetcy and became Baron of Plas Newydd and also Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey in 1761.

His son, Henry Bayly, born 1744, inherited the title of the 9th Baron Paget from a distant cousin, and later changed his name to Paget, because the title could not pass through the female line. He took over various estates in Staffordshire, and on his father’s death in 1782 he acquired a third Baronetcy and Plas Newydd and the Anglesey estate. He was made the Earle of Uxbridge and also became Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey in 1784.

Henry Bayly died in 1812 and his son Henry William took over and he became the Second Earl of Uxbridge. Henry William had raised a regiment in the 1790’s and was commissioned in the army in 1795. He fought in several campaigns and distinguished himself and became a Major General in 1802. In 1815 he was in command of the army’s cavalry and lead a charge during the battle of Waterloo.

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Cavalry charge

The film ‘Waterloo’ concentrates on the Scotts Greys, rather than the whole of the heavy brigade. If you click on the above link and scroll down you’ll gain a better understanding of the heavy brigade.

As a reward for his skill and courage he was made Marquis of Anglesey. Unfortunately one of the last cannon balls fired by the French shattered his leg which necessitated amputation. He had a false leg created, which was the world’s first articulated prosthetic leg made from wood – he had several for different functions -walking, dancing, riding etc – well you would wouldn’t you . . . .

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The original prosthetic leg – photo from the internet.

Henry William died in 1841.

During the 1930’s Rex Whistler was a frequent visitor to Plas Newydd where he painted the large mural in the dining room. Well worth a visit.

Rex_Whistler_-_Dining_Room_Mural_-_Capriccio_-_Plas_Newydd It is painted trompe-l’oeil, which means that the scene changes as you walk the length of the painting.
I first saw this painting at a cost of 6d in 1960, when I was a Conway cadet, and I have never forgotten the thrill of seeing such a painting.
In the centre of the picture are steps leading down to the water and it is up these steps that Neptune is supposed to have climbed, and if you are on the left of the picture the wet footprints come towards you from the top of the steps – move to the right side of the picture you will see the footprints still coming towards you, although you would expect them to point to the left, away from you.

Rex Whistler volunteered for service at the outbreak of WW2, but was killed on the  18th July, 1944, in Normandy – he was an officer and tank commander in the Welsh Guards.

Don’t get Plas Newydd Anglesey mixed up with Plas Newydd, Llangollen.

Plas_Newydd,_near_Llangollen_-_the_seat_of_the_late_Lady_Eleanor_Butler_and_Miss_Ponsonby_(1132208)Plas Newydd, Llangollen, about 1840
In the picture the house retained the Gothic features that the two ladies introduced.

The home is famous for two ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby, who lived there from 1780 – 1829. They became celebrated throughout the country as the story of their friendship spread through Regency Society. They were known as the most celebrated virgins in Europe.

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They both met in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1768 – Sarah was an orphan, whilst Eleanor was the daughter of Walter Butler, owner of Kilkenny Castle. Eleanor was clever and bookish, but she was 39 and had passed the point of getting married. Her father was trying to get her to join a convent, which would keep everything tidy for the family, because her brother had married well, as had her sister.

In the meantime twenty three year old Sarah was receiving the unwanted amorous attentions of her guardian, Sir William Fownes. Sir William’s wife Betty was still alive, but not in the best of health. Sarah could see that Sir William was waiting his time out to make Sarah the second Lady Fownes, only she didn’t want to have anything to do with Sir William.

The two single women turned to one another for support, and hatched a plan to escape from Ireland. It was all very cloak and dagger, with Eleanor and Sarah dressing in men’s clothing, and armed with a pistol, and Sarah’s dog, climbed through a window to flee Ireland, via the Waterford ferry to England. Two days later, both women were caught.

Eventually the Fownes family gave in and allowed Sarah to join Eleanor and they both left for Wales.

While they were searching for the right place for them both to retire, so as to paint and write, they heard that Sir William had become ill and died of ‘strangulation of the stomach’ followed by a stroke.

They lived together at Plas Newydd, Llangollen, for fifty years and became the centre of a fashionable place to visit.

Some of the more famous people who came to stay –

Duke of wellingtonDuke of Wellington

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Lady Caroline Lamb – the novelist and lover of Byron, even though she was married to another man.

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 Josiah Wedgwood – potter and anti-slaver Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795)

Wedgwood produced the medallion ‘Am I not a man’ in support of William Wilberforce’s campaign against slavery.

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William Wordsworth

and many other well known people.

After the ladies died the house was owned by several different people including a General John Yorke who altered it somewhat, to what it looks like today.

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In 1932 the house was taken over by Llangollen Council.