Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 24, Ogmore, Coity, Ewenny Priory

It was another Sunday, so we took off for sites in Glamorgan after church.

This is the day I knew my wife really loved me because she visited castles in the rain and was smiling!

Coity Castle in the rain.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 23, St. Davids

St. David is the patron Saint of Wales. Many legends and a cathedral have sprung up on him, but the essence of the Saint is his teaching:
"Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd"
"Do ye the little things in life"
I'm with you there, Dewi Sant! While he has a grand cathedral, the essence of the man permeates the soul of Cymru.

St. David's Cathedral, Pembrokeshire

Monday, December 11, 2017

DNA 2: The Y-DNA Test

It's likely that I have a Y Chromosome as it's been working for me so far.

Frustrated by the imprecision of the Ancestry.com test, as good as it is. And with more people taking it the better it gets. I still need some info on my direct paternal line. That's what I've been researching and we have that one illegitimate birth. We have circumstantial evidence for the father, but it would be nice to pin it down.

There's also the question as to whether we can pin down the medieval Vaughans who were sufficiently wealthy and of the gentry with even a few knighted to sire significant offspring legitimate, illegitimate, and otherwise. I mean, everybody in the Glasbury/Talgarth area of Breconshire are probably related anyway. The most likely multiple-great-grandsires are those who had the monetary means and power to get away with it.

And then there's the tantalizing mystery of ancient origins. My son's test from 23-and-Me said his Y Chromosome "looked like" it came from Irish strongmen, one of whom we know established the Kingdom of Breichniog that become Brecknock then Breconshire.

So, I ordered a detailed Y-Chromosome test from Family Tree DNA. It's the mid-range test as the top-of-the-line seems to be for establishing a common father with a male sibling, My brother and I already accept what our parents told us.

The kit comes in a smaller package than the Ancestry.com test.

The scribbles are my poor attempt with "Paint" to redact my personal identifiers

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 22, Tretower! and Llanthony

It was old home week back in Wales and back to the ancient home of the Vaughans at Tretower Court and Castle (check the link if you don't believe me!). While not the most impressive castle or manor house in Britain, it still has its unique charms besides being the ancient seat of my surname. Cadw, or Welsh Heritage, has done much to recreate the late medieval hall most impressively with the art work of Tony Barton who based his wall hangings and other representations of the Vaughans and their half-brothers and cousins, the Herberts, in contemporaneous styles.

Tony Barton emailed me and said that as he was commissioned by the Welsh Government,
he considers the Tretower art to belong to the People.
Thus, I have used his representation of the Vaughan armorial for my personal symbol. I am one of the Vaughan People.

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 21, Edinburgh, Sore Feet, Hadrian's Wall, and Hamilton

After getting home I was officially diagnosed with bone spurs. While they may help to keep me out of Vietnam and make me President some day, they are an extreme pain. The hike up Yr Wyddfa (Mt. Snowdon) did me in. After wandering around Edinburgh for a day, my feet would go no further. I went and sat in the Museum of Scotland (free internet). My wife went with the group to climb Arthur's Seat (still on my bucket list with better shoes and ibuprofen).

Our group with healthy feet on Arthur's Seat
I did see a few more sites in Edinburgh.

To prove I was in Scotland

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 20, Edinburgh (in a clearly Celtic land)

Scotland is full of our Celtic Cousins, so we're fine. I have a maternal line that goes back there. And Edinburgh is a very unique city. For one thing, it is built on several different levels like three-dimensional chess or maybe an Escher drawing.

We've got about about three street levels here.
It is also dark, enlightened, and ancient. Monuments to philosophers, poets, and warriors abound.

And there is a beautiful cemetery across from where J.K. Rowling wrote some Harry Potter. She took names from the monuments for some of her characters.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 19, Bangor and Conwy

Had a bit of my own adventure going off to the archives at Bangor U. Professor Ron dropped me off and I took the train to Conwy in the afternoon to meet back up with the group.

I found some documents that appear to be from ancestors of mine. But I still have some work to get it all tied down.

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 18, Caernarvon, Snowdon, and Dolbadarn

This has to be in the top 100 days of my life. North Wales did not disappoint. We drove up and around fulfilling the unfortunate explanation we heard from more than one of  the Cymry, "If you want to get anywhere in Wales, you have to go out to England and back in." There is no north-south M-highway in Wales. That doesn't mean if I had my way, we wouldn't wander the valleys, mountains, and seashore. But then, it would have been hard to fit all this in one day.

While Caernarvon was established by Edward I to put down the Welsh, today it is thoroughly Welsh.

Walking to Caernarfon Castle
You just can't beat this. (At least not until the next day.)

Caernarfon Castle. The round dais is where the current Saxon pretender to the title, Prince of Wales, was invested by his mother.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 17, Church, Beaupre, Tinkinswood, and St. Lythans

It was Sunday, so we went to LDS church services in Cardiff again. There were some missionaries leaving for home so the members stood to sing them the "farewell and come back again" song (I didn't get that quite right). And I couldn't resist snapping a phone pic in church.

"Farewell and Come Back Again"
And what do you do after church on Sunday? Why, visit ancient sites in surrounding Glamorgan, of course!

First up was Beaupre Castle.

We climbed over a sty and hiked across a field to Old Beaupre

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 16, Big Pit, Blaenavon, Romans at Caerleon

It was good that I was uploading my pics every day as on this day, back in Cymru in the land of my fathers, my SD card failed. I only have a few that I took with my cell phone. We couldn't take pics in the coal mine anyway, and I had already been to Blaenavon. So really, only Caerleon out of Newport was lost. Well, so was the Round Table.

Our group readying for a trip down the mine.
This idea just came to me, but I wonder if "lift" for "elevator" in Britain comes from the industrial use of the 19th Century in these pits. One had to get out of those by lifting up to the surface while in America, we started building skyscrapers to "elevate" us.

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 15, St. Michael's Mount, Cotehele, Scorhill on Dartmoor

St. Michael's Mount is the little brother to Mont Saint-Michel. I mean, I'd heard of Mont Saint-Michel in France or at least off the Normandy Coast thereof. I didn't know Cornwall had a its own little one going.

St. Michael's Mount at low tide.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 14, In which we travel to West Wales (AKA Cornwall)

Cornwall was known as West Wales in medieval times because the Saxons recognized they were up against another plucky group of strange little people with pixies. It is a Celtic country, if only a county of England now. And it is a strange, mysterious place.

We started off at Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. Here I am excited beyond belief at Merlin's Cave at the Sea below the Castle!

"You're a Wizard, Merlin!"
This place was just astounding, the ruins of the castle are high above the cliffs dropping off to the Sea.

My wife at Tintagel Castle

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 13, Kenilworth, Tolkien, Stratford-upon-River

Woke to a glorious Cardiff morning:

Went to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, bastion of Simon de Montfort, John of Gaunt (Father of the Lancasterians), and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who wooed or not Elizabeth I (It depends on what "woo" means, not to mention "virgin" Queen).

We approach Kenilworth, a beautiful, red-sandstone castle.

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 12--Seeking the Welsh in Oxford (and the Cotswolds)

Once more over the Severn Crossing, we headed to the nearby Cotswolds. The first stop was some little church I'm going to need help with in remembering the location (all I had to do is Google "hobbit door church in the Cotswolds"). It is in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire at St. Edward's Church.

Very Tolkienesque or C.S.Lewisy

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 11, Harry Potter in Lacock and Roman-Georgian Bath

We left Wales again (sigh) but saw some great places.

The A-Team
The village and abbey of Lacock, Wiltshire is mostly preserved in its bygone eras. It has been used as a setting for many a film and BBC series including, ta-dah! Harry Potter. Yes, welcome to Godric's Hollow:

If you throw some dirt, mud, and straw on the street, you can get to "Old English Village" pretty quick.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More on Niall of the Nine Hostage and the Y Chromosome

Skipping the Itinerary of Wales from 2016, my mind is processing the results of the DNA test my son took. Ancestry.com DNA is good, but it doesn't do an analysis of the Y Chromosome. My son did 23 and Me which does and the results are positively Celtic. Here's a summary:
You share a paternal-line ancestor with Niall of the Nine Hostages.
The spread of haplogroup R-M269 in northern Ireland and Scotland was likely aided by men like Niall of the Nine Hostages. Perhaps more myth than man, Niall of the Nine Hostages is said to have been a King of Tara in northwestern Ireland in the late 4th century C.E. His name comes from a tale of nine hostages that he held from the regions he ruled over. Though the legendary stories of his life may have been invented hundreds of years after he died, genetic evidence suggests that the Uí Néill dynasty, whose name means "descendants of Niall," did in fact trace back to just one man who bore a branch of haplogroup R-M269.
The Uí Néill ruled to various degrees as kings of Ireland from the 7th to the 11th century C.E. In the highly patriarchal society of medieval Ireland, their status allowed them to have outsized numbers of children and spread their paternal lineage each generation. In fact, researchers have estimated that between 2 and 3 million men with roots in north-west Ireland are paternal-line descendants.
Niall of the Nine Hostages apparently burning one of them,
or at least someone not likely to reproduce much more.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 10 - Church, Gadfield Elm Chapel, British Camp

As it was nominally a BYU trip, British Expeditions will take you to church (LDS) in a ward in downtown Cardiff on several floors of an office building. I don't know what happens if you decline to go. I doubt they'll report you to the BYU Honors Code Office which itself is significantly, if not entirely, removed from the religious wars of history.

Walking to LDS Church services in Cardiff
After church (we call it "church" even if it might be referred to as "chapel" as "church" in Britain is reserved for the Queen's Church of which she is oddly the head. In Wales, it is known as "The Church in Wales." Seriously. Because they have to avoid the "England" bit as in "the Church of England." Other Protestant denominations are referred to as "Chapel." I'm pretty sure it's the Catholic "Church." And we, of course, are something else entirely. Fine by me.

Anyway, after the "block" (3-hour church service of Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, Relief Society/Priesthood/etc.), we still climbed in the van for touring.

Professor Tom lecturing from the driver's seat. He is full of knowledge, whimsy, and has little tolerance for those who can't keep up.
Professor Ron. Also very knowledgeable, but more the type to make sure everybody is in the van.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 9 - St. Fagans Welsh National History Museum, Castell Coch, Caerphilly!

We didn't travel far at all with British Expeditions to see some great places just out of Cardiff.

The first was the St. Fagans National History Museum. This should be done in a whole day. We had just a couple of hours to run between the living history exhibits of relocated or restored buildings of various periods of time. Although we did take time to visit with the docents about teapots.

This is a cock-fighting pit. Mormon Missionaries preached in these because they were such natural auditoriums
and they generally weren't welcome in churches or chapels.
We visited the row of houses refurbished in different periods of time. They were similar but more complete than the exhibits at Blaenavon. I missed a pic of the 20th century plumbed bathtub in the kitchen, but we were interested in the 1840s.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Dydd 8 - Llundain

If you're staying a month in Cardiff, you might not think of popping off to London for a day. But that's part of British Expeditions. BYU officially does the inverse, putting all their attention and resources into the London Study Abroad Program with maybe a day or two visit to Wales. Oh, shame on them for neglecting Welsh Studies! Dan Jones and all the rest of their Welsh ancestors (25% of Utahns have Welsh Heritage!) are looking down on them from above unhappy with this failure of turning hearts to the neglect of Cymru!

Well, I'll get off my bones-of-the-ancestors box and get on with the tour.

We started out early and got back very late. The professors know just where to park on the outskirts of Greater London (and I'm not telling!) to pay reasonable all day parking fees and catch the tube into town.

We got out near the restored Globe Theater where we were to meet up that night for the play and the return to Cardiff the way we came.

Synchronizing watches (no, that would be the old days) at the restored Globe Theatre

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hiraeth 2016: Day 7- Chepstow, Tintern, Raglan, Usk

Now the British Expeditions BYU Professors' tour begins in earnest. Three castles, an abbey, and a couple of other quick stops and it was a whirlwind. So you will see why I was not able to blog contemporaneously. 

We started early every morning piling into the hired van. Professor Tom was the driver/narrator. His niece and friend attempted navigation but Tom usually found his way just fine. He's been around the castle block a few times. Professor Ron had his family with him so he drove in a separate car.

First stop: Chepstow Castle on the cliffs above a wide turn in the Wye before it heads to the Sea.

Orientation by Prof. Tom
Chepstow Castle: No kiddin' built on the cliffs!

Chepstow Castle above the Wye.
The "Chep" part of the name is Old English "ceap/chepe" meaning "market."  We have the modern word "cheap" derived from the marketplace. "Stowe" is "place." Cas-Gwent is the Welsh name. In olden times, you would build a castle to protect your markets and especially shipping. This is a Norman Castle to keep the Welsh markets in line. 

My wife and Prof. Tom getting the rundown on a crossbow from one of the locals.
Supposedly the oldest wooden Castle door in Britain, but they have fully tested the door at Hay Castle yet.
Chepstow has a Vaughan Family connection as it was here that dang Jasper Tudor had the head removed from Roger Vaughan ap Rhosier Fychan during the War of the Roses. History ain't pretty.

Vaulted stone ceiling at Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle: It was always interesting to watch the youth groups on tour as we had a few teachers in our contigent.
This also shows how the River Wye has a big curve at Chepstow.
Next up the Wye was Tintern Abbey, one of the more famous sites in Wales thanks to Woodsworth.

I should explain that the roof is missing because at the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the most valuable part (well, besides any golden sacred images) was the lead roof. The area was sparsely populated so not many farmers needed to take all the stones for their homes and fences.


My wife contemplates Tintern before our picnic with this view.

The beauty of Tintern is its grass floor, sky ceiling, and green hills surrounding. The fusion of stone and natural spirituality.
Tintern Arches
After Tintern, we were off to another ancestral site (I can't help this) Raglan Castle. Home of our illustrious Matriarch, the Lady Gwladys ferch Dafydd Gam.

Raglan with moat.
The Yellow Tower of Gwent at Raglan
That dang Cromwell had his army undermine half of it.
The Blorenge from Raglan. See, it's all in the neighborhood!
Having visited Raglan before, I had reviewed Led Zep's movie The Song Remains the Same because there is a great scene with ramparts of Raglan. I realized that they were shot from the back of the castle so I figured my way around and sure 'nuff!

Raglan from the back.
Raglan Gargoyle
Our final castle of the day was Usk. It is privately owned but they welcome visitors if you drop your coins in the basket. It was a little odd as the presentation standards were not as refined as Cadw (Welsh Heritage), but it was very interesting.

Usk Castle. More of an ivy-covered romantic ruin.
My wife on the wall at Usk Castle.
We close with a happy wife at Usk Castle.
On to the next adventure!