Sgod a Sglod – A Blog about Wales
The Royal Arms of the United Kingdom can be described as: Quarterly, 1 and 4 England, 2 Scotland, 4 Ireland. They have gone through many changes to reflect the arms of individual monarchs but basically they derive from the Fourteenth Century arms, which quartered those of England [Gules three Lions passant gardant in pale Or armed and langued Azure] and France [fleur-de-lis].
With the union, the arms of Scotland [Or a Lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules] were added and those of France were removed. The quarter for Ireland [Azure a Harp Or stringed Argent] was added later. (It still represents Ireland, not Northern Ireland.) The Union Jack has a similar story with the crosses of Saint George, Saint Andrew and Saint Patrick.
There is no reference to the area of Wales, which was effectively annexed in the Thirteenth Century and has been part of England, later part of the United Kingdom. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 created a statutory definition of England as including England, Wales and Berwick-upon-Tweed! It was retrospective, making explicit what had previously been implicit.
When I was young, in the Sixties, Wales was still more or less just part of England like all of its counties. I think you could buy Welsh stamps but the county of Monmouthshire had an uncertain status – since the Sixteenth Century it had been considered by some to be part of England. (Its legal inclusion in Wales was clarified by the 1972 Local Government Act, which abolished the county as an administrative area. It used to be larger than the current county of Monmouthshire.)
I have checked on Wikipedia and in 1960 we had a Cabinet Minister for Housing, Local Government and Welsh Affairs. By the mid-Sixties there were separate Ministers for Wales.
To some extent Wales has always had its own culture but in the Sixties there were few people still speaking Welsh and the versions in North Wales and South Wales were distinct. Nationalism with Devolution has developed more recently and the Welsh language has been reinvented and reintroduced. Now most signs and information leaflets use both languages.
Pictures for this blog come from a visit for a few days in July to the small coastal town of Newport in the little house above. Not surprisingly, ‘Newport’ is a very common name for a town. I don’t mean what Wikipedia calls Newport, Wales, the one that used to be Newport, Monmouthshire and later Newport, Gwent, but is now not in any county. I mean the one that used to be Newport, Pembrokeshire and later Newport, Dyfed, but is now back to Newport, Pembrokeshire again.
It’s easier in Welsh. One of them is Casnewydd meaning ‘New Castle.’ The other one is Trefdraeth meaning ‘Beach Town.’ [Don’t worry. There won’t be a test!]
It’s a small town with streets of old houses, churches, pubs and shops.
Newport is an ancient town at the mouth of the River Nevern Afon Nyfer. The port of Parrog is about half a mile away. We were near to the river, which is very tidal, little more than mud flats at low tide.
Our family used to take holidays at Newport about forty years so the area was familiar. The town has changed little since then. One of the things we used to do is to walk around Dinas Head and we did this again this year. Dinas Head (correctly Dinas Island, Ynys Dinas,) is a peninsula between Newport and Fishguard. We took the circular path anti-clockwise starting at Cwm-yr-Eglwys.
The path rises steadily to its highest point to the north. Vegetation is mostly fern, grass and gorse.
The far point, marked by a triangulation point, nearly five hundred feet above sea level, gives excellent sea views.
The next section is downhill all the way to Pwllgwaelod with its car park and pub.
We decided not to stop at the pub her and took the path back along the swampy valley that separates the ‘island’ of Dinas from the mainland. The short, easy path took us to a caravan park and then back to our car.
We also remembered Pentre Ifan, the best preserved Neolithic dolmen in Wales, and we paid it a visit. It is just a few miles from Newport, has easy free parking and is just a short walk from the road. It may not be as impressive as Stonehenge but it wasn’t swamped by visitors.
[The name is Welsh. It doesn’t seem to have an English version and I can’t find a translation.]
We did pay a visit to the town of Cardigan, known as Aberteifi in Welsh, in the tidal estuary of the River Teifi and I feel the need for another diversion about the madness of local government reorganisations. But first – a few pictures.
Cardigan used to lie in the county Cardiganshire (Sir Aberteifi) at its extreme end by the border with Pembrokeshire. It used to be the commercial centre but not the county town. The old county was absorbed in Dyfed, created in 1974 by merging Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Dyfed was abolished later, in 1996, when the three original counties were reinstated. The new county of Cardiganshire was immediately renamed Ceredigion. The name ‘Cardigan’ is of course an anglicized variation of Ceredigion, a word derived from a kingdom of that part of Wales in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries.
[I know what you are thinking. What about the knitted garment?The cardigan, made famous by Perry Como, was named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British Army Major General who led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. It is modelled after the knitted wool waistcoat that British officers supposedly wore during the war.]
We were not impressed with Cardigan and did not stay long. We went just a little upriver to the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. We walked round, popped into the hides and had lunch at the café there.
I took far too many pictures and have already thrown away several dozen. Here are just a few from an evening visit to Parrog, mostly the sunset as we sat outside by the sea.
Birds, Insects and Flowers
I will just squeeze in a few more pictures before ending with some bilingual musings.
You cannot fail to notice the signs in Wales.
I am not sure which of these two versions came first. I think the English one was added later, given obvious prominence by its position and the size of the letters. In more recent times everything is bilingual with Welsh coming first.
As part of the politics of devolution the Welsh language is given much more significance than it deserves. It is hard for an English speaking person to attempt to read past words in a foreign language using such strange orthography to get to the important words in English.
When I drive along westwards the M4 I often wonder how many accidents and fatalities arise from the need for politics to override Health and Safety considerations.
I saw the expression Sgod a Sglod on a Fish and Chip Shop so I checked on Google Translate. If you translate ‘fish and chips’ into Welsh you get ‘pysgod a sglodion,’ but it does also accept that sgod a sglod means fish and chips. Perhaps it’s a colloquial version.