AuaThe DAVIES SISTERS of Gregynog Hall (Powis ).                      

” Approach  life and art with love” (a Picasso quote I believe ) is truly personified by Gwendoline(1882-1951 ) and Margaret (1886-1963 ) with their lifestyle and achievements.

TheDavies sisters,social philanthropists and art collectors were the granddaughters of industrialist David Davies. They were idependantly wealthy, their fortunes inherited from the businesses created by their grandfather.

They grew up in Plas Dinham, Montgomeryshire and were educated iHighfieldSchool, Hendon.

Their upbringing was strictly Calvinistic Methodism and both girls were steadfast churchgoers, teetotallers and Sabatarians. Though extremely attractive ,these two extraordinary women led very sheltered lives. They had never danced , never married , and as far is known never went on a date. At the start of the 20th. Century, they were the two richest unwed women in the British Isles.

Neither sister enjoyed good health but they still poured their energies into social philanthropy and into art.

They began collecting art in 1907, concentrating on pre-impressionist painting, in particular French Avant Garde art.The sisters were much bolder than their advisors,although sometimes unconventional, they proved to have unerring good taste.Their purchases included Corot, Millet, Daumier and Turner.

In 1912 they turned their attention to impressionist and post impressionist art . Buying amongst other things, three of Monet’s water lilies paintings.

They also bought the sort of art  no one would associate with the image of Calvinistic Welsh spinsters. Like Cezanne’s sexist figurative works and a group of extremely sensual Rodins’.

By the 1920’sthey decided they could not afford the luxury of buying art with the appalling need of humanity to be addressed.

Instead of adding to their collection, they had to decide what to do with it.

They eventually agreed that the National Gallery of Wales(a building they had largely paid for ) should have it to enrich Welsh culture and rid the perennial blindness of their countrymen.

I trust you’ll agree “they approached life and art with love” . Showing at all times their faith and convictions, contributing with their monies and time , assisting the victims of war torn Europe in the hospitals of Paris and subsequently enriching the lives of others with their wonderful art collection.

SOME GHOSTLY TALES OF WALES 

Do you believe in the paranormal?

All is not what it seems?

Perhaps these tales will make you think again!

SKER HOUSE, PORTHCAWL

          Located to the North West of Porthcawl, adjacent to the Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club, the dunes and sea of the Bristol Channel.  It stands forlorn, subject to the vagaries of the elements,natural and unnatural.

Quite a frightening place.

          It dates back to its origin as a monastic grange of Neath Abbey.

In medieval times it was subject to the violent carnage against the Catholics.

It is reported to be one of the most haunted places in Wales.With telling someone of screeching noises and the seeing of dark shadows in the rooms where the so called ‘Maid of Sker’ was locked away in her parental prison.

In the handed down story, Elizabeth Williams, daughter of tenant farmer Isaac Williams liked to go dancing in Kenfig Town Hall ( now The Prince of Wales Inn )

There she met the resident harpist and they fell in love.

Elizabeth’s father was furious she had been associating with the lowly Thomas , convinced that he was not good enough for his daughter.

Against his wishes the couple continued to see each other and planned to elope. Thomas hired a horse and carriage, but whilst approaching the farmhouse the dogs made such a noise that he fled.

Isaac Williams was angered by this turn of events locked Elizabeth in her room preventing her from ever leaving the house.

Love unrequited,hopefully awaiting her lover , she died of a broken heart.

Through her haunting, her spirit,her sadness, grief, she extols disappointmement for her lover, the strolling player, the harpist.

          Another ghost haunting Sker House is the angry spirit of the Captain of the French Mrechant Ship, Le Vainqueur wrecked on Sker Rocks. Much annoyed by his early death and the shameful plundering by the local wreckers. This very angry spirit takes out with his ranting behaviour on Isaac Williams who is suspected o playing a leading role in the wrecking of his ship.

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MARGAM CASTLE

A Tudor Gothic Mansion, lies only a few miles West of Sker House is one of the scariest with its haunting 

For most is another angry spirit, that of Robert Scott, the Estates gamekeepers.Ful of rage because of his unjust death by a poacher. His spirit often seen coming down the Gothic staircase, ranting, slamming doors, poltergeist activity and emitting a forbodding presence.

There has also been reports of Victoian dressed , mischevious and giggling children moving objects drifting in and out of the long corridors.

The so called Castle is also haunted by the ghost of the ‘White Lady’who once worked in the castle before taking her life and that of her unborn child. Her suicide is surrounded by mystery, perhaps the child’s father was of the aristocracy making the haunting spirit  an unpleasant encounter in any room she may enter.

I leave to the last my favourite Castle ghost story,told me by Father in Law, Sidney Hodson who was the Butler and Head of the Household at Margam Castle during the tenure of Captain Fletcher.

He was not one to display creative imaginations it was very down to earth,in fact pragmatism personified.

He described how on his way home from the Castle to East Lodge, his family home. He was forced off the drive way by a white carriage pulled by white horses with cockades on their heads.They came out of the darkness and quickly disappeared once past.

This ghostly experience happened to him more than once.

From the description of the carriage and the cockaded horses, a hearse in a  hurry to collect and get rid of a body of an unexplained death at th castle,perhaps.

A true story, or, too much port from the butlers pantry? You decide!

These are just a few ghostly tales of Wales. There are many more from this much haunted country. Visit if you dare!,                                                                                                   

  

WILLIAM PRICE

One of the most controversial figures of modern times.
Born near Caerphilly in 1800 , the son of an ordained priest of the Church of England and a lowly servant girl. His ill tempered behaviour was thought to be an undiagnosed mental illness.
Like the Rev. Price, who had attended Jesus College, Oxford, William was an apt and successful student, qualifying as a Doctor in London. But his eccentricities suggested to many that he had also inherited hi father’s mental illness.
Eccentric he truly was. Going for long walks in the nude , or dressed as an Arch Druid, that he had proclaimed himself to be, with a fox fur hat , emerald green clothing and carrying a staff with a crescent moon top. He refused to treat smokers and considered marriage to be wrong as it enslaved women, and he advocated and practiced free love.
He was a convinced republican, Welsh Nationalist, enthusiastically joined the Chartists and was forced to flee to France after the failure of the Newport Rising in 1839.
Many years later after his return, now in his eighties, he fell in be with a girl many decades younger. Their son he baptised Jesu Grist, just to enrage local churchgoers.
Jesus died in infancy, prompting the act for which he is most remembered.
On 18th Jan 1884, he burnt the child’s body on a Llantrisant hillside. Price believed that cremation was an ancient Celtic practice, where as burial of a corpse polluted the ground.
Price was prosecuted but the court ruled in his favour. Hence the legality of cremation once and for all
He is now commemorated in the town of Llantrisant with a Plaque, a Statue and a Memorial Garden.

GERALD CAMBRENSIS

Gerald of Wales, a learned scholar and a churchman of note, was born Gerald de Barri in Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire in 1146.The son of the Norman Knight William de Barri and Angharad, daughter of Nest and granddaughter of Rhys ap Twdwr, Prince of South Wales. Nest’s husband was the Norman Knight , Gerald de Windsor, Castelian of Pembroke. One of his mother’s brothers was David Fitzgerald, Bishop of St. David’s. This family tree did no favours for Gerald, the Normans always considered him too Welsh and the Welsh thought him too Norman.
His childhood was supposedly happy and it is said that his father and his uncle encouraged him to study and to see himself as a future churchman. It is said that whilst playing on the local beaches he built sand churches and not sand castles like his friends.
He was educated at the Benedictine Abbey, Gloucester, where he excelled, became fluent in Latin and French. Being an articulate student we can only assume that he was competent in Welsh , there is no evidence of his fluency in his native tongue.He continued his education in Paris , first as a student and later as a lecturer.
Gerald’s dream was the Bishopric of St. David’s along with the ambition to its metropolitan status and to free the Church in Wales from its subservience to Canterbury.
He became Archdeacon of Brecon, a title he held for many years. Turning down offers of Bishoprics of Bangor and Llandaff. Every occasion St. David’s became available, Gerald was the choice of its Canons and Chapter but either the King, fearing his family connections with the Welsh Princes or Canterbury fearing his reforming reputation would veto his appointment. The last time this happened, Gerald to everyone’s astonishment accepted their decision without demur and at the same time resigned his Archdeaconry of Brecon.
Gerald lived for another twenty years, devoting himself to literary composition producing book after book written in his loved Latin. The best being ‘ The Journey Through Wales’ and’ The Description of Wales’.
Gerald of Wales was the forerunner of present day P.R. And was known,respected and had access to Popes and Princes throughout Europe.
He described himself as strikingly handsome, strongly convinced of his own ability and importance. His tongue could be very sharp and it’s said that the ink he dipped his quill pen was often mixed with gall.
Until old age weakened him he was resolute, elf regarding and self admiring. He was always and remained a reforming churchman . The final accolade on Geraldus Cambrensis when a fellow academic described him as ‘one of the most learned men of a learned age’