The Welsh were invented by an ancestor of mine, a Pictish chieftain called Cunnedda. Nothing very grand about that. He is only an ancestor by marriage and I share him with most north Walians. If they took the trouble, most Welsh people could claim similar nobility.
I think of myself as a professional alien; and aliens are the greatest patriots.
The Welsh Nationalist party Plaid Cymru was formed by a Liverpool-born graduate in English.Catherine the Great, who was called the Mother of Russia, was a German. Napoleon came from Corsica to be Emperor of France. Hitler, the Austrian painter, founded the German Third Reich. The first language of Bonnie Prince Charlie was Polish. Lloyd George was born in Manchester, two streets from my birthplace as it happens. The post-war IRA troubles began with the rule of Mac Stiofan, who was a Londoner. Indeed it was English influence that brought about its birth.
The distinguished historian Professor Gwyn A Williams in his elegant history "When Was Wales?" claimed the Welsh invented themselves.
They have been re-inventing themselves ever since.
Few Welshman do not believe that America was discovered by a Welsh prince called Madoc. There is no acceptable evidence that either he, or the tribe of Welsh Indians he discovered, ever existed. As the Professor pointed out in another book, the prince was invented as a political move by a Welsh civil servant at the court of Elizabeth the First.
The ancient laws of Hywel Dda are codified and published. There is less evidence of the existence of Prince Hywel Dda. The first publication of his laws was in Norman times and it has been suggested they were a cunning Welsh ploy to get round the Normans' oppressive game laws. A canine historian has pointed out the laws list six breeds of dog that did not exist before the 11th century. Yet no mention is made of the wolfhound or the Irish great hound which certainly DID exist.
The nouveau riche Normans, by the way, were so impressed by this Welsh ability they commissioned Geoffrey of Monmouth to invent them a respectable past. This Saatchi of the day not only gave them a family tree; he chopped it down and turned it into an Arthurian round table.
When everyone started to apologise to everyone else for the sins of history it put me in a strange position. In California, my late cousin Howard thought our family had a lot of apologising to do. Our Norman ancestor Ralf was descended from Vikings. Do we need to apologise to the French for what the Vikings did to them? Or to the Saxons whom we pillaged?
We never learned. Ralf was part of William the Conqueror’s 6,000-strong army which thrashed the Saxons. Once again, sorry, Saxons.
In 1315, it was said of our ancestor Sir John Skydemore that “the Welsh hate the said Sir John because he inflicted so much damage on them during the war in the late king’s time.” Apology to the Welsh?
In 1298 and 1301 Sir Walter Skydemore was summoned to war against the Scots. Forty-three years later Sir Walter Skydemore, a nephew, was a man at arms in Ireland; and two years after that he was in France in the retinue of Edward, Prince of Wales.
So that's the Scots and the Irish, and once again the French, who must believe we are picking on them.
It gets worse. Thomas Skidmore emigrated to America where he joined governor John Winthrop jnr in a new settlement at New London, Connecticut. Fought against Uncus and his tribe. He and his son took land from an Indian named Asharoken for two coats, four shirts, eleven ounces of powder and seven quarts of “likker”.
So Heap Sorry. Also apologies to African Americans for Joseph Skidmore who had slaves on his Long Island estate and left two, Tom and Ned, to his son Isaac.
Howard always hoped no apology was due to the first five groups since we married into all their races and would be apologising to ourselves. About the Indians. Howard’s grandfather’s first cousin Joel, through inheritance from his mother, became the last chief in the west of Long Island of the Canarsie Indians, who had been persecuted by the Mohawks because they had welcomed the Dutch.
Isaac later freed his next generation slaves Phyllis and Cain. Cain Skidmore, the freed slave, was head of a family in the 1810 census and five great uncles fought for the North in the Civil War.
Anyway, as Howard always said, “No one should be held responsible for his relatives’ transgressions. We have enough to do being responsible for our own.“
GOING FOR A SONG
Tony Blair is, we are told, a shoe in for President of Europe. I do not know why we are in it anyway. If Tony Twinkle-Tongue thinks Britain can become a suburb of Europe, he has never tried to buy a CD in that annoying land mass.
I tried. The last time I saw Paris, I also spotted a two volume CD “L’Ame des Poetes”, a collection of Aznavour, Becaud, Piaf, Greco, indeed all the great post-war chanteurs. Unfortunately the Ferret insisted I buy only one.
Buying even one wasn’t easy. The shop computer had gone down and the assistants weren’t selling anything to anyone. My suggestion that we did things the old fashioned way, where we gave them money and they gave us the CD, was received with Gallic contempt.
So we had lunch, which cost four times the price of both records, returned, bought one, came home, played it and brought Instant Paris into the drawing room.
I wrote, faxed, even e-mailed the Paris shop with an order for volume two. No response. In desperation I phoned the shop, only to be told it did not do mail order. So much for the Uncommon Market. The CDs were produced by EMI. I rang their London HQ and was told “L’Ame des Poetes” was cut by their French division and they were not allowed to import it to Britain.
Subsequently, I tried in one large record shop in Amsterdam and in another in Bruges. The notion of importing CDs across a border that wasn’t even supposed to exist appalled both. I did momentarily think I had struck lucky in Brussels where the girl in the record shop assured us she would have the CD at our home in Wales before we were. Despite another flurry of letters, faxes and e-mails, not a whimper.
A month later, I popped, in passing, into Cob Records in Porthmadog. “L’Ame des Poetes, Vol 2? No problem,” said the assistant. Nor was there. I am playing it as I write this.
COMMENT FROM THE TIMES
.”............These anti-Koranic perspectives will continue to predominate in the British Muslim community as it becomes more directly tied to ultra-conservative and extremist sects - such as the Wahhabi, Deobandi, Jamati Islami and the Tabligh Jamaat. These ideological radicals propagate a highly toxic caricature of Islam. They regard creed and culture as indistinguishable, refusing to grasp that Islam is a global religion, not a faith that is linked to one particular people or place.
The Spectator has managed to get rid of Paul Johnson, its only essayist. Now it is just a collection of op-eds.