A Character, a Poet, and an Electrician
Father Seamus Cunnane served as Cardigan’s Roman Catholic parish priest for 37 years from 1962 until 1999. His contribution to all aspects of life in Cardigan over the decades was considerable. The present Catholic church and its hall were built in the early 1970s and Fr Cunnane was closely involved in much of the fundraising for the project. His lifelong dedication to the Catholic Church will, no doubt, be discussed elsewhere.
As a keen local historian, Fr Cunnane extensively researched the history of Cardigan and its castle and it is worth focusing on his pioneering role in revealing Cardigan’s medieval past. His knowledge of Latin and his fluency in Welsh allowed him to research original sources. This was crucial to him. Never rely on secondary sources! Once he discovered the facts it was important that the truth was clearly articulated. He never minced his words.
As far back as 1992 he wrote: “For over 10 years I have taught local history and I do not want my work undone by inaccurate captions and descriptions that will doubtless be copied by schoolchildren and others.”
He had a dim view of Emily Pritchard’s, Cardigan Priory in the Olden Days, 1904.
“This was taken apart in 1905 when a reviewer commented: ‘The opening words of the first chapter are at once an indication of the author’s unfitness for her task.’
The trouble is that reviews disappear while the book remains and continues to mislead.”
He wrote a number of groundbreaking articles on medieval Cardigan including:
‘Ceredigion and the Old Faith’, Ceredigion, vol 12, 2, 1994, 3-34
‘The Topography of Mediaeval Cardigan’ in Carmarthenshire and Beyond: Studies in History and Archaeology in memory of Terry James, ed. Heather James and Patricia Moore, 2009, 204-23
He was also the author of:
Our Lady of Cardigan: a history and memoir, E. L. Jones, 2006, 56pp.
He enjoyed writing and arguing his case in the Tivy-side over the years, often disagreeing with published accounts of Cardigan history regardless of whether they were written by lay or academic historians.
The following is a list of some his letters and articles with comments:
‘The Four Gates’
The story behind Cardigan’s Teifi Gate; Wolf Gate; Bartholomew Gate and New Gate
31 Dec 1982
‘Llywelyn ein llyw olaf’
Llywelyn’s contact with Cardigan
‘Pride of the Town’
It was time to make the Castle the pride of the town.
29 July 1983
- ‘It is likely that … (Gilbert de Clare) founded the Benedictine priory and St Mary’s Church…’ He certainly didn’t.
- ‘In 1165 the Welsh under Rhys ap Gruffudd expelled the English monks from their priory…’ No evidence (apart from Emily Pritchard’s book).
- ‘burgage figure of 172 in 1308’. The figure of 172 is suspect.
- ‘Here also (near College Row) was the North Gate … standing in 1843.’
A misunderstanding of W. E. James’s Guide Book (1899) where he is referring to the turnpike gate at the top of Pendre.
- Town walls: ‘At the corner of College Row and Queen’s Tce the wall turned south along the Mwldan’. Not quite.
- On St Mary’s St he is absolutely wrong.
- On Chancery Lane he is even more grievously in error.
A review of The Towns of Medieval Wales, Ian Soulsby, 1983:
After some introductory words of praise he states that in relation to the part on Cardigan, “the book contains serious errors because [the author] relies on articles and books, some of which are wrong, instead of going to the primary sources. Twice he misunderstands the sources he uses and thus invents new errors.”
His conclusion: “in a future edition rewrite the Cardigan section.”
29 July 1983
‘Throwing new light on the history of Cardigan.’
In answer to the Revd D J Roberts’ queries in his weekly articles in the Tivy-side concerning the town’s history, he explains the origins of Mwldan, Pendre, Bartholomew Gate and Wolf Gate.
15 February 1985
‘Henry Tudor’s march through Cardigan 500 years ago’
A detailed description of life in Cardigan on Henry Tudor’s visit.
9 August 1985
‘In defence of Welsh history’
He writes: “Today you published an article on the medieval history of Cardigan and its castle called ‘The lock and stay of all Wales’ on a page carrying the rather incrongruous title ‘News Extra’. Much of it was indeed news to me, but only in the sense that it is demonstrably untrue.”
He restricts his comments to twelve headings and ends: “It is time to show respect for fact, and it is a pity that the Tivy-side showed such little regard for it…”
1 June 1990
‘The Mystery of Dydd Iau Mawr (Great Thursday) celebration at Aber-porth.’
The Thursday before 15th August – a Catholic celebration of Gŵyl Fair Gyntaf
9 August 1991
‘Statue not an idol and not adored’
Fr Cunnane disagreed with a caption written in the Time Tunnel exhibition where reference was made to ‘the existence of the idol: The Lady of the Taper’. His comment: “That is an untruth. The statue was not an idol and was not adored.”
4 September 1992
‘The day they hanged the vicar’
An account of the trial of Sir Hugh David Coch, vicar of Llanarth, and his subsequent fate in being hung, drawn and quartered on Banc y Warren in 1592.
28 May 1993
‘Cardigan development plan good news but…’
He writes: “We do not want hamfisted ‘development’ that ruins our heritage”
(and goes on to explain the origin of the name Chancery Lane or Suitor’s Lane)
21 July 1994
‘Monks arrived via Cardi Bach’
He corrects a few inaccuracies in a recent television programme concerning the Benedictine monks at Noyaddwilym and writes:
“Many locals did not like them, including the Tivy-side editor and several correspondents, but we must not tar everyone with the same brush.”
5 July 1996
‘Don’t dump part of our town’s history’
He writes: “Ceredigion wants to dump responsibility for a road named Bingham Lane. But there is no such place. Its name is Feidrfair … [and it is part] of the great medieval pilgrim route from Bardsey Island to St David’s.
Ceredigion [County Council] should publicise and enhance it. Instead it is ducking responsibility and some of us think this is shameful.”
27 November 2012
A few years back I attended a lecture by Prof Ralph Griffiths at the Catholic Hall under the auspices of Ceredigion History Society. His account of Medieval Cardigan in the broader regional context was enlightening but in the post lecture questions it was clear who knew most about Cardigan. On the way out someone turned to me and said “I don’t think they chose the right person to give that talk today.”
But he was not in any way stuck in the Middle Ages. Recent research into the swinging sixties in Cardigan revealed that he was proud to shake the hand of Screaming Lord Sutch during his infamous visit to the town to perform at the Black Lion in April 1964.
The complete story of early Cardigan remains to be told, but Fr Cunnane has set a firm foundation for future historians.
RIP Seamus Cunnane.
On his retirement as Manager of the Cardigan Mercantile Company in 1901 the Tivy-side described Launcelot Lowther as:
one, if not the best known and most respected businessmen in the town of Cardigan…
A native of Bradford on Avon, he arrived in Cardigan in 1848 as the manager of David Davies, The Castle’s extensive timber merchandise and shipowning business.
Davies’ timber and general merchants’ business was transferred to Davies’ son and to Lowther in 1865, and was carried on under the name ‘Davies and Lowther’ until 1869.
After a short interval Lowther returned to his late partner’s employ as manager, and continued as such until 1876, when the two businesses of D. G. Davies and Thomas Davies merged as the Cardigan Mercantile Company. Thomas Davies was the Managing Director and Lowther the Secretary.
Lowther’s public career began in November 1865 when he became a member of the Town Council. His opponent John James, smith withdrew before the election.
The affair of the Corporation at this time ‘were in a most deplorable state, the accounts not having been made up or audited for over ten years.’ His business acumen led him to sort the mess out and in a Council meeting on 16th August 1867 it was declared:
This meeting considers that Mr Lowther merits the grateful acknowledgement of the inhabitants and Ratepayers of the Borough of Cardigan for undertaking and performing the herculean task of bringing the Corporation accounts out of the chaotic state in which the same have been so long allowed to remain, into such a form as to be capable of being understood and investigated, and that he should be properly remunerated for his services.
A public meeting was called and a sum of £20 offered as a recognition of his kind-heartedness. He was also offered the office of Mayor at this time but declined.
[After spending 2 years sorting the accounts out he probably though he had had enough – life was too short!] Indeed things did not go too well in the early 1870s as by 26 Jan 1872 he had been declared bankrupt and lost his seat on the Borough Council.
He had been Secretary of the Cardigan Mechanics’ Institute since 1849 and had devoted as much time and energy to sort the finances of this organisation. For his efforts he was given a watch with the inscription:
In recognition of his unswerving zeal and efficient conduct as hon. secretary.
He took a very active part in the formation of the Cardigan Steam Navigation Company, owning the ss Tivy-side, which was the first steamer to run direct between Cardigan and Bristol. Lowther was the company secretary until the company was wound up and the vessel sold.
It was due to combined efforts of Thomas Davies and Lowther that Cardigan was supplied with gas, having formed the Cardigan Gas Company in 1865, with Lowther the secretary from the start until he was obliged to resign owing to ill health in 1902.
He was able to boast that he was the actual founder of the Loyal Glantivy Lodge of Oddfellows.
During his 50 years connection with the Bridge-End business he trained at least 30 young men up to business – nearly all holding responsible positions in London, Cardiff and other large commercial centres.
For 40 years he was connected with Hope Congregational Chapel as member and deacon. During his lifetime he lived in Bridge St., mainly in St Mary St., and then Priory St.
He married Elizabeth (Morgan) at Carmarthen on 12 Oct 1854 and had 10 children before divorcing in 1878:
Helen (1855-1944); Launcelot Ethelbert (1857-); Thomas William (1858-1943); Beatrice (1860-1927); Herbert Reginald (1863-1936); Arthur (1866-); Charles Leopold (1868-1943); Francis Llewellyn (1870-1948, Headmaster at Milford Haven); Laura Sophia (1873-96, a music teacher, St Mary St.); and Eleanor J. (1879-).
Who was George Child-Villiers? According to Wikipedia:
On his father’s death at Middleton Park in December 1923, he succeeded as the 9th Earl of Jersey and inherited nearly 20,000 acres of land in England. Lord Jersey was a clerk with Glyn, Mills & Co. in 1932 and served as chairman of Wallace Brothers Sassoon Bank. He fought in World War II, gaining the rank of Major in the Royal Artillery of the Territorial Army. The 9th Earl gave Osterley Park in Hounslow to the nation in the late 1940s.
Lord Jersey was married three times and twice divorced. He married his first wife, Patricia Richards (1914–2017) of NSW, Australia on 12 January 1932.
A week after his divorce was finalized, Lord Jersey married American actress Virginia Cherrill on 30 July 1937 at the Chelsea Register Office. She was the ex-wife of actor Cary Grant. They divorced in 1946.
His third and last wife was Bianca Luciana Adriana Mottironi (d. 2005), whom he married on 16 October 1947. She was the eldest daughter of furniture maker Enrico Mottironi of Via Goffredo Casalis in Turin, Italy.
No-one from Cardigan then!
Cardigan says farewell to Richard (14.8.2021)
Diolch yn fawr i Stuart Ladd am y lluniau.
Thanks very much to Stuart Ladd for the photos.
Bethania, Capel Mair, Tabernacl, Mount Zion or Hope Chapel?
Due to Covid restrictions the eisteddfod will not be held this year again. Never mind – relive previous eisteddfodau here with a selection of programmes , posters and photographs from Keith Ladd’s collection.
The 1909 Eisteddfod was a notable event with thousands attending from all over Wales. It was held in a marquee at Parc-y-rifle. The chair winner was Thomas Evans (Tel), of Cwmamman, Aberdare, but a native of Cardigan and in fact the nephew of the town’s most famous poet Telynog. For more about Tel click here.
Wyn and Elin Fflur.
Thanks to Keith Ladd for this photograph, taken in Cardigan market.
Keith extends his sympathy to Wyn’s family on their loss.
In memory of Ronnie Rees, y glo who passed away on 20 May 2021.
A loyal supporter of the Cardigan Carnival for many years.
Edward Wollstonecraft was buried in Cardigan cemetery on 17 February 1848 [B 2]
Browsing through the Burial Records it was the surname that first drew my attention to this particular entry. Was he related to Mary Wollstonecraft, best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)? [Spoiler alert – yes he was.]
Edward Wollstonecraft was born in 1768 and spent much of his adult life as a merchant in Gibraltar. His wife’s name was Mary. He retired to live in Carmarthen. How he ended up in Cardigan cemetery I’m not sure.
Here is a short description of the gentleman by his great nephew Godfrey Wordsworth Turner:
He was in England when I was a child of very tender years, and stayed in our house till I was nearly seven; and again he visited my father, his nephew, when I had reached the age of fifteen or sixteen; after which time he retired to a small estate in Carmarthenshire, where he died.
One of his excellent traits was the love of educating children and grown persons less informed than are most children. It was a much commoner thing in those days than it now is for servants to be wholly illiterate; and wherever, and whenever, the grandly simple benevolence of this venerable man led him to detect a case of that kind, he instantly set himself to work, in his own direct and efficient way, to remedy the defect.
My father’s household owed much to his labour. A serving-woman who, when not young, and not comely, was unable to tell one letter from another, learned to read well and to write a very neat hand from his tuition; and could draw up the bill of fare for dinner, not in bad French but good English.Art Studies of Home Life by Godfrey Wordsworth Turner (daphnejohnson.co.uk)
And his relation to the famous Mary? Well Edward’s father Edward Bland Wollstoncraft (1735/6—85) was a half-cousin to Mary (1759—97).
A level Craft, Design and Technology Project (1990): A vision of what Cardigan Castle could look like in the future …
Entrance to the castle
Children’s play area on the centre lawn
The castle walls
Gorsedd stones (Eisteddfod 1976) (bottom left)
Welsh Tea shop and Craft centre (centre)
Geler Jones’ Agricultural Museum (top right)
Staff car park (bottom right)
On 4 December 1823 John Lloyd, the curate of St Mary’s Church baptised Helen, the child of Ramo and Helen Samee.
Does the name ring a bell? Ramo Samee (1791-1850), her father was a famous Indian juggler and magician.
He and his wife came over to Europe around 1810, and he made a tour of the United States in 1819. He was quite a showman:
Samee performed a trick he called “stringing beads with the mouth”, in which he “swallowed” a handful of beads and a piece of string, then pulled the beads out of his mouth, one by one, tied to the string. Samee was also a sword-swallower (swallowing 2 foot long swords!) and a fire-eater. In his fire act, he would light a piece of rope, place it on a plate, and proceed to “eat” it as a meal. He called it his “light dinner”.
William Hazlitt’s essay The Indian Jugglers (Table Talk, 1828) provides an interesting account although Ramo is not named.
In July 1823 he performed in Swansea as this advert in The Cambrian shows:
He died in 1850, so poor that his wife had to advertise for financial help to bury him.
The big question, of course, is what was his connection with Cardigan? Did he live here or was the family just passing through?
In the 1881 Census return for London (West Hackney) Helen (or Ellen by then) Samee’s birthplace is given as Cardigan, and the records of St Mary’s Church show that she was baptised here.
She and her mother are described as Needlewomen but life was hard and they both spent periods in the Workhouse during the second half of the nineteenth century (discharged on 26 Apr 1850 and again on 2 June 1882). Ellen Samee died in 1884.
If the Tivy-side had been published in 1823 I wonder what their headline would have been:
Daughter of famous Indian juggler baptised at St Mary’s, perhaps. Perhaps not.
Thanks to Keith Ladd
1 The Market in its heyday in the 1880s
2 The Tivy-side reports on plans for a multi storey square block in the middle of town instead of the Guildhall (1960s).
3 The old Market Yard
4 Cardigan and Brioude Town Twinning Meeting with the mayor and mayoress Mr and Mrs Berwyn Williams, and the local MP Elystan Morgan.
5 The Guildhall as a Polling Station.
Thanks to Keith Ladd
Thanks once again to Keith Ladd
from William St. to Llandaf Cathedral;
from a baker’s son to Archbishop of Wales
Derek Greenslade Childs (14 January 1918 – 18 March 1987)
According to ‘Wikipedia’ Childs grew up in Laugharne. No mention is made of his birthplace.
He has not reached the Dictionary of Welsh Biography yet.
But Derek Greensalde Childs was baptised on 10 March 1918 at St Mary’s Church, Cardigan by B. J. Jones, the curate. His parents were Alfred John and Florence Theodosa. The address given was 17 William St., Cardigan
Alfred came originally from Laugharne, and Florence (Jones) lived in 17 William St. They were married on 17 March 1916 at St Mary’s Church. Presumably Alfred came to live in Cardigan at that time. His occupation is given as baker.
Derek was educated at Whitland Grammar School, before reading history at University College, Cardiff. He studied theology at Salisbury Theological College, before being ordained in 1942.
Derrick Greenslade Childs was the Anglican Bishop of Monmouth (1970-86) and Archbishop of Wales (1983-86).
He died as a result of a motor accident in 1987.
Living authority: Essays in memory of Archbishop Derrick Childs was published in 1990.
Thanks to Keith Ladd
Posters from the Keith Ladd collection. Thanks to Keith
From the Keith Ladd Collection (with grateful thanks)
Bowen Brothers: 1897
Jenkins the Hairdressers: 1960s
Veteran Horse Welfare
Glans Radio: 1960s
Original Factory Shop
W. H. Smith
J. Clougher & Son: 1930s
Black Lion Hotel
Canfas Art Gallery
Morgan the Realm
D. W. Griffiths
Any memories of these places? Any questions?
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