Monday, 30 January 2012

What was the Ceffyl Pren?

There may be some ancient memories in the Ceffyl Pren tradition of medieval customs involving a horse's head or hobby horse....

Ceffyl Pren

The ceffyl pren was strictly a “wooden horse” but was in most cases a ladder or frame used for the transport and humiliation of a person around the district so as to expose him for some great sin or disgraceful act.  The tradition is said to have been derived from an ancient Welsh law abolished during Tudor times. Punished wrongdoers were generally those whose misconduct offended the strong rural sense of morality and justice: wife beaters, adulterers, young men refusing to marry girls made pregnant by them, or else neglecting to support their illegitimate children. The punishment was also much used during the Rebecca Riots on informants and tollgate keepers, and I have built the ceffyl pren into several sections of Martha’s story.

The ceffyl pren tradition was widespread throughout West Wales in the early part of the 19th century.  In part it was a reflection of the inadequacy of the formal justice system of the day, and in part it reflected the desire which exists in all communities for good behaviour to be maintained.    So in a sense it upheld the civil law, and left the enforcement of the criminal law to the Petty Sessions and other courts.  The phrase “kangaroo court”  might be appropriate, since the person charged with an offence had little opportunity to defend himself;  but some formalities were followed by each self-selecting jury of good men and true who carried with them the ceffyl pren, captured the offender and then dispensed other punishment if necessary.  Sometimes that punishment would involve the use of the ducking stool.

One of the key features of the ceffyl pren ceremonial was that the men of the jury would always be disguised, using women’s clothes and blackened faces. Since their operations were strictly outside the law there was a good deal of secrecy involved, and they often worked at night, carrying flaming torches.  If there were no constables around to cause concern, they might also operate during daylight hours.  In some towns and village is there would be a regular foreman of the jury, and elsewhere the foreman might be elected on the date chosen for some public humiliation. The trial and punishment of a captured offender would generally be accompanied by  a mock trial and by  music and laughter.  So there is no doubt that entertainment as well as Justice was a feature of ceffyl pren operations.  But sometimes things got out of hand, especially if the men who made up the jury had been drinking beforehand, or is the offender decided to resist arrest.  In 1844 one poor fellow was killed in Llanbadarn Trefegwys when he foolishly tried to resist those who sought to parade him around the parish for beating his wife.

Historians agree that the traditions of the ceffyl pren were incorporated into the Rebecca Riots, for many observers of the time noted that music and good humour, women’s clothes and blackened faces, and charades and “pantomine performances” were common to both. And in both, deep beneath the frothy surface, there was a serious and steadfast intent.

(This is a brief extract from the book "Martha Morgan's Little World.")

Thursday, 26 January 2012

An image of Plas Ingli

I came across this today -- it's one of Andy's oil paintings of Plas Ingli as he sees it -- it's very charming, with the mountain accurately portrayed, and with a two-horse carriage pulling up at the front door.  In my mind I see Plas Ingli as a great deal larger than this -- but who cares anyway?  We all have our own images of the landscape, the houses, and people, and all of the other small details of the stories.........

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Conspiracy of Angels: the tweaking phase

The new novel is being read by two further referees (Robert Anthony and Lis Evans), having been looked at and commented upon thus far by Irene PAYNE, Ian Richardson and my wife Inger.  Every reader picks up on different things and spots different anachronisms and spelling and grammatical errors -- so I try to take action on everything, in the hope that the book will end up perfect!

I have already done some tweaking of the original text -- editing out some sections, adding one quite long episode, and tidying up so that the things that happen early in the story have appropriate knock-on effects later on.

When this is all done, the manuscript will be transferred from A4 format to the A5 book format, and there will be another editorial job to do -- this time related to pagination and the appearance of the book.

Printing quotes are in -- and I am still hoping for printing in February, with a publication date set for 1st March 2012.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Carningli Throne

I have commented on this before -- but now I have a better photo, taken a few days ago.  It looks like a stone armchair or throne, and it's located quite high up on the southern flank of Carningli, near the highest of the "ty unnos" cottages on public access land (not on the common).

The walls are ruinous now, but I'm sure that this was once a little building, about the size of a ty bach -- the door is still traceable, in the R foreground. Off the photo to the left are the other ruinous walls.

It's a wonderful place to sit and admire the view -- but what on earth was this building originally?  And how old is it?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Time for an Angel Mountain TV costume drama?

A Message from Inger

Dear All,

It's ten years since my husband Brian published "On Angel Mountain" -- and since then the title has sold over 25,000 copies and has been followed by six other best-selling titles. Total sales are now above 65,000. There's another story -- called "Conspiracy of Angels" -- on the way in March.   He has been busy!

We have lost track of the number of times that faithful followers of the series have said:  "These books -- and Martha, the heroine -- are wonderful!  They MUST be turned into a big BBC TV costume drama series!"   Brian's response is always to say:  "Thank you for those kind words -- but don't say this to me.  Say it to the BBC."     But of course life gets in the way, and nobody does anything about it.............

I'm writing to ask if you will  now DO something about it, by contacting the BBC?  Brian has recently made a formal proposal to Rhodri Talfan Davies, the Controller of BBC Wales, relating to a TV costume drama series based on the novels, and the idea is being discussed internally by the top brass in Cardiff.  But as we all know, an idea that comes from an author may or may not be taken seriously, and the BBC has no way of knowing whether there really are potential viewers out there who love the books and who see their TV or film potential -- unless at least some of those potential viewers tell them what they think.

So if you like the books, or even if you don't, and want to see more TV and film drama coming out of Wales, will you please help by devoting a couple of minutes to writing to BBC Wales?  You can do it very easily by clicking on this form:

and then clicking on "Television" and "Suggestion" before putting your comments into the box.

Or you can send an Email message with your suggestions to:

I don't suppose it matters if the messages come from the UK, USA or anywhere else.

Either way, I suppose the messages will get to the people who matter.  One of the key points Brian has made in his pitch is that BBC Wales TV has a fantastic TV drama department (Dr Who, Torchwood, Merlin etc) but that it has never made a landmark TV costume drama series worthy of promoting Wales to the wider world.  (Compare that with other parts of the UK -- Poldark, Downton Abbey, Cranford, Lark Rise to Candleford, Monarch of the Glen, not to mention all those Jane Austen, Dickens, Hardy and Bronte adaptations........)  So he's suggesting that now the time is ripe, and that Martha Morgan is a strong enough character to carry a series which will have great appeal both inside Wales and further afield.

All help gratefully received..........   I'll appreciate it if you can let me know what sort of response you get from the BBC.

Very many thanks.

All best wishes


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Holding forth on the mountain

I found this on the file -- from one of my guided walks on the mountain.  Some people look interested, anyway......

Monday, 9 January 2012

"Strange Affair" goes onto Kindle

As an experiment, I have now put the children's book onto Kindle, in a format that I'm happy with.  I did try a few weeks ago, but for some reason there were lots of problems with formatting -- but I have now solved those mysteries and made corrections.  It will be interesting to see how we get on -- some people (relatively unknown authors) say they make over $100,000 per month from Kindle book sales -- and I suppose we have to believe them........

If you are observant, you will see that the typeface on the cover is different from the published paperback version -- this is because there is so much stress now on thumbnails that the text on the old version was breaking up to the point of becoming unreadable.

The other unfortunate thing about Kindle is that it uses a platform that's not very friendly as far as illustrations are concerned.  So I have had to omit Boz Groden's splendid pictures.  A pity.....

This is a steep learning curve.  Kindle and Ebooks are not going away, and we have to embrace the new technology in the hope that new markets will open up.  Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

January blackberries and winter gorse

I went for a walk up the mountain yesterday, and found that there are still blackberries to be had here and there -- and that the winter gorse is now in full bloom.  The bilberry plants are pushing out new shoots.  Here and there primroses and daffodils are already in bloom.  There was a single raven on the mountain, being quite vociferous --presumably marking its territory and checking out if there is a likely female anywhere nearby.......

So spring is already springing.  Global warming, with a vengeance -- unless, that is, we have a surprise or two in store later this month or in February.....

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Martha's Lane

Got a nice picture of "Martha's Lane" today -- it's easier to photograph in the winter -- in the summer there is very deep shade and often too much vegetation pressing in!  The track runs from the Cilgwyn Road neat Yetyrhos up to the edge of the common at Blaenwaun -- I am sure it was the original lane which Mistress Martha would have used  many times during her adventurous life.....

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Progress on the new book

The manuscript of the new book is now out being read by two referees -- and only when it has been approved by all 5 of my referees will I make a decision to go ahead and publish it.  As I have said before, one must always be careful, as a small publisher and self-publisher, that one does not slip into that egotistical thing called vanity publishing.

The other day I spent a full day slogging through the text, doing all the formatting.  Seriously tiring -- but it has to be done......

Now I'm getting printing quotes organized, and Martin is giving some thought to a book cover.  It will be something quite striking!  If all of my readers move quickly, and I don't have too much extra editing to do, I should still be on schedule for a March 1st (St David's Day) publication.

Watch this space.....