Thursday, 3 April 2014

'An Educated Lady' from Eglwyswrw. The Story of a woman I never met - my grandmother Sarah Anne Morgans

My blog has laid fallow for some time but I return on the back of my growing genealogical research to commemorate the life of my maternal grandmother Sarah Anne Lewis (nee Morgans) of Nantyrhelygen Fawr and latterly of Carnhuan in Eglwyswrw, north Pembrokeshire.

Sarah Anne (or 'Sal' as she was known to friends), passed away suddenly on 4th April 1964 - today marks the eve of the 50th anniversary of that sad day.

I never knew my grandmother (having been born in 1982 myself) but relatively recent family discoveries have shone a light on a rather incredible life.

It was a life that stretched far beyond the boundaries of the community where she was born and in which she would return to marry and nurture a young family. It was a life that her own children knew next to nothing about until over 30 years after her death. It is one that deserves the recognition of a wider audience.

I am therefore incredibly grateful to Keith Johnson, the editor of the popular 'Pembrokeshire Life' Magazine for publishing my 1,500 word article along with illustrative photos and historical documents on Sarah Anne's life in this month's April edition in time for this poignant anniversary.

It is the second time that he has published an article of mine in the space of 6 months and I sincerely thank him for that.

I publish here then, this most recent three page article and in so doing, pay my respects to a woman I never met but to whom I have great affection and to whom I owe a great deal.

Cysga'n dawel Mamgu.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wearing a Wedding Ring

Apologies for the lack of attention to this blog of late but work and personal commitments have well and truly taken over.

Primarily of course was the big day last month when Alyson and I wed at Cardigan's Guildhall.

It was a beautiful day and the fine weather was only bettered by the wonderful company of family and close friends as Alyson and I made the marital leap after nearly 4 years together.

The Guildhall was a magnificent venue and gave us ample room for 120 guests. The order of ceremony was I would like to think, unique! As a civil ceremony, no hymns or prayers were allowed so we opted for poems in Welsh and English and some memorable songs for the congregation to sing - ABBA's 'I Have A Dream' and to close, Morecambe & Wise's 'Bring Me Sunshine'!

We were greeted on our exit after the ceremony in the Guildhall Courtyard by a throng of well-wishers and Santes the Shire Horse from the family's Dyfed Shire Horse Farm. She stood perfectly still for 45 minutes as photos were expertly taken by Helen E. Davies and Tracey Rees (and many others!) before she led us both through Cardigan town centre.

The wedding breakfast and evening party was held at Nantyffin in Llandissilio and it was great fun! The welcome and the homely food was everything locals have come to expect of this popular venue. Carwyn Tywyn welcomed guests with his Harp and in the evening after everyone had ate and the speeches had been delivered (no problem for me but then I had to take the embarrassment from Best Woman Liz!), Alyson and I arrived at the dance floor to a triple-medley first dance - the anthemic 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' by Richard Strauss brought us to the floor ready for Elvis Presley's 'The Wonder of You' before we then upped the tempo with Sham Rock's 'Tell Me Ma'!

Meanwhile, for those not so keen on the 60s/70s/80s/90s wedding party disco, we had in the foyer running all evening, some of Dad's old farm videos that he had filmed and edited, so even in his absence 10 years on, we could still hear his voice on my big day. It was a popular draw with many Eglwyswrw residents who were making to leave at 10.30pm still sitting down on the sofas in the foyer nearing midnight! Also, I gather Emyr our security doorman was also a fan!

With a week's break to relax after what was a perfect wedding day for us both, we went to New York and Washington DC for a 10-day Honeymoon. I had visited New York before but saw so much more this time. My visit to DC meanwhile was a first and I adored it. For Alyson, America in its entirety was a new experience and she had a great time too!

We stayed in Downtown New York within just 2 blocks of Wall St and the World Trade Centre complex whilst in DC, we stayed on 14th St overlooking Franklin Square - just 4 blocks away from the White House. Good planning Coley!

A wonderful holiday finished with cocktails at sunset in the roof-top bar of Washington's 'W' Hotel overlooking President Barack Obama's official residence in the company of my 3rd cousin Lauren and her husband Antony whose local knowledge guided us to that wonderful venue! Brilliant!

We would like to sincerely thank everyone for their best wishes and greetings of great joy for us both.

As for the wedding ring? For one that has never worn or been keen on jewelry of any kind, I've taken to it like a duck to water!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A love of Roy Orbison...and George Harrison...and Neil Diamond

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am fanatical about my music. Indeed, any regular reader of this blog will have struggled to have failed to notice the many blog posts dedicated to my musical loves.

But what I find amazing about my musical life odyssey is that every so often, I'm introduced to an old sound that suddenly grows on me. Often I have found myself listening to music that I had long derided for not being to my musical pallet to find all of a sudden, out of the blue...that actually, it's bloody brilliant!

It has happened before. There was a time when I actively detested the Bee Gees. In particular, their single 'You Win Again' deeply grated with me every time I heard it. What happened and when I can't recall but as time moved on and my musical tastes mellowed I suddenly found myself appreciating the Brothers Gibb and favourite Bee Gees song is 'You Win Again'. I couldn't make it up.

Arise Neil Diamond
In recent months, I have similarly found the revelatory road to Damascus with the music of Neil Diamond. Don't get me wrong, 'Sweet Caroline' is and always will be a dance-floor and karaoke hit but until recent months, I never gave him the light of day beyond that. But now I must admit to being a bona-fide fan and hear are a mere few samples of his musical genius...

From 1970...

From 1976...

Arise George Harrison
My love of Roy Orbison is already well documented. Indeed, he easily makes my highest list of pop artistes alongside Elvis, Freddie Mercury and Johnny Cash.

What I loved with 'The Big O' was that his talent clearly transcended down the generations and was appreciated by those who came after him. So clearly was this the case that in the late 1980s, the super-group 'The Travelling Wilburys' was formed by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty...oh and of course, Roy Orbison himself.

The great heartbreak to the story is that just weeks after their first album was released to popular acclaim on 18th October 1988, Roy died of a heart attack on December 6th. The band continued and released a second album in October 1990.

Amidst everything, the band put together some wonderful music and at the heart of it was George Harrison. I'll admit now to being one of those that has underestimated the '3rd Beatle' in his post-Beatles 1970+ solo career and yet I've always had a soft spot for a number of his solo efforts. But only in recent weeks and months has that become more than a fleeting appreciation.

What sealed it was when I came full circle and realised to my amazement that a song that I had heard on a handful of previous occasions but which had instantly resonated brought me back to the 'Travelling Wilburys'. I instantly recognised the lead vocal as being that of Harrison and when I investigated further, found that the single was not his but in fact, that of this super-group.

'End of the Line' is a gorgeous song but what grabbed me was the video when the haunting vocal of Roy Orbison came back from the grave mid-way through the song. As it did, the band filmed the video to show in tribute, a picture frame of the man himself and alongside them, a rocking chair rocking away with 'The Big O's' guitar sitting on it.

That got me and it simply moved George Harrison up into that select group of musicians that I love...which of course includes Roy Orbison himself (and also as it happens...Jeff Lynne!).

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Guest Blog: Happy Birthday Tom Hanks!

I have been approached many times by requests to write guest posts for my blog but this time, I've agreed.

The request came from Chicago to celebrate the birthday today of a screen icon, Tom Hanks. I'm happy to allow Spencer Blohm to contribute in this way below as I have always had a particular soft spot for Tom Hanks. Not only has he played iconic roles in films that spanned my childhood and adolescence, but he also, quite Aston Villa fan!!

So, take it away Spencer...

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When Tom Hanks comes to mind so do the many iconic characters he has portrayed over his more than 30 year long career. The man has proven to be talented and versatile with roles as legendary as Forrest Gump to voice work as clever as Woody the Cowboy from Toy Story.

Hanks’ film career started in 1980 with a low-budget movie called He Knows You're Alone. Hanks moved to New York City to be a part of the film. Not long after this Hanks was able to get his first leading role on a television show called Bosom Buddies. Unfortunately his first big show was cancelled after only two seasons in 1982. Tom's first big breakthrough in movies took place two years later in Splash, a box office smash directed by Ron Howard. This success led to more offers for bigger roles and Hanks’ career started into its upward trajectory.

On December 14, 1985 Hanks was honored to host Saturday Night Live for the first time (he would eventually go on to host the show seven more times and make two surprise guest appearances). Continuing on with the comedy gold, Hanks landed the lead role in the smash hit Big in 1988. The film, which established Hanks as a major talent in Hollywood, remains a favorite of many fans to this day. Hanks won a number of awards for his role in Big, including the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

Hanks began to step into more serious roles as time went on, and he was very successful in them, eventually shedding his comedic image and becoming known instead as a “serious” actor. The 90s were some of Hanks's best years, and this is when he began to collect a string of awards for films A League of Their Own, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, and Apollo 13. Possibly his most well-known film, Forrest Gump and its titular character are both major pop culture icons to this day. The film even spawned the restaurant chain “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company”, named after a fictional business. Hanks wasn’t the initial choice for the role. Actors Bill Murray, John Travolta, and Chevy Chase all passed on the role. Travolta even admits passing on the role was a mistake.

After the huge success of Forrest Gump, Hanks was reunited with the director that gave him his big break. Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 was another box office winner. In addition to being a critical success, the film also allowed Hanks to explore his childhood dream of being an astronaut. Hanks claims he gave up the dream because he “didn’t have the math,” but the truth is that Hanks is simply too tall to be an astronaut (he’s 6’1” and the cut off is 6’).  Following his major dramatic successes, Tom made the unlikely move to children’s animated films in 1995. He has provided the voice for Woody in the Toy Story franchise for 18 years, helping to establish a whole new fan base with the younger generations.

More recently Hanks was in Cloud Atlas, which came out in late October of last year. Hanks also portrays Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, which is  scheduled to come out later this year right around Walt Disney’s birthday and the anniversary of his death in December. Continuing with his past successes, Hanks will once again play the lead in a true story that was a front-page news item at the time when he plays Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips. The film is about the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. The film will also come out later this year in October. There have also been rumors of a Toy Story 4 although little has been confirmed.

Hanks has grown from a small-time comedic actor into an Oscar-winning leading man right in front of America’s eyes. His talent has entertained viewers and inspired up and coming actors for the past three decades and it doesn’t look like he is going anywhere anytime soon. Happy Birthday, Tom Hanks!

Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a television and movie writer for who writes about everything from new releases to classics from early days of cinema. He has been a huge fan of Tom Hanks since Forrest Gump. He lives in Chicago with his cat.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The greatest British sporting weekend?!

I have mentioned the long wait for a British Wimbledon champion in this blog many times.

I also mentioned last December how 2012 was surely the greatest year for British sport and that it will surely never be repeated.

Well this weekend, Andy Murray's spell-binding straight sets final win followed barely 24 hours after a famous Lions Test Series win in Australia.

After a 77 year-long wait since Fred Perry's win in 1936, I suppose we couldn't begrudge a few more minutes of delay when Andy failed to convert his first 3 Championship points and then had to fight off break points for his great rival.

But what a delay! The thought that having pulled himself to the brink of history, he may lose his service game was just beyond thought. Would he lose the game and then possibly the set and be sucked into a war of attrition with Djokovic?

I screamed and I shed tears of joy, particularly when he climbed to reach his supporters and gave his mother Judy a hug.

The current US Open Champion and Olympic tennis singles champion will be a shoe-in for the BBCs Sports Personality of the Year award and is now being hotly tipped for a Knighthood.

The Lions also rose to the occasion as they ran riot in the 2nd half of their deciding rubber against Australia to win 41-16 to seal a first series win in 16 years.

Heroes they are one and all and their names will go down in the pantheon of great British sporting moments. The fact that both of these results have occurred over the same weekend is quite incredible.

The greatest weekend in the history of British sport? It's right up there!