Monday, 30 June 2014

Rolf Harris - GUILTY of Child Abuse

Devastated isn't the word.

I adored Rolf Harris. Didn't we all?

I loved the man. Loved his art. Loved his humanity with animals. Loved, absolutely loved, his eccentric musical career.

As the court case progressed, I became increasingly uneasy at what was coming to light.

His letter written to the parents of one of his accusers many years ago told us of a dark side to Rolf Harris that none of us knew about. He had kept it so well hidden.

Also, his claim to have never been to Cambridge, only for archive TV footage to be found that showed him in a 'It's a Knockout' style programme from Cambridge that was hosted by Michael Aspell.

The jury had been out, considering its verdict, for over a week. The longer they were deliberating, the more I became sure that some guilty verdicts may be returned.

But for a clean sweep of 12 verdicts of indecent assault to be given against him still came as a shock. He remains on bail before he returns to court on Friday to be sentenced. Surely, it will be a custodial sentence. He deserves nothing less and his victims deserve nothing less.

I am just left feeling lost that a happy part of my childhood has been wiped out as a lie. Just as it was with Jimmy Saville.

For generations of us, this collective memory has failed us and episodes of past vintage television programmes now will be destroyed or hidden into the dark recesses of the media archives.

As I said, I particularly loved his music and despite gentle ridicule from friends over many years, proudly claimed ownership of his 'Best of'...' album. 'Jake the Peg', 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down', 'Sun Arise' and his iconic 1969/1970 Number One, 'Two Little Boys' were just a few of the favourites. I adored them.

Now, I have destroyed that CD as a result of this afternoon's verdicts. Just as he has destroyed a part of my childhood. Just as his own reputation has been left in tatters.

My thoughts and condolences are with his victims at this difficult time.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Helping Others - 10 Years as a Ceredigion County Councillor

The 9th of June 2003 was the worst day of my life as my father departed this life and left a bereaved family in his wake.

My 2004 election
The following year was particularly tough. His first birthday, the first Christmas, the first New Year after his passing - they're always the toughest. It accumulated in the first anniversary of his loss a year later. Which made the following day, significant in an additional way.

For the 10th of June 2004 saw me standing in front of Cardigan Guildhall, welcoming voters to the polling booth in the traditional Cardigan way, alongside other Cardigan town candidates in the local authority elections of that year.

Head-to-Head - The Tivy Side article on the eve of the
election in 2004.
I was only 21 and despite living in Aberystwyth at the time (where I also stood for Aberystwyth Town Council), I had ventured over the previous 3 weeks to knock on every door in what was the newly created ward of Cardigan Rhyd-Y-Fuwch. I had no expectation of winning but wanted to give local residents a choice - and it was a choice between myself or my 73 year old Plaid Cymru opponent Melfydd George.

The count itself that evening was an emotional one. My mother, as well as her cousin Beatrice Davies and my eldest brother Huw all came along and in the emotional context of this being 366 days after the death of William Lance Cole, the last thing our nerves really needed was a nail-biting finish in the ward count - but that's what we got. In the end, amidst some tears and an over-riding sense of fatigue, that then green 21 year old squeezed home an unexpected winner with the wafer-thin majority of 18 votes.

The Cambrian News article from the
17th June - except I was actually only
the 4th youngest Welsh Councillor!
The Chains of Office
It has been the greatest privilege over the following 10 years to have served the residents of my ward to the best of my ability. This was made much easier when I moved permanently to live in town in the December of 2005. Until then, I combined my commitments with those of also being an elected Town Councillor in Aberystwyth (by a 19 vote majority!) - as Charles Kennedy the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats called it in a personally hand-written letter to me the week after the election, 'a veritable double whammy'!

I stood down from Aberystwyth in 2008 and stood for Cardigan Town Council to better compliment my county council duties and at the latter level, was returned with 86% of the vote and within a year, was being sworn in as one of Cardigan's youngest-ever Mayors at age 26. Come 2012, re-election with 76% of the vote quickly followed with my being sworn in as Ceredigion County Council's youngest-ever Chairman at age 29.

Throughout those years, I have kept resolutely to a philosophy of being approachable and open to the residents of my ward (and sometimes beyond!), working without favour and regardless of politics. Over the years, as a community we have resolved the troublesome 'Tesco Junction', seen Cardigan Castle slowly emerge from the shadows and watched as the Bathhouse and 'balls on the river' sagas nearly tore our town in two. We continue to fight for proper in-patient beds in our new 'Hospital' and we await news on whether Sainsbury's will actually move into Bathhouse after all...or not.

Western Mail article from 14th June 2004 - except I
was actually only the 4th youngest Welsh Councillor!
In the meantime, as well as these bigger things, I've continued to the best of my ability to help with those little things that make a big difference to the quality of life of those living in our community - fixing those pot-holes, mending those broken street lights, and getting the grass cut. It may not be sexy politics, but it's what counts.

It's a matter of remembering that the role of the local Councillor is to be 'the voice of the community in the Council' as opposed to being 'the voice of the Council in the community' which inevitably is what many Councillors become after unwittingly 'going native' after many years on the Council.

Within that Council, based in Aberaeron, I have had good relations with colleagues of all political colours. Indeed, only today an external advisor from the Centre for Public Scrutiny, reporting back on his observations of Ceredigion's scrutiny process, stated that...

"Relationships between Cabinet and Scrutiny appear to be generally sound and there is evidence of mature attitudes, goodwill, mutual respect and good personal relationships".

The hand-written letter from Charles
Kennedy MP, then leader of the
Liberal Democrats.
This is pleasing to read because, as boring as it may sound, this is actually the case. Despite political and policy differences, I have always found working with my Council colleagues to be more a pleasure than a burden. We get on well individually and as a result, the scrutiny relationship between executive and legislature is more productive.

But it's the residents back in Cardigan that matter most.

The Future 
It's a wonderfully fickle thing, the future.

Losing Dad aged 20 on the eve of my graduation in Aberystwyth University forced me to instill in myself a steely resolve to live my life to the full and a life-long desire to help others and make a difference in life flowed naturally from that.

Whatever the future may hold, I can look back with pride at having, above all else, served the wonderful residents of Cardigan Rhyd-Y-Fuwch Ward on Ceredigion County Council for over a decade.

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!).