Monday, February 27, 2006

Beware the Welsh Teggie, witches and more - icWales

Beware the Welsh Teggie, witches and more - icWales

WALES' legendary monsters will be in the spotlight this week, in a new television programme.

Beasts like "Teggie" - the nation's answer to the Loch Ness Monster, and ghoulish phenomena such as "corpse candles" will feature in a new ITV1 Wales programme Celtic Monsters.

But series producer Neville Hughes said the production was blighted by some mysterious happenings that challenged his own opinion of the unknown.

Among the unexplained events were those that occurred while working on the story of the Pontrhydfendigaid witch, Mari Berllan Biter.

"While I was editing the programme, a massive hornet appeared from nowhere and attacked me," recalled Mr Hughes. "It disappeared and I went to look for it thinking that it was very strange for the insect to be out during the winter, but it was nowhere to be seen."

A sound technician had a similar experience.

"He could hear the buzzing of the hornet behind his head," added Mr Hughes, "But when he turned round there was nothing there.

"They say witches can transform themselves into all kinds of shapes and forms - so who knows what happened?

"I've certainly changed my views on the supernatural. Before I started working on this series I didn't believe in the paranormal - now I'm not that sure."

He was also forced to think twice following a holy man's warning while shooting scenes across the Irish Sea.

"While we were filming in Ireland, a former Irish priest warned us not to meddle and to respect creatures of the unknown," he said. "Soon after that, strange things started to happen to us."

The footage the crew shot of an Irish woman telling the story of the horned witches of Sliabh na Mban, was found to be distorted. There was no technical reason for it, but they couldn't use the interview.

The series, which starts on Sunday, is presented by bard and singer Twm Morys. It aims to echo the ancient tradition of the storyteller with contributors from Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Brittany. Welsh storytellers include bards T James Jones and Ifor ap Glyn and singer Si n James.

People with first-hand experiences of mysterious happenings will also be sharing their stories.

These include Blodwen Griffiths from the Ystwyth Valley who saw the "corpse candle" - a premonition of death - and Dewi Bowen from Bala who claims to have seen Wales' own Nessie - the Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) monster.

But despite the interest in Welsh myth and legend, we don't market this aspect of our heritage the way the Scots promote Nessie.

A spokesman for the Wales Tourist Board said they did use our legends in promotional literature targeted at Belgians, Germans and French people.

"We use it discreetly or in careful measure in those markets," he said.

Lionel Fanthorpe, Cardiff author, broadcaster, church minister, and an expert in paranormal phenomena, had his own view.

He said, "We have a wealth of Welsh castles, Eisteddfodau, music, art and drama and the brilliance of guys like Dylan Thomas and among these things the monster is pretty low on our school of attractions to bring tourists and visitors into Wales. When you've got Snowdon and the Brecon Beacons, who needs them?"

He added, "I believe they may exist but would like to see evidence first - maybe a piece of fin or a tail lying on the beach at Barry Island."

Celtic Monsters starts on Sunday on ITV1Wales at 6pm

Celtic Monsters starts on Sunday on ITV1Wales at 6pm

Page 2 - Some of the Welsh myths and monsters featuring in the series

Friday, February 3, 2006

BBC history team solves riddle of Llywelyn

Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:26am GMT 31/01/2006

One of the last great mysteries of the history of the independent Welsh nation was apparently solved yesterday by a group of English historians working for the BBC.

For centuries, people living in and around the chicken farm called Pen y Bryn on top of a hill overlooking the Menai Straits in Caernarvonshire have been convinced that it is a royal place.

More than that, they all firmly believed that the 36-acre farm was the last remnant of the palace of Llywelyn, the first and last prince of a "free" Wales, who died in 1282.

But Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, says it has found traces of a medieval house about 400 yards away, near to a Norman motte, or defensive mound, that is the real site of the palace.

Today, even the current prince has become intrigued in developments after Kathryn Gibson, the owner of Pen y Bryn, tried to convince him to accept that he is the 22nd, not the 21st Prince of Wales.

"We had all the local tradition that this was the palace site, but what we were lacking was the last documentary proof that this was the case," Mrs Gibson said yesterday after the broadcast of the programme on BBC2's History Mysteries series. "But thanks to Nick Barratt and his colleagues, we now have that."

Mr Barratt, who is The Daily Telegraph's "Family Detective" found the crucial evidence in archives at Bangor, a few miles from the site. A document dating to 1284 stated clearly that there was a "Ty Hir" or long house, at the centre of the manor of Aber, previously known as Aber Garth Celyn.

It was from there that Llywelyn was known to have written his last letter of defiance to the English. But the site near the motte was not a long house, but an H-shaped dwelling which the historians believe was an administrative centre for the infant Welsh court, but not the prince's home.

Investigations showed that the chicken farm, which has a tower attached to it tentatively, is built on the ruins of a long house. On another document, dating from the 1730s, the manor house at the centre of the lands of Aber is clearly identified as Pen y Bryn.

Mr Barratt said: "It shows that Llywelyn had two separate buildings, one domestic, one business, and that the Welsh court was much more sophisticated than English historians have portrayed it to be."

Mrs Gibson is hoping that the programme will be seeen by Prince Charles, whom she met a few years ago. "I told him that he ought to acknowledge that Edward I's son was not the first Prince of Wales and that he is the 22nd, not the 21st person to hold that title."