Local filmmaker Bob Phillips presented his debut film ‘Gathering the Graves’.
The story is based on the work of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission and follows the lives of several characters affected by the loss of Evan, a soldier who went missing on the Western Front during World War I.
An introduction was given by Bob. He started with a short talk introducing us to a map with numbers written, 21, 13, 870 etc these represented the number of bodies found after the Great War some 10,000 in an area of not much more than an acre, shocking. The hall descended into silence as Bob explained the reason behind the making of this truly remarkable film, a grandfather, great uncle members of his own family lost, the more he investigated the greater the desire to record events. We followed the young lives of two friends who had seen the Buffalo Bill Cowboy Show when it visited Pembroke Dock, we saw photos of two boys playing cowboys and Indians. These boys, as did so many, saw the War as an adventure and signed up to do their duty, my own tears started as we saw them leave, boarding a train which would take one to his death the other to be a prisoner of war.
The film centred on the commissioning of War Graves, those who had wealth were able to arrange for their loved ones to be brought home for burial others lay where they had fallen for some there were no remains. War Grave Commission headed by Mr Fabian Ware set about finding the bodies buried beneath the killing fields each was given a burial and the grave marked with a simple cross to eventually be replaced by a simple headstone that we now recognise.
This month, Simon Hancock, social historian and curator of Haverfordwest Town Museum, shares his fascinating research into witchcraft in seventeenth-century Pembrokeshire.
When we think of witches and witchcraft there is an almost instinctive mind picture of an isolated, warty old woman, invariably accompanied by a pet cat. This stereotype is culled from popular literature, folk and fairy tales. Our knowledge of witchcraft prosecutions is dominated by the person of Matthew Hopkins, ‘Witchfinder General’ in East Anglia during the English Civil Wars and even more so by the Salem witch trials at Salem in Massachusetts in 1692. Witchcraft accusations tell us a lot about the role of women in society, male attitudes and forms of control, relationships within communities and how local conflicts were resolved.
Simon’s is interest was awakened by reading Richard Suggett’s excellent book A History of Magic and Witchcraft in Wales, published in 2008, in which he mentions a number of local cases. This prompted Simon to consult the actual court papers of the Great Sessions which heard such cases.
Across England and Wales between 300 to 1,000 people were executed for witchcraft, the great majority of whom were women, although in Wales prosecutions were rare. Most accusations, when they were made, were thrown out by grand juries. There were five executions for witchcraft in Wales, the last being at Anglesey in 1655. There were no executions in Pembrokeshire but around half a dozen cases are mentioned. Perhaps the most interesting appear during the final flourish of witchcraft accusations in the 1690s.
The earliest known case dates from 1607 when Katherine Lewis, the wife of Thomas Bowen of Tenby, labourer, was suspected of bewitching some pigs at Gumfreston. Two sows ran about ‘in a most strange manner’ and lost their litters. Witchcraft was part of the mental furniture and viewed the supernatural, cursing, charms, cunning folk and belief in diabolical forces as part of everyday life. Quakers were initially suspected of associations with witchcraft. In 1668 at Haverfordwest, Hugh Lloyd had become ‘distracted’, saying the Quakers had enchanted him and that Quaker women were ‘inchanted Devills’.
Perhaps the most interesting local case of witchcraft accusation occurs in that of Olly (Olivia Powell) of Loveston in 1693. A whole list of calamities supposedly followed in her wake, including the destruction of a rick of hay, sows sickening and poultry suddenly expiring. When one man refused to give her ‘coals’ (an interesting reference to local mining) he soon developed unexplainable pain in his legs. Other Pembrokeshire cases include a cattle thief who met a man with horns who induced him to steal at Narberth fair in 1612, and a cunning man or conjurer at Llanychaer in 1693.
The last indictment for witchcraft in Wales occurred at Haverfordwest in 1699. Dorcas Heddin, a native of Cambridgeshire, was accused of bewitching sailors on a ship which was bound for Virginia. The Devil appeared to her in the image of a black man and demanded three drops of her blood. He offered to founder the vessel but Dorcas only wanted the two men who had short rationed her to be struck down with sickness. The examinations of Dorcas and Olly Powell were heard at Haverfordwest Castle, so the medieval structure was still being used officially on the cusp of the eighteenth century.
Based on Simon Hancock’s talk and an article in the Western Telegraph 13th August 2014
An illustrated talk by Julian about his visit to the island country of Madagascar in 2016.Julian is one ofour most popular speakers and again he delivers a most interesting talk about his travels, illustrated by stunning photographs.
Our speaker for February’s meeting was Julian Cremona, a well known local biologist and naturalist. His subject was the island of Madagascar. One of the largest and poorest places in the world and with little or no infrastructure, travelling through the island proved to be a challenge for Julian in his quest for wildlife. In the dense vegetation, most of Julian’s photographs were taken using flash photography.
With the aid of local guides he was able to take some 16,500 photographs, including the rare red ruff lemur which he located in six hours whereas David Attenborough had taken six days!
Having no natural predators, many species of bird life flourish on the island and in the main can be found on the forest floor. We journeyed by means of photographs from dense forestation to arid desert. He told hair-raising stories of his internal aeroplane flights and leeches clinging to his body as he climbed through the forest. I think I would prefer to look at his photographs rather than visit the island. In fact, Julian said that much as he loved the wildlife it was unlikely he would visit again even though he deemed it to be a paradise.
David is a Welsh landscape photographer, well known for his black and white atmospheric images. David, is also a fan of the Welsh detective series Hinterland, was offered a chance to produce a book promoting the series and not surprisingly to be entitled Hinterland. Many of the visitors to Wales seem to zone in on areas such as the Gower, Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia bypassing the dramatic landscape of Ceredigion the County in which the programme is set. In the main, there were photographs taken during filming grey skies, rolling mists and as David stated plenty of rain a perfect setting for brooding detective DCI Tom Mathias! It is possible to purchase framed copies of David’s work the most popular, with the ladies we were told, being the head of a bull. An interesting talk by someone who clearly loves his subject watch out for his next book, Pembrokeshire through the Year, produced with the well known television presenter Jamie Owen we saw a sample of the photographs to be included, a rather young looking Judge in his smart bowler hat clutching what could only be a glass of the hard stuff!
Two representatives from the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service attended the meeting. Whilst Chris MacDonald tested members’ electric blankets his colleague Andy gave an excellent presentation entitled ‘Safety in the Home’.
We were reminded of the dangers of overloading electrical sockets, hazards in the kitchen, (thank goodness for the demise of the chip pan, the cause of so many fires in the home, which has now been replaced by the thermostatically-controlled deep fat fryer) and the need to ensure that our fire alarms are in good working order (these should be tested weekly!).
When the Service test electric blankets, if they fail to meet the required standard the plug is removed before the blanket is returned to its owner. One or two of our members are now looking for a new electric blanket. The overall message was – use your common sense when dealing with potential fire hazards in the home, and when locking up at night the key should remain in situ.
Our speaker for the first monthly meeting after our August break, David Wilson, who would have given us a digitally produced tour of Pembrokeshire, was unable to attend. However, at very short notice our member Frank Harbud gave a most interesting talk about the London Docks.
Frank Showing a Typical East End Docker
Frank certainly knew his subject and with projected photographs he gave us a brief history going back to pre-war days when the docks were a hive of industry and provided jobs for the many who lived in the surrounding areas. Much of this country’s food was passed through the docks, from nutmegs to bananas together with a large quantity of cigars, cigarettes and alcohol, and not forgetting vast quantities of timber. To Frank the epitome of an East End Docker is that depicted in the photo sporting a flat cap with a carcass on his shoulder.
As shipping changed and the move was made to containers, the Docks disappeared and became luxury apartments – Canary Wharf is one example, and one is now the City Airport. How quickly we forget and it was good to be reminded of how life used to be. A great talk.
It is always a pleasure when the speaker is one of our membership. In July, Philip and Marcia Whitehead related the story of their American trip – undertaken to visit those friends who were unable to attend their wedding earlier in the year.
Marcia was concerned that we might think we would just be seeing their holiday photographs, but no – with the aid of bullet points she had prepared, and Philip operating the technology, we travelled from one side of America to the other taking in the Grand Canyon. Here we did have some splendid photographs!
With a temperature range from 4 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit this presented a challenge from the clothing point of view and a large quantity of luggage, but our intrepid travellers coped, well Marcia maybe!
Upon entering the hall Marcia handed each member a slip of paper in order that they might guess the number of miles travelled – the competition was won by Ann Hyslop. A very interesting and informative talk.
It has been mentioned that a large proportion of our speakers represent an organisation but on Thursday 4th May Mr David Watts spoke about the railway system, particularly in Pembrokeshire.
David delivered his talk with an element of humour and, as a bit of an enthusiastic rail traveller myself, I found the information he gave fascinating. He described how coaches were pulled on wooden tracks by horses but within a relatively short time these were replaced by iron rails. With the aid of maps and diagrams held up by his assistant for the day, Bob Matthews, we were able to appreciate just how many railway tracks there were in Pembrokeshire, although in the main these were branch lines linking villages rather than the larger towns whose stations were on the main line. Railways were initially a means of freight carriers; from Pembrokeshire many hundreds of rabbits found their way to the metropolis by this means, not to mention milk from the many dairy farms in the County, when milk was transported in churns as opposed to the collections today by milk tankers.
When finishing his talk David reminded us just how safe it is to travel by rail and, if you book your seat in good time, relatively inexpensive when compared with the cost of petrol.
Annette Peters who, since the age of four and a half has been blind, delivered a most interesting and enlightening talk about the changes and advances made during the last 50 years to aid the everyday life of a blind or partially sighted person. In the fifties a blind person would carry a white stick, this moved on to a symbol stick and eventually a long white cane was developed enabling any obstacles to be felt before contact was made.
Annette has a guide dog named Morgan, a crossbred Labrador/retriever who lay contently beneath the table whilst Annette spoke. Morgan, without his harness is at rest and could be anybody’s pet but once his harness is attached he is immediately in work mode ensuring Annette’s safety when out and about. She first had a guide dog in 1978.
Although blind, this did not prevent Annette from obtaining her O and A levels examinations enabling her to attend University where she trained to be a physiotherapist, much of her education was obtained whilst at boarding school although she returned to Pembrokeshire to sit her A levels. Annette described her experiences as “character building”.
To hear Annette explain how she copes with her life as a blind person and the extraordinary technology that is now available was inspirational.
At our monthly meeting on 7th July over seventy members listened to a talk given by Andrew Tuddenham on the above subject. For sixteen years Andrew has managed farms and land owned by the National Trust in the North of Pembrokeshire. His talk, in the main, featured Southwood Farm which lies above Newgale beach and extends to some 950 acres. His talk was fascinating and with the usual technology he was able to show us some before and after pictures of the Grade II listed Southwood farmhouse and a range of outbuildings which are set out around a courtyard. A considerable amount of renovation work has taken place at the farm; some of this required the consent of the Pembrokeshire National Park Authority who believed an addition to the range of buildings of a concrete block constructed extension to house the milk bulk tank should not be demolished. However, said building is no longer!
The work of the National Trust is invaluable in preserving our heritage. Questions were asked of Andrew; these were answered clearly and concisely despite one or two concerning land and buildings in the South of the County. There are events planned at Southwood so look out for these, in particular a Christmas Fayre to be held in the newly renovated outbuildings.