Louvain Rees • hellohistoria

From Cwmavon to California • Richard Perkins

A view of Cwmavon.

In this blogpost I will be sharing the story of my Uncle Richard Perkins. 

Those who have followed my work for a while will know that while I was researching my late father's family tree, I came across a family connection to Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum. My great-great-great-great-uncle Richard Perkins died at Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum in 1898. 

For Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to share his story with you. 

Although not much is known about his early life, I have been able to trace him through newspaper articles, casefiles, census records and burial records. 

A view of Cwmavon

John Thomas, Royal Harpist • 1826–1913.

The Blue Place at the street John Thomas was born in. 

Last month, a Blue Plaque commemorating the life of the Royal Harpist, John Thomas, was unveiled in his hometown of Bridgend. Having worked on this with Bridgend Town Council, to accompany the event, I wanted to write something short about John and his life.

The quotes in this article (unless specified) are taken from John’s own biographical notes written in the 1880s. A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to see his personal papers at the National Library of Wales.

In his own words: “I was born at Bridgend, Glamorganshire, South Wales on St David’s Day 1826 and am the eldest of a musical family.”

Born on St David’s Day, 1826, John Thomas was the eldest of seven children born to John Thomas, a tailor, and his wife Catherine Jones of Elder Lane.

"If at any time, at any place, and under any circumstances, you can do a good turn to a fellow Bridgendian, remember that it is a privilege to do so." | John Rankin B.A.

John Rankin B.A.

For those who attended Bridgend County School, Heol Gam or Brynteg Comprehensive School, John Rankin B.A. will be a familiar name. 

The first headmaster of Bridgend Intermediate School (later Brynteg) John served the community of Glamorgan as a teacher and educator for 43 years. But, who was John Rankin B.A?  In this blogpost, I take a look at the life of an Irish man who became a key figure in many children's lives. 

Unfortunately, not much is known about the early life of John.  What little we know has been drawn from census records, certificates and newspaper articles. 

John Rankin was born on the 21st of  August, 1863. He was the eldest of nine children born to James and Elizabeth Rankin of  Castleblaney, Co Monaghan in Northern Ireland. 

John came from a deeply religious family. He was a great-grandson of Rev James Rankin, the Minister of the Presbyterian Congregation in Monaghan. It was through the Presbyterian Church that the Rankin children were able to read and write.

"Nothing short of locks or bolts could keep out the lifters." • Welsh Easter Customs.

"I recall the inhabitants of Llangollen, Denbighshire, ascending Dinas Bran on Easter Day to greet the rising of the sun with three somersaults." 

An account of Easter Sunrise from Rev. John Williams of Glanmor.

When Welsh folk customs are mentioned, we automatically conjure up images of the Wren, the Mari Lwyd and Old New Year. We don't seem to talk about what the Welsh did during the Easter period. 

In this blogpost I take a look at traditional Welsh Easter folk customs. 

Dydd Sul y Blodau at Ogmore Vale.

Dydd Sul y Blodau and Easter Sunday were (and still are) the days that the Welsh tend the graves of their loved ones. 

An account of the tending of graves in the Vale of Glamorgan from Charles Redwood:

“The sides of the graves were raised up with fresh turf and fresh earth was placed on the surface; the end stones were whitewashed and women planted rosemary and rue whilst girls brought baskets of crocuses, daffodils and primroses which they placed in somewhat fantastic figures upon all graves.”

In rural parts of Wales, particularly north Wales, no elaborate flowers were placed on graves on these days. Instead, people chose to clean the graves of their loved ones. The graves were whitewashed, weeds were pulled and simple tributes were left by loved ones. 

"So help me God she won't come down for me again in a hurry." • The Bridgend Murder

On the night of the 12th of August 1872, Selina Jones was found dead in her home at 34 Newcastle Street. Later known locally as “The Bridgend Murder” - It was initially suspected that her death was caused by a series of falls she had earlier that evening but over the days that followed something very different was uncovered.

Unfortunately, not much is known about the early life of both Thomas and Selina Jones. What little we know has been drawn from census records, court records, and newspaper articles. 

A newspaper article reporting the trial of Thomas and Selina. 

The first record of Thomas Jones and Selina Adams (Adams was Selina’s maiden name) in Bridgend can be found in the Glamorgan Calendar of Prisoners for the year 1857. 

In Loving Memory • Death Collections at the National Museum of Wales.

Portrait of Mrs William Williams of Caernarfon. It shows her wearing a mourning dress, and a brooch with an image of a man - possibly her husband, Captain Williams. 

The National Museum of Wales is home to a collection of over half a million objects relating to Welsh life, history and culture. In these collections, you will find everything from taxidermy animals to bracelets made of human hair.

Of course, the collection includes an array of objects related to death and mourning – my specialist subject! In this blogpost, I will be sharing a few of my favourite objects and their stories. 

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