Saturday 17 March 2012



Cil-lonydd, the farm next door on Marland Mountain, started doing pony treks. And they opened a bar. And they got a bit country and western, and called themselves the Double D, after the initials of the owners, Dennis and Dee. The local countryside ranger, a regular patron, added to the flavour by roaring around Mynydd Maen in an old Willys Jeep, while wearing aviator sunglasses and a Stetson at a jaunty angle.

Come the Queen's Jubilee in 1977, stepmother, who made a point of being proud to be English among the foreign Welsh of Gwent, expressed her national pride by running up a wobbly Union Jack on her sewing machine, and father draped it across the chimney for her, so that it was visible at least from the barn at the top of the track. 

I had not long since started reading the New Statesman in the school library, and had been surprised to discover that there were other interpretations of history and politics than the establishment one. It was a bit of a scales-from-the-eyes moment. I wanted to be a revolutionary, but settled for the moment with a Stuff The Jubilee badge and an air of teenage disaffection. I was a late starter.

The Double D announced a great Jubilee Rodeo. It was epic. Two hundred cowboys came down from Coventry in coaches, and camped out at Cil-lonydd. There was country and western music, and gunfights in the audience.

"I was first"
"No, I was first!"
"Would you please not fire your guns in the bar!"

Up on the big field were all sorts of events, including bucking broncos. I put my name down for that, because it sounded fun. Then I saw the ponies. They were wild ponies, rounded up off the mountains and stopping off en route to France where they were going to be eaten. One by one, they were herded into a high wooden press where the riders would scramble on to their backs before the gate was opened and out they charged into the ring. 

As I watched, a pony, wild with fear or anger, jumped and scrambled out over the top of the press. It seemed very large, very powerful, very toothy, very wrong.

I went to help father and his friend David Williams, who were running the  clay pigeon shoot. I sat in the steel shelter forward of the shooting line, working the trap that flings the clay pigeons up into the air. Pull lever back, rest clay pigeon on the arm, press the trigger when the shooter calls "Pull!" Watch the clay pigeon burst with the shot, or skim away in the direction of the slag heap behind the beech trees. In time, the Tannoy in the main field called a familiar name. "Would Drew Marland come to the arena..." 

"No, I bloody won't", I thought, and put another clay in the trap.

The next day, I was passing over the common, and saw a coach departing in the direction of Coventry, bouncing down the track, a sea of Stetsons bobbing in time to the bumps.


  1. *Real* rodeo riders eschew ponies for bulls. I guess Welsh Blacks were in short supply.

    Our village Jubilee celebration was more muted. A BBQ, complete with random neighbours decked out in red, white, and blue 1970s numbers. ISTR my dad ran a coconut shy for the youngsters, complete with lethal wooden balls turned up on the lathe.

  2. Remember the brick railway support in Taff's Well that got painted for the jubilee? That is still there, still painted, last time I checked. Good Victorian engineering brick. It resisted men with pneumatic drills and couldn't be dynamited into oblivion because of its proximity to rail, road and river!!

  3. I just about remember being drunk...

  4. I'd forgotten about those bricks in Taffs Well ...

    Used to pass them on my way to the Poly. It was a bit clearer then being less than a decade after they were painted. I see someone has tacked on the Golden Jubilee. I wonder if anyone will do the same for this one.

    Must plan myself a trip back there one of these days. A bimble around old haunts.

  5. I'm trying and failing to remember any commemoration down in the village; so maybe the rodeo was indeed the only local celebration... course, when we had the investiture of the P o W, we had a village garden party with jelly and a slideshow of Miss Primrose Hockey's trip to Kenya with her friend. And free books of poetry for all the children of Monmouthshire.

    I do remember, Gwynneth! It seems almost surprising that it hasn't been defaced, being so close to that hotbed of nationalism at Rhydyfelin. When I was cycling up the Taff Trail with Richard, a small boy called at us "Hello you English mochyn", which I felt most unfair. It would have been nice to call back "Dore da, mochyn bach Cymraeg", but the moment had passed. Hey ho. It was a nice ride anyway.

    It's good bimbling country, isn't it, Rachel? -though the Moggy suffered on the poor roads last time we went up the Rhondda; much skittering on potholes...