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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Celtic Tales

Today I have been away over the water into the "Land of My Fathers" - the Pricipality of Wales on a coach trip organised by my old friend and colleague John Vivian. We had excellent weather for the visits to two excellent places.

First we went to Castell Coch - the Red Castle, not old but in a lovely wooded setting in the hills overlooking the City of Cardiff. There were twenty-five former colleagues of the Bristol & West Building Society on the coach and we spent an enjoyable time looking around the castle, approaching it over a drawbridge above the dry moat. Built in the late 19th Century for one of the richest men of the time, the Marquess of Bute at the height of Victorian fancy for the medieval. Inside, the rooms are decorated and furnished lavishly in the most eccentric style with many wall paintings depicting scenes from Aesop's Fables (see above) and fantastic furnishings.
Further to the West of Cardiff is the wonderful National History Museum of Wales at St Fagans. I had wanted to go there for years and this was my opportunity to see it and also to see what they had done with my mother's "Ghost Bottle" or Witch Bottle (see second photo above). Back in 1983 my then little cousin Mark was playing outside my parents' cottage on the Welsh border near Oswestry, when under the old Yew Tree he found this jar or bottle, very heavy, as it is filled to halfway with lead. The story goes that a ghost once inhabited the cottage and so in order to remove the ghost, a priest or perhaps more likely a white witch was summoned in to pray the ghost down, into the bottle and this done, it would be sealed into the bottle with molten lead! Then the bottle would have been buried under the tree as Yew trees do have special mystical significance. So, there the bottle is, in the main gallery at St Fagans where it had been sent by my mother back in the 1980's for investigation. I was glad to see it again, and for the first time, the many other exhibits and houses displayed on the open air site. Houses, churches, mills, shops and many other representative buildings from all over Wales have been dismantled and taken from their original sites then put back together at St Fagans, now a working museum where carvers, millers, blacksmiths, farmers and other craftsmen and craftswomen demonstrate their rural trades for the visiting public. My Picasa photos show some of the highlights of our day.

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