Monday 31 May 2021

The Congressional Record

I have today done a piece about using the Congressional Record (which covers the US House of Representatives and the US Senate - and is the equivalent, though very different from Hansard in the British Parliament.

You can listen to that piece on Tuesday Afternoon/Evening in the USA - at https://spectrumonair.com

Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time -     2pm                                           Alaska Daylight Time -      4pm

Pacific Daylight Time & Mountain Standard Time - (Los Angeles, Seattle, most of Arizona))    5pm

Mountain Daylight Time - (Denver, Salt Lake City)                                                                      6pm

Central Daylight Time - (Chicago, Memphis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston)                              7pm                                    

Eastern Daylight Time (Washington DC, NY, Florida etc)                                                            8pm

It should also be available on demand later this week at https://www.spreaker.com/show/process-people-sources

The Address of the website, which gives access to the Congressional Record is https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record

There is a very useful quick start guide at https://www.congress.gov/content/help/pdf/quickstartguide.pdf

There is an advanced search facility available from 1995 (104th Congress onwards).

Chapter 15 of "House Practice" (the Erskine May for the House of Representatives) has more on the Congressional Record - https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/GPO-HPRACTICE-115/ 

Thursday 27 May 2021

Ministerial Standards

A very topical issue - and this week the Constitution Unit conducted an online seminar on the subject. It lasts for an hour - and is very informative.

You can subscribe to the Constitution Units Seminar Series videos on Youtube  and the Unit itself at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/ . A Conference on "Johnson's Constitutional Reform Agenda" will be held on 17th & 18th June - further details (spoiler - it is a FREE conference) are available here.

Mental Health

On the PPS programme on Spectrum on Air , I am being joined by Shery Delfani - who each week will be discussing mental health issues.

Please do join us each week -and send any questions or comments to pps@btinternet.com

Monday 24 May 2021

Bills Currently Before Parliament

In the PPS programme today, I gave a users guide to the Parliamentary website's pages on Bills currently in Parliament.

The relevant address is https://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/ 

I'm taking listeners around the site - and sharing how I used the various documents when I worked at Westminster. [I have to admit that I don't follow the progress of bills as closely now as I used to.]


 Hansard is the official record of what is said in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I willl be talking about how to access the site & what you can find there on this week's edition of PPS on Spectrum on Air

You can access Hansard at https://hansard.parliament.uk

The White House Website

 This week, on my programme "PPS", I will be navigating listeners through the White House Website. The Programme will be broadcast first at Noon (BST), and repeated a couple of times during the week (at 8pm EST - Washington DC time - on Tuesday  and 10.00 (BST) on Wednesday and Friday)

on https://spectrumonair.com

Later in the time this edition of PPS will be added to the previous editions available at 


The White House website can be found here.

These are the direct links to more information about 

The Administration POTUS & the VEEP and their spouses - https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/

The Executive Offices - https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/executive-office-of-the-president/

Priorities - https://www.whitehouse.gov/priorities/

Briefing Room - https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/

Information about the White House Building - https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/

My programme will fill in more details - Do listen in.

Friday 21 May 2021

The Importance of Archaeology

This blog is normally reserved for matters relating to the decision making process; scrutiny and accountability in legislatures.

But today I want to draw your attention to a threat to the future of archaeology in Britain - and how it threatens the loss of knowledge about our past. I have to declare an interest:  history - and archaeology - fascinate me. As well as my academic and practical political interests - I spend a lot of time reading archaeological reports - and (save for lockdown periods) - visiting places of archaeological interest. I live close to Watling Street - and archaeologists in Milton Keynes have uncovered a host of Bronze Age/Iron Age/Roman settlements in my part of a very modern city.

We in Milton Keynes have a special debt to those with the foresight to fund and undertake archaeological work while the New City was under construction. There is a special series of monographs about what has learned about this area - published by the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society. While the fantastic Milton Keynes Archaeology Unit has been wound up - a number of Archaeological Companies are continuing to unearth new secrets about our local past. Many reports can be found on the Archaeology Data Service website or in libraries.

Throughout the UK, archaeologists have helped us to understand where we came from - how our ancestors lived - and have revolutionised our understanding of the space which we, for our short lifespan, inhabit. Some projects have caught the public imagination - such as the discovery of the body of Richard III by the  University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History's Archaeology Unit. (Leicester Archaeology Monographs). Our understanding of our history has been turned on its head (see for example the references in the superb series presented by Huw Edwards "The Story of Wales"). The fascination with history powers a lot of tourism (and if you see my post from Tuesday this week about Owain Glyndŵr, you'll see how my recent holiday was enhanced by the work of Archaeologists - and took me to Sycharth, Conwy, Harlech, & Glyndyfrdwy). 

Our fascination with Stonehenge has led to many TV programmes and much tourism - drawing (in 2019) more than 800,000 visitors. Other crowd pullers include the Jorvik Viking Centre , the British Museum, and many local museums across the country.

It seems perverse then that a number of Archaeological Departments face the chop.

The Council of British Archaeology has highlighted the problem - do visit this page! I studied Law at Sheffield University & Politics at Leicester University. Cuts are threatened to the esteemed Archaeology Departments of both. The University of Chester (Chester was a Roman legionary city, and the site of a key battle  in the early 7th Century), Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, and Aston University  are also considering cuts to their archaeology departments.

There is an article in today's Guardian which is well worth reading.

If you'd like to add your name to the petition - and I'd urge you to do so - the address is here

Thursday 20 May 2021

Wales - Statement by the First Minister

 Yesterday the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, made a statement to the Plenary of the Senedd about his new Cabinet and the Welsh Government's priorities. It can be viewed below.

He said - (I've highlighted what was said in the Welsh Language - the English translation follows immediately afterwards.)

Llywydd, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. It's almost two weeks now since our fellow citizens in Wales were making their choice of the people who will represent them here in the Senedd over the coming five years. I know that in this Senedd term every Member elected will regard it as a privilege to sit in this Chamber, and to be First Minister of our nation is, of course, a very singular honour indeed. Yet, when I first became First Minister two and a half years ago, I emphasised my preference for collective and collaborative leadership, drawing on a wide pool of talent and commitment. I did so because I’ve always thought that collective leadership is therefore the most effective form of putting people to work for our nation's benefit. And I also believe that it goes with the grain of the way we do things here in Wales. We produce more choirs than soloists; we do better at rugby than at pole-vaulting, Now, that approach has held us in very good stead, I believe, during the last 15 months as we have responded to the global coronavirus pandemic, a response that has needed a whole-Government effort to help keep Wales safe.

The new Cabinet formed last week is a team of talent, ambition and experience, a team to ensure that we make the most of the opportunities that the next five years will bring, and to help us face the challenges that will inevitably come our way. I want to pay tribute today to Ken Skates, who has taken the decision to step back from Government to work from the backbenches. Ken has been a strong voice for north Wales inside the Government, and I know that he will continue to be a strong voice for north Wales from the backbenches. We will miss his passion and his energy around the Cabinet table.

Llywydd, nid yw argyfwng coronavirus ar ben. Yn yr wythnos ers i ni ddod at ein gilydd yn y Cyfarfod Llawn, bydd pob un o'r Aelodau wedi clywed am yr amrywiolyn o India a'i effaith bosibl. Byddaf yn rhoi datganiad ar gyd-destun iechyd y cyhoedd yn nes ymlaen y prynhawn yma, ond bydd y Cabinet yn parhau i wneud penderfyniadau yn unol â'n cylch adolygu tair wythnos, ac yn rhannu cyfrifoldeb am y penderfyniadau hyn

Cabinet a fydd yn cyflawni adferiad yw'r Cabinet newydd, a hynny ar gyfer y Gymru y tu hwnt i'r pandemig—y Gymru gryfach, wyrddach a thecach y mae fy mhlaid wedi ymrwymo i'w chyflawni: Cymru lle bydd pawb yn chwarae ei ran, Cymru lle na fydd neb yn cael ei ddal yn ôl a lle na fydd neb yn cael ei adael ar ôl.

Dyma Gabinet a grëwyd i gwrdd â heriau mawr ein hoes—colli bioamrywiaeth a'r newid yn yr hinsawdd. Nid yw'r argyfwng newid hinsawdd wedi diflannu tra ydym wedi bod yn delio â'r pandemig.

Llywydd, the coronavirus crisis is not over. In the week since we last met in Plenary, all of the Members will have heard of the Indian variant and its potential impact. I will make a statement on the public health context later this afternoon, but the Cabinet will continue to make decisions in line with our three-weekly review cycle and to be collectively responsible for these decisions. 

This new Cabinet is a Cabinet for recovery, and recovery for the Wales that lies beyond the pandemic—that stronger, greener and fairer Wales to which my party is committed. It's a Wales in which everyone has a part to play, and a Wales in which no-one is held back and no-one is left behind either.

This is a Cabinet created to meet those other great challenges of our time—biodiversity loss and climate change. The climate change emergency has not gone away while we have been dealing with the pandemic.

And it's for that reason, of course, Llywydd, that this new Government puts the environment, biodiversity loss and climate change at the heart of our decision making, brought together in a single ministry that will bring together all the major drivers that contribute to climate change. A Minister and a Deputy Minister—Julie James and Lee Waters—will together have responsibility for housing, transport, planning, energy and the environment, dealing with the dangers of climate change, but also harnessing our immense natural assets and creating the jobs of Wales's future.14

Llywydd, we have already begun the work to develop a new programme for government, which will be laid before the Senedd in the coming weeks. It will set out our plans to help our public services recover after COVID. That will include an urgent NHS recovery plan and the biggest catch-up plan for young people in the history of devolution. It will set out the work to develop a new young person’s guarantee, giving everyone under the age of 25 the offer of work, education or training.15

It will outline steps towards a fair deal for care, including paying the real living wage for all those working in the care sector. It will set out the action we will take to make Wales a greener country—abolishing more polluting single-use plastics and creating a national forest and a new national park for Wales. It will include plans for safer communities, increasing the number of police community support officers on our streets. And it will outline where we will create new jobs for Wales through a low-carbon house building revolution, building 20,000 new low-carbon social homes for rent.16

But where we can go further and faster, this Government will always be open to new ideas. Llywydd, last week I said that no party has a monopoly on good ways of taking Wales forward, and I offered to work across party lines where there are common and shared interests. I have written to the leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru to confirm that offer. And I know that, across the Senedd, there will be new and returning Members who come here looking to make that positive contribution to the future of our nation, the challenges of today and of tomorrow.17

As I've said, none is more pressing and none more urgent than the climate and nature crisis we face. That is why there is a new ministry at the heart of this Government. And all parties represented here, during the election, quite rightly signalled the need for bold steps to tackle the crisis we face. Now will be the time to translate that commitment into practical action. Out of the election, and out of the pandemic, can come that stronger, greener and fairer Wales. The job now is to set Wales on the path to recovery, and the Cabinet that I have set out this afternoon is ready to go to work to do just that. Llywydd, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

National Audit Office (NAO)

The National Audit plays an important role in advising decision makers in Britain about concerns in the Government's decision making process. It is politically impartial and well respected. It can also inform citizens about its findings. I'm a big fan of its work.

Of course it will always upset some people. Governments can feel that it is always critical - which may not be a fair comment - but the role of the NAO is point out where things have gone wrong, or where the decision making process isn't as good as it could be. But that is the NAO's job - it provides information which MPs (and others) can use to hold decision makers to account.

Oppositions might also feel that the NAO could be more critical of Government. Again, this would be unfair - The NAO does the research - it the politicians whose job it is to draw conclusions about whether the Government is failing.

This week the NAO produced a paper called "Initial learning from the government's response to the COVID-19 Pandemic". It is informative - and gives links to specific NAO inquiries.

The Report is available here

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Owain Glyndŵr

Over recent months I've read much, and learnt a lot about Owain Glyndŵr - part of an ongoing project to learn more about the fascinating history of Wales (From Neanderthal man [Pontnewydd & the Elwy Valley Caves] to the ongoing development of the Senedd). I've read a number of books - and watched some documentaries (and the toe-curling S4C film from the early 1980s). We even have a link to Glyndŵr's story close to my current home. The "baddie" of the story - Lord Grey of Ruthin - also held the Lordship of the Manor of Bletchley (which, along with the Lordship of Water Eaton, was the home of his ancestors).

We recently enjoyed a short holiday in Wales. I took the opportunity to visit (the first involving a detour from the direct route) both Sycharth and Glyndyfrdwy,

Sycharth is where Glyndŵr had his main residence (Llys - sometimes translated 'Palace' or 'castle'). it has been described by a contemporary poet (Iolo Goch) who visited it while Glyndŵr was in residence). It's grid reference is SJ 20674 25529. There is a car park by the site - the postcode for the carpark is SY10 9JZ.

There are a number of archaeological reports (which I had consulted before leaving home. See here)

On our way home from Barmouth, we stopped the car in Glyndyfrdwy, which is on the A5 (which of course links directly to Milton Keynes) Grid Reference - SJ 12526 43136 Postcode - LL21 9BG. This is the home he had in the Dee Vally, which is where his surname comes from. He was the Lord of Glyndyfrdwy. On this site, surrounded by friends and supporters, he claimed the title of Prince of Wales and began the rebellion again Henry IV.

Also during our stay we visited Harlech Castle - where Glyndŵr was based. from 104 until it was recaptured in 1409. He held the second Welsh Parliament there. ( I didn't go to the Owain Glyndŵr Centre in Machynlleth, as it was still closed - but it's on my 'to do list')

This is me, in front of the fireplace in the Great Hall - where the 2nd Parliament probably met.

There are a number of books about Glyndŵr and his history. R R Davies' book is the most detailed - but there are a number of other excellent books available.

Monday 17 May 2021

Why I’m staying away

A Personal Note

I am a parish councillor in my local area within Milton Keynes. During the lockdown I was able to participate in meetings and represent my constituents, as we used « Teams » for online meetings. Members of the public could see us in action - and as we do in physical meetings, there was a part of the meeting at which residents could speak.

Although the pandemic is not over - the Government has moved to force councils to drop on-line meetings, and REQUIRE physical meetings. Any member of a council who doesn’t attend in person cannot participate in proceedings or represent their constituents. That would be fine (if not ideal) in ordinary times but in the middle of a pandemic that is appalling. Of course there are plenty of councillors who are themselves healthy, and who have no vulnerable family members, but there are some who do. The  Government has refused to listen to them, or the many councils across England who opposed this move. A court case was brought, but it ruled that the Government was entitled to do this, if it so wished.

I won’t be going to Council meetings for a while. I, and my constituents have been disenfranchised. My « bubble » is small - but includes close members of my family who are at greater risk because of existing conditions. I’d happily join an online meeting (well that’s not true - I don’t like Microsoft Teams - Zoom is easier & more comfortable to use - but I WILL attend), but that choice has been withdrawn. I’m not alone - and despite many pleas from councils and our colleagues - the Government has refused to wait until we are sure that this virus had been beaten.

Today sees a further easing of restrictions - and I’m pleased about this, but as we’ve seen over the last few days, a new variant threatens to derail progress - we may be back in lockdown soon. (Oh, and more people will die - less than previously, thanks to vaccination - but some, those who are most vulnerable, will die). However, parish, district & county councils can only meet physically now.

I finish with these words I read a few minutes ago in one of today’s newspapers -

« People should ignore Monday’s easing of lockdown in parts of the UK and avoid socialising indoors in pubs and restaurants to prevent the new Covid-19 variant first detected in India sparking a third wave of the disease, health experts say. »

But the Government won’t move on its decision to exclude some duly elected councillors from their council meetings. 

Saturday 15 May 2021

The Legislative Process at Westminster

 I am giving a brief outline of the legislative process on this week's PPS programme on "Spectrum on Air". There are a number of detailed guides available.

The Cabinet Office's "Guide to Making Legislation" is designed for civil servants who are likely to be involved in ensuring that their Department's bills can successfully navigate the path from ideas into Law.

It can be accessed here

Erskine May - the bible of procedure at Westminster - is available here

May Elections 2021 - United Kingdom

 As ever, the House of Commons Library has produced a detailed picture of the election results.

They can be accessed (and downloaded) at https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/parliament-elections/may-2021-elections-results-and-analysis/

A great, impartial, resource.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

The Bills in the Queen's Speech

The following Bills were announced in yesterday's Queen's Speech. I have referenced them to the pages in the Government Publication "The Queen's Speech 2021", where further information is available. That document can be downloaded from here.

It might be, that before any bill is introduced (1st Reading) - the name may be altered slightly. When bills are published, a Research Paper from the House of Commons Library is likely to be published. I thoroughly recommend these as useful documents in getting to grips with the proposed legislation.

- Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill (p57)

- Animals Abroad Bill (p132)

- Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill (p131-2)

- Armed Forces Bill (p101)

- Building Safety Bill (p109)

- Charities Bill (p121)

- Counter-State Threats Bill (p96)

- Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill (p147)

- Dormant Assets Bill (p119)

- Electoral Integrity Bill (p141)

- Environment Bill (p128)

- Health and Care Bill (p20)

- Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill (p143)

- High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill (p65)

- Judicial Review Bill (p145)

- Kept Animals Bill (p132)

- Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill (p111)

- National Insurance Contributions Bill (p70)

- Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concerns) Bill (p149)

- Planning Bill (p61)

- Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (p81)

- Procurement Bill (p74)

- Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill (p66)

- Professional Qualifications Bill (p77)

- Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill (p123)

- Skills and Post-16 Education Bill (p50)

- Subsidy Control Bill (p72)

- Telecommunications (Security) Bill (p97)

- (Draft) Downstream Oil Resilience Bill (p68)

- (Draft) Online Safety Bill (p94)

- (Draft) Victims Bill (p89)

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Details of the Queen's Speech

Did you watch it? I listened in - but I have to say - the Speeches that a Prime Minister gives to the Monarch are never very exciting. The purpose is to tell Parliament what her Government plans to do - so, by nature they are very dry. (The Queen - who is above politics - isn't expected to be passionate and advocating policies - that's for the professional politicians). However - it's worth listening to speeches made under different Prime Ministers. The contrasts between Queen's Speeches under Major and those under Blair were quite obvious - I'm not talking about content - but the literary style and language. She doesn't write the speech - that is done by and on behalf of the current Prime Minister.

Soon afterwards, and this year it took a little while - hours not minutes - the Prime Minister publishes "The Queen's Speech (and gives the year)". So I dutifully downloaded the 160+ document that gives more detail of the rationale and what bills will follow. It's the first time for me in a while. When I worked in Westminster I downloaded it shortly after the speech was delivered. The last few years, being in retirement, I haven't. It has saved a lot of paper and ink. But now that I'm presenting a programme on Spectrum on Air called "PPS" about the Processes,
eople and relevant Sources for decision and law making (At Westminster, but also around the world), I thought it time to re-establish the habit.

It is easy to download - just click here 

YOU DON'T NEED TO PRINT IT OFF - it is available in PDF format. (My excuse/justification is that I will make annotating the document for use as I prepare pieces for the programme.

The Queen's Speech

 Yes, it's that time again - a new session begins in the British Parliament.

This time, it will be a stripped down affair - because of the Coronavirus pandemic - which though more suppressed than it has been -  hasn't gone away (so please do all you can to protect your own and others' health and life). The Queen won't be taking her usual ride in a carriage - and the number of people (Peers, MPs & staff) will be greatly reduced.

We'll get to hear the Government's legislative plans (though most of the bills to be presented have been fully discussed in the last few days.

You can watch live via 

BBC1 (if you have a UK TV licence) - and afterwards here. Huw Edwards is presenting (by the way - his excellent series on the history of Wales is available on BBC iPlayer). 

Parliament Live - but without the commentary.

In next week's PPS on Spectrum On Air  I'll be discussing how to get the details of the Queen's Speech proposals and the stages necessary to turn a bill into a Law.

(Previous editions of PPS are available at https://www.spreaker.com/show/process-people-sources

Monday 10 May 2021

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

In today's PPS programme on Spectrum On Air - we did a piece about the Congressional Research Service. 

(If you look through old posts on this Blog you'll see that I am a great fan of the CRS. The good news is that their reports are more easily obtainable now)

If you want to access their reports the address is - https://crsreports.congress.gov. You can either enter a word or a phrase OR click the search button without entering any text to bring up a list of reports, which you can then scroll through.

Specially for listeners in the USA the PPS is broadcast again at 8pm (20.00) Eastern Time on Tuesdays (Insomniacs in Europe can also access it but it is in the middle of the night!)

NAO Report on the Rail System in England

In a few minutes time I will be talking about the National Audit Office's very readable and useful guide to the financing of the Rail System in England as part of my weekly programme on Spectrum on Air (the live link can be accessed at this address.

If you can't get there in time - it will be available later in the week (and available for some length of time) here.

If you've come to this blog as a result of the programme - the address which will link you directly to the report (which can be downloaded) the address is -


House of Commons Library

There is a quality research facility within the House of Commons Library. It has to be impartial. I've long been a user of its publications - whilst working at Westminster - but also in my roles as a lecturer - and I always used to encourage students to use their publication.

They are freely available at https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk

Recent 'Research Briefings (the detailed research papers) can be accessed directly at https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/

Material relevant to the current week's business in the House of Commons can be accessed directly at https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/this-week/

Research by General Topic areas can be directly accessed at https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research/

They are worth bookmarking!!!!

In my programme PPS on the new internet radio station 'Spectrum on Air' I will be talking about the various publications - and why they can be of great use. My programme airs at Noon (UK time) on Mondays and 8pm (ET in the USA) on Tuesdays. Do listen in.

The station can be heard via https://spectrumonair.com

Monday 3 May 2021


 On my Spectrum On Air Show - "PPS" I played a song by Tecwyn Ifan called 'Y Dref Wen', and told the story of how I stumbled upon a Youtube video which introduced to me to the song, helped me on my path towards learning Welsh and to researching "Cyndyllan", whose death in the the White Town (Y Dref Wen - in Welsh) inspired the song.

Click here to see the  video with the words - in Welsh and English, - and to hear the song.

There are two ancient pieces of Welsh poetry which tell the story of Cynddylan - though they are difficult to reconcile. We don't know exactly when Cyndyllan lived or died - there are a number of theories. It is believed that he was a Prince or King in the Welsh area kingdom of Pengwern (modern area now solidly within England (Shropshire, possibly extending as far as into Staffordshire), but was at the time and beyond within the Welsh kingdom of Powys. 

The two poems are the 'Marwnad Cyndyllan' and the 'Canu Heledd'.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Culture states -

Cynddylan fab Cyndrwyn (? †15 November 655) was a Welsh chieftain who is known to us primarily from two substantial pieces of early poetry: (1) Marwnad Cynddylan, a 71-line awdl on his death addressed to an unnamed king of Gwynedd at Aberffraw, whose attitude is that of a contemporary court poem and is widely accepted as authentic; (2) the 113 englynion of Canu Heledd (Poetry of Heledd), whose attitude is also contemporary, but the dramatic persona is not that of a court poet, but rather Cynddylan’s bereaved sister Heledd, wandering alone through the deserted ruins of the war-ravaged kingdom.This englyn cycle is usually assigned to the 9th or 10th century.

Some details of the historical context can be gleaned from these poems. Both Marwnad Cynddylan and Canu Heledd refer to a place called Tren, probably the river Tern in central Shropshire (Welsh swydd Amwythig). A stray englyn from Canu Heledd states that Cynddylan was part of the coalition headed by Penda at the battle of Cogwy or Maserfelth, where Oswald of Northum-bria was slain on 5 August 642 (Beda, Historia Ecclesiastica 3.9).The site of this battle was most probably near Oswestry in Shropshire, where Oswald was killed and crucified on ‘Oswald’s tree’ (Welsh Croesoswallt). According to Marwnad Cynddylan, the hero answered the call to arms of mab Pyd, which refers to Panna son of Pyd, the latter being the Welsh name for Penda of Mercia, who is known to have had Welsh allies when he fought against the Northumbrians in the mid-7th century. Marwnad Cynddylan mentions a ‘fight for the cattle (or the spoils) of Pennawg’, which may refer to an attack known to have been made by Penda of Mercia and Welsh allies on the Northumbrian court at Bam- burgh c. 650. The Marwnad describes a major, otherwise unknown, battle at Caerlwytgoed, the Roman fortified town of L{toc{tum at Lichfield, Staffordshire. Canu Heledd describes desolation in several places for which probable locations can be found in Shropshire: including Pengwern (probably in Shrewsbury), Eglwysseu Bassa (Baschurch), Dinlleu Vreconn (the hill-fort of theWrekin nearWroxeter), Romano-British Vriconium, and Ercal (High Ercall or Child’s Ercall). There is some question as to whether these places represent a continuous recollection of the old pre- Anglo-Saxon landscape of what became western Mercia, or a later Brythonicizing of an already English countryside, in effect creative historical fiction. For example, Baschurch seems to be a purely English name and Eglwysseu Bassa a Welsh translation. Of course, it is possible that Cynddylan had ruled a linguistically mixed country in the 7th-century, including a com- munity of Anglo-Saxon Christians.

Marwnad Cynddylan and Canu Heledd agree in portraying a military disaster in which Cynddylan fell, along with numerous noble kinsmen and comrades. The event itself is most plausibly identified with the battle of Winwæd, where Penda and all his many allies—called duces regii (royal generals) by Beda (Historia Ecclesiastica 3.27) and reges Brittonum (kings of the Britons) in Historia Brittonum (§§64–5)— fell in battle against Oswydd of Northumbria on 15 November 655. In the englynion, Cynddylan is once identified as ruler of Powys. The royal lineage known as the Cyndrwynyn (progeny of Cynddylan’s father, Cyndrwyn) do not seem to have survived into the 9th century, at which time Historia Brittonum (§§32–5) identified the kings of Powys as Cadelling, and Eliseg’s Pillar traces the same group back to Gwrtheyrn. Marwnad Cynddylan mentions the Cadelling twice, viewing them with hostility, as if they were rivals.

further reading
Aberffraw; awdl; Beda; Britons; Cadelling; Eliseg’s Pillar; englyn; englynion; Gwrtheyrn; Gwynedd; Heledd; Historia Brittonum; Marwnad Cynddylan; Oswald; Oswydd; Penda; Powys
; Bartrum, Welsh Classical Dictionary 169–71; Wendy Davies, Wales in the Early Middle Ages; Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry; Stancliffe, Oswald 84–96; Ifor Williams, Canu Llywarch Hen.


Saturday 1 May 2021

Police and Crime Commissioners

 On Thursday, elections will be held for Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales. 

On my programme, PPS on Spectrum-on-Air I will be interviewing Willy Bach - the retiring Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicestershire. He'll be talking about the job and its responsibilities.

Do tune in - it is on air at Noon (UK time) - just head here and click the Listen Live button!

If you aren't able to tune in then (for US listeners - the programme re-airs at 8pm ET on Tuesdays) - a copy of the programme should be available from lunchtime on Wednesdays on Spreaker