Friends, neighbours, Countrymen!

It was 15th August last I saw, by chance, an article in a Welsh newspaper in which a group of three are pictured holding a flag – to honour Rhys ap Thomas for his treachery in killing Richard III at Bosworth Field.  I believe I am a cat of some perception, but I was somewhat amazed at the bizarre suggestion in this article that by this deed, Rhys ap Thomas also struck a blow for the promotion of the Welsh language.

It would seem that Richard III did nothing for the Welsh – except. of course, he gave a Charter to our town of Llandovery – later ratified by our present Prince of Wales – and he also gave Rhys ap Thomas considerable lands and an income for life – and in exchange Rhys ap Thomas swore allegience to Richard III – his oath as follows:  Whoever ill-affected to the state, shall dare to land in those parts of Wales where I have ‘anie’ employment under your Majesty, must resolve with himself to make his entrance and irruption over my belly’. 

So, what happened that he turned traitor?  Henry Tudor and his army of French conscripts began an advance into Wales – Rhys ap Thomas, seeing he was outnumbered decided to change sides – to turncoat!  But, what about his solemn oath?  Well, at this point it would appear the matter descends almost into farce.  It was suggested by a churchman that maybe if Rhys ap Thomas just lay down in the road and let Henry Tudor ‘step over him’ that would exonerate him from his oath.  This, apparently did not please Rhys ap Thomas – well, there was a lot of rain around at the time – and it was decided, instead, that Rhys ap Thomas would shelter under a bridge, and allow Tudor to march over him, thereby – sort of – exonerating him from his oath!  Wow!

Also, you see, Richard III is criticised as he did not support the Welsh language – though neither did Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor or Elizabeth lst.  It is certainly true that Elizabeth’s Act of 1563 stated that a Welsh bible should be printed – ‘by conferring bothe tongues together, the sooner to attayne to the knowledge of the English tongue’ but the Government in allowing its use side by side with the English bible …intended to hasten the extinction of the Welsh language.  (See Aber-Cook – Pages from the History of Llandovery).

As Rhys ap Thomas died in 1525 – he can’t actually have had much say in the promotion and publication of the Welsh bible in 1563.   What is true, however, there appear to be no lengths to which some will go to vilify Richard 111 and with him the English language.

Below this newspaper article is another.  This time quoting the words of an ‘international rugby referee’ – the article chastises parents who do not wish their children attending primary school to be taught solely in Welsh – words like ‘respect our way of life’ – are hurled at the unsuspecting heads of parents because of their views and wishes – in a most disrespectful way.

I am an old cat, and I certainly won’t be around in 2050 to count if the one million Welsh speakers that Plaed demand actually exist and quite honestly, I have such good, kind neighbours who always speak to me in the language we both understand – English! My suggestion is that those who want to promote the Welsh language should take a step back and begin to listen to their wider community. Their dreams may not be the same as yours, but they have every right to a choice – to be treated with fair play and given a level playing field – something all rugby players and their referees would demand.

stained glass panel by artist Caroley BergmanOn a happy note: the image shown here is of a stained glass panel by the artist Caroley Bergman.  She also designed and re-produced the Richardian flags that were used at the Battle of Bosworth for Simon Barnes’ play TRIPLE DICK.  The play was produced and performed at Llandovery Theatre as part of the celebrations for the re-instatement of the Royal Charter by the Prince of Wales, in 1985.

Thank you for reading my words – You will realize, by now, that I am a Richardian – and, on reflection, possibly the first Theatre Cat to be so!

Horatio Nelson

National Poetry Day

Dear Friends!

National Poetry Day – 28 September 2017  – The theme is Freedom!

It is so good to read in The Post, of the several groups of writers who are meeting in Llandovery to enjoy and create poetry and prose stories.  So much talent in our town and so many tales to tell, to unlock from personal memory and share with the world.  Writing can be a consolation and a balm – it can release the tension of dark days and sleepless nights, it can bring joy just by the mere achievement of putting a few thoughts on paper, in verse or in prose.
Examining the theme of ‘freedom’ I wonder if we truly have freedom to speak and write in the language of our choice.  Writing of any kind, be it a novel or a poem, requires an audience.  The author believes and hopes the audience will be vast, and will therefore write in the language he is familiar with from birth, and if he becomes famous his work will then be translated for the world.  It is the ‘creating’ language that is the main issue. For us, here in Llandovery Theatre – it is English – and to celebrate National Poetry Day – here is a recent poem, written following a drama workshop with a group of young adults with learning disabilities – and particularly ‘dedicated’ to one un-named young  man in his search for vocal freedom.

The drama class
I search for the route to tunnel through,
to find you, the real you,
I wonder at the pattern of your thoughts,
that neither of us can disentangle,
and how to meet you on a mutual plane.
Sometimes for a moment when your face lights up
I think we have made contact,  then
the light flickers out so soon –
bright for a moment, and dark again –
A flash of lightening only!
When we meet next, we will tread your vast
disordered field
I, searching for a moment when
we can be joined together
by the line of a poem or the words of a song.

Richard 111 and Llandovery 
The Theatre has had several enquiries and requests to read the script of TRIPLE DICK – Simon Barnes’ play on the last days of Richard 111, first performed in the Assembly Rooms Llandovery in 1977, and repeated 1985 in the Theatre.
There is a growing interest in Richard 111 since his bones were discovered in the Leicester Car Park, and there is now some interest in investigating who was actually responsible for the death of the Two Princes.  At the time of Battle of Bosworth, James Tyrell (the reputed murderer of the Princes) was Steward of Llandovery Castle,
and Richard 111 was ‘Lord of the manor of Llandovery’ and gave the town its first Royal Charter  – the second Royal Charter came from The Prince of Wales in 1985, who now has a home a few miles outside our town, a very special Royal link renewed!

Pages from the History of Llandovery – Volume One
When Simon was researching for his play, he and Jacky met with  A.T.Aber-Cooke – the Historian, indeed Mr Aber-Cooke wrote a review of Triple Dick, now alas lost! He was, at that time working on his magnum opus – Pages from the History of Llandovery and he told us Tyrell was Steward of Llandovery Castle. We believe he gives more detailed information in Volume One of his ‘Pages’.  The Theatre has copy of Volume Two but not Volume One.  If anyone has a copy of Volume One,  and would be happy to loan it to us for a short while, we would be very grateful.

Poems of Love and Loss
Returning again the theme of Poetry, it is quite by chance that we are about to publish a small book of poems – Poems of Love and Loss – which should be available by National Poetry Day or very soon after!  Please watch the Llandovery Theatre Web page or our Face Book page for details and in the meantime, thank you for reading my ‘thoughts’ and do keep writing!
Horatio Nelson

More thoughts from my window sill…

Dear Friends,

I have been wondering!    It is not often that life echoes fiction, but it almost did, for us theatre folk, on June 8th!

Blind Choice OR Would you vote for a man who wore make-up?

Some years ago the youth Company at Llandovery Theatre performed one of our plays – Blind Choice or Would you vote for a man who wore make-up?  a political satire on the spin of politics.  An election is looming – and in order to appeal to the younger voter, the Conservative Party set up a TV programme complete with Spin Doctor and young ‘glamorous’ Agent, and present three young candidates – who are ‘grilled’ on their aims and beliefs.   At the end, the viewing audience vote, via their screens, as to which chap they would choose as Conservative candidate for Wandsworth West.

Hung Parliament!

Fate intervenes!  A young, unemployed man, Dan Death, wanders into the TV studio, and is mistakenly picked as one of the contestants.  The ‘count’ is rigged, so no-one organising intervenes to correct this, but when it comes to the voting, Dan wins, not by just a few votes, but by a million!

Fast Forward to the Election, the young maverick, resisting the make-overs and ‘grooming’ –  is still his own man, but at the Election count, the two major parties come in with exactly the same number of votes.  Three re-counts, and then the resolution is by the toss of a coin.

The final screen display at the end of the play states ‘HUNG PARLIAMENT!’

I don’t have a vote, being a mere cat.  And though I am not a sooth-sayer, I sometimes have ideas while sitting on my window-sill.  I suggest – as it is likely there could be another election within, say, the next year, you lose no time but go now to your sitting MP and make sure (whatever the party) that he or she is going to support, up to the hilt, the demands for more funding for the National Health and dementia care, and that university fees be abolished.  Add to these three, your needs for good access to primary and secondary schools, without asking children to travel hundreds of miles a week, this could and should be the responsibility of the County Councils.  So get onto them too!

Questions that need answers!

As I come to the end of my letter, news is flooding the airways of the terrible inferno at Grenfell Tower in London, with such a tragic loss of life, and reports maintaining that the cause of the spread of the fire was because the cladding on the exterior of the building was not fire retardant.  Are there tower blocks in Wales constructed using such cladding?  The answer may well be – YES!    All should be checked and dealt with today, now, without waiting for any Public Enquiry.

From my window sill

Dear Friends,
As the song goes – June is busting out all over…

This month of June, our team at Llandovery Theatre – our Trustees, Actors, Artists, Writers and Friends will be meeting to discuss and mull over plans for the coming year.

It was an evening of 1975 – Simon and Jacky Barnes were sitting in the kitchen in their house when there was a bang on the front door.  A very loud bang!  Opening it, they discovered four young men!  Was this a delegation from the Welsh free army, they wondered?!

The four lads entered the small kitchen – ‘Heard you are actors’ one said – ‘we’ve come to ask if you would consider directing us – the Llandovery Young Farmers –  in the All Wales YFC drama competition?’  (So not the Welsh free army!)

The play chosen that night was OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR, the brilliant anti-war script from Joan Littlewood’s Theatre in Stratford East, London – Theatre Workshop – later made into a film, directed by Richard Attenborough.  For the Llandovery Theatre Company it was the start of work with community and youth drama projects that would last over 40 years!

Llandovery Theatre Company
We are here to support and develop your performance dreams.  We work in a building, recently described in a Review on Amazon of What Country Friends is This? as ‘possibly the most beautiful small Theatre and Arts Centre in the kingdom’.  Yes, it is beautiful – it is your Theatre, it is a Theatre for everyone!

Interested?  Like to be involved?

Follow us on the Llandovery Theatre Face Book, or Theatre Web Page, and contact us to let us know your ‘dreams’.

Read all about us!

What Country Friends is this? is the Theatrical Memoir of Simon and Jacky Barnes, and the building of the Llandovery Theatre. It is available via Amazon, in paperback and ebook.

Find out about us!  It is a good read for a summer afternoon!

Horatio Nelson

P.S.  This picture is of me sitting in a deckchair being photographed – somewhat against my will.  I was a very inexperienced young cat in those days, and not yet used to ‘theatricals’.


From my window sill

Kind friends,

The adventures and misadventures of being a writer are numerous.  I know, because my Thespian writes books as well as plays and has just published her first novel, and we were expecting to receive the first shipment from the USA (that is where the book is printed).  We are given the date of arrival, and I am alert on my window sill to advise her when I hear the van arrive.  It was a long wait, a very long wait, and to tell the truth I was exhausted with watching and waiting, and the wait continued for the next four days – nothing arrived.  Where was her ‘child’ she kept asking!  4th day contact with USA revealed that the shipment was untraceable – lost!

Jacky was not best pleased.  She began to talk of hi-jack and that the Americans didn’t know where Wales was. and had probably sent her novel to Patagonia!  We were now to await another shipment, and I was back on my window sill as ‘look out’ while Jacky paced the house muttering unprintable oaths against all carriers of books. Clearly she was now convinced it was a conspiracy.  Maybe Donald Trump had issued an edict that all newly published books leaving the States should be scrutinised for any un-American dialogue!  A title with the words ‘vigil’ and ‘death’ and ‘innocence’ was probably the trigger for suspicion.  But the book is a ‘peace’ novel, and anti-war – and the title page has an image of an ivy crucifixion – (detail from Simon Barnes’ painting in the Theatre Art Gallery).  By now she was quite paranoid, and I had to give her a good talking to, advising patience.

Seven more days, and the second shipment arrived.  She greeted the carrier with some suspicion, but he was friendly enough, saying she was known to him as ‘the book lady’. Well that’s a new title for her for sure, though as she had never met this carrier before – it did seem strange to both of us!  However, we now have copies of  VIGIL FOR THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE and can confidently announce that it is available in paperback or as an ebook via Amazon, or via Jacky if you can get her to part with any of them.



Jaqueline Harrison Barnes 

HE was a soldier, had fought in wars, had killed, yet he had the gift of healing.
HE was a doctor, trained to heal, to save life yet failed in the one great test.

TWO MEN from different worlds, one black, one white, collide in a car crash.
At that precise moment, as their two lives are irrevocably intertwined,
the security cameras in the Tower of London, watching the Royal Regalia, show
an image of a circlet of thorns beside the Royal Crown – and start to send out to
the world, messages of love and pleas for peace that cannot be stopped.

A political adventure! A weak and bankrupt Government intent on unleashing the ‘dogs of war’ versus a small group of ‘innocents’ who cross their path with a miracle. 

Horatio Nelson says: please go to the Llandovery Theatre Facebook Page or Llandovery Theatre web page for all information on new writing and publications.


Celebration launch of the Theatre Memoir – “What Country Friends is This”

Dear Friends and Theatre lovers,

Lwcfit Coverlandovery Theatre Trustees and Actors are proud to announce the celebration launch and publication of the Theatre Memoir – WHAT COUNTRY FRIENDS IS THIS?  It tells of the theatrical adventures of Simon and Jacky Barnes, the building of the Llandovery Theatre and the 35 years of creative work produced here with children, community and professional actors.

The date:   Saturday September 17th

The time:   1.30 for 2 p.m.

The place: On stage at Llandovery Theatre
with the author Jacky Barnes and fellow Trustees 

If you have been part of the Llandovery Theatre Company, you are certain to find yourself in this Memoir; if you are new to our Town, and would like to hear our story, then Saturday, September 17th is the day for you to make your first visit and discover the past, the  present and the future of our lovely Theatre.

Contact us by email or via the Llandovery Theatre web site messages, and let us know if you would like to join us for the celebration, publication and launch of  What Country Friends is this?

I, as Theatre cat, have great hopes for the future success of this book and our beautiful Theatre, and look forward to meeting up with old friends, and welcoming many new ones.

Horatio Nelson  Theatre Cat


Seeking Past Members of the Llandovery Theatre Company

Dear Friends and Theatre Lovers,

Are you now, or have you ever been in a Llandovery Theatre Company youth, community or professional performance or drama workshop under the direction of Simon and Jacky Barnes – 1975 to 2006?

Were you one of the Llandovery Young Farmers who toured with us to Aberystwyth, through snow and blizzards to reach the Theatre for a performance of Dick Whittington just 3 minutes before curtain up?  Did you also act in Under Milk Wood and Oh What a Lovely War? Were you in the Roald Dahl Literacy and drama workshops in 1997/78? Did you perform in David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop, Jane Eyre, Ring of Roses, The Pied Piper – at the Llandovery Theatre and Festivals?

Did you attend evening drama workshops with Simon and Jacky, and perform in numerous pantomimes, starting with a musical play Long Live Love? Did you perform in Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew?

Did you help us decorate the Art Gallery naming it The Anne Marie Griffiths Gallery? And most importantly, were you one of the workers who helped us build the theatre 1975 – 1996?

If you were any one of these amazing people, then you are most cordially invited to join us on Saturday September 17th, to help us launch the Theatre Memoir …

WHAT COUNTRY FRIENDS IS THIS? for you will almost certainly find you are included in this most remarkable Theatrical Journey.

I, Horatio Nelson, am myself part of WHAT COUNTRY FRIENDS IS THIS? and also responsible for writing the foreword to the book, so I am able to fully recommend this intriguing and fascinating tale – it is both a love story and a theatrical adventure.

Sincerely – Horatio Nelson

Thoughts from my window-sill!

Dear Friends and Theatre Lovers,

Our chief Thespian is away at present, gallivanting no doubt; so I am writing this entirely on my own. without her looking over my shoulder and trying to manoeuvre the mouse!

We have some splendid plans ahead.  We will be giving readings from Simon’s book: Darkly Flows the Taffand plan to record it.  The reader is James Parry Jones – ex Llandovery College scholar and he played Mercutio in our 1981 Youth Production of Romeo and Juliet, which  also performed at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff.

Then in September we will publish –What Country Friends is this? It is the Theatre memoir of Simon and Jacky Barnes, who founded and ran Llandovery Theatre together for 35 years.

Evening of November 12th.  We are producing a programme of poetry, song and performance Memories of War – timing it as a tribute to those who took part or experienced World War 1 and World War 2.

Do put this date in your diary!

And please remember that every last Friday in the month, the Heart Support Group meets at the Theatre, 2 – 4 p.m. in the coffee lounge,  As the song says: Anyone who has a heart – is welcome to join us.

I wish all a sunny summer, and may only lucky black cats cross your path!

Horatio Nelson, Theatre Cat.  

Theatre Cat supports the saving of the tiny hedgehog…

Dear Friends and poetry lovers,

I write, today, of poetry!  Sometimes, a poem can speak straight to the heart., and I found this poem – on my window-sill – and thought you might like to read it – it has no title!

This tiny creature –
living amongst leaves in the garden, wandered into the night – adventure seeking, looking for a life-time friend perhaps – something, indeed, all creatures need.

But, man is wild, and in the night rides his horse-power furious fast with lights ablaze that dazzle a slow moving creature, so it knows not which way to turn to escape death.

Someone tried to help – they wrote a booklet
so people could read how best to support and save these creatures from an early death.
But, a big mistake was made!

They wrote the booklet in English
and the powers that rule our lives and tell us what we must think and how we must speak refused to allow the distribution of this book from their National Parks – because this is Wales, and Assembly decrees:
Words writ on paper must be Bi-lingual
and in Welsh.

Better to suppress distribution of this English language booklet, than support the endeavour to save the lives of a threatened species –
the tiny hedgehog!

I puzzle again and again at the decisions of these politicians and search in vain for any signs of a heart!

Horatio Nelson – Thoughts from my window sill


Wonderful news: DARKLY FLOWS THE TAFF by Simon Barnes has been given ‘Royal assent!

Richard Booth, King of Hay, read Simon’s book at Christmas, then read it to his wife Hope. who is blind, and they both loved it.  Hope then wrote a splendid review of the book, and sent it to us – here it is:

‘I am blind, so my husband very kindly read this witty and amusing book to me.  Rupert Courtney Morgan is sent by his boss, the Head of the Department of Industrial Espionage, from London to Wales, to investigate the death of a colleague, who has been found dead in his car on the Brecon Beacons.  This is the first mission that Rupert has ever been sent on, so determined to succeed, he decides to emulate James Bond, but unfortunately has none of the gadgets or glamorous women to help him.  Sometimes I laughed out loud.

As the book develops he meets the Tafia (The Welsh Mafia) and members of the Arts Council for Wales who, as the book progresses, become increasingly ridiculous, greedy and malevolent.  Is there a message here? 

Will the SAS be able to help him?

I thoroughly recommend this light-hearted, humorous and well-written murder mystery, and very much hope it goes into an Audio Edition so that other blind people can enjoy it.  Hope Booth.

In addition, Richard Booth, King of Hay, has declared DARKLY FLOWS THE TAFF will be the ‘lead book’ at the King of Hay Bookshop in Castle Street, from now throughout the Spring and Summer, so will be an additional joy to visitors to the Hay-on-Wye famous bookshop town.

Our dream is now to produce the audio book of DARKLY FLOWS THE TAFF,  as Hope has suggested, so if you buy a copy of the paperback – you will not just be having a wonderful read, you will be giving us the means to get this audio produced.

As a cat with one eye only, it would make me very happy to hear Simon’s book being read, while I watch from my window-sill the Winter turn to Spring.

For more wonderful comments on the book, go to Llandovery Theatre web Page and Face Book. Happy reading, and may only lucky black cats cross your path.

Horatio Nelson, Theatre Cat.
Thoughts from my window-sill. 

Darkly Flows the Taff  is now available from The King of Hay Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye and from Amazon.