Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mad Dog

There can never be too much Welsh chauvinism in the world.

That Sir Howard Springer is the Welsh born chairman of Sony I will grant you, but shouldn't there have been a Welsh chairman earlier?

I also raised a quizzical eyebrow when I heard that Nobuyuki Idei - the previous incumbent - had remarked that "Sir Howard had retained his Welsh sense of humour".

Japanese executives were studying how to understand his jokes, he said - "but Welsh humour is very difficult to understand."

In truth, he may rest assured that, given Saturday's 5-1 drubbing by Slovakia, Welsh humour is actually in abeyance at the moment.

So - for those in need of solace - I offer this balm:

Whilst it was generally believed that Columbus was the first European to discover America in 1492, it is now well known that Viking explorers reached parts of the east coast of Canada around 1100 and that Norwegian Leif Erikson's Vinland may have been an area that is now part of the United States. What is less known is that a Welshman may have followed in Erikson's footsteps, this time bringing settlers with him.

According to Welsh legend, that man was Prince Madog ab Owain Gwynedd.

A Welsh poem of the 15th century tells how Prince Madoc sailed away in 10 ships and discovered America. The account of the discovery of America by a Welsh prince, whether truth or myth, was apparently used by Queen Elizabeth I as evidence to the British claim to America during its territorial struggles with Spain. So who was this Welsh Prince and did he really discover America before Columbus?

Owain Gwynedd, king of Gwynedd in the 12th century, had nineteen children, only six of whom were legitimate. Madog (Madoc), one of the bastard sons, was born at Dolwyddelan Castle in the Lledr valley between Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog.

On the death of the King in December 1169, the brothers fought amongst themselves for the right to rule Gwynedd. Madog, although brave and adventurous, was also a man of peace. In 1170 he and his brother, Riryd, sailed from Aber-Kerrik-Gwynan on the North Wales Coast (now Rhos-on-Sea) in two ships, the Gorn Gwynant and the Pedr Sant. They sailed west and landed in what is now Alabama in the USA.

Prince Madog then returned to Wales with great tales of his adventures and persuaded others to return to America with him. They sailed from Lundy Island in 1171 and were never heard of again.

They are believed to have landed at Mobile Bay, Alabama and then travelled up the Alabama river along which there are several stone forts, said by the local Cherokee Indians to have been constructed by "White People". These structures have been dated to several hundred years before Columbus and are of a similar design to Dolwyddelan Castle in North Wales. Were they built by Madog and his fellow settlers?

Early explorers and pioneers found evidence of Welsh influence among the tribes of Indians along the Tennessee and Missouri Rivers. In the 18th century an Indian tribe was discovered that seemed different to all the others that had been encountered before. Called the Mandans this tribe were described as white men with forts, towns and permanent villages laid out in streets and squares. They claimed ancestry with the Welsh and spoke a language remarkably similar to it. They fished with coracles, a type of boat still used in Wales today. It was also observed that unlike members of other tribes, these people grew white-haired with age. In addition, in 1799 Governor John Sevier of Tennessee wrote a report in which he mentioned the discovery of six skeletons encased in brass armour bearing the Welsh coat of arms.

George Catlin, a 19th century painter who spent eight years living among various Indian tribes including the Mandans, declared that he had uncovered the descendants of Prince Madog's expedition. He speculated that the Welshmen had lived among the Mandans for generations, intermarrying until their two cultures became virtually indistinguishable. Some later investigators supported his theory, noting that the Welsh and Mandan languages were so similar that the Mandans easily responded when spoken to in Welsh.
I've got a new song for us to sing in the Millenium Stadium boyos:
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you

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