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The Carmarthenshire Historian


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Booklet: Llangunnor
Author: Major Francis Jones
Reviewer: E.V. Jones (Editor)

The St Cynnwr Society. Price 5s.

By a fortunate conjunction in the literary firmament of local history, there appears as we go to press a newly published essay on the history of Llangunnor parish which is a noteworthy fulfilment of the wish expressed elsewhere in this issue that material should be put on record before it is lost or forgotten. Describing his essay as a contribution which draws attention to some sources available, Major Francis Jones states his own fears and hopes that the task of compiling a full history will be undertaken " before the rapidly changing conditions of our times overshadow the older way of life".

But this contribution is more than a reference to sources; it is a literary creation in its own right, written in a style that will delight the general reader as well as the specialist whose cardinal considerations are accuracy and scholarship, though both of these are seals to this fascinating treatise. As one has learnt to expect from Major Francis Jones, it is a well constructed piece of work, assembled and fashioned with care and art.

The author has done his work diligently. In the fields of inquiry which include the records of church and chapel, school and charity, farm and mansion his deserved harvest is abundant, albeit the product of painstaking gleaning. Under his scrutiny, terse registers become books of revelation about social and economic conditions and the struggling birth of religious and scholastic institutions; wherein unfamiliar surnames betray the immigrant lead-miners and even a deleted word signifies a thwarted social aspiration in days when every man was required to know his station.

The physical parish, too, has been viewed with searching eye for traces of its forebears from primitive and Roman times down through the ages of the saint and the prince and the Norman intruder. From place-names he has extracted a story which rivals that of the parish registers, but many will share his regret over the desuetude of meaningful names, at least one of which has yielded to an uninspired replacement. To his skill as an historian the author has added his incomparable knowledge of genealogy in writing about the parish's old houses and some of the people associated with them; the result is a chapter full of interest and not a little romance in a truly historical sense, but perhaps most thrilling is the account of the author's researches concerning the vanished mansion of Cystanog, which cannot fail to excite the reader.

Altogether, this is an essay of sustained scholarship which combines fact and interpretation with eminent success, and it must surely remain not only an indispensable source reference for the later historian, but a model for those who aspire towards repeating Major Francis Jones's example elsewhere. Originally prepared for a lecture to The St Cynnwr Society, it is proper that the material should have been set down in print and the society deserve the highest commendation for undertaking the task of bringing it forth for the enjoyment of a wider public.
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