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Fact About Wales and the Welsh

19. Thanks to a Welshman, Britain has no Death Penalty.
On February 17, 1956, the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, after a long and often acrimonious debate, voted to abolish the Death Penalty. Eventhough post war crime rates had been soaring and a new criminal element, not averse to the use of murder as a weapon, was surfacing in British cities. Parliament had been heavily influenced by a single book arguing against the Death Penalty, even for heinous crimes. Michael Eddowes, a well-known criminal lawyer, wrote the book, The Man in Your Conscience. Its subject was a Welshman who, the author argued had been wrongly hanged for murder.

Timothy Evans was born in Merthyr Vale, South Wales, in 1924. He could not read or write and had trouble finding employment. Moving to London with his wife to try to better their lives, he had the misfortune to seek lodging at 10 Rillington Place, North Kensington, an address that was later to become one of the most infamous in the annals of British crime. This was the home of John Reginald Christie.

The police picked up Mr. Christie as he walked over one of the Thames' bridges one calm day in the summer of 1953. Quiet, unassuming, looking more like a timid bank clerk than one of the biggest mass murderers in British history, Christie had been the subject of a massive manhunt after body after female body had been found in his house in Rillington Place. Three years earlier, Mr. Evans had been hanged on a charge of strangling his wife at the same address. He had bitterly protested his innocence. When Christie eventually came to trial, he confessed to murdering poor Mr. Evans's wife, one of the victims he had lured into having sex before strangling.

After Christie's execution on July 15, 1953, the Evans case was raised in fierce debate in the House of Commons. Abolitionists saw in the case their great hopes from success in getting rid of Britain's Death Penalty, but a parliamentary inquiry; "The Scott Henderson Report" stated that there were no grounds for believing that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in the Evans case. Many considered it a whitewash. A second debate was then called for. It was then that the bombshell of the book appeared. The publication of The Man in Your Conscience began a crusade for justice. The amendment to abolish the Death Penalty was carried by a majority of 31 votes. It has never been restored in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sadly, the bill came too late to save the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Ruth Elis, born in Rhyl, North Wales, had been executed in 1955 for fatally shooting her lover, racing driver David Blakey.

20. The names of three geological divisions are derived from Wales.
The three oldest geological divisions in the Paleozoic era, the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian, are derived from the Latin name for Wales (Cambria) and for Celtic tribes living in Wales during the Roman invasions (the Silures and Ordovices). Eocks and fossils of the first period of the Paleozoic era are found in Wales, the little, mountainous country is one of the oldest geological regions on the planet.

21. The largest Iron-Age fort in Northwestern Europe is in Wales.
On the slopes of a mountain named Yr Eifl (the forks) in the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, overlooking the Irish Sea is the largest Iron Age fort in northwest Europe, Tre'r Ceiri (town of giants). At a height of 400 metres above sea level, the settlement has considerable remains of a 150 stone huts constructed some time around 200 BC, but still occupied at the time of the Roman invasions of Britain some 300 years later. The stone wall surrounding the fort is still as high as four metres in parts. You can reach it via the village of Llithfaen, on the road to Nefyn on the Llyn Peninsular, North Wales. From the fort, easily reached after a relatively easy climb, you can experience one of the finest views in the country, a stunning vista encompassing Snowdonia to the east and the tip of Wales, Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) and the sea to the west.

22. A Welshman translated the first account of the New World.
On Sebastian Cabot's second voyage to the Americas in 1526, he had a Welshman aboard, Roger Barlow of Slebech, Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Barlow translated the Spanish Suma de Geographi, the first account of the New World to appear in the English Language. Sebastian was the son of John Cabot whose voyages to Newfoundland (and possibly the subsequent naming of America) are mentioned in Fact three above.

23. The world's longest name of any railroad station is on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales.
Though trains do not stop there any more, thanks to the drastic curtailment of British rail services in the 1960's, and the village is now by-passed by the main highway to the port of Holyhead, the railway station at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantisiliogogogoch continues to draw a stream of visitors daily. The tiny village now hosts a large store (Pringles) selling mostly woolen goods and souvenirs (including platform tickets imprinted with the station name). Translated, the name reads: the Church of Mary in a white hollow by a hazel tree near a rapid whirlpool by the church of St. Tisilio by a red cave. You can use the short form of the name on your letters to the village: "Llanfairpwllgwyngyll" or simply "Llanfair P.G."

24. Welshmen invented two important mathematical symbols.
It is not generally known that the symbols for equality (=) and the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (pi) came from the imaginative minds of two Welshmen. First was Robert Recorde, of Tenby, Pembrokeshire, who invented the mathematical sign for equality around the year 1550. Recorde was physician to King Edward VI and Queen Mary. He first introduced algebra to Britain, and for the equal sign he proposed the use of "a paire of paralleles, or [twin] lines of one length because no two lines can be moare equalle." Math may be the bane of schoolchildren throughout the world, but can you imagine their struggles with the intricacies of arithmetic without having this symbol?

The second Welsh mathematical genius was William Jones, born in a small village in Anglesey with the delightful name of Llanfihangel Tre'r Beirdd (Church of St. Michael, Town of the Bards). He is credited for being the first to use the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, (pi), to represent the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Pi appears as a constant in a wide range of mathematical problems. Like the equal sign, however, just what would we do without it?

25. Welshmen founded three of the world's leading universities.
It was not only Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut that owes its existence to a Welshman, but also Brown University in Rhode Island and Beijing University in China. Elihu Yale, the main benefactor of Yale University, was the son of Welsh immigrant parents in Boston. He is buried in the churchyard of Wrexham Parish Church, not too many miles from the family seat at Plas yn Ial, Denbighshire. Joint founder of Brown University was Morgan Edwards, who came from Pontypool, Glamorgan and who is buried in Delaware. Lastly, Beijing University grew out of the city's language school set up in 1869 by missionary Hopkin Rees, from Cwmafan, Glamorgan.

26. Wales is the most important sheep raising area in Europe.
Despite its small size, only a fraction over 8,000 sq. miles (slightly larger than the state of New Jersey), and with a population just under 3,000,000, Wales raises more sheep than any other area in Europe. Its 11,000,000 sheep represent about 15 percent of the sheep in the European Community. Because of the relatively poor soil of much of the land and high rainfall, about 80 percent of Wales is designated as "less favored areas" by the European Community. The conditions, however, are ideal for the raising of sheep. Especially famous is Berwyn Lamb, a succulent delicacy raised on the lush, green pastures of the Berwyn Mountains.

Metal grids to prevent the sheep from trespassing are found on main roads and country lanes throughout the country. A legend has grown up about a famous sheep in Merthyr Tydfil who taught her offspring to conquer their fear of the thin metal bars in the grids by rolling over them! Countless townspeople swear to the veracity of this event, though an equal number of reporters have failed to witness it.

27. The world's first mail order shopping began in Newtown, Wales.
Some time in 1859, astute businessman Pryce Pryce-Jones, of Newtown, Montgomeryshire (Powys) began to cater to the needs of many of his rural customers by offering goods for sale through the mail. Many of the area's farmers lived in isolated valleys or in mountain terrain and had little time or suitable transportation to come into town for their many needs. The Pryce Jones Mail Order business was the perfect answer, especially since the Post Office reforms of the 1840's had made the mail service cheap and reliable. The Newtown Warehouses, packed with goods, began a service that quickly caught on in the United States, with its even greater distances and scattered population. As we all know only too well from our mailboxes ever bulging with catalogs, mail order shopping was here to stay.<

28. A Welshman was the last Briton to die in WW I.
On Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, Able Seaman Richard Morgan of Devauden, Gwent (Monmouthshire) died while serving on HMS Garland. He thus became the last British serviceman to die in the World War I and the last of 40,000 Welshmen who lost their lives in the fighting.

More Facts About Wales & the Welsh

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