The Penclawdd Cockles of Wales

Feb 28, 2017 by

In Wales, one of the oldest occupations found along the coastline is cockle gathering, a task which archaeological evidence suggests dates back to at least the Roman era.  

Penclawdd (pronounced Pen-clawth),  a seaside village in Swansea, Wales, on the Gower Penninsula, is renowned for its local cockle industry.  The Welsh clams are collected from the extensive sandy flats in the Burry Estuary and then sold worldwide as the famous “Penclawdd [or Gower] cockles.”

Cockles are small saltwater clams widely used in cooking  throughout the world, but are especially popular in Wales. 

  Here’s an unusual bit of trivia to impress your friends: In England and Wales, Magna Carta grants every citizen the right to collect up to eight pounds of cockles from the foreshore; pickers wishing to collect more than eight pounds are deemed to be engaging in commercial fishing and are required to obtain a permit from the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.   To see what happens when cockle pickers get greedy, read this BBC story.

Though small and humble, cockles have had more than a mere fifteen minutes of fame.  In a popular song that has become the unofficial anthem for Dublin, Ireland,  a tune also covered by U2,  sweet Molly Malone wheels her barrow through the streets of Dublin, crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!”    If you feel deeply contented by something, that thing (often a good quality whisky or beer) is said  “to warm the cockles” of your heart, although I’m fairly certain there are no cockle valves in the human heart.   

Even gardeners, such as the famously contrary Mistress Mary,  have a history with cockles, sometimes using the ridged shells as edging and soil conditioners in their gardens.

 

Samples of these famous cockles can be purchased at the stalls in Swansea Market and locally in the village itself.  The Penclawdd cockles are also shipped worldwide for fans of this tasty Welsh seafood. 

Penclawdd cockles for sale.

Penclawdd cockles for sale. Image by Scott Dexter

Laverbread made with Penclawdd cockles from Gower.

Laverbread made with Penclawdd cockles from Gower. Image by Smylers.

If you travel to Wales and ask for a full Welsh breakfast, you are likely to get cockles fried in bacon fat alongside your eggs and laverbread cakesCockle pie is a traditional Welsh dish and quite tasty–click HERE for a recipe to try.  

From the mid 19th century up until the 1970s in Wales, the cockles were gathered by women using hand-rakes and riddles (coarse sieves) with the help of donkey carts, often braving very hard conditions.

Some women set up stalls at local markets, while other women sold their harvest door to door. Cockles, boiled and removed from their shells (cocs rhython), were usually carried in a wooden pail, balanced on the vendor’s head, while the untreated variety (cocs cregyn) were carried in a large basket on the arm.

Now they are harvested mostly by men, still by hand, but using tractors or Land Rovers instead of little donkeys. The original small, family-owned factories in Penclawdd have been demolished and cockles are now processed in two large, modern factories in the nearby village of Crofty; the product is largely exported to continental Europe.

Sources:  For more history about the cockle women of Wales, try this wonderful blog post that has many vintage pictures of Welsh women gathering the cockle  harvest.

More stories about harvesting cockles are HERE and HERE, and more info about Penclawdd is available on Wikipedia  and on the Gower website.

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Celtic Shock And Awe, With KILTS

Aug 16, 2014 by

Celtic shock and awe, using kilts, is usually a winning tactical move. Whether on ancient battlefields of old or in modern sports arenas, kilts have always provided maximum impact.

 

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Shock and awe, Celtic style

Just how effective is this type of Scottish “regimental” campaign on the field of battle? William Lawson’s Scotch answers in a popular and funny video featuring a traditional Celtic war challenge in response to a Maori haka rugby dance:

 

 That takes the Celtic intimidation factor to a whole ‘nuther level, ye ken.

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It’s Not Always Scotland

Jul 22, 2014 by

 

During my frequent travels through the internet world, fulfilling my mission to explore strange Celtic worlds, to seek new Celtic life and civilization, etc., etc., I sometimes see pictures that are mistakenly identified and shared–over and over again–as “Scotland”.

SPOILER ALERT: Despite what you may have heard, the things you see on the net are not always true or correct.

Where in the world is this castle tower? Image source

Where in the world is this castle tower? Image source

Take, for example, this lovely photo of a castle tower in a remote loch–it’s misty, it’s romantic, it’s magical, so it must be in Scotland, right?

Nope.

While the scene is perhaps reminiscent of beautiful Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands of Scotland, this tiny tower is dollhouse size by comparison.   It’s actually a folly tower (meaning it’s merely ornamental) set in the magnificent gardens of Pena National Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Sintra, Portugal.  Northern Portugal has a strong Celtic heritage, so at least the confused captioner is keeping it in the family, so to speak.   The “castle” is one of two such structures that are home to the park’s elegant swans and ducks, which sometimes sit at the base of the towers, preening their feathers for the tourists.

The Pena Palace Duck houses  Image source

The Pena Palace Duck houses Image source

 Photos are often shared as is, with the sharer unaware of the mistaken identity of the photo.  It happens to the best of us, usually with no one the wiser and no harm done.  Honestly, I do understand why the first picture above  has been repeatedly misidentified as a Scottish scene, but the research geek in me just has to set the record straight— for posterity, ye ken. 

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A Romantic Scotsman– Honestly!

Jul 12, 2014 by

We all know Scottish men can be charming, but are they also romantic?  I’m not sure who wrote this silly love poem, but it may  shed a wee bit of insight on what Scottish men consider “romantic” behavior.


A Scottish Love Poem

A’ course ah love ye darlin’

Ye’re a bluidy top notch burd

An’ when ah say yer gorgeous

Ah mean every single wurd

So yer bum is oan the big side

Ah don’t mind a bit o’ flab

It means that when I’m ready

There’s sumthin’ there tae grab

So yer belly isny flat nae merr

Ah tell ye, ah don’t care

So long as when ah cuddle ye

Ah kin get ma erms roon’ therr

Nae wummin wha is yer age

Hiz nice roon’ perky breasts

They jist gave in tae gravity

But ah know ye did yer best

Ah’m tellin’ ye the trooth noo

Ah nivir tell ye lies

Ah think it’s very sexy

Ye’ve got dimples oan yer thighs

Ah sweer oan mah grannies grave noo

The moment that we met

Ah thocht ye wiz as guid as

Ah wiz goanie get

Nae metter whit ye look like

Ah’ll alwiz love ye dear

Noo, shut up while the fitba’s oan

An’ fetch anither beer!!

Source

Really, though–what DOES make Scottish men so popular with the ladies?  Craig Ferguson and James McAvoy explain:

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A Man, A Kilt And A Mastiff–‘Nuff Said

Jun 25, 2014 by

THE KILTED HOTTIE OF THE DAY

 

Roderick Klimek’s blog,  My Thoughts and My World, has much more than just photos of him in a kilt, though that may be enough for kilt inspectors.

He has compiled some wonderful, romantic,  funny and sassy quotes and pictures–enjoy!

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Waiting On Jamie Fraser

Jun 8, 2014 by

It’s been a while since I’ve done an update here on the new Outlander cable series from Starz, so I thought we could all do with another attempt to keep up with the Frasers.

I won’t rehash all the basics, but for those who don’t know yet  (been off the grid  for awhile, aye?), Outlander is based on a series of best-selling novels by author Diana Gabaldon.  It is a time travel/romance/historical fiction story set mostly in 18th century Scotland, and filmed almost entirely in 21st century Scotland.  I’ve done several posts about the upcoming series–click HERE, HERE and HERE to read some of my previous posts about Jamie and Claire Fraser and the world of Outlander.

 

The first episode of Outlander is set to debut at 9PM on August 9, 2014, and the countdown is making more than few fans crazy with excitement. Starz has just released a new trailer (above), perhaps to help keep the shouts of “Are we there YET?!” to a low roar.  There have also been additions to the “How To Speak Outlander” YouTube series, the newest being a Happy Birthday wish in Scots Gàidhlig from Sam Heughan:

In another installment, Dougal (Graham McTavish) and Colum (Gary Lewis) MacKenzie teach us how to shout the Mackenzie war cry, Tulach Àrd. It sounds a bit like “To the Car!”, which is a fitting battle cry  if you’re on the way to attend an Outlander fan gathering, but not so much if you’re a member of an ancient Highland clan about to rout the bloody English army.  Tulach Àrd is Gàidhlig for “High Hill” and refers to a mountain in the McKenzie clan heartland of Kintail, a region of the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.

 

Media coverage has greatly expanded in recent months, as news outlets see that global television executives are taking strongly positive views (i.e., putting their money where their mouths are) of  Starz’s  Outlander series. A recent article from TVWise predicts Outlander could be cable’s next global hit, and outlines five things driving the show’s success.  The crazy-like-a-fox  money analysts at The Motley Fool have also given a nod of approval to Outlander, noting that the show has an early August premier, which follows right on the heels of San Diego’s Comic-Con (a happy scheduling fact sure to give Outlander a tremendous publicity boost) and a large, worldwide fan base, all factors which give the show ” the ingredients to draw AMC or HBO-like numbers for an original series.”

 

 

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EW’s new issue features two pages of Outlander info from Ron Moore; image source:OutlanderItaly.com

 

According to Outlander TV News, always a great site for the latest Outlander news, the June 13th issue of Entertainment Weekly will feature a two page spread showing side-by-side comparisons between the scene from the book and the script for the scene in the TV series. Outlander Italy, another terrific fan page, has some scans (see above) of the article, with new photos of the love triangle at the center of the plot. Wowza!

The newest book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series

The newest book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series

 

The best way to pass the time til the premiere is by reading Diana Gabaldon’s newest book in the Outlander series, Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, (referred to as MOBY by fans) due out June 10, 2014. You can pre-order the book in any available format HERE on Amazon.   You can also read Diana’s thoughts about seeing–and hearing–the full Outlander Episode One for the first time by clicking HERE.

 

indexJAMIEWORTHWAIT

The bottom line, however, is this—we simply, frustratingly, must wait until the 9th of August.  Like Jamie Fraser himself, Starz and Ron Moore mean to take their time about it, working hard to produce an adaptation of Outlander that is faithful to the spirit of the book, full of swash and buckle, and so visually stunning it will leave us all asking for more.

As a longtime fan of Outlander, I say that’s a verra good thing to wait for, ye ken.

 

 

 

Places To Visit Before Going Through The Stones~ Sites I recommend to learn more or keep updated about Outlander, the book, the series and the fans:

 

DianaGabaldon.com

Starz’s Outlander page

Starz’s Official Outlander  Twitter page

The Outlander Podcast--chatting about all things Outlander, and having fun doing it!

My Outlander Purgatory–believe me, they FEEL your pain!

Outlander Kitchen–historical and character-inspired recipes from Diana’s books

WESCelt’s Outlander Pinterest board

WESCelt’s Outlander Facebook album

 

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Rob Roy Versus Jamie Fraser: Who Wears the Kilt Best?

Jun 8, 2014 by

I thought I’d give my Facebook followers a little fun by positing this simple question: Who wears the look best–Rob Roy in a kilt or Jamie Fraser in a kilt? The comparison was between the two pictures below–Rob (Liam Neeson) first, and Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the second picture.

Well, hoo whee, did that stir up the hens!  Click HERE to read some of the comments.

 

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor

 

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

For those of you who have never heard of Jamie Fraser,  some background is required.  James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, a  Highland warrior,  is the lead character in Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander, an historical romance set in Scotland in 1745 and right after World War II–yes, there is time travel involved, with ancient standing stones (not a blue police booth) as the portal.  Diana added  several subsequent novels to the series, which is extremely well written and chock full of historical facts and allusions.

 

You can buy any or all of Diana’s novels (in all formats) on my Amazon list of  her novels by clicking here.    It will be a good investment of both your time and money because the premium cable channel Starz is premiering  the first season of Outlander, the TV adaptation of the novels ( filmed on location in beautiful Scotland)  at 9PM on August 9, 2014.  Starz has been given approval for a second season  of Outlander, as well.

 

outlander_starz

 

Think Game of Thrones, with a Scottish setting, and you’ll be close to visualizing the  upcoming series that has fans shivering with antici…pation.   Sam Heughan, a  Scottish actor, has been chosen to play the critical role of Jamie Fraser, earning him thousands of devoted–and I do mean DEVOTED–fans throughout the  social media universe.

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Fans Reaction to Sam Heughan Tweeting the Word “Sassenach”

 

To be fair, Sam Heughan does look a bit more scruffy in his photo, but Starz has been dribbling out official photos of Jamie/Sam, releasing only a few of him in a kilt.  Here’s one that was tweeted by a Starz employee–a cut out of Jamie in a kilt, looking like he just finished a battle:

 

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The fans are VERY clear , however, on what they want from Starz and Ron D. Moore, who’s adapting the series for TV (his wife is a die-hard Outlander fan):

 

 

Liam Neeson, from Northern Ireland, is a well-known actor, and is highly regarded for his portrayal of the famous Scottish figure,  Rob Roy MacGregor.  Liam also has a serious fan base and it’s easy (on the eyes) to see why:

33liamneeson

Liam in the 1995 Film Rob Roy

But, clearly, there’s a new Scot in town, with dashing good looks, red hair and a kilt–in whatever shape– set on winning over more Sassenach wenches to the Fraser clan.

And in this instance, I’m thinking fans don’t want Jamie/Sam to take his time about it, aye?

 

Jamie Fraser; image source

Jamie Fraser; image source ©SRusso

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