Tuesday 13 October 2009

Any red-heads out there?

Again I will quote some lines from D Parry-Jones' book, "Welsh Country Upbringing".

"What a bewildering variety of physical characteristics the Welsh present! Of the exact origin of my father's and mother's stock, or type, anthropologists can offer no solution, beyond noting their prevalence in certain scattered localities throughout Wales. My father is a tall, straight, strongly-built, red-bearded man, hailing from a pocket of red-haired folk long established in the Hundred of Emlyn on the banks of the Teifi, round Newcastle Emlyn. In the earliest surveys and Court Rolls of that lordship the name "Gogh" (red) figures. His father was bigger than he and more red.

The origin, as well as the geographical distribution of the red-haired folk, has so far baffled students. Our greatest authority and pioneer in this branch of study is Dr H J Fleure, with whom I am inclined to agree that is is due to the crossing of a certain type of fair-haired people with a particular strain of dark people. Reflected under certain lights some dark hair will give out a sheen of brown. . . I was interested, in reading of another Celtic land, Cornwall, to come across the following: "In Cornwall, particularly the Land's End district, it is not advisable to dub a person 'A red-haired Dane'. The Celtic nations hated the Danes and were always fighting them and not only in Cornwall but all along our coasts where the Danes or Norsemen made their ravages." He speaks of there being little doubt that the Danes, Norsemen or Vikings - all more or less red-haired. On what evidence this is based I do not know. I should imagine that they would be more fair than red, still it finds confirmation in a remarkable fact that there still exists a chapel in Brecon Cathedral where the Normans worshipped, called 'Capel-y-Cohiaid' - the Chapel of the red-haired.

Nor must I forget the crimes of that nest of red-haired brigands which infested and terrorized the Lordship of Mawddwy in Merionethshire and which murdered, amongst others, the Sheriff, Baron Owen, in the year 1555. Baron Owen, with the help of a neighbouring squire determined to rid the neighbourhood of their presence, and one Christmas fell upon them and slew eighty of them. Amongst those captured was the youngest son of an aged mother, who pleaded tearfully for the life of this one to be spared, but without avail. When the pitiless Sheriff declared that he to must hang like the others, she bared her withered and yellow breasts before him, and said: 'These have given suck to those that will one day wash their hands in they life's blood.' And it was so! She knew her brood only too well. This must be the most dramatic incident in any court of law in Wales, and must have sent a shudder of disgust and horror through the whole court truly prophetic of the vengeance she foretold. As the Sheriff was one day returning past the scene of the slaughter, a tree fell across the road in front of him, and the red brigands rushed out and murdered him. Some of them did actually wash their hands in his blood and drank their revenge!"

Ooh, never cross a red-haired Welshman - you have been warned! All those famous redheads out there - from Eric the Red, through Napoleon, right up to Lucille Ball and Ginger Rogers from my youth - perhaps all have the same genetic roots.


  1. That's very interesting, as my husband (Irish) and myself (Welsh)both have a red tint to our brown hair and his beard grows through ginger! Kath

  2. Don't cross the red headed Irish - even those of us with with red dye in our hair... We can be very fierce!

  3. TPT & Kath: Oops! I'll be nice to you all, promise : ) : )

  4. I haven't really studied it, but my worldly experience tells me there are more true redheads (not just sandy colored) in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I've always thought of it as a true Celtic gene. I grew up in danish populated Yorkshire and there very few redheads up there. But what do I know? I'm no authority