Monday, 18 March 2019

Omnibot’s Robot Root-Out: Garbage Pail Kids

“...Deep under Arfon’s studio lies an extensive collection of random artefacts thirty years in the making. His robotic assistant Omnibot has been assigned the mammoth task of excavating the collection. What will Omnibot uncover today...!”

While I’ve been promoting my new Glow- In the Dark Monster StickerClub Omnibot has been doing his bit to raise funds for the studio and discovered another curio from the  80’s... Garbage Pail Kids!
There cards/stickers are probably the earliest things I can remember obsessively collecting they were disgusting and my mother didn’t approve of them so naturally I had to have them!  You might even say they en-Grossed me... First produced by the trading card company Topps in 1985 based on an idea by cartoonist Art Spiegelman these cards served as a parody of the phenomenally successful Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that to say were all the rage would be an understatement!  For those of you that weren’t there at the time and unaware of Garbage Pail Kids they were essentially cards that featured Cabbage Patch dolls either deformed, as monsters or just being anarchic, smoking, vomiting and picking noses (but in humorous ways and beautifully painted!) As kids we would share them amongst ourselves and comment on how disgusting they were- each one had a different name (condemning any unfortunate child that happen to share the same name as one of the cards to having to live with that nickname) they even had ‘humorous’ licenses and certificates you could give your friends on the back!  

Seeing these cards again brought it all back to me, how I would scrimp together what money I could find and run down to our newsagents to buy new packs. One such day I noticed some older kids hanging around some garages we had near us, because I had numerous run-ins with these bullies in the past and had no intention of encountering them again I picked up the pace, ignoring their name calling. Thankfully they didn’t pursue, this was because they were preoccupied by another kid my age that had a pile of Garbage Pail Kids on him and these older kids were looking through them. I bought my cards and made my way home worried that those kids were still there and as I reached the garages I was delighted to find that the bullies (and kid) were nowhere in sight. It is at this point I learned that even at the age of 7 I had some understanding of the mind of a bully! Following a hunch, knowing that these lads were effectively ‘gits’ I peered through a crack in the garage door and sure enough on the floor within was a pile of Garbage Pail Kids all over the floor! The bullies had taken the kid’s cards and thrown them into this garage! It was at this point that I looked for a branch and proceeded to pull as many of the cards back towards me, collecting quite a haul! Now I’m not sure if this made me a child physiologist or a petty opportunistic thief (you decide!) but I was very pleased with myself, I had amassed the entire run of the Garbage Pail Kids cards by using my head and for the first time ever I actually benefited from bulling (actually the more I think about it this was all wrong wasn’t it?!) but anyway moving swiftly on I would spend hours looking through my collection committing them to memory (more so if they were the ones my mother thought were disguising! 

34 year old bubblegum... 
The cards, Art Spiegelman along with fellow cartoonist Mark Newgarden worked together as the editors and art directors on the cards with artist John Pound producing the art itself. 15 individual series of cards were produced through to 1988 even producing various other spin off products such as sweets, badges and poster books. There was even a live-action movie based on some of the characters (often considered to be one of the worst films ever made... not by me!) and an unaired animated TV series – however the card series lost its momentum somewhat when they yielded to a lawsuit with Coleco, the makers of Cabbage Patch Kids who sued for trademark infringement.  Now no longer looking like the original cards, kids lost interest and the series ended (Trying it one more time in 1992, this time going after the Norfin Trolls craze and creating the short lived Trash Can Trolls series) it seemed like the cards were just a distant memory until 2003,when  Topps reintroduced Garbage Pail Kids with all-new artwork in their ‘All-New Series’ and they have been producing new cards to this day- but those original first three series will always have a special place in my heart, I am confident that they played a big part in making me the well rounded monster obsessed, gross toy collector and artistic individual you see today! 
Did you collect them? Can you remember your favorites? ‘Got any swaps? If you sold yours and want to start collecting them again check out our eBay page and pick up a few! By buying from our eBay shop you are supporting my work! If you have any questions get in touch and Omnibot will endeavor to help you!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Join Arfon’s Glow- in- the- Dark Monster Sticker Club!

Sticker #1 A Killer Shrew!
Well, the Women in Horror Art Show has ended, so it’s on to my next venture.... Patreon!
Aside from working on the commissions I have, I am also working on numerous projects of my own, specifically a self published book of 30 individual paintings devoted to monster/ horror related nostalgia from 1980’s and 90’s that I hope to launch at my very own solo art show at the end of the year! It’s a lot of work but I believe in it and I want to make it happen- but it’s not easy and for some time now I’ve been told I should try Patreon, as it helps artists receive additional funding from people who enjoy or admire their work and I’ve wrestled with this for some time, worrying that it might be seen as a form of “e-begging” however, the argument was made that Patronage is how artists used to do this ‘back in the day’ so I thought “why not?” But I must confess what ‘sold’ the idea for me was that Patreon is laid out in such a way that allows creators to provide exclusive content for their subscribers or "patrons” like a sort of mini club if you will, and this interests me greatly!  The other thing that appealed to me is that this presents me with the opportunity to create a unique product for those who kindly support my work; rewarding their generosity, so today I am launching  Arfon’s Glow- in- the- Dark Monster Sticker Club!

They really do glow- in- the- dark! 
So, for a minimum  donation of £3 (Patron is an American site so it’s listed as $3.99) ) or more a month you will be enrolled in my Glow- in- the- Dark Monster Sticker Club and receive a new/ exclusively created glow in the dark sticker each month as a thank you for your support! Not only that but your membership entitles you to prize draws, project updates, exclusive behind the scenes content and the opportunity to nominate next month’s sticker allowing you to be a part of a community and not forgetting that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you are supporting me and my work!
Each vinyl sticker (measuring 100mm x 50mm) will be numbered and will feature a design that harks back to classic monster stickers of the past.  Created by yours truly,  they really do Glow- in- the- Dark! Suitable for sticking on things or just collecting, your collection will grow each month, I want this to be a fun venture and I hope you will join me by showing your support!
Not for you? Fair enough perhaps you will bring this to the attention of someone that might? 
Thanks in advance!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Happy Horror-day! My Bloody Valentine (1981)

With a box of unfinished Valentine’s Day chocolates I once again embarked on my challenge to watch a holiday based horror movie on the days they are set, this time round ... what else? But My Bloody Valentine from 1981! Directed by George Mihalka and written by John Beaird the film was shot on location in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia and released theatrically in North America on Valentine's Day.
The mining town of Valentine Bluffs has lifted its twenty year suspension of their traditional Valentine's Day dance to the delight of the town’s young folk, the reason for this 20 year hiatus? Two supervisors left several miners in the mines in favour of attending the dance, neglecting to check methane gas levels results in an explosion that traps the miners for six weeks, only one of them survived one Harry Warden whom resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Now insane, in his mining attire Warden murdered the two supervisors and vowed to return and kill the townsfolk if they held the Valentine's Day Dance again... sure enough, the bodies start to pile up!
Yes, it shares certain parallels with Halloween but the film holds its own and gained a cult following over the years, it was even remade in 2009.  On its initial release the movie was heavily censored and a total of nine minutes of violence and gore was cut by the Motion Picture Association of America and it remained like that until an uncut version was finally released in 2009 (I watched the extended cut tonight) With its dingy, claustrophobic atmosphere and drinking/smoking randy young adults with complete disregard for the advice of their elders it’s worth checking out. Don’t forget to check back with me on Sunday the 31st of March... Mother's Day!
Until then, Happy Valentines’ Day!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

A Celebration of Women In Horror Exhibition

Since 2017 the Liverpool Horror Club has been running regular events celebrating the horror genre. This month is Women in Horror Month and the Liverpool Horror Club is celebrating it at Constellations on Sat 9th Feb hosting a panel entitled HORROR IS NO PLACE FOR A LADY, an in-depth discussion delving into the many facets of women in the genre “A celebration, exhibition and discussion of the past, present and future of women in the horror genre” followed by a screening of American Psycho.  They are also hosting an art exhibition showcasing artworks of 20+ artists from all over. Each piece celebrates women in horror and two paintings were produced by yours truly! 'Mistress of the Dark' and 'Millicent Patrick: The Beauty Who Created the Beast' as seen in this phonograph, kindly provided by the event. Artworks have been on display at Constellations since the 2nd February and will continue through to the 17th! The event promises to be a great opportunity to socialize & network with other enthusiasts, so pop along and show your support, follow this link to purchase tickets or alternatively, email tell them Arfon sent you!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Happy Horror-day! Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Ok here is the second instalment of my challenge to watch a Holiday-themed horror movie on each holiday/festivity of the year! Not ACTUALLY something the populace celebrate (I have reservations about celebrating it myself!) but.... today is my Birthday so I thought I would include it. So today I watched a Birthday related slasher released when I was only 3... 
Happy Birthday to Me is a 1981 Canadian slasher from director J. Lee Thompson and stars Melissa Sue Anderson as Virginia Wainwright a popular high school senior at Crawford Academy, who is part of the elite clique of privileged and popular students who are killed off one by one by an off screen killer during the length of the movie using gruesome means, one of which with a shish kebab skewer (not a spoiler as this death featured on the poster!). Glenn Ford also stars as Dr. David Faraday, Virginia’s Doctor trying to help her when she starts to suspect that she might be the one murdering her friends during a series of blackouts, which slowly explain the murderer’s motives before closing with a twist ending.  This movie has achieved a cult following over the years, helped largely by being included on the Section 3 Obscene Publications Act in Britain during the video nasty ‘panic’ and so an interesting flick that’s worth your time. If I had to find fault in it, I found a group of privileged spoilt teenagers difficult to like and so I was never really sure who I was ‘rooting’ for, I didn’t like the kids so perhaps the killer? But then the movie sometimes suggests it might be one of the kids, so...  anyway check it out and I will see you again on St Valentine’s Day!
Happy Birthday (to me)

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy Horror- day! New Year’s Evil (1980)

Happy New Year to you all! I've set myself a new challenge for 2019 I call it, Happy Horror- day! The success of Halloween in 1978 gave rise to the holiday based horror movie genre and that is why I, Arfon Jones will attempt to watch a Holiday-themed horror film for each holiday/festivity of the year! I must have (Subconsciously) got the idea from Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn but my only requirement is that the movie takes place during a specific holiday/occasion playing a central theme (images/ motifs from the holidays featuring throughout) and a movie that features a killer wearing a costume associated with that celebration will most definitely meet the criteria!  Each movie will then be documented on this blog. So first up...

Directed by Emmett Alston New Year’s Evil takes place during (you guessed it) New Year's Eve (and New Year's Day hence why I thought I should start the challenge/ year with this one first) during a live televised show called, Blaze’s Countdown which celebrates the music of that year with callers, calling in the Hollywood Hotline nominating their favorite songs (Think Top of the Pops meets Telethon) the show features various punk/ new wave groups and their fans dancing to their hits, (personally I would rather watch this show than Jools Holland’s Hootenanny!) and features such bands as Shadow and Made in Japan (Shadow play the title song New Year’s Evil twice!). The show’s punk rock presenter Blaze (played by Diane Sullivan) receives a phone call from man calling himself Evil disguises his voice with a “Voice Processor” announces that each time the clock strikes midnight in each time zone, a "Naughty Girl" will be killed declaring that Diane herself will be the last Naughty Girl to be punished. The studio calls in Lieutenant Ed Clayton (Chris Wallace) a man who doesn’t care much for the punk/new wave scene who rather unsympathetically resents having to “pick a phone freak from this bunch!” but agrees to tighten security never the less as, Evil delivers on his promise and starts killing women on the hour (playing tapes of the killings over the phone to taunt Blaze) building up to the climax of the film, which I will not spoil for you.   
While researching this film I read that movie critic, Gene Siskel called it "a hideously ugly motion picture” I must disagree with that, although perhaps not the most original concepts the movie does do one thing differently by showing us the killer right from the start, instead hiding his identity and motive from us which is revealed as a twist at the end, in my opinion the film could (almost) pass as a Thriller, If it hadn’t been for the Friday the 13th style "chi chi chi ha ha ha..." effect, set up for a sequel and use of a Stan Laurel mask which is genuinely creepy! It’s not brilliant, but it’s not bad. It’s just a good old fashioned slasher that's worth a look. 
Happy New Year!

© Arfon Jones 2019. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 New Years blog post, thingy

Well here we are again, the end of another year and that time again when we reflect back on it. There have been many paintings, several sculptures, the studio’s doors were officially opened to TV and radio, I recruited a robot sidekick and made £25 on the Lottery thanks to a mechanical mystic robot!  On a personal level it’s been a rotten year what with one thing or another and losing both my grandparents 3 months apart threw me off somewhat but I think completing the 24hour Sharkathon back in July (where I watched 17 shark movies in one 24 hour sitting raising £467 for the Alzheimer’s Society) helped a little- my sincere thanks everyone that sponsored me via the website or sponsor forms. Some of you might remember that I set myself another challenge in January, lose weight! I vowed to do so following the Linnea Quigley's HorrorWorkout each morning. I started it weighing 15.5 stone and I will be starting 2019 weighing 14.4 stone... I did follow the program, it wasn’t easy but I feel that cutting out the snacks and substituting meals with Slim Fast helped!  Work wise it’s been all go, I have been working on numerous projects, many of which will be released in the New Year. Beth’s second self published novel, The Oakley Woods Murders was released back in May (I provided the inside illustrations and cover art) and it received a very favorable review from Starburst Magazine, suffice to say I am very proud of her. Incidentally, if you received Amazon vouchers for Christmas her books are still available on there... I’ll wait...
2018 took many inspirational people from us, some of which I was able to address and remember at the time including comic book artist Norm Breyfogle and of course the great Stan Lee but we also lost Peter Wyngarde, Mort Walker, John Mahoney, Emma Chambers, Peter Miles, Steven Hawking, Jim Bowen, Bill Maynard, Tim O’Connor, R. Lee Ermey, Dale Winton, Verne Troyer, Margot Kidder, Alan Bean, Joseph Campanella, Leslie Grantham, Aretha Franklin, Peter Stringfellow, Jacqueline Pearce, Eric Bristow, Bill Daily, Liz Fraser, Burt Reynolds, Steve Dash, Peter Donat, Fenella Fielding, Dudley Sutton, Douglas Rain, Mike Noble, Sister Wendy Beckett,  Paddy Ashdown, George H. W. Bush, Donald Moffat, Barry Chuckle, June, Whitfield and of course the great Ken Dodd. I always think of Doddy around this time of year, having said for years that I wanted to catch his live show I was yet to make the mere 48 mile trip to see it and when he became ill during Christmas 2007 I thought I had missed my chance. Thankfully he was fine and performing again 2 months later, but this was the wake up call I needed, it underlined how none of us are getting any younger and how we shouldn’t put off seeing/meeting our heroes. I went to see his show the following May and he did not disappoint I was so pleased that I had the chance to see him, his passing reminded me of a particularly poignant moment towards the end of the show when he addressed the audience and told us that now we no longer had the likes of Morecambe and Wise, Les Dawson or Tommy Cooper he was the last of his kind, effectively the last Dodo on stage, so when he did pass away peacefully at his home aged 90 it really did mark the end of an era in Britain.
Back in June I covered a wonderful encounter with nature that we had when our five year old camera nesting box was (finally!) used by a pair of Blue Tits whom produced 7 chicks.  Throughout the month of May Mrs Jones and I watched these delightful birds feeding the meal worms we provided to their young until they eventually fledged. Sadly we missed the fledgling but we got to see them again a week later in one of our trees keeping their parents just as busy, making full use of our bird tables, and at the time of writing this I can report that the Blue Tits have been making numerous visits to the studio window feeder, are these the same pair? Or one of the chicks all grown up? I couldn’t say but either way we will be keeping a close eye on the nest cam in 2019!  
Encounters with nature didn’t end there, after the chicks had fledged I made a bug hotel out of various off cuts of wood that I had and a hedgehog house (following instructions provided by The BritishHedgehog Preservation Society) and having added the all essential food and water we had a visitor, a rather large hedgehog in there within a week! Actually, hedgehogs are not so uncommon in our garden and a welcome sight when stargazing but this particular one was rather large and as suspected she was pregnant and sure enough a week later we found her again hiding in one of our sheds, with her babies! Absolute utmost care was taken to assure that the little family was not disturbed, but to no avail- sadly we discovered that she had abandoned them. We franticly gathered up the young hoglets and took them to a qualified member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society who sadly, despite all best efforts was unable to save them. A real blow for all concerned, she attributed it to the ongoing heat wave we were experiencing; it seems that the mothers will abandon their young if they become dehydrated during dry spells.
So please make a note of this, leave water out for wildlife these little guys are declining at an alarming rate and I don’t know about you but I find it worrying that for the past two decades, hedgehogs in Britain have been declining at the same rate as tigers worldwide. Since this encounter we have been supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, they are responsible for some of the UK’s largest hedgehog conservation projects, they fund research into why our rural hedgehogs are declining and they record hedgehog habitats via their BIG Hedgehog Map not to mention promote Hedgehog awareness- inspiring the public to make their gardens more ‘hog friendly. So if you are yet to make a donation to a charity this Christmas, why not support them and help turn this worrying trend around and help hedgehogs thrive in Britain once more?

We joined the 21st century this year by using streaming services, despite still watching very little ‘modern’ telly favouring classic TV DVD’s we did take part in the Earth tradition of “binge watching” a series, when we (finally) watched  Stranger Things and loved it, looking forward to seeing series 3! Online streaming also gave us horror movie/ horror host connoisseurs a wonderful moment, the return of Joe Bob Briggs in a show that served as a loving salute to his classic MonsterVision show of the 1990’s (that I never had the pleasure of experiencing first time round, but have long enjoyed in clip form on YouTube). Subscription /video on demand service Shudder brought him back in what was billed as a “one off” show in June, The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
This show was a 24 hour movie marathon that was presented by the man himself and proved so popular it (effectively) broke the internet! Unfortunately, folks from outside the US didn’t get to join in all the fun however, as the marathon was US members only... UK customers finally received VODs (Video on demand) of the show after they had gone and an extra kick to the gut was when we discovered that only the movies Shudder had been licensed for in the UK were included! So, we only received seven of the thirteen movies shown, and at the time of writing this we are still to see, Tourist Trap (1979), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Rabid (1977), Daughters of Darkness (1971) Pieces (1982) and The Prowler (1981) added to the VOD list. I e-mailed the channel several times and they assured me it would eventually happen.  The show proved so popular with fans that Shudder brought Joe Bob back again for 'Dinners of Death’ on Thanksgiving, but alas the same problem arose once again- of the four movies shown in that marathon we only got two of them (we are still to see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Dead Or Alive (1999) uploaded) I wrote to Shudder again expressing my disappointment, highlighting how unfair it was that we (as paying customers)were not only being excluded from this party but also expected to make do with the left over scraps!
Shudder, apologised stating they were trying to sort this matter out, they did just that and this Christmas, at 2am this British Joe Bob fan finally got to see Joe Bob Briggs go out LIVE when the UK was included in the live stream!     Apparently, Shudder now intends to make Joe Bob a regular face on their channel in 2019, I am delighted to hear this and sincerely hope we in the UK will continue to be included in this and urge all fellow British Mutants, to contact Shudder and tell them how much you love Joe Bob! Contact them via their contact page or through Facebook and Twitter and remember the Drive-In will never die! Personally, I regard this to be the most important horror show we have. It upholds the horror host tradition, with a host that was there, a part of the genre. It encourages viewers to watch movies that might have escaped their attention in a fun, informative way with great guests and invites you to be part of a community while watching the show via social media- bringing thousands of horror/cult movie fans together.

Had a few adventures this year, many of which have been covered on the blog such as visiting the Arcade Club in Haslingden and the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner and of course not forgetting that 2018 was also the year I finally got to not only meet Bruce Campbell but also Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theatre 3000! But this year I also had the pleasure of meeting another that had long been on my list, for whatever reason I was yet to meet the great Brian Blessed OBE! Back on the 12th of January, Mrs Jones (as a Birthday treat) took me to see his amazing sold out ‘An Evening with’ show at the Rotherham Civic Theatre! It’s difficult to not admire Brian Blessed the fact that he has had an amazing career spanning nearly fifty years aside the man has climbed Mount Everest three times, he is the oldest man to go to the North Magnetic Pole on foot and he has explored the jungles of Venezuela the man is a national treasure! Known worldwide for his roles in I, Claudius, Z Cars, Doctor Who, Blackadder, and of course Flash Gordon I have always wanted to meet him, but I’d never had the opportunity until now at this organised by PHASE Worldwide, a charity first established in Rotherham that works in Nepal to empower isolated communities through health, education, and livelihood projects of which Brian is a patron.
Having traveled to the Himalayas several times he has witnessed the difficulties faced by the Nepalese and the work done by the charity. We met for the pre-theatre drinks reception featuring ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ round the corner at The Wharncliffe and had a lovely chat with him, a warm friendly man it was a pleasure finally meeting him. The show, much like the man, did not disappoint I could have listened to him speak for hours, and had he had his own way we would have! PHASE staff tried several times to get him off the stage! The man is an inspiration. I highly recommend his memoir, Absolute Pandemonium, perhaps the only time I wanted to listen to an autobiography or better yet if you have the opportunity to catch his one man shows, as the man himself would say “GO FOR IT!
Interestingly Flash Gordon played a part in our first adventure of the year and also featured in the last as we visited Edinburgh for the Love of 80’s convention where Flash Gordon himself, Sam J. Jones was in attendance! Along with the Hulk, Lou Ferrigno and Buck Rogers Gil Gerard to name three more! This amazing event that celebrated everything 80’s presented me with the opportunity to tick a few more names off my list David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff, Zach Galligan of Gremlins and Templeton "Faceman" Peck- Dirk Benedict! The 80’s were special time for me, I wasn’t what you might call and outdoors kid, I spent countless hours effectively ‘hiding’ from the world in front of the TV and shows such as Knightrider and the A Team hold a special place in my heart, so to finally have the opportunity to meet people that played a vital part was amazing.
Another thing to know about me, I am not much of a car person, but seeing the Delorean from Back to the Future parked next to the A Team van and Kitt had me 'geeking out'! Add a replica Johnny 5 from Short Circuit photo op and you have the makings of a great event! I congratulate its organisers and look forward to next year’s! Then we have Edinburgh itself, a city which interestingly I had never visited for much the same reason I hadn’t met the stars in attendance, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself to me! But am I glad it did, Mrs Jones and I fell in love with it and fully intend on returning! As you may know I like to include some interesting things that I have seen in these posts, Edinburgh provided most of them!

Greyfriars Bobby’s (1855-1872) CollarMuseum of Edinburgh, Edinburgh
Since first hearing this tale about the Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years until he died himself (through Roland Rat’s Rat On The Road in 1983) I have long been fascinated with this story and wanted to see the famous statue. I got to do that and it was sheer delight, taking a photo of the statue without a tourists jumping into shot to rub his nose (for good luck) not so much, as it was near impossible! (Edinburgh city council asks that tourists touch the nose "gently" after having to spend £400 on its restoration!) But anyway! Bobby was the pet of Edinburgh Constable John Grey, who died of tuberculosis in 1858 the dog famously lay by his master’s grave side in Greyfriars Kirkyard each day until his own death in 1872. The tale touched everyone’s hearts and lived on when it was immortalised in a novel by Eleanor Atkinson in 1912 and then a Disney movie in 1961, some historians however question its actual factual basis... but I will leave that matter for you dear reader. All I will say is that if you visit the Museum of Edinburgh (please do, it’s well worth a visit) you will find many artefacts relating to Bobby’s history including his dinner dish and this, his collar. The collar along with an inscription which reads, “Greyfriars Bobby, from the Lord Provost, 1867 licensed” was given to him by Edinburgh’s then Lord Provost, William Chambers as a safeguard when a new ‘dog tax’ was introduced to combat the city’s stray dog problem.

The King of Bardsey’s Crown, the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor
For over a century, Bardsey (or “Enlli” as we call it around these parts) has been an island of special scientific interest and popular tourist destination located at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, and it was once a ‘kingdom’. No-one seems to know the exact origin of the tradition but it’s believed that the first king of Bardsey who ‘ruled’ over the island’s population of farmers and fishermen was crowned in 1820; however his name is not known to us, But we do know that he died in 1826, as a letter had been sent to the landowner, Lord Newborough requesting that he return to the island to crown the successor John Williams and that’s just what he did in August that year. Williams was crowned with this actual tin crown while standing on a chair on the narrowest part of the island and reined until 1841 when he drowned while attempting to cross to the mainland alone. His son, John Williams II who had been born just the day before was naturally too young to succeed his father and so Bardsey went without a king until the end of the century when John Williams II eventually became king; his reign was short however he immigrated to the mainland in 1918 and drink took its toll on him, it is claimed that he lost his fortune and died in a workhouse in Pwllheli. For many years the crown was ‘controversially’ kept in storage at the Liverpool Maritime Museum, having been acquired along with Lord Newborough’s effects.  Sadly the crown could not be returned to Bardsey as the museum stipulated that it could only be given to an accredited museum for safe keeping and as Bardsey (currently with the population of 4 people) doesn’t have a museum it was instead entrusted to the Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery in Bangor in 2009 for the 30th anniversary of Bardsey Island Trust. But, John Williams II was not the last king of Bardsey however, there was one other...

The Last King of Bardsey’s Grave, St Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron
According to one of my all time favourite archaeologist, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, despite their being no lineage a fisherman called Love Pritchard proclaimed himself king of the island in 1911 due to John Williams II’s condition. It has been documented that the king offered his services in the First World War but was rejected due to his age, apparently taking umbrage (many joked that the island remained neutral during the war and even alleging that they supported Kaiser Wilhelm II!) Love Pritchard left the island in 1925, visiting the National Eisteddfod in Pwllheli where he was welcomed a Welshman visiting from another land but sadly died the following year and was buried St Hywyn's Church, Aberdaron. Childless there was no successor to the throne, but when it was suggested in 1999 that opera star Bryn Terfel should be crowned the new king of Bardsey, the Bardsey Island Trust was overwhelmed by people claiming direct lineage to Pritchard.

Dolly the Sheep (1996 –2003) National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
"The world's most famous sheep", Dolly (named after Dolly Parton due to her impressive glands) was the first mammal to ever be cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer (the cell nucleus from an adult cell is transferred into an unfertilized developing egg cell with the cell nucleus removed. The hybrid cell is then stimulated to divide by an electric shock, before being implanted into a surrogate mother). Led by Keith Campbell, Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute, part of the University of Edinburgh and the biotechnology company PPL Therapeutics, Dolly's existence was announced to the world on 22 February 1997 playing an integral part in the 1990’s obsession with cloning. She had three mothers: one that provided the egg another that provided the DNA and a third which carried her embryo to term. In an attempt to allow Dolly to have as normal a life as possible, it was decided to allow her to breed; she was bred with a Welsh Mountain ram, producing six lambs in total. Dolly died on the 14 February 2003 five months before her seventh birthday from a progressive lung disease (the disease was not considered related to her being cloned) having lived her entire life at the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, she was preserved and gifted to NationalMuseum of Scotland by the institute in 2003.

Cockcroft-Walton generator, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The Cockcroft–Walton (CW) generator was developed at the University of Cambridge in the early 1930s  and named after physicists John Douglas Cockcroft and Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton who used the circuit design in 1932 to power their particle accelerator and perform the first artificial nuclear disintegration in history (both were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for "Transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles" in 1951) originally used at the University of Edinburgh for nuclear physics in the 1950s this one was erected in the Grand Gallery at the museum after its components were discovered in a store room at the National Museum’s Collection Centre. Standing 19 feet 8 inches this is only one section of it though, there wasn’t enough space to occupy the whole generator at the museum!

The Maiden, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The Maiden (also known as the Scottish Maiden) was used for executions in Edinburgh during the 16th and 18th centuries after the sword traditionally used to carry out executions had become worn.  Predating the ones used during the French Revolution the Maiden was manufactured in Edinburgh, built of oak, with a lead weight and iron blade she was first introduced in 1564 during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and remained in use right up to 1716.   The device took all the hassle out of executions as it could be easily be dismantled for storage and moved to numerous locations as and when needed. It was long believed that James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton was responsible for first devising it (basing its concept on the Halifax Gibbet) this would have been tragically ironic however when you consider how the Earl was executed on this very device in 1581 during the minority of King James VI! (although very little evidence backs up the claim that Douglas was responsible for its design). What we do know for certain however is that it was made by carpenters Adam and Patrick Shang, as accounts still exists informing us that Shang (responsible for Queen Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Moray’s oak bed) was paid the amount of two pounds for “whole labours and devising of the timber work” involved in the construction of the device that removed 150 heads.

Cemetery for Soldiers Dogs, Edinburgh Castle
When peering over the wall of Edinburgh Castle you will find another touching tribute to Edinburgh’s devotion to faithful Canine companions in the form of the castle’s dog cemetery. Believed to have originally been the site of a medieval tower, it became the final resting place for regimental mascots and honored dogs belonging to high-ranking soldiers in 1840. Twenty dogs are remembered in this garden (off limits to the public) including Yum Yum, Tim (who traveled with Seaforth Highlanders) and Dobbler (who travelled with Argyll and Sutherland Highlands to China, Ceylon and South Africa) with Winkle, a “dear and faithful friend of Lady Gow and the Governor” being the last to be added in 1980. The cemetery was even referenced in verse by Robert Burns: “Berkin dugs here lie at rest The yappin worst, obedient best Sodgers pets and mascots tae Still the guard the castle to this day
Well there you have it, another blog post recounting the year. What else we can expect in 2019? Aside from myself turning 40 and this very blog celebrating its tenth anniversary, several new projects that’s for sure, hopefully a few new adventures (one more recent adventure has been omitted from this post due to my being sworn to secrecy about but more on that February/March...) My sincere thanks to all that have supported me and my work, this site this past year. Be it commission based, sharing links or a friendly word of encouragement you have all helped me along and I thank you. Happy New Year to you all.

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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