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An 'Arrac Punch' could deliver a knockout blow for election candidates; way out west.

BE NICE to people on your way up, they say, because sooner or later you'll meet them on the way down.

I've been reading The Diary of a Country Parson by James Woodforde, who became a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and spent nearly 30 years as Rector of Weston Longeville, Norfolk, where he died in 1803.

He was certainly nice to the right people at the right time in an age when you were voted in to such lucrative livings - it was worth an enviable pounds 300 a year in 1774 - in an election by your college peers.

Parson Woodforde records that he treated the senior common room at New College with wine and fruit in the afternoon and with "Arrac Punch" - a strong liquor made from rum - and wine in the evening.

He didn't forget the junior common room either, laying on a dozen bottles of wine in the afternoon and more arrac punch and wine in the evening. There were another 15 bottles for the college chaplains, clerks and steward. "We were exceedingly merry in the Jun'r Common Room and had many good songs sung..." he records.

They also ate heartily. The clergy were considered the social equals of the gentry - many were junior members of gentry families after all - and they all enjoyed their dinners.

Most was local produce - game or garden. Woodforde went coursing frequently and usually brought back a hare or two, while his servants reared his cattle, pigs and poultry, and grew vegetables and fruit.

The parson records all his dinners, and this example in 1788 for eight people is typical: "Fish and Oyster Sauce, a nice Piece of Boiled Beef, a fine Neck of Pork rosted and Apple Sauce, some hashed Turkey, Mutton Stakes, Sallad etc, a wild Duck rosted, fryed Rabbits, a plumb Pudding and some Tartlets. Desert, some Olives, Nutts, Almonds and Raisin and Apples."

There was another sort of election last week, resulting perhaps in less prodigious - and maybe less long-lasting - rewards for the chosen few. Plaid Cymru may have lost control of Gwynedd, but in Carmarthenshire the party nearly doubled its seats to become the largest single party, while Labour lost more than half to end with just 12.

It made me think of the late Gwynfor Evans. Teetotal and not greedy like the parson, he was Plaid's only councillor for most of his 25 years on the county council from 1949 and was treated with hostility by Labour members enjoying a hegemony of power locally.

Gwynfor was uncompromising politically, but a gentleman - a quality that earned him a place in Welsh history as Plaid's first MP and did his party no harm as it came from nowhere to become an equal player in Welsh politics.

Being nice to the right people, as both Parson Woodforde and Gwynfor showed, can reap dividends - whether or not you meet them on the way down.


Steve Dube in Carmarthen
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 6, 2008
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