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For the Record, Episode 14: Flycatcher


Rhys: Statement of Lieutenant Joseph Griffiths regarding…


Oh for goodness sake…


Hello, Welsh Institute of Paranormal Affairs?

Enikő: [ON THE PHONE] Hi! Could I speak to Archivist Llewellyn-Jones? It’s regarding a statement I need to cross-reference with….

Rhys: [INTERRUPTING] Before you go on, can I just check – did you want to speak to Emeline Llewellyn-Jones or Rhys Llewellyn-Jones?

Enikő: Oh [PAUSE] Emeline?

Rhys: Yeah, you want the Manchester office, this is Cardiff. Don’t worry, happens all the time. I think my details are mixed up with hers on a webpage somewhere. Anyway, I’ve got her info from the last time, I can e-mail it to you.

Enikő: Sure, it’s, that’s E N I K O dot F A R K A S @ C S A T H dot H U. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Rhys: [TYPING AT HIS COMPUTER] No worries, like I said it happens a lot. [PAUSE]. Hungary, eh?

Enikő: Yes, I’m from the Csáth Kutatóintézet.

Rhys: I didn’t know there was an office in Hungary.

Enikő: [PROUDLY] Sure! We’ve been around since 1990, but there were other organisations before that with different names. Some of our statements go back to the War of Independence in 1848.

Rhys: Gosh, that is interesting. OK, there you go, I sent you the information for the Manchester office.

Enikő: Thank you very much!

Rhys: No worries, glad to help!

Enikő: Goodbye!

Rhys: Bye!



They seemed nice, didn’t they, Fred?


Anyway, where was I [PAUSE]… Statement of Lieutenant Joseph Griffiths regarding a book rescu… stolen from the Library of the Hanlin Academy, Beijing, before its destruction. Compiled from a series of letters to his friend Richard Lewis between 1901 and most likely 1903. Audio recording by Rhys Llewellyn-Jones, archival assistant, Sefydliad Materion Paranormal Cymru, Welsh Institute of Paranormal Affairs.

Dechreuad y datganiad - Statement begins

November 1901, Tianjin


My dear Richard,

I am sorry you have not heard from me in so long, and I hope you did not think me dead. I took a wound in the relief of the siege of the legations in Peking and it took bad so I was laid up for some time recovering. One of the Boxers caught me in the back with a sword cut while I was lining up a shot – at least I think it was one of them, for the little devil was gone before I could see for sure.I am never at all certain on which side the Chinese are from day to day, for their Empress seems to change allegiances as her whim dictates and there seem to be half a dozen different factions all at odds with each other from what the senior officers say.

It has been a very bad business in China as I am sure you have read in the papers.

First we had to fight our way inland to take Tianjin, then we were boiled, starved, eaten by infernal insects and without water all the way to Peking. Once we got there the walls were breached with surprising ease, although you will be amused to hear the French got lost and the Americans decided they preferred to climb rather than try to take a defended gate. It was some Seekhs got through first I heard, although I missed that part, I am afraid. But you will have certainly read all that in the papers.

I am sorry to say it was a very much worse situation after that. I am ashamed of the behaviour not only of my men but of my fellow officers. If you share my letter with your family do not read this part to your sisters. There was looting, and wanton violence and worse cruelties yet that I will not speak of. They are usually a good lot, the men, the worst I would expect of them is a little drunkenness or fighting or perhaps that time Private Hywel Williams was bitten when he tried to steal the regimental Kashmiri goat for a jape. They have run mad, frankly, and I am not certain it is not the influence of some of the foreign soldiers who we are allied with that has encouraged them in this behaviour. I was in no state to prevent it until recently and I will regret that to my dying day. I had made friends with an American officer, (I will not now name him) but any affection I had for him has died in my heart after I saw him laugh and run a civilian through with his bayonet. Nor was he the only officer I saw behave so. British, Russian, French, Japanese all behaved the same. I imagine I only saw nothing of it from the other Europeans because there are less of them with us. It sickens me to the stomach Richard. Perhaps father was right, and I am indeed too lily-livered for the army, but I cannot believe that any of this is right or Godly.

I know there are some of my fellow officers who have used this awfulness to make themselves rich, buying up stolen treasures from men who have no idea of their worth. Even now there are auctions going on all over Tianjin, and I have been encouraged to do the same by men who I am sure are judging me for my Christian sensibilities and morality. To make them leave me alone I attended one auction, partly because the goods for sale were not shiny baubles, and mostly to make Edwin Browne, or Browne-noser as we call him, leave me be. He is an odious English wretch who insists on trying to be chummy with me, but I am sure speaks about me poorly behind my back, as he speaks poorly about others to me. Men who do so do not confine such behaviour to only one of their acquaintances.

The great house of learning known as the Hanlin Academy was fired during the siege to try and flush out the brave defenders, I am told by a regiment of Chinese moslems under the command of Tung Fu-Shiang. The auction I attended was for some of the books that had been rescued from the flames. I have no love of earthly treasure, for as Matthew Chapter 6 Verse 19-20 warns us, you cannot take it with you. The thought of such treasures of the mind, though, being pawed over by people who might keep them as curios or worse, use them for fire lighting or wiping their arses, filled me with such horror, Richard. I spent what little I had on several books, most of which I expect I will not be able to read. One of the missionaries who attended to my spiritual health whilst I was recovering, Père Adrien, is fluent in Chinese, and was able to at least translate the titles for me, with help from one of the officers of the Chinese regiment here who I understand joined us to fight against the Boxers.

There is one book for which I have a particular fondness, perhaps something closer to awe, for it is particularly finely illustrated. The bidding for it was hard, as I think some of the illustration has been done in gold leaf. The name is apparently difficult to translate into English. It is something close to “Nine Tenets of the Celestial Flycatcher”. Père Adrien believes it to be a courtly manual detailing how to advance in the Chinese Imperial civil service, although he cannot tell what period of their history it is from. When I look through its pages, I find myself strangely engrossed in it, despite my inability to read the language therein. I am glad to have been able to rescue such a precious volume from Philistines and looters.

There is talk of us being sent to India. It cannot come soon enough. I will be glad if I never set foot in China again.

Now I must leave off or be late for mess. Please give my regards to your mother and father, and kisses to Catrin and Elin.

Ever your affectionate friend,


March 1902, Chakrata

My dear Richard,

I write in a good mood today. We have been ensconced at the Chakrata cantonment in the region of Jaunsar for some months now and I am finding the climate bracing and much different to the heat of the plains. The men seem happier too. I think perhaps we have been sent up here by the top brass as a sort of recuperation from the horrors of China, and if so I thank them for it. The hills here remind me greatly of Snowdonia. High and cool, covered in oak on the lower reaches and spruce and pine higher up towards the Himalayas. On a clear day and from the right places you can see all the way up to the top of the world. The Fuzileers are not the only ones up here as well. The Shivalik foothills are thought to be a good place to convalesce and there are a good many soldiers here who have come after being sick in the heat and dirt of the plains below. A few days walk away there is a particularly high waterfall, the Tiger Falls, whose towering beauty I cannot describe in simple words and which photography does not do justice to. I wish I had skill in painting so I could send you a depiction, but even that I think could not reflect it truly. Fuzileer Billy, the goat, seems happy frolicking in the land of his ancestors as well.

It would seem almost a paradise after the last year we have endured were it not for the lack of good company. The cantonment permits no bungalows to be built for civilians so there is not much in the way of society apart from the other officers. If I want a decent conversation I am forced to resort to them, which of course means the odious Browne-noser. Furthermore, a great many of the Jaunsaris are growing opium and I have had to forbid some of the men from visiting nearby villages lest they pick up the habit. I had to haul a pair of privates from out of an opium den down in the valley last week, which I am certain Browne has quietly briefed Captain Roberts about behind my back.

I have been passing my quiet hours examining the books I wrote you of. I have less worries for their integrity in this climate but I am treating them with the care and respect due to such wonderful objects. I cannot hope to learn enough Chinese to read them, but I can certainly enjoy the illustrations. One has a series of poignant depictions of landscapes and sketches of people and trees, but I am unsure if it is a drawing manual or a gardening book. The courtly manual is very diverting. Actually, if I were to be honest, Richard, it is both captivating and also a little discomfiting. I find myself returning to it often trying to ascertain why looking at it leaves me so. I think perhaps it is the final illustration, in particular. It must definitely be the illustrations that inspire me so, because I have little understanding of the words other than the odd familiar character. The book is quite small, I cannot remember if I have told you that before, so the illustrations must have been painted with an exquisitely tiny brush. They are a series of odd, almost comical scenes in a story, where the characters depicted are not human but instead various kinds of birds – I think I can see a pheasant, a partridge, there is certainly a crane or some similar bird with long legs. The primary character is a little blue Chinese flycatcher. In the first image he seems bright and cheerful going about his business working in an office of some sort. He engages with the other birds as he carries on with his day. In another panel he is talking to a sparrow who he seems not to be very fond of. The scenes become more unhappy as one progresses through the book. We see the sparrow chattering with a noble-looking swan and the flycatcher hiding behind a wall to listen in. There are various scenes of the flycatcher talking to other birds. Then, of the sparrow being taken somewhere in a coffle by an official-looking ptarmigan while the flycatcher looks on, rubbing his wings together in glee. Then the flycatcher is seen alone in a shadowy room looking angry. In the final illustration the sparrow lies in a pool of blood on the floor of a cell with something in his back and the flycatcher lies dead in the snow at the bottom of a cliff.

Can you see why it is so affecting, this little book? It disturbs me, and yet I return to it so often in curiosity. I should put it away, but there is not much to do during our recuperation other than perpetual drilling and ensuring Private Williams does not disgrace himself by turning up intoxicated to patrol and reduce the good opinion I am trying to foster in this regiment yet further.

Your affectionate friend,



Undated note


A very short note to you in lieu of a visit soon, for I have been sent home for a while and may get a chance to pay a call on you and yours. Before then there is a matter I must attend to, though. Browne has crossed me for the last time.

Your friend,


Diwedd y datganiad - Statement ends



Crikey, that last one was barely legible, poor Joe must have been pretty far gone down the old fear-hole.

As so often happens with these old as balls… er sorry, earlier statements, it was difficult to corroborate many of the details. I could confirm the movements of Griffiths’ regiment, they did indeed serve in China and India. I couldn’t find any further information online, shameful lack of accessibility to our military history, isn’t it? I phoned the Royal Welsh Fusiliers regimental museum and the nice gent I spoke to there said there might be more in their archive. An all-expenses paid trip to sunny Caernarvon revealed they did indeed have several hefty tomes of records from the period in the museum at the castle. Many of the regimental records were in Welsh, which was a bit of a pain because I got a D in my Welsh GCSE, didn’t I, but I did find the following in the records of the 2nd Battalion: “Lieutenant Joseph Griffiths, lately of Wrexham, dishonourable discharge (murder of a fellow officer)”. A note in the margin at the bottom of the page further recorded: “Believed to be related to brain fever, deceased 1904”. Poor old Joe, eh? Anyway, that’s all I could find on him.

I had a good hunt for the old Flycatcher book itself, starting with whether it was in any of the artefact storage sites. Head office don’t seem to have it, nor do Manchester or Dublin. Nobody else responded to my e-mail so I suppose it could be in Canada or New York or even back in China. [THOUGHTFULLY] Should have asked that Hungarian while they were on the phone… anyway, we probably haven’t got it. Robbie down in artefact storage checked with his usual sources of information, whatever they are, and a book with a matching or similar name was auctioned off twice that he could find records of. First time was in the 1950s by an auction house that later closed. The auctioneer who was handling it, who apparently could read Qing dynasty official Mandarin, was admitted to a mental hospital after becoming violent towards one of his colleagues. The final record of sale is in 1990 to a purchaser named George Clough. Robbie said this name may have been a pseudonym, as the purchase was by a shell company he thinks he’s seen buying similar volumes before. Lot of interesting books fall off the record in the 1990s. Apparently.

Diwedd y recordiad - Recording ends



…yeah, I saw her last weekend, she seems fine… Oh, mam I meant to tell you thanks for getting me this job here. It’s brilliant, like being a detective but you’re in a horror story. I’m having an absolute time. Yeah. Anyway, I got to go, I’m on the clock. I’ll see you and Da for lunch on Sunday, all right. [STATIC RISES] Give Mamgu a hug for me. [HE LAUGHS] Yeah, don’t worry I’m kidding, I know you’re not suicidal. [LAUGHS] See you. Bye! [HANGS UP]



Wele goelcerth wen yn fflamio

A thafodau tân yn bloeddio

Ar i’r dewrion ddod i daro

Unwaith eto’n……


I could have sworn I turned that off.



This episode of “For The Record” was written, directed, edited and produced by Lou Sutcliffe. It starred Pentoll as “Enikő Farkas”, who was also Hungarian script consultant, and Lou Sutcliffe as “Rhys Llewellyn-Jones”.

It used sounds from, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and watch your back.