The neithior, or bidding, was in effect and among other things a customary form of savings club. A man (or woman) started to contribute sums of money or make contributions in kind during his teens, he ‘drew on the club’ on marriage, and continued to pay into it for the rest of his life, both in order to repay contributions he had received on his marriage and in order to claim repayment on behalf of his children when they came to marry. David Davies of Penalltygwin in Troedyraur parish, and later of Galltycnydie in Llangynllo parish (where he was farming in 1849), gave ‘An Account of the Weddings which I David Davies has been since I were born’; he had then been to 102 biddings and his wife to seventy-one. Another David Davies of Tan y ffynnon, near Llwynrhydowen in South Cardiganshire, either attended or contributed to 154 biddings during the nineteenth century. Here then was an institution that involved a man for most of his life with a large number of his fellows, and which provided for one of the critical periods in any family cycle, establishing people upon marriage. And as farmers’ children had to delay their marriages until there was sufﬁcient provision to establish them, the bidding allowed of earlier marriages than would have been the case otherwise. Further the bidding contributed to integrating individuals into a community for it gave people particular interest in the marriages and relationships of others, and a knowledge of their family histories, for it was on important occasions in these families’ histories that bidding dues were rendered.
By the late nineteenth century the bidding was in decline and the reasons for this are complex. The bidding was then a changing institutionalized procedure within a society that was itself in process of change. One of the relevant general changes may be noted, namely, emigration to the industrial areas of south Wales and elsewhere and a partial replacement of the emigrants by people without any prior connection with the area. The bidding depended on the repayments of debts over a lifetime by people who had contracted them on one occasion and on the making of contributions by those who expected to claim repayment either on their own behalf or on the behalf of people who were their ‘near relatives’. But once continued emigration made it uncertain whether a young man would remain in his native area or emigrate he was in no position to know whether he would be in a position to reclaim against any contribution that he had made, nor would others know whether debts owing to them would be repaid by people who might emigrate. There are indications that emigration was affecting certain of the institutions of South Cardiganshire by the 1870s. Until that decade farm servants were hired at the annual hiring fairs at Newcastle Emlyn, Cardigan, and other centres; during the 1870s it became common practice to hire in advance of the fairs because there was a shortage of servants as the result of emigration. The fair increasingly became a pleasure fair while the hiring of servants was undertaken independently. In the same period it became the practice to send ‘industrial schoolboys’ into south-west Wales to be employed as farm servants as an insufﬁcient number of local youths was available. These industrial schoolboys had no place in the area as members of kin groups nor was there any certainty that they would remain in the area. Thus the conditions upon which the bidding depended, that there were people who tied themselves for a lifetime expecting that their future would be spent in the same general area, were rendered uncertain and for this reason among others the bidding declined. When this happened there was no longer any institutionalized provision, involving some hundreds of people, for establishing people on marriage, and the whole burden fell on the individual families concerned. In the depressed conditions of the closing years of the nineteenth century many farmers felt themselves obliged to delay their children’s marriages as they could not spare the live and dead stock that would be required to help set them up on farms of their own.
(D. Jenkins, The Agricultural Community of South-West Wales at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Cardiff, 1971, pp. 134–5 [Tip: daliwch Ctrl a chliciwch dolen i'w agor mewn tab newydd. (Cuddio tip)] )