WHEN EXPLORING his family tree, Keith Williams was shocked to find out that not only was he the first-born son of the 33rd Sultan of Malaysia, but he was also his biological heir. Keith’s father was one of 9 different sultans in Malaysia. Each sultan takes turns to rule the country for 5 years, before retiring into luxury.
Keith, a retired Pembrokeshire coal delivery man, lives with his wife Vanessa in a cosy bungalow in Penygroes – a contrast to his father who was brought up in the huge golden-turreted palace Istana Iskandariah in Kuala Kangsar.
Keith was put up for adoption by his birth mother when he was 4 months old and lived at the Caeglas Children’s Home in Ffairfach until he was 18 months old. Keith was then adopted and grew up in a loving family home with his adoptive parents. He found out that he was adopted when he was 13 years old, which was around the time that his father ascended to the throne from prince to 33rd Sultan.
Keith left school at 15 to join his adoptive father’s coal delivery business. Unfortunately, due to delivering 112lb sacks of coal for over 20 years, he developed chronic back pain. This condition forced him to retire 6 years ago.
He did not make any attempts to track down his biological parents until after the birth of his first grandchild, following a suggestion by his wife. Keeping his mission a secret from his adoptive parents and armed with only a marriage certificate and an address for someone who witnessed his mother’s wedding, he was met with many dead ends along the way. In his late forties, he received an address and began writing to his mother, Elizabeth Rosa Hodge. Having been apart for nearly 50 years, they eventually reunited. His mother was now living in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire andhad two daughters and a son with her Polish husband George Grzegorez.
Keith had 16 “wonderful” years with his birth mother until she died at 81 years of age. In their years spent with one another she pieced together the story of his heritage, divulging the information that his father was Malaysian royalty.
He learned that his mother had been swept off her feet into a whirlwind romance with London university student and sultan Idris Iskandar Al- Mutawakki Alallahi Shah whilst she was a 17 year old student nurse in Surrey. After falling pregnant, she returned to her Llanelli home and after the birth put Keith up for adoption.
The sultan returned to Malaysia to avoid the royal scandal that would’ve been brought on by having a baby out of wedlock with a foreign ‘commoner’, and Elizabeth lost all contact with him. She learned that he never received any of her letters, but she had kept everything she had written to him and the photos they had taken together.
In a step towards finding his father, Keith requested his birth records from Social Services. The documents listed a description of him which said that “The father of the child is a Malaysian. A married man with a family.” This would later serve as his proof.
Keith said that the search for his biological father was difficult due to the sultan’s royal status. He eventually found out that the 33rd sultan was his father but had died in 1984 of a heart attack and had left behind 10 children.
Upon learning of his father’s death, Keith decided to attempt to contact some of his half brothers and sisters in Malaysia. By chance, his son Simon stumbled across a photo of the sultan on MySpace. The woman who had posted the image was the Sultan’s daughter, Ku Ess.
After contacting Ku Ess, Keith decided to take a DNA test to prove his heritage to his Malaysian family. He asked one of his half-brothers for a male DNA sample to compare against his own, but was shocked to receive a reply stating that they were no ordinary family and did not want to openly expose any skeletons in the cupboard.
Keith began to think that due to the amount of the power the Sultan had, he must also be extremely wealthy, and concluded that the family were not only afraid of a scandal, but also were worried that an unknown Welshman would swoop in and seize their fortune and their power. Although pondering the idea of money being left in the sultan’s will, Keith made it abundantly clear that money was not the motive behind reaching out to his Malay family, but instead it was the chance to meet and learn more of his background.
After travelling to Malaysia, he made contact with one of his half-brothers and visited his father’s mausoleum, of which Keith said “was fantastic and very emotional. I would’ve loved to meet him.” On receiving a tour of the grand palace in which his father grew up, he humorously commented that “It took two and a half minutes to drive around the Sultan’s palace – it would take two and a half seconds to drive around my place.” His half sister also visited him discreetly whilst he was staying at a hotel in Malaysia.
Keith says his shocking discovery is “like a story from a Disney film.” Reflecting on the lifestyle of a sultan, he said “I’ve worked all my life and never wanted for anything. I got married when I was 21 and Vanessa and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary in April.” He believes that regardless of his current or future circumstances, he won’t change who he is and appreciates his place within his community – “I’m still Keith y Glo – Keith the Coal.”
Keith hopes to meet more of his Malaysian relatives in the next few years, and also learn more about his father and his new extended family.
£121k watersports funding announced for Llanelli beauty spot
• Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, Llanelli Rural Council & Canoe Wales has secured ‘Access to Water’ funding.
• Visitors will be able to enjoy paddlesports (canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding), windsurfing and angling.
• Site expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year.
The recent announcement of the development of the Swiss Valley reservoirs in Carmarthenshire has been given a boost with the confirmation of an ‘Access to Water’ grant from Welsh Government, worth £121k, that will enable visitor access to the Lower Lleidi reservoir for paddle sports and angling.
The funding will realise plans to bring back a range of paddlesports to the reservoir, including stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking. It will also enable bank angling through the creation of recreational zones. A range of improvements to the surrounding infrastructure are also planned to include a boat wash for biosecurity and the creation of paths and a pontoon that allows easy access to water for people of all abilities, and the refurbishment of toilet facilities.
Developing the Swiss Valley Reservoirs is expected to attract 90k+ visitors a year to the site, in line with Covid19 regulations. The ‘Access to Water’ funding is an important milestone in achieving shared ambitions for the site, and to support the funding application, a survey of local canoe clubs, outdoor activity providers and anglers was conducted which found a strong demand for access to the water for their activities. The feedback was that this is likely to generate a huge amount of interest from clubs and providers given it’s ideal geographical location. The community adoption scheme means that local people are offering to invest their own time to help look after this jewel of a community asset, and care for it into the future.
The project is well placed to support the delivery of The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015, which requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. Whilst Welsh Water is not a public body, it is committed to working in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, Natural Resources Wales and Canoe Wales in the spirit of the legislation.
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “This is an excellent example of a scheme which increases opportunities for outdoor recreation and provides safe access to water for people of all abilities. The development of these reservoirs will enable local people and visitors to gain more enjoyment from this beauty spot in line with covid19 guidelines and help to support a green recovery in Wales. I hope the success of this project will encourage development of many more similar opportunities over the coming years.”
Welsh Water Chief Executive Peter Perry said, “Access to blue space is proven to be positively associated with health and wellbeing. Swiss Valley is an important asset for the local community and visitors alike. This funding is a major milestone in our efforts to bring this cherished community asset back to its former glory and make it more accessible, for the health and wellbeing of everyone.”
Jen Browning, Chief Executive of Canoe Wales, the national governing body for paddlesport in Wales, added, “Over the past eight months, we have seen an unprecedented amount of demand for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, but the limited number of venues in Wales suitable for new paddlers has always been a major obstacle. This funding will ensure that Swiss Valley can play an enormously important role in making it possible for people of all abilities to enjoy the water, and for many to discover a passion for paddlesport and develop a deep connection with the outdoors.”
Dave MacCallum, Specialist Advisor for Water Access & Recreation at Natural Resources Wales and Chairman of NAFW Access to Water Sub-Group said: “We are delighted to have been a part of this important collaboration which will open up these new waters for responsible, inclusive recreation in South West Wales. NRW is committed to doing all we can to enable more people to enjoy Wales’ countryside more easily and responsibly – to take advantage of the many health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring. Benefitting from bespoke disabled paddle-sport access facilities and a Biosecurity station promoting and enabling the Check Clean Dry initiative, the Swiss Valley reservoir project paves the way for future access to Welsh still waters so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy their visits to some of Wales’ most spectacular landscapes”
Llanelli Rural Council Leader, Cllr Tegwen Devichand said “the funding is marvellous news for the community and will enable the council to develop its plans for the reservoir in earnest. Much of the preliminary work associated with the first phase of infrastructure improvements can now get underway, in fact some work has commenced already. The physical adaptations to refurbish the toilet block, visitor car park and access to the water to facilitate paddle sports and the angling fraternity is scheduled to be completed by March 2021, but work won’t stop there. Moreover, the community response to our plans for the reservoir has been overwhelming; the council has received a great deal of local and regional support and a number of interest groups and individuals have come forward to help us deliver our plans as well as to offer their services. This is greatly appreciated and bodes well for the future.”
Llanelli Yodel colleague celebrates 30-year anniversary
Beverley Smith, a valued member of the Llanelli depot’s team, is celebrating her 30-year anniversary with UK independent parcel carrier, Yodel.
Beverley joined Yodel in 1990, when it was originally known as Home Shopping Network, as an Inbound Sorter and then moved onto a Customer Service Support role over 28 years ago. Beverly supports the Llanelli Management Team, provides customer service to clients and customers alike and is always on hand to answer any driver queries.
To celebrate her anniversary, Kay Dodd, Service Centre Manager, presented Beverley with £750 of Very vouchers and ordered in a cooked breakfast to celebrate.
Customer Service Support Advisor, Beverley Smith commented: “My time with Yodel has been very fulfilling – constantly challenging – keeping me on my toes. I’ve been with the company so long that I remember having to write with a pen and paper and have to fax documents to the head office daily – I can’t say I miss those days!
“I have made many close friends during the 30 years at the business and I truly have enjoyed the hard working and happy atmosphere at Llanelli every day.”
Kay Dodd, Depot Manager, added: “Bev is a valued member of my team here at Llanelli, she provides excellent customer service to customers, clients and colleagues. She has a courteous and caring attitude and goes beyond her duties to ensure everyone has a positive experience at Yodel Llanelli. Thank you for everything Bev!”
To join Beverley and the team at Yodel’s Llanelli depot, or to find out more about working for Yodel, and the roles and training available, visit www.yodelopportunities.co.uk or text ‘Deliver’ to 84433.
Preparatory works to start at key Stepney Street Building
Preparatory works are due to start on a key building in Llanelli Town Centre ahead of formal planning approval.
Number 49 Stepney Street is being redeveloped as part of a significant investment in the town centre to transform, regenerate and connect its key retails and leisure areas.
Carmarthenshire County Council has submitted plans which could see the former YMCA building retain much of its character whilst providing high quality living space and commercial units
The works would include the restoration of the front façade of the building, along with the retention of the perimeter wall, main internal structural walls and bringing back many original features such as the ornate staircase.
Subject to planning approval the rest of the building would be redeveloped to include two floors of commercial space on the ground and first floors, with eight two-bedroomed living spaces on the upper floors.
There will also be residents parking spaces on the ground floor.
The works currently underway will prepare the building for redevelopment and include stripping and clearance of old materials.
Carmarthenshire County Council leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “Many generations of people from Llanelli will have special memories of using this fantastic building over the years and it is such a shame to see it lay empty and falling into disrepair – we’re proud to be leading on this scheme to breathe new life into it once again.”
The council has already spent £4.5million buying empty shop units from private ownership, renovating and bringing them back in to use at affordable rental levels – all of them currently occupied by independent businesses
A Local Development Order has been put in place to simplify the planning process for property owners and potential investors
This project is being procured via the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework. Carmarthenshire County Council has appointed a regional contractor who will develop the project alongside local supply chains.
For further information on this framework, email TSSWWRCF@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
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