His story would have been familiar to most Georgians through popular prints and broadsides.
Shon-Ap-Morgan self-styled himself as a gentleman but was so poor he rode a goat rather than a horse. He aimed to travel to London to remonstrate with those who mocked the Welsh on St David’s Day but instead began a litany of drunken misadventures.
If satirists required a model, then they found it in the Meissen figure poking fun at the social-climbing tailor of the Saxony factory’s director Count Heinrich von Brühl (1700-63). The subject of a tradesman riding a goat (he had dared ask for an invitation to dine with the court) was quickly adapted in the press to become distinctly Welsh.
The stereotype could be biting. However, in time the overt mockery gave way to a more benevolent symbol of Welsh national identity. By the early 19th century, the Royal Welch Fusiliers had embraced the motif with affection (since 1844 a goat has been chosen as the regimental mascot) and it was not unusual for Welsh societies in London to use the image of a well-dressed gentleman riding a goat as an emblem of Welshness.
In 2011, the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion gave its painting of Poor Taff to Amgueddfa Cymru (National Museum of Wales), following the closure of the Welsh Girls’ School founded by the society in Clerkenwell in 1716.
All of which goes some distance to explaining the appeal of a 19th century painted shop or tavern sign offered for sale by Rogers Jones in Colwyn Bay on March 28. Measuring 3ft 2in high x 2ft 7in wide (95 x 78cm), above the image of Poor Taff was a ribbon swag with the words Cymro am Byth (Wales for ever) and, below, the name H Davies. Auctioneer Stephen Roberts had not been 100% convinced the decoration was as old as the frame.
However, it came with a story that it had been bought from the wall of a pub in the Llanrwst area in the 1950s.
An object most folk art collectors would be delighted to hang on the wall, it was estimated at £200-300 but took £3300 (plus 24% buyer’s premium inc VAT).