Caught on camera: police chief gets up to speed as a Druid

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As the chief constable of North Wales Police, he is also unofficially known as the "godfather of the speed camera" and the head of the "traffic Taliban".

As of yesterday, Richard Brunstrom will also be known by the bardic name of "spider" after he became a druid at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Swansea. "Spider" translates into Welsh as Prif Copyn and is a pun on the Welsh phrase for chief constable (prif gwnstabl).

Mr Brunstrom was among 21 initiates, including members of parliament, to the Gorsedd of Bards in a rainswept ceremony in the Eisteddfod field yesterday.

North Wales's most senior police officer, as well as attracting negative publicity for his force's hardline stance on speeding motorists, has earned respect for learning the Welsh language and using it in public addresses. Mr Brunstrom, 52, who has been learning Welsh for five years, said he was "extremely proud" to receive the honour.

Gorsedd members wear green, blue or white, depending on their standing. As a member of the highest rank, Mr Brunstrom received a white robe. The honour is bestowed on those deemed to have made a significant contribution to Wales's language and culture. "It's finding the time to practise the language that's hard," he said. "I don't think I have ever felt English. I'm a passionate European and I'm passionately in support of devolution in Wales.

"I don't think my wife understands this. She doesn't speak Welsh. She's not interested." Writing on his blog ahead of the ceremony, he said: "It's nearly impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't live in Wales just how important the Eisteddfod is to the Welsh national psyche.

"It's a fundamental part of the Welsh cultural identity, and being invited to join the Gorsedd of Bards is a significant honour, especially as an English-speaking incomer like me.

"I'm joining the white robes, the top but honorary rank; the closest equivalent is perhaps a knighthood though the analogy is very far from exact. The whole process is at once both deadly serious but also a bit tongue in cheek."

Even the Gorsedd's most senior members are not exempt from Mr Brunstrom's speed cameras. Archdruid Selwyn Iolen, who presided over the ceremony, was issued with a speeding ticket from North Wales Police when he was rushing home to see the second half of a football match recently.

"'Forget the three points', that's what he told me," the Archdruid said. "I don't think he meant it though, or he would get the sack."

When told the Archdruid was caught doing 36mph in a 30mph zone, Mr Brunstrom said: "They always are, aren't they?" He added: "I hold the Archdruid in very high regard and as he was saying on the stage, it's very important to have a sense of humour and he's certainly got one, and that makes it better."

In the ceremony, Mr Brunstrom and the other new members touched the blade of a 6ft 6in sword - carried by its keeper, the former rugby player Ray Gravell - before receiving their headdress on stage.

The ceremony is in a ring of standing stones left on the site. The order is sometimes wrongly thought to be an ancient pagan sect, but it was invented by a stonemason called Edward Williams, on Primrose Hill, London, in 1792.

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