Part 1 out of 14
Wild Wales by George Borrow
Scanned and proofed by David Price
Second proof by Jane Gammie
Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery
WALES is a country interesting in many respects, and deserving of
more attention than it has hitherto met with. Though not very
extensive, it is one of the most picturesque countries in the
world, a country in which Nature displays herself in her wildest,
boldest, and occasionally loveliest forms. The inhabitants, who
speak an ancient and peculiar language, do not call this region
Wales, nor themselves Welsh. They call themselves Cymry or Cumry,
and their country Cymru, or the land of the Cumry. Wales or
Wallia, however, is the true, proper, and without doubt original
name, as it relates not to any particular race, which at present
inhabits it, or may have sojourned in it at any long bygone period,
but to the country itself. Wales signifies a land of mountains, of
vales, of dingles, chasms, and springs. It is connected with the
Cumbric bal, a protuberance, a springing forth; with the Celtic
beul or beal, a mouth; with the old English welle, a fountain; with
the original name of Italy, still called by the Germans Welschland;
with Balkan and Vulcan, both of which signify a casting out, an
eruption; with Welint or Wayland, the name of the Anglo-Saxon god
of the forge; with the Chaldee val, a forest, and the German wald;
with the English bluff, and the Sanscrit palava - startling
assertions, no doubt, at least to some; which are, however, quite
true, and which at some future time will be universally
acknowledged so to be.
But it is not for its scenery alone that Wales is deserving of
being visited; scenery soon palls unless it is associated with
remarkable events, and the names of remarkable men. Perhaps there
is no country in the whole world which has been the scene of events
more stirring and remarkable than those recorded in the history of
Wales. What other country has been the scene of a struggle so
deadly, so embittered, and protracted as that between the Cumro and
the Saxon? - A struggle which did not terminate at Caernarvon, when
Edward Longshanks foisted his young son upon the Welsh chieftains
as Prince of Wales; but was kept up till the battle of Bosworth
Field, when a prince of Cumric blood won the crown of fair Britain,
verifying the olden word which had cheered the hearts of the
Ancient Britons for at least a thousand years, even in times of the
darkest distress and gloom:-
"But after long pain
Repose we shall obtain,
When sway barbaric has purg'd us clean;
And Britons shall regain
Their crown and their domain,
And the foreign oppressor be no more seen."
Of remarkable men Wales has assuredly produced its full share.
First, to speak of men of action:- there was Madoc, the son of
Owain Gwynedd, who discovered America, centuries before Columbus
was born; then there was "the irregular and wild Glendower," who
turned rebel at the age of sixty, was crowned King of Wales at
Machynlleth, and for fourteen years contrived to hold his own
against the whole power of England; then there was Ryce Ap Thomas,
the best soldier of his time, whose hands placed the British crown
on the brow of Henry the Seventh, and whom bluff Henry the Eighth
delighted to call Father Preece; then there was - who? - why Harry
Morgan, who led those tremendous fellows the Buccaneers across the
Isthmus of Darien to the sack and burning of Panama.
What, a buccaneer in the list? Ay! and why not? Morgan was a
scourge, it is true, but he was a scourge of God on the cruel
Spaniards of the New World, the merciless task-masters and butchers
of the Indian race: on which account God favoured and prospered
him, permitting him to attain the noble age of ninety, and to die
peacefully and tranquilly at Jamaica, whilst smoking his pipe in
his shady arbour, with his smiling plantation of sugar-canes full
in view. How unlike the fate of Harry Morgan to that of Lolonois,
a being as daring and enterprising as the Welshman, but a monster
without ruth or discrimination, terrible to friend and foe, who
perished by the hands, not of the Spaniards, but of the Indians,
who tore him limb from limb, burning his members, yet quivering, in
the fire - which very Indians Morgan contrived to make his own firm
friends, and whose difficult language he spoke with the same
facility as English, Spanish, and his own South Welsh.
For men of genius Wales during a long period was particularly
celebrated. - Who has not heard of the Welsh Bards? though it is
true that, beyond the borders of Wales, only a very few are
acquainted with their songs, owing to the language, by no means an
easy one, in which they were composed. Honour to them all!
everlasting glory to the three greatest - Taliesin, Ab Gwilym and
Gronwy Owen: the first a professed Christian, but in reality a
Druid, whose poems fling great light on the doctrines of the
primitive priesthood of Europe, which correspond remarkably with
the philosophy of the Hindus, before the time of Brahma: the
second the grand poet of Nature, the contemporary of Chaucer, but
worth half a dozen of the accomplished word-master, the ingenious
versifier of Norman and Italian tales: the third a learned and
irreproachable minister of the Church of England, and one of the
greatest poets of the last century, who after several narrow
escapes from starvation both in England and Wales, died master of a
paltry school at New Brunswick, in North America, sometime about
the year 1780.
But Wales has something besides its wonderful scenery, its eventful
history, and its illustrious men of yore to interest the visitor.
Wales has a population, and a remarkable one. There are countries,
besides Wales, abounding with noble scenery, rich in eventful
histories, and which are not sparingly dotted with the birthplaces
of heroes and poets, in which at the present day there is either no
population at all, or one of a character which is anything but
attractive. Of a country in the first predicament, the Scottish
Highlands afford an example: What a country is that Highland
region! What scenery! and what associations! If Wales has its
Snowdon and Cader Idris, the Highlands have their Hill of the Water
Dogs, and that of the Swarthy Swine: If Wales has a history, so
have the Highlands - not indeed so remarkable as that of Wales, but
eventful enough: If Wales has had its heroes, its Glendower and
Father Pryce, the Highlands have had their Evan Cameron and Ranald
of Moydart; If Wales has had its romantic characters, its Griffith
Ap Nicholas and Harry Morgan, the Highlands have had Rob Roy and
that strange fellow Donald Macleod, the man of the broadsword, the
leader of the Freacadan Dhu, who at Fontenoy caused, the Lord only
knows, how many Frenchmen's heads to fly off their shoulders, who
lived to the age of one hundred and seven, and at seventy-one
performed gallant service on the Heights of Abraham: wrapped in
whose plaid the dying Wolfe was carried from the hill of victory. -
If Wales has been a land of song, have not the Highlands also? - If
Wales can boast of Ab Gwilym and Gronwy, the Highlands can boast of
Ossian and MacIntyre. In many respects the two regions are equals
or nearly so; - In one respect, however, a matter of the present
day, and a very important matter too, they are anything but equals:
Wales has a population - but where is that of the Highlands? -
Plenty of noble scene; Plenty of delightful associations,
historical, poetical, and romantic - but, but, where is the
The population of Wales has not departed across the Atlantic, like
that of the Highlands; it remains at home, and a remarkable
population it is - very different from the present inhabitants of
several beautiful lands of olden fame, who have strangely
degenerated from their forefathers. Wales has not only a
population, but a highly interesting one - hardy and frugal, yet
kind and hospitable - a bit crazed, it is true, on the subject of
religion, but still retaining plenty of old Celtic peculiarities,
and still speaking Diolch i Duw! - the language of Glendower and
The present is a book about Wales and Welsh matters. He who does
me the honour of perusing it will be conducted to many a spot not
only remarkable for picturesqueness, but for having been the scene
of some extraordinary event, or the birth-place or residence of a
hero or a man of genius; he will likewise be not unfrequently
introduced to the genuine Welsh, and made acquainted with what they
have to say about Cumro and Saxon, buying and selling, fattening
hogs and poultry, Methodism and baptism, and the poor, persecuted
Church of England.
An account of the language of Wales will be found in the last
chapter. It has many features and words in common with the
Sanscrit, and many which seem peculiar to itself, or rather to the
family of languages, generally called the Celtic, to which it
belongs. Though not an original tongue, for indeed no original
tongue, or anything approximating to one, at present exists, it is
certainly of immense antiquity, indeed almost entitled in that
respect to dispute the palm with the grand tongue of India, on
which in some respects it flings nearly as much elucidation as it
itself receives in others. Amongst the words quoted in the chapter
alluded to I wish particularly to direct the reader's attention to
gwr, a man, and gwres, heat; to which may be added gwreichionen, a
spark. Does not the striking similarity between these words
warrant the supposition that the ancient Cumry entertained the idea
that man and fire were one and the same, even like the ancient
Hindus, who believed that man sprang from fire, and whose word
vira, (1) which signifies a strong man, a hero, signifies also
There are of course faults and inaccuracies in the work; but I have
reason to believe that they are neither numerous nor important: I
may have occasionally given a wrong name to a hill or a brook; or
may have overstated or understated, by a furlong, the distance
between one hamlet and another; or even committed the blunder of
saying that Mr Jones Ap Jenkins lived in this or that homestead,
whereas in reality Mr Jenkins Ap Jones honoured it with his
residence: I may be chargeable with such inaccuracies; in which
case I beg to express due sorrow for them, and at the same time a
hope that I have afforded information about matters relating to
Wales which more than atones for them. It would be as well if
those who exhibit eagerness to expose the faults of a book would
occasionally have the candour to say a word or two about its
merits; such a wish, however, is not likely to be gratified, unless
indeed they wisely take a hint from the following lines, translated
from a cywydd of the last of the great poets of Wales:
"All can perceive a fault, where there is one -
A dirty scamp will find one, where there's none." (2)
WILD WALES: ITS PEOPLE, LANGUAGE, AND SCENERY
Proposed Excursion - Knowledge of Welsh - Singular Groom -
Harmonious Distich - Welsh Pronunciation - Dafydd Ab Gwilym.
IN the summer of the year 1854 myself, wife, and daughter
determined upon going into Wales, to pass a few months there. We
are country people of a corner of East Anglia, and, at the time of
which I am speaking, had been residing so long on our own little
estate, that we had become tired of the objects around us, and
conceived that we should be all the better for changing the scene
for a short period. We were undetermined for some time with
respect to where we should go. I proposed Wales from the first,
but my wife and daughter, who have always had rather a hankering
after what is fashionable, said they thought it would be more
advisable to go to Harrowgate, or Leamington. On my observing that
those were terrible places for expense, they replied that, though
the price of corn had of late been shamefully low, we had a spare
hundred pounds or two in our pockets, and could afford to pay for a
little insight into fashionable life. I told them that there was
nothing I so much hated as fashionable life, but that, as I was
anything but a selfish person, I would endeavour to stifle my
abhorrence of it for a time, and attend them either to Leamington
or Harrowgate. By this speech I obtained my wish, even as I knew I
should, for my wife and daughter instantly observed, that, after
all, they thought we had better go into Wales, which, though not so
fashionable as either Leamington or Harrowgate, was a very nice
picturesque country, where, they had no doubt, they should get on
very well, more especially as I was acquainted with the Welsh
It was my knowledge of Welsh, such as it was, that made me desirous
that we should go to Wales, where there was a chance that I might
turn it to some little account. In my boyhood I had been something
of a philologist; had picked up some Latin and Greek at school;
some Irish in Ireland, where I had been with my father, who was in
the army; and subsequently whilst an articled clerk to the first
solicitor in East Anglia - indeed I may say the prince of all
English solicitors - for he was a gentleman, had learnt some Welsh,
partly from books and partly from a Welsh groom, whose acquaintance
I made. A queer groom he was, and well deserving of having his
portrait drawn. He might be about forty-seven years of age, and
about five feet eight inches in height; his body was spare and
wiry; his chest rather broad, and his arms remarkably long; his
legs were of the kind generally known as spindle-shanks, but
vigorous withal, for they carried his body with great agility; neck
he had none, at least that I ever observed; and his head was
anything but high, not measuring, I should think, more than four
inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the forehead; his
cheek-bones were high, his eyes grey and deeply sunken in his face,
with an expression in them, partly sullen, and partly irascible;
his complexion was indescribable; the little hair which he had,
which was almost entirely on the sides and the back part of his
head, was of an iron-grey hue. He wore a leather hat on ordinary
days, low at the crown, and with the side eaves turned up. A dirty
pepper and salt coat, a waistcoat which had once been red, but
which had lost its pristine colour, and looked brown; dirty yellow
leather breeches, grey worsted stockings, and high-lows. Surely I
was right when I said he was a very different groom to those of the
present day, whether Welsh or English? What say you, Sir Watkin?
What say you, my Lord of Exeter? He looked after the horses, and
occasionally assisted in the house of a person who lived at the end
of an alley, in which the office of the gentleman to whom I was
articled was situated, and having to pass by the door of the office
half-a-dozen times in the day, he did not fail to attract the
notice of the clerks, who, sometimes individually, sometimes by
twos, sometimes by threes, or even more, not unfrequently stood at
the door, bareheaded - mis-spending the time which was not legally
their own. Sundry observations, none of them very flattering, did
the clerks and, amongst them, myself, make upon the groom, as he
passed and repassed, some of them direct, others somewhat oblique.
To these he made no reply save by looks, which had in them
something dangerous and menacing, and clenching without raising his
fists, which looked singularly hard and horny. At length a whisper
ran about the alley that the groom was a Welshman; this whisper
much increased the malice of my brother clerks against him, who
were now whenever he passed the door, and they happened to be there
by twos or threes, in the habit of saying something, as if by
accident, against Wales and Welshmen, and, individually or
together, were in the habit of shouting out "Taffy," when he was at
some distance from them, and his back was turned, or regaling his
ears with the harmonious and well-known distich of "Taffy was a
Welshman, Taffy was a thief: Taffy came to my house and stole a
piece of beef." It had, however, a very different effect upon me.
I was trying to learn Welsh, and the idea occurring to me that the
groom might be able to assist me in my pursuit, I instantly lost
all desire to torment him, and determined to do my best to scrape
acquaintance with him, and persuade him to give me what assistance
he could in Welsh. I succeeded; how I will not trouble the reader
with describing: he and I became great friends, and he taught me
what Welsh he could. In return for his instructions I persuaded my
brother clerks to leave off holloing after him, and to do nothing
further to hurt his feelings, which had been very deeply wounded,
so much so, that after the first two or three lessons he told me in
confidence that on the morning of the very day I first began to
conciliate him he had come to the resolution of doing one of two
things, namely, either to hang himself from the balk of the
hayloft, or to give his master warning, both of which things he
told me he should have been very unwilling to do, more particularly
as he had a wife and family. He gave me lessons on Sunday
afternoons, at my father's house, where he made his appearance very
respectably dressed, in a beaver hat, blue surtout, whitish
waistcoat, black trowsers and Wellingtons, all with a somewhat
ancient look - the Wellingtons I remember were slightly pieced at
the sides - but all upon the whole very respectable. I wished at
first to persuade him to give me lessons in the office, but could
not succeed: "No, no, lad;" said he, "catch me going in there: I
would just as soon venture into a nest of porcupines." To
translate from books I had already, to a certain degree, taught
myself, and at his first visit I discovered, and he himself
acknowledged, that at book Welsh I was stronger than himself, but I
learnt Welsh pronunciation from him, and to discourse a little in
the Welsh tongue. "Had you much difficulty in acquiring the sound
of the ll?" I think I hear the reader inquire. None whatever: the
double l of the Welsh is by no means the terrible guttural which
English people generally suppose it to be, being in reality a
pretty liquid, exactly resembling in sound the Spanish ll, the
sound of which I had mastered before commencing Welsh, and which is
equivalent to the English lh; so being able to pronounce llano I
had of course no difficulty in pronouncing Lluyd, which by-the-bye
was the name of the groom.
I remember that I found the pronunciation of the Welsh far less
difficult than I had found the grammar, the most remarkable feature
of which is the mutation, under certain circumstances, of
particular consonants, when forming the initials of words. This
feature I had observed in the Irish, which I had then only learnt
But to return to the groom. He was really a remarkable character,
and taught me two or three things besides Welsh pronunciation; and
to discourse a little in Cumraeg. He had been a soldier in his
youth, and had served under Moore and Wellington in the Peninsular
campaigns, and from him I learnt the details of many a bloody field
and bloodier storm, of the sufferings of poor British soldiers, and
the tyranny of haughty British officers; more especially of the two
commanders just mentioned, the first of whom he swore was shot by
his own soldiers, and the second more frequently shot at by British
than French. But it is not deemed a matter of good taste to write
about such low people as grooms, I shall therefore dismiss him with
no observation further than that after he had visited me on Sunday
afternoons for about a year he departed for his own country with
his wife, who was an Englishwoman, and his children, in consequence
of having been left a small freehold there by a distant relation,
and that I neither saw nor heard of him again.
But though I had lost my oral instructor I had still my silent
ones, namely, the Welsh books, and of these I made such use that
before the expiration of my clerkship I was able to read not only
Welsh prose, but, what was infinitely more difficult, Welsh poetry
in any of the four-and-twenty measures, and was well versed in the
compositions of various of the old Welsh bards, especially those of
Dafydd ab Gwilym, whom, since the time when I first became
acquainted with his works, I have always considered as the greatest
poetical genius that has appeared in Europe since the revival of
After this exordium I think I may proceed to narrate the journey of
myself and family into Wales. As perhaps, however, it will be
thought that, though I have said quite enough about myself and a
certain groom, I have not said quite enough about my wife and
daughter, I will add a little more about them. Of my wife I will
merely say that she is a perfect paragon of wives - can make
puddings and sweets and treacle posset, and is the best woman of
business in Eastern Anglia - of my step-daughter - for such she is,
though I generally call her daughter, and with good reason, seeing
that she has always shown herself a daughter to me - that she has
all kinds of good qualities, and several accomplishments, knowing
something of conchology, more of botany, drawing capitally in the
Dutch style, and playing remarkably well on the guitar - not the
trumpery German thing so-called - but the real Spanish guitar.
The Starting - Peterborough Cathedral - Anglo-Saxon Names - Kaempe
Viser - Steam - Norman Barons - Chester Ale - Sion Tudor - Pretty
SO our little family, consisting of myself, my wife Mary, and my
daughter Henrietta, for daughter I shall persist in calling her,
started for Wales in the afternoon of the 27th July, 1854. We flew
through part of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in a train which we left
at Ely, and getting into another, which did not fly quite so fast
as the one we had quieted, reached the Peterborough station at
about six o'clock of a delightful evening. We proceeded no farther
on our journey that day, in order that we might have an opportunity
of seeing the cathedral.
Sallying arm in arm from the Station Hotel, where we had determined
to take up our quarters for the night, we crossed a bridge over the
deep quiet Nen, on the southern bank of which stands the station,
and soon arrived at the cathedral - unfortunately we were too late
to procure admission into the interior, and had to content
ourselves with walking round it and surveying its outside.
It is named after, and occupies the site, or part of the site of an
immense monastery, founded by the Mercian King Peda, in the year
665, and destroyed by fire in the year 1116, which monastery,
though originally termed Medeshamsted, or the homestead on the
meads, was subsequently termed Peterborough, from the circumstance
of its having been reared by the old Saxon monarch for the love of
God and the honour of Saint Peter, as the Saxon Chronicle says, a
book which I went through carefully in my younger days, when I
studied Saxon, for, as I have already told the reader, I was in
those days a bit of a philologist. Like the first, the second
edifice was originally a monastery, and continued so till the time
of the Reformation; both were abodes of learning; for if the Saxon
Chronicle was commenced in the monkish cells of the first, it was
completed in those of the second. What is at present called
Peterborough Cathedral is a noble venerable pile, equal upon the
whole in external appearance to the cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos
and Leon, all of which I have seen. Nothing in architecture can be
conceived more beautiful than the principal entrance, which fronts
the west, and which, at the time we saw it, was gilded with the
rays of the setting sun.
After having strolled about the edifice surveying it until we were
weary, we returned to our inn, and after taking an excellent supper
retired to rest.
At ten o'clock next morning we left the capital of the meads. With
dragon speed, and dragon noise, fire, smoke, and fury, the train
dashed along its road through beautiful meadows, garnished here and
there with pollard sallows; over pretty streams, whose waters stole
along imperceptibly; by venerable old churches, which I vowed I
would take the first opportunity of visiting: stopping now and
then to recruit its energies at places, whose old Anglo-Saxon names
stared me in the eyes from station boards, as specimens of which,
let me only dot down Willy Thorpe, Ringsted, and Yrthling Boro.
Quite forgetting everything Welsh, I was enthusiastically Saxon the
whole way from Medeshamsted to Blissworth, so thoroughly Saxon was
the country, with its rich meads, its old churches and its names.
After leaving Blissworth, a thoroughly Saxon place by-the-bye, as
its name shows, signifying the stronghold or possession of Bligh or
Blee, I became less Saxon; the country was rather less Saxon, and I
caught occasionally the word "by" on a board, the Danish for a
town; which "by" waked in me a considerable portion of Danish
enthusiasm, of which I have plenty, and with reason, having
translated the glorious Kaempe Viser over the desk of my ancient
master, the gentleman solicitor of East Anglia. At length we drew
near the great workshop of England, called by some, Brummagem or
Bromwicham, by others Birmingham, and I fell into a philological
reverie, wondering which was the right name. Before, however, we
came to the station, I decided that both names were right enough,
but that Bromwicham was the original name; signifying the home on
the broomie moor, which name it lost in polite parlance for
Birmingham, or the home of the son of Biarmer, when a certain man
of Danish blood, called Biarming, or the son of Biarmer, got
possession of it, whether by force, fraud, or marriage - the
latter, by-the-bye, is by far the best way of getting possession of
an estate - this deponent neither knoweth nor careth. At
Birmingham station I became a modern Englishman, enthusiastically
proud of modern England's science and energy; that station alone is
enough to make one proud of being a modern Englishman. Oh, what an
idea does that station, with its thousand trains dashing off in all
directions, or arriving from all quarters, give of modern English
science and energy. My modern English pride accompanied me all the
way to Tipton; for all along the route there were wonderful
evidences of English skill and enterprise; in chimneys high as
cathedral spires, vomiting forth smoke, furnaces emitting flame and
lava, and in the sound of gigantic hammers, wielded by steam, the
Englishman's slave. After passing Tipton, at which place one
leaves the great working district behind; I became for a
considerable time a yawning, listless Englishman, without pride,
enthusiasm, or feeling of any kind, from which state I was suddenly
roused by the sight of ruined edifices on the tops of hills. They
were remains of castles built by Norman Barons. Here, perhaps, the
reader will expect from me a burst of Norman enthusiasm: if so he
will be mistaken; I have no Norman enthusiasm, and hate and
abominate the name of Norman, for I have always associated that
name with the deflowering of helpless Englishwomen, the plundering
of English homesteads, and the tearing out of poor Englishmen's
eyes. The sight of those edifices, now in ruins, but which were
once the strongholds of plunder, violence, and lust, made me almost
ashamed of being an Englishman, for they brought to my mind the
indignities to which poor English blood has been subjected. I sat
silent and melancholy, till looking from the window I caught sight
of a long line of hills, which I guessed to be the Welsh hills, as
indeed they proved, which sight causing me to remember that I was
bound for Wales, the land of the bard, made me cast all gloomy
thoughts aside and glow with all the Welsh enthusiasm with which I
glowed when I first started in the direction of Wales.
On arriving at Chester, at which place we intended to spend two or
three days, we put up at an old-fashioned inn in Northgate Street,
to which we had been recommended; my wife and daughter ordered tea
and its accompaniments, and I ordered ale, and that which always
should accompany it, cheese. "The ale I shall find bad," said I;
Chester ale had a villainous character in the time of old Sion
Tudor, who made a first-rate englyn upon it, and it has scarcely
improved since; "but I shall have a treat in the cheese, Cheshire
cheese has always been reckoned excellent, and now that I am in the
capital of the cheese country, of course I shall have some of the
very prime." Well, the tea, loaf and butter made their appearance,
and with them my cheese and ale. To my horror the cheese had much
the appearance of soap of the commonest kind, which indeed I found
it much resembled in taste, on putting a small portion into my
mouth. "Ah," said I, after I had opened the window and ejected the
half-masticated morsel into the street, "those who wish to regale
on good Cheshire cheese must not come to Chester, no more than
those who wish to drink first-rate coffee must go to Mocha. I'll
now see whether the ale is drinkable;" so I took a little of the
ale into my mouth, and instantly going to the window, spirted it
out after the cheese. "Of a surety," said I, "Chester ale must be
of much the same quality as it was in the time of Sion Tudor, who
spoke of it to the following effect:-
"Chester ale, Chester ale! I could ne'er get it down,
'Tis made of ground-ivy, of dirt, and of bran,
'Tis as thick as a river below a huge town!
'Tis not lap for a dog, far less drink for a man.'
Well! if I have been deceived in the cheese, I have at any rate not
been deceived in the ale, which I expected to find execrable.
Patience! I shall not fall into a passion, more especially as there
are things I can fall back upon. Wife! I will trouble you for a
cup of tea. Henrietta! have the kindness to cut me a slice of
bread and butter."
Upon the whole we found ourselves very comfortable in the old-
fashioned inn, which was kept by a nice old-fashioned gentlewoman,
with the assistance of three servants, namely, a "boots" and two
strapping chambermaids, one of which was a Welsh girl, with whom I
soon scraped acquaintance, not, I assure the reader, for the sake
of the pretty Welsh eyes which she carried in her head, but for the
sake of the pretty Welsh tongue which she carried in her mouth,
from which I confess occasionally proceeded sounds which, however
pretty, I was quite unable to understand.
Chester - The Rows - Lewis Glyn Cothi - Tragedy of Mold - Native of
Antigua - Slavery and the Americans - The Tents - Saturday Night.
ON the morning after our arrival we went out together, and walked
up and down several streets; my wife and daughter, however, soon
leaving me to go into a shop, I strolled about by myself. Chester
is an ancient town with walls and gates, a prison called a castle,
built on the site of an ancient keep, an unpretending-looking red
sandstone cathedral, two or three handsome churches, several good
streets, and certain curious places called rows. The Chester row
is a broad arched stone gallery running parallel with the street
within the facades of the houses; it is partly open on the side of
the street, and just one story above it. Within the rows, of which
there are three or four, are shops, every shop being on that side
which is farthest from the street. All the best shops in Chester
are to be found in the rows. These rows, to which you ascend by
stairs up narrow passages, were originally built for the security
of the wares of the principal merchants against the Welsh. Should
the mountaineers break into the town, as they frequently did, they
might rifle some of the common shops, where their booty would be
slight, but those which contained the more costly articles would be
beyond their reach; for at the first alarm the doors of the
passages, up which the stairs led, would be closed, and all access
to the upper streets cut off, from the open arches of which
missiles of all kinds, kept ready for such occasions, could be
discharged upon the intruders, who would be soon glad to beat a
retreat. These rows and the walls are certainly the most
remarkable memorials of old times which Chester has to boast of.
Upon the walls it is possible to make the whole compass of the
city, there being a good but narrow walk upon them. The northern
wall abuts upon a frightful ravine, at the bottom of which is a
canal. From the western one there is a noble view of the Welsh
As I stood gazing upon the hills from the wall a ragged man came up
and asked for charity.
"Can you tell me the name of that tall hill?" said I, pointing in
the direction of the south-west. "That hill, sir," said the
beggar, "is called Moel Vamagh; I ought to know something about it
as I was born at its foot." "Moel," said I, "a bald hill; Vamagh,
maternal or motherly. Moel Vamagh, the Mother Moel." "Just so,
sir," said the beggar; "I see you are a Welshman, like myself,
though I suppose you come from the South - Moel Vamagh is the
Mother Moel, and is called so because it is the highest of all the
Moels." "Did you ever hear of a place called Mold?" said I. "Oh,
yes, your honour," said the beggar; "many a time; and many's the
time I have been there." "In which direction does it lie?" said I.
"Towards Moel Vamagh, your honour," said the beggar, "which is a
few miles beyond it; you can't see it from here, but look towards
Moel Vamagh and you will see over it." "Thank you," said I, and
gave something to the beggar, who departed, after first taking off
his hat. Long and fixedly did I gaze in the direction of Mold.
The reason which induced me to do so was the knowledge of an
appalling tragedy transacted there in the old time, in which there
is every reason to suppose a certain Welsh bard, called Lewis Glyn
Cothi, had a share.
This man, who was a native of South Wales, flourished during the
wars of the Roses. Besides being a poetical he was something of a
military genius, and had a command of foot in the army of the
Lancastrian Jasper Earl of Pembroke, the son of Owen Tudor, and
half-brother of Henry the Sixth. After the battle of Mortimer's
Cross, in which the Earl's forces were defeated, the warrior bard
found his way to Chester, where he married the widow of a citizen
and opened a shop, without asking the permission of the mayor, who
with the officers of justice came and seized all his goods, which,
according to his own account, filled nine sacks, and then drove him
out of the town. The bard in a great fury indited an awdl, in
which he invites Reinallt ap Grufydd ap Bleddyn, a kind of
predatory chieftain, who resided a little way off in Flintshire, to
come and set the town on fire, and slaughter the inhabitants, in
revenge for the wrongs he had suffered, and then proceeds to vent
all kinds of imprecations against the mayor and people of Chester,
wishing, amongst other things, that they might soon hear that the
Dee had become too shallow to bear their ships - that a certain
cutaneous disorder might attack the wrists of great and small, old
and young, laity and clergy - that grass might grow in their
streets - that Ilar and Cyveilach, Welsh saints, might slay them -
that dogs might snarl at them - and that the king of heaven, with
the saints Brynach and Non, might afflict them with blindness -
which piece, however ineffectual in inducing God and the saints to
visit the Chester people with the curses with which the furious
bard wished them to be afflicted, seems to have produced somewhat
of its intended effect on the chieftain, who shortly afterwards, on
learning that the mayor and many of the Chester people were present
at the fair of Mold, near which place he resided, set upon them at
the head of his forces, and after a desperate combat, in which many
lives were lost, took the mayor prisoner, and drove those of his
people who survived into a tower, which he set on fire and burnt,
with all the unhappy wretches which it contained, completing the
horrors of the day by hanging the unfortunate mayor.
Conversant as I was with all this strange history, is it wonderful
that I looked with great interest from the wall of Chester in the
direction of Mold?
Once did I make the compass of the city upon the walls, and was
beginning to do the same a second time, when I stumbled against a
black, who, with his arms leaning upon the wall, was spitting over
it, in the direction of the river. I apologised, and contrived to
enter into conversation with him. He was tolerably well dressed,
had a hairy cap on his head, was about forty years of age, and
brutishly ugly, his features scarcely resembling those of a human
being. He told me he was a native of Antigua, a blacksmith by
trade, and had been a slave. I asked him if he could speak any
language besides English, and received for answer that besides
English, he could speak Spanish and French. Forthwith I spoke to
him in Spanish, but he did not understand me. I then asked him to
speak to me in Spanish, but he could not. "Surely you can tell me
the word for water in Spanish," said I; he, however, was not able.
"How is it," said I, "that, pretending to be acquainted with
Spanish, you do not even know the word for water?" He said he
could not tell, but supposed that he had forgotten the Spanish
language, adding however, that he could speak French perfectly. I
spoke to him in French - he did not understand me: I told him to
speak to me in French, but he did not. I then asked him the word
for bread in French, but he could not tell me. I made no
observations on his ignorance, but inquired how he liked being a
slave? He said not at all; that it was very bad to be a slave, as
a slave was forced to work. I asked him if he did not work now
that he was free? He said very seldom; that he did not like work,
and that it did not agree with him. I asked how he came into
England, and he said that wishing to see England, he had come over
with a gentleman as his servant, but that as soon as he got there,
he had left his master, as he did not like work. I asked him how
he contrived to live in England without working? He said that any
black might live in England without working; that all he had to do
was to attend religious meetings, and speak against slavery and the
Americans. I asked him if he had done so. He said he had, and
that the religious people were very kind to him, and gave him
money, and that a religious lady was going to marry him. I asked
him if he knew anything about the Americans? He said he did, and
that they were very bad people, who kept slaves and flogged them.
"And quite right too," said I, "if they are lazy rascals like
yourself, who want to eat without working. What a pretty set of
knaves or fools must they be, who encourage a fellow like you to
speak against negro slavery, of the necessity for which you
yourself are a living instance, and against a people of whom you
know as much as of French or Spanish." Then leaving the black, who
made no other answer to what I said, than by spitting with
considerable force in the direction of the river, I continued
making my second compass of the city upon the wall.
Having walked round the city for the second time, I returned to the
inn. In the evening I went out again, passed over the bridge, and
then turned to the right in the direction of the hills. Near the
river, on my right, on a kind of green, I observed two or three
tents resembling those of gypsies. Some ragged children were
playing near them, who, however, had nothing of the appearance of
the children of the Egyptian race, their locks being not dark, but
either of a flaxen or red hue, and their features not delicate and
regular, but coarse and uncouth, and their complexions not olive,
but rather inclining to be fair. I did not go up to them, but
continued my course till I arrived near a large factory. I then
turned and retraced my steps into the town. It was Saturday night,
and the streets were crowded with people, many of whom must have
been Welsh, as I heard the Cambrian language spoken on every side.
Sunday Morning - Tares and Wheat - Teetotalism - Hearsay - Irish
Family - What Profession? - Sabbath Evening - Priest or Minister -
Give us God.
ON the Sunday morning, as we sat at breakfast, we heard the noise
of singing in the street; running to the window, we saw a number of
people, bareheaded, from whose mouths the singing or psalmody
proceeded. These, on inquiry, we were informed, were Methodists,
going about to raise recruits for a grand camp-meeting, which was
to be held a little way out of the town. We finished our
breakfast, and at eleven attended divine service at the Cathedral.
The interior of this holy edifice was smooth and neat, strangely
contrasting with its exterior, which was rough and weather-beaten.
We had decent places found us by a civil verger, who probably took
us for what we were - decent country people. We heard much fine
chanting by the choir, and an admirable sermon, preached by a
venerable prebend, on "Tares and Wheat." The congregation was
numerous and attentive. After service we returned to our inn, and
at two o'clock dined. During dinner our conversation ran almost
entirely on the sermon, which we all agreed was one of the best
sermons we had ever heard, and most singularly adapted to country
people like ourselves, being on "Wheat and Tares." When dinner was
over my wife and daughter repaired to the neighbouring church, and
I went in quest of the camp-meeting, having a mighty desire to know
what kind of a thing Methodism at Chester was.
I found about two thousand people gathered together in a field near
the railroad station; a waggon stood under some green elms at one
end of the field, in which were ten or a dozen men with the look of
Methodist preachers; one of these was holding forth to the
multitude when I arrived, but he presently sat down, I having, as I
suppose, only come in time to hear the fag-end of his sermon.
Another succeeded him, who, after speaking for about half an hour,
was succeeded by another. All the discourses were vulgar and
fanatical, and in some instances unintelligible at least to my
ears. There was plenty of vociferation, but not one single burst
of eloquence. Some of the assembly appeared to take considerable
interest in what was said, and every now and then showed they did
by devout hums and groans; but the generality evidently took little
or none, staring about listlessly, or talking to one another.
Sometimes, when anything particularly low escaped from the mouth of
the speaker, I heard exclamations of "how low! well, I think I
could preach better than that," and the like. At length a man of
about fifty, pock-broken and somewhat bald, began to speak: unlike
the others who screamed, shouted, and seemed in earnest, he spoke
in a dry, waggish style, which had all the coarseness and nothing
of the cleverness of that of old Rowland Hill, whom I once heard.
After a great many jokes, some of them very poor, and others
exceedingly thread-bare, on the folly of those who sell themselves
to the Devil for a little temporary enjoyment, he introduced the
subject of drunkenness, or rather drinking fermented liquors, which
he seemed to consider the same thing; and many a sorry joke on the
folly of drinking them did he crack, which some half-dozen amidst
the concourse applauded. At length he said:-
"After all, brethren, such drinking is no joking matter, for it is
the root of all evil. Now, brethren, if you would all get to
heaven, and cheat the enemy of your souls, never go into a public-
house to drink, and never fetch any drink from a public-house. Let
nothing pass your lips, in the shape of drink, stronger than water
or tea. Brethren, if you would cheat the Devil, take the pledge
and become teetotalers. I am a teetotaller myself, thank God -
though once I was a regular lushington."
Here ensued a burst of laughter in which I joined, though not at
the wretched joke, but at the absurdity of the argument; for,
according to that argument, I thought my old friends the Spaniards
and Portuguese must be the most moral people in the world, being
almost all water-drinkers. As the speaker was proceeding with his
nonsense, I heard some one say behind me - "a pretty fellow that,
to speak against drinking and public-houses: he pretends to be
reformed, but he is still as fond of the lush as ever. It was only
the other day I saw him reeling out of a gin-shop."
Now that speech I did not like, for I saw at once that it could not
be true, so I turned quickly round and said - "Old chap, I can
scarcely credit that!"
The man, whom I addressed, a rough-and-ready-looking fellow of the
lower class, seemed half disposed to return me a savage answer; but
an Englishman of the lower class, though you call his word in
question, is never savage with you, provided you call him old chap,
and he considers you by your dress to be his superior in station.
Now I, who had called the word of this man in question, had called
him old chap, and was considerably better dressed than himself; so,
after a little hesitation, he became quite gentle, and something
more, for he said in a half-apologetic tone - "Well, sir, I did not
exactly see him myself, but a particular friend of mine heer'd a
man say, that he heer'd another man say, that he was told that a
man heer'd that that fellow - "
"Come, come!" said I, "a man must not be convicted on evidence like
that; no man has more contempt for the doctrine which that man
endeavours to inculcate than myself, for I consider it to have been
got up partly for fanatical, partly for political purposes; but I
will never believe that he was lately seen coming out of a gin-
shop; he is too wise, or rather too cunning, for that."
I stayed listening to these people till evening was at hand. I
then left them, and without returning to the inn strolled over the
bridge to the green, where the tents stood. I went up to them:
two women sat at the entrance of one; a man stood by them, and the
children, whom I had before seen, were gambolling near at hand.
One of the women was about forty, the other some twenty years
younger; both were ugly. The younger was a rude, stupid-looking
creature, with red cheeks and redder hair, but there was a dash of
intelligence and likewise of wildness in the countenance of the
elder female, whose complexion and hair were rather dark. The man
was about the same age as the elder woman; he had rather a sharp
look, and was dressed in hat, white frock-coat, corduroy breeches,
long stockings and shoes. I gave them the seal of the evening.
"Good evening to your haner," said the man - "Good evening to you,
sir," said the woman; whilst the younger mumbled something,
probably to the same effect, but which I did not catch.
"Fine weather," said I.
"Very, sir," said the elder female. "Won't you please to sit
down?" and reaching back into the tent, she pulled out a stool
which she placed near me.
I sat down on the stool. "You are not from these parts?" said I,
addressing myself to the man.
"We are not, your haner," said the man; "we are from Ireland."
"And this lady," said I, motioning with my head to the elder
female, "is, I suppose, your wife."
"She is, your haner, and the children which your haner sees are my
"And who is this young lady?" said I, motioning to the uncouth-
"The young lady, as your haner is pleased to call her, is a
daughter of a sister of mine who is now dead, along with her
husband. We have her with us, your haner, because if we did not
she would be alone in the world."
"And what trade or profession do you follow?" said I.
"We do a bit in the tinkering line, your haner."
"Do you find tinkering a very profitable profession?" said I.
"Not very, your haner; but we contrive to get a crust and a drink
"That's more than I ever could," said I.
"Has your haner then ever followed tinkering?" said the man.
"Yes," said I, "but I soon left off."
"And became a minister," said the elder female, "Well, your honour
is not the first indifferent tinker that's turned out a shining
"Why do you think me a minister?"
"Because your honour has the very look and voice of one. Oh, it
was kind in your honour to come to us here in the Sabbath evening,
in order that you might bring us God."
"What do you mean by bringing you God?" said I.
"Talking to us about good things, sir, and instructing us out of
the Holy Book."
"I am no minister," said I.
"Then you are a priest; I am sure you are either a minister or a
priest; and now that I look on you, sir, I think you look more like
a priest than a minister. Yes, I see you are a priest. Oh, your
Reverence, give us God! Pull out the crucifix from your bosom, and
let us kiss the face of God!"
"Of what religion are you?" said I.
"Catholics, your Reverence, Catholics are we all."
"I am no priest."
"Then you are a minister; I am sure you are either a priest or a
minister. Oh sir, pull out the Holy Book, and instruct us from it
this blessed Sabbath evening. Give us God, sir, give us God!"
"And would you, who are Catholics, listen to the voice of a
"That would we, sir; at least I would. If you are a minister, and
a good minister, I would as soon listen to your words as those of
Father Toban himself."
"And who is Father Toban?"
"A powerful priest in these parts, sir, who has more than once
eased me of my sins, and given me God upon the cross. Oh, a
powerful and comfortable priest is Father Toban."
"And what would he say if he were to know that you asked for God
from a minister?"
"I do not know, and do not much care; if I get God, I do not care
whether I get Him from a minister or a priest; both have Him, no
doubt, only give Him in different ways. Oh sir, do give us God; we
need Him sir, for we are sinful people; we call ourselves tinkers,
but many is the sinful thing - "
"Bi-do-hosd;" said the man: Irish words tantamount to "Be silent!"
"I will not be hushed," said the woman, speaking English. "The man
is a good man, and he will do us no harm. We are tinkers, sir; but
we do many things besides tinkering, many sinful things, especially
in Wales, whither we are soon going again. Oh, I want to be eased
of some of my sins before I go into Wales again, and so do you,
Tourlough, for you know how you are sometimes haunted by devils at
night in those dreary Welsh hills. Oh sir, give us comfort in some
shape or other, either as priest or minister; give us God! Give us
"I am neither priest nor minister," said, I, "and can only say:
Lord have mercy upon you!" Then getting up I flung the children
some money and departed.
"We do not want your money, sir," screamed the woman after me; "we
have plenty of money. Give us God! Give us God!"
"Yes, your haner," said the man, "give us God! we do not want
money;" and the uncouth girl said something, which sounded much
like Give us God! but I hastened across the meadow, which was now
quite dusky, and was presently in the inn with my wife and
Welsh Book Stall - Wit and Poetry - Welsh of Chester - Beautiful
Morning - Noble Fellow - The Coiling Serpent - Wrexham Church -
Welsh or English? - Codiad yr Ehedydd.
ON the afternoon of Monday I sent my family off by the train to
Llangollen, which place we had determined to make our head-quarters
during our stay in Wales. I intended to follow them next day, not
in train, but on foot, as by walking I should be better able to see
the country, between Chester and Llangollen, than by making the
journey by the flying vehicle. As I returned to the inn from the
train I took refuge from a shower in one of the rows or covered
streets, to which, as I have already said, one ascends by flights
of steps; stopping at a book-stall I took up a book which chanced
to be a Welsh one. The proprietor, a short red-faced man,
observing me reading the book, asked me if I could understand it.
I told him that I could.
"If so," said he, "let me hear you translate the two lines on the
"Are you a Welshman?" said I.
"I am!" he replied.
"Good!" said I, and I translated into English the two lines which
were a couplet by Edmund Price, an old archdeacon of Merion,
celebrated in his day for wit and poetry.
The man then asked me from what part of Wales I came, and when I
told him that I was an Englishman was evidently offended, either
because he did not believe me, or, as I more incline to think, did
not approve of an Englishman's understanding Welsh.
The book was the life of the Rev. Richards, and was published at
Caerlleon, or the city of the legion, the appropriate ancient
British name for the place now called Chester, a legion having been
kept stationed there during the occupation of Britain by the
I returned to the inn and dined, and then yearning for society,
descended into the kitchen and had some conversation with the Welsh
maid. She told me that there were a great many Welsh in Chester
from all parts of Wales, but chiefly from Denbighshire and
Flintshire, which latter was her own country. That a great many
children were born in Chester of Welsh parents, and brought up in
the fear of God and love of the Welsh tongue. That there were some
who had never been in Wales, who spoke as good Welsh as herself, or
better. That the Welsh of Chester were of various religious
persuasions; that some were Baptists, some Independents, but that
the greater part were Calvinistic-Methodists; that she herself was
a Calvinistic-Methodist; that the different persuasions had their
different chapels, in which God was prayed to in Welsh; that there
were very few Welsh in Chester who belonged to the Church of
England, and that the Welsh in general do not like Church of
England worship, as I should soon find if I went into Wales.
Late in the evening I directed my steps across the bridge to the
green, where I had discoursed with the Irish itinerants. I wished
to have some more conversation with them respecting their way of
life, and, likewise, as they had so strongly desired it, to give
them a little Christian comfort, for my conscience reproached me
for my abrupt departure on the preceding evening. On arriving at
the green, however, I found them gone, and no traces of them but
the mark of their fire and a little dirty straw. I returned,
disappointed and vexed, to my inn.
Early the next morning I departed from Chester for Llangollen,
distant about twenty miles; I passed over the noble bridge and
proceeded along a broad and excellent road, leading in a direction
almost due south through pleasant meadows. I felt very happy - and
no wonder; the morning was beautiful, the birds sang merrily, and a
sweet smell proceeded from the new-cut hay in the fields, and I was
bound for Wales. I passed over the river Allan and through two
villages called, as I was told, Pulford and Marford, and ascended a
hill; from the top of this hill the view is very fine. To the east
are the high lands of Cheshire, to the west the bold hills of
Wales, and below, on all sides a fair variety of wood and water,
green meads and arable fields.
"You may well look around, Measter," said a waggoner, who, coming
from the direction in which I was bound, stopped to breathe his
team on the top of the hill; "you may well look around - there
isn't such a place to see the country from, far and near, as where
we stand. Many come to this place to look about them."
I looked at the man, and thought I had never seen a more powerful-
looking fellow; he was about six feet two inches high, immensely
broad in the shoulders, and could hardly have weighed less than
sixteen stone. I gave him the seal of the morning, and asked
whether he was Welsh or English.
"English, Measter, English; born t'other side of Beeston, pure
"I suppose," said I, "there are few Welshmen such big fellows as
"No, Measter," said the fellow, with a grin, "there are few
Welshmen so big as I, or yourself either; they are small men
mostly, Measter, them Welshers, very small men - and yet the
fellows can use their hands. I am a bit of a fighter, Measter, at
least I was before my wife made me join the Methodist connection,
and I once fit with a Welshman at Wrexham, he came from the hills,
and was a real Welshman, and shorter than myself by a whole head
and shoulder, but he stood up against me, and gave me more than
play for my money, till I gripped him, flung him down and myself
upon him, and then of course t'was all over with him."
"You are a noble fellow," said I, "and a credit to Cheshire. Will
you have sixpence to drink?"
"Thank you, Measter, I shall stop at Pulford, and shall be glad to
drink your health in a jug of ale."
I gave him sixpence, and descended the hill on one side, while he,
with his team, descended it on the other.
"A genuine Saxon," said I; "I daresay just like many of those who,
under Hengist, subdued the plains of Lloegr and Britain. Taliesin
called the Saxon race the Coiling Serpent. He had better have
called it the Big Bull. He was a noble poet, however: what
wonderful lines, upon the whole, are those in his prophecy, in
which he speaks of the Saxons and Britons, and of the result of
their struggle -
"A serpent which coils,
And with fury boils,
From Germany coming with arm'd wings spread,
Shall subdue and shall enthrall
The broad Britain all,
From the Lochlin ocean to Severn's bed.
"And British men
Shall be captives then
To strangers from Saxonia's strand;
They shall praise their God, and hold
Their language as of old,
But except wild Wales they shall lose their land."
I arrived at Wrexham, and having taken a very hearty breakfast at
the principal inn, for I felt rather hungry after a morning's walk
of ten miles, I walked about the town. The town is reckoned a
Welsh town, but its appearance is not Welsh - its inhabitants have
neither the look nor language of Welshmen, and its name shows that
it was founded by some Saxon adventurer, Wrexham being a Saxon
compound, signifying the home or habitation of Rex or Rag, and
identical, or nearly so, with the Wroxham of East Anglia. It is a
stirring bustling place, of much traffic, and of several thousand
inhabitants. Its most remarkable object is its church, which
stands at the south-western side. To this church, after wandering
for some time about the streets, I repaired. The tower is
quadrangular, and is at least one hundred feet high; it has on its
summit four little turrets, one at each corner, between each of
which are three spirelets, the middlemost of the three the highest.
The nave of the church is to the east; it is of two stories, both
crenulated at the top. I wished to see the interior of the church,
but found the gate locked. Observing a group of idlers close at
hand with their backs against a wall, I went up to them, and,
addressing myself to one, inquired whether I could see the church.
"Oh yes, sir," said the man; "the clerk who has the key lives close
at hand; one of us shall go and fetch him - by-the-bye, I may as
well go myself." He moved slowly away. He was a large bulky man
of about the middle age, and his companions were about the same age
and size as himself. I asked them if they were Welsh. "Yes, sir,"
said one, "I suppose we are, for they call us Welsh." I asked if
any of them could speak Welsh. "No, sir," said the man, "all the
Welsh that any of us know, or indeed wish to know, is 'Cwrw da.'"
Here there was a general laugh. Cwrw da signifies good ale. I at
first thought that the words might be intended as a hint for a
treat, but was soon convinced of the contrary. There was no greedy
expectation in his eyes, nor, indeed, in those of his companions,
though they all looked as if they were fond of good ale. I
inquired whether much Welsh was spoken in the town, and was told
very little. When the man returned with the clerk I thanked him.
He told me I was welcome, and then went and leaned with his back
against the wall. He and his mates were probably a set of boon
companions enjoying the air after a night's bout at drinking. I
was subsequently told that all the people of Wrexham are fond of
good ale. The clerk unlocked the church door, and conducted me in.
The interior was modern, but in no respects remarkable. The clerk
informed me that there was a Welsh service every Sunday afternoon
in the church, but that few people attended, and those few were
almost entirely from the country. He said that neither he nor the
clergyman were natives of Wrexham. He showed me the Welsh Church
Bible, and at my request read a few verses from the sacred volume.
He seemed a highly intelligent man. I gave him something, which
appeared to be more than he expected, and departed, after inquiring
of him the road to Llangollen.
I crossed a bridge, for there is a bridge and a stream too at
Wrexham. The road at first bore due west, but speedily took a
southerly direction. I moved rapidly over an undulating country; a
region of hills, or rather of mountains lay on my right hand. At
the entrance of a small village a poor, sickly-looking woman asked
me for charity.
"Are you Welsh or English?" said I.
"Welsh," she replied; "but I speak both languages, as do all the
I gave her a halfpenny; she wished me luck, and I proceeded. I
passed some huge black buildings which a man told me were
collieries, and several carts laden with coal, and soon came to
Rhiwabon - a large village about half way between Wrexham and
Llangollen. I observed in this place nothing remarkable, but an
ancient church. My way from hence lay nearly west. I ascended a
hill, from the top of which I looked down into a smoky valley. I
descended, passing by a great many collieries, in which I observed
grimy men working amidst smoke and flame. At the bottom of the
hill near a bridge I turned round. A ridge to the east
particularly struck my attention; it was covered with dusky
edifices, from which proceeded thundering sounds, and puffs of
smoke. A woman passed me going towards Rhiwabon; I pointed to the
ridge and asked its name; I spoke English. The woman shook her
head and replied "Dim Saesneg."
"This is as it should be," said I to myself; "I now feel I am in
Wales." I repeated the question in Welsh.
"Cefn Bach," she replied - which signifies the little ridge.
"Diolch iti," I replied, and proceeded on my way.
I was now in a wild valley - enormous hills were on my right. The
road was good, and above it, in the side of a steep bank, was a
causeway intended for foot passengers. It was overhung with hazel
bushes. I walked along it to its termination which was at
Llangollen. I found my wife and daughter at the principal inn.
They had already taken a house. We dined together at the inn;
during the dinner we had music, for a Welsh harper stationed in the
passage played upon his instrument "Codiad yr ehedydd." "Of a
surety," said I, "I am in Wales!"
Llangollen - Wyn Ab Nudd - The Dee - Dinas Bran.
THE northern side of the vale of Llangollen is formed by certain
enormous rocks called the Eglwysig rocks, which extend from east to
west, a distance of about two miles. The southern side is formed
by the Berwyn hills. The valley is intersected by the River Dee,
the origin of which is a deep lake near Bala, about twenty miles to
the west. Between the Dee and the Eglwysig rises a lofty hill, on
the top of which are the ruins of Dinas Bran, which bear no slight
resemblance to a crown. The upper part of the hill is bare with
the exception of what is covered by the ruins; on the lower part
there are inclosures and trees, with, here and there, a grove or
farm-house. On the other side of the valley, to the east of
Llangollen, is a hill called Pen y Coed, beautifully covered with
trees of various kinds; it stands between the river and the Berwyn,
even as the hill of Dinas Bran stands between the river and the
Eglwysig rocks - it does not, however, confront Dinas Bran, which
stands more to the west.
Llangollen is a small town or large village of white houses with
slate roofs, it contains about two thousand inhabitants, and is
situated principally on the southern side of the Dee. At its
western end it has an ancient bridge and a modest unpretending
church nearly in its centre, in the chancel of which rest the
mortal remains of an old bard called Gryffydd Hiraethog. From some
of the houses on the southern side there is a noble view - Dinas
Bran and its mighty hill forming the principal objects. The view
from the northern part of the town, which is indeed little more
than a suburb, is not quite so grand, but is nevertheless highly
interesting. The eastern entrance of the vale of Llangollen is
much wider than the western, which is overhung by bulky hills.
There are many pleasant villas on both sides of the river, some of
which stand a considerable way up the hill; of the villas the most
noted is Plas Newydd at the foot of the Berwyn, built by two Irish
ladies of high rank, who resided in it for nearly half a century,
and were celebrated throughout Europe by the name of the Ladies of
The view of the hill of Dinas Bran, from the southern side of
Llangollen, would be much more complete were it not for a bulky
excrescence, towards its base, which prevents the gazer from
obtaining a complete view. The name of Llangollen signifies the
church of Collen, and the vale and village take their name from the
church, which was originally dedicated to Saint Collen, though
some, especially the neighbouring peasantry, suppose that
Llangollen is a compound of Llan, a church, and Collen, a hazel-
wood, and that the church was called the church of the hazel-wood
from the number of hazels in the neighbourhood. Collen, according
to a legendary life, which exists of him in Welsh, was a Briton by
birth, and of illustrious ancestry. He served for some time abroad
as a soldier against Julian the Apostate, and slew a Pagan champion
who challenged the best man amongst the Christians. Returning to
his own country he devoted himself to religion, and became Abbot of
Glastonbury, but subsequently retired to a cave on the side of a
mountain, where he lived a life of great austerity. Once as he was
lying in his cell he heard two men out abroad discoursing about Wyn
Ab Nudd, and saying that he was king of the Tylwyth or Teg Fairies,
and lord of Unknown, whereupon Collen thrusting his head out of his
cave told them to hold their tongues, for that Wyn Ab Nudd and his
host were merely devils. At dead of night he heard a knocking at
the door, and on his asking who was there, a voice said: "I am a
messenger from Wyn Ab Nudd, king of Unknown, and I am come to
summon thee to appear before my master to-morrow, at mid-day, on
the top of the hill."
Collen did not go - the next night there was the same knocking and
the same message. Still Collen did not go. The third night the
messenger came again and repeated his summons, adding that if he
did not go it would be the worse for him. The next day Collen made
some holy water, put it into a pitcher and repaired to the top of
the hill, where he saw a wonderfully fine castle, attendants in
magnificent liveries, youths and damsels dancing with nimble feet,
and a man of honourable presence before the gate, who told him that
the king was expecting him to dinner. Collen followed the man into
the castle, and beheld the king on a throne of gold, and a table
magnificently spread before him. The king welcomed Collen, and
begged him to taste of the dainties on the table, adding that he
hoped that in future he would reside with him. "I will not eat of
the leaves of the forest," said Collen.
"Did you ever see men better dressed?" said the king, "than my
attendants here in red and blue?"
"Their dress is good enough," said Collen, "considering what kind
of dress it is."
"What kind of dress is it?" said the king.
Collen replied: "The red on the one side denotes burning, and the
blue on the other side denotes freezing." Then drawing forth his
sprinkler, he flung the holy water in the faces of the king and his
people, whereupon the whole vision disappeared, so that there was
neither castle nor attendants, nor youth nor damsel, nor musician
with his music, nor banquet, nor anything to be seen save the green
The valley of the Dee, of which the Llangollen district forms part,
is called in the British tongue Glyndyfrdwy - that is, the valley
of the Dwy or Dee. The celebrated Welsh chieftain, generally known
as Owen Glendower, was surnamed after this valley, the whole of
which belonged to him, and in which he had two or three places of
strength, though his general abode was a castle in Sycharth, a
valley to the south-east of the Berwyn, and distant about twelve
miles from Llangollen.
Connected with the Dee there is a wonderful Druidical legend to the
following effect. The Dee springs from two fountains, high up in
Merionethshire, called Dwy Fawr and Dwy Fach, or the great and
little Dwy, whose waters pass through those of the lake of Bala
without mingling with them, and come out at its northern extremity.
These fountains had their names from two individuals, Dwy Fawr and
Dwy Fach, who escaped from the Deluge, when all the rest of the
human race were drowned, and the passing of the waters of the two
fountains through the lake, without being confounded with its
flood, is emblematic of the salvation of the two individuals from
the Deluge, of which the lake is a type.
Dinas Bran, which crowns the top of the mighty hill on the northern
side of the valley, is a ruined stronghold of unknown antiquity.
The name is generally supposed to signify Crow Castle, bran being
the British word for crow, and flocks of crows being frequently
seen hovering over it. It may, however, mean the castle of Bran or
Brennus, or the castle above the Bran, a brook which flows at its
Dinas Bran was a place quite impregnable in the old time, and
served as a retreat to Gruffydd, son of Madawg from the rage of his
countrymen, who were incensed against him because, having married
Emma, the daughter of James Lord Audley, he had, at the instigation
of his wife and father-in-law, sided with Edward the First against
his own native sovereign. But though it could shield him from his
foes, it could not preserve him from remorse and the stings of
conscience, of which he speedily died.
At present the place consists only of a few ruined walls, and
probably consisted of little more two or three hundred years ago:
Roger Cyffyn a Welsh bard, who flourished at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, wrote an englyn upon it, of which the
following is a translation:-
"Gone, gone are thy gates, Dinas Bran on the height!
Thy warders are blood-crows and ravens, I trow;
Now no one will wend from the field of the fight
To the fortress on high, save the raven and crow."
Poor Black Cat - Dissenters - Persecution - What Impudence!
THE house or cottage, for it was called a cottage though it
consisted of two stories, in which my wife had procured lodgings
for us, was situated in the Northern suburb. Its front was towards
a large perllan or orchard, which sloped down gently to the banks
of the Dee; its back was towards the road leading from Wrexham,
behind which was a high bank, on the top of which was a canal
called in Welsh the Camlas, whose commencement was up the valley
about two miles west. A little way up the road, towards Wrexham,
was the vicarage and a little way down was a flannel factory,
beyond which was a small inn, with pleasure grounds, kept by an
individual who had once been a gentleman's servant. The mistress
of the house was a highly respectable widow, who, with a servant
maid was to wait upon us. It was as agreeable a place in all
respects as people like ourselves could desire.
As I and my family sat at tea in our parlour, an hour or two after
we had taken possession of our lodgings, the door of the room and
that of the entrance to the house being open, on account of the
fineness of the weather, a poor black cat entered hastily, sat down
on the carpet by the table, looked up towards us, and mewed
piteously. I never had seen so wretched a looking creature. It
was dreadfully attenuated, being little more than skin and bone,
and was sorely afflicted with an eruptive malady. And here I may
as well relate the history of this cat previous to our arrival
which I subsequently learned by bits and snatches. It had belonged
to a previous vicar of Llangollen, and had been left behind at his
departure. His successor brought with him dogs and cats, who,
conceiving that the late vicar's cat had no business at the
vicarage, drove it forth to seek another home, which, however, it
could not find. Almost all the people of the suburb were
dissenters, as indeed were the generality of the people of
Llangollen, and knowing the cat to be a church cat, not only would
not harbour it, but did all they could to make it miserable; whilst
the few who were not dissenters, would not receive it into their
houses, either because they had cats of their own, or dogs, or did
not want a cat, so that the cat had no home and was dreadfully
persecuted by nine-tenths of the suburb. Oh, there never was a cat
so persecuted as that poor Church of England animal, and solely on
account of the opinions which it was supposed to have imbibed in
the house of its late master, for I never could learn that the
dissenters of the suburb, nor indeed of Llangollen in general, were
in the habit of persecuting other cats; the cat was a Church of
England cat, and that was enough: stone it, hang it, drown it!
were the cries of almost everybody. If the workmen of the flannel
factory, all of whom were Calvinistic-Methodists, chanced to get a
glimpse of it in the road from the windows of the building, they
would sally forth in a body, and with sticks, stones, or for want
of other weapons, with clots of horse dung, of which there was
always plenty on the road, would chase it up the high bank or
perhaps over the Camlas; the inhabitants of a small street between
our house and the factory leading from the road to the river, all
of whom were dissenters, if they saw it moving about the perllan,
into which their back windows looked, would shriek and hoot at it,
and fling anything of no value, which came easily to hand, at the
head or body of the ecclesiastical cat. The good woman of the
house, who though a very excellent person, was a bitter dissenter,
whenever she saw it upon her ground or heard it was there, would
make after it, frequently attended by her maid Margaret, and her
young son, a boy about nine years of age, both of whom hated the
cat, and were always ready to attack it, either alone or in
company, and no wonder, the maid being not only a dissenter, but a
class teacher, and the boy not only a dissenter, but intended for
the dissenting ministry. Where it got its food, and food it
sometimes must have got, for even a cat, an animal known to have
nine lives, cannot live without food, was only known to itself, as
was the place where it lay, for even a cat must lie down sometimes;
though a labouring man who occasionally dug in the garden told me
he believed that in the springtime it ate freshets, and the woman
of the house once said that she believed it sometimes slept in the
hedge, which hedge, by-the-bye, divided our perllan from the
vicarage grounds, which were very extensive. Well might the cat
after having led this kind of life for better than two years look
mere skin and bone when it made its appearance in our apartment,
and have an eruptive malady, and also a bronchitic cough, for I
remember it had both. How it came to make its appearance there is
a mystery, for it had never entered the house before, even when
there were lodgers; that it should not visit the woman, who was its
declared enemy, was natural enough, but why if it did not visit her
other lodgers, did it visit us? Did instinct keep it aloof from
them? Did instinct draw it towards us? We gave it some bread-and-
butter, and a little tea with milk and sugar. It ate and drank and
soon began to purr. The good woman of the house was horrified when
on coming in to remove the things she saw the church cat on her
carpet. "What impudence!" she exclaimed, and made towards it, but
on our telling her that we did not expect that it should be
disturbed, she let it alone. A very remarkable circumstance was,
that though the cat had hitherto been in the habit of flying, not
only from her face, but the very echo of her voice, it now looked
her in the face with perfect composure, as much as to say, "I don't
fear you, for I know that I am now safe and with my own people."
It stayed with us two hours and then went away. The next morning
it returned. To be short, though it went away every night, it
became our own cat, and one of our family. I gave it something
which cured it of its eruption, and through good treatment it soon
lost its other ailments and began to look sleek and bonny.
The Mowers - Deep Welsh - Extensive View - Old Celtic Hatred - Fish
Preserving - Smollet's Morgan.
NEXT morning I set out to ascend Dinas Bran, a number of children,
almost entirely girls, followed me. I asked them why they came
after me. "In the hope that you will give us something," said one
in very good English. I told them that I should give them nothing,
but they still followed me. A little way up the hill I saw some
men cutting hay. I made an observation to one of them respecting
the fineness of the weather; he answered civilly, and rested on his
scythe, whilst the others pursued their work. I asked him whether
he was a farming man; he told me that he was not; that he generally
worked at the flannel manufactory, but that for some days past he
had not been employed there, work being slack, and had on that
account joined the mowers in order to earn a few shillings. I
asked him how it was he knew how to handle a scythe, not being bred
up a farming man; he smiled, and said that, somehow or other, he
had learnt to do so.
"You speak very good English," said I, "have you much Welsh?"
"Plenty," said he; "I am a real Welshman."
"Can you read Welsh?" said I.
"Oh, yes!" he replied.
"What books have you read?" said I.
"I have read the Bible, sir, and one or two other books."
"Did you ever read the Bardd Cwsg?" said I.
He looked at me with some surprise. "No," said he, after a moment
or two, "I have never read it. I have seen it, but it was far too
deep Welsh for me."
"I have read it," said I.
"Are you a Welshman?" said he.
"No," said I; "I am an Englishman."
"And how is it," said he, "that you can read Welsh without being a
"I learned to do so," said I, "even as you learned to mow, without
being bred up to farming work."
"Ah! "said he, "but it is easier to learn to mow than to read the
"I don't think that," said I; "I have taken up a scythe a hundred
times but I cannot mow."
"Will your honour take mine now, and try again?" said he.
"No," said I, "for if I take your scythe in hand I must give you a
shilling, you know, by mowers' law."
He gave a broad grin, and I proceeded up the hill. When he
rejoined his companions he said something to them in Welsh, at
which they all laughed. I reached the top of the hill, the
children still attending me.
The view over the vale is very beautiful; but on no side, except in
the direction of the west, is it very extensive; Dinas Bran being
on all other sides overtopped by other hills: in that direction,
indeed, the view is extensive enough, reaching on a fine day even
to the Wyddfa or peak of Snowdon, a distance of sixty miles, at
least as some say, who perhaps ought to add to very good eyes,
which mine are not. The day that I made my first ascent of Dinas
Bran was very clear, but I do not think I saw the Wyddfa then from
the top of Dinas Bran. It is true I might see it without knowing
it, being utterly unacquainted with it, except by name; but I
repeat I do not think I saw it, and I am quite sure that I did not
see it from the top of Dinas Bran on a subsequent ascent, on a day
equally clear, when if I had seen the Wyddfa I must have recognised
it, having been at its top. As I stood gazing around, the children
danced about upon the grass, and sang a song. The song was
English. I descended the hill; they followed me to its foot, and
then left me. The children of the lower class of Llangollen are
great pests to visitors. The best way to get rid of them is to
give them nothing: I followed that plan, and was not long troubled
Arrived at the foot of the hill, I walked along the bank of the
canal to the west. Presently I came to a barge lying by the bank;
the boatman was in it. I entered into conversation with him. He
told me that the canal and its branches extended over a great part
of England. That the boats carried slates - that he had frequently
gone as far as Paddington by the canal - that he was generally
three weeks on the journey - that the boatmen and their families
lived in the little cabins aft - that the boatmen were all Welsh -
that they could read English, but little or no Welsh - that English
was a much more easy language to read than Welsh - that they passed
by many towns, among others Northampton, and that he liked no place
so much as Llangollen. I proceeded till I came to a place where
some people were putting huge slates into a canal boat. It was
near a bridge which crossed the Dee, which was on the left. I
stopped and entered into conversation with one, who appeared to be
the principal man. He told me amongst other things that he was a
blacksmith from the neighbourhood of Rhiwabon, and that the flags
were intended for the flooring of his premises. In the boat was an
old bareheaded, bare-armed fellow, who presently joined in the
conversation in very broken English. He told me that his name was
Joseph Hughes, and that he was a real Welshman and was proud of
being so; he expressed a great dislike for the English, who he said
were in the habit of making fun of him and ridiculing his language;
he said that all the fools that he had known were Englishmen. I
told him that all Englishmen were not fools; "but the greater part
are," said he. "Look how they work," said I. "Yes," said he,
"some of them are good at breaking stones for the road, but not
more than one in a hundred." "There seems to be something of the
old Celtic hatred to the Saxon in this old fellow," said I to
myself, as I walked away.
I proceeded till I came to the head of the canal, where the
navigation first commences. It is close to a weir over which the
Dee falls. Here there is a little floodgate, through which water
rushes from an oblong pond or reservoir, fed by water from a corner
of the upper part of the weir. On the left, or south-west side, is
a mound of earth fenced with stones which is the commencement of
the bank of the canal. The pond or reservoir above the floodgate
is separated from the weir by a stone wall on the left, or south-
west side. This pond has two floodgates, the one already
mentioned, which opens into the canal, and another, on the other
side of the stone mound, opening to the lower part of the weir.
Whenever, as a man told me who was standing near, it is necessary
to lay the bed of the canal dry, in the immediate neighbourhood for
the purpose of making repairs, the floodgate to the canal is
closed, and the one to the lower part of the weir is opened, and
then the water from the pond flows into the Dee, whilst a sluice,
near the first lock, lets out the water of the canal into the
river. The head of the canal is situated in a very beautiful spot.
To the left or south is a lofty hill covered with wood. To the
right is a beautiful slope or lawn on the top of which is a pretty
villa, to which you can get by a little wooden bridge over the
floodgate of the canal, and indeed forming part of it. Few things
are so beautiful in their origin as this canal, which, be it known,
with its locks and its aqueducts, the grandest of which last is the
stupendous erection near Stockport, which by-the-bye filled my mind
when a boy with wonder, constitutes the grand work of England, and
yields to nothing in the world of the kind, with the exception of
the great canal of China.
Retracing my steps some way I got upon the river's bank and then
again proceeded in the direction of the west. I soon came to a
cottage nearly opposite a bridge, which led over the river, not the
bridge which I have already mentioned, but one much smaller, and
considerably higher up the valley. The cottage had several dusky
outbuildings attached to it, and a paling before it. Leaning over
the paling in his shirt-sleeves was a dark-faced, short, thickset
man, who saluted me in English. I returned his salutation,
stopped, and was soon in conversation with him. I praised the
beauty of the river and its banks: he said that both were
beautiful and delightful in summer, but not at all in winter, for
then the trees and bushes on the banks were stripped of their
leaves, and the river was a frightful torrent. He asked me if I
had been to see the place called the Robber's Leap, as strangers
generally went to see it. I inquired where it was.
"Yonder," said he, pointing to some distance down the river.
"Why is it called the Robber's Leap?" said I.
"It is called the Robber's Leap, or Llam y Lleidyr," said he,
"because a thief pursued by justice once leaped across the river
there and escaped. It was an awful leap, and he well deserved to
escape after taking it." I told him that I should go and look at
it on some future opportunity, and then asked if there were many
fish in the river. He said there were plenty of salmon and trout,
and that owing to the river being tolerably high, a good many had
been caught during the last few days. I asked him who enjoyed the
right of fishing in the river. He said that in these parts the
fishing belonged to two or three proprietors, who either preserved
the fishing for themselves, as they best could by means of keepers,
or let it out to other people; and that many individuals came not
only from England, but from France and Germany and even Russia for
the purpose of fishing, and that the keepers of the proprietors
from whom they purchased permission to fish, went with them, to
show them the best places, and to teach them how to fish. He added
that there was a report that the river would shortly be rhydd or
free and open to any one. I said that it would be a bad thing to
fling the river open, as in that event the fish would be killed at
all times and seasons, and eventually all destroyed. He replied
that he questioned whether more fish would be taken then than now,
and that I must not imagine that the fish were much protected by
what was called preserving; that the people to whom the lands in
the neighbourhood belonged, and those who paid for fishing did not
catch a hundredth part of the fish which were caught in the river:
that the proprietors went with their keepers, and perhaps caught
two or three stone of fish, or that strangers went with the
keepers, whom they paid for teaching them how to fish, and perhaps
caught half-a-dozen fish, and that shortly after the keepers would
return and catch on their own account sixty stone of fish from the
very spot where the proprietors or strangers had great difficulty
in catching two or three stone or the half-dozen fish, or the
poachers would go and catch a yet greater quantity. He added that
gentry did not understand how to catch fish, and that to attempt to
preserve was nonsense. I told him that if the river was flung open
everybody would fish; he said that I was much mistaken, that
hundreds who were now poachers, would then keep at home, mind their
proper trades, and never use line or spear; that folks always
longed to do what they were forbidden, and that Shimei would never
have crossed the brook provided he had not been told he should be
hanged if he did. That he himself had permission to fish in the
river whenever he pleased, but never availed himself of it, though
in his young time, when he had no leave, he had been an arrant
The manners and way of speaking of this old personage put me very
much in mind of those of Morgan, described by Smollett in his
immortal novel of "Roderick Random." I had more discourse with
him: I asked him in what line of business he was, he told me that
he sold coals. From his complexion, and the hue of his shirt, I
had already concluded that he was in some grimy trade. I then
inquired of what religion he was, and received for answer that he
was a Baptist. I thought that both himself and part of his apparel
would look all the better for a good immersion. We talked of the
war then raging - he said it was between the false prophet and the
Dragon. I asked him who the Dragon was - he said the Turk. I told
him that the Pope was far worse than either the Turk or the
Russian, that his religion was the vilest idolatry, and that he
would let no one alone. That it was the Pope who drove his fellow
religionists the Anabaptists out of the Netherlands. He asked me
how long ago that was. Between two and three hundred years I
replied. He asked me the meaning of the word Anabaptist; I told
him; whereupon he expressed great admiration for my understanding,
and said that he hoped he should see me again.
I inquired of him to what place the bridge led; he told me that if
I passed over it, and ascended a high bank beyond, I should find
myself on the road from Llangollen to Corwen and that if I wanted
to go to Llangollen I must turn to the left. I thanked him, and
passing over the bridge, and ascending the bank, found myself upon
a broad road. I turned to the left, and walking briskly in about
half an hour reached our cottage in the northern suburb, where I
found my family and dinner awaiting me.
The Dinner - English Foibles - Pengwern - The Yew-Tree - Carn-
Lleidyr - Applications of a Term.
FOR dinner we had salmon and leg of mutton; the salmon from the
Dee, the leg from the neighbouring Berwyn. The salmon was good
enough, but I had eaten better; and here it will not be amiss to
say, that the best salmon in the world is caught in the Suir, a
river that flows past the beautiful town of Clonmel in Ireland. As
for the leg of mutton it was truly wonderful; nothing so good had I
ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of
Wales beats the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had never
tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Certainly I shall never
forget that first Welsh leg of mutton which I tasted, rich but
delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of
the noble Berwyn, cooked to a turn, and weighing just four pounds.
"O its savoury smell was great,
Such as well might tempt, I trow,
One that's dead to lift his brow."
Let any one who wishes to eat leg of mutton in perfection go to
Wales, but mind you to eat leg of mutton only. Welsh leg of mutton
is superlative; but with the exception of the leg, the mutton of
Wales is decidedly inferior to that of many other parts of Britain.
Here, perhaps, as I have told the reader what we ate for dinner, it
will be as well to tell him what we drank at dinner. Let him know
then, that with our salmon we drank water, and with our mutton ale,
even ale of Llangollen; but not the best ale of Llangollen; it was
very fair; but I subsequently drank far better Llangollen ale than
that which I drank at our first dinner in our cottage at
In the evening I went across the bridge and strolled along in a
south-east direction. Just as I had cleared the suburb a man
joined me from a cottage, on the top of a high bank, whom I
recognised as the mower with whom I had held discourse in the
morning. He saluted me and asked me if I were taking a walk, I
told him I was, whereupon he said that if I were not too proud to
wish to be seen walking with a poor man like himself, he should
wish to join me. I told him I should be glad of his company, and
that I was not ashamed to be seen walking with any person, however
poor, who conducted himself with propriety. He replied that I must
be very different from my countrymen in general, who were ashamed
to be seen walking with any people, who were not, at least, as
well-dressed as themselves. I said that my country-folk in general
had a great many admirable qualities, but at the same time a great
many foibles, foremost amongst which last was a crazy admiration
for what they called gentility, which made them sycophantic to
their superiors in station, and extremely insolent to those whom
they considered below them. He said that I had spoken his very
thoughts, and then asked me whether I wished to be taken the most
agreeable walk near Llangollen.
On my replying by all means, he led me along the road to the south-
east. A pleasant road it proved: on our right at some distance
was the mighty Berwyn; close on our left the hill called Pen y
Coed. I asked him what was beyond the Berwyn?
"A very wild country, indeed," he replied, "consisting of wood,
rock, and river; in fact, an anialwch."
He then asked if I knew the meaning of anialwch.
"A wilderness," I replied, "you will find the word in the Welsh
"Very true, sir," said he, "it was there I met it, but I did not
know the meaning of it, till it was explained to me by one of our
On my inquiring of what religion he was, he told me he was a
We passed an ancient building which stood on our right. I turned
round to look at it. Its back was to the road: at its eastern end
was a fine arched window like the oriel window of a church
"That building," said my companion, "is called Pengwern Hall. It
was once a convent of nuns; a little time ago a farm-house, but is
now used as a barn, and a place of stowage. Till lately it
belonged to the Mostyn family, but they disposed of it, with the
farm on which it stood, together with several other farms, to
certain people from Liverpool, who now live yonder," pointing to a
house a little way farther on. I still looked at the edifice.
"You seem to admire the old building," said my companion.
"I was not admiring it," said I; "I was thinking of the difference
between its present and former state. Formerly it was a place
devoted to gorgeous idolatry and obscene lust; now it is a quiet
old barn in which hay and straw are placed, and broken tumbrels
stowed away: surely the hand of God is visible here?"
"It is so, sir," said the man in a respectful tone, "and so it is
in another place in this neighbourhood. About three miles from
here, in the north-west part of the valley, is an old edifice. It
is now a farm-house, but was once a splendid abbey, and was called
"The abbey of the vale of the cross," said I, "I have read a deal
about it. Iolo Goch, the bard of your celebrated hero, Owen
Glendower, was buried somewhere in its precincts."
We went on: my companion took me over a stile behind the house
which he had pointed out, and along a path through hazel coppices.
After a little time I inquired whether there were any Papists in
"No," said he, "there is not one of that family at Llangollen, but
I believe there are some in Flintshire, at a place called Holywell,
where there is a pool or fountain, the waters of which it is said
"And so they do," said I, "true to the old Indian superstition, of
which their religion is nothing but a modification. The Indians
and sepoys worship stocks and stones, and the river Ganges, and our
Papists worship stocks and stones, holy wells and fountains."
He put some questions to me about the origin of nuns and friars. I
told him they originated in India, and made him laugh heartily by
showing him the original identity of nuns and nautch-girls, begging
priests and begging Brahmins. We passed by a small house with an
enormous yew-tree before it; I asked him who lived there.
"No one," he replied, "it is to let. It was originally a cottage,
but the proprietors have furbished it up a little, and call it Yew-
"I suppose they would let it cheap," said I.
"By no means," he replied, "they ask eighty pounds a year for it."
"What could have induced them to set such a rent upon it?" I
"The yew-tree, sir, which is said to be the largest in Wales. They
hope that some of the grand gentry will take the house for the
romance of the yew-tree, but somehow or other nobody has taken it,
though it has been to let for three seasons."
We soon came to a road leading east and west.
"This way," said he, pointing in the direction of the west, "leads
back to Llangollen, the other to Offa's Dyke and England."
We turned to the west. He inquired if I had ever heard before of
"Oh yes," said I, "it was built by an old Saxon king called Offa,
against the incursions of the Welsh."
"There was a time," said my companion, "when it was customary for
the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to
the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman
whom they found to the west of it. Let us be thankful that we are
now more humane to each other. We are now on the north side of Pen
y Coed. Do you know the meaning of Pen y Coed, sir?"
"Pen y Coed," said I, "means the head of the wood. I suppose that
in the old time the mountain looked over some extensive forest,
even as the nunnery of Pengwern looked originally over an alder-
swamp, for Pengwern means the head of the alder-swamp."
"So it does, sir, I shouldn't wonder if you could tell me the real
meaning of a word, about which I have thought a good deal, and
about which I was puzzling my head last night as I lay in bed."
"What may it be?" said I.
"Carn-lleidyr," he replied: "now, sir, do you know the meaning of
"I think I do," said I.
"What may it be, sir?"
"First let me hear what you conceive its meaning to be," said I.
"Why, sir, I should say that Carn-lleidyr is an out-and-out thief -
one worse than a thief of the common sort. Now, if I steal a
matrass I am a lleidyr, that is a thief of the common sort; but if
I carry it to a person, and he buys it, knowing it to be stolen, I
conceive he is a far worse thief than I; in fact, a carn-lleidyr."
"The word is a double word," said I, "compounded of carn and
lleidyr. The original meaning of carn is a heap of stones, and
carn-lleidyr means properly a thief without house or home, and with
no place on which to rest his head, save the carn or heap of stones
on the bleak top of the mountain. For a long time the word was
only applied to a thief of that description, who, being without
house and home, was more desperate than other thieves, and as
savage and brutish as the wolves and foxes with whom he
occasionally shared his pillow, the carn. In course of time,
however, the original meaning was lost or disregarded, and the term
carn-lleidyr was applied to any particularly dishonest person. At
present there can be no impropriety in calling a person who
receives a matrass, knowing it to be stolen, a carn-lleidyr, seeing
that he is worse than the thief who stole it, or in calling a
knavish attorney a carn-lleidyr, seeing that he does far more harm
than a common pick-pocket; or in calling the Pope so, seeing that
he gets huge sums of money out of people by pretending to be able
to admit their souls to heaven, or to hurl them to the other place,
knowing all the time that he has no such power; perhaps, indeed, at
the present day the term carn-lleidyr is more applicable to the
Pope than to any one else, for he is certainly the arch thief of
the world. So much for Carn-lleidyr. But I must here tell you
that the term carn may be applied to any who is particularly bad or
disagreeable in any respect, and now I remember, has been applied
for centuries both in prose and poetry. One Lewis Glyn Cothi, a
poet, who lived more than three hundred years ago, uses the word
carn in the sense of arrant or exceedingly bad, for in his abusive
ode to the town of Chester, he says that the women of London itself
were never more carn strumpets than those of Chester, by which he
means that there were never more arrant harlots in the world than
those of the cheese capital. And the last of your great poets,
Gronwy Owen, who flourished about the middle of the last century,
complains in a letter to a friend, whilst living in a village of
Lancashire, that he was amongst Carn Saeson. He found all English
disagreeable enough, but those of Lancashire particularly so -
savage, brutish louts, out-and-out John Bulls, and therefore he
called them Carn Saeson."
"Thank you, sir," said my companion; "I now thoroughly understand
the meaning of carn. Whenever I go to Chester, and a dressed-up
madam jostles against me, I shall call her carn-butein. The Pope
of Rome I shall in future term carn-lleidyr y byd, or the arch
thief of the world. And whenever I see a stupid, brutal Englishman
swaggering about Llangollen, and looking down upon us poor Welsh, I
shall say to myself Get home, you carn Sais! Well, sir, we are now
near Llangollen; I must turn to the left. You go straight forward.
I never had such an agreeable walk in my life. May I ask your
I told him my name, and asked him for his.
"Edward Jones," he replied.
The Berwyn - Mountain Cottage - The Barber's Pole.
ON the following morning I strolled up the Berwyn on the south-west
of the town, by a broad winding path, which was at first very
steep, but by degrees became less so. When I had accomplished
about three parts of the ascent I came to a place where the road,
or path, divided into two. I took the one to the left, which
seemingly led to the top of the mountain, and presently came to a
cottage from which a dog rushed barking towards me; an old woman,
however, coming to the door called him back. I said a few words to
her in Welsh, whereupon in broken English she asked me to enter the
cottage and take a glass of milk. I went in and sat down on a
chair which a sickly-looking young woman handed to me. I asked her
in English who she was, but she made no answer, whereupon the old
woman told me that she was her daughter and had no English. I then
asked her in Welsh what was the matter with her, she replied that
she had the cryd or ague. The old woman now brought me a glass of
milk, and said in the Welsh language that she hoped I should like
it. What further conversation we had was in the Cambrian tongue.
I asked the name of the dog, who was now fondling upon me, and was
told that his name was Pharaoh. I inquired if they had any books,
and was shown two, one a common Bible printed by the Bible Society,
and the other a volume in which the book of prayer of the Church of
England was bound up with the Bible, both printed at Oxford, about
the middle of the last century. I found that both mother and
daughter were Calvinistic-Methodists. After a little further
discourse I got up and gave the old woman twopence for the milk;