Part 10 out of 14
the Wolverhampton gent listened with open mouth and staring eyes.
My dinner now made its appearance, brought in by the little
freckled maid - the cloth had been laid during my absence from the
room. I had just begun to handle my knife and fork, Doctor Jones
still continuing his observations on the history of the Gwedir
family, when I heard a carriage drive up to the inn, and almost
immediately after, two or three young fellows rollicked into the
room: "Come let's be off," said one of them to the Wolverhampton
gent; "the carriage is ready." "I'm glad of it," said the fast
young man, "for it's rather slow work here. Come, doctor! are you
going with us or do you intend to stay here all night?" Thereupon
the doctor got up, and coming towards me leaning on his cane, said:
"Sir! it gives me infinite pleasure that I have met a second time a
gentleman of so much literature. That we shall ever meet a third
time I may wish but can scarcely hope, owing to certain ailments
under which I suffer, brought on, sir, by a residence of many years
in the Occidental Indies. However, at all events, I wish you
health and happiness." He then shook me gently by the hand and
departed with the Wolverhampton gent and his companions; the gent
as he stumped out of the room saying, "Good-night, sir; I hope it
will not be long before I see you at another public dinner at
Wolverhampton, and hear another speech from you as good as the
last." In a minute or two I heard them drive off. Left to myself
I began to discuss my dinner. Of the dinner I had nothing to
complain, but the ale which accompanied it was very bad. This was
the more mortifying, for, remembering the excellent ale I had drunk
at Bala some months previously, I had, as I came along the gloomy
roads the present evening, been promising myself a delicious treat
on my arrival.
"This is very bad ale!" said I to the freckled maid, "very
different from what I drank in the summer, when I was waited on by
"It is the same ale, sir," said the maid, "but the last in the
cask; and we shan't have any more for six months, when he will come
again to brew for the summer; but we have very good porter, sir,
and first-rate Allsopp."
"Allsopp's ale," said I, "will do for July and August, but scarcely
for the end of October. However, bring me a pint; I prefer it at
all times to porter."
My dinner concluded, I trifled away my time till about ten o'clock,
and then went to bed.
Breakfast - The Freckled Maid - Llan uwch Llyn - The Landlady -
Llewarch Hen - Conversions to the Church.
AWAKING occasionally in the night I heard much storm and rain. The
following morning it was gloomy and lowering. As it was Sunday I
determined to pass the day at Bala, and accordingly took my Prayer
Book out of my satchel, and also my single white shirt, which I put
Having dressed myself I went to the coffee-room and sat down to
breakfast. What a breakfast! - pot of hare; ditto of trout; pot of
prepared shrimps; dish of plain shrimps; tin of sardines; beautiful
beef-steak; eggs, muffin; large loaf, and butter, not forgetting
capital tea. There's a breakfast for you!
As the little freckled maid was removing the breakfast things I
asked her how old she was.
"Eighteen, sir, last Candlemas," said the freckled maid.
"Are your parents alive?"
"My mother is, sir, but my father is dead."
"What was your father?"
"He was an Irishman, sir! and boots to this inn."
"Is your mother Irish?"
"No, sir, she is of this place; my father married her shortly after
he came here."
"Of what religion are you?"
"Church, sir, Church."
"Was your father of the Church?"
"Not always, sir; he was once what is called a Catholic. He turned
to the Church after he came here."
"A'n't there a great many Methodists in Bala?"
"Plenty, sir, plenty."
"How came your father not to go over to the Methodists instead of
"'Cause he didn't like them, sir; he used to say they were a
trumpery, cheating set; that they wouldn't swear, but would lie
through a three-inch board."
"I suppose your mother is a Church-woman?"
"She is now, sir; but before she knew my father she was a
"Of what religion is the master of the house?"
"Church, sir, Church; so is all the family."
"Who is the clergyman of the place?"
"Mr Pugh, sir!"
"Is he a good preacher?"
"Capital, sir! and so is each of his curates; he and they are
converting the Methodists left and right."
"I should like to hear him."
"Well, sir! that you can do. My master, who is going to church
presently, will be happy to accommodate you in his pew."
I went to church with the landlord, a tall gentlemanly man of the
name of Jones - Oh that eternal name of Jones! Rain was falling
fast, and we were glad to hold up our umbrellas. We did not go to
the church at Bala, at which there was no service that morning, but
to that of a little village close by, on the side of the lake, the
living of which is incorporated with that of Bala. The church
stands low down by the lake at the bottom of a little nook. Its
name which is Llan uwch Llyn, is descriptive of its position,
signifying the Church above the Lake. It is a long, low, ancient
edifice, standing north-east by south-west. The village is just
above it on a rising ground, behind which are lofty hills
pleasantly dotted with groves, trees, and houses. The interior of
the edifice has a somewhat dilapidated appearance. The service was
in Welsh. The clergyman was about forty years of age, and had a
highly-intelligent look. His voice was remarkably clear and
distinct. He preached an excellent practical sermon, text, 14th
chapter, 22nd verse of Luke, about sending out servants to invite
people to the supper. After the sermon there was a gathering for
As I returned to the inn I had a good deal of conversation with the
landlord on religious subjects. He told me that the Church of
England, which for a long time had been a down-trodden Church in
Wales, had of late begun to raise its head, and chiefly owing to
the zeal and activity of its present ministers; that the former
ministers of the Church were good men, but had not energy enough to
suit the times in which they lived; that the present ministers
fought the Methodist preachers with their own weapons, namely,
extemporary preaching, and beat them, winning shoals from their
congregations. He seemed to think that the time was not far
distant when the Anglican Church would be the popular as well as
the established Church of Wales.
Finding myself rather dull in the inn, I went out again,
notwithstanding that it rained. I ascended the toman or mound
which I had visited on a former occasion. Nothing could be more
desolate and dreary than the scene around. The woods were stripped
of their verdure and the hills were half shrouded in mist. How
unlike was this scene to the smiling, glorious prospect which had
greeted my eyes a few months before. The rain coming down with
redoubled violence, I was soon glad to descend and regain the inn.
Shortly before dinner I was visited by the landlady, a fine tall
woman of about fifty, with considerable remains of beauty in her
countenance. She came to ask me if I was comfortable. I told her
that it was my own fault if I was not. We were soon in very
friendly discourse. I asked her her maiden name.
"Owen," said she, laughing, "which, after my present name of Jones,
is the most common name in Wales."
"They were both one and the same originally," said I, "Owen and
Jones both mean John."
She too was a staunch member of the Church of England, which she
said was the only true Church. She spoke in terms of high respect
and admiration of her minister, and said that a new church was
being built, the old one not being large enough to accommodate the
numbers who thronged to hear him.
I had a noble goose for dinner, to which I did ample justice.
About four o'clock, the weather having cleared up, I took a stroll.
It was a beautiful evening, though rain clouds still hovered about.
I wandered to the northern end of Llyn Tegid, which I had passed in
the preceding evening. The wind was blowing from the south, and
tiny waves were beating against the shore, which consisted of small
brown pebbles. The lake has certainly not its name, which
signifies Lake of Beauty, for nothing. It is a beautiful sheet of
water, and beautifully situated. It is oblong and about six miles
in length. On all sides, except to the north, it is bounded by
hills. Those at the southern end are very lofty, the tallest of
which is Arran, which lifts its head to the clouds like a huge
loaf. As I wandered on the strand I thought of a certain British
prince and poet, who in the very old time sought a refuge in the
vicinity of the lake from the rage of the Saxons. His name was
Llewarch Hen, of whom I will now say a few words.
Llewarch Hen, or Llewarch the Aged, was born about the commencement
of the sixth and died about the middle of the seventh century,
having attained to the prodigious age of one hundred and forty or
fifty years, which is perhaps the lot of about forty individuals in
the course of a millennium. If he was remarkable for his years he
was no less so for the number of his misfortunes. He was one of
the princes of the Cumbrian Britons; but Cumbria was invaded by the
Saxons, and a scene of horrid war ensued. Llewarch and his sons,
of whom he had twenty-four, put themselves at the head of their
forces, and in conjunction with the other Cumbrian princes made a
brave but fruitless opposition to the invaders. Most of his sons
were slain, and he himself with the remainder sought shelter in
Powys, in the hall of Cynddylan, its prince. But the Saxon bills
and bows found their way to Powys too. Cynddylan was slain, and
with him the last of the sons of Llewarch, who, reft of his
protector, retired to a hut by the side of the lake of Bala, where
he lived the life of a recluse, and composed elegies on his sons
and slaughtered friends, and on his old age, all of which abound
with so much simplicity and pathos that the heart of him must be
hard indeed who can read them unmoved. Whilst a prince he was
revered for his wisdom and equity, and he is said in one of the
historical triads to have been one of the three consulting warriors
In the evening I attended service in the old church at Bala. The
interior of the edifice was remarkably plain; no ornament of any
kind was distinguishable; the congregation was overflowing, amongst
whom I observed the innkeeper and his wife, the little freckled
maid and the boots. The entire service was in Welsh. Next to the
pew in which I sat was one filled with young singing women, all of
whom seemed to have voices of wonderful power. The prayers were
read by a strapping young curate at least six feet high. The
sermon was preached by the rector, and was a continuation of the
one which I had heard him preach in the morning. It was a very
comforting discourse, as the preacher clearly proved that every
sinner will be pardoned who comes to Jesus. I was particularly
struck with one part. The preacher said that Jesus' arms being
stretched out upon the cross was emblematic of His surprising love
and His willingness to receive anybody. The service concluded with
the noble anthem Teyrnasa Jesu Mawr, "May Mighty Jesus reign!"
The service over I returned to the parlour of the inn. There I sat
for a long-time, lone and solitary, staring at the fire in the
grate. I was the only guest in the house; a great silence
prevailed both within and without; sometimes five minutes elapsed
without my hearing a sound, and then, perhaps, the silence would be
broken by a footstep at a distance in the street. At length,
finding myself yawning, I determined to go to bed. The freckled
maid as she lighted me to my room inquired how I liked the sermon.
"Very much," said I. "Ah," said she, "did I not tell you that Mr
Pugh was a capital preacher?" She then asked me how I liked the
singing of the gals who sat in the next pew to mine. I told her
that I liked it exceedingly. "Ah," said she, "them gals have the
best voices in Bala. They were once Methody gals, and sang in the
chapels, but were converted, and are now as good Church as myself.
Them gals have been the cause of a great many convarsions, for all
the young fellows of their acquaintance amongst the Methodists - "
"Follow them to church," said I, "and in time become converted.
That's a thing of course. If the Church gets the girls she is
quite sure of the fellows."
Proceed on Journey - The Lad and Dog - Old Bala - The Pass -
Extensive View - The Two Men - The Tap Nyth - The Meeting of the
Waters - The Wild Valley - Dinas Mawddwy.
THE Monday morning was gloomy and misty, but it did not rain, a
circumstance which gave me no little pleasure, as I intended to
continue my journey without delay. After breakfast I bade farewell
to my kind host, and also to the freckled maid, and departed, my
satchel o'er my shoulder and my umbrella in my hand.
I had consulted the landlord on the previous day as to where I had
best make my next halt, and had been advised by him to stop at
Mallwyd. He said that if I felt tired I could put up at Dinas
Mawddwy, about two miles on this side of Mallwyd, but that if I
were not he would advise me to go on, as I should find very poor
accommodation at Dinas. On my inquiring as to the nature of the
road, he told me that the first part of it was tolerably good,
lying along the eastern side of the lake, but that the greater part
of it was very rough, over hills and mountains, belonging to the
great chain of Arran, which constituted upon the whole the wildest
part of all Wales.
Passing by the northern end of the lake I turned to the south, and
proceeded along a road a little way above the side of the lake.
The day had now to a certain extent cleared up, and the lake was
occasionally gilded by beams of bright sunshine. After walking a
little way I overtook a lad dressed in a white greatcoat and
attended by a tolerably large black dog. I addressed him in
English, but finding that he did not understand me I began to talk
to him in Welsh.
"That's a fine dog," said I.
LAD. - Very fine, sir, and a good dog; though young he has been
known to kill rats.
MYSELF. - What is his name?
LAD. - His name is Toby, sir.
MYSELF. - And what is your name?
LAD. - John Jones, sir.
MYSELF. - And what is your father's?
LAD. - Waladr Jones, sir.
MYSELF. - Is Waladr the same as Cadwaladr?
LAD. - In truth, sir, it is.
MYSELF. - That is a fine name.
LAD. - It is, sir; I have heard my father say that it was the name
of a king.
MYSELF. - What is your father?
LAD. - A farmer, sir.
MYSELF. - Does he farm his own land?
LAD. - He does not, sir; he is tenant to Mr Price of Hiwlas.
MYSELF. - Do you live far from Bala?
LAD. - Not very far, sir.
MYSELF. - Are you going home now?
LAD. - I am not, sir; our home is on the other side of Bala. I am
going to see a relation up the road.
MYSELF. - Bala is a nice place.
LAD. - It is, sir; but not so fine as old Bala.
MYSELF. - I never heard of such a place. Where is it?
LAD. - Under the lake, sir.
MYSELF. - What do you mean?
LAD. - It stood in the old time where the lake now is, and a fine
city it was, full of fine houses, towers, and castles, but with
neither church nor chapel, for the people neither knew God nor
cared for Him, and thought of nothing but singing and dancing and
other wicked things. So God was angry with them, and one night,
when they were all busy at singing and dancing and the like, God
gave the word, and the city sank down into Unknown, and the lake
boiled up where it once stood.
MYSELF. - That was a long time ago.
LAD. - In truth, sir, it was.
MYSELF. - Before the days of King Cadwaladr.
LAD. - I daresay it was, sir.
I walked fast, but the lad was a shrewd walker, and though
encumbered with his greatcoat contrived to keep tolerably up with
me. The road went over hill and dale, but upon the whole more
upward than downward. After proceeding about an hour and a half we
left the lake, to the southern extremity of which we had nearly
come, somewhat behind, and bore away to the south-east, gradually
ascending. At length the lad, pointing to a small farm-house on
the side of a hill, told me he was bound thither, and presently
bidding me farewell, turned aside up a footpath which led towards
About a minute afterwards a small delicate furred creature with a
white mark round its neck and with a little tail trailing on the
ground ran swiftly across the road. It was a weasel or something
of that genus; on observing it I was glad that the lad and the dog
were gone, as between them they would probably have killed it. I
hate to see poor wild animals persecuted and murdered, lose my
appetite for dinner at hearing the screams of a hare pursued by
greyhounds, and am silly enough to feel disgust and horror at the
squeals of a rat in the fangs of a terrier, which one of the
sporting tribe once told me were the sweetest sounds in "natur."
I crossed a bridge over a deep gulley which discharged its waters
into a river in a valley on the right. Arran rose in great majesty
on the farther side of this vale, its head partly shrouded in mist.
The day now became considerably overcast. I wandered on over much
rough ground till I came to a collection of houses at the bottom of
a pass leading up a steep mountain. Seeing the door of one of the
houses open I peeped in, and a woman who was sitting knitting in
the interior rose and came out to me. I asked the name of the
place. The name which she told me sounded something like Ty Capel
Saer - the House of the Chapel of the Carpenter. I inquired the
name of the river in the valley. Cynllwyd, hoary-headed, she
seemed to say; but here, as well as with respect to her first
answer, I speak under correction, for her Welsh was what my old
friends, the Spaniards, would call muy cerrado, that is, close or
indistinct. She asked me if I was going up the bwlch. I told her
"Rather you than I," said she, looking up to the heavens, which had
assumed a very dismal, not to say awful, appearance.
Presently I began to ascend the pass or bwlch, a green hill on my
right intercepting the view of Arran, another very lofty hill on my
left with wood towards the summit. Coming to a little cottage
which stood on the left I went to the door and knocked. A smiling
young woman opened it, of whom I asked the name of the house.
"Ty Nant - the House of the Dingle," she replied.
"Do you live alone?" said I.
"No; mother lives here."
"No," said she with a smile, "S'sneg of no use here."
Her face looked the picture of kindness. I was now indeed in Wales
amongst the real Welsh. I went on some way. Suddenly there was a
moaning sound, and rain came down in torrents. Seeing a deserted
cottage on my left I went in. There was fodder in it, and it
appeared to serve partly as a barn, partly as a cow-house. The
rain poured upon the roof, and I was glad I had found shelter.
Close behind this place a small brook precipitated itself down
rocks in four successive falls.
The rain having ceased I proceeded, and after a considerable time
reached the top of the pass. From thence I had a view of the
valley and lake of Bala, the lake looking like an immense sheet of
steel. A round hill, however, somewhat intercepted the view of the
latter. The scene in my immediate neighbourhood was very desolate;
moory hillocks were all about me of a wretched russet colour; on my
left, on the very crest of the hill up which I had so long been
toiling, stood a black pyramid of turf, a pole on the top of it.
The road now wore nearly due west down a steep descent. Arran was
slightly to the north of me. I, however, soon lost sight of it, as
I went down the farther side of the hill, which lies over against
it to the south-east. The sun, now descending, began to shine out.
The pass down which I was now going was yet wilder than the one up
which I had lately come. Close on my right was the steep hill's
side out of which the road or path had been cut, which was here and
there overhung by crags of wondrous forms; on my left was a very
deep glen, beyond which was a black, precipitous, rocky wall, from
a chasm near the top of which tumbled with a rushing sound a
slender brook, seemingly the commencement of a mountain stream,
which hurried into a valley far below towards the west. When
nearly at the bottom of the descent I stood still to look around
me. Grand and wild was the scenery. On my left were noble green
hills, the tops of which were beautifully gilded by the rays of the
setting sun. On my right a black, gloomy, narrow valley or glen
showed itself; two enormous craggy hills of immense altitude, one
to the west and the other to the east of the entrance; that to the
east terminating in a peak. The background to the north was a wall
of rocks forming a semicircle, something like a bent bow with the
head downward; behind this bow, just in the middle, rose the black
loaf of Arran. A torrent tumbled from the lower part of the
semicircle, and after running for some distance to the south turned
to the west, the way I was going.
Observing a house a little way within the gloomy vale I went
towards it, in the hope of finding somebody in it who could give me
information respecting this wild locality. As I drew near the door
two tall men came forth, one about sixty, and the other about half
that age. The elder had a sharp, keen look; the younger a lumpy
and a stupid one. They were dressed like farmers. On my saluting
them in English the elder returned my salutation in that tongue,
but in rather a gruff tone. The younger turned away his head and
"What is the name of this house?" said I, pointing to the building.
"The name of it," said the old man, "is Ty Mawr."
"Do you live in it?" said I.
"Yes, I live in it."
"What waterfall is that?" said I, pointing to the torrent tumbling
down the crag at the farther end of the gloomy vale.
"The fountain of the Royal Dyfi."
"Why do you call the Dyfy royal?" said I.
"Because it is the king of the rivers in these parts."
"Does the fountain come out of a rock?"
"It does not; it comes out of a lake, a llyn."
"Where is the llyn?"
"Over that crag at the foot of Aran Vawr."
"Is it a large lake?"
"It is not; it is small."
"Strange things in it?"
"I believe there are strange things in it." His English now became
"I do not know what cracadailes be."
"Ah! No, I do not tink there be efync dere. Hu Gadarn in de old
time kill de efync dere and in all de lakes in Wales. He draw them
out of the water with his ychain banog his humpty oxen, and when he
get dem out he burn deir bodies on de fire, he good man for dat."
"What do you call this allt?" said I, looking up to the high
pinnacled hill on my right.
"I call that Tap Nyth yr Eryri."
"Is not that the top nest of the eagles?"
"I believe it is. Ha! I see you understand Welsh."
"A little," said I. "Are there eagles there now?"
"No, no eagle now."
"Gone like avanc?"
"Yes, gone like avanc, but not so long. My father see eagle on Tap
Nyth, but my father never see avanc in de llyn."
"How far to Dinas?"
"About three mile."
"Any thieves about?"
"No, no thieves here, but what come from England," and he looked at
me with a strange, grim smile.
"What is become of the red-haired robbers of Mawddwy?"
"Ah," said the old man, staring at me, "I see you are a Cumro. The
red-haired thieves of Mawddwy! I see you are from these parts."
"What's become of them?"
"Oh, dead, hung. Lived long time ago; long before eagle left Tap
He spoke true. The red-haired banditti of Mawddwy were
exterminated long before the conclusion of the sixteenth century,
after having long been the terror not only of these wild regions
but of the greater part of North Wales. They were called the red-
haired banditti because certain leading individuals amongst them
had red foxy hair.
"Is that young man your son?" said I, after a little pause.
"Yes, he my son."
"Has he any English?"
"No, he no English, but he plenty of Welsh - that is if he see
I spoke to the young man in Welsh, asking him if he had ever been
up to the Tap Nyth, but he made no answer.
"He no care for your question," said the old man; "ask him price of
pig." I asked the young fellow the price of hogs, whereupon his
face brightened up, and he not only answered my question, but told
me that he had fat hog to sell. "Ha, ha," said the old man; "he
plenty of Welsh now, for he see reason. To other question he no
Welsh at all, no more than English, for he see no reason. What
business he on Tap Nyth with eagle? His business down below in sty
with pig. Ah, he look lump, but he no fool; know more about pig
than you or I, or any one 'twixt here and Mahuncleth."
He now asked me where I came from, and on my telling him from Bala,
his heart appeared to warm towards me, and saying that I must be
tired, he asked me to step in and drink buttermilk, but I declined
his offer with thanks, and bidding the two adieu, returned to the
I hurried along and soon reached a valley which abounded with trees
and grass; I crossed a bridge over a brook, not what the old man
had called the Dyfi, but the stream whose source I had seen high up
the bwlch, and presently came to a place where the two waters
joined. Just below the confluence on a fallen tree was seated a
man decently dressed; his eyes were fixed on the rushing stream. I
stopped and spoke to him.
He had no English, but I found him a very sensible man. I talked
to him about the source of the Dyfi. He said it was a disputed
point which was the source. He himself was inclined to believe
that it was the Pistyll up the bwlch. I asked him of what religion
he was. He said he was of the Church of England, which was the
Church of his father and his grandfather, and which he believed to
be the only true Church. I inquired if it flourished. He said it
did, but that it was dreadfully persecuted by all classes of
dissenters, who, though they were continually quarrelling with one
another, agreed in one thing, namely, to persecute the Church. I
asked him if he ever read. He said he read a great deal,
especially the works of Huw Morris, and that reading them had given
him a love for the sights of nature. He added that his greatest
delight was to come to the place where he then was of an evening,
and look at the waters and hills. I asked him what trade he was.
"The trade of Joseph," said he, smiling. "Saer." "Farewell,
brother," said I; "I am not a carpenter, but like you I read the
works of Huw Morris and am of the Church of England." I then shook
him by the hand and departed.
I passed a village with a stupendous mountain just behind it to the
north, which I was told was called Moel Vrith or the party-coloured
moel. I was now drawing near to the western end of the valley.
Scenery of the wildest and most picturesque description was rife
and plentiful to a degree: hills were here, hills were there; some
tall and sharp, others huge and humpy; hills were on every side;
only a slight opening to the west seemed to present itself. "What
a valley!" I exclaimed. But on passing through the opening I found
myself in another, wilder and stranger, if possible. Full to the
west was a long hill rising up like the roof of a barn, an enormous
round hill on its north-east side, and on its south-east the tail
of the range which I had long had on my left - there were trees and
groves and running waters, but all in deep shadow, for night was
now close at hand.
"What is the name of this place?" I shouted to a man on horseback,
who came dashing through a brook with a woman in a Welsh dress
"Aber Cowarch, Saxon!" said the man in a deep guttural voice, and
lashing his horse disappeared rapidly in the night.
"Aber Cywarch!" I cried, springing half a yard into the air. "Why,
that's the place where Ellis Wynn composed his immortal 'Sleeping
Bard,' the book which I translated in the blessed days of my youth.
Oh, no wonder that the 'Sleeping Bard' is a wild and wondrous work,
seeing that it was composed amidst the wild and wonderful scenes
which I here behold."
I proceeded onwards up an ascent; after some time I came to a
bridge across a stream, which a man told me was called Avon Gerres.
It runs into the Dyfi, coming down with a rushing sound from a wild
vale to the north-east between the huge barn-like hill and Moel
Vrith. The barn-like hill I was informed was called Pen Dyn. I
soon reached Dinas Mawddwy, which stands on the lower part of a
high hill connected with the Pen Dyn. Dinas, trough at one time a
place of considerable importance, if we may judge from its name,
which signifies a fortified city, is at present little more than a
collection of filthy huts. But though a dirty squalid place, I
found it anything but silent and deserted. Fierce-looking, red-
haired men, who seemed as if they might be descendants of the red-
haired banditti of old, were staggering about, and sounds of
drunken revelry echoed from the huts. I subsequently learned that
Dinas was the head-quarters of miners, the neighbourhood abounding
with mines both of lead and stone. I was glad to leave it behind
me. Mallwyd is to the south of Dinas - the way to it is by a
romantic gorge down which flows the Royal Dyfi. As I proceeded
along this gorge the moon rising above Moel Vrith illumined my
path. In about half-an-hour I found myself before the inn at
Inn at Mallwyd - A Dialogue - The Cumro.
I ENTERED the inn, and seeing a comely-looking damsel at the bar, I
told her that I was in need of supper and a bed. She conducted me
into a neat sanded parlour, where a good fire was blazing, and
asked me what I would have for supper. "Whatever you can most
readily provide," said I; "I am not particular." The maid retired,
and taking off my hat, and disencumbering myself of my satchel, I
sat down before the fire and fell into a doze, in which I dreamed
of some of the wild scenes through which I had lately passed.
I dozed and dozed till I was roused by the maid touching me on the
shoulder and telling me that supper was ready. I got up and
perceived that during my doze she had laid the cloth and put supper
upon the table. It consisted of bacon and eggs. During supper I
had some conversation with the maid.
MYSELF. - Are you a native of this place?
MAID. - I am not, sir; I come from Dinas.
MYSELF. - Are your parents alive?
MAID. - My mother is alive, sir, but my father is dead.
MYSELF. - Where does your mother live?
MAID. - At Dinas, sir.
MYSELF. - How does she support herself?
MAID. - By letting lodgings to miners, sir.
MYSELF. - Are the miners quiet lodgers?
MAID. - Not always, sir; sometimes they get up at night and fight
with each other.
MYSELF. - What does your mother do on those occasions?
MAID. - She draws the quilt over her head, and says her prayers,
MYSELF. - Why doesn't she get up and part them?
MAID. - Lest she should get a punch or a thwack for her trouble,
MYSELF. - Of what religion are the miners?
MAID. - They are Methodists, if they are anything; but they don't
trouble their heads much about religion.
MYSELF. - Of what religion are you?
MAID. - I am of the Church, sir.
MYSELF. - Did you always belong to the Church?
MAID. - Not always. When I was at Dinas I used to hear the
preacher, but since I have been here I have listened to the
MYSELF. - Is the clergyman here a good man?
MAID. - A very good man indeed, sir. He lives close by. Shall I
go and tell him you want to speak to him?
MYSELF. - Oh dear me, no! He can employ his time much more
usefully than in waiting upon me.
After supper I sat quiet for about an hour. Then ringing the bell,
I inquired of the maid whether there was a newspaper in the house.
She told me there was not, but that she thought she could procure
me one. In a little time she brought me a newspaper, which she
said she had borrowed at the parsonage. It was the CUMRO, an
excellent Welsh journal written in the interest of the Church. In
perusing its columns I passed a couple of hours very agreeably, and
then went to bed.
Mallwyd and its Church - Sons of Shoemakers - Village Inn -
THE next day was the thirty-first of October, and was rather fine
for the season. As I did not intend to journey farther this day
than Machynlleth, a principal town in Montgomeryshire, distant only
twelve miles, I did not start from Mallwyd till just before noon.
Mallwyd is a small but pretty village. The church is a long
edifice standing on a slight elevation on the left of the road.
Its pulpit is illustrious from having for many years been occupied
by one of the very celebrated men of Wales, namely Doctor John
Davies, author of the great Welsh and Latin dictionary, an
imperishable work. An immense yew tree grows in the churchyard,
and partly overshadows the road with its branches. The parsonage
stands about a hundred yards to the south of the church, near a
grove of firs. The village is overhung on the north by the
mountains of the Arran range, from which it is separated by the
murmuring Dyfi. To the south for many miles the country is not
mountainous, but presents a pleasant variety of hill and dale.
After leaving the village a little way behind me I turned round to
take a last view of the wonderful region from which I had emerged
on the previous evening. Forming the two sides of the pass down
which comes "the royal river" stood the Dinas mountain and Cefn
Coch, the first on the left, and the other on the right. Behind,
forming the background of the pass, appearing, though now some
miles distant, almost in my proximity, stood Pen Dyn. This hill
has various names, but the one which I have noted here, and which
signifies the head of a man, perhaps describes it best. From where
I looked at it on that last day of October it certainly looked like
an enormous head, and put me in mind of the head of Mambrino,
mentioned in the master work which commemorates the achievements of
the Manchegan knight. This mighty mountain is the birthplace of
more than one river. If the Gerres issues from its eastern side,
from its western springs the Maw, that singularly picturesque
stream, which enters the ocean at the place which the Saxons
corruptly call Barmouth and the Cumry with great propriety Aber
Maw, or the disemboguement of the Maw.
Just as I was about to pursue my journey two boys came up, bound in
the same direction as myself. One was a large boy dressed in a
waggoner's frock, the other was a little fellow in a brown coat and
yellowish trowsers. As we walked along together I entered into
conversation with them. They came from Dinas Mawddwy. The large
boy told me that he was the son of a man who carted mwyn or lead
ore, and the little fellow that he was the son of a shoemaker. The
latter was by far the cleverest, and no wonder, for the son of
shoemakers are always clever, which assertion should anybody doubt
I beg him to attend the examinations at Cambridge, at which he will
find that in three cases out of four the senior wranglers are the
sons of shoemakers. From this little chap I got a great deal of
information about Pen Dyn, every part of which he appeared to have
traversed. He told me amongst other things that there was a castle
upon it. Like a true son of a shoemaker, however, he was an arch
rogue. Coming to a small house with a garden attached to it in
which there were apple-trees, he stopped, whilst I went on with the
other boy, and after a minute or two came up running with a couple
of apples in his hand.
"Where did you get those apples?" said I; "I hope you did not steal
He made no reply, but bit one, then making a wry face he flung it
away, and so he served the other. Presently afterwards, coming to
a side lane, the future senior wrangler, for a senior wrangler he
is destined to be, always provided he finds his way to Cambridge,
darted down it like an arrow, and disappeared.
I continued my way with the other lad, occasionally asking him
questions about the mines of Mawddwy. The information, however,
which I obtained from him was next to nothing, for he appeared to
be as heavy as the stuff which his father carted. At length we
reached a village forming a kind of semicircle on a green which
looked something like a small English common. To the east were
beautiful green hills; to the west the valley with the river
running through it, beyond which rose other green hills yet more
beautiful than the eastern ones. I asked the lad the name of the
place, but I could not catch what he said, for his answer was
merely an indistinct mumble, and before I could question him again
he left me, without a word of salutation, and trudged away across
Descending a hill I came to a bridge, under which ran a beautiful
river, which came foaming down from a gulley between two of the
eastern hills. From a man whom I met I learned that the bridge was
called Pont Coomb Linau, and that the name of the village I had
passed was Linau. The river carries an important tribute to the
Dyfi, at least it did when I saw it, though perhaps in summer it is
little more than a dry water-course.
Half-an-hour's walking brought me from this place to a small town
or large village, with a church at the entrance and the usual yew
tree in the churchyard. Seeing a kind of inn I entered it, and was
shown by a lad-waiter into a large kitchen, in which were several
people. I had told him in Welsh that I wanted some ale, and as he
opened the door he cried with a loud voice, "Cumro!" as much as to
say, Mind what you say before this chap, for he understands Cumraeg
- that word was enough. The people, who were talking fast and
eagerly as I made my appearance, instantly became silent and stared
at me with most suspicious looks. I sat down, and when my ale was
brought I took a hearty draught, and observing that the company
were still watching me suspiciously and maintaining the same
suspicious silence, I determined to comport myself in a manner
which should to a certain extent afford them ground for suspicion.
I therefore slowly and deliberately drew my note-book out of my
waistcoat pocket, unclasped it, took my pencil from the loops at
the side of the book, and forthwith began to dot down observations
upon the room and company, now looking to the left, now to the
right, now aloft, now alow, now skewing at an object, now leering
at an individual, my eyes half closed and my mouth drawn
considerably aside. Here follow some of my dottings:-
"A very comfortable kitchen with a chimney-corner on the south side
- immense grate and brilliant fire - large kettle hanging over it
by a chain attached to a transverse iron bar - a settle on the
left-hand side of the fire - seven fine large men near the fire -
two upon the settle, two upon chairs, one in the chimney-corner
smoking a pipe, and two standing up - table near the settle with
glasses, amongst which is that of myself, who sit nearly in the
middle of the room a little way on the right-hand side of the fire.
"The floor is of slate; a fine brindled greyhound lies before it on
the hearth, and a shepherd's dog wanders about, occasionally going
to the door and scratching as if anxious to get out. The company
are dressed mostly in the same fashion, brown coats, broad-brimmed
hats, and yellowish corduroy breeches with gaiters. One who looks
like a labouring man has a white smock and a white hat, patched
trowsers, and highlows covered with gravel - one has a blue coat.
"There is a clock on the right-hand side of the kitchen; a warming-
pan hangs close by it on the projecting side of the chimney-corner.
On the same side is a large rack containing many plates and dishes
of Staffordshire ware. Let me not forget a pair of fire-irons
which hang on the right-hand side of the chimney-corner!"
I made a great many more dottings, which I shall not insert here.
During the whole time I was dotting the most marvellous silence
prevailed in the room, broken only by the occasional scratching of
the dog against the inside of the door, the ticking of the clock,
and the ruttling of the smoker's pipe in the chimney-corner. After
I had dotted to my heart's content I closed my book, put the pencil
into the loops, then the book into my pocket, drank what remained
of my ale, got up, and, after another look at the apartment and its
furniture, and a leer at the company, departed from the house
without ceremony, having paid for the ale when I received it.
After walking some fifty yards down the street I turned half round
and beheld, as I knew I should, the whole company at the door
staring after me. I leered sideways at them for about half a
minute, but they stood my leer stoutly. Suddenly I was inspired by
a thought. Turning round I confronted them, and pulling my note-
book out of my pocket, and seizing my pencil, I fell to dotting
vigorously. That was too much for them. As if struck by a panic,
my quondam friends turned round and bolted into the house; the
rustic-looking man with the smock-frock and gravelled highlows
nearly falling down in his eagerness to get in.
The name of the place where this adventure occurred was Cemmaes.
The Deaf Man - Funeral Procession - The Lone Family - The Welsh and
their Secrets - The Vale of the Dyfi - The Bright Moon.
A LITTLE way from Cemmaes I saw a respectable-looking old man like
a little farmer, to whom I said:
"How far to Machynlleth?"
Looking at me in a piteous manner in the face he pointed to the
side of his head, and said - "Dim clywed."
It was no longer no English, but no hearing.
Presently I met one yet more deaf. A large procession of men came
along the road. Some distance behind them was a band of women and
between the two bands was a kind of bier drawn by a horse with
plumes at each of the four corners. I took off my hat and stood
close against the hedge on the right-hand side till the dead had
passed me some way to its final home.
Crossed a river, which like that on the other side of Cemmaes
streamed down from a gulley between two hills into the valley of
the Dyfi. Beyond the bridge on the right-hand side of the road was
a pretty cottage, just as there was in the other locality. A fine
tall woman stood at the door, with a little child beside her. I
stopped and inquired in English whose body it was that had just
been borne by.
"That of a young man, sir, the son of a farmer, who lives a mile or
so up the road."
MYSELF. - He seems to have plenty of friends.
WOMAN. - Oh yes, sir, the Welsh have plenty of friends both in life
MYSELF. - A'n't you Welsh, then?
WOMAN. - Oh no, sir, I am English, like yourself, as I suppose.
MYSELF. - Yes, I am English. What part of England do you come
WOMAN. - Shropshire, sir.
MYSELF. - Is that little child yours?
WOMAN. - Yes, sir, it is my husband's child and mine.
MYSELF. - I suppose your husband is Welsh.
WOMAN. - Oh no, sir, we are all English.
MYSELF. - And what is your husband?
WOMAN. - A little farmer, sir, he farms about forty acres under Mrs
MYSELF. - Well, are you comfortable here?
WOMAN. - Oh dear me, no, sir, we are anything but comfortable.
Here we are three poor lone creatures in a strange land, without a
soul to speak to but one another. Every day of our lives we wish
we had never left Shropshire.
MYSELF. - Why don't you make friends amongst your neighbours?
WOMAN. - Oh, sir, the English cannot make friends amongst the
Welsh. The Welsh won't neighbour with them, or have anything to do
with them, except now and then in the way of business.
MYSELF. - I have occasionally found the Welsh very civil.
WOMAN. - Oh yes, sir, they can be civil enough to passers-by,
especially those who they think want nothing from them - but if you
came and settled amongst them you would find them, I'm afraid,
quite the contrary.
MYSELF. - Would they be uncivil to me if I could speak Welsh?
WOMAN. - Most particularly, sir; the Welsh don't like any
strangers, but least of all those who speak their language.
MYSELF. - Have you picked up anything of their language?
WOMAN. - Not a word, sir, nor my husband neither. They take good
care that we shouldn't pick up a word of their language. I stood
the other day and listened whilst two women were talking just where
you stand now, in the hope of catching a word, and as soon as they
saw me they passed to the other side of the bridge, and began
buzzing there. My poor husband took it into his head that he might
possibly learn a word or two at the public-house, so he went there,
called for a jug of ale and a pipe, and tried to make himself at
home just as he might in England, but it wouldn't do. The company
instantly left off talking to one another and stared at him, and
before he could finish his pot and pipe took themselves off to a
man, and then came the landlord, and asked him what he meant by
frightening away his customers. So my poor husband came home as
pale as a sheet, and sitting down in a chair said, "Lord, have
mercy upon me!"
MYSELF. - Why are the Welsh afraid that strangers should pick up
WOMAN. - Lest, perhaps, they should learn their secrets, sir!
MYSELF. - What secrets have they?
WOMAN. - The Lord above only knows, sir!
MYSELF. - Do you think they are hatching treason against Queen
WOMAN. - Oh dear no, sir.
MYSELF. - Is there much murder going on amongst them?
WOMAN. - Nothing of the kind, sir.
MYSELF. - Cattle-stealing?
WOMAN. - Oh no, sir!
MYSELF. - Pig-stealing?
WOMAN. - No, sir!
MYSELF. - Duck or hen stealing?
WOMAN. - Haven't lost a duck or hen since I have been here, sir.
MYSELF. - Then what secrets can they possibly have?
WOMAN. - I don't know, sir! perhaps none at all, or at most only a
pack of small nonsense that nobody would give three farthings to
know. However, it is quite certain they are as jealous of
strangers hearing their discourse as if they were plotting
gunpowder treason or something worse.
MYSELF. - Have you been long here?
WOMAN. - Only since last May, sir! and we hope to get away by next,
and return to our own country, where we shall have some one to
MYSELF. - Good-bye!
WOMAN. - Good-bye, sir, and thank you for your conversation; I
haven't had such a treat of talk for many a weary day.
The Vale of the Dyfi became wider and more beautiful as I advanced.
The river ran at the bottom amidst green and seemingly rich
meadows. The hills on the farther side were cultivated a great way
up, and various neat farm-houses were scattered here and there on
their sides. At the foot of one of the most picturesque of these
hills stood a large white village. I wished very much to know its
name, but saw no one of whom I could inquire. I proceeded for
about a mile, and then perceiving a man wheeling stones in a barrow
for the repairing of the road I thought I would inquire of him. I
did so, but the village was then out of sight, and though I pointed
in its direction and described its situation I could not get its
name out of him. At last I said hastily, "Can you tell me your own
"Dafydd Tibbot, sir," said he.
"Tibbot, Tibbot," said I; "why, you are a Frenchman."
"Dearie me, sir," said the man, looking very pleased, "am I,
"Yes, you are," said I, rather repenting of my haste, and giving
him sixpence, I left him.
"I'd bet a trifle," said I to myself, as I walked away, that this
poor creature is the descendant of some desperate Norman Tibault
who helped to conquer Powisland under Roger de Montgomery or Earl
Baldwin. How striking that the proud old Norman names are at
present only borne by people in the lowest station. Here's a
Tibbot or Tibault harrowing stones on a Welsh road, and I have
known a Mortimer munching poor cheese and bread under a hedge on an
English one. How can we account for this save by the supposition
that the descendants of proud, cruel, and violent men - and who so
proud, cruel and violent, as the old Normans - are doomed by God to
come to the dogs?"
Came to Pont Velin Cerrig, the bridge of the mill of the Cerrig, a
river which comes foaming down from between two rocky hills. This
bridge is about a mile from Machynlleth, at which place I arrived
at about five o'clock in the evening - a cool, bright moon shining
upon me. I put up at the principal inn, which was of course called
the Wynstay Arms.
Welsh Poems - Sessions Business - The Lawyer and his Client - The
Court - The Two Keepers - The Defence.
DURING supper I was waited upon by a brisk, buxom maid who told me
that her name was Mary Evans. The repast over, I ordered a glass
of whiskey and water, and when it was brought I asked the maid if
she could procure me some book to read. She said she was not aware
of any book in the house which she could lay her hand on except one
of her own, which if I pleased she would lend me. I begged her to
do so. Whereupon she went out and presently returned with a very
small volume, which she laid on the table and then retired. After
taking a sip of my whiskey and water I proceeded to examine it. It
turned out to be a volume of Welsh poems entitled "Blodau Glyn
Dyfi"; or, Flowers of Glyn Dyfi, by one Lewis Meredith, whose
poetical name is Lewis Glyn Dyfi. The author indites his preface
from Cemmaes, June, 1852. The best piece is called Dyffryn Dyfi,
and is descriptive of the scenery of the vale through which the
Dyfi runs. It commences thus:
"Heddychol ddyffryn tlws,"
Peaceful, pretty vale,
and contains many lines breathing a spirit of genuine poetry.
The next day I did not get up till nine, having no journey before
me, as I intended to pass that day at Machynlleth. When I went
down to the parlour I found another guest there, breakfasting. He
was a tall, burly, and clever-looking man of about thirty-five. As
we breakfasted together at the same table we entered into
conversation. I learned from him that he was an attorney from a
town at some distance, and was come over to Machynlleth to the
petty sessions, to be held that day, in order to defend a person
accused of spearing a salmon in the river. I asked him who his
"A farmer," said he, "a tenant of Lord V-, who will probably
preside over the bench which will try the affair."
"Oh," said I, "a tenant spearing his landlord's fish - that's bad."
"No," said he, "the fish which he speared, that is, which he is
accused of spearing, did not belong to his landlord but to another
person; he hires land of Lord V-, but the fishing of the river
which runs through that land belongs to Sir Watkin."
"Oh, then," said I, "supposing he did spear the salmon I shan't
break my heart if you get him off: do you think you shall?"
"I don't know," said he. "There's the evidence of two keepers
against him; one of whom I hope, however, to make appear a
scoundrel, in whose oath the slightest confidence is not to be
placed. I shouldn't wonder if I make my client appear a persecuted
lamb. The worst is, that he has the character of being rather fond
of fish, indeed of having speared more salmon than any other six
individuals in the neighbourhood."
"I really should like to see him," said I; "what kind of person is
he? - some fine, desperate-looking fellow, I suppose?"
"You will see him presently," said the lawyer; "he is in the
passage waiting till I call him in to take some instructions from
him; and I think I had better do so now, for I have breakfasted,
and time is wearing away."
He then got up, took some papers out of a carpet bag, sat down, and
after glancing at them for a minute or two, went to the door and
called to somebody in Welsh to come in. Forthwith in came a small,
mean, wizzened-faced man of about sixty, dressed in a black coat
and hat, drab breeches and gaiters, and looking more like a decayed
Methodist preacher than a spearer of imperial salmon.
"Well," said the attorney, "This is my client, what do you think of
"He is rather a different person from what I had expected to see,"
said I; "but let us mind what we say or we shall offend him."
"Not we," said the attorney; "that is, unless we speak Welsh, for
he understands not a word of any other language."
Then sitting down at the further table he said to his client in
Welsh: "Now, Mr So-and-so, have you learnt anything more about
that first keeper?"
The client bent down, and placing both his hands upon the table
began to whisper in Welsh to his professional adviser. Not wishing
to hear any of their conversation I finished my breakfast as soon
as possible and left the room. Going into the inn-yard I had a
great deal of learned discourse with an old ostler about the
glanders in horses. From the inn-yard I went to my own private
room and made some dottings in my note-book, and then went down
again to the parlour, which I found unoccupied. After sitting some
time before the fire I got up, and strolling out, presently came to
a kind of marketplace, in the middle of which stood an old-
fashioned-looking edifice supported on pillars. Seeing a crowd
standing round it I asked what was the matter, and was told that
the magistrates were sitting in the town-hall above, and that a
grand poaching case was about to be tried. "I may as well go and
hear it," said I.
Ascending a flight of steps I found myself in the hall of justice,
in the presence of the magistrates and amidst a great many people,
amongst whom I observed my friend the attorney and his client. The
magistrates, upon the whole, were rather a fine body of men. Lord
V- was in the chair, a highly intelligent-looking person, with
fresh complexion, hooked nose, and dark hair. A policeman very
civilly procured me a commodious seat. I had scarcely taken
possession of it when the poaching case was brought forward. The
first witness against the accused was a fellow dressed in a dirty
snuff-coloured suit, with a debauched look, and having much the
appearance of a town shack. He deposed that he was a hired keeper,
and went with another to watch the river at about four o'clock in
the morning; that they placed themselves behind a bush, and that a
little before day-light they saw the farmer drive some cattle
across the river. He was attended by a dog. Suddenly they saw him
put a spear upon a stick which he had in his hand, run back to the
river, and plunging the spear in, after a struggle, pull out a
salmon; that they then ran forward, and he himself asked the farmer
what he was doing, whereupon the farmer flung the salmon and spear
into the river and said that if he did not take himself off he
would fling him in too. The attorney then got up and began to
cross-question him. "How long have you been a keeper?"
"About a fortnight."
"What do you get a week?"
"Have you not lately been in London?"
"What induced you to go to London?"
"The hope of bettering my condition."
"Were you not driven out of Machynlleth?"
"I was not."
"Why did you leave London?"
"Because I could get no work, and my wife did not like the place."
"Did you obtain possession of the salmon and the spear?"
"I did not."
"Why didn't you?"
"The pool was deep where the salmon was struck, and I was not going
to lose my life by going into it."
"How deep was it?"
"Over the tops of the houses," said the fellow, lifting up his
The other keeper then came forward; he was brother to the former,
but had much more the appearance of a keeper, being rather a fine
fellow, and dressed in a wholesome, well-worn suit of velveteen.
He had no English, and what he said was translated by a sworn
interpreter. He gave the same evidence as his brother about
watching behind the bush, and seeing the farmer strike a salmon.
When cross-questioned, however, he said that no words passed
between the farmer and his brother, at least, that he heard. The
evidence for the prosecution being given, my friend the attorney
entered upon the defence. He said that he hoped the court were not
going to convict his client, one of the most respectable farmers in
the county, on the evidence of two such fellows as the keepers, one
of whom was a well-known bad one, who for his evil deeds had been
driven from Machynlleth to London, and from London back again to
Machynlleth, and the other, who was his brother, a fellow not much
better, and who, moreover, could not speak a word of English - the
honest lawyer forgetting no doubt that his own client had just as
little English as the keeper. He repeated that he hoped the court
would not convict his respectable client on the evidence of these
fellows, more especially as they flatly contradicted each other in
one material point, one saying that words had passed between the
farmer and himself, and the other that no words at all had passed,
and were unable to corroborate their testimony by anything visible
or tangible. If his client speared the salmon and then flung the
salmon with the spear sticking in its body into the pool, why
didn't they go into the pool and recover the spear and salmon?
They might have done so with perfect safety, there being an old
proverb - he need not repeat it - which would have secured them
from drowning had the pool been not merely over the tops of the
houses but over the tops of the steeples. But he would waive all
the advantage which his client derived from the evil character of
the witnesses, the discrepancy of their evidence, and their not
producing the spear and salmon in court. He would rest the issue
of the affair with confidence, on one argument, on one question; it
was this. Would any man in his senses - and it was well known that
his client was a very sensible man - spear a salmon not his own
when he saw two keepers close at hand watching him - staring at
him? Here the chairman observed that there was no proof that he
saw them - that they were behind a bush. But my friend the
attorney very properly, having the interest of his client and his
own character for consistency in view, stuck to what he had said,
and insisted that the farmer must have seen them, and he went on
reiterating that he must have seen them, notwithstanding that
several magistrates shook their heads.
Just as he was about to sit down I moved up behind him and
whispered: "Why don't you mention the dog? Wouldn't the dog have
been likely to have scented the fellows out even if they had been
behind the bush?"
He looked at me for a moment and then said with a kind of sigh:
"No, no! twenty dogs would be of no use here. It's no go - I shall
leave the case as it is."
The court was cleared for a time, and when the audience were again
admitted Lord V- said that the Bench found the prisoner guilty;
that they had taken into consideration what his counsel had said in
his defence, but that they could come to no other conclusion, more
especially as the accused was known to have been frequently guilty
of similar offences. They fined him four pounds, including costs.
As the people were going out I said to the farmer in Welsh: "A bad
"Drwg iawn" - very bad indeed, he replied.
"Did these fellows speak truth?" said I.
"Nage - Dim ond celwydd" - not they! nothing but lies.
"Dear me!" said I to myself, "what an ill-treated individual!"
Machynlleth - Remarkable Events - Ode to Glendower - Dafydd Gam -
MACHYNLLETH, pronounced Machuncleth, is one of the principal towns
of the district which the English call Montgomeryshire, and the
Welsh Shire Trefaldwyn or the Shire of Baldwin's town, Trefaldwyn
or the town of Baldwin being the Welsh name for the town which is
generally termed Montgomery. It is situated in nearly the centre
of the valley of the Dyfi, amidst pleasant green meadows, having to
the north the river, from which, however, it is separated by a
gentle hill. It possesses a stately church, parts of which are of
considerable antiquity, and one or two good streets. It is a
thoroughly Welsh town, and the inhabitants, who amount in number to
about four thousand, speak the ancient British language with
Machynlleth has been the scene of remarkable events, and is
connected with remarkable names, some of which have rung through
the world. At Machynlleth, in 1402, Owen Glendower, after several
brilliant victories over the English, held a parliament in a house
which is yet to be seen in the Eastern Street, and was formally
crowned King of Wales; in his retinue was the venerable bard Iolo
Goch, who, imagining that he now saw the old prophecy fulfilled,
namely, that a prince of the race of Cadwaladr should rule the
Britons, after emancipating them from the Saxon yoke, greeted the
chieftain with an ode, to the following effect:-
"Here's the life I've sigh'd for long:
Abash'd is now the Saxon throng,
And Britons have a British lord
Whose emblem is the conquering sword;
There's none I trow but knows him well,
The hero of the watery dell,
Owain of bloody spear in field,
Owain his country's strongest shield;
A sovereign bright in grandeur drest,
Whose frown affrights the bravest breast.
Let from the world upsoar on high
A voice of splendid prophecy!
All praise to him who forth doth stand
To 'venge his injured native land!
Of him - of him a lay I'll frame
Shall bear through countless years his name,
In him are blended portents three,
Their glories blended sung shall be:
There's Oswain, meteor of the glen,
The head of princely generous men;
Owain the lord of trenchant steel,
Who makes the hostile squadrons reel;
Owain, besides, of warlike look,
A conqueror who no stay will brook;
Hail to the lion leader gay!
Marshaller of Griffith's war array;
The scourger of the flattering race,
For them a dagger has his face;
Each traitor false he loves to smite,
A lion is he for deeds of might;
Soon may he tear, like lion grim,
All the Lloegrians limb from limb!
May God and Rome's blest father high
Deck him in surest panoply!
Hail to the valiant carnager,
Worthy three diadems to bear!
Hail to the valley's belted king!
Hail to the widely conquering,
The liberal, hospitable, kind,
Trusty and keen as steel refined!
Vigorous of form he nations bows,
Whilst from his breast-plate bounty flows.
Of Horsa's seed on hill and plain
Four hundred thousand he has slain.
The copestone of our nation's he,
In him our weal, our all we see;
Though calm he looks his plans when breeding,
Yet oaks he'd break his clans when leading.
Hail to this partisan of war,
This bursting meteor flaming far!
Where'er he wends, Saint Peter guard him,
And may the Lord five lives award him!"
To Machynlleth on the occasion of the parliament came Dafydd Gam,
so celebrated in after time; not, however, with the view of
entering into the councils of Glendower, or of doing him homage,
but of assassinating him. This man, whose surname Gam signifies
crooked, was a petty chieftain of Breconshire. He was small of
stature and deformed in person, though possessed of great strength.
He was very sensitive of injury, though quite as alive to kindness;
a thorough-going enemy and a thorough-going friend. In the earlier
part of his life he had been driven from his own country for
killing a man, called Big Richard of Slwch, in the High Street of
Aber Honddu or Brecon, and had found refuge in England and kind
treatment in the house of John of Gaunt, for whose son Henry,
generally called Bolingbroke, he formed one of his violent
friendships. Bolingbroke, on becoming King Henry the Fourth, not
only restored the crooked little Welshman to his possessions, but
gave him employments of great trust and profit in Herefordshire.
The insurrection of Glendower against Henry was quite sufficient to
kindle against him the deadly hatred of Dafydd, who swore "by the
nails of God" that he would stab his countryman for daring to rebel
against his friend King Henry, the son of the man who had received
him in his house and comforted him when his own countrymen were
threatening his destruction. He therefore went to Machynlleth with
the full intention of stabbing Glendower, perfectly indifferent as
to what might subsequently be his own fate. Glendower, however,
who had heard of his threat, caused him to be seized and conducted
in chains to a prison which he had in the mountains of Sycharth.
Shortly afterwards, passing through Breconshire with his host, he
burnt Dafydd's house - a fair edifice called the Cyrnigwen,
situated on a hillock near the river Honddu - to the ground, and
seeing one of Gam's dependents gazing mournfully on the smouldering
ruins he uttered the following taunting englyn:-
"Shouldst thou a little red man descry
Asking about his dwelling fair,
Tell him it under the bank doth lie,
And its brow the mark of the coal doth bear."
Dafydd remained confined till the fall of Glendower, shortly after
which event he followed Henry the Fifth to France, where he
achieved that glory which will for ever bloom, dying, covered with
wounds, on the field of Agincourt after saving the life of the
king, to whom in the dreadest and most critical moment of the fight
he stuck closer than a brother, not from any abstract feeling of
loyalty, but from the consideration that King Henry the Fifth was
the son of King Henry the Fourth, who was the son of the man who
received and comforted him in his house, after his own countrymen
had hunted him from house and land.
Connected with Machynlleth is a name not so widely celebrated as
those of Glendower and Dafydd Gam, but well known to and cherished
by the lovers of Welsh song. It is that of Lawdden, a Welsh bard
in holy orders, who officiated as priest at Machynlleth from 1440
to 1460. But though Machynlleth was his place of residence for
many years, it was not the place of his birth, Lychwr in
Carmarthenshire being the spot where he first saw the light. He
was an excellent poet, and displayed in his compositions such
elegance of language, and such a knowledge of prosody, that it was
customary, long after his death, when any masterpiece of vocal song
or eloquence was produced, to say that it bore the traces of
Lawdden's hatchet. At the request of Griffith ap Nicholas, a
powerful chieftain of South Wales, and a great patron of the Muse,
he drew up a statute relating to poets and poetry, and at the great
Eisteddfodd, or poetical congress, held at Carmarthen in the year
1450, under the auspices of Griffith, which was attended by the
most celebrated bards of the north and south, he officiated as
judge, in conjunction with the chieftain, upon the compositions of
the bards who competed for the prize - a little silver chair. Not
without reason, therefore, do the inhabitants of Machynlleth
consider the residence of such a man within their walls, though at
a far by-gone period, as conferring a lustre on their town, and
Lewis Meredith has probability on his side when, in his pretty poem
on Glen Dyfi, he says:-
"Whilst fair Machynlleth decks thy quiet plain,
Conjoined with it shall Lawdden's name remain."
The Old Ostler - Directions - Church of England Man - The Deep
Dingle - The Two Women - The Cutty Pipe - Waen y Bwlch - The Deaf
and Dumb - The Glazed Hat.
I ROSE on the morning of the 2nd of November intending to proceed
to the Devil's Bridge, where I proposed halting a day or two, in
order that I might have an opportunity of surveying the far-famed
scenery of that locality. After paying my bill I went into the
yard to my friend the old ostler, to make inquiries with respect to
"What kind of road," said I, "is it to the Devil's Bridge?"
"There are two roads, sir, to the Pont y Gwr Drwg; which do you
mean to take?"
"Why do you call the Devil's Bridge the Pont y Gwr Drwg, or the
bridge of the evil man?"
"That we may not bring a certain gentleman upon us, sir, who
doesn't like to have his name taken in vain."
"Is their much difference between the roads?"
"A great deal, sir; one is over the hills, and the other round by
"Which is the shortest?"
"Oh, that over the hills, sir; it is about twenty miles from here
to the Pont y Gwr Drwg over the hills, but more than twice that by
"Well, I suppose you would advise me to go by the hills?"
"Certainly, sir - that is, if you wish to break your neck, or to
sink in a bog, or to lose your way, or perhaps, if night comes on,
to meet the Gwr Drwg himself taking a stroll. But to talk soberly.
The way over the hills is an awful road, and, indeed, for the
greater part is no road at all."
"Well, I shall go by it. Can't you give me some directions?"
"I'll do my best, sir, but I tell you again that the road is a
horrible one, and very hard to find."
He then went with me to the gate of the inn, where he began to give
me directions, pointing to the south, and mentioning some names of
places through which I must pass, amongst which were Waen y Bwlch
and Long Bones. At length he mentioned Pont Erwyd, and said: "If
you can but get there, you are all right, for from thence there is
a very fair road to the bridge of the evil man; though I dare say
if you get to Pont Erwyd - and I wish you may get there - you will
have had enough of it and will stay there for the night, more
especially as there is a good inn."
Leaving Machynlleth, I ascended a steep hill which rises to the
south of it. From the top of this hill there is a fine view of the
town, the river, and the whole valley of the Dyfi. After stopping
for a few minutes to enjoy the prospect I went on. The road at
first was exceedingly good, though up and down, and making frequent
turnings. The scenery was beautiful to a degree: lofty hills were
on either side, clothed most luxuriantly with trees of various
kinds, but principally oaks. "This is really very pleasant," said
I, "but I suppose it is too good to last long." However, I went on
for a considerable way, the road neither deteriorating nor the
scenery decreasing in beauty. "Surely I can't be in the right
road," said I; "I wish I had an opportunity of asking." Presently
seeing an old man working with a spade in a field near a gate, I
stopped and said in Welsh: "Am I in the road to the Pont y Gwr
Drwg?" The old man looked at me for a moment, then shouldering his
spade he came up to the gate, and said in English: "In truth, sir,
"I was told that the road thither was a very bad one," said I, "but
this is quite the contrary."
"This road does not go much farther, sir," said he; "it was made to
accommodate grand folks who live about here."
"You speak very good English," said I; "where did you get it?"
He looked pleased, and said that in his youth he had lived some
years in England.
"Can you read?" said I.
"Oh yes," said he, "both Welsh and English."
"What have you read in Welsh?" said I.
"The Bible and Twm O'r Nant."
"What pieces of Twm O'r Nant have you read?"
"I have read two of his interludes and his life."
"And which do you like best - his life or his interludes?"
"Oh, I like his life best."
"And what part of his life do you like best?"
"Oh, I like that part best where he gets the ship into the water at
"You have a good judgment," said I; "his life is better than his
interludes, and the best part of his life is where he describes his
getting the ship into the water. But do the Methodists about here
in general read Twm O'r Nant?"
"I don't know," said be; "I am no Methodist."
"Do you belong to the Church?"
"And why do you belong to the Church?"
"Because I believe it is the best religion to get to heaven by."
"I am much of your opinion," said I. "Are there many Church people
"Not many," said he, "but more than when I was young."
"How old are you?"
"You are not very old," said I.
"An't I? I only want one year of fulfilling my proper time on
"You take things very easily," said I.
"Not so very easily, sir; I have often my quakings and fears, but
then I read my Bible, say my prayers, and find hope and comfort."
"I really am very glad to have seen you," said I; "and now can you
tell me the way to the bridge?"
"Not exactly, sir, for I have never been there; but you must follow
this road some way farther, and then bear away to the right along
yon hill" - and he pointed to a distant mountain.
I thanked him, and proceeded on my way. I passed through a deep
dingle, and shortly afterwards came to the termination of the road;
remembering, however, the directions of the old man,, I bore away
to the right, making for the distant mountain. My course lay now
over very broken ground where there was no path, at least that I
could perceive. I wandered on for some time; at length on turning
round a bluff I saw a lad tending a small herd of bullocks. "Am I
in the road," said I, "to the Pont y Gwr Drwg?"
"Nis gwn! I don't know," said he sullenly. "I am a hired servant,
and have only been here a little time."
"Where's the house," said I, "where you serve?"
But as he made no answer I left him. Some way farther on I saw a
house on my left, a little way down the side of a deep dingle which
was partly overhung with trees, and at the bottom of which a brook
murmured. Descending a steep path, I knocked at the door. After a
little time it was opened, and two women appeared, one behind the
other. The first was about sixty; she was very powerfully made,
had stern grey eyes and harsh features, and was dressed in the
ancient Welsh female fashion, having a kind of riding-habit of blue
and a high conical hat like that of the Tyrol. The other seemed
about twenty years younger; she had dark features, was dressed like
the other, but had no hat. I saluted the first in English, and
asked her the way to the Bridge, whereupon she uttered a deep
guttural "augh" and turned away her head, seemingly in abhorrence.
I then spoke to her in Welsh, saying I was a foreign man - I did
not say a Saxon - was bound to the Devil's Bridge, and wanted to
know the way. The old woman surveyed me sternly for some time,
then turned to the other and said something, and the two began to
talk to each other, but in a low, buzzing tone, so that I could not
distinguish a word. In about half a minute the eldest turned to
me, and extending her arm and spreading out her five fingers wide,
motioned to the side of the hill in the direction which I had been
"If I go that way shall I get to the bridge of the evil man?" said
I, but got no other answer than a furious grimace and violent
agitations of the arm and fingers in the same direction. I turned
away, and scarcely had I done so when the door was slammed to
behind me with great force, and I heard two "aughs," one not quite
so deep and abhorrent as the other, probably proceeding from the
throat of the younger female.
"Two regular Saxon-hating Welsh women," said I, philosophically;
"just of the same sort no doubt as those who played such pranks on
the slain bodies of the English soldiers, after the victory
achieved by Glendower over Mortimer on the Severn's side."
I proceeded in the direction indicated, winding round the side of
the hill, the same mountain which the old man had pointed out to me
some time before. At length, on making a turn I saw a very lofty
mountain in the far distance to the south-west, a hill right before
me to the south, and, on my left, a meadow overhung by the southern
hill, in the middle of which stood a house from which proceeded a
violent barking of dogs. I would fain have made immediately up to
it for the purpose of inquiring my way, but saw no means of doing
so, a high precipitous bank lying between it and me. I went
forward and ascended the side of the hill before me, and presently
came to a path running east and west. I followed it a little way
towards the east. I was now just above the house, and saw some
children and some dogs standing beside it. Suddenly I found myself
close to a man who stood in a hollow part of the road, from which a
narrow path led down to the house; a donkey with panniers stood
beside him. He was about fifty years of age, with a carbuncled
countenance, high but narrow forehead, grey eyebrows, and small,
malignant grey eyes. He had a white hat, with narrow eaves and the
crown partly knocked out, a torn blue coat, corduroy breeches, long
stockings and highlows. He was sucking a cutty pipe, but seemed
unable to extract any smoke from it. He had all the appearance of
a vagabond, and of a rather dangerous vagabond. I nodded to him,
and asked him in Welsh the name of the place. He glared at me
malignantly, then, taking the pipe out of his mouth, said that he
did not know, that he had been down below to inquire and light his
pipe, but could get neither light nor answer from the children. I
asked him where he came from, but he evaded the question by asking
where I was going to.
"To the Pont y Gwr Drwg," said I.
He then asked me if I was an Englishman.
"Oh yes," said I, "I am Carn Sais;" whereupon, with a strange
mixture in his face of malignity and contempt, he answered in
English that he didn't understand me.
"You understood me very well," said I, without changing my
language, "till I told you I was an Englishman. Harkee, man with
the broken hat, you are one of the bad Welsh who don't like the
English to know the language, lest they should discover your lies
and rogueries." He evidently understood what I said, for he
gnashed his teeth, though he said nothing. "Well," said I, "I
shall go down to those children and inquire the name of the house;"
and I forthwith began to descend the path, the fellow uttering a
contemptuous "humph" behind me, as much as to say, "Much you'll
make out down there." I soon reached the bottom and advanced
towards the house. The dogs had all along been barking violently;
as I drew near to them, however, they ceased, and two of the
largest came forward wagging their tails. "The dogs were not
barking at me," said I, "but at that vagabond above." I went up to
the children; they were four in number, two boys and two girls, all
red-haired, but tolerably good-looking. They had neither shoes nor
stockings. "What is the name of this house?" said I to the eldest,
a boy about seven years old. He looked at me, but made no answer.
I repeated my question; still there was no answer, but methought I
heard a humph of triumph from the hill. "Don't crow quite yet, old
chap," thought I to myself, and putting my hand into my pocket, I
took out a penny, and offering it to the child said: "Now, small
man, Peth yw y enw y lle hwn?" Instantly the boy's face became
intelligent, and putting out a fat little hand, he took the ceiniog
and said in an audible whisper, "Waen y Bwlch." "I am all right,"
said I to myself; "that is one of the names of the places which the
old ostler said I must go through." Then addressing myself to the
child I said: "Where's your father and mother?"
"Out on the hill," whispered the child.
"What's your father?"
"Good," said I. "Now can you tell me the way to the bridge of the
evil man?" But the features became blank, the finger was put to
the mouth, and the head was hung down. That question was evidently
beyond the child's capacity. "Thank you!" said I, and turning
round I regained the path on the top of the bank. The fellow and
his donkey were still there. "I had no difficulty," said I, "in
obtaining information; the place's name is Waen y Bwlch. But oes
genoch dim Cumraeg - you have no Welsh." Thereupon I proceeded
along the path in the direction of the east. Forthwith the fellow
said something to his animal, and both came following fast behind.
I quickened my pace, but the fellow and his beast were close in my
rear. Presently I came to a place where another path branched off
to the south. I stopped, looked at it, and then went on, but
scarcely had done so when I heard another exulting "humph" behind.
"I am going wrong," said I to myself; "that other path is the way
to the Devil's Bridge, and the scamp knows it or he would not have
grunted." Forthwith I faced round, and brushing past the fellow
without a word turned into the other path and hurried along it. By
a side glance which I cast I could see him staring after me;
presently, however, he uttered a sound very much like a Welsh
curse, and, kicking his beast, proceeded on his way, and I saw no
more of him. In a little time I came to a slough which crossed the
path. I did not like the look of it at all, and to avoid it
ventured upon some green mossy-looking ground to the left, and had
scarcely done so when I found myself immersed to the knees in a
bog. I, however, pushed forward, and with some difficulty got to
the path on the other side of the slough. I followed the path, and
in about half-an-hour saw what appeared to be houses at a distance.
"God grant that I maybe drawing near some inhabited place!" said I.
The path now grew very miry, and there were pools of water on
either side. I moved along slowly. At length I came to a place
where some men were busy in erecting a kind of building. I went up
to the nearest and asked him the name of the place. He had a
crowbar in his hand, was half naked, had a wry mouth and only one
eye. He made me no answer, but mowed and gibbered at me.
"For God's sake," said I, "don't do so, but tell me where I am!"
He still uttered no word, but mowed and gibbered yet more
frightfully than before. As I stood staring at him another man
came to me and said in broken English: "It is of no use speaking
to him, sir, he is deaf and dumb."
"I am glad he is no worse," said I, "for I really thought he was
possessed with the evil one. My good person, can you tell me the
name of this place?"
"Esgyrn Hirion, sir," said he.
"Esgyrn Hirion," said I to myself; "Esgyrn means 'bones,' and
Hirion means 'long.' I am doubtless at the place which the old
ostler called Long Bones. I shouldn't wonder if I get to the
Devil's Bridge to-night after all." I then asked the man if he
could tell me the way to the bridge of the evil man, but he shook
his head and said that he had never heard of such a place, adding,
however, that he would go with me to one of the overseers, who
could perhaps direct me. He then proceeded towards a row of
buildings, which were, in fact, those objects which I had guessed
to be houses in the distance. He led me to a corner house, at the
door of which stood a middle-aged man, dressed in a grey coat, and
saying to me, "This person is an overseer," returned to his labour.
I went up to the man, and, saluting him in English, asked whether
he could direct me to the Devil's Bridge, or rather to Pont Erwyd.
"It would be of no use directing you, sir," said he, "for with all
the directions in the world it would be impossible for you to find
the way. You would not have left these premises five minutes
before you would be in a maze without knowing which way to turn.
Where do you come from?"
"From Machynlleth," I replied.
"From Machynlleth!" said he. "Well, I only wonder you ever got
here, but it would be madness to go farther alone."
"Well," said I, "can I obtain a guide?"
"I really don't know," said he; "I am afraid all the men are
As we were speaking a young man made his appearance at the door
from the interior of the house. He was dressed in a brown short
coat, had a glazed hat on his head, and had a pale but very
"What is the matter?" said he to the other man.
"This gentleman," replied the latter, "is going to Pont Erwyd, and
wants a guide."
"Well," said the young man, "we must find him one. It will never
do to let him go by himself."
"If you can find me a guide," said I, "I shall be happy to pay him
for his trouble."
"Oh, you can do as you please about that," said the young man;
"but, pay or not, we would never suffer you to leave this place
without a guide, and as much for our own sake as yours; for the
directors of the Company would never forgive us if they heard we
had suffered a gentleman to leave these premises without a guide,
more especially if he were lost, as it is a hundred to one you
would be if you went by yourself."
"Pray," said I, "what Company is this, the directors of which are
so solicitous about the safety of strangers?"
"The Potosi Mining Company," said he, "the richest in all Wales.
But pray walk in and sit down, for you must be tired."
The Mining Compting Room - Native of Aberystwyth - Story of a
Bloodhound - The Young Girls - The Miner's Tale - Gwen Frwd - The
I FOLLOWED the young man with the glazed hat into a room, the other
man following behind me. He of the glazed hat made me sit down
before a turf fire, apologising for its smoking very much. The
room seemed half compting-room, half apartment. There was a wooden
desk with a ledger upon it by the window, which looked to the west,
and a camp bedstead extended from the southern wall nearly up to
the desk. After I had sat for about a minute, the young man asked
me if I would take any refreshment. I thanked him for his kind
offer, which I declined, saying, however, that if he would obtain
me a guide I should feel much obliged. He turned to the other man
and told him to go and inquire whether there was any one who would
be willing to go. The other nodded, and forthwith went out.
"You think, then," said I, "that I could not find the way by
"I am sure of it," said he, "for even the people best acquainted
with the country frequently lose their way. But I must tell you,
that if we do find you a guide, it will probably be one who has no
"Never mind," said I, "I have enough Welsh to hold a common
A fine girl about fourteen now came in, and began bustling about.
"Who is this young lady?" said I.
"The daughter of a captain of a neighbouring mine," said he; "she
frequently comes here with messages, and is always ready to do a
turn about the house, for she is very handy."
"Has she any English?" said I.
"Not a word," he replied. "The young people of these hills have no
English, except they go abroad to learn it."
"What hills are these?" said I.
"Part of the Plynlimmon range," said he.
"Dear me," said I, "am I near Plynlimmon?"
"Not very far from it," said the young man, "and you will be nearer
when you reach Pont Erwyd."
"Are you a native of these parts?" said I.
"I am not," he replied; "I am a native of Aberystwyth, a place on
the sea-coast about a dozen miles from here."
"This seems to be a cold, bleak spot," said I; "is it healthy?"
"I have reason to say so," said he; "for I came here from
Aberystwyth about four months ago very unwell, and am now perfectly
recovered. I do not believe there is a healthier spot in all