Part 13 out of 14
He spoke with much fervency, enlarging upon the high importance of
the holy communion, and exhorting people to come to it in a fit
state of mind. When he had finished a man in a neighbouring pew
got up and spoke about his own unworthiness, saying this and that
about himself, his sins of commission and omission, and dwelling
particularly on his uncharitableness and the malicious pleasure
which he took in the misfortunes of his neighbours. The clergyman
listened attentively, sometimes saying "Ah!" and the congregation
also listened attentively, a voice here and there frequently
saying "Ah." When the man had concluded the clergyman again spoke,
making observations on what he had heard, and hoping that the rest
would be visited with the same contrite spirit as their friend.
Then there was a hymn and we went away.
The moon was shining on high and cast its silvery light on the
tower, the church, some fine trees which surrounded it, and the
congregation going home; a few of the better dressed were talking
to each other in English, but with an accent and pronunciation
which rendered the discourse almost unintelligible to my ears.
I found my way back to my inn and went to bed, after musing awhile
on the concluding scene of which I had been witness in the church.
Llandovery - Griffith ap Nicholas - Powerful Enemies - Last Words -
Llandovery Church - Rees Pritchard - The Wiser Creature - God's
better than All - The Old Vicarage.
THE morning of the ninth was very beautiful, with a slight tendency
to frost. I breakfasted, and having no intention of proceeding on
my journey that day, I went to take a leisurely view of Llandovery
and the neighbourhood.
Llandovery is a small but beautiful town, situated amidst fertile
meadows. It is a water-girdled spot, whence its name Llandovery or
Llanymdyfri, which signifies the church surrounded by water. On
its west is the Towey, and on its east the river Bran or Brein,
which descending from certain lofty mountains to the north-east
runs into the Towey a little way below the town. The most striking
object which Llandovery can show is its castle, from which the inn,
which stands near to it, has its name. This castle, majestic
though in ruins, stands on a green mound, the eastern side of which
is washed by the Bran. Little with respect to its history is
known. One thing, however, is certain, namely that it was one of
the many strongholds, which at one time belonged to Griffith ap
Nicholas, Lord of Dinevor, one of the most remarkable men which
South Wales has ever produced, of whom a brief account here will
not be out of place.
Griffith ap Nicholas flourished towards the concluding part of the
reign of Henry the Sixth. He was a powerful chieftain of South
Wales and possessed immense estates in the counties of Carmarthen
and Cardigan. King Henry the Sixth, fully aware of his importance
in his own country, bestowed upon him the commission of the peace,
an honour at that time seldom vouchsafed to a Welshman, and the
captaincy of Kilgarran, a strong royal castle situated on the
southern bank of the Teivi a few miles above Cardigan. He had many
castles of his own, in which he occasionally resided, but his chief
residence was Dinevor, half way between Llandovery and Carmarthen,
once a palace of the kings of South Wales, from whom Griffith
traced lineal descent. He was a man very proud at heart, but with
too much wisdom to exhibit many marks of pride, speaking generally
with the utmost gentleness and suavity, and though very brave
addicted to dashing into danger for the mere sake of displaying his
valour. He was a great master of the English tongue, and well
acquainted with what learning it contained, but nevertheless was
passionately attached to the language and literature of Wales, a
proof of which he gave by holding a congress of bards and literati
at Carmarthen, at which various pieces of eloquence and poetry were
recited, and certain alterations introduced into the canons of
Welsh versification. Though holding offices of trust and emolument
under the Saxon, he in the depths of his soul detested the race,
and would have rejoiced to see it utterly extirpated from Britain.
This hatred of his against the English was the cause of his doing
that which cannot be justified on any principle of honour, giving
shelter and encouragement to Welsh thieves, who were in the habit
of plundering and ravaging the English borders. Though at the head
of a numerous and warlike clan, which was strongly attached to him
on various accounts, Griffith did not exactly occupy a bed of
roses. He had amongst his neighbours four powerful enemies who
envied him his large possessions, with whom he had continual
disputes about property and privilege. Powerful enemies they may
well be called, as they were no less personages than Humphrey Duke
of Buckingham, Richard Duke of York, who began the contest for the
crown with King Henry the Sixth, Jasper Earl of Pembroke, son of
Owen Tudor, and half-brother of the king, and the Earl of Warwick.
These accused him at court of being a comforter and harbourer of
thieves, the result being that he was deprived not only of the
commission of the peace, but of the captaincy of Kilgarran, which
the Earl of Pembroke, through his influence with his half-brother,
procured for himself. They moreover induced William Borley and
Thomas Corbet, two justices of the peace for the county of
Hereford, to grant a warrant for his apprehension on the ground of
his being in league with the thieves of the Marches. Griffith in
the bosom of his mighty clan bade defiance to Saxon warrants,
though once having ventured to Hereford he nearly fell into the
power of the ministers of justice, only escaping by the
intervention of Sir John Scudamore, with whom he was connected by
marriage. Shortly afterwards, the civil war breaking out, the Duke
of York apologised to Griffith, and besought his assistance against
the king which the chieftain readily enough promised, not out of
affection for York, but from the hatred which he felt, on account
of the Kilgarran affair, for the Earl of Pembroke, who had sided,
very naturally, with his half-brother, the king, and commanded his
forces in the west. Griffith fell at the great battle of
Mortimer's cross, which was won for York by a desperate charge made
right at Pembroke's banner by Griffith and his Welshmen, when the
rest of the Yorkists were wavering. His last words were:
"Welcome, Death! since honour and victory make for us."
The power and wealth of Griffith ap Nicholas, and also parts of his
character, have been well described by one of his bards, Gwilym ab
Ieuan Hen, in an ode to the following effect:-
"Griffith ap Nicholas, who like thee
For wealth and power and majesty!
Which most abound, I cannot say,
On either side of Towey gay,
From hence to where it meets the brine,
Trees or stately towers of thine?
The chair of judgment thou didst gain,
But not to deal in judgments vain -
To thee upon thy judgment chair
From near and far do crowds repair;
But though betwixt the weak and strong
No questions rose from right or wrong
The strong the weak to thee would hie;
The strong to do thee injury,
And to the weak thou wine wouldst deal,
And wouldst trip up the mighty heel.
A lion unto the lofty thou,
A lamb unto the weak and low.
Much thou resemblest Nudd of yore,
Surpassing all who went before;
Like him thou'rt fam'd for bravery,
For noble birth and high degree.
Hail, captain of Kilgarran's hold!
Lieutenant of Carmarthen old!
Hail, chieftain, Cambria's choicest boast!
Hail, justice, at the Saxon's cost!
Seven castles high confess thy sway,
Seven palaces thy hands obey.
Against my chief, with envy fired,
Three dukes and judges two conspired,
But thou a dauntless front didst show,
And to retreat they were not slow.
O, with what gratitude is heard
From mouth of thine the whispered word,
The deepest pools in rivers found
In summer are of softest sound;
The sage concealeth what he knows,
A deal of talk no wisdom shows;
The sage is silent as the grave,
Whilst of his lips the fool is slave;
Thy smile doth every joy impart,
Of faith a fountain is thy heart;
Thy hand is strong, thine eye is keen,
Thy head o'er every head is seen."
The church of Llandovery is a large edifice standing at the
southern extremity of the town in the vicinity of the Towey. The
outside exhibits many appearances of antiquity, but the interior
has been sadly modernized. It contains no remarkable tombs; I was
pleased, however, to observe upon one or two of the monuments the
name of Ryce, the appellation of the great clan to which Griffith
ap Nicholas belonged; of old the regal race of South Wales. On
inquiring of the clerk, an intelligent young man who showed me over
the sacred edifice, as to the state of the Church of England at
Llandovery, he gave me a very cheering account, adding, however,
that before the arrival of the present incumbent it was very low
indeed. "What is the clergyman's name?" said I; "I heard him
preach last night."
"I know you did, sir," said the clerk, bowing, "for I saw you at
the service at Llanfair - his name is Hughes."
"Any relation of the clergyman at Tregaron?" said I.
"Own brother, sir."
"He at Tregaron bears a very high character," said I.
"And very deservedly, sir," said the clerk, "for he is an excellent
man; he is, however, not more worthy of his high character than his
brother here is of the one which he bears, which is equally high,
and which the very dissenters have nothing to say against."
"Have you ever heard," said I, "of a man of the name of Rees
Pritchard, who preached within these walls some two hundred years
"Rees Pritchard, sir! Of course I have - who hasn't heard of the
old vicar - the Welshman's candle? Ah, he was a man indeed! We
have some good men in the Church, very good; but the old vicar -
where shall we find his equal?"
"Is he buried in this church?" said I.
"No, sir, he was buried out abroad in the churchyard, near the wall
by the Towey."
"Can you show me his tomb?" said I. "No, sir, nor can any one; his
tomb was swept away more than a hundred years ago by a dreadful
inundation of the river, which swept away not only tombs but dead
bodies out of graves. But there's his house in the market-place,
the old vicarage, which you should go and see. I would go and show
it you myself but I have church matters just now to attend to - the
place of church clerk at Llandovery, long a sinecure, is anything
but that under the present clergyman, who, though not a Rees
Pritchard, is a very zealous Christian, and not unworthy to preach
in the pulpit of the old vicar."
Leaving the church I went to see the old vicarage, but before
saying anything respecting it, a few words about the old vicar.
Rees Pritchard was born at Llandovery, about the year 1575, of
respectable parents. He received the rudiments of a classical
education at the school of the place, and at the age of eighteen
was sent to Oxford, being intended for the clerical profession. At
Oxford he did not distinguish himself in an advantageous manner,
being more remarkable for dissipation and riot than application in
the pursuit of learning. Returning to Wales, he was admitted into
the ministry, and after the lapse of a few years was appointed
vicar of Llandovery. His conduct for a considerable time was not
only unbecoming a clergyman, but a human being in any sphere.
Drunkenness was very prevalent in the age in which he lived, but
Rees Pritchard was so inordinately addicted to that vice that the
very worst of his parishioners were scandalized, and said: "Bad as
we may be we are not half so bad as the parson."
He was in the habit of spending the greater part of his time in the
public-house, from which he was generally trundled home in a wheel-
barrow in a state of utter insensibility. God, however, who is
aware of what every man is capable of, had reserved Rees Pritchard
for great and noble things, and brought about his conversion in a
very remarkable manner.
The people of the tavern which Rees Pritchard frequented had a
large he-goat, which went in and out and mingled with the guests.
One day Rees in the midst of his orgies called the goat to him and
offered it some ale; the creature, far from refusing it, drank
greedily, and soon becoming intoxicated, fell down upon the floor,
where it lay quivering, to the great delight of Rees Pritchard, who
made its drunkenness a subject of jest to his boon companions, who,
however, said nothing, being struck with horror at such conduct in
a person who was placed among them to be a pattern and example.
Before night, however, Pritchard became himself intoxicated, and
was trundled to the vicarage in the usual manner. During the whole
of the next day he was very ill and kept at home, but on the
following one he again repaired to the public-house, sat down and
called for his pipe and tankard. The goat was now perfectly
recovered, and was standing nigh. No sooner was the tankard
brought than Rees taking hold of it held it to the goat's mouth.
The creature, however, turned away its head in disgust, and hurried
out of the room. This circumstance produced an instantaneous
effect upon Rees Pritchard. "My God!" said he to himself, "is this
poor dumb creature wiser than I? Yes, surely; it has been drunk,
but having once experienced the wretched consequences of
drunkenness, it refuses to be drunk again. How different is its
conduct to mine! I, after having experienced a hundred times the
filthiness and misery of drunkenness, have still persisted in
debasing myself below the condition of a beast. Oh, if I persist
in this conduct what have I to expect but wretchedness and contempt
in this world and eternal perdition in the next? But, thank God,
it is not yet too late to amend; I am still alive - I will become a
new man - the goat has taught me a lesson." Smashing his pipe he
left his tankard untasted on the table, went home, and became an
Different as an angel of light is from the fiend of the pit was
Rees Pritchard from that moment from what he had been in former
days. For upwards of thirty years he preached the Gospel as it had
never been preached before in the Welsh tongue since the time of
Saint Paul, supposing the beautiful legend to be true which tells
us that Saint Paul in his wanderings found his way to Britain and
preached to the inhabitants the inestimable efficacy of Christ's
bloodshedding in the fairest Welsh, having like all the other
apostles the miraculous gift of tongues. The good vicar did more.
In the short intervals of relaxation which he allowed himself from
the labour of the ministry during those years he composed a number
of poetical pieces, which after his death were gathered together
into a volume and published, under the title of "Canwyll y Cymry;
or, the Candle of the Welshman." This work, which has gone through
almost countless editions, is written in two common easy measures,
and the language is so plain and simple that it is intelligible to
the homeliest hind who speaks the Welsh language. All of the
pieces are of a strictly devotional character, with the exception
of one, namely, a welcome to Charles, Prince of Wales, on his
return from Spain, to which country he had gone to see the Spanish
ladye whom at one time he sought as bride. Some of the pieces are
highly curious, as they bear upon events at present forgotten; for
example, the song upon the year 1629, when the corn was blighted
throughout the land, and "A Warning to the Cumry to repent when the
Plague of Blotches and Boils was prevalent in London." Some of the
pieces are written with astonishing vigour, for example, "The Song
of the Husbandman," and "God's Better than All," of which last
piece the following is a literal translation:-
"GOD'S BETTER THAN ALL -
"God's better than heaven or aught therein,
Than the earth or aught we there can win,
Better than the world or its wealth to me -
God's better than all that is or can be.
Better than father, than mother, than nurse,
Better than riches, oft proving a curse,
Better than Martha or Mary even -
Better by far is the God of heaven.
If God for thy portion thou hast ta'en
There's Christ to support thee in every pain,
The world to respect thee thou wilt gain,
To fear thee the fiend and all his train.
Of the best of portions thou choice didst make
When thou the high God to thyself didst take,
A portion which none from thy grasp can rend
Whilst the sun and the moon on their course shall wend
When the sun grows dark and the moon turns red,
When the stars shall drop and millions dread,
When the earth shall vanish with its pomps in fire,
Thy portion still shall remain entire.
Then let not thy heart, though distressed, complain!
A hold on thy portion firm maintain.
Thou didst choose the best portion, again I say -
Resign it not till thy dying day."
The old vicarage of Llandovery is a very large mansion of dark red
brick, fronting the principal street or market-place, and with its
back to a green meadow bounded by the river Bran. It is in a very
dilapidated condition, and is inhabited at present by various poor
families. The principal room, which is said to have been the old
vicar's library, and the place where he composed his undying
Candle, is in many respects a remarkable apartment. It is of large
dimensions. The roof is curiously inlaid with stucco or mortar,
and is traversed from east to west by an immense black beam. The
fire-place, which is at the south, is very large and seemingly of
high antiquity. The windows, which are two in number and look
westward into the street, have a quaint and singular appearance.
Of all the houses in Llandovery the old vicarage is by far the most
worthy of attention, irrespective of the wonderful monument of
God's providence and grace who once inhabited it.
The reverence in which the memory of Rees Pritchard is still held
in Llandovery the following anecdote will show. As I was standing
in the principal street staring intently at the antique vicarage, a
respectable-looking farmer came up and was about to pass, but
observing how I was employed he stopped, and looked now at me and
now at the antique house. Presently he said
"A fine old place, is it not, sir? but do you know who lived
Wishing to know what the man would say provided he thought I was
ignorant as to the ancient inmate, I turned a face of inquiry upon
him; whereupon he advanced towards me two or three steps, and
placing his face so close to mine that his nose nearly touched my
cheek, he said in a kind of piercing whisper -
Then drawing his face back he looked me full in the eyes as if to
observe the effect of his intelligence, gave me two nods as if to
say, "He did, indeed," and departed.
THE Vicar of Llandovery had then been dead nearly two hundred
years. Truly the man in whom piety and genius are blended is
immortal upon earth.
Departure from Llandovery - A Bitter Methodist - North and South -
The Caravan - Captain Bosvile - Deputy Ranger - A Scrimmage - The
Heavenly Gwynfa - Dangerous Position.
ON the tenth I departed from Llandovery, which I have no hesitation
in saying is about the pleasantest little town in which I have
halted in the course of my wanderings. I intended to sleep at
Gutter Vawr, a place some twenty miles distant, just within
Glamorganshire, to reach which it would be necessary to pass over
part of a range of wild hills, generally called the Black
Mountains. I started at about ten o'clock; the morning was
lowering, and there were occasional showers of rain and hail. I
passed by Rees Pritchard's church, holding my hat in my hand as I
did so, not out of respect for the building, but from reverence for
the memory of the sainted man who of old from its pulpit called
sinners to repentance, and whose remains slumber in the churchyard
unless washed away by some frantic burst of the neighbouring Towey.
Crossing a bridge over the Bran just before it enters the greater
stream, I proceeded along a road running nearly south and having a
range of fine hills on the east. Presently violent gusts of wind
came on, which tore the sear leaves by thousands from the trees, of
which there were plenty by the roadsides. After a little time,
however, this elemental hurly-burly passed away, a rainbow made its
appearance, and the day became comparatively fine. Turning to the
south-east under a hill covered with oaks, I left the vale of the
Towey behind me, and soon caught a glimpse of some very lofty hills
which I supposed to be the Black Mountains. It was a mere glimpse,
for scarcely had I descried them when mist settled down and totally
obscured them from my view.
In about an hour I reached Llangadog, a large village. The name
signifies the church of Gadog. Gadog was a British saint of the
fifth century, who after labouring amongst his own countrymen for
their spiritual good for many years, crossed the sea to Brittany,
where he died. Scarcely had I entered Llangadog when a great
shower of rain came down. Seeing an ancient-looking hostelry I at
once made for it. In a large and comfortable kitchen I found a
middle-aged woman seated by a huge deal table near a blazing fire,
with a couple of large books open before her. Sitting down on a
chair I told her in English to bring me a pint of ale. She did so,
and again sat down to her books, which on inquiry I found to be a
Welsh Bible and Concordance. We soon got into discourse about
religion, but did not exactly agree, for she was a bitter
Methodist, as bitter as her beer, only half of which I could get
Leaving Llangadog I pushed forward. The day was now tolerably
fine. In two or three hours I came to a glen, the sides of which
were beautifully wooded. On my left was a river, which came
roaring down from a range of lofty mountains right before me to the
south-east. The river, as I was told by a lad, was the Sawdde or
Southey, the lofty range the Black Mountains. Passed a pretty
village on my right standing something in the shape of a
semicircle, and in about half-an-hour came to a bridge over a river
which I supposed to be the Sawdde which I had already seen, but
which I subsequently learned was an altogether different stream.
It was running from the south, a wild, fierce flood, amidst rocks
and stones, the waves all roaring and foaming.
After some time I reached another bridge near the foot of a very
lofty ascent. On my left to the east upon a bank was a small
house, on one side of which was a wheel turned round by a flush of
water running in a little artificial canal; close by it were two
small cascades, the waters of which, and also those of the canal,
passed under the bridge in the direction of the west. Seeing a
decent-looking man engaged in sawing a piece of wood by the
roadside, I asked him in Welsh whether the house with the wheel was
a flour mill.
"Nage," said he, "it is a pandy, fulling mill."
"Can you tell me the name of a river," said I, "which I have left
about a mile behind me. Is it the Sawdde?'
"Nage," said he, "it is the Lleidach."
Then looking at me with great curiosity, he asked if I came from
the north country.
"Yes," said I, "I certainly come from there."
"I am glad to hear it," said he, "for I have long wished to see a
man from the north country."
"Did you never see one before?" said I.
"Never in my life," he replied; "men from the north country seldom
show themselves in these parts."
"Well," said I; "I am not ashamed to say that I come from the
"Ain't you? Well, I don't know that you have any particular reason
to be ashamed, for it is rather your misfortune than your fault;
but the idea of any one coming from the north - ho, ho!"
"Perhaps in the north," said I, "they laugh at a man from the
"Laugh at a man from the south! No, no; they can't do that."
"Why not?" said I; "why shouldn't the north laugh at the south as
well as the south at the north?"
"Why shouldn't it? why, you talk like a fool. How could the north
laugh at the south as long as the south remains the south and the
north the north? Laugh at the south! you talk like a fool, David,
and if you go on in that way I shall be angry with you. However,
I'll excuse you; you are from the north, and what can one expect
from the north but nonsense? Now tell me, do you of the north eat
and drink like other people? What do you live upon?"
"Why, as for myself," said I; "I generally live on the best I can
"Let's hear what you eat; bacon and eggs?
"Oh yes, I eat bacon and eggs when I can get nothing better."
"And what do you drink? Can you drink ale?"
"Oh yes," said I; "I am very fond of ale when it's good. Perhaps
you will stand a pint?"
"Hm," said the man looking somewhat blank; "there is no ale in the
Pandy and there is no public-house near at hand, otherwise - Where
are you going to-night?"
"To Gutter Vawr."
"Well, then, you had better not loiter; Gutter Vawr is a long way
off over the mountain. It will be dark, I am afraid, long before
you get to Gutter Vawr. Good evening, David! I am glad to have
seen you, for I have long wished to see a man from the north
country. Good evening! you will find plenty of good ale at Gutter
I went on my way. The road led in a south-eastern direction
gradually upward to very lofty regions. After walking about half-
an-hour I saw a kind of wooden house on wheels drawn by two horses
coming down the hill towards me. A short black-looking fellow in
brown-top boots, corduroy breeches, jockey coat and jockey cap sat
on the box, holding the reins in one hand and a long whip in the
other. Beside him was a swarthy woman in a wild flaunting dress.
Behind the box out of the fore part of the caravan peered two or
three black children's heads. A pretty little foal about four
months old came frisking and gambolling now before now beside the
horses, whilst a colt of some sixteen months followed more
leisurely behind. When the caravan was about ten yards distant I
stopped, and raising my left hand with the little finger pointed
aloft, I exclaimed:
"Shoon, Kaulomengro, shoon! In Dibbel's nav, where may tu be
Stopping his caravan with considerable difficulty the small black
man glared at me for a moment like a wild cat, and then said in a
voice partly snappish, partly kind:
"Savo shan tu? Are you one of the Ingrines?"
"I am the chap what certain folks calls the Romany Rye."
"Well, I'll be jiggered if I wasn't thinking so and if I wasn't
penning so to my juwa as we were welling down the chong."
"It is a long time since we last met, Captain Bosvile, for I
suppose I may call you Captain now?"
"Yes! the old man has been dead and buried this many a year, and
his sticks and titles are now mine. Poor soul, I hope he is happy;
indeed I know he is, for he lies in Cockleshell churchyard, the
place he was always so fond of, and has his Sunday waistcoat on him
with the fine gold buttons, which he was always so proud of. Ah,
you may well call it a long time since we met - why, it can't be
less than thirty year."
"Something about that - you were a boy then of about fifteen."
"So I was, and you a tall young slip of about twenty; well, how did
you come to jin mande?"
"Why, I knew you by your fighting mug - there ain't such another
mug in England."
"No more there an't - my old father always used to say it was of no
use hitting it for it always broke his knuckles. Well, it was kind
of you to jin mande after so many years. The last time I think I
saw you was near Brummagem, when you were travelling about with
Jasper Petulengro and - I say, what's become of the young woman you
used to keep company with?"
"I don't know."
"You don't? Well, she was a fine young woman and a vartuous. I
remember her knocking down and giving a black eye to my old mother,
who was wonderfully deep in Romany, for making a bit of a gillie
about you and she. What was the song? Lord, how my memory fails
me! Oh, here it is:-
"'Ando berkho Rye cano
Oteh pivo teh khavo
Tu lerasque ando berkho piranee
Teh corbatcha por pico.'"
"Have you seen Jasper Petulengro lately?" said I.
"Yes, I have seen him, but it was at a very considerable distance.
Jasper Petulengro doesn't come near the likes of we now. Lord! you
can't think what grand folks he and his wife have become of late
years, and all along of a trumpery lil which somebody has written
about them. Why, they are hand and glove with the Queen and
Prince, and folks say that his wife is going to be made dame of
honour, and Jasper Justice of the Peace and Deputy Ranger of
"Only think," said I. "And now tell me, what brought you into
"What brought me into Wales? I'll tell you; my own fool's head. I
was doing nicely in the Kaulo Gav and the neighbourhood, when I
must needs pack up and come into these parts with bag and baggage,
wife and childer. I thought that Wales was what it was some thirty
years agone when our foky used to say - for I was never here before
- that there was something to be done in it; but I was never more
mistaken in my life. The country is overrun with Hindity mescrey,
woild Irish, with whom the Romany foky stand no chance. The
fellows underwork me at tinkering, and the women outscream my wife
at telling fortunes - moreover, they say the country is theirs and
not intended for niggers like we, and as they are generally in vast
numbers what can a poor little Roman family do but flee away before
them? A pretty journey I have made into Wales. Had I not
contrived to pass off a poggado bav engro - a broken-winded horse -
at a fair, I at this moment should be without a tringoruschee piece
in my pocket. I am now making the best of my way back to
Brummagem, and if ever I come again to this Hindity country may
Calcraft nash me."
"I wonder you didn't try to serve some of the Irish out," said I.
"I served one out, brother; and my wife and childer helped to wipe
off a little of the score. We had stopped on a nice green, near a
village over the hills in Glamorganshire, when up comes a Hindity
family, and bids us take ourselves off. Now it so happened that
there was but one man and a woman and some childer, so I laughed,
and told them to drive us off. Well, brother, without many words,
there was a regular scrimmage. The Hindity mush came at me, the
Hindity mushi at y my juwa, and the Hindity chaves at my chai. It
didn't last long, brother. In less than three minutes I had hit
the Hindity mush, who was a plaguey big fellow, but couldn't fight,
just under the point of the chin, and sent him to the ground with
all his senses gone. My juwa had almost scratched an eye out of
the Hindity mushi, and my chai had sent the Hindity childer
scampering over the green. 'Who has got to quit now?' said I to
the Hindity mush after he had got on his legs, looking like a man
who has been cut down after hanging just a minute and a half. 'Who
has got notice to quit, now, I wonder?' Well, brother, he didn't
say anything, nor did any of them, but after a little time they all
took themselves off, with a cart they had, to the south. Just as
they got to the edge of the green, however, they turned round and
gave a yell which made all our blood run cold. I knew what it
meant, and said, 'This is no place for us.' So we got everything
together and came away and, though the horses were tired, never
stopped till we had got ten miles from the place; and well it was
we acted as we did, for, had we stayed, I have no doubt that a
whole Hindity clan would have been down upon us before morning and
cut our throats."
"Well," said I, "farewell. I can't stay any longer. As it is, I
shall be late at Gutter Vawr."
"Farewell, brother!" said Captain Bosvile; and, giving a cry, he
cracked, his whip and set his horses in motion.
"Won't you give us sixpence to drink?" cried Mrs Bosvile, with a
rather shrill voice.
"Hold your tongue, you she-dog," said Captain Bosvile. "Is that
the way in which you take leave of an old friend? Hold your
tongue, and let the Ingrine gentleman jaw on his way."
I proceeded on my way as fast as I could, for the day was now
closing in. My progress, however, was not very great; for the road
was steep, and was continually becoming more so. In about half-an-
hour I came to a little village, consisting of three or four
houses; one of them, at the door of which several carts were
standing, bore the sign of a tavern.
"What is the name of this place?" said I to a man who was breaking
stones on the road.
"Capel Gwynfa," said he.
Rather surprised at the name, which signifies in English the Chapel
of the place of bliss, I asked the man why it was called so.
"I don't know," said the man.
"Was there ever a chapel here?" said I.
"I don't know, sir; there is none now."
"I daresay there was in the old time," said I to myself, as I went
on, "in which some holy hermit prayed and told his beads, and
occasionally received benighted strangers. What a poetical word
that Gwynfa, place of bliss, is. Owen Pugh uses it in his
translation of 'Paradise Lost' to express Paradise, for he has
rendered the words Paradise Lost by Col Gwynfa - the loss of the
place of bliss. I wonder whether the old scholar picked up the
word here. Not unlikely. Strange fellow that Owen Pugh. Wish I
had seen him. No hope of seeing him now, except in the heavenly
Gwynfa. Wonder whether there is such a place. Tom Payne thinks
there's not. Strange fellow that Tom Payne. Norfolk man. Wish I
had never read him."
Presently I came to a little cottage with a toll-bar. Seeing a
woman standing at the door, I inquired of her the name of the gate.
"Cowslip Gate, sir."
"Has it any Welsh name?"
"None that I know of, sir."
This place was at a considerable altitude, and commanded an
extensive view to the south, west, and north. Heights upon heights
rose behind it to the east. From here the road ran to the south
for a little way nearly level, then turned abruptly to the east,
and was more steep than ever. After the turn, I had a huge chalk
cliff towering over me on the right, and a chalk precipice on my
left. Night was now coming on fast, and, rather to my uneasiness,
masses of mist began to pour down the sides of the mountain. I
hurried on, the road making frequent turnings. Presently the mist
swept down upon me, and was so thick that I could only see a few
yards before me. I was now obliged to slacken my pace, and to
advance with some degree of caution. I moved on in this way for
some time, when suddenly I heard a noise, as if a number of carts
were coming rapidly down the hill. I stopped, and stood with my
back close against the high bank. The noise drew nearer, and in a
minute I saw distinctly through the mist, horses, carts, and forms
of men passing. In one or two cases the wheels appeared to be
within a few inches of my feet. I let the train go by, and then
cried out in English, "Am I right for Gutter Vawr?"
"Hey?" said a voice, after a momentary interval.
"Am I right for Gutter Vawr?" I shouted yet louder.
"Yes sure!" said a voice, probably the same.
Then instantly a much rougher voice cried, "Who the Devil are you?"
I made no answer, but went on, whilst the train continued its way
rumbling down the mountain. At length I gained the top, where the
road turned and led down a steep descent towards the south-west.
It was now quite night, and the mist was of the thickest kind. I
could just see that there was a frightful precipice on my left, so
I kept to the right, hugging the side of the hill. As I descended
I heard every now and then loud noises in the vale, probably
proceeding from stone quarries. I was drenched to the skin, nay,
through the skin, by the mist, which I verily believe was more
penetrating than that described by Ab Gwilym. When I had proceeded
about a mile I saw blazes down below, resembling those of furnaces,
and soon after came to the foot of the hill. It was here pouring
with rain, but I did not put up my umbrella, as it was impossible
for me to be more drenched than I was. Crossing a bridge over a
kind of torrent, I found myself amongst some houses. I entered one
of them from which a blaze of light and a roar of voices proceeded,
and, on inquiring of an old woman who confronted me in the passage,
I found that I had reached my much needed haven of rest, the tavern
of Gutter Vawr in the county of Glamorgan.
Inn at Gutter Vawr - The Hurly-burly - Bara y Caws - Change of
Manner - Welsh Mistrust - Wonders of Russia - The Emperor - The
Grand Ghost Story.
THE old woman who confronted me in the passage of the inn turned
out to be the landlady. On learning that I intended to pass the
night at her house, she conducted me into a small room on the
right-hand side of the passage, which proved to be the parlour. It
was cold and comfortless, for there was no fire in the grate. She
told me, however, that one should be lighted, and going out,
presently returned with a couple of buxom wenches, who I soon found
were her daughters. The good lady had little or no English; the
girls, however, had plenty, and of a good kind too. They soon
lighted a fire, and then the mother inquired if I wished for any
"Certainly," said I, "for I have not eaten anything since I left
Llandovery. What can I have?"
"We have veal and bacon," said she.
"That will do," said I; "fry me some veal and bacon, and I shan't
complain. But pray tell what prodigious noise is that which I hear
on the other side of the passage?"
"It is only the miners and the carters in the kitchen making
merry," said one of the girls.
"Is there a good fire there?" said I.
"Oh yes," said the girl, "we have always a good fire in the
"Well then," said I, "I shall go there till supper is ready, for I
am wet to the skin, and this fire casts very little heat."
"You will find them a rough set in the kitchen," said the girl.
"I don't care if I do" said I; "when people are rough I am civil,
and I have always found that civility beats roughness in the long
run." Then going out I crossed the passage and entered the
It was nearly filled with rough unkempt fellows, smoking, drinking,
whistling, singing, shouting or jabbering, some in a standing, some
in a sitting, posture. My entrance seemed at once to bring
everything to a dead stop; the smokers ceased to smoke, the hand
that was conveying the glass or the mug to the mouth was arrested
in air, the hurly-burly ceased and every eye was turned upon me
with a strange inquiring stare. Without allowing myself to be
disconcerted I advanced to the fire, spread out my hands before it
for a minute, gave two or three deep "ahs" of comfort, and then
turning round said: "Rather a damp night, gentlemen - fire
cheering to one who has come the whole way from Llandovery - Taking
a bit of a walk in Wales, to see the scenery and to observe the
manners and customs of the inhabitants - Fine country, gentlemen,
noble prospects, hill and dale - Fine people too - open-hearted and
generous; no wonder! descendants of the Ancient Britons - Hope I
don't intrude - other room rather cold and smoking - If I do, will
retire at once - don't wish to interrupt any gentleman in their
avocations or deliberations - scorn to do anything ungenteel or
calculated to give offence - hope I know how to behave myself -
ought to do so - learnt grammar at the High School at Edinburgh."
"Offence, intrusion!" cried twenty voices. "God bless your honour!
no intrusion and no offence at all; sit down - sit here - won't you
"Please to sit here, sir," said an old grimy-looking man, getting
up from a seat in the chimney-corner - "this is no seat for me
whilst you are here, it belongs to you - sit down in it," and
laying hold of me he compelled me to sit down in the chair of
dignity, whilst half-a-dozen hands pushed mugs of beer towards my
face; these, however, I declined to partake of on the very
satisfactory ground that I had not taken supper, and that it was a
bad thing to drink before eating, more especially after coming out
of a mist.
"Have you any news to tell of the war, sir?" said a large tough
fellow, who was smoking a pipe.
"The last news that I heard of the war," said I, "was that the snow
was two feet deep at Sebastopol."
"I heard three," said the man; "however, if there be but two it
must be bad work for the poor soldiers. I suppose you think that
we shall beat the Russians in the end."
"No, I don't," said I; "the Russians are a young nation and we are
an old; they are coming on and we are going off; every dog has its
"That's true," said the man, "but I am sorry that you think we
shall not beat the Russians, for the Russians are a bad set."
"Can you speak Welsh?" said a darkish man with black, bristly hair
and a small inquisitive eye.
"Oh, I know two words in Welsh," said I; "bara y caws."
"That's bread and cheese," said the man, then turning to a
neighbour of his he said in Welsh: "He knows nothing of Cumraeg,
only two words; we may say anything we please; he can't understand
us. What a long nose he has!"
"Mind that he an't nosing us," said his neighbour. "I should be
loth to wager that he doesn't understand Welsh; and, after all, he
didn't say that he did not, but got off by saying he understood
those two words."
"No, he doesn't understand Welsh," said the other; "no Sais
understands Welsh, and this is a Sais. Now with regard to that
piece of job-work which you and I undertook." And forthwith he and
the other entered into a disquisition about the job-work.
The company soon got into its old train, drinking and smoking and
making a most terrific hullabaloo. Nobody took any farther notice
of me. I sat snug in the chimney-corner, trying to dry my wet
things, and as the heat was very great, partially succeeded. In
about half-an-hour one of the girls came to tell me that my supper
was ready, whereupon I got up and said:
"Gentlemen, I thank you for your civility; I am now going to
supper; perhaps before I turn in for the night I may look in upon
you again." Then without waiting for an answer I left the kitchen
and went into the other room, where I found a large dish of veal
cutlets and fried bacon awaiting me, and also a smoking bowl of
potatoes. Ordering a jug of ale I sat down, and what with hunger
and the goodness of the fare, for everything was first-rate, made
one of the best suppers I ever made in my life.
Supper over I called for a glass of whiskey-and-water, over which I
trifled for about half-an-hour and then betook myself again to the
kitchen. Almost as soon as I entered, the company - who seemed to
be discussing some point, and were not making much hurly-burly -
became silent, and looked at me in a suspicious and uneasy manner.
I advanced towards the fire. The old man who had occupied the seat
in the chimney-corner and had resigned it to me, had again taken
possession of it. As I drew near to the fire he looked upon the
ground, and seemed by no means disposed to vacate the place of
honour; after a few moments, however, he got up and offered me the
seat with slight motion of his hand and without saying a word. I
did not decline it but sat down, and the old gentleman took a chair
near. Universal silence now prevailed; sullen looks were cast at
me, and I saw clearly enough that I was not welcome. Frankness was
now my only resource. "What's the matter, gentlemen?" said I; "you
are silent and don't greet me kindly; have I given you any cause of
offence?" No one uttered a word in reply for nearly a minute, when
the old man said slowly and deliberately: "Why, sir, the long and
short of it is this: we have got it into our heads that you
understand every word of our discourse; now, do you or do you not?"
"Understand every word of your discourse?" said I; "I wish I did; I
would give five pounds to understand every word of your discourse."
"That's a clever attempt to get off, sir," said the old man, "but
it won't exactly do. Tell us whether you know more Welsh than bara
y caws, or to speak more plainly, whether you understand a good
deal of what we say."
"Well," said I, "I do understand more Welsh than bara y caws - I do
understand a considerable part of a Welsh conversation; moreover, I
can read Welsh, and have the life of Tom O'r Nant at my fingers'
"Well, sir, that is speaking plain, and I will tell you plainly
that we don't like to have strangers among us who understand our
discourse, more especially if they be gentlefolks."
"That's strange," said I; "a Welshman or foreigner, gentle or
simple, may go into a public-house in England, and nobody cares a
straw whether he understands the discourse of the company or not."
"That may be the custom in England," said the old man, "but it is
not so in Wales."
"What have you got to conceal?" said I; "I suppose you are honest
"I hope we are, sir," said the old man; "but I must tell you, once
for all, that we don't like strangers to listen to our discourse."
"Come," said I, "I will not listen to your discourse, but you shall
listen to mine. I have a wonderful deal to say if I once begin; I
have been everywhere."
"Well, sir," said the old man, "if you have anything to tell us
about where you have been and what you have seen, we shall be glad
to hear you."
"Have you ever been in Russia?" shouted a voice, that of the large
rough fellow who asked me the question about the Russian war.
"Oh yes, I have been in Russia," said I.
"Well, what kind of a country is it?"
"Very different from this," said I, "which is a little country up
in a corner, full of hills and mountains; that is an immense
country, extending from the Baltic Sea to the confines of China,
almost as flat as a pancake, there not being a hill to be seen for
nearly two thousand miles."
"A very poor country isn't it, always covered with ice and snow?"
"Oh no; it is one of the richest countries in the world, producing
all kinds of grain, with noble rivers intersecting it, and in some
parts covered with stately forests. In the winter, which is rather
long, there is a good deal of ice and snow, it is true, but in the
summer the weather is warmer than here."
"And are there any towns and cities in Russia, sir, as there are in
Britain?" said the old man who had resigned his seat in the
chimney-corner to me; "I suppose not, or if there be, nothing equal
to Hereford or Bristol, in both of which I have been."
"Oh yes," said I, "there are plenty of towns and cities. The two
principal ones are Moscow and Saint Petersburg, both of which are
capitals. Moscow is a fine old city, far up the country, and was
the original seat of empire. In it there is a wonderful building
called the Kremlin, situated on a hill. It is partly palace,
partly temple, and partly fortress. In one of its halls are I
don't know how many crowns, taken from various kings whom the
Russians have conquered. But the most remarkable thing in the
Kremlin is a huge bell in a cellar or cave, close by one of the
churches; it is twelve feet high, and the sound it gives when
struck with an iron bar, for there are no clappers to Russian
bells, is so loud that the common Russians say it can be heard over
the empire. The other city, Saint Petersburg, where the Court
generally reside, is a modern and very fine city; so fine indeed,
that I have no hesitation in saying that neither Bristol nor
Hereford is worthy to be named in the same day with it. Many of
the streets are miles in length, and straight as an arrow. The
Nefsky Prospect, as it is called, a street which runs from the
grand square, where stands the Emperor's palace, to the monastery
of Saint Alexander Nefsky, is nearly three miles in length, and is
full of noble shops and houses. The Neva, a river twice as broad
and twice as deep as the Thames, and whose waters are clear as
crystal, runs through the town, having on each side of it a superb
quay, fenced with granite, which affords one of the most delightful
walks imaginable. If I had my choice of all the cities of the
world to live in, I would choose Saint Petersburg."
"And did you ever see the Emperor?" said the rough fellow, whom I
have more than once mentioned, "did you ever see the Emperor
"Oh yes: I have seen him frequently."
"Well, what kind of a man is he? we should like to know."
"A man of colossal stature, with a fine, noble, but rather stern
and severe aspect. I think I now see him, with his grey cloak,
cocked hat, and white waving plumes, striding down the Nefsky
Prospect, and towering by a whole head over other people."
"Bravo! Did you ever see him at the head of his soldiers?"
"Oh yes! I have seen the Emperor review forty thousand of his
chosen troops in the Champs de Mars, and a famous sight it was.
There stood the great, proud man looking at his warriors as they
manoeuvred before him. Two-thirds of them were cavalry, and each
horseman was mounted on a beautiful blood charger of Cossack or
English breed, and arrayed in a superb uniform. The blaze, glitter
and glory were too much for my eyes, and I was frequently obliged
to turn them away. The scene upon the whole put me in mind of an
immense field of tulips of various dyes, for the colours of the
dresses, of the banners and the plumes, were as gorgeous and
manifold as the hues of those queenly flowers."
"Bravo!" said twenty voices; "the gentleman speaks like an
areithiwr. Have you been in other countries besides Russia?"
"Oh yes! I have been in Turkey, the people of which are not
Christians, but frequently put Christians to shame by their good
faith and honesty. I have been in the land of the Maugrabins, or
Moors - a people who live on a savoury dish called couscousoo, and
have the gloomiest faces and the most ferocious hearts under
heaven. I have been in Italy, whose people, though the most clever
in the world, are the most unhappy, owing to the tyranny of a being
called the Pope, who, when I saw him, appeared to be under the
influence of strong drink. I have been in Portugal, the people of
which supply the whole world with wine, and drink only water
themselves. I have been in Spain, a very fine country, the people
of which are never so happy as when paying other folks' reckonings.
I have been - but the wind is blowing wildly without, and the rain
pelting against the windows; this is a capital night for a ghost
story; shall I tell you a ghost story which I learnt in Spain?"
"Yes, sir, pray do; we all love ghost stories. Do tell us the
ghost story of Spain."
Thereupon I told the company Lope de Vega's ghost story, which is
decidedly the best ghost story in the world.
Long and loud was the applause which followed the conclusion of the
grand ghost story of the world, in the midst of which I got up,
bade the company good-night, and made my exit. Shortly afterwards
I desired to be shown to my sleeping apartment. It was a very
small room upstairs, in the back part of the house; and I make no
doubt was the chamber of the two poor girls, the landlady's
daughters, as I saw various articles of female attire lying about.
The spirit of knight-errantry within me was not, however,
sufficiently strong to prevent me taking possession of the female
dormitory; so, forthwith divesting myself of every portion of my
habiliments, which were steaming like a boiling tea-kettle, I got
into bed between the blankets, and in a minute was fast in the arms
Morning - A Cheerless Scene - The Carter - Ode to Glamorgan -
Startling Halloo - One-sided Liberty - Clerical Profession - De
Courcy - Love of the Drop - Independent Spirit - Another People.
I SLEPT soundly through the night. At about eight o'clock on the
following morning I got up and looked out of the window of my room,
which fronted the north. A strange scene presented itself: a
roaring brook was foaming along towards the west, just under the
window. Immediately beyond it was a bank, not of green turf, grey
rock, or brown mould, but of coal rubbish, coke and cinders; on the
top of this bank was a fellow performing some dirty office or
other, with a spade and barrow; beyond him, on the side of a hill,
was a tramway, up which a horse was straining, drawing a load of
something towards the north-west. Beyond the tramway was a grove
of yellow-looking firs; beyond the grove a range of white houses
with blue roofs, occupied, I suppose, by miners and their families;
and beyond these I caught a sight of the mountain on the top of
which I had been the night before - only a partial one, however, as
large masses of mist were still hanging about it. The morning was
moist and dripping, and nothing could look more cheerless and
uncomfortable than the entire scene.
I put on my things, which were still not half dry, and went down
into the little parlour, where I found an excellent fire awaiting
me, and a table spread for breakfast. The breakfast was delicious,
consisting of excellent tea, buttered toast, and Glamorgan
sausages, which I really think are not a whit inferior to those of
Epping. After breakfast I went into the kitchen, which was now
only occupied by two or three people. Seeing a large brush on a
dresser, I took it up, and was about to brush my nether
habiliments, which were terribly bespattered with half-dried mire.
Before, however, I could begin, up started one of the men, a wild,
shock-headed fellow dressed like a carter, in rough blue frieze
coat, yellow, broad corduroy trowsers, grey woollen stockings and
highlows, and snatching the brush out of my hand, fell to brushing
me most vigorously, puffing and blowing all the time in a most
tremendous manner. I did not refuse his services, but let him go
on, and to reward him as I thought, spoke kindly to him, asking him
various questions. "Are you a carter?" said I. No answer. "One
of Twm O'r Nant's people?" No answer. "Famous fellow that Twm O'r
Nant, wasn't he? Did you ever hear how he got the great tree in at
Carmarthen Gate? What is wood per foot at present? Whom do you
cart for? Or are you your own master? If so, how many horses do
To not one of these questions, nor to a dozen others which I put,
both in English and Welsh, did my friend with the brush return any
verbal answer, though I could occasionally hear a kind of stifled
giggle proceeding from him. Having at length thoroughly brushed
not only my clothes, but my boots and my hat, which last article he
took from my head, and placed it on again very dexterously, after
brushing it, he put the brush down on the dresser, and then
advancing to me made me a bow, and waving his forefinger backwards
and forwards before my face, he said, with a broad grin: "Nice
gentleman - will do anything for him but answer questions, and let
him hear my discourse. Love to listen to his pleasant stories of
foreign lands, ghosts and tylwith teg; but before him, deem it wise
to be mum, quite mum. Know what he comes about. Wants to hear
discourse of poor man, that he may learn from it poor man's little
ways and infirmities, and mark them down in one small, little book
to serve for fun to Lord Palmerston and the other great gentlefolks
in London. Nice man, civil man, I don't deny; and clebber man too,
for he knows Welsh, and has been everywhere - but fox - old fox -
lives at Plas y Cadno." (18)
Having been informed that there was a considerable iron foundry
close by, I thought it would be worth my while to go and see it. I
entered the premises, and was standing and looking round, when a
man with the appearance of a respectable mechanic came up and
offered to show me over the place. I gladly accepted his offer,
and he showed me all about the iron foundry. I saw a large steam-
engine at full play, terrible furnaces, and immense heaps of
burning, crackling cinders, and a fiery stream of molten metal
rolling along. After seeing what there was to be seen, I offered a
piece of silver to my kind conductor, which he at once refused. On
my asking him, however, to go to the inn and have a friendly glass,
he smiled, and said he had no objection. So we went to the inn,
and had two friendly glasses of whiskey-and-water together, and
also some discourse. I asked him if there were any English
employed on the premises. "None," said he, "nor Irish either; we
are all Welsh." Though he was a Welshman, his name was a very
common English one.
After paying the reckoning, which only amounted to three and
sixpence, I departed for Swansea, distant about thirteen miles.
Gutter Vawr consists of one street, extending for some little way
along the Swansea road, the foundry, and a number of huts and
houses scattered here and there. The population is composed almost
entirely of miners, the workers at the foundry, and their families.
For the first two or three miles the country through which I passed
did not at all prepossess me in favour of Glamorganshire: it
consisted of low, sullen, peaty hills. Subsequently, however, it
improved rapidly, becoming bold, wild, and pleasantly wooded. The
aspect of the day improved, also, with the appearance of the
country. When I first started the morning was wretched and
drizzly, but in less than an hour it cleared up wonderfully, and
the sun began to flash out. As I looked on the bright luminary I
thought of Ab Gwilym's ode to the sun and Glamorgan, and with
breast heaving and with eyes full of tears, I began to repeat parts
of it, or rather of a translation made in my happy boyish years:-
"Each morn, benign of countenance,
Upon Glamorgan's pennon glance!
Each afternoon in beauty clear
Above my own dear bounds appear!
Bright outline of a blessed clime,
Again, though sunk, arise sublime -
Upon my errand, swift repair,
And unto green Glamorgan bear
Good days and terms of courtesy
From my dear country and from me!
Move round - but need I thee command? -
Its chalk-white halls, which cheerful stand -
Pleasant thy own pavilions too -
Its fields and orchards fair to view.
"O, pleasant is thy task and high
In radiant warmth to roam the sky,
To keep from ill that kindly ground,
Its meads and farms, where mead is found,
A land whose commons live content,
Where each man's lot is excellent,
Where hosts to hail thee shall upstand,
Where lads are bold and lasses bland,
A land I oft from hill that's high
Have gazed upon with raptur'd eye;
Where maids are trained in virtue's school,
Where duteous wives spin dainty wool;
A country with each gift supplied,
Confronting Cornwall's cliffs of pride."
Came to Llanguick, a hamlet situated near a tremendous gorge, the
sides of which were covered with wood. Thence to the village of
Tawy Bridge, at the bottom of a beautiful valley, through which
runs the Tawy, which, after the Taf, is the most considerable river
in Glamorganshire. Continuing my course, I passed by an enormous
edifice which stood on my right hand. It had huge chimneys, which
were casting forth smoke, and from within I heard the noise of a
steam-engine and the roar of furnaces.
"What place is this?" said, I to a boy.
"Gwaith haiarn, sir; ym perthyn i Mr Pearson. Mr Pearson's iron
I proceeded, and in about half-an-hour saw a man walking before me
in the same direction in which I was. He was going very briskly,
but I soon came up to him. He was a small, well-made fellow, with
reddish hair and ruddy, determined countenance, somewhat tanned.
He wore a straw hat, checkered shirt, open at the neck, canvas
trousers and blue jacket. On his feet were shoes remarkably thin,
but no stockings, and in his hand he held a stout stick, with
which, just before I overtook him, he struck a round stone which
lay on the ground, sending it flying at least fifty yards before
him on the road, and following it in its flight with a wild and
somewhat startling halloo.
"Good-day, my friend," said I; "you seem to be able to use a
"And sure I ought to be, your honour, seeing as how my father
taught me, who was the best fighting man with a stick that the
Shanavests ever had. Many is the head of a Caravaut that he has
broken with some such an Alpeen wattle as the one I am carrying
with me here."
"A good thing," said I, "that there are no Old Waist-coats and
Cravats at present, at least bloody factions bearing those names."
"Your honour thinks so! Faith! I am clane of a contrary opinion.
I wish the ould Shanavests and Caravauts were fighting still, and I
among them. Faith! there was some life in Ireland in their days."
"And plenty of death too," said I. "How fortunate it is that the
Irish have the English among them to prevent their cutting each
"The English prevent the Irish from cutting each other's throats!
Well, if they do, it is only that they may have the pleasure of
cutting them themselves. The bloody tyrants! too long has their
foot been upon the neck of poor old Ireland."
"How do the English tyrannise over Ireland?"
"How do they tyrannise over her? Don't they prevent her from
having the free exercise of her Catholic religion, and make her
help to support their own Protestant one?"
"Well, and don't the Roman Catholics prevent the Protestants from
having the free exercise of their religion, whenever they happen to
be the most numerous, and don't they make them help to support the
Roman Catholic religion?"
"Of course they do, and quite right! Had I my will, there
shouldn't be a place of Protestant worship left standing, or a
Protestant churl allowed to go about with a head unbroken."
"Then why do you blame the Protestants for keeping the Romans a
"Why do I blame them? A purty question! Why, an't they wrong, and
an't we right?"
"But they say that they are right and you wrong."
"They say! who minds what they say? Haven't we the word of the
blessed Pope that we are right?"
"And they say that they have the word of the blessed Gospel that
you are wrong."
"The Gospel! who cares for the Gospel? Surely you are not going to
compare the Gospel with the Pope?"
"Well, they certainly are not to be named in the same day."
"They are not? Then good luck to you! We are both of the same
opinion. Ah, I thought your honour was a rale Catholic. Now, tell
me from what kingdom of Ireland does your honour hail?"
"Why, I was partly educated in Munster."
"In Munster! Hoorah! Here's the hand of a countryman to your
honour. Ah, it was asy to be seen from the learning, which your
honour shows, that your honour is from Munster. There's no spot in
Ireland like Munster for learning. What says the old song?
"'Ulster for a soldier,
Connaught for a thief,
Munster for learning,
And Leinster for beef.'
"Hoorah for learned Munster! and down with beggarly, thievish
Connaught! I would that a Connaught man would come athwart me now,
that I might break his thief's head with my Alpeen."
"You don't seem to like the Connaught men," said I.
"Like them! who can like them? a parcel of beggarly thievish
blackguards. So your honour was edicated in Munster - I mane
partly edicated. I suppose by your saying that you were partly
edicated, that your honour was intended for the clerical
profession, but being over fond of the drop was forced to lave
college before your edication was quite completed, and so for want
of a better profession took up with that of merchandise. Ah, the
love of the drop at college has prevented many a clever young
fellow from taking holy orders. Well, it's a pity but it can't be
helped. I am fond of a drop myself, and when we get to - shall be
happy to offer your honour a glass of whiskey. I hope your honour
and I shall splice the mainbrace together before we part."
"I suppose," said I, "by your talking of splicing the mainbrace
that you are a sailor."
"I am, your honour, and hail from the Cove of Cork in the kingdom
"I know it well," said I, "it is the best sea-basin in the world.
Well, how came you into these parts?"
"I'll tell your honour; my ship is at Swansea, and having a
relation working at the foundry behind us I came to see him."
"Are you in the royal service?"
"I am not, your honour; I was once in the royal service, but having
a dispute with the boatswain at Spithead, I gave him a wipe, jumped
overboard and swam ashore. After that I sailed for Cuba, got into
the merchants' service there, and made several voyages to the Black
Coast. At present I am in the service of the merchants of Cork."
"I wonder that you are not now in the royal service," said I,
"since you are so fond of fighting. There is hot work going on at
present up the Black Sea, and brave men, especially Irishmen, are
in great request."
"Yes, brave Irishmen are always in great request with England when
she has a battle to fight. At other times they are left to lie in
the mud with the chain round their necks. It has been so ever
since the time of De Courcy, and I suppose always will be so,
unless Irishmen all become of my mind, which is not likely. Were
the Irish all of my mind, the English would find no Irish champion
to fight their battles when the French or the Russians come to
"By De Courcy," said I, "you mean the man whom the King of England
confined in the Tower of London after taking from him his barony in
the county of Cork."
"Of course, your honour, and whom he kept in the Tower till the
King of France sent over a champion to insult and beard him, when
the king was glad to take De Courcy out of the dungeon to fight the
French champion, for divil a one of his own English fighting men
dared take the Frenchman in hand."
"A fine fellow that De Courcy," said I.
"Rather too fond of the drop though, like your honour and myself,
for after he had caused the French champion to flee back into
France he lost the greater part of the reward which the King of
England promised him, solely by making too free with the strong
drink. Does your honour remember that part of the story?"
"I think I do," said I, "but I should be very glad to hear you
"Then your honour shall. Right glad was the King of England when
the French champion fled back to France, for no sooner did the
dirty spalpeen hear that they were going to bring De Courcy against
him, the fame of whose strength and courage filled the whole world,
than he betook himself back to his own country, and was never heard
of more. Right glad, I say, was the King of England, and gave
leave to De Courcy to return to Ireland. 'And you shall have,'
said he, 'of the barony which I took from you all that you can ride
round on the first day of your return.' So De Courcy betook
himself to Ireland and to his barony, but he was anything but a
lucky man, this De Courcy, for his friends and relations and
tenantry, hearing of his coming, prepared a grand festival for him,
with all kinds of illigant viands and powerful liquors, and when he
arrived there it was waiting for him, and down to it he sat, and
ate, and drank, and for joy of seeing himself once more amongst his
friends and tenantry in the hall of his forefathers, and for love
of the drop, which he always had, he drank of the powerful liquors
more than he ought, and the upshot was that he became drunk, agus
do bhi an duine maith sin misgeadh do ceather o glog; the good
gentleman was drunk till four o'clock, and when he awoke he found
that he had but two hours of day remaining to win back his brave
barony. However, he did not lose heart, but mounted his horse and
set off riding as fast as a man just partly recovered from
intoxication could be expected to do, and he contrived to ride
round four parishes, and only four, and these four parishes were
all that he recovered of his brave barony, and all that he had to
live upon till his dying day, and all that he had to leave to his
descendants, so that De Courcy could scarcely be called a very
lucky man, after all."
Shortly after my friend the sailor had concluded his account of De
Courcy, we arrived in the vicinity of a small town or rather
considerable village. It stood on the right-hand side of the road,
fronting the east, having a high romantic hill behind it on the
sides of which were woods, groves, and pleasant-looking white
"What place is this?" said I to my companion.
"This is -, your honour; and here, if your honour will accept a
glass of whiskey we will splice the mainbrace together."
"Thank you," said I; "but I am in haste to get to Swansea.
Moreover, if I am over fond of the drop, as you say I am, the
sooner I begin to practise abstinence the better."
"Very true, your honour! Well, at any rate, when your honour gets
to Swansea, you will not be able to say that Pat Flannagan walked
for miles with your honour along the road, without offering your
honour a glass of whiskey."
"Nor shall Pat Flannagan be able to say the same thing of my
honour. I have a shilling in my pocket at Pat Flannagan's service,
if he chooses to splice with it the mainbrace for himself and for
"Thank your honour; but I have a shilling in my own pocket, and a
dollar too, and a five-pound note besides; so I needn't be beholden
for drink money to anybody under the sun."
"Well then, farewell! Here's my hand! - Slan leat a Phatraic ui
"Slan leat a dhuine-uasail!" said Patrick, giving me his hand; "and
health, hope, and happiness to ye."
Thereupon he turned aside to -, and I continued my way to Swansea.
Arrived at a place called Glandwr, about two miles from Swansea, I
found that I was splashed from top to toe, for the roads were
frightfully miry, and was sorry to perceive that my boots had given
way at the soles, large pieces of which were sticking out. I must,
however, do the poor things the justice to say, that it was no
wonder that they were in this dilapidated condition, for in those
boots I had walked at least two hundred miles, over all kinds of
paths, since I had got them soled at Llangollen. "Well," said I to
myself, "it won't do to show myself at Swansea in this condition,
more especially as I shall go to the best hotel; I must try and get
myself made a little decent here." Seeing a little inn, on my
right, I entered it, and addressing myself to a neat comfortable
landlady, who was standing within the bar, I said:-
"Please to let me have a glass of ale! - and hearkee; as I have
been walking along the road, I should be glad of the services of
"Very good, sir," said the landlady with a curtsey.
Then showing me into a nice little sanded parlour, she brought me
the glass of ale, and presently sent in a lad with a boot-jack to
minister to me. Oh, what can't a little money effect? For
sixpence in that small nice inn, I had a glass of ale, my boots
cleaned, and the excrescences cut off, my clothes wiped with a
dwile, and then passed over with a brush, and was myself thanked
over and over again. Starting again with all the spirited
confidence of one who has just cast off his slough, I soon found
myself in the suburbs of Swansea. As I passed under what appeared
to be a railroad bridge I inquired in Welsh of an ancient-looking
man, in coaly habiliments, if it was one. He answered in the same
language that it was, then instantly added in English:-
"You have taken your last farewell of Wales, sir; it's no use
speaking Welsh farther on."
I passed some immense edifices, probably manufactories, and was
soon convinced that, whether I was in Wales or not, I was no longer
amongst Welsh. The people whom I met did not look like Welsh.
They were taller and bulkier than the Cambrians, and were speaking
a dissonant English jargon. The women had much the appearance of
Dutch fisherwomen; some of them were carrying huge loads on their
heads. I spoke in Welsh to two or three whom I overtook.
"No Welsh, sir!"
"Why don't you speak Welsh?" said I.
"Because we never learnt it. We are not Welsh."
"Who are you then?"
"English; some calls us Flamings."
"Ah, ah!" said I to myself; "I had forgot."
Presently I entered the town, a large, bustling, dirty, gloomy
place, and inquiring for the first hotel, was directed to the
"Mackworth Arms," in Wine Street.
As soon as I was shown into the parlour I summoned the "boots," and
on his making his appearance I said in a stern voice: "My boots
want soling; let them be done by to-morrow morning."
"Can't be, sir; it's now Saturday afternoon, the shoemaker couldn't
begin them to-night!"
"But you must make him!" said I; "and look here, I shall give him a
shilling extra, and you an extra shilling for seeing after him."
"Yes, sir; I'll see after him - they shall be done, sir. Bring you
your slippers instantly. Glad to see you again in Swansea, sir,
looking so well."
Swansea - The Flemings - Towards England.
SWANSEA is called by the Welsh Abertawe, which signifies the mouth
of the Tawy. Aber, as I have more than once had occasion to
observe, signifies the place where a river enters into the sea or
joins another. It is a Gaelic as well as a Cumric word, being
found in the Gaelic names Aberdeen and Lochaber, and there is good
reason for supposing that the word harbour is derived from it.
Swansea or Swansey is a compound word of Scandinavian origin, which
may mean either a river abounding with swans, or the river of
Swanr, the name of some northern adventurer who settled down at its
mouth. The final ea or ey is the Norwegian aa, which signifies a
running water; it is of frequent occurrence in the names of rivers
in Norway, and is often found, similarly modified, in those of
other countries where the adventurous Norwegians formed
Swansea first became a place of some importance shortly after the
beginning of the twelfth century. In the year 1108, the greater
part of Flanders having been submerged by the sea (19) an immense
number of Flemings came over to England, and entreated of Henry the
First the king then occupying the throne, that he would all allot
to them lands in which they might settle, The king sent them to
various parts of Wales, which had been conquered by his barons or
those of his predecessors: a considerable number occupied Swansea
and the neighbourhood; but far the greater part went to Dyfed,
generally but improperly called Pembroke, the south-eastern part of
which, by far the most fertile, they entirely took possession of,
leaving to the Welsh the rest, which is very mountainous and
I have already said that the people of Swansea stand out in broad
distinctness from the Cumry, differing from them in stature,
language, dress, and manners, and wished to observe that the same
thing may be said of the inhabitants of every part of Wales which
the Flemings colonised in any considerable numbers.
I found the accommodation very good at the "Mackworth Arms"; I
passed the Saturday evening very agreeably, and slept well
throughout the night. The next morning to my great joy I found my
boots, capitally repaired, awaiting me before my chamber door. Oh
the mighty effect of a little money! After breakfast I put them
on, and as it was Sunday went out in order to go to church. The
streets were thronged with people; a new mayor had just been
elected, and his worship, attended by a number of halbert and
javelin men, was going to church too. I followed the procession,
which moved with great dignity and of course very slowly. The
church had a high square tower, and looked a very fine edifice on
the outside, and no less so within, for the nave was lofty with
noble pillars on each side. I stood during the whole of the
service as did many others, for the congregation was so great that
it was impossible to accommodate all with seats. The ritual was
performed in a very satisfactory manner, and was followed by an
excellent sermon. I am ashamed to say that have forgot the text,
but I remember a good deal of the discourse. The preacher said
amongst other thing that the Gospel was not preached in vain, and
that he very much doubted whether a sermon was ever delivered which
did not do some good. On the conclusion of the service I strolled
about in order to see the town and what pertained to it. The town
is of considerable size, with some remarkable edifices, spacious
and convenient quays, and a commodious harbour into which the river
Tawy flowing from the north empties itself. The town and harbour
are overhung on the side of the east by a lofty green mountain with
a Welsh name, no doubt exceedingly appropriate, but which I regret
to say has escaped my memory.
After having seen all that I wished, I returned to my inn and
discharged all my obligations. I then departed, framing my course
eastward towards England, having traversed Wales nearly from north
Leave Swansea - The Pandemonium - Neath Abbey - Varied Scenery.
IT was about two o'clock of a dull and gloomy afternoon when I
started from Abertawy or Swansea, intending to stop at Neath, some
eight miles distant. As I passed again through the suburbs I was
struck with their length and the evidences of enterprise which they
exhibited - enterprise, however, evidently chiefly connected with
iron and coal, for almost every object looked awfully grimy.
Crossing a bridge I proceeded to the east up a broad and spacious
valley, the eastern side of which was formed by russet-coloured
hills, through a vista of which I could descry a range of tall blue
mountains. As I proceeded I sometimes passed pleasant groves and
hedgerows, sometimes huge works; in this valley there was a
singular mixture of nature and art, of the voices of birds and the
clanking of chains, of the mists of heaven and the smoke of
I reached Llan- , a small village half-way between Swansea and
Neath, and without stopping continued my course, walking very fast.
I had surmounted a hill, and had nearly descended that side of it
which looked towards the east, having on my left, that is to the
north, a wooded height, when an extraordinary scene presented
itself to my eyes. Somewhat to the south rose immense stacks of
chimneys surrounded by grimy diabolical-looking buildings, in the
neighbourhood of which were huge heaps of cinders and black
rubbish. From the chimneys, notwithstanding it was Sunday, smoke
was proceeding in volumes, choking the atmosphere all around. From
this pandemonium, at the distance of about a quarter of a mile to
the south-west, upon a green meadow, stood, looking darkly grey, a
ruin of vast size with window holes, towers, spires, and arches.
Between it and the accursed pandemonium, lay a horrid filthy place,
part of which was swamp and part pool: the pool black as soot, and
the swamp of a disgusting leaden colour. Across this place of
filth stretched a tramway leading seemingly from the abominable
mansions to the ruin. So strange a scene I had never beheld in
nature. Had it been on canvas, with the addition of a number of
Diabolical figures, proceeding along the tramway, it might have
stood for Sabbath in Hell - devils proceeding to afternoon worship,
and would have formed a picture worthy of the powerful but insane
painter, Jerome Bos.
After standing for a considerable time staring at the strange
spectacle I proceeded. Presently meeting a lad, I asked him what
was the name of the ruin.
"The Abbey," he replied.
"Neath Abbey?" said I.
Having often heard of this abbey, which in its day was one of the
most famous in Wales, I determined to go and inspect it. It was
with some difficulty that I found my way to it. It stood, as I
have already observed, in a meadow, and was on almost every side
surrounded by majestic hills. To give any clear description of
this ruined pile would be impossible, the dilapidation is so great,
dilapidation evidently less the effect of time than of awful
violence, perhaps that of gunpowder. The southern is by far the
most perfect portion of the building; there you see not only walls
but roofs. Fronting you full south, is a mass of masonry with two
immense arches, other arches behind them: entering, you find
yourself beneath a vaulted roof, and passing on you come to an
oblong square which may have been a church; an iron-barred window
on your right enables you to look into a mighty vault, the roof of
which is supported by beautiful pillars. Then - but I forbear to
say more respecting these remains, for fear of stating what is
incorrect, my stay amongst them having been exceedingly short.
The Abbey of Glen Neath was founded in the twelfth century by
Richard Grenfield, one of the followers of Robert Fitzhamon, who
subjugated Glamorgan. Neath Abbey was a very wealthy one, the
founder having endowed it with extensive tracts of fertile land
along the banks of the rivers Neath and Tawy. In it the
unfortunate Edward of Carnarvon sought a refuge for a few days from
the rage of his revolted barons, whilst his favourite, the equally
unfortunate Spencer, endeavoured to find a covert amidst the
thickets of the wood-covered hill to the north. When Richmond
landed at Milford Haven to dispute the crown with Richard the
Second, the then Abbot of Neath repaired to him and gave him his
benediction, in requital for which the adventurer gave him his
promise that in the event of his obtaining the crown, he would
found a college in Glen Neath, which promise, however, after he had
won the crown, he forgot to perform. (20) The wily abbot, when he
hastened to pay worship to what he justly conceived to be the
rising sun, little dreamt that he was about to bless the future
father of the terrible man doomed by Providence to plant the
abomination of desolation in Neath Abbey and in all the other nests
of monkery throughout the land.
Leaving the ruins I proceeded towards Neath. The scenery soon
became very beautiful; not that I had left machinery altogether
behind, for I presently came to a place where huge wheels were
turning, and there was smoke and blast, but there was much that was
rural and beautiful to be seen, something like park scenery, and
then there were the mountains near and in the distance. I reached
Neath at about half-past four, and took up my quarters at an inn
which had been recommended to me by my friend the boots at Swansea.
Town of Neath - Hounds and Huntsman - Spectral Chapel - The Glowing
NEATH is a place of some antiquity, for it can boast of the remains
of a castle and is a corporate town. There is but little Welsh
spoken in it. It is situated on the Neath, and exports vast
quantities of coal and iron, of both of which there are rich mines
in the neighbourhood. It derives its name from the river Nedd or
Neth, on which it stands. Nedd or Neth is the same word as Nith,
the name of a river in Scotland, and is in some degree connected
with Nidda, the name of one in Germany. Nedd in Welsh signifies a
dingle, and the word in its various forms has always something to
do with lowness or inferiority of position. Amongst its forms are
Nether and Nieder. The term is well applied to the Glamorganshire
river, which runs through dingles and under mountains.
The Neath has its source in the mountains of Brecon, and enters the
sea some little way below the town of Neath.
On the Monday morning I resumed my journey, directing my course up
the vale of Neath towards Merthyr Tydvil, distant about four-and-
twenty miles. The weather was at first rainy, misty and miserable,
but improved by degrees. I passed through a village which I was
told was called Llanagos; close to it were immense establishments
of some kind. The scenery soon became exceedingly beautiful; hills
covered with wood to the tops were on either side of the dale. I
passed an avenue leading somewhere through groves, and was
presently overtaken and passed by hounds and a respectable-looking
old huntsman on a black horse; a minute afterwards I caught a
glimpse of an old red-brick mansion nearly embosomed in groves,
from which proceeded a mighty cawing. Probably it belonged to the
proprietor of the dogs, and certainly looked a very fit mansion for
a Glamorganshire squire, justice of the peace and keeper of a pack
I went on, the vale increasing in beauty; there was a considerable
drawback, however: one of those detestable contrivances, a
railroad, was on the farther side - along which trains were
passing, rumbling and screaming.
I saw a bridge on my right hand with five or six low arches over
the river, which was here full of shoals. Asked a woman the name
of the bridge.
"PONT FAWR ei galw, sir."
I was again amongst the real Welsh - this woman had no English.
I passed by several remarkable mountains, both on the south and
northern side of the vale. Late in the afternoon I came to the
eastern extremity of the vale and ascended a height. Shortly
afterwards I reached Rhigos, a small village.
Entering a public-house I called for ale and sat down amidst some
grimy fellows, who said nothing to me and to whom I said nothing -
their discourse was in Welsh and English. Of their Welsh I
understood but little, for it was a strange corrupt jargon. In
about half-an-hour after leaving this place I came to the beginning
of a vast moor. It was now growing rather dusk, and I could see
blazes here and there; occasionally I heard horrid sounds. Came to
Irvan, an enormous mining-place with a spectral-looking chapel,
doubtless a Methodist one. The street was crowded with rough,
savage-looking men. "Is this the way to Merthyr Tydvil?" said I to
"Yes!" bawled the fellow at the utmost stretch of his voice.
"Thank you!" said I, taking off my hat and passing on.
Forward I went, up hill and down dale. Night now set in. I passed
a grove of trees and presently came to a collection of small houses
at the bottom of a little hollow. Hearing a step near me I stopped
and said in Welsh: "How far to Merthyr Tydvil?"
"Dim Cumrag, sir!" said a voice, seemingly that of a man.
"Good night!" said I, and without staying to put the question in
English, I pushed on up an ascent, and was presently amongst trees.
Heard for a long time the hooting of an owl or rather the frantic
hollo. Appeared to pass by where the bird had its station. Toiled
up an acclivity and when on the top stood still and looked around
me. There was a glow on all sides in the heaven, except in the
north-east quarter. Striding on I saw a cottage on my left hand,
and standing at the door the figure of a woman. "How far to
Merthyr?" said I in Welsh.
"Tair milltir - three miles, sir."
Turning round a corner at the top of a hill I saw blazes here and
there, and what appeared to be a glowing mountain in the south-
east. I went towards it down a descent which continued for a long,
long way; so great was the light cast by the blazes and that
wonderful glowing object, that I could distinctly see the little
stones upon the road. After walking about half-an-hour, always
going downwards, I saw a house on my left hand and heard a noise of
water opposite to it. It was a pistyll. I went to it, drank
greedily, and then hurried on. More and more blazes, and the
glowing object looking more terrible than ever. It was now above
me at some distance to the left, and I could see that it was an
immense quantity of heated matter like lava, occupying the upper
and middle parts of a hill, and descending here and there almost to
the bottom in a zigzag and tortuous manner. Between me and the
hill of the burning object lay a deep ravine. After a time I came
to a house, against the door of which a man was leaning. "What is
all that burning stuff above, my friend?"
"Dross from the iron forges, sir!"
I now perceived a valley below me full of lights, and descending
reached houses and a tramway. I had blazes now all around me. I
went through a filthy slough, over a bridge, and up a street, from
which dirty lanes branched off on either side, passed throngs of
savage-looking people talking clamorously, shrank from addressing
any of them, and finally, undirected, found myself before the
Castle Inn at Merthyr Tydvil.
Iron and Coal - The Martyred Princess - Cyfartha Fawr - Diabolical
MERTHYR TYDVIL is situated in a broad valley through which roll the
waters of the Taf. It was till late an inconsiderable village, but
is at present the greatest mining place in Britain, and may be
called with much propriety the capital of the iron and coal.
It bears the name of Merthyr Tydvil, which signifies the Martyr
Tydvil, because in the old time a Christian British princess was
slain in the locality which it occupies. Tydvil was the daughter
of Brychan, Prince of Brecon, surnamed Brycheiniawg, or the
Breconian, who flourished in the fifth century and was a
contemporary of Hengist. He was a man full of Christian zeal, and
a great preacher of the Gospel, and gave his children, of which he
had many, both male and female, by various wives, an education
which he hoped would not only make them Christians, but enable them
to preach the Gospel to their countrymen. They proved themselves
worthy of his care, all of them without one exception becoming
exemplary Christians, and useful preachers. In his latter days he
retired to a hermitage in Glamorganshire near the Taf, and passed
his time in devotion, receiving occasionally visits from his
children. Once, when he and several of them, amongst whom was
Tydvil, were engaged in prayer, a band of heathen Saxons rushed in
upon them and slew Tydvil with three of her brothers. Ever since
that time the place has borne the name of Martyr Tydvil. (21)
The Taf, which runs to the south of Merthyr, comes down from
Breconshire, and enters the Bristol Channel at Cardiff, a place the
name of which in English is the city on the Taf. It is one of the
most beautiful of rivers, but is not navigable on account of its
numerous shallows. The only service which it renders to commerce
is feeding a canal which extends from Merthyr to Cardiff. It is
surprising how similar many of the Welsh rivers are in name: Taf,
Tawey, Towey, Teivi, and Duffy differ but very little in sound.
Taf and Teivi have both the same meaning, namely a tendency to
spread out. The other names, though probably expressive of the
properties or peculiarities of the streams to which they
respectively belong, I know not how to translate.
The morning of the fourteenth was very fine. After breakfast I
went to see the Cyfartha Fawr iron works, generally considered to
be the great wonder of the place. After some slight demur I
obtained permission from the superintendent to inspect them. I was
attended by an intelligent mechanic. What shall I say about the
Cyfartha Fawr? I had best say but very little. I saw enormous
furnaces. I saw streams of molten metal. I saw a long ductile
piece of red-hot iron being operated upon. I saw millions of
sparks flying about. I saw an immense wheel impelled round with
frightful velocity by a steam-engine of two hundred and forty horse
power. I heard all kinds of dreadful sounds. The general effect
was stunning. These works belong to the Crawshays, a family
distinguished by a strange kind of eccentricity, but also by genius
and enterprising spirit, and by such a strict feeling of honour
that it is a common saying that the word of any one of them is as
good as the bond of other people.
After seeing the Cyfartha I roamed about, making general
observations. The mountain of dross which had startled me on the
preceding night with its terrific glare, and which stands to the
north-west of the town, looked now nothing more than an immense
dark heap of cinders. It is only when the shades of night have
settled down that the fire within manifests itself, making the hill
appear an immense glowing mass. All the hills around the town,
some of which are very high, have a scorched and blackened look.
An old Anglesea bard, rather given to bombast, wishing to extol the
abundant cheer of his native isle said: "The hills of Ireland are
blackened by the smoke from the kitchens of Mona." With much more
propriety might a bard of the banks of the Taf, who should wish to
apologise for the rather smutty appearance of his native vale
exclaim: "The hills around the Taf once so green are blackened by
the smoke from the chimneys of Merthyr." The town is large and
populous. The inhabitants for the most part are Welsh, and Welsh
is the language generally spoken, though all have some knowledge of
English. The houses are in general low and mean, and built of
rough grey stone. Merthyr, however, can show several remarkable
edifices, though of a gloomy horrid Satanic character. There is
the hall of the Iron, with its arches, from whence proceeds
incessantly a thundering noise of hammers. Then there is an
edifice at the foot of a mountain, half way up the side of which is
a blasted forest and on the top an enormous crag. A truly
wonderful edifice it is, such as Bos would have imagined had he
wanted to paint the palace of Satan. There it stands: a house of
reddish brick with a slate roof - four horrid black towers behind,
two of them belching forth smoke and flame from their tops - holes
like pigeon holes here and there - two immense white chimneys
standing by themselves. What edifice can that be of such strange
mad details? I ought to have put that question to some one in
Tydvil, but did not, though I stood staring at the diabolical
structure with my mouth open. It is of no use putting the question
to myself here.
After strolling about for some two hours with my hands in my
pockets, I returned to my inn, called for a glass of ale, paid my
reckoning, flung my satchel over my shoulder, and departed.
Start for Caerfili - Johanna Colgan - Alms-Giving - The Monstrous
Female - The Evil Prayer - The Next Day - The Aifrionn - Unclean
Spirits - Expectation - Wreaking Vengeance - A decent Alms.
I LEFT Merthyr about twelve o'clock for Caerfili. My course lay
along the valley to the south-east. I passed a large village
called Troed y Rhiw, or the foot of the slope, from its being at
the foot of a lofty elevation, which stands on the left-hand side
of the road, and was speeding onward fast, with the Taf at some
distance on my right, when I saw a strange-looking woman advancing
towards me. She seemed between forty and fifty, was bare-footed
and bare-headed, with grizzled hair hanging in elf locks, and was
dressed in rags and tatters. When about ten yards from me, she
pitched forward, gave three or four grotesque tumbles, heels over
head, then standing bolt upright, about a yard before me, raised
her right arm, and shouted in a most discordant voice - "Give me an
alms, for the glory of God!"
I stood still, quite confounded. Presently, however, recovering
myself, I said:- "Really, I don't think it would be for the glory
of God to give you alms."
"Ye don't! Then, Biadh an taifrionn - however, I'll give ye a
chance yet. Am I to get my alms or not?"
"Before I give you alms I must know something about you. Who are
"Who am I? Who should I be but Johanna Colgan, a bedivilled woman
from the county of Limerick?"
"And how did you become bedevilled?"
"Because a woman something like myself said an evil prayer over me
for not giving her an alms, which prayer I have at my tongue's end,
and unless I get my alms will say over you. So for your own sake,
honey, give me my alms, and let me go on my way."
"Oh, I am not to be frightened by evil prayers! I shall give you
nothing till I hear all about you."
"If I tell ye all about me will ye give me an alms?"
"Well, I have no objection to give you something if you tell me
"Will ye give me a dacent alms?"
"Oh, you must leave the amount to my free will and pleasure. I
shall give you what I think fit."