Part 2 out of 14
she accepted it, but with great reluctance. I inquired whether by
following the road I could get to the Pen y bryn or the top of the
hill. They shook their heads, and the young woman said that I
could not, as the road presently took a turn and went down. I
asked her how I could get to the top of the hill. "Which part of
the top?" said she. "I'r goruchaf," I replied. "That must be
where the barber's pole stands," said she. "Why does the barber's
pole stand there?" said I. "A barber was hanged there a long time
ago," said she, "and the pole was placed to show the spot." "Why
was he hanged?" said I. "For murdering his wife," said she. I
asked her some questions about the murder, but the only information
she could give me was, that it was a very bad murder and occurred a
long time ago. I had observed the pole from our garden, at
Llangollen, but had concluded that it was a common flagstaff. I
inquired the way to it. It was not visible from the cottage, but
they gave me directions how to reach it. I bade them farewell, and
in about a quarter of an hour reached the pole on the top of the
hill. I imagined that I should have a glorious view of the vale of
Llangollen from the spot where it stood; the view, however, did not
answer my expectations. I returned to Llangollen by nearly the
same way by which I had come.
The remainder of the day I spent entirely with my family, whom at
their particular request I took in the evening to see Plas Newydd,
once the villa of the two ladies of Llangollen. It lies on the
farther side of the bridge, at a little distance from the back part
of the church. There is a thoroughfare through the grounds, which
are not extensive. Plas Newydd or the New Place is a small gloomy
mansion, with a curious dairy on the right-hand side, as you go up
to it, and a remarkable stone pump. An old man whom we met in the
grounds, and with whom I entered into conversation, said that he
remembered the building of the house, and that the place where it
now stands was called before its erection Pen y maes, or the head
of the field.
Welsh Farm-House - A Poet's Grandson - Hospitality - Mountain
Village - Madoc - The Native Valley - Corpse Candles - The Midnight
MY curiosity having been rather excited with respect to the country
beyond the Berwyn, by what my friend, the intelligent flannel-
worker, had told me about it, I determined to go and see it.
Accordingly on Friday morning I set out. Having passed by Pengwern
Hall I turned up a lane in the direction of the south, with a brook
on the right running amongst hazels, I presently arrived at a small
farm-house standing on the left with a little yard before it.
Seeing a woman at the door I asked her in English if the road in
which I was would take me across the mountain - she said it would,
and forthwith cried to a man working in a field who left his work
and came towards us. "That is my husband," said she; "he has more
English than I."
The man came up and addressed me in very good English: he had a
brisk, intelligent look, and was about sixty. I repeated the
question, which I had put to his wife, and he also said that by
following the road I could get across the mountain. We soon got
into conversation. He told me that the little farm in which he
lived belonged to the person who had bought Pengwern Hall. He said
that he was a good kind of gentleman, but did not like the Welsh.
I asked him, if the gentleman in question did not like the Welsh,
why he came to live among them. He smiled, and I then said that I
liked the Welsh very much, and was particularly fond of their
language. He asked me whether I could read Welsh, and on my
telling him I could, he said that if I would walk in he would show
me a Welsh book. I went with him and his wife into a neat kind of
kitchen, flagged with stone, where were several young people, their
children. I spoke some Welsh to them which appeared to give them
great satisfaction. The man went to a shelf and taking down a book
put it into my hand. It was a Welsh book, and the title of it in
English was "Evening Work of the Welsh." It contained the lives of
illustrious Welshmen, commencing with that of Cadwalader. I read a
page of it aloud, while the family stood round and wondered to hear
a Saxon read their language. I entered into discourse with the man
about Welsh poetry and repeated the famous prophecy of Taliesin
about the Coiling Serpent. I asked him if the Welsh had any poets
at the present day. "Plenty," said he, "and good ones - Wales can
never be without a poet." Then after a pause he said, that he was
the grandson of a great poet.
"Do you bear his name?" said I.
"I do," he replied.
"What may it be?"
"Hughes," he answered.
"Two of the name of Hughes have been poets," said I - "one was Huw
Hughes, generally termed the Bardd Coch, or red bard; he was an
Anglesea man, and the friend of Lewis Morris and Gronwy Owen - the
other was Jonathan Hughes, where he lived I know not."
"He lived here, in this very house," said the man. "Jonathan
Hughes was my grandfather!" and as he spoke his eyes flashed fire.
"Dear me!" said I; "I read some of his pieces thirty-two years ago
when I was a lad in England. I think I can repeat some of the
lines." I then repeated a quartet which I chanced to remember.
"Ah!" said the man, "I see you know his poetry. Come into the next
room and I will show you his chair." He led me into a sleeping-
room on the right hand, where in a corner he showed me an antique
three-cornered arm-chair. "That chair," said he, "my grandsire won
at Llangollen, at an Eisteddfod of Bards. Various bards recited
their poetry, but my grandfather won the prize. Ah, he was a good
poet. He also won a prize of fifteen guineas at a meeting of bards
We returned to the kitchen, where I found the good woman of the
house waiting with a plate of bread-and-butter in one hand, and a
glass of buttermilk in the other - she pressed me to partake of
both - I drank some of the buttermilk, which was excellent, and
after a little more discourse shook the kind people by the hand and
thanked them for their hospitality. As I was about to depart the
man said that I should find the lane farther up very wet, and that
I had better mount through a field at the back of the house. He
took me to a gate, which he opened, and then pointed out the way
which I must pursue. As I went away he said that both he and his
family should be always happy to see me at Ty yn y Pistyll, which
words, interpreted, are the house by the spout of water.
I went up the field with the lane on my right, down which ran a
runnel of water, from which doubtless the house derived its name.
I soon came to an unenclosed part of the mountain covered with
gorse and whin, and still proceeding upward reached a road, which I
subsequently learned was the main road from Llangollen over the
hill. I was not long in gaining the top which was nearly level.
Here I stood for some time looking about me, having the vale of
Llangollen to the north of me, and a deep valley abounding with
woods and rocks to the south.
Following the road to the south, which gradually descended, I soon
came to a place where a road diverged from the straight one to the
left. As the left-hand road appeared to lead down a romantic
valley I followed it. The scenery was beautiful - steep hills on
each side. On the right was a deep ravine, down which ran a brook;
the hill beyond it was covered towards the top with a wood,
apparently of oak, between which and the ravine were small green
fields. Both sides of the ravine were fringed with trees, chiefly
ash. I descended the road which was zigzag and steep, and at last
arrived at the bottom of the valley, where there was a small
hamlet. On the further side of the valley to the east was a steep
hill on which were a few houses - at the foot of the hill was a
brook crossed by an antique bridge of a single arch. I directed my
course to the bridge, and after looking over the parapet for a
minute or two upon the water below, which was shallow and noisy,
ascended a road which led up the hill: a few scattered houses were
on each side. I soon reached the top of the hill, where were some
more houses, those which I had seen from the valley below. I was
in a Welsh mountain village, which put me much in mind of the
villages which I had strolled through of old in Castile and La
Mancha; there were the same silence and desolation here as yonder
away - the houses were built of the same material, namely stone. I
should perhaps have fancied myself for a moment in a Castilian or
Manchegan mountain pueblicito, but for the abundance of trees which
met my eye on every side.
In walking up this mountain village I saw no one, and heard no
sound but the echo of my steps amongst the houses. As I returned,
however, I saw a man standing at a door - he was a short figure,
about fifty. He had an old hat on his head, a stick in his hand,
and was dressed in a duffel greatcoat.
"Good-day, friend," said I; "what be the name of this place?"
"Pont Fadog, sir, is its name, for want of a better."
"That's a fine name," said I; "it signifies in English the bridge
"Just so, sir; I see you know Welsh."
"And I see you know English," said I.
"Very little, sir; I can read English much better than I can speak
"So can I Welsh," said I. "I suppose the village is named after
"No doubt it is, sir."
"And why was the bridge called the bridge of Madoc?" said I.
"Because one Madoc built it, sir."
"Was he the son of Owain Gwynedd?" said I.
"Ah, I see you know all about Wales, sir. Yes, sir; he built it,
or I daresay he built it, Madawg ap Owain Gwynedd. I have read
much about him - he was a great sailor, sir, and was the first to
discover Tir y Gorllewin or America. Not many years ago his tomb
was discovered there with an inscription in old Welsh - saying who
he was, and how he loved the sea. I have seen the lines which were
found on the tomb."
"So have I," said I; "or at least those which were said to be found
on a tomb: they run thus in English:-
"'Here, after sailing far I Madoc lie,
Of Owain Gwynedd lawful progeny:
The verdant land had little charms for me;
From earliest youth I loved the dark-blue sea.'"
"Ah, sir," said the man, "I see you know all about the son of Owain
Gwynedd. Well, sir, those lines, or something like them, were
found upon the tomb of Madoc in America."
"That I doubt," said I.
"Do you doubt, sir, that Madoc discovered America?"
"Not in the least," said I; "but I doubt very much that his tomb
was ever discovered with the inscription which you allude to upon
"But it was, sir, I do assure you, and the descendants of Madoc and
his people are still to be found in a part of America speaking the
pure iaith Cymraeg better Welsh than we of Wales do."
"That I doubt" said I. "However, the idea is a pretty one;
therefore cherish it. This is a beautiful country."
"A very beautiful country, sir; there is none more beautiful in all
"What is the name of the river, which runs beneath the bridge?"
"The Ceiriog, sir."
"The Ceiriog," said I; "the Ceiriog!"
"Did you ever hear the name before, sir?"
"I have heard of the Eos Ceiriog," said I; "the Nightingale of
"That was Huw Morris, sir; he was called the Nightingale of
"Did he live hereabout?"
"Oh no, sir; he lived far away up towards the head of the valley,
at a place called Pont y Meibion."
"Are you acquainted with his works?" said I.
"Oh yes, sir, at least with some of them. I have read the Marwnad
on Barbara Middleton; and likewise the piece on Oliver and his men.
Ah, it is a funny piece that - he did not like Oliver nor his men."
"Of what profession are you?" said I; "are you a schoolmaster or
"Neither, sir, neither; I am merely a poor shoemaker."
"You know a great deal for a shoemaker," said I.
"Ah, sir; there are many shoemakers in Wales who know much more
"But not in England," said I. "Well, farewell."
"Farewell, sir. When you have any boots to mend or shoes, sir - I
shall be happy to serve you."
"I do not live in these parts," said I.
"No, sir; but you are coming to live here."
"How do you know that?" said I.
"I know it very well, sir; you left these parts very young, and
went far away - to the East Indies, sir, where you made a large
fortune in the medical line, sir; you are now coming back to your
own valley, where you will buy a property, and settle down, and try
to recover your language, sir, and your health, sir; for you are
not the person you pretend to be, sir: I know you very well, and
shall be happy to work for you."
"Well," said I, "if I ever settle down here, I shall be happy to
employ you. Farewell."
I went back the way I had come, till I reached the little hamlet.
Seeing a small public-house, I entered it. A good-looking woman,
who met me in the passage, ushered me into a neat sanded kitchen,
handed me a chair and inquired my commands; I sat down, and told
her to bring me some ale; she brought it, and then seated herself
by a bench close by the door.
"Rather a quiet place this," said I, "I have seen but two faces
since I came over the hill, and yours is one."
"Rather too quiet, sir," said the good woman, "one would wish to
have more visitors."
"I suppose," said I, "people from Llangollen occasionally come to
"Sometimes, sir, for curiosity's sake; but very rarely - the way is
"Do the Tylwyth Teg ever pay you visits?"
"The Tylwyth Teg, sir?"
"Yes; the fairies. Do they never come to have a dance on the green
sward in this neighbourhood?"
"Very rarely, sir; indeed, I do not know how long it is since they
have been seen."
"You have never seen them?"
"I have not, sir; but I believe there are people living who have."
"Are corpse candles ever seen on the bank of that river?"
"I have never heard of more than one being seen, sir, and that was
at a place where a tinker was drowned a few nights after - there
came down a flood; and the tinker in trying to cross by the usual
ford was drowned."
"And did the candle prognosticate, I mean foreshow his death?"
"It did, sir. When a person is to die his candle is seen a few
nights before the time of his death."
"Have you ever seen a corpse candle?"
"I have, sir; and as you seem to be a respectable gentleman, I will
tell you all about it. When I was a girl I lived with my parents a
little way from here. I had a cousin, a very good young man, who
lived with his parents in the neighbourhood of our house. He was
an exemplary young man, sir, and having a considerable gift of
prayer, was intended for the ministry; but he fell sick, and
shortly became very ill indeed. One evening when he was lying in
this state, as I was returning home from milking, I saw a candle
proceeding from my cousin's house. I stood still and looked at it.
It moved slowly forward for a little way, and then mounted high in
the air above the wood, which stood not far in front of the house,
and disappeared. Just three nights after that my cousin died."
"And you think that what you saw was his corpse candle?"
"I do, sir! what else should it be?"
"Are deaths prognosticated by any other means than corpse candles?"
"They are, sir; by the knockers, and by a supernatural voice heard
"Have you ever heard the knockers, or the supernatural voice?"
"I have not, sir; but my father and mother, who are now dead, heard
once a supernatural voice, and knocking. My mother had a sister
who was married like herself, and expected to be confined. Day
after day, however, passed away, without her confinement taking
place. My mother expected every moment to be summoned to her
assistance, and was so anxious about her that she could not rest at
night. One night, as she lay in bed, by the side of her husband,
between sleeping and waking, she heard of a sudden a horse coming
stump, stump, up to the door. Then there was a pause - she
expected every moment to hear some one cry out, and tell her to
come to her sister, but she heard no farther sound, neither voice
nor stump of horse. She thought she had been deceived, so, without
awakening her husband, she tried to go to sleep, but sleep she
could not. The next night, at about the same time, she again heard
a horse's feet come stump, stump, up to the door. She now waked
her husband and told him to listen. He did so, and both heard the
stumping. Presently, the stumping ceased, and then there was a
loud "Hey!" as if somebody wished to wake them. "Hey!" said my
father, and they both lay for a minute expecting to hear something
more, but they heard nothing. My father then sprang out of bed,
and looked out of the window; it was bright moonlight, but he saw
nothing. The next night, as they lay in bed both asleep, they were
suddenly aroused by a loud and terrible knocking. Out sprang my
father from the bed, flung open the window, and looked out, but
there was no one at the door. The next morning, however, a
messenger arrived with the intelligence that my aunt had had a
dreadful confinement with twins in the night, and that both she and
the babes were dead."
"Thank you," said I; and paying for my ale, I returned to
A Calvinistic-Methodist - Turn for Saxon - Our Congregation - Pont
y Cyssyltau - Catherine Lingo.
I HAD inquired of the good woman of the house, in which we lived,
whether she could not procure a person to accompany me occasionally
in my walks, who was well acquainted with the strange nooks and
corners of the country, and who could speak no language but Welsh;
as I wished to increase my knowledge of colloquial Welsh by having
a companion who would be obliged, in all he had to say to me, to
address me in Welsh, and to whom I should perforce have to reply in
that tongue. The good lady had told me that there was a tenant of
hers who lived in one of the cottages, which looked into the
perllan, who, she believed, would be glad to go with me, and was
just the kind of man I was in quest of. The day after I had met
with the adventures, which I have related in the preceding chapter,
she informed me that the person in question was awaiting my orders
in the kitchen. I told her to let me see him. He presently made
his appearance. He was about forty-five years of age, of middle
stature, and had a good-natured open countenance. His dress was
poor, but clean.
"Well," said I to him in Welsh, "are you the Cumro who can speak no
"In truth, sir, I am."
"Are you sure that you know no Saxon?"
"Sir! I may know a few words, but I cannot converse in Saxon, nor
understand a conversation in that tongue."
"Can you read Cumraeg?"
"In truth, sir, I can."
"What have you read in it?"
"I have read, sir, the Ysgrythyr-lan, till I have it nearly at the
ends of my fingers."
"Have you read anything else besides the holy Scripture?"
"I read the newspaper, sir, when kind friends lend it to me."
"Yes, sir, in Cumraeg. I can read Saxon a little but not
sufficient to understand a Saxon newspaper."
"What newspaper do you read?"
"I read, sir, Yr Amserau."
"Is that a good newspaper?"
"Very good, sir, it is written by good men."
"Who are they?"
"They are our ministers, sir."
"Of what religion are you?"
"A Calvinistic Methodist, sir."
"Why are you of the Methodist religion?"
"Because it is the true religion, sir."
"You should not be bigoted. If I had more Cumraeg than I have, I
would prove to you that the only true religion is that of the
"In truth, sir, you could not do that; had you all the Cumraeg in
Cumru you could not do that."
"What are you by trade?"
"I am a gwehydd, sir."
"What do you earn by weaving?"
"About five shillings a week, sir."
"Have you a wife?
"I have, sir."
"Does she earn anything?"
"Very seldom, sir; she is a good wife, but is generally sick."
"Have you children?"
"I have three, sir."
"Do they earn anything?"
"My eldest son, sir, sometimes earns a few pence, the others are
"Will you sometimes walk with me, if I pay you?"
"I shall be always glad to walk with you, sir, whether you pay me
"Do you think it lawful to walk with one of the Lloegrian Church?"
"Perhaps, sir, I ought to ask the gentleman of the Lloegrian Church
whether he thinks it lawful to walk with the poor Methodist
"Well, I think we may venture to walk with one another. What is
"John Jones, sir."
"Jones! Jones! I was walking with a man of that name the other
"The man with whom you walked the other night is my brother, sir,
and what he said to me about you made me wish to walk with you
"But he spoke very good English."
"My brother had a turn for Saxon, sir; I had not. Some people have
a turn for the Saxon, others have not. I have no Saxon, sir, my
wife has digon iawn - my two youngest children speak good Saxon,
sir, my eldest son not a word."
"Well; shall we set out?"
"If you please, sir."
"To what place shall we go?"
"Shall we go to the Pont y Cyssylltau, sir?"
"What is that?"
"A mighty bridge, sir, which carries the Camlas over a valley on
"Good! let us go and see the bridge of the junction, for that I
think is the meaning in Saxon of Pont y Cyssylltau."
We set out; my guide conducted me along the bank of the Camlas in
the direction of Rhiwabon, that is towards the east. On the way we
discoursed on various subjects, and understood each other tolerably
well. I asked if he had been anything besides a weaver. He told
me that when a boy he kept sheep on the mountain. "Why did you not
go on keeping sheep?" said "I would rather keep sheep than weave."
"My parents wanted me at home, sir," said he; "and I was not sorry
to go home; I earned little, and lived badly."
"A shepherd," said I, "can earn more than five shillings a week."
"I was never a regular shepherd, sir," said he. "But, sir, I would
rather be a weaver with five shillings a week in Llangollen, than a
shepherd with fifteen on the mountain. The life of a shepherd,
sir, is perhaps not exactly what you and some other gentlefolks
think. The shepherd bears much cold and wet, sir, and he is very
lonely; no society save his sheep and dog. Then, sir, he has no
privileges. I mean gospel privileges. He does not look forward to
Dydd Sul, as a day of llawenydd, of joy and triumph, as the weaver
does; that is if he is religiously disposed. The shepherd has no
chapel, sir, like the weaver. Oh, sir, I say again that I would
rather be a weaver in Llangollen with five shillings a week, than a
shepherd on the hill with fifteen."
"Do you mean to say," said I, "that you live with your family on
five shillings a week?"
"No, sir. I frequently do little commissions by which I earn
something. Then, sir, I have friends, very good friends. A good
lady of our congregation sent me this morning half-a-pound of
butter. The people of our congregation are very kind to each
"That is more," thought I to myself, "than the people of my
congregation are; they are always cutting each other's throats." I
next asked if he had been much about Wales.
"Not much, sir. However, I have been to Pen Caer Gybi, which you
call Holy Head, and to Beth Gelert, sir."
"What took you to those places?"
"I was sent to those places on business, sir; as I told you before,
sir, I sometimes execute commissions. At Beth Gelert I stayed some
time. It was there I married, sir; my wife comes from a place
called Dol Gellyn near Beth Gelert."
"What was her name?"
"Her name was Jones, sir."
"What, before she married?"
"Yes, sir, before she married. You need not be surprised, sir;
there are plenty of the name of Jones in Wales. The name of my
brother's wife, before she married, was also Jones."
"Your brother is a clever man," said I.
"Yes, sir, for a Cumro he is clebber enough."
"For a Cumro?"
"Yes, sir, he is not a Saxon, you know."
"Are Saxons then so very clever?"
"Oh yes, sir; who so clebber? The clebberest people in Llangollen
are Saxons; that is, at carnal things - for at spiritual things I
do not think them at all clebber. Look at Mr A., sir."
"Who is he?"
"Do you not know him, sir? I thought everybody knew Mr A. He is a
Saxon, sir, and keeps the inn on the road a little way below where
you live. He is the clebberest man in Llangollen, sir. He can do
everything. He is a great cook, and can wash clothes better than
any woman. Oh, sir, for carnal things, who so clebber as your
After walking about four miles by the side of the canal we left it,
and bearing to the right presently came to the aqueduct, which
strode over a deep and narrow valley, at the bottom of which ran
the Dee. "This is the Pont y Cysswllt, sir," said my guide; "it's
the finest bridge in the world, and no wonder, if what the common
people say be true, namely that every stone cost a golden
We went along it; the height was awful. My guide, though he had
been a mountain shepherd, confessed that he was somewhat afraid.
"It gives me the pendro, sir," said he, "to look down." I too felt
somewhat dizzy, as I looked over the parapet into the glen. The
canal which this mighty bridge carries across the gulf is about
nine feet wide, and occupies about two-thirds of the width of the
bridge and the entire western side. The footway is towards the
east. From about the middle of the bridge there is a fine view of
the forges on the Cefn Bach and also of a huge hill near it called
the Cefn Mawr. We reached the termination, and presently crossing
the canal by a little wooden bridge we came to a village. My guide
then said, "If you please, sir, we will return by the old bridge,
which leads across the Dee in the bottom of the vale." He then led
me by a romantic road to a bridge on the west of the aqueduct, and
far below. It seemed very ancient. "This is the old bridge, sir,"
said my guide; "it was built a hundred years before the Pont y
Cysswllt was dreamt of." We now walked to the west, in the
direction of Llangollen, along the bank of the river. Presently we
arrived where the river, after making a bend, formed a pool. It
was shaded by lofty trees, and to all appearance was exceedingly
deep. I stopped to look at it, for I was struck with its gloomy
horror. "That pool, sir," said John Jones, "is called Llyn y
Meddwyn, the drunkard's pool. It is called so, sir, because a
drunken man once fell into it, and was drowned. There is no deeper
pool in the Dee, sir, save one, a little below Llangollen, which is
called the pool of Catherine Lingo. A girl of that name fell into
it, whilst gathering sticks on the high bank above it. She was
drowned, and the pool was named after her. I never look at either
without shuddering, thinking how certainly I should be drowned if I
fell in, for I cannot swim, sir."
"You should have learnt to swim when you were young," said I, "and
to dive too. I know one who has brought up stones from the bottom,
I daresay, of deeper pools than either, but he was a Saxon, and at
carnal things, you know, none so clebber as the Saxons."
I found my guide a first-rate walker and a good botanist, knowing
the names of all the plants and trees in Welsh. By the time we
returned to Llangollen I had formed a very high opinion of him, in
which I was subsequently confirmed by what I saw of him during the
period of our acquaintance, which was of some duration. He was
very honest, disinterested, and exceedingly good-humoured. It is
true, he had his little skits occasionally at the Church, and
showed some marks of hostility to the church cat, more especially
when he saw it mounted on my shoulders; for the creature soon began
to take liberties, and in less than a week after my arrival at the
cottage, generally mounted on my back, when it saw me reading or
writing, for the sake of the warmth. But setting aside those same
skits at the Church, and that dislike of the church cat, venial
trifles after all, and easily to be accounted for, on the score of
his religious education, I found nothing to blame, and much to
admire, in John Jones, the Calvinistic Methodist of Llangollen.
Divine Service - Llangollen Bells - Iolo Goch - The Abbey - Twm o'r
Nant - Holy Well - Thomas Edwards
SUNDAY arrived - a Sunday of unclouded sunshine. We attended
Divine service at church in the morning. The congregation was very
numerous, but to all appearance consisted almost entirely of
English visitors, like ourselves. There were two officiating
clergymen, father and son. They both sat in a kind of oblong
pulpit on the southern side of the church, at a little distance
below the altar. The service was in English, and the elder
gentleman preached; there was good singing and chanting.
After dinner I sat in an arbour in the perllan, thinking of many
things, amongst others, spiritual. Whilst thus engaged, the sound
of the church bells calling people to afternoon service came upon
my ears. I listened, and thought I had never heard bells with so
sweet a sound. I had heard them in the morning, but without paying
much attention to them, but as I now sat in the umbrageous arbour,
I was particularly struck with them. Oh how sweetly their voice
mingled with the low rush of the river, at the bottom of the
perllan. I subsequently found that the bells of Llangollen were
celebrated for their sweetness. Their merit indeed has even been
admitted by an enemy; for a poet of the Calvinistic Methodist
persuasion, one who calls himself Einion Du, in a very beautiful
ode, commencing with -
"Tangnefedd i Llangollen,"
says that in no part of the world do bells call people so sweetly
to church as those of Llangollen town.
In the evening, at about half-past six, I attended service again,
but without my family. This time the congregation was not
numerous, and was composed principally of poor people. The service
and sermon were now in Welsh, the sermon was preached by the
younger gentleman, and was on the building of the second temple,
and, as far as I understood it, appeared to me to be exceedingly
On the Monday evening, myself and family took a walk to the abbey.
My wife and daughter, who are fond of architecture and ruins, were
very anxious to see the old place. I too was anxious enough to see
it, less from love of ruins and ancient architecture, than from
knowing that a certain illustrious bard was buried in its
precincts, of whom perhaps a short account will not be unacceptable
to the reader.
This man, whose poetical appellation was Iolo Goch, but whose real
name was Llwyd, was of a distinguished family, and Lord of
Llechryd. He was born and generally resided at a place called Coed
y Pantwn, in the upper part of the Vale of Clwyd. He was a warm
friend and partisan of Owen Glendower, with whom he lived, at
Sycharth, for some years before the great Welsh insurrection, and
whom he survived, dying at an extreme old age beneath his own roof-
tree at Coed y Pantwn. He composed pieces of great excellence on
various subjects; but the most remarkable of his compositions are
decidedly certain ones connected with Owen Glendower. Amongst
these is one in which he describes the Welsh chieftain's mansion at
Sycharth, and his hospitable way of living at that his favourite
residence; and another in which he hails the advent of the comet,
which made its appearance in the month of March, fourteen hundred
and two, as of good augury to his darling hero.
It was from knowing that this distinguished man lay buried in the
precincts of the old edifice, that I felt so anxious to see it.
After walking about two miles we perceived it on our right hand.
The abbey of the vale of the cross stands in a green meadow, in a
corner near the north-west end of the valley of Llangollen. The
vale or glen, in which the abbey stands, takes its name from a
certain ancient pillar or cross, called the pillar of Eliseg, and
which is believed to have been raised over the body of an ancient
British chieftain of that name, who perished in battle against the
Saxons, about the middle of the tenth century. In the Papist times
the abbey was a place of great pseudo-sanctity, wealth and
consequence. The territory belonging to it was very extensive,
comprising, amongst other districts, the vale of Llangollen and the
mountain region to the north of it, called the Eglwysig Rocks,
which region derived its name Eglwysig, or ecclesiastical, from the
circumstance of its pertaining to the abbey of the vale of the
We first reached that part of the building which had once been the
church, having previously to pass through a farmyard, in which was
abundance of dirt and mire.
The church fronts the west and contains the remains of a noble
window, beneath which is a gate, which we found locked. Passing on
we came to that part where the monks had lived, but which now
served as a farmhouse; an open doorway exhibited to us an ancient
gloomy hall, where was some curious old-fashioned furniture,
particularly an ancient rack, in which stood a goodly range of
pewter trenchers. A respectable dame kindly welcomed us and
invited us to sit down. We entered into conversation with her, and
asked her name, which she said was Evans. I spoke some Welsh to
her, which pleased her. She said that Welsh people at the present
day were so full of fine airs that they were above speaking the old
language - but that such was not the case formerly, and that she
had known a Mrs Price, who was housekeeper to the Countess of
Mornington, who lived in London upwards of forty years, and at the
end of that time prided herself upon speaking as good Welsh as she
did when a girl. I spoke to her about the abbey, and asked if she
had ever heard of Iolo Goch. She inquired who he was. I told her
he was a great bard, and was buried in the abbey. She said she had
never heard of him, but that she could show me the portrait of a
great poet, and going away, presently returned with a print in a
"There," said she, "is the portrait of Twm o'r Nant, generally
called the Welsh Shakespeare."
I looked at it. The Welsh Shakespeare was represented sitting at a
table with a pen in his hand; a cottage-latticed window was behind
him, on his left hand; a shelf with plates, and trenchers behind
him, on his right. His features were rude, but full of wild,
strange expression; below the picture was the following couplet:-
"Llun Gwr yw llawn gwir Awen;
Y Byd a lanwodd o'i Ben."
"Did you ever hear of Twm o'r Nant?" said the old dame.
"I never heard of him by word of mouth," said I; "but I know all
about him - I have read his life in Welsh, written by himself, and
a curious life it is. His name was Thomas Edwards, but he
generally called himself Twm o'r Nant, or Tom of the Dingle,
because he was born in a dingle, at a place called Pen Porchell, in
the vale of Clwyd - which, by the bye, was on the estate which once
belonged to Iolo Goch, the poet I was speaking to you about just
now. Tom was a carter by trade, but once kept a toll-bar in South
Wales, which, however, he was obliged to leave at the end of two
years, owing to the annoyance which he experienced from ghosts and
goblins, and unearthly things, particularly phantom hearses, which
used to pass through his gate at midnight without paying, when the
gate was shut."
"Ah," said the dame, "you know more about Tom o'r Nant than I do;
and was he not a great poet?"
"I daresay he was," said I, "for the pieces which he wrote, and
which he called Interludes, had a great run, and he got a great
deal of money by them, but I should say the lines beneath the
portrait are more applicable to the real Shakespeare than to him."
"What do the lines mean?" said the old lady; "they are Welsh, I
know, but they are far beyond my understanding."
"They may be thus translated," said I:
"God in his head the Muse instill'd,
And from his head the world he fill'd."
"Thank you, sir," said the old lady. "I never found any one before
who could translate them." She then said she would show me some
English lines written on the daughter of a friend of hers who was
lately dead, and put some printed lines in a frame into my hand.
They were an Elegy to Mary, and were very beautiful, I read them
aloud, and when I had finished she thanked me and said she had no
doubt that if I pleased I could put them into Welsh - she then
sighed and wiped her eyes.
On our enquiring whether we could see the interior of the abbey she
said we could, and that if we rang a bell at the gate a woman would
come to us, who was in the habit of showing the place. We then got
up and bade her farewell - but she begged that we would stay and
taste the dwr santaidd of the holy well.
"What holy well is that?" said I.
"A well," said she, "by the road's side, which in the time of the
popes was said to perform wonderful cures."
"Let us taste it by all means," said I; whereupon she went out, and
presently returned with a tray on which were a jug and tumbler, the
jug filled with the water of the holy well; we drank some of the
dwr santaidd, which tasted like any other water, and then after
shaking her by the hand, we went to the gate, and rang at the bell.
Presently a woman made her appearance at the gate - she was
genteelly drest, about the middle age, rather tall, and bearing in
her countenance the traces of beauty. When we told her the object
of our coming she admitted us, and after locking the gate conducted
us into the church. It was roofless, and had nothing remarkable
about it, save the western window, which we had seen from without.
Our attendant pointed out to us some tombs, and told us the names
of certain great people whose dust they contained. "Can you tell
us where Iolo Goch lies interred?" said I.
"No," said she; "indeed I never heard of such a person."
"He was the bard of Owen Glendower," said I, "and assisted his
cause wonderfully by the fiery odes, in which he incited the Welsh
to rise against the English."
"Indeed!" said she; "well, I am sorry to say that I never heard of
"Are you Welsh?" said I.
"I am," she replied.
"Did you ever hear of Thomas Edwards?"
"Oh, yes," said she; "I have frequently heard of him."
"How odd," said I, "that the name of a great poet should be unknown
in the very place where he is buried, whilst that of one certainly
not his superior, should be well known in that same place, though
he is not buried there."
"Perhaps," said she, "the reason is that the poet, whom you
mentioned, wrote in the old measures and language which few people
now understand, whilst Thomas Edwards wrote in common verse and in
the language of the present day."
"I daresay it is so," said I.
From the church she led us to other parts of the ruin - at first
she had spoken to us rather cross and loftily, but she now became
kind and communicative. She said that she resided near the ruins,
which she was permitted to show, that she lived alone, and wished
to be alone; there was something singular about her, and I believe
that she had a history of her own. After showing us the ruins she
conducted us to a cottage in which she lived; it stood behind the
ruins by a fish-pond, in a beautiful and romantic place enough; she
said that in the winter she went away, but to what place she did
not say. She asked us whether we came walking, and on our telling
her that we did, she said that she would point out to us a near way
home. She then pointed to a path up a hill, telling us we must
follow it. After making her a present we bade her farewell, and
passing through a meadow crossed a brook by a rustic bridge, formed
of the stem of a tree, and ascending the hill by the path which she
had pointed out, we went through a cornfield or two on its top, and
at last found ourselves on the Llangollen road, after a most
Expedition to Ruthyn - The Column - Slate Quarries - The Gwyddelod
- Nocturnal Adventure.
NOTHING worthy of commemoration took place during the two following
days, save that myself and family took an evening walk on the
Wednesday up the side of the Berwyn, for the purpose of botanizing,
in which we were attended by John Jones. There, amongst other
plants, we found a curious moss which our good friend said was
called in Welsh, Corn Carw, or deer's horn, and which he said the
deer were very fond of. On the Thursday he and I started on an
expedition on foot to Ruthyn, distant about fourteen miles,
proposing to return in the evening.
The town and castle of Ruthyn possessed great interest for me from
being connected with the affairs of Owen Glendower. It was at
Ruthyn that the first and not the least remarkable scene of the
Welsh insurrection took place by Owen making his appearance at the
fair held there in fourteen hundred, plundering the English who had
come with their goods, slaying many of them, sacking the town and
concluding his day's work by firing it; and it was at the castle of
Ruthyn that Lord Grey dwelt, a minion of Henry the Fourth and
Glendower's deadliest enemy, and who was the principal cause of the
chieftain's entering into rebellion, having, in the hope of
obtaining his estates in the vale of Clwyd, poisoned the mind of
Harry against him, who proclaimed him a traitor, before he had
committed any act of treason, and confiscated his estates,
bestowing that part of them upon his favourite, which the latter
was desirous of obtaining.
We started on our expedition at about seven o'clock of a brilliant
morning. We passed by the abbey and presently came to a small
fountain with a little stone edifice, with a sharp top above it.
"That is the holy well," said my guide: "Llawer iawn o barch yn yr
amser yr Pabyddion yr oedd i'r fynnon hwn - much respect in the
times of the Papists there was to this fountain."
"I heard of it," said I, "and tasted of its water the other evening
at the abbey;" shortly after we saw a tall stone standing in a
field on our right hand at about a hundred yards' distance from the
road. "That is the pillar of Eliseg, sir," said my guide. "Let us
go and see it," said I. We soon reached the stone. It is a fine
upright column about seven feet high, and stands on a quadrate
base. "Sir," said my guide, "a dead king lies buried beneath this
stone. He was a mighty man of valour and founded the abbey. He
was called Eliseg." "Perhaps Ellis," said I, "and if his name was
Ellis the stone was very properly called Colofn Eliseg, in Saxon
the Ellisian column." The view from the column is very beautiful,
below on the south-east is the venerable abbey, slumbering in its
green meadow. Beyond it runs a stream, descending from the top of
a glen, at the bottom of which the old pile is situated; beyond the
stream is a lofty hill. The glen on the north is bounded by a
noble mountain, covered with wood. Struck with its beauty I
inquired its name. "Moel Eglwysig, sir," said my guide. "The Moel
of the Church," said I. "That is hardly a good name for it, for
the hill is not bald (moel)." "True, sir," said John Jones. "At
present its name is good for nothing, but estalom (of old) before
the hill was planted with trees its name was good enough. Our
fathers were not fools when they named their hills." "I daresay
not," said I, "nor in many other things which they did, for which
we laugh at them, because we do not know the reasons they had for
doing them." We regained the road; the road tended to the north up
a steep ascent. I asked John Jones the name of a beautiful
village, which lay far away on our right, over the glen, and near
its top. "Pentref y dwr, sir" (the village of the water). It is
called the village of the water, because the river below comes down
through part of it. I next asked the name of the hill up which we
were going, and he told me Allt Bwlch; that is, the high place of
the hollow road.
This bwlch, or hollow way, was a regular pass, which put me
wonderfully in mind of the passes of Spain. It took us a long time
to get to the top. After resting a minute on the summit we began
to descend. My guide pointed out to me some slate-works, at some
distance on our left. "There is a great deal of work going on
there, sir," said he: "all the slates that you see descending the
canal at Llangollen came from there." The next moment we heard a
blast, and then a thundering sound: "Llais craig yn syrthiaw; the
voice of the rock in falling, sir," said John Jones; "blasting is
dangerous and awful work." We reached the bottom of the descent,
and proceeded for two or three miles up and down a rough and narrow
road; I then turned round and looked at the hills which we had
passed over. They looked bulky and huge.
We continued our way, and presently saw marks of a fire in some
grass by the side of the road. "Have the Gipsiaid been there?"
said I to my guide.
"Hardly, sir; I should rather think that the Gwyddelaid (Irish)
have been camping there lately."
"Yes, sir, the vagabond Gwyddeliad, who at present infest these
parts much, and do much more harm than the Gipsiaid ever did."
"What do you mean by the Gipsiaid?"
"Dark, handsome people, sir, who occasionally used to come about in
vans and carts, the men buying and selling horses, and sometimes
tinkering, whilst the women told fortunes."
"And they have ceased to come about?"
"Nearly so, sir; I believe they have been frightened away by the
"What kind of people are these Gwyddelod?
"Savage, brutish people, sir; in general without shoes and
stockings, with coarse features and heads of hair like mops."
"How do they live?"
"The men tinker a little, sir, but more frequently plunder. The
women tell fortunes, and steal whenever they can."
"They live something like the Gipsiaid."
"Something, sir; but the hen Gipsiaid were gentlefolks in
"You think the Gipsiaid have been frightened away by the
"I do, sir; the Gwyddelod made their appearance in these parts
about twenty years ago, and since then the Gipsiaid have been
"Are these Gwyddelod poor?"
"By no means, sir; they make large sums by plundering and other
means, with which, 'tis said, they retire at last to their own
country or America, where they buy land and settle down."
"What language do they speak?"
"English, sir; they pride themselves on speaking good English, that
is to the Welsh. Amongst themselves they discourse in their own
"Have they no Welsh?"
"Only a few words, sir; I never heard one of them speaking Welsh,
save a young girl - she fell sick by the roadside as she was
wandering by herself - some people at a farmhouse took her in, and
tended her till she was well. During her sickness she took a fancy
to their quiet way of life, and when she was recovered she begged
to stay with them and serve them. They consented; she became a
very good servant, and hearing nothing but Welsh spoken, soon
picked up the tongue."
"Do you know what became of her?"
"I do, sir; her own people found her out, and wished to take her
away with them, but she refused to let them, for by that time she
was perfectly reclaimed, had been to chapel, renounced her heathen
crefydd, and formed an acquaintance with a young Methodist who had
a great gift of prayer, whom she afterwards married - she and her
husband live at present not far from Mineira."
"I almost wonder that her own people did not kill her."
"They threatened to do so, sir, and would doubtless have put their
threat into execution, had they not been prevented by the Man on
And here my guide pointed with his finger reverently upward.
"Is it a long time since you have seen any of these Gwyddeliaid?"
"About two months, sir, and then a terrible fright they caused me."
"How was that?"
"I will tell you, sir; I had been across the Berwyn to carry home a
piece of weaving work to a person who employs me. It was night as
I returned, and when I was about halfway down the hill, at a place
which is called Allt Paddy, because the Gwyddelod are in the habit
of taking up their quarters there, I came upon a gang of them, who
had come there and camped and lighted their fire, whilst I was on
the other side of the hill. There were nearly twenty of them, men
and women, and amongst the rest was a man standing naked in a tub
of water with two women stroking him down with clouts. He was a
large fierce-looking fellow and his body, on which the flame of the
fire glittered, was nearly covered with red hair. I never saw such
a sight. As I passed they glared at me and talked violently in
their Paddy Gwyddel, but did not offer to molest me. I hastened
down the hill, and right glad I was when I found myself safe and
sound at my house in Llangollen, with my money in my pocket, for I
had several shillings there, which the man across the hill had paid
me for the work which I had done."
The Turf Tavern - Don't Understand - The Best Welsh - The Maids of
Merion - Old and New - Ruthyn - The Ash Yggdrasill.
WE now emerged from the rough and narrow way which we had followed
for some miles, upon one much wider, and more commodious, which my
guide told me was the coach road from Wrexham to Ruthyn, and going
on a little farther we came to an avenue of trees which shaded the
road. It was chiefly composed of ash, sycamore and birch, and
looked delightfully cool and shady. I asked my guide if it
belonged to any gentleman's house. He told me that it did not, but
to a public-house, called Tafarn Tywarch, which stood near the end,
a little way off the road. "Why is it called Tafarn Tywarch?"
said I, struck by the name which signifies "the tavern of turf."
"It was called so, sir," said John, "because it was originally
merely a turf hovel, though at present it consists of good brick
"Can we breakfast there," said I, "for I feel both hungry and
"Oh yes, sir," said John, "I have heard there is good cheese and
We turned off to the "tafarn," which was a decent public-house of
rather an antiquated appearance. We entered a sanded kitchen, and
sat down by a large oaken table. "Please to bring us some bread,
cheese and ale," said I in Welsh to an elderly woman, who was
"Sar?" said she.
"Bring us some bread, cheese and ale," I repeated in Welsh.
"I do not understand you, sar," said she in English.
"Are you Welsh?" said I in English.
"Yes, I am Welsh!"
"And can you speak Welsh?"
"Oh yes, and the best."
"Then why did you not bring what I asked for?"
"Because I did not understand you."
"Tell her," said I to John Jones, "to bring us some bread, cheese
"Come, aunt," said John, "bring us bread and cheese and a quart of
the best ale."
The woman looked as if she was going to reply in the tongue in
which he addressed her, then faltered, and at last said in English
that she did not understand.
"Now," said I, "you are fairly caught: this man is a Welshman, and
moreover understands no language but Welsh."
"Then how can he understand you?" said she.
"Because I speak Welsh," said I.
"Then you are a Welshman?" said she.
"No I am not," said I, "I am English."
"So I thought," said she, "and on that account I could not
"You mean that you would not," said I. "Now do you choose to bring
what you are bidden?"
"Come, aunt," said John, "don't be silly and cenfigenus, but bring
The woman stood still for a moment or two, and then biting her lips
"What made the woman behave in this manner?" said I to my
"Oh, she was cenfigenus, sir," he replied; "she did not like that
an English gentleman should understand Welsh; she was envious; you
will find a dozen or two like her in Wales; but let us hope not
Presently the woman returned with the bread, cheese and ale, which
she placed on the table.
"Oh," said I, "you have brought what was bidden, though it was
never mentioned to you in English, which shows that your pretending
not to understand was all a sham. What made you behave so?"
"Why I thought," said the woman, "that no Englishman could speak
Welsh, that his tongue was too short."
"Your having thought so," said I, "should not have made you tell a
falsehood, saying that you did not understand, when you knew that
you understood very well. See what a disgraceful figure you cut."
"I cut no disgraced figure," said the woman: "after all, what
right have the English to come here speaking Welsh, which belongs
to the Welsh alone, who in fact are the only people that understand
"Are you sure that you understand Welsh?" said I.
"I should think so," said the woman, "for I come from the Vale of
Clwyd, where they speak the best Welsh in the world, the Welsh of
"What do they call a salmon in the Vale of Clwyd?" said I.
"What do they call a salmon?" said the woman. "Yes," said I, "when
they speak Welsh."
"They call it - they call it - why a salmon."
"Pretty Welsh!" said I. "I thought you did not understand Welsh."
"Well, what do you call it?" said the woman.
"Eawg," said I, "that is the word for a salmon in general - but
there are words also to show the sex - when you speak of a male
salmon you should say cemyw, when of a female hwyfell."
"I never heard the words before," said the woman, "nor do I believe
them to be Welsh."
"You say so," said I, "because you do not understand Welsh."
"I not understand Welsh!" said she. "I'll soon show you that I do.
Come, you have asked me the word for salmon in Welsh, I will now
ask you the word for salmon-trout. Now tell me that, and I will
say you know something of the matter."
"A tinker of my country can tell you that," said I. "The word for
salmon-trout is gleisiad."
The countenance of the woman fell.
"I see you know something about the matter," said she; "there are
very few hereabouts, though so near to the Vale of Clwyd, who know
the word for salmon-trout in Welsh, I shouldn't have known the word
myself, but for the song which says:
Glan yw'r gleisiad yn y llyn."
"And who wrote that song?" said I.
"I don't know," said the woman.
"But I do," said I; "one Lewis Morris wrote it.'
"Oh," said she, "I have heard all about Huw Morris."
"I was not talking of Huw Morris," said I, "but Lewis Morris, who
lived long after Huw Morris. He was a native of Anglesea, but
resided for some time in Merionethshire, and whilst there composed
a song about the Morwynion bro Meirionydd or the lasses of County
Merion of a great many stanzas, in one of which the gleisiad is
mentioned. Here it is in English:
"'Full fair the gleisiad in the flood,
Which sparkles 'neath the summer's sun,
And fair the thrush in green abode
Spreading his wings in sportive fun,
But fairer look if truth be spoke,
The maids of County Merion.'"
The woman was about to reply, but I interrupted her.
"There," said I, "pray leave us to our breakfast, and the next time
you feel inclined to talk nonsense about no Englishman's
understanding Welsh, or knowing anything of Welsh matters, remember
that it was an Englishman who told you the Welsh word for salmon,
and likewise the name of the Welshman who wrote the song in which
the gleisiad is mentioned."
The ale was very good and so were the bread and cheese. The ale
indeed was so good that I ordered a second jug. Observing a large
antique portrait over the mantel-piece I got up to examine it. It
was that of a gentleman in a long wig, and underneath it was
painted in red letters "Sir Watkin Wynn: 1742." It was doubtless
the portrait of the Sir Watkin who, in 1745 was committed to the
tower under suspicion of being suspected of holding Jacobite
opinions, and favouring the Pretender. The portrait was a very
poor daub, but I looked at it long and attentively as a memorial of
Wales at a critical and long past time.
When we had dispatched the second jug of ale, and I had paid the
reckoning, we departed and soon came to where stood a turnpike
house at a junction of two roads, to each of which was a gate.
"Now, sir," said John Jones, "the way straight forward is the
ffordd newydd, and the one on our right hand is the hen ffordd.
Which shall we follow, the new or the old?"
"There is a proverb in the Gerniweg," said I, "which was the
language of my forefathers, saying, 'ne'er leave the old way for
the new,' we will therefore go by the hen ffordd."
"Very good, sir," said my guide, "that is the path I always go, for
it is the shortest." So we turned to the right and followed the
old road. Perhaps, however, it would have been well had we gone by
the new, for the hen ffordd was a very dull and uninteresting road,
whereas the ffordd newydd, as I long subsequently found, is one of
the grandest passes in Wales. After we had walked a short distance
my guide said, "Now, sir, if you will turn a little way to the left
hand I will show you a house, built in the old style, such a house,
sir, as I daresay the original turf tavern was." Then leading me a
little way from the road he showed me, under a hollow bank, a small
cottage covered with flags.
"That is a house, sir, built yn yr hen dull in the old fashion, of
earth, flags and wattles and in one night. It was the custom of
old when a house was to be built, for the people to assemble, and
to build it in one night of common materials, close at hand. The
custom is not quite dead. I was at the building of this myself,
and a merry building it was. The cwrw da passed quickly about
among the builders, I assure you." We returned to the road, and
when we had ascended a hill, my companion told me that if I looked
to the left I should see the Vale of Clwyd.
I looked and perceived an extensive valley pleasantly dotted with
trees and farm-houses, and bounded on the west by a range of hills.
"It is a fine valley, sir," said my guide, "four miles wide and
twenty long, and contains the richest land in all Wales. Cheese
made in that valley, sir, fetches a penny a pound more than cheese
made in any other valley."
"And who owns it?" said I.
"Various are the people who own it, sir, but Sir Watkin owns the
We went on, passed by a village called Craig Vychan, where we saw a
number of women washing at a fountain, and by a gentle descent soon
reached the Vale of Clwyd.
After walking about a mile we left the road and proceeded by a
footpath across some meadows. The meadows were green and
delightful and were intersected by a beautiful stream. Trees in
abundance were growing about, some of which were oaks. We passed
by a little white chapel with a small graveyard before it, which my
guide told me belonged to the Baptists, and shortly afterwards
We went to an inn called the Crossed Foxes, where we refreshed
ourselves with ale. We then sallied forth to look about, after I
had ordered a duck to be got ready for dinner, at three o'clock.
Ruthyn stands on a hill above the Clwyd, which in the summer is a
mere brook, but in the winter a considerable stream, being then fed
with the watery tribute of a hundred hills. About three miles to
the north is a range of lofty mountains, dividing the shire of
Denbigh from that of Flint, amongst which, almost parallel with the
town, and lifting its head high above the rest, is the mighty Moel
Vamagh, the mother heap, which I had seen from Chester. Ruthyn is
a dull town, but it possessed plenty of interest to me, for as I
strolled with my guide about the streets I remembered that I was
treading the ground which the wild bands of Glendower had trod, and
where the great struggle commenced, which for fourteen years
convulsed Wales, and for some time shook England to its centre.
After I had satisfied myself with wandering about the town we
proceeded to the castle.
The original castle suffered terribly in the civil wars; it was
held for wretched Charles, and was nearly demolished by the cannon
of Cromwell, which were planted on a hill about half a mile
distant. The present castle is partly modern and partly ancient.
It belongs to a family of the name of W- who reside in the modern
part, and who have the character of being kind, hospitable and
intellectual people. We only visited the ancient part, over which
we were shown by a woman, who hearing us speaking Welsh, spoke
Welsh herself during the whole time she was showing us about. She
showed us dark passages, a gloomy apartment in which Welsh kings
and great people had been occasionally confined, that strange
memorial of the good old times, a drowning pit, and a large prison
room, in the middle of which stood a singular-looking column,
scrawled with odd characters, which had of yore been used for a
whipping-post, another memorial of the good old baronial times, so
dear to romance readers and minds of sensibility. Amongst other
things which our conductor showed us was an immense onen or ash; it
stood in one of the courts and measured, as she said, pedwar y
haner o ladd yn ei gwmpas, or four yards and a half in girth. As I
gazed on the mighty tree I thought of the Ash Yggdrasill mentioned
in the Voluspa, or prophecy of Vola, that venerable poem which
contains so much relating to the mythology of the ancient Norse.
We returned to the inn and dined. The duck was capital, and I
asked John Jones if he had ever tasted a better. "Never, sir,"
said he, "for to tell you the truth, I never tasted a duck before."
"Rather singular," said I. "What, that I should not have tasted
duck? Oh, sir, the singularity is, that I should now be tasting
duck. Duck in Wales, sir, is not fare for poor weavers. This is
the first duck I ever tasted, and though I never taste another, as
I probably never shall, I may consider myself a fortunate weaver,
for I can now say I have tasted duck once in my life. Few weavers
in Wales are ever able to say as much."
Baptist Tomb-Stone - The Toll-Bar - Rebecca - The Guitar.
THE sun was fast declining as we left Ruthyn. We retraced our
steps across the fields. When we came to the Baptist Chapel I got
over the wall of the little yard to look at the grave-stones.
There were only three. The inscriptions upon them were all in
Welsh. The following stanza was on the stone of Jane, the daughter
of Elizabeth Williams, who died on the second of May, 1843:
"Er myn'd i'r oerllyd annedd
Dros dymher hir i orwedd,
Cwyd i'r lan o'r gwely bridd
Ac hyfryd fydd ei hagwedd."
"Though thou art gone to dwelling cold
To lie in mould for many a year,
Thou shalt, at length, from earthy bed,
Uplift thy head to blissful sphere."
As we went along I stopped to gaze at a singular-looking hill
forming part of the mountain range on the east. I asked John Jones
what its name was, but he did not know. As we were standing
talking about it, a lady came up from the direction in which our
course lay. John Jones, touching his hat to her, said:
"Madam, this gwr boneddig wishes to know the name of that moel,
perhaps you can tell him."
"Its name is Moel Agrik," said the lady, addressing me in English.
"Does that mean Agricola's hill?" said I.
"It does," said she, "and there is a tradition that the Roman
General Agricola, when he invaded these parts, pitched his camp on
that moel. The hill is spoken of by Pennant."
"Thank you, madam," said I; "perhaps you can tell me the name of
the delightful grounds in which we stand, supposing they have a
"They are called Oaklands," said the lady.
"A very proper name," said I, "for there is plenty of oaks growing
about. But why are they called by a Saxon name, for Oaklands is
"Because," said the lady, "when the grounds were first planted with
trees they belonged to an English family."
"Thank you," said I, and, taking off my hat, I departed with my
guide. I asked him her name, but he could not tell me. Before she
was out of sight, however, we met a labourer of whom John Jones
enquired her name.
"Her name is W-s," said the man, "and a good lady she is."
"Is she Welsh?" said I.
"Pure Welsh, master," said the man. "Purer Welsh flesh and blood
need not be."
Nothing farther worth relating occurred till we reached the toll-
bar at the head of the hen ffordd, by which time the sun was almost
gone down. We found the master of the gate, his wife and son
seated on a bench before the door. The woman had a large book on
her lap, in which she was reading by the last light of the
departing orb. I gave the group the sele of the evening in
English, which they all returned, the woman looking up from her
"Is that volume the Bible?" said I.
"It is, sir," said the woman.
"May I look at it?" said I.
"Certainly," said the woman, and placed the book in my hand. It
was a magnificent Welsh Bible, but without the title-page.
"That book must be a great comfort to you," said I to her.
"Very great," said she. "I know not what we should do without it
in the long winter evenings."
"Of what faith are you?" said I.
"We are Methodists," she replied.
"Then you are of the same faith as my friend here," said I.
"Yes, yes," said she, "we are aware of that. We all know honest
After we had left the gate I asked John Jones whether he had ever
heard of Rebecca of the toll-gates.
"Oh, yes," said he; "I have heard of that chieftainess."
"And who was she?" said I.
"I cannot say, sir; I never saw her, nor any one who had seen her.
Some say that there were a hundred Rebeccas, and all of them men
dressed in women's clothes, who went about at night, at the head of
bands to break the gates. Ah, sir, something of the kind was
almost necessary at that time. I am a friend of peace, sir, no
head-breaker, house-breaker, nor gate-breaker, but I can hardly
blame what was done at that time, under the name of Rebecca. You
have no idea how the poor Welsh were oppressed by those gates, aye,
and the rich too. The little people and farmers could not carry
their produce to market owing to the exactions at the gates, which
devoured all the profit and sometimes more. So that the markets
were not half supplied, and people with money could frequently not
get what they wanted. Complaints were made to government, which
not being attended to, Rebecca and her byddinion made their
appearance at night, and broke the gates to pieces with sledge-
hammers, and everybody said it was gallant work, everybody save the
keepers of the gates and the proprietors. Not only the poor but
the rich, said so. Aye, and I have heard that many a fine young
gentleman had a hand in the work, and went about at night at the
head of a band dressed as Rebecca. Well, sir, those breakings were
acts of violence, I don't deny, but they did good, for the system
is altered; such impositions are no longer practised at gates as
were before the time of Rebecca."
"Were any people ever taken up and punished for those nocturnal
breakings?" said I.
"No, sir; and I have heard say that nobody's being taken up was a
proof that the rich approved of the work and had a hand in it."
Night had come on by the time we reached the foot of the huge hills
we had crossed in the morning. We toiled up the ascent, and after
crossing the level ground on the top, plunged down the bwlch
between walking and running, occasionally stumbling, for we were
nearly in complete darkness, and the bwlch was steep and stony. We
more than once passed people who gave us the n's da, the hissing
night salutation of the Welsh. At length I saw the Abbey looming
amidst the darkness, and John Jones said that, we were just above
the fountain. We descended, and putting my head down I drank
greedily of the dwr santaidd, my guide following my example. We
then proceeded on our way, and in about half-an-hour reached
Llangollen. I took John Jones home with me. We had a cheerful cup
of tea. Henrietta played on the guitar, and sang a Spanish song,
to the great delight of John Jones, who at about ten o'clock
departed contented and happy to his own dwelling.
John Jones and his Bundle - A Good Lady - The Irishman's Dingle -
Ab Gwilym and the Mist - The Kitchen - The Two Individuals - The
Horse-Dealer - I can manage him - The Mist Again.
THE following day was gloomy. In the evening John Jones made his
appearance with a bundle under his arm, and an umbrella in his
"Sir," said he, "I am going across the mountain with it piece of
weaving work, for the man on the other side, who employs me.
Perhaps you would like to go with me, as you are fond of walking."
"I suppose," said I, "you wish to have my company for fear of
meeting Gwyddelians on the hill."
"Well, sir," said he, "if I do meet them I would sooner be with
company than without. But I dare venture by myself, trusting in
the Man on High, and perhaps I do wrong to ask you to go, as you
must be tired with your walk of yesterday."
"Hardly more than yourself," said I. "Come; I shall be glad to go.
What I said about the Gwyddelians was only in jest."
As we were about to depart John said:
"It does not rain at present, sir, but I think it will. You had
better take an umbrella."
I did so, and away we went. We passed over the bridge, and turning
to the right went by the back of the town through a field. As we
passed by the Plas Newydd John Jones said:
"No one lives there now, sir; all dark and dreary; very different
from the state of things when the ladies lived there - all gay then
and cheerful. I remember the ladies, sir, particularly the last,
who lived by herself after her companion died. She was a good
lady, and very kind to the poor; when they came to her gate they
were never sent away without something to cheer them. She was a
grand lady too - kept grand company, and used to be drawn about in
a coach by four horses. But she too is gone, and the house is cold
and empty; no fire in it, sir; no furniture. There was an auction
after her death; and a grand auction it was and lasted four days.
Oh, what a throng of people there was, some of whom came from a
great distance to buy the curious things, of which there were
We passed over a bridge, which crosses a torrent, which descends
from the mountain on the south side of Llangollen, which bridge
John Jones told me was called the bridge of the Melin Bac, or mill
of the nook, from a mill of that name close by. Continuing our way
we came to a glen, down which the torrent comes which passes under
the bridge. There was little water in the bed of the torrent, and
we crossed easily enough by stepping-stones. I looked up the glen;
a wild place enough, its sides overgrown with trees. Dreary and
dismal it looked in the gloom of the closing evening. John Jones
said that there was no regular path up it, and that one could only
get along by jumping from stone to stone, at the hazard of breaking
one's legs. Having passed over the bed of the torrent, we came to
a path, which led up the mountain. The path was very steep and
stony; the glen with its trees and darkness on our right. We
proceeded some way. At length John Jones pointed to a hollow lane
on our right, seemingly leading into the glen.
"That place, sir," said he, "is called Pant y Gwyddel - the
Irishman's dingle, and sometimes Pant Paddy, from the Irish being
fond of taking up their quarters there. It was just here, at the
entrance of the pant, that the tribe were encamped, when I passed
two months ago at night, in returning from the other side of the
hill with ten shillings in my pocket, which I had been paid for a
piece of my work, which I had carried over the mountain to the very
place where I am now carrying this. I shall never forget the
fright I was in, both on account of my life, and my ten shillings.
I ran down what remained of the hill as fast as I could, not
minding the stones. Should I meet a tribe now on my return I shall
not run; you will be with me, and I shall not fear for my life nor
for my money, which will be now more than ten shillings, provided
the man over the hills pays me, as I have no doubt he will."
As we ascended higher we gradually diverged from the glen, though
we did not lose sight of it till we reached the top of the
mountain. The top was nearly level. On our right were a few
fields enclosed with stone walls. On our left was an open space
where whin, furze and heath were growing. We passed over the
summit, and began to descend by a tolerably good, though steep
road. But for the darkness of evening and a drizzling mist, which,
for some time past, had been coming on, we should have enjoyed a
glorious prospect down into the valley, or perhaps I should say
that I should have enjoyed a glorious prospect, for John Jones,
like a true mountaineer, cared not a brass farthing for prospects.
Even as it was, noble glimpses of wood and rock were occasionally
to be obtained. The mist soon wetted us to the skin
notwithstanding that we put up our umbrellas. It was a regular
Welsh mist, a niwl, like that in which the great poet Ab Gwilym
lost his way, whilst trying to keep an assignation with his beloved
Morfydd, and which he abuses in the following manner:-
"O ho! thou villain mist, O ho!
What plea hast thou to plague me so?
I scarcely know a scurril name,
But dearly thou deserv'st the same;
Thou exhalation from the deep
Unknown, where ugly spirits keep!
Thou smoke from hellish stews uphurl'd
To mock and mortify the world!
Thou spider-web of giant race,
Spun out and spread through airy space!
Avaunt, thou filthy, clammy thing,
Of sorry rain the source and spring!
Moist blanket dripping misery down,
Loathed alike by land and town!
Thou watery monster, wan to see,
Intruding 'twixt the sun and me,
To rob me of my blessed right,
To turn my day to dismal night.
Parent of thieves and patron best,
They brave pursuit within thy breast!
Mostly from thee its merciless snow
Grim January doth glean, I trow.
Pass off with speed, thou prowler pale,
Holding along o'er hill and dale,
Spilling a noxious spittle round,
Spoiling the fairies' sporting ground!
Move off to hell, mysterious haze;
Wherein deceitful meteors blaze;
Thou wild of vapour, vast, o'ergrown,
Huge as the ocean of unknown."
As we descended, the path became more steep; it was particularly so
at a part where it was overshadowed with trees on both sides.
Here, finding walking very uncomfortable, my knees suffering much,
I determined to run. So shouting to John Jones, "Nis gallav
gerdded rhaid rhedeg," I set off running down the pass. My
companion followed close behind, and luckily meeting no mischance,
we presently found ourselves on level ground, amongst a collection
of small houses. On our turning a corner a church appeared on our
left hand on the slope of the hill. In the churchyard, and close
to the road, grew a large yew-tree which flung its boughs far on
every side. John Jones stopping by the tree said, that if I looked
over the wall of the yard I should see the tomb of a Lord
Dungannon, who had been a great benefactor to the village. I
looked, and through the lower branches of the yew, which hung over
part of the churchyard, I saw what appeared to be a mausoleum.
Jones told me that in the church also there was the tomb of a great
person of the name of Tyrwhitt.
We passed on by various houses till we came nearly to the bottom of
the valley. Jones then pointing to a large house, at a little
distance on the right, told me that it was a good gwesty, and
advised me to go and refresh myself in it, whilst he went and
carried home his work to the man who employed him, who he said
lived in a farm-house a few hundred yards off. I asked him where
"At Llyn Ceiriog," he replied.
I then asked if we were near Pont Fadog; and received for answer
that Pont Fadog was a good way down the valley, to the north-east,
and that we could not see it owing to a hill which intervened.
Jones went his way and I proceeded to the gwestfa, the door of
which stood invitingly open. I entered a large kitchen, at one end
of which a good fire was burning in a grate, in front of which was
a long table, and a high settle on either side. Everything looked
very comfortable. There was nobody in the kitchen: on my calling,
however, a girl came, whom I bade in Welsh to bring me a pint of
the best ale. The girl stared, but went away apparently to fetch
it - presently came the landlady, a good-looking middle-aged woman.
I saluted her in Welsh and then asked her if she could speak
English. She replied "Tipyn bach," which interpreted, is, a little
bit. I soon, however, found that she could speak it very passably,
for two men coming in from the rear of the house she conversed with
them in English. These two individuals seated themselves on chairs
near the door, and called for beer. The girl brought in the ale,
and I sat down by the fire, poured myself out a glass, and made
myself comfortable. Presently a gig drove up to the door, and in
came a couple of dogs, one a tall black grey-hound, the other a
large female setter, the coat of the latter dripping with rain, and
shortly after two men from the gig entered; one who appeared to be
the principal was a stout bluff-looking person between fifty and
sixty, dressed in a grey stuff coat and with a slouched hat on his
head. This man bustled much about, and in a broad Yorkshire
dialect ordered a fire to be lighted in another room, and a chamber
to be prepared for him and his companion; the landlady, who
appeared to know him, and to treat him with a kind of deference,
asked if she should prepare two beds; whereupon he answered "No!
As we came together and shall start together, so shall we sleep
together; it will not be for the first time."
His companion was a small mean-looking man, dressed in a black
coat, and behaved to him with no little respect. Not only the
landlady, but the two men, of whom I have previously spoken,
appeared to know him and to treat him with deference. He and his
companion presently went out to see after the horse. After a
little time they returned, and the stout man called lustily for two
fourpennyworths of brandy and water - "Take it into the other
room!" said he, and went into a side room with his companion, but
almost immediately came out saying that the room smoked and was
cold, and that he preferred sitting in the kitchen. He then took
his seat near me, and when the brandy was brought drank to my
health. I said thank you, but nothing farther. He then began
talking to the men and his companion upon indifferent subjects.
After a little time John Jones came in, called for a glass of ale,
and at my invitation seated himself between me and the stout
personage. The latter addressed him roughly in English, but
receiving no answer said, "Ah, you no understand. You have no
English and I no Welsh."
"You have not mastered Welsh yet Mr - " said one of the men to him.
"No!" said he: "I have been doing business with the Welsh forty
years, but can't speak a word of their language. I sometimes guess
at a word, spoken in the course of business, but am never sure."
Presently John Jones began talking to me, saying that he had been
to the river, that the water was very low, and that there was
little but stones in the bed of the stream.
I told him if its name was Ceiriog no wonder there were plenty of
stones in it, Ceiriog being derived from Cerrig, a rock. The men
stared to hear me speak Welsh.
"Is the gentleman a Welshman?" said one of the men, near the door,
to his companion; "he seems to speak Welsh very well."
"How should I know?" said the other, who appeared to be a low
"Who are those people?" said I to John Jones.
"The smaller man is a workman at a flannel manufactory," said
Jones. "The other I do not exactly know."
"And who is the man on the other side of you?" said I.
"I believe he is an English dealer in gigs and horses," replied
Jones, "and that he is come here either to buy or sell."
The man, however, soon put me out of all doubt with respect to his
"I was at Chirk," said he; "and Mr So-and-so asked me to have a
look at his new gig and horse, and have a ride. I consented. They
were both brought out - everything new; gig new, harness new, and
horse new. Mr So-and-so asked me what I thought of his turn-out.
I gave a look and said, 'I like the car very well, harness very
well, but I don't like the horse at all; a regular bolter, rearer
and kicker, or I'm no judge; moreover, he's pigeon-toed.' However,
we all got on the car - four of us, and I was of course
complimented with the ribbons. Well, we hadn't gone fifty yards
before the horse, to make my words partly good, began to kick like
a new 'un. However, I managed him, and he went on for a couple of
miles till we got to the top of the hill, just above the descent
with the precipice on the right hand. Here he began to rear like a
"'Oh dear me!' says Mr So-and-so; 'let me get out!'
"'Keep where you are,' says I, 'I can manage him.'
"However, Mr So-and-so would not be ruled, and got out; coming
down, not on his legs, but his hands and knees. And then the two
others said -
"'Let us get out!'
"'Keep where you are,' said I, 'I can manage him.'
"But they must needs get out, or rather tumble out, for they both
came down on the road, hard on their backs.
"'Get out yourself,' said they all, 'and let the devil go, or you
are a done man.'
"'Getting out may do for you young hands,' says I, 'but it won't do
for I; neither my back nor bones will stand the hard road.'
"Mr So-and-so ran to the horse's head.
"'Are you mad?' says I, 'if you try to hold him he'll be over the
pree-si-pice in a twinkling, and then where am I? Give him head; I
can manage him.'
"So Mr So-and-so got out of the way, and down flew the horse right
down the descent, as fast as he could gallop. I tell you what, I
didn't half like it! A pree-si-pice on my right, the rock on my
left, and a devil before me, going, like a cannon-ball, right down
the hill. However, I contrived, as I said I would, to manage him;
kept the car from the rock and from the edge of the gulf too.
Well, just when we had come to the bottom of the hill out comes the
people running from the inn, almost covering the road.
"'Now get out of the way,' I shouts, 'if you don't wish to see your
brains knocked out, and what would be worse, mine too.'
"So they gets out of the way, and on I spun, I and my devil. But
by this time I had nearly taken the devil out of him. Well, he
hadn't gone fifty yards on the level ground, when, what do you
think he did? why, went regularly over, tumbled down regularly on
the road, even as I knew he would some time or other, because why?
he was pigeon-toed. Well, I gets out of the gig, and no sooner did
Mr So-and-so come up than I says -
"'I likes your car very well, and I likes your harness, but - me if
I likes your horse, and it will be some time before you persuade me
to drive him again.'"
I am a great lover of horses, and an admirer of good driving, and
should have wished to have some conversation with this worthy
person about horses and their management. I should also have
wished to ask him some questions about Wales and the Welsh, as he
must have picked up a great deal of curious information about both
in his forty years' traffic, notwithstanding he did not know a word
of Welsh, but John Jones prevented my further tarrying by saying,
that it would be as well to get over the mountain before it was
entirely dark. So I got up, paid for my ale, vainly endeavoured to
pay for that of my companion, who insisted upon paying for what he
had ordered, made a general bow and departed from the house,
leaving the horse-dealer and the rest staring at each other and
wondering who we were, or at least who I was. We were about to
ascend the hill when John Jones asked me whether I should not like
to see the bridge and the river. I told him I should. The bridge
and the river presented nothing remarkable. The former was of a
single arch; and the latter anything but abundant in its flow.
We now began to retrace our steps over the mountain. At first the
mist appeared to be nearly cleared away. As we proceeded, however,
large sheets began to roll up the mountain sides, and by the time
we reached the summit were completely shrouded in vapour. The
night, however, was not very dark, and we found our way tolerably
well, though once in descending I had nearly tumbled into the nant
or dingle, now on our left hand. The bushes and trees, seen
indistinctly through the mist, had something the look of goblins,
and brought to my mind the elves, which Ab Gwilym of old saw, or
thought he saw, in a somewhat similar situation:-
"In every hollow dingle stood
Of wry-mouth'd elves a wrathful brood."
Drenched to the skin, but uninjured in body and limb, we at length
Venerable Old Gentleman - Surnames in Wales - Russia and Britain -
Church of England - Yriarte - The Eagle and his Young - Poets of
the Gael - The Oxonian - Master Salisburie.
MY wife had told me that she had had some conversation upon the
Welsh language and literature with a venerable old man, who kept a
shop in the town, that she had informed him that I was very fond of
both, and that he had expressed a great desire to see me. One
afternoon I said: "Let us go and pay a visit to your old friend of
the shop. I think from two or three things which you have told me
about him, that he must be worth knowing." We set out. She
conducted me across the bridge a little way; then presently turning
to the left into the principal street, she entered the door of a
shop on the left-hand side, over the top of which was written:
"Jones; Provision Dealer and General Merchant." The shop was
small, with two little counters, one on each side. Behind one was
a young woman, and behind the other a venerable-looking old man.
"I have brought my husband to visit you," said my wife, addressing
herself to him.
"I am most happy to see him," said the old gentleman, making me a
He then begged that we would do him the honour to walk into his
parlour, and led us into a little back room, the window of which