Part 5 out of 14
Coming to the Menai Bridge I asked the man who took the penny toll
at the entrance, the way to Pentraeth Coch.
"You see that white house by the wood," said he, pointing some
distance into Anglesey; "you must make towards it till you come to
a place where there are four cross roads and then you must take the
road to the right."
Passing over the bridge I made my way towards the house by the wood
which stood on the hill till I came where the four roads met, when
I turned to the right as directed.
The country through which I passed seemed tolerably well
cultivated, the hedge-rows were very high, seeming to spring out of
low stone walls. I met two or three gangs of reapers proceeding to
their work with scythes in their hands.
In about half-an-hour I passed by a farm-house partly surrounded
with walnut trees. Still the same high hedges on both sides of the
road: are these hedges relics of the sacrificial groves of Mona?
thought I to myself. Then I came to a wretched village through
which I hurried at the rate of six miles an hour. I then saw a
long, lofty, craggy hill on my right hand towards the east.
"What mountain is that?" said I to an urchin playing in the hot
dust of the road.
"Mynydd Lydiart!" said the urchin, tossing up a handful of the hot
dust into the air, part of which in descending fell into my eyes.
I shortly afterwards passed by a handsome lodge. I then saw
groves, mountain Lydiart forming a noble background.
"Who owns this wood?" said I in Welsh to two men who were limbing a
felled tree by the road-side.
"Lord Vivian," answered one, touching his hat.
"The gentleman is our countryman," said he to the other after I had
I was now descending the side of a pretty valley, and soon found
myself at Pentraeth Coch. The part of the Pentraeth where I now
was consisted of a few houses and a church, or something which I
judged to be a church, for there was no steeple; the houses and
church stood about a little open spot or square, the church on the
east, and on the west a neat little inn or public-house over the
door of which was written "The White Horse. Hugh Pritchard." By
this time I had verified in part the prediction of the old Welsh
poet of the post-office. Though I was not yet arrived at Llanfair,
I was, if not tired, very thirsty, owing to the burning heat of the
weather, so I determined to go in and have some ale. On entering
the house I was greeted in English by Mr Hugh Pritchard himself, a
tall bulky man with a weather-beaten countenance, dressed in a
brown jerkin and corduroy trowsers, with a broad low-crowned buff-
coloured hat on his head, and what might he called half shoes and
half high-lows on his feet. He had a short pipe in his mouth,
which when he greeted me he took out, but replaced as soon as the
greeting was over, which consisted of "Good-day, sir," delivered in
a frank, hearty tone. I looked Mr Hugh Pritchard in the face and
thought I had never seen a more honest countenance. On my telling
Mr Pritchard that I wanted a pint of ale, a buxom damsel came
forward and led me into a nice cool parlour on the right-hand side
of the door, and then went to fetch the ale.
Mr Pritchard meanwhile went into a kind of tap-room, fronting the
parlour, where I heard him talking in Welsh about pigs and cattle
to some of his customers. I observed that he spoke with some
hesitation; which circumstance I mention as rather curious, he
being the only Welshman I have ever known who, when speaking his
native language, appeared to be at a loss for words. The damsel
presently brought me the ale, which I tasted and found excellent;
she was going away when I asked her whether Mr Pritchard was her
father; on her replying in the affirmative I inquired whether she
was born in that house.
"No!" said she; "I was born in Liverpool; my father was born in
this house, which belonged to his fathers before him, but he left
it at an early age and married my mother in Liverpool, who was an
Anglesey woman, and so I was born in Liverpool."
"And what did you do in Liverpool?" said I.
"My mother kept a little shop," said the girl, "whilst my father
followed various occupations."
"And how long have you been here?" said I.
"Since the death of my grandfather," said the girl, "which happened
about a year ago. When he died my father came here and took
possession of his birth-right."
"You speak very good English," said I; "have you any Welsh?"
"Oh yes, plenty," said the girl; "we always speak Welsh together,
but being born at Liverpool, I of course have plenty of English."
"And which language do you prefer?" said I.
"I think I like English best," said the girl, "it is the most
"Not in Anglesey," said I.
"Well," said the girl, "it is the most genteel."
"Gentility," said I, "will be the ruin of Welsh, as it has been of
many other things - what have I to pay for the ale?"
"Three pence," said she.
I paid the money and the girl went out. I finished my ale, and
getting up made for the door; at the door I was met by Mr Hugh
Pritchard, who came out of the tap-room to thank me for my custom,
and to bid me farewell. I asked him whether I should have any
difficulty in finding the way to Llanfair.
"None whatever," said he, "you have only to pass over the bridge of
the Traeth, and to go due north for about four miles, and you will
find yourself in Llanfair."
"What kind of place is it?" said I.
"A poor straggling village," said Mr Pritchard.
"Shall I be able to obtain a lodging there for the night?" said I.
"Scarcely one such as you would like," said Hugh.
"And where had I best pass the night?" I demanded.
"We can accommodate you comfortably here," said Mr Pritchard,
"provided you have no objection to come back."
I told him that I should be only too happy, and forthwith departed,
glad at heart that I had secured a comfortable lodging for the
Leave Pentraeth - Tranquil Scene - The Knoll - The Miller and his
Wife - Poetry of Gronwy - Kind Offer - Church of Llanfair - No
English - Confusion of Ideas - The Gronwy - Notable Little Girl -
The Sycamore Leaf - Home from California.
THE village of Pentraeth Goch occupies two sides of a romantic dell
- that part of it which stands on the southern side, and which
comprises the church and the little inn, is by far the prettiest,
that which occupies the northern is a poor assemblage of huts, a
brook rolls at the bottom of the dell, over which there is a little
bridge: coming to the bridge I stopped, and looked over the side
into the water running briskly below. An aged man who looked like
a beggar, but who did not beg of me, stood by.
"To what place does this water run?" said I in English.
"I know no Saxon," said he in trembling accents.
I repeated my question in Welsh.
"To the sea," he said, "which is not far off, indeed it is so near,
that when there are high tides, the salt water comes up to this
"You seem feeble?" said I.
"I am so," said he, "for I am old."
"How old are you?" said I.
"Sixteen after sixty," said the old man with a sigh; "and I have
nearly lost my sight and my hearing."
"Are you poor?" said I.
"Very," said the old man.
I gave him a trifle which he accepted with thanks.
"Why is this sand called the red sand?" said I.
"I cannot tell you," said the old man, "I wish I could, for you
have been kind to me."
Bidding him farewell I passed through the northern part of the
village to the top of the hill. I walked a little way forward and
then stopped, as I had done at the bridge in the dale, and looked
to the east, over a low stone wall.
Before me lay the sea or rather the northern entrance of the Menai
Straits. To my right was mountain Lidiart projecting some way into
the sea; to my left, that is to the north, was a high hill, with a
few white houses near its base, forming a small village, which a
woman who passed by knitting told me was called Llan Peder Goch or
the Church of Red Saint Peter. Mountain Lidiart and the Northern
Hill formed the headlands of a beautiful bay into which the waters
of the Traeth dell, from which I had come, were discharged. A
sandbank, probably covered with the sea at high tide, seemed to
stretch from mountain Lidiart a considerable way towards the
northern hill. Mountain, bay and sandbank were bathed in sunshine;
the water was perfectly calm; nothing was moving upon it, nor upon
the shore, and I thought I had never beheld a more beautiful and
I went on. The country which had hitherto been very beautiful,
abounding with yellow corn-fields, became sterile and rocky; there
were stone walls, but no hedges. I passed by a moor on my left,
then a moory hillock on my right; the way was broken and stony; all
traces of the good roads of Wales had disappeared; the habitations
which I saw by the way were miserable hovels into and out of which
large sows were stalking, attended by their farrows.
"Am I far from Llanfair?" said I to a child.
"You are in Llanfair, gentleman," said the child.
A desolate place was Llanfair. The sea in the neighbourhood to the
south, limekilns with their stifling smoke not far from me. I sat
down on a little green knoll on the right-hand side of the road; a
small house was near me, and a desolate-looking mill at about a
furlong's distance, to the south. Hogs came about me grunting and
sniffing. I felt quite melancholy.
"Is this the neighbourhood of the birth-place of Gronwy Owen?" said
I to myself. "No wonder that he was unfortunate through life,
springing from such a region of wretchedness."
Wretched as the region seemed, however, I soon found there were
kindly hearts close by me.
As I sat on the knoll I heard some one slightly cough very near me,
and looking to the left saw a man dressed like a miller looking at
me from the garden of the little house, which I have already
I got up and gave him the sele of the day in English. He was a man
about thirty, rather tall than otherwise, with a very prepossessing
countenance. He shook his head at my English.
"What," said I, addressing him in the language of the country,
"have you no English? Perhaps you have Welsh?"
"Plenty," said he, laughing "there is no lack of Welsh amongst any
of us here. Are you a Welshman?"
"No," said I, "an Englishman from the far east of Lloegr."
"And what brings you here?" said the man.
"A strange errand," I replied, "to look at the birth-place of a man
who has long been dead."
"Do you come to seek for an inheritance?" said the man.
"No," said I. "Besides the man whose birth-place I came to see,
died poor, leaving nothing behind him but immortality."
"Who was he?" said the miller.
"Did you ever hear a sound of Gronwy Owen?" said I.
"Frequently," said the miller; "I have frequently heard a sound of
him. He was born close by in a house yonder," pointing to the
"Oh yes, gentleman," said a nice-looking woman, who holding a
little child by the hand was come to the house-door, and was
eagerly listening, "we have frequently heard speak of Gronwy Owen;
there is much talk of him in these parts."
"I am glad to hear it," said I, "for I have feared that his name
would not be known here."
"Pray, gentleman, walk in!" said the miller; "we are going to have
our afternoon's meal, and shall be rejoiced if you will join us."
"Yes, do, gentleman," said the miller's wife, for such the good
woman was; "and many a welcome shall you have."
I hesitated, and was about to excuse myself.
"Don't refuse, gentleman!" said both, "surely you are not too proud
to sit down with us?"
"I am afraid I shall only cause you trouble," said I.
"Dim blinder, no trouble," exclaimed both at once; "pray do walk
I entered the house, and the kitchen, parlour, or whatever it was,
a nice little room with a slate floor. They made me sit down at a
table by the window, which was already laid for a meal. There was
a clean cloth upon it, a tea-pot, cups and saucers, a large plate
of bread-and-butter, and a plate, on which were a few very thin
slices of brown, watery cheese.
My good friends took their seats, the wife poured out tea for the
stranger and her husband, helped us both to bread-and-butter and
the watery cheese, then took care of herself. Before, however, I
could taste the tea, the wife, seeming to recollect herself,
started up, and hurrying to a cupboard, produced a basin full of
snow-white lump sugar, and taking the spoon out of my hand, placed
two of the largest lumps in my cup, though she helped neither her
husband nor herself; the sugar-basin being probably only kept for
My eyes filled with tears; for in the whole course of my life I had
never experienced so much genuine hospitality. Honour to the
miller of Mona and his wife; and honour to the kind hospitable
Celts in general! How different is the reception of this despised
race of the wandering stranger from that of -. However, I am a
Saxon myself, and the Saxons have no doubt their virtues; a pity
that they should be all uncouth and ungracious ones!
I asked my kind host his name.
"John Jones," he replied, "Melinydd of Llanfair."
"Is the mill which you work your own property?" I inquired.
"No," he answered, "I rent it of a person who lives close by."
"And how happens it," said I, "that you speak no English?"
"How should it happen," said he, "that I should speak any? I have
never been far from here; my wife who has lived at service at
Liverpool can speak some."
"Can you read poetry?" said I.
"I can read the psalms and hymns that they sing at our chapel," he
"Then you are not of the Church?" said I.
"I am not," said the miller; "I am a Methodist."
"Can you read the poetry of Gronwy Owen?" said I.
"I cannot," said the miller, "that is with any comfort; his poetry
is in the ancient Welsh measures, which make poetry so difficult
that few can understand it."
"I can understand poetry in those measures," said I.
"And how much time did you spend," said the miller, "before you
could understand the poetry of the measures?"
"Three years," said I.
The miller laughed.
"I could not have afforded all that time," said he, "to study the
songs of Gronwy. However, it is well that some people should have
time to study them. He was a great poet as I have been told, and
is the glory of our land - but he was unfortunate; I have read his
life in Welsh and part of his letters; and in doing so have shed
"Has his house any particular name?" said I.
"It is called sometimes Ty Gronwy," said the miller; "but more
frequently Tafarn Goch."
"The Red Tavern?" said I. "How is it that so many of your places
are called Goch? there is Pentraeth Goch; there is Saint Pedair
Goch, and here at Llanfair is Tafarn Goch."
The miller laughed.
"It will take a wiser man than I," said he, "to answer that
The repast over I rose up, gave my host thanks, and said, "I will
now leave you, and hunt up things connected with Gronwy."
"And where will you find a lletty for night, gentleman?" said the
miller's wife. "This is a poor place, but if you will make use of
our home you are welcome."
"I need not trouble you," said I, "I return this night to Pentraeth
Goch where I shall sleep."
"Well," said the miller, "whilst you are at Llanfair I will
accompany you about. Where shall we go to first?"
"Where is the church?" said I. "I should like to see the church
where Gronwy worshipped God as a boy."
"The church is at some distance," said the man; "it is past my
mill, and as I want to go to the mill for a moment, it will be
perhaps well to go and see the church, before we go to the house of
I shook the miller's wife by the hand, patted a little yellow-
haired girl of about two years old on the head, who during the
whole time of the meal had sat on the slate floor looking up into
my face, and left the house with honest Jones.
We directed our course to the mill, which lay some way down a
declivity, towards the sea. Near the mill was a comfortable-
looking house, which my friend told me belonged to the proprietor
of the mill. A rustic-looking man stood in the mill-yard, who he
said was the proprietor. The honest miller went into the mill, and
the rustic-looking proprietor greeted me in Welsh, and asked me if
I was come to buy hogs.
"No," said I; "I am come to see the birth-place of Gronwy Owen;" he
stared at me for a moment, then seemed to muse, and at last walked
away saying, "Ah! a great man."
The miller presently joined me, and we proceeded farther down the
hill. Our way lay between stone walls, and sometimes over them.
The land was moory and rocky, with nothing grand about it, and the
miller described it well when he said it was tir gwael - mean land.
In about a quarter of an hour we came to the churchyard into which
we got, the gate being locked, by clambering over the wall.
The church stands low down the descent, not far distant from the
sea. A little brook, called in the language of the country a frwd,
washes its yard-wall on the south. It is a small edifice with no
spire, but to the south-west there is a little stone erection
rising from the roof, in which hangs a bell - there is a small
porch looking to the south. With respect to its interior I can say
nothing, the door being locked. It is probably like the outside,
simple enough. It seemed to be about two hundred and fifty years
old, and to be kept in tolerable repair. Simple as the edifice
was, I looked with great emotion upon it; and could I do else, when
I reflected that the greatest British poet of the last century had
worshipped God within it, with his poor father and mother, when a
I asked the miller whether he could point out to me any tombs or
grave-stones of Gronwy's family, but he told me that he was not
aware of any. On looking about I found the name of Owen in the
inscription on the slate slab of a respectable-looking modern tomb,
on the north-east side of the church. The inscription was as
Er cof am JANE OWEN
Gwraig Edward Owen,
Monachlog Llanfair Mathafam eithaf,
A fu farw Chwefror 28 1842
Yn 51 Oed.
I.E. "To the memory of JANE OWEN Wife of Edward Owen, of the
monastery of St Mary of farther Mathafarn, who died February 28,
1842, aged fifty-one."
Whether the Edward Owen mentioned here was any relation to the
great Gronwy, I had no opportunity of learning. I asked the miller
what was meant by the monastery, and he told that it was the name
of a building to the north-east near the sea, which had once been a
monastery but had been converted into a farm-house, though it still
retained its original name. "May all monasteries be converted into
farm-houses," said I, "and may they still retain their original
names in mockery of popery!"
Having seen all I could well see of the church and its precincts I
departed with my kind guide. After we had retraced our steps some
way, we came to some stepping-stones on the side of a wall, and the
miller pointing to them said:
"The nearest way to the house of Gronwy will be over the llamfa."
I was now become ashamed of keeping the worthy fellow from his
business, and begged him to return to his mill. He refused to
leave me, at first, but on my pressing him to do so, and on my
telling him that I could find the way to the house of Gronwy very
well by myself, he consented. We shook hands, the miller wished me
luck, and betook himself to his mill, whilst I crossed the llamfa.
I soon, however, repented having left the path by which I had come.
I was presently in a maze of little fields with stone walls over
which I had to clamber. At last I got into a lane with a stone
wall on each side. A man came towards me and was about to pass me
- his look was averted, and he was evidently one of those who have
"no English." A Welshman of his description always averting his
look when he sees a stranger who he thinks has "no Welsh," lest the
stranger should ask him a question and he be obliged to confess
that he has "no English."
"Is this the way to Llanfair?" said I to the man. The man made a
kind of rush in order to get past me.
"Have you any Welsh?" I shouted as loud as I could bawl.
The man stopped, and turning a dark sullen countenance half upon me
said, "Yes, I have Welsh."
"Which is the way to Llanfair?" said I.
"Llanfair, Llanfair?" said the man, "what do you mean?"
"I want to get there," said I.
"Are you not there already?" said the fellow stamping on the
ground, "are you not in Llanfair?
"Yes, but I want to get to the town."
"Town, town! Oh, I have no English," said the man; and off he
started like a frighted bullock. The poor fellow was probably at
first terrified at seeing an Englishman, then confused at hearing
an Englishman speak Welsh, a language which the Welsh in general
imagine no Englishman can speak, the tongue of an Englishman as
they say not being long enough to pronounce Welsh; and lastly
utterly deprived of what reasoning faculties he had still remaining
by my asking him for the town of Llanfair, there being properly no
I went on, and at last getting out of the lane, found myself upon
the road, along which I had come about two hours before; the house
of the miller was at some distance on my right. Near me were two
or three houses and part of the skeleton of one, on which some men,
in the dress of masons, seemed to be occupied. Going up to these
men I said in Welsh to one, whom I judged to be the principal, and
who was rather a tall fine-looking fellow:
"Have you heard a sound of Gronwy Owain?"
Here occurred another instance of the strange things people do when
their ideas are confused. The man stood for a moment or two, as if
transfixed, a trowel motionless in one of his hands, and a brick in
the other; at last giving a kind of gasp, he answered in very
"Si, senor! he oido."
"Is his house far from here?" said I in Welsh.
"No, senor!" said the man, "no esta muy lejos."
"I am a stranger here, friend, can anybody show me the way?"
"Si senor! este mozo luego - acompanara usted."
Then turning to a lad of about eighteen, also dressed as a mason,
he said in Welsh:
"Show this gentleman instantly the way to Tafarn Goch."
The lad flinging a hod down, which he had on his shoulder,
instantly set off, making me a motion with his head to follow him.
I did so, wondering what the man could mean by speaking to me in
Spanish. The lad walked by my side in silence for about two
furlongs till we came to a range of trees, seemingly sycamores,
behind which was a little garden, in which stood a long low house
with three chimneys. The lad stopping flung open a gate which led
into the garden, then crying to a child which he saw within: "Gad
roi tro" - let the man take a turn; he was about to leave me, when
I stopped him to put sixpence into his hand. He received the money
with a gruff "Diolch!" and instantly set off at a quick pace.
Passing the child who stared at me, I walked to the back part of
the house, which seemed to be a long mud cottage. After examining
the back part I went in front, where I saw an aged woman with
several children, one of whom was the child I had first seen. She
smiled and asked me what I wanted.
I said that I had come to see the house of Gronwy. She did not
understand me, for shaking her head she said that she had no
English, and was rather deaf. Raising my voice to a very high tone
A gleam of intelligence flashed now in her eyes.
"Ty Gronwy," she said, "ah! I understand. Come in sir."
There were three doors to the house; she led me in by the midmost
into a common cottage room, with no other ceiling, seemingly, than
the roof. She bade me sit down by the window by a little table,
and asked me whether I would have a cup of milk and some bread-and-
butter; I declined both, but said I should be thankful for a little
This she presently brought me in a teacup, I drank it, the children
amounting to five standing a little way from me staring at me. I
asked her if this was the house in which Gronwy was born. She said
it was, but that it had been altered very much since his time -
that three families had lived in it, but that she believed he was
born about where we were now.
A man now coming in who lived at the next door, she said I had
better speak to him and tell him what I wanted to know, which he
could then communicate to her, as she could understand his way of
speaking much better than mine. Through the man I asked her
whether there was any one of the blood of Gronwy Owen living in the
house. She pointed to the children and said they had all some of
his blood. I asked in what relationship they stood to Gronwy. She
said she could hardly tell, that tri priodas, three marriages stood
between, and that the relationship was on the mother's side. I
gathered from her that the children had lost their mother, that
their name was Jones, and that their father was her son. I asked
if the house in which they lived was their own; she said no, that
it belonged to a man who lived at some distance. I asked if the
children were poor.
"Very," said she.
I gave them each a trifle, and the poor old lady thanked me with
tears in her eyes.
I asked whether the children could read; she said they all could,
with the exception of the two youngest. The eldest she said could
read anything, whether Welsh or English; she then took from the
window-sill a book, which she put into my hand, saying the child
could read it and understand it. I opened the book; it was an
English school-book treating on all the sciences.
"Can you write?" said I to the child, a little stubby girl of about
eight, with a broad flat red face and grey eyes, dressed in a
chintz gown, a little bonnet on her head, and looking the image of
The little maiden, who had never taken her eyes off of me for a
moment during the whole time I had been in the room, at first made
no answer; being, however, bid by her grandmother to speak, she at
length answered in a soft voice, "Medraf, I can."
"Then write your name in this book," said I, taking out a pocket-
book and a pencil, "and write likewise that you are related to
Gronwy Owen - and be sure you write in Welsh."
The little maiden very demurely took the book and pencil, and
placing the former on the table wrote as follows:
"Ellen Jones yn perthyn o bell i gronow owen."
That is, "Ellen Jones belonging from afar to Gronwy Owen."
When I saw the name of Ellen I had no doubt that the children were
related to the illustrious Gronwy. Ellen is a very uncommon Welsh
name, but it seems to have been a family name of the Owens; it was
borne by an infant daughter of the poet whom he tenderly loved, and
who died whilst he was toiling at Walton in Cheshire, -
"Ellen, my darling,
Who liest in the Churchyard at Walton."
says poor Gronwy in one of the most affecting elegies ever written.
After a little farther conversation I bade the family farewell and
left the house. After going down the road a hundred yards I turned
back in order to ask permission to gather a leaf from one of the
sycamores. Seeing the man who had helped me in my conversation
with the old woman standing at the gate, I told him what I wanted,
whereupon he instantly tore down a handful of leaves and gave them
to me. Thrusting them into my coat-pocket I thanked him kindly and
Coming to the half-erected house, I again saw the man to whom I had
addressed myself for information. I stopped, and speaking Spanish
to him, asked how he had acquired the Spanish language.
"I have been in Chili, sir," said he in the same tongue, "and in
California, and in those places I learned Spanish."
"What did you go to Chili for?" said I; "I need not ask you on what
account you went to California."
"I went there as a mariner," said the man; "I sailed out of
Liverpool for Chili."
"And how is it," said I, "that being a mariner and sailing in a
Liverpool ship you do not speak English?"
"I speak English, senor," said the man, "perfectly well."
"Then how in the name of wonder," said I, speaking English, "came
you to answer me in Spanish? I am an Englishman thorough bred."
"I can scarcely tell you how it was, sir," said the man scratching
his head, "but I thought I would speak to you in Spanish."
"And why not English?" said I.
"Why, I heard you speaking Welsh," said the man; "and as for an
Englishman speaking Welsh -"
"But why not answer me in Welsh?" said I.
"Why, I saw it was not your language, sir," said the man, "and as I
had picked up some Spanish I thought it would be but fair to answer
you in it."
"But how did you know that I could speak Spanish?" said I.
"I don't know indeed, sir," said the man; "but I looked at you, and
something seemed to tell me that you could speak Spanish. I can't
tell you how it was sir," said he, looking me very innocently in
the face, "but I was forced to speak Spanish to you. I was
"The long and the short of it was," said I, "that you took me for a
foreigner, and thought that it would be but polite to answer me in
a foreign language."
"I daresay it was so, sir," said the man. "I daresay it was just
as you say."
"How did you fare in California?" said I.
"Very fairly indeed, sir," said the man. "I made some money there,
and brought it home, and with part of it I am building this house."
"I am very happy to hear it," said I, "you are really a remarkable
man - few return from California speaking Spanish as you do, and
still fewer with money in their pockets."
The poor fellow looked pleased at what I said, more especially at
that part of the sentence which touched upon his speaking Spanish
well. Wishing him many years of health and happiness in the house
he was building, I left him, and proceeded on my path towards
After walking some way, I turned round in order to take a last look
of the place which had so much interest for me. The mill may be
seen from a considerable distance; so may some of the scattered
houses, and also the wood which surrounds the house of the
illustrious Gronwy. Prosperity to Llanfair! and may many a
pilgrimage be made to it of the same character as my own.
Boxing Harry - Mr Bos - Black Robin - Drovers - Commercial
I ARRIVED at the hostelry of Mr Pritchard without meeting any
adventure worthy of being marked down. I went into the little
parlour, and, ringing the bell, was presently waited upon by Mrs
Pritchard, a nice matronly woman, whom I had not before seen, of
whom I inquired what I could have for dinner.
"This is no great place for meat," said Mrs Pritchard, "that is
fresh meat, for sometimes a fortnight passes without anything being
killed in the neighbourhood. I am afraid at present there is not a
bit of fresh meat to be had. What we can get you for dinner I do
not know, unless you are willing to make shift with bacon and
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said I, "I will have the bacon and
eggs with tea and bread-and-butter, not forgetting a pint of ale -
in a word, I will box Harry."
"I suppose you are a commercial gent," said Mrs Pritchard.
"Why do you suppose me a commercial gent?" said I. "Do I look
"Can't say you do much," said Mrs Pritchard; "you have no rings on
your fingers, nor a gilt chain at your waistcoat-pocket, but when
you said 'box Harry,' I naturally took you to be one of the
commercial gents, for when I was at Liverpool I was told that that
was a word of theirs."
"I believe the word properly belongs to them," said I. "I am not
one of them; but I learnt it from them, a great many years ago,
when I was much amongst them. Those whose employers were in a
small way of business, or allowed them insufficient salaries,
frequently used to 'box Harry,' that is, have a beaf-steak, or
mutton-chop, or perhaps bacon and eggs, as I am going to have,
along with tea and ale, instead of the regular dinner of a
commercial gentleman, namely, fish, hot joint, and fowl, pint of
sherry, tart, ale and cheese, and bottle of old port, at the end of
Having made arrangements for "boxing Harry" I went into the tap-
room, from which I had heard the voice of Mr Pritchard proceeding
during the whole of my conversation with his wife. Here I found
the worthy landlord seated with a single customer; both were
smoking. The customer instantly arrested my attention. He was a
man, seemingly about forty years of age with a broad red face, with
certain somethings, looking very much like incipient carbuncles,
here and there, upon it. His eyes were grey and looked rather as
if they squinted; his mouth was very wide, and when it opened
displayed a set of strong, white, uneven teeth. He was dressed in
a pepper-and-salt coat of the Newmarket cut, breeches of corduroy
and brown top boots, and had on his head a broad, black, coarse,
low-crowned hat. In his left hand he held a heavy whale-bone whip
with a brass head. I sat down on a bench nearly opposite to him
and the landlord.
"Well," said Mr Pritchard; "did you find your way to Llanfair?"
"Yes," said I.
"And did you execute the business satisfactorily which led you
there?" said Mr Pritchard.
"Perfectly," said I.
"Well, what did you give a stone for your live pork?" said his
companion glancing up at me, and speaking in a gruff voice.
"I did not buy any live pork," said I; "do you take me for a pig-
"Of course," said the man, in pepper-and-salt; "who but a pig
jobber could have business at Llanfair?"
"Does Llanfair produce nothing but pigs?" said I.
"Nothing at all," said the man in the pepper-and-salt, "that is,
nothing worth mentioning. You wouldn't go there for runts, that
is, if you were in your right senses; if you were in want of runts
you would have gone to my parish and have applied to me, Mr Bos;
that is if you were in your senses. Wouldn't he, John Pritchard?"
Mr Pritchard thus appealed to took the pipe out of his mouth, and
with some hesitations said that he believed the gentleman neither
went to Llanfair for pigs nor black cattle but upon some particular
"Well," said Mr Bos, "it may be so, but I can't conceive how any
person, either gentle or simple, could have any business in
Anglesey save that business was pigs or cattle."
"The truth is," said I, "I went to Llanfair to see the birth-place
of a great man - the cleverest Anglesey ever produced."
"Then you went wrong," said Mr Bos, "you went to the wrong parish,
you should have gone to Penmynnydd; the clebber man of Anglesey was
born and buried at Penmynnydd, you may see his tomb in the church."
"You are alluding to Black Robin," said I, "who wrote the ode in
praise of Anglesey - yes, he was a very clever young fellow, but
excuse me, he was not half such a poet as Gronwy Owen."
"Black Robin," said Mr Bos, "and Gronow Owen, who the Devil were
they? I never heard of either. I wasn't talking of them, but of
the clebberest man the world ever saw. Did you never hear of Owen
Tiddir? If you didn't, where did you get your education?"
"I have heard of Owen Tudor," said I, "but never understood that he
was particularly clever; handsome he undoubtedly was - but clever -
"How not clebber?" interrupted Mr Bos. "If he wasn't clebber, who
was clebber? Didn't he marry a great queen, and was not Harry the
Eighth his great grandson?"
"Really," said I, "you know a great deal of history."
"I should hope I do," said Mr Bos. "Oh, I wasn't at school at
Blewmaris for six months for nothing; and I haven't been in
Northampton, and in every town in England, without learning
something of history. With regard to history I may say that few -
Won't you drink?" said he, patronizingly, as he pushed a jug of ale
which stood before him on a little table towards me.
Begging politely to be excused on the plea that I was just about to
take tea, I asked him in what capacity he had travelled all over
"As a drover to be sure," said Mr Bos, "and I may say that there
are not many in Anglesey better known in England than myself - at
any rate I may say that there is not a public-house between here
and Worcester at which I am not known."
"Pray excuse me," said I, "but is not droving rather a low-lifed
"Not half so much as pig-jobbing," said Bos, "and that that's your
trade I am certain, or you would never have gone to Llanfair."
"I am no pig-jobber," said I, "and when I asked you that question
about droving, I merely did so because one Ellis Wynn, in a book he
wrote, gives the drovers a very bad character, and puts them in
Hell for their mal-practices."
"Oh, he does," said Mr Bos, "well, the next time I meet him at
Corwen I'll crack his head for saying so. Mal-practices - he had
better look at his own, for he is a pig-jobber too. Written a book
has he? then I suppose he has been left a legacy, and gone to
school after middle-age, for when I last saw him, which is four
years ago, he could neither read nor write."
I was about to tell Mr Bos that the Ellis Wynn that I meant was no
more a pig-jobber than myself, but a respectable clergyman, who had
been dead considerably upwards of a hundred years, and that also,
notwithstanding my respect for Mr Bos's knowledge of history, I did
not believe that Owen Tudor was buried at Penmynnydd, when I was
prevented by the entrance of Mrs Pritchard, who came to inform me
that my repast was ready in the other room, whereupon I got up and
went into the parlour to "box Harry."
Having dispatched my bacon and eggs, tea and ale, I fell into deep
meditation. My mind reverted to a long past period of my life,
when I was to a certain extent fixed up with commercial travellers,
and had plenty of opportunities of observing their habits, and the
terms employed by them in conversation. I called up several
individuals of the two classes into which they used to be divided,
for commercial travellers in my time were divided into two classes,
those who ate dinners and drank their bottle of port, and those who
"boxed Harry." What glorious fellows the first seemed! What airs
they gave themselves! What oaths they swore! and what influence
they had with hostlers and chambermaids! and what a sneaking-
looking set the others were! shabby in their apparel; no fine
ferocity in their countenances; no oaths in their mouths, except
such a trumpery apology for an oath as an occasional "confounded
hard;" with little or no influence at inns, scowled at by hostlers,
and never smiled at by chambermaids - and then I remembered how
often I had bothered my head in vain to account for the origin of
the term "box Harry," and how often I had in vain applied both to
those who did box and to those who did not "box Harry," for a clear
and satisfactory elucidation of the expression - and at last found
myself again bothering my head as of old in a vain attempt to
account for the origin of the term "boxing Harry."
Northampton - Horse - Breaking - Snoring.
TIRED at length with my vain efforts to account for the term which
in my time was so much in vogue amongst commercial gentlemen I left
the little parlour, and repaired to the common room. Mr Pritchard
and Mr Bos were still there smoking and drinking, but there was now
a candle on the table before them, for night was fast coming on.
Mr Bos was giving an account of his travels in England, sometimes
in Welsh, sometimes in English, to which Mr Pritchard was listening
with the greatest attention, occasionally putting in a "see there
now," and "what a fine thing it is to have gone about." After some
time Mr Bos exclaimed:
"I think, upon the whole, of all the places I have seen in England
I like Northampton best."
"I suppose," said I, "you found the men of Northampton good-
tempered, jovial fellows?"
"Can't say I did," said Mr Bos; "they are all shoe-makers, and of
course quarrelsome and contradictory, for where was there ever a
shoemaker who was not conceited and easily riled? No, I have
little to say in favour of Northampton as far as the men are
concerned. It's not the men but the women that make me speak in
praise of Northampton. The men all are ill-tempered, but the women
quite the contrary. I never saw such a place for merched anladd as
Northampton. I was a great favourite with them, and could tell you
And then Mr Bos, putting his hat rather on one side of his head,
told us two or three tales of his adventures with the merched
anladd of Northampton, which brought powerfully to my mind part of
what Ellis Wynn had said with respect to the practices of drovers
in his day, detestation for which had induced him to put the whole
tribe into Hell.
All of a sudden I heard a galloping down the road, and presently a
mighty plunging, seemingly of a horse, before the door of the inn.
I rushed out followed by my companions, and lo, on the open space
before the inn was a young horse, rearing and kicking, with a young
man on his back. The horse had neither bridle nor saddle, and the
young fellow merely rode him with a rope passed about his head -
presently the horse became tolerably quiet, and his rider jumping
off led him into the stable, where he made him fast to the rack and
then came and joined us, whereupon we all went into the room from
which I and the others had come on hearing the noise of the
"How came you on the colt's back, Jenkins?" said Mr Pritchard,
after we had all sat down and Jenkins had called for some cwrw. "I
did not know that he was broke in."
"I am breaking him in myself," said Jenkins speaking Welsh. "I
began with him to-night."
"Do you mean to say," said I, "that you have begun breaking him in
by mounting his back?"
"I do," said the other.
"Then depend upon it," said I, "that it will not be long before he
will either break his neck or knees or he will break your neck or
crown. You are not going the right way to work."
"Oh, myn Diawl!" said Jenkins, "I know better. In a day or two I
shall have made him quite tame, and have got him into excellent
paces and shall have saved the money I must have paid away, had I
put him into a jockey's hands."
Time passed, night came on, and other guests came in. There was
much talking of first-rate Welsh and very indifferent English, Mr
Bos being the principal speaker in both languages; his discourse
was chiefly on the comparative merits of Anglesey runts and Scotch
bullocks, and those of the merched anladd of Northampton and the
lasses of Wrexham. He preferred his own country runts to the
Scotch kine, but said upon the whole, though a Welshman, he must
give the preference to the merched of Northampton over those of
Wrexham, for free and easy demeanour, notwithstanding that in that
point which he said was the most desirable point in females, the
lasses of Wrexham were generally considered out-and-outers.
Fond as I am of listening to public-house conversation, from which
I generally contrive to extract both amusement and edification, I
became rather tired of this, and getting up, strolled about the
little village by moonlight till I felt disposed to retire to rest,
when returning to the inn, I begged to be shown the room in which I
was to sleep. Mrs Pritchard forthwith taking a candle conducted me
to a small room upstairs. There were two beds in it. The good
lady pointing to one, next the window, in which there were nice
clean sheets, told me that was the one which I was to occupy, and
bidding me good-night, and leaving the candle, departed. Putting
out the light I got into bed, but instantly found that the bed was
not long enough by at least a foot. "I shall pass an uncomfortable
night," said I, "for I never yet could sleep comfortably in a bed
too short. However, as I am on my travels, I must endeavour to
accommodate myself to circumstances." So I endeavoured to compose
myself to sleep; before, however, I could succeed, I heard the
sound of stumping steps coming upstairs, and perceived a beam of
light through the crevices of the door, and in a moment more the
door opened and in came two loutish farming lads whom I had
observed below, one of them bearing a rushlight stuck into an old
blacking-bottle. Without saying a word they flung off part of
their clothes, and one of them having blown out the rushlight, they
both tumbled into bed, and in a moment were snoring most
sonorously. "I am in a short bed," said I, "and have snorers close
by me; I fear I shall have a sorry night of it." I determined,
however, to adhere to my resolution of making the best of
circumstances, and lay perfectly quiet, listening to the snorings
as they rose and fell; at last they became more gentle and I fell
asleep, notwithstanding my feet were projecting some way from the
bed. I might have lain ten minutes or a quarter of an hour when I
suddenly started up in the bed broad awake. There was a great
noise below the window of plunging and struggling interspersed with
Welsh oaths. Then there was a sound as if of a heavy fall, and
presently a groan. "I shouldn't wonder," said I, "if that fellow
with the horse has verified my words, and has either broken his
horse's neck or his own. However, if he has, he has no one to
blame but himself. I gave him fair warning, and shall give myself
no further trouble about the matter, but go to sleep," and so I
Brilliant Morning - Travelling with Edification - A Good Clergyman
I AWOKE about six o'clock in the morning, having passed the night
much better than I anticipated. The sun was shining bright and
gloriously into the apartment. On looking into the other bed I
found that my chums, the young farm-labourers, had deserted it.
They were probably already in the field busy at labour. After
lying a little time longer I arose, dressed myself and went down.
I found my friend honest Pritchard smoking his morning pipe at the
front door, and after giving him the sele of the day, I inquired of
him the cause of the disturbance beneath my window the night
before, and learned that the man of the horse had been thrown by
the animal off its back, that the horse almost immediately after
had slipped down, and both had been led home very much hurt. We
then talked about farming and the crops, and at length got into a
discourse about Liverpool. I asked him how he liked that mighty
seaport; he said very well, but that he did not know much about it
- for though he had a house there where his family had resided, he
had not lived much at Liverpool himself, his absences from that
place having been many and long.
"Have you travelled then much about England?" said I.
"No," he replied. "When I have travelled it has chiefly been
across the sea to foreign places."
"But what foreign places have you visited?" said I.
"I have visited," said Pritchard, "Constantinople, Alexandria, and
some other cities in the south latitudes."
"Dear me," said I, "you have seen some of the most celebrated
places in the world - and yet you were silent, and said nothing
about your travels whilst that fellow Bos was pluming himself at
having been at such places as Northampton and Worcester, the haunts
of shoe-makers and pig-jobbers."
"Ah," said Pritchard, "but Mr Bos has travelled with edification;
it is a fine thing to have travelled when one has done so with
edification, but I have not. There is a vast deal of difference
between me and him - he is considered the 'cutest man in these
parts, and is much looked up to."
"You are really," said I, "the most modest person I have ever known
and the least addicted to envy. Let me see whether you have
travelled without edification."
I then questioned him about the places which he had mentioned, and
found he knew a great deal about them, amongst other things he
described Cleopatra's needle, and the At Maidan at Constantinople
with surprising exactness.
"You put me out," said I; "you consider yourself inferior to that
droving fellow Bos, and to have travelled without edification,
whereas you know a thousand times more than he, and indeed much
more than many a person who makes his five hundred a year by going
about lecturing on foreign places, but as I am no flatterer I will
tell you that you have a fault which will always prevent your
rising in this world, you have modesty; those who have modesty
shall have no advancement, whilst those who can blow their own horn
lustily, shall be made governors. But allow me to ask you in what
capacity you went abroad?"
"As engineer to various steamships," said Pritchard.
"A director of the power of steam," said I, "and an explorer of the
wonders of Iscander's city willing to hold the candle to Mr Bos. I
will tell you what, you are too good for this world, let us hope
you will have your reward in the next."
I breakfasted and asked for my bill; the bill amounted to little or
nothing - half-a-crown I think for tea-dinner, sundry jugs of ale,
bed and breakfast. I defrayed it, and then inquired whether it
would be possible for me to see the inside of the church.
"Oh yes," said Pritchard. "I can let you in, for I am churchwarden
and have the key."
The church was a little edifice of some antiquity, with a little
wing and without a spire; it was situated amidst a grove of trees.
As we stood with our hats off in the sacred edifice, I asked
Pritchard if there were many Methodists in those parts.
"Not so many as there were," said Pritchard, "they are rapidly
decreasing, and indeed dissenters in general. The cause of their
decrease is that a good clergyman has lately come here, who visits
the sick and preaches Christ, and in fact does his duty. If all
our clergymen were like him there would not be many dissenters in
Outside the church, in the wall, I observed a tablet with the
following inscription in English.
Here lieth interred the body of Ann, wife of Robert Paston, who
deceased the sixth day of October, Anno Domini.
"You seem struck with that writing?" said Pritchard, observing that
I stood motionless, staring at the tablet.
"The name of Paston," said I, "struck me; it is the name of a
village in my own native district, from which an old family, now
almost extinct, derived its name. How came a Paston into Ynys Fon?
Are there any people bearing that name at present in these parts?"
"Not that I am aware," said Pritchard,
"I wonder who his wife Ann was?" said I, "from the style of that
tablet she must have been a considerable person."
"Perhaps she was the daughter of the Lewis family of Llan Dyfnant,"
said Pritchard; "that's an old family and a rich one. Perhaps he
came from a distance and saw and married a daughter of the Lewis of
Dyfnant - more than one stranger has done so. Lord Vivian came
from a distance and saw and married a daughter of the rich Lewis of
I shook honest Pritchard by the hand, thanked him for his kindness
and wished him farewell, whereupon he gave mine a hearty squeeze,
thanking me for my custom.
"Which is my way," said I, "to Pen Caer Gybi?"
"You must go about a mile on the Bangor road, and then turning to
the right pass through Penmynnydd, but what takes you to Holyhead?"
"I wish to see," said I, "the place where Cybi the tawny saint
preached and worshipped. He was called tawny because from his
frequent walks in the blaze of the sun his face had become much
sun-burnt. This is a furiously hot day, and perhaps by the time I
get to Holyhead, I may be so sun-burnt as to be able to pass for
Moelfre - Owain Gwynedd - Church of Penmynnydd - The Rose of Mona.
LEAVING Pentraeth Coch I retraced my way along the Bangor road till
I came to the turning on the right. Here I diverged from the
aforesaid road, and proceeded along one which led nearly due west;
after travelling about a mile I stopped, on the top of a little
hill; cornfields were on either side, and in one an aged man was
reaping close to the road; I looked south, west, north and east; to
the south was the Snowdon range far away, with the Wyddfa just
discernible; to the west and north was nothing very remarkable, but
to the east or rather north-east, was mountain Lidiart and the tall
hill confronting it across the bay.
"Can you tell me," said I to the old reaper, "the name of that bald
hill, which looks towards Lidiart?"
"We call that hill Moelfre," said the old man desisting from his
labour, and touching his hat.
"Dear me," said I; "Moelfre, Moelfre!"
"Is there anything wonderful in the name, sir?" said the old man
"There is nothing wonderful in the name," said I, "which merely
means the bald hill, but it brings wonderful recollections to my
mind. I little thought when I was looking from the road near
Pentraeth Coch yesterday on that hill, and the bay and strand below
it, and admiring the tranquillity which reigned over all, that I
was gazing upon the scene of one of the most tremendous conflicts
recorded in history or poetry."
"Dear me," said the old reaper; "and whom may it have been between?
the French and English, I suppose."
"No," said I; "it was fought between one of your Welsh kings, the
great Owain Gwynedd, and certain northern and Irish enemies of
"Only think," said the old man, "and it was a fierce battle, sir?"
"It was, indeed," said I; "according to the words of a poet, who
described it, the Menai could not ebb on account of the torrent of
blood which flowed into it, slaughter was heaped upon slaughter,
shout followed shout, and around Moelfre a thousand war flags
"Well, sir," said the old man, "I never before heard anything about
it, indeed I don't trouble my head with histories, unless they be
"Are you a Churchman?" said I.
"No," said the old man, shortly; "I am a Methodist."
"I belong to the Church," said I.
"So I should have guessed, sir, by your being so well acquainted
with pennillion and histories. Ah, the Church. . . . ."
"This is dreadfully hot weather, said I, "and I should like to
offer you sixpence for ale, but as I am a Churchman I suppose you
would not accept it from my hands."
"The Lord forbid, sir," said the old man, "that I should be so
uncharitable! If your honour chooses to give me sixpence, I will
receive it willingly. Thank your honour! Well, I have often said
there is a great deal of good in the Church of England."
I once more looked at the hill which overlooked the scene of Owen
Gwynedd's triumph over the united forces of the Irish Lochlanders
and Normans, and then after inquiring of the old man whether I was
in the right direction for Penmynnydd, and finding that I was, I
set off at a great pace, singing occasionally snatches of Black
Robin's ode in praise of Anglesey, amongst others the following
"Bread of the wholesomest is found
In my mother-land of Anglesey;
Friendly bounteous men abound
In Penmynnydd of Anglesey."
I reached Penmynnydd, a small village consisting of a few white
houses and a mill. The meaning of Penmynnydd is literally the top
of a hill. The village does not stand on a hill, but the church
which is at some distance, stands on one, or rather on a hillock.
And it is probable from the circumstance of the church standing on
a hillock, that the parish derives its name. Towards the church
after a slight glance at the village, I proceeded with hasty steps,
and was soon at the foot of the hillock. A house, that of the
clergyman, stands near the church, on the top of the hill. I
opened a gate, and entered a lane which seemed to lead up to the
As I was passing some low buildings, probably offices pertaining to
the house, a head was thrust from a doorway, which stared at me.
It was a strange hirsute head, and probably looked more strange and
hirsute than it naturally was, owing to its having a hairy cap upon
"Good day," said I.
"Good day, sar," said the head, and in a moment more a man of
middle stature, about fifty, in hairy cap, shirt-sleeves, and green
apron round his waist, stood before me. He looked the beau-ideal
of a servant of all work.
"Can I see the church?" said I.
"Ah, you want to see the church," said honest Scrub. "Yes, sar!
you shall see the church. You go up road there past church - come
to house, knock at door - say what you want - and nice little girl
show you church. Ah, you quite right to come and see church - fine
tomb there and clebber man sleeping in it with his wife, clebber
man that - Owen Tiddir; married great queen - dyn clebber iawn."
Following the suggestions of the man of the hairy cap I went round
the church and knocked at the door of the house, a handsome
parsonage. A nice little servant-girl presently made her
appearance at the door, of whom I inquired whether I could see the
"Certainly, sir," said she; "I will go for the key and accompany
She fetched the key and away we went to the church. It is a
venerable chapel-like edifice, with a belfry towards the west; the
roof sinking by two gradations, is lower at the eastern or altar
end, than at the other. The girl, unlocking the door, ushered me
into the interior.
"Which is the tomb of Tudor?" said I to the pretty damsel.
"There it is, sir," said she, pointing to the north side of the
church; "there is the tomb of Owen Tudor."
Beneath a low-roofed arch lay sculptured in stone on an altar tomb,
the figures of a man and woman; that of the man in armour; that of
the woman in graceful drapery. The male figure lay next the wall.
"And you think," said I to the girl; "that yonder figure is that of
"Yes, sir," said the girl; "yon figure is that of Owen Tudor; the
other is that of his wife, the great queen; both their bodies rest
I forbore to say that the figures were not those of Owen Tudor and
the great queen, his wife; and I forbore to say that their bodies
did not rest in that church, nor anywhere in the neighbourhood, for
I was unwilling to dispel a pleasing delusion. The tomb is
doubtless a tomb of one of the Tudor race, and of a gentle partner
of his, but not of the Rose of Mona and Catherine of France. Her
bones rest in some corner of Westminster's noble abbey; his moulder
amongst those of thousands of others, Yorkists and Lancastrians,
under the surface of the plain, where Mortimer's Cross once stood,
that plain on the eastern side of which meanders the murmuring Lug;
that noble plain, where one of the hardest battles which ever
blooded English soil was fought; where beautiful young Edward
gained a crown, and old Owen lost a head, which when young had been
the most beautiful of heads, which had gained for him the
appellation of the Rose of Anglesey, and which had captivated the
glances of the fair daughter of France, the widow of Monmouth's
Harry, the immortal victor of Agincourt.
Nevertheless, long did I stare at that tomb which though not that
of the Rose of Mona and his queen, is certainly the tomb of some
mighty one of the mighty race of Theodore. Then saying something
in Welsh to the pretty damsel, at which she started, and putting
something into her hand, at which she curtseyed, I hurried out of
Mental Excitation - Land of Poets - The Man in Grey - Drinking
Healths - The Greatest Prydydd - Envy - Welshmen not Hogs -
Gentlemanly Feeling - What Pursuit? - Tell him to Walk Up - Editor
of the TIMES - Careful Wife - Departure.
I REGAINED the high road by a short cut, which I discovered, across
a field. I proceeded rapidly along for some time. My mind was
very much excited: I was in the birthplace of the mighty Tudors -
I had just seen the tomb of one of them; I was also in the land of
the bard; a country which had produced Gwalchmai who sang the
triumphs of Owain, and him who had sung the Cowydd of Judgment,
Gronwy Owen. So no wonder I was excited. On I went reciting
bardic snatches connected with Anglesey. At length I began
repeating Black Robin's ode in praise of the island, or rather my
own translation of it, executed more than thirty years before,
which amongst others, contains the following lines:-
"Twelve sober men the muses woo,
Twelve sober men in Anglesey,
Dwelling at home, like patriots true,
In reverence for Anglesey."
"Oh," said I, after I had recited that stanza, "what would I not
give to see one of those sober patriotic bards, or at least one of
their legitimate successors, for by this time no doubt, the sober
poets, mentioned by Black Robin, are dead. That they left
legitimate successors who can doubt? for Anglesey is never to be
without bards. Have we not the words, not of Robin the Black, but
Huw the Red to that effect?
"'Brodir, gnawd ynddi prydydd;
Heb ganu ni bu ni bydd.'
"That is: a hospitable country, in which a poet is a thing of
course. It has never been and will never be without song."
Here I became silent, and presently arrived at the side of a little
dell or ravine, down which the road led, from east to west. The
northern and southern sides of this dell were precipitous. Beneath
the southern one stood a small cottage. Just as I began to descend
the eastern side, two men began to descend the opposite one, and it
so happened that we met at the bottom of the dingle, just before
the house, which bore a sign, and over the door of which was an
inscription to the effect that ale was sold within. They saluted
me; I returned their salutation, and then we all three stood still,
looking at one another. One of the men was rather a tall figure,
about forty, dressed in grey, or pepper-and-salt, with a cap of
some kind on his head, his face was long and rather good-looking,
though slightly pock-broken. There was a peculiar gravity upon it.
The other person was somewhat about sixty - he was much shorter
than his companion, and much worse dressed - he wore a hat that had
several holes in it, a dusty rusty black coat, much too large for
him; ragged yellow velveteen breeches, indifferent fustian gaiters,
and shoes, cobbled here and there, one of which had rather an ugly
bulge by the side near the toes. His mouth was exceedingly wide,
and his nose remarkably long; its extremity of a deep purple; upon
his features was a half-simple smile or leer; in his hand was a
long stick. After we had all taken a full view of one another I
said in Welsh, addressing myself to the man in grey, "Pray may I
take the liberty of asking the name of this place."
"I believe you are an Englishman, sir," said the man in grey,
speaking English, "I will therefore take the liberty of answering
your question in the English tongue. The name of this place is
"Thank you," said I; "you are quite right with regard to my being
an Englishman, perhaps you are one yourself?"
"Sir," said the man in grey, "I have not the honour to be so. I am
a native of the small island in which we are."
"Small," said I, "but famous, particularly for producing
"That's very true indeed, sir," said the man in grey, drawing
himself up; "it is particularly famous for producing illustrious
"There was Owen Tudor?" said I.
"Very true," said the man in grey, "his tomb is in the church a
little way from hence."
"Then," said I, "there was Gronwy Owen, one of the greatest bards
that ever lived. Out of reverence to his genius I went yesterday
to see the place of his birth."
"Sir," said the man in grey, "I should be sorry to leave you
without enjoying your conversation at some length. In yonder house
they sell good ale, perhaps you will not be offended if I ask you
to drink some with me and my friend?"
"You are very kind," said I, "I am fond of good ale and fonder
still of good company - suppose we go in?"
We went into the cottage, which was kept by a man and his wife,
both of whom seemed to be perfectly well acquainted with my two new
friends. We sat down on stools, by a clean white table in a little
apartment with a clay floor - notwithstanding the heat of the
weather, the little room was very cool and pleasant owing to the
cottage being much protected from the sun by its situation. The
man in grey called for a jug of ale, which was presently placed
before us along with three glasses. The man in grey having filled
the glasses from the jug which might contain three pints, handed
one to me, another to his companion, and then taking the third
drank to my health. I drank to his and that of his companion; the
latter, after nodding to us both, emptied his at a draught, and
then with a kind of half-fatuous leer, exclaimed, "Da iawn, very
The ale, though not very good, was cool and neither sour nor
bitter; we then sat for a moment or two in silence, my companions
on one side of the table, and I on the other. After a little time
the man in grey looking at me said:
"Travelling I suppose in Anglesey for pleasure?"
"To a certain extent," said I; "but my chief object in visiting
Anglesey was to view the birth-place of Gronwy Owen; I saw it
yesterday, and am now going to Holyhead chiefly with a view to see
"And how came you, an Englishman, to know anything of Gronwy Owen?"
"I studied Welsh literature when young," said I, "and was much
struck with the verses of Gronwy: he was one of the great bards of
Wales, and certainly the most illustrious genius that Anglesey ever
"A great genius, I admit," said the man in grey, "but pardon me,
not exactly the greatest Ynis Fon has produced. The race of the
bards is not quite extinct in the island, sir. I could name one or
two - however, I leave others to do so - but I assure you the race
of bards is not quite extinct here."
"I am delighted to hear you say so," said I, "and make no doubt
that you speak correctly, for the Red Bard has said that Mona is
never to be without a poet - but where am I to find one? just
before I saw you I was wishing to see a poet; I would willingly
give a quart of ale to see a genuine Anglesey poet."
"You would, sir, would you?" said the man in grey, lifting his head
on high, and curling his upper lip.
"I would, indeed," said I, "my greatest desire at present is to see
an Anglesey poet, but where am I to find one?"
"Where is he to find one?" said he of the tattered hat; "where's
the gwr boneddig to find a prydydd? No occasion to go far, he,
"Well" said I, "but where is he?"
"Where is he? why, there," said he, pointing to the man in grey -
"the greatest prydydd in tir Fon or the whole world."
"Tut, tut, hold your tongue," said the man in grey.
"Hold my tongue, myn Diawl, not I - I speak the truth," then
filling his glass he emptied it exclaiming, "I'll not hold, my
tongue. The greatest prydydd in the whole world."
"Then I have the honour to be seated with a bard of Anglesey?" said
I, addressing the man in grey.
"Tut, tut," said he of the grey suit.
"The greatest prydydd in the whole world," iterated he of the
bulged shoe, with a slight hiccup, as he again filled his glass.
"Then," said I, "I am truly fortunate."
"Sir," said the man in grey, "I had no intention of discovering
myself, but as my friend here has betrayed my secret, I confess
that I am a bard of Anglesey - my friend is an excellent individual
but indiscreet, highly indiscreet, as I have frequently told him,"
and here he looked most benignantly reproachful at him of the
"The greatest prydydd," said the latter, "the greatest prydydd that
- " and leaving his sentence incomplete he drank off the ale which
he had poured into his glass.
"Well," said I, "I cannot sufficiently congratulate myself for
having met an Anglesey bard - no doubt a graduate one. Anglesey,
was always famous for graduate bards, for what says Black Robin?
"'Though Arvon graduate bards can boast,
Yet more canst thou, O Anglesey.'"
"I suppose by graduate bard you mean one who has gained the chair
at an eisteddfod?" said the man in grey. "No, I have never gained
the silver chair - I have never had an opportunity. I have been
kept out of the eisteddfodau. There is such a thing as envy, sir -
but there is one comfort, that envy will not always prevail."
"No," said I; "envy will not always prevail - envious scoundrels
may chuckle for a time at the seemingly complete success of the
dastardly arts to which they have recourse, in order to crush merit
- but Providence is not asleep. All of a sudden they see their
supposed victim on a pinnacle far above their reach. Then there is
weeping, and gnashing of teeth with a vengeance, and the long,
melancholy howl. Oh, there is nothing in this world which gives
one so perfect an idea of retribution as the long melancholy howl
of the disappointed envious scoundrel when he sees his supposed
victim smiling on an altitude far above his reach."
"Sir," said the man in grey, "I am delighted to hear you. Give me
your hand, your honourable hand. Sir, you have now felt the hand-
grasp of a Welshman, to say nothing of an Anglesey bard, and I have
felt that of a Briton, perhaps a bard, a brother, sir? Oh, when I
first saw your face out there in the dyffryn, I at once recognised
in it that of a kindred spirit, and I felt compelled to ask you to
drink. Drink, sir! but how is this? the jug is empty - how is
this? - Oh, I see - my friend sir, though an excellent individual,
is indiscreet, sir - very indiscreet. Landlord, bring this moment
another jug of ale!"
"The greatest prydydd," stuttered he of bulged shoe - "the greatest
prydydd - Oh - "
"Tut, tut," said the man in grey.
"I speak the truth and care for no one," said he of the tattered
hat. "I say the greatest prydydd. If any one wishes to gainsay me
let him show his face and Myn Diawl - "
The landlord brought the ale, placed it on the table, and then
stood as if waiting for something.
"I suppose you are waiting to be paid," said I; "what is your
"Sixpence for this jug, and sixpence for the other," said the
I took out a shilling and said: "It is but right that I should pay
half of the reckoning, and as the whole affair is merely a shilling
matter, I should feel obliged in being permitted to pay the whole,
so, landlord, take the shilling and remember you are paid." I then
delivered the shilling to the landlord, but had no sooner done so
than the man in grey, starting up in violent agitation, wrested the
money from the other, and flung it down on the table before me
"No, no, that will never do. I invited you in here to drink, and
now you would pay for the liquor which I ordered. You English are
free with your money, but you are sometimes free with it at the
expense of people's feelings. I am a Welshman, and I know
Englishmen consider all Welshmen hogs. But we are not hogs, mind
you! for we have little feelings which hogs have not. Moreover, I
would have you know that we have money, though perhaps not so much
as the Saxon." Then putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled
out a shilling, and giving it to the landlord, said in Welsh: "Now
thou art paid, and mayst go thy ways till thou art again called
for. I do not know why thou didst stay after thou hadst put down
the ale. Thou didst know enough of me to know that thou didst run
no risk of not being paid."
"But," said I, after the landlord had departed, "I must insist on
being my share. Did you not hear me say that I would give a quart
of ale to see a poet?"
"A poet's face," said the man in grey, "should be common to all,
even like that of the sun. He is no true poet, who would keep his
face from the world."
"But," said I, "the sun frequently hides his head from the world,
behind a cloud."
"Not so," said the man in grey. "The sun does not hide his face,
it is the cloud that hides it. The sun is always glad enough to be
seen, and so is the poet. If both are occasionally hid, trust me
it is no fault of theirs. Bear that in mind; and now pray take up
"The man is a gentleman," thought I to myself, "whether a poet or
not; but I really believe him to be a poet; were he not he could
hardly talk in the manner I have just heard him."
The man in grey now filled my glass, his own, and that of his
companion. The latter emptied his in a minute, not forgetting
first to say "the best prydydd in all the world!" the man in grey
was also not slow to empty his own. The jug now passed rapidly
between my two friends, for the poet seemed determined to have his
full share of the beverage. I allowed the ale in my glass to
remain untasted, and began to talk about the bards, and to quote
from their works. I soon found that the man in grey knew quite as
much of the old bards and their works as myself. In one instance
he convicted me of a mistake.
I had quoted those remarkable lines in which an old bard, doubtless
seeing the Menai Bridge by means of second sight, says:- "I will
pass to the land of Mona notwithstanding the waters of the Menai,
without waiting for the ebb" - and was feeling not a little proud
of my erudition, when the man in grey after looking at me for a
moment fixedly, asked me the name of the bard who composed them.
"Sion Tudor," I replied.
"There you are wrong," said the man in grey; "his name was not Sion
Tudor but Robert Vychan, in English, Little Bob. Sion Tudor wrote
an englyn on the Skerries whirlpool in the Menai; but it was Little
Bob who wrote the stanza in which the future bridge over the Menai
is hinted at."
"You are right," said I, "you are right. Well, I am glad that all
song and learning are not dead in Ynis Fon."
"Dead," said the man in grey, whose features began to be rather
flushed, "they are neither dead nor ever will be. There are plenty
of poets in Anglesey - why, I can mention twelve, and amongst them
and not the least - pooh, what was I going to say? twelve there
are, genuine Anglesey poets, born there, and living there for the
love they bear their native land. When I say they all live in
Anglesey, perhaps I am not quite accurate, for one of the dozen
does not exactly live in Anglesey, but just over the bridge. He is
an elderly man, but his awen, I assure you, is as young and
vigorous as ever."
"I shouldn't be at all surprised," said I, "if he was a certain
ancient gentleman, from whom I obtained information yesterday, with
respect to the birth-place of Gronwy Owen."
"Very likely," said the man in grey; "well, if you have seen him
consider yourself fortunate, for he is a genuine bard, and a
genuine son of Anglesey, notwithstanding he lives across the
"If he is the person I allude to," said I, "I am doubly fortunate,
for I have seen two bards of Anglesey."
"Sir," said the man in grey, "I consider myself quite as fortunate,
in having met such a Saxon as yourself, as it is possible for you
to do, in having seen two bards of Ynis Fon."
"I suppose you follow some pursuit besides bardism?" said I; "I
suppose you farm?"
"I do not farm," said the man in grey, "I keep an inn."
"Keep an inn?" said I.
"Yes," said the man in grey. "The - Arms at L-."
"Sure," said I, "inn-keeping and bardism are not very cognate
"You are wrong," said the man in grey; "I believe the awen, or
inspiration, is quite as much at home in the bar as in the barn,
perhaps more. It is that belief which makes me tolerably satisfied
with my position and prevents me from asking Sir Richard to give me
a farm instead of an inn."
"I suppose," said I, "that Sir Richard is your landlord?"
"He is," said the man in grey, "and a right noble landlord too."
"I suppose," said I, 'that he is right proud of his tenant?"
"He is," said the man in grey, "and I am proud of my landlord, and
will here drink his health. I have often said that if I were not
what I am, I should wish to be Sir Richard."
"You consider yourself his superior?" said I.
"Of course," said the man in grey - "a baronet is a baronet; but a
bard, is a bard you know - I never forget what I am, and the
respect due to my sublime calling. About a month ago I was seated
in an upper apartment in a fit of rapture. There was a pen in my
hand, and paper before me on the table, and likewise a jug of good
ale, for I always find that the awen is most prodigal of her
favours when a jug of good ale is before me. All of a sudden my
wife came running up, and told me that Sir Richard was below, and
wanted to speak to me. 'Tell him to walk up,' said I. 'Are you
mad?' said my wife. 'Don't you know who Sir Richard is?' 'I do,'
said I, 'a baronet is a baronet, but a bard is a bard. Tell him to
walk up.' Well, my wife went and told Sir Richard that I was
writing, and could not come down, and that she hoped he would not
object to walk up. 'Certainly not; certainly not,' said Sir
Richard. 'I shall be only too happy to ascend to a genius on his
hill. You may be proud of such a husband, Mrs W.' And here it
will be as well to tell you that my name is W.-J. W. of -. Sir
Richard then came up, and I received him with gravity and
politeness. I did not rise of course, for I never forget myself a
moment, but I told him to sit down, and added, that after I had
finished the pennill I was engaged upon, I would speak to him.
Well, Sir Richard smiled and sat down, and begged me not to hurry
myself, for that he could wait. So I finished the pennill,
deliberately, mind you, for I did not forget who I was, and then
turning to Sir Richard entered upon business with him."
"I suppose Sir Richard is a very good-tempered man?" said I.
"I don't know," said the man in grey. "I have seen Sir Richard in
a devil of a passion, but never with me - no, no! Trust Sir
Richard for not riding the high horse with me - a baronet is a
baronet, but a bard is a bard; and that Sir Richard knows."
"The greatest prydydd," said the man of the tattered hat, emptying
the last contents of the jug into his glass, "the greatest prydydd
that - "
"Well," said I, "you appear to enjoy very great consideration, and
yet you were talking just now of being ill-used."
"So I have been," said the man in grey, "I have been kept out of
the eisteddfoddau - and then - what do you think? That fellow, the
editor of the TIMES - "
"Oh," said I, "if you have anything to do with the editor of the
TIMES you may, of course, expect nothing but shabby treatment, but
what business could you have with him?"
"Why I sent him some pennillion for insertion, and he did not
"Were they in Welsh or English?"
"In Welsh, of course."
"Well, then the man had some excuse for disregarding them - because
you know the TIMES is written in English."
"Oh, you mean the London TIMES," said the man in grey. "Pooh! I
did not allude to that trumpery journal, but the Liverpool TIMES,
the Amserau. I sent some pennillion to the editor for insertion
and he did not insert them. Peth a clwir cenfigen yn Saesneg?"
"We call cenfigen in English envy," said I; "but as I told you
before, envy will not always prevail."
"You cannot imagine how pleased I am with your company," said the
man in grey. "Landlord, landlord!"
"The greatest prydydd," said the man of the tattered hat, "the
"Pray don't order any more on my account," said I, "as you see my
glass is still full. I am about to start for Caer Gybi. Pray,
where are you bound for?"
"For Bangor," said the man in grey. "I am going to the market."
"Then I would advise you to lose no time," said I, "or you will
infallibly be too late; it must now be one o'clock."
"There is no market to-day," said the man in grey, "the market is
to-morrow, which is Saturday. I like to take things leisurely, on
which account, when I go to market, I generally set out the day
before, in order that I may enjoy myself upon the road. I feel
myself so happy here that I shall not stir till the evening. Now
pray stay with me and my friend till then."
"I cannot," said I, "if I stay longer here I shall never reach Caer
Gybi to-night. But allow me to ask whether your business at L-
will not suffer by your spending so much time on the road to
"My wife takes care of the business whilst I am away," said the man
in grey, "so it won't suffer much. Indeed it is she who chiefly
conducts the business of the inn. I spend a good deal of time from
home, for besides being a bard and inn-keeper, I must tell you I am
a horse-dealer and a jobber, and if I go to Bangor it is in the
hope of purchasing a horse or pig worth the money."
"And is your friend going to market too?" said I.
"My friend goes with me to assist me and bear me company. If I buy
a pig he will help me to drive it home; if a horse, he will get up
upon its back behind me. I might perhaps do without him, but I
enjoy his company highly. He is sometimes rather indiscreet, but I
do assure you he is exceedingly clever."
"The greatest prydydd," said the man of the bulged shoe, "the
greatest prydydd in the world."
"Oh, I have no doubt of his cleverness," said I, "from what I have
observed of him. Now before I go allow me to pay for your next jug
"I will do no such thing," said the man in grey. "No farthing do
you pay here for me or my friend either. But I will tell you what
you may do. I am, as I have told you, an inn-keeper as well as a
bard. By the time you get to L- you will be hot and hungry and in
need of refreshment, and if you think proper to patronise my house,
the - Arms, by taking your chop and pint there, you will oblige me.
Landlord, some more ale."
"The greatest prydydd," said he of the bulged shoe, "the greatest
prydydd - "
"I will most certainly patronise your house," said I to the man in
grey, and shaking him heartily by the hand I departed.
Inn at L- The Handmaid - The Decanter - Religious Gentleman -
Truly Distressing - Sententiousness - Way to Pay Bills.
I PROCEEDED on my way in high spirits indeed, having now seen not
only the tomb of the Tudors, but one of those sober poets for which
Anglesey has always been so famous. The country was pretty, with
here and there a hill, a harvest-field, a clump of trees or a
I soon reached L-, a small but neat town. "Where is the - Arms?"
said I to a man whom I met.
"Yonder, sir, yonder," said he, pointing to a magnificent structure
on the left.
I went in and found myself in a spacious hall. A good-looking
young woman in a white dress with a profusion of pink ribbons
confronted me with a curtsey. "A pint and a chop!" I exclaimed,
with a flourish of my hand and at the top of my voice. The damsel
gave a kind of start, and then, with something like a toss of the
head, led the way into a very large room, on the left, in which
were many tables, covered with snowy-white cloths, on which were
plates, knives and forks, the latter seemingly of silver, tumblers,
"I think you asked for a pint and a chop, sir?" said the damsel,
motioning me to sit down at one of the tables.
"I did," said I, as I sat down, "let them be brought with all
convenient speed, for I am in something of a hurry."
"Very well, sir," said the damsel, and then with another kind of
toss of the head, she went away, not forgetting to turn half round,
to take a furtive glance at me, before she went out of the door.
"Well," said I, as I looked at the tables, with their snowy-white
cloths, tumblers, wine-glasses and what not, and at the walls of
the room glittering with mirrors, "surely a poet never kept so
magnificent an inn before; there must be something in this fellow
besides the awen, or his house would never exhibit such marks of
prosperity and good taste - there must be something in this fellow;
though he pretends to be a wild erratic son of Parnassus, he must
have an eye to the main chance, a genius for turning the penny, or
rather the sovereign, for the accommodation here is no penny
accommodation, as I shall probably find. Perhaps, however, like
myself, he has an exceedingly clever wife who, whilst he is making
verses, or running about the country swigging ale with people in
bulged shoes, or buying pigs or glandered horses, looks after
matters at home, drives a swinging trade, and keeps not only
herself, but him respectable - but even in that event he must have
a good deal of common-sense in him, even like myself, who always
allows my wife to buy and sell, carry money to the bank, draw
cheques, inspect and pay tradesmen's bills, and transact all my
real business, whilst I myself pore over old books, walk about
shires, discoursing with gypsies, under hedgerows, or with sober
bards - in hedge ale-houses." I continued musing in this manner
until the handmaid made her appearance with a tray, on which were
covers and a decanter, which she placed before me. "What is that?"
said I, pointing to a decanter.
"Only a pint of sherry, sir," said she of the white dress and
"Dear me," said I, "I ordered no sherry, I wanted some ale - a pint
"You called for a pint, sir," said the handmaid, "but you mentioned
no ale, and I naturally supposed that a gentleman of your
appearance" - here she glanced at my dusty coat - "and speaking in
the tone you did, would not condescend to drink ale with his chop;
however, as it seems I have been mistaken, I can take away the
sherry and bring you the ale."
"Well, well," said I, "you can let the sherry remain; I do not like
sherry, and am very fond of ale, but you can let the wine remain;
upon the whole I am glad you brought it - indeed I merely came to
do a good turn to the master of the house."
"Thank you, sir," said the handmaid.
"Are you his daughter?" said I.
"Oh no, sir," said the handmaid reverently; "only his waiter."
"You may be proud to wait on him," said I.
"I am, sir," said the handmaid, casting down her eyes.
"I suppose he is much respected in the neighbourhood?" said I.
"Very much so, sir," said the damsel, "especially amidst the
"The connection," said I. "Ah, I see, he has extensive
consanguinity, most Welsh have. But," I continued, "there is such
a thing as envy in the world, and there are a great many malicious
people in the world, who speak against him."
"A great many, sir, but we take what they say from whence it
"You do quite right," said I. "Has your master written any poetry