Tuesday, February 12, 2008


The tiny village of LLanfairynghornwy is situated off the main road near the north coast of Anglesey. Unless you have business there you will probably never visit it as it is not on a road to anywhere in particular. Yet it has a claim to fame. The rector's wife (early 19th century) was a relative of Charles Darwin.

Rev James Williams became rector in his father's footsteps. His father, Rev John Williams had held the office of chaplain at Windsor. King George IV had been in Ireland and was on his way home from there. He stayed at Holyhead for a visit before continuing his journey home. Knowing the King was in Holyhead, John Williams petioned him on behalf of his son. His request was granted and Henry instructed the Bishop of Bangor that James was to succeed his father when the living became vacant.

The 19th was the century of church restoration and many architects were gainfully employed in designing the changes. Sadly for many, this was to render many churches and cathedrals less beautiful than before. But this was not the case at Llanfairynghornwy because the new rector took on the task himself and ensured the job was done with taste.

James and his wife arrived at his new home on a stormy day and when James took his bride down to the coast they had a great shock. A sailing ship called "Alert" was impaled on the rocks and helpless. She sank quickly and one hundred and forty souls were lost. The newly weds vowed there and then to provide the means for saving lives around Anglesey's treacherous coast. Through family and social connections, the rector raised the funds to buy and maintain a lifeboat which was kept at Cemlyn Bay. Frances, the rector's wife, painted watercolours and sold copies of a picture of the King landing at Holyhead from Ireland. In 1828 they had formed the Anglesey Association for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck.

Over 50 ships were lost off the shores of Anglesey in 1833. James Williams helped to design the lifeboats and the rocket launching equipment used. The Association lasted from 1829 till 1856 when it became part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. During that period over 400 lives were saved by Anglesey lifeboats. James himself was a winner of an RNLI Gold Medal for bravery for his work in rescuing lives from 2 ships. Frances herself was a great supporter of the movement. One day she sailed in the Cemlyn boat to the Skerries where the lighthouse keeper was ill. She ministered to him and returned to Anglesey, both passages being in rough seas.

They had a son, Owen Lloyd, who followed his father into the church and became rector of Boduan on the Llyn peninsular. Owen took charge of the lifeboats at Porthdinllaen and Abersoch and received bravery awards for his service.

A lesser known story of this village is the one that involved Dannie Lukie, a smuggler. One night Lukie was out in rough weather and found a ship in distress. The crew of three had abandoned ship and were rowing for the shore. On reaching them Lukie found a dead man and two boys very much alive. He took them to Mynachdy where lived Doctor Loyd, who cared for them until they recovered. One of the boys ended up working on the farm and he was called Evan Thomas. He took interest in Dr Lloyd's practice and accompanied him on his rounds. The boy showed a talent for mending broken bones and this ability grew as he became older.

Evan married and his son showed a talent for bone-setting as did other descendants and family members. The family practised on Anglesey, in Liverpool and in many other places. It is surprising how so much amazing talent and commitment should emanate from one small village in Anglesey.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The way to the tip

This photograph is of one of my favourite roads in Anglesey. It is a road I have travelled many times. When we arrived in Anglesey in September 2004 and unloaded all our goods and chattels we found a great many cardboard boxes to discard.
Back home in Milnrow, Rochdale, we would have taken them in the car over a period of time each time we went to the supermarket or visited the town centre in Rochdale. The facility we used in Rochdale was very well planned and consisted of a series of cliff edges in herringbone fashion. Over each one of these we could throw our rubbish. Some were specially marked for green refuse, metal, wood, etc. The entrance to the site had a bar to prevent lorries arriving and filling the skips with trade waste. One day I took Pauline's Ford Focus with a load of long items which protruded from the boot. This meant I had to leave the tailgate open. Not having tied it down, the tailgate was in an elevated position. As I passed through the tip gateway there was an almighty crash as the rear window smashed!
This waste facility in Rochdale was about 2.5 miles from our house in Milnrow. When we arrived in Anglesey we found that going to the tip with our excess rubbish was a journey of 30 miles there and back. So, whenever we had rubbish we loaded it into whichever car we were using to go to Bangor, Llanfairpwll or Menai Bridge. During the first few months we were engaged on many jobs as we made improvements to our bungalow and so it meant we were forever travelling the journey to the tip.
This was the down side. The up side was that we drove along this road on the final mile to the refuse tip. You can really get a move on down this tree lined lane because you can see so far ahead. If you see a vehicle travelling towards you there are numerous lay by passing places to stop in. Not only this but the road has a lovely smooth surface unblemished by reinstatements such as you encounter on the road from Milnrow to Rochdale. Once in leaf, the many different trees form a beautiful avenue throughout the late Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Since we came an old farmhouse has been transformed into a very attractive house with double garage and pretty gardens just before you arrive at the gate to the site. I remember the day when we had to stop and wait until some men had unloaded and then driven a huge excavator through a gap in the hedge to get onto a farm. Living in the country means you are required to have a great deal of patience as slower vehicles share the roads with you. Most tractor drivers pull into the occasional layby to allow the traffic to flow again. But I think that this photo shows that we have the most pretty route of anywhere for a road to the refuse tip.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Holy Wells of Anglesey

Recently, some members of U3A Anglesey Branch have formed an Archaeological Group. For our first project - suggested by the Gwynedd Arcaeological Trust - we are going to locate and record all details surrounding the Holy Wells of Anglesey. U3A is an organisation formed to give retired men and women an opportunity to feed their minds. Its full title is University of the Third Age. The first age is that of child hood and education; the second is that of work and adulthood; the third age is that of retirement. The word, University, is used in its earlier meaning which did not require exams and qualifications.

The photo at the top of this blog is of St Sieriol's Well close to Penmon Priory, a short distance from Beaumaris. The well is now sheltered by an old brick structure. The brick structure probably dates from the 18th century. Close by can be seen the old foundations which are all that is left of Sieriol's cell.

Springs were sacred to the ancient Celts, and were often used by the early Christians for baptisms. Indeed, we know of at least one holy well near Cemaes Bay which is actually a stream. It may be that, as we progress, we shall discover more wells which take the form of a small stream.

During Spring and Summer this year, our group will be travelling all over the island in search of the many wells of which we have heard. If you happen to know the location of any of these wells it would be appreciated if you would get in touch with us to help us find them and record details of them. If you have any information please email me as follows:


Some of the ancient wells are said to have certain healing qualities. The well of St Gallgo, just off the A5025 and to the south west of the church, is said to be good for healing and a pin thrown into the water was once thought to bring good luck. On the other hand, near St Gredifael's church, a mile from the village of Penmynydd, nthere is a well which is said to be able to cure warts after they have first been pricked by a pin! So, you see, Anglesey turns out to be a healthy place to live.

I have never come across any place in England or Wales that is quite so full of prehistoric remains and monuments as Anglesey. For the most part this was brought about by people crossing from Ireland to see what opportunities existed on this side of the water. For instance, the passage burial chamber Barclodiad y Gawres at Porth Trecastell is constructed in the style of very similar monuments found in Ireland. As for standing stones, the island abounds with them. Sadly, although we have so many standing stones we know absolutely nothing about them as is the case elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Only in the case of those found in circles have archaeologists been able to provide an interpretation.