This is not one of the best known Welsh tales but is one worth telling.
It happened in late medieval times on the east coast of Ynys Mon, a hole-ridden boat with no mast, oars or rudder drifted in on an incoming tide at Red Wharf Bay. It was not welcomed by the locals, who did not want to have their privacy and way of life upturned by this fearful-looking boatload of a bedraggled crew.
But, before they could return the vessel to the open sea, the leader of the women aboard struck the salt beach with her stick (or was it her wand) from which a fountain of fresh water gushed.
Impressed, bewildered or perhaps from fright, the villagers agreed to let them stay, provided they settle outside the village.
This was, without doubt the worse mistake they made in their lives.
They were soon frightened into submission by their curses, threats, spells and oaths. The women of this tribe never paid for anything in the shops, whilst in the market nobody bid against them. Their menfolk were renown for their thieving and smuggling. When confronted or pursued by the villagers or revenue men they released swarms of deadly black flies from their neck scarves, causing the pursuers to flee whilst they carried on their criminal activities.
There were two particularly famous witches amongst them, Bella Fawr (big Bella) and Siani Bwt (little Betty) who was less than four feet tall with two thumbs on her left hand that twitched like the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They say that her descendants still live in the village. Bella was very large and very ugly. As leader of this tribe of witches, she was known for her terrifying curses calling for the neck bones to break, also shape-shifting and spells on farming livestock. According to legend she met her match in Goronwy ap Tudor, a local farmer who stood toe-to-toe, went curse-for-curse, oath-to-oath with her.
It all started when he noticed his cows were giving less and less milk. Suspecting the witches , whilst hidden in a hedge, he saw a hare going from cow to cow suckling their teats until they were drained of all milk. Being prepared for witch trouble, having his musket loaded with silver pieces, since normal shot will not penetrate a witches body. He fired at the hare, wounding it in the legs. It limped and hopped off, followed by the farmer all the way back to Bella’s hovel.
There – changing back to human form, Bella was bleeding from the legs. Goronwy knowing that he had found the culprit went to collect the black fungus found on oak trees, called Witches Butter. He moulded it into the shape of a doll, went back to Bella asking her to undo her curses and spells but she refused. So he stuck pins in the effigy calling out Bella’s name, eventually in extreme pain from this spell she relented and was forced to pronounce a blessing removing all curses from the livestock, the farmer and his kind.
And they were never troubled by the witches again.