In the early seventeen hundreds the Welsh Circulating Schools was set up to encourage ordinary folk learn to read. It was argued that where as many families had bibles as heirlooms and registers of ancestry–but few could read them. At the same time, Thomas Charles, a charismatic minister of Bala,went about providing all the Sunday Schools with an adequate supply of bibles.
Then of course there was Mary Jones, a young girl of humble stock, who with her bible, or with her want of one has become synonymous with the quest for scriptural knowledge and the right to read. She had learnt her letters at one of the circulating schools in Gynolwyn and regularly read one of the bibles in her Sunday school. But wanting one of her own she strived and saved up for six years the princely sum of three shillings and sixpence to buy one from Thomas Charles. The fifteen year old walked barefoot the twenty five miles from her home in Llanfihangel -Y-Pennant to Bala. When she arrived the ministers cupboard was bare–the copies ordered from London had not yet arrived. He was so moved by her determination and seeing her bleeding feet that he found lodgings for her until the books arrived. Heathen gave her three for the price of one ( perhaps, the supermarkets today derived their strategy of buy one get two free from this story, Ha ha! ) Tradition says that she was so excited by her purchase, that she sung hymns all the way home, even making up a few verses of her own. Thomas Charles was so moved by this encounter that he formed the British and Foreign Bible Society to ensure that anyone any where would have access to this literature. Two of the bibles given Mary are still in existence, the third has been lost. One is in the National Library of Wales and the one that she actually used, containing her own handwriting is treasured by the University of Cambridge.
Which goes to show that no matter how humble you are you can be valued in the realms of learning and can inspire the whole world.
Mary later married a weaver Thomas Lewis and lived and died in the village of Bryn – Crog near Tywyn where her cottage and grave can be seen. There is a monument in the ruins of the cottage where she grew up in Llanfihangel – y -Pennant.
Finally can I take this opportunity to wish all my readers Goodwill and Joy this Christmas