SOME GHOSTLY TALES OF WALES 

Do you believe in the paranormal?

All is not what it seems?

Perhaps these tales will make you think again!

SKER HOUSE, PORTHCAWL

          Located to the North West of Porthcawl, adjacent to the Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club, the dunes and sea of the Bristol Channel.  It stands forlorn, subject to the vagaries of the elements,natural and unnatural.

Quite a frightening place.

          It dates back to its origin as a monastic grange of Neath Abbey.

In medieval times it was subject to the violent carnage against the Catholics.

It is reported to be one of the most haunted places in Wales.With telling someone of screeching noises and the seeing of dark shadows in the rooms where the so called ‘Maid of Sker’ was locked away in her parental prison.

In the handed down story, Elizabeth Williams, daughter of tenant farmer Isaac Williams liked to go dancing in Kenfig Town Hall ( now The Prince of Wales Inn )

There she met the resident harpist and they fell in love.

Elizabeth’s father was furious she had been associating with the lowly Thomas , convinced that he was not good enough for his daughter.

Against his wishes the couple continued to see each other and planned to elope. Thomas hired a horse and carriage, but whilst approaching the farmhouse the dogs made such a noise that he fled.

Isaac Williams was angered by this turn of events locked Elizabeth in her room preventing her from ever leaving the house.

Love unrequited,hopefully awaiting her lover , she died of a broken heart.

Through her haunting, her spirit,her sadness, grief, she extols disappointmement for her lover, the strolling player, the harpist.

          Another ghost haunting Sker House is the angry spirit of the Captain of the French Mrechant Ship, Le Vainqueur wrecked on Sker Rocks. Much annoyed by his early death and the shameful plundering by the local wreckers. This very angry spirit takes out with his ranting behaviour on Isaac Williams who is suspected o playing a leading role in the wrecking of his ship.

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MARGAM CASTLE

A Tudor Gothic Mansion, lies only a few miles West of Sker House is one of the scariest with its haunting 

For most is another angry spirit, that of Robert Scott, the Estates gamekeepers.Ful of rage because of his unjust death by a poacher. His spirit often seen coming down the Gothic staircase, ranting, slamming doors, poltergeist activity and emitting a forbodding presence.

There has also been reports of Victoian dressed , mischevious and giggling children moving objects drifting in and out of the long corridors.

The so called Castle is also haunted by the ghost of the ‘White Lady’who once worked in the castle before taking her life and that of her unborn child. Her suicide is surrounded by mystery, perhaps the child’s father was of the aristocracy making the haunting spirit  an unpleasant encounter in any room she may enter.

I leave to the last my favourite Castle ghost story,told me by Father in Law, Sidney Hodson who was the Butler and Head of the Household at Margam Castle during the tenure of Captain Fletcher.

He was not one to display creative imaginations it was very down to earth,in fact pragmatism personified.

He described how on his way home from the Castle to East Lodge, his family home. He was forced off the drive way by a white carriage pulled by white horses with cockades on their heads.They came out of the darkness and quickly disappeared once past.

This ghostly experience happened to him more than once.

From the description of the carriage and the cockaded horses, a hearse in a  hurry to collect and get rid of a body of an unexplained death at th castle,perhaps.

A true story, or, too much port from the butlers pantry? You decide!

These are just a few ghostly tales of Wales. There are many more from this much haunted country. Visit if you dare!,                                                                                                   

  

WILLIAM PRICE

One of the most controversial figures of modern times.
Born near Caerphilly in 1800 , the son of an ordained priest of the Church of England and a lowly servant girl. His ill tempered behaviour was thought to be an undiagnosed mental illness.
Like the Rev. Price, who had attended Jesus College, Oxford, William was an apt and successful student, qualifying as a Doctor in London. But his eccentricities suggested to many that he had also inherited hi father’s mental illness.
Eccentric he truly was. Going for long walks in the nude , or dressed as an Arch Druid, that he had proclaimed himself to be, with a fox fur hat , emerald green clothing and carrying a staff with a crescent moon top. He refused to treat smokers and considered marriage to be wrong as it enslaved women, and he advocated and practiced free love.
He was a convinced republican, Welsh Nationalist, enthusiastically joined the Chartists and was forced to flee to France after the failure of the Newport Rising in 1839.
Many years later after his return, now in his eighties, he fell in be with a girl many decades younger. Their son he baptised Jesu Grist, just to enrage local churchgoers.
Jesus died in infancy, prompting the act for which he is most remembered.
On 18th Jan 1884, he burnt the child’s body on a Llantrisant hillside. Price believed that cremation was an ancient Celtic practice, where as burial of a corpse polluted the ground.
Price was prosecuted but the court ruled in his favour. Hence the legality of cremation once and for all
He is now commemorated in the town of Llantrisant with a Plaque, a Statue and a Memorial Garden.

GERALD CAMBRENSIS

Gerald of Wales, a learned scholar and a churchman of note, was born Gerald de Barri in Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire in 1146.The son of the Norman Knight William de Barri and Angharad, daughter of Nest and granddaughter of Rhys ap Twdwr, Prince of South Wales. Nest’s husband was the Norman Knight , Gerald de Windsor, Castelian of Pembroke. One of his mother’s brothers was David Fitzgerald, Bishop of St. David’s. This family tree did no favours for Gerald, the Normans always considered him too Welsh and the Welsh thought him too Norman.
His childhood was supposedly happy and it is said that his father and his uncle encouraged him to study and to see himself as a future churchman. It is said that whilst playing on the local beaches he built sand churches and not sand castles like his friends.
He was educated at the Benedictine Abbey, Gloucester, where he excelled, became fluent in Latin and French. Being an articulate student we can only assume that he was competent in Welsh , there is no evidence of his fluency in his native tongue.He continued his education in Paris , first as a student and later as a lecturer.
Gerald’s dream was the Bishopric of St. David’s along with the ambition to its metropolitan status and to free the Church in Wales from its subservience to Canterbury.
He became Archdeacon of Brecon, a title he held for many years. Turning down offers of Bishoprics of Bangor and Llandaff. Every occasion St. David’s became available, Gerald was the choice of its Canons and Chapter but either the King, fearing his family connections with the Welsh Princes or Canterbury fearing his reforming reputation would veto his appointment. The last time this happened, Gerald to everyone’s astonishment accepted their decision without demur and at the same time resigned his Archdeaconry of Brecon.
Gerald lived for another twenty years, devoting himself to literary composition producing book after book written in his loved Latin. The best being ‘ The Journey Through Wales’ and’ The Description of Wales’.
Gerald of Wales was the forerunner of present day P.R. And was known,respected and had access to Popes and Princes throughout Europe.
He described himself as strikingly handsome, strongly convinced of his own ability and importance. His tongue could be very sharp and it’s said that the ink he dipped his quill pen was often mixed with gall.
Until old age weakened him he was resolute, elf regarding and self admiring. He was always and remained a reforming churchman . The final accolade on Geraldus Cambrensis when a fellow academic described him as ‘one of the most learned men of a learned age’

THE MARTYR TYDFiL (MERTHyR TYDFiL)

This tale takes place in an area that became ravaged by the greed of the iron masters in the 18th century. It was how Bos would have imagined it if he wanted to paint an estate of Satanic character.
Many centuries before, it had been a place of refuge and quiet thought on the banks of the Taf . One of the most most beautiful rivers and the home of a holy woman and members of her family. Her name was Tydfil and she was at the centre of a small religious community building a Llan which included a wattle /daub church, a hospice and a scriptorium. There she lived healing the sick and naturing the Christian beliefs of her followers.
Tydfil’s father was Brychan, Prince of Brecon , lived in the 5th century and was related to many of the early Celtic Christians who flourished at that time . It became known as ‘the age of saints’.
Legend has it that the ageing Brychan making his last visit to his holy daughter in the Taf valley became separated from his protective entourage an was attacked by a marauding band of a heathen raiding party . Tydfil and three of her brothers were slain and since the place has been known as Merthyr Tydfil

‘CAP COCH’—–A TRUE TALE

Although gruesome, this true tale became legend and the horrendous history of The New Inn along with its licensee,known as Cap Coch entered local folklore.
At the time of this story the main road stopped at the River Ogmore, passengers on the stage coaches from the West had to cross the river on foot and transfer to another coach at Ewenny for London. Many of these passengers were pack men on their way to trade their goods in the big city. The so called pack men also travelled via this road on foot and mule. Situated here was TheNew Inn which was seen as a welcomed site by these travellers and looked forward to a restful night before continuing their arduous journey. Little realising that this could be their last night on this Earth.
The landlord of the inn was bland, powerful looking, was known as Cap Coch as he wore the red stockingnet cap of the French Revolution Fighters. He along with his band of villains cut their throats whilst they slept and collected their merchandise of flannel, wool skin and stockings for their reward. They benefitted from a busy local market, and grew exceedingly rich
Cap Coch did not die peacefully at the age of90 years as declared by local legend, antiquarian records shows that he was hanged on Stallingdown, Cowbridge, for sheep stealing
Some 80 years after his death, a new bridge was built over the river and saw the end of TheNew Inn which quickly fell into decay and crumbled away. Early last century the remains of the inn were demolished and that’s when the truth came to light. A cave was discovered near the old kitchen and in it the last of the booty Cap Coch and his associates had keptThe gardenrevealed buried bodies, the victims of this macabre adventure. More were found in adjacent fields.
Hence his guilt was not proved until long after his death.

SAINT SILYN

Not a lot is known about this Carmarthenshire hermit whose ancient cell was in a tree. This tree, as late as the nineteenth century was bedecked by rags. These scraps of cloth represented the offerings of the Gwernogle village folk, remembering age old traditions of the Saints healing powers. It is replicated these days by children across the world, hanging prayer leaves on bare branches.
SILYN like Melangell(see earlier post) had animal companions whose lives were threatened by materialistic Princes and Noblemen who did not understand the natural harmony between Saint and creature. Silyn gave protection to a hunted stag, this event is linked with the Welsh name for a plant, Bucks Horn Plantain—-Llysiau SILYN (Silyns Herbs )
As I said earlier little is known about this Welsh Saint but as a saviour of the forest I thought he was worth a mention.

MORE OF MERLIN’S MYSTIC MAGIC

There are many writers and writings describing tales of his magic and prophesies but let’s unfurl the mysteries of his other life styles, shape shifting and time travelling.
Robert de Boran, in the 12th century, tells in his ‘Estoire De Merlin’ of his shape shifting deeds. In these writings he first appears as a woodcutter, with an axe, big shoes,a torn coat, bristly hair, and a large beard. Also, describes him appearing as a handsome man and a beautiful boy. Later as an old man ,short ,hunchback with a long beard,cruel and fierce looking,carrying a club and driving a multitude of beasts before him.
In ‘Livre D’Artus’, Merlin enters Rome, bursts into the court of Julius Caeser in the form of a huge stag, tells the emperor that only the wild man of the woods can interpret the dream that troubles him. Later returning as a black, shaggy barefoot wildman.
Finally, a shape shift that will be spoken of forever. He transforms himself into a herdsman carrying a club,wearing a wolf skin and leggings. He is large, bent, black, hairy ad old. His ears hang down to his waist, a hump on his back,his feet and hands are backwards. He is hideous and over 18feet tall.
As a postscript, there is a collection of Dr Who fans who consider the Doctor, with his many shape shifts to be modern day reincarnation of Merlin.
Well I never!???

MERLIN…..THE WIZARD

Was he just a myth created by the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth or perhaps, a true mystery of history. Because he existed in Welsh folklore long before the publication of these works.
It’s not a case of what you believe but what you would like to believe. So we start withthe proverbial phrase, “it was said”:
Merlin described as a cambion, that is born of a mortal woman, sired by an incubus, a non human spirit who sought out virgins whilst they slept for sexual pleasure.
Merlin is begotten as an intended Antichrist ,the plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor of her predicament. They immediately baptise the baby at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan. He still inherits his supernatural powers from his demonic legacy which is supplemented by God with prophetic knowledge of the future.
Myrddin Emrys, after whom Caerfyrddin ( Carmarthen) was named is Merlin of Arthurian Legend. The most famous wizard in the world, appears in Welsh folk tales long before Arthurian times.
He became known as Merlin because the latinised form of Myrddin would have been Merdinus. He was also a poet and a prophet, forecasting that one day the Celts would take over the land of Britain and drive the Saxons out. He also forecast the Gunpowder Plot “to conspire to kill the King/ to raise rebellion / to alter religion / to subvert the state / to procure invasion by strangers “.
As a youth , Merlin was linked with Vortigen, King of Britain. A story I told in an earlier post, re. the red and white dragons.
Legend has it that he created Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius, conqueror of Vortigen. Also,how his magic enabled Uther
Pendragon to enter Tintagel in the likeness of Gorlais, his sworn enemy and father his son Arthur with his enemy ‘s wife with whom he had become besotted.
Welsh traditions say that he now lies in chains in a cave under Bryn Myrddin, Carmarthen or a cave near Dinefur Castle or buried on Bardsey Island where he took The magical item known as The Thirteen Treasures of Britain.
But my favourite is the legend of the Sacred Tree at Glastonbury, Merlin climbed had a profound revelation and never returned to the mortal world. The legend says that his soul, his life force still lies in this tree awaiting his return.

A TRIBUTE TO THE LEGEND OF LAUGHARNE

Born in Swansea in 1914, educated in the local grammar school his father’s deep love of literature passed on to him and his uncle, a traditional Welsh preacher helping him how to read his poetry to an audience. All this was the start of his career that led to his celebrity status and reputatation.
He left South Wales for London in 1934 and following his marriage to Caitlin in 1937, they eventually settled in LAUGHARNE. Money problems beset them forcing them to sell all their worldly goods and leave the village.
In 1948, the Boathouse came on the market. Dylan by then was desperate to return to South Wales, was very grateful that his loyal patron, Margaret Taylor purchased the house enabling Dylan and family to move in.
More financial problems resulted in Dylan making more long and strenuous tours of America. There he found Fame, fortune and self destruction
Despite his reputation as an outlaw artist, a maverick, work always came first for poet Dylan Thomas.
With an intellect, like flames and hot embers he wrought, forged words, then twisted ad shaped to form literary sculptures of great feeling. He was a Wordsmith par excellence!! He read his works better than anyone.. Expressing with feeling,interpretation, performing with the power and pertinence of a pulpit preacher.
And his pursuit of poetic perfection, literary leadership,he was an icon, an ego,a perpetual presence in the temple of excellence.
We must not be seduced by his wild side, the drunk the womaniser, the boaster, the show off. He was all of those but putting aside his wild life’s and remember who the real Dylan was. One of the greatest poets and writers of the 20th century.
Dylan died in New York in 1953,aged 39years. He was buried in St. Martin’s churchyard, LAUGHARNE and his grave is marked with a simple wooden cross.