THE LADY of the LAKE and THE PHYSICIANS of MYDDFAI

Nestling in the hills of North Carmarthenshire is a small village called MYDDFAI . Nearby is a small lake Llyn Y Van or Van Pool.
Once upon a time on a small farm in this wild and desolate countryside lived a peasant woman and her son Rhiwallon.
Every day Rhiwallon would take the livestock to graze on the hillside and one evening on returning home, he stopped in astonishment seeing a herd of oxen coming out of the lake. They were driven by a swan that before his very eyes turned into a beautiful maiden.
It was love at first sight for Rhiwallon, forgetting his shyness he asked her to marry him. She agreed on the one condition that if he struck her three times she would have to return from whence she had come. He could never imagine ever striking the woman he loved, and so they were married. She brought with her the magical herds from the lake , the farm prospered, during this happy marriage she gave him three sons.
Some years later, the happy couple were at the local church attending a christening. After the ceremony Rhiwallon was anxious to return to the farm. In order to summons his wife he tapped her on the shoulder with his glove. “Beware Rhiwallon, the old warning” The Lady of the Lake said in great distress. “You have stuck me once”.
Time went peacefully by. Rhiwallon had again forgotten the old warning when he and his wife went to a wedding. All the guests were merry except The Lady of the Lake. She cried bitterly, for in a vision she could see nothing but the troubles and sorrows that lie ahead for the newly weds. Rhiwallon scolded her, touching her lightly on the arm, bidding her to join in the merriment of the party. “Rhiwallon “” she exclaimed through her tears “you have struck me twice, only once more remains”. Rhiwallon promised he would take great care not to strike her again. Many years passed and all was well.
His friend in the neighbouring farm died. At the funeral all were sad whilst the Lady of the Lake was laughing at the sorrowful faces around her. For she knew that her husband’s friend was now in a happier place with all his sorrows behind him. Rhiwallon new that laugh, he rushed to his wife’s side telling her to show more respect, in doing so he tapped her lightly on the arm.
The Lady of the Lake grew thin and pale. She said, very faintly ” Farewell my dear dear husband, you have struck me the third and last time. I must return from whence I come”.
Rhiwallon saw her as he had first seen her then she vanished.
He ran to the lake, hoping to overtake her. He called and watched but saw no trace of her.months and years went by but no sign of the lady beloved so much.
Grief stricken, Rhiwallon visited the lakeside continually, but to no avail. Often his sons waited with him for they too felt great sorrow.
One night the sons were watching alone by Van Pool, when out of the mists their mother appeared. They met her with great delight and kneeling before her, she blessed saying “My sons, your work is to become great physicians and heal the suffering. Have no fear I will tell you of the healing herbs and guide you to where they grow” Having said these words, the Lady of the Lake grew thin and vanished.
The sons hurried home to tell their father, who told them that they must obey their mother and he would take care of the farm.
Rhiwallon’s sons walked the hillsides, guided by their mother, collecting herbs to heal the sick. They became the help of the Lady of the Lake very skilful and reports of their healing spread far and wide. Many honours were bestowed on them. When they died their children became skilled doctors. For many generations their skill was preserved within the family.
Some of their knowledge was written down in a book called The Physicians of MYDDFAI.
Many of the cures seem very strange but whom am I to dispute them when they were suggested by The Lady of the Lake.

THE LEGEND OF ST.WINEFREDE’S WELL

St. WINEFREDE’S Well is located in Holywell, North Wales and is considered the holiest shrine in Wales. it claims to be the oldest, most continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain and is known as ‘ the Lourdes of Wales’.
Winefrede(Gwenffrwd or Gwenffrewi to use her actual name) lived in the 7th Centuary, was the daughter of a Welsh nobleman. Her other was the sister of St Beuno and closely related to the Kings of South Wales.
As a young maiden, a novice nun of noble birth, she was visited by Caradoc, a local chieftain’s son. Being smitten by her beauty, he tried to seduce her.She rejected his advances and in a violent rage he attempted to force himself upon her but Gwenffrwd managed to escape and run to a nearby chapel where a monk, her uncle, Beuno was preaching. However. The lustful chieftain caught up with her, drew his sword severed her head clean off.
The crime was quickly punished, according to legend, the ground roared, opened up and swallowed Caradoc. Gwenffrwd’s head rolled down the hillside, where it finally came to rest, a spring of water gushed forth.
Alerted by the commotion, the monk Beuno appeared, collected the head and replaced on his nieces shoulders. With the help of his prayers she was restored to life.
The spring became a pool and it is said that Beuno, later St Beuno, sat on a stone in the well pool and promised “that anyone who asked for a benefit from God in the name of St WINEFREDE’S would enjoy grace”.
For hundreds of years, the inflicted have continued to bathe in St WINEFREDE’S Well and to kneel on St Beuno’s Steps asking for her blessing. Until the 1960’s, the crypt was filled with abandoned crutches, a testimony to the healing powers of the waters, or perhaps the enduring faith of its visitors in Gwenffrewi, the seventh century Welsh nun

TWM CARNABWTH and THE REBECCA RIOTS

The Eighteen Hundreds were hard times, particularly for the agricultural community of South West Wales.
Extremely bad weather had caused successive seasons of failed harvests and to compound their plight, market prices for livestock were in severe decline..
The greed of ‘the gentry’ inflicted further hardship by increasing rents and taxes on the farmers and their tenants. They did n’t stop there, as wealthy landlords they enclosed the common land around villages, where the locals had freely grazed their livestock and collected firewood.
The “Poor Law” was passed at this time under which, if you did not have enough money to support yourself, you were obliged to go into a workhouse. Here conditions were unbearably bad, and often families were split up.In the past, farmers had provided food and fuel for the poor. Now with little spare cash, they were expected, via new taxes to pay for the building of these new workhouses.
With the hardships and conditions of these times, with the poverty that prevailed, disturbances were inevitable.
The trigger was the introduction of the Toll Gates. As a remedy to improve the poor roads, turnpike trusts were established to collect charges from road users by erecting toll gates.
Farmers were the worst hit as the main users of the roads transporting livestock as well as large quantities of lime to improve their soil.
In 1839, when a new gate was erected at Esailwen, to catch the farmers that were evading the tolls, it was the last straw.
Nobody knows who called the meeting in the barn of Glynsaithmaen Farm, nobody knows who attended but the man chosen to lead the assault on Esailwen Toll Gate was certainly Thomas Rees.
Thomas Rees or Twm CARNABWTH as he came to be known was an agricultural worker. He had built his cottage in one night and by tradition he thus assumed the freehold and ownership of his home. Hence his nickname Twm Carnabwth(Tom Stone Cottage)
Besides being a hard worker, the red headed Tom was also a bit of a bruiser and more than a bit of a boozer.
He was also something of a Jeckyll and Hyde, he was renown for his fists and with a warming drink inside ,he would take on and beat all comers at country fairs. Yet he was the chief reciter of the ‘Pwnc’, the catechism of the scriptures in his local chapel on Whitsunday Morning.
He was also a keen participant in the traditional justice of the “Ceffyl Pren” (literally Wooden Horse) A form of public humiliation by which adulterers, harsh landlords or even wife scolderers were made a laughing stock within the local community. Often the victim was paraded through the streets on a wooden pole or ladder, accompanied by ribald descriptions of the crime by men disguised in women’s clothing. Later the so called Wooden Horse was used to hold to ridicule people who had ‘betrayed the common folk’ like the Turnpike Owners and unjust landlords.
The first attack took place on 13th May 1839. Twm never afraid to stand up for the rights of his neighbours, led his band of righteous rebels right up to the gate of Esailwen, the first of the the Toll Gates to be destroyed. Some say that these lowly workers were put up to it by the larger farmers, who paid their tenants and labourers a going rate for appearing in women’s clothing at particular gates on particular nights.
This may well be true but it can never distract from the image of the first Rebecca leader well versed in scripture, well able to recite the lines from Genesis that became the rallying cry for the impoverished country folk

THE LEGEND OF PRINCE MADOC

One of the most enduring legends found in Welsh history is of Prince Madoc’s voyages to the mainland of America in the 12th century, over 300years before Columbus.
Madoc was an illegitimate son of Owain ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd, born of his favourite mistress, Lady Brenda, about 1140-1150 in Dolwyddelan Castle on the edge of Snowdonia.
It was said that Madoc was tall, of pleasant looks, mild mannered, and with his part Viking blood through his Grandmother was naturally fond of seafaring.
To avoid the feuding and fighting that followed the death of his father. Prince Madoc had a ship built at Abergele on the North Wales coast, called the Gwennan Gorn, and with his brother Rhiryd in his own ship sailed out of Rhos on Sea into the Western Ocean. There is a plaque on the remains of an old stone quay in the garden of ‘Odstone’ a bungalow at Rhos that reads “Prince Madoc sailed from here Aber Kerrick Gwynan 1170 a,d. and landed on the shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama with his ships Gworn Gwynant and Pedr Sant”
On the shore at Point Morgan, Mobile, Alabama, The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a plaque reading ” In memory of Prince Madoc, a Welsh Explorer who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind with the native Indians, the Welsh language”
Having left some of his party on shore, he and his brother returned to Wales to collect a much larger group of colonists to reinforce the landing party they had left in Mobile Bay.They sailed with the reinforcements from Lundy Island in the mouth of the Bristol Channel, but nothing was heard of them again. Thy may have reached Mobile Bay again or perished on the way.
Meanwhile, the remaining members, at least, of Madoc ‘s expedition moved deep in land using the many rivers like roadways. First fighting the native Indians and eventually becoming assimilated with them. High up the Missouri River a tribe called the Mandans are claimed to be partly descended from the Welsh Settlers in culture, language and appearance. Being taller, of fair complexion, villages of static construction and the use of round coracle like boats.
Is there any truth in this story ? I like to think so.

LEGEND OF KENFIG POOL

This is one of the best loved legends of the lost city of KENFIG and I am telling it as it was told me as a boy, some 70 years ago.
In early medieval times, whilst the local lord was seeking a suitable husband for his daughter, she fell in love with e poor local boy but the marriage was refused by her father. The rejected suitor, disappointed, left to seek his fortune. He returned later to murder the Lords Revenue Man making away with all the monies collected from the taxing of the local folk.
Undetected, now rich he married the Lord’s daughter. That night high winds raged, howling “Vengeance will come with the your ninth generation”
. Life carried on regardless until the murderer’s and the lord’s daughter’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson was born, then the winds howled again”Vengeance has come.”
The following morning when outlying country folk came in, they found nothing left of the city. In its place a large extent of water, known today as Kenfig Pool.
To this day, it is said that there are times, in high winds you can hear the church bells tolling under the lake. Local fishermen complain of their lines getting tangled and broken by the city walls. You are also warned not to swim in the Southwest of the pool where the supposed black gutter was. It is said that whirlpools occur here sending more than one to an untimely early grave.
The area is now a nature reserve, enjoying much fame and worth a visit when you are down this way

AND Y DDRAIG GOCH(The Red Dragon) BECAME THE EMBLEM OF WALES

Vortigern, aKing of Britain in post Roman times, was troubled learning of Saxon factions seeking to undermine his reign.He consulted his court who advised him to find a superior defensible position to build a fortress. There live out his days in secure company.
They searched the length and breadth of the island, eventually deciding on Dinas Ffaraon in North Wales to build the fortress. They assembled the best team of skilled men, the best materials and the best band of soldiers to protect them. Work began, but whatever was built during the day collapsed before the following morning. This happened day after day. Frustrated, Vortigern called on his wise men, who told him to find a boy with no father, sacrifice him and sprinkle his blood over the site. Searching the whole kingdom, they found such a boy in South Wales and brought him before the King.There, when told that he was to be sacrificed for the safe erection of the citadel, he challenged and ridiculed the so called wise men. In the presence of Vortigern, he asked them a series of questions about the foundations of the proposed new fortress that they were unable to answer. The boy then described to the King with the answers to the questions, that below the foundations was a pool, in this pool was two vases, in the vases were tents and in the tents , two serpents. When the King’s men dug down under the foundations all this was found to be true.
Before their very eyes, they saw the serpents fight for superiority until the red serpent had vanquished the white serpent out of the tent and the pool.
The boy asked the Kings wise men to explain this omen but they offered no answer. He then the King to take heed of the prophecy he had witnessed:the pool was was the world, the tent his kingdom, the two serpents are dragons, the red dragon is yours, the white dragon, the Saxons. You have nothing to fear, for our people will rise and drive out the Saxon Race. Meanwhile, do not build your fortress here. So said the young boy.
Vortigern, became aware of the ignorance and deceit of his wise men, spared the boy’s life and the wise men were banished from his Kingdom. The boy became legendary. He was of course, Myrddin Emrys, known as Merlin in English.
And the Red dragon became the emblem of Wales. Dinas Ffaraon is known today as Dinas Emrys.

St. Dwynwen, The Patron Saint of Lovers

St. Dwynwen’s Day, the 25th. January, commemorates the Patron Saint of Lovers, the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day.
Dwynwen lived in the 5th Century, the so called ‘ Golden Age of Welsh Saints’. She was the most beautiful of the 24 daughters of Brychan, King of Brecon. She fell in love with Prince Maelon Dafodrill but the King had already promised her to another nobleman so did not approve of this match. Disappointed and heartbroken, Dwynwen ran off into the forest in tears. Maelon ran after her, in desperation he tried to seduce and rape her but Dwynwen being of devout nature rejected all his advances. She prayed to God for help, granting her some comfort in forgetting her love for her Prince, also to forgive him for his behaviour. Later, an angel came to her in a dream, giving her, giving her a potion to ease her heartache and the benefit of three wishes.
First, she asked that Maelon be forgiven and freed from all his torment, that all lovers who invoke her be blessed to find true love and that she would never be married and remain a consecrated virgin for the rest of her days. God answered al her wishes and she devoted herself to his service, establishing a hermitage for women on Llanddwyn island, off the coast of Anglesey. The hermitage proved so popular soon becoming a convent, then a priory. Also, on the island Dwynwen’s Well can be found, where it is said a sacred fish swims. Visitors believe that if it disturbs the water when they are present, love will surely follow. Many young lovers still visit the well and the fish still appears to those seeking reassurances about their love life. If the water surface is disturbed her boyfriend / husband will remain faithful.
In medieval times before the Reformation, much revelry, dancing and celebrating took place on St. Dwynwen’s Day, but Henry XIII put paid to that. I ‘m glad to say that it is regaining popularity and St. Dwynwen Day cards are now being offered in chain card shops as well as Tesco’s and other supermarkets. So why wait wait for St. Valentines Day to make your romantic feelings known. You can wish your loved one ” Dwi’n dy garu di”(I love you ) weeks earlier

THE STORY OF MARY JONES AND HER BIBLE

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

SNOWDONIA STORIES

SNOWDONIA STORIES SYNOPSIS

A Mistletoe of Myths, Mysteries and Magics

Snowdonia has old English connections and means Snow Hill. where as the Welsh name is
‘Yr Wyddfa’, meaning the Prominent Place and relates to the giant Rhita Gawr. According to legend was killed by King Arthur and is said to be buried in a cairn called Gwyddfa Rhita on the summit of the mountain.

Nearby, Llyn Tegid, Lake of Tegid,is Wales’ largest natural lake. In it swims the Gwyniad, a fish unique to these ancient waters. Having been locked here since the lake was originally formed during the last Ice Age. The lake is exceedingly deep, thought by people long ago to be bottom less and this fish only frequents the surface water during the hours of darkness. Anglers hoping to make a catch have to fish in the depth of night to enjoy success. This lake is commonly called Lake Bala.

It is said that a large eagle like bird and by those of a stretched imagination, a left over from dinosaurian times like a pterodactyl flies in the high skies and peaks of Snowdonia. Apparently, it feeds off prey as large as foxes and has been seen carrying in its strong talons fully grown lambs to feed its young. According to the older folk, when the skies are clear of all other creatures(that is they have gone into hiding) the sickening scourge of the skies is on the wing. At such times, mothers do not let their young ones out unattended for fear of…………….. The creature is thought of as ageless and has been feared for centuries.

People here abouts, dream of and search for the riches that Merlin is supposed to have buried in the rocks of Dinas Emrys. The treasures according to legend include a chalice made of gold and an all gold throne. Greed is a great motivator and locals and visitors come seeking their fortunes.

One behemoth of monsters is said to live is said to live in the waters of the lakes of Snowdonia. It’s domain includes Llyn lion, Llyn Barfog and Llyn y Afanc. It is thought it might be a descendent of the water monster, Afanc, dragged from the lake and killed in the dark ages. Locals consider it fatally dangerous for animals and humans to even wade in the shallows of these lakes. Many farmers report losses of livestock from these lakes even up to the present day. The monster is described as like an overgrown crocodile, a giant beaver and many other outsized wild animals, but always demonic of being. Suggesting that it has the ability to shape shift for the different lakes.

Snowdonia abounds with many King Arthur references in literature and folklore. even Arthurs final battle is said to have taken place in Snowdonia. Folklore says that he died at Tregalen where he was brought down by a shower of enemy arrows at a pass that to this day is known as Bwlch y Saethu (Pass of Arrows ). His knights covered his body with a cairn of stones, and is still known as Carnedd Arthur (Arthur’s Cairn ) . After his death the knights sealed themselves in a cave under the summit of Y Lliwydd in their full armour ready to fight at their Kings side when he wakes to save Wales in her time of greatest need.

Finally we must not forget that this part of Wales has germinated many dragon tales. From The Plague of the Dragons in The Mabinogion, the dragons foretold by Merlin in King Vortigens reign, the dragon family in Ivor the Engine and my very own Ffred the Friendly Dragon. In the Far East the dragon is thought of as a symbol of good luck,where as in Wales we think of them for advice and guidance. In both geographies, we think of them in the present tense. So next time you visit Wales, look out for them and you come across them, enjoy good luck and good guidance.

ST BRYNACH

Legend has it that St.Brynach was bound for Ireland from Brittany when he was diverted by God’s will to heathen Wales. What an entrance he made on his arrival, floating up the Cleddau estuary, “on of all things” a ROCK.

There, this handsome man, caught the attention of the proud daughter of the local chieftain and she fell “head over heels” in love with him. When her advances were scorned by this chaste monk; well you know the saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, this young lady was no exception and sent her servant with his spear to punish Brynach.

Under the cover of darkness, Brynach escaped but the fleeing servant was attacked by a swarm of flying insects that had issued from the wound he had inflicted and was stung to death. Brynach bathed his wound in a nearby spring that apparently forever flowed red, hence its name Ffynon Goch.

After much travelling and many attempts, Brynach built his church and monetary at Nevern. He introduced agriculture to the people roundabout, teaching them to use wild stags to pull the plough as well as the milking of the hinds. His hand-picked cow give enough milk to sustain the whole monastery. The cow was shepherded to the pastures each morning, returned safely each evening by a wolf tamed by Brynach.

One day, a neighbouring king arrived with his men expecting to be fed, Brynach refused. The annoyed king ordered his men to kill Brynach’s precious cow and cook its entrails for supper. But no matter how the fire under the cooking pot raged the water in the pot refused to heat and the meat remained uncooked. The king and all his retinue were alarmed by the powers of this holy priest, begged for mercy. The magnanimous Brynach, returned the cow to good health and to the care of the tamed wolf, then displayed his miraculous powers by feeding his visitors, and what a meal. He picked loaves from the branches of the oak tree,the stones in the local river when plucked turned to fish and from the same stream he drew the wine. The king and his men ate to abundance, later slept well. In the morning the king praised the lonesome priest and promised that the monastery would be free from all taxes from that day forth.

St. Brynach was gifted with a unique stone cross by his close friend St. David. It stands near the entrance to his church and is known as the Nevern Cross. It is said that the first cuckoo to visit this country each spring lands on and sings from this cross.

St. Brynach died in the 6th century, having had great success with his missionary work in West Wales, where many churches are dedicated to his name and in isolated valleys, pathways, you will find many wells pay homage to his name.

May I suggest a visit to Pembrokeshire, I am sure you will find it worthwhile.