Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Around Anglesey (1)

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Gronwy Owen - Struggles of Genius - The Stipend.

THE day after our expedition to Snowdon I and my family parted; they returning by railroad to Chester and Llangollen whilst I took a trip into Anglesey to visit the birth-place of the great poet Goronwy Owen, whose works I had read with enthusiasm in my early years.

Goronwy or Gronwy Owen, was born in the year 1722, at a place called Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf in Anglesey. He was the eldest of three children. His parents were peasants and so exceedingly poor that they were unable to send him to school. Even, however, when an unlettered child he gave indications that he was visited by the awen or muse. At length the celebrated Lewis Morris chancing to be at Llanfair became acquainted with the boy, and struck with his natural talents, determined that he should have all the benefit which education could bestow. He accordingly, at his own expense sent him to school at Beaumaris, where he displayed a remarkable aptitude for the acquisition of learning. He subsequently sent him to Jesus College, Oxford, and supported him there whilst studying for the church. Whilst at Jesus, Gronwy distinguished himself as a Greek and Latin scholar, and gave such proofs of poetical talent in his native language, that he was looked upon by his countrymen of that Welsh college as the rising Bard of the age. After completing his collegiate course he returned to Wales, where he was ordained a minister of the Church in the year 1745. The next seven years of his life were a series of cruel disappointments and pecuniary embarrassments. The grand wish of his heart was to obtain a curacy and to settle down in Wales. Certainly a very reasonable wish. To say nothing of his being a great genius, he was eloquent, highly learned, modest, meek and of irreproachable morals, yet Gronwy Owen could obtain no Welsh curacy, nor could his friend Lewis Morris, though he exerted himself to the utmost, procure one for him. It is true that he was told that he might go to Llanfair, his native place, and officiate there at a time when the curacy happened to be vacant, and thither he went, glad at heart to get back amongst his old friends, who enthusiastically welcomed him; yet scarcely had he been there three weeks when he received notice from the Chaplain of the Bishop of Bangor that he must vacate Llanfair in order to make room for a Mr John Ellis, a young clergyman of large independent fortune, who was wishing for a curacy under the Bishop of Bangor, Doctor Hutton - so poor Gronwy the eloquent, the learned, the meek, was obliged to vacate the pulpit of his native place to make room for the rich young clergyman, who wished to be within dining distance of the palace of Bangor. Truly in this world the full shall be crammed, and those who have little, shall have the little which they have taken away from them. Unable to obtain employment in Wales Gronwy sought for it in England, and after some time procured the curacy of Oswestry in Shropshire, where he married a respectable young woman, who eventually brought him two sons and a daughter.

From Oswestry he went to Donnington near Shrewsbury, where under a certain Scotchman named Douglas, who was an absentee, and who died Bishop of Salisbury, he officiated as curate and master of a grammar school for a stipend - always grudgingly and contumeliously paid - of three-and-twenty pounds a year. From Donnington he removed to Walton in Cheshire, where he lost his daughter who was carried off by a fever. His next removal was to Northolt, a pleasant village in the neighbourhood of London.

He held none of his curacies long, either losing them from the caprice of his principals, or being compelled to resign them from the parsimony which they practised towards him. In the year 1756 he was living in a garret in London vainly soliciting employment in his sacred calling, and undergoing with his family the greatest privations. At length his friend Lewis Morris, who had always assisted him to the utmost of his ability, procured him the mastership of a government school at New Brunswick in North America with a salary of three hundred pounds a year. Thither he went with his wife and family, and there he died sometime about the year 1780.

He was the last of the great poets of Cambria and, with the exception of Ab Gwilym, the greatest which she has produced. His poems which for a long time had circulated through Wales in manuscript were first printed in the year 1819. They are composed in the ancient Bardic measures, and were with one exception, namely an elegy on the death of his benefactor Lewis Morris, which was transmitted from the New World, written before he had attained the age of thirty-five. All his pieces are excellent, but his masterwork is decidedly the Cywydd y Farn or "Day of Judgment." This poem which is generally considered by the Welsh as the brightest ornament of their ancient language, was composed at Donnington, a small hamlet in Shropshire on the north-west spur of the Wrekin, at which place, as has been already said, Gronwy toiled as schoolmaster and curate under Douglas the Scot, for a stipend of three-and-twenty pounds a year.


Start for Anglesey - The Post-Master - Asking Questions - Mynydd Lydiart - Mr Pritchard - Way to Llanfair.

WHEN I started from Bangor, to visit the birth-place of Gronwy Owen, I by no means saw my way clearly before me. I knew that he was born in Anglesey in a parish called Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf, that is St Mary's of farther Mathafarn - but as to where this Mathafarn lay, north or south, near or far, I knew positively nothing. Passing through the northern suburb of Bangor I saw a small house in front of which was written "post-office" in white letters; before this house underneath a shrub in a little garden sat an old man reading. Thinking that from this person, whom I judged to be the post-master, I was as likely to obtain information with respect to the place of my destination as from any one, I stopped, and taking off my hat for a moment, inquired whether he could tell me anything about the direction of a place called Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf. He did not seem to understand my question, for getting up he came towards me and asked what I wanted: I repeated what I had said, whereupon his face became animated.

"Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf!" said he. "Yes, I can tell you about it, and with good reason, for it lies not far from the place where I was born."

The above was the substance of what he said, and nothing more, for he spoke in English somewhat broken.

"And how far is Llanfair from here?" said I.

"About ten miles," he replied.

"That's nothing," said I: "I was afraid it was much farther."

"Do you call ten miles nothing," said he, "in a burning day like this? I think you will be both tired and thirsty before you get to Llanfair, supposing you go there on foot. But what may your business be at Llanfair?" said he, looking at me inquisitively. "It is a strange place to go to, unless you go to buy hogs or cattle."

"I go to buy neither hogs nor cattle," said I, "though I am somewhat of a judge of both; I go on a more important errand, namely to see the birth-place of the great Gronwy Owen."

"Are you any relation of Gronwy Owen?" said the old man, looking at me more inquisitively than before, through a large pair of spectacles which he wore.

"None whatever," said I.

"Then why do you go to see his parish, it is a very poor one."

"From respect to his genius," said I; "I read his works long ago, and was delighted with them."

"Are you a Welshman?" said the old man.

"No," said I, "I am no Welshman."

"Can you speak Welsh?" said he, addressing me in that language.

"A little," said I; "but not so well as I can read it."

"Well," said the old man, "I have lived here a great many years, but never before did a Saxon call upon me, asking questions about Gronwy Owen, or his birth-place. Immortality to his memory! I owe much to him, for reading his writings taught me to be a poet!"

"Dear me!" said I, "are you a poet?"

"I trust I am," said he; "though the humblest of Ynys Fon."

A flash of proud fire, methought, illumined his features as he pronounced these last words.

"I am most happy to have met you," said I; "but tell me how am I to get to Llanfair?"

"You must go first," said he, "to Traeth Coch which in Saxon is called the 'Red Sand.' In the village called the Pentraeth which lies above that sand, I was born; through the village and over the bridge you must pass, and after walking four miles due north you will find yourself in Llanfair eithaf, at the northern extremity of Mon. Farewell! That ever Saxon should ask me about Gronwy Owen, and his birth-place! I scarcely believe you to be a Saxon, but whether you be or not, I repeat farewell."

Coming to the Menai Bridge I asked the man who took the penny toll at the entrance, the way to Pentraeth Coch.

"You see that white house by the wood," said he, pointing some distance into Anglesey; "you must make towards it till you come to a place where there are four cross roads and then you must take the road to the right."

Passing over the bridge I made my way towards the house by the wood which stood on the hill till I came where the four roads met, when I turned to the right as directed.

The country through which I passed seemed tolerably well cultivated, the hedge-rows were very high, seeming to spring out of low stone walls. I met two or three gangs of reapers proceeding to their work with scythes in their hands.

In about half-an-hour I passed by a farm-house partly surrounded with walnut trees. Still the same high hedges on both sides of the road: are these hedges relics of the sacrificial groves of Mona? thought I to myself. Then I came to a wretched village through which I hurried at the rate of six miles an hour. I then saw a long, lofty, craggy hill on my right hand towards the east.

"What mountain is that?" said I to an urchin playing in the hot dust of the road.

"Mynydd Lydiart!" said the urchin, tossing up a handful of the hot dust into the air, part of which in descending fell into my eyes.

I shortly afterwards passed by a handsome lodge. I then saw groves, mountain Lydiart forming a noble background.

"Who owns this wood?" said I in Welsh to two men who were limbing a felled tree by the road-side.

"Lord Vivian," answered one, touching his hat.

"The gentleman is our countryman," said he to the other after I had passed.

I was now descending the side of a pretty valley, and soon found myself at Pentraeth Coch. The part of the Pentraeth where I now was consisted of a few houses and a church, or something which I judged to be a church, for there was no steeple; the houses and church stood about a little open spot or square, the church on the east, and on the west a neat little inn or public-house over the door of which was written "The White Horse. Hugh Pritchard." By this time I had verified in part the prediction of the old Welsh poet of the post-office. Though I was not yet arrived at Llanfair, I was, if not tired, very thirsty, owing to the burning heat of the weather, so I determined to go in and have some ale. On entering the house I was greeted in English by Mr Hugh Pritchard himself, a tall bulky man with a weather-beaten countenance, dressed in a brown jerkin and corduroy trowsers, with a broad low-crowned buff- coloured hat on his head, and what might he called half shoes and half high-lows on his feet. He had a short pipe in his mouth, which when he greeted me he took out, but replaced as soon as the greeting was over, which consisted of "Good-day, sir," delivered in a frank, hearty tone. I looked Mr Hugh Pritchard in the face and thought I had never seen a more honest countenance. On my telling Mr Pritchard that I wanted a pint of ale, a buxom damsel came forward and led me into a nice cool parlour on the right-hand side of the door, and then went to fetch the ale.

Mr Pritchard meanwhile went into a kind of tap-room, fronting the parlour, where I heard him talking in Welsh about pigs and cattle to some of his customers. I observed that he spoke with some hesitation; which circumstance I mention as rather curious, he being the only Welshman I have ever known who, when speaking his native language, appeared to be at a loss for words. The damsel presently brought me the ale, which I tasted and found excellent; she was going away when I asked her whether Mr Pritchard was her father; on her replying in the affirmative I inquired whether she was born in that house.

"No!" said she; "I was born in Liverpool; my father was born in this house, which belonged to his fathers before him, but he left it at an early age and married my mother in Liverpool, who was an Anglesey woman, and so I was born in Liverpool."

"And what did you do in Liverpool?" said I.

"My mother kept a little shop," said the girl, "whilst my father followed various occupations."

"And how long have you been here?" said I.

"Since the death of my grandfather," said the girl, "which happened about a year ago. When he died my father came here and took possession of his birth-right."

"You speak very good English," said I; "have you any Welsh?"

"Oh yes, plenty," said the girl; "we always speak Welsh together, but being born at Liverpool, I of course have plenty of English."

"And which language do you prefer?" said I.

"I think I like English best," said the girl, "it is the most useful language."

"Not in Anglesey," said I.

"Well," said the girl, "it is the most genteel."

"Gentility," said I, "will be the ruin of Welsh, as it has been of many other things - what have I to pay for the ale?"

"Three pence," said she.

I paid the money and the girl went out. I finished my ale, and getting up made for the door; at the door I was met by Mr Hugh Pritchard, who came out of the tap-room to thank me for my custom, and to bid me farewell. I asked him whether I should have any difficulty in finding the way to Llanfair.

"None whatever," said he, "you have only to pass over the bridge of the Traeth, and to go due north for about four miles, and you will find yourself in Llanfair."

"What kind of place is it?" said I.

"A poor straggling village," said Mr Pritchard.

"Shall I be able to obtain a lodging there for the night?" said I.

"Scarcely one such as you would like," said Hugh.

"And where had I best pass the night?" I demanded.

"We can accommodate you comfortably here," said Mr Pritchard, "provided you have no objection to come back."

I told him that I should be only too happy, and forthwith departed, glad at heart that I had secured a comfortable lodging for the night.


Leave Pentraeth - Tranquil Scene - The Knoll - The Miller and his Wife - Poetry of Gronwy - Kind Offer - Church of Llanfair - No English - Confusion of Ideas - The Gronwy - Notable Little Girl - The Sycamore Leaf - Home from California.

THE village of Pentraeth Goch occupies two sides of a romantic dell - that part of it which stands on the southern side, and which comprises the church and the little inn, is by far the prettiest, that which occupies the northern is a poor assemblage of huts, a brook rolls at the bottom of the dell, over which there is a little bridge: coming to the bridge I stopped, and looked over the side into the water running briskly below. An aged man who looked like a beggar, but who did not beg of me, stood by.

"To what place does this water run?" said I in English.

"I know no Saxon," said he in trembling accents.

I repeated my question in Welsh.

"To the sea," he said, "which is not far off, indeed it is so near, that when there are high tides, the salt water comes up to this bridge."

"You seem feeble?" said I.

"I am so," said he, "for I am old."

"How old are you?" said I.

"Sixteen after sixty," said the old man with a sigh; "and I have nearly lost my sight and my hearing."

"Are you poor?" said I.

"Very," said the old man.

I gave him a trifle which he accepted with thanks.

"Why is this sand called the red sand?" said I.

"I cannot tell you," said the old man, "I wish I could, for you have been kind to me."

Bidding him farewell I passed through the northern part of the village to the top of the hill. I walked a little way forward and then stopped, as I had done at the bridge in the dale, and looked to the east, over a low stone wall.

Before me lay the sea or rather the northern entrance of the Menai Straits. To my right was mountain Lidiart projecting some way into the sea; to my left, that is to the north, was a high hill, with a few white houses near its base, forming a small village, which a woman who passed by knitting told me was called Llan Peder Goch or the Church of Red Saint Peter. Mountain Lidiart and the Northern Hill formed the headlands of a beautiful bay into which the waters of the Traeth dell, from which I had come, were discharged. A sandbank, probably covered with the sea at high tide, seemed to stretch from mountain Lidiart a considerable way towards the northern hill. Mountain, bay and sandbank were bathed in sunshine; the water was perfectly calm; nothing was moving upon it, nor upon the shore, and I thought I had never beheld a more beautiful and tranquil scene.

I went on. The country which had hitherto been very beautiful, abounding with yellow corn-fields, became sterile and rocky; there were stone walls, but no hedges. I passed by a moor on my left, then a moory hillock on my right; the way was broken and stony; all traces of the good roads of Wales had disappeared; the habitations which I saw by the way were miserable hovels into and out of which large sows were stalking, attended by their farrows.

"Am I far from Llanfair?" said I to a child.

"You are in Llanfair, gentleman," said the child.

A desolate place was Llanfair. The sea in the neighbourhood to the south, limekilns with their stifling smoke not far from me. I sat down on a little green knoll on the right-hand side of the road; a small house was near me, and a desolate-looking mill at about a furlong's distance, to the south. Hogs came about me grunting and sniffing. I felt quite melancholy.

"Is this the neighbourhood of the birth-place of Gronwy Owen?" said I to myself. "No wonder that he was unfortunate through life, springing from such a region of wretchedness."

Wretched as the region seemed, however, I soon found there were kindly hearts close by me.

As I sat on the knoll I heard some one slightly cough very near me, and looking to the left saw a man dressed like a miller looking at me from the garden of the little house, which I have already mentioned.

I got up and gave him the sele of the day in English. He was a man about thirty, rather tall than otherwise, with a very prepossessing countenance. He shook his head at my English.

"What," said I, addressing him in the language of the country, "have you no English? Perhaps you have Welsh?"

"Plenty," said he, laughing "there is no lack of Welsh amongst any of us here. Are you a Welshman?"

"No," said I, "an Englishman from the far east of Lloegr."

"And what brings you here?" said the man.

"A strange errand," I replied, "to look at the birth-place of a man who has long been dead."

"Do you come to seek for an inheritance?" said the man.

"No," said I. "Besides the man whose birth-place I came to see, died poor, leaving nothing behind him but immortality."

"Who was he?" said the miller.

"Did you ever hear a sound of Gronwy Owen?" said I.

"Frequently," said the miller; "I have frequently heard a sound of him. He was born close by in a house yonder," pointing to the south.

"Oh yes, gentleman," said a nice-looking woman, who holding a little child by the hand was come to the house-door, and was eagerly listening, "we have frequently heard speak of Gronwy Owen; there is much talk of him in these parts."

"I am glad to hear it," said I, "for I have feared that his name would not be known here."

"Pray, gentleman, walk in!" said the miller; "we are going to have our afternoon's meal, and shall be rejoiced if you will join us."

"Yes, do, gentleman," said the miller's wife, for such the good woman was; "and many a welcome shall you have."

I hesitated, and was about to excuse myself.

"Don't refuse, gentleman!" said both, "surely you are not too proud to sit down with us?"

"I am afraid I shall only cause you trouble," said I.

"Dim blinder, no trouble," exclaimed both at once; "pray do walk in!"

I entered the house, and the kitchen, parlour, or whatever it was, a nice little room with a slate floor. They made me sit down at a table by the window, which was already laid for a meal. There was a clean cloth upon it, a tea-pot, cups and saucers, a large plate of bread-and-butter, and a plate, on which were a few very thin slices of brown, watery cheese.

My good friends took their seats, the wife poured out tea for the stranger and her husband, helped us both to bread-and-butter and the watery cheese, then took care of herself. Before, however, I could taste the tea, the wife, seeming to recollect herself, started up, and hurrying to a cupboard, produced a basin full of snow-white lump sugar, and taking the spoon out of my hand, placed two of the largest lumps in my cup, though she helped neither her husband nor herself; the sugar-basin being probably only kept for grand occasions.

My eyes filled with tears; for in the whole course of my life I had never experienced so much genuine hospitality. Honour to the miller of Mona and his wife; and honour to the kind hospitable Celts in general! How different is the reception of this despised race of the wandering stranger from that of -. However, I am a Saxon myself, and the Saxons have no doubt their virtues; a pity that they should be all uncouth and ungracious ones!

I asked my kind host his name.

"John Jones," he replied, "Melinydd of Llanfair."

"Is the mill which you work your own property?" I inquired.

"No," he answered, "I rent it of a person who lives close by."

"And how happens it," said I, "that you speak no English?"

"How should it happen," said he, "that I should speak any? I have never been far from here; my wife who has lived at service at Liverpool can speak some."

"Can you read poetry?" said I.

"I can read the psalms and hymns that they sing at our chapel," he replied.

"Then you are not of the Church?" said I.

"I am not," said the miller; "I am a Methodist."

"Can you read the poetry of Gronwy Owen?" said I.

"I cannot," said the miller, "that is with any comfort; his poetry is in the ancient Welsh measures, which make poetry so difficult that few can understand it."

"I can understand poetry in those measures," said I.

"And how much time did you spend," said the miller, "before you could understand the poetry of the measures?"

"Three years," said I.

The miller laughed.

"I could not have afforded all that time," said he, "to study the songs of Gronwy. However, it is well that some people should have time to study them. He was a great poet as I have been told, and is the glory of our land - but he was unfortunate; I have read his life in Welsh and part of his letters; and in doing so have shed tears."

"Has his house any particular name?" said I.

"It is called sometimes Ty Gronwy," said the miller; "but more frequently Tafarn Goch."

"The Red Tavern?" said I. "How is it that so many of your places are called Goch? there is Pentraeth Goch; there is Saint Pedair Goch, and here at Llanfair is Tafarn Goch."

The miller laughed.

"It will take a wiser man than I," said he, "to answer that question."

The repast over I rose up, gave my host thanks, and said, "I will now leave you, and hunt up things connected with Gronwy."

"And where will you find a lletty for night, gentleman?" said the miller's wife. "This is a poor place, but if you will make use of our home you are welcome."

"I need not trouble you," said I, "I return this night to Pentraeth Goch where I shall sleep."

"Well," said the miller, "whilst you are at Llanfair I will accompany you about. Where shall we go to first?"

"Where is the church?" said I. "I should like to see the church where Gronwy worshipped God as a boy."

"The church is at some distance," said the man; "it is past my mill, and as I want to go to the mill for a moment, it will be perhaps well to go and see the church, before we go to the house of Gronwy."

I shook the miller's wife by the hand, patted a little yellow- haired girl of about two years old on the head, who during the whole time of the meal had sat on the slate floor looking up into my face, and left the house with honest Jones.

We directed our course to the mill, which lay some way down a declivity, towards the sea. Near the mill was a comfortable- looking house, which my friend told me belonged to the proprietor of the mill. A rustic-looking man stood in the mill-yard, who he said was the proprietor. The honest miller went into the mill, and the rustic-looking proprietor greeted me in Welsh, and asked me if I was come to buy hogs.

"No," said I; "I am come to see the birth-place of Gronwy Owen;" he stared at me for a moment, then seemed to muse, and at last walked away saying, "Ah! a great man."

The miller presently joined me, and we proceeded farther down the hill. Our way lay between stone walls, and sometimes over them. The land was moory and rocky, with nothing grand about it, and the miller described it well when he said it was tir gwael - mean land. In about a quarter of an hour we came to the churchyard into which we got, the gate being locked, by clambering over the wall.

The church stands low down the descent, not far distant from the sea. A little brook, called in the language of the country a frwd, washes its yard-wall on the south. It is a small edifice with no spire, but to the south-west there is a little stone erection rising from the roof, in which hangs a bell - there is a small porch looking to the south. With respect to its interior I can say nothing, the door being locked. It is probably like the outside, simple enough. It seemed to be about two hundred and fifty years old, and to be kept in tolerable repair. Simple as the edifice was, I looked with great emotion upon it; and could I do else, when I reflected that the greatest British poet of the last century had worshipped God within it, with his poor father and mother, when a boy?

I asked the miller whether he could point out to me any tombs or grave-stones of Gronwy's family, but he told me that he was not aware of any. On looking about I found the name of Owen in the inscription on the slate slab of a respectable-looking modern tomb, on the north-east side of the church. The inscription was as follows:

Er cof am JANE OWEN
Gwraig Edward Owen,
Monachlog Llanfair Mathafam eithaf,
A fu farw Chwefror 28 1842
Yn 51 Oed.

I.E. "To the memory of JANE OWEN Wife of Edward Owen, of the monastery of St Mary of farther Mathafarn, who died February 28, 1842, aged fifty-one."

Whether the Edward Owen mentioned here was any relation to the great Gronwy, I had no opportunity of learning. I asked the miller what was meant by the monastery, and he told that it was the name of a building to the north-east near the sea, which had once been a monastery but had been converted into a farm-house, though it still retained its original name. "May all monasteries be converted into farm-houses," said I, "and may they still retain their original names in mockery of popery!"

Having seen all I could well see of the church and its precincts I departed with my kind guide. After we had retraced our steps some way, we came to some stepping-stones on the side of a wall, and the miller pointing to them said:

"The nearest way to the house of Gronwy will be over the llamfa."

I was now become ashamed of keeping the worthy fellow from his business, and begged him to return to his mill. He refused to leave me, at first, but on my pressing him to do so, and on my telling him that I could find the way to the house of Gronwy very well by myself, he consented. We shook hands, the miller wished me luck, and betook himself to his mill, whilst I crossed the llamfa. I soon, however, repented having left the path by which I had come. I was presently in a maze of little fields with stone walls over which I had to clamber. At last I got into a lane with a stone wall on each side. A man came towards me and was about to pass me - his look was averted, and he was evidently one of those who have "no English." A Welshman of his description always averting his look when he sees a stranger who he thinks has "no Welsh," lest the stranger should ask him a question and he be obliged to confess that he has "no English."

"Is this the way to Llanfair?" said I to the man. The man made a kind of rush in order to get past me.

"Have you any Welsh?" I shouted as loud as I could bawl.

The man stopped, and turning a dark sullen countenance half upon me said, "Yes, I have Welsh."

"Which is the way to Llanfair?" said I.

"Llanfair, Llanfair?" said the man, "what do you mean?"

"I want to get there," said I.

"Are you not there already?" said the fellow stamping on the ground, "are you not in Llanfair?

"Yes, but I want to get to the town."

"Town, town! Oh, I have no English," said the man; and off he started like a frighted bullock. The poor fellow was probably at first terrified at seeing an Englishman, then confused at hearing an Englishman speak Welsh, a language which the Welsh in general imagine no Englishman can speak, the tongue of an Englishman as they say not being long enough to pronounce Welsh; and lastly utterly deprived of what reasoning faculties he had still remaining by my asking him for the town of Llanfair, there being properly no town.

I went on, and at last getting out of the lane, found myself upon the road, along which I had come about two hours before; the house of the miller was at some distance on my right. Near me were two or three houses and part of the skeleton of one, on which some men, in the dress of masons, seemed to be occupied. Going up to these men I said in Welsh to one, whom I judged to be the principal, and who was rather a tall fine-looking fellow:

"Have you heard a sound of Gronwy Owain?"

Here occurred another instance of the strange things people do when their ideas are confused. The man stood for a moment or two, as if transfixed, a trowel motionless in one of his hands, and a brick in the other; at last giving a kind of gasp, he answered in very tolerable Spanish:

"Si, senor! he oido."

"Is his house far from here?" said I in Welsh.

"No, senor!" said the man, "no esta muy lejos."

"I am a stranger here, friend, can anybody show me the way?"

"Si senor! este mozo luego - acompanara usted."

Then turning to a lad of about eighteen, also dressed as a mason, he said in Welsh:

"Show this gentleman instantly the way to Tafarn Goch."

The lad flinging a hod down, which he had on his shoulder, instantly set off, making me a motion with his head to follow him. I did so, wondering what the man could mean by speaking to me in Spanish. The lad walked by my side in silence for about two furlongs till we came to a range of trees, seemingly sycamores, behind which was a little garden, in which stood a long low house with three chimneys. The lad stopping flung open a gate which led into the garden, then crying to a child which he saw within: "Gad roi tro" - let the man take a turn; he was about to leave me, when I stopped him to put sixpence into his hand. He received the money with a gruff "Diolch!" and instantly set off at a quick pace. Passing the child who stared at me, I walked to the back part of the house, which seemed to be a long mud cottage. After examining the back part I went in front, where I saw an aged woman with several children, one of whom was the child I had first seen. She smiled and asked me what I wanted.

I said that I had come to see the house of Gronwy. She did not understand me, for shaking her head she said that she had no English, and was rather deaf. Raising my voice to a very high tone I said:

"Ty Gronwy!"

A gleam of intelligence flashed now in her eyes.

"Ty Gronwy," she said, "ah! I understand. Come in sir."

There were three doors to the house; she led me in by the midmost into a common cottage room, with no other ceiling, seemingly, than the roof. She bade me sit down by the window by a little table, and asked me whether I would have a cup of milk and some bread-and- butter; I declined both, but said I should be thankful for a little water.

This she presently brought me in a teacup, I drank it, the children amounting to five standing a little way from me staring at me. I asked her if this was the house in which Gronwy was born. She said it was, but that it had been altered very much since his time - that three families had lived in it, but that she believed he was born about where we were now.

A man now coming in who lived at the next door, she said I had better speak to him and tell him what I wanted to know, which he could then communicate to her, as she could understand his way of speaking much better than mine. Through the man I asked her whether there was any one of the blood of Gronwy Owen living in the house. She pointed to the children and said they had all some of his blood. I asked in what relationship they stood to Gronwy. She said she could hardly tell, that tri priodas, three marriages stood between, and that the relationship was on the mother's side. I gathered from her that the children had lost their mother, that their name was Jones, and that their father was her son. I asked if the house in which they lived was their own; she said no, that it belonged to a man who lived at some distance. I asked if the children were poor.

"Very," said she.

I gave them each a trifle, and the poor old lady thanked me with tears in her eyes.

I asked whether the children could read; she said they all could, with the exception of the two youngest. The eldest she said could read anything, whether Welsh or English; she then took from the window-sill a book, which she put into my hand, saying the child could read it and understand it. I opened the book; it was an English school-book treating on all the sciences.

"Can you write?" said I to the child, a little stubby girl of about eight, with a broad flat red face and grey eyes, dressed in a chintz gown, a little bonnet on her head, and looking the image of notableness.

The little maiden, who had never taken her eyes off of me for a moment during the whole time I had been in the room, at first made no answer; being, however, bid by her grandmother to speak, she at length answered in a soft voice, "Medraf, I can."

"Then write your name in this book," said I, taking out a pocket- book and a pencil, "and write likewise that you are related to Gronwy Owen - and be sure you write in Welsh."

The little maiden very demurely took the book and pencil, and placing the former on the table wrote as follows:

"Ellen Jones yn perthyn o bell i gronow owen."

That is, "Ellen Jones belonging from afar to Gronwy Owen."

When I saw the name of Ellen I had no doubt that the children were related to the illustrious Gronwy. Ellen is a very uncommon Welsh name, but it seems to have been a family name of the Owens; it was borne by an infant daughter of the poet whom he tenderly loved, and who died whilst he was toiling at Walton in Cheshire, -

"Ellen, my darling, Who liest in the Churchyard at Walton."

says poor Gronwy in one of the most affecting elegies ever written.

After a little farther conversation I bade the family farewell and left the house. After going down the road a hundred yards I turned back in order to ask permission to gather a leaf from one of the sycamores. Seeing the man who had helped me in my conversation with the old woman standing at the gate, I told him what I wanted, whereupon he instantly tore down a handful of leaves and gave them to me. Thrusting them into my coat-pocket I thanked him kindly and departed.

Coming to the half-erected house, I again saw the man to whom I had addressed myself for information. I stopped, and speaking Spanish to him, asked how he had acquired the Spanish language.

"I have been in Chili, sir," said he in the same tongue, "and in California, and in those places I learned Spanish."

"What did you go to Chili for?" said I; "I need not ask you on what account you went to California."

"I went there as a mariner," said the man; "I sailed out of Liverpool for Chili."

"And how is it," said I, "that being a mariner and sailing in a Liverpool ship you do not speak English?"

"I speak English, senor," said the man, "perfectly well."

"Then how in the name of wonder," said I, speaking English, "came you to answer me in Spanish? I am an Englishman thorough bred."

"I can scarcely tell you how it was, sir," said the man scratching his head, "but I thought I would speak to you in Spanish."

"And why not English?" said I.

"Why, I heard you speaking Welsh," said the man; "and as for an Englishman speaking Welsh -"

"But why not answer me in Welsh?" said I.

"Why, I saw it was not your language, sir," said the man, "and as I had picked up some Spanish I thought it would be but fair to answer you in it."

"But how did you know that I could speak Spanish?" said I.

"I don't know indeed, sir," said the man; "but I looked at you, and something seemed to tell me that you could speak Spanish. I can't tell you how it was sir," said he, looking me very innocently in the face, "but I was forced to speak Spanish to you. I was indeed!"

"The long and the short of it was," said I, "that you took me for a foreigner, and thought that it would be but polite to answer me in a foreign language."

"I daresay it was so, sir," said the man. "I daresay it was just as you say."

"How did you fare in California?" said I.

"Very fairly indeed, sir," said the man. "I made some money there, and brought it home, and with part of it I am building this house."

"I am very happy to hear it," said I, "you are really a remarkable man - few return from California speaking Spanish as you do, and still fewer with money in their pockets."

The poor fellow looked pleased at what I said, more especially at that part of the sentence which touched upon his speaking Spanish well. Wishing him many years of health and happiness in the house he was building, I left him, and proceeded on my path towards Pentraeth Goch.

After walking some way, I turned round in order to take a last look of the place which had so much interest for me. The mill may be seen from a considerable distance; so may some of the scattered houses, and also the wood which surrounds the house of the illustrious Gronwy. Prosperity to Llanfair! and may many a pilgrimage be made to it of the same character as my own.

George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery (Oxford, Mississippi, 1996)

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