Issue 28 Introduction and Contents at a glance
IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL BROWN
This issue is dedicated to the memory of Michael Brown, one of our great contributors and staunchest supporters who passed away in February this year after a long illness. Michael brightened our pages for many issues from 2006 starting with “Are You Church Or Chapel?”, his witty account of the installation of the organ in the Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Llanidloes in numbers 4-6. He then went into creative writing and produced some fine stories: Midge Bellingham (number 11), about a woman who unwittingly falls foul of the Race Relations Act; Margaret Collier (number 13), a woman who has to make a decision to help out an old friend; and The Princess Who Was Vain (numbers 9 and 10), a wonderfully Gothic tale about the search for a suitable suitor for a princess who was a martyr to her own vanity.
In 2008 Michael was poised to take on a major editorial role with PenCambria when he had a massive stroke which severely curtailed his verbal communication both in speech and writing and so that never happened. Instead we have been so lucky that his wife Diana has put her own not inconsiderable talent at the disposal of the magazine and she has written regularly for us since then, and to some of those articles Michael was able to make a contribution.
When I first asked him if he would like to take over the editorial side of PenCambria, working with David Burkhill-Howarth, I suggested that he might like to become the Richard Ingrams of mid Wales, as I saw PenCambria as somewhat in mould of The Oldie. He laughed and agreed to it. Diana told me that it was a few days later when he was wondering if he should take it on that he had his stroke, and she commented “Well, you didn’t need to go that far to get out of it.” He will be much missed. An appreciation Reginald Massey follows this introduction.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and Our Roll of Honour commemorates Private David Bennett Jones of Llanwnog, who sacrificed his life as a Chindit in that often forgotten campaign in Burma. We are profoundly grateful to his niece, Linda Evans for introducing him to us.
Sacrifices of a different sort continue the theme this month as Lawrence Johnson and Brian Lawrence remind us of those communities that lost their lands to, among other things the great reservoirs of mid Wales created to supply the water and electricity needs of west Wales and the City of Birmingham. Lawrence reminds us of so many places that Wales has lost by inundation. Meanwhile Brian cordially invites us, courtesy of the City of Birmingham Water Department, to the King Edward VII’s visit to Rhayader on 21st July 1904 on the occasion of His Majesty’s Inauguration of the New Water Supply in the Elan Valley.
Trefeglwys celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its Eisteddfod this year and Margaret Jones traces this history of this remarkable cultural event along with a short history of this once pivotally important community.
When the going gets tough the girls go shopping and Val Church provides a bit of retail and entertainment therapy Victorian style.
This year is the 175th Anniversary of the Chartist Riot in Llanidloes and in the 2nd chapter of his booklet, Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40 Ronald Morris describes the situation leading up to this event. Llanidloes was politically charged at this time and the ruling classes were very uneasy.
Michael Apichela takes us much further afield, to Pennsylvania, where there is a large and fiercely enthusiastic Welsh immigrant community.
Our retired gentleman at Llawryglyn buys a second hand digger and the culvert burst its banks into the field after a particularly heavy downpour – thank heavens for the digger – if he can get it to work!
Spring is here and the activity centres are opening their doors. So there are lots of things happening to satisfy the needs of the mind and the body.
In The Dragon’s Crypt, taking inspiration from various sources of the voyage of the Mimosa, the ship that took so many immigrants from Wales Patagonia 150 years ago to start a new life, Norma Allen has created a fictional diary that brings home so poignantly what those voyagers must have experienced. Part 1 is in this edition. Amber Louise Robinson sings a song in silence. Finally Bruce Mawdesley presents a paean to the Trannon Valley, illustrated once again by Jane Keay whose beautiful drawings I am so pleased to be able publish once again
Gay Roberts, Editor
Michael Mackenzie Brown – an appreciation Reginald Massey
Roll of Honour: Private 14639680 David Bennett Jones – Chindit Linda Evans
Drowned Worlds Lawrence Johnson
Making Waves – Events along the Montgomery Canal
Trefeglwys: the 100th Eisteddfod (2015) Margaret Jones
Bryn Tail Cottage Invitation Richard Fryer
Clywedog Bus Services Brian Poole
Shopping & Entertainment for Young Ladies in the 19th Century Val Church
Boo Boo Mawdesley-Bevis Requiescat in pace Tom Lines, illustration John Selly
Chartism in Llanidloes 1839-40, Chapter 1 E. Ronald Morris
A Very Special Day Brian Lawrence
The Welsh in Pennsylvania Michael Apichela
The School Bus Run from Y Fan to Staylittle Brian Poole
Put Out To Grass : part 15: The Big Freeze Diana Ashworth.
Stretching the Mind & Body
– Gregynog Festival
– Mid Wales Arts Centre
– Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales
– Mid Wales Events Horizon
The Dragons Crypt
Mimosa Journal Norma Allen
A Song in Silence Amber Luise Robinson
Trannon Bruce Mawdesley, illustration Jane Keay
For each issue we select one article to be published on the website. The following is the first part of a riveting piece of creative writing, based on historical fact, by Norma (one of our regular contributors and a member of the editorial team).
MIMOSA JOURNAL Part 1 by Norma Allen
In May 2015, it will be one hundred and fifty years since the Mimosa; a Clipper converted to a Barque, set sail from Liverpool to Patagonia. The ship carried around one hundred and sixty people from all over Wales who were seeking a new life in Argentina, South America. These included Abraham Matthews, a Minister, born in Llanidloes in 1832, along with his wife Gwenllian from Aberdare and their daughter Mary Annie, born in 1865 in Merthyr Tydfil.
The story of what led to this journey as well as what happened when they arrived in Patagonia, some seven thousand miles and two months later, has been well documented. Pencambria published a very informative and interesting article in two parts written by the late David Burkhill-Howarth in 2009 on both the journey and the start of the colony in Patagonia. There is a wealth of material online and further reading in Susan Wilkinson’s two books. I have drawn heavily upon her book, ‘Mimosa –The life and times of the ship that sailed to Patagonia’ for much of the factual detail which enabled me to construct the fictional journal (see details below).
Several of the travellers kept diaries or journals giving some account of life on board. Although the journal that follows is based on facts known about the voyage, together with mention of the names of some of the passengers and crew, you will not find any Edith Pryce or her brother Elwyn on the passenger list for the Mimosa, as they are fictional characters.
Burkill-Howarth, David, The Welsh People in Patagonia – Article: Parts 1 and 2, 2009.
Pencambria, Issues 10 and 11.
Wilkinson, Susan, 2007. Mimosa – The life & times of the ship that sailed to Patagonia
Y Lolfa, Ceredigion ISBN: 9 78086243 952 3
Wilkinson, Susan, 2007. Mimosa’s Voyages –Official Logs, Crew Lists and Masters.
Y Lolfa, Ceredigion ISBN -13: 9 780 86243 983 5
www. glaniad.com/ The voyage of the Mimosa, 1865
Edith Pryce’s Journal
Thursday May 25th 1865 At last we have been let on board the Mimosa and will sail out of Liverpool as soon as the tides are right. I fear our journey will not be a pleasant one for our quarters are cramped and barely adequate for all the people travelling. The sleeping quarters for single men, and for women and their families, are separate. We are on the main deck with our own communal washing area; the men are on a lower deck and kept away from us by iron bars and separate hatches to the upper deck, so I am parted from my brother Elwyn at night. We each have a narrow bunk with communal washing area. There is no privacy and only four privies to serve us all. We have brought our bundles of blankets and pots with us but any other possessions must be stored in the hold. It will have to be endured though and surely cannot be worse than the hardships we have borne in our lives already.
Elwyn is barely seventeen and a sickly lad. I pray he will make the journey without any further illness. We lost our parents and two younger sisters to the fever and I was barely able to scrape a living for us both as a servant. As soon as I heard about this trip to Patagonia through our chapel, I was determined we should go. We did not have enough to buy the tickets for it was twelve pounds for each of us, but our chapel helped us out and we will repay it when we can. The rest of our savings was used up in Liverpool where we have had to wait four long weeks before the ship was ready. It is only through the kindness and generosity of others waiting to travel that we managed to remain. Some families had to give up and return home as they had no more money or any means of getting any.
We are promised one hundred acres of land for each family and even though Elwyn isn’t strong, I am in good health and only in my early twenties. I believe he will thrive in a better climate and will rise to the challenge. It has been hard to leave our relatives and friends, knowing we may never see them or the land of our birth again. Yet, we are told it is the chance for a new start where we Welsh will make a land for ourselves and will not have to obey the English parliament, who some say, want to stamp out our language and culture.
Sunday May 28th 1865 This morning the Red Dragon of Wales was raised and we all sang an anthem in welsh to the tune of God Save the Queen. Mimosa was attached to a steam tug, the anchor was raised and with the help of a pilot who knew these waters well, we were steered safely out of the estuary into the ocean.
Elwyn and I, along with many others, watched the Perch Rock Lighthouse recede with a mixture of excitement and fear. Like most of the other passengers, neither of us had been much beyond our village in Wales, near Bala, before we travelled to Liverpool and it was difficult not to wish for a return to everything that was familiar to us. I have had little rest for the last two nights for there is so much noise and restlessness in our sleeping quarters. Several of the families have babies and young children and it seems as soon as one child stops bawling, another begins.
Captain Pepperell conducted a short, Anglican service this morning. Sunday School was arranged for the children this afternoon and this evening we are to have a non-conformist service. But the water has been rough all day, the ship plunges and rises constantly and we passengers who are unused to sailing are suffering from bouts of seasickness. Some are more afflicted than others. I cannot decide whether to go on the deck to get air and grow nauseous as I see the movement of the waves or to lie on my bunk below with others who are constantly vomiting. Elwyn is struggling but I hope we will soon become accustomed to the movement.
Monday May 29th At four this morning, those of us who had fallen into a fitful slumber were awakened by a great storm –– the wind roared, the rain was torrential and the ship was buffeted like a matchbox by the waves. Nearly everyone was sick and lay clinging to his or her bunk –– the infants wailing and the younger children sobbing with terror. Most of us were frightened for our lives as the timbers creaked and groaned around us. I worried about my brother on the lower deck. I cannot find out how he is doing while we are all in our own quarters. We did not know if the Mimosa would withstand the onslaught. We were only just off the Anglesey coast and heard a life-boat had put out to take us back to shore but Captain Pepperell refused the help and we struggled on. All I wish at this moment is we were back home. Our roof may have been leaking and there were draughts through the windows but at least the floor remained still. We are told by the crew who are well accustomed to such storms, that we will soon get our sea-legs.
Tuesday May 30th The storm had abated by morning light and the Mimosa is now in full sail. We passed the Scilly Isles, Cornwall and the Irish coast under clear skies. Everyone is feeling better and there is a cheerier atmosphere, even though the women have had a day of it clearing up after yesterday’s sickness. This is no easy task as we are allowed to wash clothes and bedding on only two days a week, fortunately this was one of them. We have to put everything in large tubs of sea-water on deck. The washing comes out cleaner but dries as stiff as boards and our hands are already chapped and raw. I feel for the babies in their stiffened diapers and the infants with their tender skin. Elwyn managed to come out onto the communal deck this afternoon. I was much relieved to see him with a little colour in his cheeks. He complains little but I know he’s having a hard time. He is one of the younger ones and unused to the rough language and ways of some of the other men.
Friday June 2nd The ship is sailing well now and we are off the Bay of Biscay. We have had some celebration today for Lewis Humphreys, one of the three ministers on board, married William Hughes and Ann Lewis, both from Abergynolwyn. They are not young, both in their thirties, I believe and Ann is with child. They could have wed earlier but perhaps decided they would like to do it on board the Mimosa, as they sailed out to a new life together. Elwyn is feeling more settled now the sea is calmer and is no longer vomiting. His health is benefitting from the sea air too and he talks excitedly of how it will be when we get to Patagonia.
Thursday June 8th In the last day or two we have all been anxious about little Catherine, the two- year-old daughter of Robert and Mary Thomas from Bangor, who is suffering from a bad dose of croup. The doctor, Thomas Greene, has moved the child to the sick cabin and applies warm fomentations to her throat to try to alleviate the spasms. One or both parents are in attendance at all times but it is pitiful to hear the child’s hoarse, croaking cries. We all pray for her.
Friday June 9th All our praying and the best efforts of the doctor could not save the child. Little Catherine died today. My heart goes out to her grief-stricken parents.
Saturday June 10th At ten o’clock this morning the child was buried at sea. She was placed in a special box weighted with stones at one end and cast overboard. Captain Pepperell read the prayer book service for the burial of the dead. Catherine’s parents could scarce contain themselves as the coffin slipped into the ocean. Her mother clung to the hand of the child’s five-year-old sister as if nothing would ever part them. All passengers and crew were in attendance and there were many tear-streaked faces and all in sombre mood.
If that was not enough to bear, worse came late this evening when we heard that James, the two-year-old son of Aaron and Rachel Jenkins, had also died. The child was suffering from some hideous disease that causes gangrenous inflammation of the face and sometimes afflicts young children. It may have been a merciful release for the child, since I’ve heard the cheeks redden and swell as the insides of the mouth slough away. Certainly, we have all noticed the foul odour emanating from the child. His mother is heavy with another pregnancy and we pray the shock will not have caused any harm to her unborn child.
Sunday June 11th This morning, Mary Jones from Mountain Ash went into labour. The doctor moved her to the cabin serving as a hospital but we were all able to hear her screams and howls as the birth progressed. It put some of the other women in mind of their birthing pains and we had also to endure their gory descriptions of blood loss, still births, babies strangled by the birthing cord and so on. I went up on deck when I could endure it no longer. There was nothing to view but the vast expanse of ocean with a few sea birds flying high above but the day was clear and the air felt fresh. I went back below to hear the welcome sound of the infant’s first cries. It is a boy and he is to be called Morgan. We were all greatly cheered by the news after yesterday’s tragedies.
Tuesday June 13th We are now in the Tropics and have just passed the island of Madeira. It is as if we have entered another world. The heat is overwhelming and the ocean is a sparkling expanse below the blue sky. There was a wondrous sunset last night. It is hard to describe the glowing colours in the sky as the sun slipped below the horizon. Although we were a few miles away we could see the island through the crystal clear air –– whitewashed houses with palm-frond roofs and other hovels which seemed to be made of gorse. The sand is bleached white and we can see terraced plantations laid out across the hillsides. We have all been out on deck despite the heat but there are reddened faces and forearms now and many of the children are whimpering as their tender skin peels, many parents having paid no heed to the doctor’s advice to keep the youngsters covered and out of the sun.
Thursday June 15th Today we saw the Canary Islands and the mountain of Tenerife in the distance. I am thankful to our father, who was a scholar and a schoolmaster before he became sick and we fell on hard times, who made sure to give all his children an education. It means I do have some knowledge of where we are in the world and how far we have travelled. We make progress but I know we have many more weeks on board the ship before we reach our destination. Also, I am able to write this journal, which provides a record of our journey as well as an outlet for my thoughts. Many of the passengers are quite illiterate, especially the women and are curious about what I write. Sometimes they ask me to write letters for them, which will be sent at some stage of the journey. I am happy to do it. The heat has become unbearable, especially in our quarters below deck. The aroma rising from our hot, sweaty bodies, along with the stench from the privies, is now a great deal worse. Tempers are becoming short in the heat and quarrels break out between families.
Friday June 16th This has been a most upsetting day. Captain Pepperell discovered that some of the passengers have head lice. He said that the women’s hair should be cut and their heads washed with soap and water. I was on the quarter deck when young Jane Huws, was advanced upon by one of the crew who was brandishing a pair of shears, intent on obeying the captain’s orders. Her screams of terror soon brought many other passengers onto the deck, including her father, Rhydderch Huws. He and Hugh Hughes confronted, the captain, demanding the girl be let go. Captain Pepperell grew very angry and there was a loud exchange of words as we all looked on. The men would not back down and the captain drew his revolver and pointed it at Hugh Hughes’ chest. We were all silent, fearing what would happen. Still the men stood their ground whereupon the captain raised his revolver and fired –– into the sea. Rhydderch kept on pleading for his daughter to be let go so Captain Pepperell ordered John Downes, the mate, to manacle him. Downes is not an agreeable man and plainly enjoyed approaching Rhydderch, jangling the irons and sneering at him. Before he did so however, the Captain, aware of the mounting antagonism arising from the other passengers, changed his mind and finally a compromise was reached. It was decided that he and the doctor, Thomas Greene, would examine all heads for the presence of lice. Fortunately, both Elwyn and I are free from infestation. We are told that in order to prevent the spread of infection, passengers are not allowed access to the quarterdeck. This leaves us with even less space for fresh air and exercise.
Wednesday June 21st Today we saw many sharks in the waters near our ship. Fish were leaping high out of the sea, one landed on deck and was seized. It was a wonderful to see such creatures. Despite the danger from the sharks, some of the bolder young men plunged into the ocean and allowed themselves to be towed along on a rope tied to the bowsprit. We all applauded as the waves rose and fell, lifting then submerging the men. Still, I felt fearful for their safety and was glad when they were all back on board. They strode about the deck, drying off, telling us what an exhilarating experience it had been. Elwyn was envious but he would never have had the strength for such an adventure and for that I was thankful. There will be plenty more new experiences when we start our life in Patagonia.
Sunday June 25th The wind has picked up in the last few days and today we sailed into a tropical storm. Once again the ship heaved and creaked leading to the return of sickness to some. Above the sound of the wind and waves we once again heard the howls of a woman in labour. The doctor has little to alleviate the pain so it must be borne. The child, a girl to be called Rachel, was a daughter for Rachel and Aaron Jenkins, who lost their son James just a fortnight ago.
Tuesday June 27th We have crossed the equator and passed into the southern hemisphere. There was a celebration to mark ‘Crossing the Line’. The young male passengers were chased by the crew and had water thrown over them, while we women looked on, enjoying the spectacle. It was all taken in good part. I saw Elwyn getting soaked a time or two but the heat of the sun soon dried off the victims. Later Captain Pepperell invited some of the passengers for drinks in his cabin. There were reports of drunkenness by those unused to such an amount of liquor but no lasting harm, I suppose.
Wednesday June 28th During the early hours of this morning, John Davies, the eleven-month-old son of Robert and Catherine Davies from Llandrillo, died as a result of complications caused by ‘water on the brain’. We had all observed the poor infant’s unnaturally large head and his struggles as his little body wasted away. We stood on deck at eight this morning, with great sadness, as the Chaplain performed the funeral rites and committed the infant’s body to the ocean. My heart goes out to his parents but it is a blessing that the baby will suffer no more.