My great grandmother Catherine was born on
February 28th 1879 and lived with her parents and two
brothers at the tiny dwelling of Benallt Bach on the western slopes of
Rhiw, above Bodwyddog Fawr farm. According to the 1881 census her mother
Ellen by then was a widow. Life must have been very hard for the poor
woman, at just 34 years old, having to bring up three children, William
7, Owen 5, and little Catherine. There was no such thing as state
benefit either, so deprived and destitute families had to rely on good neighbours and handouts from the church and
charities for the poor. They would also have to find
employment as servants or cleaners just to keep their children clothed and
fed, which is just what Ellen Owen had to do.
Every Sunday Ellen and her three children
would join the congregation at Nebo chapel. And by 1885, the three
children would attend the “Band of Hope” at the chapel every Tuesday
evening. The Band of Hope was a temperance organisation
for working-class children, which had been founded in Leeds in 1847. All
members took a pledge of total abstinence and were taught the
"evils of drink". Members were enrolled from the age of six
and met once a week to listen to lectures and participate in activities.
These were well attended, and most of Rhiw’s children would have been
On one particular Tuesday night in the winter
of 1886, all the children and their elders left the chapel at about 7
pm. Quite a few of their parents would have been waiting for them, so
there would have been a lot of
people standing around outside Nebo, on that cold and clear night. To
the northeast in the direction of Garn Fadryn, someone noticed a light
quite low in the sky. And as it moved nearer all eyes were glued to it,
and the group fell silent as this “apparition” came closer and
closer. As it moved through the sky to the northwest of them, Catherine
described it as being round and similar in appearance to a farm cart
wheel, very large, with bright lights all around the rim, and some more
lights at the “hub” in the centre, and was totally silent as well.
It took about four to five minutes to travel from horizon to horizon,
before finally disappearing over Bardsey Island to the far southwest.
If a large group of people saw something
similar today, it would be analysed, in a totally different light to what
the people of Rhiw did back then. Some of us would put it down to a
“Government Conspiracy” or
even blame the Yanks, or the Russians. Because today it would be
possible for a similar machine to exist, after all stealth
fighters and bombers were flying around for some time before we were
told, (or found out about them).
But in 1886, it would be another
fourteen years before Count Zeppelin took to the sky in his first airship, and
then only managed to circle a field a couple of times before his
steering gear packed up. So
when people looked up to the sky back then,
they wouldn’t expect to see anything more than what nature had
provided. And no one in their wildest dreams could have thought
something like this up, for then the sky was exclusively for birds and
bats. And not till 1947 would the world adopt the “Flying Saucer”
term, so in 1886 a cart wheel was a far more acceptable description.
So what did 7-year-old Catherine and the
people of Rhiw see in the night sky on that cold winters evening 120 years
ago? There’s one thing for sure, they hadn’t mistakenly identified a
passing plane, as there weren’t any around then. I think a meteor is
out of the question as well, this object was moving far to slow, a
meteor would have been over the horizon in seconds rather than minutes.
One thing is certain though, they did see something that night, but
sadly we will probably never know what.
(Foot note) I have pondered about which
category of Rhiw.com this account should go into, Myths & Legends
would be an option, but I’ve decided to imbed it in the Rhiw History
pages, where I think it rightly belongs.
Have you seen something that you couldn’t explain away in the sky over
Llyn? Or maybe a similar account to this from the past. Please let us
know, as we would like to put them all together on this website.