Shortly after dawn on
Wednesday the 29th June 1927, mid summer, a rare total eclipse
of the sun took place over Wales, hitting first Pen Llyn and then moving
north east directly over Pwllheli, Snowdon, Conwy then over Lancashire and
North Yorkshire at Darlington and finally out in the North Sea. The area
of total eclipse was 32 miles wide and at any spot on this track the total
eclipse would last for 23 seconds.
This eclipse was well
advertised and thousands of people came to what was then Caernarvonshire
to view the event, many hundreds of them climbing the hills and mountains
to hopefully get an uninterrupted view of a rare astronomical event.
Many people including
parties of school children had climbed the higher peaks the day before and
camped out particularly on Cader Idris and Snowdon. Still more children
with teachers had travelled through the night to reach a vantage point.
Remember, this is mid
Summer and it is Wales, and of course the predictable weather arrived.
The Caernarvon & Denbigh Herald (as spelt at the time) reported the
event extensively in its edition of the 1st July 1927 and
extracts from this paper are reproduced here.
PWLLHELI – Thousands
of visitors went to the Lleyn district throughout Tuesday in motor cars to
take advantage of the Lleyn mountains which were in the line of totality
to view the eclipse. In spite of the incessant downpour the inhabitants
of the town, old and young, turned out between 3 and 5 o’clock
in the morning and were wet through. Almost everyone was provided with
dark glasses, which of course were of no use in such weather. Some
hundreds braved the elements and climbed Pen-y-Garn, Pen Cilan, the
Rivals, Garn Bodfaen, Mynytho and Garn Fadryn. The majority had
congregated in shelters on the promenade and along Cardiff Road, and West
End Parade. The sun was hidden behind dark clouds, but the eclipse, which
last exactly 23 seconds, was a weird spectacle. The great shadow travelled
gradually over St.Tudwal’s Islands towards Beddgelert and Snowdon. The
crowds spent the hours of waiting singing and chatting, but when the
critical moment arrived there was deep silence. Four special trains and
hundreds of motorcars brought visitors to the town on Wednesday morning,
CRICCIETH – Hundreds
of students from north and south Wales came by special trains, cars and
charabancs, Visitors totalled over 6000.
Mr.Lloyd George was at
his home with Mrs.Lloyd George, Lady Cary Evans and Miss Megan Lloyd
PORTHMADOG – Despite
heavy rain crowds congregated on Borthygest Hill and Moelygest.
BANGOR – A very wet
morning with only a momentary deepening of the gloom was the experience of
the visitors here.
CAERNARFON – In spite
of the continuous and heavy downpour some hundreds ventured out of doors
hoping they would see something.
On the Tuesday evening
50 boys from the Lewes Grammar School accompanied by their headmaster
arrived at Caernarvon en route for Snowdon. They were met at the station
by the Deputy Mayor and the Town Clerk. The boys left for Llanberis in
the evening and went up Snowdon by train shortly after 3am on the
Wednesday morning – unfortunately they saw nothing.
SNOWDON & LLANBERIS –
Hundreds of people from all parts of England and Wales made their way to
Llanberis on the Tuesday, and throughout the day and that evening, traffic
was very heavy. All the hotels and boarding houses were full of visitors
eager to go up Snowdon by foot and by train. The Snowdon Railway had
arranged to run trains to the summit between 3.30 and 4.30am on Wednesday
morning. Two hundred people went by train and as there was not enough
shelter in the two wooden huts of the Summit Hotel, most were drenched to
An astronomer had
suggested installing a wireless set on the summit in order that accurate
time signals could be received. This was in fact done, officials of the
Radio Society of Great Britain set up a five valve Halcyon portable
wireless and were able to receive time signals from the transmitting
station at Daventry.
Other parts of Wales
in the path of totality also reported heavy overcast rainy weather, and it
was only further to the north west that weather conditions were favourable
and the local paper reported that at Giggleswick in Yorkshire that the
eclipse was perfectly seen. The crowds were struck dumb by the sight of
the corona glowing like a volcano, and cheered when the sun reappeared.
There are historical
references to eclipses in Wales from Brut y Tywysogian, or, the
Chronicle of the Princes, the following being merely one of them.
807 Ac yna y bu
varw Arthen, verenhin Keredigyawn. Ac y bu diffyyc ar yt heul
807 And then died
Arthen, king of Ceredigion. And there was an eclipse of the sun.
There was partial
eclipse on the 11th February 807.
There are again
references for solar and lunar eclipses in Wales for the 4th
November 830, the 20th March 1140, the 1st May 1185
and the 23rd June 1191. There were total solar eclipses on
the years 639, 878 and 1023 but these are not referred to in the
It is a pity that the
total eclipse of the sun on the 29th June 1927 was not observed
in Wales for the next opportunity to see a total solar eclipse in Wales
will be limited to Flintshire on the 14th June 2151, and as it
will be mid summer, no doubt it will rain.
My thanks go to web
pages from Bristol and Nottingham Universities, University of Wales Press,
Cardiff, 1955 and the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald.