The Hendy Family

On 16 August 1812 Jane Nathaniel from Bardsey and Robert Williams, Gegin Fawr, the tavern at Aberdaron were married. Sian Nathaniel was a descendant of the old Nathaniel family on the island and Robert was the son of William Evans (or William Bevan as he called himself at one time) and Elizabeth (nee Turbridge).  Sian was 24 years old and Robert 18 at the time.  He settled on the island where they brought up their family at Hendy two sons and four daughters William (1813), Nathaniel (1815), Ellen (1818), Elizabeth (1821), Jane (1826) and Ann (1829). 

In 1812 there was a revival on the island, which influenced Robert.  As a result he began taking part in the services, interpreting the scriptures and counselling in the prayer meetings.  But after a while something strange came over him and he turned his back on religion and continued so for a time.  During this time it is said he lost a son (possibly William) and it was the means of his returning to the fold.  He was elected an elder and soon after started counselling again and was accepted as a preacher and a member of the Llyn and Eifionydd Presbytery when it met at Llithfaen.  It was on 10 August 1828 that he preached for the first time on Bardsey and he held services, Sunday school and society meetings for over forty years, often under quite difficult circumstances and with very little support.  The Reverend Henry Hughes, Bryncir, notes that he preached with fervour during the revivals of 1849 and 1859, sometimes with great rejoicing when Robert would “jump and leap with joy and gladness”.

As far as we know, he only received five pounds per annum from the Llyn and Eifionydd Presbytery for his labour and he supplemented this by preaching on the mainland.  In addition he farmed eleven acres, fished, worked for the lighthouse keepers and did any other available work.

By 1874 the Presbytery felt he was getting old and to some degree incapable, also the state of the church was very unsatisfactory.  The Reverend W.T. Jones was appointed a missionary on the island. Robert Williams and the islanders gave him a warm and kind welcome.  On the morning of Sunday fourth April the following year (1875) Robert Williams died following a short illness of three days.  The previous Sunday he had preached at the chapel.  On the 8th of April he was buried in the island cemetery in the same grave as his wife Sian, who died in 1872.

He is described as a “man of a kind temperament and strong disposition” having “two large, strong hands, muscles like iron shackles and he was not aware of any worry or fear.  He kept his head in all dangers and could fulfil any heavy work”.  His personal appearance was somewhat islandic and foreign.

There are several tales regarding his strength.  It is said that once a ram fell off a rock into the sea and he jumped in, got hold of it and brought it ashore.

 Another time, whilst going to his ship at Liverpool, carrying a bag of salt on a saddle on his shoulders he fell between two ships and he then swam ashore without the salt shifting from the saddle.

No wonder, then, that his grandsons Thomas, Carreg Bach, and Harri, Cristin Isaf, were prepared to face every challenge as recorded in the stories The Purse and The Storm found elsewhere on this website.

Although he was brought up in a tavern he was a zealous abstainer.  It is said that customers gave his father alcohol just to see him berating his son.  One Sunday evening he was preaching at Pencaerau and condemning the drinking that would be at the fair in Aberdaron on the morrow.  On his way home on the day of the fair he called at Gegin Fawr but was not made welcome, only thrown out onto the road.

People on the mainland regarded him as the bishop and, sometimes, as the king of the island.  There was no ground for this as the Cristin family was in the royal lineage.  But whilst preaching on temperance at Betws-y-coed, Robert said that the king and queen in the country where he lived had signed the pledge.  To everyones surprise, he explained that Bardsey was the country and that he and Sian his wife were the king and queen!

One Sunday morning, when he was preaching at Pencaerau, the bailiff was sitting in the congregation with a summons in his pocket to be presented to Robert Williams, the islands representative for the Poor Law.  Attempts had been made several times previously to present it but he succeeded in avoiding them every time.  This time the bailiff intended to present it to him at the end of the service but was persuaded that it would be wiser to wait until the morning, rather than infringe on the sanctity of the Sabbath. He would then have the opportunity whilst Robert was returning to the island.  By then Robert had gone into hiding until the coast was clear.

Three of his children, Nathaniel, Ellen and Ann remained on the island where they brought up their families.  Elizabeth went to Aberdaron, married Robert Evans from the parish of Llanengan, and brought up their family in the village before moving to Plas Minffordd and some of their descendants have gone to various parts of England and Wales.  As a young lad their eldest son, Robert, went to live with his grandparents, Robert and Sian Williams, at Hendy, Bardsey and settled there.

Jane went to Abersoch where she brought up her family; she suffered a great bereavement in the death of her daughter and son-in-law at a young age within two years of each other.  Following her own death two years later her eight-year-old granddaughter was left an orphan.

Nathaniel married Mary Williams from Aberdaron and settled at Carreg Bach.  They had two sons and a daughter.  Robert, their eldest died at sea, Thomas stayed and worked at home.  Jane was off the island for a time. There is a picture of her on old postcards standing in front of Carreg Bach, which is described as Miss Jane Williams cottage.

Ellen married a neighbour, Evan Williams, Cristin, and had two sons and a daughter Harri, William and Mari.  The three remained unmarried and lived at the family home, Cristin Isaf.  After Mari injured her leg, probably fractured it, the brothers told the doctor that she had become too old to go to much expense on her!  Harri died suddenly one day “having had a clean shirt and a boiled egg for breakfast” according to Mari.  William carried coal from the Cafn and always wore a gold watch chain.  William and Mari remained on the island until 1925, when most of the old families left the island.  Their living conditions had deteriorated and they went to live at Tremnant, Aberdaron.  This was the first time Mari had left the island in 25 years and she died soon after in 1926.  William then went to live with his cousin, Jane, at Hendre Bach, Rhosfawr, until his death in 1929.  A report in the Herald Cymraeg mentions he was an interesting companion, enjoyed reminiscing about Bardsey.  The day of his funeral at Aberdaron was very wet and stormy.

Ann married Rees Griffith, a master mariner of Brynmawr, Anelog, and they made their home at Hendy with Robert Williams.  Three children were born to them, Ruth, William and Jane.  Ruth settled in Abersoch, married John Henry Jones, ran a shop and brought up a family.  William did not marry until after his mother died in 1910.  His wife was Jane Jones, Gladstone, Aberdaron.  William was not happy because of the difficulties in obtaining a doctor to attend to his sick mother and he, his wife Jane and cousin Robert decided to leave the island around 1912 and move to Abersoch where they lived the rest of their lives.

It is likely that Jane, the youngest, was regarded as being a “spinster” as she was over 30 years old and unmarried.  However, cupid arrived unexpectedly one day.   Edward Owen of Llanbedrog went across to visit family and William Roberts, Hendre Bach, Rhosfawr went with him.  When they arrived at Aberdaron the farmer of Plas Bach was very angry because the joiners who were to erect his hay shed were blind drunk at Aberdaron.  But William placated him by saying the two of them were joiners and if they were given suitable clothes and tools they would build the hay shed for him.  They were there for three weeks and by the end William had found love and eventually he and Jane, Hendy, were going to get married.  But the courtship was not easy.  Janes family was Calvinistic Methodists and Williams family Baptists and, as a result, there was strong opposition from both families.  But it is said there was more opposition from Janes mother Ann (her father had already died).  Jane greatly offended her mother and probably this was reflected in her inheritance.  However, William and Jane got married at Bwlch Chapel, Llanengan on 9 September 1903.  A few days after the wedding Jane went back to Bardsey and William went to the Baptist Union meeting at Liverpool.  Jane lived on the island for about three years after her marriage before moving to Hendre Bach before the birth of her eldest son Rhys (the birth was registered as Rees).  By this time her mother-in-law had died and she bore the responsibility of running the home.  Jane joined the Baptists and you could easily say that she become more of a Baptist than her husband!  Another son, William Nathaniel, was born while her mother was still alive  but there is no mention that she returned to the island until her mothers death in 1910. A telegram came to the post office at Fourcrosses informing her of her death and a boat was arranged to come and meet her at Ffynnon Fair to take her over to the island.  She returned there again to assist William and Mari to move to the mainland.  By this time she had another son around twelve years old, Robert William (Bob) who remembered going there with her to clear up.

But Jane, my grandmother, never forgot her roots; because, hanging on the wall opposite to where she used to sit at the table to eat and sew there was a large aerial photograph of the island, which was noticeable when one entered the room.


Nan Parri


Many thanks to Mrs Parri for her family history


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