"The Anvil"

Harri Williams Cristin was quite a cultured man, he was a great reader and had a very good memory. Every time he came to Aberdaron he would buy a Welsh newspaper and he would read it from cover to cover to his brother William and sister Mari and some of the other islanders that were illiterate. Harri had inherited mental strength and abilities whilst his brother had inherited physical strength. Language wasn’t a problem for the people of Bardsey nearly everyone there was bilingual, the main reason for this was that the lighthouse keepers were mostly English, it’s mentioned in the diary kept by the chapel minister William Thomas Jones that English services were often held at the chapel.

Bardsey was virtually self sufficient, there was no mention of white bread in those days, bread was made from the barley grown on the island and they also made their own yeast as hops were plentiful as well. The islanders would make their own soap using potatoes and some kind of seaweed. The only things they had to have from outside were tea and sugar.

As I mentioned William Williams Cristin was a very strong man, he was one of the oarsmen that came over to get the doctor during that unforgettable storm. He was at the smithy in Aberdaron one day and he said to my father ‘ An anvil would be very handy for us on Bardsey’. To which my father replied ‘Well if you can carry it down to the beach you can have it’ he replied without even thinking. William asked my father ‘Do you really mean that?’ and my father said ‘Yes of course’. So William took hold of the anvil with one hand and got the other smaller anvil that sticks out from the bigger one in his other hand and hoisted it onto his shoulder and took off in the direction of the beach with my father following him in the hope that he would fail to get that far. When they were opposite the ship William met one of his fellow islanders and William explained what he was doing with the anvil on his shoulder and they both chatted away for some time and had a jolly good laugh. When my father saw that he decided he might as well go back to the smithy and concede that he had lost his anvil!!!!


I mentioned before that William Williams was illiterate, but when he came over to Aberdaron on his monthly visit to pay the rent he would call in at the Post Office to buy a newspaper. One fine day he came in to the smithy having bought an English newspaper, even though he couldn’t read a word of it, sat on a chair placed one leg over the other brought out the news paper from under his arm placed it on his knee, reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out a pair of gold rimmed spectacles with a spring in them, placed them on his nose and opened the newspaper. Then Capt Mcneil walked in to the smithy, he lived at Bellfield, it’s called Henfaes nowadays and he asked William in English of course, ‘What’s the news Mr Williams? In an instant William replied ‘ Oh big ship fawr gynddeiriog sinc in lantic, Ciaptan and all soul one jack sinc in it’. ( Huge ship sinks in the Atlantic and the Captain and all souls go down with her.) After hearing that speech everyone including Capt Mcneil had to step outside the smithy to laugh, for if William had heard them he’d have gone bolistic, strangely enough the story William told was completely true, a ship had sunk in the Atlantic and all on board had been lost with her. William had opened the paper upside down, and I can’t really say whether or not William had seen a ship upside down in the paper or perhaps he’d heard mention of the tragedy elsewhere in the village.


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