"The Purse"

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William Jones Aberdaron Blacksmith

Harri Williams of Cristin.

When ever Harri Williams came over to Aberdaron he would always need something from the smithy, and he would always pay for it as he got it, it would either be something for the farm or for one of the boats. If there was someone else in the smithy my father would be sure to say that he had no change and Harri Williams would come out with the same story each time, it goes something like this.

‘Wel Hugh Jones wait a minute and let’s see now, I’ve got another purse, but that belongs to Mari (his sister), and I’ve to count every penny that goes out of this purse, and every penny that goes into it. This is the purse that the money from the eggs, butter and pigs goes into, but wait a minute I’ve got another purse’ said Harri ‘ I alwyas keep this one on my person day and night!’. Then he would open his waistcoat and his shirt to reveal a pocket that someone had sown onto his vest, with a safety pin to ensure it was closed properly and that nothing would be lost from it. After that ritual inside this pocket he took out a leather purse which contained thirty pounds in gold coins, which was a lot of money in those days. Then my father would ask him why he kept so much money on him, then he would begin his little speech, ‘Well Hugh  Jones the reason is if I were to be stranded in Aberdaron for some length of time, then I would have money to buy new shirts and underpants from John Griffith Siop Pencaerau, to save me from becoming infested.’ (that worried him greatly) ‘ And say we’d be stranded here and it was rent day, well then I’d have money to  pay you see.’ (Thomas Williams Carreg Bach was Harri’s partner when lobster potting, he was regarded as one of the finest boat handlers on the island.) ‘But the main reason I carry the money is .......... ( and here begins the tale of the third purse.)

Harri Williams and Thomas Williams, Carreg Bach used to fish together, and one morning at daybreak they set off whilst it was still dark to lift their lobster pots. As they were in the vicinity of the lighthouse they saw a strange object in the half light, floating on the sea, they went towards it and as the sun began to make it’s presence known it soon became apparent that it was a ship bobbing on the tide, her sails full and sailing towards the island, at times the sails would be full then flapping loosely in the wind. They realised all was not right with the ship and came alongside her and shouted up to any one on board, no answer came so they boarded the ship and on entering the galley found a young boy unconcious on the deck, they then found the Mate and when they entered the cabin the Captain too was unconcious. Thomas Williams then took the helm and headed towards the Cafn (the islands harbour), where they dropped anchor and went ashore in their own boat. One of the light house keepers had been watching all this and came to meet them, but Thomas Williams told him to come no further, in case there was a disease onboard the ship that might infect the islanders, they told him what had happened and asked him to inform the islanders that they would be taking the ship to Porthmadog so as no to infect them, as getting a doctor to the island to treat patients wasn’t easy. They then rowed back to the ship hoisted the sails, made the crew comfortable pulled up the anchor and set sail for Porthmadog. It was the start of the ebb and with a fair breeze they made good headway, they steered out towards the Cilan tide, avoiding Hells Mouth which was notorious for the strong current that pulled the vessels towards the shore. It happened to be a big spring tide and that enabled them to get under way swifly and in no time they had passed Cilan Head and Abersoch, had they gone too swiftly they would have to wait for high water but as it happened they didn’t have to wait long to go in towards Porthmadog Harbour. The pilot boat came out to meet them and as it was alongside they told the story of the unfortunate crew, no one would board the vessel but the pilot told them to follow him into the harbour and so it was.

They were oredered to drop anchor before coming alongside and told not to allow anyone to board the vessel, whilst the pilot set off to get the police and the doctor. Before long he returned with two policemen and a doctor, the doctor examined the crew and immediately arranged for them to be sent ashore for medical attention. He told Harri and Thomas not to touch any of the food on board and that someone would bring food for them, and according to Harri Williams it was really good and was brought to them every four hours during the day.

The following afternoon a boat came with a policeman and the doctor who explained to them that the crew had been suffering from food poisoning and that they were still seriously ill. They took all the food off the ship and took it ashore whilst the pilot took the ship alongside Harri and Thomas were told to stay on board until the owners arrived.

(And this is where the story of the purse in the pocket in his vest really begins.)

Harri Williams didn’t have a penny on him, but Thomas Williams had money and consequently paid for everything for the both of them, Harri didn’t like this at all and from that day on he decided he would never again be caught out without money on him. After going through the ship’s papers and finding out who owned the vessel and what her cargo was the police officer told them not to be too leniant on the company or the insurers, she was owned by a Liverpool company and bound for Southern Ireland with a cargo of fertiliser, which was quite a valuable cargo and they had saved the ship and the crew, the officer also made sure he kept a good eye out for them for the next few days before the owners and the insurance company arrived. The police officer had himself been on a pleasure trips to Bardsey many a time and having a liking for crab Thomas Williams had given him a bucketful of crabs on his last visit. So Harri and Thomas were well compensated for their efforts and endeavours, although quite how much they never said. They were also taken back to Bardsey on the ship as she eventually made her way to Southern Ireland. From that day on Harri was never without money about his person just in case!!!!  


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