An exciting tale I heard from Harri Williams and many of the islanders, although there was no one quite as good as Harri for telling them.
He and Thomas Williams had been at sea lifting their lobster pots and they were making for the shore at dusk when Thomas told Harri that a storm wasn’t far off, he knew this because the sun had gone down between the Parwyd and the Gist, in other words under a cloud, and that the storm would make it impossible for them to cross the sound for at least three weeks. It was raging by the minute and all the other fisherman had already finished lifting their lobster pots a long while before both of them came into the Cafn. When they landed they saw the islanders all gathered on the shore, they were there because the old lady of Plas Bach was very ill and they needed to get a doctor at once. The reason they were waiting for Harri and Thomas was because Thomas was the best boat handler on the island, Thomas Williams Plas Bach who sold coal in Aberdaron was the other.
Thomas told them there’d be no hopes of crossing the sound to Aberdaron until after midnight because the tide was so strong, he told them the wisest thing to do would be to give the people on the mainland a sign to let them know a doctor was needed as soon as possible. There was an understanding between the folk of Bardsey and the people of Ty Mawr Uwchmyndd about the signs, they were also related to the family of Hendy Bardsey, the sign used when a doctor was needed was to light a fire and if the doctor was needed urgently a smaller fire beside it, when the family at Ty Mawr had seen the sign they lit a fire to let the islanders know that they had received the message. It took some time in those to get a doctor the far end of Llyn, there were no telephones or motorcars not even a bike the doctor would come either on horseback or with a horse and trap.
"Bardsey calling the Doctor"
Thomas Williams chose the strongest and best oarsmen that were on the island to go with him to Aberdaron that night and he would be at the helm. Ten oarsmen were to accompany him to Aberdaron and a small corner of sail to help them on their way, the wind was coming over the mountain at Bardsey from a south westerly direction and was strengthening all the while, whilst the sea around them raged ever more. The farmer of Ty Mawr also knew they wouldn’t be able to cross ‘til after midnight and he knew they wouldn’t be able to land at Aberdaron, but would have to into Porth Meudwy. The swell on the beach at Aberdaron would make it impossible for them to land there. When they eventually reached Porth Meudwy the doctor was waiting for them with quite a few people from Uwchmynydd and Aberdaron. Despite a big swell they eventually managed to get the doctor on board the boat. Porth Meudwy is a dangerous place as the swell that breaks on the beach pulls everything in it’s wake out to sea and it wasn’t long before this time that two men died at Borth after being fishing for herrings. The two were Thomas Cwrt and William Bodermud, Thomas Cwrt built Minafon. He’d married Lydia the daughter of Anelog Farm but they never lived at Minafon as they hadn’t finished building it when the tragedy happened, and it was sold to Capt Williams Cae Forus who’d married the daughter of Gwthrian.
After getting the doctor on board they set off for Bardsey, by now it was very stormy, they told the people at Borth that they would try and get back as soon as the doctor had seen the patient. It was a very hard battle against the elements crossing the sound back to Bardsey that morning. When they turned into the sound the conditions were atrocious the sea was mountainous, but they couldn’t see it as it was so dark, as they got closer to the shelter of the mountain at Bardsey things improved a little, but when they got to ‘Pen Cristin’ it got worse and words could not describe how awful it really was there. But they managed eventually to get to the safety of the Cafn, the oarsmen couldn’t move and their hands were red raw and bleeding, their thighs trembling on the thwarts and the hems of their trousers ripped to shreds, which goes to show how hard it had been for them, these were men well used to rowing, men whose hands at been hardened by years of fishing in their small boats, and yet those hands bled that night. The folk at Enlli had prepared a boat for the return journey, but Thomas Williams wanted to make that journey him self as he was the best boat handler on the island.
Four men were to accompany him on the journey back as there’d be no need to row, they’d rigged a shortened sail as the wind was so strong and on top of the mast they had placed a ship’s light so the folk of Bardsey could follow their progress and know when they got to Pen y Cil and the shelter of the cliff face to Porth Meudwy, the folk of Bardsey also knew how long it would take them to cross the sound to Pen y Cil.
It wasn’t long before the doctor arrived back at Cafn, the old lady had a lung infection a poultice would have to be applied morning and evening for some days, the doctor had bought the medication with him as knew what might be needed, having treated many cases of this type before. They immediately set off on their journey as there was no time to lose on this perilous journey and according to Harri it would be very dangerous once they were past Pen Cristin , but thanks to ‘Old Garreg Bach’s skills in handling the boat they managed to make it, he set the sails just right and everyone was secured by ropes, Thomas was tied fast to the helm and the other three were tied to the thwarts and the doctor was very securely tied down. Two of the men bailed out with buckets and Harri was in charge of the sails, as they got further from the island the storm worsened as they had lost the shelter of the mountain and as they got closer to Garreg Ddu it was horrendous, the sea was like a huge mountain, when all of a sudden an enormous wave came crashing over the boat causing the lamp to extinguish, this created a sense of great sadness on the island folk who were following the progress of the little boat battling the elements, they felt sure the boat had sunk.
Three of them were now bailing out with their buckets and what used to tickle me was to listen to Harri recall the rest of the tale, it goes something like this. ‘Despite the strength of the wind and the severity of the storm that raged around us, we had room for thanks that Garreg Bach was at the helm, his hat tied safely on his head and him self tied to the helm. Secondly it was pitch black so we couldn’t see the surrounding sea and thirdly if anything happened well we had a doctor on board ( there’s faith in the doctor for you!!!) We managed to get to the mouth of Borth but it was impossible for anyone ashore to see us as it was so dark, but we could see them as they had lamps even our flares were wet, as if we’d dragged them behind the boat. There was nothing to do but shout at the top of our voices, but the sound of the waves thundering on the shore drowned our voices out. Thomas told them to wait for the waves to abate and they heard him and turned their lamps on us, the big problem now was how to land on the beach, as the swell drags everything out to sea. But they had been talking amongst themselves and had planned a course of action whilst the boat was in Bardsey. They had chosen the tallest men who waded out to meet the boat, three each side in case the boat got flung ashore, the men all had ropes tied around their shoulders in case of an accident and fortunately that morning there were plenty of strong men on Porth Meudwy to haul in the boat with Thomas and the doctor on board.
After getting safely ashore and freeing the doctor and Thomas, the doctor went on his knees in the boat to thank the Lord for his salvation, this was the most poignant prayer I’d ever heard, everyone on the beach was dumbstruck listening to it. Thomas Williams asked the farmer of Ty Mawr to go at once and light a fire to let the folk of Bardsey that they had arrived safely and all was well, as he’d promised to let them know as soon as he could’
When they reached Aberdaron the kind people there had warmed their clothes (all islanders kept a spare set of clothes in the village) and prepared warm beds for them to have a well deserved rest after their ordeal. It was nearly a month before they could eventually return to their homes on the island.
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