"Mango Tapes one"

A recorded chat between Wilf Ryan, Madryn  (Abersoch later), Lewis Jones, (Llanbedrog then),  Frondeg, Rhiw, and Huw Jones, Tegfan, Hebron, concerning the manganese mines of Rhiw.  Lewis Jones was  90  in  1980,  when the recording was made, Wilf Ryan would be  63.   Lewis Jones was born in  1890,  left school in  1903,  at  13  years of age, got his driving licence in  1912.

Monday  29th.  September  1980.  This is from Huw Jones, who possibly will tell us something about the manganese mines.

Do you know it?  Thatís all thatís left, itís in a bit of a hollow, it looks like an old shaft down there, itís been filled-in, and be one that Lewis might remember.  It looks like the old winding gear, doesnít it?   It looks like the old winding gear, doesnít it?

Yes, it looks very much like it.

Or a wheel, it could have been a wheel.

A winding wheel rather, see the size of it.


It looks like a wire rope has been on that, doesnít it.

On this one look, itís an axle anyway, and thereís holes in it as well, two holes, four holes really, whatís on top there?

Thatís Rhiw at the top, Mynydd Graig.

It is Mynydd Graig.

No, on your left more.

This is not a house or anything, itís just a hut, I think, isnít it?  No there is a house, Iíll tell you what it is, Bryntirion, a hen Gwt Costgard, ia, maeín rhaid bod hwn wedi ei dynnu yn ymyl ni rwla, ia, Bryntirion ydi hwnna, I bet you anything you like thatís Bryntirion, a Bryngola fan yma hyn, not that one, this one on the hill.

O ia.

Thatís the old Gwn Mawr, Gwn Mawr thing, life-saving thing.

Oh, thatís the life-saving thing, is it?

I see.

And this is near Tyn Fron, it must be, Tyn Fron it is.

Thatís very high up that is, on the top level, top level of all the workings.

This is an axle.

Yes, it must have been a wheel.

Thatís right, spokes and hub, winding shaft.

Maybe, well, the old mines are further.

See that.

Theyíre this way.

Thatís right, lower down, this is very near the top.  Keep going a bit further along you came to the old working, the blue-black is manganese ore, the rest is shale, thatís a bit further along, I donít know if you remember that, but down in this hollow there, there is loose rock, it breaks very easy.

It is not by the road, is it?



No, youíre carrying on away from the road now, past that shaft that we saw, a bit further on than that, there has obviously been some workings there, thatís probably the first workings, feeding in to the Hellís Mouth part, many years ago I think, on the rope-way, itís obviously been filled in, and in those rocks, on the left.

The sea, of course you can see the sea.

Itís the north coast, the sea in the distance.  I found some fossils in those rocks at the bottom there.  I said ďThere are no fossils around here, not in this part of the world,Ē  the little boy said, ďWhatís this?Ē   and they were fossils.  That taught me not to be so dogmatic.

Thatís an old, very old boiler, as far as I know, thatís part of a steam engine, where is it?  Nant Gadwen, isnít it?

 No, same place, weíre still on the top, between the last two, I think.

Thatís an old boiler, there were two of them there at one time, they have funny names, English names, thatís all thatís left now.

Are they still there?

Yes, I took these about three months ago, thatís all thatís left, itís a First World War one, and the other one was taken away about  1920,  I think, itís in the records, the chap in charge of the course gave me a note about it.  You donít know anything about that one, do you?


Now there is the view from just near there, looking across to the north, to the coast, you can see the sea in the distance, and on your right you can see the drum, can you see it?  Right in the middle, weíll have another picture of the drum in a minute, thatís it, thatís the big drum, Huw, that is still there, itís dead straight across there, so itís obviously an old tramway, going right across, so I must think that this mine was worked in the First World War, perhaps the Second World War, certainly the first, and the ore was taken over to the drum on the tramway, you can see the marks, you canít see too clearly on that, but it is so straight, thereís not much doubt about that, thatís the old winch Huw, how was this operated?   Was it the weight of the one dram?

Yes, the full one takes the empty one up back.  Thatís the Mynydd Bodwyddog side isnít it?

It looks down the field there, through the opening to the bottom, can you see it?  The farm at the bottom, see it now, thatís right.

Bodwyddog.  .  .

Is this one near the Chapel?

Thatís it, the Chapel is on the left, not very far away, just out of sight actually.

Itís right opposite Bodwyddog, isnít it?

Thatís right, and it goes down, looking down you can see, in the grass, parts of the old tramline.

It goes past that farm down to Nant Gadwan.

I took  two pictures, this was taken from the other side, just to show you the great drum there, and one of the bearings, has been taken off, half of the top part of the bearing, down the other side the bearing is still there look, now thatís brass.

Oh, yes.

Worth a bit of money that brass.  Thereís the view down, look.  And I took that because you could see at the time the mark of the old tramway right past the car, through the field down, through the gate.

Thatís right, straight on.

Itís a different colour, but it doesnít show up on the film, a bit under-exposed.  I also wanted to show the people, I wanted to show them, the party, what it was like, and I think, you come to Llyn, where it is lovely sunshine always, even if itís cloudy in the morning, itís sunshine in the afternoon;  we came, it was mist, solid, thick fog, all day, they didnít see a thing, they couldnít take any photos, it wasnít good enough to take pictures, this one of Tanyfoel, beautiful views, Bardsey in the distance, I showed them this picture, to see what it was like, not a bloody thing, but there we are, itís a chance.  Thereís the tramway crossing the road, itís still there, thatís on the road where the car was stopped, and people who were experts on these things knew from the tramlines that they were a special sort.  They appear later on too, I think, now thereís the last workings.

By the road.

They used to load.  .  .

Yes, the loading bay.

O dan Capel Wesla, fan Ďna.

Near Capel Pisgah, up on the left hand side, thereís a bit of spoil heap of the old ore, and there was some clinker there, and I couldnít think of a good reason why it should be there, there used to be a crusher behind there, crushing the ore, but that was diesel-driven, I remember that from what Wil Efail Rhos told me, because he worked there, and of course I asked him the other day the cause of the clinker, and he told me of the blacksmithís shop, Iíd forgotten all about the blacksmithís shop.  Well, thereís the site from the other side, and that concrete.

Thatís behind.

Thatís right.

The crusher was on those two heavy pillars there, and this concrete base there, is covering the shaft, at the moment there are two other things on the site, but thatís about the only thing on the site that you can see.  You can drop a stone down the side and hear it hit the water.  Do you remember that one Huw?

 No, I wasnít there at that time, I remember it working of course, but when we used to, . . .  when we started, it was more to the left of this one.

Oh, yes.

Is there anything left there now?

On the other side of the road, isnít it?

No, higher up.

Higher up?

Yes, this way, higher up to the mountain, to the left of this one.

Not that I know of.

Thatís right, there canít be.

No, No.

Do you mean up towards the Radar station, Mr. Jones?

Oh no.

The other side.

At the top of the field it was.

It may well be, I donít know for sure.

Yes, I remember we made a concrete for the winch and everything there, and fixed an old engine there.

Was it you?


I must take you up there.

You could show me.

Lewis could tell you all the history, of all them, he was there when this was working and all, and he was there taking that engine from Porth Ysgo.

Higher up than this one.

Itís higher up, and a bit to the left.

I see, I havenít got  a picture of that, so thereís nothing much to see there.

I donít know whether the concrete base is still there, for the old engine.

There are little bits of concrete all around the site, but I donít know what they are exactly.

Where we started was a little bit more to the left of this one.

I see, Iíll have to take a few more pictures and get it right.  Thereís another view of the site, thatís the concrete base again, this is to the left, if you like, now the blacksmithís shop was over to the left, could be around there somewhere.

The blacksmithís shop was on top, where we were.

Thatís right.

Where would the engine be?  Well, somewhere around there.

Not far from the blacksmithís ahop.

Just there then?

Is the blacksmithís shop still there, is it?

No, no thatís all that there is, thereís not much to see at all.  Thatís it, itís important to get a record of this before everybody forgets about it.  There must be more pictures around somewhere.  It could be right, thatís where the engine is.

I remember we made a base for the engine and the winch and everything.

For this site, was it?  Was it for this shaft?  Or for another shaft?

A bit more to the left, towards the loading bay.

I see.

So thereís another shaft somewhere?


I rather think there is.  It means another journey to Rhiw.

This is down towards Porth Ysgo, and this is the tramline, thatís the wall.

You didnít see an entrance, a level going in, did you?

Weíll have look in a minute, where would it be?  Do you know Porth Ysgo now?  You go through the gate.


And this is almost immediately after you go through the gate, on your left.

O yea.

And this footpath on the right.

Itís a bit lower down.

Have a look at this then.  Would that be it?

This is not in Rhiw now?

No, Porth Ysgo.

This is Nant Gadwan, isnít it?

Thatís right.

Well Iíve been in this one many times.  There used to be an old oil engine there, didnít it?

We took that off.

Was that where the engine came from you were telling us about?

Yes, from near here.  There is another one lower down, you see.

From one of those two shafts, is it?

It wasnít in the shaft.

No.  It was outside one of these, Iím not sure which one.  Iíve been in this one many times when I was a kid you know.

You wouldnít go in it now.

We used to go there.

Itís a bit deep down there.  Thereís an old  .  .  . on the same level, on the road down to Porth Ysgo, thereís this old ruin.  I donít know whatís that for.

I donít know whatís that.

You donít remember?  No, I just wondered whether it was an old engine shed of some sort.

The engine shed was higher up, higher up than them, towards the entrance really.

Towards Nant?

About half-way, the engine would be, half-way down from Nant to them two shafts.

Ah, I see, among them.

I remember it very well.

Thereís hardly anything left, you know, theyíve closed the entrances now Iím sure.

Oh, probably yes, it would be wise to, you see.

Theyíd be dangerous..

But I remember the engine house very well.

An old Lister, a great big Lister.

I canít remember what it was.

International it was.

The fly-wheel was about a ton in weight, I remember that.

One fly-wheel.  Yes, one fly-wheel, thatís all you want.

With a what-do-you-call-it, a blowlamp to start it.

A big blowlamp.  You warmed up the cylinder.

And then how did you turn the fly-wheel?  By hand?

By hand, yes, only one half of a turn, and she was away.  Off she went.  Pushing the vapour up, and for the rest it was chu. . .  chu. . .

Fired first time, did it?

Always.  You had to have it at the right temperature, with them, then you only had to spit,   tchu,  like that, and if it was frying, it was alright.

Ha,  ha.

If it compresses backwards, if it went over, it fired back, just compress it backwards, turn the fly-wheel backwards until you got compression, then,  pht,  it would start, off it went.  And if it was too hot, it would stop on compression and turn back, you had to have it just right, didnít you?

Back-fired somehow.

But as I told you, you get the trick, spit at the right time and youíre alright, are you?

I know those engines are all right, as good as any.

About  1940  or something that we took that engine out.

Remember us once going to Huw Crindir, that was a Crossley, wasnít it?


Then we went there and that wouldnít start, there was something wrong or something, I donít know, I donít know what was wrong with it, it started anyway.  It smoked away, Iíve never seen so much smoke.

You heated it up with a blow-lamp, and when you got it to the right temperature you spat on it, if it spat back at you, you knew it was alright, you shoved it round by hand, then it was turning.

If it fired you know, you knew it was alright.

Whereís that now?

Thatís lower down now, just above Porth Ysgo.

Ah, yes.

Itís the last stage almost.

Oh, yes.  And the trams would obviously be taken from here, down a steep slope.

And there used to be a stage there.

Stage, yes, thatís right.

Thatís gone now, I remember that too.

Well, the one weíve just seen is right at the top.  The old stage is right at the top and it came down here, and they transferred to the new stage here on the right, and the building on the extreme right is the old office, I think.

Oh yea.

Thereís the old stage that was close to the jetty, was it?

Yes, from there, a few yards from the jetty, and it went right down to the jetty, see, there is the jetty, down that steep slope.  There is only one stake left of the jetty there.

That used to go far into the sea, you know.

Did it now?

Yes, very far,  remember,  you know, Ellis Ty Hywel, he used to go and jump from the far end of the stage, heíd jump down and swim back to Porth Ysgo.


Did he?

I couldnít do it, oh, oh, I didnít do it, but this Ellis, you know, Ellis Ty Hywel, he got killed during the war, he could do it easily, he was a good swimmer.  No, I never chanced it.

Well, thatís the whole story actually.  Thatís what Iíve got on the  . . .

Thank you very much, thatís a nice story, Wilf.

If you could find Lewis, youíd get all the history, the First World War to the last one.

Weíd best go and find him.

And we started the thing with that solicitor from Pwllheli, Roger Prys.

The last one, wasnít it.  You had the first chance there with the lorry, instead of Twm Penbont.


You had the first chance.  To carry to Pwllheli.  The last war that was.

Yes, if I had a lorry, I could have the job, but T.M. Jones from Sarn had it, and he made a fortune out of it.

But you had a chance for it when you were fitting the engine or something.

Yes, I was moving the engine, we took it from, from the old shaft, the old mine down.

Yes, and it had been there since the First World War.  It was all greased when we went there.  Lewis was the chief, of course, he knew everything about it, I didnít know anything about it, but I had to go there, and took it out with him.

Yes.  So the first mines to be used were the ones down at Nant Gadwan.

Yes,  yes.

Thatís the reverse to what it says in the book you see.  Thereís not much written down about this, and I said, my thinking that the Welsh are not so daft as to carry stuff three miles from Rhiw, down there when theyíve got it near the bottom, thatís right, isnít it?

Thatís right.

And the trouble was in Nant Gadwan was the water, you see.

Yes,  yes.

And they had to pump the water all the time, that engine was pumping water all the time there.  That was its main job, wasnít it?  And working the winch, of course.

I see.

And the Canadians went there and they tried to bore from the sea-shore, from the bottom, to drain the water out.  But it was too far, if they could have drained the mine, they could carry on then, couldnít they?  But they couldnít get the water out of there.  They drilled for weeks there, do you remember, Robert?

They had diamond drills.  And you could get a stick of rock like that, about three inches.

Now Conionís got a verse, you know, my taid and Robinís taid (laughter), not taid wyddost ti, yr hen Abram, Abram, your grandmotherís brother, wasnít he

Out of the Bible, I suppose?

Oh, duw, no.  Old Abram, he used to get drunk and that, didnít he, and a sailor came from the ship there, quarrelled with the captain, Owen Conion knows the story, he told me, and they put him to work with this Abram, and he used to make verses, he was a bit of a bardd, I canít remember it, but Now Conion remembers it, but I canít.

Robert Williams is no good. . . .

And this sailor was terrible for women you see, oh ! oh !  ha, ha.

A Welshman?

No, he wasnít a Welshman, the sailor was a Scotchman, and they made a verse, they do have fun together, they used to in a community like that.  This Abram, he said something, he was for women and he was for beer you see, there is a verse, and Now Conion knows the verse.

Is it in English, or Welsh?

Ew, I canít remember, there is a name for that sailor you see, there was a name, he was for women.  Bod nhw dipyn o law, a finna am faw.

You say it was a solicitor from Pwllheli.that started in the last war?

Yes.  Roger Prys.  Yes in the last war, and then, once he got some manganese out of it you see, well, the Ministry took it over then, and made,  .  .  I donít know, put in a big engine instead of the one we had started.

Oh, I see, so your engine was taken away and replaced by a diesel?

Well I donít know what happened to the old engine that we took from Nant Gadwan, but it worked all right

The one from Nant Gadwan was by Capel Pisgah, wasnít it?

Higher up, there was an old blacksmithís shop, higher up, you see.  Yes,  I donít know if that is there still.

Well, there may be a few.

There was a new blacksmithís shop later on, Iím sure, by the Chapel, this was, - do you know where thereís a little small-holding on your right as you go past the Chapel, there was a gate, and we used to go through that gate.

That gate is still there.

And then it was on that level that we were working.

Ah, I see.

Is there some of the old building still there?  Thereís some ruins there Iím sure, on that level.

Well, it looks as if there has been something there, itís quite flat there.


And there is a gate there.

Ah.  I didnít see anything, I didnít know what to look for you see.

Well, if you go through that gate, and carry on that level, at these we were working then, you see.

Thereís another shaft somewhere then?

Yes there was some shaft lower down.  Lewis used to do the rail-road down by the shaft, put the engine and the winch to haul them up, you see.

From the shaft?

There was a shaft level going down to the earth like that, went down, and this engine was pulling the trucks up that one, and then a lorry from Sarn came and take them to the station, you see, oh, only about one load a week ever had it. When the solicitor found out it was there all right, well, the Ministry took it over then, well, he had a good deal Iím sure, he was working all the time, he had something to do in the mine when it was going.  They had a big engine then, by the Chapel there, oh, Iím sure that was an  80  to  100  horse power, that big engine there.

A big diesel engine?

A diesel, thatís a big one;  this old engine started it off, the one we fixed.  Iím sure the old concrete base and that are still there, and then we took an old hay shed from by Bodantur there, the petrol station there, there was a farm there, and we took the hay shed from there and fixed it in Rhiw over the engine.

Did you?  What, to protect it from the weather, yes, I see.  Was that the same side as Capel Pisgah?  Or was it the opposite side?

No, it was the opposite side, go through this gate, higher up by that small-holding, and thereís a flat there, isnít there? 

Thatís right.

Well, on the flat we were working, you see.

I see.

 I havenít been there since.

Oh, I must take you there one of these days.

Lewis used to collect all their rails, you see,  everywhere, to get them to go down to this shaft, you see.


What was Lewis, was he an engineer?

No, he had been working with the engine in the old Nant Gadwan, First War I think.

Oh, so heíd remember the one that was taken out?

Oh yes, he knew everything, where it was and everything, he was with us taking it out, we had a job to get it out too, to get the fly-wheel out of the level, Lewis knew all the doings of how to get it out, and then the labourers dig a trench in the level, the fly-wheel was too big, they had to make a trench

That level was between Nant and the  . . .

We used to go down to this place where the big engine was, go down some steps, but there was a level coming out of it as well, you see.

I see.

And through that level we got the engine and the fly-wheel out, and then we had to make a special truck to get the engine, then old Robert Thomas with his tractor, pulled it up to where we fixed it, you see.  This fellow from Pwllheli, oh, he did all right, Iím sure.

The solicitor?

Yes, he must have done.  So he owned the land at that point?

Oh, no, but he had a permit or something.

The mineral rights.

Yes, I see.

Once he could show them it was there, the Ministry took it over then and supplied the fellow that carried them to Pwllheli, with lorries and everything, there was three lorries three times a day.  And then T.M.  went with then one day, the fellow running the lorries,  and he went with them, and he found out that he could make four loads instead of three in a day.  And then they had to make four loads to the station.

So he was in trouble.

He was thinking of buying a new lorry,  and what he did, he went with them for a day, so he saved having to buy another lorry by doing another load, he saved on it.

He was running that pub in Sarn, Penybont, and he made a fortune alright out of it.

Out of the lorries?

Yes,  the lorries and Penybont.

Yes,  he was the son of Penybont.  He made some money out of it, Iím sure.

Iím sure he did.

In the first war it was carried in ships, wasnít it?  And the old steam wagons carrying too, in the First World War.

The steam traction?


Tell me, they would carry it to Pwllheli?

Yes, to Pwllheli, from the top there by Capel Pisgah, it was coming there you see.

They didnít work the Nant Gadwan, Porth Ysgo one in the last war, but the water was the trouble, and the Canadians went there to try and get the water out, if they could drill right from the bottom, the water would come out, wouldnít it.

Nearly a quarter of a million tons of ore have been taken out of the mines.

Yes Iím sure.  Those lorries were carrying, how much were they carrying, how much were they carrying?

Four or five tons Iím sure, each lorry, yes, five.

Fi oedd yn claddu Sara Cocrwth.



Yn lle marwodd hi, yn Cocrwth?

Nace, efo,  .  .   yn Pisgah efo Ann, yn Talyfan, mi fuo yn byw yn Pisgah, faníno y marwodd hi, sdi.


Yn Penbont oedd hi amsar hono, mi oedd i mab hi, Dafydd Murpoeth, a nae o moíi chladdu hi, aeth Robat Robaits ato fo a gofyn nae o i chladdu hi, ďNa nai wir, gei di i chladdu hi,Ē medda fynta, a wedyn, y registrar claddodd hi.

Talu a phob dim?


Plwy, mewn ffordd?  Ia, dew, tewch, Ďdwiín i chofio, mi fyddwn niín mynd i Rhiw efo nain, a mynd draw am dro, a hitha yn ista.

Yn Pisgah oedd hi amsar hono?

Nage, yn Cocrwth.

Dwn i ddim lle gythral mae Cocrwth.

Cocrwth is past that place where you go to see the Blakes.


Further on than that, it is still up, is it, Guto?

There is a little bit of it, just.

I remember Sara Cocrwth sitting there by the fire, with an open, big chimney, simdda fawr, big chimney like that.  And thereís another lttle place, Gimla, is that still there?



Thereís Doctor. . . Yes, Doctor Emyr Wyn.

You canít go any further than Gimla, can you?

You can walk to the headland.

Thereís another house.

You can walk to Mynydd Penarfynydd that way.

Oh ia,  thereís another house in that cut-away, whatís the name of that? Past Gimla?  I donít know which way it goes.

You canít go past Gimla.

There is a house between them and Penarfynydd, I donít know, what is that called?


That is Cocrwth?  Yes that is Cocrwth.

There is a bit of that up still, yes, on the right as you go down the path.

I remember burying the old lady in  1924,  I think.

1924?  And it was funny, a lot of these people came from shipwrecks, didnít they?

To Garth, yes.

And then they mixed, you know.

Hen Elin Cottage yn te.  Ydach chiín chofioíi?

Ydwín duw, ‚ír hen Bostman Mawr, a Guto Cottage, you know Kate Roberts. 

It carries very far you know, Idrisí daughter, sheís very dark you know, Catrin Mary.

Oh yes, Catrin Mary, yes, itís carrying on very far.

Mary is it, who works in the general store, the Spar, sheís very dark, isnít she?

Thatís Celtic, isnít it.

Mary Coch Moel, ia.

Thereís very few real Welsh around, you know, theyíre all a mixture, theyíve been mixed.  Theyíre Celts.

And thereís the Abrams from the Bible, isnít there.

Yes, we came from the Bible, work today and drink tomorrow.

You rest for six days and work on the Sunday.  (much laughter).  

My mother told me that she never had a bit of meat until she married, honestly now, only rabbit meat.

Oh, they were poor.

They couldnít afford it, they could afford rabbit meat for two or three pence, and your taid, your grandfather, he used to work in Plasmenllech all his life nearly, and work.

Heíd be staying there for a week?


Whereís that Bob, Plasmenllech?

Near Tudweiliog.

Oh, the big farm we passed today, yes.

You turn towards Sarn, donít you, itís a big farm there, he used to walk from Rhiw to the farm Iím sure.

He was staying for the week.  For a week, then heíd walk back again

Theyíd sleep in the llofft stabal, as they used to call it, a loft above the stable.  Work in the field half-past-five in the morning in the hay.

End  of  first  tape.



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