The Missing Vicar of Hells Mouth
The Llyn Peninsula has always enjoyed a healthy tourist trade, and in the 1950’s like now thousands of people visited the area every summer, to enjoy the beauty of our landscape and coast, with its myriad of coves and miles of sandy beaches. The well heeled would stay in the Hotels of Nefyn, Aberdaron and Abersoch while others would fill farmhouses and cottages offering bed and breakfast or just a room, which were excellent value for their hard earned pesos!!! There was of course an alternative to all of this in “Le Camping” and judging by the cars that were parked alongside these tents and caravans, in the dozens of campsites around Llyn, it obviously wasn’t reserved for the “Cheapo Chappies” Brigade. Rhiw had and still has one of the nicest campsites in the whole of Llyn, nestled underneath the mountain on a plateau in the middle of woods, and only a stone’s throw away from the four mile long sandy beach of Porth Neigwl (Hells Mouth). Treheli has for many years been popular with those that enjoy the peace and simplicity of camping, and many people come back year after year, drawn by the magnificent setting.
Treheli August 1955
Then rumours started in October 56, we don’t know exactly by who, but they quickly spread, so fast that in no time Scotland Yard in London were investigating, but we do know that a local Woodford resident had received a post card from her mother posted in Montreux, Switzerland, and in it she had stated that Rev Ross and herself were living together!!! And that they were deeply in lust (Sorry “in love”). By October Newspaper reporters had swarmed round Woodford, but Mrs Ross denied her husband could be alive. “It is too fantastic to believe,” she said. But alive he was, and now living in a mews flat in London. The Church as one would expect took a very dim view of the whole affair, and the Bishop duly defrocked Rev Ross. Plus the Courts handed him a £50 fine for a passport offence.
"Map in a National Newspaper October 1956"
Unusual for a Vicar, Philip Ross had an engineering degree, and this is the key to his fall from grace. When a local Woodford businessman died in 1951, it left his young wife (a wealthy plus very attractive lady) with a country house in Woodford, villa in Switzerland, and a mews flat in Hyde Park London, plus a profitable engineering firm in Manchester, Rev Ross, started assisting her with the every day running of the company, his engineering degree being invaluable to her. A secret affair started that went on for years, plenty of time to hatch the plan for his disappearance, and if it wasn’t for one little postcard and some inquisitive folk, they could just about have got away with it.
It has always been assumed that Rev Ross, after a change of clothes, walked along the beach to Llanengan, then continued on foot to Pwllheli, where he caught a train to London. After reading some documents about the whole affair, I must admit that I don’t think this was the case at all. I don’t profess to be an “Inspector Morse” but this to me seems very unlikely. For one thing, he had a bad leg, and walking any great distance would have been very difficult for him. Plus, there was the risk of being seen, because he would have had to use the main roads for most of the way. But the biggest factor in this I think is. The woman he ran away with lived in Switzerland at the time, and as her daughter pointed out in a newspaper interview in October 1956, her mother used to come back to the factory in Manchester every Month on the 11th day, to sign the pay cheques for her employees. I think she drove down to Llyn on the evening of the 11th, stayed the night at or very near Abersoch (under an assumed name of course), and then early the next day picked her lover up at the eastern end of Hells Mouth (Llanengan). By doing this they would have been well on their way to London before his wife would’ve started looking for him. And in that way there was very little chance of them being caught.
Photograph of Woodford Church by Mr R Jackson.
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