Nant Gwrtheyrn

by
David Roberts

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Perhaps for the benefit of my English friends, or any one who has never been to Nant I should give you a brief description of a stunningly beautiful part of Llyn.  It is deep in a valley surrounded on three sides by mountains and the sea on the other, high above the valley was the Quarry. Access to Nant was by sea or down a track, in Welsh known as the 'Gamfordd' or in English a the corkscrew hill. It wound up the mountainside in a series of hairpin bends and could only be used on foot (no 4x4s then) once at the top the path became more usable to cars but, down to the next village, Llithfaen, was a fair old walk, in all two and half miles and I suppose in later years this walk was the highlight of a visit to Nant. My mum often used to tell us of the times that she had to walk to her mother's in Llithfaen, when I was small she had to carry me all the way and, so it seems, when I was two or three years old, no wonder in later years she developed a bad heart, one story she often told my wife, Jean, was one cold winters day she went up to my Nain Llithfaen's and it started to sleet then it froze solid, the only way she could get home was, finding a sack near the top was to put me on her knee sitting on the sack she slid most of the way down, that is a perfectly true story. There was a short cut which saved about 200 yards called 'Llwybr cerrig' or stone path, but it was very rocky, I remember going up this path with my dad once, I do not know why he would not carry me, when we were confronted with a huge mountain goat, he looked at us as if to say I am not moving, it took a lot of shouting from my dad to get him to move. As I recall anyone going up to the next village would always have a shopping list from their neighbour to carry down. At the top of the hill there were two garages I can not remember who both belonged to, but one was where the postman would leave his van before walking down to Nant, not only did he bring the post but the Daily papers and the odd small bit of shopping. Another story we were told, was of my Nain, Nant. Taid is (Granddad) and Nain is (Grandmother)

I was born in Nant in 1933 and lived with my mum and dad Sam and Menna Roberts in Mountain View 3 doors up were my Nain and Taid William and Francis Roberts and my uncle Bob and John also my cousin June Williams (who now lives in Llandudno). I started school in Nant at about the age of four; the school was at the back of the chapel with a partition separating the two. My earliest memory is of one Monday morning, about 1937. Most of if not all of our work was written on 'slates' about 18 inches by 6 with a wooden beading around the edges to protect our tiny hands. On this day, which is burnt in my mind, our teacher, (I think it was the Lovely Miss Lewis from Porthmadog) called to the class, in Welsh of course, ''Children we are going to throw away your slates very soon and start using ink'' I donít think I knew what ink was then, so Miss Lewis, said ''I am going to come around the class and show you all the ink", it was in a small box and a blue /grey colour, when she came to me disaster, not content with just looking I had to take a huge sniff and got what I thought was half the box of ink up my nose. To the dismay of Miss Lewis and the amusement of the other children I started to cry my eyes out, the tears being a bright blue, and my mouth and tongue had also gone blue, so my cousin June had to take me home and tell my Mam what had happened. Nain saw me coming home and ran down to our house to see what was wrong. By this time I am told my face was blue with ink stains, it was decided to send Taid up to Ty Uchaf farm and fetch as much milk as he could carry, using what they used to carry milk in then, a sort of Billy can. They made me drink what I thought was gallons of milk (not cold) to clear my system of ink, I am told it was three days before I was ''clear'' again and to this day I do not like milk. I have told this story to my wife many a time and I am not sure if she really believed it, until, 12 years ago when my Mum died, one of my old school friends, (John bach) who lived next door to me in Nant came to her funeral said ''Dei did you ever tell your wife about the ink'' now she believes it.

Does Nant have a ghost? Do you believe in ghosts? As children in Nant we had to entertain ourselves, as time went on more of the houses went empty and provided us with somewhere to play, I remember that hide and seek in the houses seemed to be popular or at least something to do after school one evening when I was 5 years old we were playing our game in one of the empty houses, I had gone upstairs on my own, trying my best to hide in a corner of the room, when. To my horror through the wall came a lady all in white (or so I thought) being petrified, I did no more than jump straight through the bedroom window to the back garden below. I was screaming with fright, pain and the sight of my own blood from a bad gash to my forehead, my poor cousin June again had the task of taking me home, after a family meeting it was obvious that I needed a doctor so my dad and Jack Jones from next door carried me up the Gamfordd with my head wrapped in a towel, to my Nain, Llithfaen's house where doctor Jack from Llanaelhearan was waiting, I do not know how they had got in touch with him, he stitched my head (and I still have the scar across my head to this day. 8 years ago we took our neighbours down to Nant, it was their first visit, and whilst we were in the 'museum' looking at photos of Taid my neighbour said 'which house did you see the ghost in' this was overheard by the man whom I assume was in charge, he ask me to tell him about it and then asked me which house was it when I told him he said 'a few weeks ago a couple were staying there and the lady went upstairs to have a wash (no bathroom in our day) when she was pushed against the washbasin she told her husband to stop it  only to be pushed again, she turned to tell him off but, he was not there, immediately she looked out of the window to see him stood outside.

The Heart of Nant (Apart from the people) was the Quarry and the lifeblood flowed down the narrow rail lines from the quarry down to the huge granite silos down by the sea. Wooden 'trucks' would go down filled with the rock blasted out of the mountainside and the empty one would go back up to be filled again, from the silo's, conveyer belts ran along the jetty, loaded with the granite, then down a chute into the hold of the little coaster boats tied alongside the jetty. As a very small boy I would sit in my bedroom, on the window ledge, watching these little trucks going up and down the mountainside, but never did see them collide but it did happen and then men from the quarry had to manually get them back on track, this I did see. Seeing my dad and the other men coming home from work covered in the pale dust, (and depending on the tide they may have to go back to see that ships were loaded,) it was fascinating to me watching all the activity. Looking back now after all these years it must have been a very hard life working in that quarry, high up in the mountain with the weather coming in from the sea below. Another source of enjoyment to a small boy was, the ships anchored out in the bay, trying to guess which quarry were they going to Carreg-y-Llam or Caernant. My dad was a joiner in the quarry and I recall one exciting day when he had to go on board the ship 'Lady Thomas' (a frequent caller at Caernant) to do some minor repairs to something on board and he took me with him, although nearly 70 years ago, I can still see the inside of that cabin where they gave us a drink, I think it must have been tea. I cannot be 100% certain about this, but I am sure that my uncles and my Dad told me that my great-granddad lost a leg in the quarry. He was the one who was the shot firer, packing the explosive into the drilled holes, I have no idea what happened I can only assume that he did not move quick enough, I do remember the sirens going off before a loud bang, a cloud of smoke and more granite to be broken up.

There are two paths down to the beach from the village, one is past what is now the cafe, the other and what most people used, was at the back of the houses in Mountain view, wooden steps to help over the high wall to a steep path down to the beach and, by far the shortest. My mum would often take me down this path for our picnic on the sand. At the far end of the beach (Caernant side) were a lot of rocks and my mum and dad would often take me there looking for shellfish, crabs seemed to be easy to catch but not lobsters, my dad used a long iron rod, with a hook on the end, to turn the rocks over to look for the crabs underneath, I suppose this was just after the tide had gone out.

My dad and uncle Bob would take me with them when they went fishing off the jetty, no fishing rods but a line wrapped around a frame like the 'hash' sign, they would often come home with a bucket-full of Dabs and mackerel, all that was caught was shared out with anyone who wanted fish for supper.
My best friend at that time was Robert Gwilym? my dad had made me a wheelbarrow, we filled this up with leaves and went round knocking on doors trying to sell them as fish (we were only four years old) the kind Mr Lewis from Sea View gave us a penny for the lot. Very kind of him as money was very short in those days. A trip up to Nain, Llithfaen's when, my mum's sister, auntie Rosina came home was always exciting, always a few pennies to spend at the shops in the village, Auntie Rosina was a nurse, in England, and later became the matron of Bryn Beryl Maternity hospital in Pwllheli.

At last it was time to leave Nant and head for England, there were a lot of tears shed, my Dad was very sad to leave my Nain and Taid, but at least Uncles Bob, John and cousin June were there to look after them. My mum was broken-hearted but due to there being no work in Nant, they had to move on.

Soon after we arrived at Runcorn, Cheshire, my sister Rosina was born. My mum and dad were told that, as my English was so poor only to speak to me in English. After couple of years we started to go back to Nant at every school holiday, we spent most of our time in Nant but I did used to go up to Llithfaen nearly every day to play with my cousin Meurig Hughes (who now lives in Spain), he would come down to Nant quite often and we would go out with my uncle John and his two dogs, Blondie, a whippet and a little terrier named Spot who seemed to take a lot of pleasure in biting us, when we tried and catch rabbits. Quite a few of the children that I had gone to school with still lived down there John and Mair Jones, the Earp children and of course June. John and I were to remain very good friends until his death about four years ago. My Nain was, one of the most wonderful ladies I have known, I never heard her raise her voice and she was so gentle and kind, she had not left the village for, if I remember rightly, about twenty years. Once when there was only me and her there we saw a bus (Bws Matt from Llithfaen) on the road at the top of the mountain and she got so distressed saying 'They are taking me away from Nant' I found that so sad.


Like most people of my age, looking back to when we were little, the sun always seemed to be shining, but I recall one typical Llyn day, drizzle and misty, Rosina and I were staying with Nain and Uncle John and we wanted to go up
to Lithfaen, it was decided that I would go on my own but, I did not have a raincoat, Nain said that I could borrow Uncle Johnís when he said quite seriously 'of course but do not get it wet.
We kept going down to Llyn at every opportunity, until Nain, Taid and uncle John had to leave Nant, this was just after the end of the second world war, by then I think there was only them and Mr Lewis (who was the last to leave) left down there. The quarry had declined so that was the end of Nant as a thriving community. Nain, Taid and uncle John went to live in ''Tai CaernantĒ a row of cottages at the top of the hill neither of my grandparents lived very long after that.

Almost 50 years after Mum and dad had left Nant a new road was blasted out of the mountain side, the motor car could now go down to the valley, so 50 years later, my wife Jean and I took them back to Nant, it was very emotional for them, although we took my dad down there a couple of years later, that was the last time that that my mum went to Nant, she died in September 1993 and my dad went to join his beloved Menna 4 years later.

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So there you have it, some of my memories of Nant Gwrtheyrn. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Gwenllian and Tony for giving me the opportunity to use this excellent website, BUT not quite the end, I am going back to Nant for good!! Jean loves the place nearly as much as me, so when the time comes, my sisterís son Glen and his wife Jayne, will take us to Nant and scatter our ashes over the ''Top of Nant'' 

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Many thanks to David, for sharing his life at Nant with us.

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