Rowland Willlams

Bryn Golau, Rhiw.

Written in April 1946

When he was 72 years old.

           (Photo circa 1920)


Ty Isaf, Rhiw.

I was born in Ty Isaf, Rhiw, Caernarvonshire, in 1874 where my mother and father lived with my grandfather and grandmother since my mother was an only child.

Mynydd Rhiw is about 12 miles South west of Pwllheli and about 3 miles from the well known old village of Aberdaron. The mountain is about 1000ft from the level of the sea and there are one of the best and most romantic views to be had from its summit. Nowhere can one get such a good view in all directions and many a time have I climbed to the top in the summer to glimpse the surroundings. There are unforgettable views, looking south one sees St George's Channel extending to its extremities, looking North west, one sees the Irish Channel and the traffic of trading ships on their way to Liverpool and going back and forth with valuable cargoes of goods and foodstuffs, looking North one sees Ynys Mon and her rich plains, and also Ireland. To the North East, the mountain and hills of Arfon with Y Wyddfa (Snowden) a queen crowning them all. The mountains seem to open their mouths with joy to welcome the morning sun. To the East one also sees the hills and mountains of Meirionydd with Cadair Idris extending to the clouds as if it were their King. One also sees Aberdyfi, Y Bermo, Dolgellau, Aberystwyth and down towards South Wales as far as the naked eye can see.

Grandmother's House.

My grandmother, Ann Ty lsaf, was considered a kind and likeable person by all in the district. She was a small lady, always in complete control of her temper and very ready to help those around her. She had brothers who were Weavers by profession and they used to work in Ty lsaf workshop with the loom or large spinning wheel (Troell Fawr) and spinning wheel (Troell Bach), weaving cloth material and making wool for socks etc.

My Grandmother (Nain)

I remember well how Nain made wool for socks with the “Troell”. I used to turn the big wheel for her with a piece of wood. It was great fun and I never used to tire of turning the Troell. I don't know if there is a Troell Fawr or Troell Bach left somewhere today, probably very few. I gave the Troell (singular) to the late Mr. John Griffith, Headmaster of the County School, Dolgellau who was Mr. Llewelyn Wyn Griffith's father and I'm sure they're (plural) with the family still because he was very careful of old things and paid great attention to them. Nain was very good at cooking and making bread. She could make a tasty meal with very few ingredients - potato soup with a little fat and onions, with chives from the garden and that's all. It would be a meal well worth getting up from bed for! At other times she would boil a rabbit, and with It would be Mwtrin Moron (boiled potato and carrot - mashed), and tea and pancakes. She was one of, if not the best at making bread. I remember as a boy going to the Common with Taid (grandfathar) to cut turf for baking bread and ensuring that always there was a stack of turf for the winter, for the baking.    

We would start off for the Common, each with the Caib (pick) and start cutting as soon as we arrived and work till night. We'd have some sandwiches' in a cloth to feed us and Nain mould have said to Taid “remember to feed this boy Rowland, you chew tobacco and don't need as much as he does you know". After cutting the turf we’d leave them on the ground to dry and to Cynhafa (mature). After they’d dried and cynhafa enough we’d stack them as you do with the hay. Afterwards we'd go to Conion to ask Owen Hughes to come with his cart and carry them to Ty Isaf. I'd make sure not to miss the carrying day in order to get a ride on the cart, a child's pleasure! Very few can bake bread today like Nain used to. She had a Pan and griddle for the job. She would place the pan on the griddle the ashes, with the loaf on the Radell (Griddle) with a Padell Bobi (Baking pan) we used to call it over the loaf, then a big turf over the padell to keep it warm and a torch of bracken or dried heather under it to light it. It was an excellent method of baking bread and the results would be very good, and nutritious. If it were possible for this method to be re adopted again today, I'm sure there would be far less indigestion about, rather than people having to eat bread mixed with powders and other things that aren't always good for one's health. 

My Grandfather (Taid).

My grandfather's name was Rowland Williams. He was a tall strong and muscular man. A man who would not be defeated by anybody or anything, Woe to anyone who rose against him, he would have “settled” them in a short time.

He was a seaman by profession and had a Captain's licence. He spent nearly all his life at sea and died at 92. The sea was his place, he talked about it and thought about it, in a way it was the great hobby of his life. When too old to go to sea he had a small boat of his own with which he would fish in Porth Neigwl, catching crabs, lobsters, mackerel, wrasse gurnard etc. He would send the crabs and lobsters to Pwllheli and thence to markets in England.

The boat was called "Y Lion bach", and even though it was only about 12 feet long he would set to sea even in rough weather and if the other boats made for the shore Lion Bach would reach port as certainly as the bigger boats. He would let me go fishing with him and I would insist on going every day if it was possible. I remember me and my brother William going out with him once on a fine day in the summer. There was no breath of wind and the sea was like glass. There were other boats out too and they had gone far out to sea. We two children nagged him to go after the other boats to the open sea. "What for" said Taid "It would be difficult for me to come back (ie. if anything went wrong) remember that you are only children". But there was no quieting us and so we started off after the other boats but still quite far from them, and Taid was very wary, but we went quite far out. In the distance we saw a small ship (ie. fishing boat*) coming towards us. William and myself were rowing while Taid was fishing. Soon the *ship' came .close enough for us to speak to the hands and one of them shouted "where are you going Rowland? You'd better head back, your crew are far too young you don't know what may happen and the kids would be of little use if anything went wrong. You'd better come on deck with us so that you and the kids can have a bite to eat. The potatoes are on the fire and almost ready". The captain was from Aberdaron and knew Taid well. "Well I'd better not James, I'd better head for shore as soon as I can with the crew I've got today" said Taid. "Yes" said James "in case anything goes wrong". “Turn the boat to shore lads" said Taid "pull together, you pull more Wil, and you less Rowland. Stop plucking at the oars and pull more evenly for God's sake* I don't know what made me bring you two so far out". As he was speaking a big shoal of fish broke surface all around us. We two still rowed the Lion Bach while Taid set about pulling in the fish. It's a difficult job catching the gurnard. Their fins are very sharp and can cut the hands till they bleed. Taid though could catch them unharmed by putting  the fish under his armpit to pull the hook out from its mouth. That day we had far more fish than any of the other boats. Taid was the Pilot of the harbour in Rhiw and he would bring in the ships carrying coal to the Quay, and the ships carrying Manganese from Rhiw to England. I would be on the look-out for ships coming to Rhiw so that I could go with Taid to fetch them ashore and get a hard biscuit from the Captain. I would often sleep with Taid especially if we were going fishing the following morning. Taid's habits were interesting. He would get up early and the first thing he'd do was to go to the bedchamber window to look at the sea and what sort of weather was in store.

I of course would be awake as soon as he. After getting up from bed the first thing he’d do was to put his hat on. I noticed that he’d do this every time and one day I asked him “Taid, why do you put your hat on first, instead of your socks?” "Well I'll tell you my lad" he said, "I was on a voyage to Norway and a terrible storm came upon us with strong winds, snow and ice. The snow was thick and we could hardly see out.  Suddenly we struck a bank and we the hands had a narrow escape by climbing up into the rigging quickly for our lives.  There was a boy with us on the ship and as he climbed he lost his hold and fell into the sea.  Luckily I was able to get a hold of him from the rigging (the ship was probably leaning over) and get him to safety.  In the act of saving the boy I lost my hat and had to stay out on the rigging all night and part of the following day in the snow and ice naked-headed (Yn ben noeth) until the lifeboat came for us".  As far as I know Taid's head never warmed up properly after that.  But what is losing a hat compared to being the means by which a boy's life is saved.

My Father.

Thomas Williams was the name of my father.  He was born and brought up in Felin y Rhiw.  He was a tailor by profession and worked in Bryngolau, Rhiw after marrying.  He was very fond of going fishing and had a boat called "Cymro".  She sailed well and often won prizes in Regattas. He was often reckless and often took risks with a boat, but he was a fine fisherman and was always lucky in fishing. He was also fond of catching rabbits and always kept a dog and a ferret. Penny the bitch was a good catcher and was fast enough to catch a hare. He was a member of the Methodist Chapel of Tan y Foel, Rhiw and he would open and lock up the door to the Chapel, light and extinguish the lamps. I feel at a disadvantage talking about him since I lost him when I was 6 years of age and am therefore unable to form an impression other than a child's impression about him. He met his end at 33 years of age, a young man, when he fell over the cliffs in Porth Ysgo and was fatally injured.  My mother was widowed and left with 3 of us in her charge. The providence of heaven is strange. We were looked after and wanted for nothing. Samuel Williams of Pwllmelyn sang (made poetry) about him. 


Thomas Williams



He died after a fall from the cliffs (The Waterfall) Robert Pritchard brought the sad news to the family and to the whole community of the mountain. This happened on April 17th 1880 in Porth Ysgo in the Parish of Llanfaelrhys.



Bryngolau Llanfaelrhys from the Census 1881


Marr Age Sex Birthplace
Elizabeth Williams W 31 F Rhiw, Caernarvon, Wales.

Rel:  Head

Occ: Dressmaker

Rowland Williams 7 M Rhiw, Caernarvon, Wales.
Rel: Son
Occ: Scholar
William Williams 6 M Rhiw, Caernarvon, Wales.
Rel: Son
Occ: Scholar
Robert Williams 3 M Llanfaelrhys, Caernarvon, Wales.
Rel: Son
Rowland Williams 59 M Rhiw, Caernarvon, Wales.
Rel: Father Visitor
Occ: Seaman


1 Ty Isaf Rhiw from the Census 1881


Marr Age Sex Birthplace
Anne Williams M 57 F Rhiw, Caernarvon, Wales.
Rel: Wife (Head)
Occ: Seamans Wife


"Ty Isaf today"

My Mother (Mam).

Mam was born in Ty Isaf, Rhiw and lived there till she married.  She was the only child and not very strong in health in her early years, but she was very strong in her later years and lived to be 73.

She was a dressmaker by profession and was taught her skills in Sgubor Lon, Nanhoron.  After completing her schooling she came home and was a dressmaker in Rhiw and surroundings until she got married.  She was married for only a short time as I have shown already, my father dying when a young man leaving her a widow. This was a dark and depressing time for her, with three of us to rear.  I was six when I lost my father, William was 4 and Robert was 18 months.  The responsibility of keeping the home and rearing us rested entirely on her. She worked hard, night and day to earn a bit of money to feed us, and clothes to keep us warm.  She saw many a dark hour and much to cloud her life, but she always managed to pull through.

She lost much sleep rearing us and had no luxury for herself, always thinking of us.  I remember well the time for going to bed.  We had to go early to give her time to work.  Often, being the eldest, I would stay up with her to keep her company, but on a special condition. She would give me the Bible, telling me that I must learn a Chapter or a Psalm from it while she sewed and that she would test my knowledge sometime before the morning.  I learnt a great deal from the Bible in this way, and it was not a burden but a pleasure in order to keep her company.  What I learnt then is still my personal property, a treasure that cannot be stolen.  A man's character is his own property in every age and country.

We had no luxury, but we had enough and a bit extra always.  Mam could make clothes for us from old materials and we would be as proud of our home-made suits as others were of their shop-bought clothes.  This was so till we were eventually able to fend for ourselves. We were taught to be obedient and polite.  I remember how we ran to get messages for people and earn a penny or two and sometimes 6d.  Oh how we ran home with the money to Mam.  This would help pay the Rent.  We would never buy sweets or anything, Mam's influence was too strong and there was always the fear of not being able to pay the rent. We were taught politeness, something which should exemplify every district and class and all that we do.  The rich should learn this also and that to live in a palace is not enough.  They should contribute generously to institutions which promote humanity. It is immoral to spend money on wanton pleasure while only contributing an occasional penny in the hands of the poor.

There may be external differences between people, which are subject to being blessed or cursed by the government of the mind.  External matters may affect a man but it is the mind which ultimately decides.  The Apostle said that bad discourse corrupts good morals.  A moral man is he who acts in accordance with his situation and is conscious of the feelings of others.

An immoral man is one who is ungentlemanly and unfeeling, regardless of purity of his own life.  His character may be clean, yet without morality. Some people are like a field, which bears only thorns, and it is best to avoid them. Yet others will allow education and culture to take firm root. So much is dependent on upbringing, on some hearths children are reared where it would be unfit to rear an animal, what chance have they. The immoral man thinks not of thanking anyone for anything.  Yet one does not need a vast knowledge and education to give a civil reply.  If you are appreciative then you should show it. Purity is the crown of morality.  What is morality without purity? Flowers, without colour or scent.  We should always be conscious of how we are to others and the purity of our characters be our own internal standard.

(To be continued !!!!)


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