Doctors of the Wild Wart
"Penycaerau shop in 1910"
For nearly fifty years Owen Griffith was a shopkeeper at Penycaerau Rhiw, but he was well known throughout the world for his ability to cure the Skin cancer known as the "Wild Wart" or Rodent ulcer.
In 1905 when Owen was 12 years old his uncle revealed to him the secret formula for the cure using various herbs, his uncle also named Owen kept the shop at Pen y Graig in Llangwnadl. After three years of working at his parents shop in Penycaerau Owen decided to go away to sea, and spent many years sailing on various vessels, and in that time he sailed around the world four times. In 1921 he returned home to take over his parents shop, and from that time on he practiced his treatment for the cure of the "Wild Wart". He even had "Surgeries" in Llangefni on Anglesey and Pwllheli.
It is said that the Herbal remedy was passed on to the Griffith family some three hundred years earlier by a tramp in exchange for a gold sovereign, another tale is that it was a shipwrecked sailor who gave it. However in reality it was more likely that they got it either from old medical books or an Irish Tinker, there was a close connection between Llyn and Ireland and it is known that Tinkers traveled widely in Llyn and would have knowledge of traditional herbal cures.
John and Owen Griffith his father and uncle were qualified pharmacists, and his uncle Owen was a herbalist and "Country Doctor" his grandfather Griffith Griffith also practiced the treatment in his day. Owen learnt all that he knew from his father and uncle.
It was during his uncle Owen’s time that the treatment came to be prominent outside of Wales, and people from all over the world came to Pwllheli or Pen y Graig to receive the treatment and be cured of the wild wart. At this time a rift developed between the medical profession and the "Doctors of the wild wart" and Owen became very wary of the medical profession, and afraid of doctors. Near the end of his lifetime he was unprepared to eat meals in Pwllheli on a Wednesday in case the doctors had poisoned it, and this fear and worry surely contributed to his death.
Owen Griffith in the Penycaerau shop in 1962
The means of treatment was very important and the instructions had to be carefully followed step by step. Firstly a proper diagnosis had to be made to ensure that the wild wart was actually the cause of the problem, then the wart was scraped and the ointment placed on a plaster and on the wart itself. The patient would have to wash the wart daily and re-apply the plaster and ointment, and visit Owen once a week. The treatment could take up to six weeks in some cases for a complete cure. An important factor of the treatment was for the patient not to exert themselves, and not to sweat and cause the blood to heat up, and consequently not many patients were treated during the summer months.
In 1932 a woman from Llanllyfni died whilst receiving treatment. At Jane Evans inquest no blame was apportioned to the treatment, but even so the two cousins Owen and Griffith withdrew from treating patients until they got official recognition to protect themselves. Dr E Lloyd Evans The Chief Medical Officer for the County of Caernarfon was very vociferous in his condemnation of them, but despite his thunderous opinions in the press, the public and the many hundreds of former patients came out in support of the "Doctors of the Wild Wart". Local councils, Chapels, the local MP and even Lloyd George himself got caught in the argument.
In the light of this many and varied petitions were sent to the Department of Health asking that a license be granted to the two "Doctors" so that they could carry on the good work. They had a lot of support from the Quarrymen of Arfon, who had their own fund to enable quarrymen suffering from the cancer to be treated. It is well worth noting here that they didn't charge a fee for their cures but relied on donations by patients according to their means.
Jean, Owen Griffith's daughter in the Penycaerau shop in 1972
People flocked to Owen’s surgery from all over the world from such places as America, Australia, Singapore, Russia and Buenos Aires to seek a cure. After his death in 1974 the era of the "Doctors of the Wild Wart" came to a close. His daughter Mrs Jean Hughes Jones knows the secret but is sworn to secrecy, her father didn’t want her to carry on the tradition as times had changed so much. Mrs Hughes Jones has had many requests for the "secret remedy", but it is now a safely guarded secret steeped in the bosom of Griffith family history. A family who gave willingly of their time and knowledge to cure many thousands of this type of skin cancer and gained no wealth or profit from their "Miraculous Secret" other than the satisfaction of helping others.
Post script--- Over a period of a hundred years over 30,000 people were cured from the wild wart.
We would like to thank Mrs J Hughes Jones for the photographs on this page.
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