"Penseverenza"

On October 14th 1881, a severe gale battered the British Isles, it was said to be one of the worst storms ever, and the Llyn Peninsula was particularly badly affected. It was during this storm that the “Cyprian” came to grief at Edern on the north coast of Llyn, with the loss of 19 of her crew. Many buildings were badly damaged on Llyn, and none more so than the church at Botwnnog, its roof had been blown away and many of its windows broken. And for the next four years services had to be held at the near by school, an arrangement that was very unpopular with the congregation. In January 1883 the Reverend Jenkin Davies was facing a bigger dilemma, with the church being open to the elements for over a year it had been decided to demolish the old church and build a new one on the same foundations. The old church, which was only fifty years old, was described as a low barn like building of timber, with a square ugly tower at the western end to hold the bell. A local man Robert Jones of Bron Philip, was given the challenge of rebuilding, from plans drown up by the architect Henry Kennedy of Bangor. But with spiralling building costs, the new roof for the church would have to wait a little longer, as the £40 needed for the timber was not forthcoming.

Unbeknown to Rev Davies at this time, his prayers were about to be answered. On the 18th of January 1883 an Italian owned 650ton barque “Penseverenza” was making her way up the Irish Sea, with a cargo of prime timber from Mexico to the port of Greenock on the Clyde. Her ten-man crew, all Italians were looking forward to a welcome break after what must have been a long and arduous voyage across the Atlantic. But Hells Mouth was about to spoil their plans, as it had on many other occasions to so many seafarers and their vessels. Penseverenza was driven ashore in storm force winds under Ty Mawr, at the Rhiw end of the bay, and as she broke up her cargo of timber was strewn along the wide expanse of the beach. Her valuable cargo was auctioned off for a fraction of it’s value, and Rev Jenkin Davies bought  £40 worth of prime timber, enough to roof his beloved new church, for the more affordable sum of £7-10-0. The crew of the stricken Italian barque, who were all saved, were taken in by Rhiw villagers, and a couple of them ended up in Tyn Borth at Rhuol. They must have stayed for some time, as they even managed to teach the children of the house amongst other things, how to count and speak a little Italian, and it is said that they never forgot their newly acquired lingual skills. Curiously enough the cats of near by Treheli were given Italian names for many years after that as well!!! So the crew off the Penseverenza appear to have been a friendly and popular bunch of lads.

On the night of February 6th 1885, the then 45 year old Rev Davies and his young wife Anne were on their way home in a pony and trap, he had been holding a service at St Peter’s church Sarn. When proceeding through the village they were met by a terrible accident. Their horse was frightened by a lightning bolt which struck a house as they passed, the horse shied and the trap backed over a low wall into the courtyard of Hope Cottages, resulting in the Rector falling on his head and fracturing his skull. The horse then fell on him and crushed five of his ribs. The Rector’s life was left in the balance for many days, and months went by before he regained his sight, his speech was also impaired, and it was over nine years before he was fully recovered. Fortunately his wife was only slightly injured in the accident.

The new and magnificent St Beuno church was opened July 21st 1885, by Bishop Lloyd, the then Bishop of Bangor. Rev Davies was brought to the church, and the bandages were briefly removed from his eyes, so that he could see the church he had so much longed and toiled for. The congregation that day was huge, and over a 100 had to return to partake in Holy Communion. And there were over fifty guests at the Rectory for lunch after the service. The total cost of the new church was £624 18s 0d. This was met and no debt was incurred.

(Footnote) In 1890 the beautiful Stained Glass Memorial East Window was erected in memorial of Dr Jones Williams of Gelliwig. It was presented by his widow – the daughter of Sir Love Jones Parry of Madryn.

Between 1896 and 1899 a new national school was built at Botwnnog, this was after Rev Jenkin Davies and his wife wrote 1530 letters to collect sufficient money to defray the whole cost of the new school. One remarkable man.

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