Categories
Stories Stories

The Schooner Elizabeth

Folklore

The Schooner Elizabeth

In October 1827, the schooner Elizabeth sank off Duffcarrick Head, north of Courtown with the loss of all twenty-nine hands. The ship was out of Milford in Pembrokeshire and its captain William Griffiths was a native of Fishguard. His body was interred in Wexford soil in Prospect cemetery near Ballymoney. It is not known if the bodies of the other crew members were recovered.

A fine headstone can still be seen to this day with the inscription below.

“Here lie the remains of William Griffiths of Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, S. Wales late master of the skooner Elizabeth of Milford, who closed his earthly voyage with all the crew on the 28th Oct. 1827 Aged 35 years.

From many storms and dangers the Lord delivered me
Through Neptune’s waves and Boreas from all he set me free.
But at a rock nigh here I lost my tender breath
In high rough waves and breaking seas I suffered pangs of Death.”

Sources:
The Schools Collection, Vol. 0888, pp.120-1

Available Online at:
www.duchas.ie
Accessed November 21st 2019

North Wexford Historical Society: Headstone Recordings 

Available Online At:
www.northwexfordhistoricalsociety.com
Accessed November 21st 201

Categories
Stories

Saint Aidan in Wales

Folklore

Saint Aidan in Wales

Aidan’s power and influence amongst the Britons of Wales appears to have been considerable. In one story, Aidan was encouraged by David and others to use his miraculous powers to cure the son of the King of the Britons, who was blind, deaf and lame. The boy was sent to Aidan, who prayed earnestly for his recovery and in due course the boy was miraculously cured. Following this miracle, we are told that Aidan’s name became known throughout the kingdom. 

Stories like these illustrate that holy men such as Aidan were relied upon by the most powerful family in the kingdom. The ecclesiastics who wrote these stories, who would have been the successors of Aidan, undoubtedly wanted to impress this point on their own rulers.

St. Mogue's (St. Aidan's) holy well in Ferns, Co. Wexford

Another story from Aidan’s period in Wales shows how events of the eleventh and twelfth centuries had an impact upon how Aidan’s story was communicated. It tells how the native Britons of Wales were confronted by the prospect of an invasion by a large Saxon army. Aidan was sent by David to the battlefield and prayed for the Britons, who were outnumbered by their Saxon foes. Following Aidan’s intercession, the Saxons turned and fled and were pursued and slaughtered by the Britons over the following seven days. 

“Not one man of the Britons fell by the hands of the Saxons all that time through the favour of God and the miracles of Maedoc. And no Saxon invaded Britain while Maedoc was there after the manifestation of these miracles”. It is possible that this story was composed at a time when Wales was under threat of invasion by the Normans and can be interpreted as an attempt by the Welsh to warn off potential invaders.

Other Stories

Many other stories are told of Aidan’s time in Wales. He healed a man who had a facial deformity, “whose face was all as flat as a board, without eyes or nose”. Once when carrying ale back to the monastery, the container was damaged and the ale was spilt. But Aidan made the sign of the cross, repaired the damage and carried the ale back to his fellow monks.

Source:
“Life of Máedóc of Ferns” in C. Plummer (ed). Bethada Náem nÉrenn: Lives of the Irish Saints, Edited from the Original MSS. with Introduction, Translations, Notes, Glossary and Indexes, Vol. 2, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1922.
Categories
Featured

Mermaids Ahoy!

Folklore

Mermaids Ahoy!

Folklore is tantalising. Around the coast of Wales and indeed the British Isles, stories, themes and fantastical creatures appear time and time again. It conjures up a sense of a past filled with goblins and witches, tylwyth teg, sirens and selkies. Of course some of these appear in the stories of other lands too, albeit with a slightly different cultural slant. I’m a storyteller, so I’m not going to venture into the debate about whether or not these creatures are or were ever ‘real’. For me, they are alive in our storied imagination, in our landscape and in the shallows and depths off our coast.

A Great Story to Tell

The north Pembrokeshire coast between St David’s and Fishguard is a haven for mermaids! Every other cove it seems has a mermaid sighting or story connected with it. In fact, the sea captain Daniel Huws, reported seeing a mermaid town beneath the waters near Trefin when he sheltered there in 1858. A little closer to St David’s is Porth y Rhaw, where earlier in 1780 quarry men from Penbiri reported meeting a Mermaid. Here is their fishy tale…..

On fine summer days it was their custom to walk down to the sea to eat their lunch. This day was particularly glorious, with hardly a cloud in the sky or a breeze across the blue surface of the sea and only small waves lapping the shore. As they chatted and settled to their lunch, one of the quarrymen noticed a gwenhadwy- a mermaid sitting upon a rock in the shadow of the cliffs. 

According to their account, she was quite preoccupied with combing her long, golden tresses. The men noted that nothing much distinguished her upper parts to other ‘lasses of Wales’, but that her bottom half was clearly that of a fish. A couple of the braver quarrymen ventured closer – close enough to exchange a few words. They tried in vain to engage her in conversation, and while it was clear that she understood Welsh, all she would say to them was “medi yn Sir Benfro a chwynnu yn Sir Gar” which means “reaping in Pembrokeshire and weeding in Carmarthenshire”. Then she slipped off her rock and disappeared into the waves of Cardigan Bay, leaving the quarrymen eternally perplexed as to what she meant… but with a great story to tell!

Watch Out for Mermaids!

Porth y Rhaw can be visited via the Wales Coastal Path. There’s also a circular walk you can do using footpaths from the hamlet of Yspytty, skirting the old and now disused Peaberry Quarry site – which would have been the workplace of our quarrymen – to join the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. By following this along the coast heading north east, you can follow in the story’s footsteps and enjoy a spot of lunch and mermaid spotting in Porth y Rhaw! 

After lunch, continue along the path towards Ynnys Gwair and Castell Coch promontory Fort. This monument comprises the remains of a defended enclosure, which probably dates to the Iron Age period (c. 800 BC – AD 43). Its location on a narrow coastal promontory above the sea, creates part of the defensive circuit. The construction of two lines of ramparts placed across the neck of the promontory on the south divide it from the mainland. The northern end of this slopes steeply down to the sea. The original entrance lay at the western end of the defences where the inner bank had a slight in-turn; this has since been lost to coastal erosion.

After a look at the fort, walk along the coastal path for about a quarter of a kilometre before turning inland along a permissible path towards Tremynydd Fawr farm where you’ll join a public footpath towards the hamlet of Waun Beddau and the lane which will lead you back to Yspytty where you began. It’s about a 6.5 KM walk in total.

Enjoy…and let us know if you meet any mermaids!

Map of suggested walk courtesy of Ordinance Survey