A Shepherd’s Tale

 

 Willie Lloyd Jones wasn’t the most ambitious of men, but he may have been one of the happiest, eventually. He was born in 1874 at his grand parents home in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. His mother Martha wasn’t a strong woman, and she’d come home to be cared for by her mother, Mary Phillips during the birth. Martha was twenty-nine years old and been married to Willie’s father for little over a year, she had been working as a maid for the Cambell-Daveys’ at Neuadd near Cilycwm when she met William Jones. He was a blacksmith’s son from Cwrtycadno, over on the other side of Mallaen Mountain. He was now working as a porter on the railway, the most modern of industries at the time. Portering was not exactly a white-collar job, but it was much better than the agricultural manual work that he had been doing. They had set up home in Llandingat House near to the centre of Llandovery town and within walking distance of the railway station. Within exactly seven days of Willie’s birth Martha had travelled the turnpike to Saint Clears to register her new baby and soon after she returned to Llandovery. This was not ideal postnatal care, especially for a twenty nine year old of delicate health. She would have taken the train from Saint Clears to Llandovery but the road from Laugharne would have been most uncomfortable, even in a pony and trap. The walk from Llandovery station to their rooms at Llandingat House would have been trying.

            Willie Lloyd Jones was named after his father, his grand father and his great-grandfather but the origins of the ‘Lloyd’ isn’t clear. His great-great-great grandfather was William Lloyd Jones, also a blacksmith in Cwrtycadno, and this could have been the source, but some family members insist that Willie was named Lloyd after the Lloyds of Glansevin Mansion where his father once worked.

            In March 1878 Willie’s sister Mary Ann was born at Llandingat House. Within two years, almost to the day, Martha Jones died; she was 35 years old and is buried at Llandingat cemetery. Sadly, the grave is unmarked. William needed help to care for his young family; he was still working on the railway at this time. His father’s sister, Anne Edwards was a sixty eight year old widow who was living on her own in Cwrtycadno. It was decided that she would move to Llandingat House to help care for six-year-old Willie and two-year-old Mary Ann. She took in washing to supplement their income.

            By 1891 the family’s circumstances had changed. William had re-married; his new wife, Jane, came from Llangybi in Cardiganshire. The family had moved out of Llandovery and were living at Aberpedwar, a small farm in the hamlet of Pentretygwyn, which was about four miles out of town on the Brecon road. Several children were born to William and Jane, all sadly died as babies. Something else had changed for the family. Martha Jones’ mother Mary was from Clarbeston Road in Pembrokeshire and she had little Welsh. Martha raised Willie and Mary Ann to speak English, although they would also have been able to speak Welsh, the first language of their father. Their stepmother Jane had no English, and so the family language was now Welsh, the Pentretygwyn area was also predominantly a Welsh-speaking area. William still worked on the railway, and would have walked the four miles from his home to Llandovery station. Jane would have looked after the farm single-handed; the census of 1881 describes her simply as ‘farm woman’!

            By 1901 the family had moved to Pantybryn farm on the outskirts of Cilycwm village. By now William was a farmer, having given up his railway job. He was also described as an employer in the 1901 census; his son Willie, now twenty-seven was the only farm ‘worker’. Cilycwm was an old staging post on the drover’s route from Cardiganshire in to England, it had lost some of its importance since the coming of the railways, but it was still a busy little village. This was also a mining area; the hills above the village were scarred with pits and tramways. There were woollen mills and flourmills still operating in spite of the industrialization of those industries. There had been a great movement of population around the country during the nineteenth century, with young people moving from one area in to another, looking for work. It was a labour intensive world.

Ifan Davies came with his mother and father from Cardiganshire to farm. Ifan was a domestic gardener working at Neuadd Fawr. He had married Mary Ann Jones of Glan Croyddur cottage; he had a daughter, Catherine May, and his parents, Nelly and Dafydd were living with them. Ifan eventually became Postmaster at Cilycwm post office. Nelly became ill and so her sister Rachel, who lived in Waunuchaf farm near Llanddewi Brefi, sent her daughter Hannah to care for her aunt. It was at Glan Croyddur that Willie Lloyd Jones and Hannah Evans met. Hannah’s cousin Tom Jones of Gilfach farm near Llanwrda and Willie were great friends. Tom and Willie would visit Glan Croyddur, ostensibly to visit Aunt Nelly, but for Willie there was another attraction. Romance blossomed between Hannah and Willie. 

Tom Jones  

  When Aunt Nelly eventually recovered from her illness, Hannah returned to her home at Waunuchaf farm. Willie would visit Hannah at Waunuchaf. This involved walking some fifteen miles and climbing three mountains. He would first follow the drover’s road over Mynydd Mallaen, then down to his father’s old home in Cwrtycadno. He would follow the river Cothi up to Garthynty farm, past Nant Yr Ast, then onward under the shadow of Crug Siarls hill, to trudge his way across the boggy ground between Blaen Cothi and Blaen Twrch, and up over Llanddewi mountain. Waunuchaf stood about a mile to the east of Llanddewi Brefi in the hills beneath Pen Crug summit on the banks of Nant Digonest. Hannah’s mother Rachel died in 1890 and Hannah, being the youngest daughter took cared of her father, as he grew older. Willie visited as often as he could, but the young couple couldn’t consider marriage whilst Hannah had the responsibility of caring for her father who, due to illness, was dependent upon her. It wasn’t until the death of Daniel Evans in February 1909 that Hannah and Willie were free to be together and on March 24th 1909, two months after Daniels death, they were married at Llanddewi Brefi parish church. Their first daughter, Martha Jane was born on the 30th of December the same year.

 

Waunuchaf

Willie Lloyd Jones was thirty-five years old when he moved in to Waunuchaf; Hannah was thirty. The farm was an ancient homestead, possibly dating back to the early seventeenth century. It was said to be a ‘Ty-un-nos’– a house built over the course of one night, between sunset and sunrise. If the building had smoke rising from it’s chimney by dawn then it could be occupied. An axe was thrown from each corner of the house and where it landed would be the boundary of the farmland. They must have been remarkably strong in those days, Waunuchaf had fifty acres! An annual rent was paid for the farm which was part of the Garth estate. The squire of Garth was Daniel J Evans, a cousin of Hannah. Traditionally the tenants of Waunuchaf would shepherd the Garth flock, as well as their own, which roamed the sheep-walks around Pen Crug and Yr Esgair, in the high tree-less hill country.  Willie Lloyd Jones was now a full time shepherd.

One of the first things that Willie did at Waunuchaf was to replace the thatch roof with a ‘modern’ pitch coated zinc one. There was an open inglenook fireplace, this was eventually replaced with a cast iron fireplace with it’s own oven, but not for several years yet. Cooking was done on a peat fire and bread was baked in a stone oven, which was no more than a large hole built in to the side of the chimney. There was a connecting door in the kitchen or living room, which opened directly in to the stable, from a time when this may have been a long-house. This was bricked up, and a new dairy was built outside the front door so that the old dairy room, which was just off the kitchen, could be converted in to a small bedroom. There was a ‘parlour’ off the kitchen, which was in reality the main bedroom, and there was an attic, which was accessed by a broad-tread ladder. The farm buildings comprised of the dairy, a cow shed for two cows, a cart house, a calf house and a pigsty. The stable and the barn or storehouse adjoined the house. There was a duck coop, a peat shed and a hay barn.

Waunuchaf was a self-sufficient unit. The spring supplied water for drinking, it was never known to freeze or run dry. There was a kitchen garden, cereals and vegetables were grown, milk from the two cows and eggs of course from the chickens and ducks. There was ‘Loc’ the carthorse for ploughing and a pig was slaughtered annually which supplied ham for a time and salted bacon for the year. Eggs would be exchanged at the shop in the village for tea, sugar, cheese, paraffin and occasionally, tobacco; Willie was a pipe smoker. Heat was provided by peat, which was cut in summer from the farm’s peat bog high up in the hills. Oil lamps and candles lit the dark evenings.  

Every field was named, here are some examples:  

* Cae Cefn Ty - field behind the house.   * Cae Clofers - clover field.
* Cae’r Ydlan - rickyard field. * Cae Carreg Lafar - echo field.
* Cae Pistyll - spring field. * Cae Bach - little field.
* Cae Garw - rough field. * Cae Canol - middle field.
* Cae Nant - field of the stream. * Waun Wair - hay meadow.
* Cae Cwterion - field of the gutters.   * Cae Cware - quarry field.
* Cae Banc Isha - lower field on the hill side * Y Banc - hillside.
* Cae Gwyn - white field.

 

Some of the fields across the stream were rented from the Garth estate at extra cost as more land was required. Willie would shepherd his own flock and the Garth flock with just one sheepdog. Shearing at Waunuchaf was an occasion for neighbours to help with the work. Each farm had its annual appointed day, and all would gather together to carry out the work, which was done by hand. When a pig was slaughtered the meat would be shared amongst neighbours, each farm would slaughter at differing times, ensuring the availability of pig meat throughout the year. The nearest market was in Tregaron; animals would be walked the four miles to be sold. These would have been mainly, sheep, lambs and calves. There were several woollen mills in the area, and buyers would visit farms to collect bails of wool at shearing time. Some wool was kept for personal use. This would be taken to the nearest mill to be either woven in to blankets or spun in to yarn for knitting, mainly for stockings. Wool was also woven in to finer cloth to make clothing. Hannah was an expert at this work. There was still a handloom and spinning wheel at Waunuchaf at this time, although only the handloom was used, mainly for recreation! Hannah was also fond of writing poetry, in Welsh of course and the whole family loved to read, sometimes aloud to each other. Bedtime was nine o’clock at night, especially during the dark winter nights. The family would rise at about eight in the morning. Sleep was plentiful and essential; life in the hills was hard and physical.

            In 1912, Rachel Mary, their second daughter was born and in time the two girls attended Llanddewi Brefi village school. Mattie and Ray did well at school; one school report shows Mattie as having achieved full marks in all subjects and first in her class. They both went on to the county school at Tregaron where they were boarders. Willie and Hannah were advocates of good education, which must have been expensive in those days. Willie was paid for his work as shepherd of the Garth flock; this he received annually. This explains how the family were able to afford the girl’s higher education and boarding fees. 

  

Robert Sibbald Roland

The Garth estate was now owned by Robert Sibbald Rowland who had trained in medicine but didn’t practice. His father John Rowland was a physician of Saint Andrews University who had married, the daughter of Daniel J Evans. Daniel, as stated earlier, was a cousin to Hannah. Robert married Elizabeth Evans of the Foelallt Arms Hotel in Llanddewi Brefi. She was a cousin to both her husband and Hannah. Elizabeth died childless in 1927, she was thirty-five. Robert died in 1928 and Willie and Hannah were beneficiaries in the will. They attended the reading at The Garth to discover that they had inherited Waunuchaf. This good fortune changed little at Waunuchaf, in fact it came as a great disappointment to Mattie and Ray. They had expected a fortune and had already imagined away the anticipated millions!

            In 1928 Mattie finally left home to begin her career that would last her a lifetime. She went to Aberystwyth to train as a nurse. A whole year was to pass before she was able to return home to visit. Her training also took her to Llandough Hospital, near Cardiff, a world away from life in Waunuchaf. Soon Ray left home for Selly Oak Hospital, even further a field in the Birmingham area. Willie and Hannah continued to farm at Waunuchaf. They loved to see people come to visit. They were popular amongst their neighbours and family alike. Willie was in demand not only as an expert hedger, but also as a filler of official forms and letter writer; his ability in the English language was a rarity in that hill community. Ray married in 1936 and she and her new husband Bryn would spend their holidays on the farm, usually at hay making time when the extra hands were welcome. Bryn’s brothers and sister from Glamorganshire would also come to visit occasionally. Hannah’s sisters had married and had large families, Uncle Willie was popular with their children, famous for his humor and ready wit. One of the few things that would keep him from his customary early night was a visit from Tommy and Henry Rees, their nephews from Pentrebwlen farm some three miles away across the valley below. Indeed, without the boy’s help with the heavier farm work like hay making, Willie would have had to retire sooner than he did. But eventually it became to much for him and in the late forties Willie sold the stock and the few farm implements that he had and settled to a life of relative retirement. Ray had produced a grand-son for the old couple and the early fifties heard children’s laughter in the fields of Waunuchaf once again. Mattie and Ray had tried to convince their parents, or rather their father, that life would be easier if they sold the farm and moved down to the village to live but Willie would have none of it. Waunuchaf was much the same as he had found it. Water came from the spring, lighting still came from oil lamps and candles. Heating was the open fire. Hannah had bought an oil stove with a double burner but rarely used it, preferring the old cast iron fireplace. They had one modern luxury, a radio powered by a huge glass battery; replacements had to be carried up all the way from the village. A van would deliver groceries once a week, there was a weekly paper, The Cambrian News, and of course the postal service kept them in touch with the rest of the family.

            Willie Lloyd Jones was a man of his time and that time had passed. He had never switched on an electric switch, never turned on a tap for water, never used a telephone, never driven a tractor let alone a car. He refused, in a most gentle manner, to leave Waunuchaf. It’s where he had spent almost half a century, and having moved there, never left to go further than Tregaron or Lampeter. It’s where he had found happiness, content to work hard and live quietly with Hannah. He died in his sleep at 8.20 am on Monday the 18th of October 1954. He was eighty years old.  

 

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