GHOSTS, GRAVES AND GOBLINS Discovering “The Formula” in Northern Wales – Part 2

Leonard Lea Frazer

(continuing on a day tour in North Wales )

The St. Dyfnog’s Church graveyard has several interesting markers. One worth mentioning is that of Ann Parry, who lived from 1718 – 1798. On her gravestone, printed in Welsh, is “Fe Wirodd Duw Ei Air” (God Kept His Word). A peculiar inscription until you learn more of Ann’s life.

It has been said that she was a most devout person, a Methodist preacher, founder of the village Sunday school and generally a highly regarded person. Shortly before her death, she is reputed to have expressed the wish that her body be kept incorruptible as her soul. Mrs. Parry apparently got her wish, as recorded in two different sources.

In the Odd Fellows’ Magazine of Manchester, Vol. V, in 1838 the following passage appeared on page 411: “A remarkable circumstance took place in this village a few years ago - a vault having been opened in the churchyard (at St. Dyfnog) for the purpose of interning a deceased person, the remains of Ann Parry, buried on the 5th November, 1787 were found in a perfect state, having the appearance of marble, although they had been deposited there 50 years, and the coffin much decayed.”

In the Medieval History of Denbighshire, The records of Denbigh and its Lordship, John Williams wrote in 1860, “Towards the close of the last century, a female of the name of Mrs. Ann Parry, who was the first person in this neighbourhood to open her door to itinerant preachers, and to keep a Sunday school at her house, died and was interred here. Forty-three years after her decease, on the occasion of her son’s burial in the same tomb, her coffin was opened, and the body of this excellent woman was found to be in a perfect state of preservation, undecayed in the slightest degree, and her countenance bearing the hues of living health. The very flowers which had been strewed upon her body, it is said, were as fresh in colour, and as fragrant in odour, as when they were first plucked from their native boughs. The body was exhumed about three years afterwards (1841), and was in the same state of preservation.”

Ann Parry’s gravesite still attracts visitors at the St. Dyfnog’s Churchyard.

Further along the road we arrived at Denbigh and the ruins of a medieval castle on a hill above the town, constructed between 1282 and 1305 on top of a traditional Welsh stronghold by Henry de Lacy, the 3rd Earl of Lincoln, one of King Edward’s English army commanders, after a successful campaign to pacify the area. Originally the castle included town walls on part of the borough, with a moat, drawbridge, a triple towered gatehouse and the so-called “Goblin Tower.” This tower provided protection to the water supply to the castle next to a massive well, and was built on part of the long town wall.    Shortly after the Goblin Tower was finished, de Lacy’s son accidentally slipped from the tower, falling to his death into the well. Visitors to the site claim the boy’s ghost still haunts Denbigh Castle. His face has been seen staring out a window on the Goblin Tower. Another ghost also haunts Denbigh; that of a woman called the “White Lady.”  She floats through the Castle grounds with an eerie mist surrounding her. Over the years many visitors have witnessed this apparition and as recently as 1999.

Today, the Denbigh Castle is a ruin with the drawbridge gone, the moat filled in, and the triple towered gatehouse bombarded. Also, the castle well has a metal fence around it to keep present day visitors from also falling in.

Travelling southwest we stopped at Llyn (Lake) Brenig for coffee. Then, we drove down to Cerrigydrudion and from here to where I could take pictures of sailboats on Bala Lake. We stopped in town for a sandwich at a pub. Here, I taped some Welsh musicians making music in the pub. They had a drummer, fiddle player, guitarist and silver flute player. As it turned out, they were just customers having a good time.

Then we drove to the famous waterfall (Pistyll Rhaeanr), one of the “Seven Wonders of Wales.” I photographed the falls and we stopped for tea and scones with Devonshire cream. Next, we went to see an old pub and then drove over some hills to the Vale of Llangollen. We visited the former residence of the “Ladies of Llangollen” where the famous couple resided for over 50 years. It was a beautiful heritage building (all wood panels and leather on the interior walls). The Welsh name for this country property is Plas Newydd (New Hall).

English poet William Wordsworth explained that in 1824, “their cottage lay directly in the road between London and Dublin.”  When he and his party arrived for a visit they found that “so oddly was one of these ladies attired that we took her, at a distance, for a Roman Catholic priest, with a crucifix and relics hung at his neck. They were without caps, their hair bushy and white as snow, which contributed to the mistake.” In a poem, composed in their garden, Wordsworth described the ladies as “sisters in love.” The town-dwellers of Llangollen seemed to have regarded them as eccentrics, simply referring to them as “The Ladies.”

Plas Newydd, in North Wales has become a Mecca for lesbians in recent times, although no one in Llangollen has ever admitted the ladies were.

From here, tourguide Jenny and I drove over to the village to see the grave of the two Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby and their maid, Mary Carryll. It was marked with a three-sided monument. Then we drove back to Ruthin completing a local “circle tour” and had dinner at an Italian café; very good food. We had salmon with zucchini and potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus and garlic bread with red wine. All in all, it was a great day of touring and picture taking. Jenny insisted on paying for everything. Was returned back to my hotel and, after I paid my bill and had one beer at the bar downstairs, I went to bed.

The highlights for the day were: Ladies of Llangollen, the Jesse Window, Pstyll Rhaeanr and dinner at the Italian restaurant. I took pictures of the Jesse Window, Denbigh Castle, the waterfall and Plas Newydd. So far, on the Wales venture I had taken over 30 rolls of colour slide film.

This was the “material-gathering part” of the Travel Writer’s Formula. More gathering was in store for me on my travels through Wales. 

 

The churchyard of St. Dyfnog’s where one can find the grave of Ann Parry whose final wish was granted.
The churchyard of St. Dyfnog’s where one can find the grave of Ann Parry whose final wish was granted.
 
Denbigh Castle, the home of at least two ghosts . . . maybe more!
Denbigh Castle, the home of at least two ghosts . . . maybe more!

 

Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby lived together for over 50 years in their North Wales cottage. A painting and wood carved panel on the interior of Plas Newydd.
Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby lived together for over 50 years in their North Wales cottage. A painting and wood carved panel on the interior of Plas Newydd.
 
Plas Newydd today, still has visitors from afar.
Plas Newydd today, still has visitors from afar.