Llanfair yn Cwmwd - A small parish in the hundred of Menai, upon the banks of the river Braint; living, n, chapelry, not in charge, to the vicarage of Llanidan, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Bangor; patron, Lord Boston. Area of parish, 150 acres of land.
I will be honest with you from the outset. I haven’t found out much about the Church of St Mary’s also called Llanfair yn y Cwmwd.
But I promise you I will. Just have to ask around a bit more, that’s all.
However, what I do want to do is share my discovery with you of this lovely little church in rural seclusion.
My favourite tree, the Sycamore is in bountiful and glorious abundance at the moment with its large fresh green leaves cascading laterally with each gentle gust of warm wind.
The Sycamore always brings out its foliage weeks earlier than the Ash.
And, as a mad Anglesey farmer once told me, “Ahhh ... The Ash. It knows.”
Now, what on earth he meant by that I do not know to this day. All that I can confirm is that he was/is mad.
I remember that even his cows were mad. They were like an Apache tribe always hunting ways to escape the boundaries that sought to contrain their wandering nature.
My poor salad patch, but at least it was well-fertilised and ready for the next year.
I love the sea about Anglesey, but had chosen this day to drive about Anglesey rural heartland chasing down one narrow single track road after another.
I’ll tell you about my route on another page – when I’ve written it.
However, for now please indulge me as I tell you about the unexpected discovery made on the back road from Dwyran to Llanddaniel Fab, the latter you might have encountered yourself, with its Neolithic Burial Chamber .
Llanfair y Cwmwd is just off the road and if you blink you may well miss it.
While I will give you sound instructions about where it is, I will also allow you the opportunity to discover it for yourself; because that’s the way I found this secluded hidden gem.
My Mum had been rather unwell at the moment and I find that a journey in the car through her old haunts seems to be a better antidote to ill-feeling than many tablets.
Add the colour, richness and abundance of a beautiful Spring day and it generally works to pick her up.
We were a bit off-track this day and, I will be honest with you, it was Mum who spotted Llanfair yn Cwmwd Church. Mum pointed backwards over her shoulder and so very, very, very carefully I reversed.
I write with love and respect for this little church. I don't mean this in any odd way but I felt comfortable and at home because of the deep sense of peace I discovered.
Llanfair yn Cwmwd nestles contendedly among the trees and is not a classic 12th Century Anglesey Church. It seems much more recent, though I suspect it has a history that reaches back a few centuries to its original structure.
The older the grave stone the more compelled I am to speak out the name etched there.
For this little moment of time that person has a presence in the world once again, though brought to attention by a perfect stranger who cared enough.
The residents of Llanfair yn Cwmwd sail gently through eternity awaiting Judgement Day, do they realy care for my soft romanticism? Probably not. Who knows?
Like all of us they endeavoured, "Ymdrechodd Ymdrech Deg". They failed and they succeeded as do we all in or daily lives and, yet, is there one of us who does not regret kind words unspoken or good deeds left undone?
Here is a good life lesson for us all - 'Now's the Time and the Only Time We Will Ever Have'.
Maybe we should have that stamped on our Birth Certificates, because we do not always recognise our best teachers until they have gone.
Beautiful old church yards like Llanfair yn Cwmwd teach us this, if we only but listen.
Maybe you have thoughts to share on this ephemeral tryst with Life. Do get in touch.
I am quite certain that by now you will know that LLANFAIR translates as the Church of St Mary. But what about the word Cwmwd? What does it mean?
The English word is Commote. A commote (according to Wikipedia) is a secular division of land from the Middle Ages. Interestingly, the word commote is derived from the Middle Welsh cymwt.
I believe that it dates back to the 12th and 13th Centuries when Wales was at its most feudal. Not only belligerent toward Edward I and his descendants but also against each other. How to gain order and the rule of law?
One simple means, as we have seen with many an invading army, you set yourself as a force to be reckoned within all the major communities.
Of course, you confer upon it the title of Administrative Centre and what you administer is not justice but CONTROL.
Hence, Llanfair yn Cwmwd is 'St Mary's Church in the Commote'. This commote being Rhosyr - or Newborough.
You also make a set of rules that all must abide by – especially not being revolting – and set a body of men to ensure the law is upheld by means of punishments.
That way everyone knew who was in charge. Mind you, the more stern the control the greater the likelihood of rebellion.
This is exactly the end the princes of Gwynedd achieved by establishing these Cymydau (plural).
Like all the better things that day, it was my Mum - who was feeling a bit better - who noticed that Llanfair Yn Cwmwd held the remains of a World Famous Engineering Genius.
I was too busy being entranced by the Peace and Tranquillity. However, on the gravestone are inscribed the plain words:
MAURICE FERDNAND CARY WILKS
AUGUST 19TH 1904 – SEPTEMBER 8TH 1963
A MUCH LOVED GENTLE, MODEST MAN
WHOSE SUDDEN DEATH ROBBED THE
ROVER COMPANY OF A CHAIRMAN AND
BRITAIN OF THE BRILLIANT PIONEER
WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORLD’S
FIRST GAS TURBINE DRIVEN CAR.
On an Anglesey farm in 1946 Maurice Wilks came to the conclusion that his old ex-Army Jeep was defunct and he needed a substitute. But so soon after the Second World War a British replacement was not available. What to do?
While a normal Anglesey farmer might save up for a little Ferguson tractor and manage with a few horses, not so Mr Wilks. It so happened that one of his jobs was Chief Designer for the Rover Company and his brother, Spencer Wilks was Rover’s General Manager.
Maurice Wilks created a frame similar to that of the Willy’s Jeep and dressed it appropriately with Birmabright Aluminum alloy, of which there was plenty after the War – no steel, though. He fitted a Rover engine and created a transmission that would drive all four wheels.
Thus was created, here on Anglesey, at Newborough– and not all that far from Llanfair yn Cwmwd – the perfect off-road utility vehicle for farmers. However, in the first model the driver had to sit astride the gear box, with the steering in the centre. The familiar original light green colour took advantage of the post-War superabundance of green aircraft cockpit paint.
At that time the Rover Company was struggling because of the lack of steel normally used for the fabrication of cars. Maurice Wilks’ design and the abundance of Aluminium created a perfect opportunity for the company’s almost redundant workforce.
Maurice raised the matter with his brother, Spencer (General Manager), who raised it with the Board. The Board, in turn, grasped the opportunity and an initial 48 were built.
The 'Series 1' Land Rover was launched in 1948 Amsterdam Auto Show and by 1951 the company reached a milestone with the manufacture of the 250,000th Land Rover.
It is clear, by the simple fact of Maurice Wilks’ resting place in the churchyard of Llanfair yn Cwmwd, that Newborough and Anglesey was a special place for him.
You may well be distracted by the beauty of the trees meshing their branches and leaves into a fresh green-lit tunnel. You may well be distracted by glimpses though the hedgerows not the fields beyond.
However, DO TAKE CARE OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC . This is a very narrow road with plenty of sharp blind corners that can take you by surprise if you’re driving just a bit too fast. It might be best to take an observant passenger along with you.
Right, getting to Llanfair yn y Cwmwd,
If you happen to be travelling here from the Rhosneigr / Newborough side, then the instructions are just as straightforward. Again, I present the usual caveat of driving carefully down this very narrow country road.
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