Top Reads of 2016 #Books #AmReading #TuesdayBookBlog

Over the moon to find Anywhere the Wind Blows on this reviewer’s top-reads list of 2016


It’s that time again! This year has gone so quickly and it’s been filled with really great reads. Narrowing down favourites is a difficult task but here they are. As always, they’ll be either 4.5* or 5* and clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon UK. 

28111823Dead Is Dead ~ Thriller

Private investigator Jack Bertolino, previously an inspector with the NYPD, is employed as technical advisor, consulting on a movie being made of his last case. His job includes protection for the female star, who is being targeted by a disturbed, out of control stalker. Susan Blake is beautiful, haunted by a past that she can’t lay to rest.

During filming there’s an actual shooting several blocks away, which results in the accidental and tragic death of little Maria Sanchez and also that of known drug dealer, Tomas Vegas. Cruz Feinberg, the technical wizard in Jack’s company, knows…

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The worst Christmas ever?

Apparently, storm Barbara is heading for the British Isles just in time for Christmas with the risk of disruption to transport and power supplies and some possible structural damage. The one thing we all share, wherever we are in the world, is our powerlessness in the face of severe weather. For our ancestors, the consequences were far more devastating.

It’s a sobering thought, but exactly 200 years ago, running up to Christmas of 1816, people were in the midst of a famine right here in Britain thanks to a volcanic explosion on the other side of the world.

In 1815, the effects of the massive volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora, Sumbawa island, Indonesia,  were felt across the world and led to devastating crop failures across the Northern hemisphere in 1816. It has been dubbed ‘the summer that never was’.

The summer of 1816 was so severely cold and wet it led to one of the worst famines of 19th century Europe. Red snow fell in Italy, Eastern parts of North America were under a cloud of volcanic fog, snow fell in Albany, New York in June, and riots broke out in Britain and Europe following the cataclysmic failure of crops.

Families in Wales are said to have traveled great distances begging for food, such was their hunger.

I may not have learned of this extraordinary disaster if I hadn’t been recently researching some unexplained deaths in my family history.

My 5 x grandparents, born in Ceredigion, both died within a month of each other in the summer of 1818. They were younger than I am now. Also, one month later, their oldest son died at the tender age of 30, in the same house. In the neighbouring house, another two relatives had died in that summer; aged 28 and 36. The obvious nagging question was why had so many died before their time and over such a short period?

Causes of death were not entered in the parish registers, so any one of many diseases such as smallpox or typhus may have been responsible. In Cardiganshire, even malaria was not uncommon in marshland areas. But looking for possible diseases led me to the historical occurrence of’the summer that never was’ in 1816.

People weakened by hunger are more susceptible to disease, and disease follows famine as surely as night follows day. In Ireland, also affected by the famine, a typhus epidemic ran from 1816 to 1819.

I will never know for sure what killed those ancestors of mine in 1818 but one thing I can be sure of is that they suffered unimaginable hardship and hunger in the two years leading up to their demise. Luckily for me, their son, my 4 x great grandfather and his wife survived and my 3 x great grandfather was born in 1820.

I’ve discovered many tragedies in my family’s past but this one has shocked and saddened me more than most. It brings home to all of us, I think, how powerless we are against the forces of nature.

We in the Western world live in an age of excess and never is this more evident than in the weeks running up to Christmas. This year more than ever following this most recent research, I am giving thanks for and appreciating how lucky we all are not to be enduring the hardships our ancestors did and which too many people across the world are enduring as I write.

In wishing a Happy Christmas to all my followers here on this blog, I particularly wish you a stress-free holiday in which you and yours do not angst over whether everything is perfect but simply enjoy and celebrate our great good fortune not to have been born in a time or place of great hardship.




A Call to Arms. #Powys #Wales #sayNOtowindfarms #Cymru

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing held sacred anymore in this world of endlessly growing consumption, fueled by the greed of a minority and their pursuit of wealth by any means.

Many of you may not have heard what the Welsh Government and Powys are now planning for us, the people of Breconshire and Radnorshire. Their ‘further focussed changes’ (October 2016) development plan threatens our familiar and beloved landscapes of Abergwesyn Common, the Begwns, Pant-y-llyn Hill, Merthyr Cynog, Drum Ddu, also, the hills around Llandegley, Abbey-cwm-hir, Hirnant – all now designated ‘Local Search Areas’ for wind development.


Llandegley Rocks

Oh, and if that were not bad enough, great swathes of our hillsides will be obliterated by solar ‘parks’ – solar ‘Local Search Areas’ reach from one side of the county to the other below Newtown. Nantmel, Llanbister, and Aberedw will be encircled – vast acres of hillside will be covered with industrial scale solar panels. If the developers get their way, not one among us will be unaffected by such changes. Let’s face it, people don’t come to live here or remain here, or holiday here for the weather. They are here, mainly, out of love for our beautiful, wild spaces with their kites, buzzards, curlews and skylarks and the quiet, rural way of life.

In addition to the decimation of our landscapes via turbines and solar panels with all the associated damage to wildlife, bird-life, habitat and human well-being, there will come the disruption to our roads, massive transportation lorries, tracks across our hilltops, pylons – in short, the wholesale industrialisation and rape of our beautiful, wild and green spaces.

The people of Breconshire have had so much taken from them over the years; glorious Eppynt taken by the military; our water polluted and wildlife and birds robbed of thousands of acres of moorland habitat, planted by the Forestry Commission; whole communities uprooted and valleys flooded to provide water for others, not ourselves. And now, are we to have the best of what we have left desecrated to line the coffers of the main beneficiaries – a handful of landowners selling us out and the multi-billion pound companies who would smother every Welsh hillside with their giant monstrosities for their own gain?



When considering the human costs, let us not forget that it is not only the unspoiled beauty and tranquility of these landscapes that will be lost to us. Our unchanged landscapes inherently represent our heritage, our identity, and our history. Rob us of our familiar landscapes and you rob us of an essential part of those vital things which give our lives meaning and continuity. Our lives will be the poorer in many more ways if we allow this to happen. We will suffer a psychological disconnect between the past and the present when our inter-generational connections to the landscape are severed.

I am sickened by the relentless march of what some call ‘progress’ which tramples all in its wake. I belong to a generation who I’m ashamed to say has done more damage to this planet in fifty years than all the generations who have gone before.Vast areas of our oceans are now littered with plastic and this littering of our landscapes with the proliferation of wind farms across this fabulous county is spectacular visible evidence of escalating human greed on a scale hitherto unknown. Do I care about the environment? Yes, I do. Do I care about carbon emissions? Yes, I do. Do I believe these hulking, inefficient, unreliable turbines are a cure for the disease? I do not.

When will it end? When there is not one windswept hill left without turbines and every slope has been covered in industrial solar panels? This latest change in policy proves that this search and push for more is relentless. The proliferation of wind farms across the country is a symptom of, not a cure for, the problem. Some years down the line, we’ll be back at square one and will have sacrificed our rural idylls for nought because they contribute too little towards our energy needs and an insignificant effect on carbon emissions. The loss of our upland habitats and their role in carbon sequestration means that replacing them with wind and solar farms that do a far less efficient job of reducing emissions is counter-productive madness.

Under the Welfare of Future Generations Act we have a duty to consider the impacts of our actions in the present on future generations. When, one day in the future, these great, hulking turbines and all their associated financial, human and environmental costs are finally outmoded and debunked, what will happen then? Will the renewable energy companies honour their obligation to dismantle and remove these monstrosities from our landscapes when their only consideration is profit? Or will we be left with these rusting giants littering our landscapes for ever more? Call me cynical, but I’ve lived long enough to know that the latter is the highly more likely outcome. They’d opt to pay the fines rather than dismantle. And that will be our legacy to future generations. I don’t think they’ll be thanking us for that. It is reckless and irresponsible in the extreme of government to continue with the proliferation of wind and solar farms without consideration for a future when they will have been replaced with newer technologies.

Government is famous for short-sighted policy making. Government, local and national, now urgently needs to take a step back and a serious re-think before it is too late. Once they are up, they are not coming down again, ever.

If you love and value our Welsh landscapes, our wildlife, our way of life, our heritage, our history, and value our deep and historical connections to this fabulous green heartland we are so privileged to live in, then I urge you to answer this call to arms to defend and preserve what is left. If our collective voice of objection is big enough, they will not have any choice but to hear it. So, please take up your swords (well, your pens or keyboards, anyway), and do one or preferably all of the following: write to your county councilor, write to your assembly member, register your objection with Powys, join CPRW (Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales). We have only until 5pm, Monday 21st November to do this. Thank you.

For more information and guidance, follow this link and look under current news:

The relevant pages on Powys’s website:


Honouring the dead.


Bryngwynfel, my mother’s birthplace.


The view from above Tyn-y-beili, where my mother grew up.

It is the anniversary of my mother’s death and I thought it would be a good time to share a particular family story she told me, because it is one that has been passed on by word of mouth through three mothers – my mother, her mother, and now me. It is a story which had remained untold since her own mother died and which would not have come to light if the memory had not been prompted by my research into our family history.

I unearthed many tragic stories while doing the research, things my mother would never have known about her ancestors, otherwise. But this particular story would have disappeared with my mother if she had not told it to me. My mother was told it by her mother, my granny Annie, and my mother was eighty-five years old before she related it to me. How many such family stories are lost for the want of someone who wants to know, or for the want of telling?

I’d been recording my granny’s sisters and brothers on the family history chart and was asking my mother if she remembered any of these aunts and uncles of hers. Well, she had something to tell about each of them but I shan’t go into those stories now. What she did say, in her lilting Welsh accent, and which made my ears prick up was ‘But wait a minute, there was another one, you know’.

‘Was there?’ I was incredulous.

‘Yes! A baby! She was named Medi!’

I had no knowledge of this child, at all.

‘Well, now, you listen, and I shall tell you what my mother told me’, my mother said…

‘The baby was poorly. From the start, you see, there was something wrong with her. And her father, Huw – he was a lay preacher, you know – he was very worried because it didn’t look like the baby would survive and she hadn’t been baptised, you see. And so Huw decided they must go to the chapel and get her baptised. And off they went. But it was a terrible day, pouring down rain, and they all got drenched before they even got to the chapel. They only had the pony and cart, you see. Well, the upshot of it was the baby died, anyway, but that wasn’t the last of it. Medi’s mother, my grandmother, caught pneumonia that day and never recovered. Six months later, she was gone, too. My mother, Annie, was just six years old when her mother died, you know.’

It was my daughter who realised the significance of Medi’s name. Medi is Welsh for September, which turned out to be the month of her birth. After my mother told me this story, I searched the BMD index for a Medi, and there she was; her death recorded in the last quarter of 1896.

Now, every September, I remember Medi and her mother, and poor Huw who must have suffered greatly for the decision he made on that fateful, wet day and through which he lost so much. Huw had already lost one wife to childbirth. He never married again after he lost the second one. And I am haunted by the fact that I have failed, still, to find their graves. Another September is come and gone. This time, this year, I will find them, I tell myself with every September that goes by. Perhaps I will, this year.


Cwmchwefru, where Medi and her mother died.

My mother, had she been born to a different life, would have loved to write stories, I think, for she certainly loved to tell them and told them well. She was very proud of me having written two novels (she did not live to see the third). She read the first two and greatly enjoyed them, then lent them to all her neighbours and friends, saying ‘my daughter, Jenny, wrote these, you know. She’s an author!’

The moral of this story is; if you have elderly relatives, be sure to ask them questions while they are still here, and pass the stories on to your own children. My mother was the last one of her brothers and sisters to die, and one thing I’ve often regretted is that her siblings had died before I began researching our family history. There was so much they died not knowing and so much more they may have contributed.

Imagine if my mother had died without telling this family story. Little Medi and her short and tragic life would never have been recorded as it deserved to be. Ask the questions and pass on your family stories!








Anywhere The Wind Blows (Megan Jones Trilogy #3) #TuesdayBookBlog #Historical Fiction @jennyoldhouse

Book reviewer, Cathy Ryan, capturing the essence and intent of Anywhere the Wind Blows with this wonderful review.


  • 31305130Author: Jenny Lloyd
  • Published: August 2016 by Jenny Lloyd
  • Category: Historical Fiction
  • five-stars

Eli’s suicide may not be what it seemed and rumours of murder are rife. The tide of goodwill towards Megan and Morgan turns to one of suspicion and doubt as Mary Williams spreads her wild rumours with impunity and the preacher’s finger of suspicion and vengeance points toward Wildwater and the mill. 

The final part of the trilogy begins with Branwen’s point of view. Branwen believes Megan has forgiven her for the part she played in her, Megan’s, short and traumatic marriage to Eli and desperately wants to be her friend. Megan can scarcely forget the humiliation and harm she suffered at their hands. Branwen is lazy, slovenly about the house and dairy, and Megan is losing patience with her neediness and petulance, unaware of the lengths Branwen has gone to for her sake. 

Megan’s troubles are not…

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#FridayBookShare ~ Anywhere The Wind Blows by Jenny Lloyd @jennyoldhouse #Historical Fiction @ShelleyWilson72


#FridayBookShare ~ an excellent idea created by Shelley Wilson

With the weekend approaching it’s the perfect time to seek out new books to read, so Shelley created a Friday Book Share meme to help search for that ideal read.


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Time to say goodbye.

So much has happened since the first book in the trilogy, Leap the Wild Water, was published in 2013. I remember how it felt when the book ‘went live’. It was like diving into deep water, not knowing what lay beneath the surface. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I published it on a hope and a prayer that someone, somewhere, would think well of it. I never imagined just how many people would be carried away, as I was, by Megan’s story, or the praise my writing would receive.

I am truly and forever grateful to all those readers who let me know, in person or through their reviews, how much they enjoyed my books. It is readers who decide if writers sink or swim and I have been blessed by the encouragement my writing has received. I am not a person who has a great deal of self-confidence or self-belief, so without that encouragement, the second book in the trilogy, The Calling of the Raven, may never have seen the light of day.

Now, two eventful years since I published The Calling of the Raven, I’m finally publishing the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy. I came close to giving up on it. The loss of Morgan knocked me off my feet and for a while I couldn’t think about anything else. I miss him so much and preparing the book for this step to publication has given me a focus.

With the last book in the trilogy, it is time to say goodbye to Megan, et al. Saying goodbye isn’t easy as I’ve come to know these characters so well they are like old friends to me. They have carried me along on a breath-taking journey across the centuries and into the intimate details of their lives and struggles. Megan is a woman with courage, compassion, and a capacity for forgiveness which many of us can only aspire to. For me, she is what every heroine should be; portraying the possibilities lying within each of us.

From the very first, I have felt these stories were not being told by me so much as by the characters who ‘speak’ through me. My role has been merely to shape their experiences into the form of a novel. So I am grateful to them, too, for choosing me to tell their stories. I shall never forget them.

Which brings me to the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy, and to celebrate the launch of Anywhere the Wind Blows, the new updated kindle edition of Leap the Wild Water will be FREE for 5 days from August 1st 2016.

Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water:

The Calling of the Raven:

Anywhere the Wind Blows:

You can also follow the author:







He went to heaven in a brand-new coat.

Those who have been following me, on this blog or social media, will have seen lots of photos of Morgan and Jess. I write the following in the hope that it might help someone else faced with the heart-breaking decision I had to make a week ago.

It never ceased to surprise me, how even when he seemed to be fast asleep, snoring even, Morgan would have one ear cocked and one eye half open and spring up the moment I got up from my seat. I thought you were sleeping! I’d say. It always made me smile, how even when asleep he was aware of exactly where I was and what I was up to.Now he is no longer here and springing to attention at any move from me, I am more aware than ever of just how devoted and attached to me he was.

While I sat at my desk,  he’d want to lie in the foot-well. I’d have to place one foot either side of him and carefully move my chair forward so that his head rested beneath. It was a tight squeeze! I’ve written three novels with him lying here between my feet, fast asleep and snoring…


If I got up to leave the room, he’d follow my movements with his eyes, and he’d be at the door with his tail wagging, the moment I so much as thought it was time for a walk, and long before I’d reached for my coat or boots.

Through him, I became aware of things I said to myself out of habit. ‘Right, then!’ would have him on his feet in a second. A shout of exasperation, or a certain swear word, would have him on the alert, searching my face, his eyes great pools of curiosity and concern. Then I’d have to reassure him – it’s okay, pup, take no notice, it’s nothing to worry about, just me blowing off steam!

Now, still, I feel the impulse of my hand to reach out and stroke, the impulse to speak and reassure, so ingrained are my responses to him. Then reality kicks in – he isn’t here anymore, tuned into my every emotion.

I’m beginning to see that I was as tuned into him on a subliminal level as he was to me – that I was always aware how my own emotions affected him – happy, sad, joyous or despairing – whatever I felt, he felt it, too. Being aware of this, I would try to buffer the effects of the stresses in my life on him. If I was reduced to tears about something, he would come and rest his dear head upon my knee – and I would be trying to reassure him not to worry, that all would be alright. How many times – more than I can count – did I pick myself up for his sake? My love for him, my concern that he should have a happy life and not suffer because I was suffering, was what gave me strength to overcome the rock-bottom times in my life.

If someone came to the house or stopped to chat along the lane, he would be there by my side, trying to be part of the conversation, talking his doggy-talk which no person could understand.  He never used to ‘talk’ to me like this, perhaps because he felt our understanding went beyond words. But he was well aware that speech was the main means of communication between people and tried so very hard to speak to others and be understood. Some people found it amusing, I think, but some probably thought it pretty weird.

Then, one day back in March, something changed. He began trying to ‘speak’ to me whenever I was near –  a low, mumbling, pleading sound I’d never heard before. It was a sound which filled my heart with dread.  Though I did not know it then, it was the beginning of the end for Morgan.

Too many times I’ve heard people say of their dear departed loved ones – if only the doctor had listened and acted sooner. Well, the world of veterinary medicine is no different to ours. But to be fair, the end result for my Morgan was always going to be what it was, even if they’d listened sooner, but his suffering may not have gone on for as long as it did.

I’ve looked at the calendar on my phone, at the number of weeks that went by. Phone the vet. Take Morgan to vet. Phone the vet. Take Morgan to vet, on and on and them telling me there didn’t seem to be anything wrong and to come back again if he didn’t improve. I’d be back again within days. There was even a suggestion that the steroids he’d been on for something else at the beginning of the year had made him a bit ‘loopy in the head’. And all the while, it was heart-breaking and frustrating beyond belief to listen to him trying to tell me what the matter was and me not being able to understand. All I knew was that something was amiss.

The last straw came with the arrival of a new vet at the practice, who became positively hostile to my request for Morgan to have pain-killers. He refused to give them, told me to come back again next week if he was no better. I’d been told to do that too many times. He said ‘pain-killers are not a treatment’. (Neither was doing nothing!) He was an arrogant man who seemed to view my request as an affront to his authority. I told that vet that I had not brought Morgan all that way only to be sent away, yet again, with nothing to help him. He grudgingly gave me just 2 tablets to be spread out over 4 nights. They made no difference at all.

By then, Morgan was now struggling to sleep at night, tossing this way and that, moaning with pain at intervals which had me lying awake at night, anguished for him. Incensed and bewildered by the attitude of that vet, I took Morgan to a different practice, nearer to home. The minute the new vet examined him, she said she believed the problem was in his hips. Why, oh why, did the other vets not even consider this, I asked myself? If this vet was able to, then why weren’t they? She booked him in for an x-ray. She showed me the x-ray plate. His hips were in a terrible state, riddled with arthritis. She said, from now on in, it was a case of ‘management’. I was so relieved! At long last, we knew what we were dealing with and what to do for him.

He was put on a high dose of glucosamine which would be reduced after a month to a maintenance dose of one per day. And, without question or argument, he was given the pain-killers I’d had to beg for and so grudgingly received, previously.

As the weeks progressed on this regime and he got no better, in fact seemed to be getting gradually worse, I began to pray. He will turn a corner, he will, he will, I told myself while waiting for the glucosamine to work its magic. I bought him a large memory foam mattress in the hope of making him more comfortable at night, which was when, with no distractions, he seemed to suffer most. His pain-killers were increased and still the sleepless nights went on.

In desperation, I sent away for a light-therapy unit which was meant to be beneficial in the treatment of arthritic joints and dysplasia. He continued to get worse. It was all too little, too late, for Morgan. I went back to the vet and was told the brutal truth. The kindest thing to bring an end to Morgan’s pain was euthanasia. He was already on a high dose of painkillers but, at my request, I was given a higher dose and told to come back in a week with a view to putting him to sleep.

As it turned out, we didn’t have even that week. Over the next twenty-four hours, the pain suddenly got much worse for him and the last grain of hope that he would turn a corner evaporated. The end of his life rushed towards us with such rapidity that I only had that one more night with him. At three in the morning, I made the decision that I had to admit defeat and put an end to his suffering as soon as possible.

As I sat up with him and stroked him, clouds of his fur floated around and surrounded us – for a couple of weeks he’d been shedding his old coat as he always did at this time of year. He went to heaven in a brand-new coat, shedding his physical life along with his old coat.

The next morning, I phoned the vet and arranged to take Morgy on his last journey. I will never forget what Morgan did after the phone call.  He led the way to the car. I opened the door. No more pain, now, Morgy, I told him, no more pain. He did something he’d never done before. He reached up and thumped both paws on the seat, as if to say ‘right, let’s do it!’ I lifted him up (he was no longer able to get in the car unaided) and he sat in his seat, tail wagging, looking ahead with excitement.

Given my emotional state, having to take him to end his life, his behaviour seemed bizarre and baffling.  Along the way, I felt him thump my arm with his paw to get my attention; I slowed down and turned to glance at him. He was gazing deep into my eyes, his eyes soft and misty with love. He wasn’t looking anxious or concerned as he would normally do at seeing my distress. He seemed to be smiling. I placed my hand on his head, stroked him, and told him ‘I love you, too, darling, I love you, too!’

He sat back in his seat with a sigh, staring intently ahead, with that open-mouthed smile of his as if he was excited and pleased. I was utterly bewildered – I see why, now. For the first time in all our years together, I was not seeing my own emotions reflected in his response. Here I was, torn apart by grief at the knowledge I was about to lose him, and there he was, seemingly as happy as could be.

He had never feared going to the vets as some dogs do. Whenever he went, even when ill or in pain, he always had a smile and a wagging tail for them. On his last visit, he was the same as always. He faced his end with no fear at all and was gone from me so quick… it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, to put an end to the life of he who had been so dear to me.

Anyone who has had to do this will know how it feels. We never imagine that one day we will be called upon to do it. When to do it, seems to be the hardest call to make. If I had known my hopes were false ones…if I had known it would end this way…if I’d known from the start that it was pointless trying…if, if, if. I couldn’t have predicted how it was going to end. From that first day when he tried to ‘speak’ to me of his pain, my only objective was to find out what was wrong so that we could make him better. Where there is life, there is hope, as they say. But when there is no hope left, what is there? Love, and to do the most loving thing we will ever be asked to do – let them go.

Morgan let me know on that last journey, God bless him, that he was ready to go, and was grateful to me for releasing him from his pain.  I am certain now of that, although at the time, being a human, I failed to understand.

He was so loyal, loving and giving. He didn’t have one aggressive bone in his body. He lived life to the full and with passion. When I think of all the adventures and walks we shared; beaches or mountains, rivers or seas, woodlands and meadows, he loved them all, exploring every inch of every place we went. And each time he saw we were leaving for pastures new, he’d leap up front, excited to discover where we were going next. Most importantly, he was loved and he knew that he was loved, and that is the greatest comfort to me.

He was the most remarkable soul. I will never know his like again. He was one of the greatest blessings in my life. But Morgan is not grieving, Morgan is not suffering, and I would go through this heart-rending pain and grief a hundred times over rather than see him suffer.

I’ve reached some form of acceptance – that the ocean of life will go on crashing upon the shore, however much we may try to swim against the tide. And much of our anguish comes, I think, from our not being able to change the course of things when they head in a direction we do not want them to. It’s necessary to accept not only my own limitations but those of the people who we expect to be able to do far more than they actually can. I suspect that the arrogant vet was coming from a place where he was not prepared to accept the limitations of his own knowledge.

Never let anyone try to persuade you a dog is ‘just a dog’. Knowing Morgan has convinced me; they are wiser, kinder and more generous souls than many humans are.

Please share this to pay tribute to Morgan and all the other wonderful dogs who give us so much in their too short lives.

In memory of Morgan; 16th March 2007 – 15th June 2016




A moving account of a bygone age.

The following account was passed on to me by a fellow lover of Welsh history. It conjures up a by-gone age which we will never see the like of again, and so I felt it was important to share it.  It was written by Jenkin Lloyd, Tregaron Registrar, and the article is a translation of the original which was published in the Cymru, 1912. So here it is, enjoy!

A funeral in the Highlands.

In our minds the word “Highlands” seems always to be associated with Scotland because that country is divided into highlands and lowlands and the word is seldom used in connection with Wales. But Wales too has her highlands, where we find people who live almost entirely some 1000ft or more above sea-level. I refer to the wide range of mountains which divides Radnorshire and Breconshire from Cardiganshire together with the people who inhabit these grassy expanses so well described lately in these pages by Mr Daniel Davies, Ton.

Small holdings and farms can be seen scattered here and there on this wide plain – although fewer now than formerly – where, from generation to generation there has dwelt, a race of people who have remained more faithful to old Welsh customs than their lowland brothers, a race of people with characteristics and habits peculiar to themselves. Nevertheless, these people differ among themselves in certain respects, for example, while the western side is completely Welsh speaking, the eastern slopes have been subjected to English influences, so that while shepherds on the one side work their dogs in Welsh the dogs on the other side are worked in English. Neighbours, whose animals graze side by side, attend places of worship situated as far as 12 miles apart and while some of these speak English in Builth Wells market, others do their buying and selling in Welsh in Tregaron market. We, in the lowlands, refer to these Welsh people as “the people of the mountains” and it is natural that the chapel on the river Camddwr where these dwellers congregate to worship is called “Soar of the Mountains”.

But my intention was to give an account of a funeral in these highlands. Of all our national characteristics nothing is more peculiar to us than our funeral customs and in the mountains there are particular reasons why these old customs have survived without being influenced in any way by outside agencies.

On the morning of the first Sunday in the year 1876, at Bethesda Chapel, Llandewi Brefi, Tomor Lloyd, having made the usual announcements, made a further announcement somewhat as follows:

“The funeral of Shan, wife of John Jones, Pysgotwr, will take place next Wednesday. Mr Abraham Oliver will preach at the house at 10.30 and the burial will be in the church of Llandewi Abergwesyn.”

Jac and Shan Pysgotwr were two people who lived in the mountains. It is from warm-hearted respect that I give them the familiar names by which they were known to their neighbours. Shan came of a family from the borders of Breconshire and Radnorshire – the burial place of her ancestors was at Abergwesyn and there too she wished to go. Jac came from the valley of the Upper Towy and the story goes that when Shan was the senior maid at Nant-yr-euch he used to visit the farm to court the junior maid. On his arrival there one evening, after the usual greetings, Shan came to tell him that her junior was not at home, and somehow from that night onwards Shan, the senior maid, became Jac’s sweetheart.

They got married and after several moves from place to place, eventually settled down in Pysgotwr, and it was there Shan ended her days at the age of 85. They lived a quiet simple life throughout their long span and according to what I can gather the main ambitions of their lives were: to be hospitable to the stranger, to help the poor, to pay the old debt before incurring the new, and when the end came to leave sufficient to settle all accounts, and to have an oak coffin and a gravestone. And all their hopes were fulfilled. When I returned home after the service on that Sunday morning they announced Shan’s funeral, I could hear my father and mother, while at dinner, speaking of the old lady as if no one but they were present. At the end of their discussion my father glanced towards the long table where I and some others were partaking and said, “You must attend Shan’s funeral, they will need help to carry”. The news of the old lady’s death was no occasion for rejoicing but at the same time I could not suppress a smile because a funeral was almost the only excuse for a “day out” for a spirited and healthy lad. It was not long before I found company for the journey, namely our genial neighbour, Joseph Morgan the shopkeeper, who was the family’s “universal provider”. And so, on a fair winter’s morning, we set out from Llandewi. I was in my element, riding a high-spirited cob that was to be sold at Garon Fair the following March: neither horse nor rider one would think had a care in the world.

From the village of Llanddew our path was to the east along the bank of the River Brefi, rising to that part of the mountains which forms the watershed dividing the waters of the Teifi from those of the Brefi. It was along this path that Rowland, Llangeitho, travelled on his way to Ystrad Ffin and in his lament for Rowland Williams, Pantycelyn, refers to these mountains as the Dewi Hills and the name is most appropriate for to the west stands Llandewi Brefi and to the east Llandewi Abergwesyn, with, in between the two places, some 18 miles of wild mountainous country.

In order to cross the shoulder of Bryn Caregog we had to climb over 1000 feet, then we descended to a spot where, within the short distance of about 100 yards, five small streams unite. This is the beginning of the river Pysgotwr. Near the same spot, where about the same number of roads and paths meet is a place called Postgwyn, named (it is said) after a fingerpost that stood there once upon a time, but the old post with its directions had disappeared years before we passed there that morning. Old Daniel Jones, Y Bryn, used to say that he remembered seeing the remains of the fingerpost there in his young days. What fitter site for a fingerpost? Not a house within miles, and how different from the idea of the present generation, which is to place fingerposts near towns, villages, stations. I see no reason for this, other than the rules bearing of good manners, namely, that to ask a question of a fellowship to whom one has not been formally introduced is gross effrontery.

After leaving Postgwyn we followed the river Pysgotwr for about a mile and arrived at the home of Shan and Jac where the neighbours had congregated. Here the bier had been brought the day before on the backs of little mountain ponies (how, I cannot say). It was a lonely place. If a circle of 4 miles radius were drawn with Pysgotwr as centre, less than 70 souls, counting men, women and children, would be found living within its limits. Hence, one could not expect the congregation to be a large one.

The Reverend Abraham Oliver had already arrived and while those who proposed carrying Shan to her distant resting place were taking a little nourishment, he delivered the funeral sermon to the old people, the women and children of the neighbourhood. It was not the numbers of mourners nor the costliness of the mourning apparel that was the dominant feature of the funeral but it’s pure, unostentatious simplicity.

The sermon over, we set out for the place of burial some 12 miles away. At the head of the procession, riding a shaggy pony with a horse-hair halter was Nathaniel, Y Ddinas, an old neighbour of Shan’s. He led the way, holding a long hazel stick in his hand like the sword of a general, and indeed he was a general for it was his duty to decide the route our journey was to take along this vast pathless expanse, and how long each team of four bearers was to carry its burden. Nathaniel’s judgement on the latter important problem was not determined by distance or by time: if the way was fairly level the team had good measure, but if the path was rough the measure was shorter. Careful judgement, sound common sense and a good eye for country were Nathaniel’s strong points, and of these we had ample proof before our journey was over.

Before we had gone 100 yards from the house we turned eastward where a long slope faced us. Every ditch was full of water and every bog was dangerous to both man and horse, but in spite of all these difficulties everybody was in a good mood as we now climbed the high mountain which separates the Pysgotwr valley from that of the Doethie. The number of bearers was but 20, and eight of us would ride in turns and lead the remaining horses for all would be mounted on the return journey that evening.

We soon reached Maes-y-Betws where it was necessary to decide which team of four bearers would ford the rivers. After crossing the two Doethie rivers we faced the mountain and climbed Rhiw’r Gelynen, or Rhiw’r Gelynion (as some call it). The ancient paths and tracks in these mountains are very steep and fall sharply sometimes, for they were intended for sledges and are still used as such. Such a one was Rhiw’r Gelynen and it was not surprising now, to notice that progress was slower with conversation very much on the wane.

Before reaching the crest of the mountain the path turned south along the ridge for a short distance and below us was Cwm Nant-Y-Benglog with a lonely house of the same name at the bottom of the steep valley. When he travelled along this path some years previously, Cerngoch composed the following verse:

Behold a rugged “cwm”

That only cat or hare could climb:

O spare me from rearing children

Within sigh of Nant-Y-Benglog!

The old bard had lost a child there through accident a short while before this and the place must be seen before the full meaning of the verse can be sensed.

In spite of the extreme cold at the bottom of this steep valley we found the ascent out of it warm work and when we reached yet another crest, the Camddwr valley opened out before us. As we descended towards the river the path took us near Soar chapel and I recollect well what struck me most forcibly at the time was the similarity in size between the Chapel itself, the caretaker’s house and the stable. This equality of size seems particularly appropriate; and I leave it to the reader’s imagination to find out the circumstances which call for it.

(The writer implies that the size of the congregation in such an isolated chapel was so small that the chapel and stabling for the worshipper’s horses did not need to be any larger than a house. J.)

After leaving the Chapel the way improved compared with what had been our lot till then and our General was quick to take advantage, for he signaled the changes with his stick less frequently. The carrying now was easier and Nathaniel at the head worked his legs on either side like two wings moving in rhythm with the movements of the pony. Nature too seemed to have taken a hand by cleaving a way through the back of the merciless mountain, and once again we lost sight of Cwm Camddwr while Cwm Tywi opened out before us. But before we take a last look at the old chapel I must quote Cerngoch’s verse:

On the banks of the Camddwr river

Stands a temple to our Saviour;

Whoever comes over such country

Proves himself a true Worshipper.

Shan was one of the ‘true worshippers’ all her life, and she had great regard for Soar but she wished to return to her own people for her last long rest: and in this respect she remained a typical Welsh-woman.

As the panorama of the Towy valley opened out before us we saw ahead Pant-y-Clwydau on the eastern bank of the river. The way to Abergwesyn ran along a small brook that had scooped a bed for itself down the mountain side and after crossing the Towy we climbed Rhiw-yr-Yeb (as it is called). This was far the steepest place where I ever shouldered a bier and indeed I almost believed that Shan had become much heavier in the course of the journey. To this day I consider that it was a feat to have carried Shan up this steep incline and Cefn Coch, the mountain that Rhiw’r Yeb was but a preliminary test.

Eventually we reached the top whence, for more than 3 miles we covered places so rough there was not a sheep track even for us to follow for any distance, but we felt perfectly safe under the leadership of Nathaniel who soon brought us within sight of the Irfon Valley. My spirits rose once again as Abergwesyn and the end of the journey appeared in the distance, and as we went downwards to the church through Llwynderw woods I placed my shoulder under Shan’s coffin for the 47th time. By now everybody – both man and beast – presented a worn-out appearance and as the sun disappeared behind the mountains it cast long shadows across the valley.

We turned into the graveyard and passed through the doorway of the ancient church. There were signs of neglect everywhere in the churchyard and in the church itself the walls were bare and the roof had fallen in except for a small portion that remained above the rickety pulpit. The priest went through the service with due solemnity and never, I am convinced, did he face a more sober congregation; and while he spoke of the sure and certain hope of eternal life I confess that my mind wandered back to my father’s house in Cardiganshire the other side of the mountain over which I had plodded my weary way till the end of the day. Shan’s grave was filled and I bid it farewell feeling that I had faithfully fulfilled my duty by her. After nourishment (for man and beast) we set out on our return journey across the mountain and arrived home shortly after midnight.

After making a fair reckoning of ascents and descents made during the outward and return journey, I consider it as if we had carried the bier and corpse over Snowdon from Portmadoc to Llanberis and back again. How different were the feelings of the rider, and his poor mount too I fear, on the return journey. I felt so heavy that I wondered how my horse could bear up beneath me, and the horse, poor creature, walked as clumsily as an old 15/- hack from Rhos Fair.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

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