From late September 2019 an enthusiastic group of Llanrwst residents met weekly at Hafan Gwydyr to create a community memories book about Llanrwst, funded by Heritage Lottery. We also ran a satellite group at a local residential home, Cartrefle.
As to Book of You, the favourite heading of Dilwyn Jones, who ran these sessions in Llanrwst, is "Famous People".
Before starting, he had included some information in the book as to Myrddin Ap Dafydd and Kai Owen and the late T Glynne Davies and the late Rev. Idwal Jones but he realised that no female had yet been included in the section. On asking at the public meeting before commencing the sessions, Nesta Wyn Ellis' name came up and so she was added to the other four.
The list was starting to develop!
O ran Book of You, hoff bennawd Dilwyn Jones, oedd yn arwain y sesiynau yma yn Llanrwst, yw "Enwogion". Cyn cychwyn yr oedd wedi cynnwys peth gwybodaeth yn y llyfr am Myrddin Ap Dafydd a Kai Owen ac am y Diweddar T Glynne Davies a'r Diweddar Barch. Idwal Jones ond sylweddolodd nad oedd merch yn yr adran eto. Dyma holi yn y cyfarfod cyhoeddus cyn cychwyn ar y sesiynau a daeth enw Nesta Wyn Ellis ymlaen a dyma ei hychwanegu hi at y pedwar arall. Yr oedd y rhestr yn dechrau datblygu!
Myrddin ap Dafydd (born in Llanrwst in 1956) is a writer, publisher and chaired bard and the current Archdruid of Wales.
He established Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, the publishing company, in Llanrwst in 1980.
T Glynne Davies (1926-88) was a poet, novelist and T V and radio broadcaster.
He presented the ground-breaking "Bore Da" daily breakfast show on BBC Radio in Welsh from 1970-1976, before Radio Cymru but paving the way for it.
He was the father of Gareth Glyn, the musician and broadcaster.
TGD was born at 64, Denbigh Street in Llanrwst and is seen here celebrating after winning the Crown in the National Eisteddfod in 1951 in.....Llanrwst.
The now blue and white house where T Glynne Davies was born
Plaque on 64 Denbigh Street
Nesta Wyn Ellis is now 78, nearly 79, and is a journalist and author who wrote a biography of Sir John Major. She was a radical Liberal politician and stood for Parliament several times.
She was educated at Llanrwst grammar School and then Liverpool University.
She travelled widely in Africa in the 1970's launching her journalistic career. Subsequently, she spent over a decade in Washington and has, more recently, lived in Paris.
Additionally, she is a singer and composer and has been involved in film and music production and direction as well as performance.
The Rev Idwal Jones (1910-1985)was a chapel minister and preacher of note, a dramatist, author and broadcaster.
Although from Talysarn, he was known throughout Wales as "Idwal Jones Llanrwst" as this was his main field of ministry from 1953 to his retirement in 1975 (22 years).
As a writer for radio, he created "S O S Galw Gari Tryfan" - a Welsh language answer to Dick Barton Special Agent.
The photograph shows the Rev Idwal Jones in his later years.
Kai Owen was born in 1975, as Mathew Stevens, in Llanrwst where his family still live.
He has acted extensively on film and TV and on the stage.
His English credits include Rocket Man, Torchwood, Being Human, Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road.
Another famous name with strong connections with Llanrwst was the late, great all-round entertainer Gari Williams.Originally from Llansannan, Gari moved with his family to Llanrwst and grew up there.Sadly, Gari ( original name Emyr ) was taken from us all too soon at the age of only 44 and at the very height of his success and popularity.
Two interesting questions arise in relation to Gari being (a) why did he choose Gari as a stage name? - Idwal Jones, mentioned previously in this book, had chosen Gari as the name of his Welsh Dick Barton too. Why is the name Gari so popular in Llanrwst? (b) Gari often referred to his home as number 10 Watling Street, making him the Welsh Prime Minister of Mirth. However, his home, known as Fernlea, does not really reconcile as number 10 in any way unless you count even numbers only up from the school but, even then, this does not tie in with all the rest of the street. Was his reference to number 10 no more than a joke?
Near the crossroads on Denbigh Street, there is a row of semi-detached houses called Regent's Park and built by Dick Williams of Regent's House.
Group members recall his very interesting life-story.
Originally from Llanrwst, he emigrated to America early in 1900.
His unusual hobby, for the time, was writing cinema scripts and one, "Charlie Chaplin Enlists", was actually accepted by the great man himself.
Dick returned to Llanrwst in 1933 and was a town councillor for some years until his death in 1946.
Our second topic of conversation, after Famous People, was Places of Worship several of which are managing to battle on in Llanrwst despite general trends and decline. There are now probably more places of worship than there are public houses in Llanrwst - a situation that has not always been the case! The Rev Sarah looks after the church ( Church in Wales ) and the chapels are in the care of the Revs Richard Glyn Jones, Gerwyn Roberts and Alan Spencer. There is also the Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd.
It is believed that the first Public Convenience in Llanrwst was erected in 1754 when, to keep the churchyard clean, a building called a "Necessary House" was built in the churchyard and next to the river.
In the same churchyard, several members of the group have seen the headstone of a very clever person who is said to have died on April 31st.
There are no political clubs in Llanrwst such as a Conservative or Labour Club or similar. There is, however, a "Llanrwst Club" which was formerly the Royal British Legion.
In terms of sports clubs, there are Bowling, Cricket, Football and Rugby Clubs and also Guides and Brownies a Derby and Joan Club and a Merched y Wawr but no W I or Scouts.
There are also Camera and Gardening Clubs which are very popular.
The group's memories of Llanrwst schooldays included:
Robert Jones, the headmaster of the "modern school"
Ffrancon-Jones, the truancy officer.
Those who had not sat or had sat but failed the 11+ having to stay in the junior or rural schools until the age of 14.
Farmers sons being kept home on the farm during lambing and harvest and other busier periods with no questions asked.
The photograph shows teachers at County School in 1933. The two middle at the back are Mr Tomlinson who lived at Cae Llan and Mr W M Wakely.
Hilda, Lilian, Gladys, Rena, Betty, Winnie, Peggy, Norah
The group's discussion on this subject highlighted several unique businesses or shops in Llanrwst.
The only public house to have always been a pub is Pen y Bryn, all the other pubs were some other type of establishment previously.
The oldest established shop still open is Dickinson's wallpaper shop.
The loss of all banks from Llanrwst and the consequent effect on other businesses and the town generally is a cause of great concern.
The demolition of Llanrwst Town Hall 6th April 1964
A receipt from Robert Berry dated October 27th 1932
A theme that repeatedly came up in discussions with the group at Hafan Gwydir was how things have changed over the years from local private grocers to large supermarkets - and other shops likewise - to the disappearance of banks - completely from Llanrwst. Attitudes have changed to as to things like co-habiting and having babies outside of marriage, staying in the area then becoming moving away and finding partners or spouses from afar and generations of the same family no longer living in the same house. Youngsters get their own places very young now whereas everyone used to be home until they married - if not indeed even afterwards! People are living to a greater age and there has been a change of attitude as to care of the elderly whereas those who were old or infirm used almost always to be cared for at home by their families.
Many of those from surrounding areas and those participating in the satellite group at Cartrefle had fond memories of the unique non-conformist minister, The Rev J T Roberts who was specifically associated with Cerrigydrudion but known over a wider area and indeed throughout Wales. He could often be seen driving around in a car that was falling apart and, if he gave lifts to youngsters, they might well be told to get out mid-journey if "J T" had spotted older persons in greater need of transport! He was a very clever man and his wife was academic too. They had a son, Brian.
When The Rev J T Roberts was referred to, Dilwyn Jones of Book of You, one of those leading the sessions, recalled that his father had sold a farm called Hafod y Fedwen to J T R in the mid to late 1950s which farm was to be "a living" for J T R's son, Brian. Part of the deal was that Dilwyn's father would continue to attend the farm for a certain number of days over a specified period to induct Brian in to farming. Both men enjoyed playing tricks or practical jokes on each other. One day, when Dilwyn's father had gone in to a building to fetch something, Brian shut the door on him and tied the handle on the outside so he could not readily get out. Dilwyn's father's dog then started to attack Brian for locking in his master. Brian was screaming for help in the yard and Dilwyn's father could hear him but could not get out through the door to help! Eventually he did and went to discipline the dog but Brian said not to do so as the situation was Brian's own fault and the dog was simply being faithful to his master...…..
Flooding has been a long term problem in Llanrwst and resulted in a last-minute change of location for the National Eisteddfod in August 2019. There were many floods - in 2018, 2004/5, 164 and otherwise. As in many places located near rivers, the reasons for the flooding include poor or non-existent dredging of the rivers, properties being built on flood plains, increasing populations and fewer trees and, also, poorly maintained drains. Historically, properties more commonly had cellars which often were less for storage and more to take flood water and prevent damage to the main fabric of the building.
During one long hot Summer, a local bailiff found many fish gasping for breath in the dried out river and went to arrange their transfer to a pool. In the meantime, poachers moved in and the local fish shop took more deliveries of fish that day than in all the rest of the year!
Other Llanrwst poachers took to selling their ill-gotten fish to hotels in Llandudno. Hotel owners, wishing to safeguard themselves, insisted on being provided with receipts for the money handed over. Receipts were supplied but signed....John West!
Pat's father had a printing business in Llanrwst and, when Pat was a small girl, she would be allowed to play in the printing works where there was, for example, a large guillotine with no protective cover or similar at all. No "Health and Safety" in those days!!
Pat, who was a teacher, recalled the headmaster calling her in to his study to tell her he had been given a pay-rise to award to a member of the teaching staff at his discretion. He wanted to tell Pat that she was not being awarded the rise but should not take offence as she was a very good and hard-working teacher and the Head thought highly of her. However, he was giving the rise to one of her colleagues. Asked why, he replied simply "because he is a man"!! That, thankfully, could not happen today with rules on equality!! To add insult to injury, the male teacher given the rise had a class of 6 ( albeit special needs or remedial as they were then called ) and Pat had a class of 47!!
Pat recalled 4 houses on Scotland Street in Llanrwst that used to share one outside toilet resulting in winter queues and the interesting practice of everyone bringing their own paper - whilst the toilet was shared, toilet paper - or often newspaper - was not.
Tom was born in Llanuwchllyn in 1926.
When he grew up, he joined the army and has travelled to Palestine, Beirut, Burma and...
Salary in the forces was 16 shillings per week (80p in today's money).
After leaving the Armed Forces, Tom obtained a position in a bank. This was on a salary of £50 per year (96p per week), a little more than his army pay. Farm workers averaged £1 per week. Due to the low salary, Tom waited until he was 29 years of age before he married. By now he had completed his five years training with the bank and was on a salary of £650 per annum or £12.10 shillings per week.
The bank working contract specified that Tom had to live in a flat above the bank and participate in local community affairs.
Tom recalled how the giving of staff pay rises was in the hands of the branch manager of banks in the old days. Once a year, the manager would see each staff member individually and tell them if he did or did not consider them worthy of a rise. Sometimes, the basis upon which the rises were given was questionable to say the least - e g because someone had married and started a family - which was nothing to do with their work performance directly..... Someone the manager disliked personally would often not get a rise for that "reason". How things have changed!!
Gladys was born in 1923 in the City of Liverpool. Her connection to Wales goes back to when her mother was sent to school there due to ill health.
Gladys left school aged 14 years. Church as an integral part of Gladys's childhood, attending the local Methodist Church.
When Gladys was living with her parents, on payday she would give her mother her pay packet and in return she'd receive sixpence spending money.
Between the ages of 16-19 years, Gladys was part of the Auxiliary Territorial Service and was stationed in Salisbury Plain, England for 3 years during the Second World War. It was during this time that Gladys met and married her husband.
Gwyn was born in Glasfryn. His early memories are of walking to chapel in Cefn Brith twice daily. The Minister was the Rev. T J Roberts, whose wife was a school teacher. The Minister's mother often assisted the local midwife for home births.
Background: A Sunday School was formed in 1805 but Cefn Brith Methodist Chapel was not built until 1811. The chapel was rebuilt in 1832, 1868 and finally in 1913. The present chapel, dated 1913, was built by architect R J Hughes of Llanfairfechan in the Simple Round-Headed style of the long-wall entry type.
Gwyn went to Cefn Brith between 19?? and 19?? and then on to Ysgol Pentrefoelas between 19?? and 19??
The teachers he remembers are Mr Roberts, the Headmaster, and teachers Mr Humphries, Miss Roberts Vernol. Miss Roberts apparently reported that "Gwyn had no hope for the future".
Upon leaving school at the age of 14 years, Gwyn secured an apprenticeship with Mr Harold Prys Builders in the nearby village of Cerrigydrudion. Gwyn remained in the building trade successfully until retirement, having contributed to the building of private homes ad the building of council homes in the villages of both Glasfryn and Ysbyty Ifan.
In his youth, Gwyn was fortunate to have a car and was able to travel to local farmers' dances in Ffestiniog, the Luxor Cinema in Llanrwst or even the Theatre in Llanrwst. Before Gwyn had a car, there was the facility of a local bus service, the last bus being 9pm from Llanrwst to Pentrefoelas, Pentrefoelas being the terminus.
One evening in Llanrwst two young ladies required a lift home. The young lady Gwyn took home was working as a nanny on a farm. Both Gwyn and this young lady worked five and a half days each week and during this period, not many people had phones, so it was agreed that they would meet on their day off work and if things did not work out, that would be fine. Gwyn married this lovely beau and still remains married over fifty years later. During this period they have produced three lovely sons.
Ivy was born in 192? in the village of Dolgarrog. Whilst Ivy was living with her parents, she would give her mother her pay packet and received six pence spending money.
Ivy was employed as a Secretary at the local Aluminium Works, built in 1907.
Joan was born in 1932 and lived most of her life in the village of Dolgarrog before moving to Cartrefle in Llanrwst.
Joan attended Ysgol Dolgarrog until 1944 when Joan successfully passed the 11+ school examination and then went to Grammar School in Llanrwst.
After leaving school, Joan trained as a nurse and was awarded the honour of being Nurse of the Year in 19??
When Joan was living with her parents, on pay day she would give her mother her pay packet and in return, Joan received six pence spending monies, this is equivalent to two and a half penies in today's monies.
Joan has fond memories of attending Military Service Personnel Dances in Ffestiniog, where specific transport was provided for the villagers to attend. Llanrwst was popular for the Luxor Cinema.
Joan married and had three children; two daughters and a son - Jennifer, Jillian and Jeffery, and is now a Great-Grandmother.
A small purpose built cinema that served the Llanrwst area in North Wales. The Luxor Cinema opened on 6th May 1938 with Deanna Durbin in “100 Men and a Girl”. It was part of the Eric H. James circuit. Inside the auditorium, there was a stepped ceiling, and lighting troughs which contained Holophane colour lighting. The proscenium was 26 feet wide and there were two dressing rooms. It was closed in 1966. It was then used as a Kwik Save supermarket until 1996.
After the supermarket moved out, the building lay empty for several years. In 1999, there were plans proposed to convert it into a centre for Welsh Language and Culture, which never happened. An application to Welsh Heritage was proposed for listing the building by the Cinema Theatre Association, but was turned down. Despite local opposition to save the building, it was demolished in 2004. The Glasdir business centre was built on the site in 2007.
Margaret was born in 193? in the village of Brynrefail, near Llanberis.
Margaret has had a vision impairment since childhood which has left her virtually blind. She did not allow her vision impairment to prevent her leading as full a life as possible. She enjoyed playing hockey at school.
Throughout her childhood there was only one book available and this was the Holy Bible. Margaret, along with her mother and sisters, attended Capel Coch in Llanberis on Sundays and Tuesdays. Each week there was a requirement to learn verses from the Holy Scriptures and this was often done during the Tuesday service as too many children attended the Sunday Service.
Children's Big Book was a magazine they sometimes read. When Margaret and her sisters had access to this magazine they truly relished all the contents.
Margaret remembers that keeping Sabbath on a Sunday was a strict procedure. This was a time when Margaret and her sister would sit and sew clothes for their rag dolls, or learn passages from the Holy Bible. They were not allowed to play games or cards on a Sunday. Speech was to be guarded and their mother reminded them "it was as bad to think not so good things as it was to say them". Children being children, there was an incident where the girls had broken the glass on the paraffin lamp and were fearful to tell their mother.
Margaret's father died when the children were still young. Their mother was given a Ten Shilling Pension (equivalent to 50p today). This was for rent, food, clothes and any other occurring expenditure. Therefore, much gratitude was felt for hand-me-down clothes. Mothers in this situation often went to work as cleaners, starting at dawn and arriving home before the children got up for school, as did Margaret's mother, as an extra source of income.
Margaret was sent to work in Trafford, Manchester, England. This was a wonderful experience as they had a Welsh Club and Welsh Choir. When Margaret went home, she gave her mother the accumulative wave packets earned and her mother would give her 'spending monies' out of this. Margaret recalls receiving a half crown (two shillings and sixpence), this being equivalent to twelve and a half pence in today's money.
The villagers of Glasfryn often visit Llanrwst for essential amenities; shops, dentist, hairdresser, solicitors and market day.
Llanrwst used to have a cinema, theatre and regular dances, which bring fond memories for villagers who attended these functions.
Children who passed the exam 11+ went to grammar school in Llanrwst. Some rural children who did not pass this exam went to Pentrefoelas School.
Glasfryn, in the past, had a woollen factory, smithy, mill, cobblers workshop, post office, shop, school and public house.
Dolgarrog a small village near Llanrwst has, in previous years, provided vital employment in the area with the establishment of a power station, dams and aluminium works.Many resident children from Dolgarrog have attended Llanrwst Grammar School. Dolgarrog has a train line link to Llanrwst making Llanrwst easily accessible for shopping, essential professional services and access to local entertainment.
Pentrefoelas ( dates back 1164)
Pentrefoelas has many links back to King Henry VIII, one through the family of Rhys Fawr ap Maredudd (Battle of Bosworth) whose son Robert ap Rhys was chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey. Grandson Elis Prys was a Member of Parliament and High Sheriff of Denbighshire and brother-in-law to William Salebury of Llanrwst writer of English/Welsh dictionary. Great-grandson Tomos Prys (poet).
Pentrefoelas School was originally the local secondary school, now a primary school.
This school was the central education establishment for primary children who did not pass the 11+ examination for attendance at Llanrwst Grammar School.
Several members of the group recalled that the famous song "Cymru, Lloegr a Llanrwst" - which follows - was based at least in part on the time Llanrwst had its own passports. They had no legal meaning but were fun and many remembered them being stamped by local shopkeepers. They are collector's items now.
Similarly, many remembered that the Denbighshire Police were not permitted to chase anyone in to the Caernarvonshire Police area so, local youngsters caught gambling or whatever, only needed to run over the bridge and they had gone from one county in to another and were safe! The Denbighshire Police had no option but to ring Caernarvonshire colleagues in Trefriw but, by the time they arrived, the youngsters were nowhere to be seen.....