Thursday, 30 September 2010

It turns out I may be part-fairy

Tooling around on the web, as one does, I came across an extract from what sounded an interesting book, Wirt Sikes's British Goblins - Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions. The author explained what he was about thus:
In the course of the summer of 1882 I was a good deal in Wales, especially Carnarvonshire, and I made notes of a great many scraps of legends about the fairies, and other bits of folklore. I will now string some of them together as I found them.

What I found particularly interesting was that he started this passage with a reference to the village near where my paternal grandfather's family are from (I wrote about my Taid here):
I began at Trefriw, in Nant Conwy, where I came across an old man, born and bred there, called Morris Hughes. He appears to be about seventy years of age: he formerly worked as a slater, but now he lives at Llanrwst, and tries to earn a livelihood by angling. 

It turned out the strange tale he had to tell concerned the farmhouse where my Taid's family lived, at least during the summer months (it was a hafod*), up above the Conwy Valley:
He told me that fairies came a long while ago to Cowlyd Farm, near Cowlyd Lake, with a baby to dress, and asked to be admitted into the house, saying that they would pay well for it. Their request was granted, and they used to leave money behind them. One day the servant girl accidentally found they had also left some stuff they were in the habit of using in washing their children. She examined it, and, one of her eyes happening to itch, she rubbed it with the finger that had touched the stuff; so when she went to Llanrwst Fair she saw the same fairy folks there stealing cakes from a standing, and asked them why they did that. They inquired with what eye she saw them: she put her hand to the eye, and one of the fairies quickly rubbed it, so that she never saw any more of them. They were also very fond of bringing their children to be dressed in the houses between Trefriw and Llanrwst; and on the flat land bordering on the Conwy they used to dance, frolic, and sing every moonlight night. Evan Thomas of Sgubor Gerrig used to have money from them. He has been dead, Morris Hughes said, over sixty years: he had on his land a sort of cowhouse where the fairies had shelter, and hence the pay. Morris, when a boy, used to be warned by his parents to take care lest he should be stolen by the fairies. 

Interesting to think one's ancestors had social relations with fairies. But the next passage is even more intriguing as it concerns a Williams from the area (and all the Williams from there seem to be related):
He [our narrator] knew Thomas Williams of Bryn Syllty, or, as he was commonly called, Twm Bryn Syllty, who was a changeling. He was a sharp, small man, afraid of nothing. He met his death some years ago by drowning near Eglwys Fach, when he was about sixty-three years of age. There are relatives of his about Llanrwst still: that is, relatives of his mother, if indeed she was his mother...

To think that fairy blood might run in my veins... It would explain a lot.


* Hafod is Welsh for 'summer dwelling or farm', and refers to the seasonal cycle of transhumance - the movement of livestock and people from a lowland winter pasture at the main residence (Welsh hendre) to a higher summer pasture from roughly May through October.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Goblin, more like.

Anne said...

if indeed she was his mother... That's brilliant.
I want some fairy heritage.

Gaw said...

Hi Anne! Struggling with when I should break it to my eldest that his namesake and probable ancestor was a fairy... Tricky one.

malty said...

If the next born is a girl Gaw, best call her Tinkerbell

The Parrot said...

At last! A book that addresses my interest in the 'Occult Intellectual Powers of Welsh Goats'. Good find.

Have you read 'The Witch Cult in Western Europe' by Margaret Murray. Her belief was that the fairies were barrow-dwelling human survivors of a neolithic culture which was largely rubbed out by later arrivals. Although I don't think it's a theory which has gained much traction in the wider world.

Gaw said...

I haven't Mr Parrot. However, I know of a few Welsh relatives who I might describe as the 'barrow-dwelling survivors of a neolithic cult'.