Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Tales from the Shoe Box
Aelwyn Llewelyn ap Pritchard-Madocs is widely believed to be the model for Dylan Thomas's Reverent Ely Jenkins, preacher and poet in his play for voices "Under Milk Wood".
The Pritchard-Madocses were said to be one of the oldest families in Wales, and to represent the kingly and spiritual Celtic heart of the nation. . They claimed a direct descendent from Taliesin and through him Druidic Bards of the Grove of the Golden Oak. It is said that their ancestor was one Madoc ap Madoc, illigetimate son of Madog ap Owain Gwynedd (legendary finder of North America in 1170), who was elect to the Bardic Seat, aged 7, at the Cardigan Eisteddfod held by Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1176.
By the time Aelwyn was born the family was in decline and had been for some time.. It appears that they were reduced to earning a living by telling tales of their ancestry in Taverns and Ales Houses. As Thomas has Ely Jenkins say, Aelwyn's own Father was, ".....to die of Drink and agriculture". As far as can be gathered Garonwy Llewelyn ap Pritchard-Madocs had started to restore the families fortunes and become an itinerant preacher in the ranting style of the Primitives. However, these were again to suffer traumatically when Aelwyn was 12 or so. Garonwy, had long suppressed his twin weaknessess and kept them hidden under his sermons against fornication and alcohol. All was to be exposed and revealed on the very day that the first mechanical reaper was introduced to Welsh corn. Goronwy was lustily engaged with, Edith Plumbody, the Landlady of the Snake's Foot Inn, and as they lay coupled in passion, the mechanical reaper was set forth on it's maiden voyage. The Coroner's Report states, "... that Garonwy died instantly from having the back of his head sliced from his face and his legs removed by a slice through his buttocks...." Poor Edith survived the attack by modern farming methods. Her hands were merely removed at the wrists and her legs from both beneath and above the knees, and she spent the rest of her life - armless and legless in the asylum.
Mrs. Llewelyn ap Pritchard-Madocs endured the opprobrium by turning to gin and crying incessantly. It seems that she largely disappeared from Aelwyn's life. He took to wandering, and, perhaps, wondering. Not much is known of him as a young man, there is no record of him until he is in his mid thirties when the Dolgellau Dribbler reported that a man had been brought down from Cadir Adris after spending 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain. The great excitement was due to the local legend that said, ".. that any man spending on night on the seat of Adris would either be struck dead or blind, or come down a mad man or a poet..." Aelwyn had spent, so the paper reported, 40 nights amongst the ghosts of the ancients and as it speculated on his future, they encouraged their readers to do likewise.
Aelwyn was never heard to mention that period or the Mountain but after a short period of preaching as an itinerant he was ordained and his sermons became more poetical than scriptural. Even though he became known as Glendower's Bard and was invited to every Eisteddfod he seldom left the tranquillity of the village to which he was the incumbent. To hear a recital one had wait at either daybreak or nightfall when he was given read allowed to the trees and the hills that surrounded his living. It is rumoured, al most in hushed terms, that on a summers' eve or morn when the air is still, heavy and quiet, you may hear softly humming and muttering his songs as he engages with ghosts of the ancients.