Search

Updated: Jun 3

[for the English version, please scroll down]


Cofnodwyd y darn byr hwn yn gynnar yn yr 17 ganrif gan yr ysgrifydd John Jones o Gellilyfdy, sir y Fflint, yn llawysgrif Peniarth 254. Mae’n disgrifio digwyddiadau rhyfeddol y flwyddyn 1607. (Dehonglais y dyddiadau gan ddefnyddio calendr Thomas Evans, Hendreforfudd (1596) ar ddechrau Peniarth 187.)


§1. 1606. Pan oedd oed Crist mil chwechant a chwech, o bobtv i Ddyddgwyl Bawl, i tarodd y mor allan y Mrvsto ac mewn amryw leoedd eraill val i bv kolleidion mawr ar ddynion a da.

§2. Ac yn y kynhaiaf hragwyneb yr ymddangossodd seren gynffonnoc rhwnge y gogledd a’r gorllewin, a hynny oedd ynghylch Dyddgwyl Vair Ddiwaethaf. A’r tymor hwnnw vv lawoc iawn fal na chad hav ond ychydig amyd.

§1. Ac o bobtv i Wyl Andras y vlwyddyn honno y dechrevodd hi rewi yn dost iawn, ac eira mawr hefyd ac vo rewodd y pryd hynny y prif avonydd mowrion i gyd val ir oeddid yn tramwy dros Demys a phob karaeds, ac yn mynd dros Dal y Kafn hyd ar yr jaf a thros Lynn Tegid a thros Ddyfrdwy o’r tv vchaf i bont Gaer, val ir oeddyd yn chware pel draed yn emyl y kawse.

§4. A llawer o ddefaid ac anifeiliaid a vvant veirw y vlwyddyn honno, sef 1607, a’r brain a’r adar hevyd a vvuant veirw val i bydde anodd iawn gael gweled yr haf (1608 rhac wyneb) vn vwyalchen nac aderyn bronfraith yn vyw.


Diweddariad i Gymraeg heddiw:


§1. 1606. Pan oedd oed Crist mil chwe chant a chwech, o gwmpas Dygwyl Pawl [25 Ionawr], fe lifodd y môr dros y tir ym Mryste ac mewn nifer o lefydd eraill, fel y bu colledion mawr o ran dynion a da byw.

§2. Ac yn ystod y cynhaeaf canlynol fe ymddangosodd seren gynffonnog rhwng y gogledd a’r gorllewin, ac roedd hynny o gwmpas Dygwyl Fair Ddiwethaf [8 Medi]. A bu’r tymor hwnnw’n lawiog iawn, fel na bu modd hau ond ychydig ŷd cymysg.

§3. Ac o gwmpas Gŵyl Andras [30 Tachwedd] y flwyddyn honno, fe ddechreuodd hi rewi’n galed iawn, a bu eira mawr hefyd. A’r pryd hynny fe rewodd y prif afonydd mawrion i gyd, fel bod pobl yn teithio ar draws afon Tafwys gyda phob math o gerbydau, ac yn teithio dros Tal-y-cafn ar yr iâ, a thros Lyn Tegid a thros afon Dyfrdwy o’r ochr uchaf i bont Caer, fel roedd rhai yn chwarae pêl-droed yn ymyl y cawsai.

§4. A bu llawer o ddefaid ac anifeiliaid farw yn y flwyddyn honno, sef 1607, a’r brain a’r adar hefyd a fu farw, fel y byddai’n anodd iawn gweld yr un fwyalchen nac aderyn bronfraith yn fyw yr haf canlynol, 1608.


Ambell sylw


Yn §1 sonnir am orlifiad y môr ym Mryste a'r ardal gyfagos ym mis Ionawr 1607 (sef 1606 yn ôl y calendr Julian). Mae rhai yn dadlau mai llanw uchel yn cyd-daro â thywydd stormus a achosodd y gorlifiad, ond mae eraill yn dadlau mai tsunami a’i hachosodd. Mae dadleuon cryf gan y ddwy ochr. Gellir darllen mwy yma. Roedd Brysto yn ffurf gyffredin yn Gymraeg ar yr enw Bristol, sy'n dod o Bristow neu Brigstow yn wreiddiol.

Yn §2 sonnir am seren gynffonnog a ymddangosodd ym mis Medi. Gallwn fod yn sicr mai comed Halley oedd hon – er nad oedd Edmond Halley wedi ei eni eto i roi ei enw iddi. Mewn astudiaeth o gynaeafau’r cyfnod 1480 i 1619, nododd W.G. Hoskins fod cynhaeaf 1607 wedi bod yn llwm iawn.


Yn §3 sonnir am aeaf caled 1607–8, pan rewodd afon Tafwys. Mae John Jones yma’n sôn am bob math o gerbydau yn croesi’r afon dros y rhew, ond hefyd fe gynhelid ffeiriau ar y rhew. Yng nghronicl Bryste ceir cofnod o'r cyfnod am aeaf 1607–8: ‘November the 20th 1607 began a frost which lasted till February 8 following at which time the River of Severn and Wye were so hard frozen that people did pass on foot from side unto the other and played gambols and made fires to roast meat upon the ice.’


Roedd Tal-y-cafn yn Nyffryn Conwy yn fan croesi pwysig dros afon Conwy, a byddai fferi yn cludo teithwyr dros yr afon nes codi pont yno yn 1897. Pêl draed oedd y ffurf arferol am ‘bêl droed’ ers talwm – yn yr un modd ag y dywedwn ni siop lyfrau am book shop y Sais.


1607: The Bristol Flooding, a Comet and Extreme Weather


This short account was written early in the 17th century by the scribe John Jones of Gellilyfdy, Flintshire, in NLW Peniarth MS 254. It describes the remarkable events of the year 1607. (I interpreted the dates using Thomas Evans of Hendreforfudd's calendar (1596), which can be seen at the beginning of Peniarth 187.)


§1. 1606. Pan oedd oed Crist mil chwechant a chwech, o bobtv i Ddyddgwyl Bawl, i tarodd y mor allan y Mrvsto ac mewn amryw leoedd eraill val i bv kolleidion mawr ar ddynion a da.

§2. Ac yn y kynhaiaf hragwyneb yr ymddangossodd seren gynffonnoc rhwnge y gogledd a’r gorllewin, a hynny oedd ynghylch Dyddgwyl Vair Ddiwaethaf. A’r tymor hwnnw vv lawoc iawn fal na chad hav ond ychydig amyd.

§1. Ac o bobtv i Wyl Andras y vlwyddyn honno y dechrevodd hi rewi yn dost iawn, ac eira mawr hefyd ac vo rewodd y pryd hynny y prif avonydd mowrion i gyd val ir oeddid yn tramwy dros Demys a phob karaeds, ac yn mynd dros Dal y Kafn hyd ar yr jaf a thros Lynn Tegid a thros Ddyfrdwy o’r tv vchaf i bont Gaer, val ir oeddyd yn chware pel draed yn emyl y kawse.

§4. A llawer o ddefaid ac anifeiliaid a vvant veirw y vlwyddyn honno, sef 1607, a’r brain a’r adar hevyd a vvuant veirw val i bydde anodd iawn gael gweled yr haf (1608 rhac wyneb) vn vwyalchen nac aderyn bronfraith yn vyw.


A loose translation:


§1. 1606. When Christ was aged one thousand six hundred and six, around the Conversion of St Paul [25 January], the sea flooded the land in Bristol and in a number of other places so that there were great losses of men and livestock.

§2. And during the following harvest a comet appeared between the north and the west, and that was around the Nativity of the Virgin Mary [8 September]. And that season was very rainy, so that only a little mixed corn could be sown.

§3. And around St Andrew’s Day [30 November] that year, it started to freeze severely, and there was also a lot of snow. At that time all the major rivers froze, so that people travelled across the Thames with all kinds of carriages, and travelled over Tal-y-cafn on the ice, and over Llyn Tegid and over the River Dee on the upper side of Chester bridge, so that people played football next to the causeway.

§4. And many sheep and animals died in that year, 1607, and the crows and birds also died, so it would be very difficult to see even one blackbird or thrush alive the following summer, 1608.


Some notes


§1 describes the sea flooding the land in Bristol and the surrounding area in January 1607 (1606 according to the Julian calendar). Some argue that the flooding was caused by a high tide coinciding with stormy weather, but others argue that it was in fact caused by a tsunami. Both sides have strong arguments. You can read further about it here. In the past Brysto was often used in Welsh for Bristol, originally Bristow or Brigstow.

[from A true Report of Certain Wonderfull Ouerflowings, 1617; Jisc Historical Texts]


§2 refers to a comet (literally a ‘star with a tail’) that appeared in September. We can be certain that this was Halley’s Comet – but Edmond Halley had not yet been born to give it his name! In a study of harvests between 1480 and 1619, W.G. Hoskins stated that the harvest of 1607 was indeed very poor.


§3 describes the severe winter of 1607–8, when the river Thames froze over. John Jones here mentions all kinds of vehicles crossing the river over the ice – this was the time of the famous Thames Frost Fairs. In the fairly contemporary Bristol Chronicle, for winter 1607–8, it was reported: ‘November the 20th 1607 began a frost which lasted till February 8 following at which time the River of Severn and Wye were so hard frozen that people did pass on foot from side unto the other and played gambols and made fires to roast meat upon the ice.’


Tal-y-cafn in the Conwy Valley was an important crossing point on the river Conwy, and a ferry would carry passengers across the river until a bridge was built there in 1897. Pêl draed, rather than today’s pêl droed, was the usual form of the word for ‘football’ – in the same way as we have siop lyfrau (books shop) for the English book shop.



98 views0 comments
  • Ann Parry Owen

[please scroll down for the English Version]


Tybed sut dywydd gawn ni dros y Nadolig eleni? Dyma gofnod o’r tywydd dros ddeuddeng niwrnod y Nadolig yn ardal Llangollen yn 1469 neu 1486.

Ysgrifennwyd y cofnod gan y bardd a’r ysgrifydd Gutun Owain ar gyfer deuddeng niwrnod y Nadolig, o ddydd Nadolig hyd nos Ystwyll (5 Ionawr). Bu Gutun yn gweithio fel bardd ac ysgrifydd yn Abaty Glyn-y-groes yn Llangollen yn ail hanner y bymthegfed ganrif, ac mae’n debygol iawn mai yno yr ysgrifennodd y cofnod hwn.


Yn anffodus, nid yw Gutun yn nodi’r flwyddyn, ond fel y gwelwch chi mae diwrnod Nadolig a dydd Calan yn syrthio ar ddydd Llun, felly mae 1469, 1475, 1480 a 1486 yn bosibl. (1469 oedd barn J. Gwenogvryn Evans, a 1486 yw barn Daniel Huws yn ei Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes, c.800–c.1800, a fydd yn cael ei gyhoeddi cyn hir.)


Mae’n ddiddorol mai ôd yw ei air am eira, sef gair sydd bellach yn gyfyngedig i ambell ardal yn y gogledd-ddwyrain, fel Rhosllannerchrugog.


Am arwyddocâd arbennig tywydd Deuddeng Niwrnod y Nadolig o safbwynt rhag-weld tywydd y flwyddyn ganlynol, gweler https://unireadinghistory.com/2014/12/23/937/amp/


Llawysgrif rhif 131 yng nghasgliad Peniarth Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru; bydd ar gael ar lein ar wefan y Llyfrgell cyn hir.



Will we have a White Christmas this year?


I wonder what sort of weather we’ll have over Christmas this year? Here is a daily account of the weather over the Twelve Days of Christmas recorded near Llangollen, probably in 1469 or 1486.

The account was written by the poet and scribe Gutun Owain over the twelve days of Christmas: from Christmas Day to the Twelfth Night (5 January). Gutun worked as a poet and scribe in the abbey of Valle Crucis in Llangollen in the second half of the fifteenth century, and it is likely that it was there that he wrote this account.


Unfortunately, Gutun did not record the year, but as you see here Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both fell on a Monday, so 1469, 1475, 1480 and 1486 are possible. (J. Gwenogvryn Evans favoured 1469 and Daniel Huws favours 1486 in his Repertory of Welsh Manuscripts and Scribes, c.800–c.1800, soon to be published.)


It is interesting that Gutun uses the word ôd for snow, a word that is by now limited to some areas of north-east Wales, such as Rhosllannerchrugog.


For the significance of the weather over the Twelve Days of Christmas as regards forcasting the weather for the following year, see https://unireadinghistory.com/2014/12/23/937/amp/


Manuscript number 131 is in the National Library of Wales Peniarth Collection which will soon be available online on the Library's website.




113 views0 comments
  • Ann Parry Owen

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

For the English version, scroll down.

Wrth ymweld ag Eryri ar ei daith drwy Gymru yn 1188, gwelodd Gerallt Gymro ddarn o dir yn nofio ar wyneb y llyn a adwaenwn heddiw fel Llyn y Dywarchen, ger Rhyd-ddu yn Eryri. Fe’i disgrifiodd yn hanes ei daith fel insula erratica, sef ‘ynys wibiol’ yn ôl cyfieithiad Thomas Jones, ac un ‘sydd yn crwydro ar brydiau, gan rym y gwyntoedd yn ei gyrru, i rannau cyferbyn y llyn. Yma bydd y bugeiliaid yn rhyfeddu’n aml ddarfod trosglwyddo’n sydyn eu gyrroedd wrth bori, i fannau pell i ffwrdd.’

[Gerallt Gymro: Hanes y Daith trwy Gymru, gol. Thomas Jones (Caerdydd, 1939), 139. Armentum yw gair Gerallt Gymro am ‘gyrroedd’ yma yn ei Iterarium Kambriae, II.ix, sef ‘herd of cattle’ yn ôl y Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources.]


Yn ei daith yntau drwy Gymru tua 1536–9, cyfeiriodd John Leland at y llyn fel Lin edwarchen (‘Llyn y Dywarchen’) a disgrifio’r ynys fel “Swymming Island, and ther of it hath the name as of a suimming swarth of yerth.” Dyma’r cyfeiriad cynharaf at yr enw, yn ôl Archif Melville Richards.

[L.T. Toulmin Smith (ed.), The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the Years 1535–1543 (London, 1906–10), 74.]


Llyn y Dywarchen

Braidd yn ddrwgdybus oedd John Speed o fodolaeth y fath ynys wrth iddo gyfeirio at ddisgrifiad Gerallt Gymro ar ddechrau’r ail ganrif ar bymtheg; ond eto mae’n cyfaddef bod angen ymweld â’r llyn cyn gwrthod yr hanes yn llwyr:


“there is a moveable Iland, which as soone as a man treadeth on, it forthwith floateth a great way off, whereby the Welsh are said to have often scaped and deluded their enemies assailing them: these matters are out of my Creed, and yet I think the reader had rather believe them, then go and see whether it be so or no.”

[John Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (London, 1627), ii. 123.]


Ym mis Mai 1697, daeth y gwyddonydd nodedig Edmund Halley i Eryri – y dyn a gysylltwn yn bennaf heddiw â’r gomed sydd wedi ei henwi ar ei ôl, ac sydd i’w gweld bob rhyw 75 neu 76 o flynyddoedd. Roedd am ddangos bod modd cyfrifio uchder mynydd drwy fesur hyd colofn o fercwri mewn baromedr ar wahanol lefelau – ei ‘Torricellian Experiment’. Cymerodd fesuriadau ar ben yr Wyddfa, wrth droed yr Wyddfa yn Llanberis yn ddiweddarach ar yr un diwrnod, ac yna ar lefel y môr yng Nghaernarfon ar y diwrnod canlynol.


Yn ystod ei ymweliad mae’n amlwg i Halley glywed am hanes rhyfeddol yr ynys symudol, a phenderfynodd ymweld â’r llyn er mwyn casglu tystiolaeth drosto ei hun, yn enwedig gan fod cyfrol newydd ei chyhoeddi, meddai, yn gwadu bodolaeth y fath ynys.


Pan gyrhaeddodd y llyn, roedd y dywarchen ar y ‘lee shore’, meddai, felly camodd arni, a pheri iddi nofio o’r lan (‘I launched it off and swam it’), er mwyn cadarnhau ei bod yn rhydd. Ystyr swim yma yw ‘to cause (something) to pass over the surface of water’ (OED Ar lein) – felly ni chredaf fod Halley yn dweud iddo nofio yn y dŵr ei hun i archwilio’r dywarchen, fel y mae rhai awduron yn honni. Cadarnhaodd mai darn o dir mawn wedi ymryddhau o’r dorlan ydoedd, ac ar ôl holi pobl leol, dysgodd fod y dywarchen yn llai nag y bu, a’i bod wedi hollti’n ddwy ran am gyfnod, ond bod y rhan lai (y ‘lesser spot’, fel y’i disgrifir isod) bellach wedi diflannu. Cyhoeddodd Halley ei adroddiad yn rhifyn 1697 y Philosophical Transactions:


An Account of Snowdown-Hill by Mr. Edmund Halley

“I think we saw as far as St. David’s Head into the South, Carnarvonshire and Anglesey lay under us, like a Map, affording a very pleasant Prospect, were it not for the Horrours of the Neighbouring Precipices. Hence we counted fifteen or sixteen Lakes, great and small, where the Cavities of the Rocks are filled up with the Rills that gleet from the Hills; all these are said to abound with Trouts, some of which we found to be especial good Fish: And in one of these Lakes I was on board a floating Island, as it may be called; the Lake is scarce half a Mile about, environed with a boggy turfy Soil, a Piece of which, about 6 Yards long and 4 broad, floats on the Water, being about five or six Inches raised above it; but it [is], I believe, about eighteen Inches deep within the Water, having broad spreading fungous Roots on its Sides, the lightness of which Buoys it up. It was driven on the Lee Shore, but I launched it off and swam it, to be satisfied it floated: This I take the more notice of, because it is denied to be true, by the Author of the Additions to Cambden [sic], lately Published: But I myself saw it as described, and was told it had formerly been bigger; there being a lesser spot, that they told us, had been heretofore a part thereof, which floated likewise.”

[Philosophical Transactions (London, 1697), 537–8.]


Fel y gwelir mae Halley yn awgrymu nad oedd awdur yr ychwanegiadau i waith Camden yn credu bod yn ynys yn bodoli. Nid yw hynny’n hollol wir. Gallwn fod yn hyderus mai at argraffiad 1695 o waith Camden y mae Halley yn cyfeirio; daeth hwnnw allan dwy flynedd cyn iddo ymweld ag Eryri. Ynddo cafwyd cyfieithad newydd o Britannia Camden dan olygyddiaeth Edmund Gibson, a oedd wedi gofyn i Edward Lhwyd ychwanegu at y rhannau Cymreig. Lhwyd felly yw’r ‘Author of the Addition to Cambden [sic]’, a chyhoeddwyd ei ychwanegiadau ar ddiwedd cofnod pob sir. Nid yw Lhwyd yn gwadu bodolaeth yr ynys fel y cyfryw, ond mae’n gwneud yn fach ohoni a’i galw’n ‘little green patch’, gan synnu fod pobl yn rhoi cymaint o sylw iddi. Ar ôl cyfeirio at ddisgrifiad Gerallt Gymro, meddai:


“The Lake wherein he tells us there’s a wandring Island, is a small pond, call’d Lhyn y Dywarchen, (i.e. Lacus cespitus,) from a little green patch near the brink of it, which is all the occasion of the fable of the wandring Island.”

[W. Camden, Britannia, newly translated … by Edmund Gibson, with annotations to the text (London, 1695), 669].


Tybed ai’r hyn a welodd Lhwyd (neu ei ffynhonnell) oedd y ‘lesser spot’ a welodd Halley, sef y darn bychan o’r dywarchen a oedd wedi dod yn rhydd o’r brif ran; ac a fethodd weld y brif dywarchen gan ei bod yn ymyl y lan, ac felly’n edrych fel rhan o’r tir? Beth bynnag, mae’n amlwg fod Halley yn teimlo nad oedd Lhwyd wedi gwneud cyfiawnder â maint y brif dywarchen.


Bu Thomas Pennant yntau’n crwydro yn yr ardal yn y 1770au cynnar, ac mae’n debygol mai dyma pryd y gwelodd yntau’r llyn a’r dywarchen yn nofio arni. Disgrifiodd yr olygfa fel a ganlyn yn 1781:


“Llyn y Dywarchen, or The Lake of the Sod … It had on it a floating island, of an irregular shape, and about nine yards long. It appeared to be only a piece of the turbery, undermined by the water, torn off, and kept together by the close entangling of the roots, which form that species of ground. It frequently is set in motion by the wind; often joins its native banks; and, as Giraldus says, cattle are frequently surprized on it, and by another gale carried a short voyage from the shore.”

[Thomas Pennant, A Journey to Snowdon (London, 1781), 180, a hefyd Tours in Wales (1784), ii. 187–8. (Diolch i Mary-Ann Constantine am y cyfeiriadau hyn.)]


Nid yw’r dywarchen neu’r ynys symudol yn bodoli bellach, ond mae’n amlwg iddi fod yn un sylweddol, gan iddi oroesi o ddyddiau Gerallt Gymro hyd at y cyfnod modern – er ei bod yn ansicr pryd yn union y diflannodd. Fodd bynnag, mae’n amlwg nad yr un yw’r dywarchen â’r ynys ansymudol a welir yng nghanol y llyn heddiw fel yr honnodd J. Lloyd-Jones, er enghraifft, yn ei astudiaeth safonol o enwau lleoedd sir Gaernarfon. [J. Lloyd-Jones, Enwau Lleoedd Sir Gaernarfon (Caerdydd, 1928), 91, ‘Llyn y Dywarchen, ger Rhyd-ddu, oddi wrth yr ynys fechan yn ei ganol’.] Fel yr esboniodd T.H. Parry-Williams:


“Y mae clampen o ynys rugog, greigiog, yn sownd a solet yn ei ganol er pan wyf i’n cofio; ond nid yr ynys hon ydyw’r ‘Dywarchen’ y cyfeirir ati yn ei enw ychwaith. ‘Tywarchen’ ydoedd honno ͏– talp neu ysglisen go helaeth o dir ͏– wedi ymryddhau o’r glannau ac a fyddai’n nofio ar hyd wyneb y llyn at drugaredd y gwynt. Gallai defaid gerdded iddi a phori arni pan ddelai at y lan, ac ar gefn hynny gael gwibdaith yma a thraw hyd y llyn … Gyda llaw, ni welais i erioed y wir dywarchen, i fod yn hollol siŵr. Efallai mai ymddangos yn gyfnodol yn y llyn y bydd hi, fel y bydd planed yn yr wybren.”

[T.H. Parry-Williams, O’r Pedwar Gwynt (Dinbych, 1944), 70. Diolch i Philip Henry Jones am y cyfeiriad.]


Mae’n debygol fod y dywarchen wedi diflannu erbyn y 1890au, cyfnod plentyndod T.H. Parry-Williams. Tybed ai ei holion a welir ar fap yr Arolwg Ordnans, yn agos i’r gwaelod ar y dde?



 

Llyn y Dywarchen


When visiting Eryri on his journey through Wales in 1188, Gerald of Wales saw a piece of turf floating on the surface of the lake we know today as Llyn y Dywarchen, near Rhyd-ddu. In his account of the journey he described it as an insula erratica which Lewis Thorpe translates as ‘a floating island’, and one ‘which moves about and is often driven to the opposite side by the force of the winds. Shepherds are amazed to see the flocks which are feeding there carried off to distant parts of the lake.’

[Gerald of Wales, The Journey through Wales, ed. Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1978), 194. Gerald’s word for Lewis’s ‘flocks’ here is armentum in his Iterarium Kambriae, II.ix, namely a ‘herd of cattle’ according to the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, so Gerald probably saw cattle on the island and not sheep.]


John Leland, in his journey through Wales in around 1536–9, referred to the lake as Lin edwarchenLlyn y Dywarchen ‘Lake of the Sod’ – and described the island as a ‘Swymming Island, and ther of it hath the name as of a suimming swarth of yerth’. This is the earliest reference to the name, according to Melville Richards’s Welsh Place-name Archive.

[L.T. Toulmin Smith (ed.), The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the Years 1535–1543 (London, 1906–10), 74.]

John Speed was rather uncertain of the existence of such an island when he referred to Gerald of Wales’s description at the beginning of the seventeenth century; but admits that it would be better to visit the lake before rejecting the account completely:


“there is a moveable Iland, which as soone as a man treadeth on, it forthwith floateth a great way off, whereby the Welsh are said to have often scaped and deluded their enemies assailing them: these matters are out of my Creed, and yet I think the reader had rather believe them, then go and see whether it be so or no.”

[John Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain (London, 1627), ii. 123.]


In May 1697, the eminent scientist Edmund Halley came to Eryri. We associate Halley today mainly with the comet named after him, which appears every 75 or 76 years. He wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to calculate the height of a mountain by measuring a column of mercury in a barometer at different levels – he called this his ‘Torricellian Experiment’. He took measurements on top of Yr Wyddfa, at the foot of Yr Wyddfa at Llanberis later on the same day, and then at sea level in Caernarfon on the following day.


During his visit Halley heard about the amazing floating island and decided to visit the lake to investigate it, especially as a newly-published volume had denied the existence of such an island.


When Halley reached the lake, he found the island on the ‘lee shore’ and stepped onto it, and caused it to swim from the shore, to confirm that it floated. Swim here means ‘to cause (something) to pass over the surface of water’ (OED Online) – so I don’t think that Halley is claiming that he swam in the water to explore the turf, as some authors have claimed. He confirmed that it was a piece of peaty turf that had detached itself from the bank and, after questioning locals, he learned that the turf was much smaller than it had been in the past, and that it had split in two for a while but that the smaller part, the ‘lesser spot’ as he describes it below, had by now disappeared. Halley published an account of his visit in the 1697 issue of the Philosophical Transactions:


An Account of Snowdown-Hill by Mr. Edmund Halley

“I think we saw as far as St. David’s Head into the South, Carnarvonshire and Anglesey lay under us, like a Map, affording a very pleasant Prospect, were it not for the Horrours of the Neighbouring Precipices. Hence we counted fifteen or sixteen Lakes, great and small, where the Cavities of the Rocks are filled up with the Rills that gleet from the Hills; all these are said to abound with Trouts, some of which we found to be especial good Fish: And in one of these Lakes I was on board a floating Island, as it may be called; the Lake is scarce half a Mile about, environed with a boggy turfy Soil, a Piece of which, about 6 Yards long and 4 broad, floats on the Water, being about five or six Inches raised above it; but it [is], I believe, about eighteen Inches deep within the Water, having broad spreading fungous Roots on its Sides, the lightness of which Buoys it up. It was driven on the Lee Shore, but I launched it off and swam it, to be satisfied it floated: This I take the more notice of, because it is denied to be true, by the Author of the Additions to Cambden [sic], lately Published: But I myself saw it as described, and was told it had formerly been bigger; there being a lesser spot, that they told us, had been heretofore a part thereof, which floated likewise.”

[Philosophical Transactions (London, 1697), 537–8.]


As we see, Halley suggests that the author of the additions to Camden’s work did not believe that the island existed. But this is not completely true. We can be certain that Halley is referring to the 1695 edition of Camden’s work, which had been published two years before Halley visited Eryri. This was a new edition and translation of Camden’s Britannia by Edmund Gibson, who had invited Edward Lhwyd to add to the Welsh parts. Lhwyd is therefore the ‘Author of the Additions to Cambden [sic]’, and his additions are given at the end of each county. Lhwyd doesn’t actually deny the existence of the island, but he seems to have been unimpressed by it and calls it ‘a little green patch’, seeming unsure why people had given it so much attention. He says, after referring to Geraldius Cambrensis’s description:


“The Lake wherein he tells us there’s a wandring Island, is a small pond, call’d Lhyn y Dywarchen, (i.e. Lacus cespitus,) from a little green patch near the brink of it, which is all the occasion of the fable of the wandring Island.”

[W. Camden, Britannia, newly translated … by Edmund Gibson, with annotations to the text (London, 1695), column 669.]


I wonder whether Lhwyd (or his source) actually saw the ‘lesser spot’ which Halley had seen, namely the small piece of the turf that had become detached from the main tywarchen; and did he fail to see the main tywarchen because it was resting against the shore, and therefore appeared to be part of the mainland? In any event, it is clear that Halley felt that Lhwyd had not done justice to the size of the tywarchen.


Thomas Pennant also explored the area in the early 1770s, and it is at this time that he is likely to have seen the lake with a large piece of turf swimming on it. In 1781 he described the scene as follows:


“Llyn y Dywarchen, or The Lake of the Sod … It had on it a floating island, of an irregular shape, and about nine yards long. It appeared to be only a piece of the turbery, undermined by the water, torn off, and kept together by the close entangling of the roots, which form that species of ground. It frequently is set in motion by the wind; often joins its native banks; and, as Giraldus says, cattle are frequently surprized on it, and by another gale carried a short voyage from the shore.”

[Thomas Pennant, A Journey to Snowdon (London, 1781), 180, and also Tours in Wales (1784), ii. 187–8. Thanks to Mary-Ann Constantine for the references.]


The tywarchen or turf doesn’t exist today, but it’s obvious that it was once of quite a considerable size, because it survived from the time of Gerald of Wales towards the end of the twelfth century until modern times – although it’s rather uncertain when it actually disappeared. However it is certain that the tywarchen is not the static island that is in the middle of the island today, as for instance J. Lloyd-Jones claimed in his standard study of Caernarfonshire place-names [J. Lloyd-Joness, Enwau Lleoedd Sir Gaernarfon (Caerdydd, 1928), 91, ‘Llyn y Dywarchen, ger Rhyd-ddu, oddi wrth yr ynys fechan yn ei ganol’ ‘Llyn y Dywarchen, near Rhyd-ddu, so called from the small island in its middle’]. As T.H. Parry-Williams explained:


“Y mae clampen o ynys rugog, greigiog, yn sownd a solet yn ei ganol er pan wyf i’n cofio; ond nid yr ynys hon ydyw’r ‘Dywarchen’ y cyfeirir ati yn ei enw ychwaith. ‘Tywarchen’ ydoedd honno ͏– talp neu ysglisen go helaeth o dir ͏– wedi ymryddhau o’r glannau ac a fyddai’n nofio ar hyd wyneb y llyn at drugaredd y gwynt. Gallai defaid gerdded iddi a phori arni pan ddelai at y lan, ac ar gefn hynny gael gwibdaith yma a thraw hyd y llyn … Gyda llaw, ni welais i erioed y wir dywarchen, i fod yn hollol siŵr. Efallai mai ymddangos yn gyfnodol yn y llyn y bydd hi, fel y bydd planed yn yr wybren.”


There is large rocky island covered in heather and anchored solidly in the middle [of the lake] since I can remember; but this island is not the ‘Tywarchen’ to which the lake’s name refers. That was a ‘turf’ - a large mass or slice of land ͏ – having become detached from the bank and floating along the lake’s surface at the mercy of the wind. Sheep could walk onto it to graze when it came ashore, and subsequently enjoy a trip here and there along the lake … By the way, I never saw the true ‘tywarchen’ to be sure. Perhaps it appears periodically in the lake, as a planet does in the sky.


[T.H. Parry-Williams, O’r Pedwar Gwynt (Dinbych, 1944), 70. The rather literal translation is mine. Thanks to Philip Henry Jones for the reference.]


It seems likely that the turfy island had therefore disappeared by the 1890s, when T.H. Parry Williams was a child. I wonder if the remnants of the island can be seen on the OS Map here, in the bottom right?




140 views0 comments