Bro Helen Rowlands, Menai Bridge

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Link to Welsh translationLink to French translationBro Helen Rowlands, Menai Bridge

The side road to the left of Tabernacl Independent chapel is named Bro Helen Rowlands in Welsh, in honour of a missionary. The chapel itself is a landmark in this area of the town. Built in 1867, it was designed by a Swansea architect in Simple Gothic style.

Helen Rowlands (1891-1955) was born in 1 Fairview Terrace, which received the additional name Bro Helen Rowlands (bromeans “neighbourhood”) in her honour in the 1970s. She was an outstanding academic, specialising in French and later in the language and traditions of Bengali women, having studied at Cambridge and

As a young woman, she had a love affair with a young Carmarthenshire poet called Gwilym Williams when they both taught at the same school in Newtown. However, she had decided to devote herself to missionary work by June 1915. Gwilym joined the army the following month, surprising his family because he had previously displayed pacifist tendencies. As a Lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, he was posted to France in April 1916. He was killed the following month.

His family published his poetry in a book called Dan yr Helyg in 1917. It includes the following englyn (a form of short verse):

Draw i randir yr India – mae Helen
    Am hwylio o Walia;
  O’n golwg ni, O gwylia
  Hi dros y dŵr, Iesu da.

This translates as:
Over to the land of India Helen
Intends to sail from Wales;
Out of our sight, Oh watch her
Over the water, good Jesus.

Helen left for India in autumn 1916. in the Sorbonne. Later she was offered chairs in several universities in America, Britain and India, but dedicated herself to missionary and educational work in India, identifying particularly with the plight of women and orphans. She was prominent in the work of language schools and the Presbyterian Church in India, and contributed to many literary and evangelical journals in India and in Wales. She died at Karimganj, in Assam. The libarary of the college there is called Rowlands Hall. There is a memorial to her in Capel Mawr Presbyterian chapel in Menai Bridge where she was a member.

The English name for the road in front of Tabernacl chapel is St George’s Road, because it leads to the pier originally used by the St George's Steam Packet Company.

The road was named Ffordd Cynan in the 1970s after Sir Cynan Evans-Jones (1895-1970) CBE, who lived at Pen Maen (at the west end of the street) from 1932. You can read more about him on our page about the Liverpool Arms and Ffordd Cynan.

With thanks to Professor Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, and to Hefin Wyn and Professor Gerwyn Wiliams

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Postcode: LL59 5EP

Website for Tabernacl chapel information

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