Sculpture of quarry bugler, Bethesda

Sculpture of quarry bugler, Llys Dafydd, Bethesda

bethesda_bugler_h_williams

This piece of land opened as a community space in 2011, where houses once stood. The steel sculpture here was inspired by the photo on the right (copyright: Gwynedd Archives Service) of a quarryman giving the blasting signal at Penrhyn Quarry in 1913.

The sculpture was made in 2010 by Ann Catrin Evans, who saw the bugler as someone who could symbolically call people to come to the new open space. Her design for the railings here was inspired by slates lying against each other in a row after being split. The gate is based on the shapes of the “Blondin” aerial-ropeway carriages used in quarries.

Bugle signals warned quarrymen to take cover before explosions, then gave the all clear. The photo was taken by Bangor-based photographer John Wickens and has been used for exhibitions, book covers and even beer bottles from local brewery Cwrw Ogwen. Despite the photo’s fame, little is generally known about the quarryman. So who was he?

Hugh Llechid Williams, aged 40 in the photograph, was born in Llanllechid to slate quarryman John Williams. After working as a farm labourer, by 1899 he was a labourer in the quarry. In that year he married Lucy Jaret from Amlwch, Anglesey. Lucy lived at the Victoria Hotel, Bethesda, and possibly worked there. They lived in Braichmelyn, Bethesda, in the 1920s and possibly earlier.

Like many quarrymen, Hugh enjoyed singing. He was a member of Glanogwen Church Choir and the Penrhyn Choir, which toured Wales and England during Penrhyn Quarry strikes to raise money for the families of striking quarrymen. He is seated second from right in the photo of the choir.

Hughbethesda_penrhyn_choir, a tenor, sang solos and duets, sometimes with his brother Owen. In 1899 the local newspaper Gwalia reported that Hugh sang The Death of Nelson excellently as usual, despite a bad cold!

Hugh and Lucy had six children. Their youngest son Maldwyn died of tuberculous meningitis aged 16. Four years later Lucy died aged 54. Hugh continued to work at the quarry until his death on 1 July 1933 aged 60 from pulmonary oedema and lobar pneumonia (lung conditions common in quarrymen). His funeral cortege to Coetmor Cemetery was preceded by the clergy and choir of Glanogwen Church in their robes, while quarry bugler Jack Edwards of Bangor sounded The Last Post at the quarry’s 3pm blast as a “touching tribute”.

With thanks to Hugh’s family, and especially to his granddaughter Margaret, and to Dr Hazel Pierce of The History House

Postcode: LL57 3AN    View Location Map

Website of Gwynedd Archives Service

Website of sculptor Ann Catrin Evans