Former home of stunt pilot, Tal-y-sarn
This end-of-terrace cottage was once home to Idwal Jones, who became a stunt pilot with Cobham’s Flying Circus. He died in 1937 when a passenger plane he was flying crash-landed.
Idwal’s father Evan Jones was a slate loader, aged 32, when the 1911 census was taken. Living with Evan here at 1 Pen-y-Fron were his wife Catherine, 28, and their three children. Idwal was five years old. His brother Evan was seven and sister Ellen three. Idwal later called himself Idwal ap Ieuan Jones. ‘Ap Ieuan’ = son of Ieuan/Evan.
The family was living in Penhafodlas Bach when Idwal was born in 1905. The family lived in a succession of houses, and moved from Pen-y-Fron to 20 Hyfrydle Road in September 1912 (13 months after Catherine died). Idwal lived there for the rest of his youth.
After his schooling in Tal-y-sarn and Penygroes, Idwal joined the RAF and qualified as a pilot during the heyday of exhibition flying in Britain. Aviation’s rapid evolution in the First World War had greatly increased the number of trained pilots, including Sir Alan Cobham, who flew the first plane from London to Cape Town in 1926. He toured Britain with his aerial display team, known as Cobham’s Flying Circus.
Idwal joined the display team in May 1935, wowing crowds with tricks such as flying upside-down and picking up a handkerchief with his wing tip (pictured). He later moved to the rival CWA Scott flying circus. Decades later, local residents recalled that during a circus visit to the region, Idwal had flown past Tal-y-sarn and through the Dorothea slate quarry pit, passing under its aerial ropeways!
He left the circus for the safer world of passenger aviation in 1937, working for North Eastern Airways. On 29 May that year he was flying an Airspeed AS.5 Courier when it crashed near Doncaster airport. Idwal and three of the passengers died. The other two were injured but survived. An aircraft is depicted on Idwal’s grave at St Rhedyw’s Church, Llanllyfni.
With thanks to Cledwyn Williams. Other sources include ‘Early Aviation in North Wales’ by Roy Sloan, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2001
Postcode: LL54 6LD View Location Map