Derelict Cedryn Farmhouse, Cwm Eigiau
This farmhouse was built before 1750. Several people emigrated from here to the USA, as did their nephew 'Glan Eigia', a poet well known to the American Welsh. Please view the house from the path and don’t enter.
Llanbedr y Cennin’s parish registers record the baptism of Jane on 20 March 1750. Her parents were yeoman Pierce Williams of Cedryn and Grace Roberts.
Freshwater for the farmhouse was available from a spring nearby. Peat for heating and cooking could have been gathered from the hills above.
The 1841 census records widow Elin Davies living at Cedryn. Her husband William had died accidentally in 1840 at a Bethesda quarry, leaving her to raise her four children alone. Her eldest son, William, was 20 in 1841.
However, it wouldn’t have been a lonely existence as the Cedryn slate quarry (worked 1827-1868) was in full production and many quarrymen lived in nearby barracks. On Monday mornings, a horse and cart took the Cedryn children to school in Talybont, where they lodged until Friday.
William remained at Cedryn until at least 1881, farming land described as pasture and meadow on the tithe map – 15 shillings was payable annually to the vicar of the Anglican Church with an additional six pennies in lieu of meadow hay. Lord Newborough owned the land.
William’s younger brother Robert moved to Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, a community founded by sheep farmers (many of whom were Welsh). He was the first of many of the Davies family to emigrate to the USA. Robert was a stalwart of Capel Cymraeg Wind Gap (Welsh chapel).
Robert’s nephew Thomas William Davies was the respected poet ‘Glan Eigia’ (the name refers to the shores of the Afon Eigiau). Thomas also emigrated. He died in Blocton, Alabama, in 1893 aged 37. The poem below was written in Pennsylvania and dedicated to his wife, whom he'd met while a quarryman in Corris.
A neighbour recalled in 1893 that Cedryn was once home to a large family of strong and merry sons and daughters. They included Elen, whose fine singing voice once reverberated around Cwm Eigiau. She continued to play her harp after emigrating.
With thanks to James Jones, and to Prof Dai Thorne for the poem translation below
Footnotes: A poem by Thomas William Davies ‘Glan Eigia’ (English translation below)
Olwen fach Glan Eigia
Un ydyw hon o Feirion fad,
Gerllaw hen Gadair Idris,
Ac hoff yw'r man lle ganwyd hi,
Sef pentref bychan Corris;
Ond daeth fel eraill dros y dwr,
I'r wlad orenwog yma;
Ond fedd yr Ianci balch ddim byd
Fel Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
Ei llygaid gleision treiddiol sydd
Fel ser ar asur llydan,
Yn ennill serch a chalon pawb
I'w charu fel fy hunan;
Mae rhywbeth hynod ynddi'n wir,
Nid lol yw'r siarad yma;
Na feiwch fi am ddweyd, 'does un
Fel Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
Yr Olwen gyntaf welwyd oedd
Brenines gynta'r Cymry
Ac enw'i mam oedd Tryli-Wen,
A mynai pawb ei pharchu;
Ond nid breninol waed sy'n gwneyd
I'r ganig fechan yma
Ymddangos ar lenyddiaeth gwlad,
Am Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
Ond rhyw hynodrwydd rhyfedd sydd
Yn ei syniadau swynol,
Yn gwneyd i'r awen chwyddo'n llawn
O gariad ymfflamychol;
A gwelaf dlysni'r rhosyn teg,
A gwynder clir yr eira,
A lliw y lili'n myn'd yn ddim
Wrth Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
Olwen fach Glan Eigia (translated by Prof Dai Thorne - the title means 'Glan Eigia's little Olwen')
She’s a maid from Meirion dear
Near old Cader Idris,
And dear too where she was born
Is the small village of Corris;
But when she came across the sea
Like others, to this too-famous land,
The proud Yankee had nothing to compare
With Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
Her deep blue eyes that shine
Like stars in a sky of azure,
These win the hearts of all
To love her so, as I do.
Indeed, she’s someone special,
This isn’t nonsense talk;
Don’t taunt me when I say, there’s none
Like Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
The first to have the name of Olwen
Was once queen of the Cymry,
Her mother’s name was Tryli-wen,
And always she was respected;
But royal blood is not why here
This little poem appears
In our country’s literature
For Olwen fach Glan Eigia.
But there’s something unique
In her delightful ways,
Which makes my muse swell
With overwhelming love;
I see the beauty of the rose,
And the snow's brilliant white,
And the lily’s colour fading away
Compared with Olwen fach Glan Eigia.