Ynys y Moch, Menai Bridge

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Ynys y Moch, Menai Bridge

Ynys y Moch means “island of pigs”. You can see it at the foot of the Menai Suspension Bridge’s tower (beyond the stone arches). Before the bridge opened in 1826, drovers swam pigs and cattle across the Menai Strait here. The traditional belief is that the pigs rested on Ynys y Moch.

This is a splendid place to view the bridge, which Thomas Telford boldly designed to facilitate the passage of the London to Dublin mail while allowing the Navy’s sailing ships to pass beneath the span. In English it was called the Menai Bridge, which later came to denote also the town at the Anglesey end.

The town existed long before the bridge and is still known in Welsh as Porthaethwy, meaning “ferry or cove (porth) of Daethwy”. Daethwy was the name of a tribe which had a fort above the town and was associated with this crossing point, the narrowest on the Menai Strait. To hear how to pronounce Porthaethwy, press play:Or, download mp3 (21KB)

In Welsh, the bridge is Pont y Borth (Borth being short for Porthaethwy). While the Welsh named the bridge after the town, English-speakers named the town after the bridge!

Ynys y Moch was levelled in 1818 for the bridge tower’s foundations. The first of the iron chains, to support the road deck, was raised on 26 April 1826 by a team of men pushing a capstan. The capstan wound in a rope which passed over the top of the tower and down to the loose end of the chain, resting on a raft (the mainland end was already secured). Both shores and many boats were packed with sightseers, who cheered when Telford and his colleagues – atop the Anglesey tower – waved their hats to signal that the chain was in place.

The labourers promptly received beer. Three of them then walked to the mainland along the chain, which was only 23cm wide and steep at each end!

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, and Menai Bridge Town Council

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