Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dollgellau with a non-silent "th"

Driving to Wales today. For the first night or so I'm staying in or around Dollgellau in Snowdonia where my great-grandfather was born in 1874. I intend to visit the National Library of Wales aka Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru, in Aberystwyth to return his library books (I hope your cheque's good for the library fines Grant!) and check family history in their archives.

Elocution lesson: Listen. Say it: Dolgellau[dOlgeth´lI, –gel´I] . Spit. Repeat.

Geography lesson: How far is Dolgellau from Panty Hill, Booby Dingle, Penishapentre, Three Cocks, Menlove Gardens and Bottom Flash? No guelling, now.
The Welsh border between Chester and Queensferry came unannounced - no "Welcome to Wales", only the sudden switch to bilingual signs indicated we'd left England. From Balas onwards, the countryside was stunning; increasingly lush as we approached Dolgellau - much more green and overgrown than Scotland: I was reminded of parts of Bali.

We got into town just after 3.30 crossing a stone bridge over a rivulet of shallow but swift running water, into the town centre, winding through the very narrow streets of stone buildings of more-or-less unifrom height, framed by an intensely green hillscape. The streetscape here is different to north-east Scotland, where the streets were very wide but were lacking in any vegetation to contrast and soften the stonework. The tourist office was in the town square, and I wanted to get there first to pick up some accommodation leaflets as I only had one night sorted before leaving. I told the officer there of my quest for family history, and he said that the local county office was just across the bridge, and that I should check their registry office.

We headed there quickly to check opening hours, just in case the records were only available on certain days. It was actually worse - apparently the records were in the process of being transferred to another facility and were not available till September. I was nevertheless enjoined to contact the registrar when his office was open between 10am and noon. A council officer asked if I was researching the Jones family. I indicated that Williams was my main interest although my gggmother was a Jones. She smiled, "You've got your work cut out for you."

After that we headed out to the farm-based B&B on the edge of town, which had possibly the smallest room I'd yet experienced in my travels. The double bed took up most of the floor area, and any room in which one might have swung a cat had been sacrificed in a subdivision which added (subtracted?) a tiny en-suite to the room. Whath was left was barely sufficient for a malamute to lie down. A thunderstorm drove Bondi onto the end of the bed anyway, where he quivered for the next few hours. I leafed through a booklet with historical photos of Dollgellau, every other photo had one or more Williams in it, one photo listed ten. A 1937 photo of a Jane Williams standing outside a store caught my eye - perhaps my ggfather's sister? Although the photo celebrates George VI's coronation, it was also the year my ggfather died, later to be interred in a cliffside plot in Waverley Cemetery. He has a golf-course named after him - Williams Park - which sits along the cliffs of North Bondi. It seemed appropriate that I bring my own Bondi back to his birthplace.

I also checked though some of my books of historically-themed walks for local paths. One is connected to the Quakers, who left this town several centuries earlier to settle in Pennsylvania. There's also a Quaker museum in the town. Apparently the prestigious US women's university Bryn Mawr is named after a farm on the hill above the town.

I popped out for a while to go to a supermarket, to collect some fruit, yoghurt and drinks. It was interesting listening to locals conversing in Welsh, which was also the language that phones were answered with when I called B&Bs to arrange the following nights' accommodation. When they did switch to English, it was a very clear, and to my ears, almost unaccented strain, and a welcome relief from having to listen so carefully to various "English" and Scottish dialects.

Late night tonight. Because of the delayed arrival of my car, I have to work with my Australian car bookers to extend the booking of my current rental for another three weeks. I'd already extended the booking, but they keep asking for more names for staffers at the rental agency here to confirm the details. I'm up past midnight so I can phone Driveaway during business hours, and then can't get to sleep until after 2am.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:00 pm