Mynachlog-Ddu, Llangolman and Llandeilo
The parishes of Mynachlog-Ddu, Llangolman and Llandeilo lie on the south-facing slopes of the Preselis. The northern boundary of Mynachlog-ddu coincides with the mountain skyline which can be seen from a great distance.
This ridge is an important image in the verse of Waldo Williams (1904-71) a pacifist, and poet of national importance who spent part of his childhood in Mynachlog-ddu where his father was the village schoolmaster. His poem ‘Preseli’ composed at a time of great crisis for the community opens with the couplet (in translation): ‘Wall of my childhood, Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy, Tal Mynydd, My support in all independent thinking.’
Burial places and standing stones are evidence of human activity in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. On Gors Fawr there is a circle of monoliths and two taller stones said to date from about 3000 BC. Field and farms names often are clues to partly disappeared prehistoric features, Glyn (or Clun) Saithmaen – the valley or spur of the seven stones.
Names like Parc maen llwyd (the Field of the grey stone) are pointers to possible prehistoric features. Sometimes both natural outcrops and prehistoric features have become associated with legends such as those of King Arthur for example, ‘Bedd (grave) Arthur’ and ‘Cerrig marchogion Arthur’ (Stones of Arthur’s Knights).
It has been suggested that the Preselis had a particular attraction for some of the Neolithic and Bronze Age people, linked with the ‘blue stone’ or spotted dolerite which is found on Carn Ganol and Carn Meini (Menyn). Monoliths of spotted dolerite forming part of the temple at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain are thought to be from this source. The question of how the stones got to Wiltshire from Pembrokeshire is still debated today. Just north of Mynachlog-ddu boundary, is the very striking Foel Drigarn, where one may see three huge cairns enclosed within the fortifications of a fine Iron Age hill-fort. The raising of standing stones as a memorial is a living tradition, see for example those of Waldo and W. R. Evans.
The Welsh speaking people who live here have retained their culture and way of life. This was almost lost, when in the autumn of 1946 it became known that the War Department proposed to take 16,000 acres of the Preselau as a training ground. During the month of November, meetings of protest and opposition were held throughout the neighbourhood.
The government’s intentions were resisted under the guidance of a very strong local committee struggling for the survival of a community. The battle was won.
The names Llangolman and Llandeilo derive from ‘llan’ an enclosure or church, Colman an Irish Christian and Teilo a Pembrokeshire man whose followers probably brought Christianity to the area. Mynachlog-ddu is thought to have acquired this name (monastery) after the manor was given to the monks of St Dogmael’s by Robert fitz Martin, first Norman lord of Cemais.
Parishes, Churches and Chapels
The monastery farms reverted to secular ownership after the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. Amongst them was Cwm Cerwyn (in Mynachlogddu and Llangolman) an interesting farm from many aspects; not least that it included arable land so high on the mountain. (The house was out of occupation by the time of World War Two, and the condition of the buildings worsened in the military activities of the time).
Since the 17th century many local people have been Dissenters from the Anglican Church. The Baptist cause at Rhydwilym, had amongst its influential members Griffith Morris of Glynsaithmaen (and later of Cwm Cerwyn following his marriage in 1693). A Baptist Chapel was built in Mynachlog-ddu in 1794 and registered at the Quarter Sessions in 1795 under the name of Bethel. The present chapel was opened in 1877.
In Llandeilo, about three quarters of a mile uphill from the present chapel, an Independent or Congregational Chapel (with burial ground) was built in 1714. It was replaced decades later by another meetinghouse.
Then in 1882 the present chapel, was built and named ‘Llandilo’, although it is actually just in Llangolman. The chapels provided a focal point for worship and discussion and organized the religious high-days: the cymanfaoedd (festivals), lectures by distinguished people and activities like Penny Readings and eisteddfodau (which encouraged poetry and music). The members of Llandeilo and Rhydwilym still chant a portion of scripture at their respective Sunday school festivals.
Old Systems and Beliefs
A disappearing world is preserved in local Welsh place names. Old farming methods are remembered in field names such as Parc yr Ychain (Field of the Oxen). The names of tracks and lanes suggest their own stories for example Feidir Dywyll (Dark Way) and Feidir Wilym (William’s Way) in Mynachlog-ddu, and Feidir Helyg (Willow Way) in Llangolman. Names of local wells include Ffynnon Samson (Samson’s Well) and Ffynnon Felys (Sweet Well) in Llangolman. It was believed that the ebb and flow of the tide affected the well of Ffynnon yr Ychen (Oxen Well) which is below Foel Feddau: also that certain wells cured illness, the obvious one being Ffynnon beswch, (Mynachlog-ddu) the well for coughs (peswch). Before weather forecasts people had to look for signs to interpret the weather for themselves. For instance a unique quality of light above the Preselau on a clear night in early summer is a sign of fine weather.
Making a Living
During the 18th and early 19th centuries the population was increasing, and a greater number of people were dependent on the same amount of land for their sustenance.
Owners, tenants and farm workers, all depended on agriculture. Some individuals tried to improve their prospects by squatting on the unenclosed land, but by the spring of 1839 there was much hardship and misery.
A big cause of discontent was the toll-gate put up by the Whitland Turnpike Trust at Efailwen. This road was used by the people of the area when carting lime for use on the land. Emergency meetings were held at Glynsaithmaen and on 13th May 1839 a large body of people pulled down the gate in the night. It was restored by the Trust but further action on 6th June and 17th July led by Thomas Rees (Twm of Carnabwth of Mynachlog-ddu – one of the squatters) wearing the flannel petticoat of Rebecca Fawr of Llangolman, according to local lore, ensured that the road remained open. The Whitland Trust dropped their illconceived plan, but when grievances rose against other Trusts across south Wales, other Rebeccas took action. The chapel where Twm probably took part in the festivals was today’s Bethel vestry. He is buried nearby.
Economic conditions improved slightly in the second half of the nineteenth century. Some of the population migrated – a loss in one way, but also an alleviation of poverty – and later, slate quarrying opened up. Cwarre’r Mynydd is said to have been one of the first, but most well known were the Tyrch in Mynachlog-ddu which survived until after the Great War, and Gilfach Green Slate Quarry (known by 1919 as Precelly Green and Rustic Slate Company). Preselau slate was used in a number of prestigious projects.
Farms and Farming
Farming has changed over the generations as land became enclosed.
The parishes are now a patchwork of big and small farms which belong to the inhabitants. Farming methods have changed with the coming of tractors and other equipment. The old fairs like Maenclochog (where farm workers were hired), Narberth, Eglwyswrw (Meigan’s Fair), and Newport (Curig’s Fair) lost their importance to the marts founded during the 1930′s: Crymych, Cardigan, Narberth and Newcastle Emlyn. The milk trade has been and gone.
Sheep are the main produce of local farming and the ‘Welsh mountain’ is the chief breed. The farmers of Mynachlog-ddu and Brynberian winter their sheep on the military training ground at Castlemartin in the south of the county, a scheme which started in December 1950 following big losses in the winter of 1947. Until the 1970s, sheep-shearing was a big community occasion, but now the work is usually given to contractors.
In association with the Lord of the Manor, the court leet regulates matters relating to the manor. It formerly met at Glanrhyd, but now at Trefach. Stray sheep of Mynachlog-ddu and Brynberian are sorted out at the annual ‘stra’ held at present at Pantithel.
The sheep can be identified from their unique ear marks. Records of these have been kept through the ages. The most recent ‘Book of Ear Marks’, compiled by Mr D. Lloyd Davies, Penrallt, in 1980, recorded 160 ear marks ‘currently in use’ in the areas of ‘Mynachlog-ddu, Brynberian, Tafarn Newydd, Newport and Frenni Fawr’.
At least three bridges existed in 1598: Pont Mynachlog-ddu (Cwmisaf) and Pont yr Haiarn (Pont Trahayarne) both in Mynachlog-ddu, and Pont Hywel in Llangolman. Amongst other local bridges are Pont Tycanol, Pont Awstralia (near the playing field) and Pont Bethel. Near Pont Bethel is the Bethel chapel baptistry.
There was a school in Bethel vestry before the village school was erected in 1903. This school was closed in 1995. There was no elementary school in Llangolman. Children attended either Maenclochog School or Llanycefn (Nant y Cwm) until this was closed in
1964. It was reopened in 1979 as a Steiner school.