Tale At The Traveller’s Rest

The other night I walked to The Traveller’s Rest pub and a biting night it was too. Frost glistened upon rooftops and the roofs of cars sparkled, it was quite magical.

All in all I was glad to be within the warmth nestling behind the old oak doors and to be asking for my usual brew, a golden real ale with a packet of salted nuts.

So I made myself comfortable and the mutt sniffed around for old crisps on the floral carpet and I glanced across to the window seat and espied a couple of blokes chatting.

They were in fact conversing upon the subject of how to better themselves as they both worked down the local 24 hour supermarket, one in the warehouse unloading lorries and the other on tills. They debated a move to Spain to work in better climes abroad in the bars of the Costas.

I thus engaged them upon the subject and this story unfolded as told by the one with stubble and a mobile which regularly shivered and lit up beside his half drunk pint.

 

They said a mate of theirs worked for a while on a farm in Glamorganshire for a couple called Rowli Pugh and Catti Jones who were known to have bad luck.

Their wheat was always patchy, their lambs sickly, their Landrover kept breaking down and their tractor had permanently unresolved hydraulic problems. On top of this Catti was depressed and thus rendered incapable of doing a moment’s work.

One day Rowli was sat upon the wall of his yard contemplating the drastic step of selling up in order to improve their lot by emigrating to Spain where property was cheaper and they could find some work, surely. And all that sunshine!

While he was mulling over his woes an old man turned up, shepherd’s crook in hand, and asked why it was Rowli had such a gloomy countenance.Rowli was about to pour out his problems when the old bloke piped up,

“Don’t worry mate, hold yer tongue for I know more about you than you know and you’re going nowhere, I’ll make sure that your life becomes one of contentment right here. Tell the missus to leave a candle burning tonight when she goes to bed and every night henceforth.”

With that the old man or Ellyll as he in fact was, that is to say Fairy in more modern parlance, upped and offed.

Rowli turned the conversation over in his mind and concluded that yes, he would tell his wife Catti Jones that an old man had said she must light a candle each night before bedtime and their luck’d change.

And Catti would probably laugh her head off at such an idea. But what had they to lose? So that’s the angle he took and that’s the angle that got Catti to dig out the candles and light one having put the cat out and brushed her teeth.

And it’s a fact that from the next day onwards their life did change. When they went down in the morning to put the kettle on for a cuppa the previous day’s washing up was and put away.

There was a freshly baked loaf on the table, croissants and a fat chocolate cake. The dirty washing was drying on the line clean and crease free and the bathroom was immaculate. And their home brew was bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

Each night Catti would light a candle before going to bed and by morning the baking, brewing and washing was all done. Rowli now always had clean clothes and bed sheets, tasty bread and well brewed beer and it made him feel like a new man, and he worked like one.

For Catti it was the make-over she’d always needed and she set up a business from home selling scented candles. Their farm prospered, the grain grew thick and strong, the pigs were the fattest at the market and the lambs too.

They had a conservatory built and a gravel drive snaked up to the farmhouse where an eight grand Aga sat in the kitchen and double glazing kept the Welsh weather out.

Thus their life continued thus for a full three years until Catti could contain her curiosity no more. When Rowli was snoring one night she sneaked down the stairs and opened the kitchen door a crack.

There she saw the Fairy Folk busily making bread and beer and dancing and laughing as they did so.

Catti was so bemused by the sight she burst out laughing and in an instant they scattered in a whirl of fairy dust and the kitchen was silent.

Rowli and Catti’s luck stayed with them however which is often not the case when the Fairy Folk are spied upon.

The blokes in The Traveller’s Rest confided to me they were hoping for a similar chain of events by sitting on the car park wall by their block of flats that night looking miserable as hell in the hope an Ellyll would appear.

Slurring his words the stubbled one said they were off down the supermarket right now for some candles to light each night they were so desperate to escape their dead end jobs, overdrafts and singledom.

Though the thought did cross my mind that hanging around a car park late at night was asking for trouble, not from Otherworldly Folk but from the police. But I kept my mouth shut.

Anyway, all said, good luck to ye lads, I hope the magic works.

Pedws Ffowk & St Elian’s Cursing Well

Pedws Ffowk lived in Wales in a time long before ours, before even our great-great grandfather’s time.

In the meadows men tough as stones ploughed fields with horses and whispered strange

words in their ears to bring blessings upon the harvest.

 

 

 

 

Cockroaches crawled in cottages, mice scattered when doors were opened and women wore aprons over big skirts and had hair curled up in a bun or plaited like string.

Pedws Ffowk was such a woman, not old, not young and as yet without husband. 

 

 

She lived in a grey stone village on a hill green as moss, went to church on Sunday, sang whilst she worked and knitted whilst gossiping with friends.

But during the spring just passed she had begun to sicken. She was ill in an inexplicable way, losing weight whilst eating very well.

 

 

 

Bread soaked in dripping, sheep’s head soup, sprouts and cabbage, porridge and scones, poached salmon and butter and cheese and cream…

She visited doctor after doctor with their pills and potions in green glass bottles but nothing did the trick.

And neither could the wise men and women of the hills with their charms and spells and promises of success cure her.

Until at last, close to death, she found a wise man who knew the cause of her ills.

Someone had put her into St Elian’s Cursing Well.

 

 

 

“But what do you mean? I’ve been in no well and that’s a fact!”

“I don’t mean literally me luv. Someone has been to see The Keeper the Well and had your name put on The Register and thrown a pebble into The Well with your initials scratched upon it.

“This is the surest way to curse someone and bring upon them illness, misfortune and even death!”

Pedws Ffowk hadn’t heard of this particular cursing well in the parish of Llanelian, Denbighshire, that’d turned her to skin and bones.

And she couldn’t believe anyone she knew would do such a thing. The wise man explained that unless the curse was removed she’d be dead before the next full moon.

She begged him to tell her how to remove the curse and in exchange for a few coins he told her what to do.

“You must go to The Keeper of the Well and ask her to take you out of The Well.”

Pedws Ffowk left the wise man’s cottage shaking all over and trying to remember the convoluted directions he’d given her.

“Take the left fork on the brow of the hill at the end of Keeper’s Lane then where the stream runs close to the bracken cross over, turn right at the old oak.

 

 

“Follow the valley to the tumbled down hay barn then take the path past the twisted hawthorn over the moor till you come to the shoe maker’s cottage.

 

 

“Bryn Jones is his name. Ask directions from him, if you’re in luck he’ll be there and he’ll be sure to give you further instructions…for a few coins.”

 

 

 

 

 

He laughed heartily.

Pedws FFowk decided she’d better take all the coins she had hidden under the floor boards at home as she was probably going to need them!

So she went as fast, which was in fact very slow, as her brittle legs would carry her to try and find St Elian’s Well. Some of the time it poured, some of the time it drizzled and the rest of the time it spat with rain.

Fortunately she was in luck and Bryn Jones the shoemaker was at home eating rabbit pie.

He obligingly gave her the directions to The Well which was just around the corner, though this fact cost Pedws FFowk three more silver coins.

Arriving out of breath and thin as a pin some while later at St Elian’s Well Pedws Ffowk saw an old lady with cracks upon her face like mountain crevices and a smell like sheep.

She was dressed in a black robe which dragged along the ground and had mud encrusted up to the knee.

 

 

Her hair was knotted as if she slept in a hedge, which in fact she did. Pedws Ffowk held her breath best she could and drew close to explain her predicament.

“That’ll be five silver coins please.” said The Keeper of the Well “If you want me to have a look in The Register to see if your name is written there.”

 

 

Five silver coins! Pedws was shocked. But as it was a matter of life and death she handed the coins over. She forced a smile.

“So, am I in The Register? Am I in The Register?”

The lady creaked her way over to a twisted tree by The Well and took down a tattered book wedged between two branches. She leafed slowly through it and Pedws saw several spiders run up her arm from the book and disappear into her hair.

“Pedws Ffowk… Pedws Ffowk… Pedws Ffowk…Ah, yes, the third of March this year, that’s the day you were cursed.”

And that was in fact the day she had first fallen ill on her way back from market with a fat chicken.

Pedws threw her arms in the air and begged The Keeper to remove the curse.

Alas, The Keeper demanded a further fifteen silver coins and cackled with her mouth open so wide Pedws noticed moss growing on her teeth.

“Fifteen silver coins! But that’s all I have in the world!”

Pedws Ffowk was beginning to feel she was being taken for a ride but knew better than say what she thought of these wise women. They knew how to curse alright.

So with a deep sigh she handed over the silver and The Keeper of The Well scratched her name from The Register. Then she put her hand deep in The Well and scooped out the pebble with PF scrawled upon it.

 

And it’s a fact that from that moment on Pedws Ffowk’s health improved, she almost skipped as she left the old lady in her damp abode.

 

 

 

 

 

She walked back home and with every step felt stronger, she ate and the weight stayed on, she fed the chickens and the goats and her muscles swelled like never before and she even knitted a whole shawl in a day.

And her barn was always full of hay and grain and her husband, for one fine spring day she got married, looked after their sheep as good as any shepherd could.

Though one thing did puzzled her for the rest of her life.

Who had put her in St Elian’s Well?

And why?

The story of St Elian’s Cursing Well in fact doesn’t end there.

In 1829 the Minister of the local Methodist Church, being a godly man concerned with the well being of his flock, decided to put an end to the trade in curses and had the well destroyed.

 

 

 

 

However a local man, John Evans or Jac Ffynnon Elian as he began to call himself as the new Keeper of the Well, diverted the miraculous waters to his own land and make a tidy sum he did with the steady flow of customers wishing to place a curse at the restored Well.

His reputation as Keeper of St Elian’s Well did however take a blow as he was taken to court and found guilty of charging people to remove curses that had not been cast in the first place and was imprisoned for a few months.

 

 

 

 

 

On his release he continued in business for several decades until the well was finally closed in 1850 and to this day remains inaccessible to the public.

 

 

 

In case you were thinking of paying a visit.