Life after prison


Rhys Williams

Roughly a year later, (in 1876) he married Mary Evans,  the daughter of David and Ann Evans of Gwarallt, Tregaron. She was then eighteen year of age and she joined him at Nant-yr-hwch (Lllanddewi Abergesyn) where he was now being assisted by a young agricultural servant.

Their first child was born when Mary Williams was around 21, and she named him after her father (David or Dafydd). Sadly, there is no record of him in any subsequent census returns and one must presume that he died before the family moved from Nant-yr-hwch.  

It is interesting to note that around the same time that Rhys Williams moved from Nant-yr-hwch, John Jones of Nantstalwen moved to Cilpyll in the parish of Nantcwnlle [20]. He inherited Cilpyll and, although it was a substantial low-land farm, he still retained his hill-farm tenancies, and in the 1881 census he was described as a farmer with 6700 acres of land, employing nine shepherds. The bulk of this land must have been the Elenydd’s  sheep-walks  extending from Esgair Garthen down to Nantstalwen and Nant-yr-hwch.

At Nantcwnlle, John Jones became a well known public figure. He was a J.P. and was elected as County Councillor in 1889. Following the marriage of one of his daughters to a J.D. Edwards he ‘set-up’ his new son-in-law at Nantstalwen. It is known that J.D. Edwards was still farming there in the 1920s, and, in fact, the place remained in the hands of the Edwards-family up until the early 1960s.

Marriage Certificate

Rhys and Mary Williams

To return to Rhys Williams – it seems that Rhys and Mary Williams began life at Tycanol as a child-less couple. However,  Elizabeth (Liza) was born soon after they arrived in Cwm Mwyro and, two to three years later, they had a son which they, understandably, named David (Dafydd) after the child which they had lost (and, of course, after Mary’s father). Of the seven surviving children, Thomas Williams who was the youngest ― 14 to 15 years younger than Elizabeth the eldest. The children’s names were :  


[18]  Wernfelen and Tycanol - parts of the Nanteos estate ; William Jones was the tenant farmer (of both holdings)

[19]  Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, The History and Antiquities of the county of Cardigan,  Longman, London ,1810.

[20]  See, page 49

The life story of Rhys Williams would not be complete without some reference to his wife Mary, and her family background. Her parents were David and Anne Evans and she was born and brought up at Gwarallt, Tregaron. She was one of eight children :

By the turn of the century (1901) two of the above had left home ; Liza was working at Frongoch with William and Sarah Roberts, but little is known about David Williams’ (Dafydd Williams) whereabouts at this time.

Rhys Williams

Rev Bold’s written words would have sounded pretty hollow to Rhys Williams ― his time in prison must have been quite harrowing. However, he appears not to have dwelt too much on his unfortunate experience ; following his release he went back to shepherding and, soon afterwards, he was living at Nant-yr-hwch (Llanddewi Abergwesyn) – still employed by John Jones of Nantstalwen

Maybe, these were some of the attractions for Rhys and Mary ― like most local married couples, in those days, they were probably contemplating a large family and these were important considerations.

Tycanol also had a well built farm house - a solid stone structure which was quite spacious for a shepherd’s home, and it was situated within walking distance of a school (at Strata Florida) and a place of worship (a Methodist chapel in Cwm Mwyro).

On the other hand, Rhys Williams may well have been offered a string of other temptations to entice him away from Nant-yr-hwch. In those days, a good shepherd was crucial for a north Cardiganshire tenant farmer such as William Jones. ― as Sir S.M. Meyrick explains in his book on the history of the county [19} :

Tycanol today


The life story of an old Elenydd shepherd



For further details of Rhys Williams’ life history, go to page 6

. . . continuation from page 4

In the summer of 1875, Rhys Williams was sentenced to two months in Brecon’s House of Correction for wounding Hugh Jones, a shepherd working for Mr E.D. Thomas and Mr R.M. Hope (page 3). He was discharged from prison about a fortnight following a routine visit by the Rev Hugh Bold, a local magistrate, (page 4) who wrote in the ‘Visiting Magistrate Journal’ :

Visited the prison and found everything in good order and the prisoners – 31 – all well and orderly.

Sometime around 1882 (at a guess), Rhys Williams moved to Tycanol to work (still as a shepherd) for William Jones Wernfelen [18] and subsequently for his widow Margaret Jones.  Wernfelen was (and still is) one of the principal lowland farms near Pontrhydfendigaid ; Tycanol was one of its outlying sheep farms on Elenydd. The latter was situated in Cwm Mwyro (the valley of the river Mwyro), about two to three miles east of Strata Florida (see map). Its sheep walk boundaries were more set than those at Nantstawen and, as a  consequence, there was less conflict over grazing rights.

Page 5

The rents are paid by the sale of cattle and horses bread on the farm, and on the uncertain profits of . . . some distant sheep walks on the surrounding hills . . . which much depend on the mildness of the winters . . . and the fidelity of the shepherd . . .

Elizabeth . . . b. around 1882

David . . . b. around 1885

Jane . . . b. around 1887

Anne . . . b. around 1890

John  and William . . . b. around 1893

Thomas . . . b. around 1896

John . . . b. around 1852

Martha . . . b. around 1855

Elizabeth . . . b. around 1857 (d. 1861)

Mary . . . b. around 1859

David . . . b. around 1861

Elizabeth . . . b. around 1863 (named after her dead sister)

Josuah . . . b. around 1865

Daniel . . . b. around 1867

Elizabeth, Mary’s younger sister (born around 1857), died when she was 4 years old on the 8th April 1861 and is buried at Bwlchgwynt cemetery, Tregaron. On the gravestone are the following touching words (in Welsh) :

Gwywodd y glaswelltyn, a’i flodeuyn a gwympodd, a thegwch ei bryd a gollodd.

The next girl born into the Gwarallt family some two years later (1863) was, as one might expect, also named Eizabeth after her deceased sister. She went on to play a key role in the history of Gwarallt and the family.


Mary’s mother died on the 2nd October 1886 at 60 years of age and the records show that Elizabeth, then returned to live at Gwarallt.  At the time, she was the only single daughter, and maybe she felt it was her duty to return home to look after her father. By now, all the boys had left for far-off places ; Josuah, in 1901, was Foreman of the Blast Furnace at Ebbw Vale and the others (as far as it is possible to tell) had moved to the south Wales coalfields.

Just before the turn of the century (21st November 1899), David Evans, the head of the family, died leaving Elizabeth Evans as the sole person in Gwarallt. The 1901 census describes her as a single person, 38 years of  age, and a farmer living on her own account. She remained a single woman for another 15 years, or so, before marrying a David Edwards (or Dafydd Edwards). When she died in 1934, at the age of 72, she was buried with her parents, and on the gravestone is written :

Elizabeth Edwards, eu merch, 3ydd Mehefin 1934

It would be interesting to trace and record the story of Gwarallt following Elizabeth’s marriage – what happened to Elizabeth afterwards, and when did David Williams (or Dafydd Williams, Mary and Rhys Williams’ eldest son and Elizabeth’s nephew) succeed her at Gwarallt?  But that is another story and is too much of a diversion at this point – the emphasis here is on Rhys Williams

Cwm Mwyro

(on a vey cold and wet afternoon in winter)