Tuesday, February 12, 2008


The tiny village of LLanfairynghornwy is situated off the main road near the north coast of Anglesey. Unless you have business there you will probably never visit it as it is not on a road to anywhere in particular. Yet it has a claim to fame. The rector's wife (early 19th century) was a relative of Charles Darwin.

Rev James Williams became rector in his father's footsteps. His father, Rev John Williams had held the office of chaplain at Windsor. King George IV had been in Ireland and was on his way home from there. He stayed at Holyhead for a visit before continuing his journey home. Knowing the King was in Holyhead, John Williams petioned him on behalf of his son. His request was granted and Henry instructed the Bishop of Bangor that James was to succeed his father when the living became vacant.

The 19th was the century of church restoration and many architects were gainfully employed in designing the changes. Sadly for many, this was to render many churches and cathedrals less beautiful than before. But this was not the case at Llanfairynghornwy because the new rector took on the task himself and ensured the job was done with taste.

James and his wife arrived at his new home on a stormy day and when James took his bride down to the coast they had a great shock. A sailing ship called "Alert" was impaled on the rocks and helpless. She sank quickly and one hundred and forty souls were lost. The newly weds vowed there and then to provide the means for saving lives around Anglesey's treacherous coast. Through family and social connections, the rector raised the funds to buy and maintain a lifeboat which was kept at Cemlyn Bay. Frances, the rector's wife, painted watercolours and sold copies of a picture of the King landing at Holyhead from Ireland. In 1828 they had formed the Anglesey Association for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck.

Over 50 ships were lost off the shores of Anglesey in 1833. James Williams helped to design the lifeboats and the rocket launching equipment used. The Association lasted from 1829 till 1856 when it became part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. During that period over 400 lives were saved by Anglesey lifeboats. James himself was a winner of an RNLI Gold Medal for bravery for his work in rescuing lives from 2 ships. Frances herself was a great supporter of the movement. One day she sailed in the Cemlyn boat to the Skerries where the lighthouse keeper was ill. She ministered to him and returned to Anglesey, both passages being in rough seas.

They had a son, Owen Lloyd, who followed his father into the church and became rector of Boduan on the Llyn peninsular. Owen took charge of the lifeboats at Porthdinllaen and Abersoch and received bravery awards for his service.

A lesser known story of this village is the one that involved Dannie Lukie, a smuggler. One night Lukie was out in rough weather and found a ship in distress. The crew of three had abandoned ship and were rowing for the shore. On reaching them Lukie found a dead man and two boys very much alive. He took them to Mynachdy where lived Doctor Loyd, who cared for them until they recovered. One of the boys ended up working on the farm and he was called Evan Thomas. He took interest in Dr Lloyd's practice and accompanied him on his rounds. The boy showed a talent for mending broken bones and this ability grew as he became older.

Evan married and his son showed a talent for bone-setting as did other descendants and family members. The family practised on Anglesey, in Liverpool and in many other places. It is surprising how so much amazing talent and commitment should emanate from one small village in Anglesey.


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