For John Pen y Bryn
He lives in the village
but once called this place home
A farmhouse of country rock
in a kingdom of slate.
Beseiged by mill and sinc,
the engine house chimney
leans over the cow shed.
Sheep gather in the mill
finding tender shoots
between the galvo discards.
The arched windows
of the workers cottages
fray into oblivion
like the edge of all else here.
of the past
thread the cat's cradle of time.
The roof is nail sick.
A duchess slides down
from the Crog Lloft
lands in one piece on wet ground.
A hole in the mill's gable
sightless, an empty bearing,
Cups the wind as it thrums from the north
playing crackled snatches
of Jenny Lind
between the static.
Nature mounts the last campaign
the leutenants, Birch, Ash and Oak
mobilise bramble, bracken and blackthorn,
Blackbird, Thrush and Robin sound the bugles.
Coflein states the house was built in 1750
but he remembers
the sound of the chaff cutter
when the quarry horses
were kept at Mr Pritchard's cottage.
The grave where "Prince" was buried
"Queenie" knew the way to the mill from the sinc
load the trucks and she was good to go.
How "Prince" and "Corwen" would rush for their feed
at the end of the day.
There's a bridge over the tramway
the deck fell away years ago
just two stone fingers now
but he sits there on a summers evening,
in his folding chair
An unlikely owl, roosting
turning the world around him.
The old jeep
is parked up , an MOT refugee
a paraffin quarry hunslet
while he weeds the veg patch.
I think about him, how he always welcomes me
a cheerful greeting, "hwyl, bore da"
when I come to the quarry.
He was a youngster in the forties
The farm must have been among the goings on
the sell-offs and the buy-ups, the scrap drives and fat envelopes
I wonder what he made of it
He feels the loss ,
of Gwynfor the oracular
benchmarked and underlined in Cymraeg
History and stories fell out of him
Tales of Tommy Run and Jones y Glo
Of Robinson of Talysarn and the Italian Countess
John would smile and produce photographs
of the Plas
tell of when they first restored the Holman pump house.
The sound of the steam from those big cylinders.
The farm sits high above the sinc
on bright days you can see the water glisten through the trees
Dry stone bastions holding the waste back
A cast iron bedhead keeping the sheep at bay
Descendants of a mighty tribe
fridge doors, microwaves, old bikes and bedsteads
at liberty on the barricades
while nature lends a hand.
He is in the gap now, the silence between the words
the mystery of skill
between the dry stone blocks
the echo in the adit
the garlanded join between the s and the l of slate
and when he has gone
another link will wear out, stained rust on rock
smelling like an old dog's ear
Mysteries will gather
like an army
The bastions will be pointless,
Llygad an unseeing memory
when all is wiped away
the sinc will become a lake
a new, world class holiday resort.
Duchess- a slate, 24" x 12", larger than normal size.
Crog Lloft- a traditional Welsh vernacular arrangement, a loft over the half of a cottage, furthest from the cooking hearth. It was used for sleeping in.
Jenny Lind- a Swedish Opera Singer, often called the "Swedish Nightingale"...she gave her name to a type of stone polisher used in slate mills to give a mirror finish to slab, the process caused a humming, melodic effect, said to resemble the singer.
Coflein- Online catalogue of archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage, based at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Gwynfor- Gwynfor Pierce Jones, the celebrated local historian who died in 2013.
Llygad- a seam of slate, an eye.
Quarry Hunslet- a class of small steam locomotive used in North Wales quarries, several were used locally at Dorothea, Pen yr Orsedd and Pen y Bryn.
Copyright Iain Robinson © 2017 All rights reserved.
Iain Robinson has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of the works contained herein.