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Cerrig Gwynion



The cave in the story is in amongst the crags below the fort and above the river.
Of the cave (Ogof y Coed Cochion) I have fond memories. About twenty-five or thirty men can stand inside it. That will suggest to the reader the approximate size. It is undoubtedly an artificial cave on the ledge of a steep castellated rock, and neither man nor wild beast could well approach and commit depredations if the caveman and his family kept their eyes open. It is a comfortable dry room in the rock right opposite the farm Sarphle, and has a crevice about four or five yards long, opened out to the surface, to answer the purpose of a chimney.

I once dug a hole in the floor of the cave in "search of treasure", or for pieces of brass left by the mythological smith who made the Brazen Head, the Pen Pres, as we call it. It was to this Ynca-fashioned high home in the frowning rock the farm-boys of the period crept from cliff to cliff on all-fours on Easter Sundays to boil eggs. To eat eggs on that day was a custom as sacred as those performed on Pancake Tuesdays and Hot-Cross Bun days. [..] It was a genuine traditional usage, and no wicked freak of servant boys given to steal eggs and eat them.

We quote Dr Phene's narrative, given the form of a dialogue between himself and his guide, Mr. William Jones, an inhabitant of Llangollen, and the Doctor's version of the legend:--

"We now approach Penbryn , the house of Mrs Phebe Hughes, mother to the poet John Ceiriog*. The house was placed near where the ridge terminated. It was just getting dark, and Mrs. Hughes was already preparing to retire, when Mr. Morris explained, in Welsh, my request that the tradition of the cave might be given me. The conversation was conducted in Welsh, and the narrative, which was evidently curtailed from the desire of Mrs. Hughes to retire, was as follows:--

" 'In former times a man, who was a smith, lived in the cave which overhangs the river Ceiriog. This man was commanded, by some unseen powers, to make a head of brass. It was to be of great size, and to be made after a style described to him. The smith was not to sleep during the whole time he was making the brazen head, nor until it had revealed to him all the knowledge man could know. The matter became known, and as soon as it was found that the head would require weeks to make, persons were directed to keep the smith awake, by pricking him with needles and pins. This continued until the smith's work was accomplished. This being so, the head began to speak, and, addressing its maker, stated:-- "I will tell you first three things, and then I will explain them, and give the knowledge to you. I know-- 1. What has been. 2. What is. 3. What will be." The assembled people were so astounded by the sound of a voice from the head, that their guard over the smith was forgotten. This no sooner ceased than the wearied metallurgist fell asleep, and the head ceased for ever the statement it had begun.' "
Next it's implied that there is a rock-cut chamber under the house (apparently with its own spring), and that's where the cave-dwelling smith made the head. But that seems so unnecessary when you've got a nice cave. And then there's an even more elaborate version of the story.

From Dyffryn Ceiriog Folk-Lore, by *John Ceiriog Hughes, in Collections Historical & Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire, v 17 (1884).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
2nd December 2010ce
Edited 24th March 2014ce

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