Visiting Anglesey

We arrived at the church, small and neat as  country churches often are, and there was a church warden standing just outside  the door watching us. We were in the churchyard of St. Gallgo’s in Llanallgo on  Anglesey. We had done our research thoroughly before we left home, so we knew  our targets and could see them quite clearly from the path. I started to take  photographs. I am not very good so I need to take plenty to give myself a  chance of getting something acceptable.
The impatient look on the face of the  gentleman by the door softened as he recognised our mission.“You are looking  for the Royal Charter,” he said.

St Gallgo's Church

He was right. 140 of the victims of the  great shipwreck of 1859 when The Royal  Charter was driven on to the rocks at Moelfre were brought here. The story  is still remembered in the parish, which emphasises the enormity of the event  itself. 400 people returning from Australia lost and a stash of gold, some of  which allegedly still lies in the bay.  Optimistic  divers still go down, for the wreck lies in just 10 feet of murky water. The  possibility of treasure can be so difficult to ignore. This will be a  good story for the magazine, though someone  far greater than I will ever be, had beaten me to it some time ago. Charles  Dickens came to Anglesey to report on the wreck at the end of December in 1859  for his own mag.
The gent by the door was David Hitchen and  he was there to welcome a wedding party. However they were already late. Well  actually it was more than that. They had failed to turn up at all on a previous  occasion and didn’t seem likely to appear this time either. David was there to  greet them and then call the minister, who clearly was not ready to turn out  without the positive and confirmed sighting of a bride. We were a welcome  diversion.
David showed us round the church. He spoke  about a recent fire, blamed on rats that had gnawed through electrical cables.  At least the wooden beams were saved and so the integrity of the church had  been preserved. He showed us the restored chairs for the congregation, re-sanded  by a local carpenter. We saw the table in the corner placed back-to-front to  hide its date, and so deter thieves.
Outside he showed us the things that we  knew about and some other things that we didn’t. The Victorian Memorial has a  serious list and needs to be re-sited, for it was originally placed on  inadequate foundations. It is currently taped off. We saw the recently  renovated grave of Reverend Stephen Roose Hughes who invested such emotion and  compassion in supporting the families of the victims, that he died of exhaustion  brought on by his duties. We knew about this. We didn’t know about the other  graves he showed us, one of which was a faded chest tomb containing the Davies  family, mother, father and their children, paid for by their surviving son and daughter.   He showed us a stone laid recently by an  American family who had lost an ancestor in the disaster.
David stopped occasionally, gazing skywards  as we watched trainee pilots from RAF Valley. A man like David with a military  background has a duty to watch and respect such activity.  But there was no sign of activity from the  wedding party. Having married off two daughters and experienced the inescapable  momentum that wedding arrangements generate, I cannot understand how anyone  could approach the event so casually.  We  thanked David for his help. We are lucky that there are still people like him  and his friends in the church who are ready to remember and preserve our past  in the way that they do.  We should all  be grateful that there are communities that value their place in history. Now I  have seen the memorials I really want to get on with the story. I just hope  that I will be able to do justice to such a tumultuous story. It will be hard  to follow Dickens, for whom words were never a problem.
We went off up the hill to the Derimon smokery  where we bought excellent smoked duck and delicious salmon. We had to go there.  They supply produce to the El Bulli restaurant in Barcelona, which is regarded  as one of the best restaurants in the world. We couldn’t be so close and then  not call in. It was a very pleasant visit. The owner had just returned from  sailing out on the flat-calm sea to look at seals.
When we drove back David had given up on  the wedding and gone home.

Click here to visit the  Derimon website.

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