In the early days of trips to Farchynys and before the M54 was finally completed in 1983, the journey from Walsall to Farchynys could take at least three and half hours, at first on slatted seats, so a pit-stop and a leg stretch was essential.
Welshpool, or as it is known in Welsh, Y Trallwng, lies on marshes near the Severn just over the border and the perfect place for a re-fuel. Its High Street soon became a popular haunt of the minibus and its Marian passengers searching out morale boosting supplies.
For some years, one of the most sought after emporia was Langford’s, purveyors of pies and sausages which fed and raised the spirits of many a Marian on the Mawddach. Sadly, all good things come to an end and the demise of Langford’s was reported in The Shropshire Star.
It was fifty years ago this week that I became a Marian and went to the funky new buildings at Mayfield to begin my career at Queen Mary’s Grammar School.
It was one of the defining events of my life.
In Form 1Z with Mr Philips, I was to meet Paul T and Steve T, and Malcolm W who would become life long friends. We learned how to conjugate latin verbs, to compose a lecturette and make a scrummage and very soon we would be packing our bags for Merioneth.
A Gothic Weekend
Farchynys early acquired a reputation for austerity. As The Marian noted in 1965, “A weekend at Farchynys is to a large extent getting by without it; ‘it’ being some of the luxuries of home and the delights of Babylon.” But I wonder what that writer would have made of the spectacular Gothic experiences shared by A- level English students at The Coach House in an appropriately spooky November 2011?
Taking the long view, Gothic experiences are nothing new on the Mawddach. In the early nineteenth century, the area was popular with many writers and artists. Samuel Taylor Coleridge climbed Cadair, Percy Bysshe Shelley visited in 1812 and perhaps inspired by this our latter day Goths were a party of A level sixth formers intent on days of “exploration and transgression” as one them recorded. A suitably sybaritic and uncanny programme included readings of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus in The Coach House, of Dracula in the Gazebo by torchlight served with popcorn and a performance of The Woman in Black in the suitably ghostly atmosphere of the Church of St. Mary and St. Bodfan, Llanber.
Now one of the most popular adventures for young Marians, the Blue Lake was somewhere I only discovered while researching the book.
In fact, not deadly at all – but this barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo) has been washed ashore beside the Barmouth Viaduct and is one of this summer’s jelly fish mega-swarm or ocean bloom depending on your politics of collective description.
Who was there creating the Marian Army defensive position?
1965 Beeching liquidates the Ruabon – Dolgellau – Barmouth line
Who is the fair damsel from Dr Williams’ doing her prep on the newly closed railway track?
I am most grateful to the wonderful website created to celebrate the history of Dr Williams’ School for girls in Dolgellau for this picture and would recommend the reader to explore it at http://www.dwsoga.org.uk)
The blazer is a 1913 design long since replaced by the somewhat blander navy version.