from the hayfields, with his hayfork over his shoulder, came an elderly
man with a long white beard, and with sharp, twinkling eyes.
him, I asked: “Chwi yw Mr. Tim Hughes?” It was he.
had long looked for him in the scattered clean cottages of Llanllwni, in
the Teify Valley, on that warm July evening, when all Cardiganshire
seemed to be hard at work in the fields.
was known to all, for was he not the master craftsman, famed for over 50
years among all those who had links with the old woolen mills and
factories in South Wales ?
the last century he was often seen tramping across the mountains with
6olbs. of tools on his back to repair an old mill or to build a new one.
A little later, when the young millwright apprentice had become the
respected master-craftsman, he was regarded with awe and amazement and
often with amusement, as he rushed along on his penny-farthing bicycle,
one of the first to be introduced in the district.
now the days of the millwright are over, the craft is dying out, the
woolen mills are silent. No longer does the millwright tramp across the
mountains with his tools, and as for the penny-farthing bicycle, it is
rusted and dusty in the shed.
a contrast it would be,” says Mr. Tim Hughes in Welsh, as we walk
along the Llandyssul-Lampeter road towards his cottage, “if I went on
my old bike now to Pendine and stood with it side by side by the
remark of my fine old companion was symbolic. Just as the rapid
aeroplane has taken the place of the penny-farthing bicycle, so the vast
machines of the modern factory have ousted the woolen mills of
Cardiganshire, and so the twentieth century is rapidly thrusting the old
crafts into the limbo of forgotten things.
when Mr. Tim Hughes talks of the old craft the nineteenth century lives
again, and with his vivid gift of portrayal and with his enthusiasm for
his calling he imparts a glamour to the scenes of old Wales.
am a millwright,” he says with pride as we chat in his cottage, “and
I learned my craft from my uncle, Enoch Morgan Jones, who built the
mills in Abergorlech and Brecon. But he died about forty years ago, at
the age of 67, and I have the craft after him.”
kind of man was your uncle?” I asked, and the millwright’s face lit
was a great humorist, ‘neilltuol o ddoniol,’” he replied. “He
loved laughing and he loved making others laugh, too. He was short in
stature and a great character. I remember vividly the first time I set
out with him, with my tools on my back, to Llandilo and then on to
Rhydyfro. I was only nineteen at the time and he was teaching me the
craft. Let me see - that must have been in 1879. At that time I helped
to re-build the Rhydyfro Mill.. “One of our walks used to be to Pandy,
Pontardulais, where I usually went every two years to do the re-lining
of the mill and to see Mr. W. J. Jones, who is still living. Mrs. W. J.
Jones, by the way, is a cousin to Daniel Rhydderch, Abergorlech.”
must be few men who know Wales as well as Mr. Tim Hughes. He used to
cover on foot or on his penny-farthing seven different counties, and his
craft carried him as far north as Talybont, Cardiganshire, as far south
as Pontardulais, as far east as Llanover, Monmouthshire, and as far west
as Glandwronest, Pembrokeshire. Within this district there is hardly a
woolen mill which he has not built, re-built, or repaired.
built a mill, Gwentffrwd Factory, for Lady Llanover in Llanover in 1894,
and a mill in Llanfihangel-Rhydithon in 1896. I remember clearly in
Llanfihangel how the carpenter and I went out to the wood to choose our
break in the life of Wales caused by the War was well illustrated by Mr.
Tim Hughes’s account of the Login Pandy, near Whitland, a story which
has the elements of pathos. “This factory and fulling mill,” said
Mr. Hughes, “were working until the War. Then the boys went away to
the front, leaving the mill. Four years passed, and when the sons
returned the roof had fallen in, and the mill has been idle ever
I asked him how many mills there were in Wales he gave me a wealth of
information “ There is a ‘fuller’ working all the time in
Llanwenog, and the shirt I am now wearing comes from that town; it was
spun in Maes-y-felin factory. In Penbontygafael, Pembrokeshire, the
fuller and tucking mill, which I built 35 years ago, are still working.
There was a tucking mill in Llanfairclydogau, but it was substituted
by a fulling mill.” In Cwmpengraig, Henllan, he tells me, there were
two tucking mills working together in charge of Mr. David Davies. There
were mills in Llanddewibrefi, Llanrhystyd, and Talybont, and in the
two latter Mr. Tim Hughes once worked.
Cwmpandy, Aberayron, was noted for its “coch scarlet” cloth, and
King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, wore sporting suits from Felin
Cwmpandy and also from Brecon. In Cwmcafan, Talsarn, and in Glandwronest,
Pembrokeshire, there were also fulling mills.
Tim Hughes then brought out a fine piece of thick grey cloth. “This
was made in Brecon,” he explained as he felt it with the fingers of an
expert. “But Brecon is no longer working. One by one the mills of the
past have closed down, and the day of the millwright is over.”
he may ten no more mills Mr. Tim Hughes will remain the type of great
craftsman which was the pride of Wales, the craftsman who laid stress
also on spiritual and mental qualities, for Mr. Tim Hughes’s children
have distinguished themselves in the academic life of Wales.
I bade farewell to Mr. Tim Hughes, who waved to us from the cottage
door, I felt I was leaving behind some of the best traditions of old
July 18th, 1933.