Wednesday 28 October 2015

Twrch Trwyth

I was sure that Cors Fochno, marsh of the pigs, was once the home of the great boar Twrch Trwyth and his seven giant, warlike piglets.

Once there was a prince called Culhwch. His wicked stepmother told him to marry her daughter, but he refused, so she put a spell on him so he could marry no one but Olwen, daughter of a giant called Ysbaddaden.
So Culhwch went to King Arthur’s court at Celliwig in Cornwall and Arthur sent six of his finest warriors to help. They arranged a meeting and Olwen and Culhwch fell in love.
But Ysbaddaden set Culhwch some almost impossible tasks before he was allowed to marry. One was to retrieve a razor, scissors and comb from between the ears of the massive boar Twrch Trwyth, a wicked king who was turned into a great boar for his sins. His seven sons became huge, wild piglets. They went on a rampage and destroyed a third of Ireland.
Arthur's enchanter made himself into a bird and tried to snatch the treasures from the boar, but was poisoned by its bristles and had to fly home. Another of Arthur's men tried to negotiate, but in vain.
Then Twrch Trwyth swam to Cors Fochno. Arthur and his men chased him across Wales until he turned and killed eight of Arthur's warriors, though he was wounded himself. They had another four battles but with no success and great loss of life, and they lost track of the boars.
Then two of Twrch Trwyth's piglets surprised some of Arthur's huntsmen near Ammanford. When Arthur and his men fought back Twrch Trwyth came to defend his sons and then fled into the Brecon Beacons, where three piglets were killed. At Dyffryn Amanw, two more piglets were slain and eventually the last two, but only at great loss.
Then Arthur asked the men of Devon and Cornwall to help and together they drove Twrch Trwyth into the River Severn and grabbed the razor and shears.
Next the boar swam to Cornwall. Arthur followed and the comb was seized and Twrch Trwyth was driven into the sea and never seen again.

Some say he drowned, but I think he swam home. He’s still there, hiding in Cors Fochno. He probably lives at Glanwern farm.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Cors Fochno

Behind Morfa Borth was Cors Fochno – the marsh of the pigs. The marsh was a huge triangular area, some 4,000 acres, bounded by the sea, the River Dovey and the Cambrian Hills. There were occasional ‘islands’ of higher ground, some supporting wind-carved trees. Often there were dark pools of dark peat-stained water.  
I’m sure it is centuries since pigs roamed the bog. In my childhood it was just a source of turf and peat, but pigs there certainly were at the farm just outside the village. I remember being taken to see these champion beasts at Glanwern. As I was just three they were much taller than me, and when, out of curiosity and the hope of food they jumped up, they towered over me like some pink snouted dinosaur.  Held up to see them, I recoiled into my mother’s arms in terror. They had more in common with Twrch Trwyth, the fearsome boar of legend, than a bacon sandwich.

Thursday 8 October 2015


You must be in bed by seven, or the crows will get you!”

In my mind’s eye great black birds swooped down, picking up small children and carrying them up to Craig-Yr-Wylfa, the high cliff south of the village. I looked from the window to see if any were nearby.
The Crows were women.
In the old days the people paid their tithe to the church in herring and other fish caught in the bay. But it was always dangerous – especially launching and landing boats through the surf.
Out at sea the litany of lost ships and lost sailors was also long. Enoch James was just 14 when he fell overboard from the Dovey Belle.
The Crows were the widows of 19th century Borth sailors, for the tithe of herring was dearly won. The women always wore black. Other fishermen would give them a few fish, they would carry turf and they would knit and sew and weave. They would collect cockles and limpets from the rocks. Then they would carry their produce over the hills to Aberystwyth to sell. In the evening you would see a line of sombre figures coming back into the village. There were so many fishermen’s widows they were vital to the local economy.

When the weather is bad you can still see ghostly, black figures on the shore, gazing out to sea.