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Quarrymen's Tyddynnod, The

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  • Quarrymen's Tyddynnod, The
  • ISBN: 9781845270889
  • Dewi Tomos
  • Publication June 2007
  • Format: Paperback, 210x148 mm, 124 pages

A tribute to the heroic history of the quarrymen smallholding families. They lived in long, low, single storey cottages on the mountain slopes around the quarries, called 'tyddynnod', many with a field or two attached to them. These families were involved in a dual economy of heavy industry and agriculture, unique to the slate quarrying districts.

This book about the quarrymens tyddynnod or smallholdings in the area of Carmel and Moeltryfan in North Wales has been written by the son of a quarryman, who himself worked for a brief time within that industry. Containing 124 pages and 36 maps, diagrams and black and white photos, this book is so much more than just a guidebook. This is also a plea to those who visit the area, and in particular, those who come to live in Wales (or incomers as the author calls them) to understand the heritage of the area to which they come.

This message is shown clearly at the beginning of the book, where in the authors words, he says that the book is dedicated to the incomers to our beautiful world, so that they may learn of and appreciate our rich heritage . . .

So in addition to the descriptions, history and geography of the tyddynnod, we are reminded that there is a responsibility on all to recognise the importance of understanding the essence of place, time and heritage, and in particular the understanding of keeping ones land, which holds a particular resonance on several levels (ones individual home, and ones country).

It also needs to be pointed out that this book was originally written and published in Welsh and that the Welsh name tyddynnod has been retained in the title of this version, presumably to emphasize that the language and culture of this place is distinct and separate from the rest of the UK. There is also a useful glossary of Welsh words and place names at the end of the book for those not familiar with the Welsh language.

Intertwined with a passionate and powerful narrative of the history, geography, climate, environment and other key elements are the words of several famous Welsh poets and writers. It is worth providing a quote from Kate Roberts (from Y Ln Wen) where she describes how her grandfather, father and uncle worked at Cilgwyn Quarry, nearly three miles from their home. They walked to the quarry there and back, six miles a day, as well as carrying out chores at home. Her father had no schooling after turning nine years old . . . But next morning at sunrise, [he] set out for Cilgwyn with his brother . . . He made that journey for nigh on half a century.

This conveys the sense of community and a commonality of hardship which binds the people and the land together. And of course the tyddyn or smallholding became the main dwelling place of the quarry worker. The book describes how the tyddynnod came into being by the enclosure of common land, and how the boundary wall separating the dwellings and the common gradually moved higher and higher up the side of the mountains as more and more dwellings were erected.

Following a brief overview and chapters on, amongst others, climate, geology, environment, the tyddynnod themselves are dealt with in detail over about 50 pages, including maps and illustrations of slate workers. There are some fine drawings of slate workers, showing the different skills involved in, for example, the splitting and dressing of slate. The final chapter offers an optimism view on what the future might hold for the area, including the promoting of tourism, a heritage centre to give merited attention to the quarrymens lives, and preserving the bio-diversity of the area.