It had been literally years since we'd been here. Four, maybe even five.
For over forty years Mrs Bygone Boozer and I would visit my old stamping ground of north Wales at least once, but often several times a year. Of late, various things – Covid not being a minor factor – had conspired to prevent our travelling.
But now it seemed that the planets were aligning. Four consecutive days with sunny, settled weather seemed to be coinciding with four consecutive days without a medical appointment. It was time to pack the car, load the bikes and head west for four nights in Tregarth interspersed with three days of sunny cycling.
An early rise, followed by an early breakfast meant it was an early start. Through the lanes, to Pentir to cross the A4086 at Llanrug, and although the filling station was closed...
...it was good to see that you could still refuel at Y Glyntrog.
Turn left in Waunfawr onto the A4085, continue along the shore of Llyn Cwellyn, through Rydd Ddu and on to the hurtle down into Beddgelert for pizza and coffee at Glaslyn ice cream parlour.
After refuelling and reapplying the Factor 30 it was off again. A gradual climb through Nant Gwynant and then a steeper one up to the view point where Yr Wyddfa, or Snowdon in old money, was clearly visible in all its glory.
Views taken in, more Factor 30 applied and it was a great whizz down to pass the end of the aforementioned A4086 by the Pen Y Gwyrd Hotel before continuing on to Capel Curig for another coffee.
Except that there was no coffee. It seems that the café closed seven years ago. I did start off this piece by saying that it had been years! There was nothing else for it but to continue to Ogwen and get one there. Eventually the triumvirate of Tryfan, Y Garn and the Carneddau came into view. Irrespective of my mode of transport, this view always seems to engender a sense of homecoming in me. Whether or not an Englishman can feel hiraeth was discussed in this post about the lost Penrhyn Arms, but I really love this view.
On past Glan Dena, into the car park at Ogwen, to the Ogwen Snack Bar where cappuccino and Magnums were purchased and consumed, whilst reminiscing about the old wooden tea shack that used to stand by the river and whose tea was both whitened and sweetened at the same time by the addition of a teaspoon or two of Fussell's condensed milk.
Returning to the twenty-first century, all that was left was the almost effortless, wind-assisted descent of the Nant Ffrancon valley into Bethesda and then back to Tregarth. On the way I stopped to take this shot looking back up Bethesda's High Street.
A century or more ago it looked like this.
And here it is again, with the Waterloo Inn in the right foreground.
I'm not at all sure what all the flags are for. Maybe Victoria's Diamond Jubilee? Possibly Edward VII's coronation? Strangely, the folk don't seem to be in celebratory mood. Perhaps it's linked with the local quarrymen's strike of 1901-1903. If Scargill's miners strike of 1984 was divisive, it was nothing compared to how this one affected Bethesda and the surrounding communities. There are still cottages called Tai Bradwyr – houses of traitors; many local folk still won't enter Penrhyn Castle, even though it's been in the hands of the National Trust since 1951 and when I was living in the area some families still wouldn't interact with each other because their ancestors were on the other side.
Why this division? In July 1901, several months after the strike began, Lord Penrhyn, the quarry owner, invited a number of 'approved' workers to return to work with the inducement of a 5% pay rise and a sovereign. Some were also provided with new houses, the Tai Bradwyr. The four hundred or so strike breakers, out of a couple of thousand quarrymen, who took this punt y gynffon (tail pound) were labelled as cynffonwyr and had their houses attacked, whilst the strikers placed this card in their windows.
It wasn't just the houses of the cynffonwyr that were attacked. Pubs which served them were also smashed. Whether the Waterloo Inn was targeted on not I don't know. What I do know though is that its landlord at that time was one Owen Thomas Jones.
He'd been there a while, as the census from a decade earlier shows...
...and he remained there for a while after too.
The pub itself goes back quite a bit further, being listed in Slater's 1850 directory...
...and the 1841 census lists a number of publicans in this area of Bethesda but fails to record the establishment names. In all probability one of these would have been the Waterloo although I have been unable to match any publicans to specific house except for the Kings Head – still serving – and the Sportsman – a bygone boozer. However, it's likely that it was built around the 1830s to add to the accommodation offered to travellers, on Thomas Telford's new road to Holyhead, by the Douglas Arms.
I used to frequent the Waterloo in the mid-1970s when it was an Ind Coope house. It was a convenient place to wait for the bus back to Bangor after visiting Arvon's shop a little further up the High Street or if a lift I'd managed to hitch from Ogwen had dropped me in Bethesda. I remember one Saturday lunchtime, having just purchased some must-have piece of mountaineering equipment from Arvon's, popping in for a pint or two whilst I waited for Purple Motors' conveyance back to Bangor. I was befriended by a regular who, having spent the previous couple of hours making sure that he was no longer thirsty, repeatedly told me of his brother who had died in childhood in the 1940s of Pink Disease. He assumed that I knew what he was talking about. I did two days later, after having traipsed to the science library. If you don't know what Pink Disease is, and want to educate yourself, I've made things a bit easier for you. Just click here.
In my previous post I said that I was unsure if the Waterloo in Taddington was still open or not. This Waterloo, however, has certainly met its own Waterloo. It closed quite shortly after I left north Wales. Perhaps the loss of my regular 'investments' in the pub was the final straw. After closing, the former Waterloo Inn initially earned its living as a café but today houses a Chinese takeaway.
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