Nantlle Valley History

Nebo & Nasareth


Reverend Robert Jones - Ochr y Foel, Llanllyfni ~ 1806-1896

Robert Jones was born in a farmhouse named Dolwenith near Llanllyfni on 14th November 1806. When he was fourteen days old he was baptised at Saint Rhedyw's Church. His family moved to Cae'r Waun in the same parish when he was four years old. He lived there for about 28 years. He moved to his wife's house, Ochryfoel, Mynydd Llanllyfni, where he lived for more than 58 years. He was a true son of the district, and it is said that the sharp contrast between the romantic scenery and the hard life of the country-people exerted a strong influence upon him.


DolwenithHe attended the Methodist Sunday School which was held in Catrin Samuel's house, next to Rhwng y Ddwy Afon. (Only the ruins may be seen now.)

Image: Dolwenith, where Robert Jones was born in 1806

He only had one year in Llanllyfni Church School, and that when he was 12 years old. Pupils had to attend each service on a Sunday, but he was thrashed many a time for being absent from church.

He worked as a rubbler in the quarries as there was little choice for a boy at that time. But he delighted in books.

Ochr y FoelImage: Ochr y Foel, where Robert Jones lived for 58 years.
In the picture is his daughter Ann Owen, with her husband.


Although he had no time for the Church of England, the Rector of Saint Rhedyw's, John Jones, was a great help to him by lending and giving him books. Over the years, he collected a large number of the choicest books on Theology. He and the rector remained friends until John Jones died. Very close to Cae'r Waun lived Alsi Hughes, a zealous member of Ebeneser Baptist Church. Robert Jones would visit her frequently at Taleithin Isaf in order to discuss religious matters and in particular his doubts about Methodist doctrine. He was converted and was baptised in the River Llyfni. In 1834, he started to preach. "A careless and untidy individual by appearance, without understanding of his fellow-man", according to some people, but to those who knew him better, "an other-worldly believer, unshakeable in his convictions, and a loyal friend." He was ordained in Ebeneser, Llanllyfni in 1836.


Robert Jones at 40He started to visit Mrs Margaret Hughes, a widow, in her parent's house - Ochryfoel. She was born at Maes y Geirchen, near Bangor, in 1800. John Thomas (the eldest son of Thomas Pritchard, Ochryfoel, Llanllyfni) was her father, and Ann - the eldest daughter of Maes y Geirchen - was her mother. They moved in order to keep the Four Crosses Hotel near Menai Bridge sometime between 1805-7. Her grandmother died in 1817, and her father inherited Ochryfoel. Margaret married John Hughes, her cousin, who was born in 1798: A handsome man, it is said, who died of tuberculosis in 1828. They said he was a Baptist by conviction. She was baptised in the River Llyfni, in the summer of 1829.

Image: Robert Jones at 40.

Robert Jones was still living in Cae'r Waun. But although the journey was only a mile, it was very difficult. He would cross rivers, walls and marshland to see her. They would read and talk generally, as members of the same chapel. After some months, Margaret implied that they ought not to meet so frequently, lest people were to say that they were lovers. Robert answered, "But we are lovers, and who cares whether they say it or not!" During the winter of 1837-8, he would wear clogs and carry a lantern in his hand, because the ground was so wet and the night so dark. Sometimes Margaret would laugh at him because he looked so odd! There was an obvious answer to this inconvenient situation. Therefore Robert and Margaret married on 23rd February 1838. Margaret inherited the farm some years later, and they lived in Ochryfoel for the rest of their lives.

He said "In the midst of all difficulties I had, for many years, unsurpassed respite from the troubles of the world. Providence gave this great priviledge to me by giving me a wife who was both faithful and devoted who took upon herself my care. This she did most willingly and diligently. She did more for me in this sense than did anyone else." She died on 10th January 1875.)

The Campaign for Education

It appears that Robert Jones felt throughout his life the effect of having so little education in his early years. "The absence of educational opportunities," he said, "was most significant; this lack is one which the writer feels most strongly in the face of the challenges he undertook."

The Rector of Llanllyfni, John Jones was also keen to build a British School in the village, (although, as a Churchman, he should have favoured a National School, he recognised the fact that most of the people were Nonconformists.)

According to William Hobley, the establishment of the British School is attributed to the monthly meeting of the Llanllyfni Methodists which was held in Nebo in 1860. (In Capel Bach: the large chapel was not opened until 25th June 1861.) Although Robert Jones, Ochr-y-Foel, was not a member of the monthly meeting, he attended the meeting to emphasise the need for the school. He blamed the Methodists to their faces that it was they who were to blame for the lack of a school. They were by far the most numerous religious group.

It is believed that this attack by Robert Jones caused three Methodists, Thomas Jones (Swyddfa'r Post), William Jones (Coed Cae Du) and Robert Roberts (Nant-y-Gwyddel), to discuss the matter together and they decided that William Jones should go to Bangor to ask John Phillips to press the appropriate authorities to have a school in Llanllyfni. (The school was opened in 1862.)

Robert Jones at 95He says in his memoirs that he had the greatest respect for the Reverend. John Jones, Talysarn (perhaps the most influential Methodist of the day), who was a loyal friend to him, who would defend him in every instance when others would mock.

He was appointed Chairman of the Baptists of Wales in 1880.

He published 12 books, the most important being his anthology Gemau Duwinyddol (see below), and he worked hard to sell them with the only purpose of sharing the small profit he received to keep a number of small chapels from closing. He also wrote a large number of hymns.

During the Tithe War he was a loyal Liberal.

Image: Robert Jones at 95, five months before his death in 1896.

"When he reached that final peace far from the troubles of the world, he showed forebearance in his final illness. His daughter cared for him with much tenderness." He died peacefully on Good Friday 3rd April 1896. He is buried in Ebeneser Cemetery where he had been Minister for 60 years.

Gemau Duwinyddol

In July 2007, received an e-mail from Jessica Blank who wrote to us having found a copy of Robert Jones' anthology, Gemau Duwinyddol, in a charity shop in Florida (or thrift shop as they are known in the USA).

Jessica kindly sent the following scanned images of the book:

The cover of Gemau Duwinyddol by Robert Jones
Image: The cover of Gemau Duwinyddol by Robert Jones.

The introduction to Gemau Duwinyddol by Robert Jones
Image: The introduction to Gemau Duwinyddol by Robert Jones.

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