Nantlle Valley History

Nebo & Nasareth


The Great Snowstorm ~ 11-02-1929

It was the day before Shrove Tuesday, an icy morning with a cutting east wind. This was not so surprising at that time of year, but life carried on much the same anyway - doubtless the children were looking forward to the next day when, according to ancient custom, they would go from house to house asking for pancakes.

It started to snow heavily towards ten o'clock, and the quarrymen were unable to continue work. Disappointed at loosing their  wages and concerned at the long-term damage that frost could cause to the quarry and its machinery, they reluctantly began their journey across Rhos Las towards Nebo and Nasareth.

At about two o'clock, Mr Griffith the retired headmaster, was alarmed by the untimely procession of men past Nebo Shop, where he lived. He went straight to the school, astounded that the children were still there. As it was so cold, Mr Thomas and his two assistants had put the small number of pupils who had arrived at school that wintry day in the Infants' snug classroom where there was a roaring fire. But they themselves were totally unaware of the weather which continued to deteriorate.

So without delay, the children put on their coats and were organised into groups according to where they lived, with the strict instruction to keep together as long as possible on their way home. Other children were met on the way by their parents.


Here is one version of the story about Harri Wyn Williams, eight years old, who was the only child from Nasareth who had turned out that day. He had a long journey back to Llwynbedw and surely the prospect of a short cut together with a bit of adventure was a great temptation. .

In this instance, straying from the path proved to be a serious error.

Instead of going past Goleufryn and along Ffordd Nasareth, he decided to go down the slippery slope of Pen Isa'r Lôn towards Cerrig Mawr where the strong east winds had started to pile the snows into deep drifts. In no time at all the snow would have covered all traces of his footprints.

Harri's father had set out to meet his boy along the obvious route past Goleufryn and up to Nebo. On arriving at Nebo School and being informed that his son had left some time before, Mr Williams was desperate. He headed back down the empty Ffordd Nebo, searching as thoroughly as he could in blizzard conditions. No doubt he remembered the things his son had said about the lanes past Bryn Melyn in the summer. He saw the white wilderness about him and feared the worst. He leapt over the stone wall, sinking up to his knees in the drifted snow; but he had no time to loose.

In the meantime, Harri was in considerable difficulties, as it was impossible for him to wade through the snow which now filled the lowest part of the lane. But despite the cold and exhaustion, he was not ready to give up. Taking off his coat and laying it on the snow, he managed to crawl a foot or so forwards. This he repeated and repeated until he reached safety.

When he arrived home, his mother was confronted with a wretched sight - his clothes were as stiff as boards and his curly hair was frozen into little icy horns. His father returned soon after looking like a snow-man! All efforts were made to get the boy warm again, but Harri was extremely ill for several weeks with double pneumonia.

To add to this misfortune, Mr Williams slipped on the kitchen floor - his boots were caked with snow. He bruised his back badly and was unable to work for a week. In spite of their terrible experiences, they both recovered completely.


The fears of the quarrymen were confirmed. The quarries had been in trouble since the turn of the century because of a number of reasons, including intense competition from quarries overseas. The shareholders had lost faith in Welsh quarries as a generous source of profit. The financial crisis deepened throughout the world. Thus, by 24th October 1929, when the stock market crashed in Wall Street, no-one who had still got money wanted to re-invest here, and many quarrymen lost their jobs. Consequently, a significant number of Welsh communities were dispersed.

Further information

See also Harri Wyn Williams' tape transcript in Caernarfon Public Records Office and the book 'O Benrhyn Llyn i Lle bu Lleu' by Mrs Janet Roberts (a former teacher in Nebo School).

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