Gofalwyr: Cofio Merched y Bröydd Llechi
Carers: Remembering the Quarry Women


Elin Tomos Twitter: @ELINtomos          Instagram: @elinnant

 Stryd Fawr Llanberis High Street c 1900

Stryd Fawr Llanberis High Street c 1900


‘Little is known about the quarryman’s wife and daughter,’ meddai’r Athro R. Merfyn Jones ac yn wir, nid tasg hawdd yw cofio merched a gwragedd y bröydd llechi. Mae astudio darpariaeth iechyd ardaloedd y chwareli yn ein galluogi i roi sylw haeddianol i’r merched…

It’s not easy remembering the women and girls of the quarrying districts, R. Merfyn Jones has reminded us that ‘little is known about the quarryman’s wife and daughter.’ By studying the health provision available in the quarrying districts we are able to give Merched Chwarel the attention they deserve…

In 1906 Helen Bosanquet, an influential social theorist and social reformer published The Family. In her study, Bosanquet claimed that the public had forgotten ‘how large a part of human life depends upon [the family] for physical and moral existence’, she was determined to remind them ‘of the meaning and importance of the Family as an institution in human society.’ Bosanquet complained that social theorists were not giving enough due credit to the family as the main providers of care, ‘as compared with other and more artificial institutions,’ such as workhouses, infirmaries, asylums and orphanages. Her choice of the word ‘artificial’ to describe more ‘formal’ providers of care is very interesting. Bosanquet was eager to maintain the family’s traditional responsibilities and refused to accept that the family unit would collapse under the pressure of industrial capitalism. She believed that social progress depended on the will of the individual.

Ym 1906, cyhoeddodd Helen Bosanquet – damcanwraig a diwygwraig cymdeithasol – ei chyfrol, The Family.  Yn y gyfrol hon, honnodd Bosanquet bod y cyhoedd wedi anghofio ‘how large a part of human life depends upon… [the family] for physical and moral existence’, roedd am eu hatgoffa ‘of the meaning and importance of the Family as an institution in human society.’ Cwynodd nad oedd pobl bellach yn rhoi digon o gydnabyddiaeth i rôl y teulu fel gofalwyr, ‘as compared with other and more artificial institutions,’ megis tlotai, ysbytai, gwallgofdai ac amddifatai. Diddorol yw ei defnydd o’r gair ‘artificial’ i ddisgrifio darparwyr mwy ‘ffurfiol.’ Mae’n amlwg bod Bosanquet (isod) yn awyddus i gynnal swyddogaethau traddodiadol y teulu ac yn gyndyn o dderbyn bod yr uned deuluol am blygu o dan bwysau cyfalafiaeth ddiwydiannol. Credodd bod cynnydd cymdeithasol yn dibynnu ar ewyllys yr unigolyn.

Picture1.png

In The Family, Bosanquet outlined the crucial elements needed to form the ideal family unit. The authority of the father was a necessity, with his pay-packet the wife could work at home, concentrating on caring for her family. According to Bosanquet’s idealistic vision, the woman, the wife and the girl form the cornerstone of the family unit.

According to R. Merfyn Jones, ‘there is much evidence which is hostile to the women of the quarrying communities and which judges them harshly.’ From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, the women of the quarrying districts were vilified. In an article published in 1869, concerns were raised about the kind of wife the quarryman chose to marry. The author claimed that many quarrymen had been blinded by ‘the spectacular look’ of certain women. He complained ‘that it was not unusual to hear a quarryman say that it was in the fair that he met his wife.’ He exclaimed that ‘the fair was a good place to find a cow or a horse; but it is not, and it never has been, a good place to find a wife.’ According to the author these women were obsessed with ‘empty pleasures and pink costumes.’ The above article is no an exception; by the turn of the nineteenth century, primary evidence suggests that a relatively negative narrative had formed around the women and wives of the quarrying villages.

In 1894 A Report on Open Quarries was held, a government inquiry centered on the nature of the slate industry and its impact on the daily lives of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. Evidence was collected from local doctors including the Quarry Hospitals' doctors. In the official reports, the quarryman’s wife received some adverse criticism. In one report, Winnifred Ellis – the sister of Tom Ellis, Liberal M.P. for Merionethshire – claimed, 'the quarrymen’s wives are bad at home, they are wasteful, they spend their time gossiping, and like a great deal of fancy clothes.’

There is a wealth of written evidence to be found in the local newspapers denying and trying to disprove the authorities' allegations. One example is the letter sent to the editor of Y Werin (a radical Welsh-language newspaper) from the Ffestiniog quarrymen expressing their total disgust with Winnifred Ellis’ as they sought an apology in order to salvage ‘the honour and reputation of ... [their] wives.

During A Report on Open Quarries, Dr. Robert Herbert Mills Roberts, Dinorwig Quarry Hospital was called to give evidence.

Dr. Mills believed that,  

‘The Dinorwic quarryman often marries at too early an age... He marries a girl who is possibly younger than himself and even more inexperienced. She knows nothing of cooking…and if she is anxious to learn, she will do so at the expense of her husband's digestion. But as a rule she is not ambitious in this direction, and is quite content to go on the old lines, tea and bread and butter. The husbands think it is all right, so they do not trouble any more about it…The men employed at the Dinorwic quarries ought to be, and with proper feeding… would be, one of the finest races in the world.’

What's interesting is the fact that Dr. Mills suggested that there was some form of correlation between the defective health standards of the Dinorwig quarrymen and the supposedly inadequate care they received from their wives, especially the meals prepared for them.

He said,

‘In ordinary health, this is very bad, but it becomes very serious in case of illness, for as a rule, the women have not the faintest idea how to make attempt at an invalid dish.’

Yn The Family, aiff Bosanquet ati i amlinellu’r hyn sydd ei angen ar gyfer ffurfio’r uned deuluol ddelfrydol. Roedd awdurdod cadarn y tad yn anghenraid, gyda’i gyflog ef roedd modd i’r fam weithio yn y cartref a chanolbwyntio ar ofalu am ei thylwyth. Rhoddir cryn sylw ar bwysigrwydd y fenyw o fewn y teulu; ei chyfrifoldeb hi oedd gofalu am les ei phlant a’i gŵr. Yn unol â delfryd Bosanquet, teg fyddai disgrifio’r wraig, y fam a’r ferch fel conglfaen yr uned deuluol.

Yn ôl R. Merfyn Jones, ‘there is much evidence which is hostile to the women of the quarrying communities and which judges them harshly.’ O ganol y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg ymlaen, pardduwyd enw merched y bröydd llechi mewn print ac ar lafar. Mewn erthygl a gyhoeddwyd ym 1869 lleisiwyd pryder ynglŷn â’r math o wraig y dewisai’r chwarelwr briodi. Honnodd yr awdur bod nifer o chwarelwyr wedi cael eu dallu gan ‘yr olwg ysblenydd a gafodd ar un o’r cyfryw ferched’, grwgnachodd ‘[nad] peth anghyffredin yw clywed am chwarelwr yn dyweyd mai yn y ffair… y cyfarfyddodd ef a’i briod’, ebychodd ‘fod y ffair yn lle da i ymofyn buwch neu geffyl; ond nid yw, ac ni feddyliwyd erioed iddi fod, yn lle da i ymofyn gwraig.’ Pryderodd bod ‘amryw ohonynt… yn addoli tlysineb a rhosres benywaidd, yn y cyfrwng hwn, wedi gorfod treulio gweddill eu hoes i “yfed llwch y llo.”’ Ac nid yw’r erthygl uchod yn eithriad; erbyn troad yr bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg mae tystiolaeth yn awgrymu bod naratif gymharol negyddol wedi datblygu ynghylch merched a gwragedd pentrefi’r chwareli.

Ym 1894 cynhaliwyd A Report on Open Quarries, ymholiad llywodraethol wedi ei chanoli ar natur y diwydiant llechi a’i effaith ar fywydau trigolion y pentrefi cyfagos. Casglwyd tystiolaeth gan ddoctoriaid lleol gan gynnwys doctoriaid yr Ysbytai Chwarel. Yn yr adroddiadau swyddogol, hallt iawn yw’r feirniadaeth o ferched y bröydd llechi. Dadrithwyd merched Ffestiniog gan sylwadau Winnifred Ellis, chwaer i neb llai na Tom Ellis, A.S. Rhyddfrydol Sir Feirionnydd. Honnodd Ellis, ‘fod gwragedd y chwarelwyr yn rhai gwael am gwcio, eu bod yn rhai gwastraffus, eu bod yn chwedleugar, ac yn hoff o ddilladd gwychion.’

Mae llwyth o dystiolaeth ym mhapurau newydd y cyfnod yn gwadu cyhuddiadau’r awdurdodau. Un enghraifft o blith nifer yw’r llythyr a anfonwyd at olygydd Y Werin gan gynrychiolwyr chwarelwyr Ffestiniog yn mynegi eu ‘anghymeradwyaeth llwyraf’ i sylwadau Ellis ac yn mynnu ymddiheuriad ‘er mwyn anrhydedd ac enw da… [eu] gwragedd.’

Nid Winnifred Ellis oedd yr unig un i farnu gwragedd y gymuned chwarelyddol. Yn ystod A Report on Open Quarries, galwyd ar Dr. Robert Herbert Mills Roberts, Ysbyty Chwarel Dinorwig i gyflwyno tystiolaeth. Ym marn Dr. Mills,

‘The Dinorwic quarryman often marries at too early an age... He marries a girl who is possibly younger than himself and even more inexperienced. She knows nothing of cooking…and if she is anxious to learn, she will do so at the expense of her husband's digestion. But as a rule she is not ambitious in this direction, and is quite content to go on the old lines, tea and bread and butter. The husbands think it is all right, so they do not trouble any more about it…The men employed at the Dinorwic quarries ought to be, and with proper feeding… would be, one of the finest races in the world.’

Yr hyn sydd yn ddiddorol yng nghasgliadau Dr. Mills, yw’r ffaith ei fod wedi awgrymu bod rhyw fath o gysylltiad rhwng safonau iechyd diffygiol Chwarelwyr Dinorwig â’r gofal a dderbynient gan eu gwragedd, yn arbennig y prydau bwyd a baratowyd ar eu cyfer. Meddai,

‘In ordinary health this is very bad, but it becomes very serious in case of illness, for as a rule the women have not the faintest idea how to make attempt at an invalid dish.’

Picture2.png

Yn ei dystiolaeth mae Dr. Mills yn cwestiynu gallu gwragedd y chwarelwyr i ofalu am berthnasau methedig. Drwy ei sylwadau beirniadol, mae’n llwyddo i danseilio rôl y ferch a’r wraig fel gofalwyr a darparwyr iechyd. Honnodd eu bod nid yn unig yn darparu gofal diffygiol ond eu bod hefyd yn gyfrifol am y safonau iechyd cyffredinol wael. Pan ofynnwyd i Dr. Mills ‘[if] it is [his] opinion that more evils arise from the conditions of their life than from the condition of their employment’, cytunodd Mills gan ateb, ‘Yes, absolutely.’

Pwynt sydd efallai yn anos i’w drafod yw dilysrwydd yr honiadau. I mi, mae sylwadau Dr. Mills yn adlewyrchiad o’r diffyg dealltwriaeth a fodolai o fewn y gyfundrefn feddygol o effeithiau tlodi; onid oedd hi’n ddigon hawdd i ŵr dosbarth canol – ar gyflog blynyddol o £550 (ffigwr sy’n gyfystyr â £78,000 heddiw) – farnu merched dosbarth gweithiol, tlawd?

Mae R. Merfyn Jones wedi disgrifio merched y bröydd llechi fel ‘the creations of women who were denied employment.’ Roedd mwyafrif llethol o wragedd chwarelyddol yn llwyr ddibynnol ar gyflogau eu gŵyr, golyga hyn bod cynnwys y bwrdd bwyd yn dibynnu ar drosglwyddiad arian didwyll rhwng gŵr a gwraig. Mae tystiolaeth yn awgrymu nad oedd y chwarelwr bob amser yn onest gan guddio ychydig o’i gyflog oddi wrth ei wraig. Y term tafodieithol am hyn yw ‘celc’; ‘arian poced a gedwir o’r neilltu ar y slei gan rai chwarelwyr ar ddiwedd mis… yr unig ffordd i gael y gwir [oedd] trwy holi un o’r gwragedd eraill a chymharu’r cyflogau.’ A yw’r term ‘celc’ yn adlewyrchiad o gaethiwed economaidd merched dosbarth gweithiol neu’n cadarnhau’r syniad eu bod yn wastraffus a bod angen cuddio ychydig o’r arian oddi wrthynt? Mae’n debyg bod elfennau o wirionedd yng nghuddiadau’r awdurdodau, ond, maent yn euog o gyffredinoli holl ferched y gymuned chwarelyddol, ac fel y dywedodd un sylwebydd dychanol, ‘o osod y lliwiau yn rhy ddu o gryn lawer!’

Yn sgil anffurfioldeb y gofal nid tasg hawdd yw cloriannu darpariaeth iechyd a lles yr uned deuluol. Yn draddodiadol, mae haneswyr wedi tueddu i gymryd y gofal a ddarparwyd gan aelodau o deulu’r claf yn ganiataol. Mae erthyglau papur newydd yn cynnig ychydig dystiolaeth brin o’r gofal a ddarparwyd gan deuluoedd cleifion. Mae negeseuon o wellhad buan yn aml yn nodi bod y claf yn derbyn triniaeth gartref, megis ‘Mr. W. Jones, Glandwr, Pentref Castell’ wedi ‘codwm sydyn’ yn ei ardd, ‘cariwyd ef i’w wely’, dymunai’r hysbyseb ‘ei weled ef cyn hir yn holliach heb olion y codwm trwm tramawr arno.’ Mewn hysbysebion tebyg, mae’r negeseuon yn awgrymu bod y claf yn derbyn gofal gan berthnasau agos ar yr aelwyd megis ‘Thomas O. Owens, Glan yr Afon-terrace, Nant Peris… wedi [iddo] dderbyn niwed yn y chwarel,’ nodwyd bod  Thomas eisoes wedi bod gartref ers dros fis yn gwella. Gyda’r cartref yn rhan greiddiol o fyd y claf pwynt y dylid ei ystyried yw safon cartrefi’r chwarelyddol.

Mae tystiolaeth yn awgrymu nad oedd aelwydydd chwarelyddol yn llefydd delfrydol ar gyfer claf. Mewn llythyr a anfonwyd gan Robert H. Parry, arolygwr ar ran Cyngor Dosbarth Gwledig Gwyrfai roedd safon tai Glan yr Afon Nantperis – rhes o dai ym meddiant Ystâd y Faenol – yn ddiffygiol. Nododd yr arolygwr bod nifer o ‘sanitary defects’ yn bodoli mewn o leiaf saith tŷ. Cwynodd Parry yn bennaf am natur tamp y tai a’r ffaith bod y mwyafrif ohonynt yn gollwng dŵr gan achosi nenfydau adfeiliedig.  Yn nhŷ Thomas Owens (yr uchod) cwynodd Parry fod dŵr yn gollwng yng nghefn y tŷ gan achosi’r nenfwd gronni. Mewn llythyr a anfonwyd gan asiant y Faenol i gwmni cyfreithwyr Allanson & Co., Caernarfon, disgrifiwyd y diffygion uchod fel ‘trivial repairs… [which] the Gwyrfai District Council… [are] constantly harassing us with’ – ‘mân-atgyweiriadau’, tybed? Mae tai Glan yr Afon, Nantperis yn enghraifft berffaith o dai chwarelyddol cyffredin ac yn cynnig bras olwg o’r amgylchedd anaddas a oedd yn wynebu cleifion a’u gofalwyr.

In his evidence, Dr. Mills questioned the ability of the quarrymen’s wives to care for infirm relatives, subsequently undermining the role of women as providers of health care within the quarry districts. When asked [if] it is [his] opinion that more evils arise from the conditions of their life than from the condition of their employment?

Dr. Mills answered, 'Yes, absolutely.'

The validity of the allegations is a point that may be harder to discuss. It can be argued that Dr. Mills’ evidence reflects the lack of understanding that existed within medical circles of the effects of poverty; was not it easy enough for a middle-class man – on an annual salary of £550 (roughly £78,000 in today’s money) – to judge poor, working-class women and girls?

Across the quarrying districts wives were entirely dependent on the income of their husbands, meaning that the contents of the dinner table largely depended on an honest transfer of money between husband and wife. Evidence suggests that quarrymen were not always honest and hid a chunks of their wages from their wives.

The dialectal term for this is ‘celc’ [literal meaning: hiding]. ‘Celc’ is described by Emyr Jones as 'Pocket money that was put aside by some quarrymen at the end of a month ... the only way to get the truth [was] by questioning one of the other wives and comparing wages.'

Does the term ‘celc’ reflect the economic restrictions that confined Welsh working-class women or does it support the authorities allegations that the quarrymen’s wives were wasteful and that the quarryman had to hide some of his wages in order to get by? There are probably elements of truth in the authorities' allegations, but, they are guilty of generalizing all the girls and women of the quarrying community, and as one satirical commentator said, 'of painting the colours far too black!'

Due to the informality of care, it is no easy task to evaluate the role of Merched Chwarel as providers of health care. The care provided by members of the patient's own family is often taken for granted. Newspapers offer some evidence of the care provided by patients’ families. Get Well Soon messages frequently indicate that the patient is receiving treatment at home, such as 'Mr. W. Jones, Glandwr, Pentre Castell’ who had a sudden fall in his garden and was carried to bed, the well-wisher hoped to see him around the village soon.

Similarly, Thomas O. Owens, Glan yr Afon-terrace, Nant Peris spent over a month at home recovering following an accident in the quarry. The home formed an integral part of the patient's world and would affect the standard of care provided by family members.

Primary evidence suggests that quarrying households were not ideal places for a patient. Robert H. Parry, an inspector on behalf of the Gwyrfai Rural District Council, claimed that the standard of the Glan yr Afon terrace houses in Nantperis - owned by the Faenol Estate - was deficient. The inspector noted that a number of 'sanitary defects' existed in at least seven houses. In the house of Thomas Owens (the above) Parry complained that water was leaking at the back of the house causing the ceiling to crumble.

In a letter sent by the Faenol agent to Allanson & Co., solicitors, the above defects were described as 'trivial repairs ... [which] the Gwyrfai District Council ... are constantly harassing us with' - 'minor repairs' I wonder? Robert H. Parry’s report reflects the unhealthy nature of quarrying houses, exemplifying the unsuitable, stereotypical environment patients and carers faced.

Picture3.png

Caring for a relative in the environment described in Robert H. Parry’s letter would be extremely challenging, especially caring for those relatives who were bedbound for long periods of time; weeks if not months on end. A long-term illness would prevent the husband from working, this would result in the loss of earnings, meaning that women were often caring for relatives during a period of serious economic difficulty. While caring for a relative the wife would be expected to continue with her regular domestic duties, it was expected that she would be able to manage the household, cook and look after her children all while providing – at times – around the clock care for an unwell husband. According to the 1881 Census Returns, 3,033 people were living in 275 houses within the parish of Llanberis, using these figures, the small terraced houses and one storey cottages of the valley were housing on average 10 people per household, a figure that implies the district was seriously overcrowded during the last quarter of the nineteenth-century. In this period, it was common for houses to be split in two, in order to house two families, living conditions would be poor, leading to lack of privacy during a period of infirmity as well as increasing the risk of infection.

If the patients’ next of kin did not live in the same house, evidence suggests that patients travelled a fair distance to receive care, such as, ‘Mr. Griffith Jones, Cae Esgob, Llanberis’ who moved to London to live with his daughter ‘Mrs. Davies’, there, he received ‘all the care, compassion and gentleness the love of a self-sacrificing daughter could offer a father so dear.’ Other articles reveal that patients returned to their native homes, such as, ‘the wife of Mr. Thomas Jones, Ystablau, Penisa’rwaen.’ The article states that the wife (who, sadly is not named) has returned ‘at the beginning of her illness… to Bodhyfryd, Nant Peris, her mother’s home, Mrs. Evans, in order to be under her constant care.’ Following a period of illness ‘Maggie J. Williams, the wife of Mr. G. Williams, Caernarfon postman’ returned to ‘Ty Newydd Nantperis, her parents’ home.’ Where it was expected that she was to make a full recovery thanks to ‘the care provided by her mother and sister and the healthy Snowdonian breeze.’ The messages quoted above indicate that all the women within the family were involved in the providing of health-care, whether they be mothers, sisters or daughters.

Nid tasg hawdd fyddai adfer iechyd unigolyn o dan yr amodau a ddisgrifiwyd yn llythyr Robert H. Parry, yn arbennig y cleifion hynny a fu’n dioddef gartref am gyfnodau hir – wythnosau os nad misoedd. Byddai salwch hir-dymor yn atal y gŵr rhag ennill cyflog i gynnal ei deulu, a hynny’n golygu bod merched yn aml yn gofalu am eu gwŷr yn ystod cyfnodau o galedi economaidd. Wrth ofalu am dylwyth ni fyddai gorchwylion domestig y ferch yn peidio, byddai disgwyl iddi gadw’r tŷ a choginio yn ogystal â gofalu am ei phlant oll wrth ofalu am berthynas methedig hefyd.

Yn ôl Cyfrifiad 1881 roedd 3,033 o bobl yn byw o fewn 275 tŷ ym mhlwyf Llanberis, ar gyfartaledd roedd o leiaf 10 person yn byw ym mhob tŷ, ffigwr sy’n awgrymu problem gorboblogi sylweddol. Yn y cyfnod dan sylw, nid anghyffredin oedd rhannu bythynnod neu dai teras yn ddau er mwyn cartrefu dau deulu, byddai amodau byw o’r fath yn arwain at ddiffyg preifatrwydd yn ystod cyfnod o wendid yn ogystal â chynyddu’r risg o drosglwyddo haint.

Os nad oedd perthnasau agosaf y claf yn byw yn yr un tŷ mae tystiolaeth yn awgrymu bod cleifion wedi teithio cryn bellter i dderbyn gofal, megis ‘Mr. Griffith Jones, Cae Esgob, Llanberis’ a fudodd i Lundain i fyw gyda’i ferch ‘Mrs. Davies’, yno, cafodd ‘bob gofal, tiriondeb, ac ymgeledd y gallodd cariad ymlyngar a hunan-abertho merch ei wneyd i dad.’

Mae erthyglau eraill yn datgelu bod cleifion wedi dychwelyd i’w cartrefi genedigiol er mwyn derbyn gofal, megis, ‘priod Mr Thomas Jones, Ystablau, Penisa’rwaen.’ Mae’r adroddiad yn nodi ei bod wedi dychwelyd ‘ar ddechreu ei salwch… i Bodhyfryd, Nant Peris, sef anedd-dy ei mham, Mrs Evans, er mwyn iddi fod dan ei gofal a’i sylw parhaus.’ Yn dilyn cyfnod o salwch dygwyd Maggie J. Williams, gwraig Mr. G. Williams, postman Caernarfon i’r Ty Newydd, Nantperis, anedd-dy ei rhieni. Disgwylia… y bydd iddi, o dan ofal ei mam a’i chwaer ac awelon iach Eryri, wellhau yn drwyadl.’ Mae’r negeseuon uchod yn awgrymu bod holl ferched y teulu wedi bod ynghlwm â’r gofal a ddarparwyd ar gyfer claf, boed yn famau, chwiorydd neu ferched.


Ysgol nant.png

More about the author, Elin Tomos

Elin has recently completed an MA History of Wales degree at Aberystwyth University. Her thesis explored the health provision available in the quarrying district of Llanberis during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By focusing on health provision she has been able to asses the predominant cultural and political norms that existed within a particular society or community. In her study, women receive a great deal of attention, as both the providers and recipients of health care, offering insight into wider gender structures that dominated the quarrying communities.