Marged Ferch Ifans: Queen of the Lakes

(1696 – 1793) - Rower of copper ore, wrestler, carpenter and harpist.

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Mae gan Marged fwyn ach Ifan
Glocsen fawr a chlocsen fechan,
Un i gicio'r cwn o'r gornel
A'r llall i gicio gwr i gythrel.

Marged was an imposing woman, at over six feet tall and hands like shovels. She was from the area around Mynydd Drwys y Coed on the Nantlle Ridge in Snowdonia where she, with her (diminutive) husband Richard Morris, ran a pub for copper miners. She could shoe horses and also made harps which she would play to entertain her customers. Marged and Richard later moved to Nant Peris, where she built a boat (she was an accomplished carpenter) and rowed it to ferry miners and copper across Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn, earning her the name 'Queen of the Lakes'. On one occasion she threw a passenger into the lake over a disagreement over the fare and only hauled him back in on his agreement to pay her a guinea.

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She built the bridge at Pont Meibion Nant Peris out of a single piece of slate: She held up one end and a gang of men the other. I’ve measured the bridge and it is big.


Dafydd Gwyn, at a talk at Plas Tan y Bwlch (26.5.18) said that Lord Ashleton Smyth (the estate owner, later quarry-owner) once made the mistake of making a pass at Marged, while in her boat. She picked him up by the arm pits and dunked him in the lake, not letting him back in until he apologised. Here is a picture of Dafydd showing us a picture of the way the copper ore was loaded down the slope onto Marged's boat. There is, intriguingly, a woman walking down the slope. Perhaps this is her.

Marged 'only ever beat her husband twice' - once before they were married, and once for drinking. The latter time so badly that he turned to the Methodists and became one of their most prominent members.

Unsurprisingly, Marged's has been the subject of many local songs and legends and she was also included in Thomas Pennant's 1780's travelogue, 'Tours in Wales', even though she was out when he visited. It is possibly the longest description of anyone in his travelogues, and he describes her as still wrestling in her seventies, beating the young men of the parish, and how bizarre it was that she chose to marry the most effeminate man in the area). Marged was buried in Llanddeiniolen - or some say under the alterstone of Nant Peris Church - on 24th January 1793.

Story contributed by Lindsey Colbourne