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Weird Wales: Trwyn Pwcca

Tags: spirit trwyn pwca

Trwyn Farmhouse in Abercarn was once well known as the stomping ground of a 'pwcca' or fairy which threw stones and caused mischief. Today we would probably label the protagonist of such an account a poltergeist. In later accounts, the pwcca was said to have been content at the farm for some time, performing household chores in exchange for bread and milk - until a servant girl ate its meal and incurred its wrath...

The Pontypool Free Press gave a summary of the case in their December 23rd 1876 edition:



"TRWYN PWCCA. Many years ago there existed in certain part of Monmouthshire a Pwcca, or fairy, which like a faithful English Brownie performed innumerable services for the farmers and householders in its neighbourhood, more especially that of feeding the cattle and cleaning their sheds in wet weather until at length some serious person, considering such practices as no christian proceedings, laid the kindly spirit for three generations, banishing him to that common receptacle for such beings — the Red Sea. The spot in which disappeared obtained the name of Trwyn Pwcca (Fairy's Nose); and as the three generations have nearly passed away, the approaching return of the Pwcca is anxiously looked forward to in its vicinity as an earnest of the "good time coming."

The story became a firmly entrenched folktale during the nineteenth century, and was included in many of the major folklore studies of the day. At the 1851 Newport Aethenaeum and Mechanics Institution's Eisteddfod there was even a three guinea prize given to Mr. Jones of Machen by the Abergwyddon Cymreigyddion Society, for "the best Essay upon, or Account of Pwcca 'r Trwyn, the celebrated Mynyddysllwyn Sprite, with a view to answer the question, Whether the traditions of the district, or passages in contemporaneous history, throw any light upon its identity with the public events of the period, in Welsh or English." (The winner argued that the pwcca was, in reality, the folk memory of a fugitive fifteenth-century Welsh lord.)

Our earliest record of the events, however, comes from Edmund Jones' 1780 work, Apparitions of Spirits in the Principality of Wales:

"HERE is an account of a Spirit which came to the house of Job John Harry, living at the Trwyn in this Parish, and continued there from some time before Christmas until Easter-Wednesday, which was the last day of his abiding there: in which space of time it spoke and did many things which were very remarkable, as being done by an invisible Spirit. The report of it spread very far, and is still remembered and spoken of at times. Being aware that some things might be added in the report, and other things altered from what they really were, I chuse not to relate all that I heard, but what I judge most likely to be true.

At first, it came knocking at the door, chiefly by night, which it continued to do for a length of time, by which they were often deceived by opening it. At last it spoke to one who opened the door, upon which they were much terrified, which being known, brought many of the neighbours to watch with the family. T. E. foolishly brought a gun with him to shoot the Spirit, as he said, and sat in the corner. As Job was coming home that night from a journey, the Spirit met him in the lane near the house, and told him that there was a man come to the house to shoot him; but he said thou shall see how I will beat him. As soon as Job was come to the house, stones were thrown at the man that brought the gun, from which he recieved severe blows: the company tried to defend him from the blows of the stones which did strike him and no other person; but it was in vain: so that he was obliged to go home that night, though it was very late, — he had a great way to go.

When this Spirit spoke, which was not very often, it was mostly out of a oven by the hearth's side. He would sometimes in the night make some music with Harry Job's fiddle. One time it struck the cupboard with stones, the marks of which were to be seen, if they are not there still. Another time it gave Job a gentle stroke upon his toe when he was going to bed; upon which Job said, "Thou art curious in smiting", to which the Spirit answered, "I can strike thee where I please".

They were at length grown fearless and bold to speak to it; and its speeches and actings were a recreation to them, seeing it was a familiar kind of Spirit which did not hurt them; and informed them of some things which they did not know. An old man, more bold than wise, on hearing the Spirit just by him, threatened to stick it with his knife, to which he received this answer, "Thou fool, how can thou stick what thou cannot see with thine eyes?" This Spirit told them he came from Pwll y Gasseg, (Mare's Pit), a place so called in the adjacent mountain, and that he knew them all before he came there.

One notable passage was thus, B. the wife of M. R. of L, desired one of the family to ask the Spirit who it was that killed W. R. the Scotchman: as soon as he came home he did so, and the Spirit's answer was, "Who bid thee ask that question?" to which he replied, Blanch y Byd, — (Worldly Blanch); by which name she was often called afterwards, who was a creditable substantial woman, of no evil qualities, but that she was very industrious to gain the world, though still in an honest way; she would also do some charities. Some of her posterity are virtuous, creditable, substantial people. On Easter Wednesday he left the house, and said, Dos yn iach Job, — (Farewell Job) to which Job said, "Where God pleases".

Doubtless this was one of those sort of Spirits which the Scriptures calls familiar Spirits, and speaks much about them, warning the people of Israel from seeking after them, Levit. xix. 31. which intimates they would not have come to them if they did not seek after them; and therefore are more in fault themselves than the Spirits: Ordering the seekers after and the workers with familiar Spirits to be stoned to death, and to be destroyed from the land of the living, as not fit to be with men on earth, but among the devils in hell. This shews what a sin this was, which deserved an immature violent death. It is mentioned as one of the monstrous sins of Manasseh that he dealt with a familiar Spirit. It is said that the Lord slew Saul, the King of Israel, because he asked counsel of one that had a familiar Spirit. They are called familiar Spirits because they make some poor show of familiarity, and do some kind of services; but their services are evil, and for evil ends. This Spirit at the Trwyn, in Mynydduslwyn, was of this sort. — It never shewed any signs of virtue and goodness in any respect. It appears to me like a diabolished human Spirit, who had lived in sin and died in a state of enmity to God.

I had once an opportunity to speak with David Job, whom I several times saw at the meeting at Penmain, who seemed to be a sober man: I asked him about the Agency of this Spirit which was at his father's house, he owned the substance of what was reported: he said that the cause of the Spirit coming there, was owing to his brother Harry making use of some Magic Spells,— yet without a design of bringing the Spirit there, but for some other idle purpose."


This early account has much in common with modern poltergeist stories. The spirit makes knocking sounds, throws stones, and is capable of communicating with people. Additionally, the spirit was said to have been summoned by Harry Job's 'Magic Spells', just as innumerable poltergeists are said to have been enabled by séances or sessions with the ouija board.



For contrast, here is what American writer Wirt Sikes had to say about the Trwyn Pwcca in his 1880 book, British Goblins: Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions:

A servant girl who attended to the cattle on the Trwyn farm, near Abergwyddon, used to take food to 'Master Pwca,' as she called the elf. A bowl of fresh milk and a slice of white bread were the component parts of the goblin's repast, and were placed on a certain spot where he got them. One night the girl, moved by the spirit of mischief, drank the milk and ate most of the bread, leaving for Master Pwca only water and crusts. Next morning she found that the fastidious fairy had left the food untouched. Not long after, as the girl was passing the lonely spot, where she had hitherto left Pwca his food, she was seized under the arm pits by fleshly hands (which, however, she could not see), and subjected to a castigation of a most mortifying character. Simultaneously there fell upon her ear in good set Welsh a warning not to repeat her offence on peril of still worse treatment. This story 'is thoroughly believed in there to this day.'

I visited the scene of the story, a farm near Abergwyddon (now called Abercarne), and heard a great deal more of the exploits of that particular Pwca, to which I will refer again. The most singular fact of the matter is that although at least a century has elapsed, and some say several centuries, since the exploits in question, you cannot find a Welsh peasant in the parish but knows all about Pwca 'r Trwyn.

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The famous Pwca of the Trwyn Farm, in Mynyddyslwyn parish, came there from his first abode, at Pantygasseg, in a jug of barm. One of the farm-servants brought the jug to Pantygasseg, and as she was being served with the barm in the jug, the Pwca was heard to say, 'The Pwca is going away now in this jug of barm, and he'll never come back;' and he was never heard at Pantygasseg again. Another story tells that a servant let fall a ball of yarn, over the ledge of the hill whose base is washed by the two fishponds between Hafod-yr-Ynys and Pontypool, and the Pwca said, 'I am going in this ball, and I'll go to the Trwyn, and never come back,' — and directly the ball was seen to roll down the hill-side, and across the valley, ascending the hill on the other side, and trundling along briskly across the mountain top to its new abode.

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The so-called Pwca'r Trwyn, which haunted the farm-house in the parish of Mynyddyslwyn, is sometimes cited as another case in which a fairy was probably a being of flesh and blood; and if this be true, it of course proves nothing but the adoption of an ancient superstition by a proscribed Welsh nobleman. There is a tradition that this fairy had a name, and that this name was 'yr Arglwydd Hywel' which is in English 'Lord Howell.' And it is argued that this Lord, in a contest with the forces of the English king, was utterly worsted, and driven into hiding; that his tenants at Panty- gasseg and the Trwyn Farm, loving their Lord, helped to hide him, and to disseminate the belief that he was a household fairy, or Bwbach. It is related that he generally spoke from his own room in this farm-house, in a gentle voice which came down between the boards into the common room beneath. One day the servants were comparing their hands, as to size and whiteness, when the fairy was heard to say, 'The Pwca's hand is the fairest and smallest.' The servants asked if the fairy would show its hand, and immediately a plank overhead was moved and a hand appeared, small, fair and beautifully formed, with a large gold ring on the little finger.

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Innumerable are the Welsh stories of familiar spirits. Sometimes these are spectres of the sort whose antics we have just been observing. More often they are confessedly demons, things of evil. In numberless cases it is no less a personage than the diawl himself who makes his appearance in the guise of a familiar spirit. The familiar spirit which takes up its abode in the household is, as we have seen, a pranksome goblin. Its personal appearance — or rather its invisibility — is the saving circumstance which prevents it from being deemed a fairy.

The familiar spirit which haunted the house of Job John Harry, at the Trwyn Farm, in the parish of Mynyddyslwyn, was a stone-thrower, a stroker of persons, etc., but could not be seen. It is famous in Wales under the cognomen of Pwca 'r Trwyn, and is referred to in my account of the Ellylldan. The tenants at present residing on the Trwyn Farm are strangers who have recently invaded the home of this ancestral spook, but I was able to glean abundant information concerning it from people thereabout. It made a home of Mr. Harrys house some time in the last century, for a period beginning some days before Christmas, and ending with Easter Wednesday, on which day it departed.

During this time it spoke, and did many remarkable things, but was always invisible. It began at first to make its presence known by knocking at the outer door in the night; but when persons went to open the door there was no one there. This continued for some time, much to the perplexity of the door-openers. At last one night it spoke to the one who opened the door, and the family were in consequence much terrified. Some of the neighbours, hearing these tales, came to watch with the family; and Thomas Evans foolishly brought a gun with him, to shoot the spirit,' as he said. But as Job John Harry was coming home that night from a journey, the familiar spirit met him in the lane and said, 'There is a man come to your house to shoot me, but thou shalt see how I will beat him.' So Job went on to the house, and immediately stones were thrown at the unbelieving Thomas who had brought the gun, stones from which he received severe blows. The company tried to defend him from the stones, which did strike and hurt him, and no other perso; but their efforts were in vain. The result was, that Thomas Evans took his gun and ran home as fast as his legs would carry him, and never again en- gaged in an enterprise of that sort.

As this familiar spirit got better acquainted with its quarters, it became more talkative, and used often to speak from out of an oven by the hearth's side. It also took to making music o' nights with Job's fiddle. One night as Job was going to bed, the familiar spirit gave him a gentle stroke on the toe. 'Thou art curious in smiting,' said Job. 'I can smite thee where I please,' replied the spirit. As time passed on the family became accustomed to their ghostly visitor, and seeing it never did them any harm, but on the contrary was a source of recreation to them, they used to boldly speak to it, and indulge in entertaining conversation.

One old man, a neighbour, more bold than wise, hearing the spirit just by his side, but being unable to see it, threatened to stick it with his knife. 'Thou fool,' quoth the spirit, 'how canst thou stick what thou canst not see with thine eyes?' When questioned about its antecedents, the spirit said, 'I came from Pwll y Gasseg' (Mare's Pit, a place in the adjacent mountain), 'and I knew ye all before I came hither.' The wife of Morris Roberts desired one of the family to ask the spirit who it was that killed William Reilly the Scotchman; which being done, the spirit said, 'It was Blanch y Byd who bade thee ask that question;' and Blanch y Byd (Worldly Blanche) was Morris Roberts' wife ever after called. On Easter Wednesday the spirit departed, saying, 'Dos yn iach, Job,' (fare thee well. Job,) and Job asked the spirit, 'Where goest thou?' The reply was, 'Where God pleases.'

There are other accounts of this Trwyn sprite which credit it to a time long anterior to last century; but all are consistent in this, that the goblin is always invisible. The sole exception to this rule is the legend about its having once shown a white hand to some girls in the kitchen, thrusting it through the floor of its room overhead for that purpose. Now invisibihty is a violation of fairy tradi- tions, while ghosts are very often invisible — these rapping and stone-throwing ghosts, always. It might be urged that this spirit was a Bwbach, if a fairy at all, seeing that it kept pretty closely to the house; but on the whole I choose to class it among the inhabitants of the spirit-world; and really, the student of folk-lore must classify his materials distinctly in some understandable fashion, or go daft.



William Jenkyn Thomas wrote his own account in 1907, for The Welsh Fairy Book, which leans much more typical fairylore:

A PRANKSOME goblin once took up his abode at the Trwyn Farm, in the parish of Mynyddislwyn, and became known throughout the country as Pwca'r Trwyn, or the Pwca of the Trwyn. How he got there is not known. One story says that he once lived at Pant y gaseg. Moses, one of farm servants, of the Trwyn, came to Pant y gaseg for a jug of barm, and the Pwca was heard to say,' "The Pwca is going away now in this jug of barm, and he'll never come back," and he never was heard of at Pant y gaseg again. Another story tells that a servant of Pant y gaseg let fall a ball of yarn, and the Pwca said, "I am going in this ball, and I'll go to the Trwyn and never come back." Directly after this the ball was seen to roll down the hill-side and across the valley, ascending the hill on the other side and trundling along briskly across the mountain top of this new abode.

Anyhow, the Pwca came to the Trwyn, and though he remained invisible he became very friendly with Moses. He did all his work for him with great ease. For instance, he threshed a whole barnful of corn in a single night. Once, indeed, he gave him a good beating for doubting his word, but apart from that the two remained on the best possible terms for a long time. Moses went away, however, with David Morgan, the Jacobite, to join the Young Pretender, and never came back again.

After this the Pwca transferred his affections to Blodwen, one of the servant-girls, and very useful he proved to her. He did everything for her, washing, ironing, spinning and twisting wool--at the spinning wheel he was remarkably handy. No one was allowed to catch a sight of him, but he became very talkative, and often used to speak from out of an oven by the side of the hearth. He told Blodwen that it was very mean of her not to provide him with food and drink for helping her so much, and after this she used, with her master Job John Harri's permission, to place a bowl of fresh milk and a slice of white bread (the latter was a great luxury at that time) on the hearth every night for him before going to bed. By the morning the bread was eaten and the bowl empty. This fare made the Pwca light-hearted, and he used to make music o' nights with Job John Harri's fiddle, and very merry rollicking music it was.

One evening he revealed part of himself. The servant-girls were comparing their hands as to size and whiteness, when a voice from the ceiling was heard to say, "The Pwca's hand is the fairest and smallest." "Show it, then," said Blodwen, who used to speak quite freely to him. Immediately a hand appeared from the ceiling, small, fair, and beautifully formed, with a large gold ring on the little finger.

It was Blodwen's fault that the Pwca became troublesome. One night, in a spirit of mischief, she drank the milk and ate the bread that were usually provided for him, leaving him some stale crusts of barley bread and a bowlful of dirty water. It would have been better for her not to have done it. When she got up next morning he suddenly sprang from some corner, and, seizing her by the neck, began to beat her and kick her from one end of the house to the other, until she screamed for mercy.

After this the Pwca became freakish, and played all sorts of pranks. He began his games by knocking at the door, but when it was opened there was no one to be seen. Then he did all sorts of mischief about the house, and in the cowhouses and stable. He harassed the oxen when they ploughed and drew them after him everywhere, plough and all, nor could anyone prevent them.

The neighbours came to hear about these goings on, and one of them, Thomas Evans by name, said he would take a gun and shoot the Pwca. As Job John Harri was coming home one night from a journey the Pwca met him in the lane and said, "There is a man come to your house to shoot me, but you shall see how I will beat him." So Job went on to the house and found Thomas Evans there with his gun, breathing all manner of dire threats against the wicked sprite. Suddenly stones flew from all directions at Thomas and hurt him badly. The members of the household of the Trwyn got round him, thinking to protect him, but the stones still struck him. The curious part of the whole thing was that they never touched anyone else. At last Thomas Evans took his gun and ran home as fast as his legs could carry him, and never again did he talk of shooting the Pwca.

Job John Harri went to a fair, and night overtook him on the mountain as he was returning home. Somehow or other, though the path was quite familiar to him, he lost his way. Whether it was owing to the darkness or from some other cause (there are influences at fairs which cause many to stray from the right path) is uncertain; at any rate he wandered onwards in different directions over the mountain in much doubt and perplexity. At last he was brought to a full stop against a stone wall. As he was rubbing his forehead, which had got the worst of the collision with the wall, and considering the situation, a light suddenly arose upon the waste at a short distance to his right. "There is some one with a lantern," he said to himself, and he determined to follow in his wake.

As he walked on he, noticed that there were two very remarkable things about the light. One was that however fast or however slow he walked, the light kept at just the same distance from him. Again, it kept so near the ground that the arm which bore it must have belonged to a person of exceptionally short stature. Job concluded that it was a child carrying a lantern. He followed the light for several miles, when it suddenly stopped. Job had by this time come well nigh up to it, and was about to hail its bearer when the sound of a foaming torrent arose to his ears. Just then the bearer of the light took a flying leap and landed some thirty yards away. The light blazed forth brilliantly, and Job found himself on the brink of a frightful precipice. On the other side of the yawning chasm was a tiny little man, as naked as a new-born babe, with long hair and pointed ears, and a maliciously ugly expression on his face, peering down into the gorge (it was afterwards called Cwm Pwca). When he saw that Job had not fallen into the trap towards which he had led him, he uttered a loud shrill laugh and douted the light. Job was afraid to move, and remained on the spot, stiff with terror, until daylight appeared, when he made his way home. After that the Pwca was never heard or seen at the Trwyn.



In 1726 the Manor of Abercarn's rent book lists David Job as the tennant at Yr Trwyn, paying £1 6s 8d a year for the privilege. Presumably this was the same David Edmund Jones spoke to about the story, the son of Job John Harry, which would date the events surrounding the pwcca to the late seventeenth century.

On the 1841 census the Williams family were listed as resident at Trwyn.



In 1851 the Williams' were still there:



By the time of the 1861 census Lewis Williams and his sister Sarah were living in Crumlin. In 1871 Trwyn was occupied by Benjamin Williams and his family:



By 1881 the Williams' had already moved on to Cydlowedd and Trwyn was occupied by James and Margaret Griffiths and their children. Hailing from Brecknockshire, the Griffiths' were likely the "strangers" to the area Wirt Sikes met with when he visited the farm to research his 1880 book.



By 1891 the Davies family had moved into the farm, relocating from Hafod Owen.



The Davies' would remain at Trwyn until they moved to Crumlin Farm in 1916. Here they are on the 1911 census:



In 2012 Rob Southall wrote an article for Twmbarlwm News on the history of Hafod Owen farm, which features Trwyn incidentally on a number of occasions - and includes a picture of John Senior, the patriarch of the Davies family.




The Forestry Commission proceeded to put three cottages on the site in 1928. Eva Boobyer, then resident at one of the bungalows on the old Hafod Owen site, recalled walking to school with Mary Lewis from one of the Trwyn cottages in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ben Jones (d. 1937) and his daughter Sadie occupied the farmhouse itself between 1923 and c. 1940. The last electoral register listing for the site is Trwyn Cottage in May 1945, when it was home to Thomas H. and Muriel M. Stephens - they were living at Gnoll Cottage in 1946. The farmhouse was destroyed but the barn remained until the Forestry Commission tore it down in the 1980s.

Today there are only ruins left at the site. Rob Southall posted this photo of the remains of the farmhouse to The Lost Farmsteads of Twmbarlwm & Mynydd Maen Facebook group in 2021:





For more like this please click the image below:




This post first appeared on Babi A Fi - Baby And Me, please read the originial post: here

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Weird Wales: Trwyn Pwcca

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