Wales, Beach Picnic and Mary Jones’ Bible

Aberdovey Beach

In the morning it was raining again but I am a great believer in that old saying – rain before seven, clear by eleven” and sure enough the clouds cleared away shortly after breakfast so we loaded the cars with beach games and a picnic and made for the coast.

I was taking everyone to the seaside town of Aberdovey and I was looking for a beach that I used to go to several years ago.  I found it straight away and led everyone along a precarious footpath that crossed a railway line and then two fairways on a golf course until we reached the shelter of undulating sand dunes overlooking a wide sweeping bay of perfect caramel sand and placid blue sea.  As soon as I was back I remembered that this is one of my favourite beaches of all.

The children loved it here of course, running on the sand, paddling in the sea, optimistically fishing with nets, building sand castles and knocking them over again and then eating cheese and grit sandwiches for lunch.

Suddenly the weather changed.  Inland was a flotilla of white sails skipping across the sky as though taking part in a regatta but approaching us from the west there was a fleet of steel grey battleships and they were coming directly towards us, torpedo tubes armed and guns blazing.

We packed our bags as quickly as we could and ran back to the cars across the golf course and the railway line and back to shelter but as soon as we arrived at the car park the sharp rain stopped and the clouds passed by so we laughed about that and drove into the town for an ice cream.

Aberdovey Wales

Despite the weather improvement no one really wanted to go back to the beach so we stayed a while and then drove back to the holiday cottage stopping off for a while in the town of Bala.

This reminded me of the story of Mary Jones’ Bible…

This is the story of Mary Jones from my Bible Studies exercise book when I was about six years old.

Mary Jones was from a poor family who lived near the Cader Idris mountains in the village of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant near Abergynolwyn .  She was born on 16th December 1784 into a family of devout Methodists and she herself professed the Christian faith at eight years of age.

Having learned to read in the circulating schools organised by a man called Thomas Charles it became her ambition to possess a Bible but there was no copy on sale nearer than Bala – twenty-five miles away. Having saved for six years until she had enough money to pay for a copy she started out one morning in 1800 and walked all the way to obtain a copy from the Reverend Thomas Charles, the only man with Bibles for sale in the entire area.

According to one version of the story Thomas gave her the bad news that all of the copies which he had were sold or already spoken for and Mary was so distraught that Charles spared her one of the copies already promised to another, that is rather like click and collect purchases on line, click, go to collect and its not there!  In another version, she had to wait two days for a supply of more Bibles to arrive, and was able to purchase a copy for herself and two other copies for members of her family.

Mary Jones' walk

According to tradition, it was the impression that this visit by Mary Jones left upon him that inspired Thomas Charles to propose to the Council of the Religious Tract Society the formation of a Society to supply Wales with Bibles.

Mary’s Bible is now kept at the British and Foreign Bible Society’s Archives in Cambridge University Library. It is a copy of the 1799 edition of the Welsh Bible, ten thousand copies of which were printed at Oxford for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge.

How much of the story is true will probably never be known.  However, Thomas Charles undoubtedly used the story to persuade the Religious Tract Society to establish a new organisation, the British and Foreign Bible Society.  This came into existence in 1804 and over the next two hundred years distributed thousands of Bibles to people all across the world.

The society – often known simply as The Bible Society – still distributes Bibles to places like India and Africa.  It  is an ecumenical and non-sectarian organisation and the story of Mary Jones and her determination to own a Bible is central to its creation, its continuing ethos and to its work.

In the town the two girls spotted a ‘Paint a Pot’ studio and pestered like mad to go inside.  Kim and Sally abandoned me and although I wasn’t too enthusiastic I took them inside, paid the price, selected our pots and started to paint.  I became so engrossed that two hours later Sally came back to find us wondering why it was taking us so long.

It had been a good day, but after we had cleared away the saucepans and dinner plates it predictably started to rain again!

Lake Bala Wales

37 responses to “Wales, Beach Picnic and Mary Jones’ Bible

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl

    What a great story. A great lesson in determination also!

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  2. I love this last photo of the three of them Andrew! I smiled away thinking of you painting so intently with them at the studio. These are special memories to tuck way.

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  3. I’ve been dragged into one of those paint places too, also found it remarkably hard to leave!! Love the story of Mary Jones and that you kept your exercise book – fantastic.

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  4. I haven’t heard the story about Mary Jones. I enjoyed it.
    Ahh. Painting. You’re a man of many talents. 😀
    Love the photo of the children. ❤ ❤

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  5. Pingback: What A View – Lake Bala, Wales | Have Bag, Will Travel

  6. Sand, sea, gray batleships, Bible tales, and ice cream . . . a pretty good day

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  7. Your story reminded me that it’s now ages since I’ve found a Gideon Bible in a British hotel room. Do you remember those?

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  8. That’s a beautiful photograph of the three children. Well worth enlarging and framing as a present, or for your own wall.

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  9. What a wonderful day out. You and Kim are doing a brilliant job at forming lovely memories for those children.

    I agree with John, that is a fantastic photo of them, get it framed!

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  10. Sounds like a fun day out at the seaside, Andrew. It always looks a nice village but we never got that far round in Wales. 🙂 🙂

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  11. Good descriptive writing, good story, good work from a six year old. It is hard to believe that I once ran round this lake.

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  12. Love the three blonde heads and your jotter as a six year old!

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