Mary Moses was Evan and Catherine’s second daughter, and the first of three girls to be born at Hendre Rhys Farm in the “Hamlet” of Hafoddrinog, Llanwynno Parish, Glamorgan. She was born on either February 16th or 18th 1844. I have to declare an interest straight away; Mary is my Great Gt. Grandmother and the reason I still have the surname Moses (read on). Researching Mary’s life has caused a lot of conjecture due to the fact that she did not name the father/s of her first two children on their birth certificates. By the census of 1861 17 year old Mary had left home, and was working as a servant at Gelli-lwch Farm owned by the Williams family, barely a mile away from Hendre Rhys. Her next certificate appearances are when she gives birth to two illegitimate children back at Hendre Rhys between 1865-67. The first baby was a girl called Ellen who was born on June 26th and was presumably named for her niece who had died up at the farm in tragic circumstances six years previously. Sadly Ellen II fared no better than her late cousin, as she died less than six months later on December 5th 1865 from convulsions. She was buried shortly afterwards at St. Gwynno’s Llanwynno.
Bastard number two was a boy called Gwilym, born on the 23rd September 1867; he survived and went on to become my great grandfather. Like his late sister, no father was named on the birth certificate, so young “Gwylim” (sic) crucially was given the surname Moses rather than the name of the reluctant father. The youngster would grow up on the farm and like his recently arrived older cousin Alfred, was also given a new middle name in the Family Bible and next census during his stay at Hendre Rhys. Indeed it was for the time an unusual name – Alan, and was probably a crude attempt by his grandparents to distance the boy from his real father who he was presumably originally named after – Gwilym is Welsh for William/s. One wonders whether Gwilym was ever told who his father was, or as a young child did he just assume that his grandparents were actually his parents. Incidentally Gwilym leaves “Alan” behind at Hendre Rhys when he eventually leaves.
It would be interesting to know whether Mary’s first two children shared the same father, or perhaps she had a tendency to fling herself at men in an attempt to hook herself a husband. Was the father(s) a lusty young itinerant worker/s coming in on the valley tide, and did he/they subsequently run a mile when Mary became pregnant? One possible candidate was William Llewellyn, a servant at the next door Glog Farm around the same time as the births. He was an unmarried 32 year old in the 1861 census, which would have made him 37 when Gwilym was conceived, maybe in the aftermath of the Glog Hunt’s Boxing Day meet. It is conceivable that both children were named after him – Gwilym/William and Llew/Ellen. Twenty three years later and the mystery is finally solved when Gwilym names his father on his wedding certificate – or does he?
On the wedding certificate to Catherine “Mamgu” Thomas on August 30th 1890, Gwilym declares his father to be “Evan Moses-collier-deceased“. At first glance everything seems in order; but if we take it at face value then that would mean either Mary had a baby with someone with the same name as her own father, or had conceived with a close family member (brother or nephew) – at best in-breeding, at worst incest! We can safely rule out the former, whilst the latter does not bear thinking about. Of course Gwilym could have been referring to his deceased grandfather, who had become in effect his adopted father; but he was never a coalminer. The truth was that Gwilym probably did not know who his real father was, and so he hastily concocted a composite dad for the benefit of the certificate. But I wonder why he would have chosen to put down such a contentious entry; with all the possible combinations of names and occupations he could have chosen, to practically accuse your own mother of incest seems quite bizarre! This certainly was a strange episode, and on a par with his Uncle Moses Moses wrongly admitting to being a bigamist on an earlier certificate entry – perhaps they had both been hit with the “Twp stick” on those particular days! Just as we thought the jury would have to remain out on the identity of the father of Mary’s first two children, we made contact with Mary’s Gt. Granddaughter. Ann Ball is a grandaughter of Mary’s third and final child Elizabeth Ann Edwards, and crucially this branch of the family had never left Ynysybwl, so Ann was able to come up with a strong theory as to who the reluctant father may have been.
Apparently after leaving Gelli-lwch Farm, Mary became a live-in house-keeper to another Williams family. Her new employer was the future Squire Thomas Williams J.P., M.F.H. a.k.a “Master Willie“, or my favourite “Willie the Glog“. Thomas Williams was born less than two miles away from Hendre Rhys at Lan Isaf Farm on June 11th 1810. He became the heir to “Y” Glog empire when his widowed mother Margaret married the childless squire; so, as the eldest step-son he inherited the lot when old William Williams chased a fox through the pearly gates on October 24th 1874 aged 91. Before becoming the new squire, Thomas’ life had been blighted by tragedy – his wife Ann had died aged only 48 on November 2nd 1859. Indeed in the previous three years, two of his three children had also died – 7 year old William (7/7/1858) and 12 year old Margaret (11/2/1856); he also had to bury his mother in March 1856 – blimey, you wouldn’t wish a three years like that on anyone, not even a blood sport enthusiast; oh I don’t know. So Mary moved in to look after the future squire, who was old enough to be her father, and his surviving child and heir Anne, who was just two years younger than Mary. According to Ann Ball, the story passed down her branch of the family was that Mary became a bit more than the squires housekeeper, and he was in fact the father of her children. There is even a suspicion that Squire Thomas fathered Mary’s final baby, who was born after she had been dismissed from her job, and indeed after she had finally got married (read on). It seems that it was this 3rd pregnancy in late 1869, which “broke the camels back”, with maybe Thomas’ daughter or step-father putting their foot down, concerned no doubt about bastard siblings or Mary herself muscling in on the considerable inheritance. It seems probable that the squire in waiting, paid to keep his name off the birth certificates by providing financially for Mary’s two surviving offspring. Apparently Gwilym Moses and Elizabeth Ann Edwards “Never wanted for anything” and had by Ynysybwl standards a privileged schooling. Another intriguing piece of possible evidence is that a print of Squire Thomas Williams, torn out of a book about The Glog Hounds, was placed in the Moses Family Bible. So was “Willie the Glog” a cad with a conscience, or was he simply “a good kind man, willing to help everyone who had need of help“? – like the fatherless children of his former housekeeper for example. I suppose after all this time we can never be 100% certain, and in some ways it would be a pity if we ever did find out the answer to this mystery!
I would guess that Mary remained fairly philosophical about the turn of events; realistically a wealthy middle-aged squire was never going to marry an illiterate servant who was half his age. Besides Mary now had the more pressing problem of a third illegitimate baby on the way. She was spared this unique hat-trick when she was marched up the aisle by 29 year old widower Edmund Edwards – or was he dragged?! By the time of the wedding at the Carmel Chapel Graigwen Nr. Pontypridd on April 30th 1870, Mary would have been about four months pregnant. Mary’s parents Farmer Evan and Catws must have been relieved to see her finally settling down; indeed this looked like a mutually beneficial match. Twenty six year old Mary, with two illegitimate births behind her, might have been cruelly described as a bit “shop soiled” and would therefore struggle to find herself a husband – although of course her elder sister Ann managed to pull this off as well; whilst Edmund needed a mother for his seven year old daughter from his curtailed first marriage, coincidentally another Mary Edwards. Amusingly on the wedding certificate, Mary’s address is given as “8 Hendre Rees Farm Llanwonno“; presumably the registrar had confused oddi wrth (from in Welsh) and wyth (Welsh for 8)! Mary’s widowed husband, Troedrhiwtrwyn based coalminer Edmund, was born in 1841 in Mynyddislwyn Monmouthshire, and was the eldest child of coal miner John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth. His late first wife was Sarah Edwards nee Morris, and their daughter Mary was born on 19/7/1863 at Troedrhiwtrwyn (present day Hopkinstown/Graigwen).
Was the child Mary carrying Edmund’s or Willie The Glog’s? Either way the girl born on the 28th of August 1870 was named after Edmund’s mother Elizabeth Ann Edwards. Now whilst Mary became mother to the two Edwards girls, her son Gwilym was left up at Hendre Rhys and did not join the new family unit. Was Mary keeping her three year old son a secret, or was young Gwilym too settled at the farm, with Cousin Alfred as a playmate? Indeed this decision might have saved the boy’s life, as his mother’s new address was soon to be hit by an outbreak of typhoid. Mary’s marital home, at 64 Pant y Graig-wen, was less than two miles from Hendre Rhys, so Mary probably divided her time between the two addresses – looking after her new family as well as her elderly parents and Gwilym up at the farm. Sadly this cosy arrangement was shattered just 17 months later when poor Edmund died from “Typhus fever 1 week” aged just 31. Given the cramped living conditions, coupled with poor sanitation, Mary and the two girls were extremely lucky not to have died from the disease themselves. It was Edmund’s father John who was present at his son’s unpleasant death on October 16th 1871.
So after almost certainly the shortest marriage in family history, they didn’t even make it to their “cotton” anniversary, Mary and Elizabeth Ann retreated back to Hendre Rhys minus step-daughter Mary who was presumably “adopted” by the Edwards family. With Mary and her daughter back full time, the population of the farm now went up to nine – her son Gwilym, her parents, Auntie Ann, siblings Jennet and Twm and nephew Alfred made up this extended Moses family. Despite still only being 27 years of age, it now seems that Mary gave men a wide berth and concentrated on the three loves of her life – her children, her parents and the farm. She was able to do this as her younger brother Twm obligingly stayed single; indeed they ended up like an “old married couple”. Mary and Twm were to remain up at Hendre Rhys until about 1888; with their parents having passed away, and everybody else moved away, they finally found the running of a remote farm a bit much, and so they reluctantly succumbed to a new urban life down the mountain in the embryonic pit village of Ynysybwl. Mary (and Twm) now lived with her newly married daughter Elizabeth Ann and her family – husband John Phillips, their baby Evan John and a reminder of the family’s past in 13 year old “Mine Door-Boy” and distant cousin David Charles Miles. 70 New Road was the address, and guess who was soon to be moving in next door? Yes it was Gwilym and his family! I wonder what the relationship was like between Mary and Mamgu, the rather pious wife of Gwilym – the expression “chalk and cheese” springs to mind! With Elizabeth Ann’s family rapidly growing, a bigger house was soon needed, and so 34 Crawshay Street Ynysybwl would become the new “Moses” family base; indeed both Mary and Twm were to eventually pass away there.
Meanwhile what happened to the possible/probable father of Mary’s children? Willie The Glog went “to happier hunting grounds” up at Y Glog on May 4th 1889 aged 78, after “a severe illness lasting four months“. His funeral at St. Gwynno’s Llanwynno was a huge affair, conducted perhaps ironically by the Rev. Moses Lewis; one wonders whether or not Mary actually attended the service. Continuing the irony theme, the late squire was then laid to rest in the plot immediately behind his “in-laws” that never were – Evan and Catherine Moses! The rather grand Williams family plot, surrounded by railings, seems today to be pushing the Moses gravestone away, as it leans at a 45 degree angle; it would appear that even in death, tenant farmer Evan Moses was in the shadow of his wealthier neighbours!
A picture emerges of Mary Edwards (nee Moses) in her younger years as a passionate, free spirited girl who liked nothing better than to go riding with the Glog Hunt; sadly being unlucky in love, meant the second half of her life was rather less eventful than the first. There was an incredibly close bond between Mary and her two surviving children – Elizabeth Ann lived with Mary for 40 years, whilst Gwilym was never far away and indeed was buried next to his mam in Ynysybwl Cemetery. Finally, even after she had died, Mary’s certificate entries were less than helpful; her death certificate states that she died on June 4th 1910 aged 64 – the “Widow of Edmund Edwards Coalminer” was actually 66! Mary and her brother Twm are laid to rest together -“Hefyd am ei brawd” (Here in this place beside her brother) it says on her headstone underneath “MARY EDWARDS GYNT O’R (formerly of) HENDRERHYS“. The fact that she requested this inscription, 22 years after she last lived there, illustrates the special place the farm held in her heart.
The newspaper account of Mary’s funeral informs us that a large number of friends attended the service which was conducted by the Rev. Williams of Capel Rhondda.
See Chapter on Willie Y Glog
See family tree for Mary Edwards nee Moses.