My great grandmother writes about Wales

Mary Davies in 1891, aged 19

1892   Wed. May 11th Left N.Y. at 15 minutes past four and slowly steamed up to the Narrows, waving our handkerchiefs frantically to the folks on Prop #15 until we could see them no longer, when we turned our attention to our fellow passengers.

Being recommended to the chief steward, we received every attention, and were secured seats at one of the best tables…

I soon began to feel queer. I thought could I only reach the rail I will be all right. and so it was. Generosity is a virtue and I was generous at that time.

– from the travel diary of Mary Davies

When William and Louisa’s daughter Mary, my great grandmother, was 20 years old, she and her cousin Maggie went to visit their paternal relatives in Pontardulais, a small town in Wales. My mother’s genealogical notes state, “Her sister had died of TB, and the family felt that Mary could benefit from the sea voyage.”

Mary must have read her father’s war diaries, and possibly she was influenced by them, consciously or subconsciously. Like William, she refers often to the writing of letters, although unlike him, she does not identify the recipients. He is scrupulous about reporting the number of miles marched each day, and she often mentions her own mileage as she strolls through the Welsh countryside with relatives and friends. She writes more expressively than her father, and provides greater detail, making it easy to visualize the rural scenery, the ancient castles, a tin mill, the Swansea market. Her writing is precise and elegant, yet restrained.

Life on a ship is very pleasant, if you have pleasant company…Breakfast at eight, then a promenade with perchance a young man, then a little chat in a quiet nook with another… After dinner and promenade another chat or a book until supper. Another promenade with your bestest fellow & star-gazing…Most likely you find a little retreat all by yourselves oblivious to all others you enjoy a quiet talk. Oh glorious existence! Too soon it comes to an end, the last Goodbye is said, you part, probably to meet never again Alas!

After a week on the ship Teutonic and an uncomfortable overnight train ride from Liverpool, they reach Pontardulais. The next day, they begin their routine of meeting people, writing letters, and taking long walks.

Our road led us by little clumps of woods and across a bridge underneath which a little stream trickled peacefully along. Violets, daisies, bluebells, & other pretty wild flowers were growing there in profusion. Looking away to left & right we could see the hills stretching as far as the eye could reach & on one side was a mountain which it is our intention to climb. We could see several small towns nestling among the hills, & all looked peaceful & quiet. It looked like a veritable Paradise on earth, but we know that we will never find.

On Sunday, May 22, they attend their first church service at the “little chapel Libanus (Calvinistic Methodist)”  and find it unintelligible. Perplexed by the Welsh language, she comments, “Indeed the impression was that the minister had hot mush in his mouth & was trying to spit it out.”

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3 Responses to My great grandmother writes about Wales

  1. Fawn Potash says:

    Your grandmother’s writing is so full and funny. I am starting to wonder weather you might have invented her along with the diaries.

  2. Pingback: American Tourists in Victorian London | News of My Ancestors

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