Aunty has started us on a new quest after finding a great little web site called “100 Things To Do In Wales”: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/100-things-wales-before-you-6503970. So we have started with number one on the list: Have a pint at the Ty Coch Inn, Porthdinllaen. The things I do to keep Aunty happy, I think sometimes I deserve a medal!
Porthdinllaen was originally a fishing port, based around a natural harbour at the west end of a bayon the Lleyn Peninsula. The bay is over a mile and a quarter (2 km) across, and with over one hundred acres (40 ha) of safe anchorage. The harbour is sheltered by a headland jutting out to the north from all but a north-easterly wind, and as the only such haven on the Llŷn Peninsula, it has been used for many centuries of trading, and as a place to run to for shelter in a storm. The building run right down onto the beach, which is a testament to how sheltered this bay. I grew up on the Coast just South of here, and the westerly winds can be vicious when blowing a gale.
In May 1806, a parliamentary bill approved new buildings when it seemed that Porthdinllaen would be chosen as the port on the route to Ireland, rather than Holyhead, Anglesey. Porthdinllaen was almost as far west as Holyhead, but Holyhead was more accessible, due to Thomas Telford’s road developments. And so the port continued as a small fishing port.
The Ty Coch Inn is right on the beach, and with the sun out the beach and pub were heaving with people. But the beer was great, and they brought us a huge plate of freshly made sandwiches. I would certainly recommend a visit.
The Life Boat Station has just been rebuilt to house the new life boat. The 19th Century was the age of the sailing ship, both deep sea and in coastal waters. An isolated region like the Lleyn Peninsula on the west coast of Wales was very dependant on shipping before road and rail transport became viable alternatives. Porthdinllaen, on the northern coast of the peninsula, with it’s sheltered east facing bay, became gimportant as a harbour of refuge and a busy port. Shipping returns for the period indicate the number of vessels which entered the bay:
1804 – 655
1840 – 914
1861 – 700 plus
With this volume of traffic it was inevitable that many vessels came to grief with considerable loss of life. In a severe northerly gale on December 2nd and 3rd 1863, about 18 ships that had been sheltering in Porthdinllaen bay, were driven ashore and wrecked. A Robert Rees of Morfa Nefyn, tied a rope around his waist and, with the help of 4 other men, succeeded in saving a total of 28 lives from the various vessels. For his gallantry on that occasion, Robert Rees was awarded the Bronze Medal from the Board of Trade and the Thanks on Vellum by the R.N.L.I.
A few days later, the Rev. Owen Lloyd Williams of Boduan, wrote to R.N.L.I. headquarters in London reporting on the results of recent gales and asked for a lifeboat station to be established at Porthdinllaen. The life boat today is still manned by volunteers who give up their time to save lives at sea. I would like to applaud them all here for their commitment, humanity and bravery.