Mr Glyn Griffiths, Treleddyd Fawr Cottage
I was on holiday in Wales with my wife and a good photographic friend and his wife. Whilst walking around St David’s I noticed a photographer’s gallery, which was situated over a coffee shop and went to have a look. The gallery showed the work of a local photographer, David Wilson, and I was impressed by many of his images quite a few of which were rendered as monochrome. One such image showed this amazing old cottage the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. When I looked at the back of the image I noticed that David had included the name and location of the cottage. Indeed he provided such details on the rear of a lot of his images that were on show, which I thought was a very generous thing to do. I made a note and when we later returned to the cottage we had rented I was delighted to learn that in fact this lovely old building was only a few miles from where we were staying. My mate, Arnold Phipps-Jones, and I decided to go and find it, which we did with the help of an ordinance survey map we had with us. It was set back from the road, up a narrow lane. We parked the car and approached. In so doing I noticed that the front door was open and I peered in. There was an earthen floor upon which was laid a carpet runner. The walls had wallpaper over-laid on wall paper which bulged out from the walls and upon which hung a few small pictures. The lower half, from the floor to waist height and running down both sides of the passage, was held back by Linoleum fixed to the walls by means of drawing pins. My initial reaction was that the place was newly derelict but then I saw a shadow down at the far end of the passage way and called out a “hello”.
This chap, who I was to learn, was Mr Glyn Griffiths, approached. He was dressed in a suit that had seen a fair bit of wear but he was very clean with a lovely head of well-trimmed and combed white hair. He talked with a warm, soft voice which was without a trace of accent; although I have since learnt that Glyn spoke Welsh as his mother tongue, the last in the hamlet to do so. I remember very clearly the first words that we uttered. “Hello! My name is Roy and I am a keen photographer. You have an amazing cottage. Would it be okay to take a few photographs?” says I. “Thank you for saying so”, said Mr Griffiths…..”It’s nice that you have bothered to ask. We get a lot of photographers and most don’t ask, which I think is so rude”. “Oh so do I” I reply ...”I would always ask”. My nose grew by a few inches because of this untruth. Standing alongside him on the doorstep I notice that he has a very interesting face and tell him so and ask whether he would be happy for me to take his portrait. Again he thanks me for my compliment in a very warm friendly manner and agrees. I tell him that we are on holiday for a week and as I don’t have my flashguns with me would he be happy for me to return a couple of days later to “do it properly”. Again he agrees and tells me that, having done his weekly shop, he will be around and if not indoors I can find him in the garden around the back.
I returned two days later and was invited into his home. Whilst photographing him I learnt that the home was previously occupied by his parents and that there were apparently only four such cottages left in the whole of Wales; one being derelict, another also falling into ruin because it was owned by some people now in America and who never visit. There was Treleddyd Fawr Cottage plus one other about which he knew nothing.
Upon my return I sent an email to David Wilson, the local photographer whose generosity led me to find Treleddyd Fawr Cottage and meet the lovely Mr. Glyn Griffiths, thanking him and telling him of my experience. David Wilson was gracious in his response and mentioned that he was about to release a book on his photography. I promised to buy it, which I did and my mate Arnold subsequently bought me his second book as a present.
The images that I took of both visits to Mr Glyn Griffiths have since been presented in various photographic competitions and done quite well.
The story doesn’t end there though. In the spring of 2013 I was contacted by a journalist and friend of Mr Griffiths to tell me that he had passed away. Glyn died on 21st March 2013. He had been in an old people’s home for some time, his house standing empty. She went on to say that she had been a friend of his for many years and that the two often went on local walks together. I was then told that she was intending to right a lengthy article of Glyn and that she had come across my image “Mr Glyn Griffiths and his Cat” on the internet and asked whether she could have permission to use the image in support of the article and, if so, did I have any more images that she might have. I said “yes” to both questions and sent her some more pictures I had taken.
A year ago Arnold was again on holiday in the area and happened to pay a visit to this lovely old cottage only to report back to me that its fast becoming a ruin. Part of the roof had collapsed and rats and rooks seemed to be the new inhabitants. I was saddened by all this but I needn’t have worried because apparently the house had been bequeathed to National Trust and they have since set about restoring it, which is now available to rent. The downside is that some of the old character has been lost but all modern mod-cons have been introduced to make it acceptable to rent, with the good news that the building has been saved.
Incidentally, the house and Glyn appeared with Trevor Fishlock on television, on Restoration with Grif Rhys Jones, on S4C and more about this lovely gentleman and his life can be found at http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/last-words/
Additional information and a film clip can also be viewed in an article entitled “Treleddyd Fawr - a bequeathed cottage” at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02bj3fp
The excellent work of David Wilson, to who I am forever indebted, can be seen on his website at http://www.davidwilsonphotography.co.uk/