Wilfred Owen at Rhewl
The 'War Poet's' holiday here in 1905.
For this page we are indebted to Mr. Bryn Owen, who provided us with this information.
Mr. Owen's grandfather, David Jones (1879-1970) son of John and Elisabeth Jones (who moved from Cynwyd in about 1890 with their ten children) lived at Glan Clwyd, Rhewl, with the family. In the photo Bryn Owen's grandfather David is second left.
At school, Wilfred Owen became a good friend of Alec Paton. The Patons appear to be related to the Jones family - it is possible that Mr. and Mrs. Jones were Uncle and Aunt to Alec Paton.
In the summer of 1905 the 12-year-old Wilfred was invited to join the Paton family on their summer holiday at Glan Clwyd.
Three letters home survive from his stay. (These are not facsimiles).
Glan Clwyd, Rhewl August 7th 1905
Thank you very much for the boots which I received this morning. It has been so wet here that I changed my shoes and stockings three times on Saturday and Alec and I put our feet in hot water when we went to bed. Our feet were only a little damp and Mr. Paton laughed and said they were all right, but Mrs. Paton made us change. At first, before we got to the farm, the place was not what I anticipated, we had to got through - not along - a dirty, wet, muddy lane. But the farm is fine. I am very happy but I am not wild. We are both kept under great restriction. We got up a ladder onto a haystack in a Dutch barn. In case you don't know what a D.B. is I will draw one.
Well, we made little nests on the top but Mrs. Paton heard us moving the hay and called us down. (Mr. P. laughed). I am asked to thank Mr. Owen for the food. It is useless now! We cannot fish! No licence!!! Is it not sad!!! Alec's uncle broke my rod, it is mended now. He was fishing this morning when a river bailiff came up and told him something about how to fish, thinking he had a licence! You have to pay 15 or 16 shillings for one to fish I think.
This is a filthy letter, all blots. Thank Mary and Colin for their letters. I slept in a chair bed foirst night but do not now, i sleep with Alec.
From your loving
In his biography of Wilfred Owen, John Stallworthy states:
The boys would get up late in the morning, vexing Mrs. Jones, the farmer's wife. Then they would climb trees in the orchard, pick plums, or sail paper boats on the little river Clwyd which flowed through the farmyard. Once, Wilfred fell in trying to recover an errant handkerchief. He told his mother "Alec and I found two little streams. His is the 'Wiswos' and I call mine the 'Fontibell'". On their walks the same interest in naming things showed in his organising caterpillar races. The furry contestants were christened, set down on the country road, and cheered towards the winning post. They also played soldiers with nonsensical words of command.
Mr. Jones allowed them to help him drive cows and pigs from farmyard to field. Every evening, after the oil lamps had been lit, they would all gather in the large farm kitchen and sit in high-backed settles before the open fire.The Jones's three daughters, who could speak almost no English, would try amidst peaks of laughter to teach Wilfred and the Paton children English.
IAug. 16th 1905.
I am so sorry you were not well on Sunday. I thought about you often, nearly all day. We climbed Moel Famma (Varma) on the 14th.I was rather exhausted by the time we reached the top. It was about 4 o'clock., started at 11.30, but when we got home i was hardly so bad as the others were.. Alec made a show of sliding down the smooth slippery grass, but he found he could not stop himself. He went bounding on till he was suddenly checked by a sharp stone wall. We thought he had hurt his head but he had a deep cut on his knee, he said he was able to climb the hill though.! I was lying down at the time, resting. Thank you very much for the letter and Turkish Delight. I have had a little bad luck. Up Moel Famma I lost my big fat knife I think. I am very sorry to say I broke he end of your umbrella. We tried to fish with the end of our rods in a tiny stream, that flows into the Clwyd. I leny Alec a hook, which he lost, and I losy my own& cracked the tip end of my rod. I have bought a picture postcard for Harold which I hope to send tomorrow. With best love to all
These letters show that young Wilfred had already a feel for vocabulary, language and description beyond his years.
Aug 22nd 1905
I hope you are all quite well I am eating tremendously. We went gathering nuts this morning I have got, altogether, 113. I am going to bring them home for the children you must not tell them please.Mr. Jones has bought 120 sheep today. They are so tired after walking three days that some will let me stroke them.I can count up to ten in Welsh & have learnt a few expressions. It will soon be time to milk the cows now. I can milk a bit. I drink buttermilk for dinner and have cream on the stewed fruit. Indeed I fare very sumptuously& I wish Mary was here to eat the plums we get off the tree every day. There are nine little piggies. You would be amused if you saw them. Their heads are too large for their bodies & their tails are like curly bits of string.
We are having fine weather now i am very glad of the boots, because in the morning the grass is wet. I have not been to Ruthin yet. When I go I want to buy a tiny boat to sail down the Clwyd.It is nearly time for the post now,
with love and kisses always
It is not known if the tiny boat was ever purchased!
Journey from Obscurity, Wilfred Owen 1893-1919 Harold Owen Oxford University Press
Wilfred Owen A Biography John Stallworthy Oxford University Press USA