who we are
Today we are food producers and foresters, shop keepers and sheep farmers, artists and urban escapees seeking a better quality of life.
But who were the ancestors that shaped our culture?
You’ll hear the Welsh language spoken all around you in Dolgellau. The language of Wales, more properly called Cymraeg, is alive and thriving and used by about half a million people within Wales and possibly another few hundred thousand in England and overseas. The Welsh themselves are descendants of the Galatians, to whom Paul wrote his famous letter. Their language is a distant cousin to Irish and Scots Gaelic and a close brother to Breton. Why not give it a try while you’re here?
Good morning - Bore da
Madmen and poets
Good afternoon – Prynhawn da
Good evening – Noswaith dda
Good health!/cheers – Iechyd da!
Thanks – Diolch
Cader Idris, the dramatic mountain range brooding above Dolgellau, is shrouded in legend. The mysterious lakes it encircles are said to be bottomless, and it’s rumoured that anyone who spends the night on Cader’s summit will awaken either a madman or a poet!
Giants and chiefs
The name of the mountain overlooking Dolgellau, Cader Idris (Idris' Chair), refers to the giant Idris of Welsh mythology. Idris is said to have been skilled in poetry, astronomy and philosophy.
In pre-Roman times this area was the tribal lands of the Ordovices whose hill forts are still being unearthed. Ordovices means "those who fought with a hammer"! In 1404, Dolgellau was the location of a council of chiefs under Welsh independence warrior Owain Glyndwr.
Bandits and gold diggers
The Red Bandits of Mawddwy were a band of robbers from the Dinas Mawddwy area near Dolgellau in the 16th century. They became infamous in folk literature, said to ambush travellers crossing the mountain pass.
Dolgellau was the centre of a short-lived gold rush in the 19th century. Local gold mines employed over 500 workers, and the Clogau St David’s mine in Bontddu supplied gold for many royal weddings past and present.
Quakers and woolworkers
After a visit by George Fox in 1657, many inhabitants of Dolgellau converted to Quakerism. Persecution led to a number of them emigrating to Pennsylvania in 1686, under the leadership of Rowland Ellis, a local gentleman- farmer. Why not follow The Quaker Trail of landmarks in and around Dolgellau to discover more?
By the end of the 18th century the woollen and leather tanning industry was driving the local economy.
Quarry men and sportsmen
During the 19th century slates from the hills around Dolgellau were shipped to tile the rooves of the world.
Dolgellau Cricket Club, created in 1869, is believed to be the oldest cricket club in Wales. Today Dolgellau has an active array of successful sports clubs and leading sporting centres and activities.
Writers and Musicians
Sesiwn Fawr ("the big session") is an outdoor festival held in the town every July (except in 2009) which showcases musical talent from Wales and around the world. Dolgellau is now home to Tŷ Siamas, the National Centre for Welsh folk music which hosts regular live gigs and jam sessions as well as an interactive exhibition. The town also has 2 choirs "Cor Meibion Dolgellau" (Male Voice choir) and "Cor Idris" (mixed).
The area has been celebrated by Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. In recent times, home grown writers have published notable work, such as John Elwyn Jones, a retired teacher who wrote an account of his upbringing in the area called "Yn fy Ffordd fy hun" (In my own way) as well as an account of his time as a Prisoner of War in Poland during World War II. The modern Welsh writers Bethan Gwanas and Nia Medi live locally to Dolgellau. Marion Eames lived in the town up to her death in 2007. She is probably best known for her book "The Secret Room" (originally published in Welsh as "Y Stafell Ddirgel"), a semi-fictional account of the events leading up to the 1686 emigration of Quakers from Dolgellau and serialised on the S4C Welsh TV channel.