pwcas, white ladies, and things that don’t go bump in the night

There were three supernatural creatures round where we lived in Wales. Well, at least three that I know of. One was a bit of a celebrity; the Pwca’r Trwyn, who has suffered sadly at the hands of the folklorists- “A PRANKSOME goblin once took up his abode at the Trwyn Farm, in the parish of Mynyddislwyn… he used to make music o’ nights with Job John Harri’s fiddle, and very merry rollicking music it was…”

You see what I mean?

In the way of pwcas, he brought good fortune to the Trwyn until he was crossed, and then caused all sorts of trouble. You don’t mess with a pwca. Folklorists, take note.

Another one was the White Lady, who would be seen wandering around our part of Mynydd Maen …er,  o’ nights. The path that ascends to the open mountain from Newbridge (towards the top on this map here, curving round from roughly northerly to easterly) was known locally as White Lady’s Pass. We used to walk up this way to pick whinberries, when we lived down in the town.

The White Lady was usually described as wearing a white Astrakhan coat. I’m not sure how you could tell it was from Astrakhan. But my father saw her, late one night as he returned from drinking at the Double D (the Double D was the name that Cil-lonydd went by; they ran pony treks, and a bar, which became quite a hang out for country and western enthusiasts- for the Queen’s Jubilee they held a rodeo, and two hundred cowboys came down from Coventry for the occasion. They had gunfights in the bar, and argued about who’d shot who first. I saw them drive past in their coaches, stetsons bobbing as the coach bounced on the uneven lane on the way home to Coventry).

Father didn’t say much about the encounter, but he seemed slightly spooked by it. And he was most definite about the Astrakhan coat. (edit) Rufus tells me that father stopped to offer her a lift. She didn’t reply. He noticed that she was barefooted. He thought she was an ‘ignorant hippy’, and suspected that she might have been on the mushrooms.

The third one was the ghost I saw at Hafod Fach. At that time, I was sharing a room with one of my brothers. Simon used to talk in his sleep. Rufus, in the next bedroom along, often sleepwalked. So nights were rarely dull on Marland Mountain.

And sometimes the windows would be rattling with a westerly gale hitting them full-on; the house was perched on the edge of a deep valley, facing to the west.

On this night, though, things were peaceful and still. The full moon was shining in through the window, and illuminating the slag heap and the beech woods across the valley, then Mynydd Islwyn, then ridge after ridge receding into the far west. Every now and then, this was a beautiful place to be.

I was aware of someone coming into the room. I saw them silhouetted against the window. They stood there, and then went out, and I heard them descend the stone stairs and go through the door into the living room below. “Rufus sleepwalking again,” I thought, and followed on down to see that he didn’t get into mischief.

But there was no sign of him.

I went upstairs again, and looked. Rufus was in his own bed, deep asleep.

I thumped myself to remind me that I wasn’t dreaming, and said to myself  “Don’t ever let yourself tell you that you only imagined you saw a ghost. This was real.”

I tried to encourage the ghost to reappear, but it didn’t. Ghosts have got lives of their own, I guess.

The Trwyn is deserted and ruined, swallowed up by a conifer plantation. And now Hafod Fach has gone, dynamited into the void of the quarry that dug its way up the valley.

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14 Responses to pwcas, white ladies, and things that don’t go bump in the night

  1. GreatBigBadger says:

    Fine piece. The White Lady para is a prose poem in its own right, I think. I once had a similar experience, though with me it was deep, steady breathing in the middle of the night. Thought it might be mine, so I held my breath, but that didn’t stop it. I was alone in my bedroom with the door closed, so it wasn’t another family member. It wasn’t scary.

  2. Dru says:

    It’s funny that some things radiate not-scariness like that, isn’t it? I really wanted to get to know that ghost better. Felt rather slighted that they didn’t want to ‘friend’ me.

    • Jan Lane says:

      I know what you mean . We had lots of odd happenings at the house where I grew up and I felt sneeped that the force responsible didn’t seem to want a chat with me!
      The ghost I met in Pontycymmer -and his old Jack Russell,- however, were both very friendly!

  3. Philip Watson says:

    The house where we lived in Fishponds from 1986 to 1991 was entirely unscary, although we both saw some very odd things there: a large black cat which was perfectly clear to see out of the corner of your eye, but wasn’t there when you looked at it; figures seen through an frosted glass internal window; an old lady who faded away in the bedroom. It was all very friendly, in a funny sort of way.
    Contrast that with Arno’s Court Hotel, where I worked in the summer of 1977, which was as scary as I would care to meet. Other people saw things, but I didn’t – I only heard a voice where there simply couldn’t have been anyone physically present. The thing that spooked me was ridiculously simple: it called me by name. I found it very difficult to handle the implications of that at the time, and 34 years hasn’t dulled the edge at all.

  4. Suzzy says:

    I wonder who are the white ladies of Whiteladies Road?

  5. federay says:


    It’s said that a person will only witness as much supernatural activity as they can manage. I have never (touch wood) seen nor heard nor nothing a thing and grateful I am for it.

    I am sure many of these beings are completely benevolent but I would be useless to them. I’d faint away like a lady in a Tennyson couplet. I have been on a little bit of a ghost hunt myself lately – and am convinced that finally ghosts remain behind because they are after some kind of justice. Which seems completely human to me. Apparently most ghosts will move on once they feel their story has been heard and they have been listened to nicely. Which may be a clue about yours.

  6. Dru says:

    I think I would be totally spooked if a spirit called my name, too, Philip.
    I wonder too, Suzzy. As you might expect, there are all sorts of stories accumulated over the name.
    Whinberries are the local name for bilberries, Fed. I hope the ghost did move on; they do seem (by story at least) to be attached to a locality, and it must be inconvenient if the locality in question is dynamited and fed into a rock crusher. It was a gentle spirit, whatever it was.

  7. Love it. Even though I grew up near Wales and went to secondary school in Monmouth, I’m surprised to find how Welsh words and placenames sound so mythical, poetic maybe. May have to drag out my copy of the Mabinogian!

  8. gz says:

    If Hafod Fach has gone, I assume that the building I have recently photographed (with the quarry nibbling nearer….and nearer….must be a barn?

  9. Dru says:

    That’s right! The Dutch barn above the stone barn is visible on the right hand side of the rather sketchy drawing there. Thanks for dropping in here; I’ve just been enjoying your website.

  10. Dru says:

    So you do! -my blogging mostly happens over here….

  11. Georgina says:

    who knew Coventry was so rich in cowboys!

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