The Haunt of Eagles

An autobiographical passage from chapter one of my book ‘The Goddess, the Church and the Green Man

I grew up in Northern Snowdonia, Wales, where my father was a parish priest in the University city of Bangor. Our home was about a mile or so from the Menai Straits, which divides the mainland from the ancient Druidic island of Mona or Anglesey. To the south we had an unobscured view of the twin peaks, Dafydd and Llewellyn, named after the thirteenth century princely brothers of Gwynedd. On a clear day, the summit of Snowdon or ‘Eryri’, as it is called in Welsh, is visible to the West. It means the Haunt of Eagles.

My mother came from a family of fishermen in Conwy, a picturesque walled town on the North Wales coast, famous for its castle. She loved the sea. My father’s family were quarrymen, and his loyalty was to the mountains. Living in Bangor gave me the best of both worlds. A regular childhood journey that made a lasting impression on me, was the six-mile trip to my paternal grandparents’ home at Bethesda in the Ogwen Valley. A journey of stark contrasts, both sea and mountain greet you in that short distance. In less than half an hour, my sisters and I had exchanged our green playing fields for numerous grey hills of discarded slate. And yet ‘the tips’ were located within some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Britain.

But it wasn’t the breath-taking Ogwen landscape that captured my imagination during those early years, or the slate graveyards, where countless hours were spent at play. It was an ordinary, rather drab-looking dwelling place, that we passed en route to Bethesda, called ‘Halfway House’. I assumed that it was half-way between Bangor and Bethesda, but to this day I have never actually measured the distance between the two. What intrigued me was the fact that it was half-way to somewhere, a place in-between, neither one nor the other. Fascination with the in-between has remained with me to this day.

My first book ‘Honest to Goddess’ (1998) was never edited properly – a task that was then out of my hands. This is my edited copy, with a new title, inspired by a childhood favourite, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. A new chapter was intended, but ‘it’ became the foundation for my second book and, much later, a screenplay – ‘Gospel of the Fallen Angel’ (2011) and ‘The Fugitive Stag’ (2020) respectively.

A bridge over Afon Ogwen similar to the one near Half-Way-House
Nant Ffrancon Pass near Bethesda

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