Menlove Edwards

Extract outlining Menlove Edwards’ admission to Denbigh taken from from Jim Perrin’s biography ‘Menlove’ published in 1993 (pp 242-243).

‘The weather was dismal, rain drifting in grey columns up the Llanberis Pass…

Menlove Edwards

He stayed at Cwm Glas Cottage, set in a hollow between ice-scratched bluffs on the marshy hillside opposite Clogwyn y Grochan, and very recently bought by the Climbers’ Club as their third property in North Wales. Even today, with electric lighting, the cottage is gloomy, its bare walls and tiled floor making it cold and damp. If houses can be said to have atmospheres, this one’s is not of the happiest.

‘A group of Sandhurst cadets, arriving a few days after Menlove, found him in the bedroom at the rear of the cottage. He was in a coma, suffering from a drug overdose. The cadets ran to Ynys Ettws, half a mile away, and Roy Beard and Peter Hodgkinson came back with them. Menlove was taken by ambulance to the Caernarfon and Anglesey Hospital in Bangor where his stomach was pumped and he was given oxygen. He revived and struggled so powerfully that two men were hardly strong enough to restrain him. Stephen (his brother) was sent for and came immediately from Staindrop. The police had to be notified too (until 1961 attempted suicide was a criminal offence) and questioned him. The young doctor who was looking after his case asked if he would go voluntarily to Gwynfryn, the nearest mental hospital at Denbigh, or whether he would have to be committed in which case it would be harder for him to get out. He argued and refused and was certified and taken away, to spend the next four months at Gwynfryn.’

“I was brought in here while still semi-unconscious from a supposed attempt at suicide, and they unfortunately had me certified on that score, so I’ve been pretty much under their thumb, and no say at all in the matter of the treatment they wish to apply, which has been a rather vicious and long course of deep insulin.” 17.1.1950

‘Apart from the insulin, he was given electro-convulsive therapy. He was very sceptical, but resigned to everything the staff at the hospital were trying to do for him. Knowing that he was a doctor, they explained its supposed effects, and he accepted without argument. He was allowed to walk in the wintry lanes outside the hospital grounds, and given as much as he wanted to eat. Roy Beard visited him there, taking his young son along, and Menlove produced a seemingly endless supply of chocolate bars from his pocket. The goitre was by now very pronounced, he put on weight, the edges of his mouth puckered with an incessant bitter smile. He took his being in the hospital as further proof of the conspiracy by his friends or society to do him down.

‘On his discharge in February, the physician in whose care he had been wrote to tell Nowell (his sister) that he had suffered irreparable brain damage, and that sooner or later his suicide was inevitable. She had to live with that knowledge for another eight years.’[1]

Devil’s Kitchen, Cwm Idwal
Devil’s Kitchen, Cwm Idwal

After being discharged from Denbigh Menlove went to stay with a friend who was farming at Nantmor and they went climbing together but after six weeks he returned to Kent.

He continued to visit North Wales periodically for climbing holidays and, in 1952, had ‘great fun’ climbing in the Llanberis Pass where he set up a new route on Clogwyn y Ddisgl which would not be climbed again for almost 20 years. This holiday may have represented a high point of the years after Menlove’s Denbigh admission because, during subsequent trips to North Wales it became clear to companions that his mental condition was deteriorating. An old climbing partner who met him by chance on the summit of Tryfan found his conversation ‘irrational, confused, full of vague, dark references’.

In 1957 another old friend was persuaded to follow Menlove straight up the waterfall in the Devil’s Kitchen at Cwm Idwal (pictured above).

“We roped up at the bottom. Menlove led off and I belayed beneath a projecting rock, to get away from the spray, but the water still dripped down my neck. He squirmed into the vertical crack down which the stream flows, and fought his way up it, puffing and gasping for breath. I shouted up to him to say I didn’t want to do it, but the only reply I got was a bald head and a red face, glowering down from the black, dripping rock, looking like the very devil. Needless to say he completed the pitch and I too was forced to take the plunge.”[2]

This was his last new climb. In February the following year he committed suicide by swallowing a capsule of potassium cyanide.

Menlove’s ashes were brought to North Wales to be scattered from the knoll above Hafod Owen, the isolated cottage where he had lived for more than a year during the war. Jim Perrin describes the house:

‘From the knoll above the house you look straight up the winding valley of Cwm y Llan to Snowdon, at its head. The cottage is whitewashed and small, out of sight from most angles until you are almost upon it….Huge boulders give foundations to the whitewashed walls, the roof slates are as irregular as if wind-rippled, and the tumbledown dry-stone walling round about is mottled with pale green and grey lichens. There are few more lovely places in the whole of Wales.’[3]


[1] Jim Perrin (1993), Menlove, pp 242-243.

[2] Arvon Jones cited by Jim Perrin p 254.

[3] Jim Perrin (1993), Menlove, p. 201

A complexion to die for!

A perfectly white, flawless complexion was once the desire of every woman no doubt in part because it suggested a leisurely wealthy lifestyle and many middle class women soaked flypapers to make an arsenic solution which they would use as a face wash.

1920 Freckles Othine

By 1920 they no longer had to prepare their own poisonous beauty products – they could buy them over the counter! Ointments like these which made claims to remove freckles contained shockingly high amounts of mercury.

Cassie Owen Interview Summary

In 1984 J K Randolph Ellis interviewed Cassie at Garregglwyd Home for the Elderly in Holyhead when she was 84 and has written a summary of the recordings he made.

Summary of Recording:

Tape 1

Cassie Owen is now in her 80s and has spent all her life since the age of 17 in workhouses and institutions in Anglesey, being classed as ‘feeble minded’. She was an illegitimate child whose mother died when she was four. She was looked after by her grandmother and brought up in Amlwch on a farm. She talks about her life on the farm, how she helped with the cows and butter making. At 16 she was sent into service at Llanfairfechan but her employers weren’t satisfied and she returned home. She was then sent to Stockport but the job only lasted four months. Again her work was unsatisfactory and she couldn’t understand her English employers. On her return to Amlwch her grandmother sent her to Llanerchymedd workhouse. She was happy there, the nurses (as she calls them) were kind and she used to dance with them. She describes the other inmates, how the men and women had separate quarters and how she used to clean, wash up, make the beds and so on. The master and matron, Mr and Mrs Waterson, and their children were very kind. They were given a gramophone. The men used to tend the garden. They had to move to Valley workhouse after the matron died. There were only a few inmates left then and the workhouse was closed. Two cars took them. When they arrived they were given a bath and institution clothes. There was apparently no uniform in Llanerchymedd. Again she spent her time helping with household chores and the washing. Lice were a problem and had to be killed with paraffin. As in Llanerchymedd the men and women had separate quarters and they sat on different sides of the dining room, entering through separate doors.

Tape 2

She talks about her fellow inmates at Llanerchymedd and again explains the household tasks they had to do. There were few men there and they had their own quarters. Men and women mixed if there was a concert for them or on their birthday when they were given a special tea. She was the youngest person there but was friendly with the older women and used to share her memories of her life on her granny’s farm e.g. when she used to go clapping for eggs or gathering blackberries. Then she explains that if anyone disobeyed the rules of the house they would be punished by being put in a cell on a diet of bread and water. She again stresses that the master and matron were kind – Mr Waterson made a swing in the garden for them, so they wouldn’t have to sit sadly in their room all the time. But they apparently didn’t leave the workhouse much – a trip to the annual market was a treat. She explains that the doctor used to come regularly to the house and the sick were looked after in the workhouse hospital which was at the side of the main building. The House itself was quite cheerful with vases of flowers and lace curtains and tablecloths – nicer than Valley.

Tape 3

She describes how two cars took the people from Llanerchymedd to Valley and how when they arrived their own clothes were taken from them. She regretted leaving Llanerchymedd because she was happy there and it was near her home. Valley was a much bigger place. Children were in a separate house nearby called Bron Heulog.

Once she learnt what she was to do people were nice at Valley, but if she was naughty she was put in a cell in the yard. Her days were spent doing housework, making beds, scrubbing floors, washing. On Sundays she went to Chapel and Sunday School, and they had a wireless. She describes the dormitory she slept in -seven to eight beds, lockers, chamber pots, mats on the floor. She says the men and women were not allowed to mix. They kept chickens at Llanerchymedd and a garden for fruit and vegetables that was tended by the men. They were allowed to go and pick blackberries too. She explains that there were a few married couples there and they were allowed to live together. She can remember babies in the workhouse too with their mothers. She again describes the household work she did there and how she used to help clean in the infirmary where minor operations were carried out. The interviewer took some photographs of the workhouses at Llanerchymedd and Valley to show Miss Owen and asked her if she could remember the layout of the rooms. She also mentions a lady who used to come in to sew the clothes at Llanerchymedd. At Valley she remembers a big wall round the garden and an inspector who reprimanded the master for locking so many doors.