the Glaslyn Valley high in the mountains of Snowdonia in north
Wales is the little
picturesque village of Beddgelert, not a hive of industrial activity
like Cardiff, Swansea, or any such like place in the south; but
a place that is heavily dependent on its tourists. Among its attractions
today, on the outskirts of the village, is the grave of possibly
this country's most famous dog; Gelert. Thus was how the village
begot its name:-
- Grave of Gelert
tell you of Gelert I must take you back to the times of another
of my Country's great princes, Llywelyn ap Iorworth or Llywelyn
The Great. Llywelyn was a grandson of Owain Gwynedd and grandfather
to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last). He was born in the
year 1173 in the beautiful Lledr valley, on the eastern side of
Snowdonia. His home of Castell Dolwyddelan stood on a knoll on
the southern slopes of Moel Siabod, guarding the way west over
Snowdonia from the Conway valley.
Prone to the fortunes of the weather, rising mists and cold bitter
winds the castle was an unforgiving place. Care not taken whilst
on guard duty atop of the tower during gale force winds, meant
sudden death from being blown into the valley below. The castle
was also a cold place in the time of snow, but snow was to its
advantage for it helped to seal the valley against those that
on many an occasion wished they could break the stranglehold of
Snowdonia by the Prince of Wales.
of Llywelyn's mature life was spent in the Organisation and defence
of Wales. On his succession to the throne of Gwynedd he swore
in 1201 an allegiance to King John of England and in 1205 he married
his illegitimate daughter Joan. However, Llywelyn never intended
that himself or Wales should remain subservient to the English
enjoyed hunting, for it not only gave him the thrill of the chase,
but provided meat for the table. So whenever he could, he would
leave his court of Aberffraw and cross the Mennia Straits and
head for the mountains of Snowdonia. Once there and unleashed,
the great Irish Wolfhound pack led by their leader Gelert would
be heard baying; as they picked up the scent of a stag and began
the chase. Many times they would lose one, then pick up another,
only to lose that one too. By then Llywelyn would find himself
way to the south, indeed there were occasions when he was as far
south as Mawddach river causing him to encamp in his newly built
castle of Bere in the the Desenni valley, this resulted in him
being away from Joan for several weeks at a time.
Gruffudd his son was born, Joan was having none of this and demanded
that he should build hunting lodges so that she could accompany
him. So throughout Snowdonia they were built, but it is the one
that was built near today's Beddgelert that concern us; for this
is where my story of Gelert the Irish Wolfhound comes from.
The great bounding wolfhound was a favourite of all that came
across him. He was as gentle as a lamb to all those that showed
kindness to his master and his family. Woe betide anyone however,
that the dog thought should show more respect. Then he would sit
right in front of the visitor, bare his teeth and emit a deep
At meal times Gelert
would sit at his master's side, the only one of the pack allowed
to do so. His head would loll to one side and his tongue would hang
out, while one ear would be cocked for the sound of the slightest
movement of a tasty tit bit from the table; which he more than often
Gruffudd Llywelyn's oldest son, for there was Dafydd as well,
was old enough to crawl the youngster was as rough as he could
be with him, in fact many times the great dog could be seen walking
around the lodge with young Gruffudd hanging on to his tail. When
the time came for the young prince to be put to bed Gelert, as
often as not, lay alongside his cot to protect his young charge.
Llywelyn desperately wanting his pack leader on a hunt would shout
at him and try and cajole him in an attempt to get Gelert to accompany
him. Gelert however, would have none of it, then he would bare
his teeth and growl at Llywelyn too. Soon the pack had a new leader
and the giant hound stayed in the lodge protecting his charge.
When Gruffudd got to the toddling stage Gelert and him were inseparable,
they would play and roll around together inside and outside the
lodge whenever the hunting party met there.
It was such a day late one Autumn when Llywelyn, Joan and the
family were at Beddgelert, that the death of the great dog occurred.
Young Gruffudd had been put to bed and the family were away up
the valley where the hounds had trapped two great stags. On returning
to the lodge after the successful hunt Llywelyn eager to see his
son burst in through the door, there to met with a devastating
sight. The cot was overturned, there was blood everywhere, and
worst of all the great wolfhound's jaws where dripping with blood.
Thinking that Gelert had turned upon Gruffudd and savaged him
to death, Llywelyn withdrew his sword and plunged it into Gelert's
side. Ooh the howl of great dog, as it sunk to the the floor in
its dying throes, reverberated around the mountains and I am sure
that such was the noise that it was heard at Aberffraw as well.
Beside himself with rage Llywelyn almost missed the little snuffling
noise which emitted from the corner of the room, when he did so
he rushed forward and threw aside the empty cot, below it it still
alive was Gruffudd; but more surprising was that below him was
the body of the biggest wolf Llywelyn had ever seen. Full of remorse
with his child in his arms he rushed back to the great wolfhound's
side. Cradling the dog's head in his other arm in an attempt to
ease the pain Llywelyn received one last lick from the great dog,
as though in forgiveness, before he died.
It seemed that the great wolf, intent on devouring something,
had entered the lodge. Gelert suspecting that it would attack
his young charge had met it head on in a battle to the death.
When Llywelyn returned after the hunt Gelert had met his master
with a great sense of achievement and pride, but his reward was
to feel the sharp thrust of steel into his side for something
he could not understand what he had done.
Months after the death of the great hound Llywelyn, still beside
himself with grief, erected a memorial stone south of the village
near the Glaslyn river, where he had laid the great dog to rest.
The stone is still there today many hundreds of years later, cared
for with love by the residents of Beddgelert