Posts Tagged ‘chapel’

Iona – the Abbey

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Every time I peel an onion, something I do several times most weeks, it reminds me of our stay at Iona. As paying guests of the Iona Community at the Abbey we took our part in the daily chores which kept the place running, and each morning after breakfast I went with the other ‘Otters’ – the work group to which I had been assigned to the kitchen to prepare vegetables. My part in this job seemed always to be one of two or three of us peeling onions – and you need a lot of onions to cook vegetarian meals for around 50 or 60 people.

There are a lot of dodges that people advise to avoid tears when peeling onions, and I think I tried them all. They may help if you are only peeling one or two, but none help if you have a mountain of them to get through. You cry, and crying only makes it worse. Still, I think I preferred it to cleaning the lavatories and washrooms that my partner was assigned to.

The Abbey is essentially a twentieth-century reconstruction carried out by teams of volunteers from the Iona Community after the site with its ruins was gifted to the Church of Scotland by the 8th Duke of Argyll in 1899, with more modern living accommodation built alongside it in a matching external style.

The Duke is still present – in marble, lying beside his wife.

As well as the abbey, alongside it is a small church, the oldest building on Iona (c 1150) with an ancient graveyard where 48 Kings of Scotland were buried. They were joined more recently by Labour leader John Smith; a boulder marks his grave with the message “An Honest Man’s The Noblest Work of God”.

There are ruins of another chapel in the grounds, as well as those of a former Bishop’s House, and splendid views across the sound to Mull, enough to drag me out of bed for a short walk before breakfast (and onions.) And of course there were a number of short religious services, optional but an important part of the experience, though with too much unaccompanied singing for my taste.

More pictures in and around the Abbey from our visit 12 years ago on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Land Of My Fathers

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Well, not quite, but our family do have strong Welsh connections. The only grandparent I ever knew was a small woman dressed in black who sat in a corner of the parlour beside the coal fire, with its permanent kettle on the hob, and if she spoke at all it was at least with a strong Welsh accent, though she had a quiet voice and I was never certain it was in English.

She had a name, Eliza, though she died before I knew her as anything other than Gran’ma, and was born in Llansantffraed, Radnorshire in 1865 where her family farmed. Llan-Santfraid Yn Elvael is a few miles from Builth Wells, one of quite a few places named after St Ffraid the Nun, better known outside Wales as St Brigit, including another in Radnorshire, Llansantffraid Cwmmwd Deuddwr (aka Cwmtoyddwr.) Her family farmed at Llan-gyfrwys, or Llangoveris, not far from Hundred House and every Christmas my father or uncle would go up to Paddington Station to collect a bird sent up for the family table, a duck or a goose, which around 20 of us, my aunts, uncle, father, mother and cousins would sit around the table to eat, though I insisted on eating only the chipolatas, not liking the rather greasy birds.

As a young woman she had been sent up to London to work in a family business, a Welsh dairy near Mount Pleasant, on the Gray’s Inn Road, and I imagine Fredrick Marshall, a young tradesman around her age who had moved into London from Cheshunt came into the shop as a customer, and they were married at Highgate Road, later moving to set up home in Hounslow were he set up a small cart-making business and she running a small shop and bearing five girls and two boys, one my father.

One of those girls married a Welsh man who I think she met when she was sent to Wales to look after an elderly relative there, and they had a home at Aberedw, a few miles south of Builth where her husband was a river warden on the Wye. I spent several summers in their house as a small child, probably when my mother was in hospital and I think we often ate salmon.

Back then we travelled to Aberedw by train (the line closed at the end of 1962) and there were several possible routes, though trains were infrequent on all. Trains from Hereford or Cardiff I think took us to Three Cocks Junction where we changed for Aberedw. When I last went to Aberedw by train in the late 1950s you had to tell the guard when boarding that you wanted to alight there, and to catch the train from there you stood on the platform and waved frantically at the driver.

The most exciting route was to come up through the valleys from Cardiff through Merthyr Tydfil (though I don’t remember the details, and I think there was probably another change involved) but the scenery with mountains, colleries and factories was rather more impressive than the lusher fields of Hay and Hereford.

I can’t now exactly remember how my trip to Merthyr came about, but I think I probably managed to persuade several friends from a small group of photographers that it would be a great place to go at that time, within a day or two of the announcement by the National Coal Board of the closure of more than 20 pits that led to the Miners’ Strike. It was clear that this was the end of an era for industry in South Wales, and was a part of Thatcher’s plan to end manufacturing and turn the UK into a service economy – which I had been documenting with a series of pictures of closed factories around London.

I think I was the only one of the four who didn’t have a car, but the four of us drove down I think together in Terry King, who had organised a couple of nights at a guest house and read up a little on the area.

I’ve just put a album with many of the pictures I took on this trip onto Flickr, where you can browse all of them at high resolution. Most are from Trehafod around the Lewis Merthyr colliery and from Cwmaman, as well as Dowlais and Cefn Coed. As always I’m happy for images to be shared on social media but retain copyright, and a licence is needed for any commercial or editorial use.

Wales 1984 – Views from the valleys

After taking these pictures I made some attempt to get funding to return and do more work in the area, but without success.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.