Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Isle of Anglesey

by John Wheatley

Anglesey, with its beautiful landscape, and its long and dramatic history of settlement and conflict, is the setting of John Wheatley`s three novels: A Golden Mist, Flowers of Vitriol and The Weeping Sands.

The isle of Anglesey stands in the Irish Sea, separated from the Welsh mainland by the beautiful Menai Strait, once described - with its treacherous tides and unpredictable currents - as the most dangerous waterway in the world.

Wherever you go on Anglesey, you find stories.

When the Romans were fastening their iron grip on Britain, two legions under Suetonius Paulinus crossed the strait to Insula Mona to destroy the Anglesey stronghold of Druid culture, and by all accounts the bloodiest of slaughters took place. In ensuing centuries, as the emergent kingdom of Wales defended its freedom against powerful enemies, Anglesey was the retreat of the Princes, and a royal household was established at Aberffraw. Ancient historical and cultural ties with neighbouring Ireland were consolidated when, after the Act of Union, 1800, Holyhead, on Anglesey was chosen as the final stage of the mail route to Dublin, and it was this which led to the building of the Menai Bridge, completed in 1826.

My first Anglesey novel, A Golden Mist, was inspired by the story of the loss of the Royal Charter. Returning, in 1859, from Melbourne, with a company of 500 men, women, children, and
crew, and laden with bullion from the Australian gold fields, the Royal Charter was only thirty miles from her destination, the port of Liverpool when she was wrecked, in hurricane conditions, on rocks close to Moelfre, a fishing village on Anglesey`s north west coast. Only forty people survived. The sad evidence of the Royal Charter disaster is still to be found in remote and scattered churchyards along that stretch of coast, and it is said that many of the drowned, reluctant to lose the fortune they had gained on the far side of the world, went to their death weighed down with pockets full of gold. Many stories, too, told of villagers from Moelfre who grew mysteriously rich in the aftermath of the disaster! In A Golden Mist, Saffy Williams, visiting the UK from South Africa, finds evidence that one of her ancestors lived in Moelfre at the time. Through her quest, and two fictional contemporary narratives, the diary of Sophia Davis on board the Royal Charter and the memoir of Richard Williams, a young man living in Moelfre in 1859, I tell the story of the lost treasure ship and the lives and passions of people associated with it.

In 1770, `the great discovery` on Parys Mountain, near Amlwch, on Anglesey`s north coast, was the uncovering of rich copper deposits, and it was to lead to a furious mining operation, lasting fifty years, which turned Amlwch from a tiny coastal village into a busy and tawdry industrial town – the copper capital of the world. My second Anglesey novel, Flowers of Vitriol, is a moody story of love, betrayal, jealousy and vengeance set during this early chapter of Britain`s industrial revolution.

Baron Hill, the fabulous neo-Palladian mansion set on the hillside, above Beaumaris, and overlooking the celebrated castle - one in the chain of fortifications by which Edward 1st attempted to subjugate the Welsh - represents the wealth and influence of the Bulkeley family, who provided statesmen in the courts of Elizabeth 1st and James 1st, and who played a vital role in Anglesey politics from the Civil War to modern times. When I found, in my research of Baron Hill, a true story of love and adultery leading to an almost Oresteian tragedy of family vengeance and self-destruction, I chose this as the subject for my third Anglesey novel, The Weeping Sands. Over the centuries, Baron Hill played host to many distinguished guests, including royalty, but the Bulkeley family quit the mansion in 1926. Troops were billeted there during the second world war, and after substantial fire damage, the house was finally abandoned. It now stands, a derelict and awe-inspiring ruin, camouflaged by trees, on the hillside above Beaumaris.


John Wheatley`s novels are available through AMAZON.




John Wheatley lives in the North West of England and is a Lecturer at Stockport College. Cheshire. He was educated at William Hulme`s Grammar School, Manchester, and Leeds University where he graduated in English Literature. John has spent most of his working life teaching English and Drama, but is also qualified as a plumber and heating engineer. He spent holidays in Wales and on Anglesey as a child, and in 2009 published his first Anglesey historical novel, A GOLDEN MIST. This was followed in 2010 by FLOWERS OF VITRIOL, and in 2011 by THE WEEPING SANDS. His fourth Anglesey novel, THE PAPERS OF MATTHEW LOCKE is due to be published in the spring of 2012.

Visit John Wheatley`s Blog


1 comment:

  1. Thanks so very, very much for posting this!
    A truly fascinating introduction to some marvellous books by a multi-talented author and I must, must, must go & see if our local library has "A Golden Mist" !!
    Thanks again :)



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