How Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world, Part 4

Posted in Blog, Mary Jones

My wife, Sheila, and I are looking forward to attending the opening of Mary Jones World at Llanycil, Bala, north Wales, on Sunday 5 October 2014 – the bicentenary of the death of Thomas Charles from whom Mary received her Bible at the end of her long walk across Welsh mountains. Mary Jones World is the realisation of a dream Bible Society has been praying for – to see the story of Mary Jones and Thomas Charles told to a new generation. A new state-of-the-art visitor and education centre will give residents of Bala, Gwynedd and Wales the chance to learn about the Bible’s impact not only on the Welsh nation but the world. For a wider audience the centre will celebrate the birth of Bible Society which has grown from its roots in the foothills of the majestic Snowdonia National Park to nearly 150 Bible Societies around the world.

Here, then, is the fourth instalment of the story of how Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world.

In 1799, on a bitterly cold Monday evening on 16 December, Thomas Charles was riding south from Caernarfon along the old Roman road at the foot of Snowdon (it is now the A4085).  Near the Pass of Aberglaslyn a raw frost-charged wind caught the thumb of his left hand. For eleven months the frostbitten thumb gave Charles “long and grievous pain”. There were times that friends worried that he might die, though he continued with his work and engagements and rarely complained.

Now that she had learnt to read at Charles’s school at Abergynolwyn, Mary Jones longed to have a Bible of her own.  For six years she had saved every halfpenny she earned by doing jobs for neighbours so that she could buy her own copy. 

A farmer’s wife who lived about two miles from Tyn’y-ddôl, told her, “You may come to Penybryniau Mawr to read the Bible we keep on the table in the parlour – that’s if you’ll take your clogs off before you come in!”

From then, Mary walked there every week in pretty well all-weather to learn passages of the Bible by heart.

On one stormy Monday morning, while she was walking to the farmhouse at Penybryniau Mawr, Mary saw a man wrapped in a cloak, wearing a cloth cap, riding towards her on a white horse.  He stopped.

“Where are you going through such wind and rain?”

 “I am going to a farmhouse where there is a Bible,” Mary replied.  “There isn’t one nearer my home. But the farmer’s wife has said I can go and read the Bible she has on the parlour table, providing I take my shoes off and that I save every penny to buy my own. But I don’t know where to find one.”

 “I am Mr Charles,” said the horse rider. “I expect you know that I live in Bala. I am expecting some Bibles from London and may be able to help you.” 

 Bala was twenty-eight miles away, but Mary’s mother agreed to her request to be allowed to walk there to buy her Bible. So fifteen-year-old Mary prepared to set off for Bala early in the hot, dry summer of 1800. She had saved seventeen shillings “and a few pennies”.  Her mother put the money for the Bible and some bread and cheese in one end of her shoulder bag and her one pair of shoes – too precious to be worn on the long walk – in the other.  She would put them on when she reached the town.

 You can read episode five on this blog tomorrow.