How Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world, Part 5

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 fifth instalment of the story of how Mary Jones and Thomas Charles triggered a mission to the world.

Mary Jones set off from Tyn-y-ddôl in the hot summer of 1800 along a rough track which took her along the eastern edge of Cadair Idris above Tal-y-llyn lake, then along the ridge to the top of the Pass, turning towards Dinas Mawddwy.  At Cae’r Tyddyn Farm she probably took the old mountain road across the Wnion valley, coming down beyond Rhydymain. On her way she stopped to rest, eat some of her food and wash in a clear stream of water. From Llanuwchllyn, she walked along the north shore of the lake to her destination.

 Bala is a quiet town at the north end of Bala Lake, the largest natural body of water in Wales. It is now part of the Snowdonia National Park. The house where Thomas Charles lived in the High Street, a bank when I was last in Bala, has a well-preserved plaque on its wall which reads: 

 In this house lived the Rev. Thomas Charles B.A. one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the year 1804.  Psalm CXIX. 162

 with another plaque about Mary underneath.

 When she arrived in Bala, Mary followed directions she had been given to Thomas Charles’s house. She knocked and Charles appeared from the study at the back of his house.

 “I am afraid the Bible have not arrived,” he told her.

 Mary began to cry.

 “I don’t know where I shall stay,” she said.

“You shall stay with my maid,” Charles told her, “until the Bibles come from London.”

The maid lived in a house at the bottom of Charles’s garden. After a day or two, the Bibles arrived and Charles presented Mary, as she would often tell Lizzie Rowlands many years later, with “three for the money, that is for the price of one”.

Mary set off for home, taking off her shoes lest she should wear them out, and ran much of the way home.

Two of the Bibles Thomas Charles handed Mary may still be seen today. One of them – which became Mary’s own Bible – is a precious exhibit as part of the Society’s collection at Cambridge University Library. It was the last edition of the Welsh Bible prior to the establishment of the Bible Society. Published by SPCK, it contained marginal references, the Apocrypha, the Book of Common Prayer, a metrical version of the Psalms and various Church tables. Another is in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. We are not sure what happened to the third. Perhaps Mary’s son, Ioan, took it with him when he emigrated to America.

You can read Part 6 of this story on this blog tomorrow.