The first Bible Society Welsh New Testaments arrive in Bala, north Wales, Part 12 of the Mary Jones story

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

A week before the first Bible Society Welsh Testaments arrived in Bala, the citizens of the town and surrounding districts heard they were on the way. The news was on every lip and the atmosphere was electric.  As dawn broke on Thursday 25 September 1806, news came that the load of Testaments was approaching.  Crowds from the town and surrounding countryside rushed to meet it.  A group of sturdy young men removed a tired old mare from the cart shafts and ran with the load of Bibles to the town where they received a rapturous welcome from a crowd which lined the streets.

Thomas Charles returned to Bala after a preaching tour the day before the New Testaments arrived. He had no time to unload the Testaments and check them before they were sold. He gave one copy to his baby grandson, who went on to become President of Trevecca College in South Wales and would later recall the incident at one of the Society’s jubilee meetings.

Young people in Bala read the books late into the September evening and when night fell they turned the pages by the glimmer of dim lamps. Next morning labourers carried them into the fields and opened them during their rest periods.   

In her old age, Mary Jones described how she and others used to walk overnight to Bala in Thomas Charles’s day to the communion services there, of the prayer meetings held on the way, of the preaching on the Green at Bala during Methodist Associations in the town, and of the spiritual rejoicing on such occasions. Mary was aged twenty-one on that memorable September day when the Testaments arrived in Bala.  Was she there?  Did she help pull the cart into the town? We shall probably never know. We do know that for the next ten years Bible Society distributed a yearly average of eleven thousand copies of the Welsh Scriptures.

Mary Jones and her mother used to enjoy the Methodist Society meetings in preacher William Hugh’s home. They were pleased when in 1806 the Methodists built a chapel at Cwrt – the northern part of Abergynolwyn village. Gradually, all the meetings were held there and during the period Mary attended it, the chapel was very plain with an earth floor and no pews.

 “If the members of the little church were poor of this world,” a contemporary recorded, “they were rich in faith.  There were, at Cwrt, a lot of extremely good old people who excelled in religious zeal, in faithfulness in attending the means of grace and in earnestness of prayer. The old women were not only more numerous, they were also more patriarchal in their way than the old men who were there. The women would be to the fore with the singing, and Mari Siôn would lead the singing. They would sing a verse over and over again, moving like a forest blown by the wind, going backwards and forwards, all together, completely regular in their movements, but with individuals shouting and ejaculating as they sang.”  The Mari Siôn referred to was Mary Jones’s mother.  In 1877 the chapel was closed and converted into three houses – now holiday homes.

 You can read the next instalment of the Mary Jones story at this blog tomorrow.