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Bwlch Oerddrws Dinas Mawddwy Gwynedd Wales
Red Bandits of Mawddwy (Welsh: Gwylliaid Cochion Mawddwy):| In the 16th Century the Mawddwy district would have been described as anything but peaceful, Dinas Mawddwy being home to the Red Bandits of Mawddwy (Gwylliaid Cochion Mawddwy). | The story starts, however, many years before the 16th Century and indeed goes back to the days of King Maelgwm Gwynedd (in the 6th Century). | A few miles from Dinas Mawddwy, on the wild, mountain road to Bala, is the little village of Llanymawddwy, where the church is dedicated to Saint Tydecho. Tydecho came to Britain from Brittany at the time of King Arthur, but after Arthur’s death, when the Saxons began to overrun the country, he came here to this secluded spot, where he is said to have lived a very austere life, lying on bare stones and wearing a hair shirt.| St Tydecho was also a tiller of the ground | King Maelgwn Gwynedd, who was then a youth, stole Tydecho’s oxen so that he could not plough. The next day the saint was still at his ploughing, the plough being drawn by wild stags and a grey wolf. Maelgwn, not to be beaten, fetched his dogs to hunt the animals and sat on a stone to enjoy the fun. There wasn’t any fun. The dogs were not interested in hunting and worse, when Maelgwn tried to rise he found his seat firmly attached to the rock upon which he was sitting.| Eventually the young Prince begged for pardon and the saint released him.| Malgwn granted Tydecho a number of privileges among them being that the district should henceforth (for a hundred ages) be respected as a sanctuary for man and beast. | As a result fugitives made for this corner of Wales and it is said that all, the guilty, as well as the innocent, found a home in the neighbourhood. | By the middle of the 16th Century its bandits were notorious everywhere and by this time they were known as the Red Bandits of Mawddwy.| The Red Bandits were a band of highway robbers and bandits from the area of Mawddwy, who in the 16th century became famous for their murderous deeds. They were called red as most of them were said to have had red hair. The Gwylliaid were supposedly the dregs of society, who came to the Dinas Mawddwy area having been excommunicated from their own areas following the Wars of the Roses. Principally they were cattle thieves and sheep-stealers, but they terrorised the district to such an extent that scythes with their blades pointed upwards would be built into chimneys as protection from the bandits. Some say that chimneys built in this manner were found in the early 20th Century.| In 1554, Sir John Wynn of Gwydir and Baron Lewis Owain (Owen), vice chamberlain of North Wales, were given a commission to put an end to the terror, and on Christmas Eve they captured more than eighty of the gang. All were condemned to death. Among them were two brothers, and their mother Lowri, daughter of Gruffudd Llwyd, begged Owain to spare the youngest of the two. | When he refused she screamed at him in rage. She tore her dress open and bared her breasts. “These yellow breasts,” she cried, “have given suck to those who shall wash their hands in your blood.” | In 1555 Baron Owain was on his way to Montgomeryshire Assizes and at the spot now called Llidiart-y-Barwn (Baron's Gate) the road was barred by felled trees. The remnant of the bandits had ambushed him. Flights of arrows came from all sides and Lewis fell with one through his face. The bandits attacked him where he lay and he received more than thirty wounds; and the story goes that the remaining sons of the old woman actually fulfilled her prophecy and dabbed their hands in his blood. | | In 1558 following the murder, Lowri was named in the court case in Sesiwn Fawr, Bala, but she was described as a spinster. In an attempt to save herself from the gallows, she declared that she was pregnant. This was confirmed by a jury of married women and Lowri managed to escape the death penalty. | The murder of the Baron however lead to the demise of the Gwylliaid, and the full force of the law was brought against them. Tradition has it that every male aged between eight and eighty years old was hanged and that other Gwylliaid were exiled to other areas and countries. Following this, it is said that law and order was never as strong or the people as refined, as they were in Meirionnydd. (Well they would say that wouldn’t they?).| The memory remains about the bandits in a number of place names in the area, for example Llety'r Gwylliaid (bandits lodging) and Llety'r Lladron (robbers lodging) near Bwlch Oerddrws. The bandits reputed meeting place was at the Brigand's Inn at nearby Mallwyd. | Two miles east of Mallwyd stands Collfryn, the house where, reputedly, Baron Owain executed the original eighty or so bandits. The mound where their bodies were buried after execution stands nearby at Rhos Goch (the Red - or bloody - Moor). | As a footnote to the story - should you visit Dolgellau town square you will see the old ironmongers shop – the site of the original home, Cwrt Plas y Dre, to the Sheriff of Meirionnydd or as we know him from the story ….Baron Lewis Owain.
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