For us, this story started with a gravestone in the cemetery of St Tudno’s Church on the Great Orme in Llandudno. It was a little faded in places but still bright in the sunshine, the details of a lost story set against a blue sky. Inevitably, for us it was a beginning of a search, but we could never forget that, for a young family, the gravestone represented a tragic ending .
John Stanley Taylor, 29 years old, Dorothy Buddug his wife, 24 years, Sylvia Doris, their daughter, aged 17 months who lost their lives in the Dolgarrog Disaster on November 2nd 1925. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
We could find no comfort in those words. We could not simply see that grave and walk away, we could not abandon Stanley and Dorothy and little Sylvia Doris. And so we found ourselves compelled to investigate the awful Dolgarrog disaster of 1925 and the death of a family in the November darkness of the Conwy valley, their small house on Machno Terrace devastated when two dams burst in the hills above and sent a torrent of water and boulders crashing down to devastate their home.
If you search diligently on the website of the British Film Institute you will find a film taken by a local camera man in the days immediately after the catastrophe. There is still water flowing through the gap in the dam wall, even after the land has been scoured and drowned. There are broken houses in a featureless world, with their meagre contents desperately recovered and left outside on rocks, in the vain hope that they might one day be dry. You can see no trees, nor grass, nor fields. Just bewildered residents, mud, boulders and dirty water, making its inexorable progress to the river Conwy.
Here is a link to the extract
It may not surprise you to learn that such was the interest in the disaster that police had to erect a roadblock to keep back crowds of onlookers obstructing relief operations, eager to see how the people of the village had suffered, for their own amusement. The film shows smartly-dressed female visitors in sensible boots, smiling as they are helped to step through the debris and the water using corrugated iron sheets as stepping stones, here in a village where children had died.
Read the rest of this fascinating story in my book Grave Tales From Wales Volume Two along with 35 other unexpected stories.
Published by Cambria in April 2022
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