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A Legend Of Merionethshire

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

A few years ago was to be seen on the road-side near Nannau, in Merionethshire, the seat of Sir R. W. Vaughan, Bart., M.P., a large hollow oak, known by the name of the " Spirit's Blasted Tree " (Ceubren yr Ellyll). The event which gave rise to so ghostly an appellation, is preserved by tradition among the mountain peasants in this part of Merionethshire, and founded on a deadly feud that subsisted between the celebrated " wild, irregular Glyndwr,"* and his kinsman Howel Sele, then resident at Nannau. When Owen took up arms against the English, his cousin Howel, who possessed great influence in the country where he lived, declined to embrace a cause which, though perhaps laudable, and somewhat conformable to the rude spirit of the times, he foresaw would be unsuccessful, and bring down upon his country increased rigour and oppression. His refusal provoked the choleric chieftain, and laid the foundation of an enmity which, though not immediately conspicuous, was not the less inveterate. I transcribe from Pennant the result of their quarrel :

" Owen and this chieftain had been long at variance. I have been informed that the Abbot of Cymmer Abbey, near Dolgellen, in hopes of reconciling them, brought them together, and to all appearance, effected his charitable design. While they were walking out, Owen observed a doe feeding, and told Howel, who was reckoned the best archer of his day, that there was a fine mark for him. Howel bent his bow, and pretending to aim at the doe, suddenly turned, and discharged the arrow full at the breast of Glyndwr, who fortunately had armour beneath his clothes, so received no hurt. Enraged at this treachery, he seized on Sele, burnt his house, and hurried him away from the place ; nor could any one ever learn how he was disposed of, till forty years after, when the skeleton of a large man, such as Howel, was discovered in the hollow of a great oak, in which Owen was supposed to have immured him in reward of his perfidy."

This oak, the terror of every peasant for miles round, remained in its place till within these few years, when one morning, after a very violent storm, it was discovered, to the great regret of its worthy proprietor, blown to the ground, and its superannuated vitality destroyed for ever. All that could be done with it was done. Sir Robert had it manufactured into work-tables, cabinets, drinking-vessels, and, to extend its circulation still further, into snuff-boxes ; these are distributed among the Baronet's friends, and highly are they valued by their fortunate possessors, not only as the gifts of a gentleman almost idolized in Merionethshire, but as the relics of so venerable and remarkable a parent.

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