Ffynnon Ffidlar – the Fiddler’s Well, lies around a mile and a half to the east of Bethesda in the Caseg Valley. Still well known locally and visited by passers-by on the track along the side of the valley. It lies some 50 yards down the hillside from the track where it passes Dr Hughes Quarry.
Accounts of the history of the well are few and far between, the most complete has been recently published online at the website Enwau Dyffryn Ogwen. The earliest account appears to be a letter published in the Welsh language newspaper Y Drych which was published weekly in New York from 1851. The writer is identified solely by the initials JHR and though then living in Scranton, Philadelphia appears to have originally come from the Bethesda area. The basis of his letter is a complaint that an article on the folklore of Welsh wells carried in an earlier edition had omitted to mention the Fidler’s well.
JHR notes that the water from the well runs to the south “like all springs possessing magical properties” and that its water is the coldest that can be found on the hillside. It forms a stream that flows into the River Caseg at the foot of the valley and was notable for the water cresses that grew in the marshes on its route. It was said that there were hundreds of pins at the bottom of the well in earlier times. JHB suggests that these had been deposited by visitors to the well seeking to tell fortunes, though the well may also have been believed to have medicinal qualities. The deposition of pins is often the result of seeking the removal of warts, and bathing in the cold water a remedy for rheumatism.
More recent memories of the well have been provided by Myrddin Williams in an article in Llais Ogwan. He recalls visiting the well many times in the past and always having been curious about the name and the traditions surrounding it. Even then in the middle of the 20th century it was remembered as a source of water with medicinal properties and his uncle would ask him to bring back bottles of water from the well.
Williams’ own research has investigated the origins of the name – the Fidler’s well. He writes that at one time there was supposed to be a slate with an engraving of a violin on it near the well, but that is long lost, and there could be no evidence of its age. His research led to a winning essay from the Bethesda Eisteddfod of 1867. This provides the story of a harpist Idris Delynor born in the Ciltwllan area in the middle of the 16th century. Not only was Idris a harpist, he was also a great fiddler. He would go to the area around the well to collect rushes to make candles. There is a story that at one time he was mistaken for someone else by a hunter or poacher and was lucky to escape with his life.
Further support to the story comes from the fact that there are other features in the landscape named for Idris. Williams notes a hollow and a ridge named Pwll Idris and Bryn Idris and a cairn Carnedd Idris in the vicinity, which I haven’t identified.
The fiddler’s well still flows fresh, and on a hot day its waters were still icy cold. It is surrounded on three sides by large moss covered stones forming a pool around one foot square. The water flows freely from the pool forming a stream that flows away down the hillside towards the river. Many thanks are due to members of the Pesda Positif Facebook group who provided me with such good instructions on how to find the well.
See: Enwau Dyffryn Ogwen – created by Dafydd Fôn
JHR (1881) Llen y Werin. Letter to the editor of Y Drych, New York. 8th October 1881
Williams, Myrddin (2022) Ffynnon Ffidlar. Llais Ogwan. Bethesda. January 2022
Parry, William (Lechidon). (1868) Hanes Llenyddiaeth ac Enwogion: Llandechid a Llandegai Bangor
Ffynnon Ffidlar SH 65271 66729
Brilliant story that Ian, you have put so much hard work into that research, very well done. 👏.
At first sight, my initial thought was “hey! I know that gate”. And I was right, this is just up the road from me.
Quite a photogenic gate I thought. I suspect you have photographed it too
See if you can spot it here: https://geotopoi.wordpress.com/2023/03/22/carneddau-8/
Brilliant. I’m glad the weather was t like that last weekend when I was there
A quiet and secretive well in scenic surroundings with a complex history. Nice new look to your blog too.