Book Review Of Magic Little Island off Anglesey

by Margaret Hughes

You will see the magical little island of Ynys Gorad Goch when crossing the Menai Straits, the tidal waters between Anglesey and the North Wales mainland.

Margaret Hughes here reviews the book "The Story of Ynys Gorad Goch in the Menai Strait" by local Anglesey businessman David Senogles, who carried out some intensive research into the islands of the Strait and the fishing industry carried out ovber centuries in the weirs.

This book with a bright red and black cover showing a photo of the island is over 100 pages long, and my copy is rather a tatty volume, given that it has been handled so often as one of her most valued.

Try to buy a copy today and it will be very difficult as it was privately published in limited edition in the late 1960's, but I should imagine the old archives office at Llangefni has a copy among their treasure trove.

To start with Gorad stands for "weir" in Welsh. In fact Ynys Gorad Goch consists of two islands, which are linked by a causeway, which is visible at low water.

The Menai Straits is especially suited to Weir fishing, which involves catching fish in a basket weave fence below water as the tide ebbs, which prevents them from escaping because of the very string currents.

When low water is reached the fishermen go out to collect their catch.

Every page of this book is absorbing, the reader is really captivated by the richness of description and the facts as they pour off the page, and yet all along, the account of the centuries of history is told in an accessible way.

As well as fishing in the Strait, there are chapters on who owned the island over the centuries, descriptions of the buildings and an attempt even to create a garden there in the 1960's.

One fact that cannot be pinned down with accuracy is the age of the house and curing tower, though it appears that when the island belonged to the Diocese of Bangor, one Bishop is thought to have used the place for meditation.

In the little parlour there is an inscribed stone with the initials I.R 1808, which refers to John Randolph, then Bishop of Bangor, a frequent visitor.

Going back a few centuries the fish caught in the weir were ideal for supplementing the diet of the monks living in the adjacent religious houses.

Later when Ynys Gorad Goch was sold to private owners, three generations of the Madoc Jones family lived at the property, and earned a living from fishing.

Another family who lived on the island during the early part of the last century supplemented their income by offering Sunday teas to visitors who would walk down from Holyhead Road, through the woods to the shore.

There they would ring a bell fixed to a tree, and this was a signal to the boatman who would row them across to the island.

When they arrived the visitors would receive whitebait in their basket, along with some bread and butter and a pot of tea for about one shilling. Later, the boatman would return them to the Anglesey shore.

The curing tower on the small island was used for salting and curing before the fish was taken ashore on the mainland to be sold in the market.

More recently, Ynys Gorad Goch has been used as an outward bound centre for young people.

Looking to the future, if the proposed third crossing of the Menai Straits is completed, visitors will be able to get an even closer view of this amazing and unique, magical islet in the Menai Straits.

Then David Senogles would have a new chapter to add to his fascinating book.

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