Part 2: Ancestral Voices


1. Genes

I am one of that sizeable band of gays who are happily and faithfully married. I am not bisexual in the ordinary sense. Like Maelor, I have never been attracted to women, only to one particular woman. Like him, I married late. But my marriage is a very far cry from his ill-fated one: for evidence of my wife’s broad-mindedness, see the acknowledgments at the head of this story.

My father also married late, very late. He too, I am as certain as I can be, was gay, and I suspect that it was not love but social pressures or self-defence which drove him into marriage. And I also have a strong suspicion that my father’s father was in the same boat. He too married late. He was a kind and gentle man, I gather, and an Anglican priest into the bargain. Yet, like Owen Griffiths, he abruptly walked out on his wife and family when my father was aged one, and left Britain never to return. To her dying day, my grandmother would not say why.

The possibility, then, of three successive generations of gays supplied the idea behind this story. The last thing I am is a geneticist, but the notion of a gene inherited by some gays, though surely not by all, is one that appeals to me. There are interesting pieces about this (available online only if you are a subscriber) in the New Scientist for 12 May 2001 p.28 (‘Boy meets girl’) and 7 August 1999 p.3 (editorial).

[Note added in 2005: It is just as well I admitted that the last thing I am is a geneticist. In this story I made a major boob and muddled up the chromosomes. The truth — that if the gay gene really does exist it is inherited from the mother, not the father — is set out in my Not Understood, Chapter 5. For my scientific sins, I grovel abjectly.]

2. Places and People

Because the accepted spelling of some place-names has changed over the years, I have used earlier forms such as Carnarvon and Portmadoc in the ‘historical’ parts of this tale, but the current Caernarfon and Porthmadog in the ‘modern’ sections.

Cwmystradllyn is a valley I know well and love well. All the places mentioned, whether there or further afield, are real. The story of the quarry and its workers is drawn from the publications mentioned, augmented by some research in censuses, parish registers and local newspapers.

All the characters alive in the 1850s really existed. Their history at that time, and the context in which they lived and loved, is as accurate as I can make it, although to suit the plot I have adjusted a few ages and dates by a year or two. Daniel, for example, was indeed a miner who did live in Treforys and did go on the randy in Porthmadog. John really was his son. Rowland did suffer that accident (actually in 1858, not 1859, although the newspaper report is genuine) and, astonishingly, he survived it. But their private lives as depicted here, and their subsequent careers, are nothing but figments of my imagination. So too, it must be emphasised, are all their descendants and everyone else who supposedly lives in the present day.

3. Pictures

Ask Google Earth to take you to Cwmystradllyn. The location it delivers you to, being in the middle of a bog, is meaningless. But the cluster of photo symbols a little to the north-north-east will show you Ty Mawr Ynysypandy and its impressive architecture. From there go north-east up the valley, and the photo symbols to the north and north-east of the lake will show you Treforys and Gorseddau Quarry.