Carmarthen Cameos – 9: Childhood Memories of Dinefwr

When I sat down to narrate my journey and stay in Carmarthenshire in June, I wasn’t sure how this would go. As I said in the very first post under Carmarthen Cameos label, I didn’t know how to approach Carmarthen. It would seem occasionally that medieval ballads and lullabies were still heard across Carmarthenshire, and my visit to Llandeilo and Dinefwr only confirmed to me that there are still places very near to us that haven’t lost their original charm.

However, my impressions were largely my own, and I didn’t intend to make them particularly entertaining or objective. I must admit, though, going to Dinefwr Castle was like fulfilling a child’s dream for me. That post on Dinefwr attracted some comments, but little did I know that a couple of months later I would receive a letter from Jeremy Thomas, who grew up in Llandeilo in the 60s and 70s and now lives in the States. The letter in which he narrated his memories of Dinefwr is the one that you’d write about something that suddenly visited you and is very precious. It also documents that part of history of Dinefwr and Llandeilo area which is only known to someone who lived there, and, with Jeremy’s permission, you can now read what it was like to be a kid in Llandeilo:

“Your words brought back the memories of the many weekends of my youth when my cohorts and I would trespass on the castle grounds.

Yes, trespass. In those days the castle was not open to the public at all. There were no signposts, no pathways, and no history lessons. The castle was as raw as if it had been left untouched for centuries. To get there we would pretend we were entering guarded territory (back then the threat came in the shape of the dreaded local farmers). We’d scale the hillsides and thrash through the wooded areas to get to our reward–a veritable time-wrap.
The novelty never wore off. Each and every time inside the castle we would be transported to medieval times–an eerie but irresistible connection to the voices and bodies of the past. We all had ancestors going back centuries in the Llandeilo area, so the connection was plausibly familial.
At the end of the day we would always scare the living daylights out of each other, making up ghost stories as we sat in one tower room that I remember still had a parquet-type floor. I don’t know if you saw that same tower room, but I used to think it was some fair maiden’s boudoir.
There were never any other people at the castle which made the experience so personal. With dusk upon us and with our imagination running wild, the flight back to Llandeilo was always at full speed. I remember once getting in trouble with one of my friend’s mothers for having frightened my poor pal out of his skin with one of my ghost stories.”

I didn’t see the floor, but if I am totally honest, I didn’t even look on the ground where I walked. The walls and the views from them were so much more captivating for me. And considering that to walk up the hill to the castle is quite a feat, it probably doesn’t see too many visitors, in spite of being open to the public.

Jeremy also mentions the church (that I also missed), “Llandyfeusant, tucked under one of the hillsides on the way to the castle. We would also stop off there when we were kids to get our adrenaline flowing (it was always too dark on the way back, of course). The church hadn’t seen a service for decades back then and was always cloaked in such a creepy silence. Some of the tombstones were even open so you can just imagine what dares we subjected each other to. Life went along at a steady pace in those days and the days were definitely longer.

I must admit, reading Jeremy’s story almost made me jealous. As a child, I lived in the capital city of concrete, brick and glass, and I had no such luxury of visiting a derelict church with half-open tombs, or of sitting in a cold medieval castle, pressing my back against the 13th-14th c. stones, listening to the movement of bats’ wings and to the scary tales of my friends. I had to exploit the books and my imagination to fulfil the void, but, God knows, I wish I had spent at least a couple of days in Llandeilo, visiting Dinefwr. Thanks to Jeremy, however, I did just that.

If you have your own memories of visiting Dinefwr, or any other castle, especially when you were a child, and don’t mind sharing your stories with us, please leave a comment.

– D([“mb”,”\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>It feels so far away now.\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Like you, I am a linguist. I have lived in Russia (as Soviet Union), Geneva, Seville and France. I have been in the States for seventeen years now, but my family still lives in and around Llandeilo.\n\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Sincerely,\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Jeremy Thomas\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr clear\u003d\”all\”\>\u003cbr\>– \n\u003cbr\>Jeremy Thomas | Partner / Director of Account Planning | Collaborate | work: 415.651.1218 cell: 415.425.2802\n\u003c/div\>\n”,0] ); D([“mi”,10,2,”11499b57fd73fa05″,0,”0″,”Julia Shuvalova”,”Julia”,”julia.shuvalova@gmail.com”,[[[“jeremyt”,”jeremyt@collaboratesf.com”,”11499b57fd73fa05″] ] ,[] ,[] ] ,”24-Aug (4 days ago)”,[“jeremyt@collaboratesf.com”] ,[] ,[] ,[] ,”24-Aug-2007 22:09″,”Re: Dinefwr musings”,”Hi Jeremy, I hope you are OK. I’m very sorry for not replying earlier, I’m af…”,[] ,1,,,”24 August 2007_22:09″,”On 24/08/07, Julia Shuvalova \u003cjulia.shuvalova@gmail.com\> wrote:”,”On 24/08/07, \u003cb class\u003dgmail_sendername\>Julia Shuvalova\u003c/b\> wrote:”,”gmail.com”,,,””,””,0,,”\u003c4d7733f50708241409y43d05bc1o7749d12e370bdbc3@mail.gmail.com\>”,0,,0,”In reply to \”Dinefwr musings\””,0] ); //

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