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Monkeys, Parrots and Presents from Sea.

Seafaring was very important in Ll?n and Eifionydd and many men made their living as sailors. The boys
would start their careers on the small schooners from Porthmadog. These would carry slates all around northern Europe and the Mediterranean. These young lads would always bring a present home for their mothers and sisters, lace from Belgium, silk scarves from Italy, perfume from France, wood carvings from Germany and other, sometimes unusual presents such as glass rolling pins full of tea or sweets. Griff Pritchard, the town crier’s son was away for seven months when his ship, the OWEN MORRIS was wrecked within sight of home at Black Rock during November 1907. All he managed to save was a small bottle of perfume that he had bought for his mother which he put in his pocket before being saved by Criccieth lifeboat. The lads would graduate to the large iron sailing ships owned by Robert Thomas from Cardigan House and Captain Thomas Williams of Parciau which sailed all over the world. The presents and souvenirs would become exotic such as sandalwood boxes and chests (for storing bed linen and underwear), stuffed animals and birds, carved African masks, sawfish bills, dried flying fish, walking sticks made from shark spines. The list is endless. On a summer’s day the front door of the houses would be open and many of these strange things could be glimpsed on display in the hallway. One house even had a whale’s vertebrae as a door-stop! The craft of the sailors would also be on display, ships in bottles, rope work, needlework and embroidery and so on. And of course there were the monkeys and parrots! Many of these ended up in Criccieth far from their sunny homes in the tropics. These would be bought during the voyage, which could last up to two years, so by the time the ship arrived back at Liverpool or Cardiff it would look like a zoo. Cecil “Sis” Hildage

who lived above the stables behind Abereistedd had a mania about monkeys and during one voyage had three. The first was named “Billy” which he sold to a soldier in Aden, the second, “Jacko” died of pneumonia and the third made it home to Criccieth. Mr J.R.Jones who owned the fruit and vegetable shop in the High Street also owned a monkey named “Jacko” which was very mischievous. The sailors shared the focs’le so all the parrots would be together and would learn some terrible language. When they arrived home they would have to be put in another room when visitors called, including the minister, in case they started swearing! Monkeys did not live long because of the Welsh weather but parrots live to an old age so, who knows, there might be one still alive today chatting away to visitors.

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