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Criccieth - The Strange Fire.
(From the book “Y Gestiana” by Alltud Eifion)

“Will o the Wisp”, Jack o Lantern or Marsh Gas Strange lights and fire were reputedly seen at Morfa Bychan in the year 1693 and Meirionydd at another time. They appeared around the holiday and on the 24th of December burned the haystack of Richard Davies, Erw Wen; one of Richard Griffith, Llechedd Du and one of Humphrey Owen, Garreg Wen y Gest. On the night of the 27th, it burned the haystack of John Philips, Ynys, Llanfihangel and two haystacks of John Griffith Owen Cefn Trevor Bach, and two stacks of Catherine William, Cefn Trefor Mawr, and one of Francis Evans, Glasfryn. After that, it burned Richard Davies, of Erw Wen’s cowshed, in which a lot of hay was stored.The impact of the fire was so harmful and toxic at Sion Wyn’s smallholding that over three years, every creature that browsed there and also the birds, which fed there died. It was a kind of fiery mist, that arose from the wet and sandy marshes of Morfa Bychan, and crossed

the estuary to Ynys ,Llanfihangel, Morfa Harlech, and the banks of Traeth Bach. It was most exceptional and shocked and terrified everyone. It consisted of a small blue flame that presumably was easily extinguished and did no harm to those that entered it to stop the hay stack fires. It was very different in nature to other fires and the devastation wrought would be at night. Cattle, horses, goats and pigs died from the residues left on the ground, and continued to do so for a long time. Finally it was found to be affected by noise and when this was realised, when the fire started everyone gathered together and blew horns, beat drums, and fired guns and this noise and turmoil caused the vapours to ascend into the air and cause no damage. Fewer losses happened after this discovery but still occurred for some time on Saturday and Sunday nights. The belief of the country folk, at that time was, that the smallholder Sion Wyn, had cursed and bewitched the place !! He was caught and brought before the Justice, but there were none closer than Penarth, or Wern Fawr in Caernarfonshire; and when taking him the constables (one of which was Rowland Pritchard from YnysDdu) had to lodge for the night in Llanystumdwy, he escaped through a window and was seen no more. The historian Thomas Pennant, in 1781,theorised that this fire was caused by locusts blown by a storm from the west, drowned and came ashore in Morfa Bychan. The putrefying bodies caused noxious fumes which then caught fire.

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