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Description

A long time ago Eifionydd was an isolated place, sparsely populated. The only way in and out was by poor paths and tracks so the residents looked out to sea. The first maritime mention comes during the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1295 when food and goods were brought in from Ireland. Although there was no harbor, small ships could beach at high tide in the shadow of the castle rock and a rough breakwater. As the tide ebbed the ship dried out and the cargo was unloaded into carts. They brought in limestone and coal for the lime kiln, grain for the mill and general merchandise.

When the harbor at Porthmadog opened in 1825 the men of Criccieth took part in the development as sailors, shipbuilders and quayside workers. One of the early ships was the 'Eivion', owned by Captain David Williams, who opened a shop near where St Deiniol's church stands today. Many of the Criccieth boys made their first voyages on the Porthmadog ships in the slate trade and then moved to the large iron and steel sailing ships from Liverpool and Cardiff. Many became captains.

It is hard to believe today, but dozens of these ships were owned by shipowners from Criccieth or were managed from here. Captain Thomas Williams, of Parciau, ran the Cambrian Line. A typical voyage would be to Australia with general goods then coal or grain to Chile or Peru and then back to Europe around Cape Horn with guano (bird droppings). Another owner was Robert Thomas, Cardigan House, (now Greystoke), he and then his son had a fleet of ships up to 1922. Most of the captains and many of the crew were from Llŷn and Eifionydd.

After the days of sailing ships were over, the local men (and some women) sailed on the steamers from Liverpool and the Royal Navy. In the three cemeteries in Criccieth over fifty captains are buried or commemorated; not to mention the dozens of seamen, marine engineers, cooks and others . Many were lost at sea. “They have no grave but the cruel sea”.

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