Content can be downloaded for non-commercial purposes, such as for personal use or in educational resources.
For commercial purposes please contact the copyright holder directly.
Read more about the The Creative Archive Licence.


Holyhead writer and performer Gillian Brownson recites a poem from the perspective of Mynydd Twr or Holyhead Mountain, exploring the deep slow time of a mountain and its view of the world about.


Cynefin, cynefinoedd


accustomed, conversant, familiar, intimate


grief, homesickness, longing, nostalgia, wistfulness

-Geiriadur Prifysgol Bangor University

Cynefin. Roots. Familiarity. The pull that breeds Hiraeth while you’re away. While working for Ports, Past and Present recently, and helping to produce a Poetry Film with our partners at Mother Goose Films, it seemed right to talk about my relationship to the part of Holyhead that is the most constant, the most strong – the Mountain.

Mynydd Twr, and the paths that wind around its coast running up to the breakwater, were not always a haven for me. Indeed, it was hell once a week on a Wednesday, when myself and the rest of Year 10 had to run it while PE teachers would occasionally rock up in a fiesta telling us to “Keep Up!”. But, there it is, a building block among many others – my ‘A’ level Art project was the study of flora, fauna and industrial buildings in pen and ink – here are some studies from an 17-year-old me – I knew there was a reason to keep my sketch book! There was blackberry picking; I listened out for ghosts in the hut circles. More than once, I rode my bike to visit my sister and friends as they volunteered at the Breakwater Country Park. Walking with my parents, exploring with friends, feeding the ducks with my children. With every year that passes, Mynydd Twr and all of the views from the top to the bottom have become mine. I’m sure many others in Holyhead feel the same.

Mynydd Twr shelters the port, with its crooked Breakwater (yes, we were told and believed that John Rennie had had a few while designing it!). But it also shelters us, as a community. It watches over us steadfastly as development and the modern world have shaped the rest of the island, protected as it is by laws for its environmental importance, for its home to rare birds and flowers, for its essential position warning mariners that they approach a rocky island in the dark. Mynydd Twr is mighty, and she has seen so much that this poem has evolved in her name.

I could explain what is behind every word, and every image, but I don’t see the point in explaining poetry. Suffice to say that for me, she embodies Cynefin, and Hiraeth will never be a factor for her, though of course, she witnesses it each day as she watches those who leave Wales and Ireland. What I hope is that those who walk by the mountain, those who visit it, climb it, look after it or watch it appear and disappear into view from a ship might find something in it that becomes theirs.

Mynydd Twr

By Gillian Brownson

Blasted from my side, a stone child breaks the water,
like a finger of fossils in the flood,
Holding back trouble, sea serpents & storms
Cradled and battered in the mussels and the mud.

And horizoned, beyond, my great Wicklow sisters,
fastened to the crag of their land,
Freeing the rain, falling on sails
Driving through and stabbing in the sand.

Still, they say goodbye. Mordeithiau.

Those that wonder, waving from the whirl of the water,
in the strum of the salt green sea,
Hauled in from Ireland,
The waves curling, hurling them home to me.

In a forest of masts, then of funnels,
Fisher-manned, and flying into morning,
Past the anchored sun floating,
The light of the sky and the sailor’s warning.

They sail by. Agosáu.

Tiny as darting stars they come,
Twinkling under oil and flame
Running on decks, hoisting up sails,
Cracking bottles against their boat’s name.

For Centuries, creaking through the murk of fogs,
Over the toll of the boatswain’s whistle,
Washing over shipwrecked rocks
Up here, among Gorse & heather & thistle.

I see. Dyma fi.

The messengers come rowing, the tugs towing
the scrolls of the Captain’s log.
Or a missive of love, the treaties of kings,
From the pen of an old sea dog.

And some are shadows, below in the bones of ships,
Dark words in an ancient hold,
the letters bold, deep for the divers,
float there, not read and not told.

The Water at War. Byddwn yn eu cofio.

I heard guns, not a fog horn, one morn,
The day’s face in the cloud of a frown.
The speed of a torpedo, the crash of the hull,
It came and sang Blow the Man Down.

And an engine failed, in my sky, in my eye,
The Jigs Up went down to the deep.
Now I flower for them, and the many laying here,
And soothe them in death’s lonely sleep.

But above, The Boat’s in the wind. Lle dych chi’n mynd?

Tracing a track on the back of a monster,
A life anew for you?
Dancing the jig to the horns of ships,
A scouse terrace with a different view.

Neu aros yng Nghymru, o dan yr awyr hallt,
A gwylio'r llongau gyda fi.
Mae eich mordaith wedi bod yn hir,
Now linger here and melt to the Sea.

Do you have information to add to this item? Please leave a comment

Comments (0)

You must be logged in to leave a comment