The silence here is absolute. I am quite alone except for a kestrel that has just landed on a grave stone. It looks a bit surprised to see me and I’m a bit shocked too. We are only a few feet apart. I’ve never been so close to a bird of prey in the wild and for a long moment we stare at each other. I’m so near I can see the curve of its beak, glinting like an amber bead in the bright sunshine and I have an uncanny feeling that my search for the last resting place of the Virgin Mary has just got off to an auspicious start!
Yes you did read that right! According to Graham Philips’ book, The Marian Conspiracy, the Virgin Mary came to Britain after the crucifixion and founded a church on Angelsey. Historical fact or the product of wishful thinking? I wasn’t concerned with challenging the author’s theories, but I was very keen to check out the sites on the island that he claimed supported his theories.
Just to make things a little more interesting, we decided to do it on bikes! Unfortunately we reckoned without punctures which is why I’m now quite alone in this churchyard with nothing for company but the sleepers under the toppling grave stones and the disconcertingly knowing kestrel.
My nearest and dearest is back down the road somewhere fixing his tyre and I’m uncomfortably aware that I’ve no idea where I am! We are supposed to be enroute for the village of Lllanerchymedd which is about 15 miles from Holyhead, the island’s chief town, but I’m not so sure. Best Beloved has the map so it’s a relief when he eventually hoves into view and resumes his position as Patrol Leader.
Angelsey is often described as pleasantly undulating. This is simply not true! When you are cycling it is hilly and there is a very stiff one as you approach Lllanerchymedd! While struggling to ascend this veritable Everest without resorting to the ignominy of dismounting, I have plenty of time to mull over Mr. Philips’ theory that the Virgin Mary’s bones were kept in the village church.
Unfortunately we’re unlikely to be able to verify his supposition because the lych gate is not only locked, but double locked with steel bars at both entrance and exit and the church itself stands several feet above street level so attempting to climb over the wall would look very suspicious and probably get us arrested!
To say I’m bitterly disappointed is an understatement! Lllanerchymedd itself is as far removed from its meaning, (church in a clearing where mead is made) as you can get. It’s full of grey, box like council houses and the church stands next to a chip shop.
I’m just about to suggest that we move on and try and locate the well, which is our next port of call and where, according to Mr Phillips, VM’s bones were finally laid to rest, when Dearest, who is famously more observant than me, points out that in spite of the prominent display of iron gates and padlocks, the gates themselves are not actually locked!
As this is my quest, only I can enter the church. I’m afraid Dearest has to remain on guard duty, (we have forgotten our bike chains), while I attempt to find any residue of the VM’s residence. Unfortunately the only sign I see of it is the name, Mair on the, yes you’ve guessed it, iron bars that are most definitely locked barring the entrance.
I remember from GP’s book that Lllanerchymedd was the centre of an import crossing of trade routes during pre-Roman and dark age times and later came under Viking attack which possibly resulted in the bones of the VM being relocated to the church of Llanbabo which is derived from the name of King Pabo, a local ruler and the guardian of the VM’s bones. In view of this I console myself with the knowledge that the present St. Mary’s is relatively new, built during the nineteenth century, replacing a much older church and any traces of former occupants would be long gone.
Feeling a bit like Hyacinth Bucket, I order Richard … er … Dearest to lead on to the Well!