The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/The Treasure on the Drim


THE following story was narrated by John Williams, collier, of Tavern-y Banwen, near Neath, on the 26th June last, to Mr. Llywarch Reynolds, of Merthyr Tydfil, Mr. David Lewis, barrister-at-law, and myself. It was told in Welsh, and copious notes were taken on the spot by Mr. Lewis, who afterwards read them over again to me. Mr. Lewis has also kindly compared the following (which was written the next morning from memory) with the notes in question, and corrected it by them.

There was a conjurer living at Ystradgynlais [a parish in Brecknockshire, at the top of the Swansea Valley] who had an iron hand; and there was a rumour that a lot of money was lying hid on the Drim [a mountain on the south-eastern side of the valley]. This conjurer said, if he could get a man to abide with him on the Drim the whole of a night he would get the money. John Gethin was a man of spirit, and he said he would abide with him. So the conjurer took John up to the Drim; and he took his conjuring books and a bit of a candle. And he drew two rings like the figure of 8; and there was John Gethin standing in one ring and the conjurer in the other ring. And the conjurer told John that whatever came he was not to be frightened, nor to step outside the ring. Then he lit his candle, and busied himself with his books, and began to read. Then there was a row; and first of all a great fiery bull came at John Gethin like a thunderbolt (fel ergyd ); but John stood that time, and the bull vanished. Then there came a great wheel of fire like a fly-wheel, rolling along towards John Gethin; and John stepped aside to get out of its way, and he stepped outside the ring. This broke the charm. Then the devil (gwr drwg) got hold of John, and began to take him off". But the conjurer caught him; and there was the devil pulling John Gethin on one side and the conjurer pulling him on the other side. The devil had nearly got him away, when the conjurer said to the devil:—"Hold on! Let me keep John Gethin while this candle lasts." Then the devil let go John Gethin; and the conjurer blew out the candle, and gave it to John Gethin; and he took it home, and put it in a cool place. And he was very ill; and the candle kept on wasting, though it was not lighted. And John Gethin never got better, but worse and worse, until he died; and when he died the candle was found to be all gone too. And John Gethin's body vanished, so that they could not find it; and they filled his coffin with clay, and buried it. This is true, because the conjurer's books are there in a coffer in Waungynlais to this day.

I sent the foregoing to Mr. Howel Walters of Ystradgynlais, a gentleman who is intimately acquainted with the history and legends of the neighbourhood, and inquired whether he knew the tale. In reply he was kind enough to send me the following as the version current at Ystradgynlais. It differs in so many respects from the story as told by John Williams that I give it in its entirety. Mr. Walters assures me that it is firmly believed in the parish.

There was a conjurer living at Ystradgynlais the beginning of the present century, who had an iron hand; and there is an old tradition that a treasure is hidden at the Garngoch, the highest point of the Drim mountain. The "Iron-hand" conjurer made the acquaintance of one John Gething, a farmer's son, who lived at Werngynlais farm, and gave him some books to study, with a view of teaching him the black art. John is reported to have made great progress in a short time; and, being a very courageous man, his teacher was able to perform in his presence many things which few mortals can withstand. One day John Gething was working at the hay on his father's farm, when two men appeared before him. John said to them, "Hei!" And one of the men said to him: "Well, is it for thee that thou hast spoken! Thou must come with us to the Garngoch to seek the hidden treasure." John went, and on the way he found out that he who spoke to him was his old teacher; but the other being disappeared, and John never saw him again. On arriving at Garngoch the conjurer told John that he was not, on the peril of his life, to divulge anything that he would see or hear that night on the top of Garngoch. When night came on the conjurer opened his books, lit a candle, and began to read, with strict injunctions to John not to be afraid of anything he saw. While the conjuror read spirits appeared and surrounded them with great noise; and then great light shone on Garngoch, and John saw three pots full of gold. Nothing more happened that night; but the conjurer gave John strict instructions to meet him there another night which he named. When the appointed night came John met him to time. The first thing done by the conjurer this night, after giving John the same instructions as on the previous night, and that he was not to be frightened, was to make two rings joined like the figure 8. John stood in one ring and the conjurer in the other, and neither of them was to step out of the ring, or fear, at the risk of losing their lives or being carried away by the devil! The conjurer lit his candle and began to read his books; and the spirits appeared with great noise. Then came a fiery bull, and ran at John Gething; but John stood in the ring fearlessly, and the bull and all the evil spirits vanished. The conjurer was very pleased with John Gething's courage, and told him one night more would be sufficient for them to fight against the spirits to secure all the hidden treasure and gold he had seen on the first night. The conjurer, before leaving, told John on what night he was to meet him again. On the third night the conjurer had brought more books, and told John before he opened them that it was a matter of life or death to him how he acted that night, that terrible things would appear, but there would be no harm if he stood fearlessly, and did not move out of the ring; but first he must have a drop of John's blood to give to the devil to satisfy him before the spirits appeared, and John gave a drop of his blood to the conjurer to give to the devil. The conjurer then made two rings as before, lit his candle, and began to read his books. The spirits came with greater noise than before, and surrounded them, and a large wheel of fire came towards the ring in which John Gethin stood, and John was so frightened that he stepped out of the ring. The devil immediately took hold of him, and was going to carry him away in such a terrible storm and heavy rains as no one before witnessed in the district, but the conjurer implored him not to kill John, as he had displayed such courage before; and there was a hard fight between the devil and the conjurer for John's life, and the devil at last gave in, and permitted John to live as long as the candle lasted which the conjurer had to read his books, and the devil told them that neither of them should ever have the hidden treasure, but a virgin not yet born would some day own the same. The conjuror gave John Gething the candle, and told him not to light it, but to keep it in a cool place. John did so, but the candle wasted, though it was never lighted, and John Gething from that night became ill, and woi*se and worse, until he died. The candle also was found to have wasted completely at the time of his death. During John's illness several doctors attended upon him, but no one understood the cause of his sufferings or death, except a few persons to whom he divulged what had transpired on the Garngoch. John was buried at Ystradgynlais church.