Will Jones

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FR platelayer and husband of Tan y Bwlch volunteer station mistress Bessie Jones.

Will & Bessie Jones, Tanybwlch.jpg


Will & Bessie Jones, Tan y Bwlch.

Will was born 23rd February 1903 and came from Waunfawr. It is said he was on the construction gang that built the WHR in 1922-23; hence the story of the Giant's Footstep and the arrival on the FR of Will's favourite crowbar, marked MACALPINE. He was appointed "Porter in Charge" (no doubt paid less than Station Master) of Tan y Bwlch station in 1924. He wanted to take on the tenancy of the Station House but apparently he was too young (under 21) so it was taken on in his father's name, Owen J. Jones. Soon after he arrived, there was the Great Crash when he managed to derail four runaway slate waggons. The noise was heard from Creuau where Bessie lived and who was much concerned at what might have happened to the handsome young man at the station; they were married in 1929 and had one son, Islwyn. Bessie was a niece of Creuau farm residents. They continued to live at Tan y Bwlch station house until Will retired. Bessie made excellent pies and kept a tea-room in her house; she had postcards printed of herself in her Welsh costume which she sold to passengers. Will was engaged for PW work in the winter and this rapidly became his main occupation, leaving Bessie in charge of the station. Will became the leading expert on the niceties of narrow gauge permanent way and taught many of the post-war revivalists how to lay and fettle track. He had to leave the Company when it closed although not until November 1946, though he and Bessie remained living in the station house. Will worked for Merioneth Council but did some part-time farming, keeping chickens and at least one cow on the field at the top end of Llyn Mair. Hence the tale of the Swimming Cow.

In June 1955, Will Jones was seconded to the FR by his employer, Merioneth County Council, for urgent permanent way work. This was a part-time arrangement, all that the railway could afford. In January 1956 Will became a full-time employee at a weekly wage of £7 (= £364 p.a.). At that time, the Manager, Allan Garraway, was paid £450 per year. Will was also required to take a turn as guard on the passenger trains and sometimes fired the engine. Will still found time to keep a smallholding and deliver coal from the Tan y Bwlch wharf to Rhyd and Llanfrothen.

Will Jones, Tanybwlch.jpg Will Jones, platelayer & raconteur, photographed in 1960. Photo:- FR Archives

Will became a roadman during the years of closure. On his return, Will proved to be an invaluable and ever patient teacher of a succession of volunteer track gangs. During the lunch hour he was in his element as a storyteller and a few of his tales found their way into the magazine. One hilarious tale concerned the delivery of a pig in a livestock box (transferred from the GWR to the FR Co. at Blaenau Ffestiniog) to farmer Parry at Dduallt sometime after 1923. Naturally the pig escaped, but the really interesting thing was that the farmer had sent his lad to meet the train with a horse-drawn sled, there being no roads at Dduallt. On another occasion Will said, in a most serious tone, "You people are a very bad influence on me (pause) Last night I went home and spoke English to Bessie!". Bessie Jones continued her teas and her costumed appearances when the trains returned to Tan y Bwlch daily during the season for ten years until they both retired in 1968 to Will"s home village of Waunfawr. At his retirement, Will joined forces with Tom Davies of Bron Madoc to collaborate with the FR Magazine editors in the production of three articles for the magazine on the operation of gravity slate trains. These articles are of great value as few people (perhaps none) now remember the mechanics of this particular daily mode of operation. They were reprinted in booklet form in 1986. For an examples of Will's splendid tales see "The Pig in the Box" in FR Magazine.[1] or "Sentry-Go" with tales of life in the Home Guard.[2]

Will died in 1981 and the magazine said (plus much else): "William Jones, Head Ganger FR Co., who possessed an intelligent, ingenious and cultured Welsh mind"

The last word about Will and Bessie belongs just to Will:

Memories will linger on and on,
Till we ourselves will all be gone.
I see a straight just round this bend,
Optically, both lines meet,– at the very end.

Bessie and Will Jones are buried at St Garmon's Church, Bettws Garmon, close to the WHR. They are in the new part of the graveyard, behind the church - fifth row back, eighth from the church end. There is a carving of Bessie and a Fairlie on the stone; the grave is covered in marble chips because that is what the railways are ballasted with in Heaven. If you're passing, would you please clean the ballast of moss? Thank you.

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