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Episode 19: Grandmother



Rhys [DISTANT, AND TO SOMEONE INAUDIBLE] Oh…yes, I am cheerful, actually I’d say …it’s…well, it’s a big day for my family….No, nobody’s birthday. Just, something we’ve all been looking forward to for a very long time. Is this the statement? Brilliant, thanks Bethan.


What have we here. Right….Hmmm. [TO THE TAPE RECORDER] Listening again are you, madam? Well…that’s fair I suppose. Big day for you too, eh? So… Case number two oh one [STATIC] Statement of Kelly Rhigol regarding the flooding of her university accommodation. Audio recording by…



Hello? Oh, hi Mam! I’m at work so….oh, it’s started has it? Already? That’s brilliant! How long do you reckon we have? OK. Yeah, I’ll get on it… Yeah. Love you, Mam. Bye.




In a change from your scheduled programming, I will be reading a different statement today.


Statement of Morwith of Usk regarding [STATIC] ferch Llewellyn, her life, death and apophobosis, excerpted from her diaries. Translation from the Welsh provided by the Llewellyn family. Undated but assumed to be around fifteen [STATIC]. Audio recording 18th October 2018 by Rhys Llewellyn-Jones, archival assistant, Sefydliad Materion Paranormal Cymru: Welsh Institute of Paranormal Affairs.

Dechreuad y datganiad - Statement begins

The great Benedictine convent of St Mary’s at Usk stood since the year of our lord 1174. It survived the turmoil as Owain Glyndŵr fought his war to free us – barely. It did not survive that whoring son of Hari Tudur and his devious counsellors. It has been dissolved, and I have been given the tiniest of capacities and packed off into retirement, along with the rest of my sisters. The chapel of St Radegung serves now for the parish and our prayers will be heard no more in it. But I will not expire of grief, nor will I cling weeping to the buildings of my home like the monks of Whalley. Nor will I take a husband. If I had wished to marry as St Paul urged, I would have done so long ago, and I am far too old now to bother with such things. Instead, I have taken my pittance from the crown, and I have taken to the road. I have travelled from place to place making my daily bread with the skills I have gained from my life in the convent – leechcraft and writing. Mostly from the writing. Many folk need someone who can read or write for them. When I have struggled, I have only needed to say that I once dwelled in a convent and doors are opened for me or hands held out in pity or charity by good folk. What I desire most though is to find some quiet living somewhere of my own, some cottage where I might keep bees and brew beer and live a simple and godly life. Where I might also collect stories, write books of poetry, and sell them. I pray God may someday grant me my wish, but he has not done so yet and so I keep on with my search. I am staying now with a good kind couple who live by a mill. They are without children so I think perhaps they believe God may reward their charity with blessings. I will speak to the woman and ensure they are doing everything they need to be blessed. There are herbs which may aid them, and some folk are so innocent or so far removed from nature that sometimes they do not know how to perform the deed at all. A quiet word with the good wife may be very enlightening.

Aside from these things, I write now so I will not forget what happened two Sundays ago, and so that I might see it upon the paper and think and pray on it. It is possible I think that I met the devil, or one of his agents on the earth. That place I came to was nothing earthly and nothing holy, of that I am certain.


It was late on an autumn eve, and I had been walking all day, and had not come to another village when I expected to, having been directed by a shepherd who I think overestimated the speed an old woman like I may walk. I was still high in the hills and I was beginning to think that this would be one of those days where I must find some tree or wall to shelter behind and hope the night did not get too cold. Yet, as I passed over a ridge, looking to see if I could cast an eye down into a valley and spy a village or town, instead I found myself below a hill and peeking through trees atop it, a great red brick house, well-appointed, surrounded by sprawling gardens. Blessing the Lord for his mercy I climbed the winding path to the house hoping there might be a stable or the corner of a kitchen where I might be allowed to rest for the night. As I passed through the gardens, I could see upon closer inspection that the estate was ill-kept. Once well-maintained trees were unpruned and uncared for, shrubs were overgrown, and leggy plants reached feebly between them towards the sun. A gardener’s hut half-ruined, stood by the rusting gates, and when I reached the house, I could see ivy growing across the narrow windows blocking the light to the upper rooms. As I looked up at those narrow stone eyes, I began to experience a sense of being watched. As if someone was staring at me from one of the windows, just out of sight. I wish that I had turned from that door at that first stirring of unease, but I dismissed it as a chill wind and went around the back to seek out a servant’s door. The mist was beginning to come down as I knocked. It took some time for it to be opened by the housekeeper who I am sure was older even than I. She looked upon me with suspicion at first but when I spoke well to her and explained my situation and offered to trade my skills for somewhere to rest overnight and when at last I appealed to her Christian charity she bustled me inside and ladled me out some soup from a pot warming on the fire.


Her name was Agnes, but everyone had always called her Nest. She had some relatives, she said who she had not written to for some time and so I took dictation of letters to her cousins and promised to carry them to the village where they lived. I had no particular direction to go in so it would be no hardship. That done we got to talking and I asked about the house and its peculiar condition. She told me I had come to the house of [static] ferch Llewellyn, but the lady had been in seclusion for many years following the death of her husband and did not leave the upper storeys of the house. I remembered the ivy-shrouded windows and thought that it must be very dark up there indeed. Since there was only the Lady to care for, precious few servants remained, herself, a maid or two, and an old gardener who was of late too afflicted with rheumatism to properly take care of the grounds. Nest kept herself mostly to the kitchen, occasionally cleaning the unused dining hall and reception rooms, and the library. A library I said, did it have many books? Might I peruse it? Nest said she did not know, but she would ask the lady if I might when she took up her food. When she returned with the lady’s empty pots from the previous meal, she said permission had been granted and gave me a candle to take to the library so I might spend the evening reading out of the way while she attended to things. There were a great many books, mostly histories and geographies, in Welsh, English, Latin, Greek and other languages I did not understand, some even in scripts I had not seen before. I think I recognised Hebrew but it is not a language I could begin to decipher. I was delighted at first to be among such learning and found myself a translation of a work by Aristotle that was deeply engrossing, but as time went on, I once again began to feel myself watched. When I looked up and around, I saw no one, only flickers of something in the corner of my eye, and once up in the gallery above the library, a dark shape. Eventually I became so unsettled I returned to the kitchens to warmth and Nest’s company and slept that night in a chair by the fire.


The morning broke to heavy rain, flooding the brooks and sheeting off the roof of the house, awakening me. I made myself useful by getting the fire going and awaited Nest arising from her little room somewhere in the back of the house. She told me I was not to be leaving in this weather and should remain and not head down the valley until it was more clement. Besides, she was enjoying the company, she said. The old gardener and a young maid came for breakfast and went about their work, and I helped Nest prepare food for the lady, which she carried up to her. When she returned, she was nervous, and told me the lady had asked to speak to me. She had seen by my reading her books in Greek and Latin that I was a woman of education and not a simple beggar and would have converse with me in her chambers. Nest took my hand and told me to be careful, and follow certain rules. I should be polite, I should speak when spoken to, and I should be most careful not to ask to look upon the lady or to see her face, for she could not abide that above all things. Aha, I thought, the lady has become mad in her seclusion. That was not altogether a surprise. I had tended to the mad before, they often came to us in the convent, poor unfortunates. I thanked Nest for her warnings and said I would heed them.


As she led me through the house to the dusty stairs, where a path of her feet tramping back and forth up them could clearly be seen, I muttered quiet prayers to Christ Jesus to watch over me. But again it was not the eyes of the Lord I felt upon me as we passed through that dark place.

The upper floors were indeed as dark as I expected them to be, for not only were the windows covered in ivy but also shuttered with crumbling wood on the inside. Nest’s candle was the only light as she led me down the long gallery to the great chambers at the end of it and pushed open a finely carved oaken door. A long dark wooden screen bisected the chamber beyond and at the end of the screen was a heavy damask curtain which was the only way through. At once I felt that heavy sensation of being watched intensify and I crossed myself. There was a chair, comfortable if old and dusty stood in front of the curtain.

A voice came from behind the cloth. To this day I cannot remember how it sounded, old or young, harsh or soft, but I knew it was the lady. She thanked Nest for bringing me and asked me to stay a while and speak with her. Nest touched me reassuringly on the shoulder and left me there. I sat down in the chair and introduced myself, forgetting immediately to only speak when spoken to. The lady did not seem offended, and did the same, giving the name of herself and of her late husband whose home this once was. I asked if she had any other relatives, children who might visit her there and she said yes she had children and grandchildren but she communicated with them only by letters and forbade them to disturb her. She said Nest had told her I was a chronicler and a writer of letters and poems. I said yes, and was there anything in that of interest to her? She said yes, she would like to read my poems – I offered her a copy of one of my small chapbooks of poetry including my lay of Gwenllian of Gynedd, which she agreed to and said I should leave it with Nest who would pay me from the household accounts. And then she asked if I would take her confession. I said I was not a priest, and therefore could not absolve her or give penance but I would certainly listen if there was something she wished to unburden herself of. She said that would do and then to my surprise commenced to tell me a long tale, which I have committed as much as I may remember to paper.

She was born, the Lady said, during the Civil Wars in England, the ones between the houses of York and Lancaster, by which I knew that she must be old indeed. Her family were Tudurs of Penmynydd, cousins of the old king, Harri Tudur. When he took the throne, her family was suddenly elevated to the English court, and as a relative of the king she became suddenly of great value to the King as a gift to be given in marriage to his allies. She went from being a nobody quietly living in peace on Ynys Mon to a fine lady dressed in silks and pearls, expected to look and behave her best at all times. Her father had educated all his children well, she spoke Welsh, English, French, Latin, Greek, knew her bible from cover to cover, was well read in mathematics, law, history, geography, logic, rhetoric, philosophy, literature, poetics. But her family were not marchers, and English culture was strange to her, and for all her learning she did not know how to engage in the intrigues of the court. She hated it, the feeling of eyes on her wherever she went, people muttering about her behind their hands. Court was full of people who wanted things from her – information about the king or his family, her favour, her hand in marriage for their son or cousin. She felt like a woman of bush and brake, a harlot, whose virtue could be sold to the highest bidder seeking favour with the king. If only she had been ugly, pocked by smallpox scars or marred by some birthmark. She could have peacefully gone to a nunnery somewhere, unwanted and unwatched by men. She said she envied me my life of peace and contemplation, at which I nodded and said that it had been a blessing to spend my life in service to God and I missed it greatly.

Her father warned her to be careful of spies and betrayers, and to be careful of who she trusted outside the family and her mother taught her what she could of courtly manners. She was clever, and in time she learned how to laugh in public and curse in private, how to ensure she got her way with a gentle word in an ear here and there. At night she dreamed of watchers in the shadows she could not see and of a demon made of eyes and mouths whose gaze she could never escape. A demon who whispered horrible things to her which she could never remember in the morning. In better dreams she was alone, watching others. Seeing, but never seen.

It was almost a relief, she told me, when she was finally married off to a rich man a decade and a half older than her, whose previous wife had died in the first wave of the sweating sickness, back when it first came to England. He had a son by his first wife, a sullen teenager who looked at her in ways that made her uncomfortable. She did her wifely duty by her husband and gave him two daughters and another son. From the day the first one was born her fears for herself were extended to them. She loved them intensely, more than anything else. Her children, her blood, the only ones she could trust to love her unconditionally.

Another wave of sweating sickness took her husband, and one of her daughters. Her stepson, now the man of the house, turned his eye on her again. She carefully arranged a pretty young bride for him, a silly English girl quite the opposite of her, to distract him. As a widow in England she was lucky – a portion of her husband’s wealth came to her as it would not have in Wales, and her stepson was content to have her act as nursemaid until his siblings were old enough to be of use to him. She moved to a smaller house in London – how tiresome it must be for the young couple, she said to have a stepmother about the place they should be making their own. Her new stepdaughter fussed and said she must never think of such a thing, but secretly looked happy to be mistress of her home when her stepmother left.

As her children grew, her fears for them grew. She lived in a land in an uneasy peace. She knew she would need to protect that peace to protect her children. She made her house into a place where the wives of politicians and statesmen met. She became known as a source of information, consulted by such worthies as the King’s uncle Jasper Tudur and Cardinal John Morton, then Archbishop of Canterbury. She was still a pretty, well-educated widow, a relative of the king, and several offers for her hand were made. She turned them down, unwilling to give up her power to a husband again or to leave her children in their hands. Wise investments and gifts from grateful benefactors built her up enough to live comfortably and she decided to return to Wales, to her husband’s old house. Here she gestured to the house around us. Her power increased, but she always feared losing it. The dreams of watchers remained with her always. She became more and more secluded, but her network spread further. She had fingers in every pie, arranging marriages and connections for those she favoured. She became a patron of Welsh poets, and of music and art. And, inevitably she made enemies. In her dreams the watchers and whisperers took on the faces and voices of those she knew hated her, a thwarted marriage, an embarrassment or some other perceived slight. In her need to protect herself and her family, she brought about her own downfall. In time, the King her kinsman died and was succeeded by his children each in turn, and the country became even more suspicious, and an even more fertile ground for her schemes.

She became arrogant, she said, and foolish. She never believed herself unassailable but she began to believe in her own power and strength, that her enemies feared to challenge her. She was riding home alone from the house of a friend when the assassin came upon her. When she saw the flurry of movement out of the corner of her eye, she felt the gaze of the demon from her dreams in the waking world. Which of her enemies had sent him, she did not know, and now she said she did not remember, nor did it truly matter. She only remembered the slide of blade into her back and knew that at last what she feared had come to pass.


As she slid from her horse, which bolted in fright, the assassin fled. She lay on the floor with the life ebbing from her and the gaze of the demon of the eye from her dreams, the demon that had watched her all those years bore down upon her. There in the darkness, filled with vengeance and far from the light of God, she gave herself over to it, swore an oath to serve it on earth or in hell, and rose from the grave as it’s creature, a creature who could see, but not be seen, speak but not be recognised.

Here I stopped her, crossing myself and praying prayers I had not spoken since I left the convent. I begged her to tell me no more, begging her to spare me. I could offer her no absolution, I said, for only God himself could cleanse her of this cursed witchcraft. If indeed she had bound herself in in service to a demon, she would need to throw herself upon the mercy of the Lord. She was silent for a while and then said that she had wondered if I might understand her, being a woman of years and of education myself, and a woman betrayed of all I held dear by the doings of men. At that I balked and said that for all I had lost, there was none who could take from me my faith in Christ Jesus my redeemer. Within my heart pounding and sensing that horrible regard from beyond the screen, I prayed silently. Presently the lady thanked me for my time and told me to go. Crossing myself again, I fled from that place, back to the kitchen where Nest was waiting. I do not remember clearly what I said to her, but I know I left with the letters and money for the chapbook of poetry and by the evening I was in the village down in the valley with that house far behind me. But there I did not stop long after delivering Nest’s letters but walked on in my desperation to get as far as I could from that place, until I fell ill from exhaustion and had to stop with these good folk where I write this. But no matter how far I walk, yet somehow I still feel those eyes, watching me.


Diwedd y datganiad - Statement ends

And that..that is the account of Morwith of Usk, who, you may not be surprised to hear, disappears entirely from the historical record after writing this account. It is also the story of my grandmother – well, great, great times a lot grandmother. Personally, I think it teaches us an important lesson: there’s no eldritch entity worse than the patriarchy [HE CHUCKLES].



Looks like things are kicking off over at Head Office, eh? This should be exciting. I suppose I’ll see you all in the new world!





This episode of “For The Record” was written, directed, and performed by Lou Sutcliffe (as “Rhys Llewellyn-Jones”). It used sounds from, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and remain ever vigilant.