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Myddfai St Michael Church

Baptisms 1653-1853

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Methodist, 1857, re-built 1880

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Myddfai St Michael Church


Do you know the legend of the Physicians of Myddfai? Perhaps two of their descendants are buried here. This gravestone has been built into the wall near the church entrance. Apparently, it was previously over a burial place inside the church and was moved during a remodeling.
Gravestone by door

The inscription:

Here lieth the body of Mr:
David Jones of Mothvey
Surgeon who was an
honest, charitable & skillful
man. He died Septm 'y' 14th
Anno Dom 1719
Aged 61
John Jones Surgeon
elder son of the said
David Jones departed
this life the 25th of November
1739 in the 44th yeare of his
age and also lyes interred


In the early 13th century, Rhys Gryg ( warrior son of Welsh Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd) was Lord of Dynevor and Ystrad Towy. Like many other noble men, he had his own personal 'physician'. This medical attendant was known by the name of Rhiwallon. Rhiwallon was assisted in his work by his three sons; Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einion. As a family they lived in the small village of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire. They were particularly skillful, their work was highly advanced for the era, and as a result of this combined with their loyalty, Rhys Gryg rewarded them with land and extra benefits. Their reputation and fame spread and legends soon formed around them mystifying their craft, and suggesting partial descent from a faery woman- The Lady of Llyn-y- Fan Fach.

The Legend Of The Lady Of The Lake

There once lived an old widow at Blaensawdde in Carmarthenshire. She had one son who tended cattle on the Black Mountains near Llyn- Y- Fan Fach ( which means lake of the little fan). One day he saw a woman sitting upon the surface of the water, she was gazing into the water as though it were a mirror. She was more beautiful than any mortal woman he had ever seen. Awe struck he offered her some bread and cheese and tried to touch her. She refused this and said " Hard baked is your bread! It is not easy to catch me! ", before promptly disappearing into the depths of the lake.

Later that evening he told his mother, who suggested that he offer her unbaked dough. Yet she refused this again saying " Unbaked is your bread! I will not have you!", before returning to her underwater realms. As before the youth returned to his mother who suggested part baked bread. Finally the maiden accepted his bread and agreed to marriage. Although this was not without condition. Once more she entered the lake, this time returning with a man and another woman who was identical and equally compelling, The man said that he would only agree to the marriage of his daughter if he could distinguish between the two. After much difficulty the young man eventually chose the right maiden by recognizing the way in which she tied her shoelaces.

Out of the water she came, with a dowry of cattle and livestock. They were married under the condition that if he struck her three causeless blows, she would return to the lake from whence she came and their marriage would be over. They lived happily for many years and had three sons. One day on the way to a christening he jokingly slapped her with a pair of gloves. This was the first blow. On another occasion during the merry making of a wedding, he accidentally tapped her on the shoulder. This was the second blow. Finally at a funeral he tapped her to stop her laughing. She said she had laughed because the dead person no longer had any worries or fears. She left him saying " The last blow has been struck and our marriage contract is broken and at an end, farewell.

She then proceeded back into the lake, followed by all the cattle she had brought with her. All that was left was a furrow, leading right to the edge of the lake. This had been made by an ox pulling a plough. Her distraught sons often searched the lake looking for their mother. On several occasions she appeared to her eldest son Rhiwallon, teaching him herblore and medicine. She told him that for many generations his descendants would be among the best physicians in the country. In fact, this family continued to practice medicine without a break right up until the middle of the 18th century . The last physician Rice Williams died in 1842.

Rhys Gryg urged Rhiwallon to write records of their methods " lest no one be found with the requisite knowledge as they were". Some of the later physicians added to this information, so there are a number of sources we can access to look at the type of medicine that was practiced. Many of the remedies are thought to have been their own recipes, whilst some may be older and are suspected to have been around during the time of Howel Dda. It is also easy to see that they were influenced by Hippocrates. Whilst many of the ideas such as bleeding and use of animal dung in ointments etc may seem outdated and bizarre, many of the ideas do seem quite relevant to modern herbalism and recent guidelines relating to health and fitness.

For instance, great emphasis was placed upon the patients own responsibility for their own health. They were quite holistic in approach, looking for the causes of disease as well as attempting to stop outer symptoms. They were very keen on hygiene and absolute cleanliness of tools and water used in preparations. Importance was also placed upon eating healthily and getting moderate amounts of exercise.


The physicians of Myddfai drew upon a materia medica of around 175 locally grown herbs. Their methods were very simple, just single herbs or combinations of two or three different varieties, usually in the form of an infusion or lard based poultice. Below are some of their remedies which may still prove useful in modern times ( although these are given purely for interest, if using herbs for medicinal purposes it is recommended that you either contact a qualified herbalist or at least read a good herbal to check on any side effects or contra-indictions)

Cough Remedy

Bruise agrimony in a mortar and mix the juice with boiling milk, strain and use.

Swelling And Pain In The Legs

Bruise rue, honey and salt. Apply thereto and it will disperse the swelling.


Whoever is frequently afflicted with a headache let him make a lotion of the vervain, betony , chamomile and red fennel; let him wash his head three times a week therewith and he will be cured.

For Gastric Pains

Take a little tansy, and reduce to a fine powder. Take with white wine and it will remove the pain.

For Nausea

Get a pint of the juice of fennel and boil it with a pint of clarified honey, taking a spoonful every morning fasting as well as the last thing at night for nine days.

For Sunburn

Take the leaves of marsh pennywort rudely pounded with a cream, boil them together on a gentle fire so as to form them into an ointment, and anoint the effected part therewith.