|Halton Church||St Mary's Church|
He was ordained as a curate in the Church in Wales just after passing the first half of the General Ordination Examination. In Chirk, He began to serve the Church under a vicar of St. Mary's Church in October, 1936. The vicar sent him to one of churches in the parish, the Halton Church, and it was the first time he preached sermons. The Halton Church was along the A5 road and near a pit. So the parishioners were miners and their families. R.S. noticed among them "the problems of pain. Some of the parishioners were very ill and required frequent visiting." 1 He was too young to believe he could save thier souls but did not know how to cure them. This problem became bigger and bigger later in Manafon.
Chirk was a really good place for R.S. to learn. He could afford to buy many books including poetry thanks to his first full time job. He also attended meetings of Toc H, "a community based movement concerned with putting Christian values into practice"2. It gave so much impression on him that he started to take some interectural magazines including theosophy.
This parish gave him a chance to get to know a young but refined English female artist, Elsi. Elsi had learnt not only at art school in London but in Italy and her works had been exhibited in some galleries in London. He was inspired very much with her paintings and "he too yearned to prove himself in his field."3 He sent some poems to Seamus O'Sullivan, an editor of The Dublin Magazine. One of them was accepted. Through him, R.S. met some Irish poets including Austin Clarke.
Although R.S. had already been fond of W.B. Yeats, the winner of the Novel prize in Literature 1923, one day he came across Fiona Macleod and soon he got absorbed in his Scotish Celt. R.S. got some ideas like the Celtic rural life among peat and heather from their books and began to long for it. At last, after a service on one Christmas morning, he took a travel to Galway, Yeats's country. Of course Yeats had passed away fifty years ago, however, there remained his Celtic world -- "As each cart passed him the driver greeted him in Irish. This, and the smell of the peat in his nostrils, raised his spirits and filled him with new hope. This was a country of whcih Yeats had sung, a lond of common folk, their language Irish and their ways traditionally Celtic." 4
R.S. fell in love with Elsi. He courted her and finally they got married in 1940. The wedding was celebrated on the shore of Bala Lake in the Llanycil. Yet the vicar of Chirk did not want a married curate, so they looked for a new place and moved to the parish of Hanmer.
On the way to Bangor, I ran off our car into Halton to search for the Halton church. But we could not locate it. We drove to St. Mary's church in the centre of Chirk with my companies, hoping to find some information about the Halton church. There we were introduced a gentleman. He was kind enough to give some tea to these strangers at his home and bring us to the Halton Church. We realized that we had been to 'this' place, but did not realize that this was the church! He also told us many interesting stories including the reason why Halton was called Black Park locally ('Black' is derived from the mine meaning a pit). After taking some photos and saying good bye to him, we set off for Bangor again.
Chirk is a border country, often occupied by the English. The town is situated on the old turnpike road from London to Holyhead and now has much of the historical architectures including Chirk Castle where the legendary Welsh hero, Owain Glyndwr, was brought up initially.
St. Mary's church is located in the centre of the town, at the corner of Church Street and Castle Road. Their web site is here.
Halton is locally called Black Park, and they also call the church, Iron Church. It is located along the narrow lane near A5. But it is no more a church but a private house.Selected references: Welcome to Chirk, (The Chirk and Ceiriog Valley Partnership, 2001)