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Y Fuwch Frech The Freckled Cow


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

In ages long gone by, my informant knew not how long ago, a wonderful cow
had her pasture land on the hill close to the farm, called Cefn Bannog,
after the mountain ridge so named. It would seem that the cow was
carefully looked after, as indicated by the names of places bearing her
name. The site of the cow house is still pointed out, and retains its
name, Preseb y Fuwch Frech--the Crib of the Freckled Cow. Close to
this place are traces of a small enclosure called Gwal Erw y Fuwch
Frech, or the Freckled Cow's Meadow. There is what was once a track way
leading from the ruins of the cow house to a spring called Ffynon y
Fuwch Frech, or the Freckled Cow's Well, and it was, tradition says, at
this well that the cow quenched her thirst. The well is about 150 yards
from the cow house. Then there is the feeding ground of the cow called,
Waen Banawg, which is about half a mile from the cow house. There are
traces of walls several feet thick in these places. The spot is a lonely
one, but ferns and heather flourish luxuriantly all about this ancient
homestead. It is also said that this cow was the mother of the Ychain
Banawg, or large-horned oxen. But now to proceed to the tradition that
makes the memory of this cow dear to the inhabitants of the Denbighshire

Old people have transmitted from generation to generation the following
strange tale of the Freckled Cow. Whenever any one was in want of milk
they went to this cow, taking with them a vessel into which they milked
the cow, and, however big this vessel was, they always departed with the
pail filled with rich milk, and it made no difference, however often she
was milked, she could never be milked dry. This continued for a long
time, and glad indeed the people were to avail themselves of the
inexhaustible supply of new milk, freely given to them all. At last a
wicked hag, filled with envy at the people's prosperity, determined to
milk the cow dry, and for this purpose she took a riddle with her, and
milked and milked the cow, until at last she could get no more milk from
her. But, sad to say, the cow immediately, upon this treatment, left the
country, and was never more seen. Such is the local history of the
Freckled Cow.

Tradition further states that she went straight to a lake four miles off,
bellowing as she went, and that she was followed by her two children the
Dau Eidion Banawg, the two long-horned oxen, to Llyn dau ychain, the
Lake of the Two Oxen, in the parish of Cerrig-y-drudion, and that she
entered the lake and the two long-horned oxen, bellowing horribly, went,
one on either side the lake, and with their mother disappeared within its
waters, and none were ever afterwards seen.

Notwithstanding that tradition buries these celebrated cattle in this
lake, I find in a book published by Dr. John Williams, the father of the
Rev. John Williams, M.A., Vicar of Llanwddyn, in the year 1830, on the
Natural History of Llanrwst, the following statement. The author in
page 17, when speaking of Gwydir, says:--

In the middle court (which was once surrounded by the house), there is a
large bone, which appears to be the rib of some species of whale, but
according to the vulgar opinion, it is the rib of the Dun Cow (y Fuwch
Frech), killed by the Earl of Warwick.

It may be stated that Llanrwst is not many miles distant from
Cerrig-y-drudion and yet we have in these places conflicting traditions,
which I will not endeavour to reconcile.

The Shropshire tale of the Fairy Cow is much the same as the preceding.
There she is known as The White Cow of Mitchell's Fold. This place
is situated on the Corndon Hill, a bare moorland in the extreme west of
Shropshire. To this day there is to be seen there a stone circle known
as Mitchell's Fold.

The story of the Shropshire Cow is this. There was a dire famine in
those parts, and the people depended for support on a beautiful white
cow, a Fairy cow, that gave milk to everybody, and it mattered not how
many came, there was always enough for all, and it was to be so, so long
as every one who came only took one pailful. The cow came night and
morning to be milked, and it made no difference what size the vessel was
that was brought by each person, for she always gave enough milk to fill
it, and all the other pails. At last, there came an old witch to
Mitchell's Fold, and in spite and malice she brought a riddle and milked
the cow into it; she milked and milked, and at last she milked her dry,
and after that the cow was never seen. Folk say she was turned into a

I am indebted to Miss Burne's Shropshire Folk-Lore for the particulars
above given.

A like tale is to be heard in Warwickshire, and also in Lancashire, near
Preston, where the Dun cow gave freely her milk to all in time of
drought, and disappeared on being subjected to the treatment of the Welsh
and Shropshire cow.

Mr. Lloyd, Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, gave me a different tale of the Dau
ychain Banawg to that already related. His story is as follows:--

Next: The Legend Of Llyn Y Ddau Ychain

Previous: The Fairy Cow

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