‘When we escape, Herr Lloyd, we need Welsh to speak?’‘Dan ni’n ildio,’ said Lloyd, as he prepared his camera. ‘We surrender.’
Creating the Centena.
A photographer during the First World War, I thought, a witness – though photographs tease with their uncertain testimonies. Why not from Wales, my being Welsh, though living in England?
In my Google search appeared the H W Lloyd of Bala Collection, c/o the National Library of Wales and its Curator of Photography, Will Troughton.
Lloyd, born Bala 1868, was a pharmaceutical chemist. Among his glass negatives are images, from 1915 or ’16, of several hundred German PoWs at Frongoch Camp near Bala: plays, musical entertainments and portraits. Frongoch was once a distillery for the unlamented Royal Welsh Whisky.
Other images are of chapel events, not subjects for which a professional photographer would have been employed, but a worshipper who owned a camera.
Census data tracked Hugh William Lloyd through school, pharmacy training in Liverpool and the establishment of his chemist’s shop at 72 High Street, Bala. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society confirmed Lloyd’s examination passes in the 1890s and the continuation of his business at the same address until his death in 1942.
From the 1939 Registration and GRO records emerged Lloyd’s marriage to Kate Thomas, a council school teacher from Berth (1912), the births of their sons Hugh Tegid (1913) and Stephen Llewellyn (1918).
Bala Library found Buddug Medi, once headmistress of the school on the site of Frongoch PoW camp. She met a “90 year-old” who referred to the field by the school as “Ddôl Germans”, the Germans’ meadow.
Buddug remembered Lloyd’s name over the pharmacy, and that the family had lived behind and above the shop. Through Buddig I spoke to Sylwen Lloyd Davies, a cousin (twice removed) of Lloyd. Sylwen was taught at Sunday school by Kate, who outlived her husband by 16 years. Quite strict was Mrs Lloyd.
From Sylwen, a photograph of Lloyd, his wife and two sons, allowing me to spot Kate, Hugh Tegid and ‘Llew’ among Lloyd’s images of chapelgoers and Germans.
Lloyd was a deacon of Capel Tegid in Bala, Calvinistic Methodist, teetotal. A fellow congregation member, Dr David Peters, took over as Frongoch Camp medical officer in late 1915. Could it have been Peters, concerned about prisoners’ welfare, who asked Lloyd to photograph the men, with a view to printing postcards? Or the Red Cross, or the American YMCA, active at Frongoch?
Inspection reports in the National Archives showed the camp to be a calm establishment, with books and lessons, including English, German and shorthand. (Shorthand?)
Any escapees? Oh yes, despite the camp’s attractions, in 1916 four men captured at Neuve Chapelle escaped, headed for Liverpool, but were nabbed, posing as Welsh, 48 hours later.
In spring 1916 the PoWs were dispersed to camps in England when, following the Easter Rising, Frongoch became an internment camp for Irish prisoners.
Lloyd went on to be an agent for Kodak, an optician, and an early adopter of the telephone. His number? Bala 4.
Hugh William is buried with Kate and their elder son in Llanycil churchyard by Bala Lake, Llyn Tegid.
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