American - Pembrokeshire links
10th December 2015
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Looking back to my tour guiding work of 2015, I led some great people around Pembrokeshire.  Probably the most interesting guest of all was David P Bridges, " The Major”, who was an American Historical novelist.  For 5 days in September I arranged an itinerary for him for which the planning for the visit had commenced 6 months earlier.  David is an accomplished American novelist and wanted to undertake research for his upcoming novel " Eden's Clan".

" Eden's Clan" begins with an emigration from Pembrokeshire in 1760 to Virginia, America by the main character John Thomas.  David's brief to me was that he wanted to get to the heart of the real Pembrokeshire and to perhaps touch connections deep into how Pembrokeshire may have been like in the 1760s.  He was convinced that he didn't want to be a tourist and did not want to visit the honey pot tourist sites of Pembrokeshire.  He was also a man of faith and had been a university chaplain.  And finally the biggest challenge he posed was to help find some missing pieces of the jigsaw of the life of John Thomas.  At first I am not sure David realised the enormity of this task, not only is Thomas one of the most common Pembrokeshire names but John Thomas is everywhere!  He talked about meeting up with his long lost cousins the Thomas' and we in fact arranged a get together at Narberth Museum for the Pembrokeshire Thomas family to meet up with David!

Well with the help of a great historian and genealogist Liz Rawlings of Llangwm, we established a loose link with Albany Church St Thomas Green Haverfordwest and the work developed from there.
We decided that it would be best to cut a route through mid county and based much of our engagement via Lampeter Velfrey, Narberth, Haverfordwest and Llangwm.   A significant pointer to this decision were the great historical accommodation stops at The Old Rectory, Lampeter Velfrey, Plas farmhouse Narberth and the College Guest House, St Thomas Green.

During our few days together we shared some great encounters with the people and places of Pembrokeshire.  We did visit some key historic sites of Pembrokeshire including Narberth Castle and Narberth museum, Llawhaden castle, Nevern, Preseli Hills, Pentre Ifan, St Davids cathedral, St Nons and Pembroke Castle.  There were 2 sites where David was particularly moved and left with greatest memories and impressions, the first was Gors Fawr circle which we visited on a grey, misty, damp day.  We visited on the 1st morning of our journey together and the presence of the site overwhelmed him.  He felt a deep connection with the mystery and meaning of the site to our ancient past and he just stood there in silence and reflection.  David was a man not short of words but for this occasion, standing in the mist and the rain gazing to the hills, he was lost for words, he didn't share much about this visit until a few days later.  I asked which of our visits were most important to you, Gors Fawr Circle he smiled.

David will also cherish his visit to Albany Church, St Thomas Green.  This is the site where his ancestor John Thomas would have worshipped and I knew that David thought that he had come home.  This was the first time I had entered Albany and what a beautiful kept Church, the wooden polished pews reflecting the light of the roof windows, the prominent pulpit, walled organ pipes and lush pile of the ruby red carpet and the scent of beeswax.  David had travelled so far across the Atlantic from his home in the USA to come back home to Pembrokeshire.  American Pembrokeshire connections run deep, many of our ancestors left these shores for America and how many more of these ancestors are yearning to come home again.  Give me a ring and I will show them home.  Andrew. 

To hear David Bridges' own feedback about his tour click here

To read more about Pembrokeshire Paths on thebestof Pembrokeshire click here

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About the Author

Andrew Dugmore

Member since: 29th September 2015

As a skilled guide and educator, which is the result of a lifetime of engaging with the outdoors and with people from all walks of life, I have gathered an extensive knowledge of Pembrokeshire's heritage...

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