Welsh girl and her Bible, a
Nearly two hundred years ago -- 1784 was the precise date --
there was born in an obscure village in Wales a girl whose zeal for the Word of
God was destined to leave its mark on world history. Mary Jones' parents were
poverty-stricken tuberculous weavers in Llanfihangel. Life was hard in that poor
cottage and luxuries of the smallest sort unknown. But there was
From her earliest days Mary loved to hear the telling of Bible
stories. It is difficult to know how accurately these were told by her parents,
for there was no Bible in the house, and if there had been, no ability to read
it. Nor, as she grew older was there opportunity for Mary to attend school.
Llanfihangel had no school. But when she was ten opportunity came to go to
school at Abergynolwyn 3 miles away.
Of course Mary had to walk. No school bus in those days! And
she was far too poor to own a pony. She was a quick pupil, and before very long
was being used unofficial auxiliary teacher (unpaid) to instruct younger
All this time she had no Bible, but as her eagerness to know
the Book grew so also did her determination to have a copy of her own. A
relation of the family, Mrs Evans Evans, who lived two miles away, had a Welsh
Bible and was willing for Mary to go as often as she wished in order to read it.
Almost daily, Mary walked those four miles for the pleasure of reading the
But she must have a copy of her own! And this meant eager
disciplined self-denying saving for a long time. She took on any additional
activity which might add to the meagre store of pennies she was setting aside.
She chopped wood for old Mrs Rees, she looked after the neighbours' children,
she spent long hours hemming sheets. And it was a great day when Mrs Evans gave
her three chickens for even at the pathetic prices ruling then, eggs meant more
than pennies. That first year's saving yielded the princely sum of one shilling!
The next year, two shillings and seven pence -- and Mary looked forward with
shining eyes to the day when she would have a Bible of her own.
But then her ailing father fell more sick than he had ever
been, and what little money Mary was able to get had to go towards keeping the
home going. However, she never relaxed her efforts or her determination. So it
took six years of dedicated labour before there was money enough for that long
coveted copy of the scriptures. But now there was the money, where to get the
Bible? There was no bookshop within miles of Llanfihangel. Mary was told that Mr
Thomas Charles, a minister in Bala, would probably help her. So one day with a
little bread and cheese to help her on the way, she walked barefoot by lonely
paths through the mountains more than twenty-five miles to the home of Mr
Charles. There, in the minister's study, tired pathetic, strained, but eager as
ever, Mary held out her money and asked for a Bible. "But I have only one spare
copy," he said, "and that is already ear-marked for someone else." But then he
heard her story, and in his mind's eye saw her, dogged and footsore, walking
those endless miles through the mountains. "No matter," he added, "you shall
have it. Others can wait till I get a further supply." So next day, with a
springy stride, Mary returned home with her precious Bible, pausing now and then
to rest a while and to use the opportunity to read from the Scriptures, a lamp
to her feet a light to her path.
And there the story of Mary Jones ends. No more is known about
Her legacy to the world
But not long after this, in 1802 at a meeting In London, Mr
Charles told the story of Mary Jones and her Bible, and pleaded for the founding
of a society to print the Bible in Welsh. The idea met with immediate approval
However, one member of the company, with more vision and faith than the rest,
stood up and declared with passionate emphasis, "But I say, if for Wales, why
not for the world?" The proposal was taken up with acclaim. Two years later The
British and Foreign Bible Society formally came into existence, with the avowed
objective of making the Bible available in all the tongues of Babel. In 1814 the
Bible Society of the Netherlands was formed. Two years later came the American
Bible Society. Today they are the United Bible Society, operating on a massive
scale with the financial help and support of Bible-minded people everywhere. How
many millions of Bibles have been printed during that one-and-a-half centuries?
[Now almost two.] "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the
world, for a witness unto all nations." Mary Jones never had the slightest
inkling of the mighty work her simple single-minded zeal for the Scriptures
would get going. In this sophisticated, materialistic twentieth century, how
many bring to the Bible a fraction of the zeal which took Mary Jones through the
hills to Bala?