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Burton Monument on Moel-y-Golfa – Photo by Nick L.
Image by Nigel Jones
BVS Walk 12 October 2014
The inscription is intriguing.
This is certainly one of the most unusual memorials I have seen. This monument was built in 1963 by the son (Uriah Burton) of Ernest Burton, a Romany Chell (Chief). After Uriah’s own death in 1986, a second inscription was added in his memory.
The monument was built by friends and acquaintances of the Burton’s. Allegedly, some contributed their labours under duress. This is not an accessible site, standing atop a pretty steep climb with no easy tracks to the top along which vehicles could travel, and it is a not inconsiderable achievement to have got the massive stones into place on top of the monument.
Here is a transcription of the newspaper article (in the link above) from "The People" Sunday newspaper of November 1963. The item is written by Uriah "Big Just" Burton and tells an amazing story of very hard graft and brotherhood:
It seems that a lot of people have fear of me after the kidnappings last week. I want to explain about it and about the handcuffs.
I want to put things right for the ordinary people who have fears that I might come after them.
Some people have been saying the kidnappings were all a joke. They were no joke. They were real. But everyone who has been taken by me has been connected with me and my men. And they have either given their word to work on the stone or boasted that nothing would persuade them to do so.
This made it a sort of challenge in my mind. I was determined to prove them all wrong.
I am a gipsy and I am proud of it. My word is my bond.
But I will start at the beginning.
The father was a Romany Chell (Chief), a good man, loved and respected wherever he went, especially in Wales, where he was born and lived most of his life.
He was a dealer in cattle and horses and he was a breeder of horses.
With my brothers and sisters we travelled with him. We lived under the stars, out in the country. I have never lived in a house in my life.
As the years passed we had to progress like other gipsy families. Our old caravan disappeared. Motor cars and trailers took their place, but the work was the same and we were still free.
Come spring we would have 50 foals running the road. I helped the father break them in. I learned about horses, loved the life.
Then the father died. He was (50/59?). Before he died, three years back, he had asked us his children, that he be cremated and his ashes spread on the Welsh mountains he knew and loved so much.
I went up into an aeroplane to carry out that last wish.
Some think that was when I decided to put up the The Stone as a remembrance. A time of mourning is not a time to think of actions.
It was later that our family pledged to put up The Stone.
There had been nothing like it anywhere in the country, probably in this whole world.
Moel-y-Golfa was picked because it was the highest of the Breidden Hills and because it was covered in trees. The owner of the land gave his permission. We went to see contractors. They said the task was impossible.
I had made a pledge. It could not be "impossible."
With relatives and god friends we went to Wales to start the job.
It was hard work. We had to make a road up the mountain. The weeks went by. Word began to go around about what we were doing. Some people sneered at us.
Other people, business men, promised to come and help.
Then, when the time came to go to Wales, they said they were too busy with their business.
I found that this was not always true. They were going to parties. They were not too busy for that.
But they had made a promise and should keep it.
That was when I decided to use the handcuffs, mainly as a joke and a sort of insurance that they would not break their word gain.
We had waited a long time for the main stone for a memorial.
It came from Cornwall and we had to wait until they had two pieces big enough for a main part.
I didn’t want an ordinary monument that would crumble away in time. I wanted something that would last forever.
When the stone arrived I started the kidnapping.
It began in Scotland down through England to Wales.
I got a bus to take the men. All the people who had given their word to help, inclduing those who had broken it, were taken by us, put in cuffs and taken to Wales.
That first weekend we had 75 men.
Some didn’t like it. They were mad at us. I wasn’t worried by their threats.
But I had taken them along with me in good faith and had the responsibility for them.
I had to feed them and give them somewhere to sleep. I had my big horsebox, a marquee and an articulator caravan.
£20 ON DRINK
I spent £40 on food for them and another £20 on drink.
All night there were arguments, then the dawn came.
We broke bread together and they began looking toward the mountain top. They wanted to get on with the job. The work was started.
There were all sorts of men there, some very rich men. Many had never done anything like it.
But at the end of the day they came to me and said they were proud to have had the chance to help.
I was ready to pay £4 a day to any man who worked for me.
Of those 75 men, only about ten took money from me.
In the end the others worked away as a matter of pride, to see the job through.
It was a hard job and a dangerous job. We had to move three blocks of granite, weighing 12½ tons, 10½ tons and five tons to the top. The road was a track of mud, in places very steep.
We had been lent an eight wheeler lorry by Mr. Arthur Hepworth of Norton, near Doncaster. He gave it free.
We loaded the granite onto it and with the bulldozers at the front and back we began the job. We would move only five yards at a time. As we went up the men kept blocking and scotching (fastening) the lorry.
Then the lorry stuck. It wouldn’t move at all. When it did it began to slide back.
My brother, Osiah, was in the cab of the lorry. He was the best man for the job. He was calm. I don’t think he knew the danger to him.
"I RESPECT THE LAW"
We put chains on the lorry, but they snapped like candles. With wire ropes we fastened it to trees, but it pulled the trees out by their roots. But somehow we got the lorry moving up again. And we got to the top. It took us two days.
I say that nothing is completely bad. In every man there is good. On that mountain the good in the men I had taken came out.
When we took them home, not one complained to the police. They wouldn’t have done it after being on the mountain.
Mind you, I respect the law. You must have it and I wouldn’t break it.
Today The Stone is nearly finished. I have had thousands of offers to help me since "The People" article last Sunday and when the opening ceremony takes place everyone will be welcomed.
We hope to have a priest there to bless The Stone.
The handcuffs have been put away and will never be used again. I have proved through them that there is good in every man if it is given the chance to come out.
Text below a photo of man in a sack being carried away:
Flashback to "Big Just" in action last week – carrying off handcuffed victim to a ??? big van. Now he says that there will be no more "kidnapping" – that he has put away the handcuffs for ever.