BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

16 October 2014

BBC Homepage
Wales home

Contact Us

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Danger Deep Water

By Phil Palmer
February 2003, Ynysybwl
A digital story from Capture Wales

Lady of the lake

Llyn-y-Forwen has always been the backdrop of Phil's family photographs. But a tragedy and a mysterious Welsh legend makes his connection to the lake a lot stronger.

Llyn-y-Forwen has always been a part of family life. In all the photos in the family album that mean the most to me, it's there - either in the background or just out of shot somewhere, out of frame.

But the lake was much, much more to my Uncle William - it defined his life and caused his death. He was ten years old when he drowned in Llyn-y-Forwen, two years before the end of the Great War - a victim of his own altruism. He died trying to save a friend... and entered the realm of family myth, his story passed down the years with his photograph - a warning to us kids and a tragedy not to be repeated. The lake cut his life down to the dimensions of a mere vignette. But was it a tragedy? Or was it a slippage from one realm of myth into another.

Llyn-y-Forwen claimed other, earlier victims too. According to legend, a local farmer's son fell in love with a maiden... who appeared to him one day on the banks of the lake. He persuaded her to marry him, but she made one condition - that if they quarrel three times, she would return to the lake. The promise was broken... and she disappeared once again leaving him to pine away.

What did Uncle William see that day in that lake? What did he hear? Was he called to another life and not his death under the water by a shadow-woman? Sometimes when the sun is high... I can see dark shapes in the water. Fishermen tell me they're shoals of fish - but I know better. I know their Uncle William's children - a family of sirens living still.

End slide - 'For William'

Phil Palmer

Please tell us about yourself.
I'm 41 and living in Ynysybwl with my girlfriend Sam. I was born in the Rhondda and I've never lived more than 10 miles away from where I was born. I find that I feel a real connection to the Valleys landscape as I grow older.

What's your story about?
It's about how family myths perpetuate and how, just like any other story, they can be interpreted in different ways by different people. My Uncle William's death was always presented as such a tragedy to me, but I couldn't reconcile the person in the photograph - who always seemed so alive and defiant - with the victim in the story.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
I wanted to reclaim my uncle's story and make something positive out of it. I was also interested in how I could weave the family myth into the larger myth of the Lady of Llyn-y-Forwen and that, in turn, into the myth of the Sirens, whilst rooting it firmly in the local landscape.

What was the most rewarding aspect of making your digital story?
Meeting the other storytellers - they were an extraordinary group of individuals, who really gelled over the course of the workshop. I can honestly say that I miss them, even though I was only with them for five days. The storytelling team were also fantastic, and made a difficult process seem very easy.

Your comments

"Magic. The essence of Wales." Hilary Carling, Kings Lynn, England, Sept 2007.

"I research and perform medieval music, child ballads and the like on Celtic harp and other historic instruments. I was enriched by Phil's story. When the tale was over, a reflective stillness quite like the lake surrounded me, allowing me to connect his story to centuries of stories, myths, and music." Sondra Bromka, New York, USA, Sept 2007.

Latest videos here!

We've created a new site to watch our collection of your short films and videos in Flash. Videos will be still be available here in Real Media. Click here to visit the new site.

Search your video

Latest videos

Sian Eirian Rees Davies
New videos

Short films from Wales made by you.

An Indian doll
Video Nation Wales

Your views on camera and online.

Cipolwg ar Gymru

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy