last night i met the coracle king; completely by chance. i stopped the car to take a photograph of an old coracle on the side of the road and he came out of his wee house to find out why a car had stopped. he might be nearly 90 but his mind (and his hearing) are still sharp.
Bernard Thomas, coracle maker of Llechryd, now in his eighties, is locally celebrated for having paddled his coracle from England to France in the 70’s
bernard thomas is a legend around these parts, he’s been fishing in the river teifi since he was four years old and making coracles for all of his adult life. he’s also taught many others how to do it. i wonder if his craft will be continued by some other enthusiast, or if the fishing is no longer good enough.
he told me that he’d crossed the english channel in one and invited me in to show me proof. and there it was. a certificate and photographs from july 1974. 13.5 hours it took him. blimey!
you’re not from around here are you, he said. a statement, not a question. (i get that a lot in wales).
new zealand i answer.
i took troops back to new zealand, he says; i was in the merchant marines.
instantly we have a connection.
we chat for a while then, he escorts me outside, offers me a welsh blessing and i get on my way.
glad, very glad, i stopped the car.