National Geographic : 1955 Oct
Caldy, the Monks' Island BY JOHN E. H. NOLAN With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author A ONG the many small islands that dot the coasts of Great Britain there is one, rising sheer out of Bristol Chan nel, where the slow-paced measures of Gre gorian plain song mingle with the sound of the sea. This isle, shaped like a turtle a mile and a half long, lies on the doorstep of Wales, two and a half miles south of the fishing port of Tenby in Pembrokeshire. If you, like me, are fond of small islands, you might care to know more about this unusual little place. It is Caldy (also spelled Caldey), known to the Welsh as Ynys Byr the only island in Britain wholly owned by monks (map, page 567). A Link with John Paul Jones In addition to its Cistercian monastery, the Abbey of Our Lady and St. Samson, Caldy boasts three churches, a village, and even a ghost. It has a guesthouse, but no person can land without permission. My interest in this strange little island be gan one morning when I picked up a copy of the Western Mail and South Wales News and saw an intriguing paragraph. It reported that a hoard of prehistoric human remains had been found in Caldy's cliffs near a spot called Jones Bay, named after the American naval hero. Wondering what link there could have been between John Paul Jones and an island so far removed from America, I thought I might find the answer on Caldy itself. I wrote to the Prior for permission to visit the island, received a most gracious invitation, and set off on a sunny May morning for Tenby, where the monks' own boat was to pick me up. A burly, rosy-faced monk, wearing the rough brown habit of a Cistercian lay brother, met me there. Holding a bag of mail, he glanced down at a dinghy bobbing in the shallows beyond the quay at low tide. Far ther out the monks' motor launch was an chored. Without more ado, the good monk picked up my baggage and would have taken my typewriter and camera too had I not insisted on sharing the load. Pausing at the water's edge to hitch up his gown, he announced his intention of carrying me out to the dinghy.