National Geographic : 1955 Oct
Caldy, the Monks' Island ages the shop for the monastery, was busy taking stock-getting ready, she told me, for the season to start. I must have looked puzzled, for she explained that between May and September day visitors are permitted to land. About 13,000 come each summer, ferried by the motorboats of Tenby fishermen at four shillings (56 cents) for the round trip. Some journey as pilgrims to see the monas tery's relic of St. Samson; others are brought by sheer curiosity. Either way, their fees greatly assist the island's tiny and limited economy. On arrival visitors are told that they must neither speak to the monks nor photograph them, but keep to the main trail and be ready to leave before the evening Angelus sounds. To me, the monastery towering over the village suggested the Tyrol, with its red roofs, spired and turreted, soaring above white walls overhung by wide eaves. Records show that Caldy's long ecclesiasti cal past was interrupted briefly in the 10th century, when Danes ravaged the coast of Pembrokeshire. Up to a Here J few years ago no one knew what During fate had befallen the old Celtic shipping monks. Daylight One answer to the riddle was sug gested by a Cistercian archeologist, who showed me an excavation he had made near the tiny Celtic church of St. David. The pit had held a heap of skeletons, piled one upon the other. They were not of pre-Christian age, and they were not the remains of pirates. A close examination seemed to indicate that they were from the 9th or 10th century and that they were the vic tims of the marauding Danes. The bones were reverently laid to rest again with proper Christian rites. I did not take meals in the monas tery's refectory, a large, oak-paneled room with well-scrubbed tables and stools; instead, I was served in a small adjoining room, where I was waited upon by a gifted young monk who speaks six languages and was once a member of the British In telligence Corps. Except for an occasional slice of cold meat for dinner and a boiled N-" egg for breakfast, my food was the same as that of the monks: a vegetable diet, mostly beans, potatoes, cabbage, and salads. Sometimes I had cheese, with fruit and junket to follow. There was plenty of homemade bread and farmhouse butter. The monks eat meat, fish, and eggs only on doctor's orders and cheese for only a few weeks in the year. Ex-Army Colonel Serves as Doctor Until recently the island had no doctor; now a new recruit solves the Cistercians' medi cal problems-a former colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was a novice, study ing for the priesthood, when I was there. Two days after my arrival I was inter viewed by the Prior, a tall, spare man. I al ready knew a little of the background of this distinguished scholar, who had barely escaped death at the hands of the Gestapo. The Prior listened attentively to my plea for permission to speak to the monks and to take photographs. When I had finished, he smiled and pondered a while. Then he re minded me of the strict rules. ohn Paul Jones Kept Watch for Men-of-war the Revolutionary War the American raided British close by. Seeking fresh water, he landed on Caldy. Rock served his crewmen as a lookout (page 578).