The 15-year-old girl who walked 25 miles barefoot to buy a copy of the Welsh Bible from Thomas Charles in Bala
Mary Jones was born in 1784, into a poor Welsh family in the village of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Meirionnydd. Her father was a weaver and her parents were nonconformists, worshipping in chapel rather than church. Mary’s Calvinistic Methodist upbringing brought about her longing and determination to own a copy of the Welsh Bible, and her lifelong commitment as a Christian.
Mary learned to read in schools organised by Thomas Charles of Bala, and it is said the young girl would walk 2 miles to a nearby farm in order to read a copy of the Bible. Determined to own her own copy, she started to save for a copy from the age of eight. Although money was scarce in her family, as in many others, after six years she had managed to save enough money.
The nearest town, 25 miles away, was Bala. The story of Mary’s barefoot walk over mountains and streams is the stuff of Welsh legend, taught in schools as an inspiration and testimony to her determination and dedication to Christianity.
There is a twist to the story, however: on arrival at Bala, Mary was informed by Thomas Charles that there were no more Bibles left for sale. Heartbroken and distraught, she did not know what to do; so great was her disappointment that, according to various accounts, Thomas Charles either gave her his own copy or provided lodgings for her in Bala until a new consignment of Bibles had arrived.
Charles was deeply affected by Mary Jones’s commitment, and he became more determined than ever to help people have access to the Bible. His vision was expressed in his famous announcement ‘Beibl i bawb o bobl y Byd’ (‘A Bible for all the people of the World’). In 1804 the Bible Society was established to distribute Bibles all over the world.
Mary Jones died in 1864. She was buried in the graveyard of Bryncrug Calvinistic Methodist Chapel.