Tommy Jones: Little boy lost on Pen y Fan

The Tommy Jones obelisk on the Brecon Beacons © National Trust

The Tommy Jones obelisk on the Brecon Beacons

The tragic story of a five-year-old boy who became lost on the mountains of the Brecon Beacons, South Wales, in the summer of 1900 has been told countless times down the generations, and has touched the hearts of many.

A visit to relatives

On 4 August 1900 a miner from Maerdy, at the head of the Rhondda Fach valley, decided to take his five-year-old son Tommy to visit his grandparents who still farmed near Brecon. They'd travelled by train and planned to walk the four-miles to Cwmllwch, the farmhouse in the valley just below Pen y Fan.

A long journey

By 8pm they'd reached the Login - now in ruins - where soldiers were encamped for training at the rifle range further up the valley at Cwm Gwdi. The father and son had stopped for refreshment when they met Tommy’s grandfather and cousin William, who was 13. William was asked to go back to the farm and tell his grandmother to expect Tommy and his dad, and Tommy ran off up the valley with him.

When the two boys were half way, Tommy who was frightened by the dark perhaps started to cry and wanted to return to his father at the Login. So the two boys parted. William completed his errand and returned to the Login within a quarter of an hour – but Tommy hadn't returned.

Missing

His father and grandfather started the search immediately, joined by soldiers from the camp. The search was halted at midnight and resumed at 3pm the following day. The search continued for weeks. Everyday, parties of police, soldiers, farmers and other volunteers systematically combed the area with no luck.

The dream

After reading accounts of the search, a gardener’s wife living just north of Brecon is said to have dreamed of the very spot where Tommy was found. She had a few restless days before persuading her husband to borrow a pony and trap on Sunday 2 September to take her and some relatives to Brecon Beacons, which they'd never climbed before.

They reached the ridge below Pen y Fan and were making their way towards the summit over open ground when Mr Hammer, who was a few yards in front, started back with an exclamation of horror. He had found the body of little Tommy Jones.

Memorial

No one could explain how the five-year-old had managed to reach the spot where his body was found. He'd climbed 1,300ft from the Login. Today the spot where Tommy’s body was found is marked with an obelisk. The jurors at the inquest donated their fees after determining that he had died from exhaustion and exposure.

It was more than 60-years later when the first Mountain Rescue team was set up in the Brecon Beacons.

Source: A summary from the Brecon Beacons National park leaflet ‘Victim of the Beacons’.