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History of Tommy Jones and the Brecon Beacons

A view looking over rolling hills towards the snowy peak of Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales, with bright blue sky and a low-lying band of cloud in the background.
Pen y Fan from the A40, Brecon Beacons National Park | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Discover the tragic story of a five-year-old boy, Tommy Jones, lost within the Brecon Beacons mountain range. Since the 1900s, the story has been re-told countless times and has touched the hearts of many.

The tragic story of Tommy Jones

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 farmed near Brecon. They travelled by train and planned to walk the 4 miles (6.4km) to Cwmllwch, the farmhouse in the valley just below Pen y Fan.

A long journey to visit relatives

By 8pm they'd reached the Login, a building where soldiers stayed whilst training at the rifle range further up the valley at Cwm Gwdi. The father and son had stopped for refreshments when they met Tommy’s grandfather and cousin William, who was 13 years old.

William was asked to go back to the farm and tell his grandmother to expect Tommy and his dad. Tommy decided to go with his cousin and ran off up the valley with him.

A sad decision

When the two boys were halfway, Tommy became upset and wanted to return to his father at the Login. It is thought he may have been scared of the dark. The two boys decided to split up. William completed his errand and returned to the Login, but Tommy hadn’t returned.

View looking across from Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Powys, Wales
View from Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales | © National Trust Images / Joe Cornish

Missing on the mountain

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 for Tommy continued for weeks. Every day parties of police, soldiers, farmers and other volunteers systematically searched the area with no luck.

The dream

After reading accounts of the search, a woman 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 help search for Tommy. On Sunday 2 September they borrowed a pony and small cart to travel closer to the Brecon Beacons, which they'd never climbed before.

They reached the ridge below Pen y Fan and started to make their way towards the summit. It was in this open area that the body of Tommy Jones was found.


No one could explain how the five-year-old boy had managed to reach the high location where his body was found. He'd climbed 1,300ft (396m) from the Login building. An inquest into Tommy’s death was held shortly after. It was determined that he’d died from exhaustion and hypothermia.

All the jurors at the inquest donated their fees to a memorial fund after hearing how Tommy had died. The place where Tommy’s body was found is marked with a large inscribed granite stone obelisk, funded with the memorial donations.

'This obelisk marks the spot where the body of Tommy Jones aged 5 was found. He lost his way between Cwm Llwch Farm and the Login on the night of August 4, 1900. After an anxious search of 29 days his remains were discovered Sept [2nd]. Erected by voluntary subscriptions. W Powell Price Mayor of Brecon 1901'

- Inscription on the memorial for Tommy Jones

Mountain Rescue on the Beacons

It was more than 60 years later when the first Mountain Rescue team was set up in the Brecon Beacons. A worthwhile voluntary service that still continues in the area today.

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

A view of walkers on a steep hillside on the Cwm Llwch horseshoe trail, Brecon Beacons, Powys, with rolling hills and woodland in the far distance.


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