Chapter 4 – Rhys Goch
Rhys Goch (Red-Haired), also referred to as Cynhyllin foel ap Rhys Goch, Lord of Ystrad Yw and Ewyas, (T Jones: History of Brecknockshire p. 225) was a tribal chieftain born around 1070 in Breconshire, Wales. Ystrad-Yw, literally meaning yew tree by the riverbank, was a large area containing parishes of Crichhowell, Llanbedr, Llanfihangel Cwm Du, Llangattock, Llangenny, Llanelly and Llangynidr. Today only the area around the village of Llanbedr is still referred to as Ystrad-Yw, but that subset of the original Ystrad-Yw is not the area where our ancestors lived.
Rhys Goch was a warrior who fought the Norman invaders as they attempted to conquer Wales. His older brother, Bleddyn ap Maenyrch, was killed in the fighting with the Norman invaders. As second son, he inherited his Lordship. His younger brother, <name>,
Rhys Goch’s coat of arms was “a dragon’s head erased vert, holding in its mouth a sinister hand gules“. This same coat was on the top of the shield and in the first quarter of the coat of arms on the grave stone of our emigrant ancestor John Lewis.
The meaning of this coat has been lost in history, but one recorded theory is that the chieftan Llewellyn ap Ynyr, of Ial, or Yale, in Denbighshire was talking to his Prince, Gryffydd ap Mdaoc, Lord of Dinas Bran, after a battle. His left hand was smeared with blood. He accidentally drew it across his sword, and left on it the mark of his four fingers. The Prince, observing this, ordered him to carry them on his shield.
Rhys Goch Family Notes:
Rhys Goch’s son Gemilling married a woman Genet, daughter of Sir Howell, Prince of Caerllon (today the city of Caerlon ), about 25 miles South of Crickhowell. This is the town the Romans garrisoned the second legion, and extensive Roman ruins exist there today.
Sir Howell’s coat was “Gules three castles triple-towered Argent“. Sir Howell inherited these arms from …, and gave a grant of the Howell arms to Gemilling. These arms are found on the second quarter of the coat of arms on the grave stone of our emigrant ancestor John Lewis.
The Rhys Goch coat of arms passed down through sons to two sets of families. The first family ended up with the names Herbert and Morgan, and the second was our Lewis family. The Herbert / Morgan descendents settled in Llangeny, while the Lewis branch (our ancestors) remained in Llanelly. The ancestral home of the Lewis family was Aberclycach, meaning above the Clydach. Clydach is a small settlement between Llanelly and Bryn Mawr, in the parish of Llanelly.
Four of the six history books that contain accounts of Rhys Goch show his father as Maenyrch, Lord of Brecknock, a male descendent of Caradawg Freichfras 14?? generations removed. Two of the six books show his father as Einion ap Gwage, not a descendent of Caradawg Freichfras. However, all six agree that his mother was Elinor, daughter of Einion ap Seleff, Lord of Cantreff-Seleff, who descended from Caradawg Freichfras but through a different line. So, Rhys Goch was descended from Caradawg Freichfras through one parent if not both.