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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Wednesday, 18 August 2010 15:52 UK
Madam Wen exhibition in Rhosneigr's threatened library
WD Owen, courtesy of the Sara Richards collection
WD Owen's sister was a maid to Florence Nightingale

Villagers fighting to keep a library open have enlisted Madam Wen, a 17th Century pirate and smuggler, to help.

An exhibition on this classic Welsh story, based on a real local character, is being held in Rhosneigr library.

It aims to highlight the community role of the library, which could close as part of £10m budget cuts on Anglesey.

Mandi Abrahams of the Friends of Rhosneigr Library said: "We have huge support for our campaign to keep the library open."

She added: "Lots of people have volunteered to steward this exhibition which tells a story that's very special to people all over Anglesey."

The Madam Wen story began as a serialisation in Welsh language weekly newspaper Y Genedl Gymreig in 1914.

It was written by Rhosneigr solicitor WD Owen who went on to turn it into a book, published in 1925, just two weeks before he died at the age of 51.

Mandi Abrahams, who lives in the house where Owen died, not far from the library, explained: "Madam Wen is a character based on a historical figure. It's a very romantic story.

"Historian Maldwyn Thomas did the research into who she actually was and he found a lady called Margaret Williams who had married into a squire's family and was a Madam Wen-type figure.

"There's always been a story about this lady smuggler captain or lady pirate in the area who had her hideout in Llanfairyneubwll.

Madam Wen's cave
A film of Madam Wen was shown by S4C in 1984

"There's a cave she's supposed to have hidden all her loot in. She seemed to be able to control the local ruffians to work for her.

"It was the time when the Jacobites were trying to mount an invasion of England. So there was pirate traffic between France and Ireland for the Catholic cause, smuggling goods and raising money to mount an invasion."

Madam Wen has been read by Welsh children for generations and an English version has recently been published by regular Rhosneigr visitor Tim Hale in his book, The Rhosneigr Romanticist.

Tim has created displays for the exhibition which tell the story of WD Owen, his family and business, as well as Madam Wen and the sites associated with her, and another section on Rhosneigr in the early 20th century.

Anglesey Council is considering closing the library as part of a programme of £10m spending cuts.

Council leaders. launching the Looking to the Future document back in January, warned of "tough decisions" over the next three years to deal with "unprecedented budget cuts".

Mandi said the Friends of Rhosneigr Library was formed when the threat of closure was first raised.

"People here were absolutely disgusted and horrified because it's a very busy library in lots of ways, not just for people borrowing books and kids doing their homework, but also as a community centre," she said.

They decided to hold the exhibition specifically to highlight the library's role in the community and its potential for a variety of uses.

The exhibition runs until 4 September. It is open every day from 10am to 4pm including Bank Holiday Monday, 12-4pm on Sundays.





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