Where the Menai Straits are at their narrowest,
between two bluffs, Thomas Telford chose to build
his one span suspension bridge, high enough
for tall ships to pass. The two towers,
exposed to the tides, were built of limestone blocks
from the Penmon quarries on the coast
north of here. Caernavon Castle had been built
from Penmon stone – and blocks were shipped to Dublin
to line the Liffey with wharfs and quays.
Telford, the ‘Colossus of Roads’, was reared
in penury – a stone mason by trade,
a self-taught engineer, begetter of
the A5 coaching road, erstwhile Watling Street;
the London-Holyhead trunk from Marble Arch
to Admiralty Arch by the Irish Sea.
Built a generation later, a mile south
and within sight, is Stephenson’s railway bridge.
Two British industrial colossi
so close in space and time! So much investment,
ingenuity, innovation, to keep
the Catholic colonies of Ireland,
those reserves of navvies and wheat, in thrall!
Between the bridges are The Swellies
around Fish Trap Island – Ynys Gorad Goch –
whirling at high tide, lake calm at low water.
The Druids, deemed Rome’s enemies, were hunted.
They crossed here in coracles, felt safe at last
on Ynys Môn, Mam Cymru. They watched the soldiers
swim like dogs across the sacred waters.
Rome’s mercenaries ran them down like boar,
skewering them among the flowering gorse.