Who was Owain Thomas Hughes? Well, we know that he was an engineer, not the kindImage who drove trains, but who designed the bridges that carried trains.

Was he, perhaps, inspired by the Menai Bridge that crosses the Straits of Menai, just a few miles south of Ty n y Mynydd?

The Menai Bridge links Anglesey with mainland Wales and was a huge economic boon to the island. Until the bridge opened in 1826, the only way to get back and forth between the mainland and Anglesey was to cross the straits of Menai by ferry or, with some difficulty, by walking across at low tide.Neither mode of transportation was good for Anglesey’s economic mainstay, the sale of cattle. Before the bridge was built, cattle had to be driven into the straits and forced to swim across. The bridge, which took seven years to build, was a major piece of infrastructure and it cut the time it took to travel from London to Holyhead from 36 hours to 27. We’ll be traveling from London to Holyhead ourselves, but our trip will take a mere four hours by train.We don’t know where Owain Thomas studied engineering, but one thing is certain, he grew up practically in the shadow of the Menai Bridge.Building things was clearly something Owain Thomas loved. My sister and I each have wooden jewelry boxes, carefully planed, that he made. My mother still has some of his old planing tools. And she has a tuning fork that reads, “Owain Thomas Hughes, Ty’n y Mynydd, Anglesey, Wales.” She remembers that he was an accomplished singer, in the great Welsh tradition, a talent that does not appear to have passed down to any of us. But, now that I think of it, two brothers do play piano beautifully and one (whose middle name is Owain) also plays pretty killer mandolin.