Mary Jones was from a poor family, the daughter of a weaver, who lived at the foot of Cader Idris, Llanfihangel-y-pennant, Merioneth (now part of Gwynedd), near Dolgellau. She was born in December 1784. Her parents were devout Calvinistic Methodists, and she herself professed the Christian faith at eight years of age. Having learned to read in the circulating schools organized by Thomas Charles, it became her burning desire to possess a Bible of her own. The nearest copy was at a farm two miles distant from her little cottage, and there was no copy on sale nearer than Bala – 25 miles away; and it was not certain that a copy could be obtained there.
Welsh Bibles were scarce in those days. Having saved for six years until she had enough money to pay for a copy, she started one morning in 1800 for Bala, and walked the 25 miles, barefoot as usual, to obtain a copy from the Rev. Charles, the only individual with Bibles for sale in the area. According to one version of the story, Mr. Charles told her that all of the copies which he had received were sold or already spoken for.
Mary was so distraught that Charles spared her one of the copies already promised to another. In another version, she had to wait two days for a supply of Bibles to arrive, and was able to purchase a copy for herself and two other copies for members of her family. According to tradition, it was the impression that this visit by Mary Jones left upon him that impelled Charles to propose to the Council of the Religious Tract Society the formation of a Society to supply Wales with Bibles.
Mary later married a weaver of Bryncrug named Thomas Lewis. She died in 1864 and was buried at the graveyard of Bryncrug Calvinistic Methodist Chapel. Her Bible is now kept at the British and Foreign Bible Society's Archives in Cambridge University Library. It is a copy of the 1799 edition of the Welsh Bible, ten thousand copies of which were printed at Oxford for the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. In addition to the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha, the volume contains the Book of Common Prayer (in Welsh) and Edmwnd Prys's Welsh metrical Psalms. Mary Jones wrote the following (in English) on the last page of the Apocrypha (spelling is her own):
Mary Jones was born 16th of December 1784.
I Bought this in the 16th year of my age. I am Daughter of Jacob Jones
and Mary Jones His wife. the Lord may give me grace. Amen.
If you are interested in walking the same route Mary Jones has taken to walk all the way to Bala, it is still possible. Thanks to Mary Thomas and the support of the Bible Society, a walking guide has been created, that helps you to find the way easily. If the journey is undertaken, you will cover several miles through beautiful Snowdonia National Park, cross narrow stiles and fast-flowing streams and finally you will reach the awe inspiring expanse of Bala Lake. A great part of the journey you will be overlooked by the high mountains of the Aran Fawddwy. The walk ends at the town of Bala where plaques on the wall of Barclays bank commemorate the part Thomas Charles and Mary Jones played in the founding of the Bible Society.