The fasincating and inspiring story of Esmé Kirby, as told by Teleri Bevan, is this month’s choice of classic of the month.
Esmé: Guardian of Snowdonia
This is the story of Esmé Kirby, who moved to the 3,000-acre sheep farm, Dyffryn farmhouse in Conwy, on the day of her wedding to Thomas Firbank (author of I Bought a Mountain) in 1934. A drama graduate from London, she had never worked on a farm before. Her husband left the farm at the start of the Second World War and chose never to return to Dyffryn. Esmé however was determined to stay and make it work.
With guidance from friends and neighbours on Snowdonia and with the tireless work of two shepherds, she faced the challenge of running a farm head on. Esmé wasn’t content with just running a farm – she was determined to make it one of the best mountain farms in Wales. She grew to love her vocation and the surrounding landscapes of the beautiful Snowdonia area.
Esmé married Major Peter Kirby in 1947 and they carried on improving and modernising cottages and buildings on the farm as well as fighting for the conservation of the land.
Esmé’s story is a fascinating account of an outsider with no experience, who was determined to make it work. As well as running a successful farm, she also became passionately involved with the future of the farm and the area. Snowdonia was announced to be a National Park in 1951.
In 1967, Esmé set up an independent watchdog which she called the Snowdonia National Park Society. The Society and its volunteers would ensure that the landscape that had remained the same for millennia wasn’t taken over by developers and tourists.
The details on establishing and the Society, and her other big project – a campaign to re-establish colonies of native red squirrel to Anglesey – are explored in the book.
Thanks to her, and people of her ilk Snowdonia has remained the tranquil haven it is today and it’s rugged wild beauty still exists.
When Esmé died in 1999 Dyffryn farmhouse in Dyffryn Mymbyr was bequeathed to the National Trust and it has been restored to have a slight 1960’s feeling, and is now one of the National Trust’s holiday cottages.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teleri Bevan comes from a farming background and has worked for the BBC where she launched Radio Wales as its Editor and later became the Head of Programmes for BBC Radio Wales radio and television.
In retirement Teleri has enjoyed writing books about women who made distinctive contributions to rural life in twentieth-century Wales. Other books by the author include The Ladies of Blaenwern and her autobiography Years on Air.
Esmé: Guardian of Snowdonia by Teleri Bevan (£9.95, Y Lolfa)
If you enjoyed Esmé: Guardian of Snowdonia,
why not try The Hill Farmer by Gareth Wyn Jones?