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International gathering celebrates opening of Mary Jones World in Llanycil, Wales

The legacy of one teenager's marathon walk in search of a Bible was celebrated in Wales at the weekend ...

On 5 October 2014, the bicentenary of the death of Revd Thomas Charles, guests from Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, India, Wales and the rest of the continent, celebrated the opening of Bible Society’s Mary Jones World, at Llanycil, in Bala.

Leta Jones, aged 102, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Revd Thomas Charles, officially opened the centre saying: "When we remember Thomas Charles and particularly Mary, we should always remember that the young people have the future in their hands through the Bible."
The celebrations began as nearly 400 hundred people made their way from Capel Tegid – where the 139-year-old statue of Revd Thomas Charles stands – to Mary Jones World in Llanycil.

Revd Hywel Edwards from Capel Tegid began the procession with a prayer of thanks for the lives of both Mary Jones and Revd Thomas Charles.

Visitors then took part in an hour-long service of celebration. Bible Society’s Chief Executive, James Catford, told the audience of invited guests: "In 1800 Mary Jones, aged 15, walked 26 miles in search of a Bible. It was a journey that changed the course of history, not only in Wales, but the world. I am delighted, therefore, that we are joined by our Bible Society colleagues from around the world."

His speech was followed by a reading from Philippians 1: 3–11 by Nerys Haf Biddulph, Chair of Prestatyn Action Group, in Welsh; and then by Rev Juan Pablo Bongarra, in English. The Bishop of Asaph, Rt Revd Dr Gregory Cameron, also led a prayer of dedication.

Traditional hymns including How Great Thou Art and Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer were sung by male voice choir Cor Meibion Llangwm.  

Revd Mani Chacko, the General Secretary of the Indian Bible Society, who travelled from Bangalore to attend the ceremony, commented about what the centre meant to people from across the globe: "It’s wonderful because history is not just about the past – but the present and the future. History is often buried, but today the Bible has come alive and we are all so excited to see this."


In 1800 Mary walked 25 miles from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, across the Welsh mountains, to Bala to get a Bible from Rev Thomas Charles. Mary saved for six years to buy one and Thomas Charles was so moved by her determination that he gave her three Bibles for the price of one. He then went on to help establish Bible Society four years later. He is one of a number of notable figures buried in the churchyard at Llanycil.

The new state-of-the-art visitor and education centre will give people the opportunity to discover this story and learn about the impact of the world’s best-selling book, not only in Wales, but the rest of the world.

During October, Mary Jones World will be open daily from 6 October to 31 October 2014, between 10 am and 4 pm.

There will be a special reduced rate of £3 for adults and £1 for children throughout October. From November to March, the centre will be open to school visits and group bookings only. The centre re-opens to the public in April 2015.

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