Pabo ‘Pillar of Britain


The last dux or ‘commander’ of the Army of the North was a Romano-Briton Coel Hen 

Coel’s wife Ystradwel, Severa’s cousin, was the granddaughter of Eudaf Hen and had inherited lands that were passed down in her family

 Their daughter Gwawl married Cunedda Wledig.

Cunedda held the military role of Dux Britanniarum and was the leader of a mobile army of several hundred horsemen. His badge of office was a gold belt, known in early poetry as ‘Cunedda’s Girdle’. After Rome abandoned control of Britannia, the disciplined and trained cavalry of the Cymry, with their billowing Sarmatian dragons remained the most powerful, united fighting force against the enemy from within and without.


It seems likely that it was Vortigern, head of the Governing Council of Britannia in the period 420-450 concerned that his wife’s landholding was under threat from raiders from Ireland, who instructed Cunedda to come to north Wales.


The Welsh pedigrees name Cunedda’s grandfather as Padarn Beisrudd (Paternus of the Red Tunic). The cognomen suggests that Padarn was a British leader who wore the official purple, under the Roman administration.


‘Maelgwn, the great king, was reigning among the Britons in the region of Gwynedd, for his ancestor, Cunedag, with his sons, whose number was eight, had come previously from the northern part, that is from the region which is called Manaw Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years before Maelgwn reigned. And with great slaughter they drove out from those regions the Scotii [Irish] who never returned again to invade them.’

                                                                        Historia Brittonum


Genealogy 32 in Harleian manuscript 3859 names the nine sons of Cunedda stating that the eldest Tybion had died in ‘Manaw Goddoddin‘. It also gives the additional information:

‘ This is their boundary: From the river which is called Dyfrdwy [Dee], to another river, the Teifi: and they held very many districts in the western part of Britannia.’


The account in Historia Brittonum suggests that sometime in the fifth century Cunedda and his sons regained the territory in the north and the west coastal areas of Wales, perhaps with the exception at the time of the Llŷn Peninsula, Arfon, Arllechwedd and the greater part of Môn.

If the information is reliable, it shows that the family held an area from the mouth of the Clwyd to the mouth of the Teifi at this time.

Cunedda’s grandson Cadwallon Lawhir (Long-Arm) ab Einion Yrth, born about AD 440, fought to bring Arfon and part of Môn, under his jurisdiction.

The struggles are well remembered in folklore, as were the lengths that the men went to achieve victory.


            Three Fettered War-Bands of Ynys Prydein

The war band of Cadwallawn Long-Arm who each put the fetters of their horses on their [own] feet when fighting with Serygei the Irishman at Cerrig-y- Gwyddel, the ‘Irishman’s Rocks’ in Môn.’

                                                                        Trioedd Ynys Prydein



Einion Yrth ap Cunedda Wledig is listed in the ‘Harleian’ genealogies as being the seventh son of Cunedda Wledig and Gwawl ferch Coel Hen.

The cognomen gyrth means ‘touched’ or ‘stricken’. It is thought that he was allocated responsibility for eastern Gwynedd, which passed down to his son Owain Danwyn, and then to his son Cynlas Goch.

            ‘Each mournful person asks

            whose is the sepulchre that is here:

            the grave of Einion ap Cunedda

            whose slaughter in Prydein was an outrage.’

                                    Stanzas of the Graves: The Black Book of Carmarthen



Ystradwel’s grandson, Pabo Post Pydein, Pabo ‘Pillar of Britain’, the son, according to the earliest genealogical sources, of Ceneu ap Coel Hen joined in the struggle to secure the vulnerable coastal lands. He was the cousin of Einion Yrth and it appears likely that prompted by the premature death of his kinsman he came to the assistance of Einion Yrth’s sons.


Pabo’s base in north Wales was strategically situated on a raised ledge of land on a hillside overlooking the broad sweep of the Conwy estuary. The site has a clear, uninterrupted view of the eastern approaches to the Menai Strait, but is itself virtually invisible to anyone on the valley bottom.


The enclosure has retained the name Pabo and the narrow track winding down to the estuary and what was once a Roman port is Lôn Pabo, Pabo’s Lane.


‘There was an ancient Tradition in the parish of LanBabo in Anglesey that Pabo with his Son and Daughter were buried in the Churchyard opposite to certain faces that were carv’d in the Wall, and to be seen to this Day. In King Charles ye 2nd’s Time or there about (as I was Inform’d) the Sexton happened to dig a Grave agst one of these carved Faces, at about six or seven feet deep, found a flat Grave stone, one corner of wch he pick’d, and demolished a few letters before he knew what it was. The stone was then remov’d into the Quire, where it hath remained ever since….’

                                    Letter from Lewis Morris to Mr. Carte, written c. 1745


The late fourteenth century memorial slab erected in honour of the memory of Pabo, Post Pridd, the fifth century founder of the church, is now set upright against the north wall of the Nave. The intricate carving depicts Pabo as a king of the Middle Ages with crown and sceptre, his head resting upon a cushion. He has a neatly trimmed beard and moustache and his hair hangs down in curls to below the ears.

The sandstone slab was defaced and broken probably at the time of the Reformation and the pieces later buried in the graveyard for safekeeping.


Llanbabo is situated in the north of Môn close to Llyn Alaw, four miles from the ‘Copper Mountain’, Mynydd Trysglwyn. It is one of the earliest Christian churches to have been founded on the island and the local traditions is that it was built on or near the site of one of the battles that freed the land from the Irish invaders.



Pabo’s grandson Deiniol ap Dunod Fwr founded the cathedral at Bangor on Menai.

His brother Gwrwst Ledlwm ‘Gwrwst the Ragged’ ap Ceneu is mentioned in Culhwch ac Olwen as having being taken prisoner by Gwyn ap Nudd.


Dunod Fwr ap Pabo was remembered as one of the ‘Three Pillars of Battle’ of Ynys Prydein.  The Annales Cambriae record his death as being in 595, but this seems to be unlikely, unless he lived to a great age, as his son Deiniol died in 584.


Brochwel Ysgithrog, the king of Powys married Pabo’s daughter Arddun. A p  oem in the Book of Taliesin says that Taliesin was at the king’s court.

            I sang before a famous lord, in the meadows of the Severn,

                        Before Brochuael Powys, 

Brochwell and Arddun’s son Tysilio founded churches in various parts of Wales including one on a tiny island in the Menai, on the opposite shore to Bangor. 


Cunedda’s descendants bonded together the territories that later became consolidated into the kingdom of Gwynedd.


Text  ©  Kathryn Pritchard Gibson      


Image of Pabo by Colin A. Gresham, 'Medieval Carvings of North Wales. Sepulchral Slabs and Effigies of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.' (1968)