Background - The Wetherby Cave Graffiti

Cumbrian eccentric William Henry Mounsey carved an inscription into the walls of Wetheral Cave - in Welsh!

In 1852, William Henry Mounsey, from Rockliffe near Carlisle, visited Wetherby Caves and carved an enigmatic message there.  The caves, above the River Eden, were used from the fourteenth century by the monks of the nearby priory as a refuge for storing books and altar furnishings during Scots raids. They may also have served early Christian hermits, and were possibly in use earlier still, in Roman and pre-historic times.

Mounsey's message comprised his initials, to the left, reversed as MHW, plus above the inscription, (and not visible in the cropped photo above) a hexagram or Solomon's Seal, or Star of David, representing Judaism (Mounsey had long studied Judaism, and after his reitrement from the army had adopted a long beard and Jewish dress, becoming known locally as 'The Jew'.  Along the bottom, the planetary sign for the sun is used as shorthand for 'Sunday', followed by the number 23 and the astrological sign for Scorpio (October/November), followed by the year 1852. Taken together, they meant the 23rd day of Scorpio, viz Sunday, 14th November 1852. The main inscription is in Welsh. In translation it reads:

A leaf, is it not blown about by the wind?/ Woe to it for its fate/ Alas, it is old: this year it was born

This is an extract from the writings of Llywarch Hen, the 6th century poet and prince of Rheged, lamenting the shortness of life, using the image of a leaf which is born, ages and dies, all within the space of a year.  Mounsey spent much of the later part of his life transcribing and translating Old Welsh poetry, He died in 1877

Text, photo and detective work by Bill Shannon