‘Maen Huail on which tradition states King Arthur beheaded Huail, brother of Gildas the historian.'
Thus reads the older of the two plaques attached to Exmewe House above this weather worn limestone boulder in St Peter’s Square.
In ‘The Quarrel of Arthur and Huail, and the Death of Huail ap Caw’ by Elis Gruffud (c.1550), who was also known as the, ‘Soldier of Calais’, the following tale is told:
‘Kaw o Brydain was the name of a chieftain who ruled of Edeirnion, in North Wales. He had two sons, Gildas and Huail. Huail was gwr gorhewg anllad 'cheeky and wanton'. He obtained possession of one of Arthur's mistresses. Arthur cam to spy upon the pair, and a fierce combat took place between him and Huail. Finally Huail wounded Arthur in the knee. After this peace was made between them, on the condition that Huail should never reproach Arthur with regard to his wound. Arthur returned to his court at Caerwys, but for ever after he remained slightly lame.
On a subsequent occasion Arthur dressed himself in women's clothes in order to visit a girl at Rhuthun. Huail chanced to come there, and he recognized Arthur by his lameness, as he was dancing in a company of girls. These were his words: Da iawn yw downshio velly oni bai'r glun 'This dancing were all right if it were not for the knee'. Arthur heard them and knew who had spoken them. He returned to his court where he caused Huail to be brought before him, and he reproached him bitterly with his faithlessness. Huail was taken to Rhuthun, where Arthur cutt off his head on a stone in the market-place, whcih to this day is known as Maen Huail.’
Huail’s brother was, as mentioned above, Gildas, the British monk of the 6th century, famous for the fulminating, ‘De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae’, in which he recounts the struggle of the native British population against the incoming tide of migrant Saxons. The book is as much a lengthy criticism of the ungodly British kings, whose lack of respect for Christian devotion led to the deprivations of the Saxons, a divine retribution. Mythologists, and historians have often pondered as to the lack of an Arthur figure in his work, given that there is a belief that the mythological Arthur was in fact based on a warlord whom met with some success against the Saxon onslaught, most notably at Mount Badon. There are a number of possible reasons why this may be the case. The first is that there was in fact, no individual Arthur figure. The second, is that since this Arthur figure was in actual fact, somewhat successful against the enemy, there was no reason to write of this man in a work written purely to eviscerate the failures of the native kings of Ynys Prydein. The third is more pertinent to the tradition of Maen Huail – Arthur killed his brother. Indeed, Gerald of Wales tells us that Gildas was furious at the death of his brother at the hands of Arthur.
'The Britons maintain that, when Gildas criticized his own people so bitterly, he wrote as he did because he was so infuriated by the fact that King Arthur had killed his own brother, who was a Scottish chieftain. When he heard of his brother's death, also the Britons say, he threw into the sea a number of outstanding books which he had written in their praise and about Arthur's achievements. As a result you will find no book which gives an authentic account of that great prince.'
The Description of Wales Book II Chapter 3
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales suggests that the limestone block might well have been a preaching stone or civic stone. Edward Lhuyd in 1699 recorded the name of the stone as, 'Maen Heol', calling it a 'flat stone in the middle of the street', suggesting he was loathe to accept its older traditions. Still, the traditions of Arthur in north east Wales are stubborn and can be found throughout the region - and Maen Huail is fully part of that legend.