|Cwmgors Gwaun Cae Gurwen Contents|
By Jonah Evans 1907
[Old Characters of Cwmgors and Gwauncaegurwen from the year 1840]
Indexed and translated by Jenni Hyatt 1999
Copyright notice; this translation from the original Welsh is the the property of Gareth Hicks and Jenni Hyatt.
Please feel free to take copies of it for personal research purposes only.
My copy of the original Welsh version has now been deposited with West Glamorgan Archive Service, I do have a photocopy .
The page numbers relate to pages in the paper based translation which have been copied onto the online translation itself
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As we roll back the years from the present to the distant past, to the year 1840, we will see that many changes have taken place in the sacred old area, the Waun and Cwmgors. At that time the sounds of the engine's whistle and the iron horses - which flash furiously through the air like spirits giving service- could not be heard and did not disturb the peace of those who lived in the area. The fact is that the only thing which intruded upon the peace of the residents was the sound of the sheep and lambs bleating on the mountain slopes and the occasional shout of the shepherd to his dog, along with the melodious sound of a maiden softly singing one of the old love-songs of a bygone age, as she went to fetch the cows for milking. What a blessed time it was, wasn't it? Talk about poets and poetry - this was a place for a poet to compose an ode to immortalise his name in the middle of solitude, with the romantic vistas of Penlle'rfedwen and Twynbentingwr lying on their eternal foundations. From their crowns every corner of the countryside could be seen, and at their feet springs spouted out in sparkling streams, to slake the thirst of the weary shepherd who climbed from mountain to mountain in search of lost sheep and the carrier who journeyed from Ynysgedwyn to Llandyfaen forge with his loads of pig iron.
From the tops of these mountains one might imagine (as can a poet) thus: "Even if the surface appearance of these mountains and that of the wide moor of Cyrwen and the appearance of Cwmgors valley etc. are not of the highest grade, I wonder if the underground resources of these parts make up for the deficiency?" The poet could but speculate; it took an adventurer to gain proof. And fortunately the adventurous Richard Hopkins came to these parts to excavate to the depths of the earth and he proved that the underground resources of this area more than made up for the visual deficit. This was the medium for the beginnings of industry in this area. The commercial progress was not obvious for many years but it was clear from the beginning to the observant eye that it had been formulated on safe lines. The underground resources were worked on a comparatively small scale for many years but, as the commercial value of the coal and the ore were developed, their commercial distribution increased and, as their distribution increased, the number of workers increased and as the number of people increased, the number of dwelling places in the area increased. In 1840 the number of residents in the area was not more than the number of the sons of Jacob but, by 1907 the residents numbered many hundreds.
Who except a poet would have imagined in the year 1840 that the areas of Cwmgors and the Waun would be populated by foreigners by the year 1907? But it is a fact that English, Irish, German, Italian, Russian and Jewish people have lived here from time to time. It is amazing how industry changes circumstances. In the year 1840, solitude reigned over the whole area; the air was pure, unmixed with gases which endanger health, and the residents of the area lived long lives. But by the year 1907, industry has developed, the depths of the earth have been pillaged, letting out the gases which are within, which mix with the air, rendering it wholly unfit to breathe.
Also, as the population increases, hygiene is neglected, so that tuberculosis is created, which is breathed in by the residents, so that life expectancy is shortened by at least 20%. But I would like to remind you, reader, that every cloud has a silver lining; many advantages have stemmed from the changes. The advantages of education have increased considerably in recent years so that many talents have been developed. Moral standards have risen and the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ has extended the boundaries of its dwelling places; but these changes do not occur without an adventurous spirit and, amongst others, we have the adventurous spirit in the late:
JOHN HARRIS (SHON HARRI), NANTRICKET
Shon Harri was a farmer by occupation, who lived in Nantricket farmhouse. He had inherited the farm, which had been handed down from the distant past, from John to John. Before the end of his life, he gave his son, Daniel, a fifty year lease on Nantricket farmhouse. He had nine children, six sons and three daughters. His firstborn was Henry, the second John, the late John Harris ( old Shon Cwmbach); the third, Dafydd; the fourth, Edward; the fifth, Noah, who lived for many years in Blaenygarnant, and who, after living to a ripe old age, was taken to Gellionen, to the family's Macpela field; and Daniel, who lived throughout his life in Nantricket Farm. His daughters were Mary, Nansen and Hannah.
His wife was buried many years before him. His housemaid for many years was called Sarah Bager. At that time, Sarah was known by the name 'Sarah Shon', because she was in service with Shon Harri. At that time there were different ways of agreeing a 'contract' between master and servant. Part of the agreement between Shon Harri and Sarah Bager was that Sarah was to have the opportunity to rear feathered creatures, but what was strange was that not one of Sarah's creatures died, but that each and every one of those who died, according to Sarah, was Shon's. Shon argued that this was the result of Sarah's skill, but Sarah countered that it was the will of Providence. To confirm his assertion (fortunately or unfortunately), Shon came upon scores of bounty of feathers hidden in a special place by Sarah. This resulted in the severing of every tie between Shon and Sarah. Poor Sarah died in an ancient cottage on the side of Bettws Mountain.
Shon was an enterprising man. He bought a number of the farmhouses of this area, including, amongst others, Gorsledan, Bryncam etc. for comparatively small sums of money, which, today, are worth thousands of pounds. From Noah Jones, his wife's brother, he inherited Cwmbach. At that time there was no dwelling-place on the land of Cwmbach, but animals were accommodated there which they used to walk from Nantricket to feed. This was the situation until the marriage of his son, John (Jacki Shon Cwmbach).
Shon Dafydd Harri (John David Harris) was an exceptionally generous man. Out of the goodness of his heart he gave a piece of Cwmbach's land to the Independents to build a chapel and a graveyard for a peppercorn annual rent, if it was asked for. The agreement was drawn up between the late John Harris (Shon Dafydd Harri) and sixteen representatives of the communicants of Carmel.
In this agreement, Liberalism and Independence can be seen in all their glory, particularly in the clause which notes that the successors of these trustees should be elected by a majority of the communicants of Carmel. It is more than likely that this agreement will keep his memory alive as long as old Carmel and the graveyard which surrounds it remain. After a long life he was taken to the family's Macpela Field in Gellionen, fifty-seven years ago. (1850) After his death, his son Daniel spent his life in Nantricket.
Another well-known character in this neighbourhood was the late:
JOHN HARRIS, JUNIOR (JACKI SHON)
John Harris was a son to the late Shon Dafydd Harri. He got the name Jacki Shon because he was the son of the late Shon Dafydd Harri, Nantricket. On the occasion of his marriage a farmhouse was built for him at Cwmbach and this is where his world began. He was a carpenter by trade and he was involved in the building of old Carmel, as well as other public buildings. At that time the late Daniel Jenkins, (formerly of Blaenegel) was serving his apprenticeship with him. Many a pleasant stroll was taken around Cwmbach, particularly during the time that Corsto was courting Ann. Around Cwmbach there was an apple orchard. Jacki was over anxious about the apples, and if Rhys from the mountain happened to be a bit excited, he suspected that some person or persons were stealing the apples. But one night, Corsto set up a scarecrow on one of the trees in the garden and made a noise which roused Jacki, who aimed at the man on the top of the tree, and shot him. The family seriously believed that nothing short of murder had taken place and great was the rejoicing when they realised that it was only a scarecrow that Corsto had made.
I should have noted that Cwmbach had been given by his father, Shon Dafydd Harri, to Jacki Shon, who owned it until he sold it to the late Isaac Jones, Bailyglas-isaf. Before he sold Cwmbach he made sure that he set aside a special place for the burials of his own family independent of the graveyard which his father had given to Carmel Church. The small spot which marks his grave stands near the steps which lead from the loft of the old Carmel. He died, after raising a large family of children, one of whom is Corsto's wife, at the ripe old age of 93 years, and he was buried near Clydach in the piece of land which he had provided years before. He died on May 29th 1884.
Another of the characters of this neighbourhood was:
DAFYDD JONES, LLWYNHEN
Dafydd Jones was a son to the late William Jones, Llwynhen. He spent his life in Llwynhen. There was something 'witty' about him. On one occasion a disagreement had arisen between Dafydd Jones and Dafydd William Rees. In the heat of the argument Dafydd William Rees said to him, "I can't sit down with you," and the ready answer was, "Well, stand up, then." Dafydd Jones, Llwynhen was a farmer; but it can be said, like John Smart of old, "John was called but David answered." The characteristics of Dafydd Jones's life clearly proved that he had the ability to develop as a geologist. He paid special attention to different subterranean resources. He was very knowledgeable about the different seams of coal and ore in the whole of this area. He also knew every fault which is visible throughout this district. He maintained for many years before coal mining started in this area that, deep in the bowels of the earth was an abundance of coal and ore. Some years before coal mining started he said:
"There was coal under Gwaun-cae-gurwen
Before Adam of old was in Eden;
But where is the man who will discover that
And send it up to London?"
His interests lay in this direction throughout his life. Although not much of a scholar, he was able to write Welsh reasonably clearly. He also had an enterprising spirit. He was the first to obtain a hay cutting machine in this neighbourhood. He was particularly fortunate in the enterprise; it turned out to be a complete success. He placed the machine in the care of Morgan, his son, who could be seen like a king on his throne, nonchalantly cutting the hay over the wide fields of Llwynhen. As the wheels rolled from one to another they made a powerful sound which could be heard in the far distance. One scorching hot day in July a wag was cutting grass with the scythe, within earshot of the noise of Llwynhen's machine. He shouted out in grammatical Welsh, "In the name of my God, I can cut no more with my scythe while Morgan Llwynhen cuts on his throne." Needless to say only a few days passed before this wag could be seen on his throne cutting grass.
Dafydd Jones's life was devotional and moral. For many years he was one of the pinnacles of Old Carmel and he was for many years a faithful deacon and treasurer in his sphere. I felt that there was something supremely sacred in the old chapel. He, amongst others, fought hard against moving the place of the services to the bottom of the Waun. He was also of Liberal tendencies, but there you are, where can you find an Independent who is a Tory? But although he had a host of virtues, I feel that he succumbed to the sin of granting too much freedom to those who dwelt under the same roof as him, as well as to the young people of the neighbourhood.
At that time Llwynhen was the haunt of a large group of youngsters who came there from week to week to create a racket and steal gooseberries etc. I remember one particular occasion. There were three lads (who live on the Waun today) in the garden picking gooseberries as if their lives depended on it. With that, Aunt Shan made her appearance, waving her hand towards them and saying, "Run, little boys, or you'll be sorry you ever saw the gooseberries!" I had seen the iron horses going at a terrible speed before this, but they could not compete with the chase Aunt Shan gave those three lads. I also felt that too much freedom resulted in evil-doings around their home, such as starting up the water wheel, setting the animals free, knocking the windows, imitating the dogs, shouting like maniacs, etc. These things, to say the least, were too likely to endanger morality. It was commonplace to see one of the men of the house running like a stag after the lovers. I remember some people creating a rumpus outside the window, while one of Dafydd Jones's children was eating supper. He ordered the men outside to go away, or he would come after them, to which one lad who was not very nimble on his feet replied, "Well, that'll be a priceless chase." After spending the 80 years of his life in Llwynhen, he died on June 2nd 1872. His wife, Shan, was buried on December 17th 1871, aged 83, and they were taken to the ancient cemetery of Old Carmel.
ISAAC JONES, BAILYGLAS ISAF
After being united in holy matrimony with Shwned Bailyglas, he spent his life as a farmer in Bailyglas Farm. He was a kind man and an amiable neighbour, not just a man living close by. He was always willing to help the poor in difficulties. Although he was a kind man, however, there was nothing of the philanthropic socialite in him. As far as I know, he was never in a philanthropic society in his life; but he was a zealous religious socialite. He was a faithful deacon in Carmel Church until he died and he had particular grace and faithfulness. It can be said of him that he was one of the faithful of Zion. He was over-zealous in thinking that his ideas about the Bible were always right. I remember him as the teacher of a class of young people in Old Carmel. We were reading in connection with the new wine and the old wine. Isaac Jones had taught his class that the 'bottles' referred to meant 'jars'. Fortunately, or possibly unfortunately, there was a boy there who was more sharp-eyed than his contemporaries, and he answered that the 'bottles' were made of animal skin and were, therefore, not 'jars'. No sooner had the boy finished his answer than Isaac Jones aimed his stick at him and accidentally, the stick landed on the head of one of the students who saw eye to eye with the teacher. The effects of the stick were visible on the lad for a long time.
He was also of liberal and independent tendencies, more liberal than many of his contemporaries. The element of innocence was apparent in him, and he always tried to avoid doing anyone any harm. He was a great believer in temporal judgement, and many times I argued with him that the tribulations which beset many people are the result of breaking laws. Retribution is God's. To this he would answer, "Yes, retribution is God's,but justice is openly done, that is the word of God.
Living in the area there was a man in poor circumstances, so poor that he had to share enough to satisfy the needs of one among nine. The poor man went out to the field of a rich man to glean the crumbs which he had left for the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air. Unfortunately for the poor man, Mocin Hic saw him and betrayed him to the rich man, who used all the power of the chief attorney of the area to put the poor man in gaol. And if you are in that place, he said, the Providence of God had shot two of Mocin Hic's dogs within six weeks, which were worth £10 each." There's temporal justice, he said. After a life of 72 years, Isaac Jones died on 26th January in the year 1882, and he was buried in the same grave as his wife, Shwned, who had died on November 21st, 1878, aged 75.
WILLIAM EVANS, LLWYNYRHIDIAU
Here is another of the pillars of Old Carmel, who was, for many years, a deacon and the church treasurer. His dress closely resembled that of the Middle Ages. He was a model of the residents of Cwmgors and the Waun sixty- seven years ago, when solitude held sway over the land.
His political tenets tended towards Tory, but his descendants turned out Liberal to the core, and Independents of the Independents. Although he was of Tory tendencies, he was a kind man and a pleasant neighbour. His dear wife, Magdalen, was remarkable amid the female sex half a century ago. She had a remarkable singing voice, and had she had the opportunity to develop the musical ability which was within her, she could unquestionably have made her mark in the world of music. She could often be seen giving out a hymn to sing, and she used to read part of the Word of God, but without addressing the throne of grace publicly (i.e. praying out loud). She spent her life farming on the ancient fields of Llwynyrhidiau. After a life of 73 years, William Evans died on April 21st 1871, and Magdalen, his wife, on December 21st 1886, aged 84, and they are buried in the family burial place near Old Carmel Chapel to await the great day of the Resurrection.
THOMAS DAVIES THE BLACKSMITH, CWMGORS
Thomas Davies was one of the descendants of Hengist, but he spent many years in Cwmgors, near Nantygaseg Farm. He spoke Welsh capably, but with a foreign accent. The main object of his study was the Oddfellows and this is the area where he was always at home and in which he spent his life. He was the chief founder of the 'Brewery Club' and he lectured for many years on the virtues of this club and of the Society of Oddfellows. He always based his addresses on the following three words - Peace, Love and Brotherhood. He would often use allegory and parable to open the minds of the young Oddfellows.
I remember him once questioning these youngsters. He lifted his hand and closed his fist, and asked what that represented. They answered that it signified union. "Hear, hear," shouted the Grandmaster. He then asked, "Who made the world?" There was silence for a moment, and he asked again, when some lad in the far corner answered, "David Moses and Clatworthy!" "Who was that old clown?" he said.
The philanthropist in Thomas Davies was obvious, and he spent his life preaching Love, Peace and Brotherhood. Whatever the effect of his speeches on the people, he was completely high principled, and he gave his life for the principles of the Society of Oddfellows.
DAFYDD MORGAN, FORMERLY OF THE GARTH
Dafydd Morgan was an able literary man and a splendid scholar. Had he put his mind to literature he could have made his mark in the literary world. He was a skilful essayist and I saw some excellent essays which he had written. His winning essay on 'The Development of the Age' was one of the best essays I have read in this subject area. He did not spend much of his time in the literary world, but he had an interest in literature and he often took a critical look at many an empty-headed literary man and, if he had a chance, he would "take off" the most classical of the poets and literary men. I remember that Joseph Griffiths (from the Factory) had composed an excellent 'englyn' to the "Bull", to be submitted to a competition in a a well-known eisteddfod. Joseph had very unremarkable handwriting and he was also a poor speller, but an excellent composer. The last line of the englyn was as follows:
"A'i ffer a'i ddau offeryn "
[ 'And his ankle and his two instruments'] ?
In order to ensure correct spelling and classical handwriting, he went to Dafydd Morgan to get it written out, and in order to have a bit of fun on the day of the eisteddfod, Dafydd Morgan wrote it like this:
"A'i far a'i ddau offeryn"
['And his greed[or bar ?] and his two instruments']
This caused much amusement on the day of the eisteddfod and was the subject of much healthy laughter in the old weigh-house at Joseph's work. Dafydd Morgan was a keen supporter of the eisteddfod and he was the secretary of the eisteddfod which was held in Old Carmel some forty years ago when the Rhondda Nightingale was adjudicating.
During the day of the eisteddfod, all the indications were that that it was a financial failure and also a failure in the sense of raising the standard of music in our country. To support that assertion, the only choir which was in the competition (Rhydyfro Choir) sang in the major key when the piece was, in reality, in the minor key. When the choir finished singing the Rhondda Nightingale rose to his feet and said, "I would have preferred to have been without these (indicating his ears) today," and with that he asked, "What do the terms / conditions say, Mr. Secretary?" And there was Dafydd Morgan on his feet and, in a loud voice, he said, "The prize is not to be awarded unless there is sufficient merit," with the result that the prize was not awarded. But towards the end of the eisteddfod the Rhondda Nightingale and Dafydd Morgan could be seen sneaking away to avoid being attacked by the family of Shon the Blacksmith, Rhydyfro.
Dafydd Morgan was a Liberal in his political beliefs and represented this region on Local Boards. Until the end of his life he was the secretary of Abernant Oddfellows Society, fulfilling this position with honour. He was also the Secretary of Carmel Church for many years. He was well versed in the laws of the land and gave much useful advice to those who lacked knowledge in that field. He was a very good public speaker who was usually short and to the point. We heard him many years ago speaking in Gibea on 'The Rights of Musical Instruments to be in the Chapels' and his talk was one of the most classical I ever heard in this field. It can be said of Dafydd Morgan as it has been said of one before, "He lived as a Christian until the grave."
As far as his religious beliefs were concerned, he was a Baptist and spent some years as a member with that denomination. At the time when he moved to live in the Waun the Baptists had not made their appearance there, so he became a member with the Independents, the only religious denomination there was in all these parts at that time. He was also a faithful deacon for many years in Carmel Church. He, Thomas Rees, Cwmgorse and Hopkin William Hopkin were all elected at the same time. As far as I know, this was the first time for deacons to have been elected by a secret ballot. Prior to that all deacons had been elected by small group consultation. He was one of the chief supporters of moving the religious service from Old Carmel and he gave a great deal of support to the building of New Carmel. He spent the last years of his life as a 'gentleman' with his family in Cwmgors. He died, aged 67, on 7th December 1898, and he was buried near Old Carmel until the day when the trumpet sounds.
JOSEPH GRIFFITHS OF THE FACTORY
There was something strange in this man's physical make-up. Nature had not been over careful with either his feet or his facial appearance. One could think by his outward appearance that he was related to the king of the jungle, but one had to get to know him to do him justice. The chief vice to which he was subject was his fondness for hard liquor. Under its influence he pulled 'strokes' which will not go unremembered while his contemporaries remain. I remember him coming home from Brynamman on a Saturday night about nine o'clock
It was freezing badly, and he measured his length on the ground, and said, "I lost my stick, but I kept my memory." After that we understood that some boy in the middle of the disaster had stolen his stick. But although Joseph Griffiths was subject to the chief sin of his life, he had extraordinary mental ability. He was a very good poet and understood the different types of 'cynghanedd' exceptionally well. He composed various pieces of poetry, many, if not all of which, have not been looked after and have, as a result, disappeared into oblivion. He also composed various fine 'englynion', amongst them the following. The first is to the 'Grey Stone':
'The wide fortified grey stone
It is a fragment of the nature of strength;
The hand of our Lord shaped the place
Very close to Brynamman.'
Another of his is the victorious englyn to the 'Old Oak' which is near Llangadog. As far as I can remember, it goes like this:
'Its twigs are grey, almost ash - of old age
It sleeps now;
No longer will there be sap in its trunk,
Or fresh leaves for harpists.'
In an eisteddfod on Christmas Day, on the Waun, a prize was being offered for the best epitaph to Benjamin Griffiths, the son of the said Joseph Griffiths. The reader will remember that Templarism was strong at this time and that Benjamin was one of the chief Templars of the Waun, always playing a prominent part in the movement. This is how his father composed an epitaph for the competition:
Our dearly beloved Benjamin - he lived
Until the grave a Templar;
Brave he was today in his grave,
The churchyard is his peaceful place.'
He was victorious with a host of 'englynion' which disappeared into oblivion the day their writer died. It is a crying shame that nobody chronicled his literary efforts before his death. Hundreds of the literary and poetic works of Wales are lost as the result of carelessness.
His family experienced many tribulations and he buried several of his children after they had reached adulthood - some of whom, without doubt, would have made their mark in the literary and musical world. After spending his life battling against many of the storms of the world he died in obscurity.
WILLIAM TOMOS CHRISTMAS
Here is one of the original old characters of this neighbourhood. He was born in 1795 in Wernbwll Farmhouse. When he was ten years old he moved with his parents to Blaennanthir, where he spent a life of eighty-eight years. For generations before him William Tomos's ancestors had lived in Blaennanthir. His father, Tomos Christmas, was the chief scholar of the neighbourhood at that time. It was to him that people ran when they were in trouble; he was the Harris Cwrtygadno of the neighbourhood - he was a man ahead of his time. But there we are, it is with William Tomos that we are dealing at present.
William Tomos possessed a healthy constitution, and was a huge man in terms of stature, one of the Amalekites, who would finish off every meal with a hunk of bread and cheese. This was not just occasionally, but without exception.
He was also a miser of misers. The writer of these lines can remember him for at least twenty years before he died and I could testify that he had the same suit of clothes and the same Jim Crow from the first day I knew him and for how many years before that God alone knows! He went from house to house re-roofing thatched houses and a member of the family would labour for him, passing him the straw etc. He was very talkative and each one of his stories centred on money. He would go mad with Pegi if she paid much money for clothes. Before the end of his life his children had grown up and, as a result, wanted to follow the fashions of the time. William Tomos couldn't bear to spend any of his time outside hat shops and see the prices marked in big letters - £2. 10s and up to £5 as they are in this enlightened age, so Pegi succeeded in hiding from him the market value of many a hat and, by doing so, kept the peace within the family. "Do evil in order to bring about good". There was something clever about his wife, Pegi. I remember Tom the Cobbler visiting Blaennanthir one Sunday afternoon and Peg asking him, "Tom Cobbler, if it were any day other than Sunday I would ask you if my shoes are ready," and the Cobbler's witty answer was, "If it were any day other than Sunday I'd tell you they weren't."
Aristocrats in this and other neighbourhoods treated him as a clown. At the time when William Tomos was at the height of his strength the habit of 'walking the boundaries' was much in vogue. Once a year on a long summer's day, important people from Neath and all the farmers of this neighbourhood would meet to go around the whole boundary belonging to the Lord of the Manor and the Homagers, to see if any person or persons had built on the boundary and, if they had, the result would be that they would demolish the building completely. After completing this vitally important work of stewardship, they would prepare a feast of tea and cakes, usually on top of one of the mountains and, at the end of the feast, they would take three leaps, backwards and forwards, and acting as a quinten [quintain ?] between the three leaps would be the crockery which had held the food a few minutes previously. William Tomos looked like the main hero in the feat and the referee took care to place the plates conveniently for William Tomos to set his feet and ankles on the middle of the plates. This would mean terrible damage to the crockery and this caused William Tomos to lose his temper and say in a loud voice, "A halfpenny to you," and, with this, the protection of the livestock[??] would be commenced and soon those present could be seen preparing to set the feet working [leave ?] because William Tomos had struck the finishing stroke. He was well known for his temper
When roused he was like a madman, but then, what's odd about that? Is not the inability to keep one's temper but part of madness? By now, the pursuit of 'walking the boundaries' has disappeared from the world and, had it disappeared sooner, I don't think there would have been any loss apart from the loss of spending one day in the fresh atmosphere of the mountains and within sight of the romantic views of Nature and in the midst of the sheep and lambs which frolic from hillock to hillock. Yes, reader, here is a place to spend one day looking at the glory of God and not 'walking the boundaries'. It was odd the effect that 'walking the boundaries' had on the young people of the neighbourhood. There were two comparatively young lads who had been in the habit, like the poor of old, of being with the farmers at all times 'walking the boundaries'. But one day (and this before it was time to do that) the two could be seen venturing around the 'boundary walk' and on their journey, they found that John Jones (Jacki Ty Twt) had put up some sort of shed outside the boundary and the result was that they set the shed on fire and escaped in the light of the flames. The two lads did the task as honestly as if they were on their knees before God. "That's the effect of example," shouted Jenny (Jacki's wife) at the two boys. "You're not going anywhere! I won't do anything to you but you can stand in front of your lord (Jacki) tonight." And standing before Jacki meant the same thing as receiving the judgement of the birch rod. Jacki's merciless beating of the two boys brought Cyrwen's lines into my head. Many years ago there was a man who was a clerk on the Waun and he had a strong tendency to fall into the grasp of intoxicating liquor and, when under its influence, he would call himself 'Shw Sha'. One day 'Shw Sha was fighting with a professional fighter, and this is what Gwilym Cyrwen wrote about him:
'The 'Shw Sha' mainly
Hits only the giants of the feeble;
Hooray for the 'Sha', he's beginning to become
A good bully from the bottom.'
[translated literally but ...................... !]
And this was our opinion of Jacki beating those two imprisoned lads. Circumstances have led us to wander away from William Tomos Christmas. He was called William Tomos because his father was Tomos Christmas. He died twenty-four years ago and his mortal remains were buried in the ancient graveyard of Cwmllynfell. His wife (Pegi) survived him by some five years.
DANIEL JENKINS, FORMERLY OF BLAENEGEL
Daniel Jenkins was a brother to the late Thomas Jenkins, Tyisaf. He was a carpenter by trade. As has been noted, he learned his trade with Jacki Shon Cwmbach. He lived for years in Blaenygarnant Farm, moving from there to Blaenegel and from there he attended the services in Old Carmel, where he and his wife were faithful attenders. He was also a deacon for many years.
He was a man of strong religious leanings and an excellent thinker who had studied his religious beliefs remarkably well. It would be difficult to meet anyone who knew the beliefs of the Independents better than he. He was zealous in his support of the traditions of the fathers and an ardent supporter of the direct and independent worship of each individual totally independently of any intermediary (I think!) In the year 18-- the place of worship was moved from Old Carmel to New Carmel and in order to be up to date it was decided to have a musical instrument to assist in singing praise to God. The first time Daniel Jenkins saw him on the balcony, he shouted out across the chapel, "That 'chap in a blue coat' is not to be allowed to have a voice while I'm here." Thomas Rees, Cwmgors, argued with him that David praised God on the harp, the psaltery and the dulcimer etc. "He did," said Daniel Jenkins, "and the harp kept the devil away from Saul as well." By virtue of his strong common sense he decided to conform with the majority and allow the 'man in a blue coat' to take part in the religious service. He spent the noonday of his life in Cwmgors. I should have mentioned that a particular feature of his character was the family prayer. Not one evening went by without his praying aloud on behalf of his family and himself, asking God to care for them overnight. On January 18th 1894, aged 87, he followed the fervent prayers that he offered to heaven, or at least, it was towards heaven that he was heading when I last saw him.
DAFYDD JAMES, CORSTO
He spent the vast majority of his years on the Waun and he worked for many years as a miner in the Waun's collieries. Dafydd James had been called to be an able singer, but somebody else pushed into the breach. His musical abilities developed early, but as he did not have the advantages of education he had to be content with that which developed naturally in him. A talent which developed prominently in him was the ability to understand time / tempo; I know of only one (Thomas Rees) who could beat him in this area. Two thirds of his musical spirit had fallen on his family and at the end of the day, especially in Winter, the singing of a most melodic choir could be heard from Dafydd Corsto's house; there was something special in the voices of the children, especially John and Thomas. He retained an interest in music until his death. The other notable thing about Dafydd James's life was this - he was the first member of the working class to function as an official in Carmel Church. From the beginning of the cause in Carmel to the time when Dafydd James was appointed as a deacon, the whole neighbourhood was in the hands of those who were considered upper crust and it could be said that the appointment of Dafydd James brought about a change in all this. Dafydd James acted as a faithful deacon until his death.
Dafydd James was not a very firm believer in the Eisteddfod but he was successfully drafted on to the committee of that Eisteddfod in Old Carmel the time that the Rhondda Nightingale was adjudicating. Unfortunately, the Eisteddfod turned out to be a financial failure and each member of the committee was 3s 6d in debt. Of the committee members, William Evans, now of Dyffryn Llwyd, was elected to visit Dafydd James to inform him of the fact that every member of the committee had to pay 3s 6d to make up the loss. No sooner had William Evans finished his message than it was pronounced anathema by Aunt Nansen. "And furthermore, Wil," she said, "if you don't take that door, I'll throw as much fire as there is in the grate after you."
He raised a large family of children, one of whom (Dafydd) was deaf and dumb (not from birth). Two of them, John and Thomas, worked for years in the collieries of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen and there was a tuneful choir at the coal face composed of the father and the two sons. On 12th July 1878, Dafydd left to join the choir which is composed of thousands of the children of mortals, after a life of 67 years.
THOMAS JAMES, CORSTO
Thomas James was a son to Dafydd James and he was full of musical talent. He could control his voice to such a degree that he was able to imitate any creature. There was some exceptional magic in his voice and in that of his brother, John, so that they attracted the attention of the most important musicians of the area. When he was fairly young he felt a particular interest in emigrating to America and, in the year 1866 he decided to venture to do this. A few months before his departure he went on a tramp to Merthyr and he met his old bosom friend, David Trumor Thomas. At that time industry was as though paralysed, and to be able to get work was the nearest thing to a miracle. By virtue of the friendship that existed between them, Trumor gave part of his (coal?) face in work to him, and he spent a few weeks there comfortably (as Tom Corsto did at all times) and his fellow workers became particularly enamoured of him. But by August, 1866, Tom had arranged everything in readiness to emigrate to America with his bosom friend Tom the cobbler (David of the White Rock). He spent a little time at home before embarking on his long journey. In the meantime, some of his friends decided to organise something to mark his departure and they arranged to shoot for a clock on William the Blacksmith's meadow / moor. There were hundreds there shooting but the hero of the event was Auckland, of Pontardawe. Tom left to the sound of a host of good wishes from his numerous friends. He spent nearly ten years comfortably on American territory. Unfortunately, on 28th July 1876, he met with a fatal accident in an explosion in California. In the annual Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen eisteddfod, Christmas 1876, a prize was offered for the best epitaph to Thomas D. James, Corsto, and out of the sixteen, Dewi Iago judged the one by his old bosom friend, Trumor, to be the best. This is the victorious epitaph:
'A diligent career came to an end - the brave
T.D. James through explosion;
This is the grave where he lies
The fine, wise and good musician.'
As far as I can remember, another of Trumor's was second best, as follows:
Adventurous T.D. James was cut down - to his grave
In a strange, far-off place;
Through moving earth long ??
Resounds his magical song.
His father outlived him to mourn after his dear son Tom. Let him rest in peace on America's great continent until the day when the trumpet sounds.
WILLIAM DAVIES (WILLIAM DAFYDD), WAUNLEISION
The big feature of his life was the man of religion; undoubtedly he was of strong religious leanings. He was a man of religion throughout his life and he was a faithful member in Carmel for many years. He was a zealous supporter of the minister at all times. He was involved in every argument that arose in connection with the ministers. He took the minister's part every time, arguing that he was the servant of God, and he frequently made references in his public prayers to 'holding up the arms of (supporting) our minister'. If his public prayers reflected his private prayers (as I would expect them to) I would feel grave about the dignity and success of his minister. As a teacher in the Sunday School it was difficult to get anybody to beat him; he was exceptional as a Bible historian. He was also an excellent thinker and it was difficult for anybody to beat him in an argument. Many a happy hour was spent in the old cabin near the Red Lion wheel solving complex issues and as a general rule William Dafydd would emerge victorious. For a long time it was he who looked after the wheel. The only thing he had to do was put oil on the wheels, therefore he had plenty of leisure time and he could at all times be found in or near the cabin reading or debating with one or more people.
The lads would sometimes torment him. I remember three boys travelling past the cabin to the doctor's, and they decided to make fun of the old pilgrim. The first went past and said, "How are you today, Father Abraham?" The next went past and said, "How are you today, Father Isaac?" And the third asked, "How are you today, Father Jacob?" Quick as a flash the old boy answered, "No, my friends, I'm not any one of those, but I am Saul, the son of Cis, come to look for my father's asses, and lo and behold, I've found three of them!" Needless to say, those three never disturbed William Dafydd's peace again.
He saw some terrible tribulations; he saw the burials of some of his children (Hannah and Henry, anyway) after they had attained adulthood. After a long life of 79 years he died on 14th April in the year 1893.
May the place of his grave never be disturbed but let him have peace until the day when the angels of God are seen riding on the wings of the dawn. His death was a great loss to Carmel Church and he left a gap which was evident for many years. Now, however, others are rising to fill the breach.
THOMAS REES (THE DOCTOR), CWMGORS
He received the name Doctor by virtue of the fact that he was, like Saul of Israel of old, head and shoulders taller than all his contemporaries in these areas. He earned his living throughout his life as a collier, for the most part by far in the collieries of the Waun. Thomas Rees would not have been intended to earn his living from the coalmine had not some other Thomas leaped to fill the breach.
Without doubt Thomas Rees had been born to a higher station in the world than collier. A great number of different abilities had met together in him; humour was evident in him. Note one example: He spent the last years of his life in poor health. Every morning he travelled the main road as far as Cwmgors Farm and two women of good repute used to meet him on his journey and ask of him, "What's the news today?" But one morning Thomas Rees decided to give them a full exchange.
Behold the queen of the valley making her appearance before him and enquiring, "What news?"
"Haven't you heard, then?" he asked, seriously.
"No, indeed," was the answer.
"Oh the dear Lord save us," he said. "Are you travellers in the valley and don't know this thing?"
The good wives answered in unison, "We are indeed, so tell us, Doctor."
"Well, if you haven't heard, I'll tell you."
"Yes, tell us, Thomas Rees."
"Well, I will," was the answer.
So the good wives composed themselves to listen to the news, taking a vow on no account to disclose Thomas Rees as the source of the story, as he was on the club.
"Well, here is the news, and haven't you ever heard it before?"
"Well what is it?" and they imagined this news and that news.
But having made sure that the preamble was much longer than the sermon, Thomas Rees said, "The latest news is that our cat's got kittens." Thomas Rees left them to the sound of the most terrible threats!
As well as the humour in him, there was seriousness in him too. His knowledge of the Scriptures was without its equal in these parts; he was so learned that he knew, on hearing any verse, its location in the Bible. He was an exceptional thinker too; he could speak impromptu with authority on any Bible subject; he was also an exceptionally influential speaker; there was something in the tone of his voice which carried influence and which, indeed, deserved to influence.
He was also a splendid leader. As a leader, it can be said of him that there never was, is not and never will be, anyone like him amongst the working class in these parts. Anything in which he assumed a leadership role, as a general rule, turned out to be a commercial, a philanthropic and a religious success.
He fulfilled a leadership role in this neighbourhood for many years and he was particularly fortunate as a leader. Thomas Rees's death left a rent in the leadership which was not repaired for many years. And during the last twenty years a thousand and more instances of Thomas Rees's loss as a leader have been felt. Yes, reader, a talent such as his was few and far between in almost the entire neighbourhood. Singers, poets and literary men are relatively common, but ask for a leader - you can search up hill and down dale before you meet one. But the position was more than adequately filled by Thomas Rees. He was also without equal as a Sunday School teacher. The pupils of Thomas Rees are the headteachers of this neighbourhood at present. It was a crying shame that he did not live twenty years longer. This would have meant that Independence and Nonconformity would have taken root in this neighbourhood to such an extent that they could never have been uprooted.
The Independence and Nonconformity which have taken hold in these neighbourhoods are attributable to a large extent to Thomas Rees as a Sunday School teacher. His main aim in the Sunday School was always to plant the doctrines of the New Testament in the hearts of his pupils and he succeeded, to a great extent, in doing that. He was often to be heard complaining that too much time was spent on the Gospels (history) and too little on the Epistles, where the doctrines are to be found.
In the last season of his life, he preached many of the doctrines on the roads. He would travel to and fro along the roads, meeting one and another, and it was infrequently that anyone went past without having a discussion with Thomas Rees. I personally saw him scores of times doubled up fighting to get his breath and, in every respite he got, preaching the doctrine of the Cross.
He was also one of the best planners in society; he frequently devised plans to get out of many a tight corner, industrially, philanthropically and religiously.
For many years he was the announcer in Carmel and it can be said of him, as it is said of many others before him, that he was the right man in the right place. He filled the position honourably until his death. He was a deacon for a long time in both the Old and the New Carmels and, as I have noted before, he was elected at the same time as Hopkin William Shan Hopkin and David Morgan, Cilpentan. This was the first time for Carmel Church to elect deacons; until then it was 'they' who elected them every time. It must be acknowledged that Independence is as old as the time when Naboth was alive but, in my opinion, this was the time when Independent principles began to develop in Carmel Church.
Briefly, reader, Thomas Rees possessed more common abilities than any of his contemporaries. But although he possessed a host of characteristics, he was completely devoid of the ability to sing. I heard him several times trying to lead the singing in the chapel, but he would usually set the tune in the third tempo (or some other measure), and it is possible that he visited three or four tempos before the end of the singing. Although he was devoid of the ability to sing, he understood the time signatures completely. No hymn could be recited in his hearing without his understanding what tempo it was in. His memory was exceptional; after he had read or heard a sermon being delivered, if he heard or read the same one after that many years later, he would be sure to recognise it. I remember that Mr. Jones, Carmel, had been away throughout the week and had, therefore, not had time to compose a sermon. He decided to make use of a sermon belonging to Griffiths, Neath, which had appeared in the 'Diwygiwr' (The Revivalist) twenty years earlier.
On the way home from the service Thomas Rees asked Mr. Jones, "Have you, Mr. Jones, read many of the sermons of Mr. Griffiths, Neath?"
"Some," was the reply. "Good night, good night," said Mr. Jones, and with that was seen to set his feet on the ground[hasten away?]
Several years later the secret was revealed to me. I should like to write much more about the virtues of Thomas Rees, but time and space do not allow. One of the last sentences I heard him utter was, "I do not fear death, I have believed in Jesus." May he sleep quietly in Carmel graveyard until his blessed Christ Jesus is seen coming on the 'clouds of Heaven'.
MORGAN DAVIES (UNCLE MORGAN FROM CASTELL)
Here is one of the original old characters of these neighbourhoods. In the year 1840, he was in his prime, physically. At this time he spent much of his time playing 'cat and dog' and jumping three leaps backwards and forwards, even on the Sabbath of the living God. One Sabbath day, it also being a Summer evening, one of the ministers of Cwmllynfell travelled across Gwaun-cae-gurwen to preach in Carmel. As he approached Penygarn hillock, he heard the Pig of the Castle (as he was called by the minister) shouting at the top of his voice, "Noco, Noco, loose cat and the dog." That's an example from Uncle Morgan's early days, but after the cares of the world laid heavy burdens on his shoulders, his life changed. A few years after he had married Aunt Angharad, he moved from Castell (near Brynamman) to the Waun to live.
He worked as an engine driver, driving the engine of the old pit for many years, and, as a joke, his son William said that his father was so well-versed in the composition of the old engine that he could take it all apart. To support his assertion, William said that he had seen his father with every part of it apart from the bob in the lam-proom under his hammer. How much truth there was in this I do not know; it's possible that it was poetic licence but I do know this, that Uncle Morgan had ability in this field had he had the relevant opportunities. But the fact has to be accepted that he did not have advantages in his youth. After his move to the Waun the religious element in him developed, so that he became one of the pillars of the Old Carmel. Although he was one of the faithful ones of the church, there was in him no great suitability for the education of children. He lost all control of himself when the children were restless. I remember one particular occasion. He was the Sunday School superintendent in the Old Carmel, and one Sunday, in the time of the school, there were two boys sitting in the three corner seat (where Aunt Neli, Baileyglas, used to sit). As the superintendent (Uncle Morgan) went on his rounds past that seat he saw the two boys playing marbles. He raised his voice and shouted as loudly as he could, "Noco, noco, a devil keep us; it would be of more use to man and of more glory to God to set the son of -- and the son of -- on top of Llerfedwen to play cat and dog." But remember, reader, that this was a stroke of the temper - Peter losing his temper in zealousness over the rights of the house of God.
Uncle Morgan was very fond of singing, but he usually sang with the spirit and not with the understanding as do the people of this enlightened age. Forty years ago it was difficult to get anyone to sing every hymn over (over again?) but Uncle Morgan never failed in his life to repeat a hymn. But the Uncle Morgan's big secret was that he was singing in the spirit and not with the understanding. In fact, reader, he composed in his life hundreds of tunes after the hymns had been given out. He had one particular tune, the one that was known by Howells, the Draper, and others, by the name tune round; it answered every hymn, be it short or long, it made no difference. But although there were (what we would commonly term) weaknesses in Uncle Morgan, he was a great man in prayer. At times he used the most grammatical terms, such as 'The Porches/Entrance Halls/Courts of the House of the Lord', 'From the dwelling place of Thy holiness', "Swn yn mryg y morfudd" etc. As I have mentioned he was a zealous supporter of God's house and of purity of character. Every time he counselled those who had returned (to the fold) he did that through demonstrating the danger which resulted from straying far afield.
I remember him counselling one brother, who had returned from the 'far land' (at that time there was some dissent in Old Carmel) and he said, "Now, brother, do not go to the territory of the enemy again, for the enemy always runs to fetch seven devils to himself." And the next minute a lad rose to his feet and said, "Yes, keep off, John,; there are enough devils in Carmel already without bringing seven more to join them."
Uncle Morgan was a strong supporter of the rights of the pulpit; he was always the minister's right hand man. He lived to see a long life of 78 years, dying on 3rd December 1881 and his remains were laid to rest in the old churchyard of Old Carmel.
WILLIAM MORGAN DAVIES OF CASTELL
Was a son to the late Uncle Morgan. He had been of a religious bent since his youth and had obvious literary talents; he wrote a host of articles for the 'Welsh Banner'. He was elected by Mr. Gee to be a travelling correspondent some forty years ago, but owing to a family occasion he had to refuse the honour. Also, when he was fairly young the tendency to be a joker was evident in him. I remember this tendency showing itself clearly once; on a particular occasion a disagreement arose between his dear mother and Aunt Nansen, Corsto. His poor mother was very hard of hearing and Aunt Nansen spoke very quietly, so William acted as a go-between.
At the beginning of the quarrel, Aunt said, "It was your fault, 'Ngharad, to raise the children's llwys (obsolete word meaning clear)"
"What did she say, Will?" his mother asked.
"Oh, she's calling you a dirty/nasty old sow, mam," and with that, Aunt Angharad lost control of herself.
She asked again, "What is she saying now, Will?"
"Oh she says if you don't soon shut up she'll clout you into the middle of next week (or some such expression)."
After that Aunt Angharad called down terrible curses on Aunt Nansen's head.
After that she asked Will, "What's she saying now?"
Will said, "She says that the wiser person shuts up first and that she's shut up."
That's a fair example for you, reader, of William M. Davies's jocular spirit. But his was not a jocular nature alone. He was a great thinker and a skilled public speaker and he was, for many years, a religious leader in Tai'rgwaith vestry and a faithful deacon for many years in New Carmel. He played a prominent role, too, in philanthropic societies. He was a trustee for years in the Maerdy Philanthropic Society; he was thus until his death. He died when he was 59 years old, having given much service to this neighbourhood in literature, philanthropy and religion. He died on June 28th 1902. May nothing disturb his dust.
THE OLD REES EVAN
He was the father of John and David Rees Evan and he lived for years on the Caenewydd (Newfield). After that he built Tycanol near Ty Fflat. He earned his living as a butcher, carrying meat for many years to Neath market. He and his dear wife would travel every week in the little cart with the white pony towards Neath and the old Rees would drink too much of the fruit of the barley when he visited that town and his wife would be afraid that Rhys would lose the purse and the money and would try to take the purse into her care, but without success. As they were returning in the little cart she expressed concern about the purse again. When they were within about half a mile of Bryncoch Lake the old Rhys got down and put a stone in his pocket and went back to the little cart. His wife questioned him again about the safety of the purse and, when near the lake, the old Rhys threw the stone into it, making out that it was the purse. As a result, there was a terrible row. The old Rhys possessed exceptional lungs and his roar was a good imitation of the king of the jungle. The noise could be heard in the far distance and frightened all the children of the neighbourhood. He was buried 40 years ago after a remarkably comical life of 88 years. Both he and his wife are buried in Old Carmel graveyard.
WILLIAM GRIFFITHS, PENLLE'RFEDWEN
Here is an original character. There only ever was, is, or ever will be one William Griffiths in these neighbourhoods. He did not have the advantages of education, but, despite that, there was a store of hymns in his memory, which belonged, as a rule, to the distant past. And when he gave out a hymn to be sung, it would always contain references pertinent to the occasion. Originality was evident in the religious fellowship; his counsel at all times was direct - he did not give it wearing kid gloves. I remember him in one of the last fellowships he attended, saying (at that time the revival was at its height), "Well, youngsters, you are going on well; I hope you don't turn back; Christmas is near and many of you will be going to Swansea, but remember, you will be going into the grounds of the enemy; come back without scraps; if you slip back, it won't be our fault, for we've done plenty for you." It is not often that such original notes / observations are heard. 'The grounds of the enemy' was an odd term; you needed Griffiths eyes to see what he saw.
He was always original during the vigil (the night before a burial); his hymns and references were always pertinent to the occasion. He used terms like these: "We are not praying for our brother but for ourselves, Lord." "This occasion is a message to us, Lord. We have grown very accustomed to occasions like this, but although we are accustomed to the vigil of death, death itself will be totally strange to every one of us who is here tonight; it will be strange to us because it will be a message from the far off lands (the other side?) Lord," and before closing he would solemnly ask the Father of orphans and the Husband of widows to spread his protective wing over them. He was original, too, in the sickroom, where he would always be in good spirit and see hope in every case. When addressing the throne of grace in the aforementioned room he would often make references like this: "Be Thou better than medicine for him: medicine is the greatest power we have, but Thou canst use the medicine of faith.
However, if the medicine of faith fails - and if Thou hast decided to take him away - take him to Thy glory, Lord."
When he was in his prime he played a prominent part in mining matters, and few could equal him in front of the gaffer. He was also a faithful deacon in Carmel until he died. He died on May 27th 1905, after a long life of 76 years and he was buried in the same grave as his dear wife in the sacred graveyard of Old Carmel. May the place of his grave have peace until the day of the Resurrection of all the dead.
DAVID MORGAN, LLWYNHEN
This is one who was living in these parts in 1840, when these areas were clothed in solitude and this is one who was an eyewitness to the progress and success of these neighbourhoods. Yes, reader, this is one who saw the ups and downs of the years. Yes, this is one who held the weight and the heat of the past. Dafydd Morgan was a man of strong convictions and felt strongly about the Sunday School. He was skilful in resolving difficult Scriptural subjects. He was one of Carmel Sunday School's faithful members. He had not been privileged with the ability to speak in public, but a particular trait in his character was that of the antiquarian; undoubtedly he had innate historical ability, which developed in him until his death. We are indebted to him for many of the notes which are incorporated into this essay. It is a great pity that he took to the grave with him hundreds of old stories which would have been extremely interesting to future generations. He served these areas for many years on the Local Boards, and that which is significant in the story of his life as a representative on the Local Boards is that he emerged from every election victorious. As far as I know he was never beaten in so much as one election.
He had resigned from the public Boards many years before his death. The last act of public service which he performed was to nominate six trustees for Old Carmel. The Constitution of Old Carmel stated that it was the trustees who were to nominate trustees when they were needed but that it was by a majority (vote) of the communicants of Carmel that they were accepted or rejected. After a life of 76 years he died on July 28th 1906.
ELIZABETH JONES (BETI FROM CWRT)
It can be said of her that she was a 'red rose among the lilies' in many ways; she was married for many years to the late Owen Jones, Cwrtybariwns, who died on the first day of November, 1842, aged 58. After a while his widow married Mr. David Thomas, Bogelecel, who outlived her. At that time the residents of the Blaenegel side attended the service at Old Carmel (seeing them travelling on horseback etc. with the women and girls in a 'safeguard' was a sight which is not seen in this age.) A notable feature in the history of Beti of Cwrt was that she would shout out in the service, "Amen," and "Yes, yes," etc. It is possible that Beti of Cwrt was a foretaste of that which the women of this age ought to be, and are.
Although Beti was hot in the spirit she was no fool in connection with matters of this world. She always took her servant girl to chapel with her on Sunday mornings and have her sitting beside her. By the time the finger of the clock was pointing to eleven o'clock, Beti, in her religious fervour, would be shouting, "Amen," and "Yes, yes." But when the clock showed half past eleven, Beti could be seen, in the heat of the Amens, etc., whispering into the servant girl's ear, "Run home and put the potatoes on the fire and let the cattle out, and don't waste any time with your 'safeguard'" etc. Poor Beti, she went to heaven (if there was a heaven for her to have) on the 1st day of January 1891, after a life of 81 years. She was buried in front of the window of Old Carmel.
JOHN WILLIAM SHON HOPKIN
Was a brother to the late Hopkin William Shon Hopkin and brother to the late Gweni, widow of the late Daniel Evan Jones. His musical ability developed very early and he was the conductor of the congregational singing in Carmel for some time. He was also particularly faithful to the singing school. As a symbol of respect to him a memorial stone was erected in Carmel graveyard by the supporters of the singing school, on which the inscription is still visible today.
He died a young man, aged 29, on 9th May 1856. If the musical ability which had developed in him by the time he was 29 was an example of the future, it could be said that he had a brilliant future opening before him. Apart from his musical leanings, he also had strong religious tendencies; undoubtedly, had he had time to develop in the religious world we would have seen one who would jealously have guarded the rights of the Highest God.
DAFYDD WILLIAM SHON HOPKIN
He was a brother to John William Shon Hopkin; his musical ability developed very young; he recited very well . He was a faithful member of his brother Hopkin's choir until his death. Although his time in the world was short, it can be said of him that he lived in the world and did not just exist in the world. He spent his short life serving God but, as I have noted, he was taken as a young man from the militant church to the victorious church in heaven.
In an eisteddfod on the Waun a prize was offered for the best epitaph to him and I understand that the one which was judged to be the best was by Mr. William Evans (Gwilym Curwen). This is the englyn:
"Dafydd, of the fresh growth - who was cut
From the land of oblivion;
Healthy his world, splendid his privilege,
It is fitting that he should sing in glory."
A prize was given also for an elegy to him, but I remember only five lines of that, which are as follows:
"Many hearts were lamenting
As he was placed in the shroud;
Carmel Church suffered a great loss
In losing a man of such wisdom."
I do not know who was the author, or who was the adjudicator, or how much poetry there is in the lines above, but I know this - that they are full of truth. He died on May 22nd 1858, aged 18.
HOPKIN WILLIAM SHON HOPKIN
It can be said of Hopkin William Shon Hopkin that he was the father of the musicians of these parts. He was a born musician and his musical abilities developed when he was very young. He was the conductor of the congregational singing in Carmel for many a long year. The fact of the matter, reader, is that he was the most able conductor there ever was in Old and New Carmel. Hopkin was a man who would have been destined to make a sublime mark in the musical world had he had advantages early in life. Had Hopkin been a young man in 1907, a thousand to one he would have been one of Wales's foremost musicians. He also conducted a choir for many years and was exceptionally successful with this. He won a host of excellent prizes and it was the exception rather than the rule to see the choir beaten.
I remember the choir competing in an eisteddfod in Penygroes, Mynyddmawr, on Good Friday, April 3rd, 1863, under the leadership of Hopkin Hopkin (of course). The choir sang exceptionally well but the adjudicator pronounced another choir victorious. Included in the choir were Thomas Thomas (Thomas of the White Rock) and Dafydd Shinkin the blacksmith, singing bass, and John Shinkin the blacksmith and Morgan Evans (Morgan Waundderi) from Gwynfe, who used the nom-de-plume 'Meurig Amman', singing tenor. And in the middle of the choir was Trumor, standing with an exceptionally literary, poetic and musical look about him, together with John and Tom Corsto, yes, and Gweni, Hopkin Hopkin's sister, together with a host of other musical men and women from the Waun.
In order to be up-to-date in the effort, the shoemaker (Thomas of the White Rock) had bought a stand to hold the copy in front of the conductor on the platform. As they were returning home from the eisteddfod, between Pantyffynnon and Cross Inn, the whole choir stood still in order to consider the question of why they had lost the prize. One suggested that the hat of one of the girls had distracted the choir; another thought that Dafydd Shinkin the blacksmith had put all his attention into the impromptu speech which was to follow (because Dafydd had confessed that he had thought about every topic except the one he was given). However, the general consensus of opinion was that it was the new stand which the cobbler had provided which had caused them to lose the prize; therefore it was decided to set the shoemaker the task of considering what recompense should be made for the loss, and the decision that the shoemaker reached at once was that he (the shoemaker) should give the stand a couple of kicks to drive it out of existence.
As well as being a conductor, Hopkin taught the rudiments of music for many years in his parents' house in Waunleision. On their way to receive such lessons I saw, amongst others, the Shoemaker, John and Dafydd Shinkin the blacksmiths, Morgan Evans (Meurig Amman), Trumor (who was staying at that time in Gwter-fawr) and the Corstos, and Evan Gethin following at a distance, and William Morgan, from Castell. But William confessed to me a few months before he died that the highest standard he reached was to be able to sing the song 'The black sheep on the rock'. It is said that there is musical ability within every man to some extent; if that is a fact even Hopkin Hopkin failed to develop it in William Morgan Davies. Hopkin also taught the rudiments of music in Bethesda, Cwmamman, for six months, as far as I can remember. The home of Hopkin Hopkin's parents on Waunleision was the nursery of a host of poets and literary men; this was the meeting place of all those who felt any degree of interest in music, literature and poetry, and, in the midst of the brotherhood, many a line of poetry was composed. I remember one competition; the subject was 'An epitaph to anyone'. It was Thomas Thomas (the shoemaker) who happened to be adjudicating that night. You will remember, reader, that the shoemaker was a terribly severe critic. Amongst others, an entry was submitted by someone using the nom-de-plume 'Apprentice'. This is the epitaph:
'This is the place where my father lies,
Soil on his head and soil on his feet;
Soil from side to side and soil from head to foot,
This is where he will be until the end of the world.'
Part of the shoemaker's adjudication was that the 'Apprentice' should not send his goods to the market again without consulting his master lest he damaged them. The above is but an example of the type of entries which were mixed in with brilliant pearls. Indeed, reader, the home of William Shon Hopkin was a medium for the creation of lines which will remain as long as the Welsh language remains. It was the meetings in this house which caused Evan Gethin to compose some 'englynion' which could hold their own with the englynion of the most prominent poets of this enlightened age. Time and space prevent me from recording the work of the shoemaker, Trumor, Meurig Amman and others.
Hopkin Hopkin was of a strong religious bent. He was a deacon in Carmel until his departure for Texas. He was one of the 'new blood' deacons who was elected through a secret ballot in Old Carmel at the same time as Thomas Rees and David Morgan.
Some thirty years ago he and his family emigrated to Texas but the venture turned out unsuccessfully and he returned to the Indian territory, where he died some years ago, having spent his life in service to his fellowmen as well as to God, who created him and sustained him in many a tribulation.
THOMAS THOMAS (THOMAS OF THE WHITE ROCK)
He spent his early life in the area of the Waun; he worked as a shoemaker; he was a big hulk of a man measuring about 6'2" in his socks. His poetic ability developed fairly young; he was very keen to be successful in an eisteddfod; he had competed time and time again but had lost every time. In the year 1862, there was an eisteddfod in Cwmamman in which a prize was awarded for an elegy; the shoemaker came into contact with an elegy by one of the most prominent poets of the North and sent it to the eisteddfod; he came out victorious and was awarded the prize. But unfortunately for the shoemaker, the identity of the real author was discovered and a terrible commotion ensued. One of the Cwmann poets would have been the best had the shoemaker not entered and he visited the shoemaker several times to claim the prize. On the last such occasion he said to his visitor:
'It is easier to get cheese from the dog's stomach
Than it is to get that prize out of me.'
But after this the shoemaker demonstrated that he did possess poetic ability. He composed a poem to the Grey stone, his best, in my opinion; it contained real poetry, a poem of which not even Ceiriog himself need have been ashamed to have been the author. Where is the poem, I wonder? Did it go to the grave with The White Rock on America's far off soil?
The shoemaker was also a master of the 'englyn'. The following epitaph, to William Morris the younger, of Glanberach, won in Bethel Eisteddfod:
'Behold the grave of a remarkable peacemaker
And honest teetotaller;
He was strong as a believer -
The protection of the good Lord was a tower to him.'
The compositions which he wrote throughout his life would have brought glory to Wales had they been printed but I strongly suspect that most of them were lost the day their author was buried. In August 1866, he and his family emigrated to America. He saw many changes for better and for worse during the 40 years that he lived there. He became involved in many ventures, some of which turned out successfully and others completely unsuccessfully. He rose to the position of Justice of the Peace there. He experienced many grievous tribulations in his lifetime. He buried some of his children and his beloved wife; lastly he too was buried. May the protection of God rest upon his grave in the far-off lands of America. The summer he died he had intended to pay a visit to Wales. He died very suddenly and today his material remains lie in American soil.
Was the son of Richard and Ann Gethin. His father was known as Dic Gethin Cefnglas and his parents lived for years in Cefnglas. At that time Dic worked as a hitcher in Cwmllynfell and it is said that a stone fell through the pit and broke one of Dic's fingers. He was a man of such a strong constitution that he finished his day's work before visiting the doctor. Evan Gethin was born some time during the year 1838. At least three elements had combined in Evan Gethin, the scholar, the literary man and the poet. He was for some years some sort of second-hand engineman to Uncle Morgan of Castell, but he had been privileged with too much education to remain in that situation. He started a school at the top of the incline where William Davies lives now. He wasn't up to the standard of schoolmasters of the present age by a long chalk. One of his punishments for disruption was standing on one leg. It was also common to see the pupils standing in the chimney place. Another of his punishments (which had a lot of effect) was to put the sinner to stand on the inside windowsill with all the scholars pointing their fingers at him as well as giving a shout until they practically stunned the poor creature.
He used to give lessons on the different rules of arithmetic and he always said that the simplest way to learn the rule of three was to live with one's mother, mother-in-law, and wife. What the effect of that is I do not know, as I have not been through the exercise yet. And as far as I know, Gethin never experienced it either, because he believed in Paul's doctrine that it is better not to marry. He was in charge of the school until the year 1864. In that year a lady called Mrs. Pool, who practised witchcraft / magic, came to the Cwmamman area. Unfortunately Gethin had spells cast upon him several times under her treatment. This affected him to such an extent that it brought about nervous debility and he gave up the school and emigrated to America. Gethin was an excellent literary man. He wrote a host of learned articles for various journals. For some weeks on the field[in the pages of?] of the Gwladgarwr (The Patriot) he and the able Llew Llwyfo were arguing over with one of his 'englynion'. He was also a notable poet and quite well educated in the strict metres, as the following englynion prove. The strong englyn to the Philfaen Stone was victorious in an eisteddfod which was held on the Waun in the year 1864 or 1865.
THE PHILFAEN STONE
'Queen, giantess of stones - it is
The thickest, most majestic stone of our area;
Obstinate, everlasting column
Rearing its head above the rushes.'
TO THE WATER
The soft water is the free gift - the drink
Of the host of the wide world;
From the depths of the wide seas -
Pure, perfect, beloved wine.
Cleansing medicine for every creature - fitting
Freshness of the whole of nature;
The whole ? feast of the ? of Labour
And the store of every pure abstainer.
There follow six of his englynion on the desirable effects of abstinence:
Welcome! Peace came here - to the grasp
Of some of the biggest drinkers
Through the conquest of good abstinence
To restrain the power of drink.
The waster is in the habit of spending
Every penny on liquor;
Saved him from the public houses.
Thousands are praising - those who swear
And tear their families apart;
Many a one is converted
Who was in bondage to drink.
To the wife who brings a meal
It sweetens the table like sugar;
She will have a blessed world now that her husband
Is a brave, conscientious abstainer.
The children will be born warm, through the bright
Virtue of dear Abstinence;
They will shout and raise their voices
In a passionate rendering of 'What a conquest'.
Sobriety soon beneath the sky - will be,
A'i foddau gwir addien[??]
And great respect will be given
To the old water in order to possess it.
Gethin composed many other pieces which all the Welsh speaking people of the country should see. After Gethin emigrated to America he ventured into marketing and the venture turned out a complete success. Years ago the late Watcyn Wyn paid a visit to America and met Evan Gethin. Fortunately Watcyn could speak English, otherwise he would not have been able to have a conversation with Gethin. Changing commerce changing language, perhaps?
Another old character whose name I cannot pass by without mentioning is the late:
WILLIAM WALTER, PENGWERN
This was a remarkable old character; the main object of his adoration was Fanny, the mare. The lads of the Waun would torment Fanny. This was synonymous with tormenting Pengwern. Anyone who said anything unkind about Fanny in Pengwern's hearing was well advised to prepare his escape route first. John Noah Harris and Llandafi had to make many a run for it after tormenting Fanny. A run which will not be easily forgotten was that down Craig y Cwm, when John Noah Harris shouted, "Cannon Ball," and Llandafi, "In the trap?"
A particular characteristic of Pengwern's was his ability to understand weather signs. God has provided different media in different ages to recognise the signs of the weather. In this age barometers are available, but the barometer of that age was Pengwern.
He was completely without any religious conviction. I remember Daniel Jenkins, Cwmgors, paying him a visit when he was filling a load of coal near Llwynrhidiau works. Daniel Jenkins asked him,"Do you not feel any desire to join the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ?" He was answered thus by Pengwern, "Start with Twm, your brother, in Tyisaf, will you?" David Morgan (Cilpentan) and Thomas Rees (the doctor) laughed heartily in the weigh-house. Under their instruction, he went.
JOHN NOAH HARRIS
He is one of the descendants of Shon Dafydd Harri and he was a son to Shon Dafydd Harri's son. John was one of the people who lived in these parts 67 years ago; his main aim during the period of his youth was to torment Pengwern and his like; that was the cause of Pengwern's giving chase many times to the chaps of these parts. He was a religious man during the last years of his life; he died on Mai 31st, 1907, after a long life of just over 80 years.
Dear reader, in the task of taking a general look at the 'Old Characters of Cwmgors and the Waun' during the last 67 years, we see that they are full of variety; we see the farmer, the miner, the carpenter and stonemason, the adventurous, the poet, the literary man, the musician, the historian, the serious, the comic, the scholar, the unbeliever and the pure and good believer. The fact of the matter, reader, is that these areas have been full of variety during the last 67 years. What the situation will be in these areas in another 67 years, God only knows.#
[Last Updated : 29 October 2003 - Gareth Hicks]
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