The Western Mail
13th September, 1933
IN THREE WELSH COUNTIES
MINING TOWN BRIMMING OVER WITH MUSIC
Carrying On a Century-old Tradition
in a Hill-side Farm
By GARETH JONES
is the national dish of Wales? It
would be difficult to find a rival to the ham and eggs served in the
countryside, and of all the dishes of ham and eggs offered me the tastiest was
at Cwmgorse, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen.
had a richness of flavour which is all the more appreciated when it is eaten in
the open-air after tramping. Perhaps
the air of optimism and of work reigning in the anthracite areas, which
contrasts strikingly with the pessimism prevailing more towards the east of
Wales, adds zest and appetite.
certainly found Gwaun-cae-Gurwen and the surroundings a bright patch.
was a spirit of friendliness about the district, although the winters there must
be bleak and sullen, and the mountains to the north are bare and lonely.
Everyone gave a greeting which was warm and spontaneous.
I was passing the East Gwaun-cae-Gurwen Colliery several men waved, and we
talked in Welsh for long.
A Welsh Matador
a farm near that colliery I came upon a character whom I shall call the “Welsh
Matador.” He was a short, wiry Cardi, with flushed cheeks, who had came to the farm, Bryn
Awel, for his health.
told me calmly of his fight with a bull upon the mountain. The animal had come rushing full speed upon him, and instead of fleeing
for his life the little man had stood his ground until the beast was almost upon
him. Then with his stick he struck
the bull a crashing blow over the eyes, blinding the savage enemy. He was quite unconcerned at the struggle.
you not terrified?” I asked. The Cardi was surprised at my question. “Oh, I’m quite used to it in
Cardiganshire,” he answered.
the matador to his work in the fields, I went on to a little town which
delighted me - Cwmllynfell. It was
so thoroughly Welsh and so thoroughly alive. The children played on the heath in Welsh and shouted greetings to
was here that I was for the first time in my life taken prisoner by bandits and
ransomed. They were Welsh bandits,
varying in age from seven to thirteen years, who seized me and took me to their
tent. I have no complaints to make
about my treatment by these outlaws and they speedily released me from my
captivity when a supply of chocolate was forthcoming as ransom.
seemed to me to be brimming over with music-lovers. The first person I met was a proud member of the Ystalyfera Choir, which
has won so often at the National Eisteddfod. In shop-windows there were printed notices about rehearsals.
sooner had I begun to sup at the Mountain Hare than a torrent of brass
instruments flooded the inn and I listened to cornets and trombones vying with
each other in a Niagara of melody.
tuning in was like an attack on the Western Front, but once they began to play
order resolved itself out of chaos.
was that an end to the flow of music at Cwmllynfell, for as I passed the school
a stream of song issued from the windows and I stood listening to the “Ash
Grove.” So attractive was the
music that I had to drag myself away, passing the memorial to Watcyn Wyn and the
fine new building which is being erected in the middle of the town.
A Cockfighting Story
saw nothing of the cockfighting for which Cwmllynfell was once famous, but I
heard a story of those wild days. A
cock which had battled often and well and was renowned throughout the
neighbourhood for its savage vigour met at last its equal and had an eye
scratched out. His owner, a miner, took it to a town some distance away to
sell it. A prospective buyer came
and was going to purchase the bird, when he noticed the blind eye. “But it’s blind in that eye,
man. I can’t buy that.”
in that eye, indeed,” replied the owner. “It’s winking at me, he is not to let him go too cheap.”
was falling, but I was determined to find shelter in the barn of a farm up in
the mountains and leave the industrial district for the countryside. Moreover, next day a stiff climb up to the top of the Black Mountains, to
Llyn y Fan, and down to the Usk Valley awaited me. I, therefore, tramped along a beautiful gorge, through which
flows the tempestuous River Twrch (twrch is the Welsh for boar).
Good-bye to the Mines
seemed to be saying good-bye to the Wales of the coal-mines and the steelworks
and suddenly alighting upon the Wales which has hardly changed.
last trace of industrialism was the gaunt relic of Henllys Vale Colliery. How
out of place it looked with the rocks and the river and the trees all around.
Below. blazed a huge fire of bracken, throwing up great flames. A derelict locomotive stood near the crumbling chimney of the colliery.
Two elderly colliers emerged from the semi-darkness and greeted me.
want to go to the furthest farm up the valley,” I told them in Welsh. “Is this the way?
is,” they replied, and one of them said dramatically, “But beware of Craig y
Fran (the Raven’s Rock) on the way. The
path is narrow there and many have slipped to their death.”
went on, rather regreting that I had not stayed the night in Cwmllynfell,
stepped warily as I went past Craig y Fran, descended to the stream, crossed
over to Breconshire - the Twrch is here the boundary between Breconshire and
Carmarthenshire - and rejoiced when I saw a light on the hill. It was
Dorwen, the highest farmhouse in the valley.
Welsh hospitality be as warm it is vaunted in literature and song? I wondered as I tapped at the door.
The farmwife, came.
I sleep in your barn?” I asked. She grinned. “Sleep in the
barn indeed! You can have a bedroom
and you must have a good supper and a nice cup of tea and make yourself quite at
home. ‘Dewch i fewn! Dewch I fewn!” My heart leapt up; a thin mist was beginning to fail; I could hear
children laughing inside and the sound of butter being churned; I could see a
blazing fire; but the greatest joy was to realise that hospitality in Wales was
as spontaneous and as warm as ever.
host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Moses, farmers up in the hills, were carrying on
a century-old tradition of doing honour to an unknown guest.
Additional Information from The Moses' Family
In February 2004, Elaine Edwards, grand-daughter of Mr and Mrs Moses of
Dorwen Farm (above) wrote an email to Gareth's Archives:
first heard of your uncle when I was a young child (I am now 40) as my father
had in his possession a few short pieces of correspondence - namely a letter, a
postcard, a gift card and also a newspaper cutting confirming his death and a
printed thank you card from your family. My great-grandparents had kept these
after a brief acquaintance with your remarkable uncle. They met in 1933
(September, I think) as they took him and Dr. Wyn Davies in for the night at
Dorwen Farm. I remember hearing of how they had lost their bearings as the fog
descended suddenly on the mountain and that they somehow found their way to
Dorwen Farm in dangerous conditions (I don't know how accurate that account
It is probable
that they never met again but as a child I was intrigued by him - and struck by
the fact that he kept in touch with this working-class, hill farming couple
whose lives were so very different from his own. In the postcard from Siam
- dated 30th April 1935 - he wrote about going on to China, Japan and
America. Although there are only three brief pieces of writing in all, he
comes across as a truly kind and decent man.
I can remember
being aware of his story, wondering at his tragedy and feeling frustrated that
there were no answers about why he had to die. Years later I read two articles
in the Western Mail and his articles in "In Search of News" and realised how
remarkable his short life had been. I thought a great deal about the way two
very different families experienced the loss of a grown up child (Maggie, my
father's mother died of TB at 28, in 1934) and when your family heard of your
great loss my great grandparents were grieving for their daughter.
I started to
write about my family a few years ago and found that I couldn't write about
Maggie's death. my great-grandparents and Dorwen Farm without also thinking
about Gareth Jones. It was strange."
To view Gareth's postcards and correspondence
with Mr & Mrs Moses, then please click HERE.