Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Noel Thomas Memorial Lecture,January 2008

The Noel Thomas Memorial Lecture 2008

A large audience attended the Annual Noel Thomas Memorial Lecture and the speaker needed no introduction since it was none other than Mr Phylip Jones, President of the History Society.

Mr Jones began his talk or “ramblings” as he described it by quoting former PM Margaret Thatcher “There is no such thing as society, only the individuals within it”. His thesis for the evening was that this did certainly not apply to the village of Resolfen.

He took the Census of 1841 as his starting point and described what sort of community would have existed then. For one thing the village had no name, “Rhos – y – Soflan” referred to the mountain above the present village. There was only one street, Lyon’s Row ( now Place) and then known as “Y Rhestr fawr”. There were only some 350 inhabitants who were monoglot Welsh speakers and almost all born within Glamorganshire. However a distinct industrial society was already emerging as the various crafts and trades were already evident in the patronymic naming system ( i.e. using the name of the father e.g.Gruffydd, Siencyn) and reference to the work e.g. y crydd ( cobbler), gof ( blacksmith) or the name of a farm/settlement. These names were still given to the members of that family for generations.

Mr Jones then turned his attention to the work of composers and poets. Traditionally the large houses of the gentry would employ a poet to sing its praises, though this was diminished following the accession of the Tudors in England and the migration of the Welsh gentry to London. However the tradition remained of composing eulogies for inscriptions on gravestones and poets such as Dewi Nedd were famous for their verse. Mr Jones also noted that the famous Welsh air “ Y Deryn Pur” was also composed in the Vale of Neath. Siencyn Siôn and Catrin Siôn had contributed to the Airs of Glamorgan and Gwent, and yet surprisingly their names appeared as Jones in the 1851 Census owing to the registrars who anglicised all Welsh names.

Mr Jones now turned his attention to individuals such as Dai St John, a famous bare knuckle fighter and Grenadier Guardsman and British Army Boxing Champion. His real name was David John and the “Saint” element had been added by his promoters, evidently nothing changes. His early death in South Africa was met with great sorrow and commemorative cups and plates were produced in his honour.

Mr Jones concluded his talk by stating that Resolfen of the time was not perfect. There was drunkenness, disease, poverty and grinding working and living conditions. Yet the people of Resolfen were a coherent whole and very much a society. He also remarked that he had only scratched the surface of the history of the village.

Mr Gwyn Thomas thanked Mr Jones for a most memorable evening and stated that everyone was looking forward to the next episode.

Next Month’s speaker is Mr John Pearman of Porthcawl who will speak on Cardiff castle and the Bute family.