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.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January Meeting : Mr Phylip Jones

January meeting
The members of the Society look forward to the annual presentation by the President of the History Society, Mr Phylip Jones. It would be fair to say that Phylip gives us the one truly local talk of the year, and his substantial insight into the history of his own backyard has a unique flavour. This year he took the bardic tradition of Wales as his topic and wove it effortlessly into the history of Resolfen.
He began his talk by referring to the earliest British written poetry, “Y Gododdin”, a poem written by Aneirin in what is now Edinburgh in the sixth century. It refers to a failed campaign by a band of three hundred warriors to defeat the Saxons at Catterick in the fifth century.

Gwyr a aeth gatraeth oed fraeth eu llu.
glasved eu hancwyn a gwenwyn vu.
trychant trwy beiryant en cattau.
a gwedy elwch tawelwch vu

The main point was that many of the words were still in daily use in the Welsh language of today and the alliterative style was also in common usage.

Turning to Resolfen, Phylip spoke of the tradition of meeting in the longhouse farmhouses of the area in the past, holding competitions in singing, composition and ghost stories. Maria Jane Williams of Aberpergwm had done a great service to the cultural tradition of Wales in the 1840s by collecting the folk songs of the area and collating them. A ready source of material was Catrin Sion who lived at Pencraignedd and had been born around in the mid-eighteenth century. The well-known refrain “Yr Aderyn Pur”, came originally from the Neath valley and is in the Neath dialect. 

Another aspect was to draw in comic happenings in village life. Phylip gave several examples, the first surrounding the fate of a pig in the winch (well) of the Ton farmhouse in 1860. A local poet, Dewi Nedd, wrote a comic verse amounting to sixteen verses surrounding the ultimate rescuing of the valuable pig and the mentioning of village characters along the way. In similar vein the familiar Pembrokeshire comic poem surrounding the burial of a black pig, is another well-known folk song “Claddu’r Mochyn Du”. In Welsh tradition poets were expected to respond in order to gain entry (this was also a tradition in the “Fari Lwyd” at New Year in south Wales Ed.) , and Phylip spoke of a local poet who had gone to work at local coal level “Y lefel bres”. His new workmates, demanded a poem from him, to which he replied in erudite if unflattering fashion. This tradition, is still alive to some extent since Phylip read a long poem concerning a visitor,Tom Davies Blaenau, an ex Resolfen resident from Toronto in 1959, saying whom he had met on his visit. He also gave a more recent example of a poem on Cam Gear’s notice board regarding an unfortunate man from Skewen who had jumped a red traffic light.

Phylip finished his memorable talk by referring to the work of the tonic sol-fa movement, which was largely responsible for the now declining tradition of four part harmony singing in chapel, pub and rugby ground. Sadly, he reflected on the fact that the tradition of singing in the street at village funerals was now a fading if fairly recent memory.

Mr Trefor Jones thanked Phylip for a memorable talk and implored him to write everything down for the sake of everyone.
Next month’s speaker is Mr Viv Griffiths on February 10th  who will speak on the Churches and Chapels of Skewen.

Update: After the meeting, Phylip said that he intended posting his reminiscences on the website in order to reach a wider audience.