Daniel James

Daniel James

Friday, 1 November 2013

Calon Lan Centre

There are a number of activites planned at Mynyddbach in the forthcoming months.  Two of which are in the planning stage at the moment are a Candlelit Carol Service and a New Year's Day walk.  The friends of Mynyddbach are working very hard, raising the profile of the Calon Lan Centre, so watch this space for news of what is happening!

Project Update

Well, the DVD has been produced and the school packs written - what next? 

Copies of the DVD and pack have been distributed to some schools and libraries and also deposited in Swansea University Library, West Glamorgan archives and the National Library.  Online links to for you to investigate below.


As well as writing the school packs, Bev and I have built on this information to develop a presentation on the life of Daniel James.  This is currently an evolving and ongoing project and next spring Bev and I will be in the throes of writing for publication - so we are not finished yet!

Last word on Cardiff Half Marathon

Just to say big thankyou to all who sponsored me for running the Cardiff Half Marathon.  I raised £370 for Calon Lan Centre at Mynyddbach.
Presenting the cheque to Rev. Grenville Fisher

Monday, 7 October 2013

Success at the Cardiff Half Marathon

Had a great time yesterday at the Cardiff Half Marathon and achieved my goal of running under 2 hours 15 minutes - I did it in 2 hours and thirteen minutes!  There was a fantastic atmosphere all around the course with people cheering and supporting plus entertainment on route - although obviously could not stop and enjoy it!  Here are some photographs of the day.

I am in there somewhere.

Back home with my well
 earned t-shirt and medal   
Proud mum and proud son at the end!

There is still time to sponsor if you have not already done so.  To remind you - I have been raising money for the Calon Lan Centre which has been established by the Friends of Mynyddbach.  The Centre is now being used by local community groups on a regular basis but there is still a lot of hard work to be done in this venture.  All funds raised will go directly to Calon Lan Centre.
You can donate via the donation button on this blog (it will be active until the end of October) or by sending a donation directly to Mrs. Geinor Tremewan, Treasurer Friends of Mynyddbach Chapel, C/o Mynyddbach Chapel House, Mynyddbach, Swansea SA5 7HT. Cheques should be made payable to Friends of Mynyddbach Chapel

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Connected Communities Exhibition

It was the opening of the Connected Communities Exhibition at the Waterfront Museum in Swansea on the 20th September.

It was wonderful to meet with members form the other projects and hear how they were getting on.  There were some lovely stories about how the history initiatives were engaging with the public and some tears were shed at the heartwarming anecdotes!

Each project has been depicted on exhibition boards and extracts from The Daniel James Project animated film is also being shown within The White Wall Gallery.

We also got a mention on the BBC here

As per usual, I was armed with my trusted camera to capture the events....

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Cardiff Half Marathon and Fundraising

Just to say I have had my pack in readiness for next weekend and the Cardiff Half Marathon.  Here I am with my number just before I go out for my last long run before the event.  I am looking forward to it and there are now 19,000 people taking part - should be fun! 

Big thankyou for the sponsorship I have had already and it is not too late to sponsor me if you have not already done so!  All funds raised will go directly to the Calon Lan Centre.                      


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cardiff Half Marathon

I said I would post some more flattering pictures of me and this one shows I am not just a fair weather runner and it certainly all went downhill with the weather this morning.  I started off near Blackpill where it was damp but not too bad, then I got sandblasted by Swansea Beach while running along the front and then the rain came down in buckets once I was just past Amazon on Fabian Way.  Hence this resulting picture as I was nearly at the end of my run!  All said and done - I enjoyed it :-)

In terms of getting soaked it is almost on a par as when Bev and I visited Blaengarw and got drenched!  Look up the pictures on the blog.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Cardiff Half Marathon and Calon Lan Centre

I am running in the Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday October 6.  This is not something I have done on a whim and have been training for it!!!  I am very much looking forward to the event and last look at the Cardiff Half Marathon website said there were over 17,000 people taking part - so I will not be lonely!

As part of my efforts I am raising some funds for the Calon Lan Centre at Mynyddbach Chapel.  As you know this is where Daniel James is buried and is a significant location for the Daniel James Project.

The Friends of Mynyddbach are working very hard establishing the Calon Lan Centre which is now being used by local community groups on a regular basis.  However there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done in refurbishment of the building and clearance of the overgrown cemetry. 

If you would like to sponsor me for my efforts in Cardiff we would be delighted and very happy to receive your donations.  All funds raised will go directly to the Calon Lan Centre.  There are a couple of ways to donate: 
  • via the donation button on this blog (a big thankyou to Sean Morgan for sorting this out for me)
  •  Send your donation directly to Mrs. Geinor Tremewan, Treasurer Friends of Mynyddbach Chapel, C/o Mynyddbach Chapel House, Mynyddbach, Swansea SA5 7HT Cheques should be made payable to Friends of Mynyddbach Chapel

Your support is much appreciated and I will post some more flattering pictures in the next couple of weeks!


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

School packs and other things...

Just met with Teresa for a coffee and an update.  It has been ages since we got together face to face as we have both been busy dealing with thesis deadlines.

School packs are the next priority as the animated film and accompanying research details are to go to schools within hopefully the next month or so.  This shall be our next task.

Talks to be planned and delivered, articles to be written and a marathon to be run (see next post!) are in the offing!  Exciting times...

Monday, 9 September 2013


Things have been fairly quiet of late but preparations are almost there for the Waterfront Museum Launch on 20 September.  Also, going on in the background is the preparation of the information packs to go with the DVD. 

On a slightly different note - I am running the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 6 and raising funds for the Calon Lan Centre at Mynyddbach.  Yes - I have been training for this event and am looking forward to it!  I am in the process of setting up an online donation link and would be extremely happy if you would sponsor me.  I will post up more information about this as soon as it is ready.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Waterfront Museum Exhibition

Preparations are underway for the Connected Communities Exhibition Launch in September.  The Daniel James Project will be one of the featured projects - more information nearer the time!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Clip on YouTube

A short clip of the film has been put on YouTube.  You can see it by clicking on the link below.

The Daniel James Project

Monday, 15 July 2013

Calon Lan Performed at Queen's Coronation Festival

Nice to see Calon Lan performed as part of the Queen's Coronation Festival by Only Boy's Aloud.

Catch a glimpse here on iPlayer - Coronation Festival

It is at the end!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Behind the scenes

Not unlike the animation a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to create an item for broadcast.

These are some of the scenes that did not make it to the big screen!

And ACTION, who are these guys?

Not sure what is going on here but they are obviously not listening!

OK - it is us, but looking pretty mischievous I think!


Bev doing her interview, Teresa trying to blend into the background

Bev, where are you when I need you?

Special thanks to Ivor Williams, official photographer!
And, not to forget - this is who it is all about.

BBC Wales News Link

At lunch time today BBC Wales broadcast a feature on our project and there is a link to this pasted below.  Thanks to all  involved and a special thank you to Cemlyn Davies!


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Evening Post and This Is South Wales feature Premiere

We had an excellent write-up in the Evening Post yesterday and the article appeared on This Is South Wales too!
"A NEW animated short film about Swansea composer Daniel James is to be premiered in the city this week.

James, who is also known by his bardic name of Gwyrosydd, wrote the words for the famous hymn Calon Lan.

He was born on January 13, 1848, in a thatched cottage, long demolished, in what is now Llangyfelach Road, not far from Brynhyfryd Square.
He became a puddler, working first in one of the Morriston ironworks then moving to Landore tinplate works but it is his musical talent that has seen him remembered.

James's grave, which is in the grounds of Mynyddbach Chapel, has almost become a tourist attraction in its own right following increased interest in Calon Lan after a performance of the hymn by Only Boys Aloud on Britain's Got Talent.
And now the Treboeth Historical Society, assisted by the Swansea University Connected Communities project, has put together a short animated story that records the life James. The premier will take place on Wednesday at Mynyddbach Chapel, from 7pm.
The evening will be introduced and led by the Reverend Grenville Fisher of Mynyddbach Chapel. A talk about the project will also be given by Swansea University research graduates, followed by poetry readings and performances by school children from Ysgol Gynradd Tirdeunaw, Gwyrosydd Primary School and Ysgol Gyfun Bryntawe, all of whom have been involved in the creation of the film." - This Is South Wales

Read the full article here: Composer of Welsh hymn featured in animated city film

BBC Wales interview

We had an exciting afternoon yesterday being interviewed for BBC Wales about the project.  Both Teresa and myself were quite nervous about it all but the BBC team were brilliant and put us at our ease right away.  Photos of us too being interviewed at the grave of Daniel James were taken by Ivor and will be out up on the blog shortly.

Geraint was interviewed inside the chapel and was a natural!  He was so calm and told some great anecdotes.  Here are some pictures...
Geraint Williams having some technical adjustments made before his interview!
Ivor and Geraint chatting over Daniel James' chair.

Geraint being interviewed by Cemlyn Davies of BBC Wales

Don't forget to watch tomorrow...BBC Wales at 6.30!

Monday, 8 July 2013

News update!

If you are coming to Mynyddbach on Wednesday 10 July then put a reminder in your diary to catch up or record Wales Today on BBC Wales on that day.  There will be a small feature on our project which is a fantastic opportunity for us.  A big thankyou to Cemlyn Davies and his camera man, Jamie Owen and BBC Wales.  All of the project team really appreciate your interest and Bev and I enjoyed the experience!

Wednesday 10 July 'Film Premiere'

Wednesday evening in Mynyddbach Chapel will be the Premiere of the animation that has been produced on the life of Daniel James. The programme of events will be as follows:

1.  Croeso/Welcome – Parch/Rev Grenville Fisher
2.  Dirpwy Arglwydd Faer Abertawe/Deputy Lord Mayor of Swansea: Cyng./Councillor. Mrs. Ceinwen Thomas
 3.  Calon Lân
 4.  Perfformiadau gan blant / Performances by children of:
Ysgol Gyfun Bryn Tawe Comprehensive School
Ysgol Gynradd Tirdeunaw Primary School
Ysgol Gynradd Gwyrosydd Primary School
 5.  Cân / Song – Ble Mae’r Amen - Ysgol Gyfun Bryn Tawe Comprehensive School
 6. Cyflwyniad gan fyfyrwyr ymchwil Prifysgol Abertawe / Presentation by Swansea University   student researchers: Beverley Rogers, Teresa Hillier, Catrin Haines- Davies gyda chyflwyniad gan / with introduction by: Kate Spiller, Cydlynydd Prosiectau Cymunedau Cysylltiedig /Connected Communities Project Co-ordinator, Prifysgol Abertawe / Swansea University
7.  Nick Price, Cwmni animeiddio Turnip Starfish animation company
8.  Dangosiad cyntaf o’r ffilm animeiddiedig am fywyd Daniel James / Premiere of the animated film on the life of Daniel James.
9.   Parch/Rev. Grenville Fisher
10. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
11. Lluniaeth / Refreshments

We look forward to seeing you in the Chapel

Interviews and animation

Exciting things are afoot! We are going to have a small feature on our project on BBC news. It should be going out this week but will update later on this evening on the developments. This is very exciting for us and all of the project team. Please come back and visit our blog in a few hours for an update!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Premiere meeting

Great meeting in preparation for the premiere of the animation this evening!  Getting excited...!  Just need to prepare for our presentation now...no pressure then :-)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Planning Meeting

We are having a planning meeting today to prepare for 10 July.  We need to 'tweak' the programme, focus on our presentation and discuss other 'important points' relating to the evening - so keep watching!

Oral History

Bev and I recently spent an informative morning with Ivor Williams of Treboeth Historical Society where we discussed the origins of the Society and Ivor's involvement, personal and local history and of course Daniel James.  This was the second oral history we have completed plus we have some written memories from Alan Beddoe highlighting aspects of life at Mynyddbach.  In due course we will spend some time transcribing and summarising this information along with that provided by Miriam Evans.  There are also some other people who we are going to speak to and who knows what we may find out!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

'News' round up!

Upcoming events include:

  • Report on progress of oral hisories
  • Translation of some of Daniel James's poems
  • A feature on Mynyddbach Chapel
  • July 10 - viewing of animation at Mynyddbach Chapel
  • Information on the exhibition at the Waterfront Museum in September

Animation Workshop

The animation company Turnip Starfish http://turnipstarfish.com/  has recently made visits to the three schools involved in the project - Tirdeunaw, Bryn Tawe and Gwyrosydd.  Nick and his team, along with the children, have been working really hard in bring the story of Daniel James to life.  I was lucky enough to pop into Gwyrosydd School on 10 May to see 'work in progress'.

It was a hive of activity, the children enthusiastically setting up scenes to be animated with the Turnip Starfish team guiding and advising along the way.   The atmosphere was full of excitment as clips were viewed and it was a fantastic opportunity for the children to work as a team, using their own artwork to create a film.  It was enjoyable observing their actions as they devloped an understanding of the technical skills needed in the creative industry.

There is still quite a bit of work to do as Nick and his colleagues have to cut and edit  the output and record the music and voices to the film.  They are going to visit Bryn Tawe again in order to record the soundtrack and to complete this part of the work.

I am sure that all of the children have enjoyed the experience.  They will be part of the audience on July 10 at Mynyddbach Chapel to view the finished work!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

School Workshops

All of the 'pre-animation' workshops have now taken place.

Geraint Williams and Ivor Williams met with the children in Tirdeunaw school on Tuesday 26 March and Geraint and I met with the children in Bryn Tawe on Thursday 28 March.  They all know have lots of information about Daniel James which they will be using in conjunction with the animation company Turnip Starfish.  Gwenno Ffrancon also visited Bryn Tawe where she inspired the children with her talk on their forthcoming work with the animation.

In addition to the above, some of the project team were put to the test on Friday 22 March by pupils from Tirdeunaw.  We were quizzed on topics which included Daniel James (of course), Mynyddbach Chapel and local history.  It was a great effort by Ivor, Geraint, Kate, Catrin and myself and of course the pupils!  They took lots of notes and were really interested in the topics and were well informed.  They had already been out to visit some of the sites of interest and shared their information with us.

The next steps for the project will be the animation after the Easter holidays so things seem to be moving at a fast pace.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Gwyrosydd School Visit

I went back in time to Gwyrosydd School last Friday 22 March - it is where I attended school as an infant and a junior!  

Geraint Williams, Catrin Haines Davies and I spoke to a class of children about Daniel James.  This group are going to be involved in the animation process.  I had prepared some slides giving information on different aspects of Daniel James's life  and we used these to illustrate our talk.  The children were very interested and asked lots of questions.  They are going to be doing some further research on Daniel James before the animation day and will be using the slides and this blog as part of their research activities.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

School Workshops

The project team is looking forward to forthcoming workshops at:
  •  Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg, Tirdeunaw
  •  Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe
  •   Gwyrosydd Primary School

These will take place in the next two weeks with the children and the project team focusing on the research completed and gathering information together for the animation.  These workshops are an important milestone in the life of the project and a fantastic opportunity for all involved to work together to achieve our goal!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Lesson on Mynyddbach Chapel

Nice article in the Evening Post on Saturday (9th) regarding pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tirdeunaw.  They have been finding out about the history of Mynyddbach Chapel and have visited the West Glamorgan Archive Service for information.

Great to see interest in this wonderful Chapel receiving newsprint again!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Connected Communities Come Together

As part of Swansea University's Research Week, an event was held yesterday afternoon to celebrate the continued development of local community-based research through the Connected Communities project.  Professor Huw Bowen who leads the project spoke of how the research will help to shape the future development of the Swansea Valley which includes the regeneration of the Hafod and Morfa Copperworks.

Each of the local community projects which secured Heritage Lottery Funding gave a brief talk about how their research and activities were progressing and our representative for The Daniel James Project was Ivor Williams.  Teresa, Catrin and myself were in the audience lending moral support!

It was a great event which allows the different groups to interact and share ideas in a positive environment.  Each group has a very different research goal but we all share a combined passion - a love of local history and a recognition that memories need to be preserved.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Animation Progress

We met with Nick and the animation team at Mynyddbach Chapel on Friday.  Despite bone chilling temperatures, we soon had the chapel warm and welcoming and the meeting went really well.

The Daniel James Project team spent an enjoyable two hours chatting through Daniel's life to enable the animation team to put together a storyboard for the film.  Although we can't get every piece of research into the animation (that would take many many hours of viewing!!!), we have all highlighted the important aspects that should be covered and which will be really interesting to watch.

Visit to Mountain Ash

Teresa and myself took a trip out to Mountain Ash on Wednesday to visit the town where Daniel James lived sometime after 1895, and before his final residence in Morriston in 1916. 

After losing his job in the mining industry at Blaengarw,  Daniel was befriended by his admirer Thomas Glyndwr Richards, who found him employment at Mountain Ash Colliery, where he worked for twenty years - fifteen years in Nixon’s colliery.
   Richards was a conductor of the famous Mountain Ash Royal Male Voice Choir, which toured America at the close of the 19th century.

We were very excited to see that both of the properties where he lodged during his time at Mountain Ash are still standing - one at Richmond Street and the other at Aberffrwd Road.  
Daniel left the colliery when failing health became a problem. He took a job as a cemetery caretaker. It was interesting to note that a cemetery lay within a few hundred yards of Aberffrwd Road - perhaps this was the one he looked after. Further research continues!

View from the top of Richmond Street - Bev Rogers

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Oral History Interviews

Bev and I have started our oral history interviews and last Wednesday 13 February, we spent a delightful afternoon in the company of Miriam Evans.  Miriam was born in Treboeth and has lived there all her life and before she retired she was the Headteacher of Gwyrosydd Infants School.  This interview was very special for me as Miriam was my Headteacher when I was an infant!

Miriam recalled a variety of memories about the Treboeth area from her life as a child and up to more recent years.  Areas that were covered included:
  • the role that the Chapel in Welsh life and Welsh culture
  • living conditions - including memories of the thatched cottage that Daniel James lived in
  • the geography of the local area in times gone by
  • education of children
  • warm memories of her father and grandfather
Her grandfather was an acquaintance of Daniel James and she explained that Gwyrosydd had written a poem about her father, entitled Y Baban ar fin y Dibyn (which roughly translates as 'The child on the edge of a precipice') which relates to a time when her father would have been playing in a quarry area just behind Miriam's house.  This is a very personal memory and a direct link to Daniel James!

Over the coming weeks we have a more oral histories lined up  - so watch this space!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Cymanfa Ganu - a night to remember!

The Cymanfa Ganu was a roaring success!  The pews of the chapel were full and the congregation was in good voice, led by Huw Rees who proved to be an entertaining conductor!  A fitting tribute to Daniel James and the Mynyddbach Chapel was given by Huw Tregelles Williams.  The chapel organ, played by organist Reverend Grenville Fisher, and accompanied by Adam Croucher,  was rousing in the amazing acoustics of the room and the vocal contribution of Gwyrosydd School and Bryn Tawe School was beautiful.

Teresa and myself gave a small speech outlining the project's aims, research and future plans.

Having never been to a Cymanfa Ganu before, I was uncertain what to expect.  What I did discover  was that of a truly beautiful experience.  To be part of such a celebration of song where the whole congregation came together in a relaxed and fun way was a pleasure to be involved with.  Thank you to all that attended!

Reverend Grenville Fisher, Huw Tregelles Williams, Huw Rees, Teresa Hillier, Bev Rogers & Kate Spiller 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Cymanfa Ganu this Wednesday!

Just a reminder...!

The rescheduled Cymanfa Ganu for Daniel James is to be this Wednesday - 6th February - at 7pm.

It is to be at Mynyddbach Chapel and leading the programme of events is will be Mr Huw Tregelles Williams, OBE, DL, MA, B. Mus, FRCO, FKWCMD.  The conductor is Mr Huw Rees, LRAM, ARCM, LLCM, FLCM and the organist is the Reverend Grenville Fisher.

Gwyrosydd's Chair

Teresa and Ivor giving a perspective on
 the height of Gwyrosydd's chair
One of Daniel James’s favourite haunts was the King’s Head Public House in Treboeth where he composed his poems in exchange for pints.  It is said that whilst there he sat in a particularly unusual high chair.  One can imagine the Bard Gwyrosydd reciting his poetry from this commanding position with friends and acquaintances looking on.
The chair is still intact and can now be found in Mynyddbach Chapel.  It would be fascinating to find out more about who made the chair and was it made for Daniel James or for some other purpose!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Gwyrosydd's Grave

Our visit to Mynyddbach Chapel a few weeks ago would not have been complete without paying our respects at Daniel James' grave.

Sign boards pointed the way to the resting place of Gwyrosydd and we braved the abundant mud made by the heavy rain of recent days to reach the spot.

It was quite a poignant experience standing there in the weak sunshine within the quiet of the graveyard looking down upon the spot where Daniel lies together with his wife Ann, his son William James and his daughter Mary.

The grave inscription is in Welsh.  
A translation is:

In memory of Ann, beloved wife of
Daniel James, Treboeth,
who died on December 24th, 1887,
38 years old.
See the grave of a Dear one who was pure sunshine, undefiled to her family.
Also William James, his son
20 years old.
Also the above Daniel James (Gwyrosydd) who died March 16 1920
73 years old.
Pure heart so full of goodness.
Also the daughter of the above, Mary, who died June 28 1941,
68 years old.
Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.

Note how the date of Daniel's death carved on the gravestone is 16 March 1920, yet he actually died on 11 March!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Celebration Cancelled due to Snow

Due to the weather conditions, tonight's event has had to be cancelled.  We are all disappointed but am sure you understand why.

The celebration is to be rescheduled for the 6th February - all other details the same.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Beverley's World of Music

Just in case you want to listen to the programme you can click on the link below which is live for the next 6 days.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0198j0n

BBC Radio Wales Mention

We had a great mention on BBC Radio Wales yesterday from Beverley Humphreys on her show - Beverley's World of Music.  Details of the project, who is involved and the event on the 23rd were all included.

Thank you Beverley!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Cymanfa Ganu for Daniel James

Mention of the Cymanfa Ganu in the Evening Post yesterday!

If you are in the area, come and see the beautiful Mynyddbach Chapel and celebrate the life and work of Daniel James with us.

It is on Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 7pm.

Mr Huw Tregelles Williams, OBE, DL, MA, B. Mus, FRCO, FKWCMD will be leading the programme of events and the conductor with me Mr Huw Rees, LRAM, ARCM, LLCM, FLCM.  Organist is the Reverend Grenville Fisher.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Evening Post article

This appeared in the South Wales Evening Post on Monday 14 January 2013:

"Researchers in Swansea are hoping to bring Welsh hymn Calon Lan to life by making an animated film about its creator.

Swansea University and Treboeth History Group are planing to make sure the story of Daniel James, Calon Lan's author, is remembered by creating the film 165 years after he was born.

The project has been given a £4,100 grant by the Connected Communities project.

The funds will be used to research and promote Daniel James's life.

James wrote the much-loved hymn, which is sung throughout venues across Wales, when he was working in the heavy industry in South Wales.

Calon Lan was originally written in Welsh but is also now sung in English.

The aim of the project is to find out if we know everything about his life.

The short story, which will be animated, will be created with the help of local school teachers, to make sure the story is available online.

The film will also be given to schools, libraries and museums across Wales."

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Radio Interview

There has been more media interest in The Daniel James Project - it became a topic on Good Morning Wales on Saturday.

To hear Dr Gwenno Ffrancon speaking to Peter Johnson on the show, click below:

Calon Lan writer Daniel James's story to become film

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Beverley's World of Music

Listen to Beverley's World of Music on Radio Wales, Sunday 20 January, between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.  Not only will you hear a fantastic show but our project is going to get a mention!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Calon Lan Walk

Gerald Jarvis, local historian and our guide for Calon Lan walk has kindly written an account of our adventure!  He has captured the atmosphere of the day with his descriptive writing and gave Bev and me a sense of history of the area.
This has been illustrated with a series of photographs, courtesy of Garw Valley Heritage Society: http://www.garwheritage.co.uk/wordpress/

Over to you Gerald!
On 2nd of January 2013 we set out on the Calon Lan walk in a mixture of the Garw valley’s horizontal rain and very low cloud.  We started at Blaengarw Workingmen’s Hall and pressed on to Calon Lan Park itself which is an area carved out of what used to be a Colliery Washery site and Shunting yard. 

As you can see in this photograph, in the not too distant past we would have been standing in the midst of one of the busiest spots in the valley, full of noise and dust! 

The picture shows the Dunraven Hotel (now Club Calon Lan) in the mid foreground and the tracks and coal trucks below it.  This location is now transformed into a tranquil area for reflection and memories with the only noise now coming from the Garreg Brook, which due to the weather, was throwing itself down the mountainside into the man-made lake below.   Even the ducks were giving that a wide berth today!
Pausing on our way to admire the sculpture to commemorate Calon Lan and Daniel James we moved on up the hill into Blaengarw’s main shopping street, an area now sadly a shadow of its former self. 

Where once there were busy shops and services now a few hardy souls scrape a living. 

Still standing and apparently thriving, on the corner is the Blaengarw Hotel, still wearing its Christmas decorations but sadly today looking very bedraggled. 

Pressing onward we pass by the houses in Katie St where Daniel James and his family lived and the huge Bethania chapel where he worshipped.  This chapel is now hopefully about to claim a new lease of life as a home for a local builder after many years of neglect and vandalism.

Carrying on past the rows of typical colliery houses which were all built from local stone quarried from the surrounding mountains, all identical in size and shape.  However, there is now allowed that little bit of individualism in the houses with their brightly painted fronts, no longer afraid of the clouds of coal dust from the collieries nearby. 

Down the hill and onto the site of the Ocean Coal Co. and a pithead marker constructed from peculiarly bright orange clay!  On this day and in this weather it stands out very brightly against the wind blown waters of yet another ornamental lake constructed to beautify an area that suffered from major industrial blight in the industrial past.   

In this picture you can see a side view of Ocean Colliery, showing the coal tips on the mountain above.

As any form of conversation is  whipped from our mouths by the wind and stamped on by the rain, silence is the order of the day as we trek on up further into this area to yet another lake formed by the  rushing brooks at the head of this valley. Standing next to a whirling, raging and swollen stream the sound is painful to the ears, yet a few steps further on all is silence as we gaze out over the lake.  Walking back we are rewarded by the sight of a Dipper, this bird with its’ distinctive white throat lives by the river bank ‘dipping’ into the streams for its food source of snails etc.  Not today though, I am afraid because the normally placid trickle is throwing itself down the mountain like a ‘thing possessed’.
  Helping one another over the stile we proceed downward now and even the weather lessens slightly to give us an opportunity to chat.
It is at this point we are able to see vast areas where coal tip/slag heaps once overshadowed the valley, now removed but still leaving patches of a bright unnatural looking green in places as if the earth does not want us to forget the great weight that was placed upon it so long ago.  
At the bottom of the valley we cross the main road and pass through the ornamental gateway and down to view the pithead marker for the ‘Ballarat’ or Glen Garw Colliery, a simpler monument than the others but made from the same orange clay.
On past the school where Daniel’s daughters would have been taught back in the 1890’s, unchanged in outward appearance since then perhaps?

But if you glance upwards you will see the 21st century with its P.V. solar panel display helping to reduce the school electricity bill, but not today because of the low cloud. 

Down the wet streets we go to what was the largest hotel in town the Dunraven Hotel or now as it is known as Club Calon Lan. This place has had many names in its time and I am sure I will see a few more yet. It’s only link perhaps with Daniel James is a sad one.

It was from Blaengarw Station opposite this hotel that the body of Daniel’s eldest son, William Hopkin James was entrained for burial in Swansea, almost
110 years ago to the day.
I wonder what the weather was like that particular day, I am certain it couldn’t have been more depressing.
 We are nearly at the end of this walk/wade through the upper Garw Valley and some of its history and we get on to the cycle path and head back towards our starting point. Pressing on we enter into the comforting warmth of the Creation Café.  Sitting in its cosy confines and with our clothes steaming gently on our bodies we set about our coffee and biscuits, and discuss our walk in more detail.  For myself it is always a pleasure to tell ‘strangers’ about some of my home town s history. After eliciting firm promises that they will come back another day when the weather improves I wish them well and send them on their way.

BBC news

And so the story grows!  Click on the link to view story on BBC Wales website


Friday, 11 January 2013

Western Mail

Nice article on the project in the Western Mail today!  Daniel James' story is beginning to get out there!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

First visit to Mynyddbach Chapel

Today I made my first visit to Mynyddbach Chapel - important to the Daniel James story in so many different ways.  As a young child, Daniel lived nearby in a thatched cottage in Llangyfelach Road in Treboeth and he joined his family in regular worship there.  In later years Daniel was encouraged in his writing by members of the chapel. Finally, on his death in 1920, he was laid to rest in its cemetery.

The chapel was not at all how I imagined it.  Not knowing the area very well, I expected to find it on a main road nestled between other houses and buildings.  Instead, I turned off the main road and travelled down a short, quiet road with horses nibbling grass in fields to my right.  

Horses on the road to the chapel
The chapel faces you as you come to the end of the road, together with its neighbour, The Welcome Inn.  To the left of the Chapel as you look at its front is the cemetery which covers a total of around four and a half acres.  Overgrown but tremendously atmospheric, it has plots that date back to the early 1700s.  It is worth travelling to the site for the graveyard alone.

Mynyddbach Chapel

Mynyddbach Chapel cemetery
Inside the chapel, my breath was taken away.  First of all, the pure size of the actually chapel room is astonishing.  The two-storey seating, with its wooden benches, are still in situ and would have accommodated a huge congregation.  Ivor, our guide, explained that members of the congregation often brought their own cushions to make the services more comfortable!

Restoration work is being undertaken on the organ and Teresa and myself were lucky to hear a tune from it whilst we were there.  I can confirm that the acoustics of the chapel are wonderful!

The original character of the building still remains including the intricate painted metal railings and painted ceiling decoration.   

Painted metalwork

Ceiling decoration

Teresa and Bev at the pulpit

This will be the venue for the Cymanfa Ganu on Wednesday 23 January 2013.  It starts at 7pm and all are welcome.  I can't think of a more fitting place to celebrate the life of the bard Daniel James.

As to the meeting...it went brilliantly!  Connected Communities Project Co-ordinator Kate Spiller got some great ideas as to how the schools can get involved and what format the animated film might take.  The passion of Treboeth History Group members Ivor Williams and Geraint Williams to bring Daniel James' story to a wider audience was amazing - they have been tremendously welcoming and supportive to Kate, Teresa and myself and are keen to share the information they have acquired over the years whilst looking into the bard's life.  For us as University researchers, Teresa and myself got the chance to talk about our research so far and discuss the way forward, followed by our tour of the chapel and grounds.  

Geraint, Kate, Ivor and Teresa after the meeting

It was a great morning and I can't wait to go back!  

Tuesday, 8 January 2013