Daniel James

Daniel James

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

Monday, 7 January 2013

Calon Lan tops Official Classical singles chart

Calon Lan reached the top of the classical singles chart in December!  Its fame spreads...

"Only Boys Aloud’s reworking of traditional Welsh hymn Calon Lan has knocked Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma off the top of the Official Classical Singles Chart.

The World’s Biggest Boyband, Only Boys Aloud, have gone straight to Number 1 on the Official Classical Singles Chart with their re-working of Daniel James and John Hughes’ traditional hymn, Calon Lan.

The Official Classical Singles Chart was launched in May of this year to reflect the growing interest in individual downloads of classical tracks. The past two years have seen a surge in individual classical track download sales in the UK – up 46% in 2011 compared to 2010 (from 834,000 to 1.2 million). This trend has continued in 2012, and in the first quarter of this year, some 284,000 classical downloads were sold, a 34% increase on the 212,000 sold in the first three months of 2011"

Click here for full article by Dan Lane - Only Boys Aloud top Official Classical Singles Chart

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Only Boys Aloud sing Calon Lan

I admit, I didn't watch Britain's Got Talent and therefore didn't see the Only Boys Aloud choir sing Calon Lan early in 2012.  I only came across a recording of it by chance as a result of searching for research stuff on-line but when I finally watched it I was blown away!  It makes me cry every time I watch it!

If you haven't heard it yet, here is a link.  It is sensational!

Only Boys Aloud sing Calon Lan

Friday, 4 January 2013

Two researchers get drenched in Blaengarw

Bev and Teresa on the walking tour
Wednesday 2nd January saw two intrepid researchers from Swansea University (well...me and Teresa!) set off to Blaengarw to meet local historian Gerald Jarvis for his" Calon Lan tour".  Daniel James lived in Blaengarw from 1889 to 1895 and Gerald agreed to show us around what would have been his local haunts and working environment.

Having left behind a fine mist in Mumbles, the rain got much heavier when we reached Blaengarw and hung in a heavy fog around the hills.  Not to be outdone by the weather however, we three set off in as much rainwear as we could muster and spent the next hour and a half walking the streets and parkland accompanied by some rather amazing waterfalls!

We began our tour at the Calon Lan park, named after Daniel James' most famous verse.  A prominent feature of the park is a sculpture produced by American artist Rebecca Buck, who was assisted in its design by local community groups and schools.  More of her work can be found throughout Blaengarw, each piece telling something about the history of the valley.  Her work below has the words of Calon Lan inscribed around the base both in Welsh and in English.

The Calon Lan Park sculpture

We then moved on to The Blaengarw Hotel where it is said that Daniel James came to hear Calon Lan being performed for the first time publicly.

The Blaengarw Hotel
Our little group then carried on to Herbert Street where Daniel and his family lived and where it is believed that he slept the night in a pigsty at the back of the garden having been thrown out by his wife for being drunk!  The story is that on hearing a hymn being sung nearby (most likely said Gerald this being the Bethania Chapel only yards away) and discovering that the singers had omitted the traditional "Amen" at the end of the hymn, Daniel immediately penned the verse Ble Mae'r Amen ("Where's the Amen?").  

Daniel James' house

Bethania Chapel
Whilst residing in Blaengarw, Daniel worked as a miner at the nearby Ocean Garw Colliery, one of a number of collieries in the valley.  Ocean Garw was sunk in 1883 and at its height, the colliery employed up to 1,000 men.  Whilst there, Daniel was tasked with trying to right a derailed tram underground at the Colliery.  He penned a verse in chalk on the tram to sum up how difficult it was! The verse went like this:

Dyma fi o dan y ddaear
Yn scwto, scwto
Cael fy maesddu gan hen ddram'
O damo, damo 

The pit was closed in 1985 and a project was undertaken in 1998 to reclaim the land.  The site today is now known as Blaengarw Lakes and pithead markers can be found at several locations around the area.  Even in heavy rain the area is beautiful!

Blaengarw Lakes

We ended our tour at Blaengarw Workmen's Hall which was built and paid for by the miners and finished in 1894.  It was here that Daniel's son William Hopkin's body was brought after a tragic mining accident at the nearby International Colliery.  William had caught his heel on a rope soiled by horse excrement.  He developed lockjaw and died within days of the incident.  

Our tour ended with us back in Calon Lan park...very very wet but as you can see still smiling!  Many thanks to Gerald for an interesting and enlightening morning.  His local knowledge, combined with his own personal stories of working in the mines, were absolutely fascinating!  If you ever get the chance to visit Blaengarw, I definitely recommend taking the Calon Lan tour.

Bev, Gerald and Teresa