Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
TITLE: “Can y Rebel Am Achub hen rebel fel fi”
By Corinne Smelker
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For Saving An Old Rebel Like Me
It is said that Welsh coal miners have over two hundred words for rock.
They don’t. They have no words for rock, in the same way that fish have no words for water. They do have words for igneous rock, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, rock dropping on your head and rock which looks like it may carry coal. Show a miner a rock and he will see an inferior piece of shale, or a coal bearing line in the rock.
But at this time there were no words for happened in the valley just north of Cardiganshire. Mine owners were in an uproar as coal miners streamed into work talking of nothing more than recent events that had taken over the valley and indeed the whole country. The pit ponies looked on in confusion as their masters spoke to them gently, they were used to nothing more than swear words and sticks on the hind quarters.
Gone were the drunkards, gone the profanities, gone the rabble-rousers whose main goal in life was to start a fight over whose rugby team was superior. Gone were the men who spent all their money at the pub on Friday night and beat their wives on Saturday morning.
The Welsh valleys rang with the sound of hymns, like ‘yma Gariad' - ‘Here is Love’ and one made famous by Sam Jenkins, “For Saving an Old Rebel like Me”. Language of mining turned into language of love, language of rocks turned into talk of God breaking the rock-hard hearts of the local men.
None was harder than a man named Ewan Davis, my paternal great-grandfather, married, with 2 young children; Margaret and William. Margaret was 2 in 1904 when the valleys rang out with the sound of revival, and 4 when revival slowly gave way to a lifestyle of Christian living.
I was 7, Nanny 70, when she began to tell me stories of the Great Welsh Revival. Her gentle lilting voice filled the small, cramped London house with the sound of old hymns, interspersed with her recollections of those days. Young she might have been, but she clearly remembered the nights spent with her father, mother and brother listening to the preachers of the day. She recollected how suddenly her father, whose life was consumed with mining, drink and football, underwent a metamorphosis and knew more Greek and Hebrew than he did English. How rocks, coal-bearing rocks were not the centre of his life, but now the Rock of Ages, the only solid rock was all he sought.
Before my Nanny died in 1989 I asked her how she felt when the Revival ended in 1906 and she and her family moved to London to seek a better way of life. She responded, “It’s still burning in my heart, it’s never gone out – it has burned for over 80 years.”
Miners in the Welsh valley today might have over two hundreds words for rock, but I only have one, and his name is Jesus.
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