Sundry items














Manor of Caegurwen




  When the Miers mineral and surface estates were sold in 1914 to the late Mr. Evans-Bevan, Neath, the property contained all that Lordship or Manor of Caegurwen, together with the Manorial Rights over the Commons of Gwauncaegurwen and Penllerfedwen embracing an area of 2,195 acres and also together with the minerals underlying the Commons, and Noyadd, Penylan, Brynllefrith and Llwyn-hen Farms embracing a total area of 2,663 acres. The Manor is an extensive one, and the following is an old description of the boundaries:

"It beginneth in the north-east at a place there which divideth between the same Lordship and the Common of the Lord Audley called Ymynydd dy called Kenol y gors helig where the water there naturally taketh its course Eastward and butteth upon, and with the running of the same water to the river Llynfell and passeth along the side of the said river of Llynfell Southward about quarter of a mile till the same meeteth with an old ditch there called Clewdd tomen Owen and by and with the same ditch passeth between East and South to the river called Twrch and along the side of the said river Twrch it passeth Southward till the same boundeth upon the lands of Lewis Griffiths Gentleman being part of the lands of the Lordship of Gower bearing unto the way and called Rhywidy gwinon where it is to be noted that the County of Brecknock was always of the East side of the said River of Twrch against the Lordship of Kaegurwen till this place and here the Meere runneth westward and passeth from the said River of Twrch to a place called Bryn y twyn hence to Bryn y ffwlbert, thence to Nant y Bompren, thence to a place or heap of stones called y garn ar ben y Rhiwfawr, then it passeth by a Pathway leading Westward till the same way passeth to a place called y garnllwyd standeth within the said Lordship and on the North side of the said way when it passeth as the said way leadeth to a place called Y Ffos halog then to a place called Y rhyd y garreggoes somewhat near to a place called Carnvredydd and on the South Side of the said Carnvredydd then to a place called Bryn y maen then to a brook called Nant y gasseg always westward till the same brook cometh to a place there called Cors y Veisach at which place it turneth northward and butteth upon the water called Nant y gors till the water of the said brook called Nant y gors do begin its natural course towards the South, which place it had always on the other side of the said Meere the Lordship of Gower from the said River of Twrch then it butteth in gors y veisach aforesaid along the brook there which taketh its course Northward called Y Garnant which divideth there between the said Lordship and the parish of Bettws in the County of Carmarthen and having passed northward about half a mile along that brook side then the same Lordship again turneth along that brook side westward and followeth that brook till the same falleth in the west into the river of Aman. Then it turneth upwards between North and East along the side of the said river Aman and as the same water heretofore ran and now runneth till it cometh nigh unto a place called y Rhyd wen ar Aman. There it standeth and passeth Eastward along the water side that runneth westward in a place called y "gors helig " till the same then taketh his beginning to run westward and there joineth unto the beginning of the said Meere."

[From "The History of Pontardawe and District " by John Henry Davies 1967]

Penlle'r Castell





Ancient Norman border castle, or what ?

Penlle'rcastell is situated on the northern end of the ridge known as Mynydd y Gwair in the parish of Llangyfelach [afterwards Rhyndwyclydach]. OS grid ref. SN665096.

See the Gathering the Jewels site for photographs in 1988 and 1990

This is one of those obviously ancient sites whose mysterious history has fascinated both local children and adults alike for generations. It can be reached after an undulating walk up from the Caegurwen area over the flank of Mynydd y Betws. My more frequent memories of it are after driving up there by taking the minor road off the main Pontardawe road from Cwmgors, opposite Nant-y-gasseg farm, passing Baran chapel in its splendid isolation, and seeing the site above one just to the left of the sharp left turn south towards  Morriston Hospital and Swansea.

Research has thrown up the following facts regarding its history which only serve to enhance the appeal of the place, readers are recommended to refer to the source books for the full story and reach their own conclusions as to when it was built and by who ...............

" An enigmatic structure, three miles south-east of Ammanford, at the extreme north of the county. On very exposed ground, 1226 feet above sea level, it is the highest site [castle] in the county. It dates from the third quarter of the thirteenth century. It consists of an oblong enclosure with straight long sides of about 220 feet each, and one of 140 feet at its north end, which is at the brink of a steep slope down to the county boundary...............the uneven disposition ......suggests that the castle was never finished................" [ Glamorgan County History, ed T B Pugh, 1971]

The following notes are based on a reading of the excellent article 'Penlle'rCastell ' by J Beverley Smith in Morgannwg;  (the full article can now be seen on the NLW's site)

"Ller castle now in utter ruine" is how it was described by Rice Merrick in a list of castles of Gower.

"......in Parcell Mawr stood the old castle called......now in utter ruine upon a mountain call'd ler Castell" appears in an account of Llangyfelach parish [R H Morris, Parochialia, 1909-11].

In the survey of Gower 1650, the commons claimed by the tenants included that of Penka'er Castle [Francis/Baker, The Lordship of Gower in the Marches of Wales, 1861-70]

A description and plan were published by Bernard Morris  at the annual meeting of the Cambrian Archaelogical Association in 1960 at Swansea.

"The site has never been thoroughly examined and the question of its origin never fully treated............it is certainly not a motte-and-bailey structure.........it stands at what was in the latter medieval period the boundary between the lordship of Gower and the commote of Iscennen.............a survey of Iscennen made in 1609 traces the boundary from east to west from the River Amman...[mentioning] ........Garnant brooke.....Corse Visagh........Nant y Gevile brooke.....Lletty Crydd.........Ller Castell.........Cathan brook......ryver Aman/ryver Lochor...........................

.........a survey of Gower in 1764 traces the boundary between Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire and refers to a small path under Penllyr Castell which divides the counties of.........

..........the boundary described in these surveys was not the original frontier of Gower [Lordship of]..........there are thirteenth century documents associated with the aftermath of the rebellion of Rhys ap Maredudd which contain  a description of this boundary which implies that at some date the frontier of Gower  was withdrawn southwards from the Aman to a point immediately beneath Penlle'rcastell.........the land thus subtracted from Gower, to be thereafter part of the commote of Iscennen, was the parish of Betws......a territory which became known as Stryveland.........

........Penlle'rcastell is sited upon a scarp which overlooks this area of strife....evidently constructed by one who appreciated the need for a defensive structure built well into the original boundary of the lordship and control the approaches from the north......constructed at a commanding position upon what remained until modern times an important routeway.......

.......one of the several  incidents which demonstrated the strife which characterised the border between Gower and Iscennen was..........  in 1252  when there was discord between William de Braose [Lord of Gower] and Rhys Fychan [Lord of Dinefwr]....a quarrel between an Anglo Saxon lord and a Welsh prince....a dispute over who owned certain border lands.......and it was undoubtedly this  general border strife which occasioned the building of Penlle'rcastell......

........a confident dating of Penlle'rcastell must await a thorough examination of the structure itself............a Mr D J C King stressing the oddity of the castle, noted that it was utterly unlike normal thirteenth century work........and must be ' either a wildly atypical castle of early date or, much more likely, a hasty fortification, more or less temporary of the thirteenth century or later'.......

.........there is another theory which involves the recorded fact that Rhys Fychan burned a castle of de Braoses's referred to as  the 'New Castle of Gower ' whose location is uncertain.....could this castle have been Penlle'rcastell ?  
Which was after all sited on a border which was particularly disturbed in this period...............in which case it was probably built by William de Braose in the third quarter of the thirteenth century."

Farms in the area generally






(See also Farms, a selection of census entries and historical snippets for the GCG/Cwmgors villages)

From History of Pontardawe and District by John Henry Davies 1967.

"At a Baron Court of the Rt Hon. William Earl of Pembroke held at Noyadd Wen on the 19th day of April, in ye 8th year of King James ye 1st and the year of our Lord 1610 ", a  list of farms in the Manor of Kaegurwen and their annual rents were given. All the farms can be recognised today, for instance ;


In the Survey of 1650 , which may be called the the "Domesday Book of Gower", under the seal of the Rt Hon Oliver Cromwell, Lord General of the Parliamentary Forces, 1650, the following list gave the rent per annum of the various tenements ;

"Parcell Rhundwy Clydach"

"Names of Freeholders with their severall Rents"

"Llanguicke tenements"

Another survey of the Seigniories of Gower and Kilvey was made in 1764 by Gabriel Powell. The manuscript is in the Royal Institution of South Wales.
A large number of Freeholders, Tenements and Tenants as well as the rent per annum was given.The rents had not risen since Cromwell's time. The spelling was different but the names could still be recognised from the ones in general use at the present time.


In the "First Report signed June 29, 1894, on an enquiry into the conditions and circumstances under which lands in Wales is held, occupied and cultivated, Mr Richard Rees ......."[called and examined various people, one of whom, Mr J. Jeffrey Jones, Plas, Gellionnen, Pontardawe, furnished names of the modern farms which included these;

Llangiwg parish

The farms mentioned in the parishes of Rhyndwyglydach, Cilybebyll and Ynysmwn have not been extracted.


The article  THE INDUSTRIALIZATION OF A GLAMORGAN PARISH (Llangiwg); By Hugh Thomas, National Library of Wales journal Winter, 1975, Vol XIX/2 has the following references to local farms;

"Though the use made by the farmers of their land varied substantially and was determined by the quality of their soil and the location of their farms, they were all much more concerned with pastoral farming than arable. In 1782 the total acreage under the three main crops, wheat, barley and oats, amounted to no more than 503 1/2 acres which were apportioned as follows: wheat 97 1/4, barley 138 3/4 and oats 266 1/4.  The primary concern with the rearing of animals is reflected not only in the relatively small acreage under crops but also in the major crop, oats, which provided fodder for the cattle. This becomes abundantly clear if we examine individual farms. Betting Uchaf, one of the more fortunately situated, had 12 3/4 of its 101 acres under the three crops, of which barley was allowed 6 acres. Carreg Pentwyn, less fortunately placed, had only 3 of its 61 acres under the plough, all devoted to the growing of oats.  To confIrm the emphasis on animal husbandry in the parish the Tythe Composition of 1782 noted a total of 573 cattle and 333 calves on its farms. The record concerning sheep seems to have been rather more haphazard though a number of farms are credited with reasonably sized flocks - sixty sheep in the case of Gellilwca Fawr farm, thirty-seven and thirty-five in the cases of Llwynypryfed and Penygarn respectively" "Where a farm contained four or more fields the common practice was to allow one field to lie fallow every year - the summer fallow ( braenar haf) ...............................................   Barley would then be sown in the following Spring, during late April or early May. There were two kinds in fairly common use, the long-eared Spring barley (Barlys) which was considered good for malt making and the square-eared variety (Haidd) which was suitable for bread making. One of the local farms, Gilfach-yr-Haidd, took its name from this last crop."


"Industrial development and house-building inevitably had a profound effect upon the farms of the area, although the location of the settlements did tend to reduce the impact upon the farming economy. Some of the farms virtually disappeared --- the Ystalyfera ironworks, for instance, held the farms of Ystalyfera Isaf and Uchaf, Clyngwyn, Tir-bach, Maescwnrig, Tygwyn and Cwmtawe Uchaf with a part of Pantyffynnon.  The first five ceased for all practical purposes to function as farms, as did the part of Pantyffynnon occupied by the works.
Much of the land of other farms in the parish was occupied by the ironworks and coalmines --- Bryn Morgan at Cwm-twrch, Hendreforgan and Cwmllynfell at Cwmllynfell, Cwm-gors, Llwynrhidiau and Clynboidy in the Gwauncaegurwen-Brynaman district and Gellifowy in the hamlet of Parcel Mawr.
Farming land was also leased or sold to cater for the needs of some of the minor industries and for the building of houses and roads in the parish. The impact of all this on the farming of the parish was not as severe as might be expected for much of the house-building took place on land whose value to the farms concerned could not have been very substantial.
The heaviest concentrations of houses, for instance, were in the Craig Arw, Craig-y-merched and Gwern Fawr parts of the village of Ystalyfera. The first two of these were on the very steep, bare slopes of the Allty-grug mountain, the last on land which had been waste and woodland"


Rounded hills and eroded valleys




From History of Pontardawe and Districtby John Henry Davies 1967.

A strange subject heading perhaps, but caught my interest !

The local rivers of the Tawe and Amman and their tributaries, eroded the valleys, and between them, the rounded hills rising in Mynydd Marchywel to over 1350 feet above sea-level ; Varteg Hill, 1160ft ; Mynydd Alltygrug, 1173 ft ; Cefn Gwrhyd, 968 ft ; Penlle'r fedwen, 1173 ft ; Mynyddd y Garth, 1657 ft .

On the western side of Upper Clydach River, Mynydd Carn Llechart is 1018 ft ; Gellionnen, 850 ft ; Penlle'rcastell, 1226 ft ; south of Tor Clawdd, 1041 ft ; Mynydd Gelliwastad 698 ft ; and Graigola, north east of Glais, 677 ft.

To trace the history of the rounded hills is as interesting as tracing the formation of the valleys by the Rivers Tawe and Amman and tributaries. All the hills of the district consist of hard resistant Pennant Sandstone of Morganian Age, and river erosion produced the valleys, which were straightened, smoothed and deepened later by glaciers . The buried channel of the Tawe at Pontardawe is 200 ft below the alluvial flat.

Local lettings and easements






From History of Pontardawe and District by John Henry Davies, 1967

The following are particulars of some letting and casements:


" Gwauncaegurwen Colliery Co., Ltd. Land for the erection of 21 cottages near Gwauncaegurwen Station, together with buildings thereon known as Incline Cottage and Incline Row, held by them under the Colliery lease of 3rd December, 1891, with the valuable Reversion at the expiration or sooner determination of such lease."


" John Williams and Daniel Jenkins, Ty Isaf Quarry, 2 roods 4 1/2  perches under agreement dated 19th March, 1910, on a yearly tenancy (subject to twelve months notice). Dead rent 5 per annum, merging into the following Royalties:


David Harries, and later Mary Harries, by agreement dated 8th January, 1903. Gravel Pit at Cwmllynfell.  Rent 2 per annum. This gravel pit adjoined Midland Railway.


Pontardawe Rural District Council, under agreements had water from various springs on Gwauncaegurwen Common west of Clwyd Gwilym at 10/- a year, spring at Penlle'rfedwen Common, north of Penylan at a rent of 1per annum, and one at Penrhiwfawr at 10/- per annum. The Council had the right to construct storage tanks at a total rent of 3.10s. per annum.


Brynmelyn Quarry and Tramway on Penlle'rfedwen Common paid a dead rent of 25 per annum, merging into a Royalty of 9d per ton of  2520 lbs for every ton of stone suitable for flagstones, and 2d. per ton for other stone. For making pele with clay and small coal, the clay was dug from the surface boulderclay on Caegurwen Common, and Mary Harries paid 1 in respect of the Clay taken, and William Jones paid 2 per annum for the Clay.


The great part of the minerals were let to the Amman, Gwauncaegurwen and Cwmgors collieries. The Blaencaegurwen Colliery Company (one of the Amman Collieries) had a lease on November 24, 1846:
"All coal, culm, ironstone, iron ore, fireclay, clay, sand, sandstone and building stone lying within the or under Noyadd Farm and Gwauncaegurwen, a total of over 470 acres for a term of 99 1/2 years from September 29, 1846."

The Dead Rent was 300 per annum, merging into Royalties of 7d. per ton of 2520 lbs. for coal, culm, ironstone and iron ore, and 4d. per ton for fireclay, etc., and a Wayleave or right of passage over or under the land at 1d. per ton of 2,520 lbs.


The Gwauncaegurwen Colliery Co., Ltd., leased on December 3, 1891, all coal, ironstone and iron ore, except Red Vein Coal, in and  under part of Gwauncaegurwen Common and under Brynllefrith Farm, and also under part of Penlle'rfedwen Common and part of Penylan Farm. The Dead Rent was 1,159 per annum. In1897, a further demise of the Red Vein only lying between the Cwmllynfell and Cwmteg Faults underlying an area of 372 acres was at a Dead Rent, or rent payable whether or not the mine is worked, of 186 per annum, merging into Royalties of 5d. for every ton of 2,520 lbs. of large coal, and 2d. per like ton of small coal, 4d. per ton of fireclay, and a wayleave of 1d. per statute ton. A deduction of 5 per cent. was made for engine coal. The Red Vein was worked by the Brook Colliery, Cwmllynfell.

Pwll Perkins, Garnant





The disaster took place at "Perkins pit " Garnant on January 16th 1884.

The bard's name was David Aubrey Lewis, here are his verses which have been translated and contributed by Wyn Evans.

The original Welsh version can also be seen below.


Eighteen hundred and eighty four
A year which will be long remembered
On the sixteenth day
Of the month of January, a heavy time.

On the above very sad day
Ten men so warm and amiable
In Perkin's Pit in Cwmamman
Were thrown into eternal paradise.

John Evans that sweet singer
In this so terrible event
Ending in an instant
Life in mid stream.

John David James a pleasant boy
Who was much liked by all
I hope that today
He is in heaven without any pain.

Thomas Michael my colleague
And  my fit school pal
He also, I assume
Is in heavenly paradise too, with God

Dafydd Enoc a hard worker
Who was respected by all men
He also was hurled into eternity
Sadly and suddenly in this disaster.

Thomas Bevan another colleague
Who was so admired by me
Ready with his support
Always with a pleasant happy face.

William Lake I did not know
But I hope that he
Arrived smoothly
At the pure heavenly abode.

Edward Morgan the innocent lad
much loved by his father
A flood of tears will accompany
The memory of this good young man.

Evan Roberts and his brother Thomas
Went together at the same time
From this accident we hope
They reach a pleasant place in paradise.

Daniel Rees a likeable lad
Who did not have a father or mother
Yet in the wife of Thomas Williams
He found a sweet sincere mother.

This accident has caused
Great mourning in Cwmamman
When we saw ten of our fellow workers
Suddenly tragically cut down.


Welsh version





Also contributed by Wyn Evans


Deunaw cant wyth deg a phedwar
Blwyddyn fydd yn hir mewn cof
Ar yr unfed ddydd a'r bymtheg
O fis Ionawr trwm y tro

Ar y diwrnod pruddaidd uchod
Deg o ddynion hawddgar clyd
Ym " Mhwll y Perkins " yn Cwmamman
Hyrddwyd i dragwyddol fyd

John Evans y canwr melys
Yn y ddamwain erchys loes
Drengodd megis is amrhantiaeth
Pan ynghanol gyrfa oes

John David Jones y bachgen serchog
Ag oedd anwyl genyf fi
Ni obeithion ei fod heddiw
Yn y nef uwch poen a chri

Thomas Michael fy nghydymaeth
A fy nghyd-ysgolor gwiw
Y mae yntau mi hyderwn
Ym mhreswylfa nefoedd Duw

Dafydd Enoc, y gweithiwr campus
Oedd yn barchus gan bob dyn
Yntau hyrddwyd i'r bythol fyd
Drwy y ddamwain sydyn flin

Thomas Bevan fy nghydymaeth
Ac anwyl iawn i'm bron
Parod oedd  i'm gynorthwyo
Gyda gwyneb hawddgar llon

William Lake nid own ei adwaun
Ond gobeithiwn ei fod ef
Wedi cyrraedd yn ddiangol
I drigfanau pur y nef

Edward Morgan y llanc tirion
Oedd yn anwyl gan ei dad
Dagrau llu sydd yn einienid
Coffadwriaeth y llanc maad

Evan Roberts ai frawd Thomas
Cawsant fyned yr un pryd
Drwy y ddamwain mi obeithiwn
I ororau gwynfa glyd

Daniel Rees y crotyn anwyl
Nad oedd ganddo fam na thad
Eto'n  mhriod Thomas Williams
Gwelodd famaith fwyn difrad

Mae y ddamwain wedi peru
Yng  Nghwmamman alar mawr
Gweled deg o'n cyd-fforddolion
Wedi cael eu torri lawr


(The level crossing at Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen)



By Oli Devereaux


Translated and contributed by Wyn Evans

Oliver Devereaux was born in Caeglas,Tairgwaith in 1909. He was the youngest of the four children of Thomas and Mary Devereaux.  His mother was the daughter of Dafydd Howells, known as Howells y Bardd. Her brother was the Rev D.J.Howells, a Methodist minister of Brechfa, who was also a well known poet. So Oli 's genes gave him some poetic abilities.In the main he worked as a collier in the Mardy pit G.C.G., the Ynys colliery in Brynamman and the Coed Duon pit in Glanamman.In his spare time he was an amateur boxer, and for a couple of years was captain of the Brynamman rugby team.Unfortunately a serious accident in Coed Duon pit in 1938 ended his mining career. He then worked in various jobs with the local Cooperative Society and stayed with them until he retired at 65. Poetry was his hobby and he wrote some for family and friends.He died in 1983.


Crossin y Waun

If sometime you are travelling
In the direction of the Waun Crossing
Seeing the hosts passing by
The tall,the short, the fat and thin.

The traffic driven from all directions
It's amazing how many are coming
From Tairgwaith, Cwmgors and Brynamman
Flowing down towards Ammanford.

Bus loads from Lampeter, Llandeilo
All pointing towards the "town"
To Mumbles or Langland for sailing
And back to the Waun for tea.

It's worth you looking at leisure
At the seat near the Waun gates
and listen to amusing stories
As well as the puffing of trains.

You will hear about Ianto Jonah
Joe Bancs or Charli Pentip
Jac Sais, Shoni Owen,Will Hannah
Old Pomprem and others on lips

Twm Cole and old Shoni Barbwr
Jac Peps and the boys called the Stakes
Cawdor, Brook and the Dartmoor
The Starch and Put and Take pits.

The tin works the brickworks, Will Ffatri
The old  Pwll y Wrach factory
The Waun band
And choirs big and small.

Pen yr incline and the Company houses
And  the William Jones chip shop
Hear about Ginger Brandy
The fan pit ,the tents and the gyps.

The seats at the Waun crossing
Give topics so numerous
Items so funny and splendid
And those unheard of before

Looking towards the Chemist's shop
A crowd so vast are approaching
With hands full of "scrips"
About  various ailments for curing

It is amazing how many
Of the Waun people are so unhealthy
Rhiwmatics and pneumo coniosis
Beat knee,  laziness and scabs.

It is a sight for a pair of sore eyes
To see the gates firmly shut
Everybody so impatient
Convinced that it is other one's fault

The traffic build up is terrific
Impossible to keep up the count
They stretch from the Cae to capel Siloh
From the gates to well past the Mount.

The drivers are getting so tired
Tempers are rather frayed
To see never ending shunting
Of  engines and the coal trucks

Here like the striking  of a match
In a flash and off they go
Such traffic over the Crossing
To Brynamman and Rhydyfro.

Women with shopping Baskets
To the Butchers they do go
Men running to place bets
Madly puffing smoking cigarettes.

Its a real spiritual tonic
Having a really good time
Spending a leisurely hour
At the old Crossing  y Waun.

There is no need for anyone
To go to Majorca  in Spain
You can get double entertainment
On the seats at Crossin y Waun

"A few ideas that went through my mind as I sat in the car outside the surgery, near the Waun Crossing last Thursday.

I hope that you get the same enjoyment in the reading as I had in the writing." Oli  Devereaux.

Christian Temple. Eglwys Annibynnol Gellimanwydd. Rhydaman. 1782-1982.





Here are some snippets extracted from the commemorative booklet by Rachel L Thomas [some as translated by me]

Ministers of the chapel;


Wm. Jones, Wm. Davies, Morgan Morgan, Coslett Coslett, John Richards, Rees Rees, John James, John Jones, John Herbert, John Morgan, Daniel Davies, Dd. Richards, Wm. Bowen, Thomas Daniel, Wm. Thomas, John Thomas, John Richards, Wm. James, Wm. Jones, Thomas Williams a John Davies.

Wm. Thomas, John Thomas, John Richards, John Lloyd, D. J. Jones, Parchg. J. Morgan, Evan Evans, Daniel Evans, George Davies, Evan Jones, J. Evan Jones, J. Caleb Jones, John Evans, Isaac Williams, Job Thomas, T. Lake, John Thomas, W. Tudor Jones Evan Rogers, J. Thomas James, James Jones, Abel Morgan, D. Jones (Ysg.), T. Davies, Griffith Evans, J. James, D. Jones (Betws), D. J. Lodwick, A. J. Wilkins, B. D. Morgan, D. R. Griffiths, (Amanwy), E. J. James, T. L. Morgan, W. J. Mainwaring, Dd. Walters, W. Williams, T. H. James, J. D. James, L. Sunderland, Maldwyn Jones, Geraint W. Davies, Cyril Wilkins, W. J. Mathews, Norman O. Richards, D. Howard Evans a Rachel L. Thomas


Dafydd Bowen; Rees Morgan; John Richards, Waunlwyd; David Richards; John Richards, Cross Inn; John Evans; Thomas Lake; Ardon Jones; David Jones; A. J. Wilkins; J. D. James, a Rachel L. Thomas,


Dafydd Bowen, Anthony Howells, Thomas Penry, John Harris, John Herbert, D. J. Jones, W. Tudor Jones, B. D. Morgan, Llewelyn Williams, Norman O. Richards.


D. J. Jones, John Evans, Gwilym R. Jones, Trevor Rees.

Photographs in the booklet;

Wild Wales, Its People, Language and Scenery by George Borrow 1862





Some Brynamman related snippets from the book;

The north/south divide as seen through a conversation on George Borrow's journey from Llangadog to Brynamman

This piece comes from a section of the book where the author describes his journey from Llangadog to Gutter Vawr[Brynamman]. After he's been walking 3/4 hours he relates ;

".........on my left to the east upon a bank was a small house on one side of which was a wheel turned round by a flush of water running in a little artificial canal; close by it were two small cascades, the waters of which and also those of the canal passed under the bridge in the direction of the west. Seeing a decent looking man engaged in sawing a piece of wood by the roadside I asked him in Welsh whether the house with  the wheel was a flour-mill.

"Nage" he said, " it is a pandy, fulling mill".

"Can you tell me the name of the river", said I, " which I have left about a mile behind me ? Is it the Sawdde ?"

"Nage", he said, "It is the Lleidach"

Then looking  at me with great curiosity he asked if I came from the north country.

"Yes, " said I, " I certainly come from there".

"I am glad to hear it", said he, " for I have long wished to see a man from the north country".

"Did you never see one before?" said I.

"Never in my life," he replied, "men from the north country seldom show themselves  in these parts."

"Well," said I, " I am not ashamed to say that I come from the north".

"Aint you? Well, I don't know that you have any particular reason to be ashamed, for it is rather your misfortune than your fault; but the idea of anyone coming from the north---ho, ho !"

"Perhaps in the north," said I," they laugh at a man from the south ".

" Laugh at a man from the south ! No, no, they can't do that ".

"Why not?" said I, "why shouldn't the north laugh at the south as well as the south at the north?"

"Why shouldn't it? why, you talk like a fool. How could the north laugh at the south as long as the south remains the south and the north the north ? Laugh at the south ! you talk like a fool David, and, if you go on in that way I shall be angry with you. However, I'll excuse you; you are from the north, and what can one expect from the north but nonsense ? Now tell me, do you of the north eat and drink like other people ? What do you live upon?"

................and so it went on a bit finally ending with;

"Where are you going tonight ?"

"To Gutter Vawr"

"Well, then, you had better not loiter, Gutter Vawr is a long way off over the mountain. It will be dark, I am afraid, long before you get to Gutter Fawr. Good evening David ! I am glad to have seen you, for I have long wished to see a man from the north country. Good evening ! you will find plenty of good ale at Gutter Vawr."

[From 'Wild Wales, Its people, Language and Scenery' by George Borrow, 1862. Gareth Hicks 1 June 2001 G]

Borrow arrives in Gutter Vawr to a warm welcome

.................................It was here pouring with rain...............crossing a bridge over a kind of torrent I found myself among some houses, I entered one of them from which a blaze of light and a roar of voices proceeded, and on enquiring of an old woman who confronted me in the passage I found that I had reached my much needed haven of rest, the tavern of Gutter Vawr in the county of Glamorgan.

The old woman.......turned out to be the landlady......she conducted me into a small room ......which proved to be the parlour. It was cold and comfortless, there was no fire in the grate...............she returned with a couple of buxom wenches * who I soon found were her daughters. The good lady had little or no English; the girls however had plenty................ they soon lighted a fire.........

[He asked] " Pray tell me what prodigious noise is that which I hear on the other side of the passage?"

" It is only the miners and the carters in the kitchen, making merry."

"Well then, I shall go in there till supper is ready."

" You will find them a rough set in the kitchen."

It [the kitchen] was nearly filled with rough unkept fellows smoking, drinking, whistling, singing, shouting or jabbering, some in a standing, some in a sitting posture. My entrance seemed at once to bring everything to a dead stop: the smokers ceased to smoke, the hand that was conveying the glass or mug to the mouth was arrested in air, the hurly-burly ceased and every eye was turned upon me with a strange enquiring stare.

.............I advanced to the fire, spread out my hands before it for a minute, gave two or three deep ahs of comfort, then turning round said

"Rather a damp night gentlemen----fire cheering to one who has come the whole way from Llandovery---Taking a bit of a walk in Wales, to see the scenery and to observe the manners and customs of the inhabitants---Fine country , gentlemen, noble prospects, hill and dale---Fine  people too---open hearted and generous; no wonder !  descendants of the Ancient Britons---Hope I don't intrude ---other room rather cold and smoking---If I do I will retire at once---don't wish to interrupt any gentlemen in their avocations or deliberations---scorn to do anything ungenteel or calculated to give offence---hope I know how to behave myself---ought to do so---learnt grammar at the High school in Edinburgh."

"Offence, intrusion !" cried twenty voices.

"God bless your honour! no intrusion and no offence at all---sit down--sit here---won't you drink ?"

" Please do sit here sir", said an old grimy looking man, getting up from a seat in the chimney-corner---" this is no seat for me whilst you are here, it belongs to you, sit down in it," and laying hold of me he compelled me to sit down in the chair of dignity, whilst half a dozen hands pushed mugs of beer towards my face.....................................

........" Have you any news to tell of the war, sir?" said a large rough fellow who was smoking a pipe.

"The last news that I heard of the war", said I," was that the snow was two feet deep at Sebastopol.".......................

"Can you speak Welsh?" said  a darkish man with black bristly hair and a small inquisitive eye.

"Oh , I know two words in Welsh", said I," bara y caws".

........the man turning to a neighbour of his, said in Welsh

" He knows nothing of Cumraeg, only two words; we may say anything we please; he can't understand us. What a long nose he has!"

"Mind that he an't nosing us", said his neighbour,"I should be loth to wager that he doesn't understand Welsh; and after all he didn't say that he did not, but got off by saying that he understood those two words."

" No, he doesn't understand Welsh," said the other, "no Sais understands Welsh, and this is a Sais.........."

The company soon got into its old train, drinking and smoking and making a most terrific hullabaloo. Nobody took any farther notice of me. I sat snug in the chimney corner ...................................

[ To avoid confusion, Borrow went out for his supper and when he returned to the kitchen the atmosphere had considerably changed. The upshot was that they suspected he did understand everything they said, and this he admitted. There then follows several more pages of dialogue in similar vein].

[From 'Wild Wales, Its people, Language and Scenery' by George Borrow, 1862. Gareth Hicks 2 June 2001 D/G]

From Brynamman to Pontardawe

After paying the reckoning, which only amounted to three and sixpence, I departed for Swansea, distant about thirteen miles. Gutter Vawr consists of one street, extending for some little way along the Swansea Road, the foundry, and a number of huts and houses scattered here and there. The population is composed almost entirely of miners , the workers at the foundry, and their families. For the first two or three miles, the country through which I passed did not at all prepossess me in favour of Glamorganshire: it consisted of low, sullen, peaty hills. Subsequently, however, it improved  rapidly, becoming bold, wild and pleasantly wooded. The aspect of the day improved also, with the appearance of the country. When I first started the morning was wretched and drizzly, but in less than an hour it cleared up wonderfully, and the sun began to flash out. As I looked on the bright luminary I thought of Ab Gwilym's ode to the sun and Glamorgan, and with breast heaving and with eyes full of tears, I began to repeat parts of it, or rather of a translation made in my happy boyish years.

.................came to Llanquick, a hamlet situated near a tremendous gorge, the sides of which were covered with wood. Thence to the village of Tawy Bridge, at the bottom of a beautiful valley, through which runs the Tawy, which after the Taf, is the most considerable river in Glamorganshire.

Continuing my course I passed by an enormous edifice which stood on my right hand. It had huge chimneys, which were casting forth smoke and from within I heard the noise of a steam engine and the roar of furnaces.

"What place is this ?" said I to a boy.

"Gwaith haiarn, sir; ym perthyn i Mr Pearson. Mr Pearson's iron works, sir".

[From 'Wild Wales, Its people, Language and Scenery' by George Borrow, 1862. Gareth Hicks 3 June 2001 D/G]

A typical mining life and death ?





David Davies (Dai Tirbach) was born into a coal mining family in Cwmgors in 1910, he was the sixth child out of ten born to William and Sarah Davies.
The family were known as the 'Tirbachs' to distinguish them from all the other Davieses in the village, the name comes from the smallholding  near Llandeilo where William Davies ( Dai's great grandfather) lived in the mid 1850s.

They built their own house on Llwynrhydie land in Cwmgors in the late 1880s and within a few years this had expanded to three adjoining houses, informally known as Tirbach Terrace. The rear walls of the back gardens were only yards away from Cwmgors colliery.

Dai presumably left school at 12, he worked  'in athracite' from the age of 20, he couldn't initially have had many doubts about where he would spend his working life, just like his grandfather, father and brothers.

Perhaps he was influenced by the industrial unrest of the 1920s, both national and local --- there is a photograph on the Picture Gallery (Cwmgors) of his father William with strikers at Ammanford in 1925. Maybe he took note that his father died at the age of 50, and his grandfather wasn't exactly long lived dying at age 63. 
Whatever, he did try and 'get away' from mining, but wasn't successful soon enough it seems.

In the Picture Gallery (Pontardawe 6) there are photographs of him in 1931 on a summer course at Pontardawe Mining and Technical Institute, subject surveying; he also attended surveying Summer Schools in 1928 & 1931 at Swansea University. So, even at age 18 it appears he was looking for an alternative to underground coal mining work.
I have no information on whether he obtained any surveying qualifications, but assume not.

His driving licence shows he was living in London with his sister Bess between 1938 and 1941/2 , doing what I don't know, it was war time.

His health must have already deteriorated since in January 1945 there was a Medical Report by Howell Davies (DMRE Camb, MBBS, London) of Swansea; an X-ray of Dai's chest showed changes due to pneumoconiosis, the stated cause of his disability and he was advised to apply to the Board immediately.
Dai was by now 34, he had been 15 years 'in anthracite', then worked at the Steer Pit.
But he was seemingly unsuccessful, a further letter in 1964, from the Pneumoconiosis Medical Panel in Swansea advised him that "although the X-ray appearances suggest that there is a little dust in your lungs, the changes are considered too insignificant to suggest that you are suffering from the prescribed disease Pneumoconiosis"
See Picture Gallery (Cwmgors 5) for a view of the actual Medical Report and letter.

Dai was for a few years c 1952/59 a partner with my parents Handel Hicks and Rae, his sister, in a milk round /shop business in Shoreditch, London. He really struggled in any active sense following the lethal smog conditions in London in 1952 which killed 4000 people. I remember it fairly well, he was badly incapacitated by an inability to breathe easily, he had returned home to Cwmgors before 1958/9 and never worked again to my knowledge.

He was a bit of a lad though, he had brought his Francis Barnet motorcycle up to London with him but it spent most of its time 'in the way' in the shop storeroom in the yard.  Another memory for me is Dai and my father buying an old van for the business, it never moved from being parked outside the shop, what a heap, they were well and truly done by an East End fly boy. I could never work out which of them was supposed to be the mechanical expert !

Dai spent the last 10 years or so of his life totally dependent on his 'pwmp' and unable to walk more than a few yards without a long rest; you could hear his wheezing chest coming a way off.
I well remember him sat in a chair in the corner by the fire in the 'gegin' at 34 Gors Street, he was looked after by his sisters.

I never heard of any involvement with the opposite sex, he certainly remained a bachelor all his life.
My memory is of a retiring man, a dry wit with an interest in what went on in the world. I don't think he was a particularly religious person, at least he wasn't a regular chapel goer, although all the family probably were when his grandmother 'Mamgu White' was still alive !

He died in 1966 at the age of 56 and was buried in the family plot at Hen Carmel.
The death certificate states that the cause of death was 'broncho-pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysaema after post mortem.'

So, were 'they' right in 1945 and 1964 about the affect of coal dust on his lungs ?  
From this distance in time it certainly looks like a case of governments doing their best to limit payouts by setting unduly high medical parameters, but I would say that wouldn't I ?
I know that the government in recent years has 're-opened the books' on compensation claims for mining diseases, but too late for Dai.

Local newspaper item from 1966;

"The death has ocurred of Mr David Davies age 56, of High St , Cwmgorse. He was a bachelor and had been a shotfirer at the GCG pits, latterly at Cwmgorse Colliery. He was known as ' Dai Tirbach' and was a member of one of the district's oldest families of sportsmen. All his brothers played rugby for Cwmgorse and his brother Will Davies while playing for Swansea as a wing forward obtained 4 caps for Wales."

See the extracts from 'The Fed' on this site for further local background re pneumoconiosis etc

(Gareth Hicks, January 2004)


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