There was a time when I travelled the valleys of South Wales quite extensively. I have clear, sometimes dramatic, memories of battling both the roads and the elements. I remember Rhymney, Llanilleth, Cwm, Ebbw Vale, Brecon Beacons, Merthyr Tydfil, Bryn-Mawr, Black Mountain and the Heads of the Valley Road.


Sitting in the quiet of the local library,

I seek enlightenment in an antediluvian

on-loan tome, available to own only

from a mail-order book shop, at a price.

that would most surely anger the bard.


He, a thinker, almost forgotten now,

wrote with passion of the rigours and

privations endured by the pugnacious,

often half-starving and always furious

working class of a subterranean Wales.


Rebellious… never reckless, he rang

The Bells of Rhymney for the world.

A good friend to the wild Welsh hills,

made his song of the Brecon Beacons

on a stroll to Merthyr Tydfil long ago.


A poet, born, lived and died in Wales,

knew fetid pit and fresh mountain air,

no Elgin Marbles to demean his voice,

or diminish its power, or penetration,

into the hearts and minds of his people.


End Note:

Idris Davies [1905-1953] was born in Rhymney, near Caerphilly in South Wales, the Welsh-speaking son of colliery worker Evan Davies and his wife Elizabeth Ann. He became a coalface poet, writing in Welsh, but later writing exclusively in English. He was a socialist, a social historian being the only poet to cover and record important events of the early twentieth century in the Valleys and coalfields.


Idris Davies produced a considerable body of poetic work, he is best remembered today however for the iconic, ‘The Bells of Rhymney’. This haunting echo of South Wales resistance comes from his 1938 collection, ‘Gwalia Deserta’ otherwise known as ‘Wasteland of Wales’ or Wales a Desert or possibly Deserted Wales, depending upon the translator.


Pete Seeger, American socialist activist, writer and folk singer adapted the poem and presented it as a 1950s folk song thus taking it to international audiences and establishing it in the popular culture. In the 1970s Welsh entertainer Max Boyce brought the work ‘When We Walked to Merthyr Tydfil’ to a club, record and radio.



February 2014 – Liverpool NSW - © Dermott Ryder

From a reading at the Screw Soapers Guild

Views: 97

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Sydney Poetry to add comments!

Join Sydney Poetry

On Facebook



© 2020   Created by Adrian Wiggins.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service