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Music : Land of my Fathers

 

 

The Rhondda Valley

 

Croeso i Rhondda

Welcome to the Rhondda

 

Welcome to my website, our journey takes us through the beautiful Rhondda Valley.

The Rhondda is the most famous of the valleys that comprise the heart of\par South Wales. Cardiff may be the capital of Wales; Newport, Bridgend and Swansea may dominate the plain; but the valleys are the inner sanctum of Wales.

In the village of Pontrhydyfen, above Port Talbot, the actor Richard Burton was born and brought up. Here, in Tredegar, Aneurin ("Nye") Bevan, creator of Britain's National Health Service and firebrand of British politics in the 1940's and 1950's , was born. Just down the road from Tredegar is the birthplace of Neil Kinnock, the former Labour Party leader.

Here, the great choirs and brass bands of Wales practice and play. Here, the coal and steel that once fuelled the industrial greatness of modern Britain was mined and smelted. The Valleys themselves stretch from Pontypool in the east, just over the border with England, to west of Llanelli. What is known as "the Valleys" is in fact the geological South Wales coalfield

Here, in the Rhondda, is history

.

"The Land of my Fathers"

The National Anthem of Wales

 

The land of my fathers, the land of my choice,

The land in which poets and minstrels rejoice;

The land whose stern warriors were true to the core,

While bleeding for freedom of yore,

Chorus

Wales! Wales! fav'rite land of Wales!

While sea her wall, may naught befall

To mar the old language of Wales.

-------------

Old mountainous Cambria. the Eden of bards,

Each hill and each valley, excite my\par regards;

To the ears of per patriots how charming\par still seems

The music that flows in her streams.

Chorus

Wales! Wales" fav'rite land of\par Wales!

While sea her wall, may naught\par befall

To mar the old language of Wales.

---------

My country tho' crushed by a hostile array,

The language of Cambria lives out to this day;

The muse has eluded the traitors' foul knives,

The harp of my country survives.

Chorus

Wales! Wales! fav'rite land of Wales!

While sea her wall, may naught befall

To mar the old language of Wales.

What better place to start in the Rhondda than to choose music and song, so much associated with Wales and in particular the Rhondda Valley.

All Welshmen sing like angels. That's what all Welshmen like you to think, anyway. Put any two together and within minutes they'll have a sing-song going. Put 100 of them together and you'll have one of the world's great choirs pounding out one of the world's great melodies, anything from Bach's Oratario to Josephs Parry's Myfanwy.

 

Cor beibion Pontypridd

Cor Meibion Pontypridd

Formed in 1949, Cor Meibion Pontypridd has continued to provide an opportunity for eager male choristers to\par experience the unique atmosphere of strong Welsh Singing established by their forefathers in the last century.

The choir is in great demand for concert work both locally and the choir has visited Poland, Northern Ireland and on numerous occasions, Germany. Strong links have been forged with Liederkranz Oberensingen a male choir from Pontypridd's twin

1999 is a particularly special year for Cor Meibion Pontypridd as they celebrate their Golden Jubilee, during which time they will be touring many locations including the United States as well as throughout the UK.

(Photograph with the kind permission of Cor Meibion Pontypridd)

Cor Meibion Pontypridd website

Pontypridd.

Pontypridd, 12 miles (19km) north of Cardiff and known locally as "Ponty", has many fine old buildings of local stone and a bridge which, when built in 1750, had the longest span in the world (140 ft'45 metres); the down as its predecessor did. The town (pop. 33,500) is the birthplace of singers Sir Geraint Evans and Tom Jones. By the bridge, the Pontypridd Historical and Cultural Centre has an evocative collection of photographs and exhibits depicting life as it was in the valleys' coal-mining heyday.

The Rhondda.

The most famous of the valleys that comprise the heart of South Wales.

The Blaenrhondda mountain is a perfect place to see just what a valley is. From the top, on the A4061 road, the visitor looks down on a perfect geological rift. Steep sides rise to perhaps 1,500 ft (460 metres) from a narrow floor that in places in not half a mile across. The tops are plateaus, excellent for walking; the sides, deeply wooded higher up, have terraces of small houses lower down clinging to them like limpets.

Rhondda houses

Rhondda houses.

From the top of the plateau the view could be of South Africa's veldt, gently-waving long grass in the breeze turning to gold as autumn approaches. In the solitude the only sound you can hear is the sound of the wind. Below, the river cuts a roughly straight path down to the coast. It originates just a few miles north, in the Brecon Beacons, the southern edge of the great plateau of Mid-Wales, a land where sheep outnumber people by 100 to 1.

Coal has been the seminal influence on the valleys. Iron and other ores, especially copper, were smelted and large numbers worked in the industry. But South Wales is associated with coal like Bavaria with beer.

At its peak, in 1921, some 271,000 men worked in the industry. The record production, however, was in 1913, just before World War I. when 56.8 million tons were produced. In the 1920s there were 66 pits in the Rhondda Valley alone. All have closed. Although the industry seems to be in terminal decline, a few privately owned pits are keeping mining proudly alive in the Valleys. One group of 240 miners at Tower colliery at Hirwaun in Mid Glamorgan, for example, used their savings to buy Wales's last deep pit for £1.9 million. Soon they were exporting to Europe and even began to undercut competitors in China, Cambodia and Vietnam - the source of so many of the pits' financial problems when they were under state ownership.

The gamble paid off: in their first year, the miners showed a £2 million profit.

Major land reclamation programmes in the Valleys have resulted in the removal or grassing over of the old tips, which now resemble enormous Roman burial grounds. The rivers, which one time ran black, have been cleaned up and the salmon are returning.

Rhondda Minter

The backbone of Wales, the Rhondda miner.

The Valleys themselves stretch from Pontypool in the east, just over the border with England, to west of Llanelli. What is known as "the Valleys" is in fact the geological South Wales coalfield.

Barry.

The town of Barry, a major coal exporting port in the 19th century, is now sedately residential, situated on the coast of the Bristol Channel, about 8 miles south west of

In the late 1800's Barry Docks became a major export centre for coal from the rapidly expanding South Wales mines. Barry Island, with its holiday camp and pleasure beach, became come to Barry for the traditional "Miners Fortnight".

Today, the Welsh coal industry has declined to a shadow of its former self. Most of the pits are closed and because of this Barry Docks has ceased its coal exports. You can now walk through the Docks and find ships offloading coal from Eastern Europe.

Caerphilly Castle.

Guarding the southern approaches to the Valleys is mighty Caerphilly Castle, one of Europe's greatest surviving examples of medieval military architecture. Its presence in an ordinary town is wholly unexpected, but it was strategically placed to control the exits from the Welsh strongholds in the valleys.

Caerphilly Castle at dawn.

The huge 13th century fortress, with its sophisticated system of water defences, concentric fortifications and leaning tower (which out-leans Pisa) is Britain's biggest castle apart from Windsor.

Caerphilly.

The Rhondda..continued


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