The Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1867
By D. L. BAKER-JONES
, M.A., J.P.
The National Eisteddfod of Wales was held at Carmarthen during the first week of September 1867.1
A contemporary, described it as a grand meeting of bards, literati and others interested in the prosperity of Wales and in its material and intellectual improvement'. The week's activities included ceremonial processions, competitions, concerts, exhibitions and public lectures. The gentry of the county played a prominent role and their presidential addresses covered a wide variety of social and political problems. Among the patrons and speakers were — David Pugh, Esq. (M.P. for Carmarthen), Judge John Johnes of Dolau Cothi (Chairman of the Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions), H. Lavallin Puxley, Esq. (a former High Sheriff of the County) and the Rev. John Griffiths (Vicar of Neath). In spite of the generally festive atmosphere there was sharp division between Cynddelw and Caledfryn concerning the award of the chair for the 'awdl' and John Ceiriog Hughes was selected as a referee who later awarded the prize to the Rev. Richard Parry (Gwalchmai).
The principal figure in the evening concerts was Brinley Richards who had engaged many professional singers from the London stage. In fact this was strongly objected to in some quarters as 'too much prominence was given to foreign productions to the exclusion of the efforts of the Cambrian muse'. There was some display of feeling on account of this, yet the crowds conducted themselves with reasonable decorum, and as one reporter summed up the situation — 'if a large miscellaneous assembly met in an English town the probability is that half of the multitude would engage in dog fighting, rat killing, duck in the hole, or some other dehumanising sports and the result would be a considerable addition to the business of the police court'. Others were concerned not so much with the merits of individual competitors, as with the discomforts of the pavilion, the rickety state of its roof and the appallingly wet weather.
The Eisteddfod had been eagerly looked forward to for a year and heralded as a 'most auspicious occasion in the annals of the town'. One observer contrasted the modern arrangements for the assembly to meet under a pavilion with the open air gatherings of the past. The ancient Gorsedd deserved praise, too, but there had been a marked change from the time when — 'wild looking men attired in night gowns met together to play harps and recite poetry not understood by one half of the persons who heard it'. Another said there was danger that the Eisteddfod, and the Gorsedd especially, would eclipse itself in its own grandeur. Some bards were attacked because they used the Eisteddfod to air views which had nothing to do with Welsh music, literature or culture. Controversy arose about the place of the Welsh language in the proceedings. The Carmarthen Journal
believed that Carmarthen deserved credit for introducing 'what was much required — an English element — into the meetings, to an extent far greater than has ever been attempted'. There had already been enmity between the Welsh and English press. According to the latter 'some wished to keep their institution exclusive and manifest such contempt for the assistance of those they wished to propitiate . . . . In times such as the present, it is very clear that anything like narrow-mindedness amongst a people as a body should be discouraged'. Notwithstanding the duty of every Welshman to support his native language and literature, it had to be remembered 'that we are serving one government, and that we love, honour and obey the Queen, foster peace and goodwill between England and Wales and in short love our neighbours as ourselves'.
As we shall see later the lectures and discourses of the Social Science Department, were an important feature of the Eisteddfod, and were even compared by some to the meetings of the British Association. Other attractions were exhibitions in the fields of Antiquities, Natural History, Art and Industry.
The guiding light in the organisation of the Eisteddfod was the Rev. Latimer Jones, Vicar of St. Peter's, Carmarthen, 1863-78. As president of the committee he had ensured the success of the Eisteddfod, it was claimed, in spite of a vociferous group, who being anti-English, had their own ideas about organising a 'national' Eisteddfod. In this he had been 'ably' assisted by two active secretaries, Mr. Edward Joseph and Mr. Roose Jones.
In the account that follows the Eisteddfod is recalled day by day according to the programme of events arranged for the occasion.
* * * *
MONDAY EVENING — GRAND CONVERSAZIONE
The first important event during the week was the Grand Conversazione, held at the Town Hall at 7.00 p.m, on Monday evening. The room had been elaborately decorated with flowers and plants from the gardens and conservatories of Golden Grove, Dynevor Castle, Edwinsford and other country mansions. Indeed, because of the fragrance of the flowers and the perfume of the ladies, 'it was difficult to breathe and excursions to the refreshment room were very frequent'. There was an impressive gathering of county gentry and principal figures in Welsh literary and musical circles. The entertainment was provided by the militia band as well as by the many 'vocal performances of several ladies and gentlemen'. The Misses Roberts and their brother Dr. Roberts sang a trio, and the latter obliged the audience with two encores — 'Good night my Love' and 'The Death of Nelson'. Herr Hauptmann2
was the guest artist giving many solos on the violin, while the local choir was conducted by Mr. D. Francis.
At about 8.00 p.m. the literary proceedings started with a presidential speech by the Rev. Latimer Jones. He described the Eisteddfod at Carmarthen as a place 'whence radiate in all directions, beautiful rays of literature, science and art, and whence goes forth beautiful kinds of music and of song, which find an echo in every home and in every heart'. The Eisteddfod was a Welsh insitution, the true outgrowth of the Celtic mind, but the important question was whether it was to be kept up for pernicious or for useful purposes, and was its policy going to be 'exclusiveness or generous amity and goodwill'? There was a danger of lack of sympathy from outside because of narrow nationalism within. He went on to say of the Eisteddfod: 'It is the channel for the flow of the Celtic genius — it illustrates national life but does not desire a separate national language, a separate nationality nor a separate and distinct existence'. The president continued unwisely in this vein, and had quoted from Matthew Arnold to the effect that Wales could learn much from Celtic and other contiguous nations. During these remarks there were noisy interruptions in spite of the noble sentiments about Welsh people — 'their love of beauty, charm and spirituality'. After praising the bravery of Welshmen and the valour of their soldiers, the speaker pleaded for more education in natural history, because hitherto, there had been gross neglect in teaching schoolboys the names of birds, plants, flowers and grasses. Lastly, the Eisteddfod could do much for the commercial and industrial problems of Wales.
Two other speakers followed. Mr. Salter,3
F.R.G.S., described the pleasures of natural history and the delightful study of butterflies and moths. Concerning social progress, he stressed that the time had come for — 'the lower classes to acquire the intellectual hobbies and interests of the upper classes'. There followed a lecturette by Mr. Bartlett, manager of the Zoological Gardens, London, on the subject of snakes and serpents and the proceedings ended at 11.00 p.m.
This was the first of many such meetings. Hitherto insufficient attention has been given to these gatherings at the Eisteddfod, and to the stimulus they gave in moulding public opinion on vital social and political matters. They provided a forum to air views on friendly societies, life assurance, building societies, emigration, labourers' cottages, the extension of day schooling, mining and the mineral wealth of Wales, the depopulation of the countryside and the influx of workers from the countryside to the towns.
The problem of improved wages and working conditions emerged, so that people could enjoy the 'necessaries of life' more and more thereby, as one speaker said, the taste of the 'masses could be refined, extended and elevated and their morals guarded and strengthened'.
Before the competitive meetings in the Pavilion commenced, the Social Science Department met under the presidency of Hugh Owen.4
This branch of the Eisteddfod was a recent innovation, only since the Aberdare Eisteddfod in 1861. It had become a regular feature at Swansea 1863, Llandudno 1864, Aberystwyth 1865 and Chester 1866. These meetings, the speaker said, had been useful for airing important aspects of Welsh affairs and for giving new and untried speakers their first public opportunity. One notable example quoted was that of the young Anglesey schoolmaster who had read a paper on philology. Present at the time was the Rev. Chancellor James Williams,5
who induced the speaker to proceed to Oxford as a student of Jesus College. Hugh Owen was referring to Sir John Rhys.
But the longest and most controversial paper read that morning was given by the Rev. Henry Solby, London, on 'Working Men's Social Clubs in Wales'. He argued that properly organised clubs could wean men from the grog-shop to clubs selling tea or coffee and allowing a five-shilling bonus for every pound saved. Solby pleaded for more 'temperate habits' among the working classes so that their wives and children could be saved from poverty and misery. The paper was so well received that Mr. Samuel, Llandeilo, wanted it translated into 'popular Welsh'.
Preparations for Tuesday's events had been severely marred by a storm of thunder and lightning during the small hours of the morning, so that paper decorations and garlands were completely ruined. Later on the storm abated and the procession, led by the militia band, moved towards the Pavilion. Some two thousand people assembled behind The Three Compasses Inn in Lammas Street, many bearing the flags and banners of Odd Fellows
and Ivorites. Many 'respectable' men wore their military insignia, while the Corporation and committee displayed leeks. Mr. Davies, the Keeper of the Shire Hall, was attired in a black coat trimmed with scarlet and a hat with a gold band. He carried the Corporation's sword which (according to an observer) was as grand as the Lord Chancellor's. The procession was martialled as follows:
Mayor in robes (Edward Bowen Jones, Esq.), and Recorder (J. Johnes, Esq.);
The ex-Mayors in robes;
The Rev. John Griffiths, Neath; The Rev. Latimer Jones; H. Lavallin Puxley, Esq. of Llether Lluesty; Archdeacon Williams;
The Eisteddfod Committee;
The Inhabitants of Carmarthen;
Oddfellows and Ivorites.
Among slogans displayed on shops and commercial establishments were: "One and All", "Commerce and Philanthropy make all the world akin", while above The Ivy Bush were these mottos — "Home of the Bards, Old Ivy Bush", "Happiness" and "Welcome to Strangers". There was an air of jollification with the bells of St. Peter's pealing incessantly, and at the Gorsedd gathering Ieuan Morgannwg quoted Welsh proverbs and slogans. He concluded the ceremony by reciting the englyn:
Gorsedd, nac urdd, na gwersi — ni was fyth
Ddyn fardd o ynni;
O anian rhaid ei eni
A'i ddawn ynddo yn llawn felly.
Then the competitions followed in the Pavilion, — a structure built by Mr. John Lewis, Timber Merchant, for £700. Gas lighting had been installed by Messrs. Lewis and Rogers and the decorations were in the charge of Mr. Llewelyn, Cabinet Maker. There were many 'fancy adornments' — festoons of flowers and evergreens, painted escutcheons of Welsh royal and princely tribes, and mottos such as:
'Oes y Byd i'r Iaith Gymraeg'
'Duw gadwo'r Frenhines'
'Tra môr tra Brython'
'God bless the Prince of Wales'
'Gas gŵr na charo'r wlad a'i mago'.
Over the platform were the arms of gentry and nobility — Prince Lucien Bonaparte; Lt. Col. Prysc, M.P., Lord Lieutenant of Cardiganshire; Sir Thomas Lloyd, Bart. of Bronwydd; John Johnes, Esq., of Dolau Cothi; George Hasper Morgan, Esq., of London; Rev. John Griffiths, Neath; John Williams, Esq., Chairman of Anglesey Quarter Sessions; William Bulkeley Hughes, Esq., M.P.
In his presidential address David Pugh6
spoke of the worthy interest of his audience in intellectual pursuits and punctuated his oration with many grand phrases in Latin. He praised the 'Britons' for their intelligence and said he would like to see first-class schools in Wales, equal to those in Scotland and Ireland. Like other speakers at this eisteddfod, he urged 'fusion rather than isolation' in matters of industry, language and culture. There were benefits from the juxtaposition of agricultural Carmarthenshire with industrial Glamorgan, and similarly Welsh trade could not thrive except by co-operation with England. There was loud cheering when he concluded with:
"Of genius emulous to soar on high
With noble souls in noble arts to vie;
On worthy toils to see suns set and rise,
The strife is glorious and the world the prize".
Three bards composed englynion to the President and Llew Llwyfo7
sang with great gusto 'Cambria's Holiday'. The crowd was extremely disappointed when the compere, Mr. D. Seys Lewis (Mynydd Islwyn), prevented an encore from Llew in order that the proceedings should not be prolonged. This was the beginning of much bitter wrangling concerning Llew Llwyfo'r stage appearances.
During the afternoon Mr. Owen Jones of the British School, Treherbert, won the prize for an essay on 'The Flemings' and was invested by the Rev. John Grifhths.8
Ceiriog won the poem on The Coracle and was invested by Miss Jones of Pantglas. G. Osborne Morgan,9
the London barrister, considered the Rev. D. Griffiths, Dinorwig as the winner for the essay on 'The Best Defence of the Welsh against English critics'. In the music section fourteen year old Miss Moulding of Swansea had shown remarkable promise as a pianist, playing 'La Mia Letitzia'. Others gave quite competent renderings of such pieces as 'The Ash Grove' (varié) and airs from 'Der Freischutz'. Mr. Brinley Richards recommended short pieces in future and an exciting competition ended with the Mayor investing the winner. The only choir competing in the part song was the Merthyr Choristers. They were praised for promptitude and boldness in being in their places at the right time, while Mynydd Islwyn had some sharp remarks for late competitors.
During an interlude Mr. Brinley Richards explained that he was making his last professional appearance at the "Grand National Eisteddfod" by playing some of Mendelssohn's 'Lieder on Vorte'. Mr. Llewellyn Williams10
was the only competitor on the triple harp and Pencerdd Gwalia11
described his playing as a talented performance but bemoaned the lack of interect in Wales in its national instrument.
Competitions were mixed with several speeches and the Rev. J. R. Morgan (Lleurwg)12
in a panegyric on the Eisteddfod showed how it fostered reading and love of knowledge, fanned the flame of patriotism and supported the movement towards a Welsh university. He hoped for a new Ifor Hael to appear as patron of Wales's national culture. It was so rich and varied in spite of limited territory:
Os bechan ydwyt Gymru wiw,
Os cyfyng yw dy le
Cyd gasglwyd ar dy lannerch bêr
Bob ceinder is y ne'
Ein rhandir yn eangach fu
Ond digon dy amrywiaeth di.
Several more laudatory stanzas followed ending on a challenging note:
Tra twynno seren yn y nen
Yn uwch, uwch, uwch — aed Cymru wen.
Another speaker during the afternoon was the Rev. John Griffiths, Neath. His concern was the neglect of Welsh speaking congregations by the Church. He spoke with gratitude of the labours of Dissenters but wished they would show more love towards the ancient church of Dewi Sant. There were too many social distinctions within the church itself. There should be free and unappropriated pews in churches, no class distinction between its members, and greater understanding between English and Welsh speaking congregations. As a result of these remarks the Rev. John Griffiths was the target for some barbed comments from The Times.
The day's proceedings had been very harmonious until the band competition, in which the Aberamman band was awarded the prize. But the leader of the Carmarthen Militia Band angrily questioned the decision from the floor of the Pavilion. Feeling was running high and it was left to the wholehearted voice of the audience to decide in favour of Aberamman. The leader of the Carmarthen band then refused to come forward to be invested with the second prize and a turbulent scene followed. The crowd in the back seats jumped over the barriers and order was restored at last through the intervention of the Rev. John Griffiths. After eulogies to the president and various participants, the proceeding came to an end about four o'clock.
The evening concert was well attended and the programme consisted of the following principal items:
Choir — 'I'r Awen'.
Miss Edmonds — 'La Partonella' and 'Deep in the Forest Dell'. Mr. Brinley Richards — 'Fantasia on Welsh Airs' (on the grand Mr. Lewis Thomas — 'The Mill Wheel'. forte-piano).
Madam Patey-Whytock — 'Scenes of my Youth'.
Mr. Cummings — 'Sound an Alarm'.
Quartette — 'Un di si ben rammento mi'.
Choir — 'Yr Haf'.
Grand Duo — Mr. Richards and Mr. Lazarus13
; (piano and clarinet).
Richards also played selections from Weber but "alas it was not appreciated by the mass and there was a busy hum of conversation throughout the performance".
The Social Science Department was addressed by the Rev. John Griffiths who read out Mr. Tomkins's (of the London Society) paper on 'Friendly Societies'. Several interesting facts are worth mentioning. Since 1793 Wales had established some 2,461 societies. In the three counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke the figures were as follows:
Since 1857 about 460 new societies had been formed, and the strength of some of them is reflected in this table:
In addition there were many other societies attached to the Ivorites, Foresters, Oddfellows, Druids, Manchester Unity and so on.
A discussion followed and strong feelings were expressed on the undesirability of societies holding meetings in public houses. Very often, it was claimed, there was agreement between the members and the landlord that a certain quantity of drink be consumed, so that there was excessive drinking and hardship to many families. The teetotallers in the audience thought that these friendly societies should meet in chapel vestries, while others disagreed with the allegations against public houses. At one point there was a lengthy argument on the relative merits of a glass of ale and a basin of soup!
The morning's meeting concluded with a paper on 'Night Schools for Wales' given by Mr. David Williams of Llanelli, British Schools Inspector for South Wales. Hitherto, it was pointed out, there had been lack of state aid for such purposes, though much needed to be done to give technical education and instruction to young workers. The attention of the latter also needed to be drawn to 'good and wholesome literature which would allure them from the unworthy and seductive recreations so prevalent in the present day'.
At the Pavilion the proceedings were attended by Judge Johnes of Dolau Cothi,14
Bishop Connop Thirlwall15
and David Pugh. In his presidential address Johnes, like some of the other speakers, displayed a certain ambivalence towards the Welsh language. His support for the Eisteddfod would cease 'if its aims were to set race against race or for the suppresion of the English language among the people of Wales. English was not only the dominant language of this realm but the most extensively spoken language on the face of the globe'. He added many obiter dicta
on the characteristics of the Welsh people — their learning, wit, quick repartee, and 'a certain flippancy, perhaps, thought by some as lacking in good breeding.' Decrying any attempt to set race against race, Mr. Pugh said that there were advantages in having two languages; the Eisteddfod could bring rich and poor, learned and unlearned together into one arena to enjoy literature, poetry and music from many lands as well as Wales. There was need for more understanding and friendly discussion in the pursuit of truth.
Afterwards Mr. Brinley Richards spoke of the rapid advances in pianoforte playing in Wales, and Mr. Leslie said that the English had nothing but goodwill toward Welsh choirs. The Merthyr Choir won 'by a neck' with Newcastle Emlyn in the second place. In honour of the latter Ioan Emlyn15
arose to recite an englyn:
Gwŷr amlwg gôr Emlyn—hedd
Am yr haeddent gael englyn;
Gan Iago, hen blanhigyn,
Rhy' hwn glod i gôr r'un glyn.
Frequent spontaneous speech making seemed a characteristic of this and other eisteddfodau Talhaiarnt17
was given time to answer the criticisms of The Times
and traced the history of the Eisteddfod back to Gruffydd ap Nicolas, under whose patronage the 1451 Eisteddfod was held at Carmarthen.18
He even quoted (on what grounds it is difficult to imagine) from a speech by Dafydd ab Edmwnd. Nevertheless he made an important remark aimed at Welsh nonconformity and its puritanical outlook — '... the Welshman's mind has been forced into an unnecessary gloom for the past hundred years. I should like to see this swept away and exchanged for more recreation and amusement. You may depend upon it the Almighty would not have given us risible faculties if He had not intended us to enjoy them in a rational manner'.
The remainder of the afternoon included a lengthy adjudication by D. A. Williams and W. Spurrell19
on the entries for the essay on the 'History of Carmarthen' won by Alcwyn C. Evans
who was invested by the Bishop of St. David's. Mrs. Matthew of Mountain Ash, a winner at Llangollen, came first in singing 'The Rising of the Lark'. During an interlude Llew Llwyfo sang a Welsh aria and then had the audience in convulsions with his rendering of a comic song — 'John Jones and John Bull'. Llew Llwyfo was considered a 'very bad singer' by many contemporary musicians, but his 'rabid patriotism' made him a favourite with Welsh audiences. One critic said his performances were an insult to English professionals, while his supporters were alleged to be the obstreporous ringleaders in the concerts. During one meeting, the unruly crowd had shouted 'Llew, Llew' and Brinley Richards had had to apologise for excluding him as there were many in his favour because of his eisteddfodic record 'as poet, essayist and novelist'. But others, including Madame Patey-Whytock,20
one of the guest artists, regarded him more as 'a suitable specimen for a menagerie'. Llew Llwyfo was deeply hurt and to atone for the insult Ceiriog organised a public collection through which he was presented with a gold watch and chain and twenty-five guineas. Another result was a resolution to have in future 'more Welsh music and greater variety and scope to native talent'.
But to return to the Eisteddfod. Mr. Yates, a London journalist, gave his adjudication on the composition of a new song or poem. Some one hundred competitors had submitted poems, and Mr. Yates fell foul of his Welsh audience on account of his remarks about the compositions. Too much attention had been given to the ludicrous; the style of the majority at best was that of cheap English periodicals. He withheld the prize of twenty pounds and a silver medal, saying that a profusion of national fervour could not make up for genuine creative talent. Later on, the disappointed bards met in the coffee room of the Ivy Bush and made up scurrilous verses about Mr. Yates. Among 'Ha, ha's' and `Ho, ho's' they chanted:
Hear Edmund Yates Pray, who is he?
The one who scorned the ninety-three.
On Wednesday evening the concert was literally a wash-out; heavy rain and strong wind blew part of the roof off the Pavilion so that many of the audience had their umbrellas opened. The programme included such items as:
Choir — 'Who will o'er the Downs?'
Miss Edith Wynne — 'Softly sighs' and 'Oh, fair would I recall'.
Mr. Lewis Thomas — 'Largo al factotum'.
Duet (Miss Wynne and Madam Patey-Whytock) — 'Quis est homo'.
Mr. Lazarus— 'Swiss airs on the Piano'.
Mr. Cummings—'Cuius animam'.
Miss Hewson of Carmarthen — Fantasia from 'La Lucia di Lammermoor'.
Madame Patey-Whytock made a great hit with 'The Bailiff's Daughter' but during her singing of 'The Storm' part of the Pavilion roof was blown off. The prima donna was very annoyed because of the rain, the shocking state of the pavilion, and the — 'complete disorder that reigned among the audience'. Another artist complained of the audience's inattention during instrumental items and said the Welsh mind sadly needed cultivation in that respect. But the stage appearances of Miss Wynne and Miss Edmonds more than compensated for the mishaps of the evening. Both were greeted with laudatory stanzas from the bards Deheufardd and Caniedydd. Of Miss Edmonds Deheufardd said:
Dyrchafer clod Miss Edmonds fwyn
Gan feirddion Cymru dawel,
Ehedydd Gwalia ydyw hi
Ei henw sy'n aruchel;
Ei seren ymddisgleirio wna
Yn entrych hardd cerddoriaeth,
Ei phlentyn annwyl, annwyl yw
Hi swyna bob cym'dogaeth.
Rhyw adsain o ganiadau gwawl
Yw difyr gân o'i genau,
Ac odlau ei hacenion pêr
Yn nefol sydd I'm clustiau;
Ei llonder deifl i bob gwedd
Caiff hi ei llwyr edmygu,
Ei nefol wên orchfyga'r llu
Hi wna i bawb i wenu.
Anrhydedd yw i Ddyfed gu
Ei chlod aeth trwy y gwledydd,
Ei seiniau per a swynant dorf
I'r eos dug gywilydd;
Hir oes a gaffo'r feinir deg
Hir oes o glod rhagorol,
Ac wedi gadael daear lawr
Derbynied fri anfarwol.
According to Caniedydd Miss Wynne was second to none of the great artists of the day — Mesdames Linda Goldschmid,21
Angyles dawn yng ngwawl y dydd,
Berorodd bur arwyrain—
Ar enedigaeth rian deg,
Ry' odiaeth fri i Frydain:
Yn eirian wawr ei seren hi
Y gwelir pelydr Gwalia:
Ac yn ei gwên hollgeinion cân,
Yn glir i bawb ddisgleiria.
Ond pwy sydd fel ein dwsmel deg?
Min awen gu mwyn Eos,
Ein Hedith sydd a'i hodiaeth sain,
Yn eurwen pawb yn aros;
Alawon nef a lunia hon
Mewn adlef a mwyn odlau;
Hi swyna fyd! Pa sain o fath
Ei pharabl a'i hoff eiriau.
Mr. Hugh Owen took the chair at the meeting of the Social Science Department when an interesting paper on night schools for agricultural workers was read by Mr. James of St. John's Hall, London. The purpose of these schools was 'to ameliorate the condition of agricultural workers' — especially those who had not received day school education — as well as to provide extension courses for those who had had some basic schooling. Mr. James criticised some academies where mathematics was taught 'far on into Euclid and Algebra, while the farmer's son never hears a word about agriculture; the mechanic seldom works a problem in practical geometry; the quarryman learns nothing about geology'. A school of mining was needed, and an establishment where young women could learn reading, writing, orthography, history, social studies, domestic economy and housekeeping duties. But these suggestions were difficult to put into practice because of the indifference of farmers and employers, insufficient teachers, parental ignorance and poverty. Hours of work were too long and Mr. James suggested a maximum working day of ten to twelve hours!
Mr. James thought a system similar to Sunday School might be the answer, with voluntary teachers and a parochial collection for their maintenance. He even suggested a tax on wages, assistance from the council of the National Eisteddfod, and the grouping together of 'three or four contiguous farms to form a night school district. Classes could be held in farm houses and young workers would learn to use their spare time wisely. Was it not true that many a banker, merchant, physician and even a peer had been once a peasant boy?' Among the merits of night school education he included the teaching of values, the dignity and pleasure of honest labour and the removal of indiscriminate charity which often led to indolence.
The remainder of the Social Science meeting was taken up with a paper by Mr. J. Thomas,26
Civil Engineer, London, on the state of Welsh railways. In a survey of railway expansion after Stephenson's time he noted that in Wales some fifty new companies had been in operation since 1853. He estimated that to spend £22,000 on laying down one mile of railway was excessive. There were topographical difficulties, yet, with better planning and co-ordination between the various railway companies, the cost could be reduced to about £8,000—£10,000 per mile, with shareholders' dividends considerably higher. Mr. Thomas had much praise for David Davies'27
system and the pioneer work of Mr. Savin.
Other papers dealt with Mr. Bruce's28
Education Scheme in relation to the industrial classes in Wales. Lastly, the Rev. John Mills spoke on the possibility of establishing a Welsh settlement in Palestine. He had lived in the Holy Land for some years, and could say from experience that 'the country was like a large farm' with excellent soil capable of yielding abundant crops and its geographical position was commercially very advantageous. He had been in communication with the Turkish government on the subject, and had received assurances that facilities would be afforded for carrying out such a venture!
The president of the Eisteddfod was the Rev. John Griffiths, who gave a resume of the history of the Eisteddfod throughout the ages. Speaking alternately in Welsh and English, he traced the Eisteddfod back to King Arthur and referred to the patronage of Maelgwn Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Cynan and others. Turning to Lord Dynevor, next to him on the platform, Griffiths spoke of the enterprise of Gruffydd ap Nicholas (ancestor of his lordship) who had invited the bards to Carmarthen in 1451,29
when a galaxy of illustrious personages had attended, including Dafydd ab Edmwnd,30
and Gutun Owain.32
Griffiths's address continued with many supposedly authentic anecdotes of the Eisteddfod of 1451. One local bard challenged Dafydd ab Edmwnd on his arrival — `Pwy yw'r hwrdd yma?' to which the poet promptly replied:
Da yw fy hawl, nid wyf hwrdd,
Dywed o fodd, ydwyf yn fardd,
Beth ŵr mwyn glo cadwyn cerdd?
whereupon he was invited to join Gruffydd ap Nicholas at 'his round table'.
Another story which entertained the audience immensely, was about Gruffydd ap Nicholas on his way to St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen, when he met Dafydd ab Edmwnd and asked the poet the following questions:
Beth a weli di o'th flaen? — Melin.
A pheth sydd yn y ffenestr acw? — Elin merch.
A pheth sydd yn yr un yna? — Gŵydd lwyd.
Beth a weli di tu draw i'r afon? — Murddyn.
Beth sydd yn y murddyn? — Aelwyd a phentan.
Beth sydd uwch ci ben ?—Cronglwyd.
Beth sydd uwch ben y cwrwg acw ar yr afon ?—Pont.
Beth sydd o bob tu i'r march acw? — Coes a morddwyd.
Beth a glywi yn yr eglwys? — Gweddi.
A fedri enwi y cyfan ag englyn? — Mi a'i hamcanaf ebe Dafydd ab Edmwnd.
And this tour de force
was the result:
Melin ac elin ac aelwyd, — a phont
A phentan a chronglwyd,
Murddyn a choes a morddwyd,
A gweddi lân a gwydd lwyd.
From that time, Griffiths went on, there had been a decline of the eisteddfod in Wales, especially during the rule of that arch-philistine Cromwell. But there had been a rival since the Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1819, held under the patronage of Bishop Burgess33
who was installed a Druid by the great Iolo Morgannwg himself. The Eisteddfod was 'the Welshman's holiday' in spite of the jibes and taunts of the 'London thunderer', namely The Times.
Other Englishmen had in their way denigrated the Welsh, and he mentioned two very strange bedfellows — John Bright and Benjamin Disraeli. But there was no need for despondency — 'the Welsh language is pretty well able to look after itself'. In spite of the anglo-philes present, the Vicar of Neath made the point quite unequivocally that to hold Eisteddfod meetings in English was totally inconsistent with its purpose and history. He concluded by thanking the English people present for their help, but in a resounding peroration urged Welshmen everywhere to love their native land and the Welsh language. After he had sat down to a tumultuous ovation, he was thanked in spontaneous verse by three bards — Ieuan Morgannwg, Dafydd Ddu and Caeronwy.
Other events of the afternoon may be mentioned. John Coke Fowler of Long Castle, Neath, stipendiary magistrate for Merthyr, was announced the winner of the competition for an essay on 'A Comparison of the Administration of Justice in Wales in 1860 and 1867' and Mrs. Pryse of Glanrhydw invested him with the prize. Mr. Cummings sang 'The Bay of Biscay' whereupon there was much excitement; the crowd cheered and whistled and this ululating continued during another solo by Pencerdd Gwalia. The president had to intervene and said, 'It is only through empty heads that the wind whistles'. Hwfa Môn34
gained the prize for a poem on Owen Glyndŵr, a composition described as 'burning poetry, as rich as Wales, simple as nature, great as Snowdon'. Then it was announced that the best essay on 'Schools of Art' was won by Mr. Henry Giles of The Welshman,
Carmarthen. In between adjudications Mr. Llwyfo Lewis sang 'Home they brought their warrior dead' and Mr. Brinley Richards and Mr. Lazarus gave a piano and clarinet duct.
Owing to the disagreement between Cynddelw35
concerning the award of the chair for the awdl, Ceiriog37
had been invited to act as an independent adjudicator. He decided that the best entry was from the pen of the Rev. Richard Parry (Gwalchmai).38
At the chairing ceremony the customary greetings were given and Gwrgant39
recited his stanza;
Credwch chwi feir ceredwen,
Na fradychwyd awen fryd uchel,
Cadeiriwyd mewn coed derwen,
Y bardd a farnwyd yn ben.
In addition Cynddelw accepted Ceiriog's verdict and acclaimed the bard in almost incomprehensible language:
Tra thyner trwy warth awen, - diorfod
Fo'r cadeirfardd trylen;
Caeddeir res fel Catterwen
Yn Nyfed bydded yn ben.
Lastly, Alltud Eifion40
concurred by saying:
Gyda ryw hwyl, gadair hon - a roddwn
I'r haeddol gynhyrchion;
Gwalchmai'n ddilai ion,
Yw'r gt'r a biau'r goron.
The meeting ended at half-past three with votes of thanks to the President given by Col. Sir James Hamilton of Plas, Llansteffan and seconded by David Pugh.
For the evening concert the pavilion was filled to capacity and the proceedings went well except for 'disgraceful hooting now and again'. This concert was adjudged 'richer in quality than any of its predecessors'. The programme included:
Madame Patey-Whytock - 'Kathleen Mavourneen', 'Come lasses and lads'.
Miss Edmonds- 'Should he upbraid?', 'Coming through the rye'
Mr. Lewis Thomas- 'Oh ruddier than the cherry'.
Mr. Brinley Richards and Mr. Lazarus - 'Elisir d'Amour' (for piano and clarinet).
Mr. John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia) - Harp recital.
Mr. Brinley Richards and Miss Hewson - Piano Duct. 'Andante Con Variazoni' (Mozart).
The concert ended with a 'precise and spirited rendering' of 'Phoebus' and 'The March of the Men of Harlech' by the choir.
In the morning the Eisteddfod Council met at the Shire Hall and received the financial report from the treasurer when the following information was given for the year ending 31 December 1866.
| Expenses of the Chester Meetings 1866 |
| Prizes || £245 7. 0. |
| Concerts || £652 0. 11. |
| Pavilion || £732 16. 2. |
| Secretary || £170 9. 2. |
| Printing, etc. || £146 2. 5. |
| Exhibition || £57 1. 11. |
| Incidentals || £92 18. 10. |
| Llandudno arrears || £39 3. 0. |
| Aberystwyth arrears || £164 2. 2. |
| Other arrears || £33 4. 5. |
| || £2,333 6. 0. |
| Income of Chester Meetings 1866 |
| Subscriptions per Secretary and Treasurer || £295 10. 6. |
| Subscriptions per Chester Local Committee || £436 17. 0. |
| Sale of tickets at Chester || £1,213 10. 6. |
| || £1,945 16. 0. |
| Excess expenses over receipts || £387 8. 0. |
Owing to mounting debts incurred by the Eisteddfod, the Council recommended economies in future, especially in the concerts and music activities. It was suggested that subscriptions be canvassed well in advance, that buildings be less costly, and organisation improved, as a lapse of eight to ten months between one Eisteddfod and committee meetings for the next one was too long. The council also passed a vote of censure on the local committee of the Caernarfon Eisteddfod for not handing over the surplus of £800 which they still held.
In the afternoon the competitive meeting was chaired by H. Lavallin Puxley,41
Esq. of Llether lluesty and supported by William Morris of Cwm,42
M.P, for Carmarthen, David Pugh, M.P., and Judge Johnes of Dolau Cothi. It is worth noting that in the revival of the Eisteddfod early in the 19th century, the gentry had played an important role. It is true to say also that the eisteddfodau of the day were 'Shows' more than anything else with dinners and festivities for the gentry and their friends. Yet they did good work because the regional societies responsible for promoting an Eisteddfod were made up largely of gentry and clergy, while the bards had very little hand in them. Moreover the contribution of the gentry, squires and clerics has been somewhat belittled. Indeed they treated the bards handsomely. They provided trophies and prizes with which they 'invested' the winners, and this tradition continued in Carmarthen as may be seen from this account. Lastly they felt responsible to a marked degree for the success of these gatherings. In this respect they fulfilled the function of earlier 'uchelwyr' although by now they had become almost entirely anglicised. The privilege of social position also carried its duties and obligations; their speeches reflect their political affiliations and cultural outlook. Some were anglo-philes; others like Mr. Puxley were forthright in expressing unambiguously their loyalties. Mr. Puxley addressed the audience and in a very erudite and forthright speech said that the Eisteddfod was a grand gathering of the clans 'for the true development of national resources, national power and for the cultivation of a purer taste'. He was very critical of the pursuit of pleasure much in vogue at the time and he had in mind 'some of the gentry whose large estates and families were ruined by a day at Epsom or the cast of a dice'. Ease and luxury ought to be replaced by a less sophisticated way of life. Whereas he favoured equal status for Welsh and English, he criticised the 'glorified insularity' of the Englishman who despised the rest of Europe. 'His country is an island, his county is an island, his household is an island .... and to complete the whole, each stubborn strong-backed Englishman is an island himself, surrounded by a misty and tumultuous sea of prejudices, utterly repudiative of a permanent bridge. This insularity of character checks any flow of sympathy in favour of our Celtic gathering'. He was himself an Irishman of the same stock as the Welsh Celts. The Eisteddfod could help to restore the early purity of Celtic literature. There was too much artificiality in poetry; art had become artifice and 'painting had been prostituted into an art of voluptuous colouring, music was degenerating into trickery and legerdemain' in contrast to the classical restraint of earlier times. Even religion, too, contained an excess of external forms and symbols, pleasing to the eye but repulsive to the thoughtful mind. But the Bards of Wales should commit to memory the history of their people and the valour of their illustrious dead. Like Homer and Virgil, their aim should be — 'Arma virumque cano'.
Mr. Puxley showed much classical learning in his speech and also described the great names in Celtic tradition — Macpherson, Ossian, the Ard Fileas, Brehons, Seanachies of Erin, the law makers, antiquaries and geneologists. He quoted freely from the Welsh 'cynfeirdd' — Taliesin, Aneirin and Llywarch Hen. He spoke of the great 'uchelwyr' like Gruffydd ap Cynan, arbiters of poesy, the patrons of bards and law givers. Edward I had reduced Wales into subjection and Welsh poets had exhorted their compatriots to revolt like Demosthenes in the face of the Macedonian peril. It was the poets who kept the Welsh national spirit alight. They sang the praises of Glyndwr and looked forward to a golden age to come. But Welsh national aspirations had foundered on the rocks of animosity and rivalry, factions, strife, disloyalty and greed. Against this tragic background, he concluded, Welshmen must unite in support of the Eisteddfod, a Welsh institution and the strongest bastion of Wales's language and culture.
Among the principal winners, the following may be mentioned: Essay on 'High Class Farming' — Mr. W. Samuel of Carreg Cennen, who also won the prize for an essay entitled 'The Importance of Milford Haven'. Mr. Shackell was given the prize for the best Collection of Insects and Mr. Bassett Jones was given high credit for his model of a cottage and musical instrument made by a Welshman.
The afternoon proceedings had to be abandoned because of the rain but not before Mr. Brinley Richards43
had assessed the musical standard of the Eisteddfod. He said that notwithstanding criticism from Printing House Square, London journalists had to admit that he had tried to raise the standard of music at the Eisteddfod. Their sarcasm need not be taken seriously. They were critical of everything from a royal occasion to the Lord Mayor's show. He had engaged the best London artists, and in spite of local criticism, there had been 'a variety of excellent music' in the concerts. Judiciously prepared, they had elevated the taste of the people. There had been pressure from officials to engage local worthies, and foreign music, such as that of Weber and Mendelssohn, had been attacked by many a 'base scribe' of the local journals. Consequently Mr. Richards said he had felt bound to resign as musical director of the Eisteddfod and The Athenaeum
regarded the insults which had been hurled at him as 'the death warrant of the institution to which Welshmen profess devotion'.
One other aspect of the Eisteddfod's activities deserves attention, viz. the exhibitions and displays in the public rooms. These dealt with Art, Natural History, Antiquities, Industries, Crafts and even curios from private collections were displayed. Mr. Propert, Organist of St. Davids Cathedral, assisted by Mr. Salter, was in charge of the Science Exhibition where samples of coal scams from the Gwendraeth valley as well as fossils from Mynydd Mawr were on display. There were slates from the Glog and Whitland quarries, geological maps and charts, crystallised minerals, flowers, plants as well as fish in an aquarium, a cage of singing birds, a fine fox and the massive door of St. Peter's Church, with its wrought iron hinges and lock made by Mr. Rhys Jones.
The picture gallery was in the charge of Mr. Hosford, the Master of the Government School at Carmarthen. On show was a copy of Mr. Leslie's picture 'Uncle Toby and the Widow', together with the following original works: 'A Scene in the Desert' (A Cooper, R.A.) ; 'Italian Peasants' (A. Elmore); 'The School Teacher' (R. Redgrave); 'View of St. Davids Cathedral' (Aston); and 'Chale Bay, Isle of Wight'; 'Early Winter in North Wales'; and 'A Swiss Village' in crayon by H. Bright. The South Kensington Museum lent many exhibits, e.g. 'Hastings Fish Market' by J. Barnet; 'Blackheath' (J. Holland) and 'The Gleaner' (E. H. Corbould). Other pictures came from the private houses of Miss Gardner, Messrs. Spurrell, J. L. G. Poyer Lewis of Henllan, Kyrke Penson the architect, Buckley of Penyfai, Johnes of Dolau Cothi and the Rev. Bagnall Evans.
There were dozens of exhibits in the Antiquities department and some of them may be mentioned: MSS. list of Pembrokeshire sheriffs, a lady's patch box, a half noble of Edward III, silver coin of Edward I, stone cent, Roman lamp and coins, a crown of the time of William III, a dollar of Pope Gregory XVI, a black letter Bible of 1613, Camden's Britannia 1610, a letter of Christmas Evans, Nantgarw china, Martin Luther's drinking cup, card case from timber of George III's yacht, the great seal of England (temp. Commonwealth), carved model of Cydweli castle, fourteenth century Hours of the Virgin on vellum, stirrup irons of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, shoes worn by Twm Shôn Catti, old charters of Haverfordwest, two maces and a portrait of Sir John Perrott lent by the Council of Haverfordwest, etc., etc. Miss Jones of Ystrad showed a snuff box with a portrait of Charles Edward Stuart, presented to ancestors of the late John Jones, M.P., and Mr. Morgan, shoe manufacturer, exhibited valuable Indian curiosities.
In the Botanical Dept., there were flowers and ferns from Golden Grove, Dynevor and Ystrad together with many exotic plants. In addition there were examples of marine algae, British butterflies, Chinese insects and birds from Penyfai House. Mr. Frank Buckley showed a series of objects, illustrating the development of the salmon and oyster, casts of puff adders as well as drawings of tigers, bears and other wild animals.
The geological and industrial sections gave prominence to examples of rock from the Cambrian, Silurian and other systems. There were examples from submerged forests, as well as flint knives, cave bones, collections of copper and iron axes from Mr. Wilson, Cwmffrwd, brasses and iron ore from Ebbw Vale, blocks of patent fuel, specimens from the Carmarthen Tinworks and the products of the chemical works of Mr. Chivers, Carmarthen. Other local products were boots and shoes by W. O. Morgan and a 'case of boots' by Henry Bona of Spilman Street, a stone chimney piece by Mr. Davies of Lammas Street as well as examples of woollen goods from Messrs. Lewis and Jones, Lower Water Street, book binding from Spurrells, embroidery, geometrical wood turning, a musical instrument by Mr. Thompson of Thompson and Shackell,44
a violin by Rees Rees, joiner of Wood's Row, and leathers and furs from Mr. Griffiths, Llanelli.
Brickbats and Bouquets
It is worth noting some of the observations which appeared in the local and national press concerning the merits and defects of the Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1867.
Most were critical of the proceedings. For example, the Daily News
considered the activities of the Social Science sections as 'mere entertainment' compared to the learned meetings of the British Association. The ceremonies and bardic processions were singled out as the 'most ludicrous features'. On the other hand many benefits had resulted from the institution, e.g. 'The Literature of the Cymry' by Thomas Stephens was a product of the national Eisteddfod while in Ireland the people were more interested in 'Catholic or Orange demonstrations'. The Illustrated London News
praised the fervour and enthusiasm of the eisteddfodwyr at Carmarthen, saying that 'the proceedings had been carried on with the greatest spirit, but too much place was given to nationalistic speeches and diatribes against the Saxon press'. But there were further remarks calculated to disparage Wales's national festival. Some spoke of the folly of these assemblies. The bawling out of idle songs in an unknown tongue was regarded as an 'olympian game by fish wives on the banks of the Styx'. In many ways the Eisteddfod was said to resemble 'an antediluvian parliament' with the presidents behaving like 'monomaniacs' and making their speeches which grossly exaggerated Welsh culture to give the impression that the English were vastly inferior and that Welsh
audiences were la crême de la crême.
It was complanied that much had been said about the fine qualities of the Welsh, whereas what had been most evident at the Eisteddfod was 'the shrieking of palpably bad verse'. Another lament was that Mr. Yates had read 93 poems and all of them were bad, yet the competitors had refused to accept his decision. It was remarked, too, that Mr. Llew Llwyfo's performances befitted a 'menagerie' rather than a musical festival. According to a writer in The London Review
the only progress possible for Wales lay in the Principality being 'one with England in its interests, aspirations and language'. He went on to say 'that the Welsh were more immoral, ignorant and wretched than any other Englishman of the same class and opportunities'. The writer continued by calling the Eisteddfod 'a piece of vulgar charlatanism' and even gloated over the fact that the rain had been so heavy during the week! Scathing phrases were added. The Eisteddfod was 'a wild-beast show', a 'recital of primitive poetry of semi barbarians'. And finally: 'Wales has added nothing (in spite of Matthew Arnold's regard for her superior culture) to the empire of English letters — Where is the Welsh Scott or Burns, Burke or Goldsmith? Perhaps some member of the Eisteddfod will tell us?' The Times
as well as The Imperial Review
took much the same line as The London Review. The Musical World
was generally more moderate but had little praise for native Welsh music. The Athenaeum
emphasised the need for higher critical standards in Welsh poetry and music. Punch
printed several satirical verses; for example
'Clang then the cymbals
Dance ye all nimbles,
Discard for this day your thimbles
Maidens of sunny Wales.
Cast away your bales
Ye merchants drop your sales,
And one cheer more
Now and before
We seek the climes of Wales.
Take from me my pen
My ink and then
Leave my hands and nails
I'll write and sing of Wales.
I remain, Sir, Yours,
The Chief Bard Morgan
Who plays on the Organ.
N.B. — If the above isn't a rhyme I don't know what is. M.'
On the other hand, the correspondent of The Orchestra
praised 'Cambrian fanaticism' and contrasted Welsh peasants with 'the English lower orders who remain lumpish and indifferent to every manifestation of art'.
Many letters to the press followed but these gave varying verdicts on the Eisteddfod. Some spoke of the parochialism, egotism, vanity and conceit of incompetent amateurs. There was lack of 'musician's music', items were described as 'wishy, washy' and 'namby, pamby'. Adjudicators and competitors formed a 'mutual admiration society' and there was lack of training in music. On the other hand, some complained of the absence of Welsh songs, of the presence of English artists and the lack of music 'for the mass' in this allegedly Welsh festival.
Looking back at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1867, it seems that certain major criticisms remain valid. The musical taste of the mid-Victorian period was represented at its worst. Even the recitals of Brinley Richards and his London artistes reflected contemporary popular fashion for drawingroom ballads, music hall turns and virtuoso performances.45
The names of the great European composers hardly appeared on the programmes of Wales' national festival, while Welsh composers of instrumental and choral music capable of competing with the masters were virtually non-existent. The disciplined study of Welsh native and folk music had not yet reached fruition. National pride could not make up for the narrowness and ignorance of home-bred songsters. At best Owain Alaw, Ieuan Gwyllt and Llew Llwyfo were unskilled amateurs compared to Handel and Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others. A thorough education in music in its varied aspects was not available. The musical renascence which produced Stanford, Parry and Elgar in England and which was to influence Wales had not yet taken place.
The poetry produced for this and other eisteddfodau was also of poor quality. A modern critic and literary historian claims that the 'awdl' reached its lowest level at this time.46
The stanzas already quoted in this article display the taste of the time for the affected and sentimental, the banal and the commonplace. Indeed much that was composed was almost incomprehensible. In some ways the Carmarthen Eisteddfod was just another 'grand show'. There was much lack of order and it was a cockpit of petty jealousy and parochial bitterness.
Nevertheless it did much to foster Welsh culture and was an important milestone in the history of a unique institution. Encouragement was given to study and research; the need for universal education was stimulated; works of scholarship emerged on Welsh history and antiquities, politics and religion, and contemporary social problems were given a thorough airing. We find, too, that the Eisteddfod worked hand in hand with learned societies, enjoyed the support of cultured clergy and gentry and was becoming more and more a national gathering with the leaders of nonconformity and radicalism as prominent participants. It kept alive what had commenced under royal patronage in Cardigan Castle in 1176. It recalled the gatherings of 'uchelwyr' at Carmarthen and Caerwys. It was inspired, too, by the meetings of bards and dilettanti in eighteenth century coffee-houses and taverns. Lastly it helped to hand down to us a national festival, held in great honour among all true Welsh people and making no distinction of party, class or creed.47