The Strike

Ffarwél i’r llwch ac i’r llechi …
Farewell to the dust and the rockface …

The Strike

There’s danger ’tween Padarn and Peris,
Y Gilfach is misted in sleet,
the men in the caban complain that
their children have nothing to eat.
“It’s time for us to down tools, lads,
and challenge the taskmaster’s rules!”

Farewell to the dust and the rockface,
farewell to the slate-cutting knife,
farewell to the foundry and smithy,
the noise and machinery and strife –
“Our union it stands strong and sure,
in our house we’ll shelter no bradwr!”

In Pencarnisiog the strike starts to bite;
when my husband hasn’t even a crust,
it’s back to the quarry he creeps, then,
before the big wheel starts to rust.
“Some day we’ll be rid of your slate dust,
some day that old Hwch will be flushed!”

 

Y Streic

Mae’n beryg rhwng Padarn a Pheris,
mae’n aeaf y Gilfach Ddu,
Mae’r hogia’n cwyno’n y caban
a’r gegin yn wag yn y ty:
“Mae’n bryd i ni roi’n harfau i lawr,
a herio’r mistar yn y plasdy mawr!”

Ffarwél i’r llwch ac i’r llechi,
ffarwél i’r hen gyllell fach,
Ffarwél i’r ffowndri a’r efail
a’r holl beiriannau a’u strach –
“Mae’n hundeb ni yn ddigon cry’,
ac ni fydd bradwr yn y ty!”

Ond mae’n gafael ym Mhencarnisiog
a’r un geiniog ym mhoced y gwr,
mae’n llusgo yn ôl am y chwarel
cyn bod rhwd ar yr olwyn ddwr:
“rhyw ddydd cawn wared ar dy lwch
a rhydd fydd cân yr hen afon Hwch!”

English adaptation ©Susan Walton 2019
 

The poem was written in 2005 by schoolchildren from years 3, 4, 5, and 6 at Ysgol Pencarnisiog with the help of poets Gwyneth Glyn and Iwan Llwyd. I came across the original poem on a BBC Cymru web page, which is no longer available, about the National Slate Museum at Llanberis.

While at college, the artist Anya Wigdel-Bowcott used the poem in a piece she produced as part of a project on Penrhyn Castle. Penrhyn Castle was the home of the owner of the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in Bethesda, scene in 1900–03 of one of the bitterest and, at the time, longest lock-outs in Britain. Striking quarrymen would place a card in their window saying Nid oes BRADWR yn y tŷ hwn (There is no TRAITOR in this house.)

Anya says: ‘With this piece, I firstly created an outline of a mountain using ink and then wrote the poem … over and over again to resemble the veins of a piece of slate.’ The photograph used on this page is by Anya, and you can see more photographs of this piece here .

On a quarry footpath

Ar eu pedwar, pwy ydynt …
Who are they, crawling crabwise …

On a quarry footpath

When the Llithfaen workers walked to work at the Nant quarries in winter, they had to claw their way along the path through the pass on all fours in very stormy weather.

Who are they, crawling crabwise
to their work in the teeth of a gale?

Men tied to this rock for bread
And their fingernails there like chisels,
Summer or winter, the same yoke
Of rock around their shoulders.

But they, on a path in the sky,
Bent, stumbling to the mountain
Top, they are the cornerstones
Of our walls – and we,
So far from the cutting wind,
Are off-cuts of what they were.

 

Ar lwybr chwarel

Pan gerddai gweithwyr Llithfaen i’w gwaith yn chwareli’r Nant yn y gaeaf, byddai’n rhaid iddynt grafangu ar hyd llwybr y bwlch ar eu pedwar pan fyddai’n stormus iawn.

Ar eu pedwar, pwy ydynt
’ddaw i’w gwaith drwy ddannedd y gwynt?

Gwŷr caeth i fara’r graig hon
A’u gwinedd ynddi’n gynion,
Haf neu aeaf, yr un iau
O gerrig ar eu gwarrau.

Ond hwy, ar lwybr yr wybren,
Yn plygu, baglu i ben
Y mynydd, hwy yw meini
Conglau ein waliau – a ni,
Mor bell o gyllell y gwynt,
Yw’r naddion o’r hyn oeddynt.

©Myrddin ap Dafydd 2008 from Bore Newydd, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, reproduced with the author’s permission
English adaptation ©Susan Walton 2011
 

The original, Welsh poem can be seen carved into the sculpture sited between the village of Llithfaen and the precipitous descent to Nant Gwrtheyrn (formerly Porth y Nant). The poem refers to the nearby Nant granite quarries. Porth y Nant was derelict for many years, but was resurrected in the 1980s as the Welsh language teaching centre of Nant Gwrtheyrn.

More of my adaptations of  Myrddin ap Dafydd’s verses (and those of other poets) accompany Martin Turtle’s photographs of Llŷn in the bilingual book Hud a Lledrith Llŷn / Llŷn a Magical Place.

 

Image ©Susan Walton 2014.