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 .

After leaving

Maen nhw’n dy alw drwy’r dydd
i nôl mawn neu hel mynydd …

It’s you they call, all day long
to fetch peat or gather sheep …

After leaving

In time past, a farm hand called ‘W.H.’ carved pictures of ships on the slate stones of a cowshed at Lasynys Fawr.

It’s you they call, all day long
to fetch peat or gather sheep,
to harvest oats for the stall,
lure a calf or thatch the rick,
to feed farmyards full of beasts,
cut rushes, pull lambs, clean arses
of horses before the fair,
to rush up to rough pasture
and pursue meadow cattle
at a trot, running all day.

It’s you they call, all day long – to jump to
your never-ending tasks:
wanting you yet faster,
it’s that or get a new place.

They call you, they call time and again
but for all they call a hundred times,
they cannot reach the damp white sail of
your mind’s eye – your soul’s roving long since,
every evening you’re further out to sea,
your term at an end, anchor aweigh.


Wedi gadael

Rhyw dro, cerfiodd gwas ffarm o’r enw ‘W.H.’ luniau llongau ar lechfeini beudy’r Lasynys Fawr.

Maen nhw’n dy alw drwy’r dydd
i nôl mawn neu hel mynydd,
i gael y ceirch i’r gowlas,
i lithio’r lloi neu doi’r das,
i borthi llond buarthau,
lladd brwyn, tynnu ŵyn, glanhau
tinau’r ceffylau cyn ffair,
dy frysio i fyd y rhoswair
a dilyn gwartheg dolydd
ar duth, ar redeg drwy’r dydd.

Maen nhw’n dy alw drwy’r dydd – dy ysgwyd
i’th dasgau byth beunydd:
isio ’ti brysuro sydd,
hynny neu gael lle newydd.

Maen nhw’n galw, dy alw eilwaith
ond dy alw a gân nhw ganwaith,
ni alwan nhw lun o hwyl wen laith
o’th lygaid – mae dy enaid ar daith
eisoes, rwyt bob un noswaith ar y môr,
ym mhen dy dymor, yn mynd ymaith.

©Myrddin ap Dafydd 2003, reproduced with the author’s permission
English adaptation ©Susan Walton 2010

This is one of two poems I chose to enter for The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry translation in 2010. It is from an award-winning collection by Myrddin ap Dafydd. This collection won the most prestigious prize for poetry – the Chair – at Wales’ National Eisteddfod in 2002.

I chose ‘Wedi gadael’ partly because I too have seen carvings of ships on old farm buildings. The other reason is that I understand the feeling of the farm hand. His carving expresses a dream he’s holding like a talisman while he’s at others’ beck and call throughout the day. Without expressing his dream materially, it might slip away under exhaustion and slurry. He’d glimpse the carving during the course of his daily grind, and it would secretly lift his heart.

Image ©Susan Walton 2010.