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Llanedi, St Edith, Parish Church
Ordnance Survey Map Reference : SN589067
Parish Registers : Carmarthenshire Record Office
Baptisms 1708 - 1977
Marriages 1708 - 1973
Burials 708 - 1976

Bishops Transcripts : National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
1679-80, 1690-91, 1698-1700, 1702-03, 1707-09, 1717-22, 1724-33,
1735-1800, 1802-56, 1858-62.
IGI, chr, 1732-1862

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Llanedi Parish Register Images

Baptisms 1708 - 1977
Marriages 1708 - 1837
Burials 1708 - 1840

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Llanedi Newhouse - Births & Christenings
Llanedi Ebenezer Births & Christenings

Llanedi, Ebenezer Chapel (Calvinistic Methodist), 1812-1837 piece 3820 Images

Visions Of Britain
Llanedi Genuki


Here are some articles by Mr Ivor Griffiths originally written by him for the Hendy & Pontardulais Carnival programmes, and included here with his permission. They cover the general area of Hendy and Pontardulais.

The Good Old Bad Old Days
The Education Battle
The Pontardulais Mad Dog
A Brief Biography of Hugh Williams

River Loughor boundary of Carmarthenshire & Glamorganshire


Pontardulais Bridge, Boundary between Carmarthenshire & Glamorganshire

Largely because of the difference in the languages, there is a completely different hymn tradition in Wales to that which is found in the English-speaking world. It is certainly true that many great Welsh hymns have been translated into English and have become extremely popular in England and North America and elsewhere as a result. But it remains true that there are many well known hymns in Wales that are not known at all elsewhere, or not known that much. One of these is the Welsh hymn 'Yn y Dyfroedd Mawr a'r Tonnau' written by Dafydd William during the Methodist Revival.

Though it is a hymn that has been translated many times into English, it remains not at all well known outside Wales. Even within Wales it seems less commonly used today that it was a century ago. Possibly that is connected to the fact that it became inextricably linked with coal mining, and was known as 'The Miners' Hymn'. Now that coal mining with all its attendant dangers has all but disappeared from Wales, this hymn and its amazing story risk being lost too.

Welsh miners at Coedely

This blog tells its tale.

The Early Life of Dafydd William

Dafydd William was born in 1721 in Llanedi, one of the easternmost parishes of Carmarthenshire, overlooking the river Llwchwr (Loughor) which marks the county boundary with neighbouring Glamorgan. William was a tailor by trade, and made his living travelling from farm to farm making clothes for the inhabitants.

Llanedi parish church
Dafydd William was converted in the early years of the Methodist Revival.  It was in 1740 when he was about 19 years old, possibly as a result of his hearing Howel Harris preach in the area in the spring of that year. William, however, seems immediately to have completely thrown his lot in with the Methodists, possibly an indication of the dramatic and total nature of his conversion. He became totally immersed in the ongoing work of the Revival, and was soon combining his itinerant work as a tailor with preaching and overseeing the local home-based mid-week meetings of the new converts. He also helped to run circulating schools in the Tywi Valley area of Carmarthenshire and in the western part of Glamorgan, including at Margam and Llangynwyd.

Howel Harris

He also found time to develop as a writer of both poetry and hymns, within what is very strong Welsh bardic tradition; and it is for the latter that he is still remembered today.
A Controversial Marriage
Probably after his conversion, which occurred when he was still a very young man, 
Dafydd William married one of the daughters of farmer John William Rhydderch of Nant-y-Moel Uchaf farm, which is situated high on the hills above Pontardawe, to the west of Llandeilo Fach.
There is a strong tradition which suggests that Dafydd Williams wife,
whose name is not known, was an unconverted woman who was outspoken and difficult to live with, and possibly given to drink. Writer E. Wyn James sums it up thus:

There is a widespread tradition that Dafydd William was unfortunate in his choice of wife; that she was sharp-tongued and short-tempered, and out of sympathy with his religious convictions. And tradition places the blame on Dafydd William's wife, not only for his leaving the Pontarddulais area, but also for his leaving the Calvinistic Methodist fold.
But James himself also writes: Although these traditions regarding Dafydd William's
wife are widely-held, there is no concrete evidence to confirm them, and they have been hotly disputed by Baptists, who have argued strongly that it was his Baptist convictions and not his wife's behaviour that led to Dafydd William turning his back on the Methodists.

Furthermore, the Rhydderch family were members of a small, godly, and tightly knit mountain farming community out of which came some years later one of the more interesting and historic chapels of the western part of Glamorgan, namely lonely Baran Chapel, which is on open moorland high on the mountain above Pontardawe.

Lonely Baran Chapel

In the burial ground at Baran there is a memorial to John William Rhydderch, Dafydd William's father-in-law, which shows that he was a highly respected member of the Christian community in that area. The memorial indicates that he was actually buried at Gellionen when he died in 1784 at the incredible age of 100 years. It was, in fact, out of Gellionen that Baran was started, after the former went the way of Unitarianism, causing the Trinitarians to split away. But that is another story for a later blog!


The Rhydderch memorial at Baran

Though again there is no absolute proof, I think it must be considered possible that the reputation which developed about the wife of Dafydd William was the result of peevishness against the couple on the part of a small number who may have resented their outspoken witness to the gospel. The slander could well have gradually become established in the local community, to become accepted as truth, possibly with the outcome James describes, of forcing the Williams to leave the area in the end.
It is no doubt possible that stories about Dafydds wife selling beer from the house to supplement their meagre income on what was a very poor farm were embarrassing to late nineteenth century evangelicals by then staunch supporters of a growing temperance movement in those days, who tended to distance themselves from the poor mans wife by underscoring this part of the tradition surrounding Yn y Dyfroedd Mawr Tonna. Yet in early Methodist days, beer drinking in moderation was considered normal, and it was very common for beer to be served to refresh travellers arriving from a distance at the monthly gatherings of Methodists for the monthly communion services at parish churches, that beer usually being brewed in the farm nearest to the church in question.

St. Teilo's today

Llandeilo Fach
The couple settled at Llandeilo Fach, a poor and boggy farm just a few yards from the church on the marsh the other side of the River Llwchwr, in Glamorganshire, in the parish of Llandeilo-Tal-y-Bont. Dafydd William and his unnamed wife had at least one son called Isaac, born in 1745, who also became a tailor, like his father.

Llandeilo Fach
The farm and the adjacent church of Llandeilo-Tal-y-Bont are in a very lonely setting, in the middle of the marshes on the south bank of the River Llwchwr, just opposite what is now Pontarddulais. It was and still is an area extremely prone to flooding by the still tidal Llwchwr, and it is not unusual for the farm to be partly surrounded by water, and the church on its little hummock entirely so. It is possibly this characteristic of the place where Dafydd William spent the best part of 30 years which influenced his hymn writing so that it is full of imagery of water, unlike that of his contemporary and friend William Williams, whose imagery is more sourced from the mountains through which he spent much time travelling on horseback.

St Teilo's, Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont, as it was

 (See the previous blog this month for the story of the amazing parish church of Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont.)
About this aspect of Williams work, E. Wyn James writes:
One example of the prominent place that images of water waves, sea, rivers, springs,
floods, etc. Have in his work must suffice:
Iesu annwyl, gwel elynion
Yn pwyso arnafheb ddim rhif
Am fy nghuro yn erbyn creigydd,
Ac afonydd llawn o lif:
Yng ngrym y dyfroedd a 'r llifogydd,
Rhwng y creigydd dalfi i'r Ian:
Ymysg gelynion sydd mor ami,
Rho dy law i nerthu 'r gwan.

(Dear Jesus, see numerous enemies pressing upon me, wanting to beat me against rocks,
 and rivers in full flood: in the force of the waters and the floods and between the rocks, 
O! uphold me; in the midst of so many enemies, give your hand to strengthen the weak.)
It is not difficult to imagine Dafydd William singing such a verse while walking home over 
the marsh on a stormy night surrounded by the river Llwchwr in full flood.
Yn y Dyfroedd Mawr ar Tonnau
Dafydd William must have composed the hymn for which he is now best known sometime in the 1760s, when he was in his forties.

There are many variations to the tale of how the hymn came to be written. One tradition suggest that it was composed on the lonely flooded marshes surrounding Llandeilo Fach after Dafydd was locked out of the house after an argument with his cantankerous wife. Another version suggests that his wife simply refused to get up and let Dafydd in after he returned home late, which would have been an extremely unkind act given the nature of the weather that night. But I think the most likely version is the one outlined below.

St Teilo's and the River Llwchwr
Llandeilo Fach is just out of picture to the right.
It seems that on returning home late very one stormy night, and finding himself locked out, Dafydd was unable to rouse his wife, possibly because of the noise of the gale. Instead, because the flood waters of the Llwchwr were rising, he took shelter in the porch of the church just a hundred yards or so away from the farmhouse, and there watched the level of the water continue to rise all around the church and the farm. The floodwaters stretched far into the distance to the north, west and east. Unable to sleep, he was inspired by the drama and loneliness of his situation, and led to consider his own fragility, loneliness and mortality in the context of the rising floodwaters and the accompanying storm. He began to compose in his head the powerful Welsh words of the subsequently famous hymn, which ends with its dramatic intimation of eternal life through Gods grace:

Yn a dyfroedd mawr a'r tonnau,
Nid oes neb a ddeil fy mhen
Od fy annwyl Briod Iesu,
A fu farw ar y pren:
Cyfaill yw yn afon angau,
Ddeil fy mhen i uwch y don:
Golwg arno wna i mi ganu
Yn yr afon ddofon hon.

O! Anfeidrol rym y cariad,
Anorchfygol ydwy'r gras;
Digufnewid yw'r addewid,
A bery byth o hyn i maes;
Hon yw f'angor ar y cefnfor,
Na chyfnedwid meddwl Duw;
Fe addawodd na chawn farw,
Yng nghlwyfau'r Oen y cawn i fyw.

The porch at St Teilo's

There are now apparently at least eleven different translations of the hymn. Elfeds translation (1889) is perhaps the best known versions of the first verse:

In the waves and mighty waters
No one will support my head,
But my Saviour, my Beloved,
Who was stricken in my stead;
in the cold and mortal river
he will hold my head above;
I shall through the waves go singing
For one look of Him I love.

The Llwchwr marshes, with Llandeilo Fach (left centre)
and the site of St Teilo's church centre

Richard B. Gillions more literal but less poetic and very recent translation (2008) gives us the sense of both verses in English:

In the great waters and the waves,
There is no-one who keeps my head
But my dear Husband Jesus,
Who died on the tree:
A friend he is in the river of death,
He keeps my head above the wave:
Looking to him makes me sing
In this deep river.

O immeasurable force of the love,
Unconquerable is the grace;
Immutable is the promise,
Which endures forever from now on;
This is my anchor on the high sea,
The never-changing mind of God;
He promised I would never die,
In the wounds of the Lamb I may live.

The Hymn Tune

In Dafydd Williams own time, the hymn would almost certainly have been sung to one of several old Welsh folk tunes, which were the only melodies available, no hymn tune writers having emerged in Wales by this time. One of the tunes is Blaenhafren.

Link for the tune, Blaenhafren:  http://www.ccel.org/cceh/0008/x000811.htm
Another possibility is Cwynfan Prydain (Britains Lament   the tune which became associated with the great Revival hymn Here is love vast as the ocean through the solo singing of Annie Davies in 1904; and a third the tune Diniweidrwydd, which I have not been able to identify. The fourth traditional Welsh melody which might have been used is known as Moriah.
Link for the tune, Moriah on a page which links it with the hymn 'Love Divine': http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/d/ldalexcl.htm
Seven Years in Basaleg
In about 1770 Dafydd William moved to Monmouthshire and settled for a while at Basaleg, just outside Newport, where he became involved with the Baptists. Later, in 1788, he would write an elegy in memory of the Baptist leader in that place, one Evan Davies. Another influential Baptist in that vicinity at that time was Dafydd Jones of Pontypool who was friendly with a number of Methodists at that time, of whom Densil Morgan has said that he singlehandedly transformed the sedate, minority Baptist denomination into a fervent, successful, popular movement. Dafydd William would also later write an elegy for him. It is possible that he was one who persuaded the hymn writer from Carmarthenshire to throw in his lot with the Baptists after years working among the Methodists.

Bethel Baptist Church, Basaleg,
which came out of the work William was involved in

After living in Basaleg for about six or seven years, Dafydd William then moved again in 1777, this time to Llanbedr-y-Fro (Peterston-super-Ely), just west of Cardiff, where he spent the rest of his life. He apparently lived here in a small cottage on the south bank of the River Ely.
Last Years at Croes-y-Parc
It is possible that what prompted the move was the possibility of being involved in the planting of a new Baptist work in the village, as the first gatherings of that work occurred at about that time. It was here in Llanbedr that Dafydd William was baptised along with two others in the River Ely on Sunday 29th June 1777 by a local Baptist leader from Llangwm, Monmouthshire called Edward Watkin.

Llanbedr bridge
Croes-y-Parc, as it is still known, was started as a Particular Baptist church in 1776, when it began meeting in the ruins of Llanbedr castle after a number of visits to the area by Rees Edwards of Pontypool. In 1778, the still new church built its first meeting place on the site of a ruined house at Croes-y-Parc where the present chapel now stands, which was built in 1843. This chapel was the mother church of a number of other Baptist works in the area, including the highly influential Tabernacl Welsh Baptist Chapel in The Hayes in Cardiff city centre, and others at Cadoxton, Twynyrodyn and Pentyrch.

E. Wyn James suggests that Dafydd William might have been appointed as the minister at Croes-y-Parc were it not for his age by this time (he was 56 when he moved to Llanbedr).  But his ability as a lay-preacher and his freedom from local responsibilities enabled him to travel widely in his later years, ministering the gospel wherever he was invited. Unlike others of his generation, possibly because he was never a man of means, he travelled everywhere on foot. He is said to have preached in 13 different counties in Wales, and that he was the first Baptist preacher to proclaim the gospel in the Rhondda Valley  the very place that 100 years later would make his name famous as the writer of Yn y dyfroedd mawr ar tonnau.
During the last year of his life, Dafydd William became a sick man, and was taken in and cared for by a Baptist family who lived at Holltwn Farm in Cadoxton, near Barry, where the Baptists had a preaching centre. It must be that his wife had already died by this time. Holltwn farm no longer exists, though there is a Holton Road in the town, at the western end of which, at the top of the hill, is a large roundabout just near the Vale of Glamorgan Council Offices. This is the former site of Holltwn farm. It was here that William died in October or November 1794, at the age of 74. He was buried at Croes-y-Parc, where a more recent large headstone marks his burial.



Ty Newydd, Llanedi

EBENENEZ, TyCroes, Llanedi

Hendy Chapel

Hen Chapel Llanedi

Sardis Potardulais