Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Dewi Emrys’

Storytelling Starters ~ From fame to folly

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

Pwllderi is a cove on the North Pembrokeshire coast.  The way down into it is dauntingly steep. I’ve never climbed down there myself. But many times, I’ve spent time above it. The view from the top is long, all the way to the tip of the St David’s Peninsula,  and the peace is so deep that you can’t avoid feeling it deep inside you.  Funny then that a memorial plinth near the edge of the cliff  quotes lines from a poem which is all about voices. They’re the voices recalled from the boyhood of the man who wrote the poem. His name was Dewi Emrys and he grew up not far away.

Dewi Emrys wrote in Welsh and became one of Wales’ best-known  writers. After winning the Bardic Chair at the National Eisteddfod for the fourth time, the Eisteddfod rules were changed to limit the number of times you could enter. But Dewi Emrys was still a boy, 7 or 8 years old, when he came to live in Pembrokeshire at Rhosycaerau on the Strumble Head peninsula. The reason for his coming there was that his father had become the minister at Rhosycaerau Chapel. Dewi went to school first in Goodwick, then Fishguard (where I was born). When he left school, he was taken on as apprentice journalist at the Fishguard Echo. However, when illness obliged his father to give up being minister at Rhosycaerau, Dewi Emrys had to leave his beloved Pencaer area and move to Carmarthen where he got work on the Carmarthen Journal. Then, after getting very involved in reciting poetry at big Eisteddfods in South Wales, he quite suddenly changed direction when he decided to become a preacher like his father. It was an ominous move in view of the alcoholism that would later ruin his life. Meantime, so popular did he prove as a preacher that it is said that when working in Flintshire, the local miners set about arranging for a phone line to run from his pulpit down into the pit so they wouldn’t miss his sermons. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Passing it on

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Duke Street with Shemi superimposedA set of tall tales that were told by the old Welsh storyteller Shemi Wâd provided the theme of the Research Seminar I gave this week at the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling in Cardiff. I loved preparing and giving the lecture.  An added pleasure was when a veritable posse of Cardiff storytellers turned up to join the academics in the audience.

One question that came up after my talk was whether the motifs of Shemi’s stories were shared with other storytellers of his time (he died in 1897) or whether they were special to him. A mixture of both, I’d say. As a sea port, Goodwick where he lived and its twin town Fishguard had plenty of sea-captains among their residents. And, as we all know, stories travel.

Certainly Shemi didn’t get his ideas from books. He was illiterate. The only book in his tiny cottage was a leather-bound copy of the Book of Revelation and, from one of our main sources on Shemi, the eminent Welsh writer Dewi Emrys,  we know that Shemi used it only to strop his razor every other day. When Dewi Emrys was a boy –  for, as a boy, he used to hang out with Shemi – he opened the cover of that leather-bound book and an enormous great cloud of the dust of ages flew out.

How a tradition grows: (more…)