Felinfoel is small former mining community which is today best known for the famous brewery that bears the village’s name. Several blue plaques in the village proclaim its historic significance: the railway that once ran through the village was the earliest operational public railway in Britain to have been authorised by an Act of Parliament, the brewery was the first outside America to sell beer in cans, and the second in the world to do so. It’s also the home of the first Baptist chapel in Llanelli, a fact also proclaimed by a blue plaque on the boundary wall of Adulam Chapel; while another blue plaque by the river nearby announces that baptisms had taken place there since the 18th century.
It was said that during a visit to the village by the Revivalist Minister Evan Roberts a large number of the population were baptised and that as a result the pubs were empty and crime almost non existent. Fast forward to July 2017 and a visit from ‘Y Plebs’, a band of travelling Welsh Folk musicians, most of whom are or were music teachers. The pubs were most certainly not empty and the singing may have been on par with that of the congregation at Adulam Chapel all those years ago.
The band started off in The Royal Oak pub, a stone’s throw away from the baptism pool but it was not water being used to anoint the uninitiated to the joys of Welsh folk music. There was plenty of Felinfoel on offer and the locals were in good spirits. The jukebox was silenced just as that old Welsh crooner Whitney Houston was about to peak. What followed was pure and heavenly music. It was also the culmination of the Gar Gwyl music festival organised by Alun (Cadno) Rees and Owain (Y Lle) Glennister as part of a series of events put on in the town by Ymlaen Llanelli – the BID.
Speaking to Llanelli Online Owain Glennister said that the aim of bringing such highly talented, specialist musicians to the town was to try and raise awareness of Welsh music and to try and revive an interest in many of the old instruments, customs, stories and cultural gatherings. Owain believes that unless we pass on the cultural knowledge it risks being lost to future generations. Owain is not alone in his worrying about the potential loss of such a valuable source of what was historically handed down information. The musicians agreed that the opportunities for children to learn musical instruments such as the ones they were using, e.g. the harp, the fiddle and the pipes were not only almost non existent but somehow frowned upon by some involved in teaching music.
There is we were told a movement in the Swansea Neath valleys, which gives children the opportunity to use the Welsh language and music to revisit and reinvigorate cultural celebrations like the Mari Lwyd. These workshops have been popular and have resulted in the revival of the celebration. Owain and the musicians believe that this is the way forward and that given a structure and funding there is potential to create a bank of musical instruments and the opportunity to put on cultural events involving those who have shown sufficient interest in learning to dance, sing or to play a musical instrument.
It was easy to see how this could work as the regulars at the Greyhound pub joined in with the singing, showed a keen interest in the musical instruments, asked questions about the cultural and historic nature of the songs and were moved enough to get up and dance. Evan Roberts will always be remembered as the man who led the Welsh Revival. Owain Glennister may well be remembered as the man who revived the Welsh.
Llanelli Online filmed the event and the film will be available to view shortly. We also recorded the audio of the event and that can be listened to via our podcast player on this website.