According to Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, the historian of Cardiganshire, the parish of Llancynfelin in which Taliesin is situated is celebrated as the birthplace of Deio ap Ieuan Ddu, who flourished about 1480. Although comparisons are said to be odious, it falls to my lot to bring to light another poet who lived in the parish 400 years later.
It appears that I was sent from Henhafod to my maternal grandparents, at Gelly, to be weaned. Dafydd Jones, then "y gwas pena", at Henhafod but afterwards of Llwyngwyn, broke out into verse on this auspicious occasion. The Joneses of Llwyngwyn and the Rhys of Ponterwyd were related: Sir John Rhys comes of the latter family.
When my sister (Mrs Dr. Jones, of Buttrells, Llandre) was collecting donations during the war for the Red Cross at Taliesin, one of the old inhabitants, John Morgan, known as the coppersmith, informed her that he was "gwas bach" at Gelly in 1861 and handed her the following effusion by the Dafydd Jones above referred to:-
Griffith Parry, Mwyn a thirion Aeth i'r Gelly i golli'r ddwyfron; Ond fe ddaw yn ol yn sydyn I fwyt bara llaeth a phwdin
Gelly adjoins Gwynfryn, both of which were part of the estate of William Tilsley Jones Esquire, high sheriff of Cardiganshire for 1838, who was the father of the Right Rev William Basil Jones, late bishop of St Davids. I remember that in the early sixties the mansion was occupied by a Miss Kershaw, with whom my grandmother was on very friendly terms, and one of my first recollections is that of flying a kite in the park at Gwynfryn.
It was the National School that was the seat of learning in my early days at Taliesin, a Mr Roberts being the schoolmaster. He was mostly celebrated for two things - his skill in fishing and the use of the rod. Some of my schoolmates were William Evan Jones, of Ty-mawr, Mochno, afterwards rector of Llanddanielfab, Anglesey, David Robert Thomas of Neuadd-yr-ynys, now chemist at Oxford; Hugh Edwards of Troedrhiwfedwen, afterwards of Liverpool (an occasional correspondent of yours); James Jones of Penpompren Mochno, at present vicar of Llandinam; and Thomas Davies of Tre'rddol, who afterwards became schoolmaster of Rhewl, Mostyn. I well remember one incident in connection with the latter, when he happened to be late one afternoon. On being called to the Master's desk, Mr Roberts said "Hold out your hand". Tom said in broken English "For what?" Mr Roberts replied "For two things - for being late and also for your atrociously bad grammar." There and then he administered Tom a sound thrashing.
Some of the villagers at Taliesin bore entirely English names, and those very aristocratic ones too - such as Carrington, Vincent and Egerton. All however, spoke Welsh fluently. These families came into the locality when my grandfather was in charge of the lead mines of Allt-y-crib and Esgair Hir.
The principal meeting place at Taliesin, of course, was old Rehoboth. Many noted divines preached there and I recall how often the whole countryside flocked to the services there on Sundays. My grandfather, being a deacon since 1848, entertained quite a number of the preachers at his residence (Holywell Villa) and in consequence, I came in contact with many of these worthies.
One of them who comes back very distinctly in my memory was Dr Harries Jones, of Trefeca College. His was a most commanding personality. He was a man of wide experience, having travelled abroad. I recall the fact that he was an inveterate smoker. In those days it was customary at Taliesin for the preacher to be present at "Ty Capel" half an hour or so before the evening service, so that any member who had any questions to propound was given an opportunity for doing so. The questions generally related to doctrinal matters, from "Cyffes Ffydd" - and at that time were quite over my head.
On one occasion, while Dr Harries Jones was conversing at "Ty Capel", my grandfather reminded him that it was about time to enter into the sacred preceincts of Rehoboth. I recall vividly the doctor replying "Un mygyn bach etto, Mt Griffiths", and he puffed away contentedly from the supply of "Bacco'r achos" which was then supplied gratis in connection with chapels. Dr Harries Jones was always a most eloquent preacher, but he lives in my boyhood's memory today, mostly by two expressions he always used at taliesin when referring to some far-distant event in the futire. They were "I oesoedd dirifedi'r dail" varied by "I oesoedd dirifedi'r ser".