Notes, types and motifs
Notes for the story 'The Farmer's Will and the Three Counsels He Gave His Son'
- Thomas Davies (1901-82)
- Tape: MWL 2623-24. Recorded 18.xi.1969.
This was one of Thomas Davies' favourite stories. He heard it from John Griffiths, the Tailor, of Waun Gilwern, in the parish of Pen-boyr, at his boyhood home in Nhreale. He remembered those visits well:
'He came to our house...especially in winter...at least four times a year, because there were nine of us children, five of us boys, and he made our clothes. And sometimes he'd come and visit even if he had no particular errand. Yes. And of course he'd stay until midnight, telling stories...He walked three miles each way. A tall man, walked like a soldier...
About how old would he be, now, when you were eight or nine years old?
Well it's quite probable he'd be, say, forty, forty-five years old. Something like that. Yes. But as a child I'd be glad to see him coming up to the house.
Can you give a description now of how he spoke? How would he greet you when he came into the house?
Well, Griffiths would come through the door. He wouldn't knock on the door. But people didn't knock on the door much in my neighbourhood in those days. He'd walk in: 'Hello, how are you all here.' Then he'd be invited to sit by the fireside and served a meal shortly after arriving. We were all so glad to see him coming. And if my brothers had been thinking of going out somewhere that evening, they wouldn't go. [They'd] stay at home and listen to Griffiths. He was better than a concert...'
Tom Davies recounted further memories of the entertaining tailor of Pen-boyr parish, the way he told his stories, and a description of the home in Treale when Tom Davies was a boy:
You were telling me that you only heard that story told once.
Well, I'll tell you. To be honest, I only heard it once when I was quite young, say when I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. And then, years later, I met the tailor somewhere when I had a neighbour with me. And I asked the tailor to tell the neighbour the story. I heard it twice.
But it's remarkable that you've remembered the story.
It's not remarkable at all to remember John Griffiths' stories, because it was the same with everyone...he told them in such a way that you'd remember most things you'd heard him telling [only] once...he had such a talent for telling a story. Nobody could forget it. I never saw anyone like him. It's a pity he isn't alive today so that the things he said could be recorded.
There you are. Where had he inherited this talent for storytelling, do you think?
I don't - I can't tell you. I'm almost sure he wasn't educated to secondary level. It must have been in his nature. He was a great reader in those days, in Welsh and English, quite an unusual thing in those days, you see...
There you are. And what was his delivery of these stories like?
Oh, Griffiths never stayed in one place. He'd have walked back and forth and stopped; you know, acting at the same time...he couldn't stand still. He had to get up on his feet and walk...
I thought as much. You were trying to relax and get up from the chair, weren't you? Did he tell this story while he worked?
Oh, he'd tell a story while he worked, but he'd get up while he was half-way through to walk around and act...
Did he... have a big smile on his face, or -
Oh, yes - depending on the story, of course. Yes. A smile on his face. You could see he was enjoying himself. Yes, oh, yes. It was a night out for him. He enjoyed himself more than if he - even though he had a long way to come - that if he hadn't come, then...
You said that he dramatised [the stories], how did he use his voice?
Oh, he used his voice to the full. He varied it. His voice would rise and fall, very often as if he were competing in an eisteddfod.
Did he expect you to respond by exclaiming or calling 'amen'?
Oh, yes, we did that, and I think he was glad we did. But he enjoyed the company, you see. I think now, what a man he'd have been if he was a lecturer at a training college, Trinity College [Carmarthen] - dear me! It's a pity there are none like him today, I'd say...
Yes. Who was gathered on the hearth when he told this story ['The Will of the Farmer and his Three Counsels to his Son’]?
Well, quite probably my mother and father, and there were nine of us children. Most of us, at least, would be there. And there might be a neighbour or two. There often would be...
Do you remember the particular night when he told this story?
I can't remember the exact night, but I know the war [the First World War] was on. The war was on because Griffiths, when he came, would tell us a bit about the war - something - would bring us news. Because ordinary people didn't take a newspaper in those days. Only a weekly paper, perhaps...
There you are. How would you draw him on, or persuade him to tell some of these stories?
Oh, I, or one of my brothers, would start: 'Griffiths, haven't you a new story tonight?' And the story might not come at once, but it would be sure to come...
Would he often have a new story?
Oh, yes, quite often. Yes.
Would he sometimes retell an old story?
Oh, yes, he'd do that too, yes...And I'll tell you what else he did. He was a good singer, you see. He'd sing in public. There's a melancholy song, 'Hen Feibil Mawr Mam-gu' ['Grandmother's Big Old Bible']. And Mam and any [other] women who happened to be in the house, oh, the tears would be running down [their cheeks]. He'd make sure then that he sang a light, humorous song straight afterwards...
He didn't do his work at your house?
Oh, no, he'd just come and measure us, you see - if we needed to be measured for a pair of clothes...
But when he was at your house, now, where would he sit?
Well, there was a settle, a wooden settle. I'd say that my father and John Griffiths and maybe one of my brothers would sit on that settle. It was quite a big settle...
That is, on the right hand side when looking at the fire.
...On that wooden settle as a rule. Yes, near the fire and smoking, very often...Well, then, on the other side was what they called a 'sgiw fach' ['little settle'], you see, where you kept clothes - underclothes. There was a little settle there. Some three people could sit there, on that side, then. And the rest would be on chairs. There was a big fire. Well, it wasn't cold there...
What would you talk about when John Griffiths had left the house?
Well, what usually happened was, it would be time for everyone to go to bed, because John Griffiths wouldn't leave before midnight, and maybe much later...
Would your parents allow you, then, to stay down as long as that?
Yes, at that age. And do you know where we were? We had a big old chimney, and we weren't taking up anyone else's space. I was in the chimney corner on a little stool. And my brother would be on the other side. We weren't taking anyone's place, you see. That was right behind the chimney breast - do you understand me? A big old open chimney, and you could see the moon through it.'
|AT 911||Dying father's counsel. Counsel proved wise by experience.|
|J 21.4||'Do not marry a girl from abroad.' Counsel proved wise by experience.|
|J 21.9||'Do not visit your friends often. 'Counsel proved wise by experience.|
|J 21.26||'Do not be too greedy in making a trade.' Counsel proved wise by experience.|
|Z 10||Formulaistic framework for tales.|
|Z 71.1||Formulaistic number 3.|