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Hearing a Hymn Sung at Three o' Clock in the Morning

Mary Thomas (1905-83)


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There was this old character [Rhys Morgan] who used to come to us twice a year and sit with us all night, telling tales...And he told ghost stories, and I was so scared of the ghost stories, my father would have to carry me to my bed that night and wait until I'd fallen asleep. I thought the ghosts were with me in the bedroom... [Laughs]

He lived on a smallholding not far from Cwm Gwyddyl.... then he'd come - the old characters, they had no wireless, no television, they'd get together on the long winter nights to tell stories, stories by the fire. And he'd come down twice a year to [visit] us at Cwm Gwyddyl. And before the end of it what would we have but stories about apparitions, corpse candles and things like that, every time.

Twice a year -

Before Christmas and before Caron Fair. He'd come before Christmas (perhaps a week before Christmas), after Mam had made the Christmas cake. And the cake would be cut so that Rhys Morgan could have a taste of it, before Christmas. He'd come then before the sheep started lambing and before he started work on his own land.

[William Thomas] Ploughing the land, fallow land.

When was Caron Fair held?

On the sixteenth of March in Tregaron...

Yes, and then this cake -

Would be cut, we'd start on the cake that night.

[WT] It was a wall-oven cake, baked in the oven, you know.

Mam made a cake in the wall oven, the oven by the fire...they used to make a [whole] panful of cake, which would cut up into loaves, three or four big loaf cakes.

What did you call the cake?

Well, Christmas cake.

[WT] In tins like that, you know, big tins like that...

And then it was Rhys Morgan who'd cut this cake?

Oh, yes, it was Rhys Morgan who'd get the first taste of the Christmas cake.

And did he always come?

Oh, yes, every time, never missed...Yes, he was a remarkable character...

What stories would Rhys Morgan tell?

Oh, about apparitions, and corpse candles and things like that. He'd tell, he'd recite one very interesting story. He was a farmhand at Llwyn Gwyddyl, a farm not far from these parts. And there were a bachelor and a spinster living on the farm, and they'd brought up their sister's son, and he was at college studying to be a Methodist minister. And in those days they'd cut the hay with scythes and put it into stooks, and if the weather was bad they'd make trusses of it, or carry it, perhaps, if the weather was fine. Well, now, one night, they had a field full of stooks at this farm, Llwyn Gwyddyl, ready now to be carried, and the old people were out by moonlight now, on a moonlit night to truss the hay. And this Rhys Morgan, he and the Llwyn Gwyddyl boy - the one who was at college - went out that night to truss hay at night. They weren't very far from Ffair-rhos village. And about three o' clock in the morning, they heard, being sung in Ffair-rhos, the hymn 'Yn y dyfroedd mawr a'r tonne...', being sung in Ffair-rhos. And they listened, they heard it plainly, as if they were in Ffair-rhos itself, the whole of this hymn being sung. A couple of days later an old woman died in Ffair-rhos, and they sang 'Yn y dyfroedd mawr a'r tonne' on the threshold, before the funeral left the house. And Rhys had heard the singing at three o' clock in the morning days before that, at night...And I'm sure that Rhys was completely truthful and well-versed in the Bible, and that Rhys wasn't telling a falsehood...

It's difficult to believe, but you have to believe it.

It must be believed. You have to believe it, you see, You have to believe it.

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