Sunday 17 October 2010

Marsh Mellow

A Sunday morning autumnal walk down the boggy Loughor estuary from Pontarddulais brings us to the ancient churchyard of St Teilo's, a place many of you will know and recognise but without realising it. It is the walled yard you can see over to the right from the M4 as you pass Swansea and hurtle across the river into Carmarthenshire.

The church itself was dismantled a few years ago and reappeared in the National History Museum, St Fagan's, leaving this magical place bereft and looking like one of those Mexican grave-yards with a white wall and arched entrance but not much inside.

Were they right to move it? Well, better than letting it fall
to pieces but far better to have restored it in situ. But that wasn't going to happen because its most attractive feature, its inaccessibility, meant visitor numbers would not justify repair. And its least attractive feature, the intrusive view and noise from the motorway, also condemned it.

I haven't seen it in its new location but to judge by the pictures the reconstruction (look here) of its alleged 16th c. appearance (which doesn't ring true to me but I'm no expert) does not have much soul.

I wonder what Dafydd William, 18c. Methodist hymn-writer who lived hard by the church, would have thought? There is an interesting topical echo here as it was William's hymn "Yn y dyfroedd mawr a’r tonnau" which the miners trapped below ground in the Tynewydd mining disaster sang in 1877 - and which their rescuers heard as they approached their desperate air-pocket. I wonder what the Chilean miners sang?