Morus, Ifan and Irene!

There is a nursery rhyme over here in Wales that goes like this:

“Morus y Gwynt ac Ifan y Glaw / Daflodd fy nghap i ganol y baw!”

It’s a couplet that talks of the mischievous elements, Morus (Morris) the Wind and Ifan (Evan) the Rain, throwing someone’s cap into the mud. It is recited when you have a child on your lap and you blow on the young one’s hair when the second line tells you of the cap being tossed into the dirt. I have used it with all of my kids and they loved being bounced on my knees to the rhythm of the words before having their hair blown at. I believe Morus and Ifan visited Granville recently with their equally troublesome friend, Irene.

It was with great concern and alarm that I learnt of Irene’s visit to Upstate New York and seeing some of the devastation caused by the wind and the rain posted on youtube I was worried that the Mettowee would come calling through the doors of the SVM. When I read somewhere that flooding like this last occurred around a century earlier  I realised that I had a postcard of  such a scene taken at Granville from that time.

The devastation a century ago

 The caption on the original card states ” Wreck of Wagon Bridge, March 6 1910″ and the reverse has “Near Granville, Washington Co.” pencilled in. It certainly is terrible flood and yet it seems typical for me over here that you lot over there have real extremes of weather.

At the same time I have been heartened to learn of the real community spirit that seems to exist over there too. It seems that the SVM is not short of friends and a good number of kind folks have been coming down to help out with the mopping up. In fact this Friday, 30 September, an official Cleanup Day has been called and any help would be gratefully received. If it wasn’t for the small matter of the Atlantic and a few thousand miles I know that I would be there in my Wellingtons, or “rainboots” as you lot say over there!

Extremes of weather in Granville have been experienced by me a few times. When I first visited in February 1996 I found myself in deep snow and when I returned in August 1997 your summer sun was just as unfamiliar. Heaven knows how my countrymen  over the years coped with these extremes when they emigrated to the Slate Valley?

That particular August, I attended a picnic held at the home of the Joneses on Butler Road at Middle Granville. It was a meeting that brought a few of the local Welsh together and it was a wonderful experience for me. These were the descendants of the slate quarrymen and their families who’d ventured ‘cross the Pond to pastures green. I can remember standing on the back lawn a little back from the group and just taking in the whole scene. I looked around and saw folk sitting around on chairs and just generally socialising whilst the busy hosts buzzed between the tables waiting hand and foot on the guests. This particular family is very good at doing that.

It was then when I noticed that my four year old son was missing from the group. I spotted him by a wall sitting on the lap of an elderly gentleman and I walked up towards them unbeknownst to both. It was then I heard the old gentleman speak in perfect Welsh the words:

“Morus y Gwynt ac Ifan y Glaw / Daflodd fy nghap i ganol y baw!”

He then promptly blew into my son’s scalp. And I was blown away! Here was a man who had never been to Wales and yet was able to recite in perfect North Walian Welsh a rhyme that had been told to him eighty or so years previously! My son loved it and yet was oblivious to the unique moment he was experiencing. The man then launched into song, another old favourite, “Gee Ceffyl Bach“, “Giddyup, little horse”, which has a similar action to it as the tale of Morus and his friend. I never learnt who that man was, but I seem to think that he came from West Pawlet.

How wonderful it was to behold!

Wales is called “the Land of Song”. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked whether I sing by people when they learn I’m Welsh – it’s the stereotype associated with my nation. There is a story told by Anthony Hopkins, the Welsh actor who starred as the non-vegetarian Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” of an encounter he had with a New York taxi driver. The cabbie asked him where he was from. “Wales,” was the thespian’s answer. “What do you mean?” asked the driver, “Wales – which is it? Diana’s feller, the big fish or them singing b**tards?” Please excuse my language, but it’s an anecdote worth repeating!

A firm favourite over here is a song written by Dafydd Iwan called “Yma o Hyd” (pron. uh-ma oh hid), Still Here. Since its release in 1981, the song has become like an anthem for the Welsh and it is often played before our national teams compete in various sports…….or sung with gusto at the end of a fun night in a pub! It talks of the fact that we, the Welsh, are still here “er gwaetha pawb a phopeth” (pron. air goo-igh-tha paoob ah fob-peath) despite the worst of everything and everyone. We’ve been through a lot over the centuries and yet the song’s chorus defiantly affirms “Ry’n ni yma o hyd” (pron. ree nee uh-ma o hid), we are still here! I think this could be applied to the Slate Valley Museum.

Despite the worst of Morus, Ifan and Irene I think the museum could adopt the song as its anthem now!

Tan tro nesa’!

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About slatevalleymuseum

This year, Slate Valley Museum celebrates its 15th year of exciting range of programs, exhibitions, and special events that share its mission to collect, catalogue, conserve, exhibit, and interpret materials, artifacts, machines, and information that demonstrate the geology of slate and the history of slate quarrying and the quarrying community in the Slate Valley of New York and Vermont. We invite you to join us and... explore... exhibits of historic artifacts from the area's renowned slate quarries and mills displays revealing the science and art of slate quarrying, and its influence on the Slate Valley culture a quarry shanty, complete with all the machinery and tools used in traditional slate quarrying a geological display illustrating the natural history of slate examples of how slate has been used in the structure and decor of local buildings and as an inspriration for artworks in various media and our new multi-media exhibit HEAVY LIFTING: A Human and Technological History of Moving Slate from Quarry to Market, 1850-Present
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