By Fred C. Melton
My son, Bonny, and I, intrepid adventurers that we are, set off from Bristol last Saturday about noon to negotiate the hairpin curves and narrow passes of the Welsh mountains in order to preach for a small group of English brethren at Llandyssul (pronounced Clan-da-sil in Welsh) in Dyfed, West Wales. We quickly discovered that we – were in the heart of Welsh nationalist country for we kept seeing signs “Free Wales From The English” written on bridge embankments along the way, while road signs bearing the English spelling of Welsh towns were bashed in. As is true with most nationalistic movements, the preservation and use of native languages becomes one of the fundamental issues. Just as in Northern Ireland, the present day problems are deeply embedded in historical events of the past. When the Romans ruled Britain during the first three centuries after Christ, they drove the Celtic (pronounced Keltic) tribes into the wild Welsh mountains. This natural fortress proved so impregnable that even the formidable Roman legions could not dislodge them. Successive rulers, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans thus kept these original Britains confined into a very close community of which they are pleased to remain unto this day. Mankind can be, it seems, an incurably prejudicial creature and the poor English will probably eventually be stripped of the last vestiges of Empire, as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are subverted by growing sectionalism in these quarters.
Anyway, we met for classes and breaking of bread in the back room of an old community hall in the little village of Aber-banc, which seemed to tetter rather precariously atop a long sloping ridge that finally faded into a forest of trees in the valley below. Small cottages on the side of distant mountains were clearly marked by tiny columns of chimney smoke rising straight to the sky.
As we sat huddled around the communion table, the steam from our breath tended to obscure the words and notes in the hymn books but not the spirits of these brethren who seemed so happy to have us there to worship with them. After dinner, the English brethren drove us around through the surrounding villages surveying this new area which they purpose to evangelize in the coming months, and discussed plans for their first Holiday Bible School designed to reach the young of that community. To my knowledge, there is only one other church of Christ in Wales at the moment. However, a number of congregations were scattered throughout the countryside a century ago.
While traveling about on this little excursion, we chanced to come upon what was known in those parts as “the castle of the mad American.” It seems that some eccentric American millionaire came over to Wales some years ago and decided that he wanted his own castle perched on the side of a rocky mountain gorge so he built one after the ancient pattern of old English and Scottish castles. Although it is now fallen into ruins, I must confess it was in some ways the most fascinating castle that I-have seen in Britain — in the true Dracula tradition, if you know what I mean!
Upon our return to the home of Brother John Hunt, we were greeted by a friendly and intelligent Irishman who “loved to tell clean jokes about the Irish.” He was a farmer of no mean possessions but was all decked out in a rather ragged old sheepskin vest, baggy trousers complete with a large safety pin in the top notch, and Wellingtons (rubber boots). Actually, this is quite the common farmer-wear thereabouts. After an afternoon of lively Bible discussion with this rather strange but very likeable old gentleman, he accompanied us to the evening “gospel effort.” Although he was worried about the appearance of his working attire, we assured him that it would not make a bit of difference if he came that way or wore pinstripes, a bowler and carried a brolly.
So it was that as the evening shadows sought out the valleys and forest glades of this remarkably beautiful Welsh mountain country, the three Englishmen with their families, the ragged Irish farmer and the “ugly American” together with his young son, spread ringing choruses of spiritual hymns and praises unto our Lord to the very eaves of the old hall and through the frost flecked windowpanes into the sleepy Welsh community.
Truth Magazine XIX: 24, p. 370
April 24, 1975