The Welsh Revival Welsh Revival The Welsh Revival 1904
Welsh Revival 1904

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WESTERN MAIL - March 10th, 1955

The Welsh Revival

Aneirin Talfan Davies
About These Articles

This series of three articles began in the March 10th edition of the Western Mail, 1955. They are reflections of the great Welsh Revival 50 years on, designed to bring it to the attention of the Welsh populace who, by then, had largely lost all effects of the revival fire and for whom it had become a distant memory.

Moriah Chapel today
The Day That Evan Roberts Started The Flame

A short time ago ANEIRIN TALFAN DAVIES, the B.B.C.’s West Wales representative in Swansea, journeyed about Wales seeking material for a Radio History of the 1904 Revival. He described his journey as being among the most difficult and fascinating he has undertaken. We invited Mr. Davies to write for us an account of that journey. Today we publish the first article in a series of three.

One of the things which stuck in my mind, after months of travelling around Wales, meeting people and discussing with witnesses the many aspects of the Revival, was told me by Dr. T. H. Parry-Williams. He said that in looking back over the last fifty years in Wales. and considering all the events of that period, he had come to the conclusion that the 1904 Revival was the most tremendous of them all.

Why should Dr. Parry-Williams’ statement have impressed me so much? As every one who has read his prose and poetry knows, his work breathes the spirit of scepticism and doubt. He is also a poet who has received scientific training, and thus his statement is all the more remarkable. He has summed up his feelings about the Revival in a moving poem. It is only with great diffidence that I present this translation of it. The delicate nuances of the Welsh poem, are lost in translation, I am afraid, but it might give you some indication of the original.

The poet’s search

Saving the souls of the “blacks” was forgot for a season,
And blown sky high was all rhyme-and-reason.
When it was seen that there lay on every soul
On hill and in valley, sin as black as Glamorgan coal.
This John from the South proclaimed that Grace would prove
The proverb that not for long will Devil hold his slave,
Into the gates with thanksgiving, and into the courts with praise they reeled,
And in the wake of the Visitation miracle on miracle was sealed.
Saint and satyr on their knees, side by side, were seen
In Pentecostal passion from Llwchwr to Lleyn.
Flesh and spirit, driving, each with his whip,
In Salvation’s carriage, like two on a trip.
Lovers of Christ, champions of the Holy Ghost see now
Their God afire in Egryn’s glow.
And oft the Revivalist amid the flood
And tumult of praise, silent stood.
God help us! what an explosion this world sees
When God and men are blown together by the breeze.

The strange thing is that the poet was not moved at the time of the Revival itself but only in retrospect.

As the years went by the thing gripped him: it made him search out every detail he could find about Evan Roberts. He visited Loughor to see Island House where Evan was born and the scene of his boyhood days. He was thrilled when I was able to tell him what I had heard about those days from the lips of one of his friends— D. R. Grenfell, the Father of the House of Commons.

They used to play together on the marshes on the banks of the Loughor River, Mr. Grenfell described Evan Roberts’s Grecian physique, how they used to don the gloves and indulge in a bout of boxing. But there was something, Mr. Grenfell said, about Evan Roberts, even then, which marked him off from his youthful friends—an aura of sanctity, and a deep religious sense.

But what I have said about Dr. Parry-Williams is true of many people who witnessed the Revival. I found that I started out with, if anything, a certain prejudice against this form of religious phenomenon, but was in the end captured by the story, and by the personality of Evan Roberts as it emerged from what was told me by his friends and acquaintances. (I had known him, myself, too, but many years after the Revival.)

How it began

Some people I met, and others who have written to the Press after the broadcast, seem, to object to the emphasis I laid upon the part played by Evan Roberts in the Revival. And in some ways their criticism is just. But, for good or ill, indeed if it matters at all, the Revival will be linked always with his name, You might as well try and detach the Protestant Reformation from the name of Luther as detach Evan Roberts from the Revival of 1904.

The story of the Revival begins in Cardiganshire. In the fall of 1904 he and the Rev. Sidney Evans had made their way to the small grammar school at Newcastle Emlyn to begin their course of training for the ministry. In nearby New Quay the Rev, Joseph Jenkins, a fiery prophet, was finding the apathy of the people unbearable, and had gathered around him the young people of his congregation.

One Sunday morning the result of his labours was made manifest when a young girl, Florrie Evans (still with us and living in Cardiff), testified to her love for the Lord Jesus.

The door opened . . . . . . .

The young people of New Quay were moved to carry their message to the neighbouring towns and villages. It was in Trecynon, Aberdare, that I met Thomas Thomas, who told me that some time in September, 1904, he and his wife were spending their honeymoon in Aberystwyth, and on a rainy evening decided to attend the seiat at Tabernacle Chapel. (Things have changed since then!)

The service was taken up with accounts of the denomination’s monthly meeting held that day in another part of the county, the topic of the meeting being “Revival.” There was very little sign of a revival in that seiat, said Mr. Thomas, until suddenly the door was opened. A crowd of young people entered and promptly took over the proceedings. Then things began to happen, and before long there was turmoil — people praying, several at once, and singing mixed up with the prayers. These young people were from New Quay. Evan Roberts soon came into contact with these fiery souls, and it was at a “convention” held by them Blaenannerch that Evan Roberts was finally assured of his conversion.

I shall never forget sitting in the parlour of the chapel-house at Closygraig, Velindre, one evening this winter, listening to that veteran of the Methodist pulpit—the Rev. M. P. Morgan, Blaenannerch—telling me the story of that meeting. He was (and still is) the minister at Blaenannerch, and on that day was sitting in the pulpit. Standing before him was the Rev, Seth Joshua, closing the meeting with prayer, and saying, “Lord, do this, and this, and bend us.”

There was a noise as of one falling, and a whisper through the congregation. Mr. Morgan lifted his eyes to see what was the cause of the commotion, and there below he saw Evan Roberts, lying prostrate on the floor, with the perspiration bubbling from his brow—young women around him, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“The hour has come”

Evan Roberts himself, speaking of that experience, said, “From that day on I was on fire to go out through the length and breadth of Wales; and if that were necessary I was ready to pay God for being allowed to go.”

The next Sunday he was sitting on the gallery in Bethel, Newcastle Emlyn, with his great friend Sidney Evans. The minister was the Rev. Evan Phillips, one of the most popular preachers of the last century—fiery, volatile, and intensely evangelical. The preacher took for his text the ominous phrase, “The hour has come,” Evan Roberts records that he heard very little more than the text, and when the sermon was over he turned to his friend, Sidney Evans and said, “I must go back to Loughor. The young people there need me.”

There is one interesting point about Evan Roberts’s actions during this vital period which needs emphasising, He did not, on receiving his experience of conversion, rush off and become a law unto himself, It was only after seeking the advice of the minister of Bethel that he returned to Loughor. Having arrived home, it was only after seeking the permission of the minister of Moriah, Loughor, that he held his series of prayer meetings, which culminated in the breaking out of the Revival.

As far as Methodism was concerned, Evan Roberts was no schismatic: and this needs to be said in view of what happened later, when many “converted” adopted a “holier than thou” attitude, and proceeded to establish conventicles where they could indulge their own theological whims and emotional fancies.

[The remainder of these articles are available on the CD-ROM which can be purchased shortly]

This Was The Flash Point That Ignited Wales.

Pentecostal Fervour.
Portable Recorder.
Force of the Story.

‘Don’t Trust Your Feelings – Use Your Head.

Left no noble hymns.
‘Blessed assurance.’
Emotional turmoil.
Master of the powers.
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