Idris Davies - The Poet
Idris Davies’ writings in English and Welsh reflected the idealism and protest of people during a time of great economic, social and religious change, which was embodied in the growth and decay of iron and coal towns like Rhymney.
He was born at 16 Field Street, Rhymney to Colliery Winderman Evan Davies and Elizabeth Ann in 1905. Having left school at 14 he worked underground at Abertysswg and Rhymney Mardy Pits (a picture of Mardy Rhymney Colliery 1917 is shown below). The impact of the General Strike in 1926 left him unemployed, and so he started 4 years of study to become a teacher. Between 1932 and 1947 he taught in London and at schools evacuated from wartime London. In 1947 he returned to his native Rhymney to teach in a junior school at Cwmsyfiog. He died in 1953 and is buried at Rhymney Cemetery.
His first volume of published poems, “Gwalia Deserta” (1938) focused on the impact of the depression on south Wales, and “The Angry Summer” was one long poem documenting the impact of the 1926 General Strike. He was a contemporary of Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot believed his poetry to be “the best poetic document I know about a particular epoch in a particular place.”
Following his death many of his original documents were deposited at The National Library of Wales, and various collections have been published.
However, Idris is best known for the poem “Bells of Rhymney”, a ballad about a mining accident based on the pattern of Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme, which Pete Seeger set to music and which has become a folk rock classic, recorded by The Byrds, Jimmy Page and Cher amongst others.
A collection of Idris Davies books and family items can be seen at Rhymney Library, and you will also find a stunning memorial to the man who put Rhymney on the map nearby.
Rhymney Mardy Colliery