For a quick trip to radio heaven, listen to Cerys Matthews’ show from 9 June 2019. Jeff Towns of Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore joins Cerys to discuss Idris Davies’ poem ‘The Bells of Rhymney’, which may be the most influential poem you’ve never heard. Documenting life in the South Wales mining villages of the 1920s, and based on Davies’ own experiences of following his father down the pits aged 14, the poem clearly influenced Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milkwood’ (just listen to the start), inspired Woody Guthrie’s ‘Talking Centralia’ (or ‘Talking Miner’), and was put to music by Pete Seeger, only to be covered first by Bob Dylan and then The Byrds.
Over 300 million years have passed since coal seams were laid down in the valleys from where I write this blog, when Wales sat astride the Earth’s equator and plants ruled the planet. The Big Pit National Coal Museum’s focuses on the last two hundred of those years and the ferocious drive of homo sapiens to dig out and burn this bounty of the Carboniferous. It is a tale of exploitation and degradation, but also of pride and ingenuity.