FTX-051 - TREN O BALA I FFESTINIOG

JOHN THOMAS & ELIZABETH

Documentary of a famous Welsh folksinger with his daughter, Elizabeth, recorded by Peter Kennedy at his home in Merionethshire in 1954. It includes some examples of "Penillion singing" with piano. John will also be remembered for his duet folksong performances and records with the (Welsh) Bob Roberts, and in the Tairfelin Concert Party in N.Wales. Of the 18 songs included here, only 3 are well-known from previous publication. Now blind, he was once a cattle drover who annually travelled by road from Bala with his stock all the way to London and back.

1. BONEDDWR MAWR OR BALA (A SQUIRE FROM BALA) John & Elizabeth - 2'01"

2. TALIDION MINION MENAI (THE MENAI STRAITS) Penillion with piano - 3'19"

3. HIRAETH AM FEIRION (THE LONGING) As previous - 3'27"

4. CYFFES Y MEDDWYN (CONFESSIONS OF A DRUNKARD) As previous - 3'57"

5. YR YSGOL YN Y WLAD (THE COUNTRY SCHOOL) John solo - 3'14"

6. MARI RHOWCH MORGAN AR Y TAN (MARY, PUT THE KETTLE ON) As previous - 3'35"

7. CASTIAU GWRAIG (THE TRICKS OF WOMEN) As previous - 3'30"

8. PETRISEN (THE PARTRIDGE) As previous - 4'36"

9. Talk about his singing, including a song learned from a missionary - 4'08"

10. Further talk about concerts and NOSEN LAWEN (MERRY NIGHTS) - 3'29"

11. ROBIN FY MRAWD (ROBIN'S WILL) Elizabeth solo - 1'21"

12. CAN YR ADERYN (SONG OF THE BLACKBIRD) John solo - 3'11"

 13. HEN FFON FY NAIN (GRANDMOTHER'S OLD STICK) As previous - 1'52"

14. GWENNO FYWN (GENTLE GWEN) As previous - 0'32"

15. O FY NGHARIAD ANNWYL (O MY DARLING) As previous - 2'43"

16. CAN Y TYLWYTH TEG (SONG OF THE FAIRIES) John & Elizabeth - 1'13"

17. TATWS LLAETH (POTATOES AND BUTTERMILK) John solo - 2'55"

18. JAN NI SY'N UN IAWN (OUR JANE IS A GOOD ONE) John and Elizabeth - 2'33"

19. LIMERICS John solo - 1'25"

20. TREN O BALA I FFESTINIOG (THE TRAIN FROM BALA TO FFESTINIOG) As previous - 3'25"

Recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1954, edited and first published on Folktrax Cassettes 1975.

JOHN THOMAS (1865-1957) was born on a small farm, thatched with rushes, in the hamlet of Cwm Prysor, near Bala. Like his father he became a cattle-dealer and drover, having never had a day at school in his life. Although the drovers had no English, after the cattle had been shod at Bala, they walked them up the Holyhead road to the markets at Barnet, Waltham Abbey and Waltham Cross, a few miles north of London. They were usually highly successful with their transactions, but most of their money went on beer. On one occasion, on their way back to Wales, John had 500 stolen from his pocket while he was asleep. At the time he was in partnership with another dealer, William Pugh of Rhwgoch Trawsfynydd, who was also fond of his beer.

Elizabeth, his daughter, who also knew hard times, has written a graphic description of their lives, which she has deposited with the Folktrax Archive.

John's last song (#20) is included in FOLKSONGS OF BRITAIN AND IRELAND ed. by Peter Kennedy (Cassells/ Schirmer 1975, paperback by Oak, distributed by Music Sales 1985).