Union Songs

Bells of Rhymney

A Poem by Idris Davis©Idris Davis
Set to music by Pete Seeger

Oh what will you give me
Say the sad bells of Rhymney
Is there hope for the future,
Cry the bells of Merthyr
Who made the mine owner
Say the black bells of Rhondda
And robbed the miner
Cry the grim bells of Blaina

They will plunder willy-nilly
Cry the bells of Caerphilly
They have fangs , they have teeth
Say the loud bells of Neathe
Even God is uneasy
Say the moist bells of Swansea
And what will you give me
Say the sad bells of Rhymney

Put the vandals in court
Say the bells of Newport
All would be well if, if, if
Cry the green bells of Cardiff
Why so worried, sisters, why
Sang the silver bells of Wye
And what will you give me
Say the sad bells of Rhymney


In 2007 BBC Wales broadcast a special program commemorating the song (Pete Seeger wrote the tune in 1957)

From Wikipedia:

Idris Davies (January 6, 1905 - April 6, 1953), was a Welsh poet, originally writing in Welsh, but later writing exclusively in English. He is now known mostly for The Bells of Rhymney, a ballad on a mining accident on the pattern of the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons that was set to music by Pete Seeger, and became a folk rock standard.

Davies was born and brought up in Rhymney (then Monmouthshire), Wales, and began work as a coal miner on leaving school at 14.

He studied by correspondence, having in 1926 decided to leave the pits after the failure of the General Strike. He wrote from a Socialist perspective.

He qualified as a teacher through courses at Loughborough College and the University of Nottingham. He took teaching posts in London, and then Wales, returning to Rhymney in 1947. His second collection was taken by T. S. Eliot for Faber and Faber (1945).

The Bells of Rhymney was covered by The Byrds; and later by many others, including Jimmy Page, Judy Collins, Dick Gaughan, Cher, Robyn Hitchcock, Oysterband and The Alarm. Also by Bob Dylan live, and Robin Williamson on an album of readings. John Denver covered this while with the Mitchell Trio, and also performed it live by himself.

Davies died from cancer in 1953, aged 48.

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