Welsh Eisteddfod At Chicago

Victory of the Rhondda Glee Society.

The Festival-hall has never seen such a demonstration as broke forth during the progress of the eisteddfod singing contest on Tuesday. For two hours the natives of Cambria had been listening to vocal contests and to the decisions of the literary and musical critics. The Rev. Jenkin Lloyd read from his manuscript an exhaustive analysis of the relative merits of the five aspiring novelists who submitted works of fiction illustrative of Welsh manners and customs. As he proceeded men in the rear of the balcony began to stamp their feet, others joined in rapid succession, the tumult soon spread to the gallery, and in less than ten seconds the entire assemblage was vociferously applauding.

Griffith R. Jones (Caradog)
Griffith R. Jones (Caradog)

Mr. Evans, the presiding officer, and a score of vice-chairmen waved their arms frantically trying to stop the noise. They might as well have tried to stop a tidal wave. Every second added to the tremendous tumult. When, after strenuous efforts, the noise partly subsided, a young man, who had crossed the ocean from “gallant little Wales” to sing with the male choir, shouted “Dacw Caradog.” Then it was Caradog, Caradog, for nearly two minutes. Everybody tried to outshout his neighbour. Not a Welshman living but has heard of Caradog,” who is otherwise Griffith R. Jones. Mr. Jones has won fame in the world of Welshmen, and in 1873, when director of the South Wales Choir, won £1,000 and a gold cup at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, against all the world. He now walked to the platform, escorted by a dozen distinguished bards. Then the audience sang the national hymn, “Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.” “Caradog” was so overcome by emotion that he broke down, telling his countrymen that it was the proudest moment of his life.

“DYFED” Triumphs over all rivals
Description of the Chaining Ceremony.
Chicago. Thursday.
“Dyfed” has won the bardic chair, gold medal, and £100 in the chief poetical competition at Chicago Eisteddfod. The subject of the chair prize was “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Full Description of the Ceremony
Cabling later our correspondent says
“Dyfed” was chaired according to the mystic, interesting, and ancient ceremony of the hoary-aged Gorsedd of the United Kingdom. The scene was all the more notable and impressive because so far removed from its native environs, for who in the wide world would have allowed even his thoughts to establish a Gorsedd and an Eisteddfod peopled with bards and ovates, and englynwyr, and penillion singers in this business-soul’d, go-ahead city of hard-fisted commerce? But there is no difference in the spirit of the Eisteddfod.’ Neither Pontypridd nor Carnarvon, Swansea nor Rhyl, could make the national institution more truly and fervidly Welsh than these fiery-hearted and hard-headed Welshmen of America have done with the important eisteddfod they are holding with such signal success in Chicago.
Evan Rees (Dyfed)
Evan Rees (Dyfed)
Full Description of the Ceremony.
Cabling later our correspondent says
Hundreds were there from Wales itself, and more than one has told me that, though he has seen many “chairing’s” in the dear old native country, he had never been so strangely moved as when he saw a neighbour honoured and lauded so far away from home. There was a little delay before the adjudicators were called upon to make the fateful announcement, but at last the of the day called for quietude All knew what it meant, and immediately there came a silence that was grave-like in its freedom from the slightest noise. “Hwfa Mon.” the Rev. G. H. Humphreys, M.A., Utica, and “Dafydd Morganwg” (Cardiff), were the adjudicators, but only the two former were present, and they advanced to the front of the splendid platform.
David Watkins Jones (Dafydd Morganwg)
David Watkins Jones (Dafydd Morganwg)
As a background to them stood some of the foremost men of the great American continent, Welshmen who had advanced by persistence and pluck and sheer ability to the best positions a free country can afford. There were Judge Noah Davies, the Hon. Thomas L. Jones, the Hon. Ellis H. Roberts, the Hon. John Jarrett, Dr. Whyte Glyndwr Owen (grandson of “Goronwy Owain “), Governor A. L. Thomas (Utah), the Hon. George Davies, general manager of the exhibition, &c. The subject of the awdl, which was not to exceed 2,000 lines, was “Jesus of Nazareth,” and the prize consisted of a valuable oak chair, a gold medal, and £100. Five competitions were received, and the three adjudicators, who had their adjudications written out separately, were unanimous that the one signed” Lazarus” was the best. They not only spoke highly of the work, they rendered it such praise that convinced the assembled thousands that the composition was worthy of the greatest eisteddfod of all time. The standard of Welsh poetry had been raised, and the poet who had chosen the name of Lazarus was great in the truest and best sense of the word. His awdl contained passages that excelled everything these critical and experienced adjudicators had ever read, and the work would find a permanent place among the best ever produced in the Welsh language. The conductor asked if Lazarus was present. Thousands of heads turned and thousands of eyes searched for the hero of the day. It was difficult to see the uttermost ends of so vast a crowd, and then had to call a second time before a slim, well-knit figure of a Methodist minister: was seen standing in a corner of the hail. Hundreds recognised him at a glance, and as if his appearance merely confirmed a presentiment, a united shout went up of “Dyfed,’ ‘Dyfed,’ ‘Dyfed.” Dyfed, “as he in generally known, or the Rev. Evan Rees, as he is sometimes called, is known to almost every Welshman from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the shouts of enthusiastic greeting and applause were literally deafening. The people seemed beside themselves with joy and as Hwfa Mon and the Rev. G. H. Humphreys were seen descending the platform and walking down the floor to the spot where the pale young preacher stood, the conduct of the audience showed that the verdict was popular to an extraordinary degree. The adjudicators took hold of” Dyfed’s” arms and conducted him to the platform, and as the three passed through the shouting thousands it looked as if in an excess of joy, the people would break through the traditions of the Eisteddfod, and insist on shaking the hand of the gifted bard.

Foreigners who understood never a word joined ill the cheering for no reason mown to themselves except that they had been caught up in the great swirl of enthusiasm; while others, who were more self-contained, felt themselves warmed up with this exhibition of exultant gladness at the triumph of a bard in a competition in poetry. “Dyfed,” quiet and composed as ever, his face, beyond a slight paleness, showing no trace of inward excitement, was placed in the centre of the assembled bards; then “Hwfa,” with the sheathed Gorsedd sword in his right hand thrice challenged opposition to the claim of “Dyfed” to the prize. “A oes heddwch?” asked “Hwfa Mon. “Oes,” was the answer sent back by a thousand voices. “A Oes heddwch?” asked “Hwfa” again, and Oes” came back in a louder volume. A- oes heddwch?” he asked, for the third time, and for the third time came the answer, “Oes.” The sword was then unsheathed and held over the head of Dyfed,” and the poet was commanded to sit in the bardic chair of the World’s Fair Eisteddfod, and was declared the greatest honoured Welsh bard of the age. The Gorsedd benediction was proclaimed and then followed the usual poetic greetings from the other bards, and the song, “0 Delyn fy Ngwlad” (“0 Harp of my Land”), was sung by the combined choirs. “Dyfed”- then received the hearty congratulations of “Cynonfardd,” Hwfa Mon” (the acting archdruid), the Rev. G. H. Humphreys, “Ednyfed,” and other distinguished Welsh-Americans present.

Biographical Sketch

Comparatively few Cardiffians know that there resides in their midst one who, by consent of his countrymen all the world over, is hailed the leading Cymric bard of the present generation, and who has once again swept everything before him, and taken the highest honour ever offered in the world of Welsh poetry-the Bardic Chair at the International Eisteddfod, Chicago. To some extent this ignorance may be pardoned. Of Dyfed more than any other person with whom we are acquainted it may truthfully be said that greatness has been thrust upon him. He is modest and retiring almost to a fault, and doubtless, had he had his own way, he would have preferred to remain plain E. Rees, who, as “Dyfedfab” of former days, invariably succeeded in securing premier honours for his poetical effusions wherever he competed. His friends, however, were not slow to discover that in him were latent the germs of talent which would ultimately make him a leader among men, and. thanks to their wiser counsels, “Dyfed” today occupies a position as preacher-poet of which any Cymro might feel proud.

There is nothing bordering on the romantic in Mr. Rees’s career except that his early youth was a hard, matter-of-fact struggle against circumstances; and that he had many narrow escapes during the long years he was engaged as a collier; and that his hands bear marks of his labour underground is a matter of which he is very proud. He was born about the end of 1853 between the Old and the New Year. “Dyfed” himself declares that the event happened near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, close by the scene where the French effected their notable landing. His father’s name was James and his mother’s Eunice, the same name as that borne by Timotheus’s mother, many of whose virtues Mrs. Rees possessed. When the future bard was less than a year old his parents removed to, where young Evan was employed by Mr. David Davies, of Blaengwawr, by whom the steady, plodding stonemason was held in the highest esteem. It was originally Mr. Rees’s idea to give his son a superior education, to fit him for a career higher than that which was followed by the majority of Welsh youths but when Dyfed was barely five years old his father died. Thus plans were upset, and the whole character of the home changed. In due course “Dyfed” attended the literary night school in connection with the Calvinistic Methodist chapel which his parents attended. To meet the pressing necessities of the large family Mr. Rees had left behind him it was found necessary to put Evan to some occupation, and Lord Aberdare’s Mines Regulation Act not being in existence he was at the very early age of seven sent to earn what little he could underground.

And for fifteen years, until the great strike and lock-out in 1874-75, he worked hard as a collier and there was not a better coal-breaker than Evan Rees in South Wales. During that fearful struggle he looked for something else at which to earn his livelihood, and came to Cardiff, first to the Bute yard at the Docks, and then as a porter at the Taff Vale Railway Station. The Welsh Methodist Church at Pembroke Terrace, with whom he had associated himself as soon as he came to Cardiff, at once saw that he possessed qualities for a higher sphere of life, and insisted on his devoting his gifts to the pulpit. Although he refused time after time to yield to the persuasion of his friends at he gave way to the pleadings of his Cardiff friends, and commenced to preach in 1878. After passing the Monthly Meeting examination he pursued a course of studies under the Rev. Edwin Williams, and upon the opening of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire he entered as a day student. The rules of the Calvinistic Methodist body in Wales require that a candidate for the ministry shall have preached five years before he can pass his final examination before being ordained, but Dyfed had so devoted himself to his studies and altogether gave such rich promise for the future that after only twelve months’ probation he passed the final examination in 1880. It was not until 1884, however, that “Dyfed “was ordained at Taibach. When questioned as to the reason he went through his examination so long before he intended to be ordained he characteristically replied, “because I would rather look back at it than forward to it.” Although since then Dyfed has received many offers to take absolute charge of pulpits from many influential Churches in Wales, English towns, and America, he has declined them all, preferring rather to remain an itinerant preacher, in which capacity he holds that he can be of greater service to the connexion than if he were identified with any particular chapel.

Mr. Rees commenced his literary career when he was young under the nom de plume of “Dyfedfab,” which title he continued to adopt until induced at the National Eisteddfod at Merthyr to discard the last syllable. The first person who actually impressed upon Dyfed’s mind the fact that he possessed poetical talent was Mr. William Morgan, of, who was well known by the name of “Y Bardd.” Mr. Morgan persistently reminded his young comrade that there was a National Bardic Chair waiting for him. The old prophet bard of was right, and not only one but ten bardic chairs now find a place among the treasures of “Dyfed,” who has secured more Eisteddfodic honours than any other person living.

The following are his principal prize compositions:-

PRYDDESTAU:- “Y Bardd,” “Y Bwthyn Gwag,” “Gwnahaniad yr lorddonen,” “Y Pellseinydd,” “Yr Ystorm,” “YFynwent,” “Y Cynhauaf,” “Cystudd,” “Ystyriaeth,” Maes y Gad,” &c.

AWDLAU:- “Suddiad y North Fleet” (Cadair Rhymny), “Cydwyhod” (Cadair Llansamlet), “Gwauwyn Einioes” (Cadair Treherbert), “Goleuni” (Cadair New York), Cariad (cadair Merthyr), Gwilym Hiraetbog (cadair Liverpool), Twr Llun- dain” (cadair Utica), “Y Beibl Cymraeg” (cadair Aberhonddu), “Noddfa,” (cadair Pwllheli), ————” (cadair Llanrwst); and “Iesu o Nazareth” (cadair Gyd-Genedlaethol Chicago).

Although the greatest of living Welsh bards, and winner of eleven chairs, there is nothing affected, fanatic, nor eccentric in “Dyfed’s” nature, unless his modesty and his unselfish- ness verge on that vice. He takes great interest in the Eisteddfod, and is a staunch believer in” its elevating influence on the Welsh nation; but he scorns all nonsense and cant, and repudiates all injustice done at those gatherings in the name of the nation. As an adjudicator he is acknowledged to be without Unequal. ”Dyfed “and “Ceiriog” were the first who ever attempted to take the matter seriously to give their awards to the best compositions, not: to their friends and to write i something like an adjudication, pointing out faults, showing merits, and giving their reason for the awards. Nobody ever complained of receiving injustice at the hands of Dyfed.” He reads the compositions over and over and over again, and is most conscientious in his adjudications, trying to find out the best, whoever the author may be. It is little wonder, therefore, that the committees of the National Eisteddfod and minor gatherings are always anxious to secure his services, and, without any exaggeration, “Dyfed” is the highest living authority on Welsh poetry. As a preacher and lecturer sufficient it is .to say that his services are sought for all over Wales and in the chief English towns, and that he is unable to fill one fourth of the invitations he receives. In the autumn of 1885, at the invitation of the Utica Eisteddfod Committee, Dyfed” crossed the Atlantic, in company with Mr. David Jenkins, Mus. Bac., of Aberystwyth. After fulfilling his engagement at Utica, Mr. Rees took a preaching tour, which extended through almost all the States. Everywhere his countrymen in the New World received the distinguished bard with the greatest enthusiasm, and it was with sincere reluctance they allowed him to return to “Yr hen wlad.” A few years ago he visited the Holy Land, and has a popular lecture on his tours through that sacred country, as well as on America. A year or two ago he went on a visit to Rome and other ancient cities in the East. Thus “Dyfed” has added much knowledge and experience to his natural gifts and talents. The manner in which he left Cardiff for America last Tuesday week was thoroughly characteristic. He was to minister in Liverpool for the following three Sundays, and as he was accustomed to deliver many lectures in different places on week nights nobody thought it strange for him to start on Tuesday morning. Indeed, the only indication he gave that he had a long journey before him was that he had bought a small cap on Monday as he was coming home from his Sabbath journey, for he only took with him his ordinary baggage, and made nofftss at all. Nobody will be more surprised this morning than his relations and most intimate friends on reading that Dyfed was present yesterday at Chicago to be chaired at the International Eisteddfod. They all thought he was quietly preaching and lecturing less than 200 miles away. We can only add that we sincerely congratulate “Dyfed” on his present success, and hope that there is before him a long life to enrich the literature of his country. “Dyfed” has living two brothers, “Nathan Wyn,” of Ystrad, and Mr. James Rees, of Cardiff and one sister, Mrs. Jones, of Mountain Ash.