Daniel James 1848 – 1920

Mynyddbach Chapel is lovely, a small comfortable place, an archetypal Welsh Chapel, the oldest Independent chapel in Swansea. and you can find it set back from Llangyfelach Road in Treboeth. It was built in 1867, renovated in the middle of the twentieth century and threatened with demolition in the twenty first. It was saved by a group of local activists and we owe them a debt of gratitude, not only for the preservation of a lovely chapel, but also for saving one of Swansea’s most important graves which resides in its cemetery, one which has such significance across the country. Within it rests the poet Daniel James, who wrote the words of the hymn, Calon Lân, regarded as the second National Anthem of Wales. His story is a fascinating one, one of unexpected contrasts, of achievement and tragedy, and one which provides an unexpected insight into the lives and tribulations of ordinary people in industrial South Wales during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Daniel James was born in 1848 in Treboeth in Swansea where the family were members of  Mynyddbach Chapel. They were a large family living in a small cottage, like so many others, and their expectations of what life might offer them. probably did not extend beyond the one lived by their parents. Daniel’s formal education was inevitably minimal, although it is believed that he briefly attended a local drama school. Sadly his education – and his childhood – were terminated when his father died unexpectedly and in 1861, at the age of 13, Daniel began work as a labourer in the Landore Tinplate Works, eventually attaining skilled positions like that of  puddler and  traffic manager. He was employed there for thirty three years until it closed in 1894.

You can read the rest of this fascinating story in my new book, Grave Tales From Wales, Volume Two

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