Howell Elfed Lewis
Coffa Elfed / Elfed Museum
A story is told about one of the deacons at Llwyn-yr-hwrdd Chapel, Tegryn, in north Pembrokeshire, rising to his feet to announce it was well beyond the time to start the service even though the expected preacher it seemed had not arrived. Immediately, in response, a young boy stood on his feet and made it known that he was the invited preacher that morning.
The young boy, who had not yet reached his fourteenth birthday, captivated the congregation. Elfed was given due praise for his eloquence and maturity well beyond his age. On their way home the worshippers speculated what heights beckoned the young man in his chosen vocation.
The response of the congregation at one of the chapels in Treorchy within a year was similar as they marvelled at the eloquence of the delicate and feeble looking boy in the pulpit. He had gone to the Rhondda Valley to stay with one of his mother’s brothers who was a tailor there.
Elfed had already received some education. However the prayer meetings he attended with his father at the various homesteads in the neighbourhood were the major influence of his adolescence.
By then the family had moved to a smallholding known as Penlanchwilor – Elfed’s fourth home since his birth at Y Gangell – and the brood of children continued to increase. The family had lived at Clun-bach Isaf and then Pant-y-waun where Anna Lewis kept a shop.
His father, James Lewis had been orphaned at seven years of age and had to fend for himself as a farmhand with one of his relatives at Pen-y-graig Fawr. Elfed’s grandfather, David Lewis, had a name for being pious and fond of books. If he had had his way he would have become a minister.
Elfed’s mother, Anna, was one of ten children and her father, John Davies, was a tailor, and a precentor in his chapel. Elfed inherited his abilities from both sides of the family. Just like his tailor grandfather Elfed was short sighted and had to wear spectacles from an early age.