Howell Elfed Lewis
1860–1953

Coffa Elfed / Elfed Museum

RECOLLECTIONS - THE GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD

Elfed reminisces about ‘the good old days’ when all the neighbourhood seemed to gather together at harvest time. The happiest and most friendly time of the year was when scythes were to be heard in the meadows at the break of dawn, well before the dew had risen, so as to avoid heavy work later in the day under the blazing sun. The whole neighbourhood would then be one brotherhood until the last sheaf had been carried to the rickyard.

Cottagers and widows would give of their time in return for the farmer’s favour of carting coal or such similar request later in the year. The farmers themselves would take it in turn to harvest so that they could borrow each others servants for the task. Elfed imagined the scene, as he looked back, as if it was an episode from a land of magic before machines took over such work in later years. It would not be unusual to see twenty to thirty men approaching the field with the ears of corn swaying in the warm breeze as if in friendly anticipation of what was to happen.

Young sturdy lads and spirited maidens would work alongside those whose whitened hair betrayed their age as they effortlessly swung their sickles to and fro. If there was a steady stream of sweat within an hour there was also a great deal of leg-pulling, of ‘mocking’ and a few innocent tricks would startle some as well as some philandering if any of the youngsters took a fancy to each other. This would be kept up throughout the day in good hearted merriment and ribaldry. The mid-day meal eaten in the open-air in the midst of the gathered company would be far more palatable than any delicious meal provided at such restaurants as the Trocadero.

The children’s task was to carry the sheaves so that they could be tied together in various forms; when such terms as ‘swgwrn’, ‘tas dan llaw,’ and ‘tas pen lin’ would be used in accordance with the weather outlook. The thirst would be sweet and so would be the fatigue at the end of the day as everybody felt they had been wrapped up in the warm concept of ‘the good neighbourhood’. This is what created the layer of magic Elfed felt encompassing the locality on witnessing the kindly interplay between people who knew each other well.

Elfed says he can still hear the clear whistle of a young lad as he carries his scythe homewards at the end of a tiring day intertwined with the crisp call of the curlew in the distance as if it was sounding a lament.

Elfed muses that he did not know where their journeys would lead them and neither did he, at that age, know what long journeys awaited him in later life. He was overtaken by a feeling of satisfaction brought on by the day’s events that was slightly muddled by a sense of insecurity as to what lay ahead. He also felt he was about to start on a strange and unmapped journey himself.

Arianwyd gan / Funded by

Canolfan Tywi - Tywi Centre RDP Sir Gar Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru - Natural Resources Wales Cyngor Sir Gar - Carmarthenshire County Council Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol - National trust EU Llwodraeth Cymru - Welsh Government