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Bibliographical Information
Capeli Llanelli/Our Rich Heritage
Huw Edwards
ISBN: 9780906821787 (0906821789)Publication Date December 2009
Publisher: Cyngor Sir Gaerfyrddin, Cardiff
Format: Hardback, 550 pages Language: Bilingual (Welsh and English) Out of print Our Price: £25.00   
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This is the haunting story of the rise and fall of Llanelli's chapels. The author brings together the characters, the battles they fought, the values they promoted, and the magnificent architecture they left behind. Llanelli was once proud of its reputation as one of the powerhouses of Nonconformist Wales. 12 of its 33 chapters are in Welsh; the remainder are in English.

Cyfrol sy'n adrodd stori capeli Llanelli. Dyma grynhoi'r hanesion am y prif gymeriadau, y gwerthoedd a hybwyd a'r brwydrau a ymladdwyd ganddynt, heb sôn am y bensaernïaeth hyfryd a adawsant ar eu hôl. Roedd Llanelli ar un adeg yn un o gadarnleoedd Ymneilltuaeth yng Nghymru, ond ymdrech i gadw'r capeli ar agor yw'r stori bellach. Mae 12 o blith y 33 pennod yn y Gymraeg.
Nid yn aml y cewch gyfrol mor ddifyr â hon a hynny ar destun cwbl annisgwyl, sef etifeddiaeth gapelog y Gymru ymneilltuol. Mewn ffantasmagoria o ryddiaith liwgar, yn Saesneg ac yn Gymraeg, ynghyd â gwledd o luniau pwrpasol, aeth Huw Edwards ati i gofnodi byd a ddiflannodd, i esbonio’i deithi, i ddathlu’i lwyddiannau ac i foli’i rinweddau. Os aeth yr ugeinfed ganrif ati i wawdio’r capeli ac i fychanu’u cyfraniad, dyma apologia difloesgni o blaid yr hyn nad ydyw bellach yn ‘cool’, sef byd y capel. Gan lunio naratif sy’n cynnwys hanes 22 o gapeli tref Llanelli, o Gapel Als yr hynaf hyd Glenalla, yr ieuengaf, mae’n ffoli ar harddwch – ie, harddwch – eu pensaernïaeth, cyfoeth byrlymus eu bywyd cerddorol, godidogrwydd y traddodiad pregethwrol a gynhaliwyd ynddynt ynghyd â’r gwaith aruthrol a gyflawnent i ddysgu cenhedlaeth ar ôl cenhadlaeth o blant y sosban ynghylch sylwedd y ffydd. Nid llawer o wŷr cyhoeddus sy’n fodlon dangos eu lliwiau crefyddol yn y dyddiau secwlaraidd hyn, ond mae Huw Edwards yn ‘dal i gredu’ ac yn ymffrostio yn hynny ma’s draw. Cafodd David Rees ‘y Cynhyrfwr’ ddisgybl teilwng yn y darlledwr hwn o Langennech.

Arwr diamheuol y gyfrol yw David Rees, bugail mwyaf Capel Als. Ni ŵyr un o gant o bobl Llanelli amdano heddiw am a wn i, ond ef, yn ôl yr awdur, oedd cymwynaswr mwyaf y dref erioed. Yn weinidog mam eglwys yr Annibynwyr rhwng 1829 a’i farw yn 1869, roedd fel llew rhuadwy, yn flaenllaw ym mhob symudiad o blaid cynnydd a daioni ac yn ddychryn enbyd i’w wrthwynebwyr. Pam nad oes cofgolofn iddo yn y dref? Ond un ymhlith ugeiniau ydyw yn y stori. Ceir sôn yma am Thomas Johns, ei olynydd yng Nghapel Als, Trefor Davies a’i gap melfed yn Soar, Lleurwg yn Seion, Gwylfa yn Ebenezer a Dewi Medi yng Nghapel y Doc. Nid ydyw Edwards yn swil o sôn am arweinwyr a ffyddloniaid yr ugeinfed ganrif a’u hymdrech arwrol, rhai ohonynt, i ddathlu’r ffydd yn wyneb enbydrwydd. Ceir tristwch yma yn gymysg â buddugoliaeth – darllener, er enghraifft, hanes ‘brwydr yr iaith’ yng Nghalfaria yn y 1960au a magl yr adeiladau yn hanes capel Saesneg y Park a’i ffenestri lliw. Greenfield Saesneg (o dan weinidog ardderchog o Gymro Cymraeg) bellach sy’n ffynnu orau, ac wedi canrif a hanner o hanes glew, mae gwersi amlwg i’w dysgu o’i chenhadaeth gyfoes hi.

Er difyrrwch y dweud, cyfrol ddwys ac o ddifrif ydi hon. Mae ysbryd Aber-arth yn fyw o hyd.

D Densil Morgan

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In what is a door-step of a book, 550 pages including text and a wealth of enthralling pictures, Huw Edwards has provided his readers with an altogether fascinating study of what is, on the face of it, an implausible subject, namely the Nonconformist chapels of his home town. 33 chapters, some in English others in Welsh and divided into three denominational blocks – Congregational, Baptist and Calvinistic Methodist (or ‘Presbyterian’ to be more genteel) – provide the narrative base for what is a pageant, a drama and sometimes a comedy which any community, indeed any nation with a modicum of self-respect, should be proud. There are few public figures in these Dawkinsian times who are willing to ‘come out’ as people of faith. Not only has Huw Edwards done that in unabashed terms, but he positively revels in the heritage of that most unfashionable strand of Christian religion: Welsh Nonconformity. Whether expatiating on the splendours of its architecture, its multifarious musical activities, its social commitment or its spiritual content, every page shows him to be a veritable nonconformist and a true radical in every sense. In the 21st century the book’s hero, David Rees, has found an advocate and a devotee.

To his detractors, Rees, minister of the Congregational church at Capel Als between 1829 and his death 40 years later, was ‘an egomaniac, a troublemaker, a loud-mouth, a bully, a spiv, a demagogue and many other things too rude to print’ (look at the portrait on p. 14 and the photograph on the back cover), but to Huw Edwards he was easily Llanelli’s greatest benefactor. Yet he is only one in the colourful procession whose contributions are lovingly described and gloriously contextualized in this wonderful volume: read about Thomas Johns, his reputation eclipsed by that of Rees, his predecessor, but an undoubted giant in his day; Elfed, ‘preacher, poet, hymn-writer . . . all purpose bigwig and mover and shaker extraordinaire’ at (of all places) the bourgeois English language Park Chapel with its scandalously neglected stained glass windows; the velvet-capped Trefor Davies at Soar; Lleurwg and Jubilee Young at Seion, up to the excellent David Jones, pictured splendidly at the consol of the chapel organ, pastor of the still thriving church at Greenfield.

Rollicking as it may be, this is a deeply thoughtful book, meticulously researched and lavishly illustrated, which jolts us into taking the nonconformist heritage seriously while explaining, with commitment and sincerity, what it was all about.

D Densil Morgan

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
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