Owen Shiers is a freelance musician, composer and producer/engineer, having toured in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle-East and played at festivals such as WOMAD, Glastonbury and Shambala. In 2016 he received a Finzi Trust scholarship to research and collect songs from Ceredigion, West Wales, culminating his ‘Cynefin’ project.
In March 2022 he was invited to work with the Narrating Rural Change network and composed a song, the lyrics are in Welsh and have not been translated.
Diwrnod Cneifio Yng nghwr lluesty'r mynydd, tra cysgai'r ddistaw ffridd 'mysg oriau mân y bore, ymhell cyn brig y dydd Ymgasglai y bugeilaid eu boliau'n fodlon llawn I hela bob diadell, cyn dychwel gyda'r wawr Ymlwybrant lawr o'r llethrau yn tyrru fel rhyw lif o fan petalau gwynion, dros fryn, a brwyn a grug a gwibio'r cŵn yn hebrwng y creaduriaid trom i ddwylo parod medrus, cymuned agos lon O am fod, yn Nant y Nôd Ar ddiwrnod hir o haf Roedd na sôn a chanu clod i'r cwmni ffraeth dymunol yn Nant y Nôd Ar ôl yr hel a chasglu, daw gorchwyl mawr y dydd o ddiosg pob un ddafad o'u gwisg anniben hir a sŵn llafur gwelleifiau uwch miri y prynhawn rhwng bloeddiau croch 'deg dafad!' wrth gasglu'r cneifiau mân Ac wedi iddynt golli eu clog brethynnog clyd Fe ddaw y gwaith o gyfri, a'i nodi fesul un A mwg y tân yn cosi â drewdod toddi'r pyg Wrth losgi marc dihafal ar ystlys noethlwm crŷn O am fod, yn Nant y Nôd Ar ddiwrnod hir o haf Roedd na sôn a chanu clod i'r cwmni ffraeth dymunol yn Nant y Nôd Pan flinai’r cwmni selog, daw lluniaeth swmpus per a chlebran a gloddesta yn prysur lenwi'r lle wrth ganu clod y gwragedd, a'u crasu cain di-ffael a diolch am fywoliaeth wrth fynydd, rhoddgar, hael Petai chi yng Nghwm Ceulan ar ddiwrnod hir o haf Â melys sain yr hedydd yn tiwnio'n felys braf Cofiwch am y cwmni, bu yno'n tynnu'n nghyd Cyn llithro i anobaith 'mysg poenau mawr y byd
Narrating Rural Change
As an artist, the biggest challenge coming away from the day of discussion in Hermon was deciding which thread to single out and weave into a creative response. The topics were broad and varied, but one particular aspect which stood out for me was the reflections from the farmers on the communal nature of farming in the past compared with today. It seemed lamentable to me that things had become so competitive. With many farmers suffering from loneliness and depression it’s not hard to see how ceasing to help each other out with tasks such as shearing and harvesting would lead to folk feeling isolated. It also seemed clear to me that re-fostering cooperation and local self reliance could serve as a remedy for this, and make communities more resilient in the face of an uncertain future.
At the time of the meet I also happened to be reading a book by Erwyd Howells called ‘Good Men and True’. Erwyd’s work is a fascinating historical insight into shepherding in mid-Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries. Aside from the myriad characters and their stories, what struck me in the book was how closely knit and interdependent farming communities were until relatively recently – these were bonds which literally kept people alive in real adversity (such as the severe snow of 1947). Erwyd’s descriptions of shearing days in particular stood out, with hundreds of people coming to epic mid summer gatherings to help each other out, complete with mountains of food, banter, games and often singing and merry making.
Upon finishing the book I rang Erwyd to have a chat and, amongst many things, we discussed a stream called ‘Nant Y Nôd’ in Cwm Ceulan which lies about five miles south of where I live. Erwyd told me of a seam there which contains a rock which, when crushed and mixed with animal fat, creates a blue-ish paste which was used for marking sheep. I was fascinated by this and so set off on a long two day walk to find the seam (clutching a few books by local ‘beirdd gwlad’ which he had recommended). It felt important to me to visit some of the places where these events happened to get a sense of the land and to take some time out to begin to craft some words.
Needless to say I managed to find the seam (although it was too silted up for me to get in) and set about composing my piece drawing on Erwyd’s descriptions of the shearing days, some poems by bards such as Dafydd Jones, Ffair Rhos – and the land itself. The piece is intended in a simple way to capture some of the more traditional aspects of hand shearing which have now ended (such as eating at midnight on monday morning before heading out to gather the sheep before it was light – shearing was not allowed on Sundays!) but also give a feel for the sense of kinship and community. Perhaps as a response the piece might help younger generations realise that they do not have to do everything by themselves, and that asking for help (or offering) it could be something which would benefit them in more ways than they might imagine.