Baptism of Converts
94 Immersions at Fishguard
Ceremony Conducted in a Driving Hailstorm
Six weeks of revival meetings in North Pembrokeshire culminated on Sunday in a ceremony which is destined to live in the history of religious life throughout the country - the baptism of 94 converts in the rippling, picturesque River Gwaun at Lower Fishguard, in the presence of one of the largest concourses of people ever brought together there. The candidates for baptism were from Hermon Baptist Church, Fishguard, whose pastor is the Rev. Dan Davies, for some time the pastor of the Baptist chapel, Porth, Glamorgan, the membership of Hermon being the most numerous of any in North Pembroke, if not in the county.
Through the reports in the columns of the 'South Wales Daily News' , the steady plodding Puritans of Non-conformity were stirred to unwonted activity, and at the beginning of December revival services commenced almost simultaneously at Newport (Pembs), Dinas Cross, Fishguard, Llanwrda, Goodwick, Letterston, as well as in the numerous little Bethel situated in the more strictly rural portions of the district.
Fishguard was 'fired' into action soon after the former places. Tabernacle Independent Chapel, of which the Rev. W. Morlais Davies is pastor, first commencing, followed by Pantour (Methodist) under the Rev. W.P. Jones. Hermon being the last to feel the movement, but its members were quickly imbued and the converts exceed by a large number those of any church in the district. The effect is almost magical in all respects.
A Wonderful Spectacle
The ceremony commenced at 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, by which time the assembly on the riverside and on the heather-covered hillside had increased to about 4,000 spectators, who had driven in from Haverfordwest and the surrounding district. A more remarkable and extraordinary spectacle has never before been witnessed in the annals of the county. During the wait the mass of people joined solemnly in the singing of the Welsh hymns 'Dyma Gariad fel y moroedd' and 'Yn y dyfroedd mawr a'r tonnau', while the hail and rain, driven furiously by a terrific east wind, mercilessly pelted the shivering multitude.
About 50 of the candidates were females, and in robes of white drapery they waited patiently the service which was conducted by the rev. D.J. Evans of Newport, Pem. The service was opened by singing and Scripture followed by a hymn, joined in fervently by the whole of the assembly. Then the Rev. Dan Davies descended down thes specially provided steps into the river, and the female candidates were handed down one by one, during which the chant 'Haleliwia i Dy Enw' was repeated. The elderly male candidates came next, some being 70 years of age. At the close the pastor invited any who would declare for Christ to come and be baptised. None responded, and after a fervent prayer still standing in the river, the ceremony concluded with the singing of the hymn 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow.'
Sunday was the coldest and wildest day experienced this winter at Fishguard. In the bay near the old fort were upwrads of a dozen steamers sheltering unable to venture on their voyage to Liverpool, while within the new breakwater at Goodwick was quite a fleet of sailing ships more numerous than has been seen for some time. in spite of this the 94 candidates for immersion braved the tempestuous elements in the cwm at Lower Fishguard. through the surrounding woodland and steep furze-clothed hillside the hurricane came in force. On the heights every available shelter of crag and bush was taken advantage of by groups of sightseers who joined in the tuneful Welsh hymns which filled the valley with their doleful accents. About 50 yards from the bridge spanning the river and connecting Lower and Higher Fishguard was a temporary wooden structure, and as the baptised left the ministers in the stream each was assisted by strong, willing hands on to the improvised bridge, and after receiving the tender attention of anxious relatives who had wraps and shawls ready to throw around the immersed they were assisted across to the neighbouring cottages, where dry garments awaited them. The test to which some of the candidates were subjected would have tried many a hardy sailor, for the fresh water was chilling to the bone. The fair members were extremely courageous, no less so were many of the middle-aged and the old. As one left the officiating pastor's hands, another stepped forward so that in the space of 25 minutes the 94 were baptised. The scene was picturesque despite the attendant disadvantages of the weather. To the earnest invitation of the Rev. Dan Davies to any of the multitude to step in and declare on the side of Christ none responded; yet the supplication which followed deepened the solemnity of the occasion as he stood with uplifted hands waist-deep in the stream. Not until the final hymn had closed the ceremony did the pastor of Hermon leave the river. The occasion was a most memorable one in many respects.
From, The Cardiff Times and South Wales Weekly News, and thanks to David Pike and his website, http://daibach-welldigger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/revival-in-north-pembrokeshire-in-1904.html.