In Ancient Rome Christianity was cradled in persecution and found an asylum in the catacombs. The thought of those secret services, held in a far-off time, came into my mind as I tried to imagine an underground revival service which I was about to attend at the Nantmelyn Colliery, Cwmdare, the property of the Bwllfa and Merthyr Collieries (Limited), whose managing director (Councillor Rees Llewellyn) had given me permission to descend the shaft in order to see the effects of the “revival” underground.
But what a difference today. There is no need for secrecy now. Only yesterday there might have been scoffers; to-day there are none. The very atmosphere tingles with a new emotion, and the faith which of old thrived under the persecution of Ancient Rome thrives to-day under the encouragement of all the forces of modern Wales. Scarcely three weeks ago the “Western Mail” held up the lamp of the revival, then burning steadfastly at Loughor. Today the whole of Wales is ignited. Not alone in sacred buildings and in streets that echo with the pilgrims’ hymns, but far down in the bowels of the earth, in the dark coal seams which spread abroad the commercial fame of Wales, a kindlier lamp has been kindled. Christianity calls it the greatest safety lamp that was ever invented for mortal souls.
I went down to the prayer meeting at the Nantmelyn Colliery, 450 feet below the surface, with the manager, Mr Edward Pugh, a staunch Methodist, for my guide. The workmen on the night shift had gone down half an hour earlier than the usual time so as not to interfere with the operations of the pit. Seventy yards from the bottom of the shaft, in the stables, we came to the prayer meeting. One of the workmen was reading the 6th chapter of St. Matthew to about eighty comrades. He stood erect amongst the group, reading in a dim fantastic light that danced with the swinging lamps and vanished softly into the surrounding darkness. A number of lamps were attached to a heavy post closely wedged to support the roof, and around the impressive figure the colliers grouped themselves. Some were in the characteristic stooping posture, others half reclined against the side of the road, with their lamps fastened to their pockets; others, again, stood, in the middle of the passage. Earnest men all of them; faces that bore the sears of the underground toiler; downcast eyes that seemed to be “the homes of silent prayer”; strong frames that quivered with a new emotion.
What must the thoughts of these men have been as the words of the Gospel fell on their ears in this stable transformed into a temple, with the perils of their occupation crowding around them? If the minds of men are moulded by environment, surely they could he subjected to no more impressive experience than this.
Presently the reading of the Scripture stopped, and there came the familiar Welsh hymn
“Gwaith hyfryd iawn a melus yw
Molianu D’enw Di, O! Dduw,
Son am Dy gariad foreu glas,
A’r nos am wirioneddau’th ras.
The hymn must have penetrated through the whole of the workings of the colliery. It echoed along the low roofs and the narrow walls, and when the last echoes were dying away—ever so far off, it seemed—a supplicatory voice broke upon our ears. One of the colliers was speaking. “It is not enough to pray,” he said, in Welsh, “because if we do not also watch the promises which we make in our prayers will remain unfulfilled. The motto of every true Christian is ‘Watch and pray.’ Look at that ship which is leaving port. Though she be bound for some definite destination she will never arrive there unless her compass and her helm work in unison. So it is with us. It is easy to cause the roof of a chapel to fall in as the result of prayer, but of what avail is such praying without the necessary watch to walk along the right path?” The speaker went on to refer to attributes of the Christian, and, after alluding to the coldness which prevailed in certain parts of Aberdare towards the revival, he concluded: “In years to come some of us will be sorry to have unheeded the salutary counsels given at the Nantmelyn stable.” “Amens’~ punctuated the short address, and then the congregation joined in singing the tender verse:—
Dyma gyfarfod hyfryd iawn,
Myfi yn llwm a’r Iesu’n llawn;
Myfi yn dlawd, heb feddu dim,
A’r Iesu’n rhoddi pobpeth im.’
Such was the simple service of rugged men: honest, earnest, plain. It was kept up until the moment came for commencing the night’s work, ‘and not once, but many times, was God’s blessing asked for the honest and proper execution of the work. I stepped into the cage to return, followed by the haunting echoes of the hymn that pleads for a blessing
“Dan dy fendith wrth ymadael Y dymunem,
Llona’n calon a Dy gariad,
A’n geneuau a Dy glod;
Dyro i ni yn barhaus,”
From, 'The Western Mail', 1st December, 1904.
The mine is under the marker. It closed in 1957.