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The Daniel James Project



Daniel James' father, also known as Daniel, was born in 1818, as was his mother, Mary.  His father by trade was a stone mason.  His parents were 30 years old when Daniel was born in 1848.  Daniel was their second child, their daughter Mary was born in 1846.  Then came William in 1852 followed by Marged in (1854) and Catherine (1858).  In 1851 the family were living in Lisbon cottage, his sister Mary was listed as a scholar, aged five.  All his siblings attended school.


Daniel James was born on 23rd January 1848 in a thatched cottage in Llangyfelach Road, Treboeth.

At the top of Treboeth hill, crowning Mynyddbach Common still stands historic Mynyddbach Chapel, the mighty mother of many. To this shrine of independent faith, Daniel walked with his parents, passing the inclined railway that took coal from Mynyddbach and neighbouring collieries on its journey for export at Swansea docks.

And when he sat in humble devotion in the chapel, the message of God found a receptive and faithful heart. Even as a child, Daniel James might have known his future. The grinding works of the valley would claim his labour, but love of nature would be his permanent inspiration, and abiding faith in God, would be his inner strength.

His education was minimal, the little he had probably at a local drama school, he was almost entirely self-taught, even that was cut short when his father died young and he had to become the bread-winner.
By 1861, he left school age 13, he started as a manual worker at one of the Morriston ironworks. His father now 43 was still alive. William age 9 and Marged age 7, were at school.
Daniel and his family were living in 207 Llangyfelach Road, he became a puddler, a highly skilled tradesman, whose work ensured that the correct amount of carbon went into the mixture of iron and coal. Gwyrosydd was now active in the cultural life of the area.

 Daniel, the son, married Ann Hopkin, and they set up home in a thatched cottage at Plas- Y -Coed Terrace, on Llangyfelach Road in Treboeth.

 Later Daniel worked at Landore tinplate works.

Daniel James was born on the 23rd January 1848 in the village of Treboeth, in the Parish of Llangyfelach.   His father, a stone mason, was also named Daniel James and his mother's name was Mary (nee Morgan).  Daniel, the son, married Ann Hopkin, and they set up home in a thatched cottage at Plas- Y -Coed Terrace, on Llangyfelach Road in Treboeth.

The union of Daniel and Ann produced four daughters ~ Mary Hannah1871, Margaret Ann 1873, Catherine Mary 1878, William Hopkin 1882 and Olwen 1886.  His wife Ann died in December 1887 aged 38 years.

In 1888, at the Register Office in Swansea, Daniel married the widow Gwenllian Parry (nee Morgan) who was born in the Parish of Llangyfelach.  Gwenllian had five children from her previous marriage, three sons David J. 1873, Thomas 1875 and Gwilym 1878 also two daughters Mary A. 1880 and Lydia 1882.  The union of Daniel and Gwenllian produced a daughter Gwenfron 1890, son Myfyr 1891 and Tawe 1893.

Daniel started his working life, at first as a manual worker at an ironworks in Morriston, then later at a tinplate works in Landore. When the tinplate works closed he sought employment as a collier, at first at colliery in Tredegar, then latter at a colliery in Dowlais.

By 1891 the family had moved to No.8, Herbert Street in the village of Blaengarw and it appears, from the census taken in that year, that only one of the children from Daniel's first marriage was living at this address ~ William Hopkin.

Blaengarw at the head of the Garw Valley claims that the Blaengarw Hotel was location where Daniel James revealed, what was to be, his most famous poem 'Calon Lan'.

It is reputed that the words were written on either the inner surface of an opened out cigarette packet or, a Swan Vesta matchbox. If that is the case he must have written it in very small print, because the poem, including the title, has eighty-one words.

It was common knowledge in Treboeth that Daniel sold poems for pints, therefore it can assumed that this is how the musician Tom Bedford Richards obtained the poem and composed the music for the first version of the hymn. The provision of this music was acknowledged by Daniel James in 'Caniadau Gwyrosydd' [Gwyrosydd's Poems], where beneath the title of the poem is the credit 'Y Gerddoriaeth gan [The Music from] Mr T Bedford Richards'.

The first public performance of the hymn Calon Lan' was at Blaengarw.

In January 1903 Daniel James' son William Hopkin met with an accident in the six-feet seam at the International Colliery, in Blaengarw, when his foot was caught between a tram hauling rope and rail of the tramway. At the time the flesh wound on his foot didn't appear to be too serious, but the damaged tissue had been infected by the bacterial disease Tetanus. Within a few days of the accident he died of septicaemia. At an inquest held at Blaengarw the jury returned a unanimous verdict of death from Lockjaw (Trismus).

The coffin of William Hopkin was transported to Swansea, for interment in the cemetery of Mynyddbach Welsh Independent Chapel. At the funeral his relatives were accompanied by a large number of friends and the Reverend A. Williams of Bethania Chapel Blaengarw, who officiated at the funeral. A beautiful wreath was presented by the chapel in token of the respect in which he was held by the choir, of which he was a member and the congregation alike.

After his wife Gwenllian died Daniel moved to Mountain Ash and in 1916, at the age of sixty-eight, his failing health forced him to leave the colliery where he worked, and he was employed as a cemetery caretaker.

In May 1918 Daniel moved to Morriston, to live at the home of his daughter Olwen and her husband. It was the combination of the words and a second piece of music which proved to be the most popular version of 'Calon Lan'. 


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