Tag Archives: Wales

Review & Reflection – The Quarry Revival

The Quarry Revival by Peter and Dorothy Bennett  (40 pages, 1992)

Review:

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This little book is unusual in a number of ways.  It is a fairly obscure account, of a fairly obscure event, that took place in a fairly obscure corner of the world.  It was loaned to me by an older couple in my church who come from Llandudno in the north of Wales.  They acquired this booklet years ago because it was of special interest to them.  It recounts the story of the 1904-1905 Quarry Revival in the village just next to their own. 

The authors describe the scope and purpose of the booklet in the forward,

“This booklet is not intended as another history of the Revival of 1904, although very little coverage of the Revival in Llanfairfechan has, in fact been written.  Only one of the accounts given here has ever been published in English and that in a newspaper of 1904 and not reprinted until now.  Those essays and reports previously printed in Welsh have not been published together as a group.  Together they give the ‘feel’ of Revival, the effect the Spirit of God had on a community of ‘ordinary’ people.”

  As I read these collected essays and reports  I read stories of ordinary, working miners who were strangely moved of the Lord to give themselves to prayer.  At first men scoffed or ignored them, but in time the rooms, houses, and halls that they would meet in were filled to the breaking point with those who had previously wanted nothing to do with religion.  Voices that had sworn in anger now swelled with praise.  This little Welsh village found itself transformed by the power and proclamation of the gospel.  We read of, “Richard Thomas who had been called by God away from his glass of beer in the Llanfairfechan Hotel – he just left it undrunk” (pg. 14).  One report summarizes the result of the Revival after the course of a year saying,

“There was a new echo to be heard from the rocks from now on.  The old ‘Graig’ (rock) seemed to have learnt the tunes ‘Pen Calfaria’ and ‘Gwaed y Groes’ and ‘Diolch Iddo’ during that year, and the place that was full of unseemly language and all sorts of gambling at the start of the year had become in reality a Bethel to many of us, and I know some, even to this day, who look on that place still as holy ground, and feel they can get down on their knees in prayer any time they go through there, and count it as a place sanctified to the Lord” (pg. 17).

Reflection:

Though focusing on a narrow slice of local history, this little booklet gives us a remarkable, moving, and plain-speaking overview of an event that (as with all revivals) has eternal significance.  Many of these reports were written by uneducated Welsh villagers at the turn of the century, and sometimes the style shows it, but what they lack in polish and style they more than make up for in conviction and spirit.  Reading this little book truly accomplishes its goal of “giveing the ‘feel’ of Revival, the effect the Spirit of God had on a community of ‘ordinary’ people.”

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Review & Reflection – A Brief History of Wales

A Brief History of Wales by Gerald Morgan  (160 pages, 2011)

Review:

41mTdQbW3SL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_[1] In this trim volume, Gerald Morgan sets out to give readers, as the back cover puts it, “A superb introduction to the background to contemporary Wales, this book is also for anyone wishing to brush up on their history.”  Morgan sets out to accomplish this two-fold goal of both introducing and reviewing the history of Wales by offering brief chapters on Welsh history beginning with the writings of Caesar in 55 B.C. and ending with contemporary issues in Welsh political life well into the early 2000’s.  After a brief forward there are eight chapters (around 10-20 pages) followed by a fairly extensive list for further reading.  The chapters cover a range of topics but largely move forward chronologically with each chapter covering various figures and events in a given period of Welsh life.

Reflection:

I have to admit, I was disappointed in this book.  I picked it up on my last trip to Wales in the gift shop at Conwy Castle expecting to find a quick and fun intro to, and overview of, Welsh history.  I’ve studied quite a bit about England, Scotland, and Ireland, but knew substantially less about the history of Wales.  I’m sad to say that that’s largely still the case.  The biggest problem with this book is that it’s honestly a bit boring.  As a student of history I wasn’t naive enough to expect an action-adventure novel, but this book falls far short of its potential.  Rather than stepping back from the story to give us the big picture and the grand events, Morgan seems to get lost among the details.  I found myself skimming this volume as it seemed that the chapters became endless lists of names and dates.  Events which sounded like they were probably fascinating stories were duly mentioned but rarely expounded.  Characters that were undoubtedly memorable were quickly passed over in the rush to include the next name or date.  This is exactly what history shouldn’t be.  The odd exception to this rule was in chapter 7, “Riot and Respectability” which focused on the history of Wales during the Industrial Revolution.  It was as if Morgan came to life and suddenly found a remarkable knack for capturing and communicating the big picture.  We actually got a glimpse of the Welsh people as people, and it made all the difference.  It made me wonder if this period of history isn’t perhaps his true area of interest and the other chapters were simply symptomatic of his lack of familiarity with the material.  If someone already had a good grasp of Welsh history this little book might serve as a decent review, but for someone looking to learn for the first time, I suggest they keep looking.


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