The poem by David Aubrey Lewis is today, the only insight we have of the character or reputation of the ten who died at Garnant Colliery on January 16th 1884. It also gives us a few clues about the writer himself.
In the final verse of the poem, David Aubrey Lewis announces himself as the author. Incorporation of the poets name into the verse is probably an uncommon practice and this, as well as the simplicity of the verses, suggests that the author was probably not an accomplished poet, but rather someone who took pen to paper, perhaps as a way of dealing with the sorrow he felt, at losing the "colleagues" he was so fond of in such terrible circumstances.
The Carmarthen Journal named David Aubrey Lewis as one of the jurors at the inquest which was held at the Raven Inn, Garnant. This inquest was to investigate the deaths of the men from the Cwmamman district.
There is a marriage record naming David Aubrey Lewis and Mary Jenkins in the Llandilofawr district for the first quarter of 1891. David was aged approximately 53 years old when he married 46 year old widow Mary Jenkins.
Information from census documents shows that David Aubrey Lewis was born at Talley in 1838. His wife Mary was born at Llanarthney in 1845. The 1851 census shows David Aubrey Lewis living at Plas y Garnant, Parish of Betws, with the family of John Rees and wife Anne, who was also from Talley. Also listed at the abode is Hannah J. Aubrey; pauper and former house servant. David's connection to this household is uncertain, as he is listed as "son in law" to John, the head of the household. This is somewhat confusing and may be an error on the part of the census taker.
By 1861, David Aubrey Lewis is a shoemaker and living at Llety Thomas near Bryn y Beirdd, Llandilofawr. There are several other shoemakers in the locality. The 1871 census however, shows David living at Craig Cefn Park and is an employee with other shoe makers. The 1881 census does not show any obvious results for him, but by 1891, he is married to Mary and living at Railway Cottage, Garnant, having previously lived at Prince Albert Cottages, Garnant. This location is a terrace opposite the Colliers Arms and was named after the Prince Albert Public House, which was situated there at the time. The 1891 census document shows that both David and his wife were able to speak both Welsh and English.
By 1901, David and Mary have moved to Cwm Cleddau; a small farm on Nantyglyn Road, Glanamman. Kelly's directory for 1910 names a David A. Lewis as a shoemaker at Garnant. It is possible that the reason that he knew the men of the district so well is because he made their workboots, or perhaps the shoes which may have made up part of their sunday best, worn to their individual places of worship.
The Amman Valley Chronicle, in its 7th of June, 1917 edition, reported the death of Mrs Mary Lewis, wife of David Aubrey Lewis, Prince Row, Garnant. His own death, recorded in the 2nd February, 1922 editon of the paper, tells us that he was known locally as "Dai Shon" and had been the town crier in Cwmamman for many years. He had also worked for the Great Western Railway at Garnant. His wife had also been employed by the G.W.R. as Gatekeeper at Garnant. Dai Shon was 85 years old when he died, and was therefore approximately 46 years old when he wrote the poem which immortalised his name.
The records for Christchurch tells us that David Aubrey Lewis of Prince Albert Row, Garnant, was buried on the 8th of February 1922. The vicar who performed the ceremony was the Rev. William Williams. Alas, there is no headstone for David and Mary Lewis at Christchurch; their grave is now one of the anonymous many that can be found at the churchyard.
The Cwmamman Town Crier's Bell, once used by David Aubrey Lewis is still at Garnant. It is just around 11½ inches (29 cm) tall, of which 6¾ inches (17½ cm) is made up of the wooden handle. It weighs approximately 5 or 6 pounds (approx 2.5kg). The bell metal appears to have a high bronze content, which has become oxidised over the many years since it's casting. The clanger appears to have been made of iron.
The bell is traditionally rung by the owners to welcome in the new year.
Cwmamman Town Crier's Bell
This page was created using information researched by local historian John Wayne Lewis and my thanks and all credit goes to him. Thanks also to Mr and Mrs Jones for allowing me to display an image of the bell.