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Burying the Sailor from a Faraway Land

Thomas Davies (1901-82)

Well, it seems that a sailor had - that a sailor's body had been washed up on the shore, apparently, according to Griffiths, somewhere in Cardiganshire. And of course he was a stranger. And, the Welsh being, typically, very ready to help, the people of the area made a collection so he could be buried. And as it happened, on the day of the funeral, the clergyman was taken ill, and there was no-one to take the service. They didn't really know what to do. And one of the deacons said to the carpenter:

'He's a stranger, nobody here is going to take offence. He hasn't any relatives here. You say something.'
And the carpenter looked down at the coffin and said:

'You're a man from a faraway land
If the clergyman were here, you'd be no better off.
Lie [here] now with our forefathers,
When they rise up, you rise up too!'


Burying the Sailor from a Faraway Land

More information


MWL 2624. Recorded 18.xi.1969.


This is one of the many stories told by the tailor, John Griffiths, of Waun Gilwern, Pen-boyr parish, at Treale, Thomas Davies' home: 'I remember John Griffiths on his feet telling that story'. He looked heavenwards while reciting the verse, and his voice 'had a touch of the clergyman' about it. For more on John Griffiths, the tailor, and a description of Thomas Davies' home at Treale, see the item 'The Will of the Farmer and His Three Counsels to His Son'.

More than half a dozen versions with a degree of similarity to this story have been recorded from speakers (see tapes at MWL), especially in south-west Wales. The last three lines of the stanza (cante fable) which closes the story are almost the same in each version. The first line of the stanza refers to the stranger washed to shore: 'Dyn du wyt ti o wlad bell...' [ 'You are a black man from a faraway land...']; 'Dyn diarth wyt ti...' ['You are a stranger...' ] etc. The second couplet of the stanza also exists independently of the story and is found as an epitaph.