The Bells of Aberdovey (song)
The Bells of Aberdovey (in Welsh: Clychau Aberdyfi) is a popular song which refers to the village now usually known by its Welsh name of Aberdyfi (or in English: Aberdovey) in Gwynedd, Wales, at the mouth of the River Dyfi on Cardigan Bay. The song is based on the legend of Cantre'r Gwaelod, which is also called Cantref Gwaelod or Cantref y Gwaelod (or in English: The Bottom or Lowland Hundred). This ancient sunken kingdom is said to have occupied a tract of fertile land lying between Ramsey Island and Bardsey Island in what is now Cardigan Bay to the west of Wales. The legend supposes that the bells of the submerged lost kingdom can be heard ringing below the waves on the beach at Aberdyfi.
The song first appeared in 1785 in English in Liberty Hall which was a comic opera in two acts, written and produced by Charles Dibdin. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in London on 8 February 1785, and also contained other popular songs entitled Jock Ratlin, and The Highmettled Racer. The text to the opera, entitled "Liberty-Hall: or, a test of good fellowship. A comic opera, in two acts. As it is performed with the greatest applause at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane" was published by the author, and printed and sold by G. Kearsley, in 1785. In Liberty Hall, the song was sung in Act II, scene V, by the comic Welsh character, Ap Hugh.
- "Another illogical claim is for The Bells of Aberdovey (1844), which has long been included in Welsh collections as native of the soil, but is really the composition of Charles Dibdin, who, writing a song for it in broken Welsh, used it in his opera Liberty Hall (1786). Miss [Jane] Williams, hearing it traditionally, published a version of it in her collection of 1844, and from that time onward it has been accepted as genuine Welsh. There is certainly no evidence to show that Dibdin used an existing tune (it was quite opposed to his practice), and no copy can be found except Dibdin's of a date prior to 1844."
The Welsh words were written by John Ceiriog Hughes (1832-1887), during the 19th century. Although he collected many Welsh folk-songs, he also rewrote many English songs into the Welsh language.
There are several versions of this song in print in English and in Welsh. A widely used version was from The National Song Book of 1905. This gives the English words as written by the song collector and editor A.P.Graves. It also states that "The more appropriate title would probably be "The Bells of Abertawe" (Swansea, South Wales)". Other later references to Abertawe being its origin suggest this may be as there were church bells at Abertawe but not Aberdovey when the song was written.
The most frequently used Welsh and English lyrics (which are not exact translations) are based on those in the National Song Book:
Os wyt ti yn bur i mi
Hoff gan fab yw meddu serch
Pan ddôf adref dros y môr
Paid â'i wneud yn galon wan
If to me as true thou art
Glad's a lad his lass to wed
When I cross the sea once more
Little loves and hopes shall fly
Do salmons love a lucid stream?
If it be true these things are so,
Do keffels love a whisp of hay?
If it be true these things are so,
|Gaily ringing o'er the dales
Hear the silv'ry chime which hails
Soft and clear thro' all the land,
|In the peaceful evening time,|
Oft I listened to the chime,
I first heard them years ago
Work inspired by The Bells of Aberdovey
The popular song and the legend of Cantre'r Gwaelod have been the inspiration for several cultural projects in Aberdyfi. A chime of bells in the tower of St Peter's Church was specifically designed to allow the playing of The Bells of Aberdovey from a mechanical carillon inside the church. A bronze time-and-tide bell art installation, suspended beneath Aberdyfi pier, was commissioned in 2010 from the sculptor Marcus Vergette as a homage to The Bells of Aberdovey.
- "Charles Dibdin, Songwriter, 1745-1814". Retrieved 4 November 2012.
- "Liberty-Hall: or, a test of good fellowship. A comic opera, in two acts. As it is performed with the greatest applause at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane.... by Dibdin, Charles, 1745-1814. sourced from Oxford Text Archive".
- "Notes and Queries 1864".
- "The Bells of Aberdovey".
- "Folkinfo: The Bells of Aberdovey". Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "The National Song Book - Online Music Book". Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "About us". St Peter's Church website. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2012.
- "Time and Tide Bell". Marcus Vergette official website. Retrieved 3 January 2012.