Map Page
Page Index
What's New
Contact Us


Joseph Parry & Chapel Row

Merthyr Tydfil

Chapel Row

MerthyrTydfil_Georgetown_ChapelRow.JPG (72614 bytes)


Joseph Parry 1841-1903.


Chapel Row, birthplace of the composer Joseph Parry.

Joseph Parry, a famous son of Merthyr Tydfil. Born on the 21st May 1841, he composed over 400 Hymn tunes, three hundred songs, and 300 anthems, chorales and other orchestral pieces. His operas Blodwen and Arianwen gained widespread popular acclaim. His birthplace, Chapel Row, Cyfarthfa, Merthyr Tydfil is beautifully preserved today, and is a treat for visitors who would like to see the home of a ironworker. Joseph was sent to work in the Cyfarthfa Mills when only 9 years of age. in the 1850's the family emigrated to the United States and settled in Danville in Pennsylvania, and his story is immortalised in the novel by Jack Jones, "Off to Philadelphia in the morning", which was also televised. 

Joseph Parry died on the 17th February 1903. 



(From the 2003 Merthyr Tydfil Calendar.) 

Merthyr Library

High Street,

Merthyr Tydfil. CF47 8AF

Tel 01685 723057



Why is it anger, O Myfanwy,
That fills your eyes so dark and clear?
Your gentle cheeks, O sweet Myfanwy,
Why blush they not when I draw near?
Where is the smile that once most tender
Kindled my love so fond, so true?
Where is the sound of your sweet words,
That drew my heart to follow you?

What have I done, O my Myfanwy,
To earn your frown? What is my blame?
Was it just play, my sweet Myfanwy,
To set your poet's love aflame?
You truly once to me were promised,
Is it too much to keep your part?
I wish no more your hand, Myfanwy,
If I no longer have your heart.

Myfanwy, may you spend your lifetime
Beneath the midday sunshine's glow,
And on your cheeks O may the roses
Dance for a hundred years or so.
Forget now all the words of promise
You made to one who loved you well,
Give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy,
But one last time, to say "farewell".


Paham mae dicter, O Myfanwy,
Yn llenwi'th lygaid duon ddi?
A'th ruddiau tirion, O Myfanwy,
Heb wrido wrth fy ngweled i?
Pa le mae'r wen oedd ar dy wefus
Fu'n cynnau 'nghariad ffyddlon ffol?
Pa le mae sain dy eiriau melys,
Fu'n denu'n nghalon ar dy Ůl?

Pa beth a wneuthym, O Myfanwy,
I haeddu gwg dy ddwyrudd hardd?
Ai chwarae oeddit, O Myfanwy
A thanau euraidd serch dy fardd?
Wyt eiddo im drwy gywir amod
Ai gormod cadw'th air i mi?
Ni cheisiaf fyth mo'th law, Myfanwy,
Heb gael dy galon gyda hi.

Myfanwy boed yr holl o'th fywyd
Dan heulwen disglair canol dydd.
A boed i rosyn gwridog ienctid
I ddawnsio ganmlwydd ar dy rudd.
Aug hofiar oll o'th add ewidion
A wnest i rywun, 'ngeneth ddel,
A rho dy law, Myfanwy dirion
I ddim ond dweud y gair "Ffarwel".


My Deliberation on Myfanwy

By Merthyr Historian Carl Llewellyn 


The most famous Welsh love song is called “Myfanwy”, the music was written by that eminent Welsh composer, Dr Joseph Parry. What is not commonly known to most people the original words accompanying the music were written in English by "Cuhelyn" and titled “Arabella”, the date of its origin can not be determined.


The tune had such an accord with Welsh people, Welsh lyrics were written by one of the great poetic  bards Mynyddog” (Richard Davies 1833-1877) the lyrics were transposed from the medieval language into modern literate Welsh. Davies may have been influenced by some earlier work of Hywel ap Einion Llygliw (c.1350) who wrote 'Myfanwy' in honour of one Myfanwy Ferch Tudor Trefor


The myth of Myfanwy


The ruin of Castell Dinas Brân (Crow City Castle), which stands above the town of Llangollen, is the site of a tragic love story involving Myfanwy, a name that is not as unusual as you might think - sparking plenty of comments.


Myfanwy, daughter of the Norman Earl of Arundel, was said to be the most beautiful woman in Powys, but she was vain and liked nothing better than to be told how beautiful she was.


Many men went to Dinas Brân to court her, but she had nothing to do with them, even if they were rich and handsome because they were unable to compose and sing poems that supposedly reflected the depth of her beauty.


Only one man, Hywel ap Einion, a penniless young bard who lived in the valley below the castle, was said to have the talent to satisfy Myfanwy.

Luckily, Hywel was in love with Myfanwy, and one day he plucked up the courage to climb up the hill to the castle with his harp, to sing and play to her.


He was allowed in to play for her, and while playing and complimenting her on her beauty she was said to have been unable to either listen or look at any other man.

Because of this Hywel believed that she had fallen in love with him. But his hopes were dashed when a richer, more handsome and more eloquent lover arrived on the scene. Hywel, discarded and quickly forgotten by Myfanwy, composed a poem to his lost love:


Far from Myfanwy's marble towers
I pass my solitary hours
O thou shinest like the sky,
Behold thy faithful Hywel die!


Myfanwy = Means "my woman" from the Welsh prefix my "my" combined with banw "woman”, a term of endearment when describing a female soul mate, another translation which is more commonly use to convey its meaning of someone precious  “The rare one”  


Whether or not Mynyddog” had been influenced by the poetic deft of another bard, no one will ever know, but his words certainly captured the dept of emotion felt by a spurned lover. The music will always be synonymous with Wales and the romantic sentiment of the Welsh; without any doubt it will survive the rigors of time because Male Voice Choirs whether English or Welsh are frequently requested to perform the immortal love song. It has an individual significance to most Welsh people reminding them of love ones, family ties, or memories of their homeland Wales or across the ocean.   


In my opinion the most descriptive translation from Welsh into English was translated by Mr John H. Price (Dowlais)




Myfanwy why does wrath’s dark shadow

So fill those jet black eyes of thine

Why do your tender cheeks Myfanwy

No longer with loves blushes shine

Where is the smile that once ignited?

The fire of love within my breast

Where lurks that tone thy voice delighted?

My heart to flee to thee for rest


How did I wrong thee Oh Myfanwy?

To earn that frown of bitter scorn

Were thou but playing Oh Myfanwy?

Whilst golden chords of love were born

Thou art mine own by word of honour

Will thou not keep that pledge of thine?

I do not seek thy hand Myfanwy

Unless thine heart is also mine


May all your lifetime Oh Myfanwy

Neath brightest sunshine ever stay

And may good health like blushing roses

Bring beauty to thy cheek each day

Forget those idly broken pledges

That o’er my heart did cast their spell

Stretch forth thy hand my dear Myfanwy

That I might say one word .......Farewell


In 1947 Merthyr Tydfil born author Jack Jones wrote a book titled “Off to Philadelphia in the morning” relating the story about some aspects of the life of Dr Joseph Parry combing facts in a fictional narrative, the book was adapted as play for Welsh Radio in 1949, since that time the book has received widespread acclaim. In 1977 BBC did a successful series of programmes titled “Off to Philadelphia in the morning” Myfanwy” played by two actress’s Donna Edwards in her youth and Siân Phillips in her mature years.


The fictional character “Myfanwy” depicted by Jack Jones in his novel “Off to Philadelphia in the morning” portrays a girl with a disposition of strength to be admired and ambition to rise from rags to riches, revealing the devotion and love for her father who suffered blindness and physical disfigurement through an horrific accident leaving him to bear life’s hardship without employment. Though poor and destitute Myfanwy’s voice is the only attribute she possesses, inherent from her father Dick Llewellyn, though her living conditions are squalor and her environment is polluted, like any bird such as the nightingale she rises above her poverty status through her love of music. As a child Myfanwy becomes a close friend of young boy called Joseph Parry but their friendship comes to an abrupt end when he emigrates to Danville Pennsylvania. So the two young people go their separate ways. While Joseph Parry’s musical talent was cultivated in a career in music Myfanwy also pursued a vocation in music. After the death of Myfanwy’s father’s an old farmer who was childless recognised Myfanwy’s vocal ability and bequeathed money in his will for her musical education, this opportunity to nurture Myfanwy’s God given talent allowed her the privilege to enter the world of opera and become an opera singer, eventually taking the name of Vera Van Ellen. On a chance meeting in Merthyr Tydfil Joseph Parry and Vera Van Ellen (Myfanwy) encountered each other, Myfanwy’s reason for visiting the town of her birth place were nostalgic, her health had deteriorated and her life expectancy was imminent, she wanted to visit her father’s grave, seeing Joseph Parry rekindled memories when they were childhood sweethearts.   


And so, with love comes pain, a brief encounter reawakens dormant memories, the fleeting liaison between Joseph Parry and Myfanwy Llewellyn (Vera Van Ellen) ends as they both go their separate ways, for Joseph Parry it was to bid Myfanwy, “Farewell” forever.                     


Though the book “Off to Philadelphia in the morning” depicts the life of Joseph Parry it also captured the essence of a girl called Myfanwy who was born into lowly existence and survived its trails and tribulations. It also demonstrates how childhood friendships will always be deep routed within souls.


The character Myfanwy in the novel “Off to Philadelphia in the morning” has encapsulated the association of Joseph Parry’s love song as felt by lover’s loss of his unrequited love.           


Like many love stories this one has a tragic end, though the strings of the heart cease to play, the tune never dies the adage comes to mind “Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all”.


Mynyddog” Richard Davies was the son of Daniel Davies, "deacon and precentor in the Old Chapel" - and I'm guessing that it must have been Yr Hen Gapel, Dolfach, Llanbrynmair. He was born nearby at Dol Lydan on 10th January, 1833. He was a farmer, but became famous as a poet and writer of hymns, and was a leading light in many eisteddfodau, both in Wales and in America. He took his baric name of Mynyddog from the hill nearby his place of birth, Newydd Fynyddog, and lived at Bron-y-Gan, Cemmaes, until his death on 14th July, 1877.

The refurbished interior of Joseph Parry's Cottage, No 4 Chapel Row

Dr Joseph Parry - 1875

Chapel Row, by local artist Peter Price.

E-Mail Peter at:  Peter.Price7@btopenworld.com


Chapel Row Georgetown, David James with Hugh Williams

(From the Merthyr Express)


Do you have any photographs or information relating to Joseph Parry or Chapel Row?

If so, please contact us, by clicking the 'Contact Us' button.


To the Map