Idris davies postcard

Idris Davies (1905-1930). Courtesy Writers' Plaques.

Idris Davies (6 January 1905 - 6 April 1953), was a Welsh poet, best known for the poem "Bells of Rhymney," which was later set to music.

Life Edit

Overview Edit

Davies originally wrote in Welsh, but later wrote exclusively in English. He was the only poet to cover significant events in the early 20th century in the South Wales Valleys and the South Wales coalfield, and from a perspective literally at the coalface.

Youth and education Edit

Davies was born in Rhymney, in Monmouthshire, Wales.

Davies qualified as a teacher through courses at Loughborough College and the University of Nottingham.

Career Edit

He took teaching posts in London during the Second World War, and later in Wales, returning to the Rhymney valley [1] in 1947.

His 2nd collection of poems was accepted by T.S. Eliot for Faber and Faber (1945).

Davies died from abdominal cancer in 1953, aged 48.

Writing Edit

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Memorial to Idris Davies in Rhymney, Caerphilly. Photo by Robin Drayton. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy

A diary entry of his reads: 'I am a socialist. That is why I want as much beauty as possible in our everyday lives, and so I am an enemy of pseudo-poetry and pseudo-art of all kinds. Too many "poets of the Left", as they call themselves, are badly in need of instruction as to the difference between poetry and propaganda.... These people should read William Blake on Imagination until they show signs of understanding him. Then the air will be clear again, and the land be, if not full of, fit for song.'


The Bells of RhymneyEdit

The Byrds - The Bells of Rhymney

The Byrds - The Bells of Rhymney

Bells of Rhymney is a poem about the failure of the 1926 UK General Strike and the Great Depression in the United Kingdom and their effects on the South Wales coal mining valleys, set to the pattern of the nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons".

The poem was set to music by folk singer Pete Seeger in the late 1950s and became a folk rock standard. The song, titled "The Bells of Rhymney", was covered by The Byrds in 1965 and later by many others, including Jimmy Page, Judy Collins, Dick Gaughan, Cher, Robyn Hitchcock, John Denver, the Oysterband, Robin Williamson and The Alarm. It has also been performed by Bob Dylan in live concerts.

At a solo concert in London in the early 2000s, Byrds lead guitarist and singer Roger McGuinn confessed that he had been pronouncing the word "Rhymney" incorrectly for over 40 years until his error had been pointed out to him by a lady from South Wales. It should be pronounced 'Rhumney', whereas The Byrds had sung about the bells of 'Rhimney'.

Davies' poem When we walked to Merthyr Tydfil has also been set to music, and performed by Max Boyce.


  • Gwalia Deserta. London: J.M. Dent, 1938.
  • The Angry Summer: A poem of 1926. London: Faber, 1943
  • (edited by Anthony Conran). Cardiff: University of Wales, 1993.
  • Tonypandy, and other poems. London: Faber, 1945.
  • Selected Poems. London: Faber, 1953.
  • Collected Poems. Llandysul, Wales, UK: Gomerian Press, 1972.
  • Complete Poems (edited by Dafydd Johnston). Cardiff: University of Wales, 1994.
  • A Carol for the Coalfield, and other poems. Llanrwst, Wales, UK: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2002.
"The Bells of Rhymney" Recited By Pete Seeger Poem animation

"The Bells of Rhymney" Recited By Pete Seeger Poem animation

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. Search results = au:Idris Davies, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, June 28, 2014.

External linksEdit

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