The Western Mail
17th October, 1933
THE FARM-WORKSHOP ON THE HILL
By GARETH JONES
two o’clock in the morning, when farmers in the Towy Valley have long retired
to bed, a little light burns in a farm window on the hillside.
you can creep nearer without arousing the lively sheep-dogs and peep into the
kitchen, you will see an elderly, tallish man, with a sharp, narrow face, seated
before the fire working in the light of an old-fashioned lamp. His long, nimble fingers ceaselessly move a hooked knife on a piece of
sycamore, and if you peer long enough without disturbing him you will see that
shapeless wood turn into an artistic spoon, or egg-cup, or paper knife.
name of the craftsman toiling on at dead of night is Richard Richards. After a life of wandering through the world he has come to live at Y
Wern, Llansadwrn, near Llangadock.
it came to settling down “Dic y Wern” turned a cold shoulder on Australia,
did not yield to the temptations of a little house amid the splendours of Canada
or the States, but found a house on a hill in the Welsh countryside where he can
see Welsh trees, Welsh fields, and Welsh mountains.
was in the afternoon of an October day when I asked to see his work.
took me into the large farmhouse kitchen, and brought a box cluttered with
original wooden objects. Cheek by
jowl with solid thick ladles - puritanical in their simplicity and sternness of
execution - there were dainty baby spoons with whimsical coloured designs.
As a contrast to the plain but beautifully worked butter scoops, there
were some in the shape of a duck, and I warrant you that I saw those duck’s
eyes winking at me as if to say “He’s a clever old boy, Dic y Wern!”
to the traditional West Wales carved spoons - so smooth that they almost shone
like silver - there were other large spoons, which seemed to say:
at the fantasy which my maker had when he made me!” Indeed, the delicately interwoven wooden flowers showed not only a
cunning hand but a fertile imagination. Only
a man with a sense of humour could have carved that napkin ring on, which you
see a brown snake pursuing a frog, and there is originality also in the design
of the paper knives he makes.
lived in many parts of the world, “Dic y Wern” has had a choice of different
woods. When he said that one of the
spoons was out of sandalwood and another object out of Australian scrubwood I
had that same excited feeling as I had when in my schooldays I wandered through
the docks and listened to sailors’ tales of far-off lands.
hearing that a dark sugar bowl was made from an Australian jam tree and the lid
from a gum tree I reflected on the rich source of legends Australia must be for.
the traveller with imagination. How
he could thrill the youngsters by tales of the jam tree, so called because it
grows pots of jam, and of the gum tree, whose fruit is chewing-gum!
Richards’s strangest raw material, however, is the emu egg. Alas! his choicest emu
design wrecked between Colombo and Port Said, when the egg rolled from the bunk
in a storm. “I also make
egg-cups,” he continued, with a twinkle, “but not for emu eggs!”
Sticks for Everything
his gifts do not end there. Come
into another room and you will see such an array of walking-sticks as will
arouse your admiration. There are
blackthorns which would make de Valera go green with envy, sticks for otter
hunting, riding whips, shepherd’s crooks of dark wood, sticks with curious
painted designs, and there is one stick for finding sheep buried in the snow.
are the varied creations of Richard Richards’s craft. I was delighted to hear that his secrets will not disappear and that in
his classes in Llansadwrn and Llanwrda, the young people are getting on
splendidly, as he told me. They
have in their teacher, however, not only a craftsman in woodwork, but a champion
hedger and ploughman who has been first 41 times out of 47 ploughing
now we will say good-bye to “Dic y Wern,” leaving him in his house on the
hill and knowing well that unless Mrs. Richards puts her foot down firmly he
will again to-night be working with his hooked knife until well into the black
hours after midnight.
Nos da, “Dic y Wern”; nos