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History of Brechfa Church adapted from
 ' Teulu Teilo'
by Bob Lenny and Patrick Thomas

 

13. Twentieth Century Rectors


Thomas Jones retired in 1923 and went to live in Cwmann. He had served Brechfa Church faithfully for 27 years, his greatest and most lasting contribution being the building of the Church Hall which has proved a valuable centre for church and village activities ever since. He was replaced by the Reverend Daniel Evans, a graduate of St David's College, Lampeter, who had previously served curacies in Llanllwchaiarn and Cwmffrwd.

During the eight years which he spent in the parish Daniel Evans significantly improved the condition of the Rectory. In 1924 he introduced the booklet Emynau'r Genhadaeth to enliven the Sunday School. The latter was still holding its ground, with 76 members in 1930. In that year there were six classes in the care of Mrs Rule, David Davies, Tom Lewis, Mrs D. Evans, Mrs A. Thomas and the Rector. Daniel Evans was appointed Vicar of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth with Pencader in 1931. His two daughters were the last children to live in the Rectory until the 1980s.

The next Rector was the Reverend David Davies, who had also gained a B.A. at Lampeter. He had been a curate in Llandeilo Fawr and Llangyfelach with Morriston before his appointment to Brechfa. He and his wife arranged spectacular Christmas pageants in the church, using costumes brought from Swansea. It was during his time that the Rectors of Brechfa became responsible for holding regular Welsh Sunday services in Yspytty School between Horeb and Rhydargaeau. This arrangement continued until the parishes of Brechfa and Abergorlech were united in 1952.

During the 1930s a camp for unemployed workers from the South Wales valleys was built just outside the village. It was open from March to October each year and the men who were sent there built roads for the Forestry Commission. They used to walk down to Brechfa on Sunday evenings to attend the service at St Teilo's and the Rector would also hold services in the camp. Towards the end of the Spanish Civil War the camp buildings were used to house Basque refugee children.

David Davies became Vicar of Llandefaelog in 1938. He was succeeded in Brechfa by the Reverend John Griffith Thomas, a Lampeter graduate whose curacies had been in Llansawel and Llandysul. J.G. Thomas is remembered as a powerful and effective preacher, who also worked hard to prepare the children for the annual Cymanfa Ganu (which at that time was held jointly with the parishes of Llanegwad, Llanarthne and Llanddarog). After the Second World War broke out in 1939 the church was adapted for the 'blackout'. An external screen was placed over the east window, the back windows of the church were permanently blacked out and black curtains were used on the side windows. The Rector joined the Brechfa Home Guard and briefly (and somewhat reluctantly) served as Platoon Commander.

In 1944 J.G. Thomas obtained a post with Dr Barnardo's in the South of England. His place in Brechfa was filled by the Reverend Gwilym Kenneth Williams, a graduate of Swansea University, who had trained for the ministry at St Michael's College, Llandaff. He had served curacies in Llansadwrn and Llandingat and had been Curate-in-charge of Henllan Amgoed. In 1952 the parishes of Brechfa and Abergorlech were grouped together and in 1958 Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn was added on as well.

G.K. Williams worked successfully with the children and young people of the parish through the Sunday School and Cymry'r Groes. He also established a surpliced boys' choir. In 1955 the Church Hall was extended and its interior re-plastered. This cost several thousand pounds, money which was raised locally with the help of friends of the church. G.K. Williams was appointed Vicar of Borth in 1960. He later became Rural Dean of Llanbadarn Fawr and a Canon of St David's Cathedral.

He was succeeded by the Reverend Eric Myrddin Grey, who came to Brechfa from the parishes of Capel Cynon with Talgarreg, where he had been Rector for six years. Prior to that he had been a curate in Aberaeron and Cwmamman, having graduated from St David's College, Lampeter, and completed his theological training at Lichfield. His ordination had been delayed by war service in India. Eric Grey spent 23 years as Rector of Brechfa and Vicar of Abergorlech with Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn. He became so closely identified with the parish that he was known throughout the Church in Wales as 'Grey of Brechfa.' He was a faithful and much-loved parish priest and pastor, a keen fisherman, an enthusiastic supporter of Plaid Cymru, a fearless critic of some of the absurdities of Welsh church life, and a good friend with a lively sense of humour.

Eric Grey supervised the renovation of St Teilo's Church in 1978. The church was repainted, a beautiful carpet was given by Mrs Edith Thomas, Delfryn, Mrs Martha Daniels presented a new altar cloth and the harmonium was replaced by an electric organ. Eric Grey retired in 1983, moving from the Rectory to Llystyn Cottage, Brechfa. He continued to assist his successor, Revd Dr Patrick Thomas, as did the Reverend Alan Croft, a retired priest from the Exeter Diocese who lived at Ty'rcae for some years before moving to Oxford. Eric Grey died on October the 8th 1992, aged 76. On the morning of his funeral a requiem was celebrated in St Teilo's Church at 7.30am (the time at which he always rang the daily bell for Boreol Weddi) by the Right Reverend Roy Davies, Bishop of Llandaff. His funeral was attended by an enormous crowd of friends, both clergy and laity, with the Right Reverend Ivor Rees, Bishop of St Davids, taking part. Eric Grey was buried in Brechfa churchyard - the first Rector to be buried there since David Morris Jones in 1895.

 

14. Patrick Thomas and the end of the 20th Century

On July the 19th 1984 the Reverend Doctor Patrick Thomas was inducted as Rector. He is a graduate of Cambridge, Aberystwyth and Leeds universities and trained for the priesthood at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield. He had served curacies in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen and was Rector of Llangeitho before moving to Brechfa. He has re-established the Sunday School and pageants and plays by the children have become a regular feature of church life. In a time of difficulty for many rural churches St Teilo's Church has continued to thrive. The average number of Easter communicants in the years 1989-93 was 80 and the average number of people attending the Easter services in the same period was 110. The average Sunday congregation during the first ten weeks of 1993 was 44, including 32 communicants.

1988 saw the celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of Bishop William Morgan's Welsh Bible. As part of the celebrations a new translation of the Bible into Welsh was published. On the eve of St David's Day (the official date of publication) the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Reverend George Noakes, visited St Teilo's Church to hold a confirmation and to bless some of the first copies of Y Beibl Cymraeg Newydd for use in the church. In November 1990 Archbishop Noakes returned to Brechfa to consecrate an extension to the churchyard. The land for this had been very generously given by Lady Sheila Dunsany of Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath, grand-daughter of J.W. Gwynne-Hughes, who gave the land for the new church and the original churchyard extension. Bishop Ivor Rees of St Davids came to Brechfa in March 1992 to dedicate a new church gate, the gift of Mr and Mrs W. Eynon of Llanstephan.

Miss Mandy Williams, an ordinand from Westcott House, Cambridge, spent some time assisting in the parish before her ordination to the diaconate in 1992. The Rector has since then been appointed an Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of St Davids, with special responsibility for helping curates to learn Welsh.
Under Patrick Thomas St Teilo’s continued as a friendly church which was very much at the heart of the local community. A bilingual Family Communion was celebrated at 11am every Sunday. The lessons were read by members of the congregation, there was a helpful group of 'ystlyswyr' (sidesmen and women) and a youthful team of altar servers. Mr Dominic Carmichael was the first licensed Lay Eucharistic Assistant. There were three dedicated church organists: Mrs Margaret Lenny, Dr Elsbeth Grey and Mrs Audrey Dyer. During Lent the service of Gosber (Welsh Evensong) was sung on Wednesday evenings, while there was an English discussion group in the Rectory on the preceding night. There was an active Sunday School and Youth Club.

To celebrate the centenary Tapinyddion Teilo' (Teilo's Tapestry-makers) was formed: a group which aome together under the leadership of Miss Iris Lenny to make a set of special kneelers. The designs for the kneelers was produced by Mrs Janetta Turgel, a member of the church, and the wool for the project was provided by James and Jessi Seaton. 'Tapinyddion Teilo' met on Thursday evenings in the Church Hall. 'Cantorion y Cwm' wasa choir drawn from the area around Brechfa and including several members of St Teilo's Church. It was conducted by Mr Robert Adamson and maked a significant musical contribution to major festivals and other events of importance in the life of the church.

'Clychau'r Cwm' began in 1986 as the parish magazine of Brechfa, Abergorlech and Llanfihangel Rhos-y-com. It contained a wide variety of news, local history, nature notes, recipes and other items. It had a circulation of 275 copies and appears about eight times a year. Its readers included church people, chapel members and those with no religious affiliation at all. 'Cwrs Cymraeg Brechfa' (the Brechfa Welsh Course) started around the same time and provided free Welsh classes in the Rectory for newcomers to the area.
Under Patrick Thomas the Brechfa Church Calendar contained several special (and some unique) occasions. These include:

PLYGAIN - the traditional Welsh Christmas Communion service was held at 6 o'clock on Christmas morning. It begins with a party of the men of the church singing unaccompanied an ancient carol by candlelight.

On SUL Y BLODAU (Palm Sunday) a donkey was led through the village from the Maes-y-groes Estate entrance to the gate of the church. It was followed by a procession of children and adults carrying palm branches.

On the afternoon of DYDD GWENER Y GROGLTTH (Good Friday) the young people of the church gave a dramatic reading of the Passion story. Then one of them carried a wooden cross to Maes-y-groes farmyard, followed by the rest of the congregation. An open-air service of prayers and hymns was held there before returning to the Church Hall for tea and hot cross buns.

SUL Y PASG (Easter Sunday) began at the 8am service with the lighting of the Paschal Candle as a sign of Christ's victory over darkness, evil and death. At 11am the Easter garden was blessed and Easter eggs and butterflies (early Christian symbols of Resurrection and new life) were given to the children.

SUL Y DRTNDOD (Trinity Sunday) was the occasion of the annual Cymanfa Ganu (Singing Festival) held jointly with the parishes of Abergorlech, Caio, Talley, Llansawel and Llanfihangel Rhos-y-corn.

GWYL SANT TEILO A'R AFALLENNAU (The Feast of St Teilo and the Apple Trees) began to be celebrated on the third Sunday in September in recent years. The festival had its origins in Brittany and lessons were read in Welsh, Breton, French and English during the service. The church was decorated with apple branches for the occasion.

Y CYRDDAU DIOLCHGARWCH AM Y CYNHAEAF (The Harvest Thanksgiving Services) took place in mid-October. There was a bilingual afternoon service (with the children of the village taking part), followed by one of the splendid teas for which St Teilo's Church was (and is) renowned, and a Welsh service in the evening.

Partick Thomas was the last rector of the twentieth century. He left to become vicar of Christ Church Carmarthen in 2001 and was succeeded by the current Priest in Charge Revd. Dr Gerry Sykes. Many of the activities started under Patrick Thomas continue and new ones have been added. This website was started by Gerry Sykes