One of the pleasing things about managing our business is the huge number of connections we make within the wider musical community. This often has nothing to do with ‘business’ in its strictest sense as the story below illustrates well.
I make no secret of my Welsh roots and although I left home to live and work across the border almost 50 years ago I still keep in touch most recently taking a two day road trip to visit some notable pipe organs in South Wales with David Gwesyn Smith as my very well informed guide.
This blog caught the attention of Rosalind Davidson who asked for help identifying a substantial Chapel where her grandfather John Edward Morgan was photographed in 1914.
I have been reading your interesting blog about Welsh church organs and wondered if there was any way you could identify the one in the attached photo. It has my grandfather, John Edward Morgan, seated in front and it appears to be a professional photo taken in 1914, (faint pencil on the back). I think it may be showing the chapel’s newly fitted organ, and decorations, wall friezes in art nouveau style etc.
John Morgan was to become the organist at St John’s Church in Pentre but this photo seems to show a different style of building, more of a chapel type maybe. There were many chapels in the area but just a few remaining now.
I was brought up in the Brighton area but visited my grandparents in Pentre as a child, I’ve inherited a lot of photos and am now putting together a history of their lives – good lockdown distraction..!
best wishes, Ros
I immediately knew that David Gwesyn, or ‘Sherlock of The Valleys’ as I now refer to him would most likely have the answer. Just as expected within less than 5 minutes the answer came back.
‘This is Jerusalem Calvinistic Methodist chapel Ton Pentre, known as the Cathedral of Rhondda Methodism. The organ was by Vowles of Bristol and after the chapel closed it was removed to Brynmawr parish church. The chapel was demolished in the 90’s’.
It is sad but fair to say a vast army of Welsh Chapels that were the heart of their proud communities have been lost. Demolished in many cases as they are so difficult to adapt to alternative uses.
These were the very soul and lungs of the Welsh spiritual and musical tradition so its not surprising to find that Rosalind’s inquiry relates to another lost building. Happily, though the organ was relocated.
My own grandfather was a chapel organist in Pontypridd and later at Tabernacle Aberystwyth that suffered demolition after a fire. Closed some years before the fire the fine 3 manual Harrison organ there found its way to a Southampton Church.
So by a coincidence of the internet and no doubt Google, I am pleased to publish a picture of this fine Welsh Chapel Organ (above) that escaped the fate of its building, and a little of the history of one of its organists recently found by John Morgan’s granddaughter while sorting through family records. I wonder if anyone can link John Morgan to the renowned ‘Organ Morgan’ made famous by Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood?
Do you have any more information about the Jerusalem Calvinistic Methodist chapel Ton Pentre? Maybe you visited it or even played the organ before the building was demolished. We’d love it if you shared your stories in the comments below.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.
Rosalind Davidson says
Just saw the piece about my grandfather, looks interesting I think. I should have mentioned that my grandfather was of course known as ‘Morgan the organ’ in true welsh tradition!
David Mason says
Hello Rosalind, I presume not the Organ Morgan that was inspiration for the lines in Under Milkwood? Regards David