Saturday, May 1, 2010

Songs across the sea.

Up the green lane and over the hill, perched on the edge of the land, ruins sleep, slowly falling with the wind and the weather, a tumble of stones that used to be houses. For years as I was growing up I carried selkie stories in my head, stories of the sea people who would come ashore and shed their skins and dance as humans on the beach. Then they would slip back into their fur and slide beneath the ceiling of the sea once more, wild seals, free on land and water.
Where ever there are seals there are stories of selkies. Some believe they first arose from the Innuit boats made of sealskin and bone that primitive people used centuries ago. The sailors, dark skinned, exotic folk, would come ashore and fold up their boats and if you could find their boat and hide it they would have to stay, no way to return home, unless they found their craft, as a selkie will always search for its skin. I beleive that they came about because there are selkies and some people have been lucky enough to find them.
So, on a foggy day some years ago as I was walking through Maes y Mynydd, the world closed in tight around me, but sound travelling strange and far, the stones of the old village told me a new story. This became The Seal Children.

I have watched these walls fall in the alost eighteen years I have lived here. My neighbour, Mr Griffith, has seen far more decay. He has lived here since 1933. The village has always held a fascination for him. He once knew the names of many who had lived there over the years, what animals they kept, the names of their children, who they worked for. 
In my time here the great lintel that held up the chimney fawr, an old timber most likely from a ship at one time, fell, bringing down half the chimney with it.
A few weeks ago I had an email from a singer songwriter in Chicago. Linda M Smith. She is working on a new cd based on selkie legends and had come across The Seal Children and wondered on the chance of us collaborating on a multi media project together. I have too much work to work on new pieces at the moment, but still have sent images, of the village, of seals, and images from The Seal Children book and hope that something will come together from this.
She sent me cd's, including the wonderful Dancing Wildly Across the Ceiling and even more wonderful, Artemisia, a work based on the life of the 17th century artist Artemisia. Wonderful songs about painting, about being a mother, about living with art. Soon she will send me the first of the selkie songs. I do love the way the internet can work to join people and places and ideas from so far away across the world.

 This small fireplace once held a fire that warmed the heart of a home.
Now the stones have fallen and grass grows where flames were.
Looking down into the well that was, now a place for curling ferns.

 The well in Glyn's garden shows what the 
old village well would have looked like when it was in use.

Henry Morgan standing outside his house.

 A photograph of the village when people still lived there.
Something I never thought to see. Look carefully for there is a man,
standing by the house on the left.
This photos is taken from a glass plate found in an old attic.


  1. Did you ever see The Secret of Roan Inish?
    One of my most favourite films.

  2. I love to discover places and what a magical place this is. To think of those families that lived and work on the land. The last photo is a real find.

  3. I love that in the picture of the fireplace; you can see the small stone dragon; looking out at the other dwellings from his perch. Lovely photos. Thanks!

  4. I've always been fascinated with the stories of selkies. I've been scribbling bits and pieces for years about them...maybe one day it might all come together. Perhaps our fascination is a deep memory of the time before we humans left the oceans...perhaps there is a part of us that longs to return. Your pictures of houses also reminded me of a song I wrote ages ago, about little houses that were once homes...except that over here, people seem to be in an enormous rush to bulldoze them to make room for horrible little units. Our history isn't fading away, it's being deliberately obliterated...sigh!

  5. I love ruins of all sorts of things and so your post drew me in. Thank you for sharing these photos and some of its history!