As if a child could learn
What joys and sorrows fill
The roads of no return
Away from Moelfre Hill
In July 2011 I was invited to join the French choir Ensemble pour Boala in a concert in the Mynydd Seion Chapel in Abergele in North Wales. The concert also featured local choir Coastal voices.
We got together to rehearse over the days preceding the concert in a farmhouse in the hills a few miles inland from Abergele. Isabelle and I stayed nearby in a little hut half way up Moelfre Isaf – there was no water or electricity, plenty of night-time visitors, and it took a half mile walk to get there, but the view out across the Elwy valley in the morning was remarkable.
I knew vaguely that there was some connection between the family of my best friend, Dave, and the area, so I had mentioned the concert to his widow and sister. They came over and brought his mother, who lives in Abergele, to the concert. The following morning, as rain hurtled down, we met them for breakfast in a café on Abergele high street. Dave’s sister asked me to show her on the map exactly where we had been staying.
It turned out that their family had been tenant sheep farmers of the land around our hut for generations. What is more, a white farmhouse that we could see from our hillside vantage point was the place where they had spent their summer holidays as children. And when I had phoned to give them final details of the concert, I had been leaning on a gate looking towards this farmhouse, on the fifth anniversary of his death.
On the way home down the M6 we stopped at a service station and I jotted down the beginnings of what was to become the song, Moelfre Hill. You can listen to the eventual recording here:
The recording, included on my fifth album The dust of time, features Cliff Ward from The Willows on violin, and Brian Harvey on bass. The song has been has played both on Celtic Heartbeat on BBC Radio Wales and on BBC Radio Scotland (twice) by Iain Anderson who commented ‘rather nice – we liked that’. There was also an article about the song in the Abergele Post.