Mar neu O'r Blaen (Then and Now)
By Barbara Candlish
They say the skies of Blaenau Gwent were crying
They say the hills and valleys could not breath
They say in dirty running rivers
No fish or wildlife could be seen
That was then Coal was King
They didn't know what harm it would bring
They say the skies of Blaenau Gwent are smiling
They say the hills and valleys can now breath
They say in clean running rivers
Fish and wildlife are be seen
This is now, from waste ochre underground
A new pigment has been found
NB: In Welsh when it's sunny they say 'the sky is smiling'
About this poem
Barbara’s short poem ‘Then and Now’, is inspired by the ‘Colours from the Mines’ project at Tŷ Ebbw, Six Bells. In Autumn 2020, visual artist Onysa McCausland oversaw an exciting regeneration scheme for Six Bells which saw leftover waste from the mind recycled as pigment, used to create a number of special ochre paints unique to the village.
This short and thought-provoking poem is full of powerful imagery, taken from the lilting effects of personification in the Welsh language which describes sunshine as the sky ‘smiling’. Here, Barbara reworks this imagery to reimagine the before and aftereffects of the coal mining history of the valley, bringing it bang up to date with the reference to the ‘new pigment’ found as a result of the project. It is a poem about the positive effects of restoration and hope.
This page is part of the Blaenau Gwent REACH online exhibition.