story starts on 14th April 1912, in the smoking room of the Titanic. W
T Stead, the journalist and peace campaigner is on his way to speak at
a conference in the Carnegie Hall, New York. He can count amongst his
friends and acquaintances, Gladstone, The Tsar and the US President Taft.
As an investigative journalist he has actually spent time in prison for
exposing a certain crime. In 1904 as a disillusioned ‘hack’
he was given the job of investigating Evan Roberts and his Revival. It
was a job that would change his life forever.
Industrial Wales 1904. The British Fleet sailed on Welsh
Coal. These are the men who daily risk their lives to cut this coal out
of the ground. They realise they have strength if they organise and work
Evan Roberts had a great confidence in his calling which
occasionally faltered as he questioned his ability and worthiness to live
up to everyone’s expectations. The second verse tells the thoughts
of his sister who is worried about his sanity. Evan taught his followers
the prayer ‘Send Your Spirit’. Even at the height of success
Evan would ask the question ‘Why Me’.
See Me As A Woman
of the criticisms of Evan was that he travelled with a group of teenage
girls, ‘The Singers of the Dawn’. Annie Davies joined this
group and never left his side. She had had singing lessons from Ivor Novello’s
mother and was a beautiful young woman. There were newspaper claims that
they had become engaged. Was she in love with Evan? Did he ever see he
as anything other than a face amongst the crowd. When the Chapel is empty
she has time to reflect.
Man Like You
Evan met opposition at every
turn. Some thought him too good to be true, that he was no different to
the other ‘do gooders’. Everywhere in life he seemed to come
across ‘a man like you’.
In January 1905, with the Revival
in full swing, a group of miners went underground in Gorseinon, a village
a few miles from Loughor, singing hymns. Within a few hours they would
be dead following an explosion. I wondered how Evan would cope with this.
In the second verse his sister says he has to continue with his work.
In the third verse, a union activist asks Evan where is his God now.
a Story that we Need
In February 1905 Evan cancelled
all engagements and spent a week in silence in a house in Neath. Annie
Davies was the only person who saw him when she brought him his food.
The Newspaper men gathered outside waiting for a new headline. Others
came from around the world asking Evan for a word from God. It was a real
media circus with Evan alone in the eye of the storm.
Evan’s sister Mary worried
that the strain would be too much for her brother. Her role of confidante
had been taken by Annie Davies and she found herself slightly on the outside.
Evan’s mood swings and erratic behaviour made her fear for his sanity.
Raise the Flag
Unionisation of Industry
in Wales had been going on for some time. Some thought those in charge
of the Miner’s Federation (The Fed) were too soft. One critic said
‘If the leaders of the Fed were in charge of the Children of Israel
they’d still be making bricks out of straw’. The more radical
socialist ideals of the ‘syndicalist’ movement was taking
root. They looked back to the militancy shown at the Merthyr Riots of
1831 for their inspiration. These riots are said to be the first time
a red flag, a sign of revolution, was raised in Britain.
Speak to My Heart
In the week of silence Evan
fights to hear the voice of God one again. He has been asked to lead a
campaign in Liverpool, the second biggest port in the Empire and he is
unsure. At the end of the week he is renewed and resigned to do whatever
he has to do, whatever the cost.
Why Should I Do The
W T Stead has been shadowing
Evan trying to get ‘The facts’. No Matter where he looks he
can’t find evidence of corruption, financial or moral. He asks Evan
for an interview but Evan ends up asking the questions. In a newspaper
article, W T Stead had exposed child prostitution in London. He showed
how easy it was to buy a child but as a result of his actions he was imprisoned
for 3 months. He did the right thing and paid the price. Evan’s
only answer is Isaiah 53. Is Evan speaking to Stead or to himself?
I Like Sundays
One of the major miracles
of the Welsh Revival was not that water had been turned into wine, but
that beer had been turned into tables and chairs as miners found strength
to cope with their incredibly hard lives without the aid of alcohol. It
also led to hypocrisy as people wanted to be seen to be upright. For some
that meant, hiding their beer in water bottles, enjoying ‘personal’
attention in revival meetings or playing football but using someone else’s
name when it came to filling in the team sheet.
A tune many of us have grown
up with. As with so much beauty familiarity breeds contempt.
The musical ends where it began,
on the Titanic. The amazing thing about W T Stead is that he had written
2 books about the possibility of Ocean Liners sinking in the Atlantic.
Were these premonitions of his own death? The events of 1904 in Wales
changed Stead. Even at this final moment of crisis he is able to face
his future without fear and without regret.