“We are happy that it has been possible for us to arrange that you speak and sing to us today. We would be far happier if you were with us in person.”
Will Paynter, President of South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworker Tenth Annual Miners’ Eisteddfod
Saturday 5 October 1957
On Saturday 5 October 1957, Paul Robeson sang to Wales for the first time since 1949. Despite an epidemic of Asian flu, over 2000 people crammed into the Porthcawl Pavilion for the Tenth Annual Miners’ Eisteddfod. The new technology of a trans- Atlantic telephone triumphed over the passport ban and Robeson sang for a Welsh audience and listened to performers from Wales return the compliment.
Following the welcoming remarks of Will Paynter, the President of the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers:
“We look forward to the day when we shall shake your hand and hear you sing with us in these valleys of music and song”
Paul Robeson’s resonant voice was heard on the amplified phone line:
“My warmest greetings to the people of my beloved Wales and a special hello to the miners of South Wales at your great festival. It is a privilege to be participating in this historic festival. All the best to you as we strive for a world where we can live abundant and dignified lives.”
Robeson sang the Negro spiritual Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, Ar Hyd Y Nos, This Little Light Of Mine, All Men Are Brothers from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and Schubert’s Lullaby. Treorchy Male Voice Choir responded with the stirring Welsh song, Y Delyn Aur - The Golden Harp and then the whole gathering sang a final We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside. Robeson commented that “It seems I am standing right there with you” and he ended with a verse of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau sung in English.
For those who attended, it was an occasion of great emotion:
“If you could only have seen this great body of people clinging to every note and word, you would have known the extent of the feeling that exists in Wales for you and for your release from the bondage now forced upon you.”