Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

A Methodist Deacon's Advice

R. Emyr Jones

I don't really know when I began taking an interest in boxing; at some time during my schooldays, most likely, in the 'thirties, when men like Jack Petersen, Len Harvey, Larry Gains, and that tough German, Walter Neusel, were household names among a good number of civilized, Christian, Welsh people. My interest probably reached its peak that unforgettable night in 1937 when the idol of Tonypandy, Tommy Farr1, fought Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber from Detroit, for the world championship. That was a night! What a contest!

Next day the fight was shown at every cinema in the kingdom, and the fans both saints and lesser folk among them flocked to see the film on screen. I well recall a man from Dyffryn Ogwen going to see it at the Plaza in Bangor three nights in a row, and when someone asked him why he was going a third time, he replied, 'Farr was close to winning the night before last, and last night, so perhaps he'll have better luck tonight.'

However foul and uncivilized it may be to set two fit and muscular men to face each other in a narrow ring and then, in cold blood, to pitch into thrashing each other mercilessly, it must be admitted that it appeals to many of us proof, perhaps, that the beast is still strong in us, despite our having heard so many eloquent sermons on peace and kindness and brotherly love.

My father was a deacon with the Calvinistic Methodists, and he had not only heard hundreds of powerful sermons but had also found something engaging in almost every one. What he hated most to hear was criticism of preachers and preaching. For me, at that time, every Methodist deacon was a narrow, drily religious creature. Nevertheless, high though my father's respect was for the sermon, and for preachers, and despite the fact that chapel and religion were so dear and important in his sight, he also had a great interest in boxing. It's not easy to reconcile the two, and I have no intention of trying to do so now.

Only twice do I remember him offering me advice, and that was at a time when it was fashionable for deacons to counsel their children, and other people's children too, if it comes to that. No child ever had more practical, and more unexpected, advice from any

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