I got an e-mail from David yesterday, about the Idris Davies poem Rhymney I uploaded last week. It was short and to the point:
pronounced as RUM_KNEE
...as an Englishwoman, albeit one who went to school in the Valleys, I hesitate to pronounce upon Welsh pronunciation. But... as I recall, Rh is pronounced differently to R; it is rolled, with lots of breath. Try reversing the letters, like this: Hrum-knee...
I once had to explain to Richard, by e-mail, how to pronounce the welsh LL. I found a useful description of it in my Welsh placenames book. "Like the TL in Bentley", it said. Which sort of works, although when Katie tried this explanation with some children in Nottingham when she introduced them to Llygoden, her toy mouse, they inserted a glottal stop and it came out as Ben_Lee.
Of course, there's proper pronunciation and there's pronunciation as it is pronounced. The locals were pretty casual about it in the Newbridge area, back in the 70s, and no-one spoke Welsh apart from the children of Mrs James, my English teacher, two of whose sons went to the Welsh school at Rhydfelen. So 'Celynen', for instance (the name of two local collieries: North Celynen and South Celynen) would be spoken 'Glennan'. This was in the Ebbw valley; I had the impression that things got progressively more Welsh as you travelled west.
Here's a poem. I remember those hooters. (Nantgarw, by the way, is pronounced "Nant GAR oo") with the stress on the GAR, and a short 'a' sound as in 'ash')
Meic Stephens Hooters
Night after night from my small bed
I heard the hooters blowing up and down the cwm:
these were the familiar banshees of my boyhood.
For each shift they hooted, not a night
without the high moan that kept me from sleep;
often, as my father beyond the thin wall
rumbled like the turbines he drove at work, I
stood for hours by the box-room window,
listening. The dogs of Annwn barked for me then,
Trystan called without hope to Esyllt
across the black waters. Ai, it was their wail
I heard that night a Heinkel flew up
the Taff and its last bomb fell on our village;
we huddled under the cwtsh, making
beasts against the candle’s light until the sky
was clear once more, and the hooters
sounded. I remember too how their special din
brought ambulances to the pit yard,
the masked men coming up the shaft with corpses
gutted by fire; then, as the big cars
moved down the blinded row on the way to Glyntaf,
all the hooters for twenty miles about
began to swell, a great hymn grieving the heart.
Years ago that was. I had forgotten
the hooters: my disasters, these days, are less
spectacular. We live now in this city:
our house is large, detached and behind fences.
I sleep easily, but waking tonight
found the same desolate clangour in my ears
that from an old and sunken level
used to chill me as a boy — the inevitable hooter
that paralyses with its mute alarm.
How long I have been standing at this window,
a man in the grown dark, only my wife
knows as I make for her white side, shivering.