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"Homesickness is too weak; you feel hiraeth." Gillian Thomas went away to live and found that hiraeth drew her back to Treorchy.


"People say to me, where are you from? And I always say the Rhondda, and they instinctively think they know what that means and the Rhondda isn't a place, it's a state of mind that makes me feel very happy, very warm and very safe. And so, whenever I'm away for any period of time, I long to come back.

I was trying to explain this to a friend of mine once who is English, why. You know, it's not home sickness. Home sickness is too weak. You feel hiraeth, which is a longing of the soul to come home to be safe.

The other thing that my English friends are very interested in is this odd vocabulary we use, and we use Tidy a lot. To be tidy is to be respectful, and so I can remember as a small child with my father and I walking home, and there were a lot of old miners then who couldn't breathe because of the effects of the silicosis. I couldn't understand why he would often stop to chat to these people and say the most ridiculous things, and now I know it was because he wanted to help that person, to allow that person to have time to move on, but to do it with dignity.

They were heroes who went underground and they needed to be treated like heroes after.

And the word they love most of all is cwtch. Cwtch has many meanings and my favourite meaning is cwtch, a cuddle, but the more important thing is a cwtch with your mam. And if your parents are no longer with you, it is your valley that provides that, it gives you a cwtch, and you know you are immediately safe, warm, loved and special again."

By: Gillian Thomas
Published: November 2007

Your comments

"This story brings back so many happy times growing up in the Rhondda.I moved to Lincoln 21 years ago with my new wife who I met at a disco at the top club Clydach,.I now work for HM prison Lincoln have two grown up sons and live in the country,but I will always be a Vally boy ..."
Barry Thomas.From Lincoln Ex Tonypandy.

"My grandfather JOHN ROBERTS was born on Coity Farm near Blaenavon in 1872 & migrated to Australia. He talked about THE RHONDDA, BLAENAVON, PONTYPOOL,THE OLD COUNTRY & BACK HOME all the time. I drove into Blaenavon in 2000 & felt an overpowering of emotion. HIRAETH is a wonderful word."
Rose RIM, Eltham, Melbourne, Australia.

"Born in Dinas. I lived with my Nan for the first 6 years of my life. Used to go to Craig Ddu School. Love to come home when I can. It is like having a big Cwtch when I walk in either Penygraig, Trealaw or Pandy. My dog is named Pandy. He gives me a big Cwtch everyday. Gareth."
Gareth Lush-Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

"Well I moved to Reading about a year ago and I miss Wales and intend returning when I retire! All my family are there and I am up and down the motorway every month!"
Joan Everall, Reading.

"Reading this made me feel that I was having a bit cwtch. Every time I go back I feel I am going home, even though I haven't lived there for about 40 years. Thank you for evoking the memories that are never too far from the surface."
Nicky Coleman, Cheshire.

"Pentre boy that needs a big cwtch after reading this ... spot on."
Ian now in Las Vegas.

"Well hiraeth is a great word. I lived in the place you showed in the opening shot called Pontygaith Street, called Margaret Street. Worked for years in a mine called Cwtch, real name National. Had many a great time with the men there now living over the mountain in Treorchy. But very proud to say that I am from the Rhondda. Thank you for showing this story."
Thomas John Davies, Treorchy, Rhondda.

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