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David (1951)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Ifor Morgan, looking back on his childhood, recalls the story of his teacher, Mr Rhys, respected and loved by the boys of the school, seeming to understand them better than most people, and often coming between them and trouble. But when his only son, Gwilym - who had won a scholarship to university in Cardiff and of whom his parents were so lovingly proud - died of TB, Mr Rhys was no longer quite the same. He went about his work as before but no longer seemed to care so much about the boys - as though all his sons were lost to him.

Mr Rhys is frozen by grief and it is Ifor, with his boyish belief in and love for Mr Rhys, who keeps the lines of communication open between them, despite the apparent lack of response from the bereaved man. Mr Rhys spends his time in the school library, long after the school day is over, composing a poem for his son, which is shown to Ifor's father. Thinking it worthy of the Eisteddfod crown, the Rev. Morgan persuades Dafydd to enter it for the competition (the theme for that year is 'He who suffers, conquers').

On a walk with Dafydd, Ifor tries to persuade him to attend the Eisteddfod in Aberafon just in case he wins. Dafydd narrates his life story to his young listener. He remembers going down the pit on his first day and working in the darkness. He also recalls life outside the pit, up in the open air: the circus coming to town, going to chapel, courting, marriage to Mary and the birth of his son, which coincided with a mine accident in which he is injured. He remembers a spell in hospital and returning to work in the pit, but not before he had printed and sold door-to-door a collection of his poems, the sale of which enabled a young local man, Gomer Roberts, to take up his place at college. His closing memory is of being met from his last shift, the dust having forced him to give up, by his son, who was already on his way to obtaining a good education and therefore would not be forced down the pit through lack of choice. Gwilym had insisted on carrying his father's lamp home for him.

Mr Rhys is unsuccessful at the Eisteddfod. The judges thought his poem good, indeed one - Welsh poet 'Cynan' (the bardic name for Albert Evans-Jones) - would have liked it to have won, but the majority favoured another. Dafydd Rhys masks his disappointment and congratulates Ifor warmly on passing his school exams. Ifor, however, is instrumental in Mr Rhys' later 'success'. Gomer Roberts, now a minister in the valleys and an eminent historian, returns to the school to present the prizes at the end of term. Ifor is presented with a prize and Mr Rhys (fetched from his caretaker's cupboard by Ifor) is spiritually rewarded when Gomer Roberts points him out and tells all those gathered there that were it not for Mr Rhys he would never have gone to college in the first place. The prize-giving finishes with the singing of the national anthem, 'Hen Wlad yn Nhadau' ('Land of my Fathers').