Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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PARCELL , GEORGE HENRY ( 1895 - 1967 ), musician ;

b. 18 Nov. 1895 in Carmarthen Road , Fforest-fach , near Swansea , son of Henry and Elisabeth Parcell . A miner like his father, he worked throughout his life in Garn-goch colliery , Gorseinon . From childhood he displayed a special talent for music and used his leisure time to develop his innate abilities. Despite the lack of any formal tuition or a tutor of any kind he was awarded two diplomas from the Curwen Memorial College , London : A.T.S.C. ( 1950 ) and L.T.S.C. ( 1952 ). He was organist ( 1922-27 ) and precentor ( 1927-65 ) in Saron (Congl.) , Gendros , near Swansea , and according to a report in the Evening Post his selection for the latter post, from nine applicants, was enthusiastically received. He was also appointed choirmaster of the Fforest-fach male voice choir . He composed over twenty hymn tunes, many of them such as ‘ David ’, ‘ Wig ’, ‘ Yr Allt ’ winning prizes in eisteddfodau , and one short anthem, ‘ Duw sy'n noddfa a nerth ’; all were simple and well-crafted without being ambitious. They were fashioned for church congregations whose vocal resources were known to the composer . He named one of his best tunes ‘ Irene ’ after his wife and his hymn tune ‘ Marchog Iesu ’, on words by Williams Pantycelyn , ‘ Mae'r Iesu yn myned i ryfel ’, was highly esteemed in hymn-singing festivals both in Wales and the U.S.A. ; it was recorded by Côr Godre'r Aran . A selection of his works was published as part of a special festival of praise held in Gendros ‘ as a mark of respect and indebtedness for his constant unpaid labour ’. His home in ‘ Mile End ’ was a true academy of music with an ever-open door to welcome students free of charge. Under his influence Fforest-fach developed as a centre of musical culture of the first order. People flocked from far and wide to the annual concerts in Saron chapel to listen to the choir and to world-renowned artists performing the works of the masters. But above all, he taught generation after generation to master the tonic sol-fa thereby enabling them to sing hymns and anthems in four-part harmony. One cannot consider church music in Wales without being reminded of the contribution which he and others like him have made. In this context he represents a generation of benefactors whose importance cannot be exaggerated. He m. Irene Ackerman , 26 Dec. 1929 ; d. 8 March 1967 and was cremated in Morriston .


  • Predominantly based on the ‘George Parcell File’ held by the family;
  • reports in the The Evening Post ;
  • minutes book Saron Church, Gendros,
  • and Rhaglen Sul o Fawl (28 Mai 1950) , 28 May 1950 .


Reverend Dr Richard Leonard Hugh (1913-83), Gorseinon

Published date: 2001