The town parks of Wales were especially important as places of recreation in pre-TV days. The Christian divine pattern of labour and rest from one’s labours was embedded in our way of life, hence the erection of parks everywhere. In Merthyr, there is Cyfarthfa and Thomastown. Aberdare had a park with motor-racing. Barry has Romilly. Colwyn Bay’s is a magnificent park, fit to be a venue for a Sunday School outing if you live in Aberystwyth. Neath has one, and even little Ystrad Mynach has a park, easy to cycle to, down the hill from Maesycwmmer. One summer holidays in Form Six I worked on a building site there. The parks almost all had bandstands, none of which I ever saw being used. Soccer, tennis, bowls and putting were played in these parks. The doyen of all the Welsh parks is, of course, Roath in Cardiff with its magnificent lake. The slides and roundabouts were added to the parks in the late forties with serious debates as to whether they should be locked up on the Sabbath or not.
I particularly appreciate Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd with its fine memorial to father and son, Evan and James James, the composers of the Welsh National anthem, ‘Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. It is also the home of Pontypridd Cricket Club. The old Lido has now been revamped into a modern, fun swimming pool. There are many picnic areas and a fine display of trees and bushes.
I remember going there on the train one Saturday afternoon in 1961, walking around and admiring every aspect on that warm August day. I always took a book with me on every journey, and still do, and on this occasion I had in my pocket a new paperback, entitled Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray. The first chapter is tough going, and I have marginal pencil explanations of some of Mr Murray’s Scottish vocabulary, but the rest is wonderfully clear. I distinctly remember sitting on a wooden bench on Pontypridd railway station that evening waiting for the Merthyr train to return to Barry Dock reading chapter 7 of the second part of the book. Continuing to read those pages on ‘Sanctification’ on the journey home, I believe that I was learning and gripped by the author’s godly lucidity. I still find this book incomparable today, for example, speaking of the believer’s victory over sin, he writes:
Perfectionists are right when they insist that this victory is not achieved by us nor by working or striving or labouring; they are correct in maintaining that it is a momentary act realized by faith. But they also make three radical mistakes, mistakes which distort their whole construction of sanctification.
(1) They fail to recognize that this victory is the possession of every one who is born again and effectually called. (2) They construe the victory as a blessing separable from the state of justification. (3) They represent it as something very different from what the Scripture represents it to be—they portray it as freedom from sinning or freedom from conscious sin. It is wrong to use these texts to support any other view of the victory entailed than that which the Scripture teaches it to be, namely, the radical breach with the power and love of sin which is necessarily the possession of every one who has been united to Christ. Union with Christ is union with him in the efficacy of his death and in the virtue of his resurrection—he who thus died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion.
I finished the book with an awesome awareness that in a month’s time this man will begin to teach me theology for the next three years.