A little-known Welsh saint; the Welsh Bible; a range of Welsh mountains and stonehenge - a new theory about Elvis Aron Presley

© Rae West 1998

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There have been four outstanding mass musical phenomena in the last 50 years or so [i.e. up to 2000]: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. There are still people whose pulses race to the name of Elvis. For them, I present what I believe to be a completely new idea about Presley's name - nothing like it is in Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius's All About Elvis, for example - if it isn't, please let me know. Otherwise, remember you heard it here first! - Rae West

Elvis Presley, Tom Jones: Welsh boyos?     Presley and Jones: Welsh boyos singing together?
Rather blurred detail from 'Tom Jones and Elvis Jamming' Priscilla Presley 'with Sandra Harmon', in 'Elvis and Me', first publication 1985 © Graceland Enterprises

     My idea struck me a couple of years ago, visiting St Davids in south Wales - in what's now the 'Preseli Pembroke district' of south Pembrokeshire, or Dyfed as it's known out of deference to Welsh feeling. Wales (like Cornwall) trails off into the Atlantic, south-westerly, in a granitic Celtic fashion, St Davids ('the smallest cathedral city') being on the top half of the lower of the two sticking-out parts of Wales (got that?), facing southern Ireland.
     A footpath in the area, starting at Solva harbour, passes what looks like an industrialised farm, on a hillside below a burial chamber; an Ordnance Survey guidebook says '.. pass the remains of St Elvis Cromlech, a neolithic burial chamber built around 5,000 years ago. Originally the stones would have been covered by a mound of earth. St Elvis lived in the sixth century and was St David's religious teacher. ...' (OS Map 157, ref 812239). A look at the map shows the farm must be St Elvis' Farm. The burial chamber is a fairly typical small monument - neglected, overgrown, not very large, but with stones hefty enough to have ensured considerable durability.
     Inspired by this information, I looked up a popular booklet on St David of Dewisland, by Nona Rees, on sale in the cathedral; she's the daughter of a writer on the Celts. Based mostly on a MS of about 1080, no doubt of immense unreliability, we're told among other things that Aelfyw, also known as Elvis [Latinised form, as David is of Dewi?], a cousin of St David and Bishop of Munster [in Ireland] baptised David. And 'the cult of David extended into south-east Wales and Somerset.. as far afield as Repton in Derbyshire.' As St Elvis doesn't appear in my little Penguin book of saints, it seems he was eclipsed by his more famous relative, and is only locally known.
     So much for Elvis. On Presley, it's notable that the Preseli hills are nearby; the spelling has varied, including for example Prescelly. Incidentally the blue stones of stonehenge are reported, presumably reliably, to have come from here; there's an outcrop, though it has to be said they don't look very blue to a modern eye.
     It's also notable that the area has pleasant shallow harbours - e.g. Whitesands Bay, with 'St Patrick's Chapel' near the waterside, where departures to Ireland were made, at least according to tradition; it seems likely that later emigrations to the colonial United States would have been suggested by this tradition, as, in a similar way, American newspapers circulated in the west of Ireland in the 1920s.
     I suggest that Presley was the son of piously-inclined - at least in theory; Presley's father was jailed for forgery - Welsh-descent people from the Preseli area, who, conceivably out of respect for teaching, christened their son after the more or less legendary 'saint', credited with shaping their patron saint, David.
     I have no idea when Presley's ancestors might have travelled from Wales. Perhaps there's a clue in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography where Franklin's partner Meredith leaves more or less amicably, 'in or about the year 1729': "I see this [printing] is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, and it was a folly in me... Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina, where land is cheap. I am inclined to go with them.." Carolina is at least in the same sort of area as Tennessee and Mississippi.
     The name 'Aron' presumably is Aaron, 'a teacher, lofty, mountain of strength' according to Cruden's Concordance, which fits nicely. It's not very well known that, early on, but when printing had been properly invented, the Bible was translated into Welsh; there's at least one such vernacular Bible in St Davids Cathedral. So it's possible that 'Aron' is in fact the correct spelling, but in Welsh! Certainly the double-a seems unknown in Welsh (judging by a small dictionary I have). The name given to Elvis' still-born twin, Jesse Garon, perhaps adds a bit of support; Jesse being the father of David, though I haven't been able to find a 'Garon', unless it could possibly be 'Geraint'. (Since I wrote this, Miles Mathis explored the idea in December 2015 idea that the twin survived and was used as a spare Elvis).
     Furthermore, the Welsh have a tradition of Eisteddfods, community singing, and so on (partly because there was little else to do?) so that perhaps Elvis is an unexpected outcome of this long tradition.
     When I checked, people in the nearby tourist information centre hadn't heard of this idea; so I presume it may be original; anyway, here it is. (Note for the South Wales Tourist Board: 1% of turnover?)

Aug 1999: As an experiment I emailed, and received a reply from, the 'Information Development Officer' of the Welsh Tourist Board. They aren't interested.

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© Rae West [1998-01-15 this revn 2000-04-19. Mathis reference inserted 29 July 2016]