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Phil Cope

The Oldest Music

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This book will be released in April 2023.

Pre-orders are charged at time of order and the book will be posted to you as soon as it becomes available.


Holy Wells of Wexford and Pembrokeshire: Volume One

In English with a trilingual introduction (English, Welsh and Irish)


The Oldest Music has been compiled by Phil Cope, a photographer and author based in south Wales who has several published works on the subject of holy wells. It explores and celebrates how holy wells have inspired poets for hundreds of years and includes a selection of old and new poems, in Welsh, English and Irish, including by Lewys Glyn Cothi, Gwynfardd Brycheiniog, Ieuan ap Rhydderch, Angela Graham, Tony Curtis, Grace O’Reilly, Eirwyn George, Dafydd Williams, Julian Cason, Lorraine O’Dwyer, Brian Jackson, Phil Carradice and Phil Cope. The Volume is illustrated by Phil Cope’s compelling photographs.


A reliable and clean source of water is essential for any community, so it is easy to understand how important wells were for pre-modern peoples. More complex is the mystical relationship humans have developed with these sites, which are imbued with a sacredness that predates Christianity. Holy Wells of Wexford and Pembrokeshire is a series of five chapbooks celebrating holy wells in two regions with common ancestry and history. Since at least the Bronze Age, sea travel between these two lands has meant cross fertilisation of traditions and common names associated with wells of both regions. Of significance is the long-standing friendship between two early Christian saints: David, who became the first Bishop of St Davids; and Aidan, born in Ireland, who spent time in Wales and then founded monasteries in Ireland, including at Ferns. In Oilgate, Wexford, there is a well dedicated to David and, at Whitesands near St Davids in Pembrokeshire, there is one named after Aidan. Each of the five books approaches the subject from different perspectives and mediums, including fiction, poetry and essays as well as photographs and prints.

Holy Wells of Wexford and Pembrokeshire is a series of five chapbooks commissioned by Ancient Connections, an EU funded arts, heritage and tourism project linking north Pembrokeshire with north Wexford led by Pembrokeshire County Council with partners Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford. The series coincides with the launch of a new pilgrim route; Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way between Ferns in County Wexford and St Davids in Pembrokeshire. The holy wells explored in this series through fiction, essays, photographs, poetry and prints are all on or close to the new pilgrim route. 


Phil Cope is a writer, photographer, and exhibition and book designer on a wide range of subjects from Haitian vodou to the Spanish Civil War, from the singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson to the footballer John Charles, from the prehistory of Margam Park to the  Olympic and Paralympic Games, in addition to his celebrated series of books on Welsh, Cornish, Scottish and English sacred springs and holy wells. Born in Cardiff, and after travelling extensively throughout Europe, North, Central and South America, the Middle East and Asia, he now lives at the dead-end of an ex-coalmining valley, the subject of his most recent publication, The Golden Valley: a visual biography of the Garw. He is currently working on a major new illustrated volume on the wells of Ireland, and a book of narrative poems and photographs on wellspring sites and their stories from around the world.