Wanton Vandalism or Raw Ignorance?
I would tend to favour the second myself.
It’s been the subject of a lot of hot chatter over the weekend, when it was discovered that some ‘Banksie wannabe’ decided in some nice dry winter weather to get his (probably) or (possibly) her paint tins and brushes out – who knows it may even have been some kind of weird couple obsession! The mind boggles.
One thing is for sure, it was the result of abject ignorance – not realising what ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ means to those of us who know and remember from living memory what it was about. The blood of patriots immediately started to boil when the desecration was witnessed. The culprit(s) could not have imagined what reaction their deed would trigger.
The target was the famous wall memorial to a hideous occurrence in our recent history as a colonised country. A direct attack on our basic human rights – the total disrespect for us as a nation, and of course a lesson for us that our conquerors can do exactly what they want with us, and that resistance is futile. Well not quite. What that nasty and heartless deed by the English establishment did was to wake up – to an extent – the fire in our bellies (a fire symbolised by Ein Gwlad’s logo of a Phoenix rising from a dying fire). The original graffiti appeared near Llanrhystud on the main coast road and in full view of every vehicle that’s passed ever since, after the village of Capel Celyn in Gwynedd was flooded in 1965 to provide water for the city of Liverpool . It stiffened our backs and we started to stand on our hind legs and showed some teeth and claws for a change.
In 2005, Liverpool City Council issued an apology for Tryweryn for “any insensitivity shown” by the previous council’s endorsement of the proposal to flood Cwm Tryweryn.
The focus was all on London. The bill to allow the drowning received its second reading in the House of Commons on 3 July 1957.It was passed by 166 votes to 117 without any support from the 36 Welsh MPs. But while 24 Welsh MPs voted in opposition, the rest either abstained or didn’t vote at all. The bill would allow the compulsory purchase of land to build a reservoir to supply water to England. The construction was a five-year project costing around £17m.
The Effect on Individuals
Dafydd Wigley (by now one of the Welsh Lords that amazingly occupy the greatest symbol of archaic supremacist hierarchic dictatorships – the upper chamber in Westminster), has gone on record as saying that one of the three primary reasons why he initially got involved in nationalist politics was because of the Tryweryn insult to our nation. It woke a few others up as well, including Saunders Lewis with his famous “Tynged Yr Iaith” speech, that spawned Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg. So with hindsight the cruelty and colonial brutality displayed by the English establishment back in the sixties caused a backlash, which they had not anticipated. Coupled with another insult with the investiture of a ‘Prince of Wales’ at Caernarfon Castle in 1969 many of us thought that the long awaited revolution had started for real. Things have died back down since those heady days – but the fire is still there, and what appeasr to be small happenings can cause it to roar again.
Some did not take the pacifist line of Plaid Cymru at the time.
In early 1963, when the dam was still under construction, the protests took a darker turn. Aberystwyth student Emyr Llewelyn, farmer’s son Owain Williams and former RAF military policeman John Albert Jones formed Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru – the Movement for the Defence of Wales.
On the night of 9 February, they travelled through blizzard conditions to plant a 5lb (2.3kg) bomb which destroyed an electricity transformer on the site. Emyr Llewelyn was later sentenced to 12 months in prison for the attack.
Owain Williams and John Albert Jones were jailed following a second bombing which destroyed a pylon at Gellilydan near Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd.
In an interview years later Owain Williams said
It was something that had to be done,”
Owain Williams, later went on to became a Gwynedd County Councillor. He also formed the Independent Wales Party, and in latter years formed Llais Gwynedd, which also won seats on the Gwynedd County Council (a council run by Plaid Cymru whom Owain Williams did not see eye to eye with due to their intransigence on certain cultural issues – including a lack of zeal to fight for independence).
In fact many criticised Plaid Cymru for their softly, softy pacifist approach to the dire possibility of what was about to befall Capel Celyn. The then president of Plaid Gwynfor Evans (a self professed religious pacifist) did organise a march on Liverpool – a peaceful march. They were met with hissing, hostile and spitting scouser women who screeched like banshees at them and spat on their clothes. The marchers carrying their placards looked like a group of chapel goers on a Sunday school trip with placards, trying to maintain the moral high ground. It was a bit pathetic and heartbreaking to watch. Of course, they were just ignored and swept aside.
Owain Williams went on to say in his interview:
None of us wanted to do it but somebody had to stand up and do something.
I was married with three children, one a small baby, and my marriage broke up shortly after I was imprisoned. The family was split. It had its effect, there’s no question about that. But the action had to be taken. There was no alternative at the time because the Welsh had been pumped with Calvanistic Methodism and other kinds of religion and non-violence for years and maybe it was time we stood up and said, ‘yes, we’re here’.
Owain believes the protest marked a political awakening for Wales – “a seed planted to develop for the future, when we would have some kind of democratic defence”. That is exactly what Ein Gwlad intends to do through the ballot box – defend our identity through democracy and fight for independence and future survival. We know that the fiery patriotism is still alive – as one of our contributors Mike Murphy recently highlighted in another article on our News Portal. See RED & YELLOW SHIRTS.
As Mike rightly points out in his short article, isn’t it a shame that we can’t bottle that ‘hwyl’ of 80 minutes and make it last permanently as a nation? The ‘Elvis’ graffiti artist may also have picked a poor time for his/her silly escapade. It is the season of annual Welsh rugby passion right now, and it’s not a good time to rile us!
These are the things that are hidden from view of our children, let alone the ‘Elvis’ graffiti artist. We are slumbering in ignorance, and Tryweryn is a relatively recent historic event, but our knowledge of it is fast disappearing. That was summed up nicely by Royston Jones on his popular blog, where he describes the event in 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the flooding of Capel Celyn. The atmosphere was ‘odd’ according to Royston. Read about it HERE.
Celebrity Idol Cult Worship
Sadly we live in an extremely shallow and vacuous world, where the majority – especially amongst the younger generation (there are fewer of those who actually worship Elvis these days, now that he’s been dead for 42 years!). But there are a few, some it seems who have fled to Ceredigion. It is the result of living in a society that is geared to shallowness. The establishment know full well that intoxication from exposure to mundane and artificial things, keeps the majority of the population away from interest in other more serious and real things.
They depend on the herd mentality of humans to keep truths from the people and to stop them enquiring into what is actually happening around them. Couple that to the false (mainstream) news media, a lack of proper education, a diet of X Factor, The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent etc. plus the conveyor belt of soap operas. You find that people get so carried away that they believe the impossible, they become trapped in a make believe world. People cry when a soap opera star dies in the plot. They believe this is reality. And sadly the depth of their knowledge about anything – let alone knowing facts about history or the reason behind memorials like the one discussed here is beyond them. They’ve turned into automatons, and that suits the establishment.
Even in our country, knowledge of ourselves extends to knowing about Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey or some other fake heroes that have been portrayed to them in the entertainment or sports industry. They are detached from reality. That’s why some who are almost orgasmically frenzied by this environment hare off to splatter the name of their idol on the nearest bit of convenient canvas. It is the product of ignorance. Our present education system in Wales is complicit in this madness, as was shown in another recent article on this News Portal – Death Of A Nation Through Wrong Education
But wait! There may be an ironic twist here
Many nations clamber to be associated with Elvis Presley, not least us Welsh.
An interesting slant on this has been provided by the academic Terry Brevington in a book he published on the subject. He contacted Ein Gwlad today with this interesting information:
The daughter of Cynyr of Caer Gawch and Anna ferch Vortimer was Danhadlwen (Banhadlen), the sister of Non. She married Dirdan of Brittany, and their son was Ailbe, one of the greatest figures in the Irish Church. One source states that, as St Eloius, he was confessor and bishop at Menevia, and that his saint’s day was February 27. He evangelised southern Ireland, founding the see of Imlech (Emly in Tiperrary). From King Angus of Munster Ailbe obtained the island of Aran for Enda. Irish legend has him being suckled by a she-wolf and retiring to the ‘Land of Promise’, a mixture of the happy ‘other-world’ of the Celts, and the paradise of Christians.
According to the ‘Genealogy of the Saints’, Ailfyw was the son of Dirdan and Danadlwen, but Dirdan was the son of Gynyr of Caer Gawch (see Gynyr) This makes Ailfyw the nephew of Non and thereby the cousin of St David. Baring-Gould and Fisher give the following genealogy:
‘Cynyr of Caergwach married Anna, the daughter of Vortimer, who died in 457. Their children were Banhadlen, Non, Gwen, Gistlian and Sadwrn Hen. Dirdan married Banhadlen, and their son was Ailbe. Non married Sant, and their son was David who died in 589. Gwen married Selyf, and their son St Cybi died in 554. Sadwrn Hen’s son was Sadyrnin. Sadyrnin, Cybi, David and Ailbe were first cousins.’
A church near St David’s, called Llanailfyw or St Elfeis, was dedicated to him. St Elvis farm and St Elvis Church are near the Preseli Hills. Baring-Gould states that Ailbe ‘is known in Wales as Ailfyw or Elfyw, who founded a church now a ruin, called St Elvis, in Welsh Llanailfyw, or –elfyw, near St David’s, consequently near where lived his aunt, St Non.’ He remained in Menevia until David was born, and according to Welsh tradition baptised and fostered him, before going to Ireland. The remains of St Elvis Church could still be seen in the 1940’s, but the name only now attaches to the farm and parish, and a few scattered islands off Solva. A farmhouse nearby is now a private house and was named Vagwr Eilw (Elvis’ ‘Enclosure’, from ‘Magwyr’). The author has not encountered any other places named Elvis, and as St Elvis lies in the foothills of the Preseli Mountains, is very tempted to place Elvis Presley as having Welsh ancestry. His parents, Vernon and Gladys, had Welsh names, and his still-born twin brother was Jesse Garon (St Caron?) Presley. The first ‘Pressley’ recorded in American history was a David Pressley, and Elvis’ grandmother Doll was from the Welsh family of Mansell. Another ancestor was Dunnan Presley.
There are the remains of a dolmen at St Elvis Farm, near Teilo’s ruined church, with two capstones, and some large nearby stones have probably come from it.
So let’s not be too hard on the Elvis graffiti merchant. There’s also a so called Elvis Rock at Eisteddfa Gurig where a similar Elvis memorial is scrolled, but even that was a ‘stolen’ site. The original read ‘Ellis’.
Two men, the late film director John Hefin and David Meredith, former head of press and PR at HTV and S4C, painted the word ‘Ellis’ on the rock in 1962 to show support for Islwyn Ffowc Elis, a novelist and Plaid Cymru candidate in Montgomeryshire.
However, they misspelled his surname by adding a second ‘l’, which was subsequently changed to a ‘V’ and it has been known as Elvis rock ever since.
A little word of advice to the phantom ‘Elvis; scribblers. Whether the two sites have been desecrated by the same person, or their descendants we don’t know, but if they must give vent to their obsessions, go and do it somewhere else, preferably on stones owned and occupied by the English or Anglo American cultures. It is those cultures that have spawned this god-like celebrity adoration – they are welcome to it. We will decide what’s written on our own stones.
We will compromise however. You keep the name ‘Elvis’ off our stones, and we will in return hang on to the possible history of the family of the singer who’s family may have originated in the Preseli mountains!
All is not lost
We keep on about our culture and identity being gradually eroded away generation by generation. So how delightfully encouraging to see that our present young generation is still there to save the day. When the going gets touch the tough get going they say.
Pictured is Elfed Wyn Jones, who is helping to carry out the re-painting, along with five of his like minded friends they haven’t let the grass grow under their feet.
The paint on the ‘Elvis’ scribble wasn’t properly dried, before Elfed and his eager gang got going. By the light from their car, they got on with it. So the cherished ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ memorial will be as good as new only days after the vandalism took place. Six modern day heroes in our opinion, Ardderchog fechgyn a merched ifainc! Yr ydych werth y byd i’n cenedl!
It gladdens the heart to see such enthusiasm to right a wrong – rather than sit on haunches moaning and ruing what had happened. This is an example to us all. We need to be doers and not just moaners.
We had to do something, it is a staple of Welsh history.
The 21-year-old student, from Aberystwyth, said it was “heartbreaking” to see the vandalism on the wall.
We decided we needed to set an example by doing it quickly. It is a memorial to a tragedy in Welsh history
Notice the similarity in those words to what has been quoted from Owain Williams years ago? The fire is there, the spirit is not broken. The message remains the same, and long may that continue for generations to come!
Semi retired Consultant Electronics Engineer, now living in Aberaeron Ceredigion. Educated at Bronant County Primary School, Tregaron County School and the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (Cardiff).
Involved in politics for 50 years. Former vice president of Plaid Cymru – resigned in 2002. Currently the Chairman and a founding member of Ein Gwlad. Gwilym is also one of our permanent contributing editors on Ein Gwlad’s News Portal.