Penri Jones, Author of Jabas, Councillor and Welsh language activist has died at the age of 78 years.
A tribute by Liz Saville Roberts:
Penri is well known to generations of Welsh people as the author who created the character Jabas. But there was much more to Penri: Author of a number of novels, a Welsh language teacher and a highly regarded local politician.
I had the privilege of working with Penri when Coleg Meirion Dwyfor opened in 1993. He was amongst a number of teachers who chose to come to the new college to be able to provide Welsh language education of the highest standard.
As well as working as a lead teacher, he represented Llanbedrog Community on Gwynedd Council as a Plaid Cymru councillor where he held the education portfolio for many years and played a key role in developing and implementing the county’s language policy.
Penri was also an union representative for the UCAC teachers’ union. On his request I joined UCAC, becoming the union representative after him, and following his encouragement I stood as a county councillor in 2004. Without his encouragement, I would never have ventured into politics. I have a significant personal debt to him.
Every sympathy to Mair and the family and to Penri’s many friends.
Tributes have been paid by family and friends to former Councillor on Gwynedd Council, Pat Larsen, who passed away at Gwynfa on 20 November 2021.
A former primary school teacher Mrs Larsen served as Mayor on the former Arfon District Council. She was a member of the former Gwynedd Council and was elected onto the newly formed Gwynedd Council in 1996. She was its first chairman in 1996-98.
Apart from a period when her children were small she had been a councillor for over 50 years. One Penisarwaun resident said many villagers could not remember a time when Mrs Larsen was not their councillor.
Paying tribute in a message to the Larsen family on social media Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “I am proud to have known Pat Larsen when she was a county councilor, remembering her toughness and friendliness.”
Gwynedd Council vice chair, Cllr Elwyn Jones, who now represents the Penisarwaun ward, said: “I’m very sorry to hear the news of Mrs Larsen’s death. She was a very special woman who had a very special relationship in the community and beyond.”
Councillor Simon Glyn, the current Chair of Gwynedd Council, said: “Pat Larsen served tirelessly and effectively for her area and for Wales for many years and will be fondly remembered as a member of the councils of Arfon and Gwynedd and especially of her tenures as Mayor and Chairman.”
Arfon Senedd Member Sian Gwenllian, who served with Mrs Larsen on Gwynedd Council for many years, added: “I was saddened to hear about the passing of Pat Larsen, a woman that was very much ahead of her time. Hers was an immense contribution not only to her local community, but to the whole of Gwynedd and Wales.
“She led the way for women such as myself in her unyielding determination and I considered it a privilege to serve side-by-side with her as a councillor.
“My thoughts are with her family at a time of inevitable sadness and grief, but I will also be celebrating the life of Pat Larsen, a life well and truly lived to the full, and on a personal level, I will give thanks for being able to know and learn from her wisdom and perseverance.”
Looking back over my career in the European Parliament, it’s hard to believe that it spanned over twenty years. In an article like this it is only possible to give readers a taste of the work of an MEP and try to demonstrate how valuable the European Union was to Wales.
When I first stood for Plaid in the European election in 1989, there was no hope of winning. By 1999 the electoral system had changed. Five MEPs were to be elected representing the whole of Wales on the basis of the percentage vote for each party nationally. With the highest ever vote for Plaid Cymru and with great excitement, Eurig Wyn and myself were elected as the party’s first MEPs. It was a milestone in Plaid’s history.
It was also a personal milestone for me. I had first visited the European Parliament in the 1980s while representing Plaid in a meeting of the European Free Alliance (EFA). I went into the parliament chamber to listen to a debate on regional policy. The chamber was not as bright and striking as today’s hemicycle and I realised how difficult it was to make out which MEP was speaking. They were small, almost insignificant figures. Yet each one put all their energy into presenting a strong argument in their minute or two of speaking time.
I was surprised and inspired. I was familiar with the kind of politics where personality was dominant. It was possible to win a debate by ensuring that a well known politician (a man, almost without exception) would support one side over the other and that others would follow. The individuals were as important as the issue. It was not like that in the European Parliament. Every member was respected.
It is the greatest irony that the campaign to leave the European Union was won because Boris Johnson decided to support it. Such a fateful decision had hung on the choice of one man. It reflects the malaise in UK politics.
It is interesting, too, to note that UKIP tried to introduce the worst aspects of Westminster culture in the European Parliament. Shouting, heckling and insults were typical of their behaviour in the chamber. Toxic politics.
I was criticised in the media several times for failing to live up to the false requirements of a successful politician by UK measures. I wasn’t going to be detracted from my main aim. Wales in Europe was more than a slogan. It encapsulated a vision of an independent Wales working in peace and partnership with other nations across the European Union to build a more democratic and equal Europe: the Europe of the Peoples.
I was comfortable with the way the European Parliament worked. I was most effective in a context where consensus was valued. I am very proud of my successes in improving legislation and raising the status of Wales and the Welsh language.
I had an amazing and unique experience as a Plaid Cymru MEP. I had the honour of leading the EFA group in the parliament for five years as EFA President and Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Group. This year I received the EFA Coppieters Award for my work promoting EFA values.
I campaigned on climate change, fair trade policies, against GMOs, for agriculture and rural Wales, for peace and justice and for the rights of minorities. In 2008 we won co-official status for the Welsh language in Europe: it wasn’t full official status but at least our language had recognition. In 2019 I was awarded the METANET European prize for my work on digital equality for all languages. My report is regarded as the gold standard for minority languages.
I had unique opportunities to attend the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil, to the United Nations summits in Johannesburg, Copenhagen and Paris and to the WTO meeting in Hong Kong. I visited Iraq before the war and went to Catalonia many times at the request of their government to act as an official observer for the independence referenda. I also became very familiar with Palestine and Israel through many visits with the parliament delegation.
Travelling is part and parcel of the weekly life of an MEP. I would leave home in Llwynypia every Monday morning to get the train to Brussels. Thursday evening, I would set off for home. Once a month the parliament met in Strasbourg which meant moving everything to that city for a week.
The weekends were my travelling time around Wales.
Being a voice for Wales was a huge responsibility. At the same time it was the greatest honour. It took a lot of planning and to prepare a strategy to raise the profile and open every possible door for Wales. That involved mentioning Wales in every speech in the chamber, organising social events, exhibitions and conferences, publishing reports and inviting speakers and groups from Wales at every possible opportunity.
I had incredible support in this work from Welsh food and drink producers, choirs, universities, voluntary and community organisations and many, many more. You can’t beat lobbyists from Wales!
It was a particular pleasure to offer work experience to so many young people from Wales in my Brussels office. It was a privilege to offer them such an opportunity and at the same time to show off the talent and the huge potential which augers well for the future of our nation.
Wales is a European nation. I campaigned until the very last minute to keep Wales in the European Union and I am heartbroken that we have left. When I left Brussels for the final time, I gave a Draig Goch to our group in the parliament. They are looking after it until Wales takes its rightful place alongside the other nations of Europe and our flag will be raised again.
This year marks the centenary of the birth of one of Plaid Cymru’s most eminent Vie-Presidents, Dr Tudur Jones, who held the office from 1957 to 1964. As Vice-President, he provided Gwynfor with active support in public and invaluable advice in private. Living in Bangor, he was also in regular touch with General Secretary, Elwyn Roberts, who was based in the Bangor office. The three, Gwynfor, Tudur and Elwyn, were very much on the same wavelength, representing a nationalism that arose from a deep commitment to the Welsh language and that was firmly based on Christian values. As it happens, all three were Congregationalists. In the nineteen-sixties the Welsh Congregationalist Union resolved to support self-government for Wales, famously declaring that Wales’s problem was that it was too far from God and too near to England!
Tudur Jones, generally referred to as simply ‘Dr Tudur’, stood as Plaid’s parliamentary candidate for Anglesey in the 1959 and 1964 general elections. From 1952 to 1964 he served as editor of Welsh Nation. and edited Y Ddraig Goch between 1964 and 1973. Indeed, he was a very prolific journalist. He had a column in the weekly newspaper, YCymro, and it is calculated that these amounted to over one and a half thousand articles. During the nineteen-seventies he gave moral and intellectual support to the campaigns of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg, both privately and publicly.
Dr Tudur was born in Rhos-lan near Cricieth, but was brought up in Rhyl, in the Vale of Clwyd. In 1939 he entered the University College at Bangor, where he was elected President of the Student Union, and gained a first-class degree in Philosophy. In 1945 he registered at Mansfield College, Oxford, to pursue theological studies, leading to the award of the degree of D.Phil. He was ordained a Minister of the Gospel in 1948, and fulfilled that vocation outstandingly as a preacher, scholar and teacher. In 1966 he was appointed Principal of the Bala-Bangor Theological College, Bangor, and on his retirement, was appointed honorary professor at his alma mater. His role as President of the International Congregational Federation from 1981 to 1985 is an indication of his standing at the international level.
In 1974 he set out his thoughts on nationhood and nationalism in the Welsh context in a book entitled, The Desire of Nations. The discussion has three aspects – philosophical, historical and political. The philosophical element seeks to analyse the concept of ‘nation’.
While rejecting those theories which base a people’s claim to nationhood solely on the subjective elements of feeling and willing, Dr Tudur does not disregard these elements as components of nationhood. They may well be necessary components, but alone, they are not sufficient.
Turning to objective criteria of nationhood, he rejects Professor J. R. Jones’s contention (1960) that nationhood amounts to a people’s having their own unique and unrepeatable ‘historical track’. In fact, many collectives which are not nations could just as easily make the same claim. He also rejected J. R.’s later theory (1966) that to be a nation a people need to be organised as a state. Yet, he concedes that there is a political aspect (in the broad sense) to nationhood in as much as a people who take themselves to be nation will be aware of their own internal and exclusive social and cultural structures. Those structures may, or may not, include the institutions of statehood, but, either way, their nationhood will be unaffected.
Similar ideas are reflected in Dr Tudur’s analysis of nationalism. Patriotism is a sentiment: it is a name for love of country. Nationalism is an ideology. It has an objective, rational and public aspect: it links nation and state. Nationalism views the state as an instrument in the service of the nation. In the modern, global, world nations need the institutions of statehood to flourish, and even to survive.
The nationalism commended in The Desire of Nations has deep roots in Dr Tudur’s Christian faith. It is very alive to the danger of idolizing the nation or the state. This lies behind his reluctance (like Saunders Lewis and the older generation of Plaid activists) to speak in terms of ‘independence’ when speaking of self-government for Wales. It also lies at the root of his bruising encounter with the Adfer movement in the mid-seventies.
Those who knew Tudur Jones will remember him as endowed with a notable physical presence and with commanding eloquence in both Welsh and English. His style was magisterial, but laced with a mischievous sense of humour. Responding to George Thomas’s contention that there was no such thing as ‘Welsh’ water because it was really God’s water, he challenged Thomas to inform the king of Saudi-Arabia that there was no such thing as ‘Saudi’ oil because it was really God’s oil!
It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of Maldwyn at the age of 93 on April 9 2021 following a short illness.
Maldwyn was a member of Plaid Cymru since his youth in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and he acted conscientiously and tirelessly for the party throughout his life.
He came to prominence in the seventies as a Porthmadog Town Councillor and Gwynedd Councillor for Plaid Cymru. This is the period when membership of the Bro Madog Branch led by Maldwyn was over 300.
As Chair of the Education Committee he was one of the founders of Cyngor Gwynedd’s Welsh Education policy, and solid foundations were laid. He also contributed to the Welsh language being at the forefront of Council services.
He was Dafydd Wigley’s agent in the 1979 and 1983 elections, and organised colourful campaigns when “Herald Ni” was being distributed to every house in the old Arfon Constituency.
His biggest contribution to the Porthmadog area was – along with Bryan Rees Jones – setting up Elusen Rebecca (charity) and buying the Cob. The charity continues to distribute the interest raised by the tolls to societies and organisations on an annual basis.
He was also active in Yr Wylan, the local community newspaper. He was Chairman of the management committee and a member of the Editorial panel.
During his life Maldwyn’s contribution to his area, Plaid Cymru and Wales was notable. He was an inspiration and a source of gratitude to those of us who are trying to follow his lead.
Our deepest condolences to his sons Dewi and Geraint, his daughter Gwenith and their families in their bereavement.