Charlotte Aull Davies, 1942-2023

A talented American and a Welsh patriot

Dafydd Williams

One day in the mid-1970s, a young American woman walked into Plaid Cymru’s headquarters in Cardiff.  Charlotte Aull  had set her mind on finding out everything she could about Wales and its national movement. The plan was to return over the Atlantic once her PhD was complete, but – fortunately for Wales – things turned out otherwise.

Charlotte was born in Lexington, Kentucky, one of three children.  She took a degree in mathematics and then an MSc in Mississippi University before switching to social anthropology, the study of communities and their culture.  And for her PhD in North Carolina, she chose Wales as the focus of her study.

Charlotte had a quiet demeanour and a pleasant personality, but she was no shrinking violet.  Hours after landing in the UK, she was in the House of Commons interviewing Gwynfor Evans, Plaid Cymru’s leader and first MP.  Later on, while in a bookshop, she spotted a gentleman browsing a row of Welsh-related books – it turned out to be the well-known poet Harri Webb, who was interviewed on the spot!

It was probably Gwynfor who suggested a visit to the Plaid Cymru office to find out more and obtain a list of other people to interview.  But little did I foresee the happy outcome – that Charlotte would marry my friend Hywel Davies, a journalist, nationalist and author of a classic study of Plaid Cymru’s first twenty years.  So Charlotte came to live in Wales, mastering the Welsh language during the course of her PhD field work in Bangor and Cardiff.

The couple moved to the United States in 1985 when Charlotte took up the post of lecturer in the University of South Carolina.  By then they had a two-year old daughter – Elen Gwenllian, who they had adopted in 1983.  The family moved back to Wales in 1988, living in a number of places before settling in Morriston – Hywel to pursue his career in television and Charlotte in Swansea University.

Many will be familiar with her classic work Welsh Nationalism in the Twentieth Century (1989).  Although the work was published at a difficult time for Wales and Welsh nationality, Charlotte’s book broke new ground in tracing the relationship between nationalism and institutional factors, such as the growth of functions devolved to the Welsh Office.

In 1992, Charlotte was appointed as a lecturer in Swansea University, and in 2000 as senior lecturer in sociology and anthropology.  She became a prolific author, her book Reflexive Ethnography (1998) proving a key reference for those studying peoples and their cultures.  Her colleagues recall her kindness, her spirit of cooperation and her dedication to social justice.  She became a recognised authority in her subject, approachable and popular among her students.

Charlotte contributed a large number of academic papers, as well as writing for the magazine Planet and the Welsh language periodical Barn. Between 2007 and 2012 Hywel and she produced the Papur Gwyrdd, an environmental publication that presented the struggle for the future of the planet to a Welsh-speaking readership.  She was an active member of Plaid Cymru, serving as Secretary and as Treasurer of the party’s Swansea East branch, and contested the Morriston ward as Plaid candidate for a seat on Swansea Council.

Charlotte remained a patriotic American, keeping her American citizenship, making frequent visits to her family in the United States and celebrating Independence Day and Thanksgiving in style.  She was keenly interested in her homeland’s politics – it is fair to say she was no fan of Donald Trump!  As well as a love of jazz, she had a lifelong interest in horses and riding, a passion she passed on to Hywel and Elen – to such an extent that Hekla, an Icelandic pony gifted to Elen crossed the Atlantic to take up residence in Wales!

Charlotte was a committed supporter of the cause of Wales and the Welsh language, of social justice and of peace.  She served as governor of Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tan-y-Lan, Morriston.  She loved mountain walking, cycling and gardening, an interest commemorated in verse by a friend and neighbour, the chaired Eisteddfod bard Robat Powell:

Ein Charlotte ddoeth, Charlotte dda – a gofiwn

drwy nos gyfyng gaeaf,

ac o’r ardd daw atgo’r ha’

i ddyn, a bydd hi yna!

 

Our Charlotte, wise and good – we will remember

in the winter night

and from the garden will come an echo of summer

and she will be there!

 

We extend our sympathy to Hywel and Elen, and to Elen’s husband Adam. 

 

Charlotte Aull Davies was born on 8 October, 1942.  She died on 18 February, 2023.

This tribute is an extended version of an article that appeared in the June 2023 issue of the Welsh-language magazine Barn, and translated by the author.  We are grateful to the editor of Barn Menna Baines for her kind co-operation.

             

Fighting Poverty – Plaid’s Role over the Years

 

Valuable information has come to light about Plaid Cymru’s role in combating poverty in the nineteen thirties.

Papers transferred to the care of the Plaid Cymru History Society by Siôn ap Glyn show the extent of practical work done to help unemployed people and their families in underprivileged areas in the North and South.  ‘Clybiau Cinio Difiau’ – Thursday Dinner Clubs – were set up by Plaid Cymru during the Great Depression which hit Wales especially hard nearly ninety years ago, by a small party that had been launched barely a decade before.

As pointed out by Saunders Lewis, Plaid Cymru’s President at the time, the aim was for people in employment to help those less fortunate by foregoing one meal a week and giving sixpence to provide food for the unemployed.  Thursday was the day suggested to hold the dinner clubs, mainly because by Thursday many poor families would run out of money and be unable to afford a meal.  The cost of the meals were paid by party members, the funds administered by the party office. The Thursday Dinner Clubs continued their role until the outbreak of war in 1939.  Historian D. Hywel Davies concluded that this was the most successful charity work undertaken by Plaid members during the 1930s – “the flow of nationalist sixpences had continued unabated”.

The papers include detailed reports for the year 1937 about the work of two clubs in the South Wales coalfield – Dowlais, Merthyr and Dyfnant (Dunvant) near Swansea – and one in the North-west quarrying area of Rhosgadfan.  Dowlais was the area where the initiative was launched, it seems, and a visit by Saunders Lewis was the catalyst that led to its being rolled out to other areas.  Later on, another dining club was set up in Treorci in the Rhondda.

The reports are full of interest – in Dunvant, for example, on local leader Dr Gwent Jones, revealed that the first dinner held proved something of a damp squib – proud local people were unwilling to accept ‘charity’.  This barrier was surmounted by inviting ‘guests’ from among unemployed people in the community to an evening session where they could “speak, lecture, sing etc., depending on their talent, but always sharing food with us”.  After that, the dining sessions proved a great success.

The original documents, which are mainly in Welsh, will be deposited as part of the Plaid Cymru archive in the National Library in Aberystwyth and they can now be viewed on the Plaid Cymru History Society website here –

Clwb Cinio Difiau 1937

Wil Roberts 1943 – 2022

Wil Roberts, or Wil Coed as he was universally known, was a well-known figure in Plaid Cymru who died in October 2022.  He played an active role in all the party’s campaigns from the nineteen sixties and served as secretary of the Pwllheli branch.  Former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley delivered the eulogy in his funeral which we publish in full.

Translation of the Funeral Tribute by Dafydd Wigley
to the late Wil Roberts.

Dear Friends,

I would give anything not to be here today; but nothing would have stopped me from accepting the invitation from Siw and the family, for me to pay this tribute, on behalf of Elinor and myself,  to one who was such a friend to us all, in differing ways and at different stages of our lives. He was a very dear friend, whose course is now run; and whose immense contribution to his family, his community and his nation, have now, alas, come to an end.

This morning, our deep condolences go to Siw, to Dewi and Ifan; and to Quentin, who is also  part of the family; and to Jordan, Mia and Cai, for whom Wil was a loving Taid; and indeed to all the family. And I know that everyone would want me to thank Siw  for the loving care she gave Wil over the years, and particularly in this recent challenging period which they as a family had to face.

Siw has the certainty which she derives from her faith, rooted in this church; and that will be an anchor for her in the storms through which she is living. Siw was, of course, brought up in the Catholic tradition in Cardiff and came under the inspiration of the renowned Father  Gregory Fitzgerald; and her faith, together with the  Catholic church, have been a strength to Siw down the years.

So may I thank Bishop Emeritus Edwin Regan, for leading us today and for his support to Siw during this recent difficult period; and to everyone  associated with this church for their support for Siw and the family; for their kindness towards them; and for their practical help in their time of need. Also, may I thank Archdeacon Andrew Jones for the exceptional support he has given the family.

Siw has asked me to draw attention to the invitation extended to everyone, to join her and the family for a light lunch at Pwllheli Golf Club. The burial will be at Deneio Cemetery  after this service; but those who don’t wish to attend the cemetery are  welcome to go directly to the Golf Club.

William O Roberts was born on the 23rd December, 1943, the son of J.O, and Catherine Roberts, Cefn Coed Chwilog; and so it was  as “Wil Cefn Coed” he was known to everybody, later truncated to “Wil Coed”. His father was manager of the Creamery at Rhydygwystl; and a Caernarfonshire County Councillor.

Many of our generation don’t realize that Wil was one of twins, but sadly his sister died at birth; and it was a miracle that Wil survived. And the family suffered another tragedy, when Wil’s younger brother, Richard, then aged sixteen, was killed in a motor bike accident.

But I am under orders from Siw not to be too sad in my remarks today, rather to remember Wil as a delightfully happy friend, as indeed he was to all of us. I’ll try to obey that request.

After being a pupil at Ysgol Uwchradd  Pwllheli, Wil went on to study to be a Vet, at Liverpool university; but while his written work was excellent, he had difficulty with spoken English – a frequent feature amongst children in rural Wales. So he went to work for a year at the Creamery, before going on to the University at Bangor, to study agriculture. He was in the same year as Dafydd Elis Thomas, whom I am glad to see here today.

It was at about that time that I first met Wil. I was working over the summer vacation  as Plaid Cymru’s organiser in the Arfon Constituency. I arranged to meet a crowd of young party supporters in Pwllheli – and I handed them a pile of Welsh Nations – Plaid’s English language newspaper – for them to distribute from door to door.

I immediately sensed that I had a problem. Wil and his school friend Osborn Jones (whom I’m also glad to see here today)  were both glaring angrily at me.. One of them declared “There are already far too many English papers being read in Pwllheli!” –  threatening to leave me with my mountain of unwanted papers. Somehow, a compromise was reached – and Osborn, Wil and I became lifelong friends!

After graduating in Bangor, Wil won a scholarship to take a higher degree, in Agricultural Economics at Aberystwyth. So, naturally, his first job was with the Welsh Agriculture Department in Cardiff. He was in his seventh heaven travelling around the farms in the Vale of Glamorgan – and was surprised to discover how many farmers were still, at that time, Welsh speakers. And the farmers themselves were equally happy to deal with a civil servant who spoke Welsh.

Wil went  on to work with the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans,  with the task of driving around Wales, recording interviews in Welsh with farmers. Those recordings remain some of the treasures of St Fagans up to this day.

Wil was Plaid Cymru to the core; and he had no fear of declaring his allegiance. Despite his stammer, he was willing to knock doors the length of Wales; and wherever there might be a rally, or protest, or byelection, Wil would be there.

By 1970. Wil had met Siw – and guess where they met? Yes, in the romantic location of a Plaid Cymru Constituency  Committee in Cardiff. Siw was then sixteen years of age and Wil ten years her senior.

Although still a teenager, Siw was an experienced as a canvasser – and also of selling Welsh Nation papers from door to door in Cardiff. Just as well that Will hadn’t baulked at selling that paper in Cardiff as he had earlier in Pwllheli!

Wil and Siw “became an item” in 1971 – the year Elinor and I moved to live in Merthyr Tydfil; and that’s where I first met Siw. She and Wil came to canvass there in a famous parliamentary byelection and stayed in our home, where it seemed that half of Wales had chosen to camp down. In their sleeping bags, all; across our floors!

Wil had one abiding characteristic: he could sleep anywhere!…so much so, that on one occasion while riding his bike along Lon Goed, he dropped off – to sleep and from his bike – and suffered a nasty accident.

Wil was a person with whom accidents seemed to have an abiding relationship… On one occasion, he smashed his foot severely in a hay harvester. On another occasion, while a schoolboy, he went to play in the fields, and put down his coat, without realizing that a nosy pig was busily eyeing it; and when Wil turned his back, started to devour it for supper. Wil’s mother was not best pleased!

On another occasion, Wil suffered a serious accident while travelling in a car driven by his lifelong friend Geraint Eckley, which, on traversing the brow of a hill, hit black ice and Wil broke his back in three places. Geraint apologises that, for family health reasons, he cannot be here today.

Geraint recalled to me another of Wil’s traits – that he would suddenly get a great idea into his head – and off he would go! One morning, Wil announced to his house-companions in Aberystwyth that he was going to see the great Welsh author and patriot, D J Williams, down in Fishguard. Geraint went with him – and they landed, unannounced, on DJ’s doorstep. They were given a great welcome  and Wil became a bosom friends with DJ and visited him in Fishguard half a dozen times before DJ died, to chat with him about his recollections.

But let me return to Wil’s own story. Wil and Siw were married in 1973 at St Peter’s Church , Cardiff – and that was another story worth recalling. Wil had already by then introduced Siw to the Welsh mass at Cowbridge; and it was Welsh language Catholic marriage service which they enjoyed in Cardiff, with the famous Bishop Mullins officiating.

But there were two other officials responsible for organising the wedding ; and they hadn’t discussed which of them was responsible for organising the registrar to be present. During the service, it dawned on them that no registrar was in attendance; Panic! Someone was despatched from the Church to scour the suburbs of Cardiff for an available registrar.

The poor harpist, Eleri Owen, had to improvise on the harp for over half an hour until some deputy registrar was found and the legal niceties of the wedding could be concluded. At long last, Wil and Siw were then declared husband and wife.

After the wedding Wil was due to start a new job, as deputy secretary of the Welsh Black Society in Caernarfon. So off they went on honeymoon – only for Wil to get an urgent message – that his new boss had been taken ill and he was required immediately in Caernarfon. So Wil had a new job, a new home, in a new area,…and a new wife!

Their new home was on a small group of houses in Llandwrog. Their neighbours included Huw Jones (Sain) and Siân; Menna and Ceredig Davies of Gwynedd council; around the corner lived Wil’s old school friend Osborn Jones and Glesni; as did poet Gerallt Lloyd Owen and Alwena. Up the road was Richard Morris Jones and Manon Rhys; and a little further, John and Gwenno Hywyn. What a gallery of 1970s young Welsh talent.

This was quite a change of scene for Siw; but Wil was in his element and in his territory. According to Osborn, Wil was the character who held that diverse group together. Wil had the ability to deal with everyone; he was one of the most likeable people you could ever meet.

 It is Siw’s belief that if Wil had his time over again, he would have studied history and Welsh. Wil certainly had a delight in writing, particularly for newspapers. He had a column in Y Cymro on agricultural matters; he wrote for the Herald papers under the name of Thomas Parry (and such was his articulate style, many thought that it was Professor Tom Parry, Principal of Aberystwyth!); and Wil was an active member of the small group which produced the Ddraig Goch and Welsh Nation papers.

This was serious and responsible  work; but Wil’s humour found an outlet as he wrote letters to the Herald papers – not in his own name but in that of Twtws Parry of Llandwrog – expressing controversial  views that would anger the more respectable residents of the village. No-one could make out who was this Twtws Parry. Only close friends  realized that was the name of Wil and Siw’s pet cat!

Wil was also a first class photographer and for a while was the Western Mail’s official photographer  in international rugby matches.

Siw and Wil lived in Llandwrog for five years and during that time Wil was appointed  estates valuer for Gwynedd Council. They then moved to Wil’s childhood home at Cefn Coed, where they lived for ten years before moving to Yr Ala in Pwllheli where they resided for thirty-six years.

Wil was careful with his money. On one occasion, when he and Siw came down to join me for lunch in the House of Lords, he realized – too late – that he had left his suit at home. Surmising that he would be expected to wear a jacket in the rather grand Peers Dining Room,  he visited several shops and was horrified at the prices.  He eventually found a charity shop which had a jacket of his size; paid five pounds for it; and no-one noticed.

I can remember as if it was yesterday, when Wil, twenty tears ago, told me on Crewe station that he had just learnt that he was suffering from prostrate cancer.  He had clearly been shaken – but took a positive attitude that he wouldn’t allow that condition to define the rest of his life; however long that transpired to be.

However, he retired from Gwynedd Council to give his body every chance to conquer the cancer; and after five years, was given the all-clear.

And so it was that Wil,  over the subsequent fifteen years, lived a full life – at home with his family, within the local community in Pwllheli; active with the local Plaid branch; helping Siw with her work for this church; and writing even more – including  a tribute to his good friend Ioan Roberts in the book “Cofio Ioan”.

And then, just before the Covid lockdown, cancer struck again. For a time, because of lockdown, he couldn’t access the hospital. He then had several checks – all suggesting that the cancer had gone. But then, in 2020, symptoms returned and Wil suffered a fall at home.

It was feared that he had suffered a stroke; but that wasn’t the case. He had cancer in his spine and he endured protracted treatment at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Glan Clwyd. However in May this year, his spine collapsed and he fell down stairs.

Following that he was in Bryn Beryl hospital for many weeks  where he was given outstanding care; and both he  and Siw are so grateful to the staff.

When I called at Bryn Beryl to see Wil in July,  he was in excellent spirits; chatting with everyone; but yearning to return home to Siw. He made it clear how much he appreciated  the visits he had received, and the messages which Siw passed on,  wishing him a speedy recovery.

And when Wil returned home in late August,  a special bed was placed for him downstairs; and Gwynedd Council were excellent in providing ramps and equipment to help his mobility.

He had great assistance from  Jo and Natasha, therapists at Bryn Beryl; and aid from the “Tuag Adref” service  from Ysbyty Alltwen, in providing care at home; something Wil and Siw greatly appreciated. And nurses would call, day and night, to help, over the seven week period. 

The family wish to pay the highest possible tribute to both  the social services and the NHS; and it’s good, and appropriate that this is noted. But there is one special; person who Siw wishes me to name – that’s Bonnie, who many of you will know through her work at Canolfan y Gwystl. She called every night at Wil and Siw’s home, to clean Wil and care for him. Without her help, Siw doubts whether she could have coped. And she did this totally voluntarily: aren’t there some fundamentally good people still around?

I saw Wil for the last time at home in Yr Ala, a fortnight ago, on Wednesday 5th of October. He was in bed, and heavily sedated. But it was possible to conduct a fascinating and purposeful conversation with him; his mind was still very active and his aspirations for Wales as committed as they ever were.

When I mentioned the huge Independence rally in Cardiff the previous Saturday, where I had spoken,  his eyes lit up and he was so eager to learn more. And when I told  him that I would be presenting a Bill in the House of Lords next Friday, to protect the Welsh Senedd’s devolved powers,  he was voluble in his support.

I don’t know whether Wil, at that stage, realized  – as Siw had warned me – that he would hardly survive to the end of this month to  learn of the outcome of my Bill. I chatted with Wil that day for just half an hour;  he was clearly tiring;  and the time had come for me to withdraw – but not before he insisted that we shook hands; and he held my hand with a grip more powerful than I ever remember.

None of us know what is our destiny; nor whether we shall ever be allowed to know, after we have left this life, what will happen to our loved ones, to our aspirations; to our community,  and to our nation. But if there is any justice  in this great scheme of things of which we are a part, Wil’s spirit will be with us in those struggles which we shall have to wage – for the future of our countryside, for social justice, for national freedom,  for cultural fulfilment and for international peace.

Wil is with us in each and every one of those campaigns; he will not be forgotten; nor will he be indolent; his memory will fire us in our aspirations; and thereby, he too, will share in their ultimate triumph.

Thank you Wil; blessed is your memory; and rest in peace.

Dafydd Wigley

21 October, 2022.                     

Kitch – Lecture by M Wynn Thomas

“Kitchener Davies – from Tregaron to Trealaw “

Lecture by Athro M Wynn Thomas Thursday 4 August 2022 12.30pm Pabell y Cymdeithasau 2 in the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol. Chairman Dafydd Williams

 

James Kitchener Davies, brought up in the Tregaron area of Ceredigion, won renown as a poet and dramatist.  He was also a leading figure in Plaid Cymru at a time when it was a small movement seeking a foothold in the valleys of the South.  In this lecture, the author and academic Wynn Thomas presents a penetrating analysis of an important character in the story of Wales’ national movement.

‘Kitch’:  political hero and lost soul

Wynn Thomas

Next time you visit Cardiff, venture a few miles north along the A470, past Castell Coch and carry on until you reach the turn-off for Pontypridd. Go through the town and head for Porth. There, take the road that goes in the direction of the Rhondda Fawr.  Before long, you will see  a cemetery on the right, mynwent Y Llethr Ddu. Go in, and among the innumerable graves you will find the grave of the famous Tommy Farr. Everyone of course still remembers his heroic contest in New York against Joe Louis. And then within a stone’s throw you will come across the grave of  James Kitchener Davies, someone who in his own way was a fighter just as brave, just as fearless, just as tough – and perhaps in the end just as unsuccessful – as Tommy Farr himself.  Kitch was a real ‘scrapper’, to use the language of the valleys.  As he confessed when recalling the past,

‘We are the George family, quite rough people, some of us.  There was once a bitter quarrel between us and another respectable family, one of whom was the gravedigger in Bwlchgwynt.  One day, a stranger came past and looked at the gravestones.  “Well,” said the stranger, ‘there are a lot of these Georges buried here”.  “Yes,” was the blunt reply, “but not half enough of the devils.” ‘

Kitch was a champion in the world of words, y ceiliog bach dandi a arfere glochdar o un pen i gwm Rhondda i’r llall, ‘the little bantam cock who used to crow from one end of the Rhondda valley to the other.’ In the school where he taught, he was one of the ‘suicide squad’ – those low status teachers who taught subjects such as Welsh, Music and Scripture.  In a bid to persuade the children that Welsh remained a viable language, he would recite the names of the principal European rivers in Welsh. ‘Nothing hurts more,’ he said, ‘than to hear such phrases as “Oh isn’t it lovely to hear them talk in Welsh,” when this is said patronizingly of Welsh-speaking children. The Welsh-language, like every other, is because it is.’  He argued forcefully in favour of establishing a thoroughly Welsh-medium university college – and he deserves to be remembered, and honoured, as one of the prophets of our present Welsh-language college, y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.   In the staff room he stood his ground in the face of mocking and poisonous attacks against him by the numerous adherents of the Labour Party.  When they claimed scornfully that the three prominent nationalists who in 1936 had set fire to the bombing school established in the teeth of Welsh opposition at Penyberth on the Llŷn peninsula had used ‘England’s Glory’ matches, his quickfire answer was no, they were Pioneer matches.  Kitch himself was a Pioneer, one who proclaimed his challenging and revolutionary message from every street corner.

In the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, Kitch was one of the pupils of T. Gwynn Jones, the author of ‘Ymadawiad Arthur,’ the poem on the return of Arthur that in 1902 had signalled the beginning of the great twentieth-century renaissance in Welsh-language literature.  But in the Rhondda he found himself among the disciples of Arthur Horner and Arthur J. Cook.  The valleys were in the cruel grip of the Great Depression, with the Labour movements at their peak, and the population conscious of being not members of the Welsh nation but of being members of the working class.  A class that knew it was quite powerless in the face of the inhuman processes of the capitalist system.  A class that was also international in its outlook – Penyberth meant nothing to the miners;  but they could identify with the people of Spain and feel horror on hearing of the bombing of Guérnica.  A high percentage of the workforce was without employment or hope.  Disease was rampant.

In recalling all this it is right for us to ask whether Kitchener could really recognize the desperate state confronting the industrial valleys.  And then to inquire further whether he had the medicine that was really able to meet their needs.

The answer to the first question without doubt is yes: in his own way at least, and to the utmost of his ability, he empathised with the disastrous crisis of the valleys. ‘And this,’ he said in a characteristically penetrating essay,  ‘is the Rhondda of the depression, where people live on the earnings of better days, eating up their homes and destroying their children’s education; existing on charity …; falling into debt, breaking their hearts and perishing of sickness of body and soul.’’  He recognised the problem of drawing a realistic picture – as he did in his drama Cwm Glo – of the life of the industrial valleys.  ‘In examining Realist Welsh drama,’ he said, ‘which was stillborn, we see that Welsh language life is a thin layer between two thick layers of Anglicisation – a little meat between a slice of the Englishness of the slaves of poverty and a slice of the Englishness of the slaves of fake gentry.’

Kitch’s main aim was to rouse his fellow Welsh from their national slumber.  His goal, as he succinctly explains, was ‘to make the sense of nationhood a fact to the thousands who under capitalism have been defrauded of their lawful past.  Slumdom is like the dragon of fairy stories far enough away from us at normal times. But canvass a constituency.  If we cannot give life more abundantly there, we must not mock suffering with the twaddle of dying things.’  He made friends with Communists such as the author and union leader Lewis Jones.  He remembered with glee the fun they had together.  ‘I shall never forget,’ he said towards the end of his life, ‘that summer evening with the man in his shirtsleeves on top of the box, after an hour and a quarter, stopping in mid sentence, and slowly pointing at the crowd, back and fore: “Comrades,” he said, “you do dant me, you look so bloody dull.”

But could he truly understand that man beside him in his shirtsleeves, and the industrial working class to which he belonged?  I don’t know.  What is certain is that he failed completely to persuade the mass of the population that he could.  To them, he spoke in a language that was foreign.  To them, Kitch appeared as a respectable teacher, even when he was on his soap box on the corner of the street.  He was someone who insisted on them looking at themselves in a totally different way.

Perhaps it is too easy for us today who live easy lives to do nothing but heap uncritical praise on Kitch  for his matchless and unsparing work for the well-being of the nation.  Without doubt he would have none of such praise.  Kitch was someone who throughout his life was uneasy and restless under his skin.  And nothing was more hateful to him than the failure of the Welsh to admit their failings and face up to their shortcomings as a people.  At the very end, he was resolved to look back and coldly examine his own shortcomings, in a frighteningly honest poem.  So beware of  turning ‘Kitch’ into ‘kitsch’ – in the English sense that suggests something sentimental, contrived,  debased.

Even so, there is no doubt that he fully deserves veneration as a national hero.  And without doubt it was Kitch, more than anyone, who prepared the way for establishing Welsh-medium schools in the Rhondda, a development that by now has ensured that the language can be heard on the lips of so many of its people.  It can also be argued that Kitch was sufficiently far-sighted to predict the inevitable decline that befell the society of the industrial valleys in the post-War era, and furthermore that Wales would have to undergo a painful process of deindustrialisation.  Nor is there any doubt that he prepared the way for the political revolution in the valleys in recent decades.

Yet still, there was a yawning gulf between Kitch and his audience in the Rhondda, a gulf that meant he could not really understand the experience of the workers.  There were two obstacles to achieving such understanding.  The first was his education, which meant that in fact he had a contemporary middle-class outlook – in his case, that of the cultured Welsh-speaking middle class.  And the second obstacle was his early background.  Because Kitch was at heart a country boy, and it was here in Tregaron that he was born, bred and moulded.  The industrial experience was not part of his make-up, although, as we shall see, the story of his family offers a vivid example of the complex links that existed between the rural areas of that era and those ‘foreign’ Anglicised areas that had grown up so rapidly in the valleys of the south.  The tendency of many admirers of Kitch is to contrast two polar opposites in his experience.  At one time some would refer to his career as though it were a missionary campaign to save Rhondda for the nation by bringing the spotless purity of pura Walia – the ‘original’ pure and genuine Wales – to the heart of the corrupted society of the valleys.  But Kitch did not see it like that, nor was that the real course of his life.  He was shrewd enough to realise that both rural Wales and industrial Wales had similar weaknesses.  We see that clearly by comparing two of his masterpieces, Cwm Glo and Meini Gwagedd.  And as we do this, it is worth our pausing a little to consider some aspects of his early life that explain the origin of some aspects of his vision.

Kitch was born in Y Llain, ‘bwthyn unllawr pridd,’ a small and poor  cottage with an earth floor north of the town of Tregaron.  So his life thus began in the heart of the countryside, but already the coal mines were casting a shadow over his earliest memories, as he confessed decades later.  His father was already spending months at a time away from home working underground as a carpenter in the pits of Blaengwynfi.  He also had an aunt who had left home for domestic service in Tonypandy.  There she gave birth to an illegitimate child – an early example of the fate that would often befall defenceless women in the industrial community.  And bearing that in mind, it is easy to understand how in due course Kitch succeeded in drawing such a strikingly honest picture of the experiences of a young girl and a married woman in his disturbing drama Cwm Rhondda (Coal Valley), and to lay bare the sexual longings of the working class.

Bodo Mari – Kitch’s aunt – sent her child back to Tregaron, where he was brought up as her sister’s child.  So here is an example of the unexpected compassion of rural chapel-going Wales, yes; but an example of the hypocrisy of that Wales as well – its readiness to suppress the truth, to cover up the unacceptable, and to breed an untruthful, frustrated society. And this is precisely the picture of rural life that is shown later on in that great, wonderful play,  Meini Gwagedd (the Stones of Desolation) another of Kitch’s revolutionary masterpieces. It is a play that is full of the restless spirits of the dead, spirits who are bound to their old home because they cannot bear to confront the unacceptable, liberating truth  about their suffocating, nightmarish existence as living people.  Because of that their relationship verges on unhealthy spiritual incest.  No wonder that Jacob Davies, who played the part of one of the main characters, suffered a nervous breakdown following its performance.  It remains even today a play that can shake you to the core.    And it shatters the myth about rural life, just as Cwm Glo shattered the corresponding myth about ‘gwerin y graith’, the blue-scarred proletariat of the mining valleys.

Kitch was by nature an iconoclast.  And as we shall see, on his deathbed he shattered the greatest icon of all – the icon some of his friends had created about himself, the false image that Kitch partly blamed himself for creating.  His honesty is so extreme that it sends a shiver down your spine.  The great radio poem ‘Sŵn y Gwynt Sy’n Chwythu’ (The Sound of the Wind that is Blowing), is a confessional poem that disembowels itself unsparingly.  Here is an act of poetic hara-kiri if there ever was.

I have ventured to suggest that Kitch could not truly identify  with the experience of the miners. ‘I’m an incomer’, he said himself about his life in the Rhondda. Adding ‘I’m an incomer, my home country is elsewhere.’  He knew that in one way this was an obvious drawback for him both as a writer and as a politician.  The language of Cwm Glo is that of religious meetings at Llwynpiod, he admitted – Llwynpiod was the Calvinistic Methodist chapel where he and his family used to cross the Tregaron marshes every Sunday to attend services.  But in another way being a stranger was an advantage. Because it meant he had an outsider’s viewpoint on both rural Wales and industrial Wales, a viewpoint that enabled him to observe some aspects that the members of those societies were unwilling to acknowledge.  There is no wonder that he took an interest in the work of Sigmund Freud, who did so much to make us aware of the hidden underlying motivations that secretly govern our lives.  Kitch, for example, revealed the state of the Welsh language in the valleys, explaining the economic, political and cultural implications of its startling decline.

Between 1931 and 1951 the number of Welsh speakers in the Rhondda fell from forty-five per cent to twenty-nine per cent.  The response of Kitch and his followers was to generate a movement to set up Welsh-medium schools in the valleys – Ynys-Wen in the Rhondda Fawr to begin with, and then Pontygwaith in the Rhondda Fach.  Here you see the advantage of being able to observe the society from the outside, thus noticing the gaps and weaknesses that were hidden from the society itself.  And Kitch the writer and poet benefitted from the same feature.  In Cwm Glo he laid particular stress on the character of the miner Dai Dafis.  He is an idler, quite willing to prostitute his daughter, betray his fellow workers, abuse his wife and waste his wages on drinking and gambling.  There was no lack of such characters in the Rhondda valleys, but the local people and their supporters refused to accept that, and as a result Kitch was cursed for daring to portray such a figure. 

Furthermore, it is worth remembering that Kitch had left his rural environment, albeit unwillingly, as we shall see, — becoming an exile and developing an outside and distant view of the community of his birth.  It was that view that enabled  him to fashion a play as raw and subversive as Meini Gwagedd, an anti-pastoral work if there ever was.  This is a masterpiece by a man on the sidelines, in exactly the same way as Cwm Glo.

In one way, throughout his life Kitch looked upon the Tregaron area as a lost paradise.  Here is a sample of his magical remembrance of life there: ‘He glimpsed the pale yellow of the tiny frogs splashing about in the paler yellow of the sun, and he saw (from the furthest corner of the yard where, like a shower of petals, there was a spray of feathers from the over-venturesome yellow hen) the course of the fox walking directly through the dew.’

It is a description full of richness and exciting in its sensuality.  The wealth of language – a wealth wholly lost by now – is intoxicating.  ‘Naddu gwernen yn llwyau pren o flaen tân, plethu gwiail yn lipau yn y sgubor, anadlu moethusrwydd tail yr eidonau wrth garthu crit y lloi….Crychydd cam yn codi a chwibanogl yn troi, sgrech cornicyll.’

‘Carving alder into wooden spoons by the fireside, wickerwork in the barn, inhaling the sweetness of the cattle dung while clearing out the calves’ quarters….A heron rising and a curlew turning, the scream of the lapwing.’  This is language heart-breaking in its longing.

Then suddenly we come across a different picture, as Kitch talks of ‘the more chilling scream of poor Ann as she suddenly goes mad in the marsh.’  The honesty of Kitch cuts across every sentimental portrayal of life, and shatters it in pieces. ‘Sgrech oeraidd Ann’ – Ann’s chilling scream – is heard echoing in Meini Gwagedd.  And the scream is heard in a very personal way in ‘Sŵn y Gwynt’ as well.

Kitch was forced to leave this paradise quite early in his life, for two reasons.  First of all, his mother died when he was only six years old.  And then, a few years later, his father suddenly decided to sell the little cottage, Y Llain, and marry a ‘little woman from the south’, in Kitch’s words, a greedy stepmother.  Because of this, Kitch had to leave the Tregaron district for ever, and move to live with his beloved aunt in Tonypandy. So Kitch was cruelly uprooted, and he was disinherited as well, – a bitter experience that he would see repeated later on all over the valleys of the South, where the whole population had been disinherited. After marrying and settling down in Brithweunydd, what did Kitch do, but set about creating a garden beside the house, a garden that was celebrated for its beauty and which obviously represented that which he had lost when Y Llain was sold.

But if the loss of Y Llain was a formative loss in the story of the development of Kitch, losing his mother was a much greater and more significant blow.  He returned to this life-changing loss when lying on his sickbed in Church Village hospital, and it was this that led to his incredible poem ‘Sŵn y Gwynt sy’n Chwythu’ (The Sound of the Wind that is Blowing).  In this work a number of important themes come together for the first time.  Attending a Seiat Profiad in Llwynpiod chapel in his boyhood; Saunders Lewis’s observation, in his pioneering study of the life and work of Pantycelyn, that meetings of the Seiat resembled the analytical sessions of modern psychiatrists; discovering in his youth that sin was an integral part of the make-up of every human being; developing an interest in the spiritual plays of T.S. Eliot;  the desire to use new media such as the radio to promote the development of the Welsh language; the realisation that this new medium afforded a revolutionary and thrilling form of intimate communication; and so on and so on.  And the poem is a complex and elegant weaving together of a number of powerful symbols. Above all, it uses the image of Y Llain’s sheltering hedge, a hedge that protected the cottage from the wind.  And that is contrasted with the bare, defenceless valleys of the Rhondda, valleys that were completely open to destructive tempests, economic, political and cultural.

But there is a contrary aspect as well to the protective hedge of Y Llain. At the end of his life, Kitch realises that he sheltered behind the hedge to avoid facing up to some telling truths about his own character.  Because by now, very late in the day, Kitch considered himself not as a defiant hero standing up for the rights of the Welsh, but as a lifelong cheat, a coward who had hidden throughout his life from recognising a number of fundamental challenges.  One of these was the challenge to acknowledge his own character, to know his history since childhood.  But the greatest challenge of all was to open up fully in obedience to the call of the Holy Spirit, and to bow to those requirements that came in its wake.  Now, at the very end of his life, Kitch could admit that this challenge completely terrified him.

In ‘Sŵn y Gwynt’ he traces these presumed weaknesses back to their source, to the early experience of losing his mother when he was just six.  The cruellest accusation, and the most telling of all, that he insists on bringing against himself, is that throughout his life since childhood he had only been playing a part.  It was all an act.  And he insists he began to act when he lost his mother:

 

Wyt ti’n cofio dod ‘nôl yn nhrap Tre-wern

O angladd mam? Ti’n cael bod ar y sêt flaen gydag Ifan

A phawb yn tosturio wrthyt, yn arwr bach, balch.

Nid pawb sy’n cael cyfle i golli’i fam yn chwech oed,

A chael dysgu actio mor gynnar.

 

[Do you remember coming in the Tre-wern trap

From mam’s funeral? You were allowed on the front seat with Ifan

And everyone pitying you, a proud little hero.

Not everyone gets the chance to lose their mother at six years old,

And get to learn acting so early.]

 

To me, those lines are heart-breakingly sad, full of the bitterness and anger that the young child could not express at the time, although the adult Kitch could now acknowledge them. These are feelings that inevitably find their way to the surface at the very end, and demand a public expression.  It is the explosion of these feelings that make this such a memorable confessional poem; a poem that can shake you to your foundations.  You could almost call it an embarrassing poem, because it is so unsparingly raw.

Remembering Kitch’s interest in psychology and psycho-analysis, I started to wonder what is the opinion of modern psychologists of the experience of a young child losing a beloved parent, and I found that some revealing research had been done.  At the time of the second world war, psychologists were engaged in studying the response of refugees from London to the experience of leaving their mothers and living in totally strange homes.  It was found that a number of them defended their weak, bruised psyche at that time by taking on a persona that did not correspond with their true selves.  And furthermore it was recognised that this childhood role play was continued throughout later life.  After becoming adults these children could not throw off the habit of acting, because that would mean facing up to the primal loss of losing their mother for the first time.  Life had deceived them when young, and after that they in their turn needed to deceive in order to defend their core personality from ever again suffering the same loss.

As far as I can see, that is exactly the same situation as that of Kitch.  And now I would further suggest that we could describe such an experience as some form of post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd.  I completely accept that these days we are too ready to use this label.  And I would not want explicitly to claim that Kitch suffered from ptsd throughout his life.  But I would venture to suggest that there is at least a suggestive similarity between the underlying trauma he admits to in ‘Sŵn y Gwynt’ and the experience of those unfortunate people who are prey to fully blown ptsd.  And in observing his life through this lens, a number of interesting aspects come to the fore.

It explains why he is able to identify, as he does in Meini Gwagedd, with the spirits of the dead, shackled to their old home because they cannot truly face up to the consequences of their terrible lives they spent there.  Wasn’t Kitch himself such a restless spirit?  It also throws new light on his obsession with the theatre – the true play-house of course – and his willingness to write challenging drama.  And perhaps it also explains his outlook on the condition of Wales – the outlook at the root of all his political activity.                                            

Because Kitch considered that Wales had suffered an industrial revolution that was also a cultural rupture.  It was a country that had refused to face up to the painful truth about itself.  The Welsh were determined to play the part of English people.  It was all fraud, in his opinion – and perhaps it needed a fraudster, as Kitch saw himself to be, to know a fraudster.

Every fraudster is by nature cunning.  Psychologists offer a secular explanation.  But we do not get that in ‘Sŵn y Gwynt.’  Because Kitch possessed a religious worldview, the Calvinistic worldview implanted so deeply in him inthe little chapel of Llwynpiod here beside the bog.  This meant that at the end he saw himself as a sinner through and through, because his life had been nothing more than fraud and hypocrisy from its beginning to its end.

That is the tragedy.  That is also the greatness of his poem.  It concludes with a sinner’s prayer, a pleading, impassioned prayer for salvation that is enough to send shivers down your spine.

 Paradoxically he pleads to be saved by not being saved.  He wants to avoid suffering the ultimate penalty for his faith.  He wants the Almighty to raise the protective hedge of Y Llain once more between himself and the agony of the cross: at the same time, he prays to be spared from suffering the agony of the cancer that is slowly killing him.

Quo vadis, quo vadis, I ble rwyt ti’n mynd?

Paid â’m herlid i Rufain, i groes, â ‘mhen tua’r llawr.

O Geidwad y colledig,

Achub fi, achub fi, achub fi

Rhag Dy fedydd sy’n golchi mor lân yr Hen Ddyn.

Cadw fi, cadw fi, cadw fi

Rhag merthyrdod anorfod Dy etholedig Di.

Achub fi a chadw fi

Rhag y gwynt sy’n chwythu lle y mynno.

Boed felly.  Amen

            Ac Amen.

 

Quo vadis, quo vadis, where are you going?

Do not pursue me to Rome, to the cross, and my head to the ground.

O Saviour of the lost,

Save me, save me, save me

From Thy baptism that washed the Old Man so clean.

Keep me, keep me, keep me

From the inevitable martyrdom of Thy chosen one.

Save me and keep me

From the wind that blows where it will.

So be it.  Amen

            And Amen.

This is the cri de coeur of the spirit, the cry of the stricken Calvinist soul de profundis.  But it also has the undertone of Ann’s raving in the marsh, and the cry of a small boy who will, for ever and ever, have just lost his mother.

 

Professor M.Wynn Thomas is a distinguished academic and writer who holds the Emyr Humphreys Chair of Welsh Writing in English at Swansea University.  This lecture was delivered in Welsh at the National Eisteddfod  in Tregaron on Thursday 4 August 2022 at the invitation of the Plaid Cymru History Society.  The text of this English language version has been translated by Dafydd Williams, and amended and approved by Wynn Thomas.

Kitchener Davies – from Tregaron to Trealaw

Thursday 4 August 2022 12.30pm Pabell y Cymdeithasau 2 

in the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Tregaron

“Kitchener Davies – o Dregaron i Drealaw “

Darlithydd Athro M Wynn Thomas

Cadeirydd Dafydd Williams

The poet, dramatist and nationalist, James Kitchener Davies (1902-1952) will be the subject of this special presentation, 120 years since his birth.

The presentation will be in Welsh.

Penri Jones 1943 – 2021

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.

Pat Larsen 1926 – 2021

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.”

Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament

Jill Evans

MEP 1999 – 2020

Jill EVANS official portrait – 9th Parliamentary term

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.

2020 Gadael Ewrop

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.

 


2009


2009


2010 Fferm Gwern


2010 Gaza


2010


2010 Yr Urdd


2012


2014


2015

2019 Plaid Cymru EU election candidates Patrick McGuinness, Jill Evans MEP, Carmen Smith, and Ioan Bellin

 

Centenary of the Birth of Dr Tudur Jones

Robert Tudur Jones (1921 – 1998)

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, Y Cymro, 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!

Gwynn Matthews

Maldwyn Lewis 1928 – 2021

In Memory of Maldwyn Lewis

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.

Dewi Williams

Secretary  Bro Madog Branch, Plaid Cymru

 

Hanes Plaid Cymru