Cofio Steffan Lewis
Talwyd teyrngedau i’r diweddar Steffan Lewis AC, a fu farw’n 34 oed ar ôl brwydr ddewr yn erbyn canser.
Cynhaliwyd angladd Steffan yn Eglwys Gymraeg Abercarn a sefydlwyd gan yr Arglwyddes Llanofer, Gwenynen Gwent a ymgyrchai dros yr iaith Gymraeg a’n traddodiadau yn y 19edd canrif. Ceir yma eiriad teyrngedau a draddodwyd yn yr angladd gan arweinydd Plaid Cymru Adam Price a’r cyn- Aelod Cynulliad Jocelyn Davies, ynghyd â chofion personol am Steffan gan Gadeirydd Hanes Plaid Cymru, Dafydd Williams. Arweiniwyd y gwasanaeth ar y 25 Ionawr 2019 gan y Parchedig Aled Edwards.
Teyrnged i Steffan gan Adam Price
Colled sy’n ein tynnu ni ynghyd heddiw, mewn cwlwm tyn o ing. Colli mab, colli gŵr, colli tad, colli cyfaill. Ond drwyddi draw colli Cymro mawr. Gwlad sy’n galaru am yfory na fydd fu Cymru erioed. O herwydd hanes hir o golli, brwydr a brawd. Colli Cadwallon a Rhodri a Gruffydd a Llywelyn. Lawgoch a Glyndŵr. Ac yn y rhestr o bendefigion nawr yr ychwanegwn enw llywiawdwr lluoedd arall, ein hannwyl Steffan.
Ac eto wedi plethu yn y boen, mae ‘na wirionedd arall i’w weld yn y gwagle. Colli, colli, colli – ac eto mynnu byw er gwaetha popeth yw hanes ein cenedl.
Mae rhywbeth od am y ffaith ein bod ni fel cenedl y Cymry yma o hyd – yn sefyll fan hyn dim ond ychydig filltiroedd o’r ffin dan drwyn cenedl fu am ddwy ganrif yn feistr y byd. Oedd bywyd Steffan, dyn o Went, yn Gymro croyw, cadarn yn symbol o’r ffaith, bod yn y genedl eiddil hon, yng ngeiriau Islwyn Ffowc Elis, yntau hefyd yn ddyn o ymyl y ffin, rhyw athrylith i barhau.
Mae Cymru yn dal yn byw o herwydd ein bod ni yn ewyllysio hynny, oherwydd y gwydnwch rhyfeddol hynny sy’n plygu heb dorri. Fe welwyd hynny ar ei ganfed ym mlwyddyn olaf Steffan, ac yntau yn llwyddo i fyw hyd yr eithaf, yn cyfrannu hyd y diwedd, yn cipio einioes o ddannedd ei waeledd cynifer o weithiau er mwyn dal i wneud gwahaniaeth dros y bobl a’r wlad a garodd ac a garodd yntau. Mentrodd dro ar ôl tro yn erbyn Goleiath ar ddydd na ŵyr gwyrth.
Wrth feddwl am y deyrnged hon mi feddyliais i am y teyrngedau godidog yr oedd Steffan ei hun wedi eu rhoi i Glyn Erasmus a Jim Criddle. Yr oedd ers ei lencyndod wedi cyfri henaduriaid y Blaid yn ffrindie mynwesol.
O herwydd roedd Steffan yn deall taw ras gyfnewid ydy’r frwydr dros Gymru ac na fydd diwedd iddi fyth.
Mae ‘na gyfrifoldeb arnon ni gyd nawr felly i beidio â gollwng y ffagl i’r llaid.
“Pan gyrchom i’r gad bydd dy gleddyf fel fflam o’n blaenau
Pan gymerom gyngor bydd dy air fel cân yn ein cof
Pan ddysgom ein plant, bydd dy enw’n soniarus yn ein haraith
A phan na byddwn ni
Gan genedlaethau sy nghudd dan blyg y blynyddoedd
Cenedlaethau na wybyddant na’n henwau ni na dim amdanom
Fe’th ystyrir di’n ddewr
Fe’th gyfrir di’n ddoeth
Fe’th elwir di’n fawr.”
In my last conversation with Steffan a few days before he passed we talked about many, many things. Steffan was a man, in Whitman’s phrase, that contained multitudes. He had a large heart and a huge intellect – and those things don’t often come together. He was a brilliant orator and a champion listener – and that combination is rarer still. He was as we know courageously honest and he wanted me to know he had only a short time left. As I held him there were moments of silent sadness, but we also laughed a lot.
We pondered together the last message that he could convey through me to you. And his face was illuminated with a mischievous grin when he said, I know, we’ll ask them to pledge themselves to giving up beer and wine until we secure Welsh independence, forcing some of you into an excruciating choice between two of the things you loved the most. You know who you are.
He really wanted to see that independent Wales he said.
And he wished so much the prognosis would change. Knowing Steffan as we do I think he meant not so much now for himself but for Wales, for us, and for Celyn.
There was always a great sense of urgency about Steffan. Not for him the languid language of independence as a long-term goal. He wanted us to get there while he was yet young. He had the same boundless energy – but also perhaps the same foreknowledge that all of us have but limited time – that propelled the young John F Kennedy, to end his campaign speeches with those words of Robert Frost: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep /And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.”
The Monday morning after the terrible news I couldn’t face going into a Senedd with an empty seat. So I went for a run around the Bay. My face contorted with exhaustion and grief, an elderly gentleman offered his words of kindness and encouragement: “Not far to go now. Not far”. I stopped to look out over the clouds in the Bay, and suddenly shafts of sunlight cut through onto the water. In Sunday school we learned to call that Jacob’s ladder – but for me now these rays of sunshine will be for ever Steffan’s.
And it put me in mind of the inauguration of Jack Kennedy, that other great leader who gave a nation new hope.
Robert Frost was due to read out a poem he had written especially for the occasion, but as he approached the podium a sudden glare of sunlight meant he couldn’t read his text. So instead he read out another poem from memory, “A Gift Outright”.
“The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
To the land vaguely realizing westward
Such as she was, such as she would become.”
The poem is about a sense of one-ness between a people and their land.
Monmouthshire perhaps is Wales’ Massachusetts, Virginia its Gwent, where the magnetic pull of the border is strongest, where to be Welsh is not an accident of birth but an act of defiant will. Do we choose to withhold ourselves from Wales, to follow the easy paths of personal ambition and material success, or do we sacrifice ourselves for Wales? Steffan’s answer was never really in doubt. His mother Gail made sure of that. Steffan found salvation in surrendering himself to Wales. His life to his last was a gift outright to the nation.
Cymru to Steffan was par excellence a country of companionship. He wanted to plant it thick as trees along mountain-top and valley floor, and for our shores and our rivers to constantly water its roots. He wanted us to be indissoluble, inseparable, compatriots all, with our arms around each other’s necks, Cuumraag in Manx means comrade after all. And this dear comrade wanted Wales – all of Wales – to cwtch up close.
Like his great mentor and hero Phil Williams, Steffan railed against what Phil called the false ‘psychology of distance’ which divided our nation.
This is Steffan in 2012 in an email to Rhuanedd and me:
“We should talk about ending the Walian. We are not south Walians, north Walians, west Walians etc. Yes, Wales is a community of communities but the artificial regionalisation of Wales and the cynical divides based on language, geography, urban v rural are the tools of those who seek to divide us to protect the political status quo, for their narrow self-interest. Wales is at its best when Wales is one – One Wales (yes, with capital letters), facing common challenges together. This is needed more than ever as our country faces a full frontal assault from the UK Government”.
Steffan was a proud Gwentian, but keen to emphasise its fundamental Welshness. How Zephaniah Williams and John Frost were both Welsh speakers . As was the miner Edward Morgan – the Dic Penderyn of Monmouthshire – executed at age 35 as a leader of Tarw Scotch. Though it was the working class Welsh culture of these valleys that was the crucible in which Steffan’s personality was forged – he was also quite struck, and no doubt amused, by the stories of Lady Llanofer, insisting her staff only spoke Welsh, and wearing a bespoke Welsh costume, made out of the finest materials, with a superb diamond leek in her black silk hat.
He was himself a gem of a man, and so it’s fitting that he will be followed by a Jewell. And I know that it gave Steffan great comfort to know that he could pass the baton on to someone equally able and committed.
He touched us all in different ways, and it stings to know we’re no longer able to reach out and touch him.
Before I conclude I should like to read out some special messages of condolences that we have received.
Firstly from Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister
“I was lucky to know Steffan. I first met him when he supported Leanne at those famous TV debates. I could see then what a keen mind he had and what a compassionate individual he was. As a result it was no surprise to me when he was elected in 2016. Steffan was a truly lovely man and a first rate politician. He had the good fortune in life to marry Shona, a Scots woman, and his young son Celyn has perhaps the even better fortune to be both Welsh and Scottish. Shona and Celyn can be enormously proud of what Steffan achieved and as you celebrate his life today, my thoughts, and those of Steffan’s friends and colleagues in Scotland are with all of our friends in Wales.”
And secondly on behalf of the Irish Government, Ambassador Adrian O’Neill
“I was very saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Steffan Lewis and, on behalf of the Irish Government, I extend my sympathies to Steffan’s wife Shona and his son Celyn and to all his colleagues in Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Assembly. He will be remembered not only for his notable career in Welsh politics but also for his drive and passion in furthering bilateral relations between Ireland and Wales”.
In remembering Steffan here now our hearts are both beguiled and broken.
But he would not want us to despair in this our land of living.
So every morning when we wake let’s wake for him. When we rise, let it be the rising of a nation.
As Steffan’s years were halved let’s re-double our efforts on his behalf.
Steffan never learned to take his time so nor should we. He achieved so much in such a short while, inscribing in the arc of his life a great promise of things to come. Its realisation now falls to us.
Our future may lie beyond the horizon, but it is not beyond our control. Nothing is inevitable, no irresistible tide of history will determine our destiny. It is up to us.
We do not have far to go. The future is in our hands.
So let’s build it together in the name of one we loved.
And who loved us in return.
Such was the strength of that love that one nation would never be enough to contain it.
Steffan dreamed of creating a Celtic Union so he fashioned his own in bonding forever with Shona.
So it’s fitting we should say our goodbyes on that great Scottish poet Robbie Burns’ birthday.
And so I’ll end with his words to a dear departed friend that feel so apt today:
“Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.”
Steffan Lewis – Teyrnged Bersonol
gan Dafydd Williams, Cadeirydd, Cymdeithas Hanes Plaid Cymru
Fe ddes i adnabod Steffan yn ystod yr etholiadau cyntaf i’r Cynulliad Cenedlaethol yn 1999. Phil Williams oedd ymgeisydd y Blaid yn etholaeth Blaenau Gwent ac fel cyfaill iddo ef a chyn Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol Plaid Cymru fe fues i’n rhan o’r ymgyrch fywiog a weinyddid o’n swyddfa yn y stryd fawr yn Nhredegar. Byddai Steffan yn dod yn rheolaidd, yn troi lan bron bob dydd ar ôl i’r ysgol ddod i ben. Roedd tua 14 oed ar y pryd, ond roedd yn amlwg i bawb fod gydag ef botensial sylweddol.
Wrth i’r amser fynd heibio, roedd yn dda gweld iddo ddefnyddi’r ddawn gynhenid yna. Pan safodd Steffan i annerch cynhadledd y Blaid neu’r Cyngor Cenedlaethol, byddai pobl yn gwrando. Dangosodd eglurdeb gweledigaeth a dadansoddiad treiddgar o faterion cymhleth – yn arbennig o gynnydd herciog datganoli. Llwyddai roi drosodd ei syniadau mewn ffordd gwbl ddiymhongar, ac fe enillodd gynulleidfa gynyddol. Nid oedd yn syndod felly iddo gael ei ddewis ar ben rhestr ymgeisyddion Plaid Cymru yn Ne-ddwyrain Cymru na chlywed am y parch a roed iddo gan aelodau ar draws y pleidiau yn y Cynulliad – rhywbeth fu’n hatgoffa ni o’r parch a gawsai Phil Williams rai blynyddoedd ynghynt.
Tua deunaw mis yn ôl, gwnaeth Steffan amser i deithio i Abertawe i gyfarfod ag aelodau o’r Blaid mewn noson gymdeithasol yn Abertawe, a rhoi gwybod i ni am y datblygiadau diweddaraf a’r holl gymhlethdodau a ddaeth yn sgil y refferendwm Brexit. Bu hwnnw’n achlysur hyfryd ac ysbrydoledig a lwyddodd roi hwb i’n gweithgareddau yn Abertawe a Gŵyr, noson na fyddwn ni fyth yn anghofio. Fe ddaeth y newydd creulon am ei ddiagnosis fel ergyd anferth, a hynny ychydig o wythnosau yn unig ar ôl iddo fod gyda ni, ac amhosibl amgyffred y poen a’r galar yng nghalonnau ei deulu.
Estynnwn ein cydymdeimlad a’n dymuniadau gorau i Shona, Celyn a’r teulu i gyd.