Category Archives: Tribute

Tributes to Steffan Lewis 1984 – 2019

Remembering Steffan Lewis

Tributes have been paid  to the late Steffan Lewis AM, who died at the age of 34 after a courageous battle against cancer.

Steffan’s funeral took place at Abercarn’s Welsh Church, established by the nineteenth century campaigner Lady Llanover, Gwenynen Gwent.  The text of tributes given at the funeral by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price  (translated text bracketed) and former Assembly Member Jocelyn Davies can be found here, together with a personal recollection of Steffan by Plaid Cymru History chairman Dafydd Williams.  The funeral service on the 25 January 2019 was conducted by the Reverend Aled Edwards.

A Tribute to Steffan by Adam Price

[We are drawn together today by a great loss and a deep sense of pain.  The loss of  a son, the loss of a husband, of a father and a friend.  And also the loss of a great Welshman.  Wales has always been a country mourning the tomorrow that would never be.  Because of our long history of loss, losing battle and brother.  Losing Cadwallon and  Rhodri and Gruffydd and Llywelyn.  Owain Lawgoch and Glyndŵr.  And to that roll call of princes we now add the name of another leader of hosts, our dear Steffan. 

And yet woven in to that pain, there is another truth to be perceived in the vacuum.  Loss after loss – and yet the history of our nation is about resolving to live despite it all.

There is something odd about the fact that we in Wales are still here as a nation – standing here only a few miles from the border, under the noses of the nation that for two centuries ruled the world.  Steffan’s life, as a man of Gwent, a true Welshman, stands as a symbol of the fact that this frail nation, in the words of another borderer, Islwyn Ffowc Elis, proved it had a genius for survival.

Wales continues to live today because we are determined that it should, because of that remarkable tenacity that bends without breaking.  We saw that exemplified by Steffan’s final year, by his success in living to the full, contributing until the end, and snatching life from the teeth of his sickness so many times in order to continue to make a difference for the people and the country he loved and that loved him.

In preparing this tribute I recalled the splendid tributes given by Steffan himself to Glyn Erasmus and Jim Criddle.  From his early days he had counted Plaid veterans among his closest friends.

Because Steffan understood that the struggle for Wales is like a relay race that will never come to an end.

Steffan and his family in the Assembly chamber

So all of us now bear responsibility not to let that baton slip from our grasp.

“When we set out for battle your sword will be like a flame before us

When we take counsel your word will be like a song in our memory

When we teach our children, your name will be melodious in our speech

And when we are no more known

To generations as yet hidden in the unfolding years,

Generations who know neither our names nor anything about us

You will be renowned as brave

You will be counted wise

You will be called great.”]

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.”

 

Eulogy to Steffan Lewis by Jocelyn Davies

From the tributes paid to Steffan over the last two weeks it is clear that Wales has lost one of her brightest and best political figures of our time.

But Steffan was so much more than a public figure – husband to Shona; father to little Celyn; son to Gail; stepson to Neil; brother to Dylan, Sian and Nia, an uncle and son-in-law; a keen historian; a nationalist and internationalist; a Celtic supporter; and a friend to many of us; and more besides and we’re here today to celebrate and remember all he was. And I’d like to share the story of my friendship with him.

When he asked me at Christmas if I would do this eulogy I started to think back to when our paths first crossed.  That’s about 25 years ago. His father, Mark, used to bring him to Plaid Cymru meetings and Steff’s interest in politics was sparked by the Islwyn by-election.

Soon after, Gail brought him to the house because he wanted to discuss bullying in schools with a school governor. He was just ten – so mature; so polite; and so serious. And he wasn’t so much worried for himself, but for smaller children – like his younger sister Sian, and to whom he took his bigger brother responsibilities very seriously indeed. He wanted Sian to be safe.

Gail was, without doubt, the driving force in those formative years and it is to Gail that Plaid Cymru owes a massive debt of gratitude because she gave Steffan the gift of his love for Wales; for its language; for its culture and history; and for his nation. And, not forgetting, the typewriter she gave him from which the ten-year-old Steffan fired off letters to various people about important matters of the day!

He hadn’t at that point decided to be a politician. In fact, he was quite set on becoming a police officer. So, in typical Steffan style, sent one of his letters to the local police station about his intentions. So impressed were they that Steffan and Sian were treated to a tour of the station, put in the cells, and had their fingerprints taken for good measure. So, even at this tender age he had the directness and easy charm that impressed the people he met.

He was still a schoolboy when he made his first visit to the Commons by the invitation of Dafydd Wigley – after Steffan had written one of his letters, of course. Dafydd said he was immediately struck by a young man who had a passion for Wales; who already had an understanding of politics; and had a maturity beyond his years.

As a teenager, Gail continued to encourage him to maintain his interest in politics, and he seemed 28 speaking at conference – but was also happy tagging along with whatever was going on locally.

He helped us out in the historic Assembly elections of 1999, and it came as no surprise to me when he later contacted me about a work placement at the Bay. He was 15 and he spent that first summer making his way down from Tredegar to help me, and to learn, meeting everyone, and just being part of the excitement of it all – I think he also tried out my chair for size while I was out of the room! – already planning no doubt.

A 13-year-old Steffan addressing the Plaid Conference in 1997

On the journeys home with Mike and I in the car he talked of his plans for A levels, of Welsh history (I think he’d visited every castle in the land) and of what devolution meant to him – the dawn of a new Wales.

We lost touch with our young friend when he went off to university and then travelling – and he told me later that during that time he’d even flirted for a while with the Wales Independence Party. I think he’d felt a profound deflation when it became all to obvious that the powers the Assembly had at that time were not going to build the Wales he was expecting to see.

It was 2006, with the Blaenau Gwent by-election looming, and our need for a Westminster candidate that he came back into our lives. Mike, of course, had the task of ringing him. By now he’d met the love of his life, Shona, in a pub in Cardiff when she was visiting from Inverness. He knew she was “The One”, and with his usual vigour and determination pursued her back to Scotland. He was working there and had joined the SNP, and had become a Celtic supporter – but you can’t have everything!

Becoming a Celtic supporter wasn’t, by the way, a shallow attempt to impress Shona. It was, Steffan style, thoroughly thought through and based on the fact that the team was originally formed with the specific aim of being a way of raising funds to feed poor children in the east end of Glasgow – well, that’s what he’d tell us when they were not on top form!

Luckily for us, Shona was fully supportive of him standing and he agreed to fight the seat for us. And what a candidate! Dai Davies recently told me that, in all the hustings they attended, all he need do was pray Steff answered questions before him and then agree with whatever Steff said. Steff was just 22. And already had the public speaking skills of a seasoned professional.

He and Shona came home to Wales and settled in Islwyn. It was a partnership of true equals and they were always 100% supportive of each other. I know he was happy in Scotland, but was pleased to be back near his family and to see his little sister Nia as often as possible.

It’s from this time really that he became like family to us, and not just Mike and me, but the whole Islwyn Plaid Cymru clan.

Over the years he’s paid some lovely tributes to me, and claimed I took him under my wing. Well, he was a very polite boy. I’m not sure that was entirely true. It’s probably more accurate to say I just took the opportunity to light a blue touch paper that was already there – the intellect, the talent and the drive were already there. All he needed was the benefit of some wise experience – and a little time and space – I think I gave him that.  Yes, I gave him that. And if you light a blue touch paper, it is best if you then stand well back!

The real step-change for Steff was going to work for Leanne, and I know he was incredibly proud of the work they did together, and being right at the centre of the action was the perfect finishing school for him. And I’m sure she’d agree that, quite apart from his professional abilities, Steff was one of those nice people to have around – serious, yes a bit straight laced too, but he was really funny – we laughed a lot together, even on those very dark days.

He had his anxieties. He confided in me that he was worried he wouldn’t be taken seriously as an Assembly Member because of his age. Of course, his fears were completely unfounded. He was, after all, the star of the show – I might be a bit biased on that front.

I’ve come now to the really hard bit.

What happened to Steffan is a tragedy beyond words – but somehow he found the words for it.

The openness, clarity and tenderness with which he spoke about his experience and feelings was extraordinary. It was a noble selfless endeavour to tell his story in order to help others. And he did with a frankness that was truly touching. He and Shona, together, demonstrated a strength and generosity of spirit that made this last year easier for us all.  And the dignity with which Sona has bore her grief is inspirational. Where she found the strength and fortitude, I have no idea. She is one of the most remarkable women I have ever met.

Steff and his whole family were on the most terrible of journeys and they invited us to share it with them and they were always grateful for our company and considerate of our feelings. And they did with a positivity that was truly humbling. They comforted us.

There are far too many people to thank individually for all the support they’ve received, and I know they are overwhelmed by the love and kindness shown to them from all quarters. But Steff would want me to say how proud he was of Nia’s fundraising work for Velindre, and he was especially grateful to Rhuanedd Richards for being a rock for Gail, who is bearing the utter despair that no mother should ever face.

The last time Mike and I saw Steff at home with Shona and his sweet sweet boy Celyn, he said one of the good things that had come from this was that his family were even closer than before, and he was looking forward to watching football that weekend with brother Dylan and his very special friend, Neil, his stepfather.

He was also making plans with us to make a last appearance at the Senedd to make a final statement to you – always planning, always working towards something. I don’t know what he intended for that statement – maybe he’d have told to, Harri Webb style, to “sing for Wales”.  Steff certainly sang for Wales.

But I know for certain he would have thanked you all. So, I do that now for him. Thank you.

Steffan Lewis – A Personal Tribute

by Dafydd Williams, Chairman, Plaid Cymru History Society                                                                                                    

I got to know Steffan during the first elections to the National Assembly in 1999.  Phil Williams was standing  for Plaid in the Blaenau Gwent constituency and as a  friend of Phil and former General Secretary of Plaid Cymru I took part in the lively campaign run from our office in Tredegar.  Steffan was a regular attendee, turning up almost every day after school was over.  He must have been 14 at the time, but it was clear to all of us that he had great potential.

As time passed it was good to see how he put that talent to good use.  When Steffan addressed the Plaid conference and National Council, people listened.  His clarity of understanding and analysis of complex issues – especially the bumpy progress of devolution – was a revelation.  His ability to put ideas across without the slightest pretension won him a growing following.  It was no surprise to see him chosen as Plaid’s lead candidate in South-east Wales or to hear of the respect he gained among members of all parties in the Assembly – in a way that called to mind the respect accorded to Phil Williams in previous years.

Around eighteen months ago Steffan made time to travel to Swansea to meet Plaid members in a well-attended social function and brief us on all the latest developments and complications following the Brexit referendum.  It was an enjoyable and inspiring occasion that succeeded in boosting activities in Swansea and Gower, an evening we will never forget.  It came as a huge shock within a few short weeks to hear the cruel news of his diagnosis, and I cannot imagine the pain and sadness felt by his loved ones.

We extend our heartfelt sympathy and best wishes to Shona, Celyn and all the family.

Mourners outside Abercarn Welsh Church

 

Geraint Thomas 1950 – 2018

Geraint Thomas was a larger than life character who left an indelible impression on all who knew him. A Plaid supporter from a young age, probably his first political victory – as a 12 year old – was ensuring that the scout group of which he was a reluctant member in Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, ditched the union jack in favour of the Ddraig Goch. Of such victories are activists forged! Along with contemporaries Sharon Morgan, Sian Edwards, Dai Rees, Tony Jenkins and others, he was very much part of the enthusiastic groundswell of young Plaid members who contributed so much to Gwynfor’s by-election victory in 1966.

Geraint was blessed with a profound intellect (hence his nickname – ‘Prof’), a sharp wit, and an insatiable interest in the world around him. A voracious reader, he would engage everyone and anyone in lively and well-informed conversation on almost any subject. Following graduation from Jesus College, Oxford he returned to Wales to pursue a career in town planning.

Geraint fought two general elections in Aberafan (1974 & ’79), and later became a long-serving town councillor in his hometown of Carmarthen, contributing much to the well-being of a town he truly loved.

In many ways much of that early political potential remained unrealised, not least due to ill health. But he will be remembered as talented, energetic and able to carry those around him in his enthusiasm and drive; a synergy maker; a positive energy.

Following his recent death at the age of just 68, he has left fond memories and a smile on the face of all who knew him. He leaves a daughter, Ceridwen, and three grandchildren.

Marc Phillips

Tribute to John Harries 1925 – 2018

Tributes have been paid to John Harries, Tycoch, Swansea, a long-standing member of Plaid Cymru, who died in August at the age of 93.  John became an RAF pilot towards the end of the Second World War when he saw service in the Far East before returning home to qualify as an architect, working in London and later, Swansea.  He was appointed resident architect to the University in Swansea, where he worked until his retirement in 1982.

His family roots are in Dinas Cross in North Pembrokeshire, and John liked to remind people that he was the most senior member of Capel Tabor in the village.  He was brought up in a number of places in south and west Wales before his family moved to London, where he was educated in Streatham school. 

He married Gwenda, his first wife 1956 and they had two sons – Huw, who now lives in Switzerland and Bryn, who resides in London.  Gwenda sadly died at a young age, and in 1970 he married Joy who died in 1996.  John remained active until recent years, playing a valuable role in Plaid Cymru campaigns in his eighties.

Former Plaid General Secretary Dafydd Williams said that John would be always be among the first to arrive to help in Parliamentary by-elections – invariably with a large Red Dragon flag flying from his car and a loudspeaker putting out Plaid’s message.

John Harries (left) with Plaid Cymru’s Swansea West Parliamentary Candidate, Guto ap Gwent, in the election count in the 1970s.

John’s technical know-how meant he was ideally qualified to take responsibility for the stage settings of Plaid Cymru’s Annual Conference – and create a backdrop the big parties would have paid tens of thousands of pounds to emulate, he said.  Instead of a host of PR companies, marketing agencies and graphic designers, Plaids conference set depended on John Harries, who took full charge of designing, planning and building the staging in his garden hut in Tycoch, Swansea.

 “John was a dedicated nationalist with strong radical views – and he believed in working to make his vision a reality”.

Mary Jones 1949 – 2017

An Example to All

Elfyn Llwyd pays tribute to Mary Jones

Mary always brought joy into people’s lives. She could also be fierce – especially towards the enemies of Plaid Cymru, a cause  very close to her heart. Mary, however busy she was, always found time to work for Plaid. During her life, Mary was:

  • Chair of Cylch Meithrin Llanrwst
  • Secretary of Ysgol Bro Gwydir Parents Teachers Association for seven years
  • One of the founders of Clwb Gwerin Sgidiau Hoelia and she organised all the activities of Llanrwst Young Farmers’ Club, ensuring that they won the Rali Eryri twice
  • For 23 years she ran the café in Llanrwst Market, Paned a Gwȇn – she always said that you had to pay for the cuppa but the smile was free!
  • Enthusiastic member of Llanrwst Show committee and the Chair in 2010

Mary always gave her best. She was a committed follower of Manchester United Football Club and as a token of respect, a letter arrived a few days after she passed away. Here is an extract from that letter,

“I just want to write to you to thank you for your loyal support and devotion to the club. I understand that you are having a difficult time but hope that it helps to know that myself, the players and staff are all thinking of you. Jose Mourinho.”

As someone who lives in Dyffryn Conwy I was aware of Mary’s hard work over the years but after I was nominated to stand for the 1992 election I worked closely with her and was the recipient of many a wise word. She would phone me to say that there was an important Market in Llanrwst so that I could meet as many of the local farmers as possible. At other times she would tell me not to bother talking to one or two, “Bloody Tory – a waste of time!”

She was always the first out with leaflets and canvassing. Politicians talk of those who walk the extra mile – she was the best example I know of, and if she undertook any task – we knew it would be done.

I remember on one or two occasions, being exhausted after a hard day of canvassing, and ready to give up for the day, Mary saying, “only two other estates – come with me”. Who could refuse? Her tireless work was an example to all. 

I had a chat with her in August at the Llanrwst Show. Although she was seriously ill she had a ready smile as usual.  

I’m pleased to say that Mary did know that she was to be honoured by Plaid during the Conference in Caernarfon. She was thrilled. Plaid has lost a faithful and strong member and everyone who had the privilege of knowing her has lost a very dear friend.

Janice Dudley 1944 – 2017

‘A Truly Inspirational Woman’

Dai Lloyd AM pays tribute to Janice Dudley

Plaid Cymru lost an unique member earlier this year with the death of the inspirational and hardworking Councillor from Neath Port Talbot, Janice Dudley. Janice worked tirelessly for Plaid Cymru for many years.

In 2004, she joined the group of Plaid Cymru elected representatives following her election as councillor on Neath Port Talbot Council, representing South Bryncoch ward. She represented her area with vigour and enthusiasm and this was recognised by the local residents who re-elected her continuously.

This local support was visible in May again this year, with the residents of Bryncoch ensuring that Janice had a huge majority over the Labour Party. But this level of support was no surprise – Janice was a truly inspirational woman, always energetic and positive. This warm personality attracted people from every background, young and old, from all political parties.

Janice was honoured this year for years of local work when she became the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot Borough Council. Janice of course fulfilled the role in her own passionate and dignified manner.

Since her death, many people have paid tribute to Janice, and the huge respect that people had for her has become evident.

During the Plaid Cymru Annual Conference in Caernarfon, Amanda, Janice’s daughter, received the ‘Special Contribution’ award on behalf of her mother, for her years of hard work on behalf of Plaid Cymru. I was honoured to present that award in acknowledgement of the unique work of a prominent member in the area, but also for someone who was also a personal friend.

Janice’s death has been a huge blow locally, but as colleagues and friends, we are determined to do everything within our ability to ensure that her legacy continues in South Bryncoch and beyond.

Jim Criddle 1947 – 2017

A Gentle Giant

Helen Mary Jones pays tribute to Jim Criddle

It was my privilege at Conference last month to present a posthumous long service award to the family of the late Jim Criddle, longstanding Plaid activist and councillor from Pontllanfraith.

I’m told that Jim was at one time a Labour Party member, but it didn’t take him long to see the light. He was convinced by his old friend Malcolm Parker to stand for Plaid in a local council election in the early 70’s, and so began a lifetime of commitment to Plaid and a total of over 30 years’ service as a councillor.

At the same time Jim set out to learn Welsh, which he did. Through these studies he met his wife, Rhian Heulyn, and the two raised a Welsh speaking family, Betsan, Geraint and Branwen. Working for Plaid became a family project. The children remember Jim’s golden rules for leafleting, including always leave the gate as you find it, don’t annoy the dogs and NEVER EVER climb over walls between gardens – no matter how many steps you have to go up and down!

Wherever work for Plaid was needed, there you would find Jim – leafleting, canvassing, running the branch, working for the Credit Union – it wasn’t the task that mattered to Jim, it was the cause.

As well as his work for Plaid and as a councillor, his teaching job and his family commitments, Jim, with Rhian, was a passionate campaigner for Welsh medium education in Gwent. It was quite a struggle, but they won. I’ll never forget how proud Jim was when Ysgol Gyfun Gwynlliw opened.

Jim loved his family, he loved his community, and he loved Wales. He worked quietly for the causes he believed in. He died too soon. His family, friends and colleagues will always remember this gentle giant. Wales needs more Jim Criddles.

Gordon Wilson, SNP – a tribute by Dafydd Wigley

The former leader of the Scottish National Party Gordon Wilson died recently, aged 79. Gordon was a great friend of Wales. Plaid Cymru extends its sympathy to his widow Edith and the family, and to our friends in Scotland and beyond who will mourn his passing. His friend and former fellow MP Dafydd Wigley has made this special tribute.

Gordon Wilson, SNP – a tribute by Dafydd Wigley

Gordon was a great friend of Wales and a totally committed nationalist. We had met in the 1965 Plaid Cymru summer school in Machynlleth when he was National Secretary of the SNP, and he visited Wales on many occasions. We were both elected to Westminster in February 1974 and were colleagues during the fraught days of the 1978 Devolution Acts and the 1979 Referenda when the iniquitous 40% rule prevented Scotland from getting their National Assembly, although a majority of those voting in Scotland had supported it. In the following election, after the downfall of the Callaghan government, the SNP lost 9 of their 11 seats – with just Gordon and Donald Stewart surviving, as colleagues for Dafydd Elis Thomas and myself. We continued to argue the case for our two nations, until Gordon lost his Dundee seat in 1987. By then Margaret Ewing and Andrew Welsh had regained their seats, and they were joined by Alex Salmond, leading to the campaign that eventually, in 1997, secured our respective parliaments. Gordon was a key person, at a critical time, in the emergence of the SNP as a major parliamentary party. Modern-day Scotland owes him a debt of gratitude and we in Wales salute his memory.

Ifor Jenkins 1927 -2017

‘We won’t see his like again’

A man like quicksilver would be the best description, someone who served his community at a number of levels for many years.

Hundreds gathered at the funeral in St Michael’s Church, Tongwynlais, on March 20, with dozens listening outside. A mighty oak had fallen – Ifor George Jenkins had died at the age of 90. Tongwynlais Temperance Band performed in the service, the same band he had joined in 1953 when he played the cornet.


Ifor Jenkins led the campaign to rebuild the old well.

Ifor was born and brought up in Taff’s Well before going to Caerffili Boys’ Grammar School. As a youth he would dash to and fro carrying messages for the local police station, which is set to be rebuilt in the National History Museum at St Fagans.

One day he walked into a recruitment office and decided to join the navy. And if the story is true, instead of being ordered where to go, Ifor negotiated a place in the supplies department. He travelled to Ceylon and at the end of the war was offered the chance to remain in the navy, but returned home because his family was important to him.

After the war, he played as a fleet-footed winger in the local rugby team.

He was a member of Taff Ely council from 1973 to 1991, serving local people along with Gordon Bunn as Plaid Cymru councillors before being joined by Gerald Edwards. Ifor took pride in being Mayor of Taff Ely in 1991-2, the first Plaid member to hold the post.

As a councillor he worked hard to improve housing and secure homes for local people. At that time, councillors wielded greater power than today. In 1993 he became chairman of the Tai Hafod Housing Association and of the Bridgend-based Care and Repair association.

One of his favourite fields of interest was education. He helped to set up the nursery school in Taff’s Well and became a governor of Ffynnon Taf Primary School – he had been a pupil there and knew all about its history.

‘He was Mister Taff’s Well,’ said former Councillor Adrian Hobson, one of his closest friends. ‘He knew everyone, having an impact on people wherever he went.’

Ifor organised floodlights for the football club and safeguarded the Taff’s Well Thermal Spring building. He was a member of the board of trustees of Nantgarw Chinaworks and argued effectively for reopening the works in 1991. He was a member of the rugby club’s sub-committee and played a key role in its relocation process. He staunchly supported the bowling club.

He became manager of the Ladycat print works on Trefforest Industrial Estate and at one stage its sales manager with customers from Exeter to Birmingham and over to West Wales. He was a lecturer in business studies in colleges at Aberdare and Pontypridd.

‘He was full of energy,’ said Adrian. ‘I don’t know where his energy came from. The village will be poorer without him.’

Every party respected him for his enthusiasm, his steadfatness, his warmth and his humour. ‘He was a very open man,’ said Adrian. ‘If he didn’t agree with something, he would say so at once. He was reliable.

‘More than anything, he was a man of honesty and principle. Nothing pompous about him. I’ve never met anyone like Ifor. We won’t see his like again.’

Ein rhodd oedd dyn amryddawn.
Ein cur, heb ei ddur na’i ddawn.

(Our gift, a many-faceted man.
Our pain, without his steel and talent.)

Martin Huws

(translated from Welsh by Dafydd Williams)

Howard Davies 1950 – 2016

LOSS OF A GIANT LOSS FROM THE CWM

 

His friends and residents of the area were shocked to hear about the death of the former councillor Howard Davies, Alun Lewis Court, on Monday afternoon, September 12, at Merthyr Hospital. He was 66 years old.

 

Howard belonged to one of the best known families of Cwmaman and beyond. His great grandfather was the poet Isaac Edmunds (Alaw Sylen), Abercwm-boi, whose poems appeared for years in the Welsh papers of the area (Y Gwladgarwr and Darian). The poet’s daughter, and Howard’s grandmother Howard  was one of the most famous artists in Cwm Cynon and Cwmaman: a woman known by everyone (as was the fashion of the age) as ‘Madam Elizabeth Edmunds Price’.

 

 

Naturally, Howard was proud of these relationships and his middle name, Edmund, he received from his parents Trevor and Nancy Davies. His other grandfather (Thomas Dafis ‘Drapwr’ to the old inhabitants) was a miner and a deacon at Zion.
Howard loved Cwmaman and its people. He featured prominently in the life of the area all his life. Raised in Byron Street and Milton Street and – as much – in Seion Chapel where he was  one of the ‘chicks’ of Idwal Rees and the saints of that worthy cause. Inevitably, therefore, after Aberdare Welsh School was established in 1949, Howard went there from 1955 to mature as a natural Welshman of blood and desire until the end.
After he attended the Boys’ Grammar School, Aberdare (before Rhydfelen and similar schools), he went to Cyn-coed. But a teaching career did not appeal and he left to join the  Tax Revenue in Llanishen. There he remained until he retired about six years ago.

 

He served as a councillor for Plaid Cymru in Aberaman South ward between 1991-95 and  again between 2008 and 2012. In the early ’90s, he was appointed governor and later chairman of Glynhafod Primary School governors.
Howard’s health deteriorated greatly during the past five years and  traveling back and forth to the hospital was an integral part of his life. He had a wealth of support from his friends –  Philip and Beryl Northey, Alan Hoare, Gwyneth Edwards and others who gave unfailing loyalty over a long period.
Howard’s funeral was held on Friday morning 23 September at Llwydcoed Crematorium,  with a large congregation paying their respect.
DLD.

Aneurin Richards 1923 – 2016

‘A man of principle’ Jim Criddle pays tribute to Aneurin Richards

Aneurin RichardsWilliam Aneurin Richards was Aneurin to everyone except his wife Hilda, who called him Bill. He was a Senior N.C.B. Mining Engineer from Capel Hendre but lived the majority of his life in Gwent. He was an Islwyn Borough councillor from 1973-1996 and a Gwent County councillor from 1977-1981. He was Plaid Cymru’s Westminster candidate for Abertillery in both the 1974 Westminster elections and for Islwyn in 1983 and 1987. The simple facts cannot of course give any real picture of the man he was. He was the man who brought Helen Mary Jones and Jocelyn Davies into the Party and ‘persuaded’ Allan Pritchard to stand for election. He was a man of principle, of high ability, of integrity and dignity. He was greatly respected by officers and members on both councils where he served.

He oversaw the establishment of the new Islwyn Constituency of Plaid Cymru when the Abercarn UDC wards from Abertillery joined the Bedwellty wards and ensured that the financial base of the constituency would be a sound one through his work as Treasurer. He was the Group Leader for the whole of his 20 year career in local government, and his firm example and strong principles were always appreciated by the other members. We all thought of ourselves as ‘Dad’s children’ – Dad was what we called him, and we admired his intellectual ability and in particular his expertise in housing policy, a subject where he became Party Spokesperson. We always said that his motto was ‘feel free to agree with me’ but he was in no sense a dictator, and he argued his point logically but fairly. He was generous to the Party and sustained his interest to the end. His legacy is a solvent and active constituency and the memory and respect of those who remain.