Rhobert ap Steffan In the early hours of Tuesday 11th of January 2012, Wales lost one of her most patriotic sons, Rhobert ap Steffan. Born in Hove, Sussex in 1948 of Welsh parents, the late Rev. Stanley & Mrs. Muriel Hinton, he was brought up and schooled in that proud South Wales valleys town, Treorci, a coalmining epicentre of our age-old struggle for cultural and political survival. He was a high spirited, warmhearted, likeable personality who thoroughly enjoyed socializing and a good old banter with his many friends and associates. It was through this very warm-heartedness that he gravitated, naturally, towards that early Plaid Cymru stalwart and character, Glyn James. Glyn became a life-long friend and welcomed him into the arms of the Plaid. He joined the party in the early 60’s and because of his rebel spirit and his (very) vocal advocacy of the inalienable rights of nations to self determination; he acquired the nickname of ‘Castro’ and was affectionately known as such throughout his life. The radical nature of his Welsh politics was triggered by two key events, the first being the 1965 enforced evacuation of the Welsh-speaking village of Capel Celyn in North Wales’ Tryweryn Valley, drowned to supply Liverpool industry with water. This took place despite there being viable alternatives, despite massive demonstrations and despite total Welsh parliamentary opposition. The other, seminal, event followed close on, in 1966, when an unsafe coal-tip slid into Aberfan’s Pantglas Junior School, near Merthyr Tudful, killing 116 children and 12 adults, as a result of what he considered criminal negligence by the National Coal Board. In 1966 he visited Dublin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, following this up with active participation in the 1969 Anti-Investiture Campaign. seeing in all the fawning and show-biz pageantry a sycophantic celebration of his nation’s domination by another. A friend of Julian Cayo Evans and other leaders of the Free Wales Army, he was never openly implicated in its clandestine activities, preferring to put his skills to good use staging protests and rallies. Tired of all this, and of the pressure put upon him because of his radical views, he decided to get away from it all and fulfill an oft-expressed ambition. He followed in the wash of the Mimosa and sailed, in a cargo ship, to Patagonia, the Gwladfa of legend. After a year of many adventures among the welcoming locals (including being detained by police as a suspected communist guerilla whilst hitching through the land!), he returned to Wales with perfect Welsh flowing from his lips, despite having left his nation as a monoglot English speaker. His next step was to qualify as a teacher of art which he taught, through the medium of Welsh and with rewarded success, in West Wales as Head of the Art Department in Llanymddyfri Comprehensive School, It was after this, in the mid-seventies, that he met, on the Maes of the Cricieth Eisteddfod, his future wife, supporter and love of his life, Marilyn, with whom he had three children, Iestyn, Rhys and Sioned. Throughout his career and afterwards he worked tirelessly to support the Local Government and Parliamentary candidates of Plaid Cymru. He also stood as a council candidate himself, on a number of occasions. Other worthy organisations supported by Rhobert at various periods of his life included the Swansea based Young Nationalist Association, Y Gweriaethwyr, Cofiwn and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg. Working with the community, Rhobert was the inspiration and driving force behind the project to commission Toby and Gideon Petersen to create the inspiring stainless steel memorial to Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan, erected by the remains of Llanymddyfri castle. Llywelyn had led English forces a merry dance to allow Owain Glyndwr to escape the forces of England’s King Henry IV. As punishment for his actions, Llywelyn was condemned to be executed in the town square. (Llywelyn was hung, drawn, and then, before he was quite dead, his stomach was cut out and cooked in front of him. He was then quartered.) In the same vein, Rhobert was a member of the organising group of the Owain Lawgoch Society, whose wish was to build a permanent memorial to Owain, who was a grand nephew of Prince Llywelyn the Last and recognised by the King of France as Prince of Wales. (After a lifetime of fighting on the side of the French King, the Scot Jon Lamb, acting on the orders of the Regent of England assassinated him. Three times Owain’s sea-borne invasion of Wales was thwarted by storms. He was murdered whilst besieging the castle of Mortagne sur Gironde in 1378.) The statue campaign was successful and it was unveiled, near the church of Saint-Léger in Mortagne, by Rosemary Butler AM, Chair of the National Assembly’s Culture Committee, in 2003. As you have, no doubt, gathered by now, Rhobert’s contributions to the Welsh cause, be they based within or outside of Plaid Cymru, were multifarious; indeed, they prove almost impossible to list in full. He was an invaluable canvasser for Adam Price MP and Rhodri Glyn AM, and contributed immensely to the politics of the Llangadog ward, for which he was twice a candidate. Realising the value of publicity in the successful passing of a message to the public, he was one of the prime organisers of the campaign to encourage people to ignore the 2001 Census forms, since they contained no tick box acknowledging Welsh Nationality. Rhobert and a doughty band of patriots journeyed through villages and towns, the length and breadth of Wales, encouraging people to stuff their Census forms into a coffin, to be buried ‘somewhere’ after its last stop outside the National Assembly. Very many forms were stuffed into the coffin, but no prosecutions resulted and the 2011 census included the ‘Welsh’ tick box – a direct result, perhaps? After retiring early from teaching, he played an important part in the development of Cambria Magazine, to which he was appointed ‘Editor at Large’ and it was with the then editor and founder, Henry Jones Davies, that the idea of establishing an annual Saint David’s Day Parade through Cardiff was mooted, then swiftly realised. The Parade, ‘Y Gorymdaith Gwyl Dewi’ is now very large indeed, with representatives from the other Celtic nations taking part. In fact, it now rivals that taking place through Dublin on Saint Patrick’s Day. Throughout his political life, Rhobert maintained a huge interest in the affairs of the other Celtic nations, with many a visit and cultural link to Brittany, Ireland, Cornwall and the Gaelic- speaking islands of Scotland. He had always planned a return to Y Wladfa, and in 2008 he fulfilled his ambition. Mencap Cymru, the charity that makes a difference to the lives of adults and children with learning difficulties, had organised a sponsored walking trip through the Southern Andes to raise funds. All taking part had to raise at least £3,500, but Rhobert managed nearly £10,000. After the trek, he stayed on to make a very personal gift of gratitude to the people for teaching him Welsh by distributing copies of the, newly published, Encyclopaedia of Wales to libraries and schools. He was quoted in a local Carmarthen paper thus “I will be there as a kind of unofficial Welsh ambassador and will try to help strengthen the ties between Y Wladfa and the ‘Old Country’. I spent a year in Y Wladfa in order to learn Welsh. I worked in a big ‘Estancia’ (ranch) near Trefelin in front of the Andes in Cwm Hyfryd, I spoke Welsh within a few months – I had no choice as almost no one spoke English!” Prior to 2010, not once, in 40 years, did he miss the annual commemoration of the death of our last prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, at the hands of English forces on the 11th December 1282. This is held around a remembrance column in Cilmeri, close to where he was killed. It was obvious that something was seriously amiss when he did not turn up in 2010. It was he, after all, who had done so much to convene the rally over the years. What most present didn’t know was that he had just been diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer and had but a month to live. Keep a place for us by the bar in Tir na Nòg, Castro…. You are sadly missed. John Page and Gareth ap Siôn “Rhobert, with the support of the community, was the inspiration for the project to commission Toby and Gideon Petersen to create a memorial in steel to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd Fychan which can now be seen by the ruins of Llandovery Castle. “
Dafydd Huws 1936 – 2011
Tribute by Dafydd Williams
He combined three careers – as a psychiatrist, farmer and politician – bringing to each of them a capacity for innovation and for speaking his mind. Later in life he turned to the promotion of renewable energy as a way of bring new life to rural communities in West Wales.
I first met him in 1964, as a new member of Côr Aelwyd Caerdydd, the Urdd youth choir led by Alun Guy. Dafydd was a star member of the tenor section, whose musical ability made him exempt from regular choir practice. You couldn’t miss his mischievous sense of humour and his store of jokes. Dafydd was the first I heard to perform “I’m Kerdiff born and Kerdiff bred” – although he was actually born in Kenya.
He worked as a leading psychiatrist, who became Clinical Director of South Glamorgan psychiatry service. This was a truly high pressure job, with responsibilities ranging from the treatment of the severely disturbed to preparation of evidence for court cases. Later on, I would see him in his work environment at Tegfan in Cardiff’s Whitchurch Hospital, when I called during his lunchtime break to prepare for Plaid Cymru executive meetings. There I saw for myself the way he engaged with professionals and patients alike with never failing ease and humour.
Dafydd’s natural gift for communication meant he was soon in demand by the media, making frequent appearances on radio and television on medical issues and current affairs in both Welsh and English. His love of Wales, its landscape, language and culture was boundless, and later in life he mastered the intricacies of Welsh metrical poetry, becoming an accomplished practitioner in the art of cynghanedd.
His second career, in agriculture, provided a welcome relief from the strains of medical life. Soon after I got to know him, he took the major gamble of acquiring part ownership of Mynydd Gorddu, an upland farm in the Pontgoch area near Aberystwyth, close to his childhood home. Dafydd’s commitment reflected his deep attachment to the life of rural Wales rather than a commercial investment, although he proved adept at running a business as well as being a caring employer.
But most people will remember him for his involvement with politics as a lifelong member of Plaid Cymru. In the heady days that followed the 1966 Carmarthen byelection, Dafydd took on the task of contesting the Plasmawr ward, an area that included Fairwater and part of Ely in Cardiff West. And in 1969 his charisma and enthusiasm carried the day, winning Plaid Cymru’s first ever seat on Cardiff City Council with a razzmatazz campaign that included motorcades and yellow dayglo posters galore.
He was to contest Cardiff West against George Thomas, later Viscount Tonypandy, fighting the 1970 and the two 1974 general elections. By the late 1970s, his services as an inspirational candidate were required in the more winnable seat of Ceredigion, his home county. Dafydd was far from keen. Apart from the heavy demands of being a frontline candidate, there was always the dread possibility of winning! Life as an MP in Westminster held no appeal for him, and he frequently told me how he admired the ‘two Dafydds’ (Wigley and Elis Thomas) who showed every sign of relishing their job in the House of Commons. What swung the balance was a letter from Gwynfor Evans, concluding with the words, ‘Dafydd, derbyniwch hyn fel eich tynged’ – accept this as your destiny, or fate!.
In the same way, he accepted the role of Chairman of Plaid Cymru in the wake of the failed 1979 referendum and the loss of Gwynfor Evans’ seat at Carmarthen. This is never an easy job (and it was and is of course unpaid). In the circumstances of the 1980s, at a time of considerable infighting over the direction of the party, it was a veritable bed of nails. Dafydd saw it as his role to steady the ship; accepting that the frequent attacks he had to endure went with the territory. Plaid Cymru owes him a huge debt of gratitude for holding the party together and preparing for successful 1997 referendum and later Assembly election advance.
Perhaps that experience was good training for the new role of pioneering renewable energy. Dafydd was an innovator by instinct: and he saw that the imperative of developing wind energy could help provide rural communities with a much needed economic input – providing that control was in the hands of local people. He succeeded in developing a wind farm at Mynydd Gorddu in the face of opposition, mainly from incomers to the area. That involved a running battle over the red tape surrounding supply of power through the National Grid, which made local control well nigh impossible.
A more ambitious project near Tregaron, Camddwr, was held up by similar bureaucratic issues – this time the interpretation of how Ministry of Defence low flying restrictions impacted on wind farm development. Dafydd was not prepared to accept the civil service view; so he travelled all the way to Aberdeen to attend an energy policy convention to lobby a senior MoD official who just happened to be a former student at Aberystwyth. As suspected, the strict interpretation turned out to be misplaced; and the project may well proceed, although too late for Dafydd to witness its fruition. And it was during this mission to Aberdeen that he noticed the first signs of the cancer that he fought so bravely for the next seven years.
Whatever the challenges that confronted him in his professional and political life, there is no doubting the enormous happiness he found in his family. Meeting Rhian brought to an end his career as one of Wales’ most eligible bachelors but it opened up his life as a husband and father of three daughters and two sons, who were a source of great happiness and fulfilment.
To his family and friends, Dafydd will remain the source of many fond memories: to all of us, his life is an inspiration to make Wales the free, self-respecting nation that he sought for future generations.
Glyn James: an inspiration to so many
Plaid Cymru President Jill Evans MEP has expressed her great sadness at the death of Rhondda’s Glyn James.
Born in Llangranog, Glyn came to the Rhondda to work in Tylorstown and then Lady Windsor collieries.
He first stood in Ystrad Rhondda in a by-election in 1959, losing by only 4 votes. He overcame the disappointment by winning the first ever seat for Plaid Cymru in the Rhondda the following year. He was re-elected many times and served as Mayor of the Rhondda.
Glyn was a campaigning councillor. He chained himself to Llwynypia hospital in a protest to keep services; he climbed onto the roof of the council offices to call for more services for the Rhondda Fach; and he broadcast on his pirate radio station, ‘Radio Free Wales’ from Penrhys Isaf farm. He stood for the Rhondda several times in general elections and will be remembered, too, for the smoke-breathing dragon on the back of a lorry that was typical of the way he got his message across.
Jill Evans said,
“Glyn was a close friend and colleague. He was a major figure in the Rhondda and in Plaid Cymru and a real inspiration to me. He loved the Rhondda and Wales with a passion and his enthusiasm was reflected in his colourful and exciting campaigns. He never stopped campaigning. He was the eternal optimist who never doubted that Wales would win its freedom. It is this, most of all, that I will remember about Glyn and that will continue to inspire so many of us in Plaid Cymru for many years to come. He was a great man and I will miss him very much. On behalf of Plaid Cymru I offer our deep sympathy to Hawys and the family.”
Stephen Griffith – Physics Master 1949-1969
Stephen Griffith was born in BIaenau Ffestiniog, a slate-producing area of North Wales in 1908, and died at home, cared for by his family, on 12th December, 2010 in Neyland at the age of 102.
He went to Bangor University, where he read Physics, and was awarded an MSc. in 1958 for his statistical work and analysis of reasons for failure in Grammar School. He spent his career as a Physics teacher in Hereford. Buckinghamshire and, from 1949, in Pembrokeshire. In 1942 he married Clemency, and 3 daughters were born to them, Dilys, Margaret and Enid. As a conscientious objector and enthusiastic pacifist, he drove an ambulance during the Second World War, and after the war he and Clemency became Quakers. He then became a member of Plaid Cymru, and as a close friend of his fellow Quaker, Waldo Williams, he backed Waldo’s campaign in the 1950’s as Pembrokeshire’s first Plaid Cymru candidate.
During his days at Pembroke Grammar School, he, and Islwyn Griffiths, a great friend and colleague, with the help of others, ran an International Camp for overseas students and others who were studying in Britain, for a fortnight every summer for 15 years in succession. They were eager to foster understanding and good relations between the countries represented. After his school days in Pembroke, he went as a volunteer to teach physics in a school in Ghana to make his contribution to the third world. After that he taught Science, Maths and Welsh locally.
The decade that followed was his most fruitful as regards literary output. He was the author of 7 books, 5 of them in Welsh. He was an enthusiastic Eisteddfod goer, and in recognition of his contribution to the literary life of Wales, he was privileged to be admitted in white robes to the Gorsedd Circle in Rhyl in 1985.
Among his many interests were bee keeping, enjoying the Cleddau Waterway in his little boat, watching travel programmes on television, taking interest in his tiny pond with its frogs, water lilies, and solar fountain, reading Welsh books and battling the gremlins in his computer! He was very keen on the environment and had solar panels installed on the roof of his bungalow in Neyland. In his latter years he used to be seen from time to time on his scooter for the disabled. As long as he was able to, he took a great interest in life and issues of the day.
His funeral took place at Parc Gwyn on 17th December 2010 and a Memorial Meeting to give thanks for the grace of God in the life of Stephen Griffith was held in the Quaker Meeting House, Priory Road, Milford Haven on Saturday, 29th Jan., 2011 at 2pm.
Terry O’Neill, a Plaid stalwart for over forty years, died on 14th May 2010.
Owen John Thomas writes:
Terry was one of Plaid’s heroes – an activist since 1969, when he and his brother Dennis joined without each other’s knowledge during the same week. A committed letter writer, he often commented perceptively on current topics in the columns of the Echo and the Western Mail.
One of his passions was music, particularly rhythm and blues, an interest shared with a young lady called Patricia James, and their rock ‘n roll partnership lasted almost 50 years.
He and I avidly studied election results, looking for a glimmer of hope on many a dark day. He worked with me in the National Assembly and will be remembered as the only one wearing a bootlace tie in the Assembly!
We treasure his memory – a pillar of Plaid for over 40 years.
A Remarkable Pioneer: Dr Ceinwen H. Thomas (1911–2008)
An article based on a tribute delivered by Dr E. Wyn James at the funeral of Dr Ceinwen H. Thomas at Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff, 7 February 2008. It was translated into English by Rhodri Jones. An earlier version was published inDawns, the journal of the Welsh National Folk Dance Society, in 2008.
It would be difficult to begin any tribute to Dr Ceinwen Hannah Thomas without mentioning the word ‘Nantgarw’. Although she lived in Whitchurch, Cardiff, among other places, for much of her life, you would not be long in her company before being told that she came originally from Nantgarw and that, although that village is situated only seven miles to the north of central Cardiff, she was only the second generation of her family to be able to speak English.
Dr Ceinwen came from a family which had its roots deep in the lower reaches of the Taff Valley, and she lived in Nantgarw until she had completed her studies at University College, Cardiff in 1937. She attended the infant school at Nantgarw, and then the junior and secondary schools at Caerffili. She always complained bitterly of the anglicised nature of her education prior to reaching the secondary school. For example, although her junior school in Caerffili was near Tonyfelin Welsh Baptist Chapel, none of the teachers ever referred to the fact that the famous preacher, Christmas Evans, had been a minister there and had his home near the school. Even the massive Caerffili Castle was never mentioned in history lessons at the junior school; the focus of such lessons was, rather, on the likes of Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake. The secondary school was more enlightened: a fair amount of Welsh history was taught as part of the curriculum, there was a branch of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh League of Youth) in the school, and a number of the teachers spoke Welsh naturally both to each other and to the Welsh-speakers among the pupils. Whilst a student at Cardiff, Ceinwen Thomas gained a first-class honours degree in Welsh and then went on to gain an MA in 1936 (and then a Doctorate from the University of Ireland in 1940) – a rare educational achievement for a man, let alone a woman, in those days.
Although Ceinwen Thomas left Nantgarw in 1937, it can be said that the whole of her very full and long life revolved around that village and the Welsh language. With her mother, Mrs Margretta Thomas – another remarkable woman – Dr Ceinwen made an extremely important contribution in recording the Welsh-language folk culture of Nantgarw and its environs. One example of their work was the transcribing of the Nantgarw Dances, dances that are by now such an important part of the folk dance scene in Wales. Indeed, it would not be too much to assert that Dr Ceinwen Thomas and her mother have set Nantgarw – alongside D. J. Williams’s Rhydcymerau, say, or O. M. Edwards’s Llanuwchllyn – in that pantheon of villages which have come to be regarded as the embodiment of Welsh folk culture at its best.
In 1993 the University of Wales Press published her detailed description of the Welsh dialect of Nantgarw in two voluminous tomes. This was her magnum opus, the culmination of many years’ study of the phonetics and grammar of Welsh (and especially the language of south-east Wales). In the 1960s and the 1970s she directed the newly-established Language Research Unit in the Welsh Department at University College, Cardiff. Due to the fact that the number of speakers of the ‘Wenhwyseg’ – the Welsh spoken in south-east Wales – was diminishing significantly by that time, the Unit gave its study special attention, and Dr Ceinwen Thomas’s period there witnessed a flood of theses by the Unit’s research students describing the Welsh dialects of various parts of south-east Wales, a corpus which forms a notable contribution to the study of the Welsh language.
However, this academic work in Welsh linguistics was a second career for Dr Ceinwen Thomas. During the twenty years between leaving University College, Cardiff in 1937 and her return in 1958, she was a Welsh teacher in Pen-y-cae (Ebbw Vale) and then in Bryn-mawr. She joined the newly-established Plaid Cymru as a student in Cardiff and remained an unflinching nationalist throughout her life. The 1940s and the 1950s proved to be battlefield years in her history: battling to promote the principles of Plaid Cymru; over interpreting the history of Wales from a Welsh standpoint rather than from that of English imperialism; over the place of Welsh in the world of education; and for the recognition of Monmouthshire as an intrinsic part of Wales. These were years of being at the front line in a time and at a place where things were very hard for the language and the national movement – but she lived long enough to see Plaid Cymru become a part of the government in the Senedd; the emergence of a generation of younger historians who interpret the history of Wales with a far greater Welsh flavour; a tremendous growth in Welsh-medium education; and the death of that hardy chestnut, ‘Wales and Monmouthshire’.
Ceinwen Thomas was a well-read and intelligent woman. She was a woman of strong convictions, and was ready to stand resolutely for those convictions, and fearlessly argue their cause. A small example of this was her persistent campaigning for the use of the old indigenous Welsh names for places in the Taff Valley, rather than the English versions or those coined in Welsh by ‘dynion dŵad’ (newcomers): ‘Y Mynydd Bychan’ (not ‘The Heath’ or ‘Y Waun’), ‘Draenen Pen-y-graig’ (not ‘Thornhill’ or ‘Bryn-drain’), ‘Rhiwbina’ (not‘Rhiwbeina’), ‘Rhydfelen’ (not ‘Rhydyfelin’). She gave generously and consistently to those causes close to her heart: causes that were philanthropic, ecological and national in nature. It is also worth emphasising that she came to prominence in public and academic life from the 1940s onward, when those circles were to a great extent male dominated
One aspect of the Nantgarw life of her childhood against which Dr Ceinwen Thomas turned her back for many years was the world of the ‘tŷ cwrdd’ (the meeting house/chapel). According to her own attestation she was quite agnostic in her response to Christianity for a long time. Then, fairly soon after her retirement, she ventured one Sunday morning to one of the services of the newly-formed Welsh Evangelical Church in Cardiff. She was reminded at the meetings of that church of the warm atmosphere and the similar theological emphasis of the ‘tŷ cwrdd’ where she was raised in Nantgarw. After a period of time she came to profess anew the Christian faith. She did not do so in an unthinking or sentimental way. Dr Ceinwen was not like that! Rather, she weighed up with great seriousness the words coming from the pulpit and re-assessed her situation and creed in the light of what she had heard. The result was that, towards the end of her life, she returned to the faith of her mother and of her forbears in Nantgarw.
During this period she would delight in reciting some of the folk hymns from the time of the revivals that her great-grandmother loved to sing. That great-grandmother, Ann Meredydd – who lived in a cottage on Caerffili Mountain near the Clwyd y Gurnos tavern (now the Black Cock Inn) – was also quite a character and one who refused to bow or curtsey to the gentry of the area, as was the custom in that period. It is appropriate to end this tribute to Dr Ceinwen Thomas in the sound of one of those verses, a verse that likens salvation in the Christ of Calvary to that of a ship carrying her treasures to us. Here is the verse; the orthography reflects Dr Ceinwen’s own dialectal pronunciation (and that of her great-grandmother before her):
’en lestar iachawdwria’th Dear vessel of salvation
A ddæth o’r nef i ni; That came from heaven for we;
Tramwyws fôr o gariad Travelled o’er a sea of love
’yd bartha’ Calfari; To the shores of Calvary;
Dadlwythws ei thrysora’ Unloaded all her treasures
Mewn tair awr ar y gro’s; In three hours on the cross;
Rhows fodd i rif nas rhifir And gave unnumber’d numbers
I fyw tragwyddol o’s. Eternal life not loss.
tr. Rhodri Jones