Custodians of our Nation’s Heritage: Propagandists of Conquest and Empire

BY A GUEST WRITER

Having followed a series of excellent reports published by Jac related to the custodianship of our nation’s heritage, I should like to return to that telling mission statement of the National Trust for Scotland:-

“Scotland’s rich cultural heritage is not only an invaluable economic and social resource, it is what gives Scotland’s people a sense of belonging and identity; as such it is one of our nation’s most precious assets.”  Read it for yourself.

A sense of belonging and identity …

So what are the priorities of the official custodians of our nation’s heritage? And what does that reveal about how they see the Welsh people and their identity?

Just to recap, the most prominent custodians of our nation’s heritage are:-

Cadw sets out its own three-fold mission statement with admirable clarity:-

  • “We conserve Wales’s heritage.”
  • “We help people understand and care about their history.”
  • “We help sustain the distinctive character of Wales.”

Worthy goals but, as we all know, there are mission statements and mission statements.  Some provide organizations with clarity of purpose, motivation and a tool for making better decisions and focusing resources.  Others are sidestepped and forgotten with the same ease with which they were adopted – in short, a complete waste of time and effort.

Let’s take a look at what Cadw does in practice.  Their resourcing priorities, exhibitions and events, educational activities, and interpretation of historical sites, is overwhelmingly skewed towards the Edwardian Conquest castles – Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris, Harlech, Rhuddlan, Criccieth and Flint.  These are, after all, the great draws for visiting English tourists, and for UK Lottery grants.

cadw-year-of-adventure

Furthermore, in its interpretation of historical sites, Cadw presents a very one-sided view of Welsh history.  The significance of the conquest castles was encapsulated by Thomas Pennant in 1772 when he described Caernarfon Castle as “the most magnificent badge of our subjection”.  It is for this reason that some have questioned whether CADW’s name was in fact an acronym for “Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh”.

Cadw fails utterly, for example, to link the construction of the conquest castles with the corresponding systematic looting and destruction of all of the sites, structures and artefacts associated with sovereign and independent Welsh power and authority – Aberconwy Abbey (the mausoleum of the Princes of Gwynedd), the royal “llys” at Aberffraw, the Welsh regalia including the “Talaith” (coronet) and “Y Groes Naid” (the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross).

harlech_badge-of-subjection
Harlech Castle

So what is the aspect of the Welsh identity that Cadw seeks to present, in order to foster our nation’s understanding of our history and distinctive character?  Subjection.  English overlordship.  The futility of aspiring to our own national destiny.

The secondary areas of focus for Cadw appear to be the castles of the Marches, those bastions of alien encroachment.  Chepstow, Monmouth, Skenfrith, Grosmont, Tretower, Montgomery, Oxwich, Weobley, Kidwelly, Llansteffan, Cilgerran.  Again, these are presented in a sanitized manner that utterly disregards the centuries of racial segregation of Englishries and Welshries, of penal laws excluding the Welsh from holding offices, or living, trading or owning property in the boroughs developed for English colonists under the protection of those castles.

Meanwhile, the recent article highlighting the “Powis” Castle experience showed how uninterested and ill-equipped the National Trust is to foster an understanding in our nation of our own history and distinctive character.  The National Trust perpetuates the 19th century taxonomic convention: “For Wales, see England”.

For the National Trust, any historical interpretation of its sites beyond the superficial Downton Abbey upstairs-downstairs world of Anglo-gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries and their anonymous native servants falls well outside their comfort zone.  This is the context in which their sites at Newton House (Dinefwr), Penrhyn Castle, Llanerchaeron and Tredegar are presented.

To illustrate further the stupendous bias of the custodians of our nation’s heritage in presenting our history, I have started to gather a list of the most neglected (or misrepresented) sites of primary importance in the history of Wales, focusing on sites that pre-date the Acts of Union (or Penal Assimilation Acts) of the 1530s.


Here is the list that I have gathered to date:-

Sycharth (“Llys Owain Glyndŵr“).  This was the birthplace and home of Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the subject of Iolo Goch’s famous poem.  The buildings were destroyed by Harry of Monmouth (later Henry V, King of England) in 1403.  For a description of the shameful neglect of this site today, I commend this article.

sycharth

Church of SS. Mael and Sulien, Corwen.  The dedication to two Welsh saints of the 6th century indicates that this lovely 14th century building is located on the site of a church foundation of great antiquity.  This is believed to have been the location where Owain Glyndŵr was acclaimed as the true and rightful Prince of Wales on 16 September 1400 in the presence of Ieuan Trefor, Bishop of St. Asaph.  It is this event that elevates this site to one of primary importance in the history of our nation, and the proper focal point for annual celebrations of Owain Glyndŵr Day (Sept 16).

acclamation-of-owain-prince-of-wales_corwen-1400
Acclamation of Glyndŵr

Church of St Peter ad Vincula, Pennal (Gwynedd).  The church was founded in the 6th century, but was so re-named and dedicated by Owain Glyndŵr, Prince of Wales, in competition with the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, one of the chapels royal of his rival, Henry IV, King of England. Pennal was regarded with honour because of its status as one of the 21 llysoedd, the courts of the true Welsh Princes of Gwynedd.  The real significance of this site stems from it being the location of the parliament at which Owain Glyndŵr set out his policy programme for the independent state of Wales, recorded in the famous “Pennal Letter” addressed to Charles VI, King of France.  The enlightened policies which he expounded included establishing two universities in Wales, one in the North and one in the South, ending the subjection of the metropolitan church of St. David (St. David’s Cathedral) to Canterbury, re-establishing the independence of the Welsh Church, and ending oppression “by the fury of the barbarous Saxons”.

Bryn Glas (Pilleth) battlefield.  The battle, which was fought on 22 June 1402, near the towns of Knighton and Presteigne (Powys), was one of the greatest Welsh victories against an English army in the open field.  It paved the way for a truly national rising in Wales, the establishment of an independent state ruled by Owain Glyndŵr, our last Welsh Prince of Wales, and the alliance with France.  The battle also provoked punitive expeditions by Henry IV (King of England) that were marked by many acts of brutality and rape.

Aberffraw “Llys/Maerdref”.  This is the site of the “llys” (royal court) of the Kingdom of Gwynedd, from the 9th to 12th century, and symbolic throne of the Kings of Gwynedd until the 13th century Wars of Independence.  The Llys was dismantled in 1315 to provide building materials for nearby Beaumaris Castle.

aberffraw-llys
Aberffraw

Abergwyngregyn.  This site, surrounded by the most majestic scenery, was the seat of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales, and location of his brother Dafydd’s capture by the English invaders in 1283.  Abergwyngregyn is also the setting for “Siwan”, Saunders Lewis’s masterpiece of Welsh language drama based on the marriage of Siwan/Joan (daughter of the King of England) and Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales.

Aberconwy Abbey (pre-conquest site).  On this site a Cistercian house was developed under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great and his successors.  This was the burial place of Llywelyn the Great, his sons Dafydd and Gruffudd.  It was also seat of “Y Groes Naid” kept by the kings of Gwynedd, the sacred relic believed to be a fragment of the True Cross, expropriated by the English (with the “Talaith” and other Welsh regalia) in 1283 and removed to London.  In an act of deliberate symbolism, Edward I (King of England) destroyed this mausoleum of the princes of Gwynedd following the Wars of Independence in order to build his own castle on the site where the abbey had stood.

coffin-of-llywelyn-the-great
Coffin of Llywelyn Fawr (now in St Grwst’s, Llanrwst)

When will our nation have worthy custodians of our own historical, architectural and cultural heritage?  When will the official custodians accept and apply the guiding principle in of the National Trust for Scotland that the nation’s heritage is so much more than an economic resource: it gives our people “a sense of belonging and identity”?  When will they truly embrace the goals of helping our nation to “understand and care about their history” and sustaining “the distinctive character of Wales”?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac adds . . . Anyone who is still in any doubt about Cadw’s purpose should know that in a few weeks time Caernarfon Castle will host an orgy of Britishness that will seek to engender loyalty to the most unequal and undemocy-groes-naid-black-backgroundratic state in Europe by cynically exploiting the butchery of the First World War. Yes, folks, the poppies are coming to town!

So get great-uncle Arthur’s medals out of the cupboard, bone up on the Somme, explain to the kids that Britain was defending democracy and freedom, and start whistling Tipperary.

Our guest writer mentioned Y Groes Naid, and while no one knows what it looked like, a few years back someone knocked up an imagined Groes Naid. I can’t be sure, but I’m reasonably certain it was somehow connected with Cambria magazine. Maybe someone reading this will know, so get in touch and I’ll be happy to attribute it. (Click to enlarge.)

Our guest writer also mentioned the coffin of Llywelyn Fawr; well I visited St Grwst’s earlier this year and I would recommend that all patriots do the same.

UPDATE 09.09.2016: Someone has made me aware of a consultation process being undertaken by the ‘Welsh Government on proposals for secondary legislation to support the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Here’s a link. Also available is Technical Advice Note (TAN) 24 asking for “your views on . . . detailed planning advice on the historic environment in Wales”.

Was anyone aware of this legislation, this ‘consultation’ process? Or was it restricted to interested parties guaranteed not to challenge the status quo? Anyway, the deadline is October 3, so tell them what you think.

34 thoughts on “Custodians of our Nation’s Heritage: Propagandists of Conquest and Empire

  1. Dafydd

    Forgot to mention the shameful conversion of Castell Aberteifi to a holiday home complex – with more planned.

  2. Stan

    Great article again that really drives home how the history of Wales is still being told from the perspective of the conquering Anglo-Normans and their descendants rather than the people they subjugated. This recent series of articles has been particularly readable for me as I’m halfway through Gwynfor Evans’ “Land of my Fathers”, regrettably in English as I’m not fluent in Welsh, and historical figures, buildings and sites of battle in Evans’ book are conveniently cross-referenced in Jac’s blog.

    I don’t rate him as an author but Dan Brown, (The Da Vinci Code) wrote “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books – books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe”. But you wouldn’t expect our own historic environment service of the Welsh Government, Cadw, to merrily go along with this deception. My thanks to the writer particularly for reviewing those sites that seem sadly neglected yet are of such importance in the history and soul of Nation Wales – some great photos and illustrations and you’ve helped me in planning some of my days out over the next few months. Something has to change in the management and promotion of these neglected heritage sites to enable the story to be told from the viewpoint of those that Cadw are meant to be serving – the Welsh nation – or are they?

    I’ve also looked on Cadw’s website to try and suss out its management structure and senior figures – I can’t find anything though perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place. Is it me or is this lack of transparency deliberate?

    I also came across this recent advertisement for a Head Custodian at Harlech Castle – speaking Welsh is “desirable” only. Unbelievable and a sad reflection on Cadw and our WAG.
    https://cymru-wales.tal.net/vx/mobile-0/appcentre-1/brand-3/candidate/so/pm/1/pl/6/opp/966-Head-Custodian-Harlech-Castle-Cadw/en-GB

    In short, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re getting a bit of a bum deal from Cadw.

    1. Big Gee

      It’s called the “Victor Vanquished Syndrome” Stan. It also explains the tendency of the vanquished to feel second class and inferior, whilst the victor is confident, and of course gets the bonus prize of being able to write the history, or in some cases to bury the vanqished’s language, culture, heritage and history. Another word for it is ‘GENOCIDE’ – slow genocide, which can sometimes take centuries to complete.

  3. Anonymous

    Has anyone read For Wales, See England by Martyn Ford? Well researched, with some absorbing stuff on the Blue Books, Welsh in the border areas, and analysis of census data on the fate of the language. As the book unfolds, however, you realise he adheres to the provocative sentiments of the title, advocating the partition of anglicised south Wales from the Welsh speaking heartlands, and willing the death of our ancestral tongue. Tellingly, the book gives no information on this chronicler of Welsh history, revealed by a brief Amazon search to be a jobbing author from Brighton, with no apparent link to Wales. Would you know much about him, Jac?

    1. A Black

      I think it’s the same Martyn Ford I knew some years ago, when he was a barrister practicing in Swansea . His father is Trevor Ford the former international football player, known to Jac better than me.

  4. Hefin Wyn

    The expression ‘ a sense of belonging and identity’ is completely alien to the Cadwgan Trustees at Aberteifi. If they were to adopt the phrase within their current mind-set it would be to confirm their allegiance to the sense of Britishness.

    On the other hand if they were to adopt the expression in its Welsh context I have no doubt that Sue Lewis, the officer in charge, would be the first to admit that she does not possess the necessary credentials to enable her to deliver and would resign forthwith. She does not possess the necessary armoury to deal with the National Eisteddfod in order to develop the site to its full potential.

    The current displays regarding the Eisteddfod and Rhys ap Gruffudd are mere tokenism compared to what could be achieved in the name of instilling a sense of belonging, pride and national identity. Castell Aberteifi could be a precious heritage asset.

  5. Jeremy

    At least there is now a tiny car park at Sycharth together with a information board, when I went there a number of years ago there was just a dirt track to park on and some sheep for company.
    But the thrust of this article is absolutely correct in that CADW and the NT try their level best to ignore Welsh history and to celebrate an invasion, CADW is there, currently, for the massaging of English vistors egos while pulling a much money from their wallets as is possible. It ignores as far as is possible Welsh history and presents the absolute minimum to locals and English visitors alike.
    But this ignorance of Welsh history and lack of interpretation goes back to the lack of Welsh History in education, schools in particular, and until recently University Archeology Departments ignoring local monuments. It has taken Cardiff University 130 years to investigate Caerau Hillfort 4 miles from the department!

  6. Alun

    An article on y Groes Naid appeared in Cambria Autumn 2001 (Hydref)

    As already mentioned the lack of real Welsh history taught in schools explains why so many people know next to nothing about their own history.

    From my own experience of visiting Cadw and NT maintained buildings It really pisses me off when I am told ‘Sorry I don’t speak Welsh!

  7. Dafydd Goronwy

    National Trust properties are full of English monoglot colonist volunteers who have a nasty habit of looking down their noses at any native Welsh speaker who has the audacity to address them in the native tongue! These are the people the NT chooses to interpret ‘our’ heritage and culture, gwarthus!I can no longer bring myself to cross the threshold of a NT property in Wales for that reason.

    1. Myfanwy

      I totally agree with you, the National Trust, like other institutions in Wales, that do not represent the Welsh, are pernicious in their exclusion of those, to whom the heritage and history belong. I wont be crossing any NT property threshold either and it’s about time we claimed back our heritage!

  8. Ian Perryman

    In the article above it says …..

    Cadw sets out its own three-fold mission statement with admirable clarity:-

    “We conserve Wales’s heritage.”
    “We help people understand and care about their history.”
    “We help sustain the distinctive character of Wales.”

    However you also have to look at Cadw’s latest ‘mission statement’ which says …

    “Cadw is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.”

    The key word here is ‘accessible’, which basically means it has sold its soul to the tourist industry.

    Which is why all the English hot spots have ample parking, cafes and gift shops, whilst the sites of Welsh historical interest are up an unmade road, past the cow sheds, over the barbed wire fence, across the raging torrent by coracle (only on Thursdays) and through the wolf infested forest.

    1. Big Gee

      So funny – I liked that, but sadly also so true. If you didn’t smile you’d have to cry wouldn’t you?

  9. Jeremy

    Remember visiting Coity Castle on my bike in the 1970s and having to waiting intil the village postoffice opened to be given the key! Mind you things are not much better in the 21st century, wanted to visit the Margam Stones Museum last Monday only to find it was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Again it is only Welsh History so nothing to worry you there.

  10. Big Gee

    Amgueddfa Werin Cymru Sain Ffagan, should be expanded and given a new remit, so that it’s represented across all of Cymru. ALL of it’s staff should be bi-lingually fluent. It should then take over the care and protection of all our heritage sites in our country. It should also take over the sites under Cadw’s banner and especially the NT’s banner. The NT should be pushed back over Clawdd Offa and renamed “National Trust of England”. I hate it when the word ‘National’ is used to mean England & Wales. There is Welsh National, and English National, they should not be mixed into one pudding. It irritates me whenever the media refer to this pudding as “National”.

    The real biggie, and the most important, is to get back proper control of our education system’s curriculum, and start teaching our heritage, history and culture to every single child in our schools, primarily through the medium of Welsh.

    Education is a devolved subject, but it still uses a curriculum which is actually the curriculum of the England & Wales pudding, which actually means English.

    That would be the case in any ‘normal’ country – as in the case of all other ‘normal’ countries in the world. However, as I keep on pointing out, we are not a NORMAL country are we?

    1. Stan

      Agreed, Big Gee. Imagine a Wales where EVERY child came home from school speaking of those parts of Welsh history that are currently verboden to some, it seems. Surely educating our young in what really happened, and how we became yoked to the English plough, yet our national identity and language just clung on, would mean that in the space of just a couple of generations it would totally transform how we feel about being “Welsh”.

      How many Scottish children have been inspired by tales of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce? Yet how many Welsh youngsters will leave school ignorant of stories of the Welsh Saints and Princes, of the Druids and the Bards? It would help instil a sense of national pride, an interest in Welsh culture and heritage, and I reckon would do a pile of good in pushing back that feeling of impotence, worthlessness and self-loathing in some cases we have seen reflected on Jac’s Comments pages recently. Kids would come home from school actually educating their parents in many cases instead of the other way round. Young brains are like sponges, as we know. They would lap up those tales of oppression, conquest, rebellion, battles and survival and thirst to find out more.

      This sea change in how the history of Wales was taught would do more to fight the prejudices of those who adopt anti-Welsh sentiments than many a WAG initiative. As with Big Gee – I’d like to see it taught in the Welsh language too, but in the absence of achieving that, just telling the story in English where you have to – as I have had to take it in – would be a welcome start. If only those with the power to change things would listen.

      1. Anonymous

        Some interesting thoughts regarding what should be taught in Welsh schools, however who would these kids be ? Coffee colored little Welsh speakers, with their own sense of injustice and oppression, Welsh kids celebrating ramadan, praying to mecca and learning about the crusades but from who’s perspective ? All this forty years too late I think.

        1. Big Gee

          Truth is truth. History should record facts, not perspectives. Whether it puts your nation in a good or poor light.

          If anyone who chooses to live in Cymru, their children should be taught the Welsh curriculum. Religious schools should also be done away with, whether they are Anglican, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or any other religion. Education is education and should be purely secular. If religions want to provide extra tuition outside school hours, then that is their prerogative. Fee paying schools that favour the privileged are also a pariah in the education system.

          School is a place where only facts should be taught, no propaganda or indoctrination, no pre conceived perspectives. When it comes to a new curriculum for Cymru then obviously the true and factual history, heritage, language and culture of that country should have priority.

          For far too long schools have been hijacked to provide a vehicle for propaganda, that is wholly wrong. So in answer to your question “who should these kids be“, well it’s obvious isn’t it? ALL the children – regardless of their skin colour, ethnic or religious backgrounds.

          1. dafis

            Been out of the loop for a week and good to see that the investigation of the abuse of our history and its physical evidence continues.

            Gee – That’s a serious challenge there – teaching a clean almost “abstract” form of history. That would require innovation on a huge scale and not just in terms of overcoming the “victor writes the story” maxim which tends to prevail, and its alternative “vanquished” account bubbling around under the surface only seeing daylight when you go looking for that perspective or a radical teacher is bold enough to share it ( before he gets fired ! ).

            The newer alternative pressures come with the more recent waves of migrant populations each with their cultural/historical perspectives which often place greater value on bringing with them the rich history and traditions of their homelands yet fail to take any heed of similar factors and parameters that prevailed here in Wales for centuries.

            For decades I had favoured the “tolerant” interpretation of attitudes and natural ignorance found among immigrants from far flung corners of the globe, but the newer arrivals pose a more aggressive set of problems. Often , far too often, they either manifest the “I wanna become English ” nonsense which pisses on Welsh culture and language from a great height, or they bring the more recent dogmatic mix where they wish to transplant their homeland culture and “mission” to Wales and we, in turn, should be bloody grateful for those blessings and assist in the creation of their pathway to, for instance, a Caliphate. These ideas / ideals are just as toxic for host communities as were the ideals of assorted medieval pontiffs and kings who saw their Crusades as the way of sorting things out once and for all.

            So back to the point. Regrettably, I have questions not answers. How on earth can we get a plan for delivering this knowledge to people en masse ? It’s not just about kids, it’s about re acquainting adults with that radical alternative – so that they can realise at least that an alternative account exists. Some will no doubt turn their backs and deny the truth of what is said, which is fair enough as there will be doubters in every arena. Flat earthers still exist, so people who have absorbed a semi Shakespearean interpretation of Merrie England’s divine right to supremacy are unlikely to be changed.

            The story is there to be told – how do we get it across ?

            1. Big Gee

              Uneducated immigrants from abroad do sometimes arrive with misconstrued and English Empire skewed ideas (“Queen Victoria damned good man” nonsense). HOWEVER, my experience has been that Poles, Italians, Indians, the Spanish, even the French – especially those of northern France (Brittany) and to a lesser extent even Arabs, have a far healthier attitude towards our culture, history and language here in Cymru than the arrivals from just over the border. The problem is, when oversees immigrants arrive here they are not exposed to anything ‘Welsh’ but see an extension of England.

              In the case of the first it’s a matter of genuine lack of knowledge in the first place, fuelled by the English Empire propaganda, which is easily rectified. In the case of the latter it’s a case of arrogance and ignorance, and a total unwillingness to budge.

              In a ‘normal’ country you aid those joining you to become genuine citizens and supporters of your nation. You decide what you teach in your schools, and you decide what the rules are that govern the laws and requirements of those people who wish to come and live in your country.

              The rubbish we have become used to is dictated to Cymru by England, who in turn have got into the mess they are in because they have been dictated to from the EU. The EU is only a stalking horse for the eventual goal of creating a global government, kept in power by a global army & police force, where the idea of individual nationhood & culture is done away with and the whole world follows the dictates of the Anglo-American world empire. The European open borders policy was a small step in that direction, thank God we’ve stepped away from it, temporarily at least.

              When it comes to Cymru, we desperately need a proper, fair and just education system that concentrates on our own culture, language and history in the first instance – that’s not to say you don’t teach anything else. There is no need to worry about piddling around trying to create a one size fits all for all nationalities and individual heritage or history. It’s simple, “when in Rome, you do as the Romans do”. If you don’t want to be in ‘Rome’ then be elsewhere. It’s not a big conundrum.

              The first stepping stone is a genuine home baked curriculum for OUR country. It’s what all other sensible nations do, why should we worry that it’s not possible in Cymru?

            2. dafis

              You are correct up to a point, yet we already see Eastern Europeans amongst us, some in your backyard, whose ideas of integration are focussed on becoming good Anglo Brits, often seeing the Welsh as something similar to their own minorities, e.g Roma or the old residual ethnics that still exist in the heart of Europe but get no deal at all from their own national governments. A big stretch of land running from S.E Poland down to Romania through Slovakia & Hungary, east into bits of Ukraine contains peoples who are scorned by those nation states and those attitudes form an unhealthy foundation when the “superior” peoples arrive here to become “good Brits”.

              There again having our own radically different education and integration strategies might stop these bad bastards from turning up in the first place.

    2. Myfanwy

      Absolutely, Big Gee, what needs to be done, could not be spelt out any clearer or more eloquently than that, now it needs to happen!

      1. Big Gee

        So how about getting a petition together for WAG? Also every single AM should be lobbied REPEATEDLY on the subject. We know that this current Labour run administration would ignore it, but if enough seeds are sown and cultivated, some will undoubtedly take root.

        Over to you Jac – you’re the one to lead this. What’s needed is a well worded and robust petition followed up by equally robust lobbying of ALL AMs.

        It needs to be well researched and factual, with no room to wriggle on the hook, and then the whole policy should be RELENTLESSLY hammered home at every opportunity.

  11. JE Lloyd

    Here’s another manifestation of the official control and censorship of our nation’s culture and heritage. Consider the disparity in the public recognition of the three towering figures of 20th century Welsh literature, namely:-

    RS Thomas the greatest Welsh poet writing predominantly in English of the last 100 years. RS Thomas was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    Saunders Lewis among the most accomplished Welsh writers of all time, with his literary works include plays, poetry, novels and essays. He was voted 10th in a BBC Wales poll of Wales’s greatest ever person, and was also a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

    Dylan Thomas a writer with a reputation as a “roistering, drunken and doomed poet” who decried any notion of ‘Welshness’ in his poetry. (“Land of my fathers, and my fathers can keep it.”)

    Of these three, who gets all the official celebration and promotion? A theatre named after him, statues, countless memorials and plaques, a preserved boathouse with museum, a festival under the patronage of “Prince” Charles, …

    1. I agree with you about R S Thomas and Saunders Lewis, but disagree when it comes to Dylan. That remark has been taken out of context and used by too many of our enemies – ‘See! Wales’ most famous poet had no time for Wales/nationalism/ and/or annoying buggers like you!’. (However absurd the idea of using Dylan Thomas as a political reference or authority.)

      It was said by a young man straining to break away, become a bohemian in London, and God knows what else besides. The truth I suggest is in his life and his work, he came back to Wales as soon as he could, and stayed. Wales inspired him in ways that were obviously less political than the other two, but Dylan just wasn’t political. At a time when it was de rigeur for artists to be communists Dylan was never attracted to the Left (or the Right) – can you imagine a meeting of Dylan Thomas and Joe Stalin!

      1. JE Lloyd

        My point was not to disparage Dylan Thomas. Far from it. But rather to point out the immense disparity between the manner in which he and his work are feted and venerated, and the lack of official recognition for Saunders Lewis and RS Thomas. Surely, it is a valid question to ask why this is so?

        1. I agree with you on the disparity, but given that the other two were intensely political, it’s understandable that they should be less feted, if only because apolitical Dylan just doesn’t offend anyone’s political sensibilities. The important point I think is that we are educated and brainwashed to view ourselves through a British prism, yet R S Thomas gets the recognition he deserves in the wider world, perhaps Saunders Lewis less so.

  12. gaynor

    Whilst I agree with the “conqueror hijacking history ” line, prevalent within “our institutions”, I quite like the fact that many historic and significant places connected to our history are remote, unspoiled and not CADWIsed or National Trustised. Saying that loads could be done on interpretation and educating kids as to their heritage across the centuries, from the Iron Age to the Enlightnment and how things played out in Wales and the significance of our historical figures’ connection to our landscape/history/> I mean i was in Tregaron once and asked a younger friend do you know who that man is?- he;d never heard of him and he’d grown up in Lampeter and isnt’ stupid ! So I think i have a better grasp of Welsh history from the curriculum in the 70s than they do since =- That’s a pretty sad reflection o f our education system

    1. Big Gee

      That’s a pretty sad reflection of our education system

      It sure is Gaynor. I left Tregaron County School to go to UWIST college in Cardiff in 1971 to study electronics. I returned nearly thirty years later. When I left every child in school could tell you who Henry Richards the Apostle of Peace who stands forlorn on Tregaron square was.

      On my return I still find him standing there, only with much more pigeon shit on his bald head. The difference is I guess NO ONE in school knows who he was now, although they’ve renamed the school in his name.

      SO sad. Even in the sixties and early seventies we were taught through the medium of English for most subjects, with the exception of Welsh. Even history, and the bits of Welsh history that were taught was all in English – even though over 90% of the pupils were first language Wesh speakers, along with our teachers. But thanks to the influence of Glyn Evans the headmaster (a proud ptriot) & not the education system, some little vestiges of our history and heritage was taught to us. Including who the great man who stood on Tregaron square was.

      In 2016 I doubt if any of the children know who is is. That is the wearing down that has taken place since the Compulsory Education Act of England was foisted upon us in the late nineteenth century.

      More info. HERE.

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