Saturday, 18 June 2011

Cofiwch Dryweryn!

You know how it is, some weeks pass in a blur. This one was mostly taken up with anticipation of and practice for the national round of the Welsh Book Quiz.

H9 was part of the school team and had already been through two, I think, rounds to get to the finals as representatives of the county. This included reading and talking about various books and performing a play about their main book, Ta-ta Tryweryn by Gwenno Hughes. H9 had a shouting and speaking part, waving a placard while wearing a floor length fur coat. She loved taking part and I think she learned a lot from the other children in the team, many of whom are far more used to performing having taken part in the Urdd Eisteddfod.

The villagers protest.

The play was about the village of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn valley north of Bala which was flooded in 1965 to provide for water for Liverpool. It portrayed the anger and despair of the Welsh-speaking residents as they fought - in vain - for their homes, chapel, school and farmland. It was so controversial because Liverpool City Council brought a private bill before parliament in 1956 which meant the Welsh local planning authorities had no say in the matter. The bill was opposed by 35 of the 36 Welsh MPs (one didn't vote) but was passed in 1957 and one of the last Welsh-only communities was lost to provide water for an English city.

Liverpool officially apologised for the incident in 2005.

Water engulfs Capel Celyn.

The play was extraordinarily moving. As the 'water' engulfed Capel Celyn the performers hummed 'Hen wlad fy nhadau' - a powerful moment.

After the morning quiz and performance the team made it through to the final four and were back on stage again to perform their play a final time for the judges. The standard was incredibly high - brilliant acting and singing in all of the performances. I'd have hated to have had to choose (except, being maternally biased, I'd still say Maenclochog's performance was the best!) They came second - a fantastic result for such a tiny school.

The finals took place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre which is on the university campus. It was lovely to be back there again. I used to occasionally have lunch at the Arts Centre when my grant allowed and saw many plays and films there. I really felt that nothing had changed since I last was in there in June 1990 wearing a mortar board and gown to collect my BSc. Perhaps the trees were taller and the Arts Centre has had some new additions - studios, dance school, a new cinema. I was itching to trot next door into the library, almost expecting to see some of my fellow students studying for their finals or maybe into the Students Union for a quick pint.

On the journey to and from Aber we passed the famous wall with its graffito 'Cofiwch Dryweryn' (remember Tryweryn) which is on the side of the A487 near Llanrhystud. Apparently it used to say 'Cofiwch Tryweryn' until a local teacher complained to her pupils that it was grammatically incorrect. The following day the T had been replaced by a D and someone had also added 'sorry miss'. The monument is kept freshly painted by the community.

On the way up the wall was pointed out to the children as they were doing the final run through of the play. On the way home, victorious, as the bus passed the wall again the children stood up in their seats and yelled 'Cofiwch Dryweryn!'

PS (added Monday, June 20th 2011 in response to Mountainear's comment): If you think 'incidents' like Tryweryn have been consigned to history go and read Mountainear's blog. This time it is pylons across a stunningly beautiful part of Wales to take windfarm-generated electricity from mid-Wales to England. Please also visit the No Pylons in Rea Valley website.


  1. Great blog PM. It was a shameful thing to drown Treweryn and good that it is remembered. Sounds like you have a young performer there in H9!

  2. What a wonderful experience for the children, to be able to act in a play reconstructing their own history. Something they will remember taking part in for the rest of their lives.

    Is Treweryn one of those drowned villages where they say you can still hear the church bells ring? There is something so sad about those flooded valleys.

  3. What a sad story - sad, but lovely too, that it's kept alive in this way.

  4. At the recent anti TAN8/windfarm/pylon protest outside the Senedd in Cardiff Treweryn was remembered - inspiration for today's residents of mid Wales who don't want to lose more perhaps.

  5. A moving and informative post.
    My husband remembers this event. How very sad.
    The children will remember this play and that is a very important.


  6. I am incapable of commenting on the flooding of Welsh valleys to provide water for England without getting political.


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