Archive for the ‘Welsh history’ Category

50 years ago today, on 21 October 1966, a tragedy happened in a small mining village in Wales which horrified the world. At 9:15am, Pantglas school in a place called Aberfan was engulfed by a river of coal debris. 116 children (more than half of the school’s pupils) and 28 adults were killed. Dozens more were rescued from the horror, with people from Aberfan and surrounding villages digging with their hands in a desperate attempt to save some lives.

The tragedy was due to a tip of coal waste (“slag heap” as they were often called) which had been piled on the side of the mountain against which the village nestles, and was entirely preventable. For months the local council had been warning the National Coal Board (NCB) of the risk, but the NCB had taken no notice. 

In a tribunal held after the tragedy, the NCB were found guilty of negligence and of corporate manslaughter. However, they never paid a penny of compensation to the families, nor did they pay to have the numerous slag heaps rendered safe. Local families had to raise the money to do this themselves. After years of campaigning, in 1997 the newly-formed Welsh Assembly government finally repaid the families the money that they had raised. Some 10 years later the Welsh Assembly government paid the families a much larger sum, to correct for the inflation in the intervening 40 years. 

I have been to the cemetery and memorial park in Aberfan. It is a beautiful tribute and memory to the tragedy that happened that wet October day in 1966. 

Here is a very moving poem simply called Aberfan by Vera Rich, an English-born poet.  

I have seen their eyes, the terrible, empty eyes
Of women in a glimmerless dawn, and the hands
Of men who have wrestled through long years with the dark
Underpinning of the mountains, strong hands that fight

In dumb faith that what was once flesh born of their flesh
And is earth of the earth, should rest in the earth of God,
Not that of the devil’s making…

The Tip had crouched like a plague-god, with the town,
A victim in reversion, held beneath
A vast, invisible paw… Not a lion to toss
A proud, volcano-mane of destruction, crouched
Like a rat, it waited…

I have seen their eyes, and the empty hands of men,
And they walk like victims of a second Flood
In a world no longer home, where the void of sky
Between tall mountains looms as a cenotaph
For a generation of laughter… 

                                      I have seen them
Walking, near-ghosts, wraiths from a half-formed legend
Of this more-than-Hamelin, where, on an autumn Friday,
Between nine and ten of the clock, death raised his flute
And the children followed… 

Read Full Post »

Today I thought I would suspend my usual Friday post of the countdown of the 100 greatest songwriters as determined by Rolling Stone Magazine and post, instead, a poem by one of my favourite Welsh-language poets – Waldo Williams. The poem I have chosen has been in the news a bit this week as BBC Wales have used an English translation of it in their trailer for tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) big rugby showdown between England and Wales.

As anyone who knows anything about Wales will tell you, we are big on rugby. It has become our religion. We get pretty excited about any rugby international, but when it is against England (the old enemy), and by beating England we can both scupper their chances of a Grand Slam and put us in a position to win the 6 Nations Championship, then the excitement goes into overdrive.

But, more about the rugby later in this blogpost, first Waldo Williams and the poem.

Who was Waldo Williams?

I feel a bit of a connection with Waldo Williams as he was born in Haverfordwest where I grew up. Then, at 7 years of age, he moved with his family to Mynachlog Ddu in the Preseli mountains, a place where some of my ancestors on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family also lived. He spoke only English before he moved to Mynachlog Ddu; his father was a Welsh speaker but his mother spoke only English. As Mynachlog Ddu was (and still is) a Welsh-speaking community he quickly became fluent in Welsh; but apparently always spoke to his sister in English as that is the language in which they had started their relationship.


Waldo Williams (1904-1971) was a Welsh poet, anti-war campaigner and political activist who grew up in Mynachlog Ddu, Pembrokeshire

After graduating in English from the University College of of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University) he became a teacher, and went on to become headmaster of the local school in Maenclochog (near Mynachlog Ddu). He became a Quaker in the 1950s, and during the Korean War he refused to pay his taxes as a protest against the war. For this refusal, he was sent to prison several times.

As a teenager I  had a poster of one of Waldo’s poems on my bedroom wall, a beautiful poem called Cofio, which I will have to blog about in the future. I also included two lines from his poem Preseli at the beginning of my PhD thesis back in 1992. These lines are

Mur fy mebyd, Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy, Tal Fynydd

Wrth fy nghefn ym mhob annibyniaeth barn

which I translated as

The Wall of my youth, Bare Three Cairns, Saddle Cairn, Tall Mountain,

Behind me in all my independence of opinion

(Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy and Tal Fynydd are three mountains one can see from Mynachlog Ddu). The same words are on the memorial stone to Waldo, which stands overlooking these three mountains of his youth. I quoted these lines at the start of my Thesis as it summed up, for me, what growing up in the rugged countryside of Pembrokeshire engenders in its people; an independence of opinion and a preparedness to choose the path less followed.


The memorial stone to Waldo, which stands overlooking the three mountains mentioned in the lines of his poem

Pa Beth yw Dyn?

Pa Beth yw Dyn? was published in Waldo’s only book of poetry, Dail Pren (The Leaves of the Tree), which came out in 1956.

Beth yw byw? Cael neuadd fawr
Rhwng cyfyng furiau
Beth yw adnabod? Cael un gwraidd
Dan y canghennau.

Beth yw credu? Gwarchod tref
Nes dyfod derbyn.
Beth yw maddau? Cael ffordd trwy’r drain
At ochr hen elyn.

Beth yw canu? Cael o’r creu
Ei hen athrylith.
Beth yw gweithio ond gwneud cân
O’r coed a’r gwenith?

Beth yw trefnu teyrnas? Crefft
Sydd eto’n cropian
A’i harfogi? Rhoi’r cyllyll
Yn llaw’r baban.

Beth yw bod yn genedl? Dawn
Yn nwfn y galon.
Beth yw gwladgarwch? Cadw ty
Mewn cwmwl tystion.

Beth yw’r byd i’r nerthol mawr?
Cylch yn treiglo.
Beth yw’r byd i blant y llawr?
Crud yn siglo.

Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has done a translation of this poem, and it is his translation which is used in the BBC Wales trailer for tomorrow’s match. His translation reads

What is living? The broad hall found
between narrow walls.
What is acknowledging? Finding the one root
under the branches’ tangle.

What is believing? Watching at home
till the time arrives for welcome.
What is forgiving? Pushing your way through thorns
to stand alongside your old enemy.

What is singing? The ancient gifted breath
drawn in creating.
What is labour but making songs
from the wood and the wheat?

What is it to govern kingdoms? A skill
still crawling on all fours.
And arming kingdoms? A knife placed
in a baby’s fist.

What is it to be a people? A gift
lodged in the heart’s deep folds.
What is love of country? Keeping house
among a cloud of witnesses.

What is the world to the wealthy and strong? A wheel,
turning and turning.
What is the world to earth’s little ones? A cradle,
rocking and rocking.

This is an alternative translation by Tony Conran

To live, what is it? It’s having
A great hall between cramped walls.
To know another, what’s that? Having
The same root under the branches

To believe, what is it? Guarding a town
Until acceptance comes.
Forgiveness, what’s that? A way through thorns
To an old enemy’s side.

Singing, what is that? The ancient
Genius of the creation.
What’s work but making a song
Of the trees and the wheat?

To rule a kingdom, what’s that? A craft
That is crawling still.
And to arm it? You put a knife
In a baby’s hand.

Being a nation, what is it? A gift
In the depths of the heart.
Patriotism, what’s that? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What’s the world to the strong?
Hoop a-rolling.
To the children of earth, what is it?
A cradle rocking.

The England v Wales BBC Trailer

Now, finally, tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) big rugby match between England and Wales. It is the fourth weekend of the 2016 6 Nations, and as things stand England and Wales are the only two undefeated sides. England have 3 wins from 3, and Wales have 2 wins and a draw from 3. The winner at Twickenham tomorrow is almost certainly going to win the 2016 Championship, so the stakes could not be higher.

Wales and England have played each other 127 times. Remarkably, both sides are incredibly even; England have won 58 times and Wales have won 57 times, with 12 matches drawn. Wales have beaten England more times since 2008, and the last time we played (at Twickenham) was when we helped dump England out of the  World Cup.

Wales v England results since 2008
Year Venue Competition Score Winner
2015 Twickenham 2015 Rugby World Cup 25-28 Wales
2015 Cardiff 2015 6 Nations 16-21 England
2014 Twickenham 2014 6 Nations 29-18 England
2013 Cardiff 2013 6 Nations 30-3 Wales
2012 Twickenham 2012 6 Nations 12-19 Wales
2011 Cardiff 2011 World Cup Warm Up Match 19-9 Wales
2011 Twickenham 2011 World Cup Warm Up Match 23-19 England
2011 Cardiff 2011 6 Nations 19-26 England
2010 Twickenham 2010 6 Nations 30-17 England
2009 Cardiff 2009 6 Nations 23-15 Wales
2008 Twickenham 2008 6 Nations 19-26 Wales

As this table shows, since 2008 Wales and England have played 11 times. Wales have won 6 times, England have won 5 times, and there have been no draws. It couldn’t be much closer!

Hopefully, with Wales having beaten England the last time they played, and it having been at Twickenham, Wales will have the edge tomorrow. I cannot wait for the match. And, to get you in the mood, here is the BBC Wales trailer, with Rowan Williams’ translation of Pa Beth Yw Dyn? read by Welsh actress Erin Richards…..


Erin Richards reading Waldo Williams’ poem Pa Beth Yw Dyn? (What is Man?), as translated by Rowan Williams

Read Full Post »

Last week, in this blog here, I shared a song “Dros Gymru’n Gwlad”, performed by Dafydd Iwan but written by the Reverend Lewis Valentine. I mentioned in that blog that Lewis Valentine held a special place in 20th century Welsh history, so today I am giving that history.

Lewis Valentine (1893-1986), together with Saunders Lewis (1893-1985) and D.J. (David John) Williams (1885-1970) were the three men who were involved in this particular event. Valentine was a Baptist minister in North Wales. Saunders Lewis was born and brought up in Liverpool in a Welsh-speaking family (his father was a minister in a Welsh-speaking chapel in Liverpool). He became a celebrated playwright and lecturer in English at Swansea University, and the founder in 1925 of Plaid Cymru, the ‘Party of Wales’. D.J. Williams (never known as David John!) was born in Rhydycymerau in rural Carmarthenshire, and in addition to writing short stories he was an English teacher at the Grammar School in Fishguard, West Wales (I went to that school in the 1970s but by that time it was a comprehensive school). In 1936, in protest to the

  • ‘English’ preparations for war
  • English imperialism in Wales (some 500,000 people had protested against the construction of the bombing school)
  • the destroying of an historical Welsh landmark (Penyberth had been used for centuries as a stopping point for pilgrims going to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island), which is at the end of the Llŷn peninsula)

the three of them set fire to an RAF bombing school on the Llŷn Peninsula, at a place called Penyberth. At the time the men were in their early forties, and deliberately chosen by Plaid Cymru as the three were all middle-aged and respectable pillars of their communities.

DJ Williams (left), Lewis Valentine (centre) and Saunders Lewis (right); taken in 1936, the year they set fire to the bombing school. In Welsh, they are often known as "y tri" (the three).

DJ Williams (left), Lewis Valentine (centre) and Saunders Lewis (right); taken in 1936, the year they set fire to the bombing school in Penyberth on the Llŷn peninsula. In Welsh, they are often known as “y tri” (the three).

Penyberth is often seen as the first act of Welsh nationalism (patriotism) of the 20th Century. After setting fire to the bombing school, the three men made their way to the local police station where they gave themselves up and told the confused police officer what they had done and why. In the subsequent court case in Caernarfon a largely sympathetic jury of their peers failed to find them guilty, and so the trial was sent to the Old Bailey in London, where the three were found guilty and sent to jail. They each served 9 months in prison in Wormwood Scrubs. Saunders Lewis was, controversially, dismissed from his job at Swansea University before he had been found guilty of the crime. He was subsequently hired as a lecturer of English at Cardiff University (strictly speaking “University of Wales, Swansea” and “University of Wales, Cardiff”, as they were known at the time).

A plaque at the site of the arson  of the bombing school in Penyberth.

A plaque at the site of the arson of the bombing school in Penyberth.

An interesting historical quirk of their trial in Caernarfon is that, at that time (and up until the “Welsh Language Act” of 1967), a Welsh person had no right to give their testimony in Welsh in a court in Wales. Ever since the “Laws in Wales” acts of 1535-1542, English had been made the only language of legal proceedings in Wales. The only exception allowed to this rule was if one could prove that one’s English was inadequate. All three wished to give their testimonies in Welsh, but Lewis Valentine was the only one allowed to do so, as no evidence could be provided that he was anything like fluent enough in English.

As for the other two, Saunders Lewis had a degree in English from Liverpool University (the city where he was born and brought up); and D.J. Williams also had a degree in English from Aberystwyth (University of Wales, Aberystwyth), and had done post-graduate studies at Jesus College, Oxford! Additionally, at the time of the trial, Saunders Lewis was lecturing in English, and D.J. Williams teaching English at Fishguard Grammar School. Not surprisingly, their English was deemed to be good enough, and they were not allowed to testify in their own language.

If you want to read more about this episode of Welsh history, I can recommend the excellent book by Dafydd Jenkins, my copy is shown below.

My copy of the book "Tân yn Llyn" by Dafydd Jenkins, which I bought in 1986.

My copy of the book “Tân yn Llŷn” by Dafydd Jenkins, which I bought in 1986.

Had you ever heard of Penyberth, or any of “y tri” before?

Read Full Post »

Today I thought I would blog about this beautiful song (hymn), “Dros Gymru’n Gwlad” (For Wales, our country), written by the Reverend Lewis Valentine, and here performed by Dafydd Iwan. It is sometimes referred to as Wales’ second national anthem. This version of the song is, in fact, entitled “Gweddi Dros Gymru” (A Prayer for Wales) by Dafydd Iwan; but it is the same song, just with a different (and maybe more apt) title.

"Gweddi dros Gymru"  (Pryaer for Wales) appeared in Dafydd Iwan's album "Gwinllan a Roddwyd" (A vineyard was given).

“Gweddi dros Gymru” (Prayer for Wales) appeared on Dafydd Iwan’s 1986 album “Gwinllan a Roddwyd” (A vineyard was given).

I will blog next week about who Lewis Valentine was, because he holds a particular place in Welsh history for an act of defiance he committed in 1936 along with DJ Williams and Saunders Lewis. But, today I will just concentrate on this song/hymn.
“Dros Gymru’n Gwlad” is usually set to the tune of Sibelius’ Finlandia, as it is in the video I include below.

Here are the words (in Welsh)

Dros Gymru’n gwlad, O! Dad dyrchafwn gri,
Y winllan wen a roed i’n gofal ni;
D’amddiffyn cryf a’i cadwo’n ffyddlon byth,
A boed i’r gwir a’r glân gae1 ynddi nyth;
Er mwyn dy Fab a’i prynodd iddo’i hun,
O! crea hi yn Gymru ar dy lun.

O! deued dydd pan fo awelon Duw
Yn chwythu eto dros ein herwau gwyw,
A’r crindir cras dan ras cawodydd nef
Yn erddi Crist, yn ffrwythlon iddo Ef;
A’n heniaith fwyn â gorfoleddus hoen
Yn seinio fry haeddiannau’r Addfwyn Oen.

And now for my translation. As always, I am not going to attempt to retain any rhyme or meter, just translate the words as best I can; so that you get the meaning of what Lewis Valentine was trying to say in his song/hymn.

For Wales our country, O Father I raise a wail,
This pure vineyard which was given to us to care for;
May You protect it vigorously and keep it forever faithful,
And let the true and the pure find in her a nest;
For your Son who bought it for himself,
Oh! create a Wales in Your image.

Oh! Let there come a day when the breezes of God
Are once again blowing over our wilted acres,
And the awful wasteland under the grace of showers from heaven
Gardens of Christ, fruitful to Him;
And her old sweet language with a cheerful vigour
Ringing out on high, the deserves of the Gentle Lamb.

Here is an alternative translation which I found. It is far more poetic and less clumsy than mine, but less true to what Lewis Valentine was actually saying in his lyrics.

For Wales our land O Father hear our prayer,
This blessed vineyard granted to our care;
May you protect her always faithfully,
And prosper here all truth and purity;
For your Son’s sake who bought us with His blood,
O make our Wales in your own image Lord.

O come the day when o’er our barren land
Reviving winds blow sent from God’s own hand,
As grace pours down on parched and arid sand
We will bear fruit for Christ by his command,
Come with one voice and gentle vigour sing
The virtues of our gentle Lamb and King

Here is a video I have created on YouTube of Dafydd Iwan’s version of this song/hymn.

Had you heard of this song before?

Read Full Post »

My favourite Anglo-Welsh poet (a Welsh poet writing in English) is R.S. Thomas. The first poem of his that I came across was when I was 13. In our school English class we read “Cynddylan on his tractor”. It made me angry when I read it. Thomas seemed to be belittling the Welsh. It took me several poems and several weeks to realise that he was attempting to awaken Welsh people’s apathy towards their country.


Thomas was born in Cardiff to English speaking parents. He went to Bangor University, where he read classics. He then went into the ministry, being ordained as a priest in the Church of Wales. Thomas learnt Welsh when he was 30, but he never wrote poetry in Welsh as he felt it was not his native tongue and so he didn’t feel his Welsh was good enough. Despite learning Welsh in adulthood, Thomas became a keen (some would say extreme) advocate of the Welsh language and the need to protect it against Anglo-American domination.

Thomas died in 2000, leaving about two dozen published volumes of poetry, the list is here.

This poem of Thomas’, A Welsh Landscape, is my favourite poem written in the English language. I mentioned it before in this blog, but I did not include the words of this wonderful poem, just a link to where they can be found. I mentioned it in the context of trying to answer my son’s English homework question – “What does it mean to be Welsh?”. If the words and sentiment of A Welsh Landscape resonate with you, then you at least have an understanding of what it is to be Welsh.

Here is the poem in its entirety.

A Welsh Landscape

To live in Wales is to be conscious
At dusk of the spilled blood
That went into the making of the wild sky,
Dyeing the immaculate rivers
In all their courses.
It is to be aware,
Above the noisy tractor
And hum of the machine
Of strife in the strung woods,
Vibrant with sped arrows.
You cannot live in the present,
At least not in Wales.
There is the language for instance,
The soft consonants
Strange to the ear.
There are cries in the dark at night
As owls answer the moon,
And thick ambush of shadows,
Hushed at the fields’ corners.
There is no present in Wales,
And no future;
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song.

R. S. Thomas 1913-2000

Which is your favourite R.S. Thomas poem?

Read Full Post »

The Arthurian legends are probably the best known of the Welsh (Celtic) legends which have, collectively, become known as The Mabinogion. The word Mabinogion is, in fact, a mistake. When Lady Charollete Guest translated the medieval Welsh texts she picked up on the use of the word “Mabynnogyon” which occurs at the end of one of the stories in the four branches of the Mabinogi, and gave this name to all the Welsh legends she translated.

The cover of a book of an English translation by Gwyn Thomas of the Mabinogion aimed at children, with wonderful illustrations by Margaret Jones.

Her collection, The Mabinogion, are contained in 3 volumes, and are a translation of folk tales which include the Arthurian legends, including the romances Owain, Peredur and Geraint ac Enid (this last one served as the basis for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s two poems about Geraint in the Idylls of the King). Volume 2 contains the romance Culhwch ac Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy. The four branches of The Mabinogi are contained in Volume 3.

The earliest manuscript found which contains the 4 branches of the Mabinogi is the White Book of Rhydderch, which was (hand) written circa 1350. But, in fact, the stories are much older, many are pre-Christian tales, which would have existed orally amongst the Celts for many centuries, before being written down. Studies of poetry in some of the stories dates the writing down of the stories to about the 11th Century, but the oldest existing copies we have of the stories are from the 14th Century. The reason the poetry is used to try to date when the earliest written forms would have been made is because poetry changes less than prose in oral stories. The many supernatural elements to the stories indicate that they are part of a very old, pre-Christian, body of Celtic mythology.

Arthur himself, although he may have been a real Brythonic king, had become a character of mythology by the 5th-6th Century amongst the Celts. One of the mythis is that he and his soldiers are sleeping in a cave, but will one day awaken to defend the Celts (presumably now the Welsh as we are the closest ancestors to the Brythonic Celts).

Branwen releasing her “drudwy” (starling) to take messages to her brother Bendigeidfran (illustration by Margaret Jones from the book above)

Branwen, daughter of Llyr, with her “drudwy” (starling)

The song in the video below, which is by a band called Edward H Dafis, is called “Drudwy“, the starling who acted as a messenger between Branwen and her brother Bendigeidfran whilst she was imprisioned in Ireland. The story of Branwen forms the 2nd brach of the Mabinogi. The story describes Branwen, and her brother Bendigeidfran, who is both king of Britain and a giant. Branwen is given as a wife to Matholwch, the king of Ireland. However, Branwen’s half brother Efnisien feels insulted that he was not consulted about the marriage, so he mutilates Matholwch’s horses in an act of revenge. Because of this, Matholwch punishes Branwen by banishing her to the kitchen of his castle in Ireland, and beating her everyday. In order to inform her brother Bendigeidfran back in Wales of her plight, she teaches a starling, drudwy in Welsh, to understand her and transfer messages for her. Drudwy flies from Ireland to Wales, and informs Bendigeidfran of his sister Branwen’s plight. Bendigeidfran then goes to war against Matholwch, and brings his sister back to Wales.

The song starts with the lyrics

Yn y bore,
Yn y bore
Gweler Branwen wrth y tân.
Eto’n brysur,
heb yr un cysur
Heb un gobaith
Ond ei chân

Drudwy dirion
Heda’n union
Draw ymhell dros y tonnau mân
Dos a’m gwyngân i Bendigeidfran
Drudwy fechan yn y man.

My translation of these lines (again, with no attempt to retain meter or rhyme) is

In the morning,
In the morning,
See Branwen by the fire.
She is busy
But without any comfort
Without any hope
In her song.

Kind starling
Fly straight away
Far away across the waves
Take my song of complaint to Bendigeidfran
Tiny starling do it now.

I played this song to my daughter Esyllt a few months ago as she was studying the story of Branwen in school. The school chose to perform the story for their summer concert, which will be in July. A few weeks ago they held auditions for the main part of Branwen (and the other lead parts), and Esyllt was successful in getting the lead part. She has many lines and songs to remember, so is busy learning them. But, she is blessed with the same outstanding memory that her brother Meirin has, so already she knows most of her lines and the concert is not for another 6-7 weeks.

Her name, Esyllt, comes from another one of the Arthurian legends contained in the Mabinogion. Esyllt was the lover of Trystan. These two names are better known to non-Welsh speakers from Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde, Isolde or Iseulte being the English/international translations of Esyllt. Maybe one day Esyllt will get a part in an opera or play where she will be playing her namesake.

She took the CD on which this song “Drudwy” is contained, namely “Yr Hen Ffordd Gymreig o Fyw” (The old Welsh way of life) into school, and now the song is going to form part of the concert.

Read Full Post »


On Saturday (17th of March), Wales won the 2012 6 Nations Grand Slam, beating France 16-9 in a tense match in Cardiff. Although it was not billed as such, it was sweet revenge for France beating Wales 8-7 in the semi finals of the recent 2011 World Cup in October.

This is the 3rd Grand Slam Wales have won in 7 years (8 seasons), having also won Northern Hemisphere rugby’s most coveted prize in 2005 and 2008. A lot of comparisons have been made to the incredibly successful Wales side of the 1970s, whom I grew up watching.

In the 1970s, Wales also won the Grand Slam 3 times in 8 seasons, in 1971, 1976 and 1978. But, what makes that period of success so different to the current one is that Wales have failed to perform between these recent successes. Outside of the 2005, 2008 and 2012 seasons, Wales have failed to win either the Triple Crown or 6 Nations title.

In contrast, in the 1969-1979 period, Wales not only won the Grand Slam 3 times, but won the 5 Nations Championships (it became 6 Nations in 2000) a staggering 8 times (and the 1972 Championships was not completed because of the troubles in Northern Ireland), and won the Triple Crown an impressive 5 times. Wales completely dominated Northern Hemisphere rugby during this period. JPR Williams, the full back who transformed the position, played against England 11 times and never lost! Wales have not had this level of dominance in the last 7-8 years.

What Welsh rugby fans are hoping is that this current Grand Slam is not the end of a series of 3, but rather the beginning of a new “Golden Era” of Welsh rugby. The two previous “Golden Eras” were 1900-1919 (during which Wales also won the Grand Slam 3 times, and the Triple Crown 6 times) and the 1969-1979 periods.

The side who won this 2012 Grand Slam have an average age of under 25, so it is reasonable to expect them to improve over the next 3-4 years. Unlike 2005 and 2008, Wales need to build on this success, and try to ensure they dominate the 6 Nations between now and the next rugby World Cup in 2015.

Wales also face a daunting tour of Australia in June, with 3 Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane, Melbourne and, finally, Sydney. If Wales can win one of these tests, then it will consolidate our recent success in the 2011 World Cup and this year’s Grand Slam. But, if we lose all 3 tests, I fear we may be seeing yet another “false dawn” in Welsh rugby. Of course, optimists (and there are plenty of them a few days after Saturday’s incredible victory) are daring to dream of winning the series in Australia. That would be a wonderful achievement, and I dare venture really would mark the beginning of a new “Golden Era” of Welsh rugby.

Read Full Post »

This morning in a magazine I saw an article on Meic Stevens, the Welsh language folk singer. I was in the car with my daughter, so I put on the following song from my iPod – “Tryweryn“, which Meic Stevens recorded in the late 1960s (I think!).

The song is about the drowning of the valley of Tryweryn by Liverpool City Council for a water reservoir in the early 1960s. Many historians look upon this event as being one of the main factors in the rise of Welsh nationalism in the 1960s.

This short documentary off YouTube summarises this sad event in the history of Wales.

Meic Stevens’ song is beautiful, particularly his duetting with Heather Jones. The opening verse is

Mae’r blodau yn yr ardd yn hardd.
Mae’r rhosyn ger y drws yn dlws.
Ond nid yw’r blodau’n tyfu nawr.
Mewn ty o dan y creigiau mawr.

Dwr oer sy’n cysgu yn Nhryweryn.
Dwr oer sy’n cysgu yn Nhryweryn.

My translation of these lyrics are:

The flowers in the garden are handsome.
The rose by the door is pretty.
But these flowers are not growing anymore.
In a house below the large rocks.

A cold water is sleeping in Tryweryn.
A cold water is sleeping in Tryweryn.

A more poetic but less literal translation of the lyrics of the whole song can be found here.

Read Full Post »