Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Valentine’

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?

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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?

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