|Protests at the official opening of the Tryweryn dam|
Reflections on the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ graffiti
by Ap Dafydd
A few weeks ago somebody vandalised a national monument here in Wales.
The monument was a wall by the side of the A487 near Llanrhystud that had been painted with the legend ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ translated as ‘remember Tryweryn’.
This was a profound symbol of native resistance against a tyrannical government that trampled all over Welsh feeling and interest. The wall was first painted by journalist and author Meic Stephens in 1963.
Over the years this mural has become a landmark and every generation has looked after it and preserved it, it has never had any official status but has instead been claimed by the people as a symbol of hope.
The words specifically refer to the compulsory eviction of the village of Capel Celyn so the valley could be flooded by the new Tryweryn reservoir built to provide water for Liverpool, but over the years they have become shorthand for ‘Cofiwch Cymru’ – ‘Remember Wales’.
Without the consent of local Welsh authorities, Liverpool City Council rode roughshod over any Welsh sentiment and following parliamentary approval the village was flooded in 1965. A centuries-old Welsh-speaking community was destroyed. All this despite protesting in Liverpool, London and Wales and Liverpool council failing to respond to concerns via formal planning enquiries presented by residents of Capel Celyn.
Welsh people could do nothing, we were helpless.
So the wall means so much more than ‘remember Capel Celyn’, as the village itself was a microcosm of Wales and the continued struggle for the survival of Welsh language and culture. The wall was a national symbol of hope against a heartless landlord, the wall was a cry in the night, a scream in the darkness.
Initially my instinct told me that the need to preserve the original wall and mural was paramount, but the more I thought about it, the more I considered this to be not only futile, but against the purpose and spirit of the original piece of graffiti.
The fact that this wall, that has taken on huge significance over the last 50 years, has no protected status is exactly as it should be, because as a country we have no autonomy. The fact that such a high-profile piece of our culture can so easily be damaged shouldn’t be a surprise, because our Senedd is a sop and, until we have control of our own destiny, it will remain so.
As a nation we are as vulnerable as that wall on the A487, wide open to the elements and the whims of anyone hostile to our language, to our history, to our very existence.
Then it happened.
As I debated with concerned friends and considered what we could do, pieces started appearing all over Wales, on the side of pubs like Saith Seren in Wrexham, on the side of roads, my friend Adam of the Cambria Band painted one on the side of the road which was subsequently erased with a few hours, creating more publicity. Yesterday, one appeared on the Kop at The Racecourse. It was manna from heaven.
And then, better than all of this, the words began to appear on stones, on stickers, on T-shirts, hoodies. This was the rebel spirit, this was in keeping with the very first piece painted on that wall by Meic Stephens all those years ago.
Don’t put it in a museum to die, don’t cover it or protect it, pull it down and paint a thousand more, the wall itself is nothing, it is the idea that matters.
If the wall is preserved and Wales stays as it is then it means nothing, but if the sacred wall is sacrificed (as it surely should be) then we will have defeated those who wish to hurt us, those who marginalised us, ignore us and trample over us.
Paint it, write it, scratch it, see it, hear it, whisper it, say it, sing it, scream it and think it…think about it, learn, discover, wake up.
It is the idea that matters and once the idea takes root, we will be building something… a consciousness.
A new voice from an old idea.