The National Eisteddfod is nearly here. I can’t wait! Anglesey can be proud of its fundraising and preparations for this wonderful celebration of Welsh language and culture. They belongs to all of us, after all – whether or not we speak Welsh – just as our history belongs to all of us. Our history and heritage help make us what we are.
This week marks the centenary of one of the First World War’s bloodiest battles, at Passchendaele. It was there that Ellis Evans of Trawsfynydd died, and at the 1917 Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, it was announced that he’d won the Chair. The Chair was draped in a black cloth, and has ever since been referred to as ‘Cadair Ddu Penbedw’ (the Black Chair of Birkenhead).
I recently asked for Welsh Government assistance to protect memorials to the WW1 fallen – not the kind of large public memorials and cenotaphs that are already protected, but countless small ones in chapels, schools and even factories, many of which have already been lost, or are threatened. When we say “we will remember them” – we must mean it.
On Friday I visited a local history exhibition at Rhoscolyn – a wonderful exhibition, bringing together stories and memorabilia from the village’s past. It brought that history alive!
The furore over Welsh Government plans to build a giant ‘Iron Ring’ at Flint Castle showed the importance of understanding the significance of our nation’s history. We remember our history, we remember our conquest, but to put up a celebratory monument to it…?! Ministers and the ancient monument body Cadw seemingly hadn’t thought that asking Welsh taxpayers to stump up nearly £400,000 to celebrate Edward 1st’s campaign to control and opress the people of Wales with his ring of castles would lead to some raised eyebrows. Over 10,000 have signed a petition opposing it. As a result, the plan was ‘paused’. Good.
The truth is that not enough history is taught in our schools through a Welsh prism. We should all have the chance to understand the significance of events in our history, from OUR perspective – those events and forces that ‘made’ Wales, from – yes – Edward 1st’s ‘Iron Ring’, to our industrial heritage, Wales’ contribution to the world, steps taken to undermine the Welsh language, our emergence as a young democracy in recent times… There’s so much to learn.
If we don’t know where we’ve come from, we can’t decide where we want to go as a nation either.