Weekend Commemorating Llywelyn 9-10 December 2006

Since 1996, this whole weekend has been given not just to ceremonies of remembrance of the loss of our independence, but the growing recognition of our emerging self-confidence as a nation to rule ourselves once again. Since that year, John Davies, from Llandysul on behalf of the Welsh History Forum has acted as a sort of coordinator for the weekend’s events.

At 10.30 on Saturday morning 9th December patriots from all over Wales and from across Clawdd Offa, met at the Prince Llywelyn Inn, in Cefn y bedd near Llanfair ym Muellt - for some time the village has been known as Cilmeri, but this is really the name of the local plas, half a mile to the west. Cefn y bedd was the name of the place when LLywelyn was still alive.

From the inn, the pilgrims drove in convoy, seven miles around the country lanes of north Breconshire [Buellt] to the little church of Llanynys. The church of Llanynys stands in the fields on the south side of the river Irfon only half mile south of the spot where LLywelyn was killed at Cefn y bedd, but since the 1950’s there is no bridge. The cars were parked in the water-logged field, but miraculously none of the cars became stuck.

In the church, the welcome and blessing was given by Reverend Cathryn Haynes, vicar of Llangamarch and Llangantern, in place of Nigel Hall, vicar of Llanfair and Llanynys. We meet in this church on this day because Theophilus Jones, the Breconshire County Historian, believed that Llywelyn heard the Mass recited for him in this Church. Within these church walls - still standing from those days - if Theophilus Jones’ belief was correct, Llywelyn would have stood to hear his last Mass on earth in this building. Thus we heard, as he did, the mediaeval Mass sung in Latin by Cantorion Cymru Rydd a group formed specially from Cor Cochion Caerdydd.

This year’s theme was the great loss and dread for the future that Wales suffered when Llywelyn was killed, but this was not new to our land, but was a common thread extending throughout our history. The feelings of horror, loss and dread for the future, were not either only for the nation, but each family felt the same on the loss of their soldier - breadwinner. The first stanzas were read by Margaret Bowen of Llanfihangel ar arth, from the 7th century elegy to Cynddylan, who had been killed by he Saxons in what is now Shropshire. The last verses were from the National Eisteddfod after the Argentine war of 1981. As the ceremony came to an end with the singing of Lewis Valentine’s hymn ‘Dros Cymru’n Ngwlad’ the blessing was given in three languages, Welsh, English and Latin.

The pilgrims returned to the Prince Llywelyn by 12.40 for lunch, and to join others who had arrived by then. At 2.30 the newly formed, Welsh National Drum Band arrived from the Cefn y bedd village hall and in an orderly procession, walked along the busy A483 road to the Obelisk, which commemorates the place where Llywelyn is likely to have been killed. Amongst the procession were Hywel Teifi Edwards, Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnor, and Rhobert ap Steffan from Llangadog - the speakers who would address the audience at the monument.

The ceremony in recent years has included a group of 18, well-turned-out young men and women, representing Llywelyn’s ‘Teulu’ his household guard. It is good to see these youngsters taking such events so seriously and being willing to take part. The ceremony included the song Marwnad yr Ehedydd, and other songs sung by Cantorion Cymru Rydd, two of the poems from ‘Cilmeri’ by Gareth Lloyd Owen and the speeches by the guests. The speakers both expressed the need for a modern nation to commemorate its past as a way of strengthening national cohesion. They said that it is this cohesion which will give us strength to face the future. At the end of the ceremony, a number of those present visited Llywelyn’s Well, where his head is reputedly to have been washed before being sent to Edward I at Rhuddlan.

At 6.30 Dr John Davies [’John the Rocks’] gave a lecture to the local societies entitled “Well all right then - Who was LLywelyn”, in which he gave a brief outline of the history of Wales to the death of Llywelyn in 1282, as an explanation of how and why Llywelyn’s life was terminated on 11th December 1282. It was followed by a demonstration of the Drum Band’s skills.

On Sunday morning 10th December, at 10.30 the patriots reassembled on the roadside next to Parc - the Builth Golf House. There is one story that Llywelyn spent his last night in this building, but it was on this ground now occupied by the golf club, that around 3,000 Welsh troops - ‘The flower of the Welsh Army’ as Roger le Strange described them to Edward I, were killed, where they stood.

This is only the second year that this event has been commemorated in poetry and song, and whilst there is plenty of poetry commemorating LLywelyn’s assassination, there is nothing to commemorate the death of these brave men defending our country. Thus for the first time Calvin Griffiths of LLanfihangel ar arth composed a Telyneg to remember ‘The Flower of the Welsh Army’ killed at this spot.

Cwymp Llywelyn - gan Calfin Griffiths, LLanfihangel ar arth, Sir Gar:

Hydref hydref Llywelyn.
Hydref oedd ar lawr y glyn.
Mor drwm oedd llaw y gelyn,
Mor greulon ein goresgyn.

Gaeaf gaeaf Llywelyn.
Gaeaf gwae heb derfyn.
Bu gwaed ar Bont Orewyn,
Bu gormes a dychryn.

Gwanwyn gwanwyn Llywelyn,
Gwanwyn a ghyrdd eginyn.
Daw eto gân aderyn,
Daw eto ddydd dy fyddin.

Haf o haf ein Llyw olaf,
Haf weri’r holl aeafau.
Tân yn ein calonnau,
Tan i’r henwlad barhau.

A selection of stanzas from the Gododdin were also read and two verses from ‘The Angry Summer’ by Idris Davies, with suitable songs. It is hoped that in the near future, with the good will and support of the Golf Club, there may be a permanent marker on this spot.

The congregation then travelled, in a number of cars, down the east side of the Wye to the Radnorshire village of Aberedwy, where Llywelyn had a castle and where more stories abound relating to his death.

Turning northwards again, the cars and their occupants journeyed through Llandrindod and Cross Gates [Llanbadarn Fawr] to Abbey Cwm Hir to arrive by 1 o’clock. The rain did not stop, but the service was held in the abbey ruins, next to the memorial slab for Llywelyn - where the high Altar would have been in former days. The printed ‘order of service’ became progressively more soggy, but all enjoyed the event.

The Very Reverend Wynn Evans, Dean of St David’s, gave the Homily in which he continued the idea of the commemoration of Llywelyn being a light leading us, in our small nation, to a more confident future. This service is particularly important because the students from Llandrindod Secondary School take part each year.

After lunch, the Very Reverend Wynn Evans gave the Abbey Cwm Hir annual lecture on the “History of the British Church - between the ‘Age of Saints’ and the coming of the Normans. He showed how well organised was the British church - a fact of course played-down by the conquering Normans. This important lecture was followed by the Annual General Meeting of the Abbey Cwm Hir Trust and all found their safe journey home.

This weekend was the most successful for many years. The event, after a low point in the 1990’s has been steadily growing in support and importance. It is an event which like the National Eisteddfod, in its own way, each year gives those present strength and hope for the future of our small nation.

It is good that this year Dyffryn Teifi was so well represented.