Two things awakened the people of Wales to the realisation that they were completely powerless over their own affairs and both happened within a year of each other. The first was the drowning of Tryweryn 1965 and the second was the Aberfan disaster of 1966.
Outside observers regularly misunderstand the crux of the Tryweryn argument. While moving people from their lands in order to drown a fertile valley is clearly a bad thing, dispossessing a community of it’s heritage without hope of recourse is abhorrent. The act of drowning Tryweryn against its will, and the will of the whole Welsh nation proved beyond any doubt that the whole notion of democracy and respect and that we were all equal members of the British State was a fallacy.
That is why Gwynfor fought courageously to ensure that the voice of the people of Tryweryn, Meirionnydd and Wales was heard. By this time Gwynfor had fought several election campaigns and written dozens of pamphlets and booklets arguing the case that Wales was being roundly ignored by the British Establishment, and that we needed a Welsh political establishment that would be answerable to the people of Wales, and put her needs and listen to her voice first and foremost. These arguments gained credibility and traction over the years leading up to 1965, but the case of Tryweryn brought the whole argument to public consciousness.
The fact that we have a National Assembly in Cardiff today is down in no small part to the drowning of Tryweryn and the realisation that Wales had been violated.
There is an old English saying about losing the battle yet winning the war. While Gwynfor and the Welsh National Movement lost that particular battle, and the cold dark waters of Tryweryn are testament to that, it is undoubtedly the fact that the case for Wales was won.
Commemoration and remembrance is important. We must never forget that if we let our fragile Welsh political establishment go, we do so at our own peril, because when we relinquish our responsibility and hand it over to others, this is what happens.
I was asked to write a piece about Tryweryn with a specific look at Gwynfor’s role