Friday, 9 March 2012

The New Welsh League of Hope

UPDATE: 15th March 2012. 6pm - Leanne Wood Wins Plaid Cymru Leadership!!!!!
Urdd Gobaith Cymru - Welsh league of Hope
For a couple of days this week I was fortunate to get the opportunity for a trip to North Wales, my wife Dawn was working in the Dee Valley so I was able to travel with her and we stayed overnight in Corwen. Going to Wales always triggers Saudade within me, a kind of wistful nostalgic feeling overwhelms my senses. My mother's maiden name was Alice Jemima Jennifer Jones and she was born in the Rhondda in October 1940. Her dad Douglas Morgan Jones was a miner, a trade unionist and an anti-fascist. Douglas was to die before my moms 5th Birthday in a Churchill Tank on German Soil on April 1st 1945.

When I was a kid our family holidays were always camping in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. I have memories of hot white sands burning the soles of my feat while I explored the beach at Stackpole under blue skies. In the middle of the Bay was Church Rock, I often set out to swim to the rock but never made it. Sometimes, I would lie back and float on the cold swelling sea, looking up to the sky, it felt as if my body was melting into the ocean, a sensation of well being and peace would seep into every cell in my body. I didn't need to get to Church Rock, the tides would just gently deliver me back to dry land. By the time I'd walked back across the vast expanse of the beach to the sand dunes, where mom and dad had set up camp, I would be bone dry and ready for a soggy cheese sandwich.   But alongside childhood oceanic feelings and happy memories Wales also triggers much darker memories...
Aberfan Disaster October 1966
I was profoundly affected by Aberfan... often at night I imagined I was one of the 116 schoolkids trapped and overwhelmed by sodden, black debris, suffocating in the darkness. In the Summer of 1969 we visited my mothers older brother Idris Jones who was a Miner, like his father before him, at his home in the Rhondda. The small terraced house of Idris and his family was overshadowed by a huge 'mining debris hill' or 'Slag Heap' as we called it, it blocked out the daylight from entering their living room. I remember asking uncle Idris if the Slag Heap would fall on us 'like in Aberfan?' I accepted his confident assurance that 'No Markie Bach [little one] - we are all perfectly safe here'. 

The atmosphere of life in the valley's was still dominated by the effects of a Century of rapid industrialisation to exploit the Anthracite Coal reserves buried underneath the ground. The landscape and the people of the Valley's were scarred by the efforts to extract the coal. Whenever we visited relatives in the Rhondda, it was always raining everywhere was grim and grey. I was always reminded of the opening scenes of the hollywood film 'How Green Was My Valley' .

Having provided the fuel to power the Industrial Revolution and and enable the British Empire to dominate the World, the South Wales Coalfield was now in terminal decline. The sense of community was still strong but the people of the Valley's were left with a terrible environmental legacy.  The shock and anger provoked by the Aberfan disaster contributed to a resurgence of a more militant form of Welsh Nationalism and on the night before the  Investiture of the Prince of Wales two members of the group Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Movement for the Defence of Wales), George Taylor and Alwyn Jones died in a bomb blast in Abergele.
A decade later came another wave of resurgent Welsh Nationalism, largely in response to the offensive launched by the Thatcher Government, which had no mandate from the people of Wales. I remember the burly group of bearded Welsh speakers who joined me and 300 others on the South Wales Youth March Against Unemployment initiated by Revolution Youth in the spring of 1981. The March went from Port Talbot to Cardiff via Maesteg getting a great response especially from NUM members, unfortunately I had to leave the March early to get back to Birmingham and my Manpower Services Commission Training Scheme as a Painter and Decorator. As a consequence of going back to work I never got to speak with the handful of Meibion Glyndwr [Sons of Glyndwr] who had joined the March. 

Owain Glydwr
So, over 30 years later, I am in Corwen, admiring the new statue of Owain Glyndwr in the middle of the village and thinking of the huge changes that have taken place in Wales during the intervening decades. Despite my own Welsh heritage I was far more attracted as a youth to a study of Irish History than Welsh History. My little two day trip to North Wales has helped pull the fragments of my own identity and heritage together - and gave me a opportunity to learn a bit more about Welsh History. I was definitely English but was re-connecting with the land of my mother and maternal Grandfather. After morning walk from Corwen Town up to the Pen y Pigyn Woods where I sat by the side of a mountain stream absorbing the atmosphere of Owain Glydwr Country - I got a move on. Luckily, I had access to Dawn's car while she was at work, and left Corwen to drive to Lake Bala where  I had spent a brief but happy time camping with my son Jordan in 2007.
Lake Bala - approaching from the south, 7th March 2012
This time I was alone, and on a mission to go to Fron-Goch, a tiny hamlet about two miles north of Bala Town. A distant relation of mine called Green was imprisoned at Fron-Goch for his, very minor, part in the Dublin Easter Rising in 1916. Over 1800 Irish Prisoners were held at Fron - Goch Internment Camp in the aftermath of the Rising and the place is known by some as The University of the Irish Revolution. I stood outside the tiny school in Fron-Goch and felt foolish...  I sort of knew that somewhere in the hamlet was a small plaque which had recently been placed to mark the historic significance of the place, but I couldn't find it. There was a tiny shop so I thought I'd go in and ask, but my confidence evaporated, for some reason I felt embarrassed. Earlier in the day, faced with the imposing memorial to Owain in Corwen my spirit seemed lifted. Now, I felt deflated - I hope that in the near future a more visible memorial is erected at Fron-Goch to mark its Historic Significance.
Jordan and Me - Outside CAT 2007
I decided, to move on and take a trip to The Centre for Alternative Technology but was worried about using too much fuel and stayed near Bala to visit the Statue of  Owen Morgan Edwards and his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards  I took a photo of the statue [at the start of this article] which symbolises the process of passing down knowledge and hope from one generation to the next. The son of Ifan was Owen Edwards who became head of SC4 the Welsh TV Channel. I thought of my son, Jordan, and my hopes for him to have a happy future as he moves into Adulthood. Thinking of past generations and pondering what the future holds, I headed back towards Corwen, then I noticed, upon the hillside above me, a wind farm. For me this was a real symbol of how Wales had changed over the past 3 decades... producing clean, green sustainable energy... from a great natural resource... I LOVE WIND FARMS... so I found the single track road up the hillside and parked up. The Wind Turbines were about 40metres Tall and made a wonderful, whooshing sound. These Turbines were manufactured  by VESTAS. [the company logo was painted in blue on the side of the Turbine hub]  VESTAS was the only major UK windturbine manufacturer until its closure with the loss of 525 Jobs in the Isle of Wight in 2009. It seemed a tradegy to me that there were not Wind farms just like this on the Hillsides of Worcestershire where I live, if such projects had been developed in England then maybe VESTAS would still be employing hundreds on the Isle of Wight.
Wales is leading the way in developing wind power and maybe in the future could establish it's own Wind Turbine manufacturing Industry?
Wind Turbine - HAFOTY UCHA , 7th March 2012
Today other winds of change are sweeping across Wales a new brand of Republican Eco-Socialism is emerging in and at its head is Leanne Wood who is a standing for the Leadership of Plaid Cymru. This time it is a working class Woman from the Valley's of South Wales that is passing a message of hope to the next generation not a Man from the North. The Result of the Ballot will be announced on March 15th. I've got my fingers crossed! The Welsh League of Hope has a new champion and victory for Leanne will also give hope to the embryonic movement towards an English Republic too.

Leanne Wood - candidate for the leadership of Plaid Cymru. Good Luck!

Mark Anthony France.

Leanne Wood.... Wins Plaid Cymru Leadership

A tremendous victory - from 'outsider' to 'Elected Leader' in a just a few weeks!


  1. good article bud except as a masters graduate in renewable energy I see with disappointment these wind farms which arent helping the locals and are funded by huge unsustainable grants (the values are hidden in pay per view journals I saw at uni)....soldiarity.anyway as i like renewable energy if its good for locals and sustainable...just a pedantic note..
    ..the word "dee" is the product of disrespect for the original name dyfrdwy - which is the celtic water goddess....dee is meaningless.

    1. Thanks for the comment Bryn... and thanks for the info on the original celtic name dyfrdwy for the river that flows through Corwen. On the Windfarm issue, I noticed in several local cafes, chips shops and pubs in Corwen there were campaign leaflets arguing against further Windfarm development in the area... clearly, there is opposition to further development of this technology in Wales and that is understandable... where I live in the West Midlands there are no major Windfarms and recent planning applications have been vigorously opposed...
      On the question of the efficiency and sustainablity of the technology there is a tremendous amount of misinformation... The 'subsidies' that have been in place to encourage commercial development of Windfarms pale into insignificance against the hidden costs of Nuclear Power and fossil fuels.
      I am in favour of a rationally planned expansion of Windfarms across England, Wales and Scotland and the establishment of a Publically Owned and Democratically Controlled WindTurbine Manufacturing Industry concentrating on placing Mega Turbines far from population centres and a new grid structure for distributing the energy produced.
      Personally, I would love to see WindTurbines on the Hillsides of Worcestershire where i live.... to the South West of Birmingham we have the Lickey, Waseley and Clent Hills and research I carried out 3 years ago indicated that just 6 - 7.5MegaWatt Turbines could effectively generate the entire energy needs for the whole of the constituency of Bromsgrove ... I understand that such a proposal would generate vociferous opposition as these Hillsides are close to population centres and the affulent communities that live on their slopes would resist tooth and nail.