Monday, 1 July 2019

Fiftieth anniversary of Charles's Investiture

Tryweryn, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, Bombing campaigns, Investiture and the political future.

This weekend I was interviewed by Alan Evans of Wales News Online on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Prince of Wales’s Investiture. The purpose was to reflect on the political, social and other more troubling events leading up to and after the decade. 

Here the audio link

I was at the time the Research and Public Relations Officer for the Labour Party in Wales. This brought me into regular contact with the then Secretary of State for Wales and occasionally the Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Also, since 1967, I was the Prospective Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen standing against Gwynfor Evans.

Throughout it all, the Investiture proved popular, opinion polls showing that around three quarters of the people supported it, although half  were concerned about the expense. As in other parties, Plaid Cymru supporters were divided over the Investiture - along with the rest of Wales many backed the monarchy.

A year of celebrations was built around the Investiture – ‘Croeso 69’. The investiture itself brought in a world wide TV audience of 500 million, including 19 million in Britain and 90,000 were on the streets of Caernarfon.

However,it was a turbulent decade starting with the drowning of Cwm Tryweryn, the blowing up of a power transformer and the jailing of two people. including Owain Williams, leading to the inevitable political fallout throughout Wales and much soul searching within the nationalist movement.

Then, later the Saunders Lewis’s ‘Tynged yr Iaith’ lecture led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith that brought Dafydd Iwan fame not only through his Welsh language campaigning but also with his satirical protest songs about the Investiture.

Of some importance however was the emergence of a group called the Free Wales Army led by Cayo Evans, who  became a rather well known figure and who, along with eight others, was also jailed during the period. 

A more significant group however was Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (MAC)  - led by John Jenkins, who was eventually jailed for 10 years. Over a two year period 1968/69 bombing atrocities happened at a number of locations in Wales and sadly there were fatalities. On the morning of the Investiture two activists were killed at Abergele, when the bomb they were carrying exploded. Few days later a young boy was disabled by a bomb left in the town and later a soldier too was killed at an army barracks. Thankfully such acts of violence have long been consigned to the past.

Needless to say throughout much of the decade the police and secret service personnel were extremely active across Wales as has been well documented.

The interview concludes with the interviewer and I drawing on some of the underlying historical themes from the 60s/70s to the present exploring how today’s Brexit process raises pertinent questions about the future of the UK Union.