But at the least in those far off distant days, the Welsh could see those invading armies coming and, when needs called for it, would unite to fight and hold on to their land until they were eventually conquered as a nation by the larger and mightier forces of the Anglo Normans. They were initially conquered by the forces of King Edward 1st in 1282 – 3 and finally by the two Henry’s (IV and V) in 1421 when Maredudd ab Owain, the son of Prince Owain Glyndŵr, the last native Prince of Wales, accepted a pardon effectively ending a War of Independence that had lasted for 21 yrs.
Like all mortals – and despite their status in life, the two Henry’s came and went and Wales was finally annexed to England in 1536 with the ‘so called’ Act of Union which, strictly speaking, is incorrect as, unlike Scotland who approved of the ‘Act’ on behalf of the Scottish people, there was no Parliament in Wales to approve of this ‘union’ on behalf of the people of Wales so, Wales was simply incorporated into the Union and the Welsh laws which had been codified by the Welsh King Hywel Dda in the year 945 were abolished. A further ‘Act’ abolished the Welsh courts in 1542.
Following the aforementioned ‘Act of Annexation’ and right up into the 1950’s, every Act of Parliament applying to both England and Wales would only use the term ‘England’ which was in stark contrast to statutes that also applied to Scotland which always stated ‘England and Scotland. Rather ironic, as Scotland had agreed to be a part of the Union whereas Wales had not and never did accept being treated as part of England. But, of course, the days of fighting bloody battles to regain Welsh Independence had long gone and Welsh interests has had to be fought for by Welsh Members of an English Westminster Parliament.
However, influenced and encouraged by the French Revolution and movements such as Young Italy and Young Ireland a national revival of revolutionary ideas did take place in Wales during the 2nd half of the 19th century which resulted in the establishment of movements such as Cymru Fydd, The Welsh Movement and The Welsh Home Rule Army being formed. These movements did not last but the seeds had been sown and by the 1920’s, the University of Wales had been established, the Church of Wales had been disestablished from that of England and the Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (Welsh National Party) had been established in 1925, initially, to campaign for Self Government but by 1930, the main aim was to secure Dominion status for Wales – to the indignation of one of the founders of the new party, the dramatist Saunders Lewis, who had argued for a total boycott of the English Parliament.
Cardiff was officially recognized as the capital city of Wales in 1955 and the people of Wales voted for a Welsh Assembly Government in 1997. However, Scotland, who also voted for a Scottish Assembly in 1997, now has a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers, its own legal system and its own laws. The Welsh Assembly Government on the other hand, has not been granted the power to raise its own taxes, does not have its own legal system or its own laws. In fact, compared to the powers that Scotland has been granted, it seems that Wales, again, has been grossly short changed and because of this adversity, there is ample evidence to illustrate that Wales is on the fast track to being obliterated as a national entity – whether this be by gross mis-governing or design.
History will show that Welsh land and resources have been ‘there for the taking’ with the assistance of successive governments since the 16th century. This article intends to reveal how such practice continues to take place today mainly by means of an insidious form of cheque book conquest that will eventually lead to the annihilation of the Welsh nation.
Water has been an emotive issue in Wales since building work started on the first stone built dam in the Vyrnwy Valley in 1881. It was built by the Liverpool Corporation to supply water for the City of Liverpool and although a small proportion (5,000 acres) of the land deemed needed was compulsory bought from local landed Gentry, most of the land was common land traditionally used for grazing animals on by Welsh farmers and for hunting and fishing purposes by the Welsh in general.
An English Parliamentary Act was passed on the 6th August 1880 which authorized Liverpool Corporation to commence work on construction of the Dam. To create the reservoir, the nearby village of Llanwddyn - which had been a thriving agricultural community since medieval times - and which consisted of a church, two chapels, three public houses, thirty seven houses and 10 farmsteads, was demolished and flooded.
In spite of the village of Llanwddyn being right in the centre of the proposed development area, protestations of the villagers were ignored whilst development of the largest man made dam in Europe (visible with the naked eye from space it is claimed) went ahead. The community of over 400 Welsh who lived on the valley floor were removed from their homes and re-housed further down the Vyrnwy Valley. And, out of respect for the dead, all of the buried were dug up and re-interned at the newly constructed church two miles away!
At times of extreme drought, the old village can still be seen and the foundations of several of the buildings still survive there as an eerie reminder of the impotency of a nation.
The Vyrnwy dam and reservoir were the first of many that would be built in Wales to supply Welsh water to English cities. The next series of stone dams and reservoirs to be built (on an even larger scale than Vyrnwy) were those built in the Elan Valley. A cluster of reservoirs given the names of Claerwen, Craig Goch, Pen y Garreg, Garreg Ddu and Caban Coch were constructed in the valley. This scheme was to provide water for the English City and suburbs of Birmingham and the same procedures of evictions and resettlements took place as was carried out at Vyrnwy. Homes were demolished along with three manor houses, eighteen farms, a school and a church and again, the voice of the community was ignored and only landlords received compensation payments.
Again, an Act of Parliament granting the necessary legal powers to Birmingham Corporation to carry on with the scheme was passed in 1892. A large portion of the land taken was land that had been granted to the Cisterian monastry at Strata Florida by Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1184.
The land and natural resources issues, in regards to ownership and exploitation of, has always played a major role in Welsh history and, no doubt, will continue to do so until such time that there is no land left to occupy, exploit or sell off. Such land issues were central to the advance of Plaid Cymru the Welsh Nationalist Party as they actively campaigned against military seizures and occupation on welsh land such as at Penyberth on the Lleyn Peninsula, the Epynt and Preseli mountains and at Trawsfynydd in Merionethshire but most famously, Plaid Cymru orchestrated the nation wide campaign against the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley in Merionethshire.
The Tryweryn battle commenced in 1955 when the city of Liverpool announced its Intention to drown the Valley of Dolanog – where the shrine of one of Wales’s most important hymn writers, Ann Griffiths, stands. As expected, there was uproar in Wales. Liverpool then appeared to bow to Welsh wishes and stated that they would flood the Tryweryn Valley instead. But then, the truth was revealed in the City Engineer’s report which stated that the gross yield from the Dolanog source would not have gone very far towards solving Liverpool’s problems so, for those reasons, they had passed over that scheme in favour of the Tryweryn scheme.
The Tryweryn Valley, the area to be flooded contained a farming community which had the village of Capel Celyn as its centre. Similar to all the other Welsh communities that had been drowned or occupied for military use to date, it was a bastion of Welsh culture (especially music wise) and was a stronghold of the Welsh language. Also, as was the case with the other communities that had been destroyed, Capel Celyn had not been consulted in regards to its fate. The first that the people of the community knew about the scheme was when they read about it in the Liverpool Daily Post.
The Tryweryn Defence Committee was formed early in 1956 and soon had branches all over Wales – as well as in Liverpool itself. Dr Gwynfor Evans, the then President of Plaid Cymru escorted a small contingent to Liverpool where he tried to address a meeting of the council on the issue. His protests were drowned out by the braying of councilors shouting him down and by the banging of their desks. Mr Evans later led a protest march through Liverpool and, apart from a one month old baby, every resident from Capel Celyn and the surrounding communities of the Tryweryn Valley took part in that March. Mr Evans was allowed to speak in the Council Chamber this time and when it came to the vote, 90 of the 160 councilors voted in favour of the scheme to drown Tryweryn. One Labourer councilor who voted against the scheme was expelled by his party.
A national conference came forward with an alternative scheme for the Tryweryn Valley that could have saved the village but, it would have cost more and Liverpool Corporation refused to receive a deputation from the conference to discuss the matter.
There can be no denial of the fact that all life on earth needs water to survive but the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley was not for the purpose of supplying water to Liverpool for domestic use, the city was getting all it needed for this purpose from the Vyrnwy reservoir. The Tryweryn water was needed for industrial expansion and, for re-sale at a profit. England is 6.5 times the size of Wales and has a similar climate so, the question begs to be asked, why the insistence on taking Welsh land and piping water from Wales when England has got similar mountains, valleys and the water needed for its own consumption - as well as for other uses? The answer is because they can!
The Bill to drown Tryweryn was passed in the Westminster Parliament in a matter of minutes in 1957 before it was then quickly affirmed by the House of Lords. Mr Geoffrey Lawrence who presented Liverpool’s case to the Lords conceded:
“There can be no question that emotions in Wales have been aroused, but Liverpool Corporation have to take the Constitution as they find it. There is no separate demarcation of Wales from England from the point of view of water supplies”
The above statement said it all. The reality had, at last, hit home like a bolt of lightening! Wales had no power to protect its land, communities, heritage or culture against any English Corporation that came up with a plausible profit making scheme to grab whatever area of Wales and its resources they fancied at any given time with the assistance of Acts passed in minutes by the Westminster Parliament.
Undoubtedly, the issue of Tryweryn and the contempt shown towards its Welsh inhabitants and way of life had awakened a deep anger in the Welsh nation. This anger triggered off a bombing campaign in Wales causing not only the Tryweryn dam to be attacked but also other reservoirs and English Governmental departments.
Plaid Cymru, in existence since 1925 without any doubt did campaign through the first half of the 20th century against ‘land grabs’ and M.O.D seizures and occupancies of land but it took the episode of Tryweryn to stir a real Welsh awakening in many for the need to rally to the cause, to get politically active and to work towards ensuring that a Tryweryn would never happen again in Wales.
This political activity during the 1960’s took on various forms. Plaid Cymru continued to be a constitutional party that fought for seats in the Westminster Parliament and movements such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language society) and Adfer (Restore) carried out non violent direct action campaigns to get official status for the language, with a call for Welsh-language tax returns, schools, electoral forms, post office signs, birth certificates and so on. Adfer was also active in drawing attention to the growing problem of emigration and the holiday home issue in Wales. The issue of the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales (scheduled for 1969) was also an item on the political agenda at this time and the Patriotic Front was formed to organize opposition to what was viewed as foisting another English usurper on the Welsh Nation. During the same period, MAC (Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru/Movement for the Defense of Wales) were carrying out a bombing campaign against the dams and English Governmental buildings in Wales and another movement, the Free Wales Army (FWA) led by the charismatic and handsome Cayo Evans and his lieutenant Dennis Coslett, led the authorities and the world media on a merry dance by openly claiming credit for the sabotaging and bombings taking place.
Whatever choice of political activity or methods was chosen by Plaid Cymru or any of the above movements (and others) to pursue in the 1960’s, each and everyone of them could rally a good crowd together for a protest march when needed and, undoubtedly, would have united as one to protect any community that seemed as if it was in danger of suffering the same fate as Tryweryn, Elan and the Vyrnwy valleys.
Fifty yrs on and Wales, like everywhere else has seen many changes. Plaid Cymru, who’s principal aim now is to establish an independent Welsh state within the European Union has gained and lost seats in the Westminster Parliament over the years. It currently holds 3 seats and has renamed itself once again as "Plaid" although "Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales" will remain the official title. Plaid controlled Gwynedd County Council until 2008 when they lost 13 seats to Llais Gwynedd (The Voice of Wales) a new regional political party established following Plaid Cymru’s executive proposal to close half of Gwynedd’s primary schools. Llais Gwynedd’s aims at present are to campaign against closure of schools in Gwynedd, a relaxation on planning controls and for more to be done to provide rural employment and to protect Gwynedd’s unique cultural, linguistic and social fabric. The Welsh Assembly Government was established in 1999 and is based in Cardiff Bay and ‘Plaid’ is currently leading a coalition government there with the Labour Party.
Adfer, the Patriotic Front, FWA and MAC are demised. The latter three movements ended with the arrests and imprisonment of their leaders in 1969 -70 for their part in the Anti Investiture campaign. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg is still in existence although its membership has dwindled and is mainly made up of Welsh speaking students. Meibion Glyndŵr (The Sons of Glyndŵr, a direct action movement that sprung up in the late 1970’s and early 80’s and who burned holiday homes as a campaign against holiday homes in Wales) also disappeared into the shadows of history and Cymuned, another pressure group that was established in 2001 to campaign on behalf of Welsh speaking communities in Wales that are under threat due to demographic changes, also seems to have lost their way in regards to active campaigning in the field.
Overall, It seems that the anger generated by the drowning of Tryweryn is now only expressed by the slogan ‘Cofia Dryweryn' (Remember Tryweryn) that can still be vaguely seen painted on walls and bridges throughout Wales. Possibly, Welsh people may now think that because there is a Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff, such injustices will not be allowed to occur in Wales ever again – and that would be wonderful if it were the case but, alas, for anyone that would care to take off their rose coloured spectacles and look around them as to what’s happening in Wales, they would see plenty of evidence to show that the need to protect Welsh land and Welsh communities is more necessary now that it ever was in the past if Wales is to survive as a nation.
The advances in tele-communications and in mobility means that no community in the world is safe whilst there’s massive profits to be made, and whereas in the past, the greatest threat to the survival of Wales as a nation was its nearest neighbour England, Wales is now on the global market and recent developments concerning the Vyrney Valley is an ideal example to illustrate how dangerously close Wales is to becoming ‘sold off’ in its entirety and to becoming part of a world wide melting pot of locations in portfolios that will be gambled on a daily basis on the world stock market.
The Vyrney estate and Reservoir was taken over by the Severn Trent Water Authority in 1974 and they are now offering the 23,315 acre estate for sale on a 125 year lease. The price tag is £11 million. On offer as part of the sale is the first stone built dam in the U.K, 1,171 long in structure with 25 arches and two towers, 14 leased farms, 31 cottages and other private and commercial buildings. This is, undoubtedly, the largest disposal of Welsh land since the middle ages and is being offered in four lots.
Lot 1 includes 12,000 acres of farmland farmed jointly with the RSPB.
Lot 2 is a portfolio of farms and land, each ranging from under 2 acres to 1,000
acres in size.
Lot 3 covers 5,000 acres of woodland managed by the Forest Commission and Lot 4 includes 31 residential and commercial properties which are currently let. Water rights for the lake will be negotiated separately.
This is a déjà vu situation for the people of the Vyrnwy Valley and although the alarm bells cannot, as of yet, be heard ringing throughout Wales they are ringing loud and clear locally with grave local concern about what the sale could mean for the present tenants. A public meeting has taken place at Llanwddyn to discuss the intended sale and although Severn Trent tried to reassure local concern at this meeting by stating that a responsible transfer should bring benefits to those working on the estate, the locals know well from experience that their welfare means nothing where profit is concerned.
The local postmistress who’s home is up as one of the properties for sale remarked that there’s only one topic of conversation in the village at the moment. She said...“Nobody Knows what’s happening do they. I had a meeting with them. I was just told it wouldn’t make any odds to me because I rent my house and I’m not on a short lease”. How reassuring is that?
The company put in charge of the sale is Frank Knight LLP, a leading Independent global property consultancy that has headquarters in both London and New York. They boast that they operate from 207 offices in 34 countries, across six continents and that more than 6,340 of their professionals handle in excess of £59 billion worth of agricultural and residential real estate annually. Are they going to care who buys the lease, what happens to the tenants and who makes the profit once they’ve pocketed their generous commission? I doubt it.
So, who does care about this latest major ‘land grabbing issue taking place at this very moment in Wales. Who does care that the community of Vyrnwy is once again faced with the traumatic prospect of having to vacate their homes and lose their livelihood. And who does care that, this time, there’s a serious threat of the community losing its unique welshness forever?
Local councilor Simon Bates has stressed that his top priority is the welfare of the local residents. Conservative M.P Glyn Davies supports the bid to sell as he doesn’t believe that Severn is managing the upkeep of the estate as a landowner should - but also thought that Severn Trent should give 10% of money raised from the sale to be reinvested into Llanwddyn and the surrounding area. But, shouldn’t any new owner/s invest in the area anyway? Where does Plaid, the Party of Wales, who initiated such volatile campaigns against such ‘land grabs’ and exploitation of Welsh water resources in the past stand on this issue? Their silence is deafening and one can but ponder why this is so. One would assume that they are now in a better position than ever to safeguard Welsh communities from such occurrences being that they are joint leaders with the Labour Party of the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff Bay. Likewise, the Cymuned pressure group, who were formed to protect Welsh communities, have not woken up to the issue yet and neither has Llais Gwynedd or Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg.
There is however a campaign entitled the Lake Vyrnwy Co-operation Campaign which has emerged on ‘face book’ on the internet and the aim of this campaign is to persuade a million Welsh people to buy a £10 share of the 23, 315 acres that’s for sale so that it can belong to the people of Wales. It’s not clear if this offer is open to Welsh people only or how and who would care take the land for the nation should the necessary £11 million purchase price be raised but, what seems very sad to me, is the acceptance that Severn Trent has got the right to sell the land in the first place. An English Parliament may have passed the law that initially allowed Liverpool Corporation and the Severn Trent Water to occupy the land, build the reservoir and help themselves to billions of gallons of Welsh water annually and free of charge for well over 100 yrs but, the crucial point is that most of the land was not bought by either Liverpool Corporation or Severn Trent Water! It was Common land, Welsh land which under Welsh Law, every Welsh person had a right to make use of. It is Welsh land and is already the property of the Welsh Nation and, in my view, both Liverpool Corporation and Severn Trent Water owe the Welsh nation rent for this land and compensation for the billions of gallons of water that they have piped from the reservoir since 1888.
So, should not Plaid and the Welsh Assembly Government be demanding this land and water rights, as well as the Tryweryn Reservoir and water rights, back so that they can care take both areas and plough back profits generated from both the water sales and tourism into Welsh communities? And shouldn’t they be seeking financial compensation from Liverpool Corporation and Severn Trent for use of the Vyrney land since 1882 and for the extraction of billions of gallons of Welsh water from the reservoir since 1888 and for the Tryweryn land since 1957 and for the extraction of billions of gallons of Welsh water from the reservoir since 1965?
The present Vyrney issue comes on the tail of the issue of two mountain peaks being sold in Snowdonia, and another ‘land grab’ bone of contention that’s commandeered a great deal of action and media coverage over the last decade by groups of ‘anti wind turbines’ protestors is the issue of large areas of Welsh hill farmland being sold by landowners all over Wales for the purpose of accommodating armies of gigantic wind turbines.
133,000 or 8% of the current workforce in Wales are unemployed and half of this figure is the under 25’s. Its obvious, that unless these people are employed in the very near future, then Wales, on the one hand, is facing a major emigration of its ‘up and mobile’ indigenous young people and on the other, is going to have left, the dispossessed, the people with no hope of ever getting work and all their social and physical problems.
We are in an age where the elderly are living longer and those reaching retirement age in England are looking towards Wales ‘as a nicer place to live’ in their retirement than the crime ridden inner cities of England. Also, of course, Wales gives away free prescriptions to anyone living there, regardless of how wealthy one is.
Add all the above to the growing immigration problem that the English government has created for themselves and how this adds fuel to the housing problems, social services and to the demography of Wales and the fact that the Holiday homes issue, which literally became a ‘burning issue in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, is still a major problem - being added to now by the constant building of new blocks of luxury apartments which are investment properties in the main for the ‘up and mobile’ of England and beyond, and one may begin to get the picture to how grim the situation is.
It seems that the only real voice of dissent on this serious ‘land grab’ issue taking place in Wales at the moment is in the form of a blog entitled Ymgyrch Cymru which can be found at http://ymgyrch.blogspot.com/ The author of this blog advocates the need to set up a campaigning movement to carry out campaigns in defense of Wales and its natural resources. He has even suggested that Tarian Cymru (Shield of Wales) would be an appropriate name for this proposed movement. The blogger then suggests things that can be immediately initiated such as a ‘long walk for Wales’ and the setting up of a ‘campaign camp’ in the Vyrnwy Valley to stage an on-going protest and suggests that anybody and everybody could contribute to this campaign by preparing large placards with such slogans as ‘Wales is not for Sale’, ‘Wales…Our Land…Our Water…Give them back now! to carry during organized protest marches and to place on the road leading to the ‘campaign camp’. The blogger also appeals to any movement or individual with a serious interest in such a campaign to organize a symbolic short protest march from the Village of Llanwddyn to the Sculpture Park on the Vyrnwy state on Saturday the 27th August.
Whether Plaid or the other movements mentioned within this article - or anyone else for that matter, picks up the gauntlet this time remains to be seen. Personally, I think that all the movements mentioned should unite (as had to happen in the past) to make an united stand for the communities of Vyrnwy and Tryweryn and for Wales. If they don’t, then they cannot claim that they are in existence to protect Welsh communities, an unique Welsh culture and the Welsh language. I also think that the Coalition Government in Cardiff Bay should place the Vyrney issue on top of their agenda as an issue that they have to challenge the Westminster government on. If they don’t, then they are not servicing the historic, cultural or the economic rights of the Welsh people and they may wake up one morning in the not too distant future to find that there’s no Welsh nation or Welsh indigenous people for them to assume government over.