A Welsh Icon to Treasure

When Brexit is at last settled, whenever that will be, it is more than likely that a re-definition of Britain will occur on several levels.

For all the heady talk of planning a bright new future, this process will inevitably have to involve a re-assessment of the past and a fresh overview of the cultural elements which have been part of the whole story.

Britain’s forgotten treasure

And as the author JRR Tolkien acknowledged, one of the forgotten and sorely neglected treasures of Britain is, in fact, the Welsh language – the original British tongue itself.

Time alone will tell if this hidden treasure will form any part of this cultural re-assessment in Britain as a whole.

In the meantime, here in Wales we have another author who should be treasured and revered for his own unique contribution to the Welsh language.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the prolific author Morgan Llwyd of Maentwrog.

The author spent a good deal of his adult life in Wrexham, so it is very fitting that the town’s Welsh-medium secondary school, Ysgol Morgan Llwyd – one of the first such schools in Wales – bears his name.

First original Welsh author

Morgan Llwyd is an important figure in the Welsh national story since he was the first author to write original and creative Welsh books in Welsh.

The New Testament and the Bible had of of course been translated into Welsh during the second half of the 16th century.

But it took the arrival of Morgan Llwyd, two generations later, to produce the first creative books through the medium of the Welsh language.

His ‘Llythyr at y Cymry Cariadus’ (‘A letter to my loving countrymen’), ‘Gwaedd yng Nghymru’ (‘A Cry from Wales’) and ‘Llyfr y Tri Aderyn’ (‘The Tale of the Three Birds’) still remain classics of the Welsh language to this day.

Llwyd, who quite uniquely managed to combine his orthodox Puritan worldview with Quakerism, was of course primarily concerned with saving Welsh souls.

Creativity at a crucial juncture

But as a corollary, his creativity served to nourish and develop the Welsh language at a crucial  juncture in its history.

As the three year Brexit War seems to be drawing to a close here, it is interesting to note that Morgan Llwyd took part in the actual Civil War, between the Royalist and Parliamentarian forces from 1643 to 1650.

He served as a chaplain with the Parliamentary forces, travelling to different parts of Wales and all over England as part of the campaign.

His experiences during this hugely divisive war from the backdrop to all his books, both in Welsh and English.

Civil war as the backdrop

Our present age also seems marked by similarly divisive narratives between people.

If Brexit itself was not enough, we also have the recent growth in ‘identity politics’, driven by modern narcissism and self-entitlement, and fuelled by the grievance machine that is Twitter.

It’s good therefore to step back from all the associated noise and hyperbole and to be able to celebrate a common identity shared by all Welsh people, by means of our rich culture.

The reflective and contemplative works of Morgan Llwyd can still speak to us today.

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