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This report is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
The 2017 National Eisteddfod, held near the village of Bodedern in the north of Anglesey, closed a few days ago. More than 150,000 attended this astonishingly vibrant annual cultural festival, despite sometimes spiteful weather. The Chair, for a poem in the ‘strict metres’, was won by Osian Rhys Jones. The subject for the competition this year was ‘Yr Arwr’ (The Hero), the same as was set in 1917. Then, the winner, Ellis Humphrey Evans, everywhere known by his ffugenw (nom de plume), ‘Hedd Wyn’, did not rise from the audience when he was called. On 31 July that year he had been killed at the battle for Pilkem Ridge. The empty Chair was draped in black.

I did not visit the eisteddfod this year, but was on the maes, the eisteddfod field on the banks of the Usk at Abergavenny, last year when a friend gave a talk (in Welsh of course, a rule for all scheduled events) about Beriah Gwynfe Evans (1848–1927), dramatist, journalist and notable eisteddfodwr. The topic was well chosen, for Evans was born at Nantyglo, barely ten miles from Abergavenny, and was a great-grandfather of the speaker’s wife.

I don’t think I would have recalled this old news if I had not been sharply reminded of it by an inspirational book, The Nations of Wales, 1890–1914 (UWP, 2016), by M. Wynn Thomas. Difficult to conceive of now, the Monmouthshire in which Beriah was born and raised was, like much of the rest of Wales, predominantly Welsh-speaking and a stronghold of Nonconformist faith. ...


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