• Noisy and Annoying Team

Welsh protest deserves better: ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn!’

Written by Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Leader of Plaid Cymru in the House of Commons


Photo by Callum Parker on Unsplash



Protest has always mattered in Wales as a means of protecting our communities, our language, and our rights. The Tory Policing Bill takes direct aim at the heart of the right to protest on the streets. We’d be well-advised, therefore, to learn the lessons of history, and to hold fast to how they taught us to resist the creeping constraints on our hard-won liberties.

Over the years, protest has often been the only route available for those people who – with neither the advantages of economic or political resources – sought to demand their rights when the powerful threatened to oppress them. This has resulted in a vivid history of protest across the Welsh countryside and the industrial regions, from Merched Beca to the Tarw Scotch.

The 19th century was lit with the courage of protestors raising a brave, common voice against social injustice. People in rural Wales rose up at the introduction of punitive taxes, road tolls, and the enclosure of common land. Merched Beca (the Daughters of Beca) destroyed toll gates in Carmarthenshire, while the people of Llangwyryfon, Cardiganshire, confounded the plans of a wealthy English incomer to build a grand house after buying up common land in a conflict that became known as Rhyfel y Sais Bach or the War of the Little Englishman during the 1820s. And, in 1839 the Chartists occupied the town of Llanidloes and faced the militia in Newport, where 22 people were shot dead.

The common people of Wales have refused time and again to accept injustice, even though their leaders were threatened with prison, capital punishment, and transportation to Australia:

‘The working man is gaoled and fined

For stealing geese from common land;

But he who steals the land from geese

Is well-respected, fine and grand.’

In the industrial regions of South Wales at the beginning of the 1800s, gangs of men under the pseudonym of Scotch Cattle lead by the Tarw Scotch (Scotch Bull) sought, by threats of violence, to control workplace managers, strike breakers, and unprincipled shopkeepers.

From the 20th century to the present day, protest has provided a means for disadvantaged communities to draw attention to their plight and ensure Welsh language rights. Nonetheless, public protest proved to no avail when the Royal Air Force (RAF) ignored local pleas and built a bombing school in Penyberth near Pwllheli in 1936, leading to the burning of aerodrome buildings by three prominent nationalists.

The 1960s were a time when people were empowered to find a voice and to question authority. Highly charged protests were held against plans by Liverpool to dam the Tryweryn river, and drown the homes of Capel Celyn near Y Bala. Once again, peaceful methods proved ineffective even though permission to flood the valley was not granted in Wales and not a single Welsh Member of Parliament voted in favour of Liverpool’s action. An electricity pylon on the site was bombed by three Welshmen. From that time forwards, the words “Cofiwch Dryweryn” (Remember Tryweryn) are invoked to recall bitter frustration at the inability of the British political system to protect a vulnerable minority community and culture from the tyranny of majority interests.

“Cofiwch Dryweryn” was painted on a ruined wall alongside the main road near Llanrhystud, Ceredigion, during this turbulent decade. It is there to this day. From time to time it’s vandalised, but, with every occasion, a crew of volunteers roll up their sleeves to repair the wall and re-paint the slogan. The same plea for people to remember other recent disasters and injustices is used: for example, “Cofiwch Aberfan”, to recall the deaths of 144 children and adults when a colliery tip slid down a mountain in 1966, and “Cofiwch Epynt”, in memory of farming families turned out from their land and homes in the Radnorshire hills by the army in 1940.

Also in the 1960s, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) was established partly as a result of an influential radio lecture entitled “Tynged yr Iaith” (the fate of the Welsh language) by one of the three men imprisoned for burning Penyberth, Saunders Lewis. The primary objective of Cymdeithas has been to raise the status of the Welsh language. As a movement, it engages in direct non-violent action. Over 1,000 people have gone to prison or paid fines as a result of campaigning on its behalf: on these measures, this is the largest protest group in Britain since the days of the Suffragettes. Cymdeithas has campaigned across a range of issues to improve the rights of Welsh speakers, including bilingual road signs, a Welsh-medium television channel (which also saw the leader of Plaid Cymru at the time, Gwynfor Evans, threaten to go on hunger strike), better provision in public media, a property act to support Welsh-speaking communities from the damaging effects of the open housing market, and Welsh language education.

Until the Covid-19 lock-down period, the non-party political movement for Welsh independence, YesCymru, was exceptionally effective in attracting supporters to its rallies in towns across Wales. Anyone who enjoyed the sheer thrill and excitement of the noisy, joyous marches held in Cardiff, Caernarfon, and Merthyr Tudful in 2019, must be asked:

What will be the impact of the Policing Bill on both our burgeoning independence movement and the proud Welsh tradition of taking to the streets and raising our voices to call out injustice and oppression?




Cofiwch Dryweryn, a cofiwch eich hawliau

Liz Saville Roberts AS

MAE protestio wedi bod yn bwysig i bobl Cymru erioed fel modd i ni ddiogelu’n cymunedau, ein hiaith a’n hawliau. Mae Mesur Plismona’r Torïaid yn ymosodiad bwriadol ar yr hawl i brotestio ar y strydoedd. Gwell felly i ni gofio ein hanes, a thrwy hynny ddwyn i gof pam na ddylid derbyn cyfyngiadau ar ein grymoedd.

Dros y canrifoedd, i’r bobl hynny nad oedd ganddynt rym economaidd neu wleidyddol, protest fyddai’r unig ffordd yn aml i fynnu’u hawliau pan oedd pobl bwerus yn bygwth gormes arnynt. Ac mae hanes llachar o brotest trwy’r Gymru wledig a’r ardaloedd diwydiannol fel ei gilydd, o Ferched Beca i’r Tarw Scotch.

Roedd y 19eg ganrif yn nodweddiadol o ddewrder protestwyr a godai’u lleisiau’n dorfol ac yn ddewr o flaen anghyfiawnder cymdeithasol. Bu’r Siartwyr yn meddianu Llanidloes ac yn wynebu milwyr arfog yng Nghasnewydd, lle saethwyd 22 o bobl yn farw yn 1839. Roedd pobl cefngwlad Cymru yn sefyll yn erbyn trethi uchel, tollau teithio a chau tiroedd comin, gyda Merched Beca yn dinistrio tollbyrth yn Sir Gaerfyrddin a phentrefwyr Llangwyryfon, Sir Aberteifi yn drysu ymdrechion tirfeddiannwr o Loegr i godi plasty yn Rhyfel y Sais Bach yn ystod yr 1820au.

Roedd barn y werin yn gadarn yn erbyn anghyfiawnder dro ar ôl tro, er i’r arweinwyr gael eu bygwth â charchar, y gosb eithaf ac alltudiaeth i Awstralia:

‘Carchar a chosb i’r dyn cyffredin

Am ddwyn yr wydd oddi ar y comin;

Ond parch a geir ac uchel swydd

Am ddwyn y comin oddi ar yr wydd.’

Ac ym meysydd diwydiannol y de ar ddechrau’r 1800au, roedd giangiau dan arweiniad yr anhysbys Tarw Scotch yn bygwth trais ar reolwyr y gweithfeydd, torrwyr streic a siopwyr annheg.

Yn ystod yr 20fed ganrif a hyd heddiw, mae protest wedi parhau’n allweddol i gynnal cymunedau dan anfantais ac i sicrhau hawliau iaith. Fodd bynnag, pan brofwyd protest cyhoeddus yn annigonnol wrth i’r Awyrlu anwybyddu ymbilio lleol ac adeiladu ysgol fomio yr Awyrlu ym Mhenyberth ger Pwllheli, aeth tri chenedlaetholwr amlwg ati i losgi adeiladau yno yn 1936.

Roedd y 1960au’n gyfnod o barodrwydd i godi llais ac i gwestiynu awdurdod. Cafwyd protestiadau emosiynol yn erbyn cynlluniau Corfforaeth Lerpwl i adeiladu argae ar afon Tryweryn, a boddi cartrefi pentrefwyr Capel Celyn ger y Bala. Ond unwaith eto, roedd yr ymdrechion heddychlon hyn yn aneffeithiol, er gwaetha’r ffaith na roddwyd caniatâd yng Nghymru ac ni phleidleisiodd yr un Aelod Seneddol o Gymru o blaid cynnig Lerpwl. Cafodd peilon trydan ar y safle ei fomio gan dri Chymro. Hyd heddiw, mae’na anerchiad enwog – ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ – er mwyn dwyn i gof y rhwystredigaeth a’r brad a brofwyd gydag anallu’r drefn wleidyddol Brydeinig i warchod buddiannau cymuned a diwylliant lleiafrifol bregus rhag gormes y mwyafrif grymus.

Paentiwyd ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ ar wal adfail yn ymyl y brif lôn rhwng ger Llanrhystud, Ceredigion yn ystod y cyfnod cythryblus. Mae o yno o hyd. O dro i dro mae’n cael ei fandaleiddio, ond mae criw o wirfoddolwyr bob tro yn torchi llewys gan adfer yr wal ac ail-baentio’r slogan. Mae’r un ple i annerch pobl i beidio ag anghofio trychinebau ac anghyfiawnder yn cael ei ddefnyddio gyda ‘Cofiwch Aberfan’ am drasiedi colli 144 o blant ac oedolion mewn tirlithriad tip glo yn 1966, a ‘Cofiwch Epynt’ am deuluoedd ffermio a orfodwyd o’u cartrefi gan y fyddin yn 1940.

Hefyd yn y 1960au, yn dilyn darlith radio ddylanwadol dan y teitl ‘Tynged yr Iaith’ gan un o’r tri dyn a garcharwyd am losgi Penyberth yn 1936, Saunders Lewis, cafodd Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg ei ffurfio er mwyn ymgyrchu dros godi statws y Gymraeg. Mudiad sy’n arddel dulliau gweithredu uniongyrchol di-drais yw’r Gymdeithas. Mae dros 1,000 o bobl wedi cael eu carcharu neu’u dirwyo yn sgil gweithrediadau ar ei rhan: dyma grŵp protest mwyaf Prydain ers dyddiau’r ymgyrch dros bleidleisiau i fenywod. Mae’r Gymdeithas wedi ymgyrchu mewn sawl maes i wella hawliau siaradwyr Cymraeg, gan gynnwys arwyddion ffordd dwyieithog, sianel deledu cyfrwng Cymraeg (ymgyrch a welodd arweinydd Plaid Cymru yr adeg honno, Gwynfor Evans, yn bygwth newynu hyd at farwolaeth) a gwell darpariaeth ar y cyfryngau cyhoeddus, deddf eiddo i gynnal cymunedau Cymraeg rhag effaith niweidiol y farchnad dai agored eu hiaith ac addysg Gymraeg.

A than gyfnod clo cofid-19, roedd y mudiad draws-bleidiol dros annibyniaeth, YesCymru, yn hynod effeithiol gyda’i orymdeithiau a ddenai gefnogwyr hen an newydd i drefi ledled Cymru. Gan gofio rhialtwch, sŵn a byrlwm y ralïau a gynhaliwyd yng Nghaerdydd, Caernarfon a Merthyr Tudful yn 2019, mae’n rhaid ofni am yr effaith bydd y Mesur Plismona yn ei chael ar ffyniant y mudiad annibyniaeth ac ar draddodiad balch y Cymry o droi allan ar y strydoedd a’r priffyrdd gan godi’n llais yn erbyn anghyfiawnder a gormes.


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