Book Review: Cofiwch Dryweryn by Mari Emlyn

I think one of the things would surprise teenage Chris is how much of a proud Cymro I have become as I got older. I support independence, I vote Plaid Cymru and I get angry about the way my country, and its language, are routinely insulted, dismissed or ignored. And it seems I’m not alone in this, with Yes Cymru picking up steam online, their stickers a frequent sight in various places across Cymru.

The Tryweryn story is part of this. It’s a story which at the time ignited a righteous fury across the country, and has continued to serve as a reminder of how the United Kingdom and its government has shown indifference and contempt to the people and the country.

For those unaware of the story, in 1965 the village of Capel Celyn and the surrounding valley was emptied and flooded to create the Tryweryn reservoir for Liverpool. It was a move that was opposed by MPs across the country, the locals and several others. A new reservoir wasn’t necessary, and the choosing of a community which was Cymreig seems hardly an accident. The villagers were forced to move away, paid desultory compensation and the entire community was lost.

In the years after the drowning Meic Stephens created the Cofiwch Dryweryn mural, painting the words in white on a red background, creating a clear reminder of the events and a need for Cymru to remember its history and to fight to stop similar events happening again. The mural became a beacon of the frustration and desire to be free felt by many of the country.

In 2019, the mural was vandalised, defaced. It had become more than just a mural in memory of Capel Celyn, it was a landmark in its own right, a part of this nation’s history. There was anger at the damage, but the response, detailed in this book, was fantastic. Across Cymru, and indeed further afield, the mural was recreated on houses, walls and bridges. The story of Capel Celyn was being told to a new generation, the anger at the injustice burning anew.

The book recounts the original story, told by several of the people who lived through it. There are details that were new to me like Liverpool council refusing to hear objections from the locals, leading them to march in the city where they faced a hostile response from the people. There were protests at the opening, spoiling the celebrations that the builders had planned.

The book is bilingual, with half a page given over to Cymraeg and the other English. This is a great idea, it will help learners, and it also shows that speaking our mother tongue isn’t necessary to support an independent Cymru, or to be part of its story. I attended schools Cymraeg, but my confidence in my abilities has faded due to lack of practice, something I feel rather ashamed of. This gave me the chance to stretch those old muscles, realise just how much of the language I remember and boost my confidence in it. This is the first book in the language I’ve read since my GCSEs, and I’m glad I read it.

It’s an emotional story of loss and injustice, but also an inspiring one of unity, determination and a growing sense of fighting to be heard, remembered and in control of our own destiny. 9/10.

Cymru am byth, guys, Cymru am byth.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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