Following my recent much-read blog about the vandalism and prompt repainting of the Cofiwch Dryweryn wall near Llanrhystud several readers contributed comments on the familiar Elvis rock just over the Ceredigion border on the A44 at Eisteddfa Gurig which the unknown vandals appeared to be copying.
The Elvis rock at Eisteddfa Gurig
This too, is a reinstated version of a modified graffiti message. Originally painted on the rock in 1962 it represented electioneering support for Islwyn Ffoulkes Ellis, the Plaid Cymru candidate in a by-election. This being the legal name bestowed upon him at birth in 1924 it was necessarily spelled thus on the electioneering literature and the hoardings. But he was not a successful candidate and is much better known as the Lampeter University academic and prominent Welsh author Islwyn Ffowc Elis.
This historic detail solves a problem which has long perplexed me: How do you find the space to amend Elis to Elvis?
The original ‘Elvis’ has also been destroyed in the interim and has been repainted on a freshly cut face of rock. Now it sports an expansive V wider than the rest of the lettering, as my picture shows.
According to Gwylim writing last month in Ein Gwlad, the original artists of the original ‘Ellis’ were the late film director John Hefin and David Meredith, former Head of Press and PR at HTV and S4C. The original author of Cofiwch Dryweryn was the late Professor Mike ( later spelled Meic) Stevens. What a talented and scholarly lot these graffiti writers became! Did they already consider themselves men of letters in their nationalist-slogan writing days?
I learnt on the Welsh News on Sunday that the graffiti on the wall beside to A487 just north of Llanrhystud has been vandalised once again, so I took a detour there today. Imagine my surprise to find that the new daubing ‘Elvis’ and a heart has already disappeared, to be replaced by the original message. It has become quite a tourist attraction. As I pulled into the adjoining layby I found another pilgrim like myself already bent on photography!
Passers by are stopping to admire the freshly repainted wall.
A quick search of Facebook reveals that a newly formed group styling themselves Welsh Independence Memes for Angry Welsh Teens lost no time in obliterating the substitution, toiling through the night to reinstate the old message.
The self appointed custodians of Welsh history
How much more satisfactory than a ponderous debate with the Authorities as to how and with whose money the restitution should be made! It is evocative of the original creation of the memorial, by a young Welsh Nationalist student at Aberystwyth University in the 1960s. It is a less known fact that that original young artist was one Meic Stevens, who died recently, having risen to the heights of Professor of Welsh Writing in English at The University of Glamorgan, a prolific author and Editor of The New Companion to Welsh Literature!
Meic’s artwork was prompted by the flooding of the village of Capel Celyn to create the Tryweryn Reservoir in 1965. I can think of no better aide-memoir than a little snippet of British Film Institute video which records the last event at Capel Curig School and the last wedding, in 1963 at its chapel, while the earthmovers create a great scar in the background. Everyone in their best clothes, the ladies in their hats and heels, little girls in their summer dresses, boys in in their blazers and ties. It evokes a distant past.
As the years passed the wall crumbled at one end, and the H disappeared entirely. One could still draw in and post a letter there, though that opportunity has gone today.
An earlier morph of the graffiti
It was touched up from time to time but it is in the present century that there have been successive attacks on the roadside memorial. In 2010 it was partially painted over to display an blobby ambiguous tag. In 2013 MP Mark Williams posed in front if it wearing an expression of grim concern. The perpetrators thought the obliterated letter W and the smiley face an amusing joke.
MP Mark Williams condemned the new graffiti in 2013
The wall was repainted in 2013 with the original message.
The next addition was at least more politically relevant ” Remember Aberfan was appended and this remained for several years.
More recently the lettering was redone, in green rather than the original white, perhaps to emphasize the Welsh colours.Last weekend’s morph was perhaps the least creative. The new daub seems superfluous – we already have the well known Elvis rock at Eisteddfa Gurig. A second ‘Elvis’ lacks the historical relevance of the first, which was a corruption of the electioneering notice for Councillor Elis. One wonders exactly what the author of thinking of.
The Cofiwch Dryweryn wall as it appeared on 1 of February 2019, but was promptly obliterated.
The dynamism of the repainting team, slaving by lamplight on a very chilly night is heartening. Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader and MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts has joined the fray with a worthy statement:
‘The Cofiwch Dryweryn Memorial is a symbolic and poignant reminder of why Welsh land; Welsh culture & Welsh communities cannot be allowed to be so drastically undervalued ever again’
Only in Wales could a piece of Banksy artwork be subject to such publicly-funded protection whilst an unrivalled marker of our nation’s political struggle for self-determination is left open to asinine damage.’
‘The Welsh Government must now act, acknowledge the history of the nation it purports to serve and afford this emblem the recognition and protection it rightly deserves.’
But is physical protection really the way forward? The immediate independent action to repaint the memorial is surely far more dynamic history than is putting up a fence! Though I suppose a video camera could reveal, to the embarrassment of many, the full range of activities to which a roadside layby can be put.