by The Curious Scribbler
There is a very chilly naked woman emerging from a thicket on the sea front at Aberystwyth. She faces the sea, in the teeth of every westerly gale, on the margin of the ground once occupied by the Norman castle. She is, to say the least, a well built girl, larger than life and fashioned in bronze. No wispy maiden she, but a flesh and blood woman with strong thighs, pert, full breasts, large capable hands and a purposeful expression.
As the authors of the recent Pevsner sedately remark, “ Unexpectedly sensual for a Non-conformist country”.
For this huge empowered woman is the lower ornament on the Aberystwyth War Memorial, erected to commemorate the dead of the First World War. Rising from her octagonal plinth is a tapered shaft of stone, and on top of it a pretty, rather fey angel with billowing dress and an elegant pair of wings. She appears to be about to lob a wreath of laurel, hoop-la style, onto the head of her companion below.
The memorial is the work of an Italian sculptor, Mario Rutelli, and was erected fairly long after the close of war, in 1923. The angel above is, apparently, the Winged Victory, whilst the powerful nude represents Humanity emerging from the Horrors of War. The bronze thicket from which she strains to escape is thought by some to be seaweed, by others to be rifles transmuted back into bushes.
Later tablets on the plinth commemorate the Aberystwyth dead of the Second World War, and the monument is the final destination of the Poppy day parade.
This western extremity of the headland north of the harbour is a place of great beauty, commanding views along the coast southward to the sharply truncated cliff of Alltwen. Framed by woodland a little inland from the sea squats a grey stone mansion, recently released by its new owner from a dense surrounding of self-seeded sycamore and ash. This was the home of Matthew Lewis Vaughan Davies, later Lord Ystwyth, Liberal MP for Aberystwyth from 1895 to 1921. Lord Ystwyth was a bit of a philanderer in his life and died at the great age of 94. Posthumously, historians have judged him harshly. However he was undoubtedly a mover and shaker in his time, founder among other organisations, of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, and in 1923 he was made Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Aberystwyth. It appears that it was his influence which provided his home town with what is surely the least sombre war memorial in the land.