Liverpool City Council has formally apologised for the flooding of a Welsh village to provide water for the city. The village of Capel Celyn in Merionethshire was flooded as part of the Treweryn water scheme to build a reservoir to provide water for the city. The 40th anniversary of the opening of the reservoir is on October 20th.
The flooding was proposed in the late 1950’s as Liverpool’s demand for water grew. A £16 million scheme was put forward to dam the valley of Tryweryn four miles upstream from Bala, creating a reservoir 8000 acres in size and submerging Capel Celyn a village with a chapel, a school, Post Office, burial ground and eight stone built houses. An earlier proposal to dam and flood Dolanog, home of hymn writer Ann Griffiths, had been dropped partly because the project would not have been able to meet Liverpool’s rising demand for supply.
A motion passed by the council on Wednesday 19th October reads
“We realise the hurt of forty years ago when the Tryweryn Valley was transformed into a reservoir to help meet the water needs of Liverpool.
|One of the protest signs|
“For any insensitivity by our predecessor council at that time, we apologise and hope that the historic and sound relationship between Liverpool and Wales can be completely restored.”
The project was highly controversial and sparked numerous protests from the start. The Tryweryn scheme is often seen as a catalyst event in the campaign for Welsh independence. An act of Parliament was required for compulsory purchase orders and despite no Welsh MP voting for it the motion was pushed through the House of Commons.
|Clashes at the reservoir opening|
Aeron Jones who was ten years old when his family had to leave their farm said “I would think that the fact that there is an apology shows that there is a change of heart in this latest generation in Liverpool. It’s come as a shock actually. But I would think in general it would be welcome. I wouldn’t guarantee that all that’s been done would be forgotten just by apology. The whole word ‘Tryweryn’ now to the Welsh nation sort of fires up a whole emotional issue.”
A Tryweryn Defence Committee was formed in 1956 and included prominent Welsh personalties including Lord Ogmore and Megan Lloyd George. Although the campaign had widespread backing and was not politically rooted it did inspire Plaid Cymru and in its campaigns.
|Buildings are left derelict|
In 1956 police were called to Liverpool Town Hall to eject three Welshmen, Alderman Gwynfor Evans, president of the Welsh National Party and Dr Tudor Jones and a 65 year old farmer David Roberts whose land and buildings were amongst those under threat. The men had left the strangers gallery to make protests in a passage behind the back benches. Once work was underway two men were fined for draining oil from a transformer at the site, while in 1963 an explosion damaged a transformer.
The situation was not helped by the high handed attitude of Liverpool officials, speaking to the The Times in 1956 on the subject of financial remuneration for the Welsh residents Liverpool’s deputy town clerk Mr Harvey said “Whose water is it? After all, God provided it.”
|The reservoir today|
The opening ceremony on October 21st 1965 attracted numerous protests with 100 police officers on patrol as Alderman F.H. Cain, the chairman of Liverpool’s water committee opened a discharge regulator to start the flow of water. During the ceremony, attended by 400 guests, posters reading ‘Hands Off Wales’ were displayed and pieces of rock where thrown at Liverpool’s Lord Mayor and Chief Constable.
Decades later the effect of the project on English-Welsh relationships could still be felt in a 1998 House of Commons debate about the powers of the proposed new Welsh Assembly the Plaid Cymru MP Dafydd Wigley said “I do not need to impress on Ministers the significance of drowning the valleys and extracting water from Wales. The way in which the Liverpool corporation took the Tryweryn valley, kicked out the residents of Capel Celyn and created a reservoir to provide water for industry on Merseyside without any recompense is probably one reason why three of the four hon. Members representing Gwynedd are from Plaid Cymru, The significance of that for the Assembly is very great indeed.”