Remembering 1969 - Part 3

Getting the Herald Extraordinary to contribute to Y Cymro was intended as a potent weapon in the propaganda war.

What made Y Cymro, in the eyes of many of its readers, jump off the fence into the anti-investiture camp was its response to the events at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth that year. The Urdd, like many other organisations, had been torn apart by conflicting views on the investiture. Its ruling council decided initially that they would be represented at the ceremony in Caernarfon if invited, but they revoked the decision after two key members resigned and others threatened to follow suit. As a compromise, they resolved to invite the Prince to some of the youth movement's other activities. Those activities would include - although this was not disclosed at the time - an appearance by Prince Charles at the Eisteddfod during his stay at Aberystwyth.

It was probably the most tempestuous eisteddfod in the history of the Urdd. As the Prince arrived on the stage to address the audience in Welsh on the Saturday afternoon, a hundred or more people seated at the front walked out of the pavilion. The compere John Garnon announced, "I am glad to see that more people have stayed in than have gone out." Those words, and the rousing applause by the people still inside, deeply upset Llion Griffiths, editor of Y Cymro. The result was an editorial in the following issue congratulating the Prince for the way he delivered his address, but also praising the protesters:

Bu'n brotest heddychlon ac effeithiol a hynny gan bobl a wyddai y derbynient sarhad y mwyafrif... Ond safasant dros egwyddor a hwy oedd arwyr mwyaf dydd Sadwrn.

[It was a peaceful and effective protest by people who knew they would receive the insults of the majority... But they stood by their principles, and they were the main heroes of Saturday]

The words were anathema to the Urdd's director R E Griffith, and I remember a long and heated telephone discussion between him and Llion Griffiths on the day the paper reached the shops.

Site of the explosion at Abergele
Site of the explosion at Abergele

On the eve of the investiture I travelled from the office in Oswestry to stay the night at my parents' house in Llŷn, to be nearer Caernarfon. I was woken up in the morning by a radio news report that two men had been killed by a bomb near the railway line at Abergele where the Royal Family were due to travel later in the day. As I approached Caernarfon the road was lined with military vehicles carrying some of the 4,000 soldiers who had been billeted for weeks at Llandwrog. I had to park some distance from the castle, in one of the special car parks set up across the Aber bridge. The town square was awash with policemen and soldiers. Possibly because of the jeans, I was challenged almost every step by someone demanding to see my official invitation and making me empty my pockets. The only item of note I carried was a food pack to sustain me through the performance - once you took your seat you were not allowed to leave. Never in history were cheese sandwiches and a banana so thoroughly examined.

My recollections of the rest of the day are rather fragmented. I remember seeing a row of Welsh MPs, including Elystan Morgan, Goronwy Roberts, Cledwyn Hughes and Wil Edwards, in their penguin suits. George Thomas read some medieval proclamation in impeccable Welsh, apart from saying "gwialen awr" [hourly sceptre] instead of "gwialen aur" [gold scepte]. And a loud band of Americans near me got excited when they saw "our Trish" - President Nixon's daughter. I took special notice of Côr Godre'r Aran, a choir that had been torn asunder by the invitation to take part, before the majority bowed to the will of their conductor Tom Jones who was determined to attend. Not all the choristers sang.

Sitting beside me in the press enclave was a Scot who was a reporter on a local newspaper. He kept muttering disrespectful and rather republican sentiments, while at the same time scribbling a rather sycophantic report. On my other side there was a tall muscular man with close cropped hair who looked like the epitome of a special branch officer. Had he been deployed to keep watch on the representative of that subversive publication, Y Cymro? My suspicions were reinforced when I caught a glance of the invitation protruding from his pocket. His name was Mr Welshman.

For a long time afterwards I prided myself on having once been considered a threat to the security of the realm. Then about ten years ago, in a casual chat to a man from Caernarfon in a pub, I related the story and said I had never in my life met anybody with the surname "Welshman". "Oh I have," said my friend. "There's a large family of them in Caernarfon." It was that kind of year, 1969.

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