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Saunders Lewis

Saunders Lewis (born John Saunders Lewis) (15 October 1893 – 1 September 1985) was a Welsh political activist, poet, dramatist, historian and literary critic. He was a prominent Welsh nationalist and one of the founders of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (the National Party of Wales), later known as Plaid Cymru. Lewis is usually acknowledged as one of the most prominent figures of 20th century Welsh-language literature. In 1970, Lewis was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis was voted the tenth greatest Welsh hero in the '100 Welsh Heroes' poll, released on St. David's Day 2004.

Saunders Lewis
Saunders Lewis as an army officer in 1916
President of Plaid Cymru
In office
1926–1939
Preceded byLewis Valentine
Succeeded byJohn Edward Daniel
Personal details
Born
John Saunders Lewis

15 October 1893
Wallasey, Cheshire
Died1 September 1985(1985-09-01) (aged 91)
Cardiff, Wales
Political partyPlaid Cymru
Spouse(s)
Margaret Gilcriest
(m. 1924; died 1984)​
Children1
Alma materUniversity of Liverpool

Contents

John Saunders Lewis was born into a Welsh family living in Wallasey, England, on 15 October 1893. He was the second of three sons of Lodwig Lewis (1859–1933), a Calvinistic Methodist minister, and his wife Mary Margaret (née Thomas, 1862–1900). Lewis attended Liscard High School for Boys and went on to study English and French at Liverpool University.

When the First World War broke out, Lewis enlisted as a volunteer with the King's Liverpool Regiment in September 1914, and in April 1915 applied for a commission with the South Wales Borderers and was promoted to full lieutenant in February 1916. He served in France and was wounded in the Battle of Cambrai.

During the war, Lewis read the series of novels The Cult of the Self (French: Le Culte du moi) by the French writer Maurice Barrès. Barrès, a French nationalist, heavily influenced Lewis' own Welsh nationalism.

In 1922, he was appointed as lecturer in Welsh literature at the University College of Wales, Swansea. During his time at Swansea he produced some of his most significant works of literary criticism: A School of Welsh Augustans (1924), Williams Pantycelyn (1927), and Braslun o hanes llenyddiaeth Gymraeg [cy] (An outline history of Welsh literature) (1932). He continued in this post until his dismissal for a political act of arson at Penyberth, Gwynedd, in 1936.

Discussions of the need for a "Welsh party" had been conducted since the 19th century. With the generation or so before 1922 there "had been a marked growth in the constitutional recognition of the Welsh nation," wrote historian John Davies. By 1924 there were people in Wales "eager to make their nationality the focus of Welsh politics." Lewis's experiences in World War I, and his sympathy for the cause of Irish independence, brought him to Welsh nationalism.

In 1924, Lewis founded Y Mudiad Cymreig ("The Welsh Movement") with a small group of fellow nationalists. The group met secretly for the first time in Penarth on 7 January 1924. The group continued to meet in secret throughout 1924 and began drawing up a set of aims and policies intended to "rescue Wales from political and cultural oblivion."

At around the same time as Lewis formed Y Mudiad Cymreig, another group of nationalists formed Byddin Ymreolwyr Cymru ("The Welsh Home Rule Army") in Caernarfon. The group was led by Huw Robert Jones, who made contact with Lewis in early 1925 and proposed to form a new political party.

A plaque was inaugurated to mark the 75th anniversary of Plaid Cymru's founding meeting in 2000, on the building where the meeting took place in Pwllheli.

Lewis met with Jones, Lewis Valentine, Moses Griffith, Fred Jones and D. Edmund Williams in a café called Maes Gwyn during the 1925 National Eisteddfod in Pwllheli, Gwynedd, with the aim of establishing a "Welsh party". They founded Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru ("National Party of Wales"), on 5 August 1925. The principal aim of the party would be to foster a Welsh speaking Wales. To this end it was agreed that party business be conducted in Welsh, and that members sever all links with other British parties. Lewis insisted on these principles before he would agree to the Pwllheli conference.

According to the 1911 census, out of a population of just under 2.5 million, 43.5% of the total population of Wales spoke Welsh as a primary language. This was a decrease from the 1891 census with 54.4% speaking Welsh out of a population of 1.5 million. With these pre-requisites, Lewis condemned "'Welsh nationalism' as it had hitherto existed, a nationalism characterized by inter-party conferences, an obsession with Westminster and a willingness to accept a subservient position for the Welsh language," wrote Davies. It may be because of these strict positions that the party failed to attract politicians of experience in its early years. However, the party's members believed its founding was an achievement in itself; "merely by existing, the party was a declaration of the distinctiveness of Wales," wrote Davies.

During the inter-war years, Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru was most successful as a social and educational pressure group rather than as a political party. For Saunders Lewis, party president 1926 – 1939, "the chief aim of the party [is] to 'take away from the Welsh their sense of inferiority... to remove from our beloved country the mark and shame of conquest.'" Lewis sought to cast Welshness into a new context, wrote Davies.

Lewis wished to demonstrate how Welsh heritage was linked as one of the 'founders of European civilization. Lewis, a self-described "strong monarchist", wrote "Civilization is more than an abstraction. It must have a local habitation and name. Here its name is Wales." Additionally, Lewis strove for the stability and well-being of Welsh-speaking communities, decried both capitalism and socialism and promoted what he called perchentyaeth: a policy of "distributing property among the masses".

Lewis was, in fact, ill-equipped to lead any party, or indeed even convince his immediate colleagues of his theories. Historian Geraint H. Jenkins writes:- "..Lewis was a cold fish. His reedy voice, bow tie, cerebral style and aristocratic contempt for the proletariat were hardly endearing qualities in a political leader, and his conversion to Catholicism lost him the sympathy of fervent Nonconformists. Heavily influenced by the discourse of right-wing French theorists, this profoundly authoritarian figure developed a grand strategy, such as it was, based on the deindustrialization of Wales. Such a scheme was both impractical and unpopular. It caused grave embarrassment to his socialist colleague D. J. Davies, a progressive economist who, writing with force and passion, showed a much better grasp of the economic realities of the time and greater sensitivity towards the plight of working people.

Saunders Lewis perceived the early development of BBC radio broadcasting in Wales (which was almost entirely in English) as serious threat to his aim of arresting the decline of the Welsh language (then down to 36%) and turning Wales back into a 100% Welsh-speaking nation. At the same time he also recognised that if he could exert influence and pressure on the BBC, the Corporation could become a useful tool to serve Plaid Cymru's political ends. In 1929 he declared it would soon be necessary to arrange for "thousands of Welshmen to be prosecuted for refusing to pay for English programmes". The following year Lewis was commissioned by E.R. Appleton, Director of the BBC's Cardiff radio station, (who had banned broadcasting in Welsh) to broadcast a talk which would "explain Welsh Nationalism". On vetting the script, which advocated political nationalism in preference to "cultural nationalism", Appleton decided it was too controversial and inflammatory to be broadcast. In October 1933 the University of Wales Council, which had been lobbying for more Welsh-language broadcasting, appointed a ten-man council to press the case with the BBC. It included David Lloyd George, William George, W. J. Gruffydd and Saunders Lewis – who was continuing to incense the BBC by publicly alleging it was "seeking the destruction of the Welsh language". The University Committee, which was described by BBC Director General John Reith as "the most unpleasant and unreliable people with whom it has been my misfortune to deal" gained ever more influence on the BBC in Wales not least in the selection of BBC staff – a function delegated to the Committee by the Corporation. As newspapers of the time noted, appointees seemed primarily drawn from the families of the Welsh-speaking elite including "the son of a professor of Welsh and the offspring of three archdruids". Saunders Lewis's assiduous campaigning over the years was to succeed in cementing an ongoing Plaid Cymru influence within the BBC. When the BBC's Welsh Advisory Council was eventually established in 1946, although half its members were Labour, several Plaid Cymru supporters were appointed including Saunders Lewis's successor as Plaid Cymru president, Gwynfor Evans.

Welsh nationalism was ignited in 1936 when the UK Government settled on establishing an RAF training camp and aerodrome at Penyberth on the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd. The events surrounding the protest, known as Tân yn Llŷn ("Fire in Llŷn"), helped define Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru. The UK Government settled on Llŷn as the site for its training camp after similar proposed sites in Northumberland and Dorset met with protests.

However, UK Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to hear the case against building this 'bombing school' in Wales, despite a deputation representing 500,000 Welsh protesters. Protest against the project was summed up by Lewis when he wrote that the UK Government was intent upon turning one of the "essential homes of Welsh culture, idiom, and literature" into a place for promoting a barbaric method of warfare. Construction of this military academy began exactly 400 years after the first Act of Union annexing Wales into England.

On 8 September 1936, the building was set on fire and in the investigations which followed Saunders Lewis, Lewis Valentine, and D. J. Williams claimed responsibility. They were tried at Caernarfon, where the jury failed to agree on a verdict. The case was then sent to be retried at the Old Bailey in London, where the "Three" were convicted, and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. On their release from Wormwood Scrubs, they were greeted as heroes by 15,000 Welsh people at a pavilion in Caernarfon.

Llosgi'r Ysgol Fomio: "The Burning of the Bombing School"

Many Welsh people were angered by the judge's scornful treatment of the Welsh language, by the decision to move the trial to London, and by the decision of University College, Swansea, to dismiss Lewis from his post before he had been found guilty. Dafydd Glyn Jones wrote of the fire that it was "the first time in five centuries that Wales struck back at England with a measure of violence... To the Welsh people, who had long ceased to believe that they had it in them, it was a profound shock."

However, despite the acclaim the events of Tân yn Llŷn generated, by 1938 Lewis's concept of perchentyaeth ("home ownership") had been firmly rejected as not a fundamental tenet of the party. In 1939 Lewis resigned as Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru president, saying that Wales was not ready to accept the leadership of a Roman Catholic.

Lewis was the son and grandson of prominent Welsh Calvinistic Methodist ministers. In 1932, he had converted to Roman Catholicism.

Lewis maintained a strict neutrality in his writings through his column Cwrs y Byd in Y Faner. It was his attempt at an unbiased interpretation of the causes and events of the war.

Outside of the party's initial position on the war, party members were free to choose for themselves their level of support for the war effort. Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru was officially neutral regarding involvement the Second World War, which Lewis and other leaders considered a continuation of the First World War. Central to the neutrality policy was the idea that Wales, as a nation, had the right to decide independently on its attitude towards war, and the rejection of other nations to force Welshmen to serve in their armed forces. With this challenging and revolutionary policy Lewis hoped a significant number of Welshmen would refuse to join the British Army.

Lewis and other party members were attempting to strengthen loyalty to the Welsh nation "over the loyalty to the British State". Lewis argued "The only proof that the Welsh nation exists is that there are some who act as if it did exist."

However, most party members who claimed conscientious objection status did so in the context of their moral and religious beliefs, rather than on political policy. Of these almost all were exempt from military service. About 24 party members made politics their sole grounds for exemption, of whom 12 received prison sentences. For Lewis, those who objected proved that the assimilation of Wales was "being withstood, even under the most extreme pressures".

Prior to 1950, universities could elect and return representatives to the House of Commons. The University of Wales seat had become vacant when the constituency's Liberal Member of Parliament, Ernest Evans, had been appointed a county court judge in 1942. Lewis was selected to contest the seat for Plaid Cymru in the ensuing 1943 University of Wales by-election.

His opponent was former Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru Deputy Vice-President Dr William John Gruffydd. Gruffydd had been voicing doubts about Lewis's ideas since 1933, and by 1943 he had left Plaid Cymru and joined the Liberal Party. His other opponent, independent candidate Alun Talfan Davies, was another former member of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru who would later become Chairman of the Welsh Liberal Party.

The "brilliant but wayward" Gruffydd was a favorite with Welsh-speaking intellectuals and drew 52.3% of the vote, to Lewis's 22.5%.

The election effectively split the Welsh-speaking intelligentsia, and left Lewis embittered with politics, leading him to retreat from direct political involvement. However the experience proved invaluable for Plaid Cymru, as "for the first time they were taken seriously as a political force." The by-election campaign led directly to "considerable growth" in the party's membership.

In 1962 Lewis gave a radio speech entitled Tynged yr iaith ("The Fate of the Language") in which he predicted the extinction of the Welsh language unless action was taken. Lewis's intention was to motivate Plaid Cymru into more direct action promoting the language; however it led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) later that year at a Plaid Cymru summer school held in Pontardawe in Glamorgan. The foundation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg allowed Plaid Cymru to focus on electoral politics, while the Cymdeithas focused on promoting the language.

Lewis's radio speech was in response to the 1961 census, which showed a decrease in the percentage of Welsh speakers from 36% in 1931 to 26%, of the population of about 2.5 million. In the census the counties of Meirionnydd (Merionethshire), Ynys Môn (Anglesey), Caerfyrddin (Carmarthenshire), and Caernarfon (Caernarvonshire) averaged a 75% proportion of Welsh speakers, with the most significant decreases in the counties of Glamorgan, Flint, and Pembroke.

Responding to calls for Welsh devolution, in 1964 the Labour Government established the Welsh Office (Welsh: Swyddfa Gymreig) and Secretary of State for Wales.

In 1970, Lewis was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His literary works include plays, poetry, novels and essays. He wrote mostly in Welsh, but he also wrote some works in English. By the time of his death in 1985 some rated him as amongst the most celebrated of Welsh writers.

Lewis's perceived "elitist" views, "and a "condescending attitude towards some aspects of the Nonconformist, radical and pacifist traditions of Wales" drew criticism from fellow nationalists such as D. J. Davies, a leftist party member. Davies argued in favour of engaging English-speaking Welsh communities, and stressed the territorial integrity of Wales. Davies pointed towards Scandinavian countries as a model to emulate, and was active in the economic implications of Welsh self-government.

In many ways it was D. J. Davies's ideal of Welsh nationalism which was adopted after the Second World War, wrote John Davies. But it was Lewis's "brilliance and charismatic appeal" which was firmly associated with Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru in the 1930s.

In 1936, in the midst of the turmoil of Tân yn Llŷn, Lewis praised Adolf Hitler when he said "At once he fulfilled his promise — a promise which was greatly mocked by the London papers months before that — to completely abolish the financial strength of the Jews in the economic life of Germany."

In 2001 Dafydd Elis-Thomas, himself a former Plaid Cymru President, declared in a television documentary on Lewis that he was "lousy as a politician, lousy as a writer, but a good Catholic".

Lewis was above all a dramatist. His notable plays include Blodeuwedd (The woman of flowers) (1923–25, revised 1948), Buchedd Garmon (The life of Germanus) (radio play, 1936), Siwan (1956), Gymerwch chi sigarét? (Will you have a cigarette?) (1956), Brad (Treachery) (1958), Esther (1960), and Cymru fydd (Tomorrow's Wales) (1967). He also translated Samuel Beckett's En attendant Godot from French into Welsh. His plays drew on a wide range of material and covered a range of subject matter including Welsh mythology and history, as well as the Bible, although he also wrote plays set in contemporary Wales.

Lewis wrote the libretto for Arwel Hughes's opera Serch yw'r doctor (Love’s the doctor), based on Molière's L'Amour médecin (first performance 1960 by Welsh National Opera).

He published two novels, Monica (1930) and Merch Gwern Hywel (The daughter of Gwern Hywel) (1964) and two collections of poems as well as numerous articles and essays in various newspapers, magazines and journals. These articles have been collected into volumes including: Canlyn Arthur (Following Arthur) (1938), Ysgrifau dydd Mercher (Wednesday essays) (1945), Meistri'r canrifoedd (Masters of the centuries) (1973), Meistri a'u crefft (Masters and their craft) (1981) and Ati ŵyr ifainc (Go to it, young men) (1986).

Published translations

In March 1983, at the age of 89, Saunders Lewis was made an honorary Doctor of Letters of the University of Wales at a ceremony specially conducted at his home in Penarth. The Catholic Herald, reporting the honour, noted that in the previous year Lewis had made a plea for Mass to be said in Latin in Wales rather than in the "foreign language of English", which he pointed out was "a later arrival".

Lewis contested the University of Wales Constituency on two occasions, once in the General election of 1931;

General election 1931: University of Wales
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Ernest Evans 2,229 75.4 +11.9
Plaid Cymru Saunders Lewis 914 24.6 N/A
Majority 1,315 50.8 +12.2
Turnout 3,143
Liberal hold Swing N/A

and again in the University of Wales by-election of 1943.

25–29 January 1943 by-election: University of Wales
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal William John Gruffydd 3,098 52.3 -9.0
Plaid Cymru Saunders Lewis 1,330 22.5 N/A
Independent Alun Talfan Davies 755 12.8 N/A
Independent Labour Evan Davies 634 10.7 N/A
Independent Labour N.L. Evans 101 1.7 N/A
Majority 1,768 29.8 +7.2
Turnout 5,918 53.4 -9.0
Registered electors 11,079
Liberal hold Swing N/A
  1. Bevan is ultimate Welsh hero extracted 12-04-07
  2. Chapman, T. Robin (2014). "Lewis, John Saunders". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. Retrieved19 May 2018.
  3. Williams, Gwyn A. (1993). "Saunders Lewis: Alien Face In The Mirror". Writ‌ing On The Line. Channel 4.
  4. Kendall, Tim (22 February 2007). The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry. OUP Oxford. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-19-928266-1.
  5. "BBC - Saunders Lewis".
  6. Davies (1994a), pp. 415, 454
  7. Davies (1994a), p. 544
  8. Davies (1994a), p. 547
  9. "PENARTH'S SECRET ROLE IN WELSH HISTORY". Plaid Cymru Penarth. 5 December 2013.
  10. "Site of Plaid Cymru's founding, Pwllheli". History Points.
  11. Morgan (2002), p. 206
  12. Davies (1994a), p. 548
  13. BBCWales History extracted 12-03-07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. BBCWales history extracted 12-03-07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Davies (1994a), p. 591
  16. "Royal plans to beat nationalism". BBC News. 8 March 2005. Retrieved28 August 2012.
  17. Jenkins (2007)
  18. Manchester Guardian 1 August 1929
  19. Davies (1994b)
  20. Davies (1994b), pp. 70–71
  21. RAF Penrhos
  22. Davies (1994a), p. 593
  23. Davies (1994a), p. 592
  24. Davies (1994a), p. 599
  25. Davies (1994a), p. 598
  26. Davies (1994a), p. 610
  27. Davies (1994a), p. 611
  28. Morgan (2002)
  29. BBCWales History extracted 12-03-07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  30. BBCWales History extracted 12-03-07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  31. Davies (1994a), pp. 591–592
  32. United Kingdom Parliament: Debate on Government of Wales Act 1998. Retrieved 31 August 2006.
  33. "Plaid founder blasted". WalesOnline. 26 March 2013. Retrieved16 March 2016.
  34. "Serch yw'r Doctor (Love's the Doctor)". Opening Night! Opera & Oratorio Premieres. Stanford University Library. Retrieved16 May 2014.
  35. The Catholic Herald 4 March 1983

Sources

  • Griffiths, Bruce (1989), Saunders Lewis. Writers of Wales series. Cardiff: University of Wales Pres. ISBN 0-7083-1049-4.
  • Jones, Alun R. & Gwyn Thomas (Eds.) (1973), Presenting Saunders Lewis. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-0852-X.
  • Jones, Harri Pritchard (1991), Saunders Lewis: A Presentation of His Work. Illinois: Templegate. ISBN 0-87243-187-8.
  • 'Lewis, Saunders (1893–1985)'. In Meic Stephens (Ed.) (1998), The New Companion to the Literature of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1383-3.
  • Chapman, T. Robin (2006), Un Bywyd o Blith Nifer: Cofiant Saunders Lewis. Llandysul: Gomer. ISBN 1-84323-709-1 (in Welsh; the only complete biography).

Bibliography

Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
Vice President of Plaid Cymru
1925–1926
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
President of Plaid Cymru
1926–1939
Succeeded by

Saunders Lewis
Saunders Lewis Language Watch Edit Saunders Lewis born John Saunders Lewis 15 October 1893 1 September 1985 was a Welsh political activist poet dramatist historian and literary critic He was a prominent Welsh nationalist and one of the founders of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru the National Party of Wales later known as Plaid Cymru Lewis is usually acknowledged as one of the most prominent figures of 20th century Welsh language literature In 1970 Lewis was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature Lewis was voted the tenth greatest Welsh hero in the 100 Welsh Heroes poll released on St David s Day 2004 1 Saunders LewisSaunders Lewis as an army officer in 1916President of Plaid CymruIn office 1926 1939Preceded byLewis ValentineSucceeded byJohn Edward DanielPersonal detailsBornJohn Saunders Lewis 15 October 1893 Wallasey CheshireDied1 September 1985 1985 09 01 aged 91 Cardiff WalesPolitical partyPlaid CymruSpouse s Margaret Gilcriest m 1924 died 1984 wbr Children1Alma materUniversity of Liverpool Contents 1 Early life 2 First World War 3 Return to Wales 4 Founding Plaid Cymru 5 The Lewis Doctrine 1926 1939 6 Broadcasting 7 Tan yn Llŷn 1936 8 Second World War 9 University of Wales by election 1943 10 Tynged yr Iaith and the 1961 census 11 Nobel nominee 12 Political criticisms 13 Literary activity 13 1 Published translations 14 Honorary doctorate and demand for Latin mass 15 Electoral record 16 References 16 1 Sources 16 2 Bibliography 17 External linksEarly life EditJohn Saunders Lewis was born into a Welsh family living in Wallasey England on 15 October 1893 He was the second of three sons of Lodwig Lewis 1859 1933 a Calvinistic Methodist minister and his wife Mary Margaret nee Thomas 1862 1900 Lewis attended Liscard High School for Boys 2 and went on to study English and French at Liverpool University First World War EditWhen the First World War broke out Lewis enlisted as a volunteer with the King s Liverpool Regiment in September 1914 and in April 1915 applied for a commission with the South Wales Borderers and was promoted to full lieutenant in February 1916 He served in France and was wounded in the Battle of Cambrai 3 During the war Lewis read the series of novels The Cult of the Self French Le Culte du moi by the French writer Maurice Barres Barres a French nationalist heavily influenced Lewis own Welsh nationalism 3 Return to Wales EditIn 1922 he was appointed as lecturer in Welsh literature at the University College of Wales Swansea During his time at Swansea he produced some of his most significant works of literary criticism A School of Welsh Augustans 1924 Williams Pantycelyn 1927 and Braslun o hanes llenyddiaeth Gymraeg cy An outline history of Welsh literature 1932 4 He continued in this post until his dismissal for a political act of arson at Penyberth Gwynedd in 1936 5 Founding Plaid Cymru EditDiscussions of the need for a Welsh party had been conducted since the 19th century 6 With the generation or so before 1922 there had been a marked growth in the constitutional recognition of the Welsh nation wrote historian John Davies 7 By 1924 there were people in Wales eager to make their nationality the focus of Welsh politics 8 Lewis s experiences in World War I and his sympathy for the cause of Irish independence brought him to Welsh nationalism In 1924 Lewis founded Y Mudiad Cymreig The Welsh Movement with a small group of fellow nationalists The group met secretly for the first time in Penarth on 7 January 1924 9 The group continued to meet in secret throughout 1924 and began drawing up a set of aims and policies intended to rescue Wales from political and cultural oblivion At around the same time as Lewis formed Y Mudiad Cymreig another group of nationalists formed Byddin Ymreolwyr Cymru The Welsh Home Rule Army in Caernarfon 10 The group was led by Huw Robert Jones who made contact with Lewis in early 1925 and proposed to form a new political party 9 A plaque was inaugurated to mark the 75th anniversary of Plaid Cymru s founding meeting in 2000 on the building where the meeting took place in Pwllheli Lewis met with Jones Lewis Valentine Moses Griffith Fred Jones and D Edmund Williams in a cafe called Maes Gwyn 10 during the 1925 National Eisteddfod in Pwllheli Gwynedd with the aim of establishing a Welsh party 8 They founded Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru National Party of Wales on 5 August 1925 11 The principal aim of the party would be to foster a Welsh speaking Wales 12 To this end it was agreed that party business be conducted in Welsh and that members sever all links with other British parties 12 Lewis insisted on these principles before he would agree to the Pwllheli conference According to the 1911 census out of a population of just under 2 5 million 43 5 of the total population of Wales spoke Welsh as a primary language 13 This was a decrease from the 1891 census with 54 4 speaking Welsh out of a population of 1 5 million 14 With these pre requisites Lewis condemned Welsh nationalism as it had hitherto existed a nationalism characterized by inter party conferences an obsession with Westminster and a willingness to accept a subservient position for the Welsh language wrote Davies 12 It may be because of these strict positions that the party failed to attract politicians of experience in its early years 12 However the party s members believed its founding was an achievement in itself merely by existing the party was a declaration of the distinctiveness of Wales wrote Davies 12 The Lewis Doctrine 1926 1939 EditDuring the inter war years Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru was most successful as a social and educational pressure group rather than as a political party 15 For Saunders Lewis party president 1926 1939 the chief aim of the party is to take away from the Welsh their sense of inferiority to remove from our beloved country the mark and shame of conquest Lewis sought to cast Welshness into a new context wrote Davies 15 Lewis wished to demonstrate how Welsh heritage was linked as one of the founders of European civilization 15 Lewis a self described strong monarchist wrote Civilization is more than an abstraction It must have a local habitation and name Here its name is Wales 15 16 Additionally Lewis strove for the stability and well being of Welsh speaking communities decried both capitalism and socialism and promoted what he called perchentyaeth a policy of distributing property among the masses 15 Lewis was in fact ill equipped to lead any party or indeed even convince his immediate colleagues of his theories Historian Geraint H Jenkins writes Lewis was a cold fish His reedy voice bow tie cerebral style and aristocratic contempt for the proletariat were hardly endearing qualities in a political leader and his conversion to Catholicism lost him the sympathy of fervent Nonconformists Heavily influenced by the discourse of right wing French theorists this profoundly authoritarian figure developed a grand strategy such as it was based on the deindustrialization of Wales Such a scheme was both impractical and unpopular It caused grave embarrassment to his socialist colleague D J Davies a progressive economist who writing with force and passion showed a much better grasp of the economic realities of the time and greater sensitivity towards the plight of working people 17 Broadcasting EditSaunders Lewis perceived the early development of BBC radio broadcasting in Wales which was almost entirely in English as serious threat to his aim of arresting the decline of the Welsh language then down to 36 and turning Wales back into a 100 Welsh speaking nation At the same time he also recognised that if he could exert influence and pressure on the BBC the Corporation could become a useful tool to serve Plaid Cymru s political ends In 1929 he declared it would soon be necessary to arrange for thousands of Welshmen to be prosecuted for refusing to pay for English programmes 18 The following year Lewis was commissioned by E R Appleton Director of the BBC s Cardiff radio station who had banned broadcasting in Welsh to broadcast a talk which would explain Welsh Nationalism On vetting the script which advocated political nationalism in preference to cultural nationalism Appleton decided it was too controversial and inflammatory to be broadcast 19 In October 1933 the University of Wales Council which had been lobbying for more Welsh language broadcasting appointed a ten man council to press the case with the BBC It included David Lloyd George William George W J Gruffydd and Saunders Lewis who was continuing to incense the BBC by publicly alleging it was seeking the destruction of the Welsh language The University Committee which was described by BBC Director General John Reith as the most unpleasant and unreliable people with whom it has been my misfortune to deal gained ever more influence on the BBC in Wales not least in the selection of BBC staff a function delegated to the Committee by the Corporation As newspapers of the time noted appointees seemed primarily drawn from the families of the Welsh speaking elite including the son of a professor of Welsh and the offspring of three archdruids 20 Saunders Lewis s assiduous campaigning over the years was to succeed in cementing an ongoing Plaid Cymru influence within the BBC When the BBC s Welsh Advisory Council was eventually established in 1946 although half its members were Labour several Plaid Cymru supporters were appointed including Saunders Lewis s successor as Plaid Cymru president Gwynfor Evans 19 Tan yn Llŷn 1936 EditWelsh nationalism was ignited in 1936 when the UK Government settled on establishing an RAF training camp and aerodrome at Penyberth 21 on the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd The events surrounding the protest known as Tan yn Llŷn Fire in Llŷn helped define Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru 22 The UK Government settled on Llŷn as the site for its training camp after similar proposed sites in Northumberland and Dorset met with protests 23 However UK Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin refused to hear the case against building this bombing school in Wales despite a deputation representing 500 000 Welsh protesters 23 Protest against the project was summed up by Lewis when he wrote that the UK Government was intent upon turning one of the essential homes of Welsh culture idiom and literature into a place for promoting a barbaric method of warfare 23 Construction of this military academy began exactly 400 years after the first Act of Union annexing Wales into England 23 On 8 September 1936 the building was set on fire and in the investigations which followed Saunders Lewis Lewis Valentine and D J Williams claimed responsibility 23 They were tried at Caernarfon where the jury failed to agree on a verdict The case was then sent to be retried at the Old Bailey in London where the Three were convicted and sentenced to nine months imprisonment On their release from Wormwood Scrubs they were greeted as heroes by 15 000 Welsh people at a pavilion in Caernarfon 23 Llosgi r Ysgol Fomio The Burning of the Bombing School Many Welsh people were angered by the judge s scornful treatment of the Welsh language by the decision to move the trial to London and by the decision of University College Swansea to dismiss Lewis from his post before he had been found guilty 22 Dafydd Glyn Jones wrote of the fire that it was the first time in five centuries that Wales struck back at England with a measure of violence To the Welsh people who had long ceased to believe that they had it in them it was a profound shock 22 However despite the acclaim the events of Tan yn Llŷn generated by 1938 Lewis s concept of perchentyaeth home ownership had been firmly rejected as not a fundamental tenet of the party In 1939 Lewis resigned as Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru president saying that Wales was not ready to accept the leadership of a Roman Catholic 22 Lewis was the son and grandson of prominent Welsh Calvinistic Methodist ministers In 1932 he had converted to Roman Catholicism Second World War EditLewis maintained a strict neutrality in his writings through his column Cwrs y Byd in Y Faner It was his attempt at an unbiased interpretation of the causes and events of the war 24 Outside of the party s initial position on the war party members were free to choose for themselves their level of support for the war effort Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru was officially neutral regarding involvement the Second World War which Lewis and other leaders considered a continuation of the First World War Central to the neutrality policy was the idea that Wales as a nation had the right to decide independently on its attitude towards war 25 and the rejection of other nations to force Welshmen to serve in their armed forces 25 With this challenging and revolutionary policy Lewis hoped a significant number of Welshmen would refuse to join the British Army 24 Lewis and other party members were attempting to strengthen loyalty to the Welsh nation over the loyalty to the British State 25 Lewis argued The only proof that the Welsh nation exists is that there are some who act as if it did exist 24 However most party members who claimed conscientious objection status did so in the context of their moral and religious beliefs rather than on political policy 24 Of these almost all were exempt from military service About 24 party members made politics their sole grounds for exemption of whom 12 received prison sentences 24 For Lewis those who objected proved that the assimilation of Wales was being withstood even under the most extreme pressures 24 University of Wales by election 1943 EditPrior to 1950 universities could elect and return representatives to the House of Commons The University of Wales seat had become vacant when the constituency s Liberal Member of Parliament Ernest Evans had been appointed a county court judge in 1942 Lewis was selected to contest the seat for Plaid Cymru in the ensuing 1943 University of Wales by election His opponent was former Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru Deputy Vice President Dr William John Gruffydd Gruffydd had been voicing doubts about Lewis s ideas since 1933 26 and by 1943 he had left Plaid Cymru and joined the Liberal Party His other opponent independent candidate Alun Talfan Davies was another former member of Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru who would later become Chairman of the Welsh Liberal Party The brilliant but wayward Gruffydd was a favorite with Welsh speaking intellectuals and drew 52 3 of the vote to Lewis s 22 5 26 The election effectively split the Welsh speaking intelligentsia and left Lewis embittered with politics leading him to retreat from direct political involvement 27 However the experience proved invaluable for Plaid Cymru as for the first time they were taken seriously as a political force 27 The by election campaign led directly to considerable growth in the party s membership 27 Tynged yr Iaith and the 1961 census EditIn 1962 Lewis gave a radio speech entitled Tynged yr iaith The Fate of the Language in which he predicted the extinction of the Welsh language unless action was taken Lewis s intention was to motivate Plaid Cymru into more direct action promoting the language however it led to the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg Welsh Language Society later that year at a Plaid Cymru summer school held in Pontardawe in Glamorgan 28 The foundation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg allowed Plaid Cymru to focus on electoral politics while the Cymdeithas focused on promoting the language Lewis s radio speech was in response to the 1961 census which showed a decrease in the percentage of Welsh speakers from 36 in 1931 to 26 of the population of about 2 5 million 29 In the census the counties of Meirionnydd Merionethshire Ynys Mon Anglesey Caerfyrddin Carmarthenshire and Caernarfon Caernarvonshire averaged a 75 proportion of Welsh speakers with the most significant decreases in the counties of Glamorgan Flint and Pembroke 29 30 Responding to calls for Welsh devolution in 1964 the Labour Government established the Welsh Office Welsh Swyddfa Gymreig and Secretary of State for Wales Nobel nominee EditIn 1970 Lewis was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature His literary works include plays poetry novels and essays He wrote mostly in Welsh but he also wrote some works in English By the time of his death in 1985 some rated him as amongst the most celebrated of Welsh writers Political criticisms EditLewis s perceived elitist views and a condescending attitude towards some aspects of the Nonconformist radical and pacifist traditions of Wales drew criticism from fellow nationalists such as D J Davies a leftist party member 15 Davies argued in favour of engaging English speaking Welsh communities and stressed the territorial integrity of Wales Davies pointed towards Scandinavian countries as a model to emulate and was active in the economic implications of Welsh self government 31 In many ways it was D J Davies s ideal of Welsh nationalism which was adopted after the Second World War wrote John Davies But it was Lewis s brilliance and charismatic appeal which was firmly associated with Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru in the 1930s 23 In 1936 in the midst of the turmoil of Tan yn Llŷn Lewis praised Adolf Hitler when he said At once he fulfilled his promise a promise which was greatly mocked by the London papers months before that to completely abolish the financial strength of the Jews in the economic life of Germany 32 In 2001 Dafydd Elis Thomas himself a former Plaid Cymru President declared in a television documentary on Lewis that he was lousy as a politician lousy as a writer but a good Catholic 33 Literary activity EditLewis was above all a dramatist His notable plays include Blodeuwedd The woman of flowers 1923 25 revised 1948 Buchedd Garmon The life of Germanus radio play 1936 Siwan 1956 Gymerwch chi sigaret Will you have a cigarette 1956 Brad Treachery 1958 Esther 1960 and Cymru fydd Tomorrow s Wales 1967 He also translated Samuel Beckett s En attendant Godot from French into Welsh His plays drew on a wide range of material and covered a range of subject matter including Welsh mythology and history as well as the Bible although he also wrote plays set in contemporary Wales Lewis wrote the libretto for Arwel Hughes s opera Serch yw r doctor Love s the doctor based on Moliere s L Amour medecin first performance 1960 by Welsh National Opera 34 He published two novels Monica 1930 and Merch Gwern Hywel The daughter of Gwern Hywel 1964 and two collections of poems as well as numerous articles and essays in various newspapers magazines and journals These articles have been collected into volumes including Canlyn Arthur Following Arthur 1938 Ysgrifau dydd Mercher Wednesday essays 1945 Meistri r canrifoedd Masters of the centuries 1973 Meistri a u crefft Masters and their craft 1981 and Ati ŵyr ifainc Go to it young men 1986 Published translations Edit Lewis Saunders 1997 1930 Monica Translated by Stephens Meic Bridgend Seren ISBN 1 85411 195 7 Lewis Saunders 1985 2002 The Plays of Saunders Lewis 4 vols translated by Joseph P Clancy ISBN 0 9540569 4 9 ISBN 0 7154 0648 5 0954056957 0715406523 Lewis Saunders 1993 Selected Poems translated by Joseph P Clancy Cardiff University of Wales Press ISBN 0 7083 1194 6 Honorary doctorate and demand for Latin mass EditIn March 1983 at the age of 89 Saunders Lewis was made an honorary Doctor of Letters of the University of Wales at a ceremony specially conducted at his home in Penarth The Catholic Herald reporting the honour noted that in the previous year Lewis had made a plea for Mass to be said in Latin in Wales rather than in the foreign language of English which he pointed out was a later arrival 35 Electoral record EditLewis contested the University of Wales Constituency on two occasions once in the General election of 1931 General election 1931 University of Wales Party Candidate Votes Liberal Ernest Evans 2 229 75 4 11 9Plaid Cymru Saunders Lewis 914 24 6 N AMajority 1 315 50 8 12 2Turnout 3 143Liberal hold Swing N A and again in the University of Wales by election of 1943 25 29 January 1943 by election University of Wales Party Candidate Votes Liberal William John Gruffydd 3 098 52 3 9 0Plaid Cymru Saunders Lewis 1 330 22 5 N AIndependent Alun Talfan Davies 755 12 8 N AIndependent Labour Evan Davies 634 10 7 N AIndependent Labour N L Evans 101 1 7 N AMajority 1 768 29 8 7 2Turnout 5 918 53 4 9 0Registered electors 11 079Liberal hold Swing N AReferences Edit Bevan is ultimate Welsh hero extracted 12 04 07 Chapman T Robin 2014 Lewis John Saunders Dictionary of Welsh Biography National Library of Wales Retrieved 19 May 2018 a b Williams Gwyn A 1993 Saunders Lewis Alien Face In The Mirror Writ ing On The Line Channel 4 Kendall Tim 22 February 2007 The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry OUP Oxford p 342 ISBN 978 0 19 928266 1 BBC Saunders Lewis Davies 1994a pp 415 454 Davies 1994a p 544 a b Davies 1994a p 547 a b PENARTH S SECRET ROLE IN WELSH HISTORY Plaid Cymru Penarth 5 December 2013 a b Site of Plaid Cymru s founding Pwllheli History Points Morgan 2002 p 206 a b c d e Davies 1994a p 548 BBCWales History extracted 12 03 07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine BBCWales history extracted 12 03 07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine a b c d e f Davies 1994a p 591 Royal plans to beat nationalism BBC News 8 March 2005 Retrieved 28 August 2012 Jenkins 2007 Manchester Guardian 1 August 1929 a b Davies 1994b Davies 1994b pp 70 71 RAF Penrhos a b c d Davies 1994a p 593 a b c d e f g Davies 1994a p 592 a b c d e f Davies 1994a p 599 a b c Davies 1994a p 598 a b Davies 1994a p 610 a b c Davies 1994a p 611 Morgan 2002 a b BBCWales History extracted 12 03 07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine BBCWales History extracted 12 03 07 Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine Davies 1994a pp 591 592 United Kingdom Parliament Debate on Government of Wales Act 1998 Retrieved 31 August 2006 Plaid founder blasted WalesOnline 26 March 2013 Retrieved 16 March 2016 Serch yw r Doctor Love s the Doctor Opening Night Opera amp Oratorio Premieres Stanford University Library Retrieved 16 May 2014 The Catholic Herald 4 March 1983 Sources Edit Griffiths Bruce 1989 Saunders Lewis Writers of Wales series Cardiff University of Wales Pres ISBN 0 7083 1049 4 Jones Alun R amp Gwyn Thomas Eds 1973 Presenting Saunders Lewis Cardiff University of Wales Press ISBN 0 7083 0852 X Jones Harri Pritchard 1991 Saunders Lewis A Presentation of His Work Illinois Templegate ISBN 0 87243 187 8 Lewis Saunders 1893 1985 In Meic Stephens Ed 1998 The New Companion to the Literature of Wales Cardiff University of Wales Press ISBN 0 7083 1383 3 Chapman T Robin 2006 Un Bywyd o Blith Nifer Cofiant Saunders Lewis Llandysul Gomer ISBN 1 84323 709 1 in Welsh the only complete biography Bibliography Edit Davies John 1994a A History of Wales Penguin ISBN 0 14 014581 8 Davies John 1994b Broadcasting and the BBC in Wales University of Wales Press ISBN 0 7083 1273 X Jenkins Geraint H 2007 A Concise History of Wales Cambridge University Press ISBN 978 0 521 53071 2 Morgan Kenneth O 2002 1981 Rebirth of a Nation Wales 1880 1980 History of Wales 6 Oxford Oxford University Press ISBN 0 19 821760 9 External links EditSaunders Lewis and the Tynged yr iaith The fate of the Welsh language lecture from the National Library of Wales website Saunders Lewis The Banned Wireless Talk on Welsh Nationalism Caernarfon 1930 from the Gathering the Jewels website Paham y Llosgasom yr Ysgol Fomio Why we Burnt the Bombing School by Saunders Lewis and Lewis Valentine 1936 Plaid Cenedlaethol Cymru Caernarfon their speeches to the jury at the Caernarfon Assizes in Welsh James E Wyn Williams Pantycelyn Gwales in Welsh Welsh Books Council Review of Lewis s book Williams PantycelynParty political officesPreceded by New position Vice President of Plaid Cymru 1925 1926 Succeeded by Preceded by Lewis Valentine President of Plaid Cymru 1926 1939 Succeeded by John Edward Daniel Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Saunders Lewis amp oldid 1042327873, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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