Sunday, August 08, 2010

Score One for the Druids of Wales

Nice to see a poet get due honor.

A MEMORIAL stone honouring the Welshman who founded the National Eisteddfod’s Gorsedd of the Bards has been saved after residents of a swish London district tried to get it removed.

Members of the 1,200-strong Friends of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill branded Iolo Morganwg “a bloody criminal” when the plaque marking the site of the first meeting of the Bards in 1792 was unveiled last summer.

They claimed he was a forger, a liar and an opium addict, and his memorial stone by Welsh sculptor John Meirion Morris should be moved from its park location in upmarket Primrose Hill, home to the likes of Welsh actor Rhys Ifans and top Welsh chef Bryn Williams’ restaurant, Odettes.

But despite a campaign by its opponents, and a full review, the Royal Parks authority has ruled the memorial can stay.

. . .

Morganwg, dubbed ‘the poet of liberty’ among London’s literary elite, who included Coleridge and Wordsworth, claimed that Druid rites he first celebrated on June 21, 1792, had survived Roman times into later history and the Welsh were the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage.To reconnect with their ancient culture, he founded the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain, whose members today include Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, opera singer Bryn Terfel, actor Ioan Gruffudd, England cricketer Robert Croft, and Wales rugby player Gareth Edwards, and held the first meeting on Primrose Hill 218 years ago. The Royal Parks gave permission to unveil a memorial with the inscription “truth against the world” last summer, before the storm blew up.

. . .

Welsh poet and novelist Dannie Abse, 87, hit back at the time, storming: “Morganwg was a legendary Welsh poet. He did forge poems, but he was a great, great scholar, and he fooled everybody. “I’m not sure if he was a drug addict, but he was certainly the best poet that went to Cardiff jail” – a reference to a spell he spent behind bars for bankruptcy. “Christopher Marlowe died in a pub brawl – but we celebrate him, don’t we? Lord Byron was a womaniser, but he is buried in Westminster Cathedral. So why not commemorate Iolo on Primrose Hill?”

The controversy over the memorial seems to have actually been brewing for some time. The memorial itself seems completely unobtrusive and uncontroversial. One wonders if the real concern isn't that it might bring Druids and other "undesirables" to a "swish" bit of London?

Picture found here.

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