The venue was Llanelli, the former steel town – perhaps even better known as the home of ‘The Scarlets’, one of the great rugby teams of Wales.
As at Bridgend in 1998 the Wales Famine Forum arranged a series of lectures in Welsh. The theme was, “Mae ‘na Wyddyl yn y Dre’ – ‘There are Irish in the Town’.
It was planned as a series of five lectures from Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th August, starting with a lecture on the Irish in Cardiff by historian Paul O’Leary
(see book review on page 51). Sadly, this was cancelled at the last moment due to the death of Paul’s father.
Thus, the series began on Wednesday 8th. with a talk on the Irish in Newport given by Martin Culliford, chaired by Paul Flynn, the MP for Newport West. First of all, however, the Consul General of Ireland in Wales, Conor O’Riordan, introduced the series. He spoke in Irish and his comments were translated into Welsh by Cardiff-based Cornishman Tim Saunders, one of whose two daughters, Gwenno, was then a member of ‘Lord of the Dance’, the smash hit show launched by Michael Flatley after he left Riverdance. Here we give a translation of the Consul General’s words:
“There is my love, the Decies,
Every meadow, hill and vale,
Since I came o’er the mighty sea
I have grown weak and pale;
But since God Himself has called me here,
My greetings go back home,
Back to that hill of welcomes,
From my heart, with love alone!”
“With these words Pádraig Ó Miléadha (1877 – 1947) ended ‘Sliabh Geal gCua’, the most famous poem he ever wrote. It is particularly interesting that he wrote it between 1902 and 1922 when he lived in Clydach, a small town about 16 miles from this spot.
Yes indeed, to anyone who has made a study of such matters, this Eisteddfod region is full of memories of our Irish people. History and legend agree over such a long period of time that one could say that there have been Irish people and Irishness of some kind in this area for almost two thousand years.
However, I am not the lecturer today and I understand that these matters will be covered on Friday when Mr. Roger Price will be speaking about the Irish of Swansea.
It gives me great satisfaction to be here today as an official representative of the Irish Government to launch this series of lectures about the Irish in various towns in Wales. I would like to express my thanks in advance to all of the lecturers and to all of the chairpersons, but first and foremost I would like to thank our lecturer today, Martin Culliford, and our Chair, Paul Flynn. I understand that Martin is an Englishman who has learned the language of heaven and that as one of the most noteworthy local historians in Newport he has taken a special interest in the history of the Irish in that town.
With regard to Paul Flynn, the Member of Parliament for Newport West, it is no reflection on the rest of you when I say that I am very proud that he is one of our own Irish people, one whose forebears came from County Cork to Cardiff in the middle of the nineteenth century when the Great Famine devastated Skibbereen and the surrounding area.
And now I am going to end by extending to all of you a hearty Irish welcome to this pavilion, to this lecture and to the other lectures of the series. I wish every good fortune to the people of Wales, to this Eisteddfod in Llanelli and to every one of you.
You are all very welcome and thank you very much indeed!”