The Annual Owain Glyndwr Lecture


2009 Owain Glyndwr Lecture

Date and Details TO BE ADVISED

Generally the event is held in September

Owain Glyndwr is a very important figure in Welsh History. It was he that led the Cymry  to last defeat and repel the English and united the whole of Cymru under a single Welsh Standard, Y Ddraig Goch - the Red Dragon of Wales.

For this reason his name and memory have been chosen as the focus for Plaid Cymru's Melbourne and Oceania Branch's annual lecture pertaining to Wales.

Each year a prominent expert on Wales or Wales' situation is invited to lecture. Usually there is some kind of Welsh entertainment to make it a multi-faceted affair - the public is invited to attend.

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The 2008 Owain Glyndwr Lecture

Degawd Cyntaf Datganolu

The First Ten Years of Devolution

Sion Aled Owen is President of the Wrexham Branch of Plaid Cymru. He works as a translator and is a crowned Bard from the Machynlleth Welsh National Eisteddfod.

Harp music by Huw Jones



Dyddiad/Date: Sunday, 31st August, 2008

Amser/Time: 2 pm start


We thank Sion Aled Owen for his fascinating and informative lecture in 2008.

The following is a précis of the Owain Glyndŵr Lecture Siôn Aled gave in Melbourne this August. Sion Aled says that Owain (Glyndwr) had, in many ways, a very modern concept of nationhood for Wales and, although the wait has been long, it is a privilege to be living at a time when his hopes are beginning to be fulfilled.  

Devolution Ten Years On (almost!)

Three truths about Wales pre-devolution

Wales didn’t exist!

Henry VIII’s Acts of Union 1535-1543 had the effect of subsuming Wales into the Realm of England and so the country henceforward had no separate constitutional status. There were some measures which challenged this settlement, e g, the provision of the Bible in Welsh in 1588 and the Welsh Sunday Closing Act 1881, but the provisions of Henry’s Acts were not, in effect, repealed until the Government of Wales Act 1998 which set up the National Assembly. Ganwyd Cymru drachefn ym 1998!

Sustaining symbols

Unlike Scotland, which on Union with England in 1707 did retain a separate legal and educational system, Wales lost virtually all its national institutions. However, strong symbolic institutions were maintained or developed: the bardic tradition, harp music, choirs, the National Eisteddfod, rugby. Although no adequate substitute for a separate constitutional infrastructure, we are indebted to these symbols for maintaining our sense of nationhood during the long centuries when we had no constitutional existence. Efallai y gall Cymru fforddio i golli mewn rygbi o bryd i’w gilydd nawr gan fod gennym Gynulliad!

The pivotal role of the language

Of all the symbols of nationhood which we retained, the Welsh language was by far the most important – if it wasn’t, the Establishment wouldn’t have invested so much in trying to suppress it! It has also proved to be remarkably resilient, with the majority of the population remaining Welsh-speaking until 1901. As the language rapidly declined during the twentieth century, its importance for national identity came to be recognised more and more, culminating in the establishment of the campaigning Welsh language Society in 1962 which fought for a Welsh Language Act in 1967 and strengthened legislation in 1993. Mae’r dywediad "Cenedl heb iaith, Cenedl heb galon" yn sicr yn ddeiiol berthnasol i hanes Cymru.

Three truths about Wales post-devolution

Wales exists!

Before devolution, while Scotland’s separate identity was always, to a degree, recognised, Wales was still subsumed in "EnglandandWales" in most contexts. Since 1999, however, Wales has become increasingly visible as a nation in her own right. It is said that Tony Blair was never really an enthusiast for devolution and it is easy to see why – because things literally would never be the same again and because devolution really was, as Ron Davies, the architect of devolution in the Welsh Labour Party, famously said, "a process not an event". This is clear from the gradual growth in the Assembly’s powers and the development of new national institutions such the Care Inspectorate and the Children’s Commissioner. Le bu sefydliadau cenedlaehol mor brin yn y gorffennol maent bellach yn amlhau fel madarch Medi!

Increasing divergence from England

After devolution, and despite the Assembly’s weakness in terms of actual power, especially in the early years, Wales quickly began to plough a furrow separate to England in its areas of responsibility, notably health, education and transport. We’re not talking here of divergence merely for the sake of it but of changes which could really make a difference in people’s lives, such as halting privatisation within the health service, the introduction of the innovative Foundation Phase in early years education and the re-opening of rail routes. Mae Cymru nid yn unig yn bodoli bellach ond mae hi’n datblygu fel cenedl a all dorri ei chwys ei hun.

Language Revolution

It is remarkable that whereas Welsh had virtually no official status just over forty years ago we now have a Welsh Government committed to a fully bilingual Wales. All public documentation f l t


should, in principle, be bilingual and only a shortage of translators (which is being actively addressed) prevents this. The teaching of Welsh both in schools and as Welsh for Adults has a higher profile than ever and is underpinned by an increasing emphasis on professional development for tutors. Prin y gallai’r rhai fu’n brwydro dros y Gymraeg yn Oesoedd TywyllThatcheriaeh fod wedi dychymygu lle y byddem heddiw.

Three questions for the future

Where do we go from here?

The One Wales Government has promised to hold a referendum on full Legislative powers for the Assembly within this session, meaning by May 2011. The exercise will be a risky one, with opinion polls having shown only a slow increase in support for a proper Parliament for Wales over several years, the latest giving a narrow majority in favour, and that before ‘No’ campaigners begin their wrecking tactics. Nevertheless, the long term direction is towards independence which, after all, is a status taken for granted by many nations with smaller populations than Wales. O safbwynt cyfansoddiado, mae’n ymddangos bod y cyfeiriad yn eglur – yr amseru sy’n ansicr.

What about England?

It is often forgotten that devolution for the Celtic nations must have implications for their neighbour and there are indeed signs that England is searching for a sense of national identity that is not shackled to jingoism and xenophobia. Hopefully, also, devolution for the English regions will return to the agenda – a move that could also bring power closer to the Celtic nation that devolution has thus far left behind, Kernow/Cornwall. Y gobaith yw y bydd rhyddhau’r gwledydd Celtaidd hefyd yn rhyddhau Loegr.

What future for the Welsh language?

Given what was said earlier, why should there be any doubt? Unfortunately, however, official status and even active state support cannot guarantee the future of any language as a living, community language, as the fragile situation of Gaelic in Ireland clearly illustrates. Yet in Wales we are aware of the danger and are investing increasingly in encouraging the use of Welsh as well as knowledge of the language, particularly through the work of the Mentrau Iaith/Language Initiatives. Nid crair ar gyfer yr amgueddfa mo’r iaith Gymraeg ond iaith y mae’n rhaid iddi fyw o fewn ein cymunedau.


There was no 2007 Owain Glyndwr Lecture

The 2006 Owain Glyndwr Lecture with Isabel Ellender

Cultural Survival Under Foreign Rule: Cymru and Australia

The 2006 Owain Glyndwr lecture on Sunday 17th of September at the Melbourne Celtic Club in the City was an informative and thought-provoking event: Isabel Ellender from Monash University gave a background to the occupation of Cymru (Wales) and Australia and went on to investigate and compare the experiences of the Welsh and Indigenous Australians under the weight of their respective conquerors.

Caernarfon Castle, shown right, is one of many castles in Wales built as a part of the ongoing conquest of Wales and control of the Welsh people. Caernarfon was begun in 1283 on the orders of Edward 1 of England.


In Wales there were several invaders and repressive regimes, some from without and some from within.  For Indigenous Australians, conquest was a single relatively recent event, the effects of each are still felt by their respective communities.  For each, a weakness has been the lack of cohesion against the successful and determined political system of the conqueror. 

Both peoples have struggled with the issue of identity - the identity one feels intuitively and also the identity imposed on one by others. 

Isabel completed her talk with a statement in Cymraeg (Welsh) that still holds true for the Welsh and also Indigenous Australians `dan ni yma o hyd!' We're still here!'

There followed an open discussion and question time with Isabel and Dilys Anderson from Plaid Cymru chairing the proceedings. The discussion was held in both the Welsh and English languages.

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Pendragon Bach (Two members of the Melbourne-based folk group Pendragon Dreaming) played a number of Welsh numbers to start off the proceedings and to finish in a fitting Welsh manner. In fact the final song was a Dafydd Iwan number; `Yma O Hyd' (`Here Still') which echoed Isbel's final words in her talk.


There was a great deal of interest in Isabel's lecture with many requests for more information. Isabel has kindly offered to make her talk available to the public.

Cliciwch yma/Click here


Isabel grew up on a farm in Gwynedd, N Wales and nursed in London.  Since moving to Melbourne, she has retrained as an archaeologist.  Since then, Isabel has worked for 17 years as a consultant in the field of Indigenous cultural heritage, operating among Indigenous communities, government, the Museum, and Native Title organisations.  At the same time, holding a lectureship at Monash - teaching mainly in Indigenous Studies and Geography.  These simultaneous career paths have led her to remote locations in Australia such as Kakadu, Flinders Ranges, Innamincka and Broken Hill, though most of her work has been with the Wurundjeri community of Melbourne.

For a long time Isabel has had an interest in Indigenous affairs, initially with cultural heritage and knowledge, and latterly, with health, education, and alternatives to mainstream solutions.  Her research includes scientific investigation of archaeological materials and Indigenous intellectual property rights.  She has published on issues of Aboriginal land relationships and co-authored a book on the Aboriginal experience of colonial Melbourne. 

Nearly 3 years ago, Isabel moved back into the health field and now teaches in the undergraduate medical curriculum as well as in-house training of health professionals on issues concerning Indigenous health and culture and contemporary racism. 

Recently, Isabel has been relearning the Welsh language and is restoring her own cultural heritage.

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Copies of Isabel's book are available:

Email here

2005 Owain Glyndwr Lecture with Professor Tom Nairn

The 2005 Owain Glyndwr lecture on Sunday 11th of September was an interesting and stimulating event: Professor Tom Nairn gave a lecture on small nations (such as Wales  - as opposed to the very large or super-powers) in an increasingly globalised world. The lecture struck a positive chord for Professor Nairn sees an increasing trend of the break up of bigger blocks into smaller nations of a similar ethnic or linguistic background. These he says will influence the `Global Village' in a more positive and sustainable way than the politically controlling ex-colonial and large of super-powers. He is particularly positive about Wales' opportunity to become a full nation in this community and in the UN. He holds it up as a shining example of what can happen when individual ethnic/linguistic groups have the confidence to take their destiny in their own hands. He has seen such a confidence in Wales and forecasts a potential  positive scenario of Wales and Scotland being part of a restructured Britain forging ties with other smaller nations in Europe and having a real and positive influence in the world.

At present Tom Nairn is a professor of Nationalism and Cultural Diversity at RMIT University. He has written books which includes `The Break-up of Britain. and was a journalist at the recent G8 meeting at Gleaneagles.

Pendragon Dreaming Started and finished the event at the Celtic Club with four Welsh-language folk numbers

THE VINEYARD AND THE PIGS - A metaphor for our times.

In Professor Nairn's lecture he referred to John Osmond's address to the Preseli electorate in support of his candidacy as a representative for the Welsh National Assembly elections in May 2007.  In particular he quoted the following portion of a Welsh play which is put forward as a metaphor for the situation in Wales at the present time. (The total address by John Osmond is available as a pdf by clicking here.)

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`A certain man planted on a fruitful hillside 

A vineyard in which he set the best vines;

He built a wall around it, raised a tower in the centre 

And gave it to his son as an inheritance

To bear his name from generation to generation.

But a herd of pigs broke down the wall of the vineyard, 

Rushed in to trample and eat up the vines.

Is it not right that the son should stand in the breach now, 

And call his friends to him, and protect his inheritance?

My country of Wales is a vineyard, given into my keeping, 

To be handed down to my children and my children’s children

As an inheritance for all time.

And look, the pigs are rushing in to despoil it. 

Therefore I now call upon all my friends, The common man and the scholar,

Come to me now, stand with me in the breach

That the beauty of the past be kept for the times that shall come.'

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John Osmond went on to say:

`Friends, to pursue the analogy, I think by today we have secured the perimeter. Our task now is tend our vineyard. We have to ensure our country grows, to become strong, sturdy, confident, innovative and outward looking so we can make the contribution to the world that our special civilization deserves. This is why our coming campaign in Preseli is so important: challenging to be sure, but exciting and exhilarating as well.

2004 Owain Glyndwr Lecture with Aneurin Rhys-Hughes

Aneurin Rhys-Hughes, former European Union Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, lecturing at Melbourne Celtic Club