"Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon"-"A nation without a language is a nation without a heart" Welsh Proverb

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Saunders Lewis

15th October
Born on this day 1893 in Wallasey, England (brought up by his Welsh family, amongst the Welsh community on Merseyside)
Saunders Lewis, poet, dramatist, historian, literary critic and political activist, who in 2005 was voted 10th in a BBC Wales poll to name Wales' greatest-ever person.
Saunders Lewis’ legacy is immense, alongside his literary output - he wrote plays, poems and novels and was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature- he had a profound influence on 20th century Welsh politics. A founder of Plaid Cymru, he was also instrumental to the creation of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society)
At the outbreak of World War I, Lewis was sudying at The University of Liverpool, he enlisted as an officer with the South Wales Borderes and it was this experience, especially fighting alongside Irishmen, seems to have had a significant effect on him. It helped to shape his convictions about the importance of Welsh national identity although - unlike hard line Irish republicans - he stopped short of advocating violence against representatives of the British state.
After the war, he returned to university to graduate in English, then in 1922, he was appointed as a lecturer in Welsh at the University College of Wales, Swansea. During his time at Swansea he produced some of his most exciting works of literary criticism; A School of Welsh Augustans (1924), Williams Pantycelyn (1927), and Braslun o hanes llenyddiaeth Gymraeg (An outline history of Welsh literature) (1932). In 1925 along with H.R. Jones and Lewis Valentine, he founded Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (National Party of Wales) (which would become Plaid Cymru), with the principal aim of the party, being to foster a Welsh speaking Wales. In 1936 Lewis, together Jones and Valentine, set fire to the new RAF base at Penyberth in Gwynedd. They gave themselves up to the police, claiming justification on nationalist and pacifist grounds. In the aftermath of the Penyberth arson, Lewis lost his university lecturing post and in controversial circumstances went on trial at the Old Bailey in London. He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment.
In 1962 Lewis gave a lecture on BBC radio entitled Tynged Yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language). In this speech Lewis predicted the extinction of the Welsh language and declared that the language would die unless revolutionary methods were used to defend it. The broadcast led to the creation of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) and inspired its campaigns of direct action over the following decades. Cymdeithas protests undoubtedly played a part in the establishment of S4C, the Welsh language television channel, in 1982 and the Welsh Language Act of 1993.
Saunders Lewis died in September 1985 at the age of 91.
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