In 1956, the Liverpool City Council sponsored a private bill that was pushed through parliament which allowed the council to flood the Tryweryn Valley in Wales without the consent of local representatives. The village of Capel Celyn, located in the valley, was one of the last Welsh-only communities at that time; In 1956, the Welsh language was being oppressed both politically and socially by the British government. During a vote for the proposed drowning of the Tryweryn Valley, 35 of the 36 Members of Parliament in Wales voted against the bill, with one abstention. The villagers of Capel Celyn, Wales fought the bill for eight long years. Many residents participated in a march from their doomed village to London in order to protest. In London, a reporter from BBC asked one protester why he wished to save the village when it was not by any means the most important or beautiful community in Wales. He responded, “Listen. My wife may not be the most important woman in Wales, nor the most beautiful. But I love her! And I certainly wouldn’t drown her.”. Despite the efforts of Welsh citizens and local representatives, the valley of Tryweryn Wales was drowned in 1965. Today, two churches and their graveyards (one of which is a Quaker cemetery) still remain underwater in the former village of Capel Celyn along with a school, a post office and other flooded structures and farmlands.
Sadly, despite the fact that the Liverpool City Council assured the citizens of Capel Celyn that their loved one’s bodies would be relocated to another cemetery, only eight bodies were exhumed to be moved at the request of surviving family.
Beginning in 1957, many Welsh across north and mid-Wales have written “Cofiwch Dryweryn” (“Remember Tryweryn”) in graffiti as a reminder of history of their rocky relationship with Britain. In 2005, the Liverpool City Council officially apologized for the drowning of Tryweryn Wales.
Local legend has it that, from time to time, you can hear the bells of capel celyn tolling, in memory of the dead who were not moved.
Elle Palmer. xo