Tonight (12 June), both the Anglesey National Eisteddfod’s Crown and Chair are presented to the festival’s Executive Committee, at a special ceremony in Llangefni.
The Crown is sponsored by Merched y Wawr, during a year of activities as the organisation celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. The financial prize is presented by Perkins Furniture and Flooring, Caernarfon.
Created by silversmith, John Price, a former craft teacher and the designer of many fine Eisteddfod Crowns over the years, the Crown skilfully weaves the aims of Merched y Wawr and some of Anglesey’s most iconic locations together beautifully.
The Crown is presented for a free verse poem of no more than 250 lines, titled Trwy Ddrych (Through a Mirror). The adjudicators are M Wynn Thomas, Glenys Mair Roberts and Gwynne Williams.
The Crown’s band represents the Menai Suspension Bridge, the iconic structure linking Anglesey with the rest of Wales. But it also represents the concept of ‘bridging’ in a wider context – the bridging between communities, and the fact that the Eisteddfod is a link between Welsh speakers across the country, non-Welsh speakers and learners.
Every arch includes a small fresco, with each one representing different elements. The daffodil, emblem of the Crown’s sponsors Merched y Wawr, is in one arch, with Dwynwen and the Isle of Llanddwyn depicted in another, representing Anglesey’s link with the sea and religion. There are two triple harps in another fresco, representing the Harpists of Llannerch-y-medd, and the link with music over the years.
One of the island’s most attractive attractions, Melin Llynnon, is depicted within one arch, representing ‘Môn Mam Cymru’ – or Anglesey, the mother of Wales – the island which once produced food for the whole of Wales. Jonah Jones’ memorial to the Princes of Gwynedd, located in Aberffraw, can be seen in another fresco, with the final fresco representing Tlws Pant y Saer, the famous burial chamber from the Neolithic period, close to Benllech and a symbol of the fact that we are still here, safeguarding our nation’s treasures centuries later.
John Price said, “Although I’ve created a number of eisteddfod crowns over the years, the thrill when you’re chosen for a project is still there, as is the enjoyment of working on the first concepts before creating the Crown itself.
“It’s been a great pleasure to have been invited to create a Crown sponsored by Merched y Wawr, an organisation which has been so important to our language and culture over the past half a century. Coupled with such inspiration in Anglesey’s landscape and cultural heritage, I hope this Crown manages to reflect the contribution of both Merched y Wawr and Anglesey to Wales.”
The Eisteddfod Chair will also be presented to the Executive Committee on Monday.
This year, the Chair will be presented for a poem in more than one of the traditional poetic measures of no more than 250 lines. The subject is Arwr or Arwres (Hero or Heroine), a particularly poignant subject this year, as we commemorate the First World War at the Eisteddfod.
The Hero was the title of the poem for the Chair competition a century ago at the Eisteddfod of the Black Chair in Birkenhead, when Ellis Humphrey Evans, Hedd Wyn, won the Chair. The young soldier-poet had been killed in action weeks before the ceremony, and a black shroud was placed on the Chair in his honour. In 2017, the National Eisteddfod remembers the young poet’s sacrifice and the loss of a generation of young men to Wales.
Over the past few years, the Snowdonia National Park Authority has been restoring Yr Ysgwrn, the home of Hedd Wyn, and with the work now complete, the Authority has donated this year’s Eisteddfod Chair. In the centenary year of the Black Chair, the original chair has been restored to its former glory, and can now be seen at the young poet’s home in Trawsfynydd.
And there is another important link between Hedd Wyn and the Anglesey National Eisteddfod Chair this year, as the 2017 Chair has been partly crafted from ash and oak wood sawn from trees growing in the grounds of Yr Ysgwrn; trees which would have been growing there during Hedd Wyn’s lifetime. The Chair’s creator, Rhodri Owen, explains, “The idea of reincarnation and moving forward is central to the concept of this year’s Chair. But the link with the past is also very important, and I considered the shapes of the tools and implements used daily in rural life a century ago when working on the design.
“The two back legs rise towards the ‘moon’, in the shape of scythes, with the bottom of the back in the shape of two marking irons, which would have been used to mark the turf before chopping the peat in agricultural areas. The two back to back shapes, creating one waving iron, which would cut the turf after the marking, point towards the underworld, representing darkness and death, while the top of the Chair and the Nod Cyfrin represent light and a new life.
“I’ve also considered the fact that this year’s Eisteddfod is held in Anglesey, so the Celtic link is obvious, as are the Celtic ideals of reincarnation and moving from the dark to the light, depicted in the design. The seeds of life rise as the darkness surrenders to the light and the hope of a new, peaceful life in a time of political uncertainty worldwide and a crisis of Welsh identity.
“The Park Authority and I wanted the Chair to convey its own message, and I hope I have achieved this, emphasising the need for the Welsh nation to confidently step forward to a new, better and peaceful future.”
The Chair has been created by hand in Rhodri Owen’s workshop in Ysbyty Ifan.
This year’s financial prize is donated by John and Gaynor Walter-Jones in memory of the Rev and Mrs H Walter Jones, and the adjudicators are Peredur Lynch, Huw Meirion Edwards and Emyr Lewis.
Speaking as he accepted both the Crown and the Chair on behalf of the local committee, Derec Llwyd Morgan, said, "It is a great pleasure to be here tonight to accept the Crown and the Chair on behalf of this year’s Eisteddfod.
The ceremonies are two of the week’s highlights, and we sincerely hope that we will have two worthy winners for the Crown and Chair in a few weeks’ time. Our thanks to John Price for his beautiful work on the Crown and to Merched y Wawr and Perkins Furniture and Flooring for their generosity.
“We also thank Rhodri Owen for his work on the Chair, and the Snowdonia National Park Authority and John and Gaynor Walter-Jones for their donations. I thank you on behalf of the Committee, the Eisteddfod and the whole of Anglesey.”
The Crowning ceremony takes place on Monday 7 August at 16.30, and Chairing ceremony on Friday 11 August at 16:30.
Tickets can be purchased beforehand by ringing 0845 4090 800 or by going to www.eisteddfod.wales, or they can be purchased on the day at the main entrance.
The Anglesey National Eisteddfod is held at Bodedern from 4-12 August. For more information go online.