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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Gwynfor Evans at 90
Portrait of Gwynfor Evans
The portrait of Gwynfor hangs in the National Library
The man who became Plaid Cymru's first MP, Gwynfor Evans, marks his 90th birthday on Sunday.

Mr Evans will spend his birthday at his home in Pencarreg in west Wales with his wife Rhiannon - but as a lifelong teetotaller, will not be toasting the occasion with champagne.

He is probably best known for threatening to starve himself if a Welsh language station was not set up - a threat which routed even the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Gwynfor Evans
A campaigner for national matters
Plaid Cymru president Ieuan Wyn Jones sent a birthday message to Mr Evans on behalf of his party.

He said: "Gwynfor's inspiration and leadership of Wales over the years makes him one of the greatest Welshmen of any period in the history of Wales.

"May this great man continue to inspire us for many years to come, and the greatest tribute we can pay Gwynfor is to keep working for a better future for our country and our nation."

On Friday, a portrait of Mr Evans bought by friends and supporters of Mr Evans was presented to the National Library of Wales to mark his birthday.

Although he is now confined to bed suffering from osteoporosis, Mr Evans still takes a keen interest in the politics of Wales.

Pacifist

Born in Barry, South Wales in 1912, Mr Evans lived for most of his life in Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, before moving to Pencarreg.

He married Rhiannon and they had seven children, 15 grand-children and great-grand-children.

Mr Evans was educated in Barry before following a course at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and then a course at Jesus College Oxford.

At the age of 18 he started to learn Welsh and became a fluent Welsh speaker.

Whilst at college he established a branch of Plaid Cymru.

Although he graduated and trained to be a solicitor he worked as a commercial gardener in Llangadog until his retirement.

He refused to join the armed forces during the Second World War because he was a pacifist and a Christian and he had to appear before a tribunal.

He was unconditionally dismissed.

First Plaid Cymru MP

In 1945 he was elected Plaid Cymru's President and later became their Honourable President for over 30 years.

Gwynfor Evans
Evans during the election campaign of 1966
During the 1950's he campaigned to establish a Welsh Government and was also the leader in opposing Liverpool City Council's intention to drown the village of Cwm Celyn near Bala to make a water reservoir.

Although these campaigns were unsuccessful - Tryweryn Reservoir opened in 1965 - a victory came to Gwynfor Evans and Plaid Cymru.

In 1966 he won the by-election in Carmarthen after the death of the Labour MP, Dame Megan Lloyd George, the daughter of the former Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

Mr Evans's victory was among the most unexpected in British political history, as Plaid Cymru won their first seat in Westminster.

Hundreds of supporters travelled to London to see him going to Westminster for the first time.

In 1967 Harold Wilson's government passed the Welsh Language Act but three years later, Mr Evans lost his seat to the Labour candidate, Gwynoro Jones.

But Mr Evans returned to London in 1974, this time with two new fellow Plaid Cymru MP's, Dafydd Ellis Thomas (who later became Lord Ellis Thomas of Nant Conwy) and Dafydd Wigley.

However, he lost his seat in 1979 and did not return to Westminster again, although he kept an active interest in Welsh affairs.

TV channel protest

The nation was shocked to hear that Mr Evans was ready to fast to death if necessary if Thatcher's government would not establish a Welsh language television channel in 1980.

During the 1970s, Mr Evans had been very active in the campaign to establish a Welsh channel and the latest act was an act that inspired many to protest.

Gwynfor Evans Eisteddfod Llanelli 2000
Gwynfor Evans receiving The World-Wide Welsh Award
Many people refused to pay their TV licences and the government had to concede defeat.

In 1982, the Welsh language station S4C was launched.

The history of Wales was very important to Mr Evans, not only as a politician, but also as a Christian.

He wrote a number of books in both Welsh and English about Wales, his latest in 2001, 'Cymru o Hud' in Welsh and Eternal Wales in English.

He also wrote his autobiography, Bywyd Cymro (Life of a Welshman) in 1982 and in 1996, an English version, For the Sake of Wales.

At the Llanelli National Eisteddfod in 2000, Mr Evans was awarded for the first time, Anrhydedd Cymry'r Cyfanfyd / The World-Wide Welsh Award.


Where I Live, South West Wales
See also:

12 Aug 00 | Wales
28 Mar 02 | Politics
02 Jul 02 | Wales
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