Page last updated at 12:33 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Support for bardic founder plaque

Iolo Morganwg
Morganwg was a poet and scholar who helped revive Welsh culture

Plans for a memorial in London to honour Iolo Morganwg, who created the Welsh order of the bards, have been supported at a reception.

Permission has already been granted for a plaque to Morganwg on Primrose Hill, where he held the first bardic gathering, or Gorsedd, in 1792.

But around 12,000 is still needed to fund the plaque to the radical poet.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones and historian Prys Morgan spoke at the event at the Senedd in Cardiff.

The Royal Parks, who have responsibility for Primrose Hill, have agreed for the memorial, made out of Welsh slate and designed by artist John Meirion Morris, to be placed there.

Rhian Medi, from Anglesey, who is a member of the Gorsedd of Bards and helped organise the memorial, said the plaque would be "unique" memorial to the scholar from the Vale of Glamorgan.

"To be given permission by the Royal Parks is an amazing feat as there are no other memorials on the hill," she said.

"What happened on Primrose Hill was a significant event which has contributed to the modern Wales we know today.

"Iolo was a Welsh figure but also of high European standing. He was interested in democracy before it actually existed.

"Some of his ideas may have been seen as quite radical but he contributed a lot."

Rhian MEdi
there's nothing on the hill about Iolo and the Gorsedd and I think it's something that should be remembered
Rhian Medi

The plans for the memorial were announced in the House of Commons in 2006 by Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, who has helped plan the memorial.

Since then, groups such as the London Welsh Society have helped raise money but 12,000 is still needed.

Ms Medi said the reception at the Senedd was aimed at raising awareness and support for the plaque.

"I live in London and I know Primrose Hill and I wanted to find out more about its history and links with Wales," she said.

"But there's nothing on the hill about Iolo and the Gorsedd and I think it's something that should be remembered."

'Interesting man'

Morganwg aimed to revive what he believed was the Celtic bardic tradition and the ceremony remains part of the modern-day National Eisteddfod.

He saw the Gorsedd of the bards as the ancient guardian of the language and culture of Wales.

The supposedly ancient druidic order was re-established by Morganwg in a ceremony at Primrose Hill held on the summer solstice of 1792.

Much of Morganwg's scholarship was later found to be forged.

But the ceremony he created endured and in 1819 the Gorsedd was formally linked with the eisteddfod, an act which ultimately led to the modern-day National Eisteddfod.

Richard Brunstrom being made a bard
Druids are honoured at the modern-day National Eisteddfod

The Gorsedd is now an association whose members consist of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have made a contribution to Welsh language and culture.

Figures honoured as druids include Ioan Gruffudd, Bryn Terfel, England cricketer Robert Croft, ex-Welsh rugby stars Gareth Edwards and the late Ray Gravell and, this year, North Wales Police chief constable Richard Brunstrom.

Ms Medi said she believes more should be done to promote what Morganwg achieved.

"He was a very, very interesting man," she said.

"He was from the Vale of Glamorgan and lived in Cardiff and Cowbridge. He had a shop in Cowbridge which had a sign outside which said that the sugar he sold was not from plantations using slavery.

"He also refused inheritance from his brothers, who owned plantations in Jamaica which used slave labour.

"He really did contribute a lot to what we are today. He was a visionary and in so many fields. He brought the Unitarian Church to Wales and he wrote 3,000 hymns.

"He was one of the founding fathers of modern Wales."

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