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A new generation learns about Fron Haul

21 June 2020

Gwelodd Eryri oes aur y llechi.
Trawsnewid y werin o gaib i gŷn.
Yn nyffryn ‘Stradau, rhesi o feini,
Ymlusga’r rhimyn â‘r graig gyferbyn.
Enfawr fu’r chwyldro, ergyd fu’r chwalfa,
Dirywiad diwydiant, mwy na’i dyfiant.
Tawelwch. Y baracs fu’n segura.
Difrod gan ddwylo diarth, llechfeddiant.
Cyflawni lladrad absen fel llwynog,
Sleifio’n llechwraidd a dwyn o’r Gorlan.
A glaw fu’n llifo o’r llechwedd creigiog,
Trueni mai hyn fu tranc y drigfan.
Rhaid gwarchod ein treftadaeth, mae’n drysor,
Neu diflannu wna, fel llong heb angor.

Daw cyfnod du i darfu – gwêl golau.
Geiriau gobeithiol gŵr gwydn; Elfyn.
Parhau i drigo’r tai mae eneidiau.
Drws llonydd ddaw a cartref i’w derfyn.
Datgymalwyd hwy, cymerwyd sawl dydd
A’u gweddnewid nes nad oedd hoel o draul.
Er yr ail-gartrefwyd yr aelwydydd,
Disgleiriau edefyn ar dîr Fron Haul.
Wrth feddwl am y teuluoedd hynny,
Mae cysylltiad wrth gyffwrdd y meini.
A nghefn at y drws, edrychaf fyny
Ar olygfa gyfarwydd o lechi.
Er fod pellter i gyrraedd Llyn Padarn,
Mi wn y saif y pedwar yn gadarn.


When I was in primary school, I remember going on a trip to the National Slate Museum. I remember a guide taking us around the site and visiting a row of old quarrymen’s houses. Mam or Nain had mentioned before that Taid’s old house had been moved to a museum – I had assumed that it must have been moved to St Fagans. It is only this year that I learnt that I had already been to Taid’s house, on that trip to the Slate Museum.

Gwenlli from BROcast Ffestiniog, a new community venture, contacted me to mention that the Slate Museum was holding an online event, ‘Fron Haul 21’, to celebrate 21 years since moving the houses. I was very keen to be part of the celebration, but struggling to think what I could offer in the middle of a pandemic as my normal field of work is theatre!

During a phonecall in June with Lowri, the events officer at the Slate Museum, we reached a decision that I would write a poem. Lowri had a copy of a poem written by Reverend T. R. Jones about Abel Lloyd (formerly of 1 Fron Haul) in 1998, when the relocation project had started. Writing a poem was a challenge for me as I did not know the people who had lived there like the Reverend did, but I had a real interest in learning more about the development of Tanygrisiau as a quarrying village.

Soon after we had a zoom meeting with museum staff – Lowri, Cadi and Julie. Lleucu, who had been commissioned to create a drawing of Fron Haul, also joined. During this conversation, I learned from Cadi that Taid had lived at no 3 Fron Haul from 1927 to 1933! Nobody lived in the houses for long at that time because usually, the residents were newlywed couples who had not yet started raising children.

I also learnt about another poet local to Tanygrisiau, Elfyn. I have referred to a line he wrote whilst ill and confined to his home, “Hyderaf y caf fel cynt, weld yr haul wedi’r helynt”. For me, this line in the context of my poem means this: although the slate industry is unlikely to be as prosperous as it was for the last two centuries, I am confident of Wales’ potential to overcome obstacles and succeed as a small nation. Following the meeting, I received several documents over email that were full of information, such as research about Tanygrisiau when the houses were built, census lists, a blog about the conservation work on the houses, and transcriptions of interviews with former residents.

The sonnet measure is familiar to me, and the iambic pentameter which mimics the rhythm of a heartbeat is pleasant to hear out loud. Having finished one sonnet, I realised that it could not stand alone, and I felt that it should follow another sonnet due to its hopeful content. The feel of the first sonnet is darker than the second as I discuss the closure of the quarries and the consequent destruction of related buildings by the environment, and, unfortunately, by people.

In the 70s it was discovered that slates had been stolen from the roof of Capel Gorlan in Cwmorthin, close to Tanygrisiau. In 1997 the tourist centre at Gloddfa Ganol was closed when the quarry was sold. One part of the attraction at Gloddfa Ganol was a row of original cottages built for the quarrymen. 1-4 Tai Gloddfa is a sorry sight by today. At the start of this year, a local woman posted a picture on the internet page for Blaenau Ffestiniog’s community group. She had been walking in Cwmorthin an noticed a group of young children who were visiting the area standing near Tai’r Llyn. They were pushing the remains of the walls over.

I understand that it is not possible to protect everything, but education is incredibly important so that we understand and respect our history, and this means educating the children of Wales and beyond. Our industrial history is no less important than our castles and grand manor houses.

I am very proud to have been part of this celebration. Myself and the people of Ffestiniog are very thankful that the Fron Haul houses were saved from demolition. Here we have a successful attempt to protect and document an important chapter in Welsh history. Cadi the curator mentioned that over a million people have visited Fron Haul since 1999. I wish the museum well as they welcome the next million over the threshold.

Youth-led projects across the museum are part of the Hands on Heritage initiative, made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund's Kick the Dust Grant. Diolch yn fawr to The Fund and all our National Lottery Players - keeping our fingers crossed for you!

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