‘Welsh language Taliban’ comment causes outrage following memorial unveiling

The Dolgarreg Memorial. Picture from Twitter/@Rosegarden8jx

Emma Jewkes

A tweet by the creator of a memorial to the victims of a dam disaster has caused outrage after he appeared to compare Welsh language activists to the Taliban.

Giovanni Jacovelli, 62, owner of the Conwy Valley Maze, was commissioned to refurbish an existing memorial garden to remember the 16 people who died after two dams burst following heavy rain 92 years ago.

The disaster saw 10 adults and six children lose their lives when up to 70bn gallons of water and debris crashed down on the village of Dolgarrog in the Conwy Valley in November 1925.

Following criticism due to the lack of Welsh on the memorial stone however, Mr Jacovelli tweeted: “Praised by all, except Welsh language Taliban! I’m gutted”.

His comments have been met with disappointment by members of the public with many voicing their dissatisfaction on Twitter.

Arfon Jones, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Shameful comment about my first language and culture, you should apologise and withdraw gracefully.”

One user wrote: “By ‘Welsh Taliban’ you mean people who have dared to ask why the language of those who are actually being remembered hasn’t been used?”.

‘Rectify’

Councillor Dafydd Williams, the Chair of the Dolgarrog Community Council, told Nation Cymru that the original mistake wasn’t down to Giovanni Jacovelli.

Mr. Williams said: “Basically, we asked Giovanni Jacovelli to do the memorial exactly as it was before. The original has been on the site since 2004 but it is amazing what he has done. The lack of Welsh on the stone is an oversight on our part.

“I am meeting with councillors tonight to discuss what has happened and the best way to move forward. We want to rectify it as soon as possible and will be discussing the situation with Giovanni in due course.”

The community had received £22,000 to refurbish the pre-existing memorial garden and to create the memorial stone. The stone itself cost £1,000 and, Mr Williams has admitted that the stone may need to be replaced at further cost.

Despite the backlash, some members of the public have also praised Giovanni Jacovelli for the creation of the new memorial.

One Twitter user wrote: “Looks stunning. Thank you for helping remembering a terrible accident. Some recognition that Not using Welsh is an error would be better than the Taliban line.”

Nation.Cymru contacted Mr Giovanni but he was not available to comment.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Language Commissioner said: “We understand that the community council now intends to ensure that the Welsh language will be included on the memorial.
“This will not only reflect the language of the community at the time of the tragedy, but it will also reflect the position of the Welsh language today, as a language with official status in Wales.”

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15 Comments

  1. Mr Jacovelli sounds like he’s of Italian origin or at least descended from Italian ancestors. I wonder how a memorial to those who perished in a similar disaster in a valley off the Adige in Northern Italy would be received if it didn’t have significant Italian text ? Perhaps Mr Jacovelli might enlighten us. As for the “Taliban” analogy, if it’s at all relevant it applies mainly to those who wish to enforce an English only rule on the Welsh heartlands.

  2. Capitalist and Welshnash

    Given the area was essentially entirely Welsh-speaking in 1925, the memorial should be entirely in Welsh.

  3. Sick of anti-Welsh racists moving to Wales and then slagging off its people and its culture. We really need to get off our knees and stop taking this.

  4. Pedr Reimwnt Sanclêr ap Ioan

    These types of Anti Welsh language and culture utterances are now almost an everyday occurrence. Uchafi !

  5. As the artist was asked to “do the memorial exactly as it was before” and the original has been on the site since 2004 I find it slightly odd that such a memorial was created just 13 years ago with only English used. I believe Cllr Williams is a Welsh speaker which raises a question if the council didn’t look on Welsh as being the language of official use. I don’t know if he was on the council in 2004 but it appears the council didn’t think to include Welsh then and overlooked it again more recently. I can think of similar stories of Welsh being overlooked that have featured prominently in the news before social media use became so prevalent but I wonder if the reason that Welsh being ovelooked in the 2017 rededication, as opposed to the univeiling of the original memorial in 2004, is due to Twitter/Facebook.

  6. Fault here is who ever commissioned this monument should have been aware of the need for bi-lingual signs etc. How you can live in Wales and not be aware of that need is beyond me.

    • many are never exposed to a word of Welsh in their lives anymore…lets be truthful 🙁

      • The chairman of the community council, who I believe is a Welsh speaker, has told Radio Cymru, the commissioning oversight is his. What I find strange is that Welsh appears to have been overlooked twice when commissioning this memorial, in 2004, and 2017.

  7. It is amazing that Mr Jacovelli did not think a bilingual sign was necessary but also as amazing or disheartening which ever way you want to look at it that the local Community Council, who commissioned this work, did not think to instruct Mr Jacovelli that any text on this site had to be bilingual

  8. There needs to be a law which views attacks on the Welsh language a hate crime. It’s happening to often. And it’s not due to Brexit, I’ve had experiences going back years.

  9. Beyond contempt to insult the very mother tongue of those who died

  10. Robert Williams

    Voltaire said if God didn’t exist we’d have to invent him. Perhaps if crass anti-Welsh remarks like this weren’t made we’d have to invent them. The feeling of collective indignation is so warming.

  11. This man could have explained that leaving off Welsh was an oversight, not caused by himself, but he insisted on reducing the Welsh language to a terrorist activity – then when he deleted his tweet and wrote something else, he took the victim role and made himself look like a victim of hate himself. Nasty piece of work.

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