Cofio Carl: remembering a Welsh language legend
The life and work of Dr Carl Clowes, Welsh language and independence advocate and founder of the Nant Gwrtheyrn trust is to be celebrated at The National Eisteddfod.
Dr Clowes, who restored the abandoned village of Nant Gwrtheyrn to establish a Welsh language centre, will be remembered in a discussion between Dafydd Iwan, Alun Jones and Italian born Welsh Learner of the Year at the 2019 Urdd Eisteddfod, Francesca Sciarrillo.
The Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust was founded in 1978 while Dr Clowes was physician in Bro’r Eifl and he was initially appointed Chairman of the centre, later becoming President.
The former quarry village of Porth y Nant and the granite quarry of Nant Gwrtheyrn, opened in 1861, existed side-by-side.
But, following the closure of the quarry during World War II, and the eventual dispersal of the village’s inhabitants, the settlements fell into disrepair.
Finally, in 1948 Nant Gwrtheyrn school closed its doors for the last time, and the last nail was hammered into the village’s coffin in 1959, when the last family left Nant, leaving the village empty.
As a result of Dr Clowes’ vision and efforts the village now houses a Welsh language learning centre, a heritage centre, conference facilities, 4-star accommodation, and a café.
He became the inaugural chairman of the UK’s first community co-operative, Antur Aelhaearn, which was established in 1974 to save the local school, and in 1985 became the inaugural chairman and President of Dolen Cymru, establishing a relationship between Wales and Lesotho.
As chairman of the National Language Forum, he steered the first comprehensive language strategy for the Welsh language which led to the 1993 Language Act.
More recently, at the 2019 Eisteddfod Dr Clowes chaired a forum called ‘A road map to Independence’ with representatives from three pro-independence political parties, Plaid Cymru, Gwlad and Cymru Sovereign examining the next practical steps towards Independence and whether the different political parties could co-operate to achieve this goal.
Writing about Independence in Nation.Cymru last year he commented “It is a lack of vision that is holding us back. And a successful vision creates confidence, the most obvious feature lacking in Wales today!”
Born in Manchester, his parents returned to north Wales and set about learning Welsh. After qualifying as a doctor in 1967, he spent eight years as a doctor in Llanaelhaearn in Llŷn before gaining a Masters in Social Medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In the medical world, he became a Medical Director and a non-executive board member with Public Health Wales, a Public Health Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners for his contributions to medicine.
He was particularly interested in the less developed countries and in an article in The Flag, called for more links with less developed countries to improve understanding of the ‘third world’.
That article led to the forging of links between Wales and Lesotho and the formation of an official partnership in 1985.
Dr Clowes subsequently chaired Dolen Cymru, before being appointed Honorary Consul for Lesotho in Wales.
He became a member of the Gorsedd in recognition of his local, national and international service.
Upon his death, Huw Jones the current Chairman of the Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust claimed that Wales had lost “one of the greatest benefactors of the Welsh language.”
He said: “Nant was a symbol of the decline of a nation, a community, and a language. But it eventually became a powerful symbol of their revival.
“All learners and visitors to Nant Gwrtheyrn will have a place to thank him for decades to come. Our loss as a Trust is immeasurable.
“Looking at Nant Gwrtheyrn in its current, successful form, it’s easy to forget that it used to be a village of ruins and despair at the beginning of the 70s.
“Carl Clowes’ vision of giving it new life by turning it into a language centre gave the nation hope. It started an effort that lasted years, before finally realising the dream.
“Next week’s session will be an opportunity to remember Carl Clowes’ monumental contribution to the challenge of promoting the language and maintaining rural life.”
Cofio Carl will be held at Pentre’ Dysgu Cymraeg (The Welsh Learning Village) on the Eisteddfod’s Maes at Tregaron at 12:00pm, Monday 1 August.
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