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Mountaineering group commits to supporting use of Welsh names following recent ‘turbulence’

28 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Dinorwig Slate Quarry. Photo by John Englart (Takver) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

British Mountaineering Council Cymru (BMC) has emphasised its commitment to the use of the Welsh language following ‘turbulence’ around the use of ‘disrespectful’ English names at a quarry used by climbers.

The BMC also shared its intentions to work with national bodies to ensure original names are used and respected.

In a statement shared with Nation.Cymru, the group which represents climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in Wales and England said: Following the recent turbulence around the naming of the Dinorwig slate quarries, the BMC want to emphasise that we are committed to and supportive of the use of the historic Welsh names of all parts of the quarries.

“The BMC are keen to explore ways to create a record of historic information and names that properly document and share the traditions and names given by those involved in the quarrying industry for geographical features, unique aspects of this nationally significant culture, the traditions of the time and the more recent history of climbing.

“To achieve this aim we are working with Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales to develop our approach, and to support the Statutory List of Historic Place Names.

“We hope that the work done at this stage will encourage future climbers and mountaineers to seek the information on historic names across the world before adding new names where there are existing ones already given locally.”

Divisions

British Mountaineering Council Cymru (BMC) previously called for an end to divisions between climbers and those advocating for Welsh only place names – claiming that original and newer route names ‘are not mutually exclusive’.

In a past statement shared with Nation.Cymru, the group said that they support the principle of protecting and retaining Welsh language names for geographic features in Wales, but that ’there is space for both’ languages and groups.

“Dinorwig quarry galleries.” by ohefin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The calls were made following the promotion of an event to commemorate the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union and demands to protect Dinorwig quarry’s historic Welsh place names which have been replaced by English names such as ‘Dali’s Hole’ .

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has said that they support the principle of protecting and retaining Welsh language names for geographic features in Wales.

They have adopted the use of Eryri and Bannau Brycheiniog as the official names of these national parks in line with this principle.

Similarly, they support the retention of Welsh language place names for the galleries (known to climbers as levels) of the Dinorwig Quarries and other slate quarries used for climbing.

Interest

According to the group, many climbers are interested to learn more about the history and culture of the places they climb, and there has been an effort to ensure the original Welsh names are used in many newer climbing guides.

The BMC has said that they are committed to continuing to promote understanding and information-sharing between these two communities between which there is now a significant crossover – many of their members, volunteers and two of their staff members are Welsh speakers and feel passionately about this issue.

“Interlinked”

BMC access and conservation officer for Wales, Tom Carrick said: “Having grown up with the Welsh language and living in Gwynedd for most of my life, it saddens me to see the conflict between my native language and my sport, passion and career that’s all interlinked, there is space for both in my eyes.”

The Wellington was the first steam engine to work the quarry galleries in 1870. It was also the only one in Dinorwig that was made by De Winton in Caernarfon.

“It’s important to remember our history, but also that climbing has brought a whole new industry into the area and new meanings to the lines and experiences that climbers have.

“Across the world we are not alone in this and I’m an advocate for the use of trying languages where I can.

“The names of Denali, Sagarmatha and Uluru have all taken to be used more widely in the same way that we encourage the use of Eryri and Yr Wyddfa, it’s great to see the encouragement of these names but through education and demonstration of the importance of our history and traditions not through division.”

“Disrespectful”

The event that brought the latest divisions national attention was organised by a Facebook group Eryri Wen which was founded by Eilian Williams, who said: “The new names given by the climbers over 40 years are considered by most people disrespectful – often taking names from fantasy films (Tolkien etc).

“It is only in the last two years that we have become aware of this as they are restricted to climbing guides and websites. Lately these sites have multiplied.”

In a photograph taken on Abyssinia gallery, three quarrymen are demonstrating how they would split slabs of slate into smaller ‘clytiau’. All the photographs in Dinorwig Quarry were ‘staged’ as the subjects had to keep as still as possible for a few seconds.

“Apologists say that this disrespect was not deliberate but the result of incomers not mixing with the natives and forming their own English speaking mountaineering social groups.”

“Some have suggested that both sets of names should be recognised but we reject that completely.

“This quarry is the place of our ancestors and history for over two centuries, and the land for millennia.

“We were offered to landscape the quarry but this was not felt appropriate as it stands as a monument to the toil and sacrifice of our families.

“This decision resulted in climbers moving in to use it for recreation. The least that they could have done would be to learn our language and learn the names of the galleries.

“We will press Cyngor Gwynedd and the board of UNESCO for action.”


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Rhys Gethin
Rhys Gethin
16 days ago

Gwych!

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