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Welsh outlook


Vol. 7, No. 12 Dec. 1920

London Welsh papers : No III. The Cymmrodorion.

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T HE Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion is the
phcenix of Welsh institutions. It has risen from
its own ashes and risen again. To-day it enjoys a
proud estate as the premier Society of the Welsh
people, but it has come through misfortunes to its
present glory, and its varied history has been twice
broken by failure and collapse.
Though of old origin, our Honourable Society does
not carry off the palm for age. That goes to the
Society of Ancient Britons, with which the first genera-
tion of the Brethren was closely related. The career
of the Cymmrodorion falls into three periods. Its first
period lay between 1751, when it was founded by
Richard Morris, and 1787, when it was crushed by
the weight of Pennant's British Zoology." From
many points of view this is the most fascinating phase,
and a detailed account of it is given later on in this
The second period began in 1820, and ended some-
where in the forties. Its fate was determined by the
decline and fall of the eighteenth century spirit amongst
the London Welsh. This new era opened under the
presidency of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. With
him as captain, the Cymmrodorion or Metropolitan
Cambrian Institution, established under Royal Patron-
age, June 24th, 1820,* set out upon the sea of troubles.
The Marquis of Anglesey headed the list of members,
which ended with a group of the inevitable Joneses.
Even the Marquis could not, however, make the way
of the Brethren absolutely smooth, for this is written of
the revived Society:-
It did not escape the malevolence of some
pseudocritics, nor the tooth of envy that ever
gnaws at everything generous and patriotic. It
was attacked anonymously in the newspapers of
the day. Every individual," says the writer of
one of these tirades, who can boast of a long
pedigree or a few hundred acres of bog or moun-
tain appears in the list of vice-presidents."
In spite of the malevolence of pseudocritics
(only too often exerted against the London Welsh !),
the roll of the Cymmrodorion lengthened rapidly, and
steps had to be taken to restrict the influx of members.
The Society at once adopted the London Welsh
tradition, and began to foster literature and knowledge.
It offered medals in the great schools of Wales for
the best essays in the native tongue. It provided prizes
for Eisteddfodau, and it is pleasing to note that some
excellent essays and poems were elicited, to be duly
published in the Transactions."
In 1833, this period of Cymmrodorion history comes
to its climax. The moment of its zenith seems to
have been the Anniversary Meeting at the Freemason's
Hall. It included an Eisteddfod and a national con-
By J. O. Francis.
Cyd unwn, Gymmrodorion,
A'n gilydd yn un galon
I ganu clod i'n Gwlad a'n laith;
Dewisol waith Cymdeithion.
cert. Their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Kent
and the Princess Victoria expressed regret at being
unable to attend. But these splendours were too much
for the Honourable Society. The national concert was
­×alas I-its swan song.
It soon afterwards began to show signs of decad-
ence, and, though it lingered for a time, it
gradually withered away and at length surrendered
to its fate. It was numbered with the things of
the past.
As to the exact date of its surrender there seems to be
difference of opinion.
An old adage, born perhaps of the Triads, tells us
encouragingly that there are three tries for a Welsh-
man. It is aptly illustrated by the history of the
Honourable Society, which, in 1873, after a lapse of
nearly thirty years, was for a third time established.
One link remained, however, with the Metropolitan
Cambrian Institution, established under Royal Favour,
June 24th, 1820. One member of the new assembly
was able to put his aged hand upon the past and tell
something .of the glories of yr hen amser gynt.
Mr. W. Jones (Gwrgant) on being called upon to
address the meeting, was received with cheers.
He stood before them, he said, as the only
surviving member of the Council of the old
Cymmrodorion Society (cheers).
Let us, too, applaud him, and may he, in the silence,
hear our cheers. Gwrgant was of the optimists.
Knowing that twice already had the Society been
founded only to fail, he greeted the new adventure
warmly, and stood, like Nestor, ready to counsel new
warriors in an old cause.
This revival in 1873 brings the Cymmrodorion into
the memory of the living, and its course has run un-
checked up to our own day. The revival was wel-
comed throughout Wales, and, in particular, it is said
that joy was expressed by a number of the Sons of Song
gathered at the Mold Eisteddfod under the presidency
of one whom the record refers to as Mr. J. Ceiriog
In the membership roll of the opening of this third
period are the names of men to whom the young people
of Wales owe a debt of gratitude too great for measur-
ing. Hugh Owen, Morgan Lloyd, B. T. Williams,
Stephen Evans, and Gohebydd were men who had
already been in the van of the battle for Welsh
education. The Welsh University remains for ever
linked with the early leaders of the Cymmrodorion in
this modern chapter. Its later stages have been closely
related to the growth of the National Eisteddfod. This
third period of the Cymmrodorion offers a good story
for someone's telling. Information is plentiful, and
the causes involved are worthy. The scribe who under-
takes to narrate the story will find as one of his main
documents the Cymmrodorion lore of Sir Vincent
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