Thursday, 22 June 2017

Address at Fanny Talbot's memorial service by Edmund Bailey, HM Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd

Edmund S Bailey CStJ. FRAgS.
H.M. Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd

Bonheddigion a Fonheddigesau prynhawn da. 
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ga'i i ddeud mod i’n falch iawn o gael y cyfle i fod yn eich cwmni yma yn yr hen eglwys hardd ac hanesydol hon eglwys Santes Fair.

I’m delighted to have an opportunity to be part of this memorable occasion here in this beautiful church of St Mary’s to commemorate a very special lady who unconsciously sowed a few seeds of a fledgling movement that would develop into one of the most appreciated organisations in Great Britain today.

It is also an organisation that in its time has seen an immense amount of social change and has in some ways been a pillar of solidarity through some troubled times.

Mae wedi bod yn dasg diddorol drost ben i ymchwilio i fywyd Fanny Talbot a thrwy hwnnw dod I  ddeall y pwysau sosialaidd a  arweiniodd at  holl newidiadau’r  ganrif a hanner diwethaf.

I have a lifelong interest in the old hundred of Ardudwy, as it is the place of my birth, my education and my working life and I am convinced where the people are the friendliest and the most honest in the country, although not every one has agreed with that sentiment as we’ll hear.

Er mwyn ddeall a gwerthfawrogi rhodd Fanny Talbot i’r genedl, ei hetifeddiaeth a’i statws fel prif dinesydd Bermo, mae’n rhaid I ni gymryd ei bod yn caru’r ardal hon cymaint a llawer ohonom ni sydd yma heddiw.

To understand and appreciate Fanny Talbot’s gift to the nation, her legacy and her status as Barmouth’s premier citizen, we have to assume she was as much in love with this area as many of us here are today.

She was fairly wealthy, that is obvious. She was a widow, she moved in very learned circles and became friends with Ruskin the social thinker and philanthropist and founder of the educational Guild of St George to which she donated 12 or 13 cottages in 1874. Later on of course in 1895, making the Dinas Olau,  “Fortress of light”, donation to the founding of the National Trust.

Dinas Oleu, what a wonderful name, an almost unassailable piece of land above the old town, covered in gorse which when in flower must have shone like a beacon for the sea farers coming into the harbour.

Yn ddi-os, ei chymhelliant oedd ei chariad at yr ardal ac yn eironig ddigon, mae’n debyg iddi cael y weithred yn haws i’w gyflawni wedi iddi colli mab Quartus, arlunydd dawnus yn 1888, pan oedd ond pymtheg a’r hugain mwlydd oed.

Her motivation was undoubtedly her love for the area and her action, ironically probably made easier by  losing her son Quartus, a gifted artist,, in 1888 when he was only 35years old.

It could be argued that this gift overshadowed her other contributions to the town of Barmouth and I suppose the on going development of the trust strengthens that point. However the wider benefit to the town, through her generosity must not be overlooked. She was described as the greatest benefactress the town had and her support for the Seaman’s Mission in Barmouth, in memory of her son, scholarship’s to Barmouth school when an education was really important and the distribution of food and coal to the poor in the winter are examples of this. Perhaps most importantly was the founding, along with her friend, Frances Power Cobb, of the free Library leading quite rightly to the square being named after her.

Not everyone however has held this area in such high regard: Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerallt Cymro described the area when he visited here in 1182 as the rudest and roughest of all Wales. He was from Pembrokeshire though where the land is a lot kinder and I won’t mention the manners of the people there. He had however a fairly rough crossing of the Mawddach in a poor boat which might have tainted his view of Gods own country.

The history of this area is fascinating and has undoubtedly led to the landscape we all appreciate. The earliest farmers were tilling the thin soil around their huts over 4000 years ago, Lead copper and manganese has been  mined over the centuries and left it’s scars or, if you like it’s character  on the landscape.

Mae waliau cerrig yn nodwedd amlwg iawn yma yn dilyn y Deddfau Cau Tiroedd a disodlodd sawl system cae Neolithig bychan. Mae nhw’n darparu ffiniau defnyddiol, angen ychydig iawn o gynnal a chadw, yn cysgod da, ond mae nhw hefyd yn arwydd o dyddodion carreg yn y pridd.

Stone walls are very much a feature here following the Enclosure acts and they replaced in many cases the small Neolithic field systems. They provide useful boundaries, minimal maintenance, good shelter but are an indicator of the stone deposits within the soil.

Landed estates were established, by force or favour and wealth created by wool and shipping. Fixed marriages enlarged these estates and the disparity between the wealthy and the poor was immense. The unfair division of the land asset became a way of life. The masters and their servants. So one could understand the developments of taxes, death duty and the like which sought a more even distribution of the land and wealth.

Cors y Gedol, the principal estate in this area was over 12,000 acres in the 1850’s and had land interests from Harlech to Barmouth. A hundred years later the farm had been reduced to 2800 acres - 2000 of that being a mountain enclosure. There were however many more proud independent, albeit small farms following this “revolution”.

The irony here is that many of these small farms became unviable as farming methods and farmers expectations changed. Smaller farms were subsumed by the larger ones and many homesteads  left abandoned. There are several valleys hereabouts where now only one or two families remain.
Yn drist ac yn eironig mae adfeilion ysgolion bychain yn rhai o’r cymoedd hyn, sy’n tystio i’r cymunedau ffynianus a fu.

Sadly and ironically some of these valleys have small ruined schools in them. A testament to thriving communities.

So we have witnessed an immense social change in land holding in the last century and a half. It would be, I’m sure one that Ruskin and Fanny Talbot would have been well aware of and one they hoped to influence. She subsequently supported Cannon Rawnsley and Octavia Hill and other public minded citizens in the work of founding the National Trust.

Farming in particular has changed immeasurably over the last century too. We’ve been caught out in two World wars where through our lack of self sufficiency in food  we’ve been  at the mercy of our enemies.  Starvation would have been likely without the courage of the Royal and Merchant navies.

Consequently and through the introduction of farming subsidies, production has been encouraged and food probably is now cheaper and more available than we have ever known, since those Neolithic farmers first tilled the soil 4000 years ago.

However the downside of the last century has  been the abandonment of the great houses and the exploitation of the land. The over use of chemicals and fertilizer,  of drainage, wall and hedge clearance which has impacted on very many habitats and on wildlife too.

This is where an old fashioned and traditional farmer like myself starts to appreciate the work and the commitment of the National Trust. They, through their expert staff and indeed their “mission statement”  has a balanced attitude to the problems we face today. They look after our national treasures and our natural heritage too.

I am aware that within Snowdonia, the National Trust own 58, 000 acres but I’m also aware that much of this is tenanted. They provide opportunities for young farmers to obtain tenancies when it is nigh on impossible in the commercial world to do so. Within Hafod y Llan on Snowdon they are farming in traditional ways and looking to diversified opportunities such as hydroelectricity to add value to their efforts.

They are doing similar work in Plas Newydd with seaborne heat exchangers which all helps to maintain the fabric of that great house, the former seat of Lord Anglesey.

Interestingly in Llyndy Isaf near Beddgelert they have an agreement with the Young Farmers Association whereby a young man or woman has the opportunity to run the farm for a year. The experience they gain is invaluable and is tremendous on their CV’s.

Very much closer to home is of course Egryn , the earliest part of the house at about 1460. It has now been restored beautifully and innovatively with a heating app! It is available to rent. This in its turn,  bringing work and income to the area and best of all the Trusst have a young farming tenant who makes his living and raises his children here. It is massively important to keep good people on the land and children in the schools.

Wrth gwrs, rwy’n cofio Rodney Bryne oedd ai deulu yn berchen Egryn a Mr Brookes oedd yn rhedeg Egryn drosto. Rhaid eu cofio hwythau hefyd fel pawb sydd wedi cyfrannu’n sylweddol i’r Ymddiriedolaeth.

Of course I remember Rodney Bryne whose family owned Egryn and Mr Brookes who ran it for him. They too must be remembered as are all those who have made substantial donations to the Trust.

Some of you will know that Beatrix Potter holidayed in Llanbedr in 1905. Sadly it was at the time she discovered her fiancĂ©,  Norman Warne had died. She certainly did some painting here, one of a cottage  where my son now lives with his family. I wonder is it possible that it was here she heard of Fanny Talbot’s legacy. I like to think so.

Two ladies with sadness in their lives but when we consider Fanny Talbot and compare her to so many others whether they be warring chieftains, landed gentry, wealthy industrialists politicians, those who were famous in their lifetime.

What was their legacy? Did it live on?. Fanny Talbot, a quiet intellectual philanthropic lady with bright black eyes. Set into motion through her generosity and her vision, the National Trust.  What a legacy.

Mae dirwedd hon, ei hanes a’i phobl, hyd yn oed os mai dyma’r dirwedd fwyaf ddigwylydd a garw yng Nghymru gyfan, yn fy ngweud i’n falch o fodd yn Gymro ac yn fy ngweud i’n falch o’r gwaith mae’r Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol yn ei wneud i’w ddiogelu.

This landscape, it’s history and it’s people ,even if it’s the rudest and roughest in all Wales,  makes me proud to be  Welsh and makes me proud of the work the National Trust do to protect it.

Diolch yn fawr iawn.

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