CYMDEITHAS Hanes Lleol Llandyrnog & Llangwyfan Local History Society held a very successful AGM on October 16.

The meeting took place in Llandyrnog Village Hall, with over 40 old and new members attending.

The chairman and treasurer’s report for the year was received and the programme for 2020 circulated.

The meeting was followed by an extremely interesting and engaging talk from Gwynn Matthews who, although currently living in Cardiff, is a native of Llanrhaeadr and well-known throughout Denbighshire and North Wales as a speaker and author.

He was educated at Llanrhaeadr School and Denbigh Grammar School, and graduated in philosophy at Bangor (University of Wales) and philosophy of education at Liverpool University.

He had a career in adult education – initially as tutor-organiser for West Clwyd with the WEA, and subsequently as resident tutor in Bangor University’s Department of Extra-Mural studies, including stints as co-ordinating tutor for north-east Wales and acting head of department.

After retirement, he was a part-time lecturer in the philosophy of religion at the university.

Despite philosophy being his subject of study, it is through his interest in local history that Gwynn is best known.

He has published a number of monographs and articles on local history, and contributed articles on Denbighshire’s communities to the University of Wales Press Encyclopaedia of Wales.

He wrote the volume on Denbighshire in the Welsh series ‘Broydd Cymru’.

In July he published a collection of lectures on Denbighshire literary figures. Genefa, Paris a Dinbych ac Ysgrifau Eraill.

He explained how Mediaeval Welsh poetry is of interest to us in the Vale of Clwyd and across Wales, and it is an important source of a multitude of real historical facts and information.

He did, however, caution about poetic licence where poets were likely to want to praise their paymasters and families so it might be wise to take some poems with a pinch of salt.

Thousands of these poems are held in the Welsh National Library in Aberystwyth, accessible to all to view but generally inaccessible to most as they are not only in Welsh but in “old” Welsh.

It needs expertise to translate and interpret them to provide access and understanding and, ideally, to be digitised.

In the Middle Ages, an Eisteddfod was an exam, culminating in prize-giving and awarding of degrees very different to what the modern-day Eisteddfod is.

Gwynn explained how being a poet in those times was a paid profession, with poets commissioned to write poems.

The amount paid was dependent on the degree attained.

For a master poet, it took at least eight years of study.

The intricacies of the construction of Welsh poetry, particularly cynghanedd, was described.

The west window of Saint Michael's Church in Caerwys bears an inscription which commemorates the granting of a Royal commission by Henry VIII to hold an Eisteddfod in 1523.

The Bardic Guild then looked to the crown for authority. No-one knows why the Eisteddfod was held in Caerwys.

In 1567, another Eisteddfod was held by Royal commission of Queen Elizabeth.

She funded the prizes from her own finances and gave solid silver prizes.

There was a chair for the best poet, a tongue for the best singer and a harp for the best harpist.

The chair symbolised that in the days of Welsh independence there was a specific seat in the Royal court for a poet.

These prizes were entrusted to Lord Mostyn and his successors and the harp is still in Mostyn Hall.

It was explained that the Vale of Clwyd was a very rich area in the Tudor period.

There were many major houses and the poets were invited to them and commissioned and paid to write poems about the people, their houses, their wives, etc.

The landed gentry were very well educated and capable of creating poetry themselves, but they would not lower themselves to do so. They were, however, willing to invest in the artists and craftsmen.

All guilds did have rules and the Poets Guild was no exception, and they were written out on a scroll.

These included items such as how often you could visit the same house, what you must not write in your poem and what you must not do. The poet’s scroll is eight pages long.

Poets also had responsibility for keeping pedigrees and heraldry which was considered extremely important.

The talk also covered information about Catrin o Ferain, Llanefydd and her royal blood via her mother, possibly making her the granddaughter of Henry VII.

Also covered was how Bach y Graig, Tremeirchion, owned by Richard Clough (second husband of Catrin) was one of the first houses built with bricks, possibly from Antwerp.

Mention was also made of Gabriel Goodman, of Ruthin, who became the Dean of Westminster and who established or re-established Ruthin school, and built the Alms houses in Ruthin amongst other good works.

Gwynn also talked about Humphrey Llwyd, the Denbigh Member of Parliament, about whom was said ‘in parliament he is a pearl of his generosity’.

Many facts and information about them has been and can be gleaned directly from the Medieval poetry.

The speaker also mentioned many other poets who sang on Vale of Clwyd topics, such as Iolo Goch from Lleweni and Llechryd; Tudur Aled of Garth Ceri, Llansannan; Gruffudd Hiraethog, a native of Llangollen; Simwnt Fychan of Ty Brith, Llanfair; William Cynwal from Cerrigellgwm, Ysbyty Ifan; Lewis ab Edward or Lewis Meirchion, Bodfari and Sion Tudur of Wigfair, Cefnmeiriadog - a military man who was the queen’s bodyguard.

After the Tudor period, there was an unwillingness to pay poets, but the poets of Tudor times and their patrons had a wealth of knowledge which has been bestowed to succeeding generations.

The next history society event will be the launch of a Second World War project.

Society members are compiling material for a Llandyrnog & Llangwyfan book to be published in 2025 to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the war, which will be a companion to the book Llandyrnog & Llangwyfan 1914-18 Y Rhyfel Mawr - The Great War.

It will take place in Llandyrnog Village Hall on Sunday, November 10 between 12 and 2.30pm, immediately following the St Tyrnog Church Remembrance service in Llandyrnog.

Members would like to invite anyone along who thinks they have any information to share about Llandyrnog and Llangwyfan during the Second World War, including anyone who had relatives alive in the villages then, or anyone who feels they can contribute to the project in any way.

There will be information on what is proposed, free light refreshments and other activities.

For further details or to join the society, contact the society secretary on