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Postcard showing the bardic chairs won by Hedd Wyn (Ellis Humphrey Evans; 1887-1917), outside his home 'Yr Ysgwrn', Trawsfynydd.

Hedd Wyn is one of the most widely known poets of twentieth-century Wales. In 1907, he won the first of six bardic chairs at a regional eisteddfod in Bala. A decade later, he enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers, 15th Battalion, and was sent to France. On 6 September 1918, Hedd Wyn was declared the winner of the bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead. Tragically, however, he had already been killed in the battle of Pilken Ridge on 31 July. The bardic chair, which was draped with a black cloth in the awarding ceremony, became known as 'Y Gadair Ddu' (The Black Chair).

The following passage is a childhood memory of a visit to the home of Hedd Wyn by Rev. David Idris Owen. Both Hedd Wyn and Owen were descendents of Ellis Humphreys (1767-1862), a prominent landowner in Maentwrog and Trawsfynydd.

'In the mid-1920's, when I was a child, I used to spend my summer holidays with various relatives in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area. I often stayed with my mothers'[sic] youngest brother, uncle Dafydd at his home in the village of Manod. David Lewis Owen, a farmers' son[sic], was only 21 years old at the beginning of the Great War and served in the fateful Dardanelles (Gallipoli) campaign of 1915 when he was blinded. On return from war he was trained (by St Dunstans) as a mat-maker.

One day, uncle Dafydd arranged for us to visit the birth-place of the bard Hedd Wyn. We were accompanied by my friend Hugh Verdun Pritchard (born in 1916 at the time of the Battle of Verdun) who lived in Manod and whose uncle was the musical director of the Oakley Brass Band in Ffestiniog. We travelled by train, alighted at Trawsfynydd station and walked into the village along Station Road and Ty'n-y-pistyll. In the village centre was the recently erected statue of the bard beneath which we stopped. I described the statue to my uncle and guided his hand so that he could touch it. Asking passers-by for directions to the Ysgwrn we walked hand in hand south out of the village, crossed the bridge, turned east along Cwm Prysor, past Bryngolau farm and eventually reached our destination. The Ysgwrn was a two-storey, ivy-clad, stone farmhouse with a slate roof, surrounded by trees, at the end of a worn track.
We were welcomed by Evan and Mary Evans the bards'[sic] parents and two of their daughters. We sat in the large kitchen and talked for some time. The parents were in their sixties, care-worn by work and the recent tragedy in their lives. They were fond of Uncle Dafydd whose presence and war-time experiences reminded them of their personal loss. Evan was a gentle, quiet man. Mary conducted the conversation speaking freely of her late son, but with a sad dignity. She recounted much of his life and work but one description stands out in my memory. She said, that when her son was composing a poem and the awen (muse) was upon him, he would go out onto the hills above his beloved Afon Prysor and walk for hours-on-end ignoring the elements and the time of day or night. Occasionally he would return home to put on a dry over-coat before resuming his silent vigil. Only when the work was fully constructed in his mind would he begin writing.

We were served afternoon tea around the kitchen table. When we had finished, Mary took us into another, smaller room in which were arranged her late sons'[sic] bardic chairs; the carved wooden tributes to his poetic genius. My greatest joy was to be invited to sit upon each chair in turn including the posthumously awarded, precious Black Chair. What a thrill for a young boy!

When I returned home from my holiday I wrote down the tale of my wonderful experience and recounted it to the local Aelwyd. I still have that worn and faded document as a permanent and happy memory.'

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