‘I’ll never forget’ the flooding of Capel Celyn
The flooding of a village in Gwynedd 50 years ago to provide drinking water for people in Liverpool caused outrage across Wales.
Capel Celyn disappeared and 70 residents lost their homes to make way for the lake, which officially opened on 21 October 1965.
Arwyn Jones looks back at the history of the decision and the impact it had on the political landscape in Wales.
The Liverpool Daily Post reported that the Liverpool Corporation intended to flood Capel Celyn, a small village in rural north Wales.
The scheme involved damming the valley at one end to form what is now the Llyn Celyn reservoir. The 67 Welsh-speaking residents of the area were shocked by the news.
The quiet village sprung into action setting up a committee. The Tryweryn Defence Committee was established to oppose the drowning.
Other branches set up included the Capel Celyn Defence Committee and the Liverpool branch of the Tryweryn Defence Committee. On 7 November 1956 the Committee sent a delegation of three – Gwynfor Evans, the president of Plaid Cymru, Rev R Tudur Jones and Cllr Dafydd Roberts – to address Liverpool City Council. But Gwynfor Evans was shouted down and the three were escorted from the chamber.
Capel Celyn and local supporters took to the streets of Liverpool during a second meeting with the council.
Liverpool had a population of 750,000 people in 1955 and would soon require 65 million gallons of water per day. Post-war Liverpool had some of the worst slums in Britain and the city argued for more water for improved sanitation. This was not the first time Liverpool had looked to Wales for water. Eighty years earlier they had turned to Lake Vyrnwy in mid Wales for drinking water. Llanwddyn was drowned, losing two chapels, three pubs, 10 farms and 37 houses.
THERE are few derelict walls in Wales that are quite so emotive as the one on the side of the A487, overlooking Llanrhystud.
“Call me sceptical if you like but in the end it’s a political gesture,”
But he said the drowning was “disappointing at the time” and Liverpool had “driven roughshod over everything.”
“We all felt a bit down. We did not like to see the village going.”
Poem by R. S Thomas – Reservoirs
R.S Thomas – Resevoirs
There are places in Wales I don’t go:
Resevoirs that are the subconscious
Of a people, troubled far dwon
with gravestones, chapels, villages even:
The serenity of their expression
Revolts me, it is a pose
for strangers, a watercolour’s appeal
To the mass, instead of the poem’s
Harsher conditions. There are the hills
Too; gardens under the scum
Of the forests, and the smashed faces
Of the farms with the stone trickle
Of their tears down the hills’ side.
Where can I go, then, from the smell
Of decay, from the putrefying of a dead
Nation? I have walked the shore
For an hour and seen the English
Scavenging among the remains
Of our culture, covering the sand
Like the tide and, with the roughness
Of the tide, elbowing our language
Into the grave that we have dug for it.
Reservoirs by R S Thomas appeared in “Not That He Brought Flowers”, published in 1968. It was written soon after the opening of Llyn Celyn and Llyn Clywedog.