When the National Pageant of Wales took place in Cardiff a hundred years ago the Western Mail claimed that ‘the Pageant reveals what no historian can the life and manners of other days and the events that have shaped the destinies of a great people.’
We can be grateful to Professor Edwards for this wonderfully lively account of an event which has been forgotten by many, and, as one has grown to expect from Gomer, the volume is very attractive, containing, as it does, many photographic illustrations, many in colour.
The Pageant, which lasted for two weeks, involved a large cast of Welsh people, some prominent in public life, who assumed the roles of the heroes and heroines of Welsh history. For example, the Vicar of Aberpergwm played Dewi Sant while Lady Llangattock played the wife of Owain Glyndŵr. The driving force behind the venture was Flintshire born Arthur Owen Vaughan. Better known under his pseudonym Owen Rhoscomyl, he was the author of a stirring work entitled Flamebearers of Welsh History as well as rattling yarns for boys which, he claimed, were inspired by his experiences in foreign climes. Professor Edwards tells us that there are gaps in our knowledge about Rhoscomyl’s life, but in these pages provides us with the most detailed account so far. This will certainly give the book a further interest for many.
‘It is time to think of staging a further National Pageant’ writes the author in his final paragraph. After reading this enormously pleasurable book many readers will certainly agree with him.
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Table of Contents:
The Parkerian Pageant
Owen Rhoscomyl (1863-1919)
The Greatest Event in the Annals of Wales
Hywel Teifi Edwards was born in Llanddewi, Aber-arth, Ceredigion.
Formerly Professor of Welsh at the University of Wales, Swansea, he is the author of several books on Wales in the Victorian age.
He edited ten volumes of the iconic series about the valleys of Wales, Cyfres y Cymoedd, and his latest volume is The National Pageant of Wales.
Hywel Teifi is a renowned public speaker and a frequent contributor on BBC Radio Cymru and the Welsh TV channel, S4C.
He was a member of Dyfed County Council and a parliamentary candidate for the Llanelli constituency in 1983 and Carmarthen in 1987.
He is the father of Huw Edwards, the BBC’s ten o’clock news presenter.
A hundred years ago, The National Pageant of Wales took place in Cardiff's Sophia Gardens, causing a flurry of media excitement. However, despite the impact made at the time by this dramatic performance of the history of Wales, the Pageant has since been largely forgotten.
Hywel Teifi Edwards has written a lively, accessible account of the staging of the Pageant in 1909, accompanied by numerous fascinating photographs showing the players in costume.
At the heart of this book is Owen Rhoscomyl, the one-time soldier, novelist and unorthodox historian who was employed to script the Pageant.
A century on, it is time to celebrate The National Pageant of Wales once again, and to reflect upon the chances in Wales's political fortunes that it so flamboyantly presaged.
"The greatest event in the annals of Wales."
The Western Mail.
THE WELSH DON’T KNOW THEIR OWN HISTORY!
‘The Welsh public don’t have enough of an understanding of their own history’ says Hywel Teifi Edwards. And this is as true of Wales today as it was a century ago.
Professor Edwards warns that schools are forever emphazising ‘science and sums’ but are neglecting Welsh history to a large extent. In a new book just published, The National Pageant of Wales, he writes of one of the most bizarre but largely forgotten public spectacles ever held in Wales.
In 1909, a pageant celebrating Wales through the ages, featuring over 5,000 participants from among the country’s upper and working classes alike, was held in the shadow of Cardiff Castle - to great public acclaim.
Even though the pageant caused a flurry of media excitement at the time, the event staged a century ago has been largely overlooked until now.
Hywel Teifi Edwards has written a lively, accessible account of the staging of the pageant, accompanied by numerous fascinating photographs showing prominent individuals in costume, in addition to several spectacular scenes such as ‘storming the Castle’ - no mean feat.
The actors included Lord Tredegar as Owain Glyndŵr, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff as Hywel Dda, the City Librarian as Merlin the Wizard and the Chief Constable of Glamorgan as ‘Chief Ruffian’. The cast also consisted of rugby players, teachers, schoolchildren, and a mixture of people from all walks of life.
The pageant presented a re-enactment of Welsh history, ranging from Caradoc’s defiance of imperial Rome circa 50 BC to the Act of Union between England and Wales in 1536.
At the heart of the book is the compelling story of one man and his passion for his native country. Owen Rhoscomyl, the maverick historian who was employed to script the pageant, was a one-time soldier, novelist and firebrand, and Hywel Teifi Edwards tells his fascinating story with great verve.
Rhoscomyl had a ‘warrior spirit’ and he truly believed that the Welsh could make their mark on the world stage. Hywel Teifi asserts that Wales today desperately needs unique figures with a vision such as Rhoscomyl.
He says ‘If only we had his like again in 2009 to script a National Pageant (or better still an epic film) to tell the Welsh, who are awaiting yet another referendum to test their readiness for “a proper parliament”, what he told them in the wake of the Cymru Fydd collapse in 1896. Quite simply, as Barack Obama put it on the night of his election victory, when he confronted the difficulties to be overcome, ‘Yes, we can.’ Rhoscomyl never doubted that the Welsh could be whatever they aspired to be. We will do well to remember him this year.’
To mark the 100th anniversary of the pageant, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, with the help of local school children, will present an affectionate tribute to this remarkable event. The historical pageant will be staged at Cardiff Castle on 16 May 2009.
ABOUT THE PAGEANT
The National Pageant of Wales was staged in Sophia Gardens in Cardiff from 26 July to 7 August 1909.
Approximately 40,000 pieces of costumes were designed by the Western Mail’s cartoonist, J. M Staniforth, and his designs were fashioned into costumes by a small army of 800 dressmakers.
A makeshift grandstand was erected in Sophia Gardens to seat 7,500 spectators with another 17,000 seated in stands provided by Cardiff RFC.
The Pageant tried to make a loud statement about the right of Wales to be recognized and properly valued as a British, imperial asset. Exchanging costumes for uniforms, the Welsh then went on to war to prove that they meant what they said in Sophia Gardens and were prepared to die to prove it.
ABOUT THE SCRIPTWRITER
Owen Rhoscomyl (1863-1919) was born in Southport to a Welsh mother and an English father.
He fought in the Boer War and in the First World War.
During the course of the Boer War Rhoscomyl marrried one of the Boer daughters unbeknown to her family. A letter describes the wedding on the banks of the river Vaal, near Vrederfort in the Northern Free State, with bullets shooting above their heads.
He and his wife Catherine Lois de Geere returned to Wales and raised four children.
In 1905 he published Flame-bearers of Welsh History for the benefit of the nation’s schoolchildren.