Iain Chambers’ new work for LLAWN celebrates the legacy of Lewis Valentine, baptist minister turned activist, who played a key part in the founding of Welsh nationalism.
Iain’s composition features field recordings from Llandudno alongside the organ of the Tabernacle – the chapel where Valentine was minister from 1920 until 1946 – in a piece drawing on the famous hymn Valentine wrote, Dros Cymru’n Gwlad.
Sundays at the Tabernacl were often a soundclash of two congregations – English and Welsh – taking place simultaneously (Welsh singing won out, unsurprisingly). Valentine’s congregation was one of the biggest and most influential Baptist congregations in North Wales – he was well known as a preacher right across Wales.
Lewis Valentine returned from serving in World War I committed to pacifism and to kindling Welsh nationalism. In 1925 he met with Saunders Lewis and D J Williams with the aim of establishing a Welsh party serving a Welsh speaking Wales.
At this time, pacifism was probably more strongly established in Wales than in any other part of the British Isles. The Welsh were deeply opposed to the Westminster government’s proposals to militarise one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the country.
In 1936, one of North Wales’ most important ancient houses, Penyberth – described as a Welsh equivalent to Lindisfarne – was demolished to build an RAF bombing school on the site.
Vehement protests by Welsh people to the demolition and to the air arms race were ignored by Westminster, and the strength of feeling was such that Lewis Valentine – probably the greatest Baptist preacher of his generation – alongside Lewis and Williams set fire to sheds and offices on the RAF building site at Penyberth to draw attention to the cause.
The three men – y tri – spent 9 months in prison after an Old Bailey trial in which two of them were forbidden from speaking in Welsh. They returned to Wales to a hero’s welcome of 15,000 people in Caernarfon.
After World War II, Lewis Valentine continued to preach, amidst a climate of declining congregations: ‘We are witnessing Wales becoming more and more irreligious each year, and her grasp on Christianity becoming more tenuous.’ It was in this context that he wrote Dros Cymru’n Gwlad, the hymn for which he is now best known in Wales, set to the music of Sibelius’ Finlandia – Finland’s own struggle for independence being an inspiration to Valentine.
In a Bathing Machine on the Promenade (near the Bandstand) 11.00am-6.00pm both Sat 24th and Sun 25th Sep.