Byw Fyddi Nant Gwrtheyrn...
There were seven residents on that very first Welsh language course in Nant Gwrtheyrn -Richard Wilmot, Margaret Eaglestone, Edna Wood, Pat Skidmore, Pauline Williams, Dave Lovell, and Grace Ll Jones - here are some of their recollections.
Edna Word, Trefor
"It's sixty years now since I had my first view of "the deserted village" from a fisherman's boat. Camping with the Girl Guides in Trefor, three of us hired a local man to take us to see Nant and over the years I have seen the slates of the houses vanish, the wood and fixtures spirited away and the village left to go to ruin. To me it was a strange, sad place with its legends of Vortigern's Castle and his death by thunderbolt and the story of a bride who hid in a hollow tree, never to be seen alive again.
When the project to open the village up again as a Welsh Language Centre was started, its progress was followed with interest and when the first house was made habitable and a weekend course offered to Welsh learners I was on the list. After packing a rucksack, which included pans for cooking, I set off. My husband insists I took all the pans for cooking and he spent the weekend living on toast! However, I arrived in Nant and inspected the house. What a difference from my last visit. The house was still lacking mains electricity and a generator was in use. This was switched off at night so a torch was handy for climbing into the high bunks. I had tried rock-climbing when young and failed so made sure the other ladies were around when I went to bed. As with the bunks, the other furnishings were well made and practical.
We were a small group of students who took our lessons in the main room of the house, sitting in a semicircle in front of the tutor. One lesson I will never forget is when I made the horrible mistake of describing Nant Gwrtheyrn as "ofnadwy" instead of "bendigedig". I can still hear the screams of protest. Lots of visitors came down during the weekend, including a team of catering college students who made an excellent dinner for us. As we were only speaking Welsh on the course I had to sneak into the kitchen and whisper my thanks in English to the non-Welsh speakers. Two television crews came to film, one of which was a Scottish company. Dafydd Iwan entertained us and we joined in the singing with him. Even though I was standing next to him and have a voice like a corncrake he never complained or hinted that I should just mime the words. Needless to say, I'm a fan of his for life. We had visits from various people connected with the project and were given the opportunity to meet the local residents of the village of Llithfaen at the pub. "Y Fic" on the Saturday night. Arriving at the pub we joined a group of people who were holding a get-together. There was a notice on the door stating what society was meeting there but we were made very welcome and had a good night out. On leaving, someone came up to me and asked if I had given them any matches! It was up to Margaret Eaglestone and Richard Wimlott to get me back to Nant and that trip down the path is a journey I wish I could forget. It wasn't booze but obesity and with a high powered couple holding me up we shot down the hill at the speed of light. When we left for home I didn't think that the fact I had been one of the first students would bring me back a couple more times. At the official opening by Wyn Roberts I was standing at the top of the road down to Nant watching the ceremony with my grandchildren. As soon as Mr. Roberts cut the ribbon he turned to my grandchildren and ushered them through before him. My son was pleasantly surprised to see on television his children leading the procession but he was, after all, a former member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith. Again I went down with three others from that first course to welcome Prince Charles. The Prince got out of the helicopter and for the first time I heard him speak Welsh!
So the first course at Nant Gwrtheyrn lasted longer than a weekend and, though I was the dunce of the class, I felt it was a great success and never once felt out of place in an atmosphere of friendliness and fun."
"Coming down the old, rough and very steep track to the Nant, near the bottom I cut off the final zigzag along a path I'd discovered on a previous visit
and so was the first learner to arrive of the six on the very first course. There was only one house renovated - Dwyfor, at the end of Trem y Mynydd. It had water but electricity was from a generator, cranked up at dusk and turned off by the last one to go to bed (don't forget to take a torch!) A very welcoming touch was a case of wine with The Nant's own label, a gift regrettably not repeated on later weekends. On the final day the TV crew descended upon us and we were duly interviewed and turned into a news item which we all watched, with varying degrees of embarrassment, when we got home. Our tutor was the late Gwenno Hywyn, who showed her continuing dedication to learners by providing an interesting, entertaining and instructive weekend."
"I still harbour warm memories of the dream to establish a Language Centre in Nant Gwrtheyrn. There used to be a good group of us who attended a Learners Club in the Goat in Llanwnda. It was an informal club but with two very enthusiastic teachers we learned through enjoying ourselves, so we began to think of raising money for the "cause". Simple enough means were employed, but at the time every penny was important.
For example we arranged coffee mornings, and once a Noson Hwyl yr Wyl in the form of a Cheese and Wine evening with Elinor Bennett, Dafydd Iwan and others. Everybody was keen to assist. Four of the Goat gang were invited to come on the first course ever in Nant in 1982. At that time Nant Gwrtheyrn was primitive compared with today. There was na electricity, no telephone, it was a challenge to negotiate ones way down the old track in a Land Rover - which was old as well! - to stay in the only house that was ready, Dwyfor. An experience to say the least!
With the help of two tutors, Gwenno Hywyn and Merfyn Morgan, and Gwyn Williams the Organiser, we learners had a wonderful weekend. The effect on me was to enable me to "cross the bridge" and encourage me to speak Welsh outside the formal confines of the classroom. I have been back to stay in the Nant over the years and I remember the special atmosphere around the village, that atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. I have found a deep enjoyment in the experience every time. I trust that The Nant will continue as a Language Centre for the next quarter century."
Registration Number 03865538 Company, Registered in England and Wales.
Nant Gwrtheyrn, Llithfaen, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom. LL53 6NL
01758 750 334