37. Hedd Wyn (Ellis Humphrey Evans)
Creatives (178 votes)
1887 – 1917
Chief bard and winner of the ‘Black Chair’ immortalised in an Oscar-nominated film.
Hedd Wyn was born Ellis Humphrey Evans on the farm ‘Ysgwrn’ in the Trawsfynydd area of Meirionydd, where he worked with his father after leaving school. He took a great interest in poetry from an early age and was an enthusiastic competitor in the Eisteddfodau.
Hedd Wyn was one of 280,000 Welsh men who joined the Armed Forces in the ‘Great War’ of 1914-1918. In all 13.82% of the Welsh population served against 13.02% of Scots and 13.3% of the English. Early in 1917 the bard joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and sailed to France in June. Within a month he was killed in the Battle of Pilken Ridge.
The National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead was staged in September of that year.
The Archdruid Dyfed proclaimed the author of Yr Arwr (The Hero) as the winner of the Chair but explained that he would be unable to take part in the ceremony as he had been killed in battle. The Chair was draped with a black cloth and the assembled audience was grief-stricken
The acclaimed poet, Alan Llwyd maintains that Yr Arwr “is possibly the most ambitious of any Eisteddfod winner in the 20th Century.”
Hedd Wyn’s poems had been turbulent and emotional before 1914, often dwelling on the horror of war, among them one simply entitled Rhyfel (War). In his 1987 book Llęn Cyni a Rhyfel (The Literature of Adversity and War), D Tecwyn Lloyd describes it as “one of the great verses of our century and the greatest of all war poems of our era.”
In two lines it sums up the terror of battle in the trenches during The Great War: “With the cries of the boys filling the air/and their blood mixed with the rain”
The 1992 flim Hedd Wyn, scripted by Alan Llwyd and directed by Paul Turner won several awards and was nominated as best Foreign Film in the Oscars of 1993. He continues to represent a lost generation that could have further enriched our literature and national life had they been spared.