Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Day in Llanystumdwy

Snowdonia in the sunshine is an exceedingly beautiful place - even if her most evocative mood is when she's glowering under low cloud, dark and menacing. We travelled from Beaumaris, down the Lleyn, across to Pwllelli, and stopped for most of the day at Llanystumdwy, to take in some David Lloyd George history.

It was very quiet in the Museum. We had it to ourselves. Even the cheerful waitress at the next door Dwyfor Cafe has never visited - despite being offered free entry! Odd I thought, because Lloyd George was, without doubt one of Britain's greatest Prime ministers. Its a remarkable story - a Criccieth solicitor going to Westminster, and through political fleetfootedness, courageous sticking to principle, and oratorical skill, became Prime Minister for 5 years. Remarkably, he was a Liberal who depended on Conservative support to maintain his premiership throughout, and lost office only when he lost the Conservatives - over the Irish question. The most impressive sliver of information I recall about Lloyd George was his opposition to rubbing the German's noses in it at Versailles. If only the French, Americans and Italians had listened to the little Welsh wizard from Llanystumdwy, and not insisted on punitive reparations, we might not have suffered the Second World War. Magnanimity in victory is a mark of a true statesman.

One of the most striking aspects of our visit was the vary small size of the man - only five foot and five inches - and slight with it. The most disconcerting aspect was watching the film of him chatting with Hitler in 1936. Mrs D asked me as we left whether I was was moved by my sense of pride in the achievements of a great Welshman, and whether it was diminished by his being a Liberal. I just said that we must remember that it was Lloyd George who brought down Asquith, and the Liberals have not threatened Downing Street ever since. I need to read a biography of Lloyd George.,


Alison said...

Last October I watched the Life Story of Lloyd George (a silent film), at the NLW, Aberystwyth (Fflics Film Festival). Really recommended, and one of the best films I've see.

NLW said they were going to make available the film on dvd, but I'm not sure how this would transpire from the big screen. If NLW or anywhere else screen this film again, do make the effort to go and watch it. Whatever your political leanings today, its educational from a historical context.

Frank H Little said...

Hindsight is a great thing. If Woodrow Wilson had sided with Ll G rather than the French, he could have swayed Versaille in favour of lighter sanctions. Thus a major source of resentment leading to WWII would not have existed.

However, the French had cause to be vindictive, as the Albert Kahn film archive, recently adapted for BBC-2, showed. Germany under the Kaiser devastated French towns, villages and agriculture.

penlan said...

Ll-G was brought down over his support for a calamitous Greek invasion of Asia Minor which nearly led to a War with Turkey in 1922 rather than Ireland.Ll-G(in the words of AJP Taylor)solved the Irish Question for fifty years which was far longer than anyone expected at the time.The 1922 committee is a legacy of his downfall.A truly great statesman.

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

You'll find it awfully difficult to get hold of a decent bio of Lloyd George, Glyn - there isn't one. There have been about four attempts to write one and each one has usually failed to be completed - in at one case, because the author died young and tragically, in another because the writer lost interest, in another because it was an "official" biography and the writer couldn't get on with Lloyd George...you get the picture. None of my professional brethren will now touch the topic with a bargepole - the word has got round that it's cursed.

Having said that, there is a brief narrative account by Kenneth Morgan that's pretty good - but that's emphasis on the brief.

One thing I would take issue with though - I don't think Lloyd George was a man of principle. I think it useful to pose as one, which is not the same thing. He was very happy to jettison any number of Liberal principles in World War One, and was the man behind British policy during the Irish Civil War of 1919-1922 (Black and Tans anyone??) afterwards. Slippery customer, who got where he was more by being in the right place at the right time, coupled to sheer brilliance (he was probably the cleverest man ever to be PM).

Don't get the idea I don't admire him - I think he was a very remarkable man, and his achievements as a Welsh radical who ended up leading the Tory party were genuinely astonishing. But I'm always wary about going overboard on the achievements of anybody where myths (including his own perpetuated in his War Memoirs) get in the way.

Sorry, historian's rant over!!!

Glyn Davies said...

alison - I will remember - now that my interest has been activated.

Frank - Yes, but its the measure of the true statesman to rise above revenge and desire to punish, irrespective of justification for such feelings.

penlan - My knowledge of Lloyd George is shameful for a Welsh politician. I'm sure you are right. I'm hoping to learn more.

half blood - my observation was based on no more than three hours reading material at the Museum at Llanystumdwy - but I certainly absorbed the impression that Lloyd George was a seriously slippery customer. But his contribution to the war and his budgets make him special.

Sandy Jamieson said...

"Lloyd George, no doubt,
when his life ebbs out,
will ride on a flaining chariot,
seated in state on a red hot plate,
twixt Satan and Judas Iscariot.
And Ananias that day,
to his Master will say,
my claim for precedence fails,
so move me up higher,
away from the fire
and make way for that Liar from Wales"

delightful little rhyme from the early 20s. By the way did you walk past the river bridge up the hill and visit his grave? -only about 200-300 yds from the museum

Alison said...

As stated in the first comment of this thread, I watched a silent film at NLW back in October 2007 on Lloyd George.

This now appears to be released on dvd, and NLW is selling it: http://siop.llgc.org.uk/perl/go.pl/shop/product-details.html/type=LLAR/dep=CH/stockref=1862250774

I really enjoyed this film, however that was on a cinema screen with an accompanying piano score. So I'm not sure how this would translate to a television.