Gwynfor Evans was a great man of Wales. He was born 100 ago today - which is why he's been in the news. I never met him, but felt that I knew him. I did go to his funeral at Aberystwyth in 2006, representing the Conservative Group in the National Assembly. I was very proud to do so.
Generally, Gwynfor Evans is remembered for his threat to refuse food unless the Conservative Gov't of 1979-83 established a dedicated Welsh Language television channel. It had been a promise in the Conservative manifesto at the 79 election, and there was much concern that the promise would not be kept. I've heard a few versions of what happened, some of which portray Gwynfor Evans' role as being crucial to the decision to go ahead with S4C - and some which credit Willie Whitelaw, Nick Edwards (Lord Crickhowell) and the great Lord Roberts of Conwy of being the main influences on Mrs Thatcher. Anyway, its not important because to me that wasn't Gwynfor Evans' greatest achievement anyway. That was ensuring the survival of a modern political party, Plaid Cymru through its formative years - holding the ship together.
The Welsh Nationalist Party was set up in mid-1920s. Gwynfor Evans formed a local branch at Oxford University. In 1949 he was elected to serve on Carmarthen County Council, where he was particularly well known for campaigns to improve transport links - leading to him being known as 'Gwynfor duel carraigeway'. But the party didn't make much progress until 1966, when he was elected Plaid's first MP - for Carmarthen following death of Labour's Megan Lloyd George. He lost at the following election but regained the seat in 1974, when he was joined at Westminster by the two Dafydds - Wigley and Elis Thomas. Plaid Cymru had 'arrived'. In passing, I wonder what he'd have thought of the positions these two hold in political life today? His greatest achievement (in my opinion) was to carry Plaid Cymru through the 50s and 60s.
Gwynfor Evans politics were very different from mine. I'm a man of the centre/right. He was a pacifist and conscientious objector. But he loved and lived for Wales and he had a passion for the Welsh Language. On these issues we were as one. That is why I was so honoured to represent my party at his funeral and why I very much hope that the campaign to raise a permanent monument in his memory in Carmarthen is successful.