‘The Battle of Evermore’
1,500 years ago, a Celtic bard called Myrddin ran into the woods after his patron had been defeated in battle near the modern Scottish border. It was a disgrace to him that his master had been killed, for it was a bard's job to foresee such a catastrophe. In his disgrace Myrddin rooted around with the pigs and plundered bird’s nests for food as he contemplated his estrangement from the goddess of inspiration. Slowly, but surely, he went mad.
But after some years, he recovered, and his suffering conferred on him a special gift of prophesy and foreknowledge of events. His sister came to him and asked him to show his skill by recounting all the names of the ancient kings of Britain – but also the names and deeds of those that were yet to come. Myrddin prophesied that here at Six Ashes or Onennau Meigion as it was known in the British language – a 'Great Eagle' or war-leader would win a great victory over the Anglo-Saxon adversary. According to the chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth, sixty years or so after Myrddin's prophesy, Cadwallon ap Cadfan, King of Gwynedd and later High King of all Britain won a victory here over the fearsome pagan king Penda of Mercia. Eight hundred years later the prophesies of 'Merlin' as Myrddin was known by then, were invoked to legitimate the claims of Owain Glyndwr, last independent Prince of Wales.
As Shakespeare said, Glyndwr was 'not in the roll of common men'. He was descended from the legendary Brutus the Trojan, first King of Britain who arrived here from the Trojan War in 1200 BC. Magical portents and natural catastrophes accompanied his birth, and in 1402 a comet blazed, so bright it was visible at mid-day, signifying that the liberation of Wales was at hand. In September 1400 the Great Welsh Uprising began when Glyndwr declared himself to be Prince of Wales. In 1405, after five years of spectacular victories against the English king, Henry IV, a combined force of Welsh and French troops about 15,000 strong invaded England. Their objective was to confront Henry here, where Merlin had prophesied an apocalyptic victory over the Saxons, but they were checked about 15 miles away in the Abberley Hills. The plan to divide England and Wales between Glyndwr, Edmund Mortimer, and Henry Percy seemed about to be fulfilled, but after 8 days their food ran out and they drifted back over the border. For centuries the events of 1405 were forgotten, and the original six ashes which grew here were felled to make way for a coach road. The Welsh war of independence lasted 15 years. Glyndwr disappeared and was never found. But the war never ended; it is the ‘Battle of Evermore’ as a bard said. Eventually this rich legacy of history and prophesy faded into oblivion.
But last year, by a lucky chance I happened to meet one of the generous patrons of the Owain Glyndwr Society. We discussed the matter briefly and within a minute he agreed to discuss the project with Gareth. This generous and humble man wishes to remain anonymous, but we all know who he is, and I wish to thank him on behalf of everyone here for his enthusiastic support. Many thanks are due too to Amy, without whose kind permission this addition to our collective heritage would not have been possible. Long may traditional British pubs continue to thrive, whichever side of the border they are on! Our fondest hope is that this project will interweave with a network of heritage-based rambling trails extending all the way to Cardigan Bay. Finally, many thanks are due to ‘Mez’ and Pughe who gave up their time, sacrificed a spade, and supplied ‘post-crete’ to erect the splendid monument we see before us. Many thanks to all of you who have made the effort to come today.