Friday, May 23, 2014

Yr Archdderwydd Christine

Mererid Hopwood

This is an image I will always remember. It was at the Denbigh Eisteddfod in 2001, when, for the first time, the coveted chair was won by a woman. I have described elsewhere the electric atmosphere of that moment.

At the same Eisteddfod, one of the adjudicators, saw fit to comment on an entry for the light englyn competition, the subject for which was "red herring". The englyn is a verse form written in cynghanedd and the light englyn, while observing the rules of this strict metre, would be the nearest thing to the “limerick” of Welsh poetry (though, not to be outdone, the Eisteddfod also has a separate competition for limericks). The entry was from Bwni (Bunny). Entries are always under pen-names in the interest of an unbiased adjudication. Bwni, though not the winner, indulged in this increasingly relevant irrelevancy:

Mewn prifardd a phrifarddes - rhoed inni
Orau dyn a dynes,
Er hyn oll nid ym fawr nes
Heddiw i Archdderwyddes
In poet and poetess laureate,
we have the best of man and woman.
Nevertheless, we are no nearer,
today, to an Archdruidess.

Bwni is referring to the fact that, up to then, no woman had won the chair and very few the crown, the two principal competition winners from which the Archdruid was elected. The adjudicator remarked that with an increasing number of women taking up writing poetry in strict meter, and otherwise, there might be some hope of progress on this front in the future.

Neither were aware at that point of what was about to happen on the stage in Denbigh that year.

Well, it took 12 more years, but we finally have a female Archdruid.

Christine James

The election of Christine James (Bardic name Christine) to this position in 2013 is important for two reasons. She is the first woman to hold the post and she is a learner and not a native speaker. So, a serious shower of shards of breaking glass from two ceilings.

Llongyfarchiadau mawr i hi

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