The Land of My Fathers
Place: Sophia Gardens Pavilion (Cardiff/Caerdydd) (Cardiff/Caerdydd, Glamorganshire, Wales)
Number of performances: 10
30 July–11 August 1951
The pageant was a relatively long one, at two and a half hours length.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Reed, Garry
- Organiser: Mr Tom Davies
- Director: Mr Clifford Evans
- Production Personnel:
- Assistant Director: Kenneth Evans
- Production Manager and Stage Director: Peter Thompson
- Stage Manager: John Lynton
- Assistant Designer and Wardrobe Mistress: Joan Pyle
- Assistant Stage Manager: Pamela Ashley
- Assistant Stage Manager: Dulcie Plucknett
- Assistant Stage Manager: Rainer Lenk
- Assistant Stage Manager: Margaret Larke
- Chief Electrician: Chris Kloosterman
- Carpenter: Robert Williams
- Theatre Manager and Licensee: Tom Davies
- Scenery Painted by Students of the College of Art with Patricia Dickinson
- Properties Made under Supervision of the College of Art
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- Chairman of the Council: General Lord Ismay, GCB, CH, DSO
- Director-General: Sir Gerald Barry
- Chairman: Sir Wynn P. Wheldon, DSO, LLD
- Will Arthur, Esq.
- Alun Oldfield-Davies, Esq.
- Sir Leonard Twiston Davies, KBE, JP, DL
- H.T. Edwards, Esq.
- Clough William-Ellis, Esq.
- Idris Evans, Esq.
- Sir Herbert Miles, MBE, JP
- The Rev. A.E. Jones, CBE
- Lady Megan Lloyd George, MP, JP
- R.H.R. Lloyd, Esq.
- Miss Myra Owen
- J.D. Powell, Esq., HMI
- Emlyn Williams, Esq.
- W.J. Williams, Esq., LLD
- Morgan Nicholas, Esq.
- Sir William Llewellyn Davies, FSA
- Secretary: A.G. Prys-Jones, Esq., OBE
Pageant Play of Wales Committee
- President: The Lord Mayor of Cardiff (Alderman Robert Bevan JP)
- Chairman: Mr Idris Evans, BA, Officier d’Academie
- Vice-Chairman: Councillor Arthur Manley
- Honorary Secretary: Mr S. Tapper-Jones, LLB, Town Clerk of Cardiff
- Honorary Treasurer: Mr R.L. Davies, AIMTA, Deputy Treasurer of Cardiff
- Mrs Winifred Darbey
- The Right Reverend the Bishop of St Davids (William Thomas Harvard, DD)
- Mr D. Haydn Davies, BA
- Alderman H.T. Edwards, JP
- Sir Ifan ap Owen Edwards, JP, MA
- Mr D.T. Guy, BA
- Mr. D.O. Jones, MSc
- Professor Henry Lewis, MA, DLitt (Wales)
- Mr. T.O. Phillips, MA
- Mr. A.G. Prys-Jones, OBE, MA
- Sir Frederick Rees, MA, DSc, FRHistS, FSA
- Dr. W.J. Williams, MA, LLD
- Representing Cardiff City Council:
- G.L. Ferrier (alderman)
- R.G. Robinson (alderman)
- G. Williams, CBE, JP (alderman)
- D.T. Williams, JP (alderman)
- Miriam Bryant (councillor)
- E.C. Dolman (councillor)
- L. Doyle (councillor)
- Helena Evans, JP (councillor)
- Llewellyn Jenkins (councillor)
- E.T.R. Jones (councillor)
- Anna Kerrigan, JP (councillor)
- Dorothy Lewis (councillor)
- J. Llewellyn (councillor)
- Helen Pooley (councillor)
- Ethel Stevens (councillor)
- J. Walker, MD, DPH (councillor)
- A.J. Williams, JP (councillor)
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Jones, Jack
- Vaughan, Richard
- Evans, Clifford
- Prys-Jones, A. G.
- Monger, Dr David
- Roderick, A. J.
- Etheridge, Ken
Names of composers
- Hughes, Arwel
Numbers of performers
Object of any funds raised
Linked occasionThe Festival of Britain 1951, itself a commemoration of the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
1500 for opening performance.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
The titles of the scenes are known, but there is no copy of the script, so a full synopsis is not possible.
Scene I. The Death of Arthur
Scene II. The Conversion of Boia
Scene III. The Making of the Laws
Scene IV. The Prophecy of the Old Man of Pencader
Scene V. The First Eisteddfod
Scene VI. The Attempt to Unite Wales
Scene VII. The Last Prince
Scene VIII. Dafydd ap Gwilym
Scene IX. The Welsh Archers at Crecy
Scene X. The Red Flamingo
Scene XI. The Mystery of Owain Glyndwr
Scene I. Henry Tudor
Scene II. Translation of the Bible into Welsh
Scene III. The Death of John Penry
Scene IV. The Teaching of Vicar Pritchard
Scene V. The Welsh Bucaneer
Scene VI. Admiral Morgan
Scene VII. Noson Lawen
Scene VIII. The Voice of Industry
Scene IX. The Ironmasters
Scene X. Finale
Key historical figures mentioned
- Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain
- David [St David, Dewi] (d. 589/601) patron saint of Wales and founder of St David's
- Hywel Dda [Hywel Dda ap Cadell] (d. 949/50) king in Wales
- Henry II (1133–1189) king of England, duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine, and count of Anjou
- Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd (d. 1170) prince of Gwynedd and poet
- Llywelyn ab Iorwerth [called Llywelyn Fawr] (c.1173–1240) prince of Gwynedd [also known as Llywelyn the Great]
- Gwenwynwyn (d. 1216?) ruler in Wales
- Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (d. 1282) prince of Wales [also known as Llywelyn the Last]
- Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl. 1330–1350) poet
- Edward [Edward of Woodstock; known as the Black Prince] prince of Wales and of Aquitaine (1330–1376), heir to the English throne and military commander
- Glyn Dŵr [Glyndŵr], Owain [Owain ap Gruffudd Fychan, Owen Glendower] (c.1359–c.1416) rebel leader in Wales
- Iolo Goch (fl. 1345–1397) poet
- Merlin [Myrddin] (supp. fl. 6th cent.) poet and seer
- Henry VII (1457–1509) king of England and lord of Ireland [also known as Henry Tudor]
- Rhys, Sir, ap Thomas (1448/9–1525) soldier and landowner
- Davies, Richard (c.1505–1581) bishop of St David's and biblical translator
- Penry, John (1562/3–1593) religious controversialist
- Jonson, Benjamin [Ben] (1572–1637) poet and playwright
- Morgan, Henry (d. 1559) bishop of St David's
- Charles II (1630–1685) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
- Samuel Homfray (1762–1822) ironmaster
Musical productionChoir: Morlais Glee Singers
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- ‘The Land of my Fathers’: A Pageant Play of Wales. Cardiff, 1951.
Price: 6d. Copy at National Library of Wales, ‘The Pageant Play Committee Presents ‘The Land of my Fathers’: A Pageant Play of Wales’. 2011 XC 1327.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- 'For the Honour of Wales' (Festival of Britain Pageant), 1951. National Library of Wales. 915–19. This appears to be an early version of the script for ‘Land of my Fathers’.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
Land of My Fathers was a pageant-play staged as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951. It took place in the Sofia Gardens in Cardiff, the same location as the National Pageant of Wales in 1909. Similar to that event, it was mostly national in its narrative. In contrast, however, it was much more boldly patriotic, celebrating Welsh revolt and individuality. It was directed by Clifford Evans—a Welsh theatrical actor and film star—who also wrote part of the script. The rest of the team of writers was large and well-suited to the role. It comprised: Jack Jones, one of the most famous Welsh novelists, given a CBE for literary and war work in 1948; Richard Vaughan, native of Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire, and author, poet, journalist, assistant English master at a North London Grammar School, and lecturer for the London County Council; A.G. Prys-Jones: the Secretary of the Welsh Committee of the Festival of Britain, a consultant for Wales to the Clarendon Press, and the author of two volumes of poems about Wales; Dr David Monger, a playwright; A.J. Roderick, a former research lecturer of medieval Welsh history at Aberystwyth, and BBC Schools Assistant in charge of Welsh history broadcasts since 1946; and Ken Etheridge, a Welsh playwright. The authors were also advised by Professor William Rees, a historian who had partly written and organised the Cardiff Pageant of 1931.2
The wider ethos of the Festival of Britain was one of national rebuilding and reconstruction, expressed through confidence in the UK’s arts, sciences, and technology. As with the other Welsh pageants held during the Festival, however, the Story of Landaff was not an official Festival event. The annual celebrations of Welsh culture and language, the Eisteddfod, were agreed by the Festival Office and the Welsh Festival Committee to be the Welsh contribution.3 However, the pageant did seem to meet the priorities of the Festival nonetheless—which were, generally, a chance to overcome recent bad memories by projecting a sense of national identity backwards, to rethink a national sense of place and to ‘fall in love with the land again’.4 Such bad memories were clearly evident in Cardiff—one of the most heavily bombed cities during the Blitz, which had seen its beloved Cathedral of Llandaff blown to smithereens in January 1941. However, in the mind of the director Evans, the pageant was more about stimulating Welsh theatre. In a ‘Message from the Producer’ included in the pageant programme, he declared that it was ‘the sincere hope of all those who have worked on the preparation of the Pageant Play that it will serve not only as a Festival tribute to Wales’ great historic past, but that it may also be of value to the development of theatre in Wales.’ He hoped that the pageant ‘could be looked upon as symbolic of the way in which Wales may one day achieve a National Theatre of her own, a Theatre that will draw upon all the talent in Wales and be able to make its proper contribution to the British National Theatre soon to be built in London on the South Bank of the Thames.’5 Unfortunately, it would be more than another 50 years before a National Theatre of Wales was formed.
The cast was a mixture of amateur and professional actors—many of whom took more than one role. One particularly notable professional to take part was a young Kenneth Williams—‘an actor of quite exceptional versatility’ according to the Cardiff Times. Williams’ diaries give us a sense of how a pageant was organised in this period. An entry for Thursday, 24 Mary 1951 reads: ‘Clifford E. rang. Asks me to take part in pageant at Cardiff. DV and WP I will. Somehow it sounds a very pleasant idea.’6 DV and WP were sometimes used as acronyms for Deo Volente (God Willing) and Weather Permitting—Williams clearly already knew something about the pitfalls of historical pageantry in Britain! Just over two months later, on Monday 30 July, there is a simple entry: ‘Opening night. Chaos. Got through it somehow!’7 Williams played several parts, including Edward the Black Prince and John Penry. Among his papers, says the editor of Williams’ diaries, Russell Davies, there is a torn-off scrap with a scribbled speech: ‘It hath been my purpose always to employ my small talent in my poor country of Wales, where I know that the people perish for want of knowledge. I trust that the time is come wherein He will show mercy by causing the true light of the gospel to shine among them.’ Williams’s annotation: ‘Speech for John Penry scene handed to me by Clifford Evans on the opening night.’8 No wonder it was chaos! Williams had already worked under Evans the previous year for the Swansea Company, in one of his first professional breaks. Characteristic of Williams’ often damagingly self-deprecating diaries, it was not a happy time. As he recorded for Friday 1 September 1950, referring to Evans with his own nickname of ‘Church of England’: ‘Feel myself becoming more and more imbued with morbidity. Hate the theatre. And the company. Loathe Church of England. Complete drip and a boor. Wish I could get another job quickly from here.’ 9 In later years, Williams softened his opinion of Evans, and remembered in the 1980s how ‘Church of England’ ‘was responsible for so much that was made possible in my career.’10 Though John Penry and Edward the Black Prince are definitely not among the most cherished fan memories of Williams’s career, they were a part of his rise to fame.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a surviving copy of the final script. As the Cardiff Times helpfully summarised: ‘the first scene presents the death of the legendary Arthur. Subsequent scenes portray the coming of Christianity, the emergence of Welsh civil rights, the succession of struggles for unity and independence, and the development of South Wales into a coal and iron metropolis of industry.’11 Fragments and drafts of the script, however, give a sense of the flavour of the pageant. In what seems to be a prologue, two boys talk about the national anthem and also the March of the Men of Harlech. Glyn, presumably Welsh, explains to Jack, presumably English, the meaning of the National Anthem [of the Men of Harlech], and the yearning it gives him for his homeland. They discuss the rousing context in which they have heard the anthem —such as when the Welsh football [presumably rugby] team beat the New Zealanders in Cardiff. Glyn says that the most interesting thing about Welsh literature and music is that its real guardians and devotees have been the common people, especially since the Act of Union, when the country lost its aristocracy. They go on to discuss the University Colleges of Wales and the fine graduates it produces. Glyn tries to teach Jack how to pronounce Welsh sounds. They discuss and praise prominent Welsh poets and authors, and great men of Wales, such as King Arthur. Glyn explains that the Welsh became the keepers and the upholders of the Roman tradition in Britain—in the face of Anglo-Saxon invaders. He goes on: ‘It became the aim of our ablest Princes and Kings to restore the tradition unity of the race. You find this ideal in all the great leaders, Cunedda, Maelgwn Gwyuneedd… Homel Ida, Giff ap Cyunan, Owen Gwynedd, Llewellyn the Great, Llewellyn the Last, and Owain Glyndwr. And Henry Tudor himself at Bosworth Fields fulfilled the old bardic prophecies.’ Jack asks how. ‘Because at long last the long dream of Welshmen throughout the centuries became fact. The Crown of Britain returned to a descendant of its founder Cunedda at Bosworth. Henry Tudor was crowned on the battle field.’12
Perhaps most revealing are the drafts of the Owain Glyndwr scene. They describe how: ‘It is now the year 1400. Wales has been smouldering with discontent for years: and after a century of peace the great leader Owain Glyndwr raises his standard of revolt at Corwen on the Dee—and is hailed by the bards as the deliverer of the people.’ The distant voice of Glyndwr is then heard: ‘Lo! At my birth, The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes, The goats from the mountains and the herds, Were strangely clamorous in the frighted fields.’ The scene then switches to the English court, where two courtiers discuss the revolt of Glyndwr, with one prophesising that it will shake the throne. In a scene entitled ‘The End of Owain Glyn Dwr’, Owain is shown on a mountain top above the Abbey of Valle Crucis. The monastery bell tolls in the distance. Pale and haggard, travel-stained and battle-torn, with sword at his side, Owain walks slowly with bent head, oblivious of everything. The Abbot of Valle Crucis enters, quietly. He sees Owain, and looks with sympathy and pity: he asks if he can help. He tells the Abbot that his spirit is bowed and broken— that of a fugitive—and asks the Abbot to pray for him. The Abbot replies: ‘We will, my son, and gladly. We shall keep you always in our prayers.’ Owain then half-muses: ‘Ah—my broken dreams, now bitter dust and ashes!... I had planned to make Wales independent, her Church independent, her people free from oppression… I had visions of two great centres of learning for Wales, one in the North and one in the South. But forgive me, Father Abbot, I weary you with my dreams…’ The Abbot replies, with grief and pity: ‘No, illustrious leader of my people, it is you who have risen early, alas, too early by a hundred years. May God protect and keep you—my son. Go in peace.’ A narrator then declares:
Thus, silently, he passed, but these great hills retain
The solemn secret of his resting-place:
His grave we know not, but his dreams remain
Within the hearts of all his Cymric race.
In comparison to the National Pageant of Wales, which featured Glyndwr but only briefly, in Land of My Fathers the Welsh warrior was essentially canonised and represented as the fifteenth-century spirit of contemporary Welsh national sentiment.
Despite the extensive effort clearly put into recruiting top writers and producers, the pageant did not seem to garner much press attention. The Cardiff Times, at least, declared: ‘From the shining silver armour of Arthur to the black pit helmet of the Welsh collier—this is the story of the Pageant of Wales. And how well it is told!’ It added that it was ‘undoubtedly… one of the Principality’s most notable contributions to the Festival of Britain.’13 Clearly, this was not an event on the same scale as the National Pageant of Wales in 1909. A mere 1500 people saw the opening performance. It did still make a profit, though, of £4293—a respectable £97000 in 2015 prices.14 Many of the public must have gone to at least one of its 10 or so performances. Its importance is perhaps more in the tale of Welsh nationalism and individualism that it weaved in spite of the wider Festival of Britain celebration. In 1909 the pageant narrative was conciliatory between Welsh and English, or even deferential. In 1951 it was much bolder, illustrating the development of Welsh nationalism more generally.
- ‘HOW MUCH DID THE FESTIVAL OF BRITAIN COST AND WHAT WERE THE OPENING TIMES?’ [unknown website], Accessed 9/10/2015 http://www.packer34.freeserve.co.uk/howmuch.htm
- ‘The Land of my Fathers’: A Pageant Play of Wales (Cardiff, 1951), National Library of Wales, ‘The Pageant Play Committee Presents ‘The Land of my Fathers’: A Pageant Play of Wales’. 2011 XC 1327.
- Harriet Atkinson, The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People (London, 2012), 104.
- Atkinson, The Festival of Britain, 2.
- Clifford Evans, ‘A Message from the Producer’, ‘The Land of my Fathers’: A Pageant Play of Wales (1951).
- Russell Davies (ed), The Kenneth Williams Diaries (London, 1993), 64.
- Ibid., 64.
- Ibid., 64–65.
- Ibid., 55.
- Ibid., 718.
- ‘Welsh Pageant Notable Festival Contribution’, Cardiff Times, 4 August 1951, 3.
- 'For the Honour of Wales' (Festival of Britain Pageant), 1951. National Library of Wales. 915–19. Loose cuttings of the script.
- ‘Welsh Pageant Notable Festival Contribution’, 3.
- Calculated using the National Archives ‘Currency Converter’. Accessed 9/10/2015 http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/default0.asp#mid
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Land of My Fathers’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1116/