Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Ann Crimmings joined members of the Cynon Valley History Society at the Gorsedd Circle in Aberdare Park to unveil the Blue Plaque in memory of David Williams.
The well-known public figure was better known by his bardic name of ‘Alaw Goch’ and during the 19th century had a major impact on the Cynon Valley’s industrial, social and cultural history.
Cllr Crimmings said, “It’s a great honour for me to unveil a plaque to a remarkable gentleman, business man, philanthropist, poet and bard who will be long remembered in the history of the Cynon Valley.
“It has been a great pleasure to unveil the latest selection of Blue Plaques throughout the County Borough. The support from community organisations, especially history societies in offering advice on the merits of each nomination has been massive.
“With the development of a Blue Plaque Heritage Trail visitors will be enthralled by the sheer wealth of history we have to offer, while many long-time residents will also be surprised at the importance of buildings near their own homes.
“We have an incredible heritage and one which we remain justifiably proud of. This is our opportunity to showcase the people, the places and the events of our county borough to all those individuals who live in, work in or visit Rhondda Cynon Taf.”
David Williams was born in 1809 at Llwyn Drain in the Parish of Ystrad Owen and was raised as the son of a wheel right, moving with his parents to Aberdare in 1821.
He established his first coal mine in late 1842 and also sank deep coal mines, at great expense in Cwmbach, Aberaman and Cwmdare in the Cynon Valley before selling them onto other people. In this way he attained great wealth and became a very successful business man in his own right but it was poetry that was his main passion.
At the age of 21 David entered one of the eisteddfodau in Quakers Yard using the bardic name of Alaw Goch. Little did he know that this adopted name would become so well known and loved throughout the whole of Wales.
As a bard, he occupied a position of eminence and became one of the prime movers in seeing the National Eisteddfod come to Aberdare in 1861 and as its treasurer was largely responsible for its financial success, thereby placing this most iconic of Welsh Festival on a firm basis and enabling it to survive and flourish to this day.
He was know for his philanthropy, and assisted in abolishing church tax and in establishing a “British School” at Trecynon. He was also a founder partner of the local Welsh-language newspaper appropriately named “Y Gwladgarwr” (‘The Patriot’.).
On the 28th February 1863, Alaw Goch was on his way to a eisteddfod committee meeting when he suddenly collapsed and died aged just 53. He was buried in Aberdare cemetery. At the service he was acknowledged as ‘one of the few men who has elevated a tiny and insignificant village into a beautiful and vital town of some 40,000 souls.’
The Blue Plaque for David Williams was funded by the Cynon Valley History Society whose chairperson Celia Thomas joined the Mayor at the unveiling.
David Leslie Davies, Vice Chairman of the Society, who spoke at the event explained that the Gorsedd Circle at Aberdare Park was a significant site to unveil the plaque as they were erected for the Aberdare National Eisteddfod of 1956.
He said, “The Society has derived great pleasure from funding this plaque in co-operation with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council. The Society was keen to complete this project in memory of a late stalwart member, Doug Williams, who had begun the task but died before bringing it to completion”.
A number of Blue Plaques has recently been unveiled in the Cynon Valley alone. The overall scheme has proved successful in raising the profile of the heritage and history of the area and has added to a sense of community, provided interest for visitors to the area and material for the education of both children and adults.
For further details visit www.heritagetrailsrct.co.uk