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Why hundreds of people decided to visit Capel Celyn in the summer of 2022

ALMOST 60 years have passed since Capel Celyn was submerged under the waters of the reservoir which was built to supply water to Liverpool. 

Every year, a mixture of dry spells and the opening of the dam lowers the water levels of the lake and this exposes the remains of the little village every now and again. There have been times in the past when the village has resurfaced from the depths of the water. 

The last time the bridge could be seen was back in 1995. So seeing the village emerge from the waters is nothing new, but what was shocking was seeing the volume of people that decided to go and visit Capel Celyn. There were hundreds, if not thousands of people, all eager to get a glimpse of the bridge, which hadn’t fully resurfaced.

Seeing all the pictures and comments on Facebook made it clear that Capel Celyn still captures the hearts and imagination of the people of Wales even to this day, nearly 60 years after its drowning. 

This brings up the question how and why are people so intrigued and so dedicated to go and see something that has happened decades ago? 

An event that happened before they were even born. 

There are Hundreds of pictures of the emerging Chapel, the graveyard next door, of the landscape and of the old road which connects the bottom of the valley. There are images of the railway track making its way down next to Penbryn Fawr, and of course, the top of the bridge emerging.

When the heatwave had reached its peak and most of the village had started coming to the surface. It was unbelievable seeing the volume of people from all over Wales who had decided to go to Capel Celyn. 

Capel Celyn wasn’t the only village to have this type of reaction. The village of Llanwddyn, which is now under the waters of Llyn Efyrnwy was also visited by hundreds of people. 

People were intrigued to see the bridge in Llanwddyn appearing from underneath the water. 

Also down at Llyn Brianne, in Ceredigion, not far from the border with Sir Gâr, the farmhouse of Y Fannog appeared, and this again brought much attention to the lake and to the area. 

Both of these, however, despite the number of people who visited them, paled in comparison to Capel Celyn.

On the Facebook group ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ hundreds of pictures could be seen of the village and the surrounding countryside before its destruction, and people were so fascinated comparing and contrasting the photos of then and now.

The current political situation Wales finds itself in proves that’s the effect of Capel Celyn and its aftermath, those Welsh politics to this day. 

People still feel now, as they had back then that Wales is mistreated and ignored and Capel Celyn is the infamous example of this mistreatment. 

Over the decades Cofiwch Dryweryn has become a rallying cry for Welsh nationalists, along with the song Yma o Hyd by Dafydd Iwan and banners with the quotes ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ and ‘Yma o Hyd’ have become a staple in independence rallies and marches.

A recent campaign has called for Wales to have control over its own resources. This includes water and this campaign ties in closely with the memory of Capel Celyn. Its memory is also closely intertwined with Yes CYmru, a campaign group for Welsh Independence.

There have been many photos shared on Facebook of the reservoir with captions supporting the protests.

The experience of witnessing hundreds of people travelling to the remains of the village could only be compared to a religious experience, it’s something people felt that was important to do, like the old pilgrims who travelled to Ynys Enlli, the Island of 20,000 saints, and the pilgrims who travelled to Ty Ddewi. 

It almost felt like it was a rite of passage, with entire families and generations walking down together to witness this painful piece of Welsh history.

The reason people decided to visit is simple. We as a nation still have not comprehended what happened at Capel Celyn, we are still trying to process the trauma of forcibly losing a part of our nation for the benefit of another. The wound inflicted is so great and can be felt even after all the decades and what Capel Celyn represents will never fade.

When the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ mural was desecrated and destroyed in Aberystwyth in February 2019 it started a craze in Wales when one mural turned into 100 across the country within a span of a few days. People felt personally affected by the destruction of the mural. 

This was shown in the response by the people of Wales; their anger when the mural was destroyed and their happiness when the mural was restored. This shows again that the memory of Capel Celyn is still fresh in the minds of people and that the disrespect of drowning the village is still met with anger.

In the years to come when Capel Celyn will once again emerge from the water it will elicit the same response as it has done every time the water subsides. People will flock in their droves to see the corpse of a village sacrificed in the name of greed. 

People will still feel the shame, the sadness, and the hiraeth for years to come, but they will also feel a duty to ensure that this never happens again and by looking at the destroyed village it will be a reminder to fight on and inspire to fight for Wales and keep the history alive.