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Hedd Wyn (1887-1917), First World War poet

A collection of items relating to the poet Hedd Wyn (1887-1917) of Trawsfynydd, who was killed in action during the First World War.

Hedd Wyn (1887-1917), First World War poet
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Hedd Wyn (Ellis Humphrey Evans, 1887-1917), a native of Trawsfynydd, Merionethshire, is regarded as one of Wales's foremost 'war poets' of the First World War. He was born at Penlan, Trawsfynydd, but lived for most of his life at Yr Ysgwrn, a hill farm to the east of the village. He began writing poetry at an early age and competed in many local eisteddfodau under his pen name 'Hedd Wyn'. He was awarded his first eisteddfod chair at Bala in 1907 and in 1916 he became close to winning the coveted National Eisteddfod chair at Aberystwyth.

However, the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 cast a dark shadow on the life of the Welsh-speaking community of Trawsfynydd and on the poetry of Hedd Wyn. As the conflict intensified, Hedd Wyn found himself writing poems in memory of his young friends and countrymen who had been killed in action. He expressed his own feelings against the conflict in his poem 'Rhyfel' (War). Although he had no intention of volunteering for the war, the introduction of conscription in 1916 forced Hedd Wyn's hand. In February 1917 he made the fateful decision to join the 15th Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. It was also during this time that he began to pen his award-winning awdl 'Yr Arwr' (The Hero), which he later entered for the National Eisteddfod, to be held at Birkenhead in September that year.

Hedd Wyn sailed for France in June 1917 but on 31 July he was killed in action on the fields of Flanders at Pilkem Ridge, near Ypres. A few months later, at the Birkenhead National Eisteddfod, Hedd Wyn was posthumously awarded the chair for his poignant awdl 'Yr Arwr'. He had entered the competition under the nom-de-plume 'Fleur-de-Lis'. In a moving and highly emotional ceremony, the chair was draped in black cloth and became known as the 'black chair' of Birkenhead. To many people the 'black chair' came to symbolise the empty chairs which now stood empty as a result of the war in thousands of Welsh homes. Hedd Wyn's tragic story was the subject of an award-winning Welsh-language film produced in 1992.