One of Wales’ most distinguished poets, the Archdruid Dic Jones, has died at the age of 75. Dic Jones (1934 – August 18, 2009), was a Welsh language poet and the Archdruid of the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Mr Jones won the National Eisteddfod chair in 1966, and the Urdd Eisteddfod on five occasions while in his 20s.
He was born Richard Lewis Jones in Tre’r Ddôl, Aberteifi, Cardiganshire. The son of a farmer, Jones himself farmed on 85 acres (34 ha) at Fferm yr Hendre, Ceredigion. He commented on his life that:
|“||I farm for bread and butter; I write for some jam on it.||”|
A prolific poet, he was recognised as a master of the craft of cynghanedd, the strict metre of Welsh poetry. Jones began his literary career as a competitor in the Urdd eisteddfod, where, as an exponent of cynghanedd, he won the chair five times in his twenties. Mr. Dic Jones was one of the finest Welsh poets of the 20th Century and through his talent for cultivating words, as he cultivated his land, he succeeded in keeping close to his people and his place. In 1966 he won the Chair at the National Eisteddfod with an awdl entitled “Y Cynhaeaf” (English: Harvest). In 1968, cameras from HTV filmed one of the first ieces of British reality television, when they followed Jones, his wife Jean, and three of their children, Delyth, Rhian and Dafydd, on a fortnight’s holiday to San Antonio, Ibiza. Also known by his bardic name, Dic Yr Hendre, he had been due to lead Gorsedd ceremonies at this year’s eisteddfod in Bala, but was too ill to attend.
Under his bardic name “Dic yr Hendre”, Jones was installed as Archdruid in 2007, succeeding Selwyn Iolen. He officiated at the 2008 event in Cardiff, but missed the 2009 event in Bala, Gwynedd due to ill health. Cameras from HTV followed the farmer-poet, his wife, Jean and three of their children, Delyth, Rhian and Dafydd, on a fortnight’s holiday to San Antonio, Ibiza in 1968, two years after Dic won the chair at the 1966 National Eisteddfod in Aberafan. It was a pioneering programme in more than one respect – filmed in fly-on-the-wall documentary style and one of the first programmes made in colour by HTV. Dic Jones was the subject of one of the first ever TV reality shows, clips of which are shown in the S4C programme Cofio on Monday, 27 July at 9pm.
The clip shows the Archdruid swimming, diving and water skiing. But Dic Jones says he also found great pleasure in walking on the island and meeting the locals. “The idea was to follow some ‘country bumpkin’ going on his holidays to a place like Ibiza,” says Dic. However, the authorities refused the crew permission to film for the first week which left Dic free to walk around the island meeting local people.
“The local language, Ibicenco isn’t all that different from Welsh and I was able to talk to the locals in Welsh and they would answer in Ibicenco,” Dic tells presenter Heledd Cynwal in Cofio. In the programme, Dic also recalls his early experiences of writing poetry – composing limericks at social events held by the young farmers’ clubs. “I started enjoying being seen,” he says. “There’s a lot of that in being on stage, in this performing business to be honest. It’s part of your ambition.”
The programme was recorded before the Archdruid’s current illness, which will keep him from taking part in the ceremonies at the Bala National Eisteddfod. But here he sheds light on poets, poetry and the Eisteddfod Chair. “The Chair is not the prize. The prize is not the prize. The main prize, for me and for other poets, is to finish a work of art – and to finish it to your own satisfaction.” During the programme, Dic is also seen going on an emotional journey to Germany to discover what happened to an old friend, a former prisoner-of-war who worked on the family farm at Blaenannerch during the war years.