Secretary of State, First Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, Foneddigion a boneddigesau
In coming here today, I can only say that my wife and I are most impressed with what we have seen of the enterprise and activity taking place on both sides of the River Severn.
It seems to me, therefore, that by inviting the guests from the West of England to come across to the Celtic Manor today, just a little more has been added to the coffers of the Department of Transport before the tolls are lifted at the end of the year! And no doubt, when they are lifted, Sir Terry Matthews will need to build yet another extension to the Celtic Manor!
Now, while the Crossing itself is a comparatively new one – and it seems like only yesterday that I performed the opening ceremony in 1996 – this setting on the banks of the Severn has long been a meeting place.
According to tradition, in the year 603, St Augustine of Canterbury is supposed to have met the Welsh Bishops just a few miles from here at Aust in order to seek their help in persuading the unconverted English to change their ways. Those of you from Wales might well be asking what has changed!
While it seems that that particular meeting ended without agreement, the encounter nonetheless shows how long-standing are the connections represented by this place, where a river fed by tributaries in both Wales and England provides what has been a vital channel for trade and communications for millennia.
Clearly, those connections are still thriving today, as is the lively exchange of cultures between the two countries. With that in mind, as my wife and I begin our annual week of Summer engagements in Wales today, I hope those of you from the Eastern side of the Severn will forgive me if I just say for a moment what an immense privilege it is to be associated with this remarkable land, whose name I have been so proud to bear for the past 60 years.
Over all these years, wherever I have been in Wales, my soul has never ceased to be stirred, and moved, by the majesty of her landscapes, by the richness and poignancy of her history, by the beauty of her ancient and precious language – 'yr iaith Gymraeg' – which I did my best to study for a period at Aberystwyth very nearly 50 years ago under the patient tutorship of the distinguished scholar Dr Teddy Millward - but most of all I have come to love and admire the character of her people: their passion, tenacity; their sense of fair play - "chwarae teg" - and, of course, their humour. Wherever I go, I am acutely aware that to bear this name is the greatest possible honour.
So, in taking part in this occasion today, we are conscious of the history in whose shadow we stand. In particular, I am mindful of how the title of Prince of Wales goes back to those great Welsh rulers, such as Llywelyn apGruffudd, whose memory is still rightly honoured by all who value a true understanding of our past.
In fact, for some years, I have been trying to help with the project to restore the historic buildings next to AbatyYstrad Fflur (Strata Florida Abbey) – the wonderful old ruined abbey in Ceredigion, for the particular reason that it is the burial place not only of Dafydd ap Gwilym but also of so many of the Welsh princes. As the poet T Gwynn Jones puts it:
Ac yno dan yr ywen brudd
Mae Dafydd bêr ei gywydd,
a llawer pennaeth llym ei gledd
Yn ango’r bedd tragywydd.
(And where the sombre yew-trees wave,
Ap Gwilym’s grave was made
And fighting men who dreamed of fame
Without a name were laid.)
It is, therefore, my particular hope that the Crossing's new name will bring to mind all those who, over these long centuries, have borne that ancient title "Tywysogion Cymru" and the different traditions and heritages that they represent.
Like the tributaries of the Severn, our different pasts meet in a shared present. In such a coming together, while never forgetting where we have come from, we can, I hope, each in our own way, contribute to a better future for all.
Diolch o galon i chi i gyd. (Thank you from my heart.)