Brif Weinidog, Foneddigion a Boneddigesau, diolch o galon am eich croeso heno i mi a’m gwraig. [First Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, heartfelt thanks for your welcome this evening to me and my wife.]
Ladies and Gentlemen, I really cannot tell you how grateful and touched I am by the fact that the First Minister and his colleagues from the Welsh Assembly Government should have even considered holding such an event this evening. The fact that this Anniversary was remembered is truly remarkable. I was nine years old, very nearly ten, at the time the announcement was made, and I remember with horror and embarrassment how I was summoned, with all the other boys at my school, to go into the Headmaster’s sitting room where we all had to sit on the floor and watch the television.
To my total embarrassment I heard my Mama’s voice - she wasn’t very well at the time and couldn’t go. My father went instead and a recording of the message was played in the Stadium, saying that I was to be made Prince of Wales. All the other boys turned around and looked at me and I remember thinking, “What on earth have I been let in for?” - that is my over-riding memory! I only discovered years later that you have to be created as Prince of Wales. When it came to the point of all the changes that had to take place at The House of Lords, it turned out, amazingly, that I was a complete anomaly, being not only a Peer of the first creation but also a hereditary peer. Rapidly they had to work out how on earth they could prevent me from going on sitting on The House of Lords, so, Ladies and Gentlemen, a narrow escape was achieved!
I then, as many of you know, spent time at Aberystwyth University, prior to the Investiture in 1969. Some of you will remember that in the late 1960s there were quite a lot of demonstrations taking place. I don’t know, some of you may even have been taking part in them - it may not be someone too far away from me opposite who was in Aberystwyth at the same time! I remember only too well going to lectures with Dr. Tedi Millward, who I am very sorry is not here this evening, for Welsh and history lessons. My Tutors at Cambridge were horrified because they felt that I was not going to do so well in my exams at Cambridge as I might have done otherwise. I used to go down for lectures at Aberystwyth each morning and I met a demonstration. But there was a counter demonstration virtually every morning by middle aged ladies who got out of coaches and proceeded to assault the demonstrators with umbrellas and handbags - I shall never ever forget it! So I learnt Welsh in a very interesting atmosphere.
One of the other great memories I have is of addressing the Urdd Eisteddfod after I had been trained by Dr. Millward in the right kind of techniques. This was basically the first public speech I had ever made, in an enormous tent with 8,000 people in it, so perhaps you can imagine what I felt like when I got up to speak, and so did quite a large number of demonstrators! I stopped speaking eventually as the noise was quite loud. Finally, the demonstrators were removed and I started again. As I started again, all the demonstrators had climbed up onto the tent so you can see these extraordinary sort of black shapes on the tent roof!
But Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the great special memories I have of being at Aberystwyth of that term was the opportunity it gave me to explore so much of that remarkable part of Wales and Cardiganshire, as it then was. I remember on one occasion driving about, it must have been somewhere above Cors Caron, where I got completely and utterly lost. There was nobody about at all until finally somebody on a bicycle appeared. We stopped this splendid figure on a bicycle, advanced on him, and, trying to deploy what Welsh I had learnt from Dr. Millward, I tried to find out where I was. He could not understand a word I was saying. It transpired that he was a Pole, even then living in mid Wales. Presumably, somebody who had been involved in the last War but still couldn’t speak either Welsh or English. I still don’t know where I was, even now.
I also remember being involved in a television programme, interviewing the most wonderful old Welsh character who lived in deepest Carmarthenshire, called Dafydd Edwardes. I was reminded of this today, at an event I was attending in Cardiff, by the man who was then the Director of that programme, who I hadn’t seen for thirty nine years. But this old boy was one of the most intriguing characters I have ever come across. All I can say that the time I spent exploring and meeting such remarkable characters, helped me begin, just begin, to understand something about the profound connection that exists between the landscape, the rural and agricultural communities and the culture and language of Welsh people. I also gained a little bit of an insight into the mining and steel-making traditions that, of course, have been grafted onto that rural heritage.
It is partly because of that that all these years later I find myself determined to initiate this Cambrian Mountains Initiative, which some of you may have heard of, in order to ensure there is a future for the children of those remarkable characters who inhabit so much of this principality. One of them is here this evening, James Raw. His son James, who I met yesterday, is a babe in arms, the seventh generation of Raws to live in that farmhouse since the 1850’s. I don’t know about you, Ladies and Gentlemen, but I’m absolutely determined that we find a way to ensure that there is a future for those young people on the land. It may interest you to know that one of the reasons I intervened in order to try and save Dumfries House, this great house up in Scotland with its intact 18th century collection of furniture, was actually because I wanted to try and find a way of helping to regenerate that part of East Ayrshire which had an old mining community which suffered so badly from what had happened to it. So heritage-led regeneration I hope will possibly assist in that area.
Now, probably I hate to say forty years too late, not quite, we have Llwynywermod, the house in Carmarthenshire. I tried some thirty five years ago to find somewhere in Wales but in those days it wasn’t so easy. At last I have a base. It is above all a tribute to Welsh craftsmanship which is of a very high order, and that unique rural and industrial craft inheritance that has formed so many equally unique Welsh characters that I have been so proud and privileged to have known during the last fifty years. I would like to just end by saying that above all, I feel it is one of the greatest privileges possible to be, as it turns out, the twenty-first Prince of Wales and all I can say I have tried my best, it may not be very adequate, but I have tried my best to live up to the motto of my predecessors “Ich Dien” – I serve.