Yr Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones

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13 Gorffennaf 2010

Yr Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones (chwith) yn cael ei dderbyn yn Gyrmawd gan Lywydd y Brifysgol, Syr Emyr Jones Parry.
Yr Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones (chwith) yn cael ei dderbyn yn Gyrmawd gan Lywydd y Brifysgol, Syr Emyr Jones Parry.

Cyflwyniad i'r Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones gan y Dirprwy Is-Ganghellor, Yr Athro Aled Jones.

Yr Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, M.A., D. Litt.

Anrhydeddus Lywydd, hybarch gynulliad, mae’n bleser gen i gyflwyno’r Athro Emeritws Ieuan Gwynedd Jones i chi i’w urddo’n Gymrawd gan Brifysgol Aberystwyth.

Mr President, distinguished congregation, it’s a very great honour to introduce Emeritus Professor Ieuan Gwynedd Jones to you as a Fellow of the University.

A’r dasg gyntaf a’r hyfrytaf yw dymuno penblwydd hapus iawn i chi, Ieuan, ar ddathlu eich penblwydd yn 90 oed ddydd Mercher d’wetha.  I’m sorry to say that we’re six days late, but nonetheless may I begin, on behalf of us all here today, by wishing Professor Jones a very happy 90th birthday. Historians, as many of you here will know, have in recent years written much about the long eighteenth century or the long nineteenth century. Today we are still in the midst of Ieuan’s long birthday party. And there is so much to celebrate.

Fe ddwedaf ragor nes ymlaen am ei gyfraniad rhagorol a chwbl nodweddiadol at ein disgybliaeth, ac at hanes ein cenedl. Ond yn gyntaf dylid cofio fod gan hyd yn oed yr hanesydd mwyaf Olympaidd ei ddawn ei hanes bersonol ei hun. Ac fe garwn oedi am ennyd  dros siwrne Ieuan o’i fro enedigol yng Nghwm Rhondda yn y 1920au i gadair Syr John Williams yn Adran Hanes Cymru yma yn Aberystwyth.

Mab ydyw i löwr o’r Ynyshir, er i’w fam, fel awgrymmir ei enw canol, hannu o Wynedd, o ardal Ardudwy.  Ond fe fagwyd ef yn nghesail y gymdeithas ddiwydiannol disglair Gymreig honno y byddai’n mynd rhagddi, maes o law, i olrhain ei hanes a hynny mewn mewn modd hynod gelfydd a gwreiddiol.  A dwy elfen allweddol bwysig a berthynai i’r Gymru honno oedd Cristnogaeth anghydffurfiol a’r iaith Gymraeg, a thrwyddynt cynhaliwyd bywyd sifig cyfaethog tu hwnt hyd yn oed trwy flynyddodd mwyaf blin a llym Cymru’r ugeinfed ganrif. Flynyddoedd yn ddiweddarach, cafodd y profiad ysbrydol a chymunedol dwfn hwnnw ddylanwad hynod greadigol ar ei ysgrifau a’i ddadansoddiadau fel hanesydd Cymru.

Born to a mining family in the Rhonda Valley in 1920, Professor Jones went on to Bridgend grammar school. But this, of course, was in depths of the inter-war depression and the poverty and unemployment that, as Sir Glanmor Williams caustically noted, put the working- class communities of industrial south Wales “on the rack”, led him to leave school at the age of 14 to become a breadwinner for his family. Joining the merchant navy, he spent the rest of the 1930s sailing the world. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be present at a celebration of his contribution to Welsh history a fortnight or so ago were treated to some tantalizing glimpses of that period, which in many ways was a very formative period, of his life.  What we saw was not the distinguished, urbane scholar that we who had in one way or another studied at his feet had known and loved over the years. Instead, we were shown photographs, mischievously supplied by his son Alun, of a dashing young adventurer, taken on board ship, or in foreign ports that looked as beguiling as anything in Pirates of the Caribbean, or roughing it in the Australian outback. Forced by illness to abandon the sea-faring life, Ieuan returned to Wales where he worked out the war years as a signalman on the Pontardawe line. He once assured me that he attributed his lithe good looks to a daily cycle commute of some twenty miles during the whole of that time. But in addition to riding his bike, he was also reading, widely and deeply.

Soon after the war, he entered the university at Swansea, graduating with a First in English in 1948. His MA thesis was a trenchant study of history writing in early modern England that won him a research fellowship at Peterhouse College Cambridge. By 1954, however, he had not only returned to a fellowship in Swansea, but, fatefully, had changed direction from early modern Parliamentary history to the social and political history of Wales in the nineteenth century. This was the field he would make unmistakably his own.  His colleagues at Swansea constituted what was almost certainly the most stellar group of historians with a professional interest in Wales ever at that time to be assembled in one place, and  included Glanmor Williams, Kenneth O. Morgan (now Lord Morgan, and a past Vice-Chancellor here at Aberystwyth,  Ralph Griffiths and  John Davies. This was where, in the intellectual and political ferment of the 1960s, the new social history in Wales was born, a history that would consciously be written “from below”, the influence of which still pervades both history and politics in 21st century Wales, and beyond.

At the end of the 60s, though, Ieuan was appointed to the Sir John Williams Chair of Welsh History here at Aber, and began to build here a powerful team of scholars and profoundly influential postgraduate school.  And the publications followed.  His dazzlingly original Explorations and Explanations appeared in 1981, Communities in 1987, and Mid-Victorian Wales, the observers and the observed in 1992. These collectively explored the experience of politics in places as different as Meirionnydd and Merthyr, and marked Ieuan Gwynedd Jones as the pre-eminent historian of the intricacies, dynamics and possibilities of community of his or indeed any subsequent generation. And he did so in prose that was erudite and hard-hitting while at the same time being elegant, compelling and with an enviable lightness of touch. The inhabitants of mid-victorian Bala, he once wrote, ‘believed that Merthyr was to Wales what Coventry was to England or Gehenna to Jerusalem.’ This was a social history born of deep human sympathy, but it was also freighted with moral imperative. History, he insisted, was a ‘noble task’ and a ‘rich duty’, the point of which was to equip those who live in our present ‘to know our past from within’.

In all this hard labour, the most sustaining and enriching support was provided by his long partnership with his wife Maisie, the woman who lay at the core of his world. David Cannadine once described the Institute of Historical Research in London as the historian’s Clapham Junction. Aber too has had its Clapham Junctions, and for historians, and others, from Aber and from far beyond, for many happy years, our Clapham Junction was was Ieuan’s and Maisie’s elegant house in Laura Place.  Yno, gymaint ag yn y ddarlithfa a’r stafell seminar,  yn y gyfeillgarwch gwresog a chyson a estynwyd inni oll, ddysgodd nifer helaeth iawn ohonom ni am wir grefft yr hanesydd. Mae ein dyled i chi, Ieuan, yn un drom iawn.

Mr Llywydd, mae’n wir fraint ac yn bleser gennyf gyflwyno’r Athro Ieuan Gwynedd Jones i ti fel Cymrawd Prifysgol Aberystwyth.


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