The Western Mail
16th August 1933
Buchan Comes to Learn About Wales
By GARETH JONES
Felt at Home With Welshmen”
would a distinguished Scottish thinker, writer, politician novelist think of
the Welsh people? I wondered as I drove out from Brecon to Ffrwdgrech
to chat with Col. John Buchan, member of Parliament for the Scottish
Universities, author of innumerable histories and novels, a man of
unrivalled experience of character and places and now a summer resident in
qualities in him appealed to me immediately after I had met him and as we
strolled up and down the lawn. These were sturdiness and modesty.
So sturdy does he look that you can imagine him scrambling up those beetling
Brecon Beacons which tower over his residence or stalking deer in the
Highland, or tramping through the heather. His modesty lies in his
desire to come to Wales as a searcher and not as a teacher.
has come to learn about our country and it was in all humility that he
answered my questions about his impressions of Wales. He has, however,
the best foundation for the study of Wales in his sympathy for Welshmen and
for the Welsh character.
of Tom Ellis
have always felt at home with Welshmen,” was his first remark, “and have
always been great friends with them. Tom Ellis was my friend, and I am
a great admirer of his. He was a crystal character, so wise.”
Col. Buchan was pleased when I told him that in many Welsh cottages the
picture of Tom Ellis hangs to-day in the place of honour.
close friend of Col. Buchan was Sir John Rhys of Oxford, and he still
maintains his friendship with Mr. Lloyd George, with whom he had such close
connection during the war as Director of Information under the Prime
characteristics of the Welsh specially appeal to Col. Buchan. “The
Welsh,” he told me, “are imaginative and they are very well-mannered.
Indeed, the Celts as a whole are a well-mannered race.”
thing that pleases him about the Welsh is their enthusiasm for culture.
“I went to the Llanelly Eisteddfod with Mr. Lloyd George and never saw
anything like it. That in a distressed area people should come in such
crowds at great expense to hear poetry and music amazed me.”
John Buchan’s interest in Welsh character goes back over 30 years, ‘when
he was deeply impressed in South Africa by the visit of the Welsh-Patagonian
deputation in 1902. The Welsh had suffered greatly in Patagonia, and
had come to see whether they could not move their settlement to South
Africa. “They were fine men,” said Col. Buchan, “and their
character was like that of the Scottish Covenanters.”
mention of the Scottish Covenanter spurred me to ask Col Buchan whether
Welsh history interested him, I saw in his eyes the twinkle of the history
stalker - the man who has as much zest in tracking down the quarry of past
personalities as he has in hunting deer in the Highlands.
replied, “The history of the Princes of South Wales is wonderful.
Think also of the records of the Rhys family, the Dynevors, and of Sir David
Gam. Your Church history is also exceedingly interesting. Strata
Florida must have been a wonderful place.”
there is history being made to-day in Wales with the growth of
nationalism,” I suggested. “What do you think of Welsh nationalism?”
Buchan wanted to learn more about the Welsh Nationalist movement before
stating an opinion, but finally he said: “Where nationalism is concerned,
as in Scotland or Wales, I think that at the present moment, when things are
in the melting-pot, the deepest foundation is not political, but
Buchan was more anxious to talk about the beauties of Wales than of
politics, and be showed a remarkable appreciation of our landscapes. “I am tremendously attracted by Mid-Wales and Breconshire because it is
like my home on the upper Tweed, where even the names, such as those
beginning with ‘Tre,’ are similar.”
is keen on preserving unspoilt the beauty of the Welsh coast. “The
coast from Aberystwyth to South Wales is beautiful,” he said. “I once
saw there a hundred seals in one day. Where else could you see
I asked him what would be the best way to save the coast he replied: “The
great thing about preserving the coast is to preserve the headlands, and I
do hope that they will be protected in Wales.”
such scenery and such a gifted national character, do you not think that
there Is a wealth of material for the novelist?” I asked.
It is a mine for novelists which has never been worked. Take
Breconshire, for example, where I am staying. It is a border, and
where you have a border, whether a Scottish or a Welsh border, you have an
interesting life. The English side has been well treated by writers,
such as Mary Webb; the Radnorshire district has been well done by Brett
Young and Hilda Vaughan. On the whole, you have done everything about
your past except write novels about it.”
hoped that this remark would inspire some novelist to do justice to our
Welsh past. Cot Buchan is at present too busy, for he is hard at work on a
big book on Cromwell, which will take some time to complete.
Buchan is staying at Ffrwdgrech, together with Mrs. Buchan, his three sons,
John, William, and Alastair, his son-in-law, Capt. Fairfax-Lucy, and his
daughter, who married Capt. Fairfax-Lucy within the last three weeks.
Let us wish them all the warmest of welcomes to Wales.