Welsh hero wins street-name battle

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The Independent Online

Victory in Aberystwyth never came easy to Owain Glyndwr. It took him two years to capture the Welsh town's castle in the early 15th century, only to lose it to the English within five years.

But few of the Welsh rebel leader's triumphs were quite as hard-earned as the one that came yesterday, when after three years local magistrates agreed to name a small part of the town centre after him.

Fittingly, the battle began on on St David's Day in 2001, when a resolution to rename the town's North Parade "Owain Glyndwr Square" was passed by Ceredigion County Council. But when consultation began, it became clear that the Welsh leader did not command the respect that students of his uprising against Henry IV of England might have hoped.

Aberystwyth town council - and many of the town's citizens and businesses - rose up in protest at the idea and a war has raged ever since until magistrates, under the auspices of the 1925 Public Health Act, ruled that the renaming should take place.

The court proceedings had already belittled the great Glyndwr before yesterday's denouement. When they were due to be dealt with last month, the magistrates decided that car tax dodgers should be a higher priority and adjourned the proceedings.

Some people in the town simply believe Glyndwr is commanding too much space. "How many Owain Glyndwr things do we want?" asked Eric Griffiths, a councillor. "We already have a ward in the hospital named after him, and they're talking about calling the playing fields after him too." And in the town's defence, there is already a Glyndwr Road less than half a mile from North Parade.

John Davies, a local businessman and resistance leader, denied that he was being anti-nationalist. "As far as we are concerned, the name Owain Glyndwr is a name looking for a home. North Parade is not a road looking for a name," he said. "But it would lead to businesses like ours having to pay for changing our stationery and everything." This argument is shamefully prosaic, according to the nationalists. For some scholars of Glyndwr, the dispute has provided new evidence of how he is misunderstood and undervalued. They insist Glyndwr's image as a mere Celtic hooligan is wrong. Surprisingly little primary evidence on the rebel leader exists, but it is known he was educated at the Inns of Court. England also owes him a debt of loyalty: he defended it against the Scots in 1380 and, although the irony seemed unintentional, he was used in recruitment posters urging young Welshmen to fight in the First World War.

This cut little ice with the anti-Glyndwr objectors who went to court armed with a little Welsh history of their own, by calling a local historian to give evidence about how long their street has been called North Parade. "We think it's 200 years old - that's certainly a piece of history," said Mr Davies.