REUNITED AND ON THE MOVE AGAIN.
In establishing myself in Swansea I had also made contacts with my family easier and more direct. One of my first concerns was of course to gather them around me again. On her side, Marie-Madeleine was urging me on, battling alone with the difficulties of bringing up the children, and faced with the shared trauma, brought about by the break of emotional ties that this new separation had involved. She had been able to obtain a passport, thanks to some local help in Vendé and in Cholet, as she had been refused one in Rennes. The modest salary allocated to me by the university, which was that of a foreign student on a temporary work placement, was sufficient for my personal needs. But even supplemented by private lessons and some other irregular sources that I was able to obtain through the help of various people, a few articles, an evening conference, it was not enough to pay the rent for an apartment or for a house where I could provide shelter for my wife and children. In addition, the residence permit for Great Britain that I had, was only a temporary one and had to be renewed every six months. Also, I had to remember that it was under a name which was not legally mine: I am a legal expert and I knew, from the time when I helped the Basque refugees in France, the endless complications which could arise when Marie-Madeleine and the children, who bore my real name, came to join me.
I had confidentially consulted a number of Welsh lawyers and had asked for their advice regarding the possibility of doing away with my relative anonymity and requesting the status of political refugee. I had also been to London in order to meet some parliamentarians of Irish origin, notably Delargy whose courageous stance had impressed me, to ask their advice on this precise matter. None of them could give me any assurances and none of them were encouraging.
“It is still too soon,” Delargy had said after some thought. “The war is just over, there is no peace as yet and there are close relations between French and British services as regards refugees, displaced persons or those being searched for. You run the risk of being sent back to the border and across the Channel. Should this happen, it would be better for you to leave here in the same manner as you came. But if you can furnish proof of stable employment, under your assumed name, I do not think there is any reason why they would refuse to grant you a residence permit.”
I was certainly not the only one facing this kind of problem. Jacques de Quelen, who had finally sorted out his status of political refugee in Ireland, was also trying to bring over his wife Andrée to join him. She had just given birth to their son Youenn. The older children had been entrusted to their respective parents in Brittany, just as our eldest, Rozenn, had been entrusted to mine. Patrick and Hervé were with their aunt, Thérése de Quelen, in Locarn; Mona was with her maternal grandparents in Saint-Brieuc. In the midst of winter, early in 1947, Andrée de Quelen, carrying her last born, made the long journey from Paris to Dublin. Jacques Bruchet came with her, though he was unable to disclose this to the British immigration authorities, considering that he also travelled under an assumed name. We had arranged for a stopover in Swansea, with the help of Doctor Jones and of Steven Williams, in order to break the journey so she could have a couple of days rest with the baby, and also to facilitate any care he might need.
Amongst the Breton refugees already in Wales, I was the only one who had a family to care for. Marie-Madeleine refused to leave any of the children behind when she came to join me. The problem was only resolved through the help of Gwynfor and Rhiannon Evans. They lived in Wernellyn, a large farmhouse in the countryside of Llangadog. Their home was larger than that of any of our other Welsh friends. They offered to take in Marie-Madeleine and the children, at least on a temporary basis, until a better and more definite solution could be found.
1947: Yann Fouéré, standing on the right, with the Evans family in Wernellyn.
At the time, Gwynfor and Rhiannon already had three children, of more or less the same age as ours: Alcwyn, Dafydd and the baby Meleri. The burden they were proposing to take on was a heavy one, as all at once it doubled the size of their family. From my side, I was only able to offer them a small contribution towards the extra expenses incurred by the presence of Marie-Madeleine and the children. I was also fully aware that this was an offer which many couples, even amongst our own families, would hesitate to make, and that it was all the more generous and commendable of them. It was thus arranged that Marie-Madeleine and the children would live in Wernellyn with the Evans family, and that I would continue my functions at the university, keeping my room in Swansea and coming to join them every weekend. It was also arranged that Rozenn and Jean would go with Alcwyn and Dafydd to the small Welsh school in Bethlehem, not far from Wernellyn, where they were taken every day. As for Erwan, he was not yet walking, a quiet and well behaved baby who was no trouble to those around him.
At the end of March 1947, taking advantage of the university’s Easter holidays, I went to London to welcome Marie-Madeleine and the children. The journey was not too long: they would leave from Paris, after spending the night at my brother-in-law Paul’s place, and would arrive in the evening at Victoria station. My sister-in-law, Yvonne, would accompany them as far as Calais. The official motive for their journey was to spend the holidays with friends in Wales.
I had decided it was safer, out of concern for my anonymity, not to go to the station to meet them. George Palthey’s wife, who had offered me a camp bed for the night, had agreed to go in my place. I had been able to book a room in a hotel nearby for Marie-Madeleine and the little ones. We were to leave by train for Swansea the following morning. My landlady, Mrs. Griffith, had kept a room next to mine for Rozenn and Jean. Baby Erwan would sleep in two armchairs pulled together. Thus it was that I waited at George Palthey’s place, with the impatience one can imagine for the arrival of my wife and children. A year had passed since I had left, with a heavy heart, our house in Rennes to disappear into the night. Erwan, born the previous June while I was away, was already nine months old and I had not yet seen him. When the door opened I held Marie-Madeleine in my arms for a long time. I found her just as I had left her, a little thinner maybe, but the regular features and profile, the mass of hair in a thick chignon and looped on top, were just as they had remained in my memory. Baby Erwan was in his mother’s arms, a lovely baby with a happy face, who smiled in spite of the chicken pox spots that covered his face, an illness that Marie-Madeleine had a lot of trouble hiding from the immigration services. Rozenn and Jean, taller and a little overawed by the reunion, had not changed much either. Jean was still the same little boy, a lively bundle of energy. Rozenn, calmer, still wore her thoughtful look. She would soon be turning six.
Early the following morning, after clearing through customs the large trunk that Marie-Madeleine had checked in on her departure from Paris, the journey to Swansea passed uneventfully. Kind Mrs Griffiths and her nieces made much of the children: the settling in was quickly done in this new and modest temporary dwelling place. However, we had to stay there longer than anticipated. I could not risk exposing Gwynfor and Rhiannon’s children to the possibility of catching chicken pox, which was nearly over, according to Dr. Jones. We therefore spent a couple of weeks together in Swansea before going to Llangadog on the bus. Gwynfor was waiting for us on arrival. Rhiannon, like Marie-Madeleine, was also a very beautiful woman, young, brunette and slim. She showed us around their house as soon as we arrived there.
Wernellyn was at the end of a long wooded avenue, lined with tall trees that opened onto a square courtyard. The farm buildings stood on three sides of the yard, the cowsheds, barns and stables. The dwelling house, mainly facing south, opening onto a large terrace, stood on the fourth side of the yard. The surrounding countryside was rustic and restful. Beyond terrace lay a vast horizon of green fields in a large valley lined with distant hills beyond the small town of Llangadog. The hillsides were closer, steeper and covered with woods, on the other side, by the wide forest, aptly called ‘Fforest Fawr’, or Big Forest, that had to be crossed in order to reach Cardiff and the industrialised valleys of South Wales. On that side, the road over the mountain called Black Mountain was impassable except in the summer. On the other hand, a few kilometres West and across the river, there was a good wide road to Camarthen, Llanelly and Swansea.
Wernellyn belonged to Gwynfor’s parents, who owned a large furniture business in Barry, south of Cardiff. The farm was mainly a dairy farm and continued to operate under the supervision of Gwynfor. He had built some greenhouses, heated by coal, where he worked with two or three companions and was able to obtain harvests of early tomatoes that he sold in the markets nearby. These were in short supply then, after the restrictions and rationing imposed by the war. He was closely involved in all this and the important work he did as a militant on top of that, public gatherings, meetings and committees took up many of his evenings and weekends.
“It is this militant work and the responsibilities I have taken on for Plaid Cymru ,” he told me, ” which made me decide to give up the legal business I had studied for.”
Thus it was only on Sundays that we could discuss the political situation in our two countries. Sundays were mainly devoted to the religious service in the nearby church, to the Sunday school, to walks and to the singing of hymns. Sunday as a day of rest, common to all those of a Christian faith, was observed in a much stricter manner than in Brittany.
1947: Marie Madeleine Fouéré with Rhiannon Evans and their children at the Evans’ home in Wernellyn.
In Gwynfor’s house, as in Wernellyn and Llangadog, only Welsh was spoken, which created a number of problems at first between the children, as mine spoke no Welsh or English, his spoke very little English and of course no French. It was essential as far as Gwynfor was concerned, and I understood him very well on this point, that Alcwyn, Dafydd and Meleri’s maternal language should remain Welsh. At the little school in Bethlehem, teaching was also done through the medium of Welsh. What a contrast with the enforced teaching of French in the schools in Brittany! It was therefore Rozenn and Jean who very quickly learnt Welsh. Although Marie-Madeleine and I continued to speak to them in French, which was their maternal language, after a few months they spoke Welsh fluently and expressed themselves without any difficulty in that language, much better than in English.
Every Friday I returned to Wernellyn on the bus, my weekly tasks accomplished. My courses at the university continued to be of interest to me: they provided me with an opportunity to rediscover a number of subjects that I had not studied in depth and also to make a closer study of French grammar and philology that I had really only touched on during my primary and secondary studies. Professor Williams had only appointed me to the post for the 1946-1947 school year. As with all British universities and colleges, the post of French assistant was allocated to a different person each year, according to reciprocal agreements with their French counterparts. I was only there by a stroke of luck. I assiduously checked the columns of The Times and its Educational Supplement for a post as lecturer or assistant professor in a university. Contrary to what happens in France, it is the universities and secondary colleges that freely choose their own teaching staff. I sent off applications for posts that might be suitable. My qualifications were not exactly of a literary nature, apart from my arts degree that I stressed. I was only once ‘short listed’, by Liverpool University. But the jury in charge of choosing a candidate from a list of three names gave preference to my colleague in Cardiff, who, having done the appropriate studies, was a far better student of English than I was.
The summer holidays were approaching, putting an end to my functions and I had still not found any solution to my problems, which had become even more difficult to solve because of the presence with me of my family. Neither could I continue for much longer to take advantage of the hospitality so generously offered to us by Gwynfor and Rhiannon. In order to relieve the latter, D.J.Williams and his wife, who would be away for a month in the summer, had offered to place their house in Fishguard at my disposal while they were away, which I gratefully accepted.
1947: Yann Fouéré with his family reunited in Fishguard.
Gwynfor and I had decided to go to Dublin at the beginning of July for the interCeltic congress, a tradition that was being renewed after the war years. I had been very hesitant about making this trip, in view of my semi illegal situation, but also because of the expense it involved. I had to closely watch the pennies, especially now that my functions in Swansea were coming to an end.
In making my decision I considered the usefulness, if not the necessity, now that another contingent of Breton refugees was in Ireland, of setting up a structure to coordinate our efforts and our activities. Raymond Delaporte strongly encouraged me to go to Dublin, where we would meet to plan the possible structures that should be set up. At the same time, it would give us the opportunity to meet with the Breton militants who had arrived from Brittany and would be at the congress, under the strict authority of Pierre Mocaer: the everlasting secretary of the Breton branch of the International Celtic Congress.
I decided to go via Liverpool and Belfast to attract less attention, whilst Gwynfor went directly to Dublin via Fishguard and Rosslare.
Raymond Delaporte, Gwion Hernot and Charles Le Goanac’h were waiting for me at the station, on the arrival of the train from Belfast. It was my first time on Irish soil. I had spent a practically sleepless night, stretched out with my suitcase as a pillow, in one of the passageways of a boat packed with passengers. Germain Breton, previously on the executive of the P.N.B., and Léo Millarden came to join us in the small lodging in Fitzwilliam Street that Raymond and his wife occupied at the time. For the occasion of the inter Celtic congress, Millarden had just launched ‘An Amsir chelteach’ or ‘Celtic Time’ which hoped to become the monthly newspaper of the Celtic people. The effect of the new newspaper for which Millarden had taken financial and political responsibility could only enhance that of the modest press bulletin we published in Wales. Millarden had asked Raymond Delaporte to take on the secretariat of the newspaper in Cork. A closer liaison should be established between us to create a ‘Conseil des Bretons de l’Étranger’. This organisation should take on the responsibility of publishing the English translation, which we were preparing, of the Welsh report, ‘ The truth about the persecutions in Brittany ‘ .
Also at the Congress was Roparzh Hemon, having barely survived the French jails, who shortly after had found a position with the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. There were also the two Olivier brothers, Visant Seité, Erwan Tymen, Doctor Libéral and some others. During the course of a restricted meeting, we were able to examine the present situation in Brittany and to encourage Doctor Libéral to take on the leadership and animation of Bleun Brug, which had not as yet recovered from the blow it had suffered four years previously with the assassination of Father Perrot by the “French Résistance”. We were only able to give our support, unfortunately more of a token support han a practical one, to the Olivier brothers for their project of publishing a nationalist newspaper that was still in opposition to the French Information Services.
I had barely arrived in Dublin, when unfortunately Rhiannon Evans telephoned me to tell me that there had been a serious accident to Jean’s eye. While playing with Rozenn, he had been hit by a small metal airplane that had perforated the crystalline lens and damaged the retina. Rhiannon had driven him straight to Cardiff, where he was to be operated on that day. Marie-Madeleine was at his side in Cardiff, also Erwan who, just over a year old, could not be separated from his mother. Rozenn was old enough to look after herself. She had remained in Wernellyn with Rhiannon and her own children. I thus had, after only twenty four hours spent in Dublin, to get the first night boat out from Rosslare to Fishguard, and was thus able to arrive in Wernellyn early in the morning of the following day. That evening I was in Cardiff, where Jean had been operated on.
“We have managed to save his eye”, the surgeon told me, “but maybe not the sight.”
The specialist’s diagnosis was subsequently verified. During six to eight weeks, Jean continued to wear a black patch over his left eye. I decided to have him examined by my uncle, Henri Liégard, himself an eye specialist surgeon, as soon as possible, and to take advantage of my sister-in-law Yvonne’s visit to do this. She was planning to visit us during that summer holiday of 1947.
This visit had been made easier by the fact that we could take advantage of D.J.Williams’ offer to occupy his house in Fishguard during his absence. Jean was therefore entrusted to Yvonne. He returned to Paris around the end of August. Uncle Henri wrote to me that he could not have been better treated than he had been, but that unfortunately he would never recover more than one or two tenths of vision in the damaged eye.
In the meantime we had returned to Wernellyn. Our short visit to Fishguard had also given me the opportunity of receiving the visit of Joseph Martray and thus to have a new firsthand account of developments in the situation in Brittany.
The arrests and sentences had ceased and the political and administrative “purge” conducted by the authorities of the IVth Republic was coming to an end. The Welsh report had certainly been a factor in this. But the ban on visits to Brittany had not been lifted for a number nationalist militants exiled in the Paris region, nor the problems stemming from the loss of citizens’ rights they had been sentenced to. The cultural movement was gradually lifting its head up again and the Celtic circles as well as the bagpipe groups were being organised here and there. However it seemed impossible to take up even a moderate political action again. Fear still prevailed amongst those who might have been tempted to do so. Martray had told me that for financial reasons he had been obliged to discontinue the publishing of ‘Vents d’Ouest’. But at the moment he had in the pipeline, the creation of a monthly review that he would call ‘ Le Peuple Breton ‘, in which he was planning to draw attention to the manner in which the “purge” and the repression in Brittany had been carried out immediately after the war. The first issue of the new publication would be brought out in October. All I could do was to encourage him and to continue somehow or another to bring out our modest press bulletin, in liaison with the ‘Celtic Time ‘.
Contacts between Brittany and other countries were gradually being renewed. The publishing of the Welsh report was an encouragement for a number of Breton militants to come to Wales that same month of August for several Welsh gatherings. One of these groups took part in a Youth camp, organised by the Welsh youth group, ‘ Urdd ‘. The French authorities refused to issue passports to a number of Bretons for the trip: however it could not refuse them all. Having learnt that a Breton refugee was in Harlech, members of the Breton delegation decided to visit him under the guidance of young Welsh militants. The Bretons were: Mlle Manrot, Marharit Gourlaouenn, Polig Monjarret, the Latimer brothers, Joseph Corbel, Pierre Le Fourn and Stéphan. They immediately recognised Gilda Jaffrennou as being the Breton in Harlech. He quickly warned me about this visit. Our anonymity, for all of us, was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.
Many other worries claimed my attention at the end of that summer of1947. At my request and supported by Morgan Watkins, Professor Williams had more or less assured me that she would be able to renew my appointment as French assistant at Swansea University for another year. But having informed the cultural service of the French Embassy in London of her intentions, she had come up against strong opposition.
” I was told,” she repeated to me, “that if I was to keep you on, I could no longer expect the help and support of the French cultural services, neither for books nor for French publications, nor for scholarships or posts of English assistants in France for our students.”
It was obvious that my true identity had been discovered by the French services. They, rightly or wrongly, held me responsible for the failure and contradictions that they had suffered through the publishing of the National Eisteddfod’s report. In view of this new development, I could not hold Professor Williams to her assurances.
I requested her support in trying to find classes in secondary schools within the region. Towards the end of September, I succeeded in finding some French classes for final year students at St. Michael’s, the Anglican secondary school in Llanelly. Shortly after, a commercial school, Clark’s College in Swansea offered me two more classes a week. I also continued to give private classes, in particular to Cenwein Thomas whom I first met at Doctor Davies’ place, and who was now teaching in Camarthen. This solidarity among Welsh militants was a great comfort to me. Morally and materially I needed it.
Nonetheless, this did not resolve the problem of our presence in Wernellyn: it was essential that we find a solution enabling us to have our own place and relieve Gwynfor and Rhiannon of this burden that their generosity had provoked. It had become difficult at times to maintain harmony between our two very different families. The relationship between Rhiannon and Marie-Madeleine had begun to deteriorate: their patience was sorely tested by this prolonged cohabitation.
During the course of my efforts to find a teaching post, I had been informed that a Catholic college was about to open in Llandeilo, not far from Llangadog.
The Carmelites of Dublin, where they had a large secondary school, had taken the initiative for this.
Throughout their history, Irish and Breton Catholics have always had it in mind to convert their Welsh cousins to Catholicism. The Welsh in fact have done the same in reverse, and Welsh evangelical missions have followed one another in Brittany to convert Bretons to Protestantism. The Dublin Carmelites’ undertaking seemed to rest on similar concerns. The goal of the secondary college that was to open in Tregyb, on a large property converted into a college, was to provide a Catholic establishment within the proximity of major population centers of South Wales.
The establishment would be a boarding school for young men. I had offered my services to Father Malachy Lynch, who would be in charge of the new college. I informed him of my current situation and of my family responsibilities: I pointed out that even more than a salary, I was interested in finding, in exchange for the French classes I could give, a place to stay for myself and my family. Tregyb had many large outbuildings that could be converted.
As an Irishman, Father Malachy understood the Breton nationalist struggle. He was mindful of my personal and family situation, but asked me to give him some time to think about what he could do. Rhiannon subsequently went several times to see him, and a sort of mutual understanding was established between them. I always wondered if at the back of his mind Father Malachy had not thought of converting this attractive young woman to Catholicism. He had, for a long time, been in touch with Katherine Daniel, wife of the ex ‘Plaid Cymru ‘ president who had already converted to Catholicism some years previously, thus following the spiritual path Samuel Lewis himself had covered. Katherine Daniel and her sister, wife of Doctor Jones from Swansea, came in fact to visit him in Tregyb from time to time. To convert the wife of the Welsh nationalist party president would have been a masterstroke. But Gwynfor and his fellow Congregationalists faithful, traditionally wary as regards the Church of Rome, would not have approved.
I had already noticed that religion played an important role in Welsh society. It was not linked in any way to any political choice or allegiance, as was too often still the case in France or in Brittany. The days when it was necessary to display anticlericalism in order to be considered a “republican” or a politician from the so-called left were still not so far off. It is still astonishing that the stupid legacy of Petit Pére Combes had for a long time obscured the judgment of the French political establishment. I had been struck by this difference in point of view and openness when the University celebrated Christmas. Whether conservative or socialist, nationalist, pro-British, or neutral, all the members of the teaching body prayed together and sang religious hymns together. Only in France and in Russia could a person still be branded a particular political colour by declaring and practicing a religious faith. However, atheism or the refusal of any spiritual transcendence, or belief in the irrational or supernatural is not necessarily the sign of an enlightened mind or of a superior brain. It can also be said that Anglo-Saxon and British society, including its American extension, is far less materialistic, in spite of appearances, and in any case less spiritually “influenced” than French society.
Father Malachy was seldom seen without his habit. With his fine features, the light blue eyes of the Celt, sparse white hair framing an open forehead, he possessed an imposing personality. He was certainly very Irish, quite demanding, close to being intolerant and a touch authoritarian when it came to the practice of the faith and the defence of his Catholic convictions. His Christian culture was profound, also his sense of apostolate and the distinction of his mind. Wherever he could, he practiced a sort of evangelical poverty, which was not always easy to abide by in his circle. In 1949, shortly after my departure from Wales, when his brother, Father Killian Lynch, became superior general of the Carmelite order, he asked Malachy to restore and revive the antique priory of Aylesford in Kent, a famous place of pilgrimage, half way between London and Canterbury.
“To do it, you can ask me for anything,” he said, “except men and money”.
Malachy, inheritor of the Irish monastic tradition, fulfilled his task. He restored the priory to its ancient splendor, saying to those who came along to help him: “Do all you can and do without all you can.”
Father Malachy and the Irish monks around him finally placed at my disposal, and that of my family, a large bright room in the outbuildings of the castle. It had once been used as a kitchen. A staircase led from it to the first floor with three interconnected rooms. They were situated over the old stables of the large dwelling. Equipped with only one washbasin, having low ceilings and dark owing to the windows being at floor level, these attic rooms were easily converted into bedrooms. In addition, as the establishment was a boarding school, the cook, Rose, provided us with the midday meal. She was a kind woman, catholic, of English origin and a body as big as her heart. She quickly developed a fondness for baby Erwan. As for Rozenn and Jean, they were to follow classes at the neighbouring primary school, situated in the suburb of Tregyb, at the bottom of the hill going up to Llendeilo.
The timetable, for the French classes I was to give to the boarders atthe college, was adapted so that I could continue to maintain those that I was already giving in the two establishments in Llanelly and Swansea. I was also able, should the need arise, to have private pupils come to Tregyb. In Llanelly as in Swansea, the pupils I had were young men and women from the more advanced classes, who were close to the end of secondary school exams. As for those in Tregyb, they numbered but a few: other than myself the teaching body was comprised of those members of the order who had already acquired their professional skills from the secondary college of Terenure in Dublin, that was under the direction of the order. I was to meet a number of them again there later on.
The small town of Llandeilo, similar to one of our large administrative centres of a canton in Brittany, was a much larger centre than Llangadog. It had grown little by little around the church of the abbey founded by Saint Tello, in the sixth century, perched on top of a small hill in the Tewy valley, in the foothills of the Black Mountain. The large Norman castle ruins of Carreg Ceinen and Dynevor, comparable to our Tonquedec in certain respects, still retain their symbolic surroundings. Countless churches and chapels are dotted around the surrounding areas, isolated or integrated into the small villages, or hidden away in the small green wooded valleys bordering the Tewy and its tributary, the Dulais: Bretons will recognize their Doulais, as they will recognise their Landelau in Llandeilo. The thaumaturge saint, a disciple and friend of Saint David, patron of Wales, who is to the Welsh what Saint Anne and Saint Yves are to the Bretons, emigrated to Brittany with his community, escaping from an epidemic of the Yellow Plague in 547. He remained there, according to hagiographers, for seven years and seven months before returning to his native Wales.
Numerous churches and chapels remain in Brittany where he is honoured with devotion. He is represented there in numerous stained-glass windows and statues, frequently accompanied by a stag. This noble animal, known for its speed, is the one he had chosen to demarcate the lands that one of the lords of our Cornouaille had ceded to him, which had to be those which he could go round in one day between sunrise and sunset.
A cemetery, the final resting place of a number of its inhabitants, surrounds Llandeilo and its square tower. The vertical tombstones emerge from the green of the lawns and shrubs: the whole forming a verdant and restful space with a number of houses around it, in the very centre of the small town. Unfortunately, the through road that straddles the hill has split the cemetery in two. At the time when it was built, the traffic must not have been of a kind to disturb the sleep of the departed.
From the entrance to Tregyb’s park, at the time when I first arrived there, it was possible to detect the silhouette of the small town on the other side of the river, with the roofs of its houses shining under the rain or reflecting the sunshine climbing over the hill. All the houses seemed to converge towards the square tower of the church and the large green bouquet of the trees surrounding it. It is possibly in memory of Saint Teilo, who is venerated by both Brittany and Wales, that Llalandeilo is today twinned with Le Conquet.
In Tregyb, in spite of the proximity to Llandeilo, we were still right out in the country. The domain was vast. A small river sang over the stones just tens of meters away from our quarters. On the other side of the property a quiet lake overrun with reeds and water lilies was home to some herons and waterfowl that rested there. A large wooded avenue and vast green space that had become a field separated the front of the castle from the road. After the bridge that had to be crossed to get to Llandeilo, the Tewy widened flowing towards Camarthen and into a bay of the same name further on. Camarthen, a crossroad for routes of communication and the town where Jean-Marie Perrot had come a few years before the war to visit Reverend Dyfnallt Owen after the latter had been received in Scrignac presbytery, had been an important salmon fishing centre. The coracles, small lightweight boats covered with canvas, similar but on a smaller scale to the Irish ‘curragh’ that I would come across later on in the west of Ireland, and which were used by the fishermen for fishing, had already practically disappeared.
A busy network of buses linked Llandeilo to Camarthen, to Llannelly and to Swansea through the mining town of Ammanford and Pontardulais. In spite of the difference in the spelling, it was easy to recognise the similarity in the numerous Welsh names of places to those in Brittany, a testimony to the common origins of our people. In spite of the different environment, I was not disorientated.
Unfortunately, today, there remains very little of the Tregyb I once knew. Tregyb School still exists, but it is a modern college, recently built, in the green pastoral surroundings of the park with its many centuries old trees and its carefully mown grass. The wild grass that used to overrun the fields of the old castle has disappeared. The large XIXth century dwelling house and its outbuildings that incorporated the monastery, the old secondary college of St. Mary’s and the modest dark three rooms where we had found refuge over the outbuildings have also disappeared. It is probably more pleasant to live there now than when I was there. The old castle, that had become much too expensive to maintain, was razed to the ground about twenty years ago and its little lake filled in. The only remains left on the cleared area where it once stood are the short monumental steps of sculptured stone that linked the castle with the garden, the park and the lake.
The establishment of Father Malachy and his monks only lasted for about fifteen years. It was probable that the departure of their founder to Aylesford was a fatal blow. Before being razed to the ground, Tregyb was purchased by the local authorities of Camarthen County. On the other hand, the little windmill situated at the entrance to the park that Father Malachy had originally thought of as a lodging for me, was preserved. It was restored with love and care by its present owner, an ex navy officer who went on to become a professor in technical English. He and his wife have erected in their garden the statue of the Virgin, the only remnant of the chapel in Tregyb Castle where Marie-Madeleine’s mother, during her visit to us there, and the few other catholic faithful from the area, liked to pray.
Thus it was that during the month of October 1947, we settled into Tregyb. My mother, who was to return Jean to us after my uncle Liégard had examined him, was therefore able to pay us a short visit. I went to Swansea to meet them, happy to see them both again. I was thus able to have more recent news from Brittany and in particular of my personal affairs.
Shortly before Marie-Madeleine left Brittany, the registration services in charge of applying the confiscation of property imposed on those sentenced by the courts, had arrived to make an inventory of my furniture and my possessions. The civil servant in charge of this unpleasant task was surprised that I was not the owner of a luxurious villa in La Baule, as he had been told! I was not the owner of my house. My library of books had been put in a safe place. Marie-Madeleine had sold the car that was legally her property. They were only able to seize my personal Savings Book and some collections of books that were taken from my office in rue de la Monnaie, in Rennes, and which I was never able to recover.
Since then, my parents had been able to proceed with the removal of our furniture in Rennes and had taken it to their place in Saint Lunaire. The books, originally stored by Xavier de Langlais, were also put in a safe place in the vast library my father had installed and in its numerous cupboards. I was therefore sure of being able to find all this again one day. Our house, rue de Fougères, having been occupied by Gilbert Monroy, his wife and his first daughter Christina, who was Erwan’s age, was now occupied by Portheault, my old companion from Marguerite Concentration Camp.
The political climate continued to be dreadful as regards our most moderate claims. During the first term of office of the IVth Republic, the socialist group of the French Chamber of Deputies, with its full complement of one hundred or so members at the time, had on the 12th June 1947, tabled a proposal requesting the government to take: “all necessary measures for the improvement and strengthening of the French language in all educational establishments, and in particular,” it added, “in those regions where the regional language used by families was other than French.” In the exposé of the motives for this, the proposal for this law explained that the French state of the Vichy government, invoking cultural values, had “launched into an initiative of dividing French people, under the guise of autonomy and separatism” and further: “the national school can only recognise the national language of the Republic, being one and indivisible.”
This was certainly an indirect response with the aim of an absolute opposition to the report of the Welsh delegation in Brittany. The Welsh report also said that in fact, around that same time, M.Naegelen, member of the same socialist group and Minister of National Education, replied to the request of some Breton personalities that Breton be taught in Breton schools stating that “teaching had to be uniformly through French” and that those teaching in the Breton region had: “the essential task, just as their colleagues in Algeria had, to assimilate the population at any cost.”
The persistent policy of the French administration therefore remained unchanged; personally I never had and still do not have any doubt on that score. Whatever concessions it is sometimes led to make with regard to the legitimate claims of our people, these are never other than a propaganda device in their minds, destined to appease criticisms sharp enough to find echoes within international opinion, thus tarnishing the distinguished image of France that absolutely must be preserved: the mother not only of weapons, literature and laws, but also champion of the rights of man and of freedom.
The Welsh delegation’s report wisely put forward to the French government: “that its attitude as regards the teaching of Breton in the schools was rapidly converting cultural nationalists into political nationalists.” Following on its publication, a press campaign had started in Wales to call for an amnesty in favour of all the politically convicted Bretons and to request that permission be granted to all those exiled to return freely to their country. We naturally did our best to sustain this campaign. “For us,” the Welsh report also added, “it is a duty to grant our moral and material aid to all those who have suffered from the repression.”
One of the French authorities’ first concerns had been to silence this movement of opinion, through the intermediary of the French embassy. In France, the government endeavoured to keep this campaign secret. Meanwhile pressure was increasing on British authorities to take steps against our small group of undeclared refugees with no truly legal status. Certainly, our failing lay in the fact that we had entered the United Kingdom thanks to these true-false passports. Our only advantage was that the French authorities did not know the names on the true-false passports and as far as the British authorities were concerned we were just the same as any other French person. Butas far as I was concerned, the presence of my family with me under our legal name, as well as my personal involvement in the campaign in favour of the Bretons and the period I had spent at Swansea University, made it easier to break through my anonymity.
Autumn and the first half of winter went by without any major problem. The difficulties of a material nature were still there, but being reunited with my family was more than ample compensation.
Early in 1948 my mother-in-law came to visit us, happy to be reunited with her youngest daughter and her three grandchildren. She did the sewing, knitting and mending of clothes that Marie-Madeleine had hardly the time to do. She went to Mass every morning at the little chapel in the college and the monks were soon edified by her exemplary piety. Father Malachy often called around to speak with her, trying to master the French words and phrases he could remember. Saturdays and Sundays I would sometimes bring Rozenn and Jean for long walks through neighbouring little valleys that the trees had filled with dead leaves. It was in Tregyb that Erwan took his first steps. We sometimes had short visits from one or other of our compatriots in exile. But most of us moved around very little, not wanting to draw too much attention to ourselves. Our financial means, in any case, did not allow it.
In Wernellyn, Monsieur Le Meliner, a mill owner from Baud, who had become M.Moitinon under his true-false passport, had taken our place. He had also been obliged to leave Brittany and go into hiding at Yvonne Galbrun’s place in Paris. Following the trip to Brittany that I had organised for Rhiannon during the summer of ’47, she had brought him with her to save him from persecution. He was, later on, to become Ronan Huon’s father in law. They did not know each other at the time. Ronan Huon, future director of the magazine Al Liamm, studied English and in October 1947 became French assistant at Dynevor Grammar School in Swansea. He met Urien Williams there, the son of our friend Stephen Williams, professor of Welsh at the University. Urien had asked him if he knew the two Breton refugees who were in the region at present: Doctor Moger and M.Moitinon. He could only reply in the negative of course. Having been warned about this conversation, I had arranged to meet Ronan Huon in one of the parks in Swansea, where we became better acquainted. In any case, I was certain of his discretion as regards my true identity. We kept in touch afterwards and I invited him, as well as M.Moitinon – Le Meliner – to come and spend Christmas day 1947 in Tregyb. That is how they first met and how Ronan Huon later on in Brittany met the woman who was to become his wife.
I had organised as best as possible the classes I was giving in the three colleges where I was now teaching. I became aware of the difficulties of this work and of the strain it could be when the classes were overcrowded, which happened particularly at the commercial college in Swansea. The maintaining of order took up a good part of the time that could have been better employed for study or corrections. At the university, those who attended the classes were only those who were interested in the subject. That is not the case in a secondary school. M.Williams, principal of the Swansea secondary school and A.Owen, principal of the Llanelly one, sometimes reproached me for not being able to look forbidding enough when I addressed the students.
“The most difficult thing for me at the beginning of my career as a teacher,” the former revealed, ” was always having to act out a role, conveying a state of mind and a severity, a firmness and gravity that I did not feel.”
I had of course handed in to the police authorities in Swansea a request for an extension of my residence permit and an attestation of employment from my three employers to support it. But the reply was a long time coming. I felt certain that the French authorities were exerting pressure on the British authorities.
Following the publication of the Welsh report, a press campaign, instigated by the Information delegation of Brittany, had been set up by the French press in Brittany, against “the real or presumed instigators” of the “slanders” against France’s reputation in Great Britain. A delegation of French personalities had been to visit Wales in October of 1947. It was led by Paul Hutin Desgré, deputy from Morbihan to the French Parliament at the time and director of ‘Ouest-France ‘, the newspaper that had supplanted ‘ L’Ouest- Éclair’ at the Liberation after seizing their equipment and their printing works in Rennes. Florian Le Roy when he wrote to me later after I had been expelled from Great Britain, had no hesitation in categorically maintaining that it was Paul Hutin during that visit to Cardiff who had actively worked on the British government to take sanctions against the Breton refugees. Florian also revealed to me various unknown aspects of this individual and his megalomania. He had no hesitation in publicly declaring at the press conference held during the reception given by the Lord Mayor of the town, that these “rebel Bretons whom the Welsh press had been prompted to support, had not hesitated to also spit in the face of England”. He forgot of course that the French press he represented, also had not hesitated to “spit” in the face of the Irish rebels in 1916. But did he even know? He was only Breton through his wife and had only become a journalist by accident: through her father, one of the founders of ‘L’Ouest Éclair’, she had become one of the main shareholders of the newspaper.
Around the same time, another salaried journalist, Charles Chassé, protested against the conclusions of the Welsh report in ‘ Le Télégramme de Brest’ that had succeeded ‘ La Dépeche ‘ , and denounced the “bad French ” who peopled the Celtic circles and Breton cultural organisations who were trying at the time to take up their struggle again. He added that these organisations were nothing but dens of “Breton nationalists and anti-French”. To shut him up, it had been enough for Joseph Martry, in an article to set the record straight published by ‘ Le Peuple Breton ‘, to remind readers that Charles Chassé had been an assiduous writer for ‘ Le Télégramme de Brest’ during the Occupation. Nonetheless all these campaigns claiming to respond to the Welsh report were readily accessible arguments for the French authorities to use in requesting that measures be taken by the British authorities to refuse Breton refugees the right to reside and the right of entry into their territory.
Right at the beginning of 1948, I received notice to leave British territory. Renewed approaches made and steps taken by my employers, by Morgan Watkin, Mary Williams, parliamentarians from the Liberal Party and lawyers from the Welsh Nationalist Party had no effect. I was warned that if I did not leave voluntarily, I would end up by being deported and in that case I would not be able to return to Great Britain, even on a simple visit.
A return to France was out of the question for many reasons: the most serious of them being that I could not avoid immediate arrest. The only possibility was Ireland, where some other refugees were already settled.
This was a serious problem, firstly where my family was concerned. Father Malachy assured me that they could remain in Tregyb until I had found a new refuge for them in Ireland. Marie-Madeleine could try to replace me for the French classes I gave there. W.William, director of the commercial college in Swansea, suggested the same solution. His wife was Irish from Donegal, originally from Ballyshannon, a small town situated practically on the border that separates the two Irelands, that of the North and that of the Free State. He appeared thoughtful when I told him of my choice.
“I frequently go to Rossnowlaugh on holidays,” he told me, “so that I can also visit my in-laws who live nearby. There are beautiful beaches in Rossnowlaugh. My in laws, like many Irish people, are from the politically divided region. Some are “unionists” and therefore in favour of maintaining Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom, the others are nationalists and in favour of a union of the whole of Ulster to the Republic of Ireland. As you may already know, Donegal is one of the nine counties of Ulster, only six of these form Northern Ireland, which still belong to England. Therefore I know something of the Irish and I must admit that I do not have much confidence in many of them.”
I was careful not to report these comments to Father Malachy who had given me a certain number of addresses of people whom he thought would be in a position to help me in my new exile, in particular in the Dublin area. This was not the first time that I had come across the fundamental mistrust that existed between two neighbouring Celtic people, belonging to two different yet close branches, a mistrust where history and religion have undoubtedly played their part. On walking through a working class quarter of a mining town, along rows of the same attached houses, I had noticed in front of one of them a small untidy garden, unkempt with grass growing wild, a contrast with its neighbours, where the grass was neatly mowed with carefully cultivated tiny flowerbeds alongside. The house was occupied however.
“It must surely be an Irish person who lives there,” my Welsh companion had simply remarked.
The elite of our nations, certainly, are inspired by a Celtic fraternity and know the links that exist between our people through common origins, culture, traditions and sometimes a common struggle. But there is still a lot to be done so that the masses of our people also become actively aware of this. The majority of Unionists today who are opposed to the Nationalists are descendants of Scottish colonials.
At the beginning of March, on the date I had been given as a limit for my departure, I set off for Fishguard with a heavy heart. It was heartbreaking again to have to leave Marie-Madeleine and the children, and once more with the uncertainty of the future. As I waited for the ferry across to Rosslare, I spent the evening with D.J.Williams who accompanied me to the pier. My departure was carefully noted by the British police and immigration authorities, who asked me for the address of where I was heading. Just in case, as they insisted, I gave them the address of Millarden in Cork, now long established in Ireland and unlikely to have any problems. I spent the night on the seats of one of the lower decks of the ferry, under cover. For a long time, I sat watching the lights of the shore growing fainter.