Monday 26 August 2019

Calls to commemorate 1916 POW camp in Wales dubbed 'The University of the Revolution'

Frongoch prison camp
Frongoch prison camp
Chris Ruane and Alwyn Jones of Frongoch and Elwyn Edwards of Bala
The remains of Frongoch Prison camp today
One of the huts that housed the republican prisoners
Tommy Ruane who was interned at the camp in 1916 for republican activities

Graham Clifford in Frongoch, Wales

Locals in a small Welsh hamlet have called on the Irish and Welsh Governments to provide a permanent commemorative centre in Frongoch, where 1,800 Irishmen were interned after the 1916 Rising.

The POW camp, on the site of an old whisky distillery outside the town of Bala, held rebels such as Michael Collins, Terence MacSweeney and Richard Mulcahy.

It became known as 'The University of Revolution', as it was here that plans were discussed for future attacks on British rule in Ireland.

"During the summer, we sent an invitation to President Higgins to come here on the centenary of 2016," said Cllr Alwyn Jones, whose home is built on the site of the old distillery.

He added: "This place is so important, both to Irish and Welsh history, and if nothing is done to permanently mark it in 2016, we fear that nothing will ever be done and it will be totally lost to history."

A small plaque was placed here by the Liverpool branch of Conradh Na Gaeilge in 2002. A school has been built on the Southcamp site, with the Northcamp's location now farmland.

"It was here that young rebels like Michael Collins learned from fellow older rebels - and, remember, it brought together rebels from all over Ireland and placed them on one site. It was a huge mistake by the British government," said local Plaid Cymru councillor Elwyn Edwards.

Chris Ruane, a former Labour MP in this constituency, believes the time is now right for appropriate commemorations at Frongoch.

His grandfather Tommy Ruane, from Galway, was interned here in 1916 for republican activities in Carnmore.

He said: "Think of the thousands of people who get the ferry from Ireland to Holyhead and drive by without knowing that this place is here."

The camp housed German POWs prior to Irish republicans being brought in.

It was chosen because escape was all but impossible, with the nearest large town 20 miles away. Prisoners quickly established Irish classes and sports events. One field is still known locally as 'Croke Park' because Gaelic games were played there.

A spokesperson for President Higgins said that "an invitation was received … to unveil a permanent information board at Frongoch" and that "the invitation is under consideration".

The Irish Embassy in London said: "The Irish and Welsh governments are working together to develop a programme of events, which will include commemorating the internment of Irish prisoners at Frongoch."

Irish Independent

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