Bala, 1789

Gwyneddigion medal won by Gwallter Mechain at Corwen, 1789 (obverse)
This medal was made in Chester, having been commissioned by the Gwyneddigion Society as a prize at the Corwen Eisteddfod in 1789. It was awarded for extemporare verse, and won by Gwallter Mechain. Dr David Samwell was so incensed that his favourite, Twm o'r Nant, had not won that he threatened one of Gwallter Mechain's supporters to a duel. However, no blood was spilled and Samwell gave Twm a silver pen as a consolation prize.

Gwyneddigion medal won at Corwen, 1789 (reverse)
This medal was made in Chester, having been commissioned by the Gwyneddigion Society as a prize at the Corwen Eisteddfod in 1789. It was awarded for extemporare verse, and won by Gwallter Mechain. Dr David Samwell was so incensed that his favourite, Twm o'r Nant, had not won that he threatened one of Gwallter Mechain's supporters to a duel. However, no blood was spilled and Samwell gave Twm a silver pen as a consolation prize.

Gwallter Mechain's win at Corwen in May 1789 caused considerable grievance among the other poets, but in September things went from bad to worse. Because in Bala in September, the Gwyneddigion were, for the first time, the official patrons of the Eisteddfod, and they set a subject in advance for the chair competition, an awdl (strict-metre poem) on A Reflection on the Life of Man.

Once again Gwallter Mechain was given an advantage, by none less than Owain Myfyr, president of the Gwyneddigion, who let him know what kind of awdl the Gwyneddigion were looking for, and of course, when his nom de plume was read out at Bala - you wouldn't credit it, but his nom de plume was Anonymous.

So then Gwallter Mechain stood up to be chaired and the other poets walked out in protest, among them the famous Thomas Edwards, Twm o'r Nant. Gwallter Mechain was chaired amidst a storm of protest, the first of many such storms to follow in the Eisteddfod's history since 1789.

Listen to a video narrative in Welsh by Hywel Teifi Edwards (requires QuickTime player):

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