Tributes have been paid following the death of lifelong Welsh language campaigner Dr Carl Clowes.

Dr Clowes founded Welsh language education provider The Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust, formed the UK's first village co-operative, and was integral to forming Dolen Cymru, a charity fostering international solidarity between Wales and the small African country of Lesotho.

It was announced on Sunday that the Welsh language champion had died following a short illness. 

Dr Clowes stood for Plaid Cymru in Montgomeryshire during the 1979, 1983 and 1987 general elections.


Dr Carl Clowes was born in Manchester to an English dad and Welsh mother. Though his mother was fluent, Clowes had little exposure to Cymraeg until taking up the language himself later in life. 

He moved to north Wales in the late sixties with his Irish wife Dorothi, accepting a GP job in the village of Llanaelhaearn. He spoke about the decision in an interview with For a Change magazine in 2004: "I had begun, in my later years at Medical School, to think a lot about Wales and Welshness.

"It was a time, in the late sixties, when a lot of people were asking - 'Who am I?' 

"I began to feel hurt that some people were very dismissive about Wales."

Shortly after settling into Llanaelhaearn, Clowes - who is also dad to two members of prominent Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals - became embroiled in a campaign to save the local school. 

County Times: Dr Clowes (centre) celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Welsh language centre Nant Gwrtheyrn in 2012 (source: Senedd Cymru)Dr Clowes (centre) celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Welsh language centre Nant Gwrtheyrn in 2012 (source: Senedd Cymru)

The campaign - ultimately successful - led him to consider the wider decline of Llanaelhaearn, and he proposed setting up a "village association" to make improvements by and for the local community.

By 1974, this idea had grown into Antur Aelhaearn ("Aelhaearn Venture"), the UK's very first village co-operative. Locals bought shares in the scheme for £1, and the funds raised allowed them to open pottery and knitwear businesses.

In the early eighties, Dr Clowes led on the conversion of a deserted quarrying village, Porth y Nant, into a centre for Welsh language education.

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The village, briefly the site of the New Atlantis hippie commune, was derelict - with no electricity, running water, road access or functional sewage system (the New Atlanteans, meanwhile, had relocated to John Lennon's Dornish Island, off the coast of Ireland).

In 1982, the first language-learning house in the area opened, and by 1991, the whole village had become a fully-fledged National Language Centre.

County Times: Nant Gwrtheyrn, north Wales. (Source: Tom Parnell of Scottish Borders)Nant Gwrtheyrn, north Wales. (Source: Tom Parnell of Scottish Borders)

 Ymddiriedolaeth Nant Gwrtheyrn (Nant Gwrtheyrn Trust) continues to offer both residential Cymraeg courses and online taster lessons for learners of all levels.

Clowes said of the Welsh language: "Wales would be a poorer place without it."

"There is no guarantee of its survival, living as it does next door to the most powerful language in the world."

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He convened and chaired the Fforwm Iaith Genedlaethol ("National Language Forum"), and developed the first strategy for the future of the Welsh language.

An internationalist, Dr Clowes also first proposed "twinning" Wales with a country in the Global South.

He wrote about his motivations in a 2008 book foreword: "In the early 1980s, the Welsh community at large had taken an interest in the Ethiopian famine and trauma elsewhere, and responded in conscience through various aid organisations.

"The ‘third world’, for many however, seemed little more than a permanent problem looking for help.

"In reality for some of us, the argument went, the communities that were suffering involved real people with strengths and attributes.

"They had a rich history, remarkable culture and traditions and was it not therefore incumbent upon us to understand more about the ‘developing’ world?"

County Times: Dr Clowes (left, third row) receives HRH Prince Seeiso and teachers from Lesotho, 2011 (source: Senedd Cymru)Dr Clowes (left, third row) receives HRH Prince Seeiso and teachers from Lesotho, 2011 (source: Senedd Cymru)

He told an interviewer that his vision for Wales was to be "equitable within, and [to] play its part in striving for a more equitable world outside."

Clowes played an integral role in the twinning of Wales with the small, mountainous African nation of Lesotho, and served as Dolen Cymru's inaugral chair.

He wrote that Dolen's strength was in "developing links between people and their communities" on an "equal footing".

"Confrontational policies can never be an answer if we are to secure world peace and justice," Clowes insisted.

Tributes have been paid to Dr Clowes on social media this afternoon.

Welsh language society Cymdeithas yr Iaith offered condolences to the doctor's family, and said that the impact of his work will endure across the country.

Dwyfor Meirionydd MP Liz Saville Roberts, leader of Plaid Cymru's Westminster group, praised Clowes as a "pioneer" of the Welsh language and a pacifist.


Music writer and author Richard King said that Clowes's contribution to the wellbeing of Wales "can't be overstated".


Plaid Cymru MS Mabon ap Gwynfor said that Wales "will forever be indebted" to Clowes.

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