Quarries stripped of Welsh names, say campaigners

Slate miners in Gwynedd
Campaigners say that the Welsh names of north Wales' quarries are being eradicated [Harry Todd]

Areas of slate quarries in Wales are being stripped of their traditional Welsh names and replaced with English ones, claim campaigners.

They say the ponciau - the galleries where quarrymen worked - are being given new names by those who use them for recreational purposes, such as climbers.

Campaigner Anita Butler said these new names include "Mordor" (a fictional place from novel Lord of the Rings) and "Watford gap".

The British Mountaineering Council said climbers using new names for specific routes is not the same as losing the traditional Welsh names.

Anita Butler
Anita Butler said these new names do not make sense [BBC]

Ms Butler, a supporter of Eryri Wen, a campaign which aims to protect historical Welsh names, said these new names "don't make sense".

She said the changes have made many people feel annoyed and that "they want to keep the old names".

Some of the old names were connected the service of quarrymen during World War One, she explained.

On Sunday, an event was held in Llanberis, Gwynedd, to mark 150 years since the formation of the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union.

The event also served to remember the estimated 1,500 quarrymen that died while working in the slate quarries of north west Wales.

At the event, 89-year-old Fred Buckley, who worked for 47 years at the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, recalled that it was "very, very hard, dangerous work".

His father-in-law, Richard Parry Jones was one of the last to be killed at the quarry.

"When I started in 1949 there were over three thousand people working in the quarry - every gallery was working," said Mr Buckley.

"There were 29 galleries in Penrhyn and I knew the names of them all."

He added that he thought the Welsh names would survive in the years to come, no matter what.

Fred Buckley
Fred Buckley, 89, believes the quarries' Welsh names will endure [BBC]

As well as the around 1,500 men who died as a result of incidents in the quarries themselves, it is thought that thousands more had their lives cut short because of the lung disease silicosis, brought on by inhaling slate dust.

Poor pay and tough working conditions led to the formation of the North Wales Quarrymen's Union in June 1874, with the quarrymen enduring a number of lockouts as quarry owners tried to keep their costs down and profits up.

Now, the descendants of the quarrymen said they will fight to ensure the history of those that went before them continue to be remembered in the names they gave to the landscape from which they carved out a living.

Llanberis event
A remembrance event was held in Llanberis for the estimated 1,500 quarrymen that died while working in the slate quarries of north west Wales [BBC]

Tom Carrick of the British Mountaineering Council said the thought of conflict between his native language of Welsh and the climbing community "saddens" him.

"There is space for both in my eyes," he said.

"It’s important to remember our history, but also that climbing has brought a whole new industry into the area and new meanings to the lines [routes] and experiences that climbers have."