Governments urged to commemorate site of the 1916 ‘University of the Revolution’
The Irish and Welsh governments are being urged to commemorate a site in Frongoch, Wales that became known as the ‘University of the Revolution’.
It was a Prisoner of War camp that got its unofficial name because it was where 1,800 Irish rebels such as Michael Collins were imprisoned following the Easter Rising.
The POW camp stood on the site of an old whisky distillery outside the town of Bala. It housed German prisoners of war before the Irish rebels were also interned.
While the British had punished the rebels for the uprising, they had also unwittingly provided them with a place to meet up with like-minded people from across Ireland.
The rebels set up Irish classes and sporting events. More importantly, they were able to swap ideas and make key contacts. When Collins was released he became an Irish hero as a leader in the War of Independence.
Another rebel was Tommy Ruane of Galway who was interned for republican activities in Carnmore in 1916.
His grandson Chris Ruane is a former Labour MP in the constituency. Chris believes the time has come to for Frongoch to be commemorated.
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.”
Cllr Alwyn Jones lives on the site of the old distillery.
He said: “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.”
Plaid Cymru councillor Elwyn Edwards said: “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.”
Cllr Jones hopes that Irish President Michael Higgins will visit the historical site next year.
He said: “During the summer, we sent an invitation to President Higgins to come here on the centenary of 2016.”
However, there has been nothing confirmed as yet. A spokesman for President Higgins said: “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.”
The Northcamp is now farmland while a school now stands on the site of the Southcamp.
The site is currently marked by a small plaque which was added in 2002 by the Liverpool branch of Conradh Na Gaeilge.