May 22, 2022

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Montgomery unveils plaque for Hungarian poet Janos Arany

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The plaque

What is the connection between a small Welsh town with a population of about 1,300 and a central European country of nearly 10 million people?

The links between Montgomery in Powys and Hungary date back to the 1800s.

One involves Hungarian poet Janos Arany who wrote a ballad about 500 Welsh bards being slaughtered at Montgomery Castle by Edward I of England in 1277, which is still studied in Hungary.

On Saturday, a memorial plaque was unveiled in Montgomery.

The ballad, known as “A Walesi bárdok” (The Bards of Wales), is why Hungarians are so familiar with the mid-Wales town.

According to legend, the poets were killed after they refused to sing Edward’s praises as a conquering king.

Arany published his ballad anonymously after refusing to write a poem celebrating the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph, who ruled over Hungary at the time.

In 2011 Welsh composer Karl Jenkins wrote a cantata based on the poem.

The trilingual plaque to Arany, unveiled in the town centre, depicts the poet and tells the story of his ballad in English, Hungarian and Welsh.

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It was given to Montgomery by Hungary in 2019, but it could not be unveiled at a large-scale event until now due to the Covid pandemic.

The unveiling was followed by the Welsh and Hungarian national anthems.

Balint Brunner, founder of Welsh-Hungarian cultural initiative Magyar Cymru, helped organise the day of celebration.

“I am one of the millions of Hungarian pupils who have said the words of the poem in front of the class,” he said.

“Little did I know at the time that I would one day be captivated by Wales, start learning Welsh and launch Magyar Cymru to build cultural bridges between Wales and Hungary.

“I certainly didn’t expect Arany’s famous poem to make a sudden reappearance in my life.”

Balint Brunner has been learning Welsh after becoming "captivated" by Wales

The day of celebration also included a recital of The Bards of Wales by the Bristol Hungarian Folk Dance Group, games and activities for families and a concert with the Welsh-Hungarian cultural association.

There are other aspects to the links between Wales and Hungary.

An annual concert is held in Cardiff organised by Elizabeth Sillo, an opera singer with the BBC National Chorus of Wales, while a similar concert also happens in the small Hungarian village of Kunagota.

Since 2019 and the formation of Magyar Cymru, the links between the two countries have been growing.

In July 2020 people from across Hungary sent a video love letter to Wales called “Let’s Build Bridges”.

It included Hungarians, some speaking in Welsh, describing their love for the landscape, history and music of Wales.

In January last year the residents of Montgomery sent their own video message back to Hungary, which went viral on social media and was featured on Hungarian national television.

Saturday’s event and the unveiling of the Arany plaque was the first face-to-face celebration of the link that has been held since the start of the pandemic, but more events are being planned.

Health News – BBC News

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