János Arany has been honoured with a plaque in the Welsh town of Montgomery, immortalised in his famous ballad The Bards of Wales. The plaque, which commemorates Arany and his poetry in Hungarian, English, and Welsh, was unveiled by Ferenc Kumin, Hungary’s Ambassador to the Court of St James’s (London), and Jill Kibble, Mayor of the small Welsh town.
According to the text written on the plaque, in the ballad János Arany celebrates the legendary heroism of the Welsh bards who, with death-defying courage, faced English King Edward I, who was conquering Wales, at the famous feast of Montgomery in 1277. The text on the plaque also emphasises that Arany’s poem is an allegorical hymn saluting the civil curiosity of the heroes of the Hungarian Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849.
“This is the first time in the 165-year history of The Bards of Wales that the Welsh and Hungarian public have commemorated János Arany together at Montgomery Castle, so this is a historic moment in Welsh-Hungarian relations,” said Bálint Brunner, one of the main organisers and founder of the Hungarian Cymru Welsh-Hungarian cultural initiative. May 14th will now be Welsh-Hungarian Friendship Day every year.
After the unveiling of the plaque, the Hungarian and Welsh anthems were sung and The Bards of Wales were recited. For the event, the local brewery also produced a special bottled beer with a portrait of János Arany on its emblem. The event, which was also broadcast live on Montgomery Wales’ Facebook page, featured a number of cultural activities, including performances by the Hungarian Folk Dance Group from Bristol in the west of England, close to the Welsh border, and a video message of greetings from Nagyszalonta (now Romania), the birthplace of Arany.
János Arany and his ballad have been commemorated in Wales on several occasions in the previous years. In 2017, on the 200th anniversary of Arany’s birth, Montgomery awarded the poet a posthumous honorary citizenship, while in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, a special light show in the main square of the city was held to revive The Bards of Wales in order to pay tribute to the memory of János Arany. A commemoration was held in Montgomery on March 15th this year as well, among other acts with the song Ha én rózsa volnék (If I were a rose—t/n: a song of political meaning written around 1969 by János Bródy which was prohibited in the solialist era).