A Gwynedd poet has been appointed to head a council project to promote and protect native Welsh place names.
Meirion MacIntyre Huws – often known as Mei Mac – will head the authority’s new ‘Indigenous Name Protection Project,’ designed to encourage “positive steps” in the field.
In 2020 over 15,000 people signed a Senedd petition following claims that indigenous place and house names are gradually being eroded.
Claiming that “little by little, the country is losing its heritage,” the issue was also highlighted by comedian Tudur Owen, becoming a vocal advocate on social media on the issue.
In a BBC produced video, the Felinheli-based radio presenter said: “Replacing Welsh place names with English ones just because some people can’t pronounce them or they just don’t like the sound of them is not ok.”
Referring to Llyn Bochlwyd in Eryri (Snowdon), which has now started being referring to as “Lake Australia” due to its outline resembling the shape of the continent, he added: “We have a choice, do we keep these names and stories and tell them to the generations that will inhabit this land after we’re gone, or do we let them be deleted because they’re difficult to pronounce?”
BBC News presenter, Huw Edwards, described the practice as having been “going on for years — with some really gruesome and offensive examples — and virtually nothing’s been done about it.”
According to Cllr Nia Jeffreys, Gwynedd’s cabinet member with responsibility for the Welsh language, the authority is committed to protecting the Welsh language and cultural landscape.
“As part of these efforts, the council’s strategic plan includes a new workstream which aims to protect and promote native place names,” she said.
“To support this work, the council has recently appointed Meirion Macintyre Huws to the role of Project Officer.
“Meirion brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge and we look forward to the work on this important project.”
On his new role, Mr Huws said it would involve work to promote the Place Name Protection Project and create community-based activities, on the ground, to attract interest in the field.
“This is an area that has fascinated me for many years and is close to my heart.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of preserving a very important element of our history and language.
“I see the history of Gwynedd as a large, colourful old tapestry, dotted with pictures and events that tell the stories of the county.
“One part of that precious tapestry is the history of place names. The loss of a Welsh name for a house for example creates a hole in the tapestry and more holes appear every day.”
Leader of Gwynedd Council, Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, added: “Welsh names are of significant historical importance as they reflect the original use of buildings, their place within the community and surrounding geographical features.
“We are sensitive to local fears that the changing and erasing of Welsh names damages our history and culture and that is why this project is a priority for us, and has been included in the Council’s Plan for the years ahead.
“We want to protect and promote these native names and we are pleased that Meirion is joining the team.
“The team will be developing a work programme, working with others within the council and with external bodies to examine the possibilities, and take positive steps towards promoting and protecting Welsh place names.
“This will hopefully cover all aspects, from the historical names for properties and street names to towns and villages and geographical locations.
“We are aware that a lot of work is being done in this area by other bodies, and the team look forward to coordinating and working closely with them.”