Part 2: Ancestral Voices

Chapter 11. Llandygái 2001

It was Christmas Eve. Coming downstairs from a spell of quiet work in our room, I found a peaceful and domestic scene. Huw was sitting at the computer. Tad was relaxing by the fire, drinking his evening glass of beer and contemplating the ffolant which presided from the mantelpiece. It was now flanked by six framed enlargements of photographs which we called the Rogues’ Gallery. Daniel and John, and John and Rowland, uncomfortably posed in the studio. Owen, perched on his trimming bench. Emrys, youthful in the quarry. Tad, pensive over a book. Huw and me, eying each other dreamily.

“You know, boys,” said Tad, “you look so soulful in that picture, so goofy, that one fine day some visitor is going to rumble you. It’s not a portrait of two sort-of-brothers. It’s a portrait of two lovers. Have you thought about coming out? Publicly?”

As it happened, we had. Huw had been all for it. His first term at Ysgol Tryfan had gone very well. He had acquired good friends, and as soon as he was fit to play he had made his name as an up-and-coming star at rugby. His public standing was high. Always an open and forthright character, for some weeks he had felt ready to take the plunge, sure that his friends would support him and that he could outface any potential homophobes. I was less confident, less outgoing, and therefore more hesitant. I reckoned my old friends — none of them bosom friends, but good ones — would take the news the right way. But I had the reputation, outside that circle, of being a bit of a hermit, and I was unsure what the general reaction might be. Yet, very recently, I had swung round to Huw’s way of thinking. We told Tad all this, and that we were contemplating, when next term started, telling our friends at school. If that went well, we would let the news go fully public.

“Good,” said Tad. “I think you’re wise not to keep it bottled up. You’re proud to be gay, and the sooner the world knows you are, the better. I can’t foresee any problem here in the village either. People like you, you know. It’s not as if you were tearaways. Tecwyn would certainly back you up, both as a friend and a policeman, since you’re over the age of consent, and that should sway any waverers. So go for it. But I’m surprised you’ve come round to the idea so quickly, Elfed.” He could read both of us like a book, could Tad. “What swayed you?”

“Ancestral approval,” I admitted. “I’ve always known you were behind me, and that’s what has mattered most. But now I feel I’ve got Emrys and Owen and John behind me too, all challenging me to drop pretence and face the world. It’s this that’s tipped the balance.” I patted the bundle of paper I was holding.

Since term ended I had been writing up our findings about the five generations of gay Griffithses. Even further back too, for we had gone on to trace quite a number of Daniel’s forebears. But none of those had shown any sign — not that it would be easy to spot at that distance — of aberration from the then-accepted norm. Now I had finished checking through the printout of my treatise, and with a flourish I put it into Huw’s hands.

“There you go, Huw cariad. The fruit of deep researches into a curious Welsh family. A family you’re an honorary member of. And you’re responsible for setting the whole ball rolling in the first place. If you hadn’t discovered about the poor young archbishop-to-be losing his cerrig or his pidyn, none of this would have cropped up. But at least it’s a good Welsh family, not tainted — like some I know — by English royal blood.”

Huw blushed, actually blushed, a rarity for him.

I was puzzled. He normally enjoyed this sort of banter. “Only teasing!”

“I know, I know. I’m not blushing for me, Elfed, I’m blushing for you. I’ve got something to tell you. And you, Nhad. A Christmas present you won’t like. I’ve just found a website with a genealogy which follows Tad’s Mam’s family up. Iawn, the Archbishop’s out of the running. But this line goes much further back, by a different route. I’m sorry, but it does go back to Edward I.”

Tad choked into his beer.