Rugby legend Ray Gravell helped get Yma O Hyd singer Dafydd Iwan out of jail, new book claims

Still Singing Yma O Hyd: The iconic song features in the book title, after gaining a life of its own, becoming an official Welsh anthem for the Wales national football team and going to number one in the UK iTunes chart last year. Credit: PA Images

Iconic folk singer and nationalist Dafydd Iwan has revealed how Welsh rugby legend Ray Gravell paid a fine "to get him out of prison".

In the 1970s, Iwan was jailed for refusing to pay fines for defacing English-only road signs as part of the fight for Welsh language rights.

In his autobiography, he explains a conversation he had with Gravell's wife Mari, who had been sworn to secrecy until he had died.

Iwan says that his imprisonment had such an impact on Ray that he "couldn’t bear the thought of him in prison", and his "wife and children at home" without him.

He said: "He (Ray Gravell) had decided to pay my fine, and he was on the phone for hours, asking how this could be done, and managed to get the money sent to Walton. And that’s how I came to be released against my wishes!

"It’s so typical of Ray,  a man who always wore his heart on his sleeve. How I wish I could have thanked him and put his mind at ease that I didn’t really mind at all.

"Dear, passionate Ray Gravell – a Welshman like no other," said Dafydd.

The late Llanelli and Wales international was a great fan of Iwan, singing his songs constantly in the dressing room and they became great friends.

Dafydd Iwan on the set of a Christmas special, with Welsh rugby greats Delme Thomas, Derek Quinnell and Ray Gravell, and Caryl Parry Jones Credit: Dafydd Iwan

Mr Iwan decided to release his autobiography just months after turning 80. Some of the stories are being told for the first time.

Mr Iwan recalls an unusual incident in his memoir which will surprise fans. It was the run-up to the investiture of the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles, at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.

Dafydd Iwan's satirical song, "Carlo" (Charles) was riding high in the Welsh pop charts.

He says "passions surrounding the impending Investiture were at their height" when he experienced what he describes as a "rather pathetic attempt by an agent provocateur to put me in a great deal of trouble".

Mr Iwan said: “I arrived at a concert in Llanrwst to find the place crawling with police, and two of them approached me to say they’d received intelligence that someone was out to kill me, so they were there in numbers to give me protection.

Dafydd Iwan singing at a Plaid Cymru fundraiser in the late 1960s Credit: Dafydd Iwan

"I was ushered into the marquee where the concert was to take place and shown into a small room in a corner of the tent. ‘We will be outside if you need us’, they told me.

"As I sat there, trying to come to terms with what I’d just heard, and getting the guitar ready for the stage, a man came in, looking like a character from a B movie, and said in a hushed voice that we’d met previously at a Plaid do  in Holyhead. I’d never seen him before, and never saw him again.

"He said that he had very little time, so he wanted to come straight to the point. ‘We have a plan to assassinate the Prince, and you are the very man to help us’.

“I did not let him finish his sentence but told him to get out as quickly as his feet could take him and added that I didn’t ever want to see him again."

Dafydd Iwan: Still Singing Yma o Hyd will be released on 9 November at a celebratory gig.

The iconic song features as part of the book title, it (Yma o Hyd) has gained a life of its own, becoming an official Welsh anthem for the Wales national football team and going to number one in the UK iTunes chart last year.

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