No one from the locality had heard of the word Brianne until the proposal for the new dam was put forward. It is in fact named after a stream, called ‘Nant y Bryniau’, which literally means a stream in the hills. It would seem therefore that at some time a mapmaker had misspelt the word Bryniau, a sadly common occurrence when people are not used to our language. It’s too late to complain now so for the rest of time it will be Brianne. I think that Llyn y Bryniau would have been a far nicer name – means, lake of the hills.
When it was first discussed the thought of a reservoir above the village brought considerable fear in those who lived lower down in the valley. I recollect my mother worrying that the dam wall might collapse and there would be a great flood. I suppose it was fear of the unknown. There was considerable objection to its location. The objectors and there were many, wanted it to be built further up the valley. In December 1966 a Public Enquiry was convened to finally make a decision in relation to its construction. On the 3rd July 1968 the West Glamorgan Water Board (Llyn Brianne) Order 1968 came into force and the go ahead for its construction had been given. Under the circumstances it was inevitable and many of the local people were of the impression that the result of the Public Inquiry was a foregone conclusion. The fact that it would affect very few people was probably a primary consideration. One unoccupied farm, Fanog, other farmland and a large plantation of oaks, conifers and many rare plants were the only real casualties.
The protestors were successful however in preventing the construction of a new roadway through the beautiful Doethie valley. Without their efforts a most wonderful part of Wales would have been decimated.
There was however still fierce opposition to the reservoir and William and Jane Jones, Troedrhiwruddwen Farm never really gave up the fight. They lost a small parcel of land through compulsory purchase but could see that their beautiful landscape was to be changed completely. I can well understand their opposition and many to this day wish they had won the fight. Many of us remember the valley before forestation and the reservoir. It was a beautiful place.
Soon however the roadways were being widened and the heavy construction plant trundled through the village on a daily basis. The place had not seen anything like it. In many ways it was quite frightening. Strangers with a variety of accents moved into lodgings and rented houses in the village and in whole of the surrounding area. Llandovery was awash with engineers and construction workers. Local businesses did very well and within a very short time village life had changed completely. Many, however couldn’t wait for normality to return. Every day convoys of large lorries headed up one side of the valley and back down the other, hauling anything and everything to the site. Bus loads of people came to see the worksite of the largest dam of its type in Europe. Would life ever return to anything like what it was before.
On the 15th May 1973 the dam was officially inaugurated by Princess Alexandra.
Once the last piece of machinery had trundled its way out of the valley, life did return to some normality. The place was quiet once more and whereas people in the past used to come to see Twm Siôn Cati’s cave, they now came to see the new reservoir and the new road system meant they could drive through the Cambrian Mountains to Tregaron and beyond.
It would appear the facility it has been a success and water has been provided for West Glamorgan and areas much farther a field. There have been occasions when the level has dropped considerably and Fanog farm has emerged eerily from its watery grave. Word got around and soon there were hundreds of visitors climbing all over the old ruin. And yes some wag put a, 'For Sale,' sign on it. There were no takers, apparently it only had a short lease.
If you visit Llyn Brianne today you will be hit by the solitude and tranquillity of the place. Sometimes it is eerily quiet there. Stand on the dam wall and you then realise what a massive structure this is. It has been altered since 1973. Its capacity has been increased and a hydro-electric station has been built at its base. It still regulates the supply of water in the river Tywi and since its inauguration the water supply to homes and industry in South Wales has kept flowing.
We are very grateful to Mr Dafydd Dafis for his account of the fight against the building of the dam and to the family of the late Dr Jack Parr who have allowed us to use many of his photographs of the upper Tywi valley and the dam construction site.
If you have any photographs of the construction of Llyn Brianne then we would appreciate copies for inclusion on this website.