As the magnificent bronze statue of Betty Campbell is unveiled in Cardiff’s Central Square, Taylor Edmonds, Future Generations Commissioner For Wales’ Poet in Residence, shares her commemorative poem. ‘When I Speak of Bravery’ tells of the life and legacy of the inspirational educator who has become the first named, non-fictionalised woman in Wales to be memorialised with a statue. The monument, which was unveiled this morning, was created by sculptor Eve Shepherd and was commissioned following the Hidden Heroines campaign organised by Monumental Welsh Women.
“If you’re determined to do something, you will do it. And I think my life has been full of determinations.” – Betty Campbell
For Betty Campbell
Born in Tiger Bay, never left,
I hear she was a force to be reckoned with.
Called herself a trailblazer, path curator,
constructed schoolbooks from scraps
to tell the full version of history.
Showed her children something true:
They’d always been here, rooted in the soil
through wars and riots, carnivals and industry.
That they stood powerful, worthy
of greatness, never out on their own
with Mrs Campbell fighting their corner.
When Betty was told she couldn’t, her dreams
out of reach for a Black girl from Butetown
who should never want too much,
never take space, never shake things up —
she only wanted harder.
A life of determinations, woman of firsts,
all the while people waited to watch her fail.
So she learnt to nod her head,
say the right things, butter them up
to beat them at their own game.
Listen close — I hear the streets
still call her name after dark,
her school stands, flourishing,
in testament to her story.
And If you kick away the patches
of loose gravel from pavements,
you’ll find lockets of her memories.
A mother, teacher, mentor,
wife, activist, advocator,
I’ll tell my future daughters about Betty
when I speak of bravery.
Her legacy goes on, immortalised
in clay and stone. Let them come
from far and wide, to see
how just one woman can touch
so many lives.
Taylor Edmonds is a former regular voice in Wales Arts Review and the current Future Generations Commissioner for Wales’ Poet in Residence.