The MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd says it is “fantastic” to hear Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton speaking passionately about Wales’ first black gardener, John Ystumllyn.

Liz Saville Roberts MP is responding to footage of Hamilton on the red carpet at the Met Gala, explaining how the gardener inspired his outfit.

The MP said: “Fantastic to hear Lewis Hamilton talk so passionately about how Wales’ first black gardener, John Ystumllyn, had inspired his red carpet look at the recent Met Gala in New York, bringing much deserved global attention to this eighteenth century story of triumph over adversity.

“History is not something dry between the covers of books, it is something very alive for people, and it is encouraging to see John Ystumllyn’s story reaching new audiences.

“John Ystumllyn is such an important historical figure both as one of the first black gardeners in Britain, his early life as a victim of the Atlantic slave trade to his later life marrying Margaret Gruffydd and working as a gardener on the Ystumllyn Estate outside Cricieth.

“It is our duty as custodians of history to share his inspiring story with others.” 

One of the UK's first black gardeners, John Ystumllyn was abducted as a child in western Africa in the 18th Century and raised in Gwynedd, north Wales. A rose was named after him and has been planted in Buckingham Palace and Criccieth, as well as many other places.

Asked about his outfit at the Met Gala, Hamilton said John Ystumllyn triumphed through adversity.

The theme for this year’s gala, organised by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, is "The Garden of Time". In 2022 an event was held in Criccieth to honour John Ystumllyn. Zehra Zaidi, founder of We Too Built Britain who campaigned for a rose for John Ystumllyn, and Peregrine Armstrong-Jones, owner of the John Ystumllyn portrait, were in attendance.

Dr Catrin Jones, Criccieth Town Council clerk, said: “John Ystyumllyn came to the area from West Africa in the 18th century after being abducted as an eight-year-old child in the wake of the Atlantic slave trade. He married Margaret Gruffydd, a maid working at Ynysgain Fawr, an estate of the Wynn family. The couple were given a Neira cottage and a garden in Pentrefelin by the Wynns. John used all he had learnt about gardening on the Ystumllyn Estate. Having begun life tragically, he was welcomed by the community and became a respected figure.

“The campaign to commemorate John’s life began with Zehra Zahidi. he felt it fitting that what she believes is be the first rose to be named after an ethnic minority person in the UK would be named after one of the first black gardeners in Britain. Harkness Roses agreed to create the rose and launched the John Ystumllyn Rose in 2021. Criccieth has received 25 roses.”

Zehra said: “We wanted a rose that brings people together, that uses gardening to support community connections and mental health. We’ve done it out of friendship, which is why the colour is yellow. It stands for love, it stands for community. Anyone who knows John’s story knows those are the values he embodied. It’s been magical to be in Criccieth amongst the community that he loved and loved him. ”

Cllr Williams said: “It is appropriate to have this commemoration for John Ystumllyn at Cae Crwn, our wonderful community allotments.

“In addition to the five roses planted at Cae Crwn, we have a rose garden dedicated to John Ystumllyn in the gardens of the library, which has an information board and also a friendship bench painted by Sophie Williams and Elin Williams, students from Coleg Meirion Dwyfor.

“We are delighted that we have been able to welcome our MP, Liz Saville Roberts, Zehra Zaidi and Peregrine and Caroline Armstrong-Jones who kindly brought the original painting of John Ystumllyn with them.”

MP Liz Saville Roberts, who raised awareness about the historic figure for several years, said then: “This way of commemorating John Ystumllyn through roses, as he was a gardener, is so appropriate.