REPORTS of MEETINGS, EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

 

JANUARY MEETING/CYFARFOD IONAWR…. NOSON LAWEN.

 

Forty Five members and guests enjoyed our traditional Noson Lawen at the 24 January meeting. Taking part were nine individual performers and a choir. The first to take part was Kim Brown. She began by reciting a poem, The Week Before Christmas, then sang a song about an apple tree and finished with a moving poem, a letter of application for her son to be admitted to a secondary school. Arthur Williams followed, beginning with a tribute to Derrick Thomas who died in December. Derrick’s sense of humour and talent was legendary, and he had been a regular performer at every Noson Lawen. He then recited a “risqué” poem, Piddling Pete, about a dog who peed wherever he went! Arthur did recite it at a previous Noson Lawen, on being persuaded by a mischievous Derrick that it would go down well with the Welsh Society, after hearing Arthur perform it at a Chelmsford Male Voice Choir Social evening. John Topless then entertained; his topic was Coincidences, and he began by describing many that he had experienced, Members of the audience were invited to describe their own experiences, which were many, and some utterly amazing! Two teams of three, one woman and the other men were then persuaded to compete in passing a polo sweet from one to another via pencils held between their teeth! Of course the women won handsomely. The next contributor, Hilary Camp, is well known in the Society for her wonderful poems and prose. Her contribution was Bearography, a tale of her teddy bear’s adventures travelling on boats! David Pitchford was a regular attender at the Society’s Annual Welsh Male Voice Choir concerts for very many years, before he eventually joined as a member. An admirer of Roald Dahl’s books, he read us some stories from his Revolting Tales, which is beloved of teachers as a means of persuading their pupils to enjoy reading. The first half ended with John Taylor reading the amusing Battle of Hastings, in a Yorkshire accent!

After an interval for refreshments and a sgwrs, Luke Collinson proved to be an excellent comedian. Luke was a member in the mid 2000s, when he entertained us alongside our then “resident comedians” Derrick Thomas who did some Tommy Cooper impression, and Ron Jones. Luke was the first to go, and an exasperated Ron listened while Luke told all the jokes Ron had planned to tell!! That was the best joke of a memorable evening! Luke, a member once more, has lost none of his talent, and when telling a joke in Welsh introduced some banter with Welsh speakers. It’s good to know that we have a “resident comedian” once more….and some willing “stooges”. Jamie Hacker Hughes was the next entertainer.  He recalled that his great grandfather was a mariner who, in the 1890s sailed out of Porthmadog in the Pride of Wales, trading across the oceans. Jamie sang a song which he had composed himself, which included all the ports his great grandfather had visited. He then sang the great Welsh patriotic song, Dafydd Iwan’s Yma o Hyd, with the audience joining in the chorus. Then it was the turn of Debs Allen-Morgan, our well-known singer and singing teacher. She acted with and recited a piece from Shakespear’s Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. It was a revelation to me that she is also such a very talented classical actress!     

Finally, it was the turn of The Black Sheep Choir, which was formed by Derrick Thomas a long time ago, in order to take part in a Noson Lawen.  John Taylor, who has been the MD for many years, and arranges all their songs for three part harmony, paid tribute to Derrick. They sang: We’ll Keep A Welcome; Take Me Home, Country Roads; Take My Hand, Precious Lord and Calon Lan.  The choristers taking part were John Taylor, Dave Almond, Jim Armishaw, Clive Bright, Simon Royce, Arthur Williams and Gareth Williams. The other member, Peter Wright was unwell, and therefore could not attend.

At the end of the happy evening Meinir Wyn Davies, the President thanked and congratulated all the performers, and wished everybody “Blwyddyn Newydd Dda”. Finally, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was sung with pride and great joy.          

 

Jim Armishaw.     

 

 

December 2023 Meeting Report

 

December was a busy time for the Society. On Sunday 10th thirty members attended the traditional CHARITY CHRISTMAS TEA hosted by Liz and Jim Armishaw. Carols were sung joyfully, accompanied on the piano by the President, Meinir Wyn Davies, The Charity benefitted by £281, including the raffle and donations made later by those who were unable to attend.  

 

Forty seven members and friends attending the Wednesday 13 December monthly meeting, DATHLU’R NADOLIG (Celebrating Christmas, at Chelmsford Cathedral Chapter House enjoyed a wonderful concert given by 18 of the members of Chelmsford Male Voice Choir, under the baton of their Musical Director Paul Smith and accompanied on the piano by Sue Edwards. The full concert of songs included:

Carols, O Holy Night, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night, and The First Noel;

Secular Christmas songs, The Holiday Tango, Holly Jolly Christmas, Little Drummer Boy and A White Christmas;

Songs with Welsh connections, Men of Harlech, (Rhyfelgan Gwyr Harlech), The Peacemakers (Y Tangnefeddwyr),and Gwahoddiad;

Other favourite songs, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Cantate, Gaudete and An American Trilogy.

After an interval for some tasty refreshments and mulled wine it was the turn of the audience to join the Choir to sing some carols. But first Paul taught them to sing the choir’s version of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night. He was impressed by how quickly and enthusiastically they responded. It is a Welsh characteristic after all!

At the conclusion Meinir wished everybody Nadolig Llawen and thanked Paul, Sue and the choir whole heartedly for giving such a wonderful concert.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

November Meeting Report

 

There was an excellent turnout of 43 members at the 15th November Monthly Meeting of the Society. The President, Meinir Wyn Davies welcomed the Thirsty Strummers Ukelele Band, who proceeded to give a wonderful performance, playing a wide variety of tunes which have been popular over many years. The seven performers were led by Dave Allen, who was also their lead singer. One of the players had a mother who came originally from Treorci, and another had a mother who came originally from Blaenafon. Another member of the group was our Society’s wonderful Secretary, Gwenno Pope.

The group gave us an evening of wonderful entertainment, playing no fewer than seventeen songs, many of which encouraged audience participation: Five Foot Two medley; Mary Lou; Sway; Green Green Grass of Home; Those Were the Days; When I’m 64; It’s Not Unusual; San Francisco Bay Blues; Walk Right Back / Singing the Blues; Folsom Prison Blues; Green Door. Tom Jones would have felt quite at home; Elvis Presley too would have enjoyed himself…… there is a rumour that Elvis had some Welsh genes.

They were accompanied in three Sea Shanty’s by our own Black Sheep Choir, singing: Sloop John B; The Weller man; and Roll the Old Charriot Along. Wales has had her share of famous seafarers……the brave Captain Madog,  (Wele’n cychwyn tair ar ddeg o longau bach ar fore teg. Wele Madog, dewr ei fron, sy’n gapten ar y llynges hon,…..); and the infamous pirate Black Bart (“Barti Ddu o Cas Newydd Bach”),……so singing sea shantys comes naturally to the Black Sheep. The audience joined in enthusiastically to sing You Are My Sunshine and Wild Rover. The finale, before we all left reluctantly for home, was Rock Around the Clock/At the Hop. Meinir congratulated and thanked the band for providing such excellent entertainment.

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

 October Meeting Report

 

There were two Society events in October. On Sunday 22nd the annual Cymanfa Ganu was held at St Michael and All Angels Church, Roxwell, with the church members, organised by Shirley Moody. The service was led by Revd. Dr Jonathan Pritchard. Taking part were Debs Allen-Morgan, who sang a soprano solo, Be Still, and the Black Sheep Choir sang two numbers, We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside and Calon Lan. The First Lesson was read in Welsh by Arthur Williams, and Brian Farmer read the Second Lesson in English. Refreshments were shared at the conclusion.

 

The monthly meeting on 25 October was a Film Night! It proved to be a particularly moving occasion, with grateful thanks to Gwil Williams who had arranged a showing of the anti-war biopic, Hedd Wyn. Ellis Humphrey Evans, whose Bardic Name was Hedd Wyn (Blessed Peace), was born in 1887. The eldest of eleven children born to Evan and Mary Evans, hill farmers in Cwm Trysor near Trawsfynydd, he left school at the age of 14 to work as a shepherd on the farm. Poets have been revered in Welsh history from the age of the princes, and the highlight of the National Eisteddfod of Wales is to win Cadair y Bardd (Bardic Chair). Ellis had a talent for poetry from an early age and began composing at the age of eleven. He won his first Chair at a local eisteddfod in Bala at the age of 20, and began competing at National Eisteddfodau in 1915.

 

When WW1 broke out in 1914, farming was classed as a reserved occupation, and therefore he was not required to enlist for the British Army. And so, as a Christian pacifist he did not enlist for the war initially. There was, in fact, a major disagreement within Welsh Nonconformity about military action. In 1916 the Evans family were required to send one of their sons to join the army, and Ellis enlisted to save his younger brother (who was keen to enlist!). However, in March 1917 the government released many farmers temporarily to help with ploughing, so Ellis returned home. During this time, in fourteen days sitting at a table by the fire at home, he completed his entry for the National Eisteddfod, which would be held in Birkenhead (England!) He overstayed his temporary release by seven days, classified as a deserter and taken to jail. In June 2017 he joined the 15th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in France. He had left his poem on the table at home amid the confusion. And so, in France, he now rewrote his poem, Yr Arwr (The Hero), completed it and sent it by post as his entry to the National Eisteddfod, signing it as Fleur de Lis. On 31st July during the first few hours of the start of the major offensive which would become known as the Battle of Passchendaele, he was fatally wounded and died the same day. He is buried in Section II, Row, Grave 11 at Artillery Wood Cemetery, near Boezinge. His headstone has the additional words Y Prifardd Hedd Wyn (The Chief Bard, Hedd Wyn).

 

On 6 September 1917 at the ceremony of the Chairing of the Bard at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the adjudicators announced that the entry submitted under the pseudonym Fleur de Lis as the winner and the trumpets sounded for the winner to identify themselves. After three summonses Archdruid Dyfed announced that the winner had been killed in action. The empty chair, handcrafted by a refugee Flemish craftsman Eugeen Vanfleteren, was draped in a black sheet. Since then, the 1917 Eisteddfod has been known as Eisteddfod y Gadair Ddu (The Eisteddfod of the Black Chair).

 

The film, Hedd Wyn was the first British motion picture to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards in 1993. It was a very beautiful emotional film and the President, Meinir Wyn Davies thanked Gwil for making it available. Hedd Wyn’s intense dislike of war is evident in the many of his most noted poetry, including Plant Trawsfynydd (Children of Trawsfynydd), Y Blotyn Du (The Black Dot), Nid a’n Ango (It Will Not Be Forgotten) and his most frequently quoted poem Rhyfel (War). Chelmsford Male Voice Choir were honoured to have the opportunity of singing Rhyfel arranged to music by Edward-Rhys Harry at the 2016 London Welsh Male Voice Choir Festival of Male Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall.  

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

 

 

September Meeting Report 2023

 

The forty five members who attended the first event of the Society’s 2023/2024 Season on the evening of the 27th September at Chelmsford Cathedral Chapter House, Croeso Yn Ol (Welcome Back), were greeted by the President, Meinir Wyn Davies. It was so good to meet old friends again, and Unwaith Eto’n ‘Nghymru Annwyl was sung with real passion.

 

Meinir’s choice of Charity for her year of office is the David Randall Foundation, and she was pleased to welcome one of its Ambassadors who had come along to describe its work, Laura Caldow, and her young son Jack. David was a very talented sportsman and musician, who died of bowel cancer at the age of 27, and who continued to be inspirational during his illness. The charity was set up in his memory, with the aim of providing “Good Days” for people in Essex with terminal and life limiting illnesses ….. little things such as cinema tickets, day visits to events and the like, financed with donations from the public, such as with Tesco vouchers. The trustees had not expected to receive anywhere near the support received and are now able to extend to providing scholarships and inspirational awards to help dedicated musicians and sportspeople achieve their goals. Sir Alistair Cook, the former Essex and England cricketer is a Patron. Laura had been a very close school friend of David’s. Later she married and went to live in Australia for a few years, before returning. Young Jack is very dedicated to supporting the Charity…. and had planned to “enjoy” a sponsored “head shave” (with the approval of his head teacher, of course!) the following Saturday. Several members of the Society became sponsors, and he went on to raise £1080 !!!                                                                                         

 

Meinir then introduced the programme of exciting events planned for the year. During the interval which followed, delicious Welsh cheeses and wine were enjoyed, with plenty of opportunity for a scwrs (chat) after the long summer break, and the raffle prizes distributed. Hymn practise for the Society’s October Cymanfa Ganu (Songs of Praise) at St Michael and All Angels Church, Roxwell  followed. Then a joyous Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau ….. It was so good to be back!

 

 

 

 

 

Report of the meeting held on June 28th 2023

 

 

 

The June monthly meeting opened with the AGM and followed with two presentations, both featuring Dementia. The President, Sue Almond, welcomed Joelle Mortimer from Baby Basics, the charity during Sue’s year of office and presented her with a cheque for £750. Joelle described the situation at the charity, with a 75% increase in referrals during the year, and thanked the Society for the very welcome contribution. Recollecting her year, Sue was very happy with the monthly meeting events, and had especially enjoyed the Evening with the Harpist Gwenllian Llyr, the Musical Duo Oneira and the Monologues of Debra John. Other notable evenings were Dathly’r Nadolig and the Noson Lawen with the Black Sheep, and the evenings with Society members: Arthur Williams’ Cruise to Caernarfon; the Quiz evening with Gwil Williams and Sina Williams’ (what would we do without the Williams clan?!); and the presentations on “becoming” Welsh by Liz Armishaw and Sue’s own Searching for Family. Other notable events were: the superb St David’s Day Dinner, arranged by Liz and Kay Bright, with the wonderful guest speaker Ben Lake, and the harpist Rachel Bartels and her husband, the flautist Ken; the church services arranged by Shirley Moody and Ann Simpson; and the holiday based in Llandrindod Wells, where it was noticeable how the Society members behaved like a close family. Sue thanked the members of the committee for their cooperation in allowing the Society to function so smoothly. Her great regret was that due to her husband, Dave, being so unwell she had been unable to attend the superb concert delivered by Cor Godre’r Aran at Chelmsford Cathedral. There followed the handover of the Presidency to Meinir Wyn Davies, for the 2023/24 Season. Meinir expressed her delight and promised to try to live up to Sue’s successful term. The Vice- President will be Ivy Price. Arthur Williams, who had arranged the annual concert so successfully for 18 years had decided to retire from the committee, and Debs Morgan will join. Carys Williams then presented her Treasurer’s Report. Despite a loss of about £2000 the account remains in a very healthy condition.

 

Gwil Williams's presentation was on the workings of the Billericay Men's Shed. Based on an Australian idea in the 1980s, it migrated to the UK in 2013, where there are now 600; 300 of these are in Essex! It's a place where men (but women may join) meet to "make things" whilst enjoying the company of other likeminded people. The Billericay Men's Shed began 16 months ago, with a grant from the town council. It now has many members who suffer from dementia, who meet at the Happy Wednesday Shed and assist with "making things" by assisting with gluing and painting the wooden goods, (planters, birdboxes and many other wares) produced by the Tuesday Working Group. It is the only Men's Shed connected to dementia, and they have secured a grant of £20,000 from Age Concern. They run 60s music and quiz events, which the dementia sufferers enjoy very much...... they remember everything from their childhood, it is the present and more recent past that is so vague They greatly enjoy attending the club, and their partners receive support.

 

Following a break for strawberries and cream, John Toplis gave a carer's view on the topic "Can Alzheimer's be slowed down or even reversed? "His journey started whilst on holiday in Canada in 2016, when his wife began to experience early signs of forgetfulness, and she was diagnosed as having Alzheimer's in 2018. although Dementia and Alzheimer's are now the leading cause of death in the UK, the NHS does not offer any treatment. Rather than do nothing, John has been investigating other options worldwide. Some of these he has adopted, and considers that they have slowed things down. John has a scientific background, but is not medically qualified nor associated with the Alzheimer's Society. He is able to consult with doctors who are personal friends. He discovered papers by Dr Bredeson, an American whose name appeared in227 peer reviewed scientific papers, and Dr Greenland from the UK. In his talk he described their work and the various steps he and his wife had followed had followed. In conclusion he believed there to be many causes for Alzheimer's, too many to expect a "Silver Bullet" solution, but some of the measures he and his wife had tried appeared to have been useful. One he had found effective was to have a carer/companion to entertain the sufferer with arts and crafts, and this had a parallel with the work of the Billericay Man Shed.

At the conclusion, Meinir thanked Gwil and John for their interesting talks and wished everybody a happy summer break, until the first monthly meeting of the 2023/2024 Season.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

Report of the meeting held on May 17th 2023

 

The speakers at the May meeting were Sue Almond, whose topic was Searching for a Welsh Family, and Liz Armishaw, whose topic was How I Became Welsh.

 

Sue spoke of a genealogical search, begun in the 1970s for her great-grandfather Alfred Thomas, who she knew as the station master at Llandrindod Wells, a JP and pillar of local societies. He died in 1952 but a search for a birth in the 1980s was unsuccessful. Reports which appeared in local papers of his retirement from the railway in 1925 detailed his career from joining the old LMS in Carmarthenshire in 1872, but a search of Carmarthenshire records was also unsuccessful. His gravestone gave his actual birthday as 8:2:1863, but did not help the search. Twice married, his marriage certificates were easily found and gave his father’s name, Thomas Thomas, a tailor. Searches for Alfred, born to Thomas Thomas, a tailor in Carmarthenshire, were again unsuccessful.  He appeared on the Censuses for 1881 and 1891, (published a hundred years later), living with his wife and daughters in the Llandrindod area, leading to access to the exact place of birth, in Cayo, a Carmarthenshire drovers village; but no record of his birth was found.

The 1901 Census, (published in 2001), showed one of Alfred’s sisters, Agnes Thomas living in Cayo with her father Thomas Simon Thomas, a retired tailor. Further searches for Agnes were, however, unsuccessful. Two long forgotten thoughts came to mind: firstly, when Alfred died in 1952, the adults spent much time talking about Simon (why Simon?); secondly, the ancient Welsh custom was to use the father’s given name as the surname of an offspring, linked by ‘ap’. Carmarthenshire was one of the last Welsh counties to abandon this ancient custom: could Thomas Simon Thomas be Thomas (ap) Simon?

Bingo! A search of the censuses for Agnes Simon and Alfred Simon, children of Thomas Simon, Tailor in Cayo all showed this family making a living as Tailors and Dressmakers. Sue could now trace her family back through five generations. The moral?  When tracing your Welsh roots ,use all your resources, including oral and family knowledge……and remember the ‘ap’ system. Things were done differently in Wales!

 

Liz talked about finding her birth mother. She was born in Bath in 1942, and when six weeks old was given by the Waifs and Strays charity to her foster parents Bettine and Hugo Murray-Mason, a pharmacist, who lived in Bristol. They had a son who was three years old, and later had two more daughters, eighteen months and three years younger than Liz., respectively. She was fortunate to have a wonderful, loving family, and always knew that she was adopted. They received a private education and her secondary school had a good musical reputation. She had always enjoyed Welsh music. Her father enjoyed music; she went on to study at The Royal Manchester College of Music. Her future husband, Jim, a proud Welshman, was a student at the University, which was next door. They married and went to live in Upminster, where Liz taught at the secondary school. They had two daughters, and she had almost forgotten that she was adopted, but when their daughters were 12 and 14 years old decided they should be told; one was quite unhappy and did not want to know. Her father died in 1983, and after the funeral her adoption papers were found in the attic; her mother put them away and said nothing. Later, her mother developed dementia and spent the last years of her life in a home. Towards the end of this time Liz decided to try to trace her birth mother, since it was important to know whether there was a family history of an important illness. Liz only had a shortened birth certificate, and after undergoing compulsory counselling was given a full certificate. She discovered that her registered name had been Barbara Jane, and her mother was Dilys, with no father’s name recorded. Hurray, there was no doubt that she was WELSH! At last, her love of Welsh music was explained. Attempts to trace Dilys through the records of Births, Marriages and Deaths registers at St Catherine’s House were unsuccessful. Eventually, using Dilys’ surname at the time of Liz’s birth, the town where her parents had probably lived was determined and Clare, Liz’s daughter who was now a student in Bath, was able to with the help of a local vicar to find Dilys. The final problem was how to approach her…did her family know of Liz? … would she want to meet?   

Liz’s neighbour wrote a letter to Dilys saying that she was writing on behalf of her neighbour Barbara Jane, who had injured her arm, who she knew from her time working as a nurse in Bath during the war and would like to meet her again. Dilys replied by return. At last, they met once again. Dilys had been a young trainee nurse in Bath but went to work as a waitress when she discovered that she was pregnant; her boyfriend had worked for a government department in Bath and disappeared at the news. Her mother had been a singer, and her grandmother a pianist. Liz met an aunt, who was blind and the only one to have seen her as a baby. Liz had a half-sister, in a wheelchair with arthritis. Dilys said that never did a day go by without her thinking about Liz. Later, Liz’s sisters from her adopting family met up with her birth family, and her younger sister wrote to Dilys thanking her for “allowing us to have Elizabeth”!

 

Meinir Wyn Davies, the Vice-President, thanked Sue and Liz for their excellent talks.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

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 Report on the meeting held on April 26th 2023

 

The 35 members were sorry to hear that Mike Price, who was to have presented “Ar Eich Cais” (Your Choice) at the Monthly Meeting on 26 April, was unwell. Mike is always so well prepared, and we are confident that his presentation can be enjoyed at a future meeting. We were fortunate that two of the members, Gwil Williams and Sina Williams, who are always prepared to step in at short notice came to the rescue once again. They were warmly thanked by our President, Sue Almond

 

During the first half Gwil offered a most interesting video presentation, Welsh Artists. He began with Cor Godre’r Aran, the wonderful male voice choir who will entertain us at the 54th Annual Concert at Chelmsford Cathedral on 10th June, singing  Gwahoddiad in Canada. This was followed with Sorela, the three sister group from Aberystwyth who have sung at a Christmas meeting. Next up was Bryn Terfel, (who will sing at the coronation concert), singing Cwm Rhondda. The hilarious Poems and Pints and the Anglesey Prayer by the multi-talented Ryan, of Ryan a Ronnie fame, was next. The patriotic song Yma o Hyd (We are Still Here) sung by its composer, Dafydd Iwan, followed. (He was at the same Grammar School as me). A young Elin Fflyr singing Harbwr Ddiogel was next; Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir (my cousin is their MD, and Gwil’s father was one of their earliest members), who sang at our Annual Concert in 2022, singing the wonderful love song Myfanwy. The last artists featured were the young up and coming singers Lisa Dafydd and Dafydd Wyn Jones, who were in school in Ruthin together. Dafydd is Gwil’s nephew and has sung at one of our Gwyl Dewi Dinners and at a Monthly Meeting. He has recently competed in the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier competition, winning the award for the best interpretation of any song (and £5,000!), singing a song by Schubert.

 

Following a break for refreshments and a scwrs Sina presented her Quiz. We were divided into five groups, and the quiz comprised three components. One was to recognise the famous Welsh people shown in fifteen photographs. The other two components each contained sixteen questions, and I, at least, learnt so much when the solutions were revealed!.....including: that the capital of Wales before Carerdydd was in Machynlleth, in west Wales, (where Owain Glyndwr, the first, and only Welsh Prince of Wales, held his parliament in the13th Century); there are 641 castles in Wales, the largest is Caerphilli castle. The winning team managed 38 points from a possible 47, and the last scored 25.

 

At the conclusion Meinir Wyn Davies the Vice-President thanked Gwil and Sina for providing an excellent evening’s entertainment.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

Report on the meeting held on March 22nd 2023

 

 

Members and friends at the March Meeting were delighted that the entertainment was to be provided by Debra John, the very talented young lady from Swansea who had impressed with her monologues, dressed in period costumes, on two previous occasions. She delivered two spell binding performances, each about 45 minutes long. The first was based on the terrible effects of the blitz on Swansea in February 1941. She began with a vivid description of the development of Swansea from the time of the industrial revolution onwards, with everything booming…. the docks… Brunel’s viaduct…commercial centre…resplendent market, St Mary’s church. Then came the blitz, described partly as seen through the eyes of a young 17-year-old boy, who persuaded the authorities to allow him to join as an Air Raid Warden. It began with the sound of a lone, small enemy aircraft high overhead, and then the noise of a bomb dropping. Over the next few days indiscriminate incendiary blanket bombing laid waste much of the town. The intense heat caused the bells of St Mary’s to peal, followed by the bells of other churches. Eventually the reconstruction works began. The young boy heard a canary singing, as though nothing had happened. I was reminded of the wonderful song, Y Tangnefeddwyr, by Eric Williams with words by the poet, Quaker and pacifist Waldo Williams who watched Abertawe’n Fflam (Swansea Ablaze) from afar.

 

There followed a break for refreshments. After what must have been an emotionally draining first half for her, one wondered how Debra would rise to the occasion. We need not have worried. She painted a vivid picture from the age of the shipping that used to sail between Swansea and Chile, exporting Welsh coal and importing copper. Deadly diseases were sometimes imported into Swansea. The competition was relentless, with some making fortunes and others losing everything. Conditions for the mariners could be grim and the crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans horrific.

 

At the conclusion, Meinir Wyn Davies, the Vice- President, thanked and congratulated Debra for her performance.

 

Jim Armishaw

 

 

Report on the meeting held on February 22nd  2023

 

The topic of the 22 February monthly meeting, which was to have been Folk Dancing, had to be changed due to insurance restrictions. We were fortunate that Arthur Williams agreed to give a talk instead, assisted by his wife Carys who operated the slides. His topic was A Cruise to Caernarvon. This was definitely not a package holiday cruise, with fine dining and evening entertainment, on a luxury liner, but a five-month journey with Carys on their yacht SIAN 3 from Bradwell along the south coast of England to Newlyn in Cornwall. From there they sailed to Kinsale, “across the sea to Ireland” on the south west coast of the Republic, and a well-earned first glass (or two) of Guinness. For the next several weeks they sailed westwards, mooring at safe havens near Glandore, Baltimore, Crookhaven, Bantry and Glengarriff, where they enjoyed the beautiful coastline, including negotiating the rocks Adam and Eve and admiring the Italian Gardens near Crookhaven. At times they experienced strong winds (for up to 10 days) and stormy seas and stayed safely moored enjoying the legendary Celtic generosity of the Irish……… which included a total stranger giving them his car keys so that they could do some shopping; and assistance in obtaining fuel for their yacht when a regatta had exhausted the supply. Then back to Kinsale, and from there to Arklow via Cork, Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Wexford, with time for Carys to kiss the Blarney Stone on the way! From there they sailed to Wicklow, admiring the beautiful Wicklow Hills on the way. The next stage ended in Howth, for the Blessing of The Boats, where they were excited to see SIAN 1, the first yacht they had owned, also receiving a blessing!  They also enjoyed the sights of Dublin, including the statue of Molly Malone, (also irreverently known as the tart with the cart). Then finally back across the Irish Sea to Wales….. to Holyhead, Caernarfon and to Porth Dinorwig, (where SIAN 3 was to rest for 4 years, awaiting frequent visits by Arthur and Carys before returning home to Bradwell.

 

It had been a wonderful evening, and the warm applause confirmed that everybody had enjoyed Arthur and Carys’s talk immensely.

 

 

Jim Armishaw

 

 

Report of the meeting held on January 25th 2023

 

 

There was a good turnout of members and friends for the 25 January meeting of the Society for the traditional NOSON LAWEN. The first performer was Jamie Hacker Hughes, a Welsh learner. He opened with a Welsh song Mae ‘nghariad i’n Fenws, mae ‘nghariad i’n fain, (composed by Holst), and followed with Robat Arwyn’s glorious Anfonaf Angel, sung with great feeling as required. His piano accompanist was Meinir Wyn Davies. He was followed by Jim Armishaw who read some poetry he had composed a very long time ago! The first was a celebration, Aelwyd Nain (Nain’s Hearth), which he had entered in an Eisteddfod in 1953. The second, a rather sad On Leaving Home, was written just before he left home to go to Manchester University. Children (of all ages!) love the tales by Roald Dahl, who was brought up in Cardiff; teachers, in particular, thank him for composing rather naughty stories which encourage their class to love reading. In his twenty children’s books he introduced 500 new words, like scrymdillyumptious. The tale David Pitchford chose to read was Goldilocks and the Three Bears, taken from the book Revolting Tales. The first half ended in the traditional way with two songs sung by the Black Sheep Choir, who were formed many years ago by Derrick Thomas to perform at the Noson Lawen. John Taylor has since taken over as the MD and they enjoy rehearsing together regularly. Taking part were Dave Almond, Jim Armishaw, Clive Bright, Peter Freeman, Simon Royce, John Taylor, Arthur Williams, Gareth Williams and Peter Wright Their first song was Sarah, sung with the words from Gwahoddiad; they continued with a song beloved of Martin Luther King and sung at his funeral, the beautiful Take My Hand Precious Lord.

 

Following a break for some delicious refreshments and a scwrs, the Ladies Choir (Sue Almond, Liz Armishaw, Kay Bright, Janet Wash and Sina Williams), recently formed by their MD and piano accompanist, sang two songs, both in Welsh.  Hen Ferchetan (Old Love Easy) tells the story of Lisa fach yr Hendre (little Lisa Harris) trying hard and failing to get a husband. …..until she met Sion Prys in a fair in  Bala……. Fol-di-rol-di-rol-lol, Fol-di-rol-di-ro! They followed with Dacw ‘Nghariad i Llawr yn y Berllan (There’s My Love in Orchard Yonder) …….. a song for his love who is out of reach …..Ffal-di-ra-dl-i-dl-al  Ffal-di-ra-dl-i-dl-al   Tw-rym-di  ro  rym-di-ra-dl-i-di al. How they managed the tongue twisters was a minor miracle. It appears that they have assumed a more exciting name, since the Noson Lawen ….Cywion y Gwanwyn!! Then two readings by Dianne Moul. The first was The Lay Preacher Ponders, about a sanctimonious narrow minded individual, is the work of Idris Davies, originally from Rhymney, who worked underground for seven years from the age of 14. His early work was in Welsh, but later he wrote exclusively in English. Her second reading was about growing old gracefully, by Jenny Joseph, who wrote When I am an Old Woman I shall Wear Purple  at the age of 29. She never did not grow old gracefully however and hated the colour purple, working hard at her poetry until she died at the age of 85! The poem Mab y Bwthyn from Caneuon Cynan was Arthur Williams’s choice This is a very long poem and Arthur read a part of it. The subject fought in the WW1 trenches, in France. He goes back to Wales searching for Gwen. Then the grand finale, time for Derrick Thomas, the Society’s comedian extraordinary. Derrick was in excellent form with Jokes and stories I had never heard before.

 

Sue Almond the president thanked everybody who had attended and in particular those who had contributed in any way to an excellent NOSON LAWEN.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

Report of the meeting held on December 14th 2022

 

DATHLU’ NADOLIG

Pre Covid, December was always a busy time for the Society. Now we can begin to get back to normal, or at least the new normal.  This year the celebrations began with the traditional Charity Christmas Tea, on Sunday 11 December, hosted, as in the past by Liz and Jim Armishaw in their home. Thirty-one of the members, and three young daughters of members, Anna Pope, and sisters Kate and Beth Taylor, had a great time enjoying the tea, ‘scwrsio’, and singing carols, accompanied by Ivy Price on the piano. Anna also played the piano beautifully.  The afternoon also raised £150 for the President’s Charity. The snow waited until everybody had arrived back at their home…….then 10 cm fell rather quickly!

 

The arrival of the snow had a major effect on the number who ventured out for the December Meeting, Dathlu’r Nadolig, at Chelmsford Cathedral Chapter House on Wednesday evening, 14 December. The snow cover varied across the region, between twelve plus cm to none at all, with treacherous icy pavements. However, the show must go on! Entertainment was provided by the men of the traditional  ‘The Black Sheep Choir’ and a newly formed Ladies Choir. John Taylor wielded the baton and Meinir Wyn Davies was the accompanist. Mulled wine was served at the commencement. The entertainment began with the both choirs singing Merry Christmas Everyone and continued with the ladies singing Silver Bells. We then enjoyed a reading in Welsh by Arthur Williams, Passiant (Pageant) where he cannot sleep, then sees a procession of friends and acquaintances, long since dead,  parade past his window. Arthur is a master of the atmospheric. A Holly Jolly Christmas (Black Sheep); Sleigh Ride (Ladies Choir); was followed by everybody singing Hark The Herald Angels Sing, partly in Welsh and partly in English. The Ladies then sang a lovely Dawel Nos, after which sausage rolls and mince pies were served during the interval.

 

Following a tradition of several years, many of the members choose to send their Christmas wishes by signing a large “communal” Christmas card, rather than sending Christmas cards to individuals, and making a contribution to the President’s Charity instead. Sue Almond the President read out their individual Christmas wishes at the commencement of the second half. £135 was raised for the Charity.  The Black Sheep began the second half’s entertainment by singing  ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. This was followed by everybody singing O Come All Ye Faithful, in both Welsh and English. Then Kay Bright read from Dylan Thomas’ hilarious A Child’s Christmas in Wales; the Black Sheep sang White Christmas, and finally the mixed choirs sang the much loved O Holy Night. We all went home glad that we had ventured out to be with good friends, and it was a relief to everyone, on re-entering the world outside, to see that the weather had not deteriorated further!

 

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

Report of the meeting held on November 23rd 2022

With 35 members in attendance, our November meeting got underway with an introduction and the usual notices from our President, Sue Almond. Apologies for absence were received from Debs Allen-Morgan and Mary Bannister. The society also welcomed two new members, Angela and Harry Glaser. After singing “Unwaith Eto’n Nghymru Annwyl,“ Arthur Williams introduced our guest performers for the evening, Isabelle Harris (flute) and Elliot Kempton (viola). He explained that Elliot was already known to him as Elliot’s grandfather is a neighbour of theirs in Tillingham! Who would have thought that a few hours prior to the concert, Elliot was in Spain and despite circumstances, made it back in time to entertain us at the Cathedral Chapter House that evening! Both Isabelle and Elliot are post graduate students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and are also the founding members of the “Oneira” Trio along with harpist Emily Harris. The first half of the programme consisted of arrangements of music by lesser known composers of the Classical period. First, we heard a piece by Kuhlau. The performers complimented one another brilliantly and the intonation on the flute was crystal clear with the viola playing the Alberti bass figurations effortlessly. Then, came a piece by Sibelius. This was unique to say the least by a composer of such large symphonic works. The piece opened with pizzicato strings and a contrasting legato melody in the flute which was reminiscent of Pachelbel’s “Canon.” Then, we had a sonata by the Austrian composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister. This was the only original piece in the programme to be written for flute and viola as all the rest were scored for other instruments. Faure’s “Pavan” followed, mournful in every sense of the word and finishing with a most captivating pianissimo. Then the duo played two pieces by Reinhold Gliere from Op.35.The first was dreamy and had contrapuntal tendencies whilst the other was a jaunty waltz. The first half ended with “Queen of the Night” from Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute.” It opened vigorously and with determination with the viola taking place of the orchestra in its instrumental function whilst the flute part consisted of twirling scales which sprang with elasticity from each corner of the register to the other. The performance was rousing and it was a good choice to end the first half of the recital. We then had an opportunity to have a “sgwrs” and a “paned o de.” The raffle was organised by Sina Williams. After a twenty minutes break or so, we returned to some more music and the first piece needed no introduction. ”Ar Hyd y Nos” (All Through the Night), began with the tune played first by the flute in the lower octave with a broken chord accompaniment in the viola part. It then gained momentum when a counter melody was played in the flute which was subsequently tossed from one instrument to the other. As the music evolved the tune was hard to recognise. However, in the final variation, the viola was played almost like a guitar with flute playing downward scales reminiscent of peeling bells as the tune in augmentation was a sign the piece was coming to a close. Following “Adar Man y Mynydd” (The Small Birds of the Mountain), the duo performed “Myfanwy” which is probably one of the greatest Welsh love songs of all time. Written in 1875 by Dr Joseph Parry, the first Professor of Music at Aberystwyth University, this was not the version one was expecting. The arrangement was a modern take on an old favourite. Despite its contemporary style and syncopated rhythms, this did not detract from the intensity of the original, and the proof to that was hearing members singing quietly during the performance! There followed a “rocking and cool” (Elliot’s words!) interpretation of “Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn” (Watching the Wheat). To end the recital we had a mean and explosive take on “Sosban Fach, (Little Saucepan). Here, the technical capabilities of each instrument were demonstrated to full capacity: In “Mae Bys Meri Ann,” the “portamento” slides and licks in the viola and consonant and vowel colorations in the flute part was testimony to that whilst the tune of “Dai Bach y Sowldiwr” was laid bare on an open fifth in the viola part and blues scales were played by both instruments. Our sincere thanks go to Elliot Kempton and Isabelle Harris for promoting the works of lesser known composers and for giving us access to hear them on the flute and viola. Their performance was remarkable end everyone commented on how much they had enjoyed the evening. The meeting concluded with the singing of “Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau” (Land of my Fathers), to the accompaniment of the piano, flute and viola. The next meeting, “Dathlu’r Nadolig” (A Christmas Celebration) is on the 14th December and an event not to be missed.

 

 Meinir Wyn Davies

 

 

 

 

Report of the meeting held on October 26th 2022

 

 

The 50 members at the October meeting were delighted by the wonderful, charismatic, engaging performance delivered by the harpist, Gwenllian Llyr. Gwenllian, who now lives in Orpington, was originally from Swansea. Her mother, an accomplished harpist and pianist, introduced her to the harp at the age of 2, using the Susuki method of learning. Then, when she was 4, she began to learn how to play the piano.  She was a regular competitor at Eisteddfodau, and in 2012 won the prestigious Blue Riband. A member of the National Children’s Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra, her musical career progressed via the Royal Welsh College of Music in Cardiff, the Royal Academy of Music in London and a scholarship to study at the Juliard School in New York. Her career as a freelance performer and teacher was interrupted by the lockdown of the Covid pandemic. Undaunted, she decided to use the time productively composing, and in particular to take old, well known pieces of music and creating something new for the harp. She played two of these pieces, a Fantasia on Calon Lan, and a Fantasia on Green Sleeves, both of which feature on her second CD which was produced during lockdown. She showed that the harp is not just an instrument content to be tucked away at the back of an orchestra, but one which can also take its place centre stage, and played A Catalogue of Sounds and some lively Jazz to prove the point. There followed a lively period of questions and answers, during which the audience, who I suspect thought we knew everything there is to know about the harp, learnt very much more, to our surprise!

 

Jim Armishaw    

 

 

Report of the meeting held on September 28

 

With 42 members in attendance the first Society meeting, “Croeso yn Ol,” got underway. Following the singing of ”Unwaith Eto’n Nhymru Annwyl,” our new President, Sue Almond, greeted all those present and welcomed two new members, David Bryn Davies and Jenny Bond. Apologies for absence were received from Debs Allen-Morgan, Gwyn and June Jones, David and Audrey Jones, Anja, Ann Simpson, Enid and John Morris, Mary Jones and Ivy and Mike Price. Sue’s chosen charity for the year is “Baby Basics” and the society welcomed Joelle Mortimer who gave a talk about the Chelmsford branch of the organisation which she and her husband Stephen set up in 2019. Originally founded in Sheffield in 2009, the charity provides essential items for babies from vulnerable families. All clients are referred to the organisation by frontline care works and each item is donated or given away by the public. There is no government funding. Since 2019, there have been 180 referrals and the charity has grown from strength to strength. There is now a Baby Basics in Billericay and Hockley. Joelle explained that Kate Middleton was instrumental in promoting the work of the charity during the pandemic and for this reason aprons provided by the charity have been aptly named “Kate-prons” after the Princess of Wales. It was obvious from the response had, that Joelle’s talk reached out to many of our members who wanted to know more about donating. Joelle informed us that Meadgate Methodist Church in Moulsham is open on Friday mornings for donations. Sue our President added she could collect the items at our monthly meetings and take them to the charity on our behalf. Joelle kept her talk brief but the delivery of her message was nevertheless effective and it was no surprise that her visit to the society concluded with a heart- warming applause. Sue then took to the stand and went down the list of events on this year’s calendar. To say, there is much to look forward to, may be an understatement, especially when the activities are so varied. Harpist, Gwellian LLyr is our guest on 26th October whilst on 23rd November we welcome two students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They will be a hard act to follow I am sure, particularly when it will be our turn to perform at “Dathlu’r Nadolig,” on 14th December just a few days after the “Christmas Tea”(11th December). All female society members were asked to show their interest in singing at “Dathlu’r Nadolig” by getting in touch with Meinir Wyn Davies. Rehearsals will take place at 3 pm at Radley Green Farm on Sunday 16th and 30th October; 6th and 20th November; and Saturday 10th December. Our Welsh classes resume too. Sina and Ivy will be tutoring those interested in Welsh conversation on Tuesday mornings at Radley Green Farm. Anyone wishing to join, needs to complete the appropriate form. We were also reminded of the first “Cymanfa Ganu” (Songs of Praise) which will be held on Sunday 23rd October at St. Paul’s Parish Church, Highwood at 3 pm. 2023 begins with the “Noson Lawen” evening on 25th January. This will be followed by folk dancing on 22nd February, which is a new activity for the society. On 22nd March we have an evening with storyteller Debra John and “Ar eich Cais” follows on 26th April when Mike Price will be honouring musical and non-musical requests from society members. An” in house” contribution follows on 17th May when our hosts will be Liz Armishaw and Sue Almond. Please note this meeting is a week earlier than usual. With a coffee morning (14th February) hosted by Kay and Clive Bright, an Annual Concert at Chelmsford Cathedral (10th June) and a three day trip to Wales in May (21st -24th), it’s going to be a busy time! And I daresay we will need that picnic at Radley Green Farm on 24th June before we conclude the year with the Annual General Meeting/Quiz Night on 28th June 2023! There was also mention of the St. David’s Day Dinner on 3rd March 2023 when our guest speaker will be the Rt. Hon. Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion. By the time we got to the interval, those of us suffering from the exhaustion caused from hearing the endless list of events in the new programme felt we had earned our glass of wine! During this time, Brian and Sina entertained us with the raffle. Many thanks go to all members who donated prizes and bought tickets. Then following an impromptu joke from Derrick Thomas, we all sang “Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.” Our next meeting is on Wednesday 26th October with harpist, Gwenllian Llyr. An event not to be missed!         

 

Meinir Wyn Davies

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Report of the meeting held on May 25th 2022

 

The theme of our meeting on May 25th was “Memories.” So following the notices and the singing of “Unwaith Eto’n Nghymru Annwyl,” and with 34 members in attendance, we shared three very different reminiscences with three society members. The first to share the past with us was Brian Farmer. Brian explained that in April 1990 he was posted as an RAF advisor to the Royal Saudi Air Force in Riyadh. In August of that year the Iraqis invaded Kuwait and the first Gulf War began. Brian and his family lived in a villa in Riyadh and this was to be their base for many months to come. He was the warden of the 14 villa compound about two miles from a Saudi Air Base. Supported by video footage which he had filmed from the roof top of his villa, he gave us a glimpse of what it was like on the first night of the air war on I7th January 1991. Not only did Brian capture the noise of the sirens and the confusion that went with it but also the family’s surroundings. There were memorable images of scud missiles and rockets and even parrots on their commute from Africa! Despite the gravity of the situation, Brian and his family became acclimatised to the situation and would frequently host parties at their villa. One intriguing fact we learnt was that each villa had two lounges, one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen and the cloakroom became a designated air raid shelter in which they would hear the American forces on the radio! We were also shown a Falklands video on how the air base at Mount Pleasant was constructed in just 80 weeks! It also displayed something of the countryside, the sheep and penguins and the lives of the islanders and also the way in which the military manned and defended the islands by land, sea and air. His presentation was informative if not impressive, so following a rousing applause Clive Bright took to the floor and began with a humorous account of his days in banking. Clive began his banking career in 1976 with Barclays and he explained how important it was to play golf if you were ambitious and wanted to get a foot on the career ladder! Clive’s long list of over fifteen bank branches where he had worked, from Braintree in the North to the east end of London was a testimony to that! He explained that the bank had its own language. There was the “machine room” which would house four terminals, each one as large as an electronic organ (!) and “waste," meant collecting the entries (cheques, etc.) for input on the computer at the end of the day. Gifts of wine and chocolate were not always considered the norm back then either. Clive recalled the moment a well -regarded customer walked into the branch with a brief case in one hand and a brace of pheasants in the other! A Christmas present for the bank manager, I daresay. In those days the banks were friendly towards each other. They shared customer data and took part in community events either through sponsorship or direct member involvement (tennis tournaments, carnivals and choral societies). Clive’s “memories” was greeted with appreciation and after another round of applause it was the turn of Janet Wash to speak. Janet explained that she was going to talk about what got her through her teaching career, which was her passion and love of singing. In the early days she sang in school and church and recalled singing “Nymphs and Shepherds.” Then following in her father’s footsteps and that of her father-in-law, who were both basses and long standing members of the church choir and amateur operatic groups, she herself joined Braintree Music Society and Witham Amateur Operatic Society. It was there she discovered the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan and the more modern west end shows of Stephen Sondheim. During the 1970s and 1980s Janet belonged to Festival Opera and took part in productions of Mozart’s operas at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. It was also at Chelmsford she sang in the premier of “Way to Glory” by Patrick Appleford and Jeff Wilson, a religious poem based on the passion according to St. John. Janet also sang in London and it was during a performance of “Joseph” at Central Methodist Hall in Westminster that she met Aled Jones. As time went on more opportunities arose and there was an invitation for her and her group to sing abroad. Janet explained how stressful it had been to organise a concert in those days without email and text. Her first recollection was the concert at Pierrefitte, France (Braintree’s twinning town) where her ability to speak French came in handy! And Janet’s singing adventures didn’t end there either! Further trips followed to the USA, notably Philadelphia, California, New York, Washington and Nevada. As for the rest of us, we almost felt we had been on a return trip with Janet around the world and that return ticket was well worth every penny! Diolch yn fawr Brian, Clive a Janet! Our final monthly meeting for 2021-2022 will be on 22nd June. It will be the AGM and Quiz Night. An evening not to be missed!

 

Meinir Wyn Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 Report of the Meeting held on April 27th 2022

 

 

 Fifty members had assembled at the 27 April Monthly Meeting to hear the guest speaker, retired British diplomat Sir Emyr Jones Parry. He was welcomed by Liz Armishaw, who’s Presidential year of office was interrupted by the first Covid 19 lockdown in 2020, and Sir Emyr’s talk scheduled for April of that year had to be cancelled.

 

Sir Emyr has had a most interesting educational path and career. He was educated at: Gwendraeth Grammer School (where many of the greats of Welsh rugby were educated); a degree in Theoretical Physics at University College, Cardiff (where he was President of the Students’ Union); a PhD in Polymer Physics at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. There followed a distinguished career in the diplomatic service: senior roles connected with the EU, including as Director during the UK Presidancy;  Permanent  Representative to NATO; Permanent Representative of the UK on the UN Security Council in New York;  Deputy Political Director in the Foreign Office, with responsibility for the Balkans and Aegean. Elsewhere, he was chairman  of the body reviewing Wales’s constitutional arrangements, in a campaign to increase the powers of the Welsh Assembly to a full legislative parliament similar to the Scottish Parliament, and as Chairman of the London based human rights organisation, Redress.

 

The topic of his talk intended for the  April 2020 meeting was  O Gwm  Gwenendraeth i’r Efrog Newyth, a N’Ol i Gymru,  (from Cwm Gwendraeth To New York And Back To Wales). The two year delay meant that current political situations could be considered: UK /EU tensions;  the effects of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, NATO’s response and the variable urgency and generosity of the response of neighbouring countries to the plight of the refugees; energy and food concerns.

 

From the style of Sir Emyr’s presentation it was obvious why he had  been such a successful ambassador, and during the question time at the end he addressed the questioner directly, rather than in the style of many politicians who choose to make a speech unrelated to the question. He pointed out that Margaret Thatcher had much influence on the EU, and in particular on its future eastwards expansion following the fall of the Berlin Wall. This had been a great achievement, eleven of the new members previously had communist governments, and five did not exist before 1974. In addition Spain, Portugal and Greece had been dictatorships. He was generally supportive of the EU- the wars in the Balkans were an indication of the chaos caused by nationalism. On NATO he considered that President Putin  has missed an opportunity in his early years of reaching an understanding. In answer to questions he said that: muddled  thinking on Afghanistan was to be regretted; the UN does not exist to create heaven on earth, but rather to prevent hell on earth; the world is grey with many hideous people, and cooperation is needed; tackling two issues at once is difficult, tackling three, impossible; rights are important but come with responsibilities, freedom is not “free”; Wales is the part of the UK which will be affected the most by Brexit, and west Wales is one of the most deprived parts of Europe with a GDP lower than Romania – but independence would not be a good choice.

 

At the conclusion Sue Almond, the Vice-president, congratulated Sir Emyr for delivering such a brilliant speech, a sentiment echoed by Gwil Williams, the President. The audience had certainly been spellbound throughout, and were left with much to mull over, distil, and certainly discuss among themselves later- always the sign of a great performance. The two year wait for this high spot had been well worthwhile.  

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

 

 

 

 Report of the Meeting held on February 23rd 2022

 

There was an audience of 48 at the February meeting to hear Jan The Story Teller weave interesting tales associated with her birth place, the village of Borth on the coast of west Wales. She was welcomed by Kay Bright, who had arranged the talk.  In a fascinating presentation we learned about Dylan (the god of the sea); the Walch (witch) who caused a shaking illness to those who forgot to shut their windows at night; why seagulls cry; of the prehistoric submerged forest where bells ring at night, reminding us of Cantre Gweld, the city beneath the sea; and much more.

 

After an interval for refreshments and a ‘sgwrs’ (chat) she continued with historical tales of the generations of master mariners and boat builders from around Borth. Her great grandfather, Rowland Evans, sailed between Cardiff and south America during the great days of sail. Sadly, his brig ‘The Rowland Evans’ sank off Bardsey Island.  Much of her information came from a medicine chest she discovered in her attic. She is the author of a book “Bells Across Old Cardigan Bay”.

 

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

Report of the 'Noson Lawen' from January 26 2022.                                  

The President, Gwil Williams welcomed the 55 people attending the traditional Noson Lawen, on 26 January 2022. There was sadness and surprise at the news of Eileen Davey’s death.

The strong Welsh cultural tradition of competing in eisteddfodau from an early age, beginning with the Urdd and progressing to the National, ensures that there is never a shortage of willing performers with a variety of talents. The first half began with a presentation of some lovely poetry , each accompanied with stunning artwork, which Hilary Camp had composed for her grandchildren. She certainly deserves to be introduced to a suitable publisher! She was followed by Derrick Thomas, the Society’s well-loved story teller, comedian - sometimes straining to stay on the right side of the wind - and “classical” mouth organist - his smallest one was only about 4 cm long! Among other tales he conjured up the picture of the little boy who, on being told off for weeing in the swimming pool, used the excuse that everybody did. “Ah”, said the official, “but not from the high diving board”. The next act, the Black Sheep group have sung at the Noson Lawen for many years, and have grown from one of Derrick Thomas’ inspirations ( yes, him again!)  many moons ago. Derrick has retired from the group which is now led by John Taylor, who arranges the music. The current members are: Basses; John Taylor, Jim Armishaw, Brian Farmer, Peter Freeman, Gareth Williams; Tenors: Dave Almond, Stuart Anderson, Clive Bright, Simon Royce, Arthur Williams, Clive Williams, Peter Wright They began with the beloved “My Little Welsh Home” followed by a rousing Russian traditional song “Katyusha” , where a patriotic soldier on a battle field dreams of his girlfriend waiting for him at home, and ends with a great victory. Their third song, “The Black Sheep Shanty, was compose by John as a surprise for Derrick, (yes, him again), and tells the story of how the group was formed. The last act of the first half were two popular duets, “Forty Second Street “and “Putting On the Ritz”, sung by Peter Freeman and John Taylor, who began with a well-received unrehearsed sketch involving a collapsing music stand.

 

After a break for some delicious refreshments, the second half began with a traditional Canu Penillion by Arthur Williams, accompanied on the piano by Meinir Wynne Davies.  Arthur had used a search engine to discover the words to “Peintio’r Byd Yn Goch”, (Painting The World Red) which he remembered hearing in the days of his youth…..a long time ago. The Red refers to Christianity. Kim Brown was the next performer, and began with Bits And Pieces, the stories behind some popular expressions, including dead ringer  (quite creepy!)…. scratch marks found on many coffins in reused graves gave rise to burying bodies with a string attached to a bell, to avoid live burials. She read a moving letter she had composed for having her son accepted at schools and sang a sad song about penguins. Jamie Hacker Hughes, who is a Welsh learner, showed his amazing progress by singing two Welsh songs, both dedicated to his wife: “Ar Lan Y Mor” (By The Seashore); and the beautiful “Anfonaf Angel” (I will send an angel)…..but  called “Guardian Angel” in the English translation….which is not a true translation, and loses much of the magic as so often occurs when a song is translated from its original language. It was a pleasure to hear it sung in its original form.

Gwil then read an hilarious Pam Ayres Fifty Shades Of Grey, before introducing the final entertainer, Clive Williams. Clive began with a story from his youth in Lake Vernwy, he played the ukulele in a group of three young lads. One night after a gig, when both of his friends thought the other was driving Clive home, a distance by road of about 12 miles, he decided to take the path over the Berwyn mountains and through some woods and to walk the 4 miles. He felt quite scared in the mist and decided to play his ukulele, unaware that the sound could be heard over a long distance. A scary story has since developed that the devil’s music can often be heard as he drives his hounds in the mountain on foggy nights. This is what Clive says, anyway! Clive then impressed with tunes played on his ukulele.

 

What a grand evening, to lift the spirits during this sad time! Gwil thanked all the performers and the catering team. Sue Almond, the Vice-president, expanded on Gwil’s remarks, and reminisced about singing at home as a young child for various visitors, quite a common occurrence in Welsh homes… a kind of rehearsal for competing at an eisteddfod.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

 

Report of the Christmas Meeting December 15 2021

 

The thirty four members of Chelmsford and District Welsh Society attending  the Christmas celebrations of the Society on the evening of 15 December at the Cathedral Chapter House were welcomed by the President, Gwil Williams.  All the windows and curtains were open, social distancing was observed, hand sanitiser was provided, and no one reported a covid-19 infection later. The members were very saddened and shocked to hear of the death of David Brown. David was gentle and kind, and had served the Society so well over many years; a committee member, David was the Society’s audio organiser and the web site master; his very professional web site was surely the best among all the Welsh societies.

 

The celebrations  began with mulled wine to nourish the spirits. There followed a wonderful evening of entertainment given by great friends of the Society, the talented Bartells, the harpist, Rachel, and her flautist husband , Ken. They played an interesting selection of sacred and secular songs, interspersed with Rachel’s witty anecdotes and interesting news. Most of their engagements had been disrupted during the twenty one months of the pandemic restrictions, with a few Zoom interactions. We were impressed to learn that Ken had made the most of the hiatus by concentrating on honing his skills as an organist; he was richly rewarded by achieving the prestigious award of a FRCO. An interesting piece of information is that Ken shares his birthday with that other famous flautist James Galway, and it seemed appropriate that one of the tunes he played should be Danny Boy.

The concert began appropriately with Mary’s Boy Child, followed by  It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, Away In A Manger and We Three Kings.  The wonderful, sad ,haunting Myfanwy reminded us of lost friends. Sunny Side Of The Street reminded us of better days to come. The interval refreshments were arranged by Sue Almond’s and her catering team. There followed more music, ending with I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas (not really, but rather a sunny Christmas!)

At the conclusion, Sue, the Vice-president,  thanked Rachel and Ken for a wonderful concert. Then a heartfelt Unwaith Eto’N Nghymru Annwyl. How wonderful it had been to share Christmas celebrations with lovely friends once again!

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

Report of the meeting held on November 24th 2021

 

About  50 members attended the 24 November monthly meeting.  In a change from the advertised programme, they were treated to the fascinating history of Copped Hall, a mid 18th century country house near Epping,  delivered by  Linda Stewart of the Copped Hall Trust. The site has a long history, stretching all the way back to the Iron Age, and including the Roman occupation and subsequently the site of a Saxon village. Henry 2nd had a hunting lodge built on the site, from the top floor of which he could shoot the deer herded into view, without the exertions of the hunt. Richard 1st bestowed the lands on Richard Fitz  Aucher to hold them in fee,  and hereditarily of the Abbey. They continued in the possession of the Aucher family until they came into the hands of the Abbot, where they remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry 8th. The land then passed through several owners, the first of whom built an elaborate Tudor mansion with about 50 bedrooms. Guests included Elizabeth 1st, and the entertainment provided on one occasion included a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It was eventually purchased by Edward Conyers in 1739, whose son John later decided to demolish the then dilapidated Hall and to build a new house on a different site. This large Georgian house, in landscaped parkland, was described at the time as ”the premier house of Essex”. John’s son, who inherited next, altered the house extensively, and  unfortunately his son, Henry John, was so obsessed with hunting that  he neglected the house.

 

In 1869 George Wythes, a civil engineer who had made his fortune building railways around the world, purchased the now rather neglected house. In 1917  an accidental fire caused by an electrical fault  gutted the house, which was never inhabited again, and the family moved into another house on the estate. A period of total neglect followed the sale of the estate in 1950; the main 18th century house was stripped of useful building materials and left to  deteriorate. Mushrooms were grown in what had been the basements, which also housed pigs. Fortunately plans  by various developers to build a golf course, hotel,  conference centre, etcetera were  unsuccessful, and In 1995 the freehold of the house, ancillary buildings and gardens was acquired by a conservation group, the Copped Hall Trust, a charity run entirely by volunteers, with no lottery funding, and is slowly restoring  the hall and gardens, replicating the Georgian décor. The house can be visited on certain days, raising monies towards the restoration. The West Essex Archaeology Group (WEAT)  hold annual excavations at the site, focussing mainly on earthwork remains of the Tudor house which predates the Georgian house.

Linda Stewart proved to be an excellent speaker and received warm applause; she was  thanked by Sue Almond, the Vice –president.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

Report of the meeting held on October 27, 2021

 

Welsh Society Report October 27 2021 On 27 October, the society welcomed back, Dafydd Wyn Jones, the tenor from North Wales, who had previously performed at the St. David’s Day Dinner back in February 2020. Despite being down in numbers on our initial September meeting, those present were very privileged to be in the company of such a talented young singer. After we had sung “Unwaith eto’n Nghymru Annwyl,“ it was Dafydd Wyn’s turn to sing. To say we were “entertained” would be an understatement! Dafydd’s opening song, a Welsh translation of Ivor Novello’s ”Shine through my Dreams” was performed with energy and exuberance and certainly gave us a taste of what was to come! In fact each song was introduced with a remarkable freshness from start to finish. Three English art songs followed: “O Waly, Waly” by Benjamin Britten, “Man is for the woman made” by Henry Purcell and “Silent Noon“ by Vaughan Williams. In the Britten the vocal line was accompanied by low and sombre chords in the piano and it was an obvious choice to succeed the song by Ivor Novello. In contrast the Purcell was a fast moving and rhythmic piece, full of dynamic contrast and articulation. However, it was Dafydd Wyn’s delivery of “Silent Noon” by Vaughan Williams which was the most captivating. Here the sensitivity expressed in the quieter passages was enough to reduce the most steely to a tear, whilst the fortissimo phrases were passionate and euphoric. Then, there followed two contrasting German songs (“Lieder”), “Nacht und Traume” by Schubert and “Morgen” by Richard Strauss. In the Schubert, the vocal phrases were long and expansive and the dark slow changing harmonies beneath in the piano accompaniment contributed to the passion of the text. “Morgen” however was delicately light in essence with the piano making arpeggiated declamations only. The first half of the recital concluded with two Welsh songs: “Elen Fwyn” by R.S. Hughes and “Anfonaf Angel” (Guardian Angel) by Robat Arwyn. It was such a pleasure to hear Dafydd Wyn sing the latter, a song which had been recorded by Bryn Terfel in 2011 to raise money for the Welsh Air Ambulance Service. After a “sgwrs,” a cup of tea, “bara brith” and Welsh cakes, Dafydd Wyn opened round two with a song in episodic form by Wilfrid Jones called “Y Bugail” (The Shepherd). Then, two operatic arias followed by Lalo and Gounod, both romantic in every sense of the word, displaying effortless power in the high tessitura and plenty of agility. It came as no surprise therefore that Dafydd Wyn received a standing ovation and returned with an encore of Westlife’s “You Raise Me Up.” Dafydd Wyn was accompanied by the pianist and society member, Meinir Wyn Davies and like Dafydd, she is a recipient of the prestigious “Blue Riband” Prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Our next meeting will be on 24 November. However due to unforeseen circumstances the Essex Chordsmen will not be performing. Instead, we shall be having a “Mystery Evening” given by our society members. I am sure those in attendance will not be disappointed!

 

Meinir Wyn Davies