Saint David's Day Dinner

Friday 28th February 2020


The Society celebrated the feast of our patron saint, Dydd Gwyl Dewi, in traditional manner with its 57th Annual Dinner at the County Hotel, Chelmsford and a church service at Little Baddow URC, the Society’s spiritual home since 1990. The dining room was beautifully decorated, with Y Ddraig Goch looking down from behind the top table.The rousing processional march “Men of Harlech”, played by the harpist Rachel Bartels and her husband Ken, a flautist, accompanied the entry of the Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford, Cllr. Bob Massey and Mrs Janice Cheese, escorted by the President, Liz Armishaw and her husband, Jim, the Guest of Honour Mr Garry Owen and his wife Lee, escorted by the Vice-president Arthur Williams and his wife Carys. Bendith, (Grace), said in Welsh and English by Society member Brother Gildas, was followed by a fine dinner of traditional Cawl cennin a thatws (leek and potato soup), Syrlwyn cig eidion wedi’i rostio, gyda pwddin Efrog, thatws rhost a llysiau (roast sirloin of beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables), Pannacotta llaeth enwyn, tuille sinsir a sinamon gyda saws mafon (butter milk pannacotta tuille ginger and cinnamon tuille with raspberry coulis), followed by Coffi, Te a Petit Fours. Alternatives were served to those with particular dietary requirements.
Following the meal the President proposed the Loyal Toast to “The Queen”. The Vice-president proposed the toast to Dewi Sant. The President then introduced the Guest of Honour, Garry Owen a radio and television  journalist who works through the medium of Welsh and English, who spoke about his career, in a fine speech. Following a Law Degree and a period working as a lawyer, during which time he met his wife, also a lawyer, he worked for the radio station Swansea Sound. He has since covered major news stories for the BBC, including from the USA on an American Presidental Election and from Southern Africa reporting on the effects of drought. At the conclusion he proposed a toast to The Society. Before proposing a toast to Our Guests, the President thanked everybody present gathered to celebrate the  wonderful example Dewi has given on how to live our lives. She congratulated Garry for delivering an excellent speech, and thanked those members of the committee involved in arranging the celebration: Kay Bright who produced the tickets, and the lovely menu cards; David Brown for the seating plan and place names; Sue Almond for help in getting the room ready; Shirley Moody and John for the beautiful flower arrangements; and Gwil Williams the M.C. She also thanked the committee for their hard work in securing the  continued success of the Society, and in particular Gwenno Pope the Secretary, and took wine with them in celebration. Special thanks were offered to the Mayor and Mayoress for allowing time in their busy schedule to attend the dinner, and to Rachel and Ken for entertaining us with their musical talents, which would continue later in the evening. She concluded with  a few words about a long forgotten Welsh Princess Gwenllian, the daughter of the last Welsh Prince, Llywelyn, whose murder was arranged by Edward, the Norman King of England, in 1282. In order to eliminate a perceived  threat of a Welsh Royal succession, Edward ensured that the orphaned six month old Gwenllian would remain childless by sending her secretly to an abbey in Sampringham, in the vast flatness of the Lincolnshire fens, where she remained as a nun until her death, forgotten and probably unaware of her ancestry. Then in 1991, a Captain  Richard Turner determined that she should not remain forgotten for ever and arranged for a small memorial cairn to be erected in what he described as “a corner of a foreign field that is forever Wales” at a site near Sampringham. In his response, the Mayor said that he had been assured by several previous Mayors that he would have a particularly enjoyable evening. He was aware that the Society had a tradition of supporting local charities. As a finale to a wonderful evening, Rachel and Ken delighted with some nostalgic and some exciting music which included audience participation, always a feature of Welsh celebrations. Coincidences are always interesting, and it emerged that Gwil had been one of the Mayor’s school teachers, and that a committee member was at school with the  guest speaker’s wife! The Society are grateful to the County Hotel for the welcome and consistently high standard of the services provided.
The church service at Little Baddow URC on Sunday 1 March was well attended. The sermon was delivered by Brenda Hooson, a member of the church, whose daughter lives in Wales, and Society member Keith Byatt was the organist. Following tradition, the last hymn, Seintiau Cymru, was dedicated to  Society members who had died during the year. The dedication was led by Carys Williams, in memory of John Styles, Barbara James, Yvonne Blackwood, and previous members John Williams, Richard Collopy and Father Rowland Webb. Refreshments were served after the service. The Society are grateful to the elders of the church for their continuing generosity in allowing them to  use their delightful church.
Jim Armishaw.