December 2010 - Rhagfyri 2010

Important dates:

Sunday December 12, 2010, at 2:30 p.m.

Concert by the St David’s Welsh Male Voice Choir

St Timothy’s Anglican Church, 8420 - 145 St., Tickets - $15.00.


Sunday December 19, 2010, at 2.00 p.m.

Christmas Carols and Afternoon Tea

Knox Metropolitan United Church

8301 -109 St., Edmonton.


January 21, 2011, at 7.00 p.m.

St. Dwynwen’s Day

Celebration and Quiz Night

“Black Sheep Pub”, Jasper Avenue / 111 Street.


Saturday, February 26, 2011.

St David’s Day Banquet

Faculty Club, University of Alberta

11435 Saskatchewan Drive, Edmonton.

Cocktails 6 p.m. Dinner 7 p.m. Tickets $36.00 each


Sunday April 17, 2011, at 2 p.m.

Gymanfa Ganu

(Hymn Sing along in Welsh and English)

Music Director - Betty Cullingworth (from Toronto)

Organist - Warren Mack

with the St. David’s Welsh Male Voice Choir

Soloist: Daniel Rowley (Baritone)

Followed by Afternoon Tea

Knox Metropolitan United Church

8301 -109 St., Edmonton.


Annual General Meeting

Thursday, April 28, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.

Party Room, Park Towers, 9908-114 Street, Edmonton


Heritage Days

July 30, 31, August 1

Hawrelak Park, Edmonton.


Important Notice

Early in the New Year, you will receive a questionnaire about future activities of the St David’s Welsh Society of Edmonton. Please take a moment to fill this in and return it to Maggie Dower. The Executive is anxious to learn what kind of programme would best suit your interests.


President's Column

Christmas is fast approaching. Although our days are filled with shopping, baking and decorating, the St David’s Welsh Society’s Christmas Carols and Tea offers everyone a chance to slow their hectic pace. Come sing “Deck the Halls”and other familiar carols and treat yourselves to tea and Christmas goodies on December 19th at 2 p.m. in the lounge of Knox Metropolitan United Church.

We held two first-rate events this fall. The Wine and Cheese was a success. Once again Nance and Mike Smith were most gracious to host the event. The potluck supper was exceptional - we have great cooks in our membership! Thanks to the phoning committee, Linda and Sue, for keeping everyone informed about events.

This year, the annual St Dwynwen’s Day celebration will be held at the Black Sheep Pub on 110th Street and Jasper Avenue on Friday January 21st. Instead of indulging ourselves with chocolates, we can snack on pub food and wet our whistle with a pint of brew.

I am pleased to announce that Mike Tomlinson has joined the Board of Directors of the Society. Unfortunately, Janet Hamilton had to resign from the Board due to an increase in her work commitments. We will miss Janet and her creative thinking. She was instrumental in the programmes we provide for children: Artist-in-Residence School Programme, and the Harp and Vocal Competition. The good news is that Janet will continue to be a member of the Society.

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Eluned Smith.


Letter from Wales

Bethan Franklyn, star of the Cwrs Madoc class, has been in Aberystwyth since September. She sends the following:

Letter from Wales

S’mae pawb,

I am nearing the end of my first semester at Aberystwyth University and cannot believe that the time has flown by so quickly. The beautiful town of Aberystwyth is home to around 16,000 residents and approximately 8,000 students - not to mention numerous starlings! It is also home to Aberystwyth Castle, the National Library of Wales, a funicular railway and the largest arts centre in Wales. Only a few weeks ago I went to the centre to hear the BBC National Orchestra of Wales play selected works by Strauss and Mozart. Best of all was that I only had to walk five minutes from my residence to enjoy this performance. Another selling point of Aberystwyth is that it has approximately 50 pubs. I hope to have visited them all by the time my years of study is completed.

As it is for many of you, Aberystwyth is also gearing up for Christmas. Last Monday I attended a winter market and carnival in the heart of the town. This winter market, which occurs on three Mondays in November, has been going on since the 1300's. A recent snowfall and cold snap has made the town feel more festive and helps me to remember what the weather will be like when I return to Edmonton in a few weeks.

Well, I must get back to my studies if I am ever to remember the Welsh vocabulary and grammar that my teachers are trying to cram into my brain. Dw i ddim yn hoffi treigladau!

Gwyliau hapus i chi!

Bethan Franklyn


Welsh Weather

Bethan mentions the snow in Aberystwyth. It seems to have paralyzed the country, making travel difficult and closing schools and airports. A friend of mine from Pontypool, who lives on a steep hill, has been a prisoner in her house for three days!


The Ryder Cup

The big news when I was in Wales this summer, was that the Ryder Cup was to take place in Celtic Manor outside Newport. For those of you who are as ignorant as I am about golf, this is the Big Event in the golfing world. A contest between Europe and America, it takes place every two years and attracts an actual and a viewing public in the millions. This year’s was a great success (according to press coverage, but also according to my great golfing

friend, Glynn Evans from Swansea who was glued to the television for the whole time), with a cliff-hanger result of fourteen and a half to thirteen and a half in favour of the European team led by captain Colin Montgomerie. In 2012, Chicago is to host the event.

Celtic Manor itself is the brainchild of Sir Terry Matthews, the Welsh millionaire, who lives in Canada! It’s a very extensive resort with a luxury hotel and elaborate sports and spa facilities. As it is on the threshold of the wonderful country around the area, there’s plenty of opportunity for fishing, cycling and walking nearby.

In other sporting news, a bombshell seems to have been dropped by Gareth Thomas, former captain of the Welsh rugby team, who’s come out of the closet and declared he’s gay. Can’t get more extreme than that, I would think!


Welsh Christmas Customs

Christmas seems to be celebrated in Wales today in exactly the same way as in other parts of the UK - and indeed, most parts of the western world, with a decorated tree, lights, gifts, turkey and pudding. But Wales used to have very specific traditions. Very early on Christmas morning, before cockcrow, people used to take their candles to light their darkness and go to church to sing the Plygain for three hours from about 3 a.m. till 6 a.m. This was a kind of unaccompanied music sung in fourpart harmony exclusively on Christmas Day. It is still sung in remote parts of Wales and can be heard at the Museum of Welsh Life in St Fagan’s. Before the tree became universally used, there was a tradition of the Calennig. This was an apple or an orange that stood on a tripod of twigs and was displayed in the house on Christmas day. A rather less attractive custom was the holly-beating that took place on Boxing Day. Young men and boys beat young girls about the legs with holly branches until they bled (I don’t think I want to go into the Freudian interpretation of that one). And a tradition that survived into the twentieth century was the Mari Lwyd Groups of young people went from door to door with a horse’s head on a stick that was draped in a sheet. High spirits would often get seriously out of hand, and there were few regrets when it was abandoned. And finally, on Y Gwyliau which was the twelfth day after Christmas, groups of men would try to catch a wren - or failing that a sparrow - and would put it in a cage to be displayed to people who would pay to see it.


Bill Meilen

John Isitt, who’s a regular reader of the Welsh press, came up with two articles from the South Wales Echo with news of a late Welsh Edmontonian. The occasion was an upcoming auction in which a thank-you letter from Bill Meilen (former member of the U of A Drama Dept) to Reggie Kray was expected to fetch several hundred pounds. Whilst there is agreement on some basic facts which provoked the letter and the incident around it (Bill met someone on a train; turned out to be a Kray brothers PR man; they came to Cardiff and contributed generously to a benefit gala for the Aberfan disaster; they visited the Meilens; only afterwards did the details of their criminal activities become known to Bill and his wife, Rhuanedd ) there is a certain discrepancy in the reminiscences of the event. According to Bill’s brother, John Mudd (I’m sure there’s a story about why the brothers have different names) Rhuanedd, thought there was too much rowdiness going on and kicked them out of the house. Rhuanedd, who was interviewed from Vancouver, claims that there was a decorous tea party to which the Kray brothers turned up in handsome suits and impressed her mother with their good manners. Whoever is right, it’s interesting to know that Bill, who added so much colour to life in Edmonton, can still cause a stir in the Welsh press four years after his demise (for further details, Google The South Wales Echo for October 19).

Another Welsh artist still causing a stir is, of course, Dylan Thomas. The anniversary of his tragic death on November 9 1953 was th noted in an article in the same paper. The article focused on the grotesque events surrounding his death - largely the behaviour of his wife, Caitlin. It all reads like the climax of some nightmarish novel.


David Thompson

Miriam Roberts won a prize recently for her article about David Thompson. In one excerpt, she emphasizes the extraordinarily stable and harmonious emotional life of the man who is much more widely known for his exploits as an explorer and map-maker:

“In 1799, David Thomson made an entry in his diary that he had married 13-year-old Charlotte Small, the daughter of Patrick Small, a Scottish fur trader and a Cree woman. It was a simple entry, as follows:’This day married Charlotte Small’. Charlotte saw a different side of David Thompson. She is known to have said, ‘My David notices the beauty of a flower and the song of a bird.’ To compare David Thomson with one of his contemporaries, he did more in ten months than Alexander Mackenzie would have thought of doing in two years. He was exalted as a model of what a fur trader should be - understanding of his customers and partners, the First Nations peoples and phenomenal in physical endurance. He was described as being unassuming and courageous.”


Book Review

Among the many books I was tempted by at the National Eisteddfod, was a hefty coffee-table number, which is published in English and Welsh (being a goodie-goodie I got it in Welsh, of course) called, in English, Wales - a hundred places to see before you die. Written by John Davies and with stunning photos by Marian Delyth, it comes from the doughty publishing house Y Lolfa. If you ever thought that we’re from one of the most beautiful countries on earth, then this book gives ample confirmation of your belief. Starting with Amlwch (1) on the northern tip of Anglesey and ending with Chepstow (100) on the Monmouthshore border, it takes us hopping in place from beach to castle to power station to chapel to town square, and in time from prehistoric burial chambers to the state-of-the-botanic-art dome near Carmarthen. Obviously, this being a picture book, there are more images of the pretty bits of Wales (and how many there are!) than of the less photogenic bits, so it’s more like tourist publicity than what it’s like to live in Wales for the majority today, but it’s a great leafthrough.

Naturally I zeroed in on the favourite haunts of my youth, namely Swansea and surroundings: two views of the city, looking east across the bay towards Margam and looking west at low tide towards Mumbles. The text mentions that Walter Savage Landor, who visited in 1796 and 1813 had compared the bay favourably with that of Naples. There’s also a picture of a stall in Swansea market, with a brief history of its development from a building south of the castle in 1651, through the quarrels of egocentric architects to the building designed by Percy Thomas in 1961 (the old one having been bombed during the war, along with the rest of Swansea’s town centre).. It also mentions that laverbread (bara lawr in Welsh) is known in Anglesey as menyn y môr (sea butter). Whatever it’s called, I have wonderful memories of women from Penclawdd selling it from great wooden tubs lined with a white cloth. They would shake out a good spinkling of oatmeal onto a sheet of parchment paper, and with a wooden paddle scoop a good dollop of the black, gooey stuff onto the scale. Fried in crisp patties with a couple of rashers of back bacon, it was food for the gods - if you have the acquired taste, that is. I was astonished to find that it had acquired gourmet status in the trendy restaurant run by the famous cricketing family, the Shepherds, in Wind Street. One of the appetizers was an oyster in the shell, covered in laverbread, which was, in turn, covered with a layer of Caerphilly cheese, and the whole grilled to perfection. Alas, the restaurant no longer exists, Caerphilly cheese is made in England and it’s harder and harder to find laverbread.

But I digress. To come back to the subject in hand, it’s amusing to see the differences in place names in Welsh and English. Who would have thought that Presteigne in Welsh is Llanandras or Chepstow Cas-gwent? And of course, although it’s no surprise, I like the fact that Mumbles is Y Mwmbwls.

It would be a great - though pricey - gift that can be ordered from and costs 29 pounds. My Welsh version is in paperback and was ten pounds cheaper.


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