It is with great sadness that we report the death of our local MP and honorary CDWS member Dame Cheryl Gillan on 4th April 2021, after a long battle with cancer.
Cheryl was born in Llandaff, Cardiff in 1952 and brought up in South Wales. Her family still farms near Usk and she was incredibly proud of her Welsh roots.
Her early career was as marketing executive and she chaired the Bow Group from 1987 to 1988. She was elected MP for Chesham and Amersham in 1992 and served as junior minister for Education and Employment from 1995 to 1997 before being appointed as Conservative whip and spokesperson for Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs.
In December 2005 Cheryl was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and showing quite some enterprise, Ann Lawrence offered her honorary CDWS membership the same month, which Cheryl accepted.
The Society kept in touch by sending her copies of the Newsletter and our Programme of Events and eventually this paid off when Cheryl facilitated a tour of the House of Parliament in June 2011 and joined us for dinner in one of the private dining rooms.
Dame Cheryl was fiercely opposed to HS2 and never passed up an opportunity to speak against the proposed high-speed rail link, HS2.
She was awarded a damehood in the 2018 New Year Honours list.
This year our St David’s Day Dinner was a bit different. There was no dinner!
On Friday 26th February, we were very fortunate to have Dr Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, address our St David’s Day gathering.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to meet in person. So, our meeting was the ‘Not St David’s Day Dinner’ as it wasn’t St David’s Day, and there was no dinner, but we had an excellent meeting anyway.
Janet John acted as technical host for our Zoom meeting and we met at 7:30pm with a welcome from our Chairman, followed by two 10-minute breakout sessions where we were able to chat to about half a dozen other members and catch up on local news.
At 8pm David Powell then introduced Dr. Williams and thanked his cousin Cathy Young for facilitating the talk. Cathy and Dr. Williams share an interest in Religious Icons, like the one shown above, which Cathy painted.
Dr. Williams spoke on the subject of ‘The Age of the Saints in Wales: Fact or Fiction?’, a very suitable subject for St David’s Day.
Dr. Williams told us about the early church in Wales and how there was a surprising amount of movement of people and ideas between Wales, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany. The Christians of the time (500 to 700 AD) thought themselves the successors of the Roman tradition, as opposed to the largely pagan influx of Angles and Saxons. Gravestones of the time frequently contain complex Latin verses and Hebrew Christian names.
He spoke of Welsh saints such as St David, St Gildas, St Samson St Asaph and others.
Monasteries were centres of learning, but were not great stones built buildings but more like villages, and these were in touch with each other across Wales and to Scotland, Ireland and Brittany as a sort of Christian Celtic commonwealth around the Irish Sea.
There were very many Saints in Wales, and one of the reasons for this was that at the time, there was no central control from Rome and sainthood was determined locally in Celtic churches and was often given to the founder of an ecclesiastical settlement (llan). It wasn’t until the middles ages that there was a central role in determining sainthood.
We then had about 15 minutes of questions and answers, with mention of the Illustrated Manuscripts of St Chad’s Gospels and the pre-Roman druids.
David Powell led a vote of thanks for Dr. Williams, who then joined us in two further chat sessions in breakout rooms, which gave some of us a chance to talk to him on a personal level.
We finished off the evening with Jonathan Pegler playing the National Anthem and a selection of hymns.
Dr. Williams asked that instead of a fee, a donation should be made to Christian Aid.
A recording of much of the evening is available on YouTube, please click on the link below:
Considering the circumstances our Annual Quiz Night went very well.
Of course, this year was rather different – there was no fish and chips, we stayed at home rather than travelling to Coleshill, and there was less opportunity to socialise, but it was still great fun.
Jonathan Pegler did a tremendous job, in fact several tremendous jobs in setting the quiz, running the quiz and handling the Zoom meeting.
There was a very good turn-out with 40 members split up into seven teams.
We were arranged in groups of about 6 and all signed into the Zoom meeting at 6:45. By 7pm, Jonathan had given each team a colour as its name and arranged who went into which team.
There were 6 rounds of ten questions and at the beginning of each round Jonathan revealed the password to reveal the set of questions. Each team then went into a break-out room and discussed whether any of us could give an answer.
After what seemed to be no time at all, Jonathan called us back together and revealed the answers. The first round was about people ranging from Barbara Windsor to Napoleon.
The questions were up to Jonathan’s usual taxing standard, and after rounds two or three it soon became apparent that the White Team – Team Gwyn – was pulling ahead, scoring almost full points on the rounds concerning balls and tables. The rest of us also wondered where they were playing as the Zoom backgrounds kept changing!
As we moved into the final round Team Goch put on a late spurt, but it was too late, Team Gwyn (appropriately consisting of Gwyndaf and Janet John, Bill Jones, Ruth Huckle and Ann Brown) were too far in the lead.
Asked about their success Gwyn said ”The stars of our team were the women. Ruth could probably have won the Quiz on her own. Knowing the answers to the question on the Book of Common Prayer and also the details of Roulette tables indicates she has eclectic interests. Janet’s years of Electronics teaching meant the binary sum was spotted instantly. Ann’s Chemistry background was recent enough to remember the Periodic table – even if she was too young to remember the 1971 Lions coached by Carwyn James and featuring the incomparable Barry John.”
Here are the final scores:
I think that we’d all like to say a very big ‘Thank you’ to Jonathan for all his work in making the evening such a success.
This year’s Christmas Drinks party was quite different, and at least it didn’t mean a discussion about who was going to drive home.
Janet John acted as the technical host of the Zoom-based event, with Gwyndaf sending out invitations and Janet controlling the meeting in the background. We all signed in and soon saw 25 other screens looking back at us with about 45 members present.
David Powell welcomed everyone and explained how the meeting/party was going to be organised.
As a group we heard from members from their own rooms and were particularly pleased to see those who had not been able to make recent events (i.e. a year ago) or had moved away from the area.
Peter and Pat Chapman spoke from Brecon about the joys of living in the country and the fear of the rising river level!
Elan & Robin Preston-Whyte joined us from Englefield Green and we had a quick glimpse around their new flat.
It was great to see Bridget Murray (with a backdrop of outer space) and Helen Hall again, who had both had issues attending previous meetings and new member Ruth Huckle introduced herself from Maidenhead.
Founder members, the Owens and the Broombys also gave their updates.
Colin and Di Thomas said that their house was a lot quieter this year than when they hosted last year’s get together!
Janet and Gwyndaf then randomly assigned us to ‘break-out rooms’ where we met in groups of 6 or so, so that we could chat informally amongst ourselves. This worked surprisingly well and it seemed no time until Janet called us all back into the main room and then assigned us all to different groups with new people to talk to. These sessions lasted about 8 minutes each.
After 3 rounds of these chat rooms, David spoke about events planned for 2021.
These are currently ‘virtual’ events with a quiz night on Friday 22nd January and a virtual St David’s Day on 26th February with speaker Lord Williams of Oystermouth, better known as Rowan Williams. Born in Swansea, he was Bishop of Monmouth, the only Archbishop of Canterbury not to be a member of the Church of England, Master of Magdalene College Cambridge and is a prolific author and poet.
Depending on the level of restrictions, we may be able to hold a socially distanced Spring Walk and the AGM, but under current conditions, this looks unlikely. Unfortunately, there won’t be any trip to Wales this year.
After these notifications Jonathan Pegler then took over as master of ceremonies. Everyone’s microphones were muted (apart from Jonathan’s) and Jonathan played a selection of carols with Janet showing us the words on the screen. In effect we were all signing duets with Jonathan!
Finally, Jonathan played the National Anthem and we said our farewells to each other at about 7pm.
I think that everyone thought that the event went well, and our thanks go to Janet, Gwyndaf and Jonathan for making the evening go so smoothly.
It was so nice to be able to be able to catch up with some old friends in a socially distanced way. It was the first occasion that the Chiltern District Welsh Society had been able to meet since our St David’s Day Dinner back in March at the start of the lock-down.
We arrived at Oakland Park Golf Club at about 9am to be greeted with bacon butties to prepare the competitors for the morning’s exercise.
Unfortunately, some of the participants had to call off due to injury and Gwyndaf John did some hasty rearrangement of the teams.
David Powell and Colin Picton formed the supporters group to wave off and welcome back the golfers.
Due to Covid restrictions rules were changed to allow for social distancing. Conditions were good, with sunshine and a slight wind.
The competitors formed themselves into 4 groups – three 3 balls and one 4 ball set off about 10 minutes apart.
The supporters returned to the course at 12:30 to find the first group at eighteenth hole and accompanied them for refreshments at the 19th hole.
Soon after the 2nd and 3rd groups returned and we compared scores, with Kate Picton quietly confident of the result. We waited for the fourth group to arrive…
Some 30 minutes later the last group arrived – and when their scores were compared – proved to be the winners! Gwyndaf looked quite pleased.
Chairman David Powell presented the prizes to the winning team.
As the restaurant was closed there was no chance for a meal, so after congratulating the winners, we said our farewells and returned home.
It was good to have a chance to see fellow members again.
Our thanks to Rob Britton and Gwyndaf John for arranging the day.
Held in the afternoon, in July, with no food, with very little time to chat, with no entertainment, with no wine, without leaving the house!
Even so, about 30 of us signed into our Zoom session and we got the business done while looking at 20 screens of other members looking back at us.
Chairman, David Powell opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and giving the sad news that Peter Day, Kay’s husband, had died earlier in the week from an asbestos related disease. Peter has been a good friend to the Society, a regular attendee and an organiser of our trips to wetlands bird sanctuaries in his role as chairman of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and he will be sorely missed.
David gave his Chairman’s report, commenting that although we had had to cancel or postpone 3 events, over the past year we had been able to successfully hold over 10 events. The Society hopes to hold its Golf Day in September, a country walk in the Autumn, but it is still uncertain whether conditions will permit us to hold our ever-popular Christmas Drinks event.
Membership has remained steady at 120, with new members replacing those who have left.
Peter Chapman gave his Treasurer’s report from Brecon and said that the Society’s finances are in good order.
It then came to the election of the officials. All members of the Committee agreed to stand again for the following year, with the proviso that Peter Chapman will need to relinquish his post as Treasurer within the next few months when he and Pat complete their move to Wales.
David thanked the committee for their time and efforts in running the society and running its events. He also called for members to volunteer for Committee membership as without them, the Society cannot function.
This must have been the fastest AGM on record. We finished after about 30 minutes, with very little chance to chat and a final farewell as the Zoom meeting concluded.
This year we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Society’s inaugural event, at which the founding members had sat down for a special St David’s Day dinner. After we’d taken our seats Ann Evans recalled that first meal she’d arranged for a small group of friends who shared a Welsh heritage. Ralph Broomby reminisced that at the time he was doubtful the idea of a Welsh Society would take root. But it had grown and thrived. He congratulated our Life President and founder, and also the members of the Society on its continuing vitality.
We welcomed three visitors, of whom David & Glenys Evans have become our latest members.
The event followed our established pattern with the 65 diners enjoying a sparkling drink as they gathered at Harewood Downs Golf Club. The special anniversary cake was on show and much admired. A plentiful display of Daffodils decorated the tables.
The venue and their new chef did not disappoint. The most popular menu choices of Lamb Shank and Poached Pear drew particular compliments. The Sea Trout was excellent. Known locally as “Sewin”, this fish was a regular seasonal catch from the River Taf in West Wales where I grew up. This year, for the first time ever, any Sewin and Salmon caught by the local anglers have to be returned to the river. So my choice was flavoured with a touch of nostalgia.
As the meal drew to a close our chairman, David Powell, rose to speak. He thanked the staff and all who had helped organise the event, and then introduced Glain Dafydd, the accomplished young harpist who provided our entertainment.
Originally from Bangor, Glain’s resume showed that she had studied in Paris and won various international awards, as well as graduating with distinction from her postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Unsurprisingly therefore her repertoire for the evening was varied, and every piece beautifully played. The music she played on the evening was:
La Source (Hasselmans); Impromptu Caprice (Pierné); Merch Megan; Llety’r bugail; Ar hyd y nos; Sun Dance (Mathias); Suite BWV (J.S.Bach); Au Matin (Tournier)
After her performance Glain was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Irene Powell, and the formal dinner was closed with a heartfelt rendering of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.
Of course, the evening would not be complete without our traditional sing-song, so John Breese took his place at the piano. Despite his very topical concern that an assemblage giving full voice might risk spreading viruses, Barrie Reece could not resist once John started to play Calon Lan and he was soon joining in with gusto.
A most enjoyable evening, and we now look forward to next year’s Dinner at which we will be joined by a special speaker and renowned Welshman, Rowan Williams.