On a dark but not quite stormy night, 77 members of the CDWS crowded into the premises of the Harewood Downs Golf Club to Celebrate St David’s Day on the 25th February. The ladies dressed like brightly dressed birds and butterflies as usual outshone their dinner-suited companions. It is an interesting phenomenon that in the animal world it is the male who puts on his best plumage and prances around to attract the female of the species but in the human world, .the roles have somehow become reversed.
There was a flutter of anxiety amongst the assembled throng when as 7.00pm approached and there was no sign of the distinguished guest, Mt Huw Edwards. Our photographer, David Powell, hovered on the porch and it was with great relief when a tall, tanned figure appeared to be greeted by Kay Day, Chair of CDWS. It always a surprise to see a celebrity in person such as Mr Edwards, who is usually seen on the BBC’s ‘News at 10’ sitting down, because one is not aware that he has quite long legs under the desk.
The dining room was gaily decorated with Welsh flags and bunting, put up that morning by Maldwyn Pugh, who must have risked life and limb in doing so, and the very appropriate vases of daffodils dancing in vases on the tables. Gwyndaf John said the Grace in Welsh but prefaced it with an abbreviated English translation. The meal was served with great efficiency and accuracy by the golf club staff following the complicated menu choices of the guests which Graham Beavan, treasurer, who was the author of the table plan and spreadsheet of the meals to be provided. No-one therefore who had ordered the lava bread for the first course got the terrine, nor got the sea bass instead of the lamb nor the chocolate fondant (delicious, by the way) instead of the Bara Brith pudding. Everyone, however, got the Welsh cakes homemade that morning in Jean Owen’s kitchen.
Kay introduced Huw Edwards as the well-known broadcaster and journalist and also spare-time organist when rose to provide the post-prandial entertainment.
To the horror of the non-Welsh speakers in his audience he began in Welsh and continued in Welsh for long enough for them to begin shuffling their feet in dismay. However, this was just a ploy on the speaker’s part to remind everyone that the occasion was to celebrate a Welsh Saint’s Day and not to dwell on the collective sorrow as a result of that afternoon’s Six Nations Rugby game in Scotland.
Reverting mainly to English, Huw ranged over .a number of subjects beginning with the risks he faced from comments from a licence-paying audience, such as the person recently who had commented that the advent of wide screen television hadn’t paid Huw’s image any favours, or the listener who had remarked on Huw’s commentary for the broadcast of the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations that he, Huw, had said very little but the listener stated ‘That’s how I like it!’
Huw enumerated the risks the present audience faced from him, that is, that he would go on far too long because with the subject of Dewi Sant (St David) ,we would find him something of an ‘anorak’. He gave a brief history, necessarily so because little is known of the facts of St David’s life which included an excursion to Ceridigion (Cardigan for the uninitiated).
When he asked if there were any members of the Society present who confessed their allegiance to this part of Wales (one confirmed she belonged to the North London Ceredigion Society to gasps of amazement). He said that it was Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709) who stumbled across the earliest evidence of David when on a visit to the church at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion.
After a diversion describing the beauties of Cardigan Bay, the speaker related the simple way of life followed by St David, on a diet mainly of vegetables and water (as someone remarked, the original 5-a-day man) and quoted a saying of his as follows:
‘If you want to live a virtuous life, it is the simple things that matter.’
At which point, many in his audience must have been regretting the amount of food and fine wine that they had already been consumed that evening.
Huw continued with his regret that the many of the societies which maintained their links with Wales were disappearing which is why the CDWS should be cherished. He highlighted the London Welsh Society of which he was the current president saying he was delighted that young people were becoming members with the introduction of large screen television and the cheapest’ booze’ in London.
He praised the CDWS website which he had visited when he had accepted the invitation to speak and had been impressed with the range of activities which its members were involved in
He ended his talk with remarks about the changing way that news is consumed now compared with the past with the introduction of smart phones, etc. Inevitably this means that watching television or listening to the radio is not a communal activity any longer but nevertheless, the BBC News at 10 programme still commands a sizable audience. He cited the mistake that ITN had made in changing its time slot for its evening news and warned that ITV was trying once more to invade the BBC programming space. He compared the BBC with the bias of newspapers in certain directions and the tendency for people to buy the one paper whose opinions they most agreed with, the term ‘fake news’ hovered on his lips with an indirect reference to current events in the USA.
He ended on this serious note but responded to a questioner to relate the most memorable experiences for him in his career. These featured Afghanistan and Iraq during the respective wars, the 2012 Olympics in sport, and in politics, the departure of Mrs Thatcher from Downing Street and the Blairs arriving after the landslide Labour victory in the election in 1997.
Kay Day wound up the evening with thanks to the staff at Harewood Downs who had worked hard to provide us with a delicious meal in a welcoming environment, the committee ladies who had arranged the flowers, Maldwyn for the decorations and Jean Owen for the Welsh cakes, and in particular, Steve Rowsell for being instrumental in inviting Huw as guest speaker.
A rousing rendition of the National Anthem was sung with John Breeze on the piano which I noticed Huw Edwards didn’t sing (he must know the words!).
Huw spent some time chatting to many members of the society, but finally goodbyes were said and the final photographs taken before our distinguish guest drove away into the night.
Later, song sheets were handed out and, with John again at the keyboard, many a rousing song was sung out.
P.S. There are more photographs of the night here.