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:
At home our Quiz Night at home is usually on a Monday – Mastermind, Only Connect followed by University Challenge, but at the end of January we venture out on a Friday evening to Coleshill to take part in the … Continue reading →
We had an early start at 8am in Gerrards Cross, picking up the rest of our party at Amersham. After a brief stop on the M42 we drove on through the countryside and to Presteigne to visit the Real Wine Company for a wine tasting and paella. The company was established by Mark Hughes, who used to live in Gerrards Cross, but followed his dream to create his own specialist wine company. We sampled up to 12 delicious wines, and many of us ordered a few.
After lunch we drove north along swollen Severn. The previous weeks had rained pretty continuously and river levels were high. As we passed we saw that many of the fields were flooded.
Phil, our coach driver, drove us on to Montgomery, where we had 10 minutes to stretch our legs and to explore the market square and the Norman church with the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert (dating from the 16th century).
There followed a somewhat sleepy trip on to Oswestry as the effects of lunchtime’s wine made themselves known. We drove to Oswestry’s Premier Inn through stunning countryside, avoiding floods which had been prevalent only a few days before. That evening, some ate locally while others walked to Oswestry to sample the local restaurants.
Tuesday 18th June
The coach picked us up from the hotel, and we drove to Llanfair Caerinion station, where Jonathan had booked two carriages on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. The railway dates from 1903 and has an unusual 2’ 6” narrow gauge. We had time to look around the station and watch the engine (‘Countess’, one of the original engines) being prepared. The first part of our journey followed the path of the valley of a small river (the Afon Banwy neu Einion), where, Jonathan said, otters and king fishers lived. It took about 45 mins to cover the 8.5 miles to Welshpool. We crossed streams and small roads, with or without level crossing gates, admiring the countryside as we chugged along. When we arrived in Welshpool we had another chance to admire the train getting ready for the return journey. (More railway pictures.)
Our coach had driven on to meet us and we all climbed on to travel to Powis Castle. On the way there, Jonathan, acting as the most knowledgeable tour guide, gave us an extraordinary level of detail of the history of the castle, built in the 13th century by the Welsh prince (Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn), loyal to Edward I. By 1587 the castle was sold to the Herbert family. In 1784, heiress Lady Henrietta Herbert married Edward Clive, son of the famous Clive of India. Their son inherited the castle, on condition that he changed his name to Herbert. The castle remained with the Herbert family until it was passed to the National Trust.
A really impressive structure, the castle was built of local red sandstone, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. It was easy to see that the building was not only a castle but also a home. We entered smart drawing rooms, elegant dining rooms and formal bedrooms, all decorated with paintings of family members through the ages from the 17th century to the present day. A separate room was set aside to display some of the riches brought back from India by Clive, including Indian weapons and fine jewel encrusted figures.
The castle has beautiful gardens set within steep slopes and terraces revealing wonderful flower beds.
In the courtyard of the castle was a male peacock displaying and protecting his mate with one chick, the last remaining of clutch of 5. (Additional photos of Powis Castle in the gallery.)
That evening, after the bus had dropped us off, Jonathan took us on a conducted tour of Oswestry including the remains of the castle which was torn down during the English Civil War. In the memorial gardens we saw a statue to one of Oswestry’s famous sons,the poet Wilfred Owen, who was tragically killed in the last week of World War 1.
The whole party then met for an evening meal in the Wynnstay Hotel, making our own way home after discussions in the hotel bar. (More pictures of our evening here.)
Wednesday 19th June
We set off early to visit ‘Jones the Boats’ on the Llangollen Canal, where we all boarded a canal boat to take us across the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the highest aqueduct in the world.
The bridge was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford, and stretches for 336 yards above the River Dee.
It was a strange experience to be in a boat on the canal and to be able to look down over 120 feet to see the river and fields below with the drop just inches away from the side of the boat.
We traveled on until we passed through the Chirk tunnel, 460 yards long, turning around just before the Chirk Aqueduct. The tunnel is narrow, with only room for one boat at a time, and boats must show lights so that they can be seen by those coming from the other direction.
After the canal trip, we once again boarded the coach to visit Chirk Castle. The castle was originally constructed in the late 13th century by Roger Mortimer de Chirk under the orders of Edward I, in order to guard the Dee and Ceriog valleys. It was expanded and remodeled over the years and was bought by Sir Thomas Myddelton in1595.
The interior of the castle was varied in style. It was interesting to see the different tastes in different rooms and to see areas where the Victorian designer Pugin had made changes to restyle the Georgian features into what was then considered to be a more authentic new Gothic.
The gardens at Chirk are extensive, with clipped yews, herbaceous borders, a ha-ha and views over the Ceiriog valley. As we left Jonathan had two more sights for us.
The original gates included the Myddelton crest featuring a sinister looking red hand. There are several stories about the significance of the hand, most of them somewhat gory. The coach then took us back via the Llangollen canal, where we could walk down to the tunnel we had been through that morning, and then walk across the Chirk Aqueduct, crossing from Wales to England. This is another Telford bridge, this time crossing the Ceiriog valley, 710 feet long and 70 feet above the valley, this aqueduct runs alongside a later viaduct carrying the railway.
We set off to Brymbo Heritage site, which is really two sites in one. Brymbo is close to Wrexham, and is the site of an old iron works dating from about 1790. We split into two parties and were shown around the site where we were given a brief history of the development of the industry as well as being shown the original furnace and the old ruins of an even older coal mine.
Interestingly, Brymbo had another aspect. Recently, when the coal was being extracted by open cast methods, they found an ancient petrified forest beneath the coal. This originally grew as gigantic ferns and mosses over 300 million years ago, when this part of Wales lay on the equator! While walking over the site, we met some of the paleontologists working on the site. As we were talking to the leader, Dr Tim Astrop, another of his party picked up a stone lying on the ground and showed us a fossilised plant stem from 300 million years ago, saying that we were the first people ever to see this fossil specimen!
We were then driven over to Erddig Hall, another National Trust site. It was built in the late 17th century for Josiah Edisbury, but in 1733 it passed into the Yorke family. We were met by one of the guides who entertained with stories of the Yorke family (mostly Stephens and Phillips) who threw very little away, which was why the site had such a vast collection of artifacts. One of the last of the line became almost a hermit who removed the phones and the electricity. He used to sleep at night guarding the silver with a shotgun and a burglar alarm fashioned from carnation milk tins.
The Hall is also famous for its paintings, poems and stories of the servants who worked there. From the early days, portraits were made of some of the serving staff, maids, gardeners, gamekeepers and housekeepers and together with these there were descriptions or poems, often in a child’s hand, to describe the individuals.
The gardens at Erddig are extensive, based on the original 18th century formal garden. They contain a lake and a canal in addition to rose gardens, fruit trees, walled gardens and herbaceous borders.
We said goodbye to those of us who travelled by car and set off on the first leg of our journey, to Shrewsbury. We were met by our guides, who took us on a conducted walk around the town, looking at taverns and houses with connections to the Tudors, then a led us on a tour around St Mary’s, Shrewsbury’s oldest church, dating back to Norman times, to see the stained-glass windows. We completed the tour by looking at the medieval trades areas, after which the streets were named, and at the centre of the high street, where David III, Prince of Wales, was executed in 1283.
After lunch we boarded the coach and David Powell thanked Jonathan Pegler for all the planning and the incredible amount of information he had provided us with about the places we passed through and visited.
We finally arrived back home at around 4pm all feeling quite tired.
A good turnout of over fifty members set the scene for an informative, interesting and illusionary evening.
Our Chairman, David Powell got off to a good start (this being his first year as Chairman and hence his first chairing of the AGM) by welcoming us all. In particular Thelma and John Lusher who had traveled all the way from the New Forest. The reports for the year were encouraging; membership strong at one hundred and sixteen; finances in good shape; two new members of the committee have volunteered their services – Merle Davies and Peter Chapman; and there has been strong support for all the events over the year. Particular thanks were directed towards Graham Beavan on his retirement after a long tenure as Treasurer.
Jonathan Pegler had briefly taken on the role of Treasurer to fill the gap and so he presented the Accounts for the year. Under his watch the magnificent sum of £20 had been dealt with. Peter Chapman has now stepped into Graham’s shoes.
The formal part of the evening was, as ever, well presented and short and was followed by a meal. The caterer was Anne Tennant who clearly knows exactly what the members of the CDWS enjoy, and on this occasion was like a human dynamo. The rest of her team were at an event catering for the mayor of Beaconsfield so Anne was chief cook and bottle washer and everything in between. Well done Anne! The choice of desserts was particularly appreciated. Bread and Butter pudding and custard, Chocolate mousse, cheese and biscuits, Fruit Pavlova and I spotted a fruit salad for someone dairy intolerant. The gentlemen on our table made a bee-line for the Bread and Butter pudding, and then when Anne explained that she really didn’t want to take anything home, they were happily also tucking into Pavlova. No doubt belts were loosened.
After the meal came the entertainment. This year it was the place of Bertie Pearce whose web site says that he “…brings wonder and laughter to your event”. We were not disappointed on either count. The theme was “Now you See it-Now you Don’t, The Art of Visual Deception”. This was a whistle-stop tour through Surrealism, Trompe L’eoil, Ambiguous Imagery, Optical Art and Camouflage. Fascinating, thought provoking, puzzling, entertaining, amusing and all delivered at a pace that kept you on your toes, engaged and surprised. A particular ripple of amusement occurred when Bertie said that in America artists had used illusionary methods to paint potholes on the road which appeared to be 3D in order to reduce speeding. Here in Buckinghamshire we have no need for artists’ illusions. We have the real thing.
Interspersed with the artistic journey were a number of magical moments. Ably assisted by our very own Ann Lawrence, Kay Day and Gwen Hill, Bertie performed mysterious and inexplicable tricks. Ann, Kay and Gwen have clearly been sworn into secrecy as they were reluctant to share any explanations afterwards. Perhaps they could be prevailed upon at a future event to offer magical entertainment?
The evening closed at 10 pm everyone having been well entertained and well fed. Thank you to all.
At Harewood Downs Golf Club – Friday March 1st 2019
And here we had the appearance of our own Rumpole of the Bailey in the form of Welshman, His Honour, Judge Tudor Wyn Owen FRAeS, now retired, He was educated at Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School and King’s College London (LLB). He was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1974 and gained an excellent reputation in Aviation Law and Crime. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Freeman of the City of London and Liveryman and past master of the Worshipful Company of Pilots. He served as a Recorder on the South Eastern Circuit from 1991 to 2007. As a true Welshman, his anecdotes of his experiences as a pilot, his knowledge of technical jargon, his ready wit and delightful humour in accounts of his dealings with miscreants as a Judge were a delight to the ear. His experiences with Juries, his acknowledgement of learning most from cases which arrived at a wrong decision (in his estimation) were delivered with the rapidity of a Spitfire Browning Machine gun! He was very much thanked for his attendance and his ability to engage his audience in a most delightful and informative way!
His address, of course came at the end of the Dinner that started with a convivial reception at the excellent venue of the Harewood Downs Golf Club where national flags were prominently displayed. The sumptuous 3 course meal (finished with Coffee and Mints) was well sampled and enjoyed by all present where Mains were chosen from Lamb Rump, Roasted Salmon Fillet and Confit Duck Leg, Wine was in full flow, and conversations raged at each of the tables! (If ever you want to know how a social occasion is progressing, listen to the music of the conversations!!). No-one seemed to share any grief for the English who had been so roundly conquered by the Welsh Rugby Team in the International at the Millennium Stadium the previous week (poor dabs!)
Just before people were ready to depart, Pianist John Breeze struck up on the keyboard in true Canu o’r Galon (“singing from the heart”!!) vein with Calon Lân as a starter and then we progressed meritoriously through the usual classic full bodied and blooded Welsh Songs and Hymns that always adorn our functions, using “song sheets” provided by Gwyndaf, and augmented by the sonorous tones of a melodic tudor Judge. We finally ended up with a great rendering of Delilah! (I seem to remember the ground actually shaking in parts of the voluminous dramatic delivery done in fortississimo(FFF)!!!)
A marvellous convivial occasion that was enjoyed by everyone and we look forward to …yn dathlu Dydd Gŵyl Dewi eto y flwyddyn nesaf mewn arddull debyg! (…celebrating St Davids Day again next year in similar style!). Well done, David, Mr Chairman and to Kay & Gwyndaf for organising such a successful event.
Thirty-six members of the Chiltern and District Welsh Society attended the 2019 Quiz Night (held on Burn’s Night) and we arranged ourselves into tables of six for a 7:30 start.
Jonathan set the quiz and delivered it with help from his with (lovely?) assistant Graham. This was a relief to many as Graham Beavan’s team has often won the quiz in prior years.
Each table had first to devise a name for its team. These were: The Gladiators, The Haggis, The Commoners, Dragons, Y Frrinda and Rebellion.
We started at 7:30 and Jonathan’s fiendish questions were set in 6 rounds with titles such as Name that advert and decade, Food & Drink, Science, General Knowledge, Cities with 2 names and Famous faces.
After the first two rounds Fish & Chips were delivered from the Three Households Fish and Chip shop ‘The Village Chippy’ – they were prompt, hot and tasty.
As the rounds progressed it became obvious that one team were drawing ahead, and at the end of the evening, the winning team, The Commoners, were revealed to be a team comprising of Gwyndaf & Janet John, David & Irene Powell & Rose Edwards. Two Committee members in the winning team? They denied any inside knowledge, but one never knows…..
David thanked Jonathan for all the work that he had put into organising the quiz and a show of hands supported the proposal to change to the September trip from a tour of Bath to a coach trip to Slimbridge, where Peter Scott’s house will be opening with the opportunity of seeing his pictures and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site that he founded.
What a difference in the weather this year! Last year a sudden snowfall prevented many people from attending the Christmas drinks event, but in 2018 the weather was mild enough to enjoy the garden, and about 55 people arrived instead of the 20 or so who were able to brave the snow last year.
Jonathan, Gwyndaf & David were on parking patrol, directing drivers onto neighbour’s drives and along the lane to the Jones’s house, and, on arrival, Kay placed a label on each person, to remind them who they were and to make conversation easier.
Bill & Sue Jones were excellent hosts, and, assisted by the staff of ‘To Dine For’, attendees were plied with canapés and drinks. Many people used the opportunity of such a large gathering to distribute Christmas cards and Kay also handed out copies of the Winter Newsletter.
Rob Britton announced that Peter Lawrence has just celebrated his 90th birthday and is marking it by swimming 90 lengths of the Amersham Pool over the course of a week for the charity Bloodwise. Not only did Peter achieve his goal, he exceeded it by swimming 100 lengths! Rob ran a raffle to support Peter Lawrence’s chosen charity which raised £200.
Unfortunately, later in the afternoon, Peter Johnston suffered a fall and we needed to call the para-medics, who took him to the hospital. Happily after he was examined the doctors declared that he was fine and he was able to be sent back home.
After the ambulance left, with Peter looking somewhat brighter, Jonathan Pegler played the organ and Bill Jones led the singing of some favourite Christmas carols.
Instead of presenting the usual gifts to the hosts to show our appreciation, David Powell explained that Bill & Sue had requested a donation to the Woodland Trust in order to plant trees in Parc Mawr, Conway. Bill went on to describe the ecological background and benefits of the scheme, and, at the end of the afternoon, sufficient funds had been raised for six trees to be dedicated in the name of Chiltern District Welsh Society.
We all left at about 4pm. Many thanks to Bill & Sue Jones for being such welcoming hosts and to ‘To Dine For’ for the delicious canapes and attentive service.