Sunday 20 December 2020
Margaret Brandie, with splendid technical support from Chris and Olivia, devised our Christmas carol service to which all were welcomed, and thirty came. Margaret used the mute button with discretion, so we could all sing the lovely Welsh carols and hear clearly the five Bible readings, some Welsh, some English, with the words displayed on the screen.
There was time afterwards to greet new members and guests and catch up with everyone over a virtual cup of tea and mincepie, before we waved goodbye – till next time.
Friday 27 November 2020
Our “Bards wanted!” Zoom meeting started with the 19 members present raising a glass to the memory of Jean Phillips, whose idea this session had been, but who is sadly no longer with us.
Jennifer Welsher was in the chair – not the one in the image, though she told its story, which you’ll find in this post – and led us swiftly through our 40 minutes of fun. Many dressed for the occasion, with glimpses of tartan, and many contributed their poems. Some of these were a wee bitty political, as one might expect in these strange times, and some struck a somewhat poignant note, but all were good-humoured.
Some of the non-Welsh content was local – Pam Williams talking about Nessie – and some less so, Jennifer’s own contribution ending up with a hint of Uncle Tom Cobley. Some of the poetry rhymed and scanned as intended; in some the poetry was rather more force-fitted than manipulated. If any one can think of a rhyme for Llanelli, Huw Thomas would love to hear!
With so many participants, it’s invidious to single out particular contributions, but Hugh Richards provided examples of haiku, limerick and other verse forms in both Welsh and English, and Alison Hughes read Pam Ayres poem “About Lockdown”. In the final minutes, Nancy Hacking recalled a W H Davies poem that she had learned in her youth. “Leisure” – the one that starts “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare” – was indeed one to run out of time on!
Friday 30 October 2020
The Zoom get-together that had been proposed in EWSNews took the form of a quiz, hosted by Margaret and Chris Brandie. As with our traditional “Croeso”, this was an event supported by refreshments, though in this case it had to be a BYOB / BYOC (bottle/cuppa)! What would our founder members (one hundred years ago this year) have thought of that?
The composite snapshot above, taken near the start, only tells part of the story: by the time the questions got under way, over twenty of us were sitting in front of our devices. There had been a request to wear something “Welsh”, and the prize for “best dressed” went to Tristan for his choice of scarf, with honourable mentions for Huw Thomas, Mary Bevan and Jennifer Welsher.
Our minds were less prepared than our glasses, as was shown by the puzzled looks when our general knowledge was tested … and some of us fared little better when challenged by our ability to identify pictures of Welsh places, remember Welsh celebrities, and decipher cryptic clues to Scottish place names.
Huw and Janet Thomas won the quiz, with David and Alison Hughes runners-up and Jennifer Welsher and Wyn Davies sharing the bronze medal. But even those of us who didn’t rate a mention – and were kicking ourselves when Margaret gave the results, and we realised that we should have known the answer! – really enjoyed that hour in the company of our EWS friends. The technology might have been a bit of a struggle for some, but the smiles and banter made it very worthwhile, and everyone who joined in will be looking forward to our next Zoom event.
Grateful thanks to Margaret and Chris Brandie for making the evening possible.
Sunday 1 March 2020
Thirty members and friends responded to the invitation to come and sing hymns at our mini Gymanfa Ganu, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Huw and Janet Thomas again performed their ‘double act’, with Janet introducing the items and Huw presiding on the piano, once he’d reminisced about the Easter Gymanfa tradition among Llanelli Baptist Churches!
This year the focus was on hymns that hadn’t been sung during the previous two years. Though this removed many favourite tunes one might have expected to hear, such as Rachie and Calon Lân, the choice didn’t disappoint, and even included Trewen and Bryn Calfaria, these having previously slipped through the net.
As always, we learned new things about the creative people responsible for “the web of Welsh hymn-writing”, and this year we were introduced to the unusual numbering system used in the Society’s (Welsh Presbyterian) hymn books, with different numbers for the words and the tunes. So we sang one of Elfed’s hymns twice to different tunes – Huw playing a third tune that also fitted – and both (thankfully short) hymns to another tune. Harmony was achieved when we had sung twelve hymns and twelve tunes!
We also learned that “Love divine, all loves excelling” had been sung at Huw and Janet’s wedding but, while she remembered the words, he remembered the tune! This was of course Blaenwern, a tune by William Penfro Rowlands that dates from the Welsh revival of 1904–05, the name referring to the farm in Pembrokeshire where the composer convalesced in his youth. We sang Charles Wesley’s words in English, but this was the only exception, and we were even able to sing Stuart Townend’s “How deep the Father’s love for us” in a Welsh translation – it went remarkably well.
Jennifer Welsher made an appearance to thank everyone, and to make a plea for members to bring to the AGM their ideas for celebrating the Society’s Centenary year, and a most enjoyable occasion was suitably concluded around the tea trolley, which gave an opportunity to welcome some new and younger faces. Thank you to everyone who came, and to all the organisers, but especially to Huw and Janet.
Saturday 29 February 2020
This was the year that the wall came down! The Mortonhall Golf Club had to remove a partition to make room for our 50 members and friends, and the spaciousness was very welcome after the crush at the bar. Part of the reason for the larger numbers was that we were delighted to welcome family supporters from all over the country – as our President, David Hughes, reminded us at the start of the proceedings, during 2019 we had lost three Society stalwarts, Arthur Phillips, Stephanie Ledger and Keith Welsher.
After Grace (said by Margaret Brandie) and an excellent meal, David Hughes introduced our Gwr Gwadd, Professor Wayne Powell, who is Principal and Chief Executive of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). We learned of Wayne’s early days in the mining community at Abercraf, of his studies in Aberystwyth (where he played a lot of rugby!), and his first career teaching PE and maths in Reading (plus playing for London Welsh), before a switch of discipline to work with the Welsh Plant Breeding Station back in Aberystwyth.
Thereafter Wayne’s new career took off, with “memories of a great time” in 1980s Edinburgh, followed by a seminal year in Delaware, at the cutting edge of molecular biology and experiencing the open culture of US science at DuPont’s Wilmington facility. His moves thereafter gave him time in Cambridge and Adelaide, experience in managing change both personally and in institutions, and an enduring sense of the importance of food and of the great privilege of being able to use science to deliver practical benefits for agriculture and for rural economies throughout the world.
In his vote of thanks, Colin Mumford asked how any of us could match a life experience that included responsibility for a School of Wine (known enviously as the ‘School of the Good Life’) and offered mischievous suggestions as how improvements to grasses might aid our players!
David Hughes then thanked everyone for their contribution to the evening, and presented flowers to Jennifer Welsher, our Secretary and dinner organiser. Finally, as always, Jim Hughes and his friends led us in singing some favourite hymns and songs before “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau” concluded the evening.