Author Archives: Susan Sit

Invitation From the Welsh Government to WSWNE

fullsizeoutput_8817Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – 2018 Stop Over

Thursday, May 17 was somewhat overcast but it didn’t hinder Susan Davies Sit and me from venturing to Newport, RI, at the invitation of the Welsh Government for the cocktail party kick-off of the Newport, RI to Cardiff, Wales, leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.  We arrived at the  lovely venue of the Chanler, perched along the famous cliff walk and took a breath-taking look out over Narragansett Bay and the wide Atlantic.  Not unmindful, I might add, that our beloved Wales was just across the water; 6-8 days across for the crew of the “clean seas” yacht.

As we entered the marble and gilt lobby we were directed to the veranda.  On the cool May evening, the atmosphere was warm, friendly and gracious.  We were met by Efe Sokol and Kelly Taylor of the Welsh Government Office based in New York City, and Steven Nase of Visit Wales, also in NYC.

Rhode Island Welsh EventAlso present for the celebration was Bleddyn Môn, a resident of Anglesey, Wales, and a crew member of “clean seas – turn the tide on plastic” yacht who spoke about conditions onboard the yacht and his responsibilities while at sea.  I was very anxious to meet Bleddyn because my ancestors sailed the seas from Borth, Wales, which is just down the coast from the Llyn Peninsla.  He is a delightful young man who told us the story of his parents moving to Anglesey, she a Davies and he a Griffith, and deciding to give the last name of Môn, meaning Isle of Anglesey to their offspring. Photo shows Susan Jenkins Meers meeting Bleddyn Môn.

Enjoying the party were members of the RI Welsh Society: Jane Morgan and her husband Craig of Richmond, RI.  It was mutually agreed that WSWNE and the RIWS should make a concerted effort to join together in an activity soon.  The hors d’oeuvres, cheese table, wines, etc. were splendid, venue perfect and this Walesophile was incredulous at the invitation and experience. 

Following on from this event, we attended a Media Breakfast on Sunday morning at Sail Newport on Fort Adams Drive also hosted by the Welsh Government, close to where the Volvo Ocean Race boats were being readied  for the next leg from Newport, RI to Cardiff, Wales.IMG_2569

The breakfast was attended by three members of WSWNE, plus RI Welsh Society members, various media personnel  and travel writers as well as the Cardiff Mayor and Huw Thomas, Leader of the Cardiff Council, and members of a PR firm who will be video taping the celebration and events that will greet the boats when they arrive in Cardiff. We made contacts with many people, who in turn are interested in the work we do as a Welsh Society, and offering to be in touch about our future events. Photo shows: Bob Derbyshire, Lord Mayor of the City of Cardiff, Susan Davies Sit, President WSWNE, Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council,  RI Welsh Society member Tracy Vaspol and  WSWNE member Beth Roberts Brown at the Media Breakfast.

Diolch yn fawr for two unforgettable events celebrating Wales.                               By Susan Jenkins Meers

First Annual Noson Lawen

Sunday, May 20, 2018fullsizeoutput_824a: On the heels of attending a Noson Lawen in NYC at the Welsh Congregational Church in Manhattan last October, the thought came to us to hold our own Welsh Society’s Noson Lawen. In lieu of a parlor, where our Welsh ancestors would have gathered to entertain themselves, we gathered at the Tap House Grille in West Springfield, with Welsh flag “flying” and voices ready. 

Once we had dined together on that Sunday evening, May 20th, member Jason Ellsworth read from a list of presenters while we each rose to sing, read and recite: a poem “Mai ym Môn” (May in Anglesey) was written by Lowri’s cousin’s grandfather, Anglesey Bard William Richard Roberts (Bardic name: Gwilym Dona) (see the photo above) and read aloud by Lowri in English, then by Susan Davies Sit in Welsh; we sang a rousing “Delilah” with Straford Wild on guitar, and Jason sang his own composition “Country Road” and playing the keyboard; a personal  Welsh story by Glyn of the funny trials and tribulations of his and Magdalen’s wedding night hotel; Warren Morgan read a Welsh joke plus a poem by none other than Dylan Thomas, whom we were celebrating that evening; a reading by Magdalen titled “The Princes of Wales and Carrot Soup”; a poem titled “The Shepard of Cwm Dyli” read by Ed Brown, husband of Beth Roberts Brown whose ancestors lived at the Cwm Dyli farm; Susan Jenkins Meers read “In Passing” by Brian Harris; and we ended with a heartfelt ‘Calon Lân” led by Straford. Hiraeth abounded as we listened to our Mother tongue, with music and language swirling around us. 

By Susan Davies Sit

Annual St. David’s Day Lunch 2018

Two delightful speakers graced the podium at the 2018 St. David’s Day luncheon of the Welsh Society of Western New England. Helen Coates of the Copper Kettle Bakery described her journey from LLantwit Major
in the Vale of Glamorgan, watching her
Members and guests at the luncheon mum make Welsh Cakes, to Westwood, Massachusetts, where her dream of a bakery took shape. She began some years ago baking Welsh Cakes in her home kitchen, delivering daily to local stores, and now has commercial production with online sales and distribution worldwide of 4 varieties. The freshly-made samples which she brought were simply delicious, and the make-your-own mixes were eagerly taken by everyone to try at home. Her determination to succeed and her affinity for Wales inspired us all, and we are so proud of her. www.copperkettlebakery.com

Professor Margaret Lloyd of Springfield College presented a fascinating introduction to the Mabinogi Tales of medieval Wales, telling of the mythical woman Rhiannon who travels from the Otherworld on a white horse in search of her prince Pwyll. She finds him and they are married, but after their child is abducted, Rhiannon heroically accepts punishment herself to spare the lives of her midwives. Professor Lloyd reflects on Rhiannon as a noble woman of stature and strength in her beautiful series of poems recently
Beth Roberts Brown in National Dress published in Wales. Her passionate readings of several excerpts enthralled the audience, bringing alive the power, pathos, and relevance of these oldest of Welsh myths. Travelling on My Own Errands – Voices of Women from the Mabinogi, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanwrst, March 2017.

Host for the annual luncheon, held this year on Saturday, March 3rd, was the lovely Nutmeg Restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut, with about 40 in attendance. Society president Susan Davies Sit opened the meeting with greetings from other Welsh societies from around North America, reviewed
Speakers: Helen Coates on the left with John Bollard and Margaret Lloyd on the right. the many activities of the past year, and introduced new members. The society is growing, enthusiasm is high, and the Welsh in the area are in good company. Come join us!
By Mark Spencer, Member.

Members with Beth Roberts Brown in Welsh National Dress

Members with Beth Roberts Brown in Welsh National Dress

Ed Brown in a Slate Quarryman's outfit with member Mark Spencer

Ed Brown in a Slate Quarryman’s outfit with member Mark Spencer

Speaker Helen Coates of the Copper Kettle Bakery

Speaker Helen Coates of the Copper Kettle Bakery

WSWNE President Susan Davies Sit, with our Welsh map of members' Welsh roots.

WSWNE President Susan Davies Sit, with our Welsh map of members’ Welsh roots.

Speaker Margaret Lloyd of NY, who read her book of poetry about Women in the Mabinogi

Speaker Margaret Lloyd of NY, who read her book of poetry about Women in the Mabinogi

St. David’s Day Luncheon 2017

unspecifiedMembers and guests of the Welsh Society of Western New England gathered at the Nutmeg restaurant in East Windsor, CT to celebrate the life of their Welsh patron saint, St. David on March 4, 2017.

The society welcomed many new members and guests to the event and whilst sampling appetizers from the food table they reminisced about good times and fond memories of their love for Wales and the Welsh culture while perusing the various displays and the information table. Many guests purchased souvenirs, books and Welsh items from the merchandise table. There was a silent auction for a framed cross-stitch of Welsh daffodils in a pot with the inscription “Dydd Gwyl Dewi”, hand-made by member Janet Taylor.  Looking absolutely fantastic were Ed and Beth Brown dressed in traditional Welsh costumes, greeting and posing with guests for photographs.
St. David's Day Luncheon 2017The event was opened with a video message from the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones. A prayer, by Mark Spencer, followed this.
Following the luncheon was a presentation by the guest speakers Illtyd and Dominic Barrett, owners of “Sunken Hundred (Cantre’r Gwaelod)” restaurant in Brooklyn, New York.  Illtyd & Dominic presented a fascinating look at their life growing up in Wales and their life ventures leading up to the creation of a unique Welsh food based restaurant in New York City. Their presentation was both incredibly interesting and often very funny and kept their audience glued to their every word.  Their journey and their creation of Sunken Hundred demonstrated their love of Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh foods and the Society wishes both Illtyd and Dominic the very best luck in the future.
IMG_4125The Annual General Meeting, including the vote to elect the Board of Directors for the forthcoming year, followed the presentation.
Next on the agenda was a Welsh quiz hosted by Magdalen Dowden. Participants had to answer questions based on Wales, Welsh history and Welsh people.  Polo shirt prizes donated by “Fly2Wales” were handed out to the three winners. This was a huge success, all participants having a great time.
Congratulations to all the raffle winners, and to Mary Pallos for being the highest bidder in the auction for the cross-stitch.
The day was brought to a close with the singing of the Welsh National Anthem “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”
WSWNE Board 2017-2018Huge thank you to Susan Davies Sit and the organizing team, Illtyd and Dominic Barrett and all the staff at the Nutmeg Restaurant and to all the attending members and guests for creating a truly memorable day – Diolch !

WSWNE’s 2016 Christmas Event

Nadolig Llawen bunting at the fireplace

Nadolig Llawen bunting at the fireplace

Members and guests of the Welsh Society of Western New England (WSWNE), celebrated the coming of Christmas and another new year on December 3, 2016 in the cozy Library Room of the Nutmeg Restaurant in East Windsor, CT.

The holiday colors of the Christmas tree in the corner and the poinsettias on the mantle were soon complemented by the red and green of our Welsh flag and festoons of red bunting spelling out Nadolig Llawen above the welcoming fire.

Beginning at noon, old friends and new greeted one another as they sampled cheese, crackers, and cruditee: some toasted one another’s health with drinks from the open bar. Many explored the sales table with items from Wales; a warm looking scarf proclaiming “Cymru am Byth” was among the first items to find a new home. Others browsed the information table and display board or considered which basket of Welsh-related items they would most like to win in the tea-cup auction.

WSWNE President, Susan Davies Sit, officially welcomed the assembly and asked Mark Spencer to provide the invocation; it included good wishes to all, but particularly to all the people of Wales. There followed the annual popping of traditional British Christmas crackers, donated by members Magdalen and Glyn Dowden, with the usual merriment evoked by the donning of colored paper crowns and the calling out of enclosed riddles.

The luncheon followed; this year set out buffet style. It was delicious and was followed by home-made Welsh Cakes by Beth Roberts Brown and Shirley Gilmartin.

Before introducing the featured speaker, President Sit asked for help in finding a new Massachusetts venue for next year’s Christmas event. All three major WSWNE luncheons were held in Connecticut this year because no proposed Massachusetts restaurant met our needs.
She also introduced new member Warren Morgan and referred everyone to the newsletter and website (WelshWNE.org) for details on other announcements.

Members and guests listen to Thomas Leigh’s talk on Celtic Languages

Members and guests listen to Thomas Leigh’s talk on Celtic Languages

Our speaker, Thomas Leigh, a Scottish Gaelic language instructor from the Callanish School of Celtic Arts, gave a fascinating talk on the history of Celtic Languages. He presented an impressive breadth and depth of information about the origins, spread, and comparative features of the various languages associated with the people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, plus Breton and the Isle of Man’s language of Manx. His many-faceted prepared remarks stimulated an extensive question and answer period. Links to YouTube videos of both Thomas Leigh’s presentation and the lively Q & A are posted on our website: WelshWNE.org.

After winning tickets were drawn for the three baskets of Welsh-related items, the afternoon concluded with the singing of the Welsh song “Deck the Halls” and the Welsh national anthem, “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”.

By Edward Brown, WSWNE Board member.

The Good Earth comes to NYC

The Good EarthOn September 3, 2016, a group of members attended the matinee of “The Good Earth” at the Flea Theater in New York City. It was presented by Motherlode Theater, based in the Rhondda Valley, Directed by Rachael Boulton and Music Direction by Max Mackintosh.

 

“A wonderfully acted new play by the Welsh company Motherlode, whose gorgeous, often solemn a cappella soundscape — sometimes floating beneath spoken dialogue, sometimes sung between scenes — breathes the villagers’ very heritage into the air.”— The New York Times
Susan Davies Sit, Actor Anni Dafydd, Jason Ellsworth, Susan Jenkins Meers and Sherry Williams.

Susan Davies Sit, Actor Anni Dafydd, Jason Ellsworth, Susan Jenkins Meers and Sherry Williams.

It was co-produced with RCT Theatres, in association with Wales’ Millennium Centre and Arts Council Wales. It told the story of a Welsh valley family who were asked to leave their home along with all the other members of the village, in case the mountain “moved”. It was 7 years after the Aberfan disaster when the slag heap of coal shifted and slid down on top of a school and buried and killed 144 people, including many children. After the play ended we got to meet the 5 member Welsh cast.

Tom Davies in Wales, at the peak of his Pub’s namesake, Snowdon

Following the play we drive over to Astoria in Queens for dinner at the Snowdonia Pub. Their website says:

Snowdonia (in Welsh, Eryri) is a mountainous region in Northern Wales. Named after this beautiful area, we are an authentic gastropub in the Welsh tradition of the “local” that fuses inventive cuisine and quality regional craft beers. Snowdonia prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients, local purveyors of the highest quality foods, and an outstanding selection of bourbon, wine, craft cocktails, and over thirty craft beers. Mwynhau eich hun! (enjoy yourself!) (snowdoniapub.com)

We feasted on Fish & Chips (which Don Sit said was the best he’s ever had here), Bangers and Mash, a slate platter of charcuterie meats and cheeses, Welsh Rarebit, Shepherd’s pie, Welsh cider, Welsh Penderyn whisky for some. it was aw wonderful day of camaraderie and Welsh Hiraeth.

Fish & Chips from Snowdonia Pub

Fish & Chips from Snowdonia Pub

Genealogy Seminar by Susan Davies Sit, WSWNE President

 

Susan Davies Sit presents at Vermont Welsh genealogy Seminar

Susan Davies Sit presents at Vermont Welsh genealogy Seminar

If you try your hand at Welsh genealogy, you will know how difficult it can be sometimes, especially if you are researching one of the common names, such as William Williams, or Robert Jones etc. There are many stumbling blocks in Welsh genealogy. In June, 2016, Susan Davies Sit, President of WSWNE, presented a seminar titled “Welsh Genealogy Research” at the Welsh-American Genealogical Society (WAGS)’s Welsh Weekend in Poultney, VT. The seminar covered census, Family History Societies, headstone Welsh, history of Welsh patronymics and much more. About 20 people attended the seminar and Susan was able to have a 10 minute one-on-one with many of the attendees. The weekend also had a Gymanfa Ganu, a Welsh hymn sing and a tour of the historic Welsh baptist Chapel, amongst other events.

WSWNE holds monthly research workshops where we learn how to research our Welsh ancestors and build our own Welsh family trees. Please join us: email WelshWNE@gmail.com

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

John Martin (1789-1854) titled ”The Bard”

John Martin (1789-1854) titled ”The Bard”

On Tuesday, July 26, several WSWNE members met at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT. We had also planned on visiting the Irish Hunger Museum in Hamden, CT but found out a few weeks earlier that it was closed this summer for renovations. Eight members met in the lobby of the Art Center, and we toured at our own leisure, immersed in the art, looking for Welsh artists and Welsh landscapes. One such painting was this one on the right, by Welsh artist Richard Wilson (1714-1782) depicting Dinas Bran, “View near Wynnstay, the seat of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, BT”.

Another painting, seen below, by John Martin (1789-1854) titled ”The Bard”. The description noted that English King Edward 1 “was said to have ordered the massacre of all the Welsh Bards. Following Thomas Gray’s treatment of the legend in his celebrated poem “The Bard: A Pinnacle Ode” (1757), John Martin shows the sole survivor clutching his hair while cursing the king and his army before hurling himself to his death from a rocky crag”. An Austrian poet in 1857 named Arany, wrote a preface to his own poem: “The historians doubt it, but it strongly stands in the legend that Edward I of England sent 500 Welsh bards to the stake after his victory over the Welsh (1277) to prevent them from arousing the country and destroying English rule by telling of the glorious past of their nation.”

View of Dinas Bran by Richard Wilson

Welsh artist Richard Wilson (1714-1782) depicting Dinas Bran, “View near Wynnstay, the seat of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, BT”

Elihu Yale, a benefactor of the Collegiate School in the Colony of Connecticut (founded 1701) which was renamed Yale College in his honor, was born in Boston, but returned to London with his parents at age three, where he was educated. His ancestry can be traced back to the family home of Llandegla, Denbighshire, Wales. Yale is the English spelling of the name Iâl. Elihu amassed a fortune working for the East India Company, returning to England in 1699. He spent much of his time at his father’s house “Plas Grono” near Wrexham. In 1781, Yale was asked for help in funding the College in Connecticut. Yale sent 417 books, a portrait of King George 1 and nine “bales of goods”. In gratitude, the school was renamed in his honor and it became Yale College. Elihu Yale is buried at St. Giles Church in Wrexham, Wales. There is also a Coleg Iâl (Yale College) in Wrexham, Denbighshire.

St. David’s Day 2016

St. David's DaffodilsThe Welsh Society of Western New England celebrated St. David’s Day: Everyone enjoyed Welsh music, culture, the Welsh language and very importantly each other’s company.

Member Leslie Spencer gave a wonderful presentation of “Wales – Land of Song: A look at the choral tradition from yesteryear to today.” Beginning with a tribute to St. David, she reviewed events that have shaped the magnificent musical traditions of Wales, and included photos of her own travels in Wales, including a visit to a mine and how singing relieved the stresses of the harsh conditions. You can watch a video of her presentation on our website.

Revelers at St. David's DayWe listened to Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales deliver his video message to us all, enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Nutmeg Restaurant in East Windsor, CT, shopped at the Welsh merchandize table, won baskets of Welsh goodies, sang the National Anthem and then found it hard to leave.

Susan Davies Sit

A Welsh Celebration of the Winter Solstice

Christmas Revels in Boston, December 2015

By Susan Sit, President, WSWNE

BostonRevels

Snow falling on the final scene at the Christmas Revels, Boston, MA.

Many WSWNE members drove to Boston in December to see the Christmas Revels, many of us for the first time. What a treat it was! The Revels at Christmastime are held at the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, Boston. As Paddy Swanson the Artistic Director said “Its a wonder that it has taken so long to get to Wales. After all, our Musical Director is an Emlyn and I grew up a few miles away from the border of this magical country……. Our good friend Susan Cooper, (note: who had a grandmother from West Wales) author of the much-loved Revels poem “The Shortest Day”…used to to play as a child around the sea towns of North Wales… Susan helped us write a script that conjures a Wales of humor, warmth, and harmony, all set against a background of ghostly horses, shape-changers and dragons.” George Ellyn said “I went back to Wales. I plunged into the deep, deep pool of Welsh Music”

Can you just imagine what this particular Revels was like for us? Some from Wales with tears of Hiraeth in our eyes; for the fans of Welsh myth and legend watching the red dragon defeat the English white dragon; and for singers, singing along with Ar Hyd Y Nos, Cwm Rhondda, Men of Harlech, Sospan Fach and more? It truly was magical and we are so happy to have made the effort to go to Boston.

Magdalen Dowden said: What fun the interactive Christmas Revels were, in Cambridge this last December.  The stage was set in scenes mimicking the village in Dylan’s play “Under Milk Wood”.  The performances by singers, actors and dancers, both adults and children, conjured a strong feeling of hiraeth for our little group; lots of tears from those of us far away from home. The cast was coached in Welsh language and Welsh accent, even the children, and they were practically faultless. The Mari Lwyd, a white skeletal horse of South Walian tradition, was spectacular. A wonderful evening with good friends from the Welsh Society.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

What an amazing holiday event…the range & variety of performances, theater play, story telling, song & dance and more!  Oh yes…we sang along a few times too! A wonderfully good time for all. The pub afterward added another dimension to a fun night! Don W. Sit

Susan Sit, President, WSWNE