Category Archives: Our Events

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

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.

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

WSWNE Christmas Luncheon 2015

by Leslie Spencer

Hugh_JamesA delightful afternoon was had by all as the Welsh Society of Western New England gathered at the Yankee Pedlar Restaurant in Holyoke, MA on December 5th for their annual Christmas luncheon. Welsh-born Rev. Hugh James, now rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich, Connecticut, gave a fascinating talk and slide presentation entitled “Perlau Llanfihangel-ar-Arth”, or “Pearls of Llanfihangel-ar-Arth”, located in West Wales, where he had been a Vicar at St. Michael’s Church for 12 years starting in 1992. He shared stories both personal and historic in tracing the history of his former Welsh parish which started in 1660 with Vicar Owen Jones. Intertwining political and religious history beginning with the departure of the Mayflower in 1620, Civil War from 1642 to 1651, restoration of the Church of England in 1660, the creation of the Book of Common Prayer in 1662, the Methodist revival with John Wesley in the 1700’s and other significant events, he showed what created the Church of Wales today.

Slides of particular historic interest were of two ancient stones that had been dug up in the churchyard: the Latin inscribed Ulcanus stone possibly dating back to the 4th century, and a Celtic altar stone with six crosses possibly dating back to the 6th century, both stones now in St. Michael’s vestry. He also spoke of those doing genealogical research relating how difficult it can be to find an ancestor without more details than just a name. He related a story of a family seeking their roots only to find ten graves with the same name in the churchyard. An individual of particular note in recent times highlighted by Rev. James was a former school teacher, Miss L. V. Jones, a member of his church who had taught generations of students, shaping their lives, and was in a sense, a living source of who’s who in this region of Wales.

WSWNE Christmas LuncheonWe were transported in time to Wales, the beloved home and ancestral home to many at this festive Christmas luncheon. Much sought after Welsh raffle baskets enlivened the afternoon as well as many items from Wales which were for sale, including books old and new, such as the recently published Ginger Biscuits, A Memoir: Out of Wales and into the World, by Glyn Dowden, a member of the WSWNE.

The Welsh Society of Western New England is always seeking new members to enrich our meetings with tales of old and present day news. Contact the Society’s president, Susan Davies Sit at WelshWNE@gmail.com.

Upstate New York & Vermont Trip in the “Spring” – a Slate Museum Visit

Article by Beth Roberts Brown and Susan Davies Sit

Disused Slate Quarry in Granville, NYNothing is guaranteed when you drive up to upstate NY and VT in April, especially the weather. Even though spring was slow coming to CT, we must have thought that VT was warm enough for light jackets, as it had been in CT that week. As we drove though snow showers and the temperature dropped to 34F, we knew we were woefully dressed for the day.

However, the day was indeed wonderful! After a bagged lunch on the road, watching the snow, we arrived at the Slate Museum in Granville, NY in time for a tour of the museum with Bob Isherwood who had prepared a program for us which included the showing of a video depicting a working quarry. One of the voices telling of a narrow escape from death was my uncle, Charlie Roberts, very much alive today at 96. It was spine chilling to hear his voice.

In 1839, as Caleb Raney, a farmer, was about to sell the property, he discovered slate on his land. By the late 1800’s slate quarries quickly spread throughout the valley. Bob took us on a car tour of several points of interest including quarry housing, a derelict quarry pit filled with water, the last remaining quarry stick in the area, Elmwood Cemetery with many stones engraved in Welsh, with Welsh flags next to them. Each stone we passed had a story to tell. We also visited the areas of Blissville and Jamesville where some of the earliest slate was quarried and my family first settled before moving to the larger town of Granville, as well as the ruins of a large mill, in which a fire in 1871 made the New York Times, such was the importance of this operation. A small building with a purple slate roof dating back to 1851 still stands and was a schoolroom and a chapel.

Jones Grave at Elmwood Cemetery in Granville, NYWelsh immigration from slate quarries in Snowdonia, Northern Wales such as Ffestiniog, Dinorwic and Bethesda began around 1850 and the 1850 US Census shows that 18 people of Welsh birth lived in Granville, NY alone – 13 males and 5 females. Many of the surrounding towns (Fair Haven, West Castleton, Poultney and Middle Granville) were also home to Welsh born families. In 1852, thirty Welsh settlers arrived in Middle Granville (SlateValleyMuseun.org) and three hundred more in 1891. In the 1900 census for the Granville area, there are 677 Welsh born persons. Occupations are almost all involved in the slate industry, such as Slate Boss, Slate Worker, Trimmer, Miner, Block Cutter, Splitter.

Williams Grave at Elmwood Cemetery, Granville, NYWhat made this excursion extra special to me was that this was my hometown. I grew up here in the 40’s, my Dad grew up here, his parents, grandparents and great grandparents. This became home to the family after leaving Wales around 1860. We are a blend of Roberts, Jones, Williams and Rowlands. David W. Roberts and Catherine Jones CwmDyli named after an aunt instead of the family name of Roberts came from the Beddgelert area, John Rowlands and Ann Williams Boarding from Llanllyfni or Penygroes, and Ebenezer and Margaret Jones from the Bethesda/Bangor area. As we searched the area and saw piles of slate looming near the road and through the trees memories came flooding back of watching my Taid and Uncles leaving in the early morning dressed for work including shiny lunch buckets and returning late afternoon covered in slate dust and toting lunch buckets that no longer had a shine. Every quarry had several quarry sticks and today there is only one left. My earliest memories are about living in “the long houses”, which I later discovered were “workers’ housing”. Our visit made me realize how much history the town that I hadn’t been able to wait to leave, had to share now and how much I really wanted to learn more about the area, my family, their struggles and to share their stories with my children and grandchildren. Genealogy research can help unlock some of the family mystery. Our group, directed by our President, Susan Davies Sit does just that.

 

WSWNE celebrates St. David’s Day!

St. David’s Day Celebrated in Connecticut

by Leslie Spencer

St. David’s Day was celebrated with gusto in East Windsor, Connecticut this past

Ed & Beth Brown with Sherry Williams

March 7th by the Welsh Society of Western New England.  The Nutmeg Restaurant was the lovely setting for the Welsh gathering, lunch, annual business meeting of WSWNE, and excellent talk and slide presentation on the history of Plaid Cymru by board member Shirley Gilmartin.  A large bouquet of daffodils graced the entrance, as did welcoming words and embraces.  Susan Davies Sit, president of the society, had recently returned from Wales and had brought back gifts, including a child’s rugby ball, that were all part of the Welsh “Tea cup” auction.  Other items including Welsh notecards, Welsh flag tee shirts and bags were also available for purchase.  A large map of Wales was on display with pins showing the origins of members’ Welsh roots and members delighted in sharing their Welsh roots with others.  And Ed and Beth Brown added a delightful presence dressed in traditional Welsh clothing.  He wore slate quarry miners work clothes and cap, and she with long country dress, apron, and tall black hat, still traditionally seen in Wales by women on St. David’s Day.  Amid lively conversation The Nutmeg prepared a delicious lunch starting with leek soup, a choice of entree, accompanied by bottles of Llanllyr Source spring water from West Wales.

Shirley Gilmartin delivers a presentation

Shirley Gilmartin’s talk was riveting as she shared from the book Gwynfor Evans, Portrait of a Patriot, by Rhys Evans, and also of her personal involvement during the resurgence of Welsh nationalism as a youth growing up in Wales. She also shared the emotionally charged story of the flooding of the Tryweryn Valley and the role Plaid Cymru played as well as its role in the establishment of a Welsh language TV channel S4C and Radio Cymru.

The warmth of old friends and new ones made, gave this annual tradition a special day to remember.  We closed with the singing of the Welsh national anthem and as always, look forward to future Welsh gatherings.

Christmas Festivities in 2014

On December 6, 2014 the Welsh Society of Western New England had a special guest attend the annual Christmas Luncheon. DylanChristmas Tables at WSWNE's Christmas Gathering Thomas arrived, in the person of Glyn Dowden, a Society member known for the ability to impersonate the famous writer. He told the story of Thomas’s life, accompanied by a slide show of photos of Thomas, his family, the house in Laugharne, and of Swansea where he was born

Thomas, alias Glyn Dowden, was a welcome guest at the event, which took place at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Holyoke MA. The Inn is a Victorian-style building, with lots of dark wood, but the Garden Room has a wall of windows, so it was flooded with natural light, even on a rainy day.

At noon there was a brief cocktail hour, during which Beth Roberts Brown served as hostess of a very successful Teacup Auction of Welsh products and memorabilia. Christmas crackers were pulled with gusto and heads adorned with multi-colored crowns. Jokes were heard across tables, inciting both laughter and groans. The atmosphere was festive, filled with the warmth of camaraderie and affection.

Singing at our Christmas GatheringAnnouncements were made by the President, Susan Davies Sit, followed by the fascinating history of one of Wales’ most influential authors. Many of us were familiar with Thomas’ writing, but Glyn chronicled the story of a life cut short at the age of 39, adding the details that gave the background of his life and how that affected his writing and early death. The singing of Welsh Christmas carols, led by Leslie Spencer and the Welsh national anthem, followed Glyn’s performance.

Gifts were exchanged in the form of smiles, hugs and the greetings of friends who are connected by love of Wales, the Welsh people, language, and history, but also by the community we have created together.

St. David’s Day with WSWNE

By Glyn Dowden

The annual St. David’s Day Gathering of the Welsh Society of Western New England (WSWNE) was held on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at the Nutmeg restaurant in East Windsor, CT.

From Connecticut, Western Massachusetts and even as far away as New Hampshire there was a gathering of 45 Welsh, or partly Welsh, or vaguely Welsh souls in attendance.  With an energetic clink of a glass WSWNE president Susan Sit kicked things off with p’nawn da. We then watched a brief video of Carwyn Jones the First Minister of Wales. In his St David’s Day message Carwyn, who has made something of a reputation for himself with the English by always claiming, quite rightly some would say, that London is to blame for all that is untoward in Wales, wished everyone a happy St David’s Day. “Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus i bawb.”

Jason Ellsworth then delivered a prayer and paraphrased part of a poem by Brian Harris; to be Welsh is to be born privileged with music in your heart and poetry in your soul.

This set the right mood for the afternoon so that we could all settle down to eat and drink. Needless to say, even though Saint David with a white dove on his shoulder, thought that monks should pull the ploughs without draught animals, drink only water and eat only bread with salt and herbs, and he taught that his followers should refrain from eating meat and drinking beer, we ignored all that and a good time. Some eating fish, some meat or chicken and others the pasta. By the time we had finished the last main course, ice cream and coffee we had also enjoyed sharing our history, stories and pleasantries with each other across the table. Most conversations revolved around Welsh heritage, but because of the melting pot of America we had a scattering of Welshness from all different peoples with connections to countries such as Italy, Ireland, England, Germany etc. On our table we had Dewi Joslin Snr., his Italian wife Diane and Dewi Joslin Jnr. who had travelled all the way from New Hampshire to celebrate with us. Dewi’s mother had been born and lived in Conwy, Wales. Also Valerie, a chapter president of the DAR and whose family were Mormons in Wales. She told us about her experience as a member of “The Society of Descendants of Lady Godiva” (who could have believed there was one of these in the US). Such were the many convivial conversations that took place.

Susan quickly dispensed with Annual Board matters with a minor modification to our by laws and the voting in of the same Board members.

Bob Bolgard WSWNE treasurer provided a summary of the finances and assured us that were we were solvent.

Sherry Williams our vice president thanked those of us who attended the lunch and expressed her delight at being able to celebrate Saint Davids day.

Then it was down to presentations:

Sherry described the Welsh Dragon while holding up a steel copy of the Y Ddraig Goch. Apparently the red dragon represents a fierce warrior. The story being; the red dragon overcame the white dragon which was the Saxon invader.

Our speakers on St. David's Day.

The four speakers at our event: Trey McCain, Sherry Williams, Shirley Keifer and Magdalen Dowden.

Magdalen Dowden told us all about the Welsh National Anthem “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” which was composed by Evan James in 1856 in Pontypridd. Apparently ever since its introduction the English have protested that “God Save The Queen” is the national anthem of the UK and all four of its constituent countries. The Welsh of course pay no attention to this and “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” can be heard at all major pubic events in Wales or where ever the welsh are representing their country.

Trey McCain revealed how the leek and daffodil became national emblems. The leak being the first emblem. According to folklore it could protect you from lightning and was worn in battle since it could protect you from harm (and who’s to say it didn’t). Anyway the battle of Crecy where Welsh bowmen came to the fore was fought in a leak field and according to Shakespeare Henry V wore, or had a leak. The daffodil “Cennin Pedr” or Peter’s Leak on the other hand has a shorter history. This national emblem was, for who knows what reason, vigorously promoted by Lloyd George. As an aside it turns out that daffodils produce Galan amine compound which is used to slow the effects of Alzheimer’s. We always knew the Welsh were smarter than the average.

Shirley Kiefer entertained us with two lovely stories about mythic Salmon. The first with an Irish setting and the other in Wales. According to legend and Shirley there is a good chance that salmon can change an Irishman into somebody like James Bond and a Welshman into a Bard.

Sherry then mentioned the upcoming auction that we were planning and Magdalen instantly offered up her husband but fortunately there were no takers.

We closed with the Welsh National Anthem all singing in the Welsh language and looked forward to next time when we would celebrate the culture and memories of Wales.