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.

Posted in Our Events, Welsh Culture Tagged with: , ,

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.

 

Posted in Cymraeg, Our Events, St. David's Day

Six Nations Cup – The Game of Rugby in Wales

Six European nations of Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France have played in the annual competition called the “6 Nations Cup” since it was formed (previously as 4 teams in the Home Nations Cup from 1881) in 2000.  Wales has won the 6 Nations Cup 26 times since then and I remember Wales being such a strong and winning team in the 70’s.  The period 1969-1979 was called the “golden era.”  Wales has won 47 of the 70 “6 Nations Cup” games played since 2000.  A Grand Slam is when a nation beats the other 5 nations on their way to the title.  Wales has won the Grand Slam title 11 times since 1908.  Quite a feat!

Welsh Rugby Team

The victorious 2013 Welsh team at last year’s Six Nations.

Rugby arrived in Wales in the 1880s. Rugby is the national sport in Wales and is a huge part of Wales’ culture with patriotism and singing in full view.

The 6 nations Cup will be played this year from Saturday, February 1st to Saturday March 15th, 2014.

Here’s the latest from www.rbs6nations.com: “Wales captain Sam Warburton has allayed any fears over his fitness for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations after admitting he expects to be back playing later this month.” So, a full strength team will be ready to repeat last year’s Grand Slam win. The games are as follows:

Sat, Feb 1: 7:30pm (EST)

Sat Feb 8: 7:30pm (EST)

Sat Feb 22: 1:00am (EST)

Sun March 9: 8:00pm (EST)

Sat March 15: 7:45pm (EST)

Look for them with your cable provider and online.

 

Posted in Welsh Culture Tagged with: , , ,

January President’s Note from Susan Davies Sit

Bore da, pawb!

I have spent the last 8 days in wonderful Wales. My Welsh family wondered why I was traveling there in January, in the middle of winter, but the airfares are less than half the cost of summer flights, flights are less than half full and it’s warmer and less snowy than New England! Conwy Castle

Did it rain? Yes it rained. I think it rained every day at some point….but it didn’t stop my mum and I doing anything on our list.

We drove through Snowdonia, via Betws-y-Coed for lunch and shopping for Welsh “things” that I just can’t do without, stopped for photographs of the snowy mountain tops and steel grey lakes, through Capel Curig and Caernarfon and back home to Rhos-on-Sea on the North Wales coast.

Another day took us around the place of my Taid’s ancestors, the isle of Anglesey, with lunch at the White Eagle in Rhoscolyn overlooking the Lleyn Peninsular and a drive around its’ coast through Llanfaethlu, Bull Bay, Amlwch, and Benllech then back across the Menai Straits to the shores of Bangor and home.

Pastries in WalesRestaurants and pubs in Wales are increasingly noting the source of their meats, seafood and vegetables. Locally grown produce and local farm-raised meats are served on every menu. I enjoyed local beef, partridge and lamb. We watched a fishing boat trawling back and forth on the Menai Straits for Anglesey mussels while enjoying an afternoon tea of scones, bara brith and lemon curd mousse etc. Heaven? Close to it.

I’ll see you on St. David’s Day for our lunch and “Welsh traditions” presentation which promises to be wonderful.

Hwyl!

Susan Davies Sit, President

Posted in President's notes, Visits to Wales Tagged with: , , , ,

Hiraeth & Hymns in Hartford

On Saturday, December 7th, the Welsh Society of Western New England reconvened at the Town and County Club in downtown Hartford for their winter gathering.  The club features wonderful seasonal decorations over the holidays and was a very warm and inviting venue for our troop.  Several of our far-flung members were present, in addition to several new faces who had learned of our organization through articles in area newspapers and magazines.Tables set for our winter luncheon.

As we sat down to lunch we indulged in one of our favorite Christmas traditions – crackers.  Heads previously bare were adorned with a cacophony of paper crowns as jokes were traded across the tables.  A little levity goes a long way, and the good nature of our group fosters more than our fair share.

Pamela Petro, a multi-talented artist who teaches creative non-fiction at Smith College and for Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing, was one of the featured guests at our gathering.  She is the author of three works of travel literature and has written for publications such as The New York Times.

Petro addressed the group on the subject of hiraeth, reading passages from her new book provisionally titled, “Hiraeth In and Outside Wales.”  She talked about the various meanings of hiraeth, including Jan Morris’ suggestion that hiraeth is “…a longing for beginnings, maybe, or for conclusions,” and the fact the hiraeth‘s only true cognate is the Portuguese word saudade. She also discussed hiraeth in relation to Dylan Thomas – his work and his influence on subsequent Welsh poets – and how she experiences hiraeth as someone who has found her “homeplace” in Wales, and yet doesn’t have a Welsh bone in her body!  Pamela concluded by showing images from her recent contemporary art installation in Massachusetts called “Hiraeth in Northampton: An Exploration of Longing.”

Kasha Breau & her harp.We also had the pleasure of welcoming Celtic harpist Kasha Breau.  After a short introduction about the harp and a brief tune-up, Breau launched into a set that sampled music from her wide repertoire.  Naturally, she presented several Welsh and Celtic tunes, including the Irish traditional Dun Oiche and the Welsh Machynlleth.  The song Merch Megan came with a story about its composer, John Perry, a blind harpist from the 18th century greatly admired Handel.  To finish the evening, and in keeping with the holiday spirit, she also played several carols to which we joined our voices.

By the end of the gathering, spirits were high and heads were clear as we gathered around the piano to sing the National Anthem.  The lyrics, these powerful invocations of Welsh spirit and history, took a different shade of meaning for me.  The music and words shared with us that day came from individuals who themselves are part of the myriad beirdd a chantorion within the legacy of Wales.

Posted in Cymraeg, Our Events

Conviviality & King Arthur at our October Gathering

Magdalen Dowdwn recounting the history of the Yankee Pedlar Inn.

Magdalen Dowden tells the history of the Yankee Pedlar Inn.

Gathering for friendship is always a joy and a meeting within our Welsh society is always a warm affair. The lunch itself was at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Holyoke, MA. The home was built in 1875 and later was converted to an inn, which we soon learned was actually the venue for the very first meeting of our society 13 years ago. Luckily for us, the founder, John Dixon, was dining with us, too.

We then had the pleasure of listening to Smith College’s Prof. Craig Davis on a classic theme, “King Arthur, Legend and Myth.” Prof. Davis is a wealth of knowledge about medieval

Pres. Sue Sit and Prof. Craig Davis

President Sue Sit and Professor Craig Davis.

Wales and its myths and legends, especially about King Arthur. He described how myths tell of a strong, brave and legendary “General” whose prowess in battle and noble, humble, and generous soul propelled him into future storytelling as the likely King Arthur we know today and who appeared throughout Celtic legends from about 300AD. We read ancient Welsh poetry and text, searching for proof that King Arthur’s legend is based in fact. Elusive as it is, Prof. Davis showed us where references have been found.

(This post was written by our president, Susan Sit.)

Posted in Our Events

President’s News – September 2013

Croeso i’r hydref – welcome to Autumn!

It has been a steamy July and a cooler August and we are already seeing the Fall colors arriving on our trees, so I find myself thinking back to our wonderful month of June when we held Welsh Classes and an Afternoon tea.  The Welsh classes gave many of us a renewed energy to further pursue our mother-tongue by taking more lessons, and speaking more Welsh.  I am speaking some Welsh to my 4 year old grandson who says a pretty good “Diolch”!

Our Autumn program looks to be quite exciting with a trip to “Peint o Gwrw” (“Pint of Beer”) Welsh Pub in Chatham, NY. The St. David’s Welsh Society of the Capital District (Albany, NY) will be holding it’s annual informal pub night in honor of Owain Glyndŵr on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm, everyone is invited! The Peint o Gwrw Tafarn is located at 36 Main Street, Chatham, NY, phone 518-392-2337. For more information, e-mail the society at: harp@nycap.rr.com.

The WSWNE will also hold a luncheon in October, see inside this newsletter for more details as well as the presentation by Craig Davis of Smith College about King Arthur’s legends and myths.
Pontarddulais Choir at NAFOW.
Four of us are recently returned from Toronto, Canada and our time at the North American Festival of Wales (NAFOW) which was another wonderful weekend of Welsh culture, language, history, dancing and of course music and song. A highlight for me was about 150 of us at the pub sing-along with the 3 Welsh Tenors and Male Choir members – so much “Hiraeth” it was palpable.

Hopefully some of you are planning a trip to Wales this fall. Several of us were born in Wales or have traveled there so please just email us to ask about any travel or tourist information. Pob Hwyl!

Susan Davies Sit, WSWNE President

P.S. Check out our newest gallery posting for more pictures of NAFOW!

Posted in Uncategorized

News from NAFOW

Susan Jennkins Meers in a traditional Welsh dress and hat.

Susan Jenkins Meers at NAFOW

An account from Susan Jenkins Meers about her time at the North American Festival of Wales.

Toronto is a beautiful city and a wonderful venue in which to once again appreciate my Welshness.  And it was especially meaningful to share the experience with my son, Jason.  We had much fun trying to speak Welsh in the beginning Welsh class; we were very intrigued with the “Pulpit to Parliament” seminar where Lord Roberts made the connection between education and moral fiber taught in Welsh Chapel and past leaders in government.  Jason was very interested to learn about ancient instruments and  music in “Welsh Traditional Music Today” and we were wonderfully informed and entertained in “We’ll Gather Lilacs”, a seminar about Ivor Novello.  The Welsh Cinema offering of “Roots in Wales” was very thought provoking.  And this was just the beginning!

As expected, we were well entertained and blessed with music. The Three Welsh Tenors sang beautifully and quipped delightfully.  The Pontarddulais Male Choir brought tears to our eyes as they made our Welshness palpable and the “Pub Singing” was fantastic! I know of nothing else that sounds so wonderful as several hundred Welsh voices raised in song.

All in all, a wonderful four-day experience.  Thank you to all those who were involved in making the 2013 North American Festival of Wales happen.  And special thank yous to D&SS.

The following is from our president, Susan Davies Sit, about her perspective at NAFOW.

I had been to the North American Festival of Wales in Scranton, PA last year, but this was my first as President of our Society. A highlight this year, in Toronto, Canada, was to connect with as many people as I could to further and promote our own WSWNE. One interesting person I met was Catrin Brace of the Welsh Government, she is based in New York City and may well be a good contact to support events we may hold in the future!

Another wonderful hour was when I attended the Affiliated Welsh Organizationsʼ meeting. These are Welsh Societies affiliated with, and listed on, the Welsh North American Association (WNAA)ʼs website. We shared our successes, advised on othersʼ difficulties (which often were the same for everyone: how to increase membership, encourage younger members and advertising/promoting the Society). We shared emails and will create an email list so we can ask each other questions, get advice, share future plans etc. We will also “Like” each other Facebook pages, link to each otherʼs Society websites on our own websites and email each other our newsletters.

Susan Davies Sit in traditional Welsh dress.

Susan Davies Sit at NAFOW.

Other interesting contacts were: Bob Roser of the band Moch Pryderi; Gareth Howell of St Davidʼs Society of Washington DC; Robert Jones of the Albany Area Welsh Society who was our Welsh language teacher in June 2013; Lord Rodger Roberts of Llandudno, active in Welsh Government and a former Minister; and Bryan Jones of ENFYS, secretary of the Journal of Wales International. I am hoping these wonderful contacts I made will further our WSWNE Society on to bigger and exciting events and expand our membership.

The 2014 NAFOW Festival will be held in Minneapolis, MN August 28-31 and we heard whisperings that it may be in the Northeast in 2015!

Posted in NAFOW, WNAA Tagged with: , , , ,

Welsh Language Classes & Tea   in Hartford – June 2013

Summer in New England is an event long anticipated among its sun-starved denizens, a season of riotous color, long evening walks and a good-natured good riddance to winter’s last vestiges. After all, winter returns quickly; it is best to part on good terms.

WSWNE sponsored Welsh classes in Hartford.

Learners hard at work with Prof. Jones’s help.

WSWNE hosted a weekend of summer gatherings that refreshed our minds and spirits. On Saturday, June 9, members and newcomers to the society took part in our first organized Welsh language classes. Thirteen students full of nervous excitement greeted Professor Robert J. Jones from the St. David’s Welsh Society of the Capital District in Albany, New York. In addition to French, German and Spanish, Prof. Jones occasionally provides a cwrs cymraeg for his students at Fulton- Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, New York. We are immensely grateful that he gave us the same privilege.

Prof. Jones’s students in WSWNE’s Welsh classes come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from Welsh expatriates interested in reconnecting with their roots to people who have visited Wales, heard the language and are keen to know more. Saturday morning in Hartford, Connecticut’s Town and County Club rang with a chorus of ch’s and ll’s as student wrapped their tongues around Welsh vowels and consonants. In no time at all introductions were flying to and fro between the tables, followed by names and refrains of da iawn. By the end of the first day’s course, students were able talk about where they were from (dod) and where they live now (byw).

Afternoon festivities consisted of a Welsh Tea, where students from the morning’s class were joined by other WSWNE members and guests. Old friends caught up and introduced each other to newcomers over a splendid array of dishes served with beautiful china that sparkled in the afternoon light. And the welshcakes! I have no fond memories of welshcakes (such was my luck in Wales), but these cakes, prepared by WSWNE board members, destroyed all of my former hesitations with cacen gri.

Three WSWNE members at the Welsh Tea.

Friends reunite and swap stories at the tea.

The presentation during the tea, entitled “Welsh Gardens and Estates,” was provided by Prof. Jones, who showed and described pictures from his visits to various lands managed by the National Trust. Views of the Laburnum Arch in Bodnant, the intricate woodwork at Plas Newydd in Llangollen and ancient yews in Powis held the attention of attendees as Prof. Jones described his journeys and his impression of the estates.

The following morning, Sunday, June 10, the Welsh class reconvened and delved further into more complicated grammar and phrases. Students grew increasingly familiar learning with both the language and each other under Prof. Jones’s instruction, and the overall sentiment at the end of the weekend was determination to improve on the progress already made in learning Welsh. A learners group is forming in Western New England – join us as we siarad cymraeg!

For more pictures of this event and others, check out our photo gallery.

 

Posted in Cymraeg, Our Events

St. David’s Day Gathering – March 2013

The annual St. David’s Day Gathering of the Welsh Society of Western New England was held on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at the Nutmeg restaurant in East Windsor, CT.

The Rev. Arvel M Steece opens in prayer.

An opening prayer is read by WSWNE founding chaplain, the Rev. Arvel M Steece.

WSWNE president Tom Bernard welcomed the largest attendance ever. He then asked for a moment of recognition in memory of several members who died in the past year (including Arthur Norwood, Sarah Dreher, Sallie Hughes Pitt, Kathleen Steece) and for Bronwyn Gosselin, whose son, Jim Gosselin, attending for the first time along with other family members, spoke of how much his mother would have enjoyed being part of this gathering.  A St. David’s Day proclamation from Susan Kitchens, British Consul General to New England, and greetings from Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, were acknowledged. An opening prayer was read by founding chaplain, the Rev. Arvel M Steece.

Following a delicious luncheon, WSWNE president Tom Bernard chaired the Annual General Meeting at which the proposed slate was unanimously elected to serve on the 2013-14 Board of  Directors.

March2013_GosselinFamilyandShirleyKiefer

The Gosselin family with Shirley Kiefer (left) who told them about our Welsh Society of Western New England.

Susan Davies Sit (CT)- President
Sherry Williams (CT) – Vice-President
Susan Jenkins Meers (CT) – Secretary/Clerk
Bob Bolgard (CT) – Treasurer
Nancy Bolgard (CT)
Beth Roberts Brown (MA)
Ed Brown (MA)
Glyn Dowden (CT)
Magdalen Dowden (CT)
Shirley Gilmartin (CT)

Tom Bernard presented a fascinating program on the topic of “Welsh Family Names: Origins, Meanings, and Significance”. After explaining the four major categories of last name derivations (Place, Occupational, Descriptive and Patronymic), he went on to give a wealth of examples and to illustrate the many influences on the form of the name. For example, the last name “Welsh” would likely be spelled “Welch” where French is spoken, become “Walsh” in Ireland, and “Wallace” in Scotland.

After pointing out that classic Welsh surnames (like Williams, Jones, and Davis/Davies) are among the most common in the U.S. population, he explained that these are actually English names. The English names were adopted at a time when people calling themselves by real Welsh names (like Lloyd, Maddox, and Rhys) were at a disadvantage; they were considered a threat by the English who occupied and dominated Wales in the early middle ages and wanted no uprisings by the likes of an Owain Glyndwr. Even the name “Wales” itself is English (meaning foreign – not English) vs. the original name of “Cymru”.

March2013_StDavidsPresidents

Outgoing president Tom Bernard turns the meeting over to the newly elected president, Susan Davies Sit.

Upon conclusion of his talk, outgoing president Tom Bernard turned the meeting over to the newly elected president, Susan Davies Sit.

Susan and others praised Tom for his ten years of outstanding service as WSWNE president. Treasurer Bob Bolgard presented Tom with a card of thanks signed by all present and a presentation desk set with a plaque that reads, “To Thomas Bernard with great appreciation for ten years service as president of the Welsh Society of Western New England. Diolch o galon.”

After several announcements of upcoming events, Tina Davies was given an enthusiastic round of applause for organizing another splendid St. David’s Day Gathering (her eleventh or twelfth?!); she thanked everyone who helped with the

March2013_RetiringPresidents

Treasurer Bob Bolgard thanks Tom Bernard for his ten years of service as WSWNE president after presenting him with a signed card and gift on behalf of the membershp.

arrangements.

The gathering ended with the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the Welsh National Anthem) accompanied by Tina Davies on piano.

The pots of daffodils that had graced the tables were given to ladies attending a WSWNE event for the first time.

Posted in Our Events

Lluniau