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Celebrating the national game’s origins

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The teams line up

The teams line up

LAMPETER: it’s a small town, tucked away on the borders between Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, which has played a role out of all proportion to its size in the history of Welsh culture, and particularly Welsh sport.

On Wednesday, (Mar 23), hundreds of people gathered in Lampeter to take part in celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of competitive rugby in Wales.

The nation’s favourite game was brought to Lampeter in 1866 by Rev Professor Rowland Williams, the Vice-Principal of Saint David’s College, now part of University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

It is believed that Professor Williams first played the sport during his time at King’s College Cambridge and once he took post in Lampeter he believed that rugby was what was needed to get the students in better shape and to enhance their development during their spare time.

Acknowledging the important contribution that both genders make to the sport, the day started with a women’s rugby match between UWTSD Women’s XV and Lampeter Town Ladies. The match was evenly played and showed some excellent skills by the two development sides; however, in the second half Lampeter Town upped the ante and took a 24-15 victory.

The headlining match of the day took place between ‘UWTSD Fighting Parsons’ and touring XV the Welsh Academicals. An amazing performance by UWTSD saw them leading by 11 points at half time but the Academicals had a strong second half resulting in a final score of UWTSD 21 – 71 Welsh Academicals.

The matches were well supported with locals businesses, students and locals in attendance as well as some notable visitors such as Ryan Jones, former Wales number 8, Venerable Randolph Thomas chair of council UWTSD, several members of the Lampeter Town Council, as well as rugby legends Barry John, Roy Bergiers, Delme Thomas and Derrick Quinnell.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the President of Lampeter RFC and local historian, Selwyn Walters has written a book on the history of the game and its origins. The book was launched at the event and is available to purchase from the university.

Selwyn Walters tells the story of the development of the Fighting Parsons team, the acknowledgement that the WRU has given of Lampeter’s contribution of the sport, and tells the story of the 1966 centenary match played between St David’s College and an invitational Welsh XV at the college pitches 50 years ago which featured Welsh greats Barry John, Carwyn James and Delme Thomas.

As part of his visit, ‘King’ Barry John unveiled a monument in the grounds of the university marking the anniversary and giving credit to Rev Prof Rowland Williams.

The beautiful stone sculpture of a rugby ball was carved by UWTSD groundsman Mark, using stone from the original Canterbury building that stood proudly opposite the iconic St David’s building still present on the Lampeter campus today.

During the unveiling of the monument an exhibition was displayed in the university library showing a variety of rugby related items from the Roderick Bowen archive and many students past and present. Distinguished guests at the event enjoyed the excellent display of material, unique to Lampeter and its amazing archive.

Following the presentation of an honorary fellowship to Barry John for his contribution towards sport and rugby in particular, the day came to a finale with a celebratory dinner in the Lloyd Thomas Hall.

There was an excellent atmosphere, with all of the rugby teams joining in to enjoy an evening of locally sourced produce, presentations from the teams and the university, excellent Welsh music from UWTSD students and inspiring, and amusing stories from both Ven. Randolph Thomas and Selwyn Walters on rugby through the years and its significance to Welsh life and Welsh heritage.

The whole experience capped an excellent day of celebration that recognised the contribution that the little Welsh town of Lampeter has made to the Welsh nation’s biggest, best, and most loved sport.

  • Monuments to Welsh rugby: The King and his Court
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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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Driving Wales to international skills success

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AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.

The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.

Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.

This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.

Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.

Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.

Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.

“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”

In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.

“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.

“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”

Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.

“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”

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