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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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A brand new Welsh language ukulele orchestra

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CAN you play the ukulele and would like to join a ukulele orchestra? Or would you like to learn a new skill and to socialise in a Welsh-speaking environment? Why not join Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl?

On Monday, October 15, Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Learn Welsh will launch Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl which is a brand new, Welsh language ukulele orchestra in Aberystwyth for free, for those aged 16+.

Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl will practice weekly between 6pm and 7:30pm every Monday night during the school term and practices will take place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There is no need for any experience or ability on the ukulele and there will be instruments available to borrow so that you can have a taste before buying your own ukulele.

Welsh will be the main language of Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl but there is a warm welcome to everyone whatever your level of proficiency in Welsh. Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl is supported by Learn Welsh as a great activity for learners to practice their Welsh outside the classroom in a fun and new way.

Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl’s conductor will be Steffan Rees who has held a number of Iwcs a Hwyl workshops over the last year as Cered’s Community Development Officer. Steffan is also a musician who composes and performs as “Bwca” and he has been playing the ukulele for years.

Steffan said, “I have really wanted to start a Welsh ukulele orchestra in Ceredigion for a while having seen the successes and popularity of those in Cardiff and South East Wales. The ukulele is an instrument that excites people of all ages and with some patience and perseverance, it is an easy enough instrument to master. I’m looking forward to developing a repertoire with the orchestra and play a few gigs; the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron in 2020 perhaps!”

Numbers for the first term of the orchestra are limited so contact the Arts Centre Box Office on 01970 632 232 to book your place in Cerddorfa Iwcs a Hwyl.

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Hanes Llambed meeting held

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THE FIRST meeting of Hanes Llambed of the 2018/19 year was held in Lampeter’s Trinity Saint David’s Old Hall this week.

There was a good attendance as Cwrtnewydd resident Simon Evans gave the first of what will eventually be two talks about his home parish of Llanwenog.

Mr Evans spoke of how the parish was defined by the Afon Cledlyn and its tributaries, describing the region’s history from the Stone Age to the present day. The talk spoke of the several hill forts of the area, as well as Llanwenog church, founded around 500 AD, before it was built in its current form in the 14th century.

The Battle of Llanwenog in 981 AD between the Welsh and invading Danes was detailed, before the speaker went on to describe the Puritan struggle and the Civil War.

The talk then went on to the establishment of private academies by nonconformist ministers from 1750 onwards, and the founding of Unitarian chapels in the early 19th century.

The terrible agricultural situation of the 1840s was described, followed by the bad harvests, which led directly to the Rebecca Riots and emigration to the USA and elsewhere in Britain.

The next meeting of Hanes Llambed will take place in October when the subject will be the Cardiganshire War Tribunals of the First World War.

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Former AM charged with child porn offences

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SIMON THOMAS, the former Plaid Cymru AM for Mid & West Wales has been charged with three offences of making indecent images of children.

Mr Thomas, aged 54, was charged with the offences earlier today (Sept 18) at Aberystwyth Police Station.

He has been bailed to appear at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, October 3.

At the time of his arrest, Mr Thomas was his Party’s spokesperson on Rural Affairs and Energy policy and had recently taken up a role which would have seen him perform a significant role in Plaid Cymru’s future campaigns.

His arrest in July was a shock both to his political allies and those in other parties in the Assembly.

Following his arrest, Mr Thomas resigned immediately as an Assembly Member and from Plaid Cymru. He was replaced as regional AM by Helen Mary Jones.

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