ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY recently set a mission for alumni to get in touch and share their romantic stories to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day.
Couples who met and came together during their time at Aberystwyth University now have the chance, until St Valentine’s Day, to share their stories and photos on social media by using the #loveaber hashtag.
This is a unique and wonderful task created by Aberystwyth University, which has the aim of forming a visual record of the shared stories and memories from over the years.
Of course, there are no limits to the stories, which can include anything from walks along the promenade or even meeting by chance in one of the many lecture halls.
UMCA President Rhun Dafydd said in a recent statement: “Aberystwyth University attracts students from all over the world and not everyone is familiar with Welsh traditions.
“The legend of Dwynwen is ingrained in our folklore so today’s another great opportunity to celebrate our culture and share this special love story with our wider student community.”
Louise Jagger, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, said: “Aberystwyth is an exceptional place to learn and live. Students not only have access to an excellent, research-led education, they also live in a very special place and are part of a very special community.
“It’s not surprising, therefore, that so many long-term partnerships are forged between our students.
“We have alumni all over the world who met here and who look back with very fond memories at their Aber days.
“We look forward now to hearing more stories about how they met and to see some of their memorable photos either from their time as students or their wedding day.”
St Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Dydd Santes Dwynwen, bases itself on the fifth century folk story of the Welsh maiden Dwynwen, one of the 24 daughters of Welsh king Brychan Brycheiniog.
Her life was seen to be a very tragic one as she fell in love with a man named Maelon Dafodrill at the same time her father planned for her to marry someone else she did not love.
As a result, Dwynwen was forbidden to see Maelon.
Because of this, she decided to turn to God in her hour of need and prayed for help to forget about Maelon. Then, an angel visited her in her sleep and gave her a potion to erase her feelings for Maelon and to turn him into a block of ice.
From then on, Dwynwen devoted her life to God and she was granted three wishes, which she used to ask for Maelon to be thawed, for God to meet the needs of all lovers and for her to never marry.
Dwynwen set up a convent on the island of Llanddwyn, off the Anglesey coast. The remains of the church can still be seen on the island, along with her well which is believed to be the home to sacred fish who can predict whether couple’s relationships will succeed.
A sign of a faithful husband is shown if the fish are seen to be active when visiting the well and has since become a place of pilgrimage for young Welsh lovers since Dwynwen’s death in the fifth century.
Eurig and Rhiannon Salisbury also met at Aberystwyth and recently celebrated the first birthday of their son, Llew. On their wedding day in 2013, they made sure their wedding photos also included the lecture room where they were first introduced.
Talking to The Herald, Eurig told us about his time at Aberystwyth University: “I came to Aber to study Welsh and Film and Television Studies, and stayed on at the Department of Welsh for an MPhil degree.
“After a brief spell as a translator for the Welsh Assembly, I spent nine years as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, and I’m now back in the university working as a lecturer in the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies.”
Describing how they met, Eurig said: “Rhiannon and I met at the Old College when we were both students in the Department of Welsh. I remember arriving late to a lecture more than once and having to ask someone for paper and a pen, and it was Rhiannon (who’s much more conscientious than me) more often than not who helped me out!
“Rhiannon and I aren’t unique in this sense – I know of many, many other couples who first met in Aber, not only during their time at university, but both before and after.
“My younger brother included, who’ll be marrying later this year after meeting his wife-to-be, Alwen, when they were both students here!
“There’s something about Aber – maybe its apparent remoteness, coupled with the stunning views on the front – that’s uniquely romantic.”
“In your opinion, how important do you feel it is to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day and to promote it to others?” we asked Eurig, to which he responded: “St Dwynwen’s Day can be, like all other ‘days’ for this and that, a bit gimmicky, but its unique Welshness is something to celebrate, I think. As well as the fact it’s always worth celebrating anything that’s to do with love!”
The Herald also interviewed James January-McCann, who met his wife during their student days at Aberystwyth University.
James said: “I’m currently in my second year working as a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Welsh at the uni, responsible for Welsh for Beginners and Modern Irish, following the completion of my PhD in the department.”
On his time studying at Aberystwyth University, James said: “I loved pretty much everything about studying in Aber: the friendliness of the town, the fact that the Welsh department has always felt like an extended family, the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Welsh language, and the fact that the unusually high number of Irish speakers means that you can actually spend a surprising amount of time speaking Irish in the area.”
James then described to us how he met Kate: “The story of how I met Kate is actually somewhat unromantic. It was during the first term of my first year, and I’d been to a lecture by Jordi Pujol, ex-president of Catalonia, run by the politics department, and was so tired that I’d actually fallen asleep in the lecture and started snoring loudly!
“I just wanted to go home afterwards and go to bed, but my friends Rick and John insisted that I go to Pier Pressure for the birthday party of one Rick’s girlfriend’s housemates.
“I refused, so they ended up physically carrying me into the club. I’m still not sure why the bouncers let us in. We met up with the girls and, as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to the prettiest one, Kate.
“We got talking, and after a while she asked me to dance. I politely refused, explaining that I wasn’t drunk enough yet. Unfortunately, whilst what I meant was that, being a middle-class white man, I am completely unable to dance whilst even remotely sober, what she took from this was that I thought she was too ugly to dance with sober.
“Kate, understandably, flounced off, and as I watched her go, I thought to myself ‘what are you doing? She’s gorgeous’, downed my pint and ran out onto the dance floor after her.
“The rest, as they say, is history. We went back to her room in Pantycelyn and only noticed that we’d spent the whole night talking when the sun came up.
“After three weeks of impeccably teenage ‘oh my god do you think s/he really likes me?’, whilst our friends tore their hair out and shouted ‘of course s/ he does, you idiot – it’s obvious’, we got together and have been ever since.
“We got married in Aber four years ago and have a three-year-old son called Osian.”
On Aberystwyth University’s aim to create a visual record of the romantic stories of Aberystwyth couples, James said: “I like the idea of the university’s pictorial record of couples who met whilst studying here.
“I’m just somewhat jealous of couples who did it romantically, like my colleague, Eurig Salisbury, and his wife, who had their wedding photos in the lecture hall in which they met.
“Understandably, Kate and I didn’t want to have our wedding photos taken in the pier…”
Concluding the interview, The Herald asked James how important he felt it is to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day and to promote it to others, to which he answered: “St Dwynwen’s Day is very important to us, because neither of us can stand St Valentine’s Day as it’s far too commercialised and ridiculous.
“We’ve celebrated St Dwynwen’s Day in the same way every year that we’ve been together, with a packet of Tregroes Waffles. One of the dinnerladies in Pantycelyn gave Kate a packet for us when they found out that we’d just got together, and we’ve kept up the tradition ever since.
“I think that we, as a society, should do more to promote St Dwynwen’s Day as something intrinsically Welsh, and considerably less rubbish than St Valentine’s Day.”