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Love is in the air at Aber

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Eurig Salisbury and Rhiannon Parry: On their wedding day in 2013,
they returned to the lecture room where they’d met as undergraduates

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.”

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The tale of the WW2 Luftwaffe pilot who mistakenly landed in west Wales

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IT WAS this time of year, 1942, that a bizarre series of events led to a German fighter pilot landing at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, unintentionally aiding the war effort of The Allied Forces in the process.

On June 23, 1942, Oberleautnant Armin Fabar was ordered to a fly a combat mission along with his squadron, in response to an Allied bombing raid of northern France.

Armin Faber mistakenly flew to South Wales after the dog-fight

Fabar’s squadron (the 7th Staffel) all flew Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes. These planes were seen as superior to the then current Spitfires of the Allied Forces, and in the subsequent dog-fight that developed over The English Channel seven Spitfires were shot down, compared to only two Focke-Wulf 190s (FW-190s).

One Czechoslovakian Spitfire pilot, Alois Vašátko, dramatically lost his life when, in the fray of combat, he collided head-on with an FW-190. The German pilot bailed out and was later captured by Allied Forces.

Spitfire pilot Alois Vašátko lost his life in the battle

In the ensuing battle, Faber became disorientated and was separated from his squadron. He was attacked by a Spitfire manned by Seargent František Trejtnar. In a desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer, Faber fled North over the skies of Devon. He pulled off a brilliant ‘Immelman Turn’, a move in which the sun is used to dazzle a pursuer on your tail. Now flying directly from Trejtnar’s view of the sun, Faber shot him down.

Trejtnar crashed near the village of Black Dog, Devon suffering shrapnel wounds and a broken arm.

The victorious Faber had another problem entirely, though he was unaware of it at the time. He had mistaken The Bristol Channel for The English Channel, and flew north into south Wales, thinking it was northern France!

Finding the nearest airfield – RAF Pembrey, in Carmarthernshire, Faber prepared to land. Observers on the ground ‘could not believe their eyes’ as Faber waggled his wings in a victory celebration, lowered the Focke-Wulf’s undercarriage and landed.

Faber expected to be greeted with open arms by his German brothers, but was instead greeted by Pembrey Duty Pilot, Sgt Matthews, pointing a flare gun at his face (he had no other weapon to hand).

As the gravity of the mistake slowly dawned on him, the stricken Faber was ‘so despondent that he attempted suicide’ unsuccessfully.

Faber was later driven to RAF Fairwood Common for interrogation under the escort of Group Captain David Atcherley. Atcherley, fearful of an escape attempt, aimed his revolver at Faber for the entire journey. At one point the car hit a pothole, causing the weapon to fire; the shot only narrowly missing Faber’s head!

Fabers mistaken landing in Wales was a gift for The Allied Forces, a disaster for The Third Reich.

He had inadvertently presented the RAF with one of the greatest prizes of the entire war – an intact example of the formidable Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane, an aircraft the British had learned to fear and dread ever since it made its combat debut the previous year.

Over the following months Faber’s plane was examined in minute detail, the allies desperately looking for any weakness in the FW-190. There were few to be found.

They did find one, however.

The FW-190s became relatively sluggish at higher altitudes. This knowledge aided the Allied Forces and saved countless lives, as the aerial battles turned increasingly in their favour.

Faber was taken as a prisoner of war, eventually being sent to a POW camp in Canada. Towards the end of the war he was sent home to Germany due to his ill health.

49 years later Faber would visit the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, where parts of his FW-190 are displayed to this day, along with parts of the Spitfire that he shot down in the skies over Devon. He presented the Museum with his officer’s dagger and pilot’s badge.

This little-known but important piece of Carmarthenshire history illustrates not only the high-stakes arms race between The Third Reich and The Allied Forces during WW2, but also the cost of human error.

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Cered organises a fun evening for Llandysul Cubs with ‘Britain’s got Talent’ star

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CERED: Menter Iaith Ceredigion hosted a fantastic evening for Llandysul Cubs where the comedian Noel James from ‘Britiain’s got Talent’ came to entertain them.

Rhodri Francis, Cered Development Officer said, “We are very keen to work with organisations like the Cubs in order to hold a series of Welsh language events for their members. The evening with Noel James at Llandysul Cubs was fantastic – everyone enjoyed themselves! We wish to organise more events there in the future. We would like to thank Llandysul Cub leaders for giving us the opportunity to work with them so that their members can have the opportunity to socialise and enjoy activities through the medium of Welsh”.

Alix Bryant,Cub Leader 1st Llandysul Scout Group said, “On behalf of Llandysul Cub Scouts I would like to say a huge thank you to Cered for organising a very entertaining evening for the Cubs. It was great for the children to be entertained bilingually by Noel James, he did an amazing job. I think the children especially enjoyed the impressions!”

“This session has inspired the children to complete their entertainers badge so maybe we will have a few budding Welsh comedians in our group. Thank you again and we look forward to working with Cered in the future”.

For more information about Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion events and activities, visit their website, cered.cymru or their Facebook page, @ceredmenteriaith, or get in touch by calling 01545 572 358.

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Time given to develop Parc Natur Penglais

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New steps: At Parc Natur Penglais

VOLUNTEERS, including students, have given around 500 hours of their time to develop Parc Natur Penglais.

Along with support from Ceredigion County Council, the Group have built around 100 steps in 5 different places which has made the park a great place to walk, play and enjoy around a number of safe paths.

Councillor Mark Strong said: “Knowing that we have the support of the local community makes such a difference to peoples’ enthusiasm and having the grant from Aberystwyth Town Council, Cambrian News and Tesco made it possible. Volunteers can make a relatively small sum of money go long way.”

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