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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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Conservatives in disarray over alleged Christmas party lockdown breach

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THE CONSERVATIVE Party is investigating the attendance of senior Senedd members and staff at a Christmas party held during December’s lockdown.

Lockdown restrictions prohibit mixing with people outside your own household.

The Welsh restrictions barring such gatherings follow the basic outline of those imposed by the Conservative UK Government in December.

Those attending the drinks party included Paul Smith, the Conservative Chief of Staff at the Senedd, Darren Millar, the Party’s Chief Whip and campaign coordinator, and Preseli Pembrokeshire MS and Conservative Senedd Group Leader Paul Davies.

The Herald understands that a Labour Senedd Member who attended the Party has been suspended by the Labour Senedd Group pending its own investigation.

The Conservatives’ embarrassment at talking the talk but not walking the walk is intensified by Darren Millar’s presence at the shindig.

In May, Mr Millar led calls for Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething to be sacked for eating a bag of chips in a park with one of his own children.

If the Conservative Party follows the logic of their previously stated positions, Mr Millar’s and Mr Davies’ futures look bleak indeed.

With a Senedd election only months away, the revelations have thrown the Conservatives into disarray.

If they do nothing, the Conservatives will – at the very least – face claims they are hypocrites.

If the Conservative Party acts decisively, it faces massive internal problems.

The Conservatives responded to our request for a response to our story.

Those involved stressed they did not host a Christmas Party.

The incident happened on December 8, when the above met in the members’ tea room to discuss legislation for possible inclusion in the Welsh Conservative manifesto with a Labour backbencher.

During the evening they did drink a glass or two of wine.

They stress that at no point were there more than four people in the room at any one time and that they maintained social distancing.

A joint statement from Paul Davies, Darren Millar, and Paul Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions.

“While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”

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Warning to drug users in Ceredigion over ‘Street Valium’

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POLICE are once again warning drug users in Ceredigion to take extra care when taking illegal prescription drugs especially when taken in conjunction with other drugs and/or alcohol. Mixing drugs, knowingly or unknowingly, can be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “We have reasons to believe that drug users are making use of “Street Valium” at the moment and this is very concerning as individuals just do not know what these tablets may have been combined with. Valium, also known as diazepam – is a benzodiazepine. Combining opioids and benzodiazepines is particularly dangerous because both types of drug sedate users and suppress breathing”.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately should they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone that you believe could come into contact with these drugs.”

To seek advice and support, visit https://barod.cymru/where-to-get-help/west-wales-services/ddas-dyfed-drug-and-alcohol-service/

Please be aware that some services may operate an automated service outside office hours.

In an emergency, or if you think someone’s life is at risk, always dial 999.

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Ben Lake MP stands up for Ceredigion’s hospitality sector in Parliament

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A WESTMINSTER Hall debate, brought about by an online petition signed over 200,000 times, saw MPs on both sides come together to shine a light on the challenges currently faced by restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and supply chain businesses across the UK.

During his contribution to the debate, Ben Lake MP emphasised the importance of the hospitality industry to Ceredigion’s local economy. Ceredigion is home to nearly 400 food and accommodation businesses, including 75 pubs, and together hospitality businesses employ 4,500 people in the county. This equates to over 16% of all employees, without accounting for the many supply chain jobs that are dependent on the sector, such as those found in breweries, food wholesale, and catering equipment hire businesses.

Figures published by UK Hospitality have shown that approximately 41% of hospitality businesses suggested that they would fail by mid-2021 and only one in five sector businesses have enough cash flow to survive beyond February.

Ben Lake MP said: “The vaccination programme of course offers some hope that we will see the level of Covid disruption reduce significantly this year, but hospitality businesses across Ceredigion tell me that they are deeply concerned about their immediate prospects for survival.

“I support calls for the Treasury to provide additional funds so that businesses can be supported to bounce back once restrictions have been eased, and to pause employer national insurance contributions for furloughed employees as a way of alleviating the burden on businesses that are still, in many instances, required by law to close. I also urged the Treasury to consider extending the business rates holiday for the forthcoming financial year, as well as extending the hospitality VAT reduction scheme into 2022.

“Not only would these support measures give businesses the support they require to see out this pandemic, it would also avoid the terrible situation whereby businesses that have previously received Government support are forced to close for good – leaving their employees without a job and previous Government support in vain.”

While there will be no direct action as a consequence of this Westminster Hall debate, it is hoped the result will put increased pressure on the UK Government to consider the proposal more seriously.

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