By Judith Brougham, September 2003
For the first time ever, Welsh Heritage Week was held in Virginia. Founded in 1981, Welsh Heritage Week was first held at Keuka College in Upstate New York, then each year in different areas of the East and Midwest and Wales. The years in Wales were 1992, 1996, 2000 and next year. A week of language class, hymn-singing in Welsh, Welsh folk dance, Welsh folk harp, traditional session music, and Welsh poetry and literature are taught by a staff who travel to the United States from Wales each year.
John Albert Evans of Cardiff is the head tutor who organizes the classes. A veteran teacher, member of the boards of education in Wales, the Welsh Language Center on the Lleyn Peninsula, and an untiring wizard at teaching struggling learners, John Albert continues to have faith in our ability.
Dafydd Thomas (“Flat Out” Dafydd) of Aberystwyth taught Welsh folk dance. Rest? Why? There is so much dancing to do and so little time! Jen Williams from Bala, who leads the session band that provided the music for the Twmpath Dawns (barn-dance) Thursday night, kept everyone dancing for the evening. Dafydd Thomas is head of Information Technology services for Ceredigion County Council. Jen Williams is a music student at the University of Wales, Bangor.
Ysgol Gan (hymn singing class) has become an institution of high quality singing, pronunciation, and inspiration under the leadership of Gareth Hughes Jones of Caernarfon. (Through a computer error, his name became transmuted to “Hones”). His representation of the Arch Druid at the Eisteddfod on Saturday night is inspiring in its own way and has already established several traditions to which we look forward every year. Gareth Hughes Jones is a music lecturer. He is the past director of Caernarfon Male Choir.
During her days in Richmond, prior to Welsh Heritage Week, our secretary, Sallie Huffman, of Dallas, Texas, met a retired professor, Dr. David Jenkins, who has researched Goronwy Owen (1720 – 1769), the Welshman who was an Anglican clergyman in early Williamsburg, colonial period. He was a classics teacher at the College of William and Mary. In 1756, the Bishop of London had Goronwy sent to Virginia on a prison ship. Goronwy was an advocate of the Welsh strict meter form of poetry (cynghanedd). An outspoken rebel, he had been “removed” from Britain to the Commonwealth of Virginia as a last resort. Professor Jenkins has come to an appreciation of Welsh culture through studying the life and works of The Reverend Owens. He and his colleague Bob Jeffreys gave us a special presentation of their research efforts in a talk on Friday afternoon. The Cymrodorian Society, who revived the Eisteddfod, had enshrined Goronwy as a Bard.
Our association has become enriched over the years by the return of regular participants. Our attendance this year included forty people representing a range of ages and several states. Next year we are looking forward to Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru, being held at the Welsh Language Center at Nant Gwrtheyrn, on the LlynPeninsula. The dates: July 25 to August 8, 2004, immediately followed by a tour that will include the National Eisteddfod of Wales being held in Newport, Wales.
On the Saturday, at the start of our Week, we offer participants a chance to see a local historical site, and become rested for our very active week. This year our day tour was to Williamsburg, Virginia. A bus took thirteen of us from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, back up the Virginia Peninsula to Williamsburg. An enthusiastic tour guide met us at the Visitor Center and took us to the Governor’s Palace, where we sang the Welsh National Anthem in the ballroom, had tours of the Bruton Parish Church, the Capitol Building, the Mary Stith House for a concert of period music, The Kings Arm Tavern for lunch, which was the Inn where Thomas Jefferson had lived while a student at the College of William and Mary, and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, where we viewed period clothing. While outside the Kings Arm Tavern, four fife and drum marching bands passed in parade. It was a very clear, hot day, and we were pressed to keep up the schedule.
On another day in Newport News, some of us found time to visit the Mariner’s Museum, one of the finest in the world. Currently, they are restoring the ironclad Union ship, the “Monitor.”
Christopher Newport University is a local state college, named for the captain who brought the settlers who founded Jamesport. It has had a program of new buildings recently, and we were able to enjoy the fine facilities in our dormitory, classrooms and cafeteria. Ted Darby, a retired Naval Officer, teaches at Christopher Newport University.
Our host and hostess, Ted and Pat Darby, were supreme planners and gracious providers of transportation, Friday night meal, and arranged for rental harps. Our Gymanfa Ganu is held on the last Sunday morning. This year we were privileged to be guests of Pat and Ted Darby at their home church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, in Hampton, Virginia. It was the first church established in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which, of course, was founded before the other colonies.
One of our great pleasures is to have Welsh harp taught by Dr. Elonwy Wright of Cardiff. There is a beginner class and an intermediate class held in the afternoons. Lon brings us newly researched and arranged music each year. Elonwy is a science teacher at a Welsh medium high school in Cardiff. (Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, Caerdydd).
Many thanks are due to Director, Beth Landmesser, of Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, who steadfastly plans the staffing and logistics of Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru each year. Beth is already hard at work planning for 2004 in Wales. There are raffle tickets being sold ($25 each) for free airfare on BMI Airlines to Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru in 2004 – courtesy of Wales Tourist Board. The drawing will be held on February 1, 2004. The Reverend Anita Ambrose will make the drawing. To purchase your lottery ticket, please send a check toWythnos Treftadaeth Cymru at P.O. Box 241, Bear Creek, PA 18602.
We also have a new art design on pale gray tee shirts: long sleeved, $18, and short sleeved, $12. Again, please send your check and order to Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru at the address shown above.
For more information about Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru, please visit our web site at http://welshheritageweek.org. Long time youth member Tegan Frick Kappel is our new webmaster. Wythnos Treftadaeth Cymru is sponsored by the Welsh Harp and Heritage Society of North America, a not-for-profit 501c3 organization, founded in 1985.