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OUR HISTORY

EIN HANES

In 1965, a group of Welsh friends, nostalgic for their homeland, decided to go out for a meal on the first day of March to celebrate St. David’s Day. The idea of forming a Norwich Welsh Society came from this gathering. (These friends may not have known that there had been, at least, two previous attempts to form such a society. The first, in the 1920’s was very short lived but the second had been more successful but had agreed to close down soon after the start of WWII).

 

The dinner plans continued and a second celebration was held in 1966 but then, when plans for the formation of the Society were almost complete, the driving force behind the idea (and due to be the first President), Mr. Trevor Jones, was required to leave Norwich. However, this was not allowed to prevent the birth and the first President, Mr Horace Rowley, was duly elected at the inaugural meeting of the Norwich Welsh Society in 1967.

 

The new Society rapidly gained a membership in excess of fifty and settled into a programme of monthly meetings from September to May with at least one outside meeting in the summer (often accompanied by Welsh rain!). The high-point of the year has always been the St David’s Day Dinner and church service on the closest Sunday.  For many years the Society has supported the Welsh charity TENOVUS (known for its research work on cancer and its care of cancer patients) with collections during the St. David’s Day celebrations.

 

For many years monthly meetings were held at the Assembly House in Norwich but these were brought to a sudden end by a fire in 1995 which caused severe damage to this wonderful building. This fire was almost the start of the end of the Society; in 1995 meetings were becoming less well attended and the forced change of meeting place triggered an accelerated reduction in the audience, causing embarrassment to those who did attend. This reached a crisis in 2002 when it was suggested at the AGM that the Society should close but the members responded with a determination to prevent it.

A new format for the annual programme was agreed which introduced a more social character to the meetings; outside in the summer and inside for the rest of the year. This does involve several meals, in addition to the St David’s Day Dinner, but also involves Welsh cultural topics such as musical evenings, Dylan Thomas evening and in recent years groups have met to discuss Welsh history and writing while three groups meet to speak welsh at different levels!

 

As we approach our fiftieth anniversary the Society feels it has the strength to resist the demise experienced by many societies both cultural and Celtic. We have a growing membership, including younger ones and a vigorous committee who try something new almost every year. While the Society was founded for people who are Welsh by birth or descent we also welcome new members who are non-welsh but (like us) have a love of Wales, its language and culture.

LIST OF PRESIDENTS

 1967 • Mr R Rowley​

1971 • Dr D Elias

1974 • Mrs B Davenport

1977 • Dr R Baker

1980 • Mrs M Baker

1983 • Mr E Evans

1986 • Mrs Megan Davies

1989 • D Melville-Jones

1992 • Mrs Elaine Twigg

1995 • Eileen Day

1998 • Elinor Thomas

2001 • Marion Davies

2004 • Margaret Goodchild

2007 • Ann Cole

2010 • Christopher Ash

2013 • Margaret Goodchild

2016 • Carolyn Phillips

2019 • Anthony Davies

1968 • Rev D Melville Jones

1972 • Mr N Rowland

1975 • Mr R Jones

1978 • Mr L Davies

1981 • Mr D Lane

1984 • Mrs M Cullington

1987 • Mrs J Wright

1990 • Mrs Mary Ash

1993 • Mrs Doreen Donnelly

1996 • Richard Greenway

1999 • Peter Twigg

2002 • Anthony Davies

2005 • Carolyn Phillips

2008 • Mair Parry-Jones

2011 • Frank Tucker

2014 • Eirlys McLean

2017 • Terry McClennahan

2020 • Gareth Phillips

1969/1970 • Mrs K Chatters

1973 • Rev E Francis Jones

1976 • Miss A Jones 

1979 • Mrs D Rayner

1982 • Mrs S Walsh 

1985 • Mr A Thomas

1988 • D Melville-Jones

1991 • Franklyn Brookman

1994 • Anthony Davies

1997 • Enfys Chalmers

2000 • Dr Arnold Day

2003 • Mary Ash

2006 • Gareth Phillips

2009 • Anthony Davies

2012 • Tony Goodchild

2015 • Gareth Phillips

2018 • David Charles

THE PRESIDENT'S CHAIN

The medallion was presented by Mr Ivor Jones, who should have been the first president but moved away just before the inauguration of the Society. For quite a few years the medallion was held by a ribbon while other local Celtic societies had grand chains. Eventually it was decided that we looked like “the poor relations” and a fund raising committee was formed to fulfil our desires. The required £300 was soon achieved and Rev D Melville Jones was the first president to be ennobled.

The bars, engraved with the President’s name and year of office, were added until in 1995 there was no space for a new bar. Lengthening the chain was considered but lady presidents were already complaining of the chain's weight so it was decided to save money and weight by adding later presidents on the reverse of existing bars.

SPECIAL EVENTS

DIGWYDDIADAU ARBENNIG

Over the years, the Norwich Welsh Society have been part of some very special events. We have compiled a couple of our favourites below. Visit our events page for a full list of all our upcoming events and meetings.

TRIP TO WALPOLE OLD CHAPEL

Janaury 2014

In January 2014, the Norwich Welsh Society visited Walpole Old Chapel in Halesworth. Originally two farmhouses, it was converted into a chapel in the 17th century before it eventually closed in 1970. Our trip to Walpole Old Chapel was a wonderful experience, and we even sung a rousing chorus of Bread of Heaven, which you can watch in the video above!

GWALIA MALE VOICE CHOIR CHARITY CONCERT

September 2017

In September 2017, the Norwich Welsh Society invited the Gwalia Welsh Male Voice Choir to Chapelfield Road Church, eight years since they were last in Norwich. The event was to celebrate the life of our former president, Carolyn Phillips (pictured far right), who sadly died in December 2016 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 31 days before. The money raised helped to fund a research project at Oxford University for the earlier detection of the pancreatic cancer.

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