Llangollen to me means two things, beyond the beauty of the town of course, – the international music eisteddfod and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, so when we visited the UK for our self drive, self catering holiday with our Australian friends, Llangollen was on the list.
In 1943 the British Council organised for members of governments in exile (remember WW2 was in to its fourth year) to attend the 1943 National Eisteddfod, which was held in Bangor, North Wales.
It was such a success that the following year an international music festival was held, and again it was successful. In 1945 it was suggested that an international choral festival be added to the 1947 Welsh National Eisteddfod, but this was rejected because arranging the National Eisteddfod was a big enough job on its own.
W.S. Gwynn Williams – a well known Welsh composer, click on his name the for one of his most famous works, who was born in Llangollen, along with George Northing, the chairman of Llangollen town council, drummed up enough support from the local people that planning for an International Eisteddford would take place in Llangollen in 1947.
In June 1947 things looked like there were not going to work out as planned because the French rail workers had gone on strike, and the organisors were worried that many of the European musicians would not be able to attend.
The first to arrive was the ladies’ choir from Oporto, they arrived by bus. The Hungarian workers’ choir completed their journey by hitch hiking from Basle, because of rail strikes.
The eisteddford was brought to a close with a concert on the Sunday evening featuring Sir John Barbirolli and the Hallé Orchestra.
In 1949 the first German choir took part and the organisors were worried about the reception that the Germans would receive only four years after the end of the war. When the train carrying the German choir arrived at Llangollen station the town’s people welcomed them with tea and cakes. The railway station can be seen on the right hand side of the above picture.
The river in both pictures is the River Dee that flows, via Chester, in to the Irish Sea.
I have a personal link with the National Eisteddfod because my mother was a member of the Birkenhead Welsh Choral Society, and they sang at one of the eisteddfods, and I believe won.
The badge off my mother’s ‘uniform’ for the competition.
The badge used to pin the cloth badge to her blouse.
The shield and certificates can be seen, but I am unable to read them even after ‘blowing up’ the picture. When I was younger I am sure I was shown her medal or some commemorative item, but for the life of me I cannot find it, which isn’t surprising after moving to Australia!
My mother is front row, fourth from the left. She was born in 1909 and moved to England when she was twelve (she didn’t speak English until she moved to England). In 1925 she would have been sixteen and the competition was held in Pwllheli. I mention this because of the cost of getting there from Birkenhead, very few had cars. The other thought is that in 1929 the eisteddfod was held in Liverpool, which is a ferry ride across the River Mersey from Birkenhead.
The Welsh National Eisteddfod has been held in each of the traditional Welsh counties, as well as most of the major Welsh cities, except for St Asaph – don’t ask me why . . .
As a foot note – when I was about thirteen or fourteen I was in my school choir (in Birkenhead) and we used to sing in concerts and the occasional international competitions.
One year my choir was asked to host a German choir, and I had a German boy, of similar age to me, staying in my home for about a week. It was an interesting week because he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, and the only other language left was Welsh (Mum), which was of little help.
I can remember him now; we wrote to each other as pen pals, but at that age writing letters was a pain, and it eventually stopped. I often wondered how his life panned out.
The other interesting point about Llangollen is that it is not all that far to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is down river from the town.
It is not a railway bridge but a canal on piers to carry the water and the canal boats over the River Dee. There are 18 arches, the canal is cast iron, it took ten years to build, it was opened in 1805, and it is 126 ft (38 mtrs) high, which makes it the highest navigable aqueduct canal in the world. The above picture is off the internet.
From the beginning of the ‘bridge canal’.
The above two pics show the ‘pool’ where the canal boats wait for their turn to cross.
A canal boat on its way through.
Don’t look down to the River Dee.
Keep going, and hope the canal doesn’t spring a leak . . .
Get moving . . . . . . . .
A number of the above pictures are thanks to KI, one of our traveling companions.