Sunday, 24 April 2016

Eisteddfod at Bedford

Arch Druid Corporal Daniel Hughes (left) and Bard Private Alfred Jenkins (right)

Monday 24th April 1916: Last year Bedford celebrated a Highland Games for the first time. This year it has enjoyed a Bank Holiday Eisteddfod thanks to its Welsh visitors. The event was organised by the Borough Recreation Committee, with twenty five competitions programmed to last for five and a half hours without an interval. Due to the large number of entries preliminary competitions were held, with just the top three in each event performing at the finals at the Skating Rink.

The Eisteddfod opened with events for drums and bugles, followed by trumpets and mouth organs. Only two competitors entered for the stringed instrument class, with the clear winner playing a dulcimer. Impromptu speech proved an amusing event, with contestants speaking extempore on subjects ranging from mothers-in-law to Zeppelins and mud. Other events included singing, both solo and choral, and recitations (including humorous verse). The choir competition was the blue riband musical event, with the R.A.M.C. choir ending victorious. Separate events were arranged for civilians, including one for choir boys. Two boys entered but only one had the nerve to perform; he was awarded a special prize of 5 shillings and commended for his pluck.

The Eisteddfod ended with the “chairing of the bard”, Private Alfred Jenkins of the R.A.M.C., who won the title for his poem on “A Soldier’s Life”. Corporal Rev. Daniel Hughes, W.C.C.S, as Deputy Arch Druid of the Isle of Britain, acted as Master of Ceremonies.[1]  He led the way on to the platform carrying a sword and wearing a toga and laurel chaplet, followed by three assistants in togas, two of them chaplains, and Sister Butterworth, Assistant Matron of Ampthill Road Hospital carrying the laurel chaplet for the bard. After a short speech by the Arch Druid Private Jenkins was escorted to his seat while the piano played “See the Conquering Hero Comes”. The Arch Druid explained that this was a ratification of the honour by the audience and asked three times in Welsh if there was peace; each time the Welsh members of the audience replied that there was. Sister Butterworth crowned the Bard with the laurel chaplet, the Arch Druid and the two chaplains gave short eulogies in Welsh, and the ceremony ended with the singing of “Land of my Fathers”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 28th April 1916

[1] Private Alfred Jenkins is a Presbyterian Minister of Pencoed and a graduate of the Welsh University. The Deputy Arch Druid of the Isle of Britian, Corporal Daniel Hughes, is a Baptist Minister of Pontypool.

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