The 2014 Tour in words and pictures. Click on photos to view a larger image
Sat 13 Sept: Flew overnight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi. Stayed in the beautiful 5 star Shangri-la Hotel which gave us a real sense of luxury Sun 14 Sept: We went on a sightseeing trip through Abu Dhabi’s blend of ultra-modern and traditional architecture. There was also an optional coach trip to Dubai to see some of the buildings there such as the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. We took the photo shown from the viewing platform which is nowhere near the top of the building. There are two images of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which we visited on our tour.
Monday 15 Sept: We flew non-stop to Dublin and took a coach trip around the city before reaching our hotel, the Academy Plaza, in central Dublin. In the evening we enjoyed an introductory drink at the famous Gresham Hotel nearby, courtesy of our chief patrons, Warwick and Jan Lane, who were unable to come on our tour because of ill-health.
Tue 16 Sept: Visited Trinity College for a guided tour and a chance to see the Book of Kells and the famous Long Room of the old library. We had ideal links through two of our tenors. Rob Horlin is an Old Boy of Trinity College while Rob Ferguson is a direct descendant of the man who not only brought the Book of Kells to Trinity College in the Seventeenth Century but also extended the Long Room. Then took part in an excellent walking tour around Dublin with a passionate local guide who told us a great deal of the city’s history and literary associations. .
In the late afternoon we travelled by coach to St Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare, for a reception and concert with the Dublin Welsh Male Voice Choir. We were given an excellent afternoon tea by the host choir at a local pub called The Silken Thomas; then went to the ancient cathedral for the concert itself. It went very well, and the audience was most receptive. During the concert we presented the local Brigidine nuns with a tapestry of St Brigid made by Helen’s sister in Sydney. We then had a wonderful ‘afterglow’ with social singing and lots of food back in pub, before returning to our hotel in Dublin.
Wed 17 Sept: We drove south to the Wicklow Mts and historic Glendalough, then headed through Kilkenny and Cashel making sure it was a long way to Tipperary which we passed through before reaching our modern high-rise Clarion Hotel in Limerick for a two night stay.
Thu 18 Sept: Made a round trip to the pretty town of Galway and back to Limerick via the Cliffs of Moher and Ennistymon’s Falls Hotel – home of the Irish Dylan Thomas Festival. The old building at the entrance to the large hotel was the ancestral home of Dylan’s father-in-law, Francis Macnamara, and it was he who converted the mansion into a hotel. We had tea and scones in a beautiful setting in and outside the hotel, and sang a few songs on the stone staircase. In the evening we enjoyed a traditional Irish night of song and dance at the Bunratty Corn Barn, just outside Limerick.
Fri 19 Sept: We travelled to Cork, Ireland’s second city, via the spectacular Ring of Kerry. We experienced heavy rain during the first part of the journey, but the weather improved as we went along. We stopped at the Bog Village near Killorglin, and at Waterville and Sneem. We eventually reached the imposing Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork
Sat 20 Sept: We did some general sightseeing in the Cork area and gave an impromptu performance at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral (designed by William Burges of Cardiff Castle fame). We then toured Blarney Castle and sang in the courtyard – not an ideal viewing spot but excellent acoustically, as we were told by many visitors who were trapped in the queue for the Blarney Stone but listened intently to our singing. Drove to Cobh, famous for the Titanic’s last voyage, the Lusitania disaster and the emigration of famine victims. The flowers there were particularly beautiful. From there we traveled to Wexford via a short stop at Waterford, close to the ferry taking us to Wales.
Sun 21 Sept: We caught the 9.00am ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard in Wales, met our new coaches and drove to the beautiful and ancient town of Tenby for a two night stay. Enjoyed a civic reception with the Mayor soon after we arrived then had free time to explore this charming seaside town.
Mon 22 Sept: We made a short round trip to Laugharne to see Dylan’s grave, the Boat House, the writing shed and the Castle where we gave a short recital that delighted the small audience. Many of the tour group popped into Browns Hotel. The weather was perfect and it was a really memorable morning.
After returning to Tenby we sang at an evening concert in St John’s Church Tenby, as part of the Tenby Festival. This was the only concert of the whole tour that was not shared with at least one other choir. We had a very receptive audience who ended with a standing ovation.
Tue 23 Sept: We made the scenic drive north to New Quay in Ceredigion then to Aberystwyth for an overnight stay. We were given a guided tour of the imposing National Library of Wales and the large Dylan Thomas exhibition. Our concert took place in the middle of the exhibition. Our host choir was the Elinor Powell Sgarmes Singers, containing Huw and Nia Bates, the organisers of the event, who were married in Sydney two years earlier with our choir in attendance. We and the audience had a pre-concert function and a welcome from the Chief Librarian. One of our choir patrons, Professor Jonathan Wooding, attended the concert. We stayed overnight at the Marine Hotel on the waterfront.
Wed 24 Sept: Our next journey took a very scenic route to Caernarfon, stopping first at historic Harlech Castle and later at picturesque Portmeirion.
Thur 25 Sept: Our base in Caernarfon was the Premier Inn, in the new marina development north of the castle. We spent most of the day travelling around the mountains of Snowdonia, with our main stop at Beddgelert. The weather wasn’t ideal – this is one of the wettest areas in Britain, but the scenery was still very impressive. We returned in time to go to Caernarfon Castle and give a short recital.
Fri 26 Sept: Drove over Britannia Bridge to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantisiliogogogoch, then across to Chester via lunch in Llandudno and a trip on the tram to the Great Orme for many, followed by an afternoon recital in the Marble Church, Bodelwyddan.
Sat 27 Sept: The tour group left Chester to travel to Llangollen then to Ludlow and on to Cheltenham for two nights, starting with an evening concert with the Cotswold Male Voice Choir in the grandiose Town Hall.
Sun 28 Sept: We had perfect weather for our tour of some of the best-known Cotswold villages, stopping at Bourton-on-the-water, Chipping Campden, Broadway and Painswick, where we had a social gathering and singalong with members of the Cotswold Choir From Chepstow, we drove direct to Cardiff Bay for lunch, then went to our hotel, the Premier Inn, for a two-night stay.
Tue 30 Sept: We walked from our central hotel to Cardiff Castle for a guided tour then some of us went on to the nearby Civic Centre and the National Museum.
A concert that evening in St Helen’s Church, Caerphilly, with the Caerphilly Ladies Choir and the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir was a resounding success. There was a good supper to follow and our choir actually made money from the event, which was a bonus.
Wed 1 Oct: We travelled via the mining valleys to Swansea for a two night stay, stopping first at Pontypridd and going on through the Rhondda Valley to Pontrhydyfen and eventually reaching Swansea. We had lunch in Mumbles then went to the far edge of the Gower at Rhossili, before returning to Central Swansea to the Premier Inn.
Thu 2 Oct: We visited Dylan Thomas locations in Swansea: notably his birthplace and the Dylan Thomas Centre. The concert in evening with the Gwalia Singers took place at the large and central St Mary’s Church, destroyed during WWII in the blitz, This event inspired a poem later set to music as Y Tangnefeddwyr (The Peacemaker) which we sang to a large and appreciative audience. There was a reception afterwards across the road at the historic Cross Keys Hotel.
Fri 3 Oct: From Swansea we drove directly to Central London for two night stay at the Olympia Hilton. We had a guided tour of Westminster Abbey, including the memorial to Dylan Thamas in Poets’ Corner.
Sat 4 Oct: Our last full day of the tour was a busy one, with a sightseeing coach ride through Central London, including a Thames cruise and a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre; then our concert, with the London Welsh Chorale, the London Welsh Male Voice Choir, the Gwalia Choir and the London Welsh Brass Ensemble at the City Temple, Holborn, compered by Lord Martin Thomas.
Sun 5 Oct: The official end of the tour came with an early-morning flight to Sydney for some of the group. Most tour members stayed on to enjoy a personal holiday before returning to Australia.
A boxed DVD set of the tour was compiled by Clive Woosnam. It is a comprehensive coverage of the tour including some concert performances. Contact us if you would like to buy one or better still come to one of our concerts and buy it from our sales table.
(Original text and pictures arranged by Clive Woosnam January 2015)
POSTSCRIPT TO TOUR
Some of our concerts on tour were in aid of charities. Profits from the Cheltenham concert were used to support the Wooden Spoon Charity – a rugby union charity which fits in well with the origins of our choir as part of the Sydney Welsh Rugby Club. The funds were destined to go to a special school in the Forest of Dean. We actually passed close to the school when we travelled from Cheltenham to Chepstow, and Coach A that we used in England and Wales is based in that very district. Here is a photo we have been sent showing the Welsh-speaking chairman of the Cotswold MV Choir, Richard Bennett, presenting Tim Heal of the Wooden Spoon with a cheque for 2,456 pounds – more than AUD 4,800.