Dai was There – 1973

1973 witnessed a big upheaval in Choir life when on the 8th of March the Conductor, Ralph Hodges, resigned. A special meeting had been held to discuss certain aspects of the general organisation within the Choir and the musical content of concerts. The numbers had now risen to seventy and many felt Mr Hodges was trying to do too much for he had always maintained a strong position on the Committee and tended to make most of the decisions regarding concerts, music and transport. Whilst this was quite acceptable during the early years when numbers were only around the twenty mark many now felt it was time that a more modern approach was adopted and that the everyday running of the Choir should be left to the Committee.

It was with great regret the Choir finally accepted his decision to retire, for most realised that it was partly through his hard work and dedication the Choir had grown to it’s now very respected position in male voice circles.

Miss Joyce Bellinger had been the regular accompanist during this past year and she was to deal the Choir a double blow by also resigning, thereby leaving the group without without a conductor or a pianist. Bottom bass John Evans, although not wanting the position permanently stepped into the breach and took the Choir for the next few months. A local teacher and long standing member, John had acted in the capacity of Deputy Conductor many times and so the Choir were able to fulfill all it’s commitments during this period.

It was fortunate that the previous year Mr Richard Morgans had joined the Choir singing in the baritone section and he immediately applied for the vacancy. Advertisments had been placed in the local press and although there were three applicants he was finally chosen to take over the baton in June 1973.

A native of Porthmadog in North Wales he had moved south working for soon proved his abilities with the Choir . he came from a family steeped in music and singing and immediately he set about preparing the Choir for competition. Every year, in late Autumn, the Cardigan Eisteddfod was held, and although time was short this was the test he set his sights on. This Eisteddfod was only second to the National and indeed was always referred to a the Semi-National. Held in a huge marquee it lasted late into the night and although the Choir arrived early it wasn’t until 11pm the call came to take the stage. The reward for their efforts was third prize and the satisfaction in knowing that the new man at the top was the right choice.

Later in the year John Lloyd became the official Accompanist. Originally from Crynant in West Wales he lived in Caldicot and taught locally.

There was another trip to Manchester to sing in Timperly again. This time, the Choir stayed at the Glengarry Hotel in Mosside, and a very successful Dinner & Dance was held at the ‘Ship Hotel’ in Alverston on the 27th of May. Tickets were £2 with a choice of 3 set menus, and approximately 120 attended. A visit to Llandrindod Wells in September was amongst the many concerts performed that year. Social events included a visit to John Lloyd’s home town of Crynant and an invitation to sing at the ‘Fugitives’ Club in Newport at Christmas.

The 1973 Annual Concert took place in St. Luke’s Church in Newport (now demolished) on November 1st with guest artists Adrian De-Payer (tenor) and Menai Roberts-Davies (soprano). Tickets were 40p and 20p with programmes selling at 5p. A social evening followed at the Orb Works Club.

The year ended with the usual short concert at the Mount Ballan residential home followed by a visit to the ‘Star Inn’ at Llansoy, run by Allan and Liz Evans. They become firm and generous friends of the Choir with Allan eventually joining as a singing member. The ‘Star’ was soon added to the list of Pubs regularly attended after practice and there was always a warm welcome for Choristers.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

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Dai was There – 1972

1972 commenced with a concert on January 5th at Spencer Works Llanwern, singing at the retired employee’s Dinner. It was an enjoyable evening especially as many choristers were able to meet up with former colleagues from the steelworks.

Minutes from a Committee meeting on 14th February noted the Choir funds stood at a healthy £178.28. This was after paying an outstanding bill to Paddy Dolan of £50 for transport. On the 3rd of March the Choir gave a concert in Underwood Social Club, Llanmartin. There was a double bonus resulting from this concert as the Club gave most of the proceeds as a donation to the Choir and also several of the Club members turned up at the next rehearsal to join the ranks.

On the 24th March 1972, the Choir made it’s first visit to Manchester. The invitation came by way of chorister Haydon Davies who’s brother Ivor was the Minister at a Church in Timpery in Manchester. The concert was to be on the Saturday night but the Choir decided to make it a weekend trip (no wives!) and so left on the Friday morning with plans to visit Salford Rugby League Club that evening after checking in to our hotel. Welsh rugby star David Watkins had recently ‘gone north’ to play for Salford and had arranged for seats to watch the Friday evening match and for the boys to entertain in the clubhouse afterwards.

In the morning everyone was at their pre-arranged pick up points on time and off we set, eagerly looking forward to the weekend and to the evening’s entertainment in Salford. Due to other commitments Paddy Dolan was unable to supply the transport and so a bus was booked from Mr Larcombe. Unfortunately, the driver was very reluctant to exceed 35 miles per hour and also stopped for several breaks, one of which lasted over an hour while the brakes, which were binding, cooled down!

The result was that we arrived at Salford just after the game ended, and to find the reserved seats in the Clubhouse all taken by thirsty fans. Not to be outdone of a memory of home, David Watkins, his wife and several of their friends joined the Choir in the car park where they were given a mini concert of Welsh songs.

The Choir then moved to the Queen’s Hotel in Manchester’s Piccadilly area. The cost was £3.25 per night for B&B. There followed an all night session in the resident’s lounge with few Choristers retiring to their rooms before 4.00am. Even so everyone made it for breakfast at 9.00am where one ashen faced individual (it wasn’t me) sat at his table and was immediately given a fresh pint of beer. When presented with his full English breakfast he looked sickly at his beer, thought for a moment and said weakly “I can’t face this I’m afraid” and promptly downed his pint and gave away his breakfast.

There are only a handful left who were on that first trip to Manchester but I’m sure they will recollect singing ‘We are Climbing Jacobs Ladder’ whilst marking time on the escalator in Lewis’s department store, and Roy Clements and Bunny Hooper going out from the hotel in search of a bag of chips at 2.30am and amazingly returning half an hour later with not a bag but a shoe ox full! The serious part of the weekend came with a concert on the Saturday evening at the Church in Timperly with Mrs Anne Sykes as the soloist. The Choir returned home on the Sunday morning, again at a very slow pace.

There is no record of the date but early in 1972 Miss Joyce Bellinger, from Newport, became the Accompanist and John Evans (Teacher) was appointed Deputy Conductor.

Concerts for 1972 included:-

  • March 3rd – Underwood Social Club
  • March 25th – Manchester
  • April 29th – Pontllanfraith
  • May 8th – Stewarts & Lloyds, Newport
  • June 8th – Thornbury Social Club
  • July 24th – Severn View Club, Caldicot
  • August 26th – Shaftesbury Park, Newport (photograph on display in Choir Hall)
  • September 28th – Severn Bridge Club, Chepstow
  • October 26th – Labour Club, Caldicot
  • December 1st – Almondsbury Parish Church

In May the position of Public Relations Officer was created for the first time and Haydon Davies was appointed to the post.

The Choir entered the Kington Eisteddfod in midsummer and once again came away with the first prize. This was the third year running for the Choir to win at Kington. The test pieces for the Miner’s Eisteddfod in the Autumn was ‘The Viking Song’ and own choice of traditional folk song. Many choristers wanted to enter but Ralph Hodges decided the Choir were not sufficiently prepared.

The Annual General Meeting was held at Green Lane School on the 23rd October. Some points of note were as follows:-

  • Voice Tests introduced for the first time.
  • The amount of Welsh songs to be increased.
  • Membership was recorded at 75.

Election of Officers and Committee

  • Chairman – Doug Beynham (re-elected)
  • Secretary – Vic Edwards (re-elected)
  • Treasurer -Terry Trollope
  • P.R.O. – Haydon Davies
  • Committee – Dewi Llewellyn, John Lewis, Ray Smith, Jack Williams, Dave Scott, Terry Davies, Dave Gould, Mervyn Evans, David Stocker, John Evans, Alan Rowles.
  • Vice Chairman – Colin Jones
  • Asst. Treasurer – Chris O’Conner
  • Minute Secretary – Vince Lewis

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’


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Dai was There – 1971

1971 continued in the same vein as the previous year with a steady increase in numbers, many concerts and another win at the Kington Eisteddfod. This time the Choir appeared resplendent in their new uniforms consisting of black blazers, grey trousers, white shirt, black shoes and a new tie. A competition had been held to design a blazer badge and the winner was Austin Keeble. The cloth badge consisted of the three feathers encircled by the Choir name, embroidered in silver on a black background. Austin’s magnificent prize was £1.

At a meeting on 21st January, John Evans and Bill Nash resigned from the committee due to being over committed. Jack Williams and Dave Gould were elected to take their place.

Going back to the beginning of the year, the Choir made it’s first trip to watch the rugby international in Scotland. Most of the men, along with some friends, arrived in Dumfries on the Thursday evening staying at the King’s Head Hotel for the weekend. There were no concerts arranged but it would probably be true to say that even if the locals had never heard of Caldicot before, they certainly had by the following Sunday. The lads kept the hotel staff, especially those behind the bar, busy for the whole weekend and the Manager thanked everyone on our departure for giving him his best weekend’s takings ever.

Friday was spent sightseeing and in the afternoon everyone went along to watch the local rugby side play a match against Seven Sisters Rugby Club, who were also using Dumfries as a base for the weekend. Before leaving for Edinburgh on the Saturday morning the Choir were asked to sing around the Rabbie Burns Memorial in the centre of Dumfries. Imagine everyone’s surprise on arrival to find the the famous poet’s statue swathed in a Welsh scarf and weraing a red and white bobble hat, with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and a large leek in the other! It was obvious Seven Sisters had already paid their respect to the Bard.

In Edinburgh the party spent a very pleasant hour in the University Staff Club, known as the ‘Don’s Club’, before making our way to Murrayfield for the match. Afterwards it was back to the Don’s Club where a meal was waiting. There was only one way to repay their kind hospitality and there ensued another marvellous sing-song which lasted until eight o’clock when the transport arrived for the journey back to Dumfries. The Choir left for home on the Sunday morning, stopping at Penrith for lunch and an alcohol ‘top up’.

On Saturday 19th June, the Choir again travelled to Kington for the Eisteddfod, This time entering the ‘OPEN’ class as the Choir had now reached over 40 in number. The Test Piece was ‘The Marching Song’ by Matayas Seiber and the order of singing and marks were as follows :-

  • Drybrook and District M.V.C. – 84
  • Blaenavon M.V.C. – 86
  • Caldicot and District M.V.C. – 88
  • Burry Port and District M.V.C. – 85
  • Rhymney Silurian M.V.C. – 87
  • Cwmbran M.V.C. – 86

First prize again

Following this success a decision was made to enter the Miner’s Eisteddfod at Porthcawl in the Autumn. The Test Piece was‘The Marching Song’ and any Welsh Hymn, and ‘Gwahoddiad’ was our choice. The contest was held on a Saturday night in October and the Choir on arrival realised they had not arranged anywhere for a last minute rehearsal! Undaunted, our Conductor Ralph Hodges gathered everyone at the west end of the Promenade under a streetlight and proceeded to rehearse‘Gwahoddiad’ unaccompanied.

It was a shambles! It was dark, and with the sound of the waves crashing against the sea wall behind us and a force ten gale blowing we sang. Nobody could hear their own voice let alone the next man in line. Then it started to rain!! There was a mad dash for the Pavilion and surprisingly the Choir sang very well, although not achieving a result. This was the first time we had entered the ‘big time’ eisteddfodau and the adjudicator after enquiring where Caldicot was, remarked “It was nice that a choir had travelled from the borders to compete”.

Some Committee meeting points from 1971

  • First Choir Marshal appointed – Colin Jones.
  • To help ailing funds (the total in July stood at £92.18) 15p would be collected from each chorister on all bus journeys.
  • Contributions would be increased in 1972 to 10p per week.
  • Concert fees were set at £25 (including transport) with discretion to be used when dealing with charities and senior citizens.

Some of the payments made in 1971

  • 35p per head for a chicken salad at a social evening at the Haywain pub following the Kington Eisteddfod success.
  • £7.75 to repair a piano.
  • £5.00 – Wedding present of bed linen to Ann Ruggles who appeared with us often as an artist.

The year ended with concerts in Newport, Henbury in Bristol, and the usual Christmas visit to Mount Ballan residential home. Although some concern ws voiced about poor attendance at concerts, the number of choristers had risen to 58 on the books at the end of 1971.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

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Dai was There – 1970

A Committee Meeting held on January 20th 1970 sanctioned the payment of affiliation fees of Three Pounds Ten Shillings to become members of the Welsh Association of Male Choirs, and a further payment of One Shilling per Chorister for insurance purposes.

In January a social evening was held at the Haywain Pub where the Choir hosted members and wives of the Tonyrefail Male Voice Choir. This was a great success and resulted in the recruitment of two new members from Bristol. Bill Nash, whose brother belonged to the Tonyrefail party, had come along with his friend Jack Brittain to listen and enjoy a night out. They were so impressed with the singing and the friendliness of the Caldicot contingent that they turned up at the next rehearsal requesting membership. Ralph Hodges welcomed then with open arms and they soon became two staunch and loyal additions to the ranks.

Ralph Hodges continued to hold the baton, and throughout 1970 the accompanists included Violet Hill, Elwyn Powell, David Whitcombe and Meurig Jones. Some of the concerts for that year included venues at Tintern, Ebbw Vale, Trethomas, Ponthir, Bristol and Newport.

This was the year the Choir first tasted success in competition. The venue was again at Kington and the test piece for Glee Parties (under 40 voices) was ‘Tempest and Calm’. We were the third choir to take the stage and had to wait whilst two more had their turn before adjudication. Most of the choristers were gathered outside the main hall of Kington High School, where the competition was held, when the result was announced over the public address system “First prize … Caldicot and District Male Voice Choir!!”.

Well, there was pandemonium, everybody was leaping about, slapping each other on the back and congratulating everyone. Social Conductor Colin Jones vaulted (he was younger then) a fence into the school garden and soon reappeared with the biggest and longest stick of rhubarb in the world. He used this to conduct the Choir at the evening’s celebrations held at a wayside hostelry called ‘The Buck Inn’ conveniently located on the road home.

On returning home, the ‘Cup’ was placed on display in Washbourne’s Hardware shop which was situated those days in the main street. All the Choir turned up at the next rehearsal in uniform for an official photograph which can be seen displayed on the wall of our Choir Hall. A social evening was held at the Haywain Pub to celebrate the win.

A complaint was received at a committee meeting on 10th September from some members of the Severn View Club. Apparently, after giving a concert there, some choristers continued singing in the car park before heading home, and the club had received a letter from a local resident!

The A.G.M. for 1970 was held on the 19th of October in the Junior College, Caldicot. The election of Officers was as follows :-

  • President – Alderman Les Budden
  • V. President – Councillor Graham Powell
  • Conductor – Ralph Hodges
  • Chairman – Doug Baynham
  • Secretary – Vic Edwards
  • Treasurer – Chris O’Conner

Committee : – Colin Jones, Idris Jones, Ray Smith, Terry Trollope, Dai Powell, Ken Rowlands, Austin Keeble, Bill Nash, Terry Davies, Ken Penny and John Evans. Those underlined are still choristers today (Nov 2002).

It was passed at the meeting that the Bristol choristers would be exempt from the Choir contributions of sixpence a week because they had to pay Severn Bridge tolls every time they attended rehearsal. To my knowledge this still stands today. A recruitment drive also called for, owing to the membership still remaining less than forty.

A discussion was held at the Meeting regarding purchase of uniforms and it was decided bu a majority that black blazers would be appropriate. As soon as a suitable supplier could be found it would be the choristers obligation to buy one. For the time being the Choir would retain the black and gold striped tie although it was hoped a unique design could be found in the near future along with a blazer badge.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

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Dai was There – 1969

1969 brought more concerts and a small influx of new members including myself. In fact I was entered on the register as number 28, to be followed by Percy Smith, bringing our numbers up to 29. In June, just before I joined, the Choir made its first Eisteddfod appearance singing the test piece ‘An Evening’s Pastoral’ at Kington. Although no prize was won it was recorded in the minutes of the next Committee Meeting that Ralph Hodges was very pleased with the performance.

The Annual Concert for 1969 was again held at Green Lane with the same artist as the previous year. The Compere was Councillor Graham Powell.

A special meeting was held on June 30th to discuss a proposal from Caldicot College that the Choir become affiliated to them as many other local organisations had already done. This was turned down by the members present who expressed concern that the Choir would lose it’s independence and possibly some control of it’s finances.

The 1969 Annual General Meeting took place on September the 4th with 29 members present. Strangely in those days, as well as Officers and Committee Members, the position of Conductor was also put up for election. The meeting reconfirmed Ralph Hodges as Conductor and Doug Beynham as Chairman. The Secretary was Doug Edwards and Chris O’Connor was elected as Treasurer.

An interesting snippet from the Committee Meeting held on the 29th September records that a total of £20 from Choir funds (probably about half the bank balance) would be made available to offset the cost of the forthcoming rugby trip to watch Wales play Ireland in Dublin in the spring of 1970.

The occasion was a great success and although there were no official concerts there were many impromptu performances. On their return it is said the Haywain Pub sold more Guinness in two weeks than it had in the previous six months!

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

Total Page Visits: 68570 - Today Page Visits: 40

Dai was There – 1968

The first Annual Concert was performed in 1968 at Green Lane School, where the Choir now held their rehearsals. By now the Choir, still under the baton of Ralph Hodges, was accompanied by Mrs Edith Bourton-Tuckwell. The solo artist for the concert was Mrs Ann Richards, who had become a regular performer with the Choir. Also around this time light entertainment at concerts was provided by second tenor Ken Rowlands and Jan Castellari who was a local magician and illusionist. Miss Ann Ruggles, later to become Mrs Ann Sykes, also frequently appeared as a solo artist.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

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Dai was There – 1960’s

Well, in the beginning I wasn’t as the title may suggest, but I thought I would start by outlining what I know of the Choir’s early years. There are almost no records of the early 1960’s but a brief history can be sketched from a few that still exist and personal memories of the people I knew at that time. The early part of the decade saw a large increase in the population of Caldicot as men and their families moved from other steeltowns to join the workforce at the new giant Richard Thomas and Baldwin’s, Spencer Works at Llanwern. A fully integrated steelworks soon to employ over 9000 people.

Many of these men were from ‘Male Voice’ country, and so in 1963 a small group got together to form a Choir. The local headmaster, Mr Ralph Hodges, who lived in Tintern, was elected Conductor, and Mr Roy Nanckievel as accompanist. The name of the Choir was agreed at the first meeting and was to be called ‘THE CALDICOT AND DISTRICT MALE VOICE CHOIR’.

There were few rules to start but the stage dress stipulated that if possible the chorister should wear a dark lounge suit and a white shirt. The only mandatory item was a black tie which had diagonal gold stripes. While we are on the subject of the striped tie, it brings to mind an incident which happened much later. When Roy Clements joined the Choir he immediately purchased his tie. Unfortunately no one informed him where to get it and so he duly turned up for his first concert only to find his ‘stripes’ went the opposite way to all the others.

Immediately the Choir were in demand for local concerts and initially this was their role, singing to local groups and OAP clubs. However, the dedication of the twenty strong group was soon evident as the Choir started taking on concerts further afield. It may surprise some more recent choristers to learn that even with this small number they regularly sang some of the ‘greats’ such as ‘Martyrs‘, and ‘The Crusaders’. The Choir remained just above the twenty mark for most of the mid 1960’s.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’


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