In 2019 Montgomery received a plaque as a gift from Hungary, in celebration of János Arany being conferred with the posthumous Honorary Freemanship of Montgomery, acknowledging the connection of the Hungarian National Poet with the town. In 1857 Arany was asked to write a poem of praise for the visit of Franz Josef I of the repressive Austro-Hungarian regime. Instead, he wrote an allegorical poem detailing the imagined slaughter of 500 Bards at a banquet at Montgomery Castle for refusing to sing the praises of the tyrannical Edward I of England. The poem is still learnt by every Hungarian school child so the tiny rural town of Montgomery is probably better known there than Cardiff. The planned mounting and unveiling of the plaque was a victim of the 2020 lockdown and the Town Council is now hoping for a Hungarian Day celebration in May 2022. In the meantime, Montgomery has made such strong links with the Magyar Cymru group, through the Building Bridges initiative, that many more people are aware of the vibrant Hungarian connection and ‘The Bards of Wales’. The town has also developed an affinity with the ‘Welshest village’ in Hungary, Kunágota. Given the interest, the Town Council determined to erect the plaque as soon as possible, in advance of a future official unveiling. The Arany plaque is now mounted in its beautiful oak frame made by Powis Sawmills. The community garden at the foot of a path to the Castle is the ideal location and the plaque is already attracting and intriguing many visitors. A short greeting to the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association and good wishes for the upcoming Hungarian concert in Cardiff has been filmed with the plaque as the perfect backdrop, by Lydia Bassett and Jill Kibble (members of the Welsh Hungarian Cultural Association) and Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier. Photo (L-R): Lydia Bassett, Executive Director of Mid Wales Opera; Cllr Jill Kibble, Mayor of Montgomery; Sue Blower, Montgomery Town Crier, photographed during filming of the greeting.
Author Cari Davies, who grew up in Montgomery, has published her debut novel, “On the Border”, explaining that her Welsh family, and the community and town of Montgomery, were the springboard for her imagination. Cari Davies is the pen name of Sheila Hawdon, who chose to use her Welsh maiden name as she wrote the book, described by one reviewer as "a love letter to the landscape of the Welsh heart". Sheila grew up on Stalloe Farm, Montgomery, with her sister Philippa, who not long ago was President at the Montgomery Show, and both girls shared a love of acting with their mother Clara, who was a cup-winning tennis player as well as a leading light in amateur dramatics. Sheila’s father, Philip Davies, was Mayor of Montgomery and High Sheriff of the County as well as vice president of the NFU in London, though his heart was always in the farm and Montgomery. Sheila has had a varied career as an actress, drama teacher, psychotherapist, and now writer, and is married to the actor/playwright and novelist Robin Hawdon. The pair are currently in Australia, with hopes to return to Wales when covid restrictions are lifted. Sheila has been in touch with Montgomery residents over social media, some of whom remember her parents and family, and many are keen to read the novel. She says, “Stalloe farm is just outside Montgomery - on the border so to speak - which inspired me to write ‘On the Border’. The book is fictional but has authenticity.” “On the Border” is the tale of a young girl who struggles to decide whether to stay in the Wales she loves, or go over the border to try her luck in the wider world. Sheila explained, “It is set in the 1950s, heading for the ‘swinging sixties’ in London, and explores how we come to make such decisions - which is no easy matter, particularly when fate will keep intervening.” The book can be purchased from Cambria Publishing, whose website includes more reviews, as well as being on Amazon and Kindle, and available to bookstores through Ingram, so you can also call into Montgomery Bookshop (Eaves & Lord) to order it.
The performance from the Dragon Big Band on 1st September was a real occasion for Montgomery in a number of ways. Not only did it see the very welcome return of live music to a highly appreciative audience, but it also marked a symbolic return of a band that started life in the town 25 years ago. Former owner of the Dragon Hotel, Mark Michaels, recalled how the band was started by Montgomery resident, Ivor Tanner, a former local dance band leader and trumpeter, along with professional trombonist, Paul Munnery. Mark remembers how, after many a night of Paul and Ivor sitting In the bar swapping musical anecdotes and bemoaning the fact that there was no live music in Montgomery, he persuaded them to give it a go and "The Montgomery Irregulars" were born. They played in the Dragon Coachway until the function room was created. Mark reminisced, “I remember well how Paul played with a pint in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He usually managed 8 pints and at least 20 cigarettes before 11pm. At that time the style was more trad jazz than big band and we had up to 23 musicians playing at any one time from keen beginners to seasoned professionals.” “A notable occasion was when Stéphane Grappelli's guitar player, 'Diz' Disley, asked anonymously to sit in, a most unassuming looking chap in a tatty mac with a battered old guitar case. He had roots around Montgomery and had always wanted to play with Ivor. He didn't have to give his name, his artistry was all. It lifted the band - they'd never played like it - the word went around and the room was full within 15 minutes.” The Dragon Big Band went on to play regularly at the Horse and Jockey in recent years with only an occasional visit to Montgomery but the town is delighted that the band has now come home to Montgomery in the great acoustics of the refurbished Town Hall. The Dragon Big Band has a further date booked for Wednesday 15th September, from 8 until 11pm in the Town Hall Lower Floor, and plans further dates for the autumn. No tickets / £5 suggested donation at the door.
As there was no Show on 21st August 2021, a small group was formed to organise a community picnic on the recreation field on the same date. Along with food and drink vendors James Peake, Dairy Dreams, Montys Brewery and Old Monty Cider, the community were invited to bring their own picnic and gazebo as required. Looking ahead at the weather forecast it was at one point looking pretty doubtful whether the event would go ahead, but as the afternoon came closer the forecast improved, the rain kept off and some 160 members of the Montgomery community turned out to enjoy some long-awaited catching up, good food and drink, and good company. Friends of Montgomery Play Park displayed information about the proposals and fundraising for the new play park and the event included a grand raffle, entertainment and games for the children. Well over £275 was raised towards the playpark and The DPJ Foundation, one of the Mayor's charities for this year. Three resourceful younger community members, Finlay, Woody and Toby, organised their own football goal game and raised nearly £40 for the playpark. Mayor Jill Kibble, who was part of the group who organised the event, said, "After all these long months of cancelled events this really felt like a fresh beginning and a return to community life. It was good to see Montgomery friends and families relaxing and enjoying themselves together. Next year will hopefully see the return of Montgomery Show and, if the Friends of the Playpark are successful in their funding bid, the recreation ground may well have a unique new playpark for the town." The Montgomery Energy Group bicycle recycling scheme brought a selection of free bikes to the recreation field, and 13 proud youngsters selected and took away a new bike from the picnic. The Montgomery Show committee and other organisers would like to thank all those that helped in making the afternoon a success and all those vendors that braved the weather and provided some good quality local produce. Show information here: Montgomery Show
Mae Clwb Eiddew, grŵp darllen Cymraeg yn Nhrefaldwyn, wedi bod yn cyfarfod yn wythnosol ar Zoom dros y deunaw mis diwetha, ond ym mis Awst, cymeron nhw hoe fach o Zoom, a chynnal eu cyfarfod cyntaf go iawn cyntaf ers misoedd. Dwedodd Julie Pearce, trefnydd y clwb, “Am bleser mawr fynd am dro efo criw bach i fyny i Gastell Trefaldwyn a sgwrsio am y llyfrau dan ni ‘di darllen yn ddiweddar.” Mae’r grŵp yn gobeithio cyfarfod unwaith y mis eto yng Nghaffi Tŷ Eiddew o fis Medi ymlaen, ac maen nhw’n bwriadu cyfarfod ar Zoom unwaith y mis hefyd. Dwedodd Julie, “Dan ni’n darllen ‘Llwch yn yr Haul’ gan Marlyn Samuel mis yma ar gyfer ein cyfarfod cyntaf nôl yn y caffi.” Cysylltwch â Julie (Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org) neu Denice yn y caffi am fwy o fanylion. Clwb Eiddew, a Welsh book group in Montgomery, has been meeting weekly on Zoom over the last 18 months, but in August they took a break from Zoom and had their first real meeting for months. Julie Pearce, the club’s organiser, said, “What a pleasure to go for a walk with members of the group up to Montgomery Castle and to chat about the books we have read recently.” The group hopes to start meeting once a month again in The Ivy House Cafe from September onwards, and they intend to meet on Zoom once a month as well. Julie said, “We are reading ‘Llwch yn yr Haul’ by Marlyn Samuel this month for our first meeting back in the cafe.” Contact Julie (Julie.email@example.com) or Denice in the café for more details.
Members of St Nicholas’ Church have been busy researching, recording and sharing stories of the Church through the centuries with support from a 15 Minute Heritage grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The Church now has three new bilingual panels telling the stories of Sir Edmund Mortimer and Catrin Glyndwr, as well as the Herbert family and their global influence, connecting Montgomery to the history of the wider world. Church members have also made films with local people, collecting their memories of the Church and their relationship to the building and its history. The trailer for the films is now on the Church section of the Town’s website starring lots of familiar faces from the Town at https://www.montgomery-wales.uk/church/nicholas/index.html Montgomery Church in Wales School has been working on the Montgomery Lives project led by composer-musician, Ian Morgan-Williams, and poet, Pat Edwards. Ian and Pat worked with the children to share the stories of Catrin Mortimer and Magdalen Herbert, and to think about the roles they and other remarkable women had played in our history. Pat wrote a poem focussing on how we learn from our ancestors, which Ian put to music and the children learned. A recording of the song sung by the children, with the words, has been shared on the Montgomery Wales and Church Facebook pages. The children then worked on a choice of three writing exercises: a letter from Sir Edmund Mortimer asking Owain Glyndwr for Catrin’s hand in marriage; a poem about the view from Montgomery Castle; or a speech to motivate either Glyndwr’s army or Thomas Herbert’s navy before impending battle. The work will be part of a display in the Church celebrating the end of the project, once the Church is able to reopen fully. [Photo by Adam at G17]
Montgomery has a lot to offer in terms of arts and crafts, with the Charter Market each Thursday, a pop-up arts and collectables shop every Thursday and Saturday in Broad Street, and local artists and crafters being able to display and sell their pieces at the Ivy House Cafe. Denice Jaunzens, proprietor of the cafe and Montgomery’s post mistress, decided to host more arts and crafts in her cafe space to support other local businesses, provide interesting pieces for customers to see, and diversify her own business following the challenges of covid. Denice explained, “Covid changed the character and atmosphere of hospitality businesses, as well as meaning that I can only have two tables of cafe customers at a time. Hosting more arts and crafts has been a great use of my space and has given customers something to think and talk about.” Denice has always wanted the cafe to have a community feel. She said, “The Ivy House serves the community through the post office, and providing walk leaflets and information, and now I am displaying and selling affordable items made locally in the community too. The window displays, which are lit in the evenings as well, help to make Broad Street feel more vibrant for my Montgomery neighbours and visitors to the town.” Val Oram, who has her jewellery items on display at the cafe, said, “The cafe is a gem overlooking Broad Street which also supports local crafters by displaying a selection of hand-made items to browse and buy alongside its great food. I encourage everyone to shop local. You can support small businesses in your own community, and leave with a smile and a sparkle in your step.” Sharon Smith, who displays her Wild Welsh Wool pieces at the cafe as well as, like Val, bringing them to the Charter Market on a Thursday, said, “I was thrilled to be offered a window to display my Wild Welsh Wool items and very grateful to Denice for being given this wonderful opportunity. The cafe is a lovely, relaxing, friendly place with a great selection of crafts to buy. Montgomery is a delightful town which I like to support for all my shopping etc. Ivy House is my perfect place to sit and look out onto the town whilst enjoying a delicious cake and coffee.” Denice added, “Locals and visitors can consider Montgomery as a shopping destination throughout the year and when thinking of gifts. As well as lots of arts and crafts, there is also Bunners and the Book Shop.” Other local makers would be welcome to display at the Ivy House and can contact Denice on 07971 435157. Photo: Items from Sharon Smith’s Wild Welsh Wool on display in the front window at the Ivy House
Cllr Haydn Andrew has presented a cheque to Wales Air Ambulance, one of his two chosen Mayor’s charities, after stepping down from the role at this year’s Annual Meeting, and will donate an equal amount to Cancer Research UK. Cllr Haydn Andrew’s two years as Montgomery Mayor encompassed unprecedented circumstances and many challenges. Regrettably, due to Covid, he was not able to host any fund raising activities for his chosen charities. Therefore, he decided to donate funds from his Mayor's allowance. Along with partner Jane Lloyd, he presented a cheque for £260 to Wales Air Ambulance at Mid Wales Airport last week, and a cheque of the same value has been sent to Cancer Research UK. Jane said, “While it’s not as much as we would have liked, as unfortunately we were not able to hold any fundraising events, we were pleased to be able to donate some funds to the two charities and support their vital work in some way when it’s been a difficult time for them too.” New Mayor Jill Kibble has selected The DPJ Foundation, a Welsh mental health charity to support those in agriculture and rural communities, as one of her chosen charities. Her other chosen cause is the Montgomery Medical Practice Patients Association, of which she is secretary. She hopes that some events and fundraising will be able to take place during her term in office.
As restrictions are easing, Montgomery Town Crier, Sue Blower, has been back in business with a vengeance after a very literal quiet period, with several appearances in the last fortnight, supporting local charity efforts, businesses and events. Sue, along with other Town Criers across the country, had to be unusually quiet during lockdown, as Town Criers stuck to an arrangement made not to make announcements, or ‘cries’, during the strict lockdown period. Sue did deliver some special messages by video from home, and rang her bell without a ‘cry’ on a couple of occasions, and of course appeared in the Christmas special of Blankety Blank! Sue’s recent return to in-person events has included a bell ring to mark the end of the Montgomery Angels scheme, opening Montgomery couple David and Anthea Wilson’s new gallery and shop in Bishops Castle, along with BC town crier Jeff Aldridge, then welcoming not one but two charity fundraisers as they visited Montgomery. The first was supporting Cari and Emma, from Dolgellau, as they set off from Montgomery Vineyard to walk to White Castle Vineyard, near Abergavenny, to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease. Richard Shackleton, of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said, “Thanks to the beautiful town of Montgomery for your hospitality and welcome. See you again soon!” The second cry was to greet Alan Bateson from Bishops Castle, raising funds for mental health charity CALM by running the length of the Offa’s Dyke path. Sue met Alan as he reached his half way point at Montgomery, and the flying visit and link to Alan’s story can be seen on the Town’s social media page. Readers may recall Katie and Matt getting engaged at Montgomery Castle on New Year’s Eve 2018, and the community celebrating with them in Broad Street at midnight. Their wedding took place in Michigan this month, and Sue filmed a video message which was presented at the wedding reception. Sue said, “It’s great to be back in business and to support not only Montgomery events, but also those people giving up their time to support a range of charities, who are always welcome in Montgomery.” Sue will be appearing in the Monty Hour slot on July 21, joined by Town Crier colleagues from across the country and the globe, to tell the audience all about the role of Town Crier. See https://montgomery.cloud/hour for details of talks and how to join the session online. Photo: Montgomery Town Crier Sue Blower cuts the ribbon at Border Lights Gallery (L-R: Anthea Wilson, Sue Blower, Bishops Castle Town Crier Jeff Aldridge)
Carys Richards, aged 10, a pupil of Montgomery Church in Wales School, was once again selected as a finalist for the Welsh Learners recitation at the National Urdd Eisteddfod T competition which was broadcast on S4C and Radio Cymru on 1st June. Carys entered her online Welsh Learners recitation entitled “Antur” and was delighted once again to have been selected as a top three finalist. Carys was announced as the overall winner of the competition last year and achieved second place this year. Carys’ video was shown on S4C and she was interviewed live from her home. The Eisteddfod T is a virtual festival, held for the first time in 2020 during the lockdown period, giving children and young people from Wales and beyond a chance to take part in a virtual fun-filled Eisteddfod from the comfort of their homes. Over 12,000 children and young people competed at this year’s Eisteddfod T competition. Montgomery Church in Wales school have had numerous successes at local level and have reached national level for many years thanks to the help of Ceinwen Morris from Forden who has kindly volunteered her time to help teach all children wishing to take part in the Urdd competitions. Carys said: "I love learning Welsh and competing in the recitation competition. I do miss competing in the traditional way on stage but have enjoyed entering online for the last 2 years, and the experience of being interviewed live on television." Anna Griggs, Head Teacher of Montgomery Church in Wales school said: “Carys continues to be an excellent role model promoting Welsh within our school. Her successes at Eisteddfod T have been inspirational for our other pupils. We are all very proud of her”. Photo credit: Phil Blagg