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THE EISTEDDFODAU OF 1880.
The year 1880 was a memorable one in the history of Eisteddfodau. The National Eisteddfod was held at Carnarvon on a scale unprecedented for many years, and a second, of no inconsiderable dimensions, was celebrated by South Wales on its own account.
The latter was opened at Swansea, on the 4th of August, under the presidency of the Venerable Archdeacon Griffiths; and continued, on the fifth, under that of Mr. J. Jones Jenkins, the Mayor of Swansea; and, on the sixth, under that of Mr. Gwilym Williams, of Miskin Manor; Mr. Hussey Vivian, M.P., who had been expected to preside on the first day, being detained in London by the sitting of Parliament. Over the Gorsedd ceremonies, which were carried out with due completeness, Gurnos (Rev. J. Gurnos Jones), the Rev. Gwilym Glanffrwd Thomas, and Ioan Arfon (John 0. Griffiths, Esq.) presided. The conductors in the Pavilion were Llew Llwyfo, the Rev. E. Edmunds, of Swansea, and the Rev. J. Ossian Davies.
The chair of Glamorgan, with a prize of £20, was offered for the best ode in commemoration of Sir Rowland Hill, and honourably won by Mr. Thomas E. Davies of Pontypridd (Dewi Wyn o Essyllt). The chief choral prize of £100 was not awarded in its entirety, but one of half the amount was conferred on the best of the three competing choirs, that of Hirwaun, under the direction of Gwilym Cynon. A lesser choral prize, of £20 and a gold medal, fell to the choir of the Tabernacle, Morriston, who were led by Mr. D. Franks; and Tredegar, under the leadership of Mr. Tom Hardy, carried off the prize in the brass-band competition. Eos Dyfed and his party were successful in the contest in quartette singing; Thomas Richards and party in the execution of a trio; the “Maesteg Minstrels” and a party from Ystalyfera gained each a prize of five guineas in part-singing.
Two prizes, of £25 and of £10, were awarded to Mr. Beriah Evans of Gwynfe, Llangadoc, for the two best serial stories, illustrating Welsh life and character. It will be remembered that Mr. Evans was successful in a similar competition at Cardiff in 1879. Mr. Griffith Jones of Glanmenai, Carnarvonshire, gained a prize of £20 for his essay on “Eminent Welshmen of this Century”; Mr. W. T. Rees of Llanelly (Alaw ddu) one of similar amount for an anthem in memory of the late Ambrose Lloyd. A prize of five guineas was conferred on Miss Parry of Blaenporth, Cardigan, for her Welsh essay on the "Advantages of Ready Money"; one of similar value (the Mayor's prize) awarded to Mr. John Howells of Cowbridge for an English essay on the origin and progress of free libraries; and a third, of equal amount, to a competitor whose real name did not appear, for one on the cultivation of the soils of Glamorgan. Gwilym Gwent, who still dates from America, again carried off a prize of five guineas for the composition of a glee; while the well-known composer Mr. R. S. Hughes, of London, gained the three guinea prize offered by Eos Morlais for a tenor song, and the similar one proposed by Mr. Lucas Williams for a scena for a bass voice. The successful scena was rendered on the spot by Mr. Lucas Williams with much applause.
A prize of five guineas was awarded to Mr. D. C. Harris for an elegiac poem to the late Mrs. Rosser of Pontypridd, and one of three guineas to the Rev. T. J. Morgan for ten Welsh satirical verses, “ Diraddwyr y Cymry”.
For two important prizes, amongst others, no competitors appeared. The committee had offered £25 for an essay on “The Etymology of Place-names, in its Relation to Ethnology, in so far as it illustrates the Prehistoric Migrations of the Kelts”, and Mr. Hussey Vivian ten guineas for a History of the Literature of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan.” We would venture to suggest the desirability of a longer notice being given when subjects which require such wide research for their adequate treatment are proposed. A prize of £10 and a gold medal had also been offered for a Welsh poem to Iolo Morganwg, but the adjudicators declined to make the award. These three competitions, it was announced at the concluding Gorsedd, will be proposed again, at Merthyr Tydfil, in 1881, and it is to be hoped not again in vain.
No Eisteddfod is now complete without an address in Welsh by the Oxford Professor of Celtic. Professor Rhys took for his subject on this occasion, the origin of the musical mode of expression. Passing on to discuss the present position of the art in Wales, he earnestly urged the rising poets of the country to turn their attention to the legends of their native land, and, by dressing them in appropriate verse, to afford composers a national basis for their music. For these addresses of the learned professor's, Wales is much indebted, as well for the originality and suggestiveness of their matter, as for the standard of correct and vigorous Welsh which they embody.
The audience at Swansea had also the pleasure of hearing the animated speech in which the veteran composer, Mr. Brinley Richards, pointed out the advantages which the Eisteddfod had been the means of conferring on the art he represented, and a stirring oration in Welsh by the president of the Gorsedd, besides the excellent presidential addresses.
The attendance at the Eisteddfod left nothing to be desired. On the first day it was reported that nearly 24,000 persons had passed the turnstiles; and the greatest interest pre
vailed from first to last. The Swansea Orchestral and Choral societies were a prominent feature in the evening concerts. Handel's “Samson” was rendered on the second evening.
The National Eisteddfod was opened in the permanent pavilion lately erected in Carnarvon, on the 24th of August, and continued through the three succeeding days. The courtyard of the castle added impressiveness to the rites of the Gorsedd, which, under Clwydfardd's auspices, was held there each morning, the president of the day being subsequently conducted thence in state to the pavilion. On the opening day, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, “Prince in Wales”, appropriately occupied the president's seat. On the subsequent days it was filled by Major Cornwallis West, by Mr. Watkin Williams (now Sir Watkin Williams), and by Sir Llewellyn Turner. Mr. J. H. Puleston, who had been expected to preside, was unable to attend. Llew Llwyfo and Tanymarian by turns wielded the conductor's bâton.
The Bardic Chair, with a prize of £20 attached, proposed for the best awdl on “ Athrylith," was conferred on the Rev. B. Joseph of Colwyn Bay. In the chief remaining poetical competitions, Mr. H. T. Davies of Brynllaeth gained the prize (£5 and a silver medal) for a cywydd on “Health"; the Rev. Mr. Roberts, rector of Llangwm (Elis Wyn o Wyrfai), £20 and a silver crown, for a poem on“ The Triumph of the Cross”; the Rev. J. Ceulanydd Williams of Talysarn, £10 and a silver medal, for a poem, “The Two Patriots”, in memory of the late Rev. Robert Jones and the late Rev. T. James, F.S.A.; and the Rev. J. O. Griffith (Ioan Arfon) four guineas and a silver medal for a pastoral poem.
For his glee, “Exile from Cambria”, the prize of £5 and a silver medal was awarded to Mr. C. H. Renshaw of Rockferry; and to Prof. O. H. Evans of Tanlan, Newborough, Anglesea, one of seven-and-a-half guineas and a silver medal for his quintett for string instruments.
The great choral prize, of £150 and a gold medal, was carried off by Birkenhead from the two choirs of Llangollen and Acrefair, themselves of unexceptionable merit, and highly praised by the adjudicators. The pieces selected for the competition were, “ See from his post” (Handel) and “While everlasting ages roll” (Rossini). In pronouncing the award, Dr. Stainer took occasion to express his definite conclusion that abundance of real musical talent existed in Wales, and his hope that opportunities for its full development would soon be provided. Mr. W. Parry was the leader of the successful choir.
In the brass band competition, Llanrug was successful, and gained the prize of £20 and a gold medal. The excellent playing of their leader, Mr. J. R. Tidswell, was much commended. Carnarvon won the ten guineas and silver medal offered for string bands. The triple harp contest derived a sad interest from the fact that the victor, Mr. Owen Jones of Arthog, is blind. Miss Griffith, daughter of Mr. W. LI. Griffith, won the harmonium offered for pianoforte playing by competitors under twenty years of age, and extra prizes were given by Mr. Love Jones Parry to two other young ladies, Miss Richards and Miss Grace Owen, of Rhyl. Miss Welton, a granddaughter of Owain Gwyrfai, the antiquarian, gained a prize of 3 guineas for a contralto solo. Mr. E. T. Price of Llanidloes bore the palm for harmonium-playing; and Mr. Martin Sullivan of Carnarvon excelled on the cornet.
Some important subjects had been proposed for prose compositions. For a translation of Gwalchmai's poems into English, a prize of £10 and a silver medal was conferred on Mr. Reynolds, son of Nathan Dyfed. Thirty guineas and a silver medal were offered by gentlemen connected with the mining interest for an essay on “The Metalliferous Deposits of Flint and Denbigh”, and awarded by the adjudicators to Mr. D. C. Davies, F.G.S., of Oswestry. For a Welsh essay