Cwrs Cymraeg Ar Lan Y Niagara, 1991
According to the Buffalo News, if you had been in the vicinity of downtown D'Youville College during the summer of 1991, you would have heard people speaking a "strange musical tongue' and saying things like 'bora-dah,' 'sootmy?' 'de-on-di-awk,' and 'naw-sun-law-when.' They don't look very musical written like that (could you tell that the third one is 'da iawn, diolch'?), but fair play (or 'kwaray tayg' as the News puts it), the paper was doing its best at the impossible task of representing one language in another, and it was certainly spot on about the musicality of the sounds.
Yes, for one week in 1991 a small part of Buffalo was transformed into a mini-Wales and was alive with the music of the Welsh language, as 67 students and 7 instructors came together for Cwrs Cymraeg ar Lan y Niagara, Cymdeithas Madog's 15th annual Welsh-language course. Co-sponsored by the Buffalo St. David's Society, the course was a resounding success and was acclaimed by regular attendees as one of the friendliest and smoothest run on record. That this was so is a tribute to the hard work and organizing skills of the local committee - Mary Ellen Palmer, Loretta Close, and Tom Edwards.
The course followed the proven pattern of language classes for most of the day, broken by a joint class (Dosbarth ar y Cyd) immediately after lunch, with social and cultural activities in the evening. The academic side of things was in the capable hands of Hevina Phillips of Oakville, and accompanying her were three teachers from Wales (Elwyn Hughes, Helen Prosser and Clive Rowlands), and three from North America (Paul Birt, Alun Hughes, and Marta Weingartner). Together, they provided classes for all learning levels form beginner to advanced, with the emphasis on speaking the language, as well as a special reading/writing class for intermediate students.
The Dosbarth ar y Cyd sessions included a panel discussion on Welsh issues featuring the teachers from Wales, a discourse on the Eisteddfod by Elwyn Hughes, a talk on Pantycelyn by Hefina Phillips, and fascinating presentations by two of the students on the course - John Otley on the Mabinogion, and Ann Triggle on Welsh postage stampls.
The evening activities were a chance to relax, to consolidate what had been learned during the day, and to enjoy various aspects of Welsh culture. Two Welsh-language films were shown ('Nel' and the highly acclaimed 'O.M.,' the story of O. M. Edwards), there was a Twmpath Dawns (folk dance) and games night, an evening of Canu yn y Tafarn (pub singing), a bus trip to Niagara Falls and a picnic on Grand Island, and on the final night of the course a banquet and highly entertaining Noson Lawen. The latter culminated in a hilarious take-off of the Gorsedd ceremony which had the bards performing and outrageous dance to the strains of 'Shuffle off to Buffalo.
The bardic chair was awarded, for the third time in four years, to John Otley of Toronto for a poem entitled Rhaeadrau (Waterfalls). The final course event was the Sunday morning service led by the Rev. Jennifer Phillips of Boston.
Cwrs Cymraeg ar Lan y Niagara was a course to remember as one of the best.