Origin of the Welsh Festival Service a St. Paul’s Cathedral
By Clenyg Jones- 28.02.1936
Many reports have appeared in the press from time to time as to the origin of the annual Welsh Festival Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It would, I think, be of interest to have the facts on record and to give credit to the man who was, really, the founder and originator of this festival.
In 1889 the Rev. E. Killin Roberts was curate at All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, Oxford Circus, and chaplain to the Welsh Services held at the same church, by the kind permission of the vicar, the Rev. Allen Whitworth, who was also rector of Aberdaron, North Wales. A service in Welsh was conducted on Sunday afternoons, the vicar becoming responsible for one-half of the chaplain’s stipend and the Welsh congregation for the other half.
One evening in 1889 the Rev. E. Killin Roberts called upon me in Euston Road and put to me this question: “What do you say to our having a Welsh Church Festival of St. David’s Eve?” I replied: “Splendid idea!” He thereupon invited me to his rooms the following evening to discuss further his project. Little did I think his ambition was to have the festival at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Ultimately a committee was formed, with Sir John Puleston, then Constable of Caernarvon Castle, as chairman.
The first Festival was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, the last day of February of the following year, viz., 1890. The honour therefore, of founding the Festival is due to the Rev. E. Killin Roberts, a native of Llanbadarn Fawr, Cardingshire, and of Jesus College, Oxford. He was priested by the Lord Bishop of London, and became minor canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and was afterwards vicar of Hertford, where he died.
A Loveable Character
He was a lovable character, possessing a beautiful voice, and was much in demand for concerts when in the Metropolis. It was my pleasure to arrange several concerts in aid of “Cartref oddi Cartref” (Home from home) for Welsh girls while waiting for situations in London, which was founded by Sister Catherine, a native of Cwm, Aberystwyth. One of the favourite items of these concerts would be a duet by the Rev. Killin Roberts and Miss Crump (a daughter of Mr. Crump, Q.C.), whom he eventually married.
I am indebted to his sister, Miss Bridgett Roberts, of Llanbadarn Fawr, for the photograph reproduced here. “Heddwch i’w lwch.”
Another sister of the later Rev. Killin Roberts is Mrs. Lloyd Rees, Glynwern, Llanilar, and a brother, Mr. Robert Roberts, lives at Blaengader, in the same parish.
Subjoined is the report of the first Festival at St. Paul’s, which appeared in the “Western Mail,” Saturday March 1, 1890, which I feel sure will read with much interest.
(Extract from the “Western Mail,” Saturday, March 1, 1890)
St David’s Eve
Welsh Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral
Sermon by the Bishop of St. Asaph
By Our Special Correspondent London
Rarely has the great Metropolitan Cathedral presented a more impressive spectacle than upon the eve of the festival of St. David. The paucity of worshippers at many a humble Welsh Parish Church is the theme of enemies and the reproach of friends, but the magnificent congregation that filled the space under the Dome and extended far down the vast nave of St. Paul’s is a proof that the attractive force of the Church is felt and acknowledged by Welshmen who have broken from the narrowing influences of their home life.
From first to last, this great religious festival has been emphatically a success. The service was more-stately, and ornate than the resources of the Welsh Cathedrals allow. A choir numbering over a hundred rendered the beautiful vocal settings with the grandeur they require, and one of the most popular of Welsh anthems, Ambrose Lloyd’s “Teyrnasoedd y Ddaear,” was given in a fashion which must have been a revelation to such English visitors as were attracted by the novelty of the occasion.
The solo parts in this pleasing composition were given by Madame Annie Williams, Mr. Dyved Lewys, and Mr. Sackville Evans, the benefit of such artistic co-operation being manifested by the exquisite rendering the anthem obtained. The prayers were intoned by the Rev. Killin Roberts, Welsh Chaplain at All Saints’, Margaret Street, in whose hands lain the chief responsibility for the management of the festival. The first lesson was read by Sir John Puleston, as one “to the manner born,” the second being taken by the Dean of St. Asaph. The sermon was preached by the Bishop of St. Asaph. The service of Friday night should go far to strengthen the bonds of sympathy between the English and Welsh branches of the Church, and to stimulate weak and struggling congregations in the Principality.
(The Bishop of St. Asaph, who later became the first Archbishop of Wales, preached from Ephesians ii., 14.)
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