History of the Auckland Welsh:
There have been Welsh people living in Auckland since the mid to late 1800’s, but it was 1925 before a group got together to start the formation of a Welsh Society which then became incorporated in 1929. With large numbers emigrating to New Zealand from all parts of the U.K. to find a new and better life after World War 2 the activities of the Welsh Society flourished with monthly meetings, Noson Lawen, dances and large gatherings for a St David’s Day dinner up until the mid 1970’s. There was also a Cymanfa Ganu held on the Sunday afternoon nearest St David’s Day at St. Andrews Church in Lower Symonds Street. A monthly meeting was in the hall where various people would come and speak or a small choir to entertain. At this time the late Mrs Barbara Gibbs was President and Tom Lewis the Treasurer.
There was also a Welsh Choral group which functioned independently and for many years Bill Williams was the conductor.
One famous welsh singer who lived here in Auckland was Taffy Owen who sung with the Maori concert party and his wife Kathy living in Mt. Eden still hosts the occasional Auckland Welsh Society meeting when she invariably plays records of Taffy singing. Recently Kathy produced a CD of Taffy’s songs.
In the late 60’s and early 70’ a Welsh Social Club was formed under the leadership of the late Joe Davies and others such as Carmen Painter.
In 1984 Gerald Harbinson, Ian Newton, Joe Davies and Eddie Jones and others reformed the Welsh Social Club running sports events. Gerald became President followed by Dylan Rogers, Keith Richards and Derek Williams, Neville Coslett, Margaret Daniels and Pam Russell. With the Rugby World Cup in 1987 the Club ran an end of Cup dinner at the Leagues Club which was attended by over 200 so our membership leapt. In 1988 the Welsh team came out on tour, but were soundly beaten by the recent all conquering All Blacks. However, From a Welsh point of view the final game at Eden Park saw the combined choirs of the Te Atatu and North Shore Male voice choirs combining organised by the late Clive Edwards together with over 60 Welsh people. Practices were held at the University thanks to Dylan Rogers. The combined choirs were conducted by Bill Williams who had returned to live in Auckland and the MC for the pre match entertainment was Phil Kingsley –Jones. From here the Club committee stimulated by Gareth Davies, Keith & Katrina Richards, Vic Harry, Maria Davis Don & Shirley Watkins, Carmen Painter , Richard Fish and Derek Williams and others decided that it would be a good idea to resurrect a Welsh Choir and so the Auckland Welsh Club Choir came into being under the baton of Bill Williams who was rejuvenated after a few years away. Mavis Harris provided accompaniment at the piano.
1990 was a big year for Auckland and New Zealand as we were the hosts to the Commonwealth Games. Our committee had an invitation to take part in the Commonwealth Games opening Ceremony along with 24 other cultural groups in Folk Dancing. Some of us had not done any folk dancing since our school days, but with the determination of Winifred Maindonald (now in Canberra) and the help of Ruth Ames (a dance specialist who worked in Auckland Hospital) a group of 24 young and not so young people practiced every week for a year. The outcome was that the folk dance group continued practicing weekly until 2004 and as a group became sought after to perform interesting dances at various festivals. Thanks must go to Margaret Daniels (now Margaret Goldie) who worked us hard and choreographed many dances which were enjoyable to perform and look at. Paul Carter took over from Margaret as our teacher in the late 90’s. In addition, a number of the Auckland Welsh Choir were part of the 600 strong massed Choir that sang at the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
1990 also saw the culmination of the first ‘Wings from Wales’ project under the leadership of Keith Richards and Gerald Harbinson supported by a special AWC Fund-raising committee. This project aimed to bring a teenager cancer patient out from Wales to enjoy New Zealand and to see a major sporting event (The Commonwealth Games). In fact the Club raised enough money for two teenagers plus their families to benefit. The two teenagers chosen were Dale Jordan from Monmouth and Charlotte Groves from West Wales. The Choir was in the forefront of the fundraising giving concerts almost every other week including really enjoyable occasions at various RSA’s RSA’s and even recorded an album of Welsh songs, called appropriately “Songs from Home” which were sold at concerts to raise funds.
2000 and into the future.
In 2005 with the Lions Rugby team touring New Zealand the Auckland Welsh Club ran it’s second ’ Wings from Wales’ project and the recipient this time was 18 year old Scott Cullen. In the event the whole family came out including his parents Mark and Judith and twin brother Andrew. They had a super time and were excellent ambassadors for Wales.
The face of Wales in Auckland in recent years has changed, but the scope is there for the Welsh living in Auckland to still remain active. The Welsh Choir is now independent and continues to practice on a Thursday evening. It is now a larger choir with a more varied repertoire and could do with more Welsh blood. The folk dancing is now just done once or twice a year though Welsh dances are performed at festivals run by other folk dance clubs.
The hardest job is finding out who the new Welsh arrivals are who have come to Auckland to live. The formation of the Four Nations Rugby Club by Derek Rope at College Rifles and Derek Lewis the Welsh team manager is a big help in targeting new young Welsh blood. This excellent tournament started in 2004 is now an annual fixture whereby teams from the four home nations play over three Saturday afternoons in late August and September at College Rifles RFC , Haast Rd, Remuera.
In recent years we have also started the Red Dragons Football side (instigated by the late Barrie Partridge) who compete in the Auckland Sunday Football Association and several Cup and Ethnic Tournaments throughout the year, please come and support.