A strange coincidence or perhaps something more?

It’s curious how certain occasions can throw up the most amazing coincidences, without anyone trying or even most people realising what has taken place. Some call it serendipity and others would say that a “higher-being” was working their “magic”, but whatever your thoughts, I hope you find this little anecdote an interesting read.

As many of my regular blog readers will know, I’m a member of the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh and for part of our Annual Camp this year, we were honoured to be invited to attend the 100th Anniversary Commemoration Service of the Battle of Passchendaele, held  at the Welsh Memorial in the small village of Langemarck in Belgium.

The Welsh Memorial at Pilckem Ridge, Langemarck in Belgium

The guests of honour included His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, Belgian and Flanders politicians, high-profile Military representatives, plus members of the Armed Forces, Comrades and Veterans Associations and over a thousand members of the public, who had made the journey, many to honour fallen relatives.

Running in parallel with this Commemoration was the unveiling of a memorial stone to the Welsh language poet Private Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known as Hedd Wyn. He served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed in action on the 31st of July 1917 at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge. Prior to leaving home for action on the Front, Hedd Wyn had submitted a poem (under the pseudonym of “Fleur de Lis”) to the Chair Competition at the National Eisteddfod held that year in Birkenhead.

Royal Welsh Fusiliers Cap Badge 

When it was announced at the Chairing Ceremony that Hedd Wyn was the winning poet, but that he was not present to be acknowledged and honoured due to being killed in action, the Chair (ironically designed by a Belgian!) was draped in black cloth and was dubbed as “Cadair Ddu Penbedw” or “The Black Chair of Birkenhead”.

Despite his absence, the winning Bard was accorded the full honours and adulation that the winner is normally given, with tributes offered in verse, song and dance.

Now to the coincidence of my visit with the Band. The winning Bard is honoured with a rendition of the song “Rhyfelgyrch Capten Morgan”  or “Captain Morgan’s March” (sometimes known as “Men of Glamorgan”), sung by a member of The Gorsedd or Assembly of Druids. It just so happened, that the March (“The Welshman”) that the Regimental Band played, to lead the procession to the Monument that day, contained an excerpt of that very same tune!

As a young lad, I “cut my musical teeth” competing in numerous eisteddfodau all over Wales and whilst attending, heard this song performed on many, many occasions. Marching past the Hedd Wyn Memorial playing this tune, the connection and meaning was quite powerful to say the least!

Shan Cothi sings “Rhyfelgyrch Capten Morgan” at the National Eisteddfod Chairing Ceremony.

Hedd Wyn never got to hear that musical tribute in his honour back in 1917, but 100 years later, in a small village in Belgium, he was afforded that recognition and one hopes that he would have approved that we, as his own compatriots were the ones to deliver it!

The Memorial Stone at Pilckem Ridge

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