Cymdeithas Gymreig Manitoba

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St David’s Society of Winnipeg  

Founded in 1892

by Dr. Keith Davies Jones

1892  First President : Rev D.H.Jacobs born in Llandygwydd, Cardiganshire in 1851, died in Winnipeg in 1943.

Founder members included Owen Davies, J.J.Roberts and J.E.Hughes.

The first meeting was held at the YMCA on April 11th, 1892. The founding secretary was D.S. Davies. J.E. Hughes was vice-president and J.J.Roberts treasurer. Constitution and by-laws were to be drawn up and submitted to a general meeting to be held on April 25th. Membership stood at around 20 persons. It was stated that the Society was to be affiliated with the Cymmrodorion Society of London.  Unfortunately, the Cymmrodorion Society can find no record of any correspondence with the Society in Winnipeg at that time, and it would appear that this was not done. At their next meeting in May 1892, the Society discussed the possibility of establishing a Welsh Colony in Manitoba.

Listing for a David S. Davies in City Directories 1892-97 with the occupation of ‘clerk’.  Obituary in 1933 for David Davies, born in Cardiff; came to Canada in 1886, employed for many years by the CNR. Most likely however to have been D.S.Davies, choirmaster at Zion Church in 1892, who left the city the following year.

At a concert held on May 2nd 1892, soloists were D.S.Davies (Hen Wlad y Menyg Gwynion & Ar hyd y nos); J.E.Hughes (Rhyfelgân Capten Morgan & Mentra Gwen) & Mr Pugh Jones (Yn iach i ti Gymru). Mr Jones and Mr Davies acted as accompanists.

In 1932 Rev Jacobs wrote,  “When I arrived in Winnipeg in 1889, there were none of my own countrymen at the railway station to give me a welcome and grasp my hand and say sut yr ydach chi?”  A few months later, a chance meeting on Main Street with Owen Davies, who had heard him preach the previous evening led to an enduring friendship and the eventual formation of the Society in 1892.

On August 4th 1892, the Society arranged and conducted a Welsh-language funeral for Miss Miriam Edwards, a young woman newly arrived with her family from Patagonia. Her father, John Edwards, was originally from Dylife in Montgomeryshire.  The musical part of the service was conducted by Mr Davies.

“On the same ship with Parch. D.H. Jacobs came my great-uncle Owen Jones of Nant yr Hebog, Llanidloes, and I think he and Rev Jacobs were close friends.  With Owen Jones came his wife Hannah and eleven children, (four more children were born in Canada). All survived to adulthood, a rare thing in those days. The Jones clan were and are widely distributed in the Austin-MacGregor area of Manitoba.  Some of the boys went to work in BC's forest industry. The patriarch Owen Jones was instrumental in laying out the road systems of Western Manitoba and held the title "Roadmaster" until his death”.                    

Thomas Elwyn Jones

The above appears to have been something of a false start; and apparently the Society was re-constituted on March 1st 1894. According to information obtained in 1975 from D.H.Rees, a former secretary, the executive in 1894 comprised Rev Jacobs (President), T. Davies (Secretary), H.M.Howell, R Jones, J H Morgan and Owen Davies. Again, the Society appears not to have continued meeting regularly; however, it was represented by E. Reece and Owen Davies on the general committee organising Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in 1897. The Society was re-formed at a meeting in the Trades Hall on September 25th, 1900.

H.M.Howell, President;  J.J.Roberts, Vice-president; Mr Jones, Secretary.

Draft by-laws were presented at a meeting held the following month : The object of the organisation was defined to be the furnishing of advice and information to Welsh people in Manitoba, and encouraging their settlement in this province, assisting those of them who from sickness or misfortune stand in need of pecuniary aid, and promoting the welfare of Welsh people generally. The membership was fixed at $1 per male member, the ladies being honorary members....It is estimated that there are about 80 or 100 gentlemen in the city eligible for membership besides an unknown number of ladies..............

1901  Society holds picnic in Elm Park on June 25th

The Manitoba Free Press reported that ‘the event was a thorough success up to the point where the rain intervened. Diluted tea and lemonade and drenched cake and sandwiches were followed by a rush for the  pavilion.  Another picnic is being arranged to take place in August....’ 

1902  President :  J.J.Roberts; Owen Davies Vice President; H.E. Jones Secretary

Second annual St David’s Day dinner held on March 1st.

1903  Owen Davies sent on the Society’s behalf to investigate reports of hardship amongst Patagonian immigrants in the colony at Saltcoats in Saskatchewan. A few families were found to be in need of some assistance, but most of the settlers were found to be prosperous and happy.

Hugh E Jones, Engineer. Born in Wales in 1871. Came to Canada in 1891. By 1906 he was living in Saskatchewan.

Owen Davies, Roofing contractor. A native of Machynlleth. Born in 1846.  Came to Canada in 1882. Died in 1914.

John J Roberts,  proprietor of Roberts Advertising Co & former member of Winnipeg School Board. Born in Wales in 1854 and came to Canada in 1883. By 1932 he was living in Vancouver.




June 1904     Society incorporated as a benevolent society for the purpose of distributing benefits.

1905   H.M. Howell  Honorary President Owen Davies - President

Program for the St David’s Day concert included selections by Joseph Parry and William Rhys-Herbert.  The accompanist was Fred Gee.




Hector Mansfield Howell was born in Thurlow, Ontario in 1842. He was called to the Ontario bar in 1871 and moved to Winnipeg in 1879. In one of his most celebrated  cases, he represented the Province’s Attorney General in a libel action he brought (and lost) against the editor of the Manitoba Free Press, William Luxton. In 1906 he was appointed Chief Justice of Manitoba. In 1915 he was involved in civil proceedings related to alleged fraud in construction of the new legislative building. The ensuing scandal led to the resignation of Premier Roblin and the fall of his government. The contractor, Thomas Kelly, was convicted of fraud in June 1916. Chief Justice Howell died in 1918 from injuries he sustained in a fall from a streetcar in Long Beach, California earlier that year. In his youth he was a keen oarsman, and was President of the Winnipeg Rowing Club in 1884. His family lived in style; when Mrs Constance Howell went shopping, she remained in her carriage; the merchants came out of their shops to take her orders. The composer Barbara Pentland (1912 - 2000) was his grand-daughter.

1906/7  :  Society appears to have ceased meeting regularly, and I can find no reports of any St David’s Day celebrations in the city in those years.                     

1908     President : Dr G. Osborne Hughes Rhys Thomas was chosen as an adjudicator at the National Eisteddfod of Wales held that year in Swansea. 

He was a choirmaster and vocal coach who lived in Winnipeg from 1901 to 1927. Performances of works such as Messiah and Samson by Handel, Haydn’s Creation, and Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang established his reputation as a choral conductor during his early years in the city. In July 1903 he was on staff at the newly opened Winnipeg College of Music. He was founding president of the Manitoba Registered Music Teachers’ Association in 1919. His most successful students included May Lawson, Nina Dempsey, Gertrude Newton and W. Davidson Thomson (who later taught Jon Vickers). Rhys Thomas was born in Wales in 1867, and was a school-friend of  Dr Dan Protheroe; he studied with Dr Joseph Parry and subsequently at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music in London, and in Berlin. He died in London in 1932. In 1913, he was succeeded as choirmaster at Knox Church by William Henry Shinn, who came to Winnipeg from Cardiff, where he studied with George Beale (organist of Llandaff Cathedral) and Madame Clara Novello Davies. His son, Franklyn Shinn (b. Barry, South Wales 1911, died 1997) was a distinguished Winnipeg musician and composer, and Director of the Planetarium.

Dr George Osborne Hughes specialised in diseases of the skin and venereal disease, his office was on Main Street.  At a time when men considerably outnumbered women in the city, he probably had a busy practice. He was also on staff at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital which he helped to establish. He was Editor of the Western Canada Medical Journal which was published monthly from January 1907 to December 1915. An editorial in November 1914 discusses the shortage of doctors in Manitoba that had arisen due to the large number serving overseas. Manitoba had apparently contributed a disproportionately large number of doctors to the war, because its qualifications were recognised in Great Britain. Ontario doctors could not join the British army because Ontario had previously refused to negotiate reciprocity as Manitoba and Nova Scotia had done.  This, he says, was because the authorities in Ontario believed that given the opportunity, many of their physicians would move to Manitoba!  Dr Hughes’ qualifications were from Virginia, USA and from London, England. He studied also in Paris and Vienna.  He was born in Llanllyfni, Caernarvonshire, Wales in 1870; his father Rev William Hughes, Rector of Llanllyfni, was said to have been a noted Welsh scholar. His mother, Margaret Jane Roberts was the second daughter of Rev  John Roberts, Rector of Llansadwrn. Dr Hughes came to Canada in 1904 with his wife Jean, who was born in Scotland, and he died in Winnipeg on 11th May 1919 at the age of 49, the cause of his death being reported as typhoid fever. In his obituary he was described as a ‘genial presence that would be sorely missed’. He was survived by his wife, who appears to have left the city shortly afterwards. His estate, including many ‘exquisite furnishings’ and a piano, was offered for sale in November 1919.




1909  St David’s Day banquet and concert held at Scott Memorial Hall 

Dr Hughes resigned as president, citing ‘pressure of work’.  Mr W.J.Bartlett was elected as his successor.  Vice-President E.C.Davies

The St David’s Day celebrations of 1910 are reported in Vol 1, No.1 of The Welsh Pioneer (April 1910).  The event was held in the Liberal Hall, and it was reported that there was much support expressed amongst those present for Mr Lloyd George. The Chairman was Dr J.E.Jones, Consul General of the United States; and speakers included John Williams MPP for Deloraine, Rev George Williams, Dr Osborne Hughes and the President of the Society, Mr W.J. Bartlett. Proceedings included a number of patriotic speeches, and musical items and recitations, including a contribution from the Welsh Male Choir.

In the same issue of the magazine there is an item on the Welsh Rugby Football Team, and its Captain, Bob Lewis. He was born in Cardiff and had captained the rugby team at Ellesmere College (in Shropshire) for 3 years. He had founded the Welsh team the previous year (1909) and in their first season they had placed second in the league.

There was also a mention of Owen Hughes, known in Bardic Circles as ‘Glascoed’ (sic), who had recently opened a grocery store on Pembina Hwy.  (by 1915 this was relocated to Osborne Street).

The St David’s Society held its meetings fortnightly on Monday evenings at the Railway Hall on Main Street. Its secretary was Griffith Jones. 

Griffith Jones was known to everyone as Griff. On several occasions he was said to have given his job to a recent immigrant from Wales, reasoning that it would be easier for him to find a new job than for a newcomer to find work. He was born in Wales in 1878 and came to Canada in 1899. By 1910, he was a partner in the firm of Morse and Jones. In 1911 he was President of the Welsh Football Club. In 1925 he moved to New York.  He died in West Palm Beach Florida in 1962 at the age of 83.

Gair oddiwrth Griff Jones yn ‘Y Drych’ ym 1910 :

Dygwyddiad rhyfedd gymerodd le ychydig yn ôl yn y ddinas hon ynglyn a hen ŵr 66 oed o’r enw Hugh Roberts, yr hwn oedd ar ei ffordd o sefydliad Cymreig Saltcoats am yr Hen Wlad. Yr oedd yr hen frawd wedi bwriadu myned trwy y Talaethau, gan ddysgwyl taro ar Gymry yn Minneapolis i fod yn gwmni iddo. Yr oedd wedi bod yn aros yn Wisconsin a Minnesota fel amaethwr am ryw ugain mlynedd; ond chwe blynedd yn ôl daeth drosodd i Ganada, a chafodd homestead yn y sefydliad, yr hwn a werthodd ychydig yn ôl. Pan yn dychwelyd oddi yno rhoddodd ei arian mewn check ar fanc ym Minneapolis, oddigerth rhyw $200. Cafodd ei yru o’r C.P.R Station i’r U.S.Emigration Offices, er mwyn cael trwydded i fyned i’r States; a thrwy nad oedd yn gallu Saesneg death i helbul. Gan nad oeddynt yn ei ddeall wrth holi pa faint o arian oedd ganddo fe yrryd am yr heddgeidwad ac anfonodd y Chief of Police at Davies, trysorydd y St David’s Society; ond gan nad oedd yntau yn deall yr iaith, anfonodd amdanaf fi, a phwy welais ymhlith y carcharorion ond Hugh Roberts, yr hwn adwaenwn yn sefydliad Cymraeg Saltcoats, lle mae fferm innau, ond fod ei fferm ef yn Waldron a’m heiddo i yn ardal Glyndwr. Gwelais ei fod yn falch iawn o weled Cymro unwaith eto, a chefais ef yn rhydd. Dywedai i’r awdurdodau ymddwyn yn garedig wrtho. Aethym ag ef i dŷ Owen Hughes, Fort Rouge, y rhai sydd yn nodedig am eu caredigrwydd. Bu hefyd yn aros gyda theulu Francis Jones, brodor o ger Caernarfon ac yn aelod o bwyllgor yr achos Cymreig. Bum gydag ef yn prynu tocyn i fyned trwy Montreal i Gymru, a chychwynodd oddiyma gyda dymuniadau goreu pawb. Penododd Cymdeithas Dewi Sant W.J.Bartlett i holi ei gymeryd i fyny a’i draddodi fel carcharor ac ymddengys i gryn siarad gymeryd lle am nad yw y Cymry yn cael eu cynrychioli ar fwrdd y llowdraeth.

William J.Bartlett, formerly a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in Britain, was a prominent Labour Leader, holding positions as Chair of the Labor Representative Committee, President of the Trades Labor Council (founded in 1894), and a member of the Trades Congress of Canada. He was a blacksmith by trade and employed by the CPR. He was born in the Channel Islands in 1868, and came to Canada from Wales in 1904. His wife, Alice, was born in Wales. His first entry in Henderson’s Directory for the city is in 1905. In 1907 he was a delegate to the National Trades & Labour Congress held in Winnipeg. In 1914 he stood unsuccessfully as a Labor candidate in the Provincial election, which returned the Conservative government of Rodmond Roblin. Later that year he was elected to City Council, representing Assiniboia.   Interestingly, he gets no mention in any reference work on the history of the Labor Movement in Manitoba, where the focus is invariably on the General Strike of 1919. 

Mr Bartlett and his family were members of the Salvation Army. On one occasion, as speaker at a temperance rally in Winnipeg, he declared that it was his fervent wish to see “every bar in the city shut down”. This led to a complaint from the bartenders’ union, who felt that he was not fairly representing their interests, as he wished to see them all out of work. 

By 1916, he had left the city and moved to Vancouver, he attended the 38th annual convention of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada held in Montreal in 1922, as Chairman of the British Columbia delegation. However, not all of his activities at that time were so reputable. The following is found in ‘Historical Essays on British Columbia’, J Friesen & HK Ralston Ed, McLelland and Stewart Ltd  1976 :

Union Leaders such as W.J.Bartlett and Percy Bengough played a prominent role in forming the Asiatic Exclusion League in 1921 “to keep the Province and the Dominion for the White Man, by stopping any further Oriental Immigration.”  In 1923, Bartlett was President of the AEL in British Columbia.  Membership in the organisation stood at 40,000. That year saw the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act, which ended virtually all Chinese immigration to Canada.  William James Bartlett died in Vancouver in 1947; in that year the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed. Alice Bartlett died in Victoria in 1958. Their only child, William, died in Winnipeg from accidental injuries at the age of 13.




In 1911 the population of Winnipeg was 142,000. William Sanford Evans was Mayor of Winnipeg, Rodmond Roblin was Premier of Manitoba. In Wales, there was industrial and political unrest; coal miners were on strike in the Rhondda, striking dock-workers in Cardiff were confronted by soldiers. In Llanelli, striking railway workers were met by 600 troops; in the ensuing riot, 5 people were killed. There were racist attacks on Jewish businesses in several towns in South Wales, and on the Chinese community in Cardiff. 50 million tons of coal were produced annually, by 232,000 men working in 620 mines. The 1911 census recorded 43% of the population of Wales as Welsh-speaking, 36% of the population of Gwynedd were monoglot Welsh-speakers. 

The following information is gleaned largely from reports appearing in the Winnipeg Free Press

1912  President :  L.W. Thomas,  Secretary D.J. Davies, Vice-President G.Jones.  50 members.  St David’s Day concert reported as ‘the best ever’ with an attendance of over 300. ‘Cambrian Male Choir’ organised within the Society, J.R.Davies, conductor.

Luther Walter Thomas, a member of the Typographical Union, stood as a Labor candidate in the city’s Aldermanic elections in 1914. He was born in Carmarthen, Wales in 1864 and came to Canada in 1903 after living in London, England for 20 years. In 1935, he and his wife moved to Glendale, California. He died in Winnipeg in 1943 at the age of 79.

D.J.Davies possibly David J Davies, Directory listing in 1913 as “Cambria Press”.  Altogether, 5 listings for ‘D.J.Davies’ in 1914 directory. Enlisted in the war were David John Davies (b.Llanelli, 1884) & David Jenkin Davies (b.Cardiff, 1885).

1913  President :  L.W. Thomas  -  Secretary  :  Owen Ladd.   Society now has permanent headquarters at the Industrial Bureau, invites Lloyd George to visit Winnipeg.  More than 400 persons attended St David’s Day banquet at the Oddfellows’ Temple.  ‘Welsh Dramatic Society’ was rehearsing a play, ‘Out in the Street’.

Owen Ladd listed in City Directories 1913-1914, occupation given as ‘clerk’; he was born in Pembrokeshire in 1883.

Principal speaker at St David’s Day Banquet was Sir Marchant Williams (b. Gadlys 1845; d. Rhydfelin 1914) - one of the most prominent Welshmen of his time : jurist, historian, writer (Land of my Fathers), poet (Odlau Serch a Bywyd), ardent Welsh nationalist, member of the Cymmrodorion Society and Chairman of the Council of the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Knighted in 1904 for his services to Wales.

October 14th : Wales’ worst colliery disaster, 439 men and boys killed in explosion at Senghennydd


Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng

St David’s Day Banquet held on March 2nd.  Songs by Miss Lynwern Thomas, Mr Joseph Farr, Miss Nellie Williams, Messrs. Owen Jones, T.N.Griffiths, L.T.Williams; Mrs Pritchard & Bob Jones.

October 27th - Dylan Thomas born in Swansea

1915    President  :   Griff Jones;   Secretary E.L. Hughes.  It was reported that more than 60 of the young Welsh men formerly resident in the city were now enlisted in the war. Amongst those who did not return was Capt. Edmund Howell (also a lawyer), the only son of Chief Justice Howell. He was killed in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, leaving a son, Hector Mansfield Howell. His name is inscribed on the Soldiers’ Relatives Memorial in the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building, and on the Memorial plaque at Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

Also reported in May 1915, that amongst those who had been lost in the sinking of the Lusitania was Owen Ladd, a former secretary of the St David’s Society.   Four other Welsh people from the city perished also.

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This photograph of Owen Ladd shows that he had a severe right-sided proptosis, most likely due to Graves’ Disease (thyrotoxicosis), up till that time an untreatable condition. He would probably have had less than 6 months to live. In 1915, the first successful treatment of Graves’ Disease using radium was carried out at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, that patient being the composer Herbert Howells, who died in 1983.  Possibly Owen Ladd was travelling to London to be treated in the same way.

1916. President : Griff Jones. Owen Parry took over as secretary from E.L.Hughes who had enlisted. St David’s Day Banquet held at Fort Garry Hotel.  The effects of the war were being felt everywhere. Social conditions in Winnipeg were deteriorating. On April 1st there was rioting in the city and troops were called out to restore order. On June 1st, prohibition was enacted. On March 27th, 230 men from Winnipeg lost their lives in the battle of St Eloi craters, and from September 21st to October 21st, 441 men from Winnipeg were killed in the battle of the Somme. Between July 1st and November 18th, 1 million men lost their lives, including 25,000 Canadians.

On 28 January 1916, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to extend the franchise to women

Elias Lewis Hughes was born in 1879 in Penbryn, Cardiganshire. His occupation is recorded as book-keeper.  Owen Parry was born in Wales in 1889 and came to Winnipeg in 1915. He is listed in City Directories to 1934 as accountant with the Moore Mountain Company.  In retirement, he moved to Victoria BC.

Composer Denis ApIvor born in Collinstown, Ireland on April 14th   (d.2004)

David Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on December 7th

Fe gyhoeddwyd am y tro cyntaf yr emyn dôn enwog gan William Penfro Rowlands, sef ‘Blaenwern’ mewn casgliad Cân a Moliant

Cyhoeddwyd hefyd y dôn ddisglair sef ‘Calon Lân’ o waith John Hughes, Glandŵr (1872 - 1914)


No report on any Society activities.   

Ellis Humphrey Evans, ‘Hedd Wyn’, killed in France in battle of Pilken Ridge on 31st July.

Posthumously awarded Chair at National Eisteddfod of Wales held that year in Birkenhead.

Another Welsh poet, David James Jones ‘Gwenallt’ sentenced to 2 years’ jail

for refusing military service.

Reginald Smith-Brindle  1917 - 2003

Lecturer/Professor of Music, Bangor University 1957 - 1970

‘Discoveries’ (Vernon Watkins) recorded in 1969 by Seiriol Singers

conducted by John Hywel

In March, Communist Revolution overthrows Russian Tsar Nicholas II

In April, United States of America entered the War

April 9th -12th  Battle of Vimy Ridge

More than 10,000 Canadian casualties

Conscription enacted by Canadian Government in August

In Winnipeg,  Tuxedo Military Hospital opened to treat casualties from the war.


President :  Dr G.Osborne Hughes

St David’s Day marked by a special orchestral concert at Eaton’s grill-room during the afternoon, and a second concert during the evening at the Industrial Bureau. This program was directed by J.H.Roberts, and those taking part included Mr Oliver Thomas and Miss Lynwern Thomas. Corporal W.J.Hughes was the accompanist. The Red Dragon flew over the Free Press building during the day. Proceeds from the evening were devoted to the procuring of comforts for the soldiers overseas.

March 25th   Composer Claude Debussy died in Paris

July 16th  Tsar Nicholas II of Russia assassinated with his family

Bu farw’r gerddores a’r gyfansoddwraig Morfydd Owen ar 27 Medi, yn 27 oed

World War ends with Armistice signed on November 11th

Lladdwyd tua 40,000 o Gymry yn y Rhyfel, 1914 - 1918.

More than 10,000 Welsh people died from influenza

during the winter pandemic of 1918/19

1919  President  : Thomas Thomas

Untimely death of Dr Osborne Hughes.  Shortly afterwards, the Shoal Lake Aqueduct was inaugurated, providing Winnipeg for the first time with a safe water supply. Previously its water had been unsafe, and cases of typhoid were common.

Thomas Thomas was born in Dowlais in 1870 and came to Canada in 1910. He was employed by the CNR, retiring in 1937. He died in 1959. His daughter, Lynwern (b.Dowlais, 1899; d.Winnipeg 1991), was for many years a popular soloist at St David’s Day concerts.

1920  President : J.H.Roberts.  Honorary President J.H.Evans

Mountain Ash Male Voice Choir perform in Winnipeg on October 24th

1922-23  President :  E.T.Mends

Edmund Thomas Mends was born in Neath, Glamorganshire, Wales in 1867. He came to Winnipeg in 1907 from Pontypool, where he had been employed by the Great Western Railway. In Winnipeg he worked as a railway detective. In 1924 he moved to Detroit where his married daughter lived, and died there in 1926.

1924  President :  J.H.Roberts

                Secretary W.T. Jenkyns.

                St David’s Day dinner attended by 300 people. 

                Guests included Premier Bracken, Mayor Farmer & J.H.Evans, Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

                The Welsh Male Voice Choir performed under the baton of F.H.Hughes.

                Soloists included Norman White  (born in Gowerton) who sang ‘Morfa Rhuddlan’.

John Henry Roberts was born in Flintshire, Wales in 1867 and came to Winnipeg in 1905. He was employed as a steam-fitter by CNR and was Regional President, Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees (now CBRT&GW). In 1918 this union refused to affiliate the predominantly African-Canadian Order of Sleeping Car Porters, which had been founded the previous year in Winnipeg by John Arthur Robinson. In 1921, the CBRE was expelled from the Canadian Trades Congress. The union remained segregated until the 1960’s.

The black railway porters had their own 30-strong band. There is a photograph from 1922 in Owen Clark’s history of Jazz in Winnipeg, ‘Musical Ghosts’  (2007).





James Howell Evans was the Society’s Honorary President for many years. He was born in St Clears, Carmarthenshire and came to Canada in 1906. He graduated from the Agricultural College, University of Manitoba in 1912. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Agriculture in 1916, and held this position until his retirement in 1949. He is credited with having created the first TB-free cattle herds in the British Empire. As his main hobby, he bred race-horses. He died in 1953 at the age of 69. His second son, Clarence, lost his life in 1942 while serving with the RCAF.

1926  President : Joseph Farr.

J.H.Roberts, Honorary President of the Society, died suddenly in April at the age of 58. He had been chosen to represent the Society at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, being held later that year in Swansea.

St David’s Society of Brandon, Manitoba, founded. First president Bishop William Thomas.

The Society voted unanimously to send a cable of sympathy to Miss Megan Lloyd George,  who had been stricken with appendicitis. Owen Hughes of Winnipeg, a member of the Society, was crowned Chief Bard of North America (Prifardd America) at an eisteddfod held in Utica, NY.

The following year, 1927, Owen Hughes won again at the Utica Eisteddfod. This was in fact his third successive win at Utica. The Free Press reported that he had to date been the winner of 7 bardic chairs, a gold crown and a number of medals, and had been successful at eisteddfodau held in Canada, the United States, South America and Wales. At that time, he had been living in Winnipeg for some 20 years. By 1929, he had moved to Vancouver, and in July of that year he adjudicated at an eisteddfod held in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The last reference I have found to him is as adjudicator at an eisteddfod in Edmonton in 1936.  The Utica Eisteddfod was held annually from 1858 to 1958, and in its day was considered to be the premier eisteddfod in North America.

The following notes are taken from his entry in Welsh Biography On-line, drawn from publications of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion  (National Library of Wales, 2007)

Owen Hughes was born at Glasgoed, Cwm Prysor, Merionethshire in 1879, one of the ten children of William and Mary Hughes. After a little education at Tŷ Nant and Upper Maentwrog school, he had to start working at the age of nine. In 1900 he moved to Tonypandy in the Rhondda where he and his younger brother, Humphrey, worked as coal-miners. In 1906 he returned to his birthplace and won the chair at the Rhosesmor eisteddfod, and then emigrated to Winnipeg where he lived for the next 20 years, later moving to Vancouver. Despite his lack of formal education he was an accomplished poet and a master of the intricate metrical demands of ‘cynghanedd’; and was said to be able to speak and write 8 languages.  He married Kate Williams from Caernarfon, and she died in 1941. He died on 29 Aug. 1947 and was buried in Vancouver. They do not appear to have had any children.

Owen Hughes’ grocery store on Osborne Street was known as a place where people would frequently gather to discuss the issues of the day, and his home was known for its hospitality. He was a member of the Welsh Church, and served as its treasurer, and was a Patron of the Welsh Football Club.

An article about Owen Hughes, written by John W Jones, appeared in ‘Y Genhinen’ Vol. IV, #3, Summer 1954 pp168-174, this includes some of his poetry. A number of original letters and some unpublished poetry by Owen Hughes is held in the collection of John William Jones (‘Joni Bardd’) (1883 - 1954) at the National Library of Wales. The location of any surviving mss of his major poetic works is unknown, and any information concerning their whereabouts would be greatly appreciated. Owen Hughes is generally referred to by the grammatically correct bardic name ‘Glasgoed’ but he signed his work as ‘Glascoed’.

1927   President :  Joseph Farr, Vice-President D.L.Thomas, Secretary Alfred Edwards

The Society was very active at this time, organising monthly concerts and a children’s eisteddfod. A photograph of 3 unidentified officers of the Society who had organised St David’s Day Banquet at the Marlborough Hotel appeared in ‘Y Drych’ on March 10th  (Aled Jones & Bill Jones, ‘Y Drych’ & America’  -  Gomer 2001,  p87). In fact they were Joseph Farr (President), Alf Edwards (Secretary) and Cecil Rice-Jones (Honorary President). The leeks were grown by Tom Morgan.



‘A splendid musical program was given by the Welsh Male Choir under J.Farr; and vocal numbers by Miss Lynwern Thomas, Miss Nellie Jones, Evan Roberts, W.H.Thomas, E.Roberts and T.R.Griffith. The accompanists were Miss Edna Hall, Mrs A.Anderson and J.Steele’  (Winnipeg Free Press)

Joseph Farr was born in Dowlais and moved to Canada in 1911 He was a stonemason by trade, and was involved in construction of the Welsh Church, in which he was choir director. He also conducted the Welsh Male Choir, and during the 1930’s The Welsh Glee Club. He died in 1956 at the age of 81.

1930   President : D.L.Thomas,  Honorary President F.H. Hughes.

Mr Hughes represented the Society on the Provincial Committee responsible for organising Manitoba’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations during that year.

David Lewis Thomas was born in Glamorganshire in 1863 and came to Winnipeg in 1900. He was associated with the Richardson Stationery Co. He retired in 1933 and moved to Montreal where he died in 1934.

1931   President :  Fitzherbert Hughes   (see Male Choir)

After the First Welsh Church on Sherbrook Street was opened in 1932, the St David’s Society began meeting there, and continued until it closed sometime after December 1972.  

1932 : J. Lewis Thomas (b. in Breconshire in 1870) described as a past-president, but not known when that was. He was organising a party to attend the National Eisteddfod of Wales being held the following year (1933) in Wrexham (where my grandmother was a member of the Eisteddfod Choir, which performed ‘A Mass of Life’ by Delius). In 1933 he broadcast a talk on ‘Wales’ on CJRW Radio.  He is listed as an ‘agent’ in the City Directory 1933-34, with no further listing after that year.

1933  Events during the year included a swimming party in May and the annual picnic in June.  A youth group, known as the Cambrian Club, was formed within the St David’s Society, and organised its own events.

1934  President :  Rupert C. Reece

                Guest speaker at St David’s Day Banquet was Leonard W Brockington, KC.

                On June 18th, the Society’s Float won a prize in a parade held to celebrate Winnipeg’s 50th anniversary



Rupert Cambourne Reece was born in North Wales, the son of an Anglican Clergyman and Canon of St Asaph Cathedral. He came to Winnipeg in 1912 to work for a Liverpool grain company. During WW1 he served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, reaching the rank of Captain. He was President of the Grain Exchange 1935-36.  In 1941 he was appointed honorary director of Canadian Legion War Services. In 1942 he was appointed Chair of the Dependents’ Advisory Committee for Manitoba, and his elder son Michael was killed on active service with the RCAF in North Africa. In 1943 he was awarded the OBE for services to the Dominion Council for British Empire Service League. He also served as Chairman of the Community Chest and as Chairman of the Board of Governors of St John’s Ravenscourt School. He moved to London, England in 1946, and  died in London at the age of 57 in 1951.

An entertaining account of him, written by his younger son, David Chalmer Reece, appears in ‘A Rich Broth...Memoirs of a Canadian Diplomat‘  Carleton University Press, 1993.

Preview at :

David Chalmer Reece (1926 - 2011) was Canada’s Ambassador to 5 countries, including Trinidad & Tobago.

Leonard W. Brockington was City Solicitor for Calgary, President of Calgary Welsh Society and Director of the Calgary Symphony Orchestra. Subsequently he became McKenzie King’s speechwriter during WW2 and the first Chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He was born in Cardiff, and came to Canada in 1912.


Dathlwyd 40 mlynedd Cymdeithas Dewi Sant Winnipeg, Canada, eleni yn y Royal Alexandra Hotel, dan lywyddiaeth Mr. Rupert C. Reece. Ymhlith y rhai a gymerodd ran yr oedd y Parch. J. G. Stephen, Mr. E. K. Williams, K.C., Mr. L. W. Brockington, llywydd Cymdeithas Dewi Sant, Calgary, a Mr. H.Trevor Lloyd. Canwyd alawon Cymraeg gan Gôr Meibion Cymry Winnipeg, dan arweiniad Mr. F. H. Hughes a Mr.W. J. Hughes yn cyfeilio. Canwyd unawdau hefyd gan Mrs. Eleanor Edmund, a Mr. Fitz Herbert Hughes.

Y Ford Gron Cyf 4  Rhif.8  Mehefin 1934

1935  D.H Rees secretary. Amongst fraternal greetings received at the St David’s Day dinner held at the Fort 

                Garry Hotel was one from David Lloyd George.

                Menu included bwydlysiau, olewydd cymysg, archwaethydd, cawl cenin, cyw rhost, tatws pobi, pys a

                moron, hufen rhewedig a coffi.

David Rees was born near Atwater, Saskatchewan; he died in Winnipeg in 1986 at the age of 82. He was employed for many years by the Wheat Board. His second wife, formerly Harriet Morris Mills, who pre-deceased him in 1977, was well-known as a Welsh concert singer in the United States.

1936   President :  Cecil Rice-Jones

               300 attend St David’s Day Banquet at the Royal Alexandra Hotel. Guest speaker was again Leonard 


Cecil Rice-Jones was first vice-president and general manager of United Grain Growers, and an alderman of the City of Winnipeg. In July 1936, he stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal-Progressive candidate in the Provincial Election which returned the Conservative government of John Bracken. Subsequently he was appointed as Civil Service Commissioner, and Chairman of the Manitoba Film Censor Board, a position he held until his retirement in 1947. He was born in Sussex, England, in 1881, came to Canada at the age of 16 and moved to Manitoba in 1919. He died in Victoria BC in 1972.

1937   President :   H.G.Wyatt

Henry George Wyatt was born in Wales, he lived in Winnipeg for over 50 years.  He was employed by Canadian National Express, and was a councillor and Reeve of St Vital. He died in 1958 at the age of 78.

1938   President :   E.K.Williams

1940   President :  James Jenkins

Society receives request via W Rupert Davies, President of the Canadian Press, (and father of the writer,

Robertson Davies), to take in up to 5000 children expected to be evacuated from Wales. A committee chaired by the Rev E.L.Lewis, was appointed to organise the work.

James Jenkins was born in Carmarthen and came to Canada in 1910. During WW1 he served with the Canadian Army. In 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal at the battle of Cambrai. After the war, he started his own garage and service station. He retired in 1950, and died in 1966 at the age of 87.

Alfred Edwards was a long-serving member of the  Society’s executive committee, and was active in musical circles in Winnipeg. He was born in South Wales and came to Canada in 1910. He retired in 1947 after working for the Dominion Postal Service for 35 years, he died in 1950 at the age of 62.

1941   President : Tom Williams

St David’s Day dinner held at Marlborough Hotel.  Alf Edwards conducted singing of two Welsh hymn that were special favourites, Crugybar and Huddersfield.

Thomas Williams was born in Wales He represented the Bricklayers’ Union on the Winnipeg Building Trades Council. At the time of his death in 1950 at the age of 87, he had resided in Winnipeg for 65 years.

1942  President :  E.K.Williams

              Speakers at the St David’s Day banquet included Ewart Morgan, principal of Daniel McIntyre Collegiate

              Prof Meredith Jones, Rev J.G. Stephens and Rupert C Reece. Musical accompaniment was provided

              by Miss Gwendda Owen Davies.

Esten Kenneth Williams was born in Parkhill Ontario in 1889, and died in Surrey, England in 1970, aged 80. He studied at Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, and was called to the Manitoba bar in 1911. He was made Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench in 1946. Previously he served as President of the Canadian Bar Association, and held numerous other prestigious professional appointments. He was the author of works on a diversity of legal matters; including legal education, forensic science, issues in landlord/tenant matters and insurance. He retired in 1961 and moved to England in 1969. He maintained an association with the Manitoba Law School from 1915 to 1966, when it became part of the University of Manitoba. The University’s Law Library, to which he donated his extensive collection of books and papers, was named in his honour in 1969. He was responsible for drawing up Manitoba’s traffic laws, but never himself held a driving licence. He also stands accused of participating in “one of the greatest abrogations of human rights in the country’s history” - the Federal Government’s Espionage Commission in 1946, which led to more than 20 prominent left-wingers being arrested on suspicion of spying for the Soviet Union -  (Dale Brawn - The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, 1870 - 1950  : A Biographical History - The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2006). He was a notably stern judge, Jack Bumsted points out that all of 5 men whom he tried for murder between 1947 and 1951 were hanged. One case in particular, that of Lawrence Deacon, who was hanged in 1948, remains controversial to this day. In 2011, Mr Deacon’s defence lawyer, Harry Walsh, was appointed to the Order of Canada for his role in the campaign to  abolish capital punishment in Canada, enacted in 1976.  Mr Walsh died at the age of 97 on February 24th, 2011.

1943  President : Rev J.G.Stephens

          Society entertained celebrated baritone Thomas L. Thomas who performed at the Civic Auditorium in


1945  President  : Benjamin E. Lewis

Benjamin Evan Lewis was born in Rhyl, North Wales, and came to Canada with his parents at an early age. He farmed near Stonewall, served as Reeve of the RM of Rockwood and as secretary of the Manitoba Milk Control Board. On his retirement he moved to BC, and died in 1978. He married the noted Winnipeg singing teacher Doris Mills, who died in 1966. A trophy in her honour is awarded at the Winnipeg Music Festival. Past winners include Tracy Dahl and Valdine Anderson.

1947  Soloists at St David’s Day celebrations include Myfanwy Evans and Alma Wynne.

Society rallies in support of a young Welsh seaman who jumped ship in Vancouver and settled in Winnipeg.

1949  President :  Benjamin E.Lewis

Doris Fanstone secretary. Society donates Alma Wynne Trophy to Winnipeg Music Festival.

Alma Wynne was born in 1929 and died tragically in the Dugald train disaster, which claimed the lives of 31 people on September 1st 1947. She was a student at Laura Secord School and Gordon Bell High School. She was a talented mezzo who studied with Doris Mills. She performed in her school operetta productions, in 1946 appearing as Gianetta in The Gondoliers. Also in that year, at age seventeen, she participated in the Winnipeg Music Festival, winning several classes. The following year she was awarded the highest marks in the festival for her performance of Mad Margaret’s Song from Ruddigore.  The trophy donated in her memory was originally awarded to the winner of the Junior Vocal Class. Since 1960 it has been awarded to winners of the Intermediate Vocal Class.



Alma’s father, Ed Wynne was an amateur pianist and church organist. He died in 1977.  Her mother, Thelma, was awarded the Order of Rupertsland in 1988 for her volunteer work on behalf of needy mothers and infants. She died in 1992. Alma was their only child.

1950  President :  D.C.Thomas

              St David’s Day dinner held at Welsh Church

              Letters of greeting include one from Griff Jones of New York, former President of the Society

David C.Thomas was born in Patagonia, and came to Canada in 1902 with his parents who settled in Bangor, Saskatchewan. In 1940 he moved to Winnipeg with his wife Shan who was also born in Patagonia.  Mr Thomas was in the wholesale vegetable business, and during WW2 worked for the Red Cross.  He died in 1960. His grandson, Lloyd Axworthy, was a Minister in the Canadian Federal Government from 1993 - 2000, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 - 2000. In 1997 he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in securing an international treaty to ban land mines. He is currently President of the University of Winnipeg.

1951  President :  Ieuan C.Edwards

              Richard Llewellyn, author of ‘How Green was my Valley’ speaks at Shaarey Zedek on March

              17th; his visit to Winnipeg was sponsored jointly by the synagogue and the St David’s Society.

              A mixed choir was organised under the direction of Oliver Evans

1954  President :  Ieuan C Edwards

Society celebrates Diamond Jubilee on March 1st. (Founding erroneously thought to have been in 1894) 

Ieuan Charles Edwards was born in Bala, Merionethshire. He came to Winnipeg in 1932, having previously lived in Victoria, B.C. He owned a home design company, retired in 1956 and died in 1957 at the age of 75. He was Chairman of the Board of the Welsh Church.

1955  President :   R.O. Evans

Robert Oliver Evans was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog, he was choir director at First Welsh Church, and employed as an engineer with Manitoba Hydro. He died in 1987 at the age of 90.

1957  President :  Rev Tegwyn Evans

1958  Honorary President :  Hywel Morgan Hughes

Assistant U.K.Trade Commissioner in Winnipeg from 1957- 1958. Hywel Morgan HUGHES, Esq., Assistant to the United Kingdom Trade Commissioner at Delhi is mentioned in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, January 1953, when he was awarded the MBE.

1960  President :  D.J.Williams

David John (Jack) Williams was born in 1904 in Llewellyn, Saskatchewan. He was employed by Eaton’s for over 50 years. He died in Winnipeg in 1976.

1963  President :  Harry Jones

Either Harry Jones, born in Forden, Montgomeryshire, Wales in 1900, came to Canada in 1914, celebrating his 85th birthday in 1985; or Harry Jones b.Porthmadog 1907, died 2002. He worked for the CNR, but was described as “a born entertainer” playing several instruments and singing with several dance bands. He also served as choirmaster at Transcona United Church. In 2002 he and his wife Dorothy celebrated their 72nd anniversary.

Charles Richard Jones, b. Montgomeryshire 1901, died in Victoria, BC, 1967;  came to Canada in 1912. He worked for Air Canada and was founder and leader of the Air Cadet Squadron in Winnipeg. He was Vice-President of the St David’s Society in 1958, and according to his obituary he was sometime president.

1965  -   Despite widespread protests throughout Wales, the Tryweryn Valley, including the village of Capel Celyn, was flooded to create a reservoir to supply water to Liverpool.  12 houses and farms, the village school and chapel, and the Quaker Meeting Place and cemetery were inundated; 67 people lost their homes. This event galvanised political nationalism in Wales. The following year, Gwynfor Evans won a by-election in Carmarthen to become Plaid Cymru’s first member of the UK Parliament.

1966    Annual Banquet -  Fort Garry Hotel

On the 26th October, 144 people, including 116 children died in Aberfan, near Cardiff, when a colliery tip subsided at 9.15am,  and engulfed the village school.

1969  President :   Ellis Hughes

Ellis Hughes was born in Nefyn in North Wales. He moved to Winnipeg with his family in 1967 and was employed by Pioneer Electric, retiring as vice-president of the company (now known as Federal Pioneer) in 1992. He died in August 2008 at the age of 81.

1970   President :  Viv Rees

               Speaker at St David’s Day Dinner was Len Evans,  Minister of Industry and Commerce.

1971  President :   V.H.Rees

              Secretary-treasurer Bruce Odlum

              Côr Godre’r Aran visit Winnipeg in September. 300 people attend concert at St Mary’s Academy.

1973  President :   Mrs Wyn Challenger

              Society welcomes Llanelli Rugby Team (Captain, Delme Thomas) to Winnipeg during their tour of 

              Canada.  On August 24th, they beat a Prairie Select Team from Manitoba and Saskatchewan 48 - 6.

              Phil Bennett scored 32 points for Llanelli.

Mrs Challenger was born in Ystalyfera, and now lives in Seattle, WA.  In 1994, under her maiden name, Wyn Morgan, she published ‘Valleys’, a collection of her poetry, some of which appeared previously in ‘Y Drych’.

1974   St David’s Day Banquet held at the North Star Inn on Portage Avenue.

1975   St David’s Day Banquet held at the North Star Inn on Portage Avenue.

In the Winnipeg Free Press on March 1st the Society featured in Edith Paterson’s local history column - It Happened Here.

The above information has been gathered from many fragmentary archival and on-line resources, many of the biographies remain incomplete, and there may be some inaccuracies.  Any new information concerning former leaders of our Welsh community would be most gladly received.

: last update  25th February, 2017



        Presidents of the Society 1994 - 2016

        1994 - 1997  Viv Rees

        1997 - 2000  Keith Davies Jones

        2000 - 2003  Viv Rees

        2003 - 2006  Carol Sharp

        2006 - 2009  Keith Davies Jones

        2009 - 2010  Thomas Elwyn Jones

        2010 - 2013  Viv Rees

        2013 - 2014  Morva Bowman

        2014 - 2015  Viv Rees (Acting)

        2015 - 2016  Michael Lloyd

        2016             Carys Osborn

        2017 -           Carol Sharp

        Also during this period :

        Vice-President  -   John Owen

        Secretary  -   Dr Keith Davies Jones, Morva Bowman, Dr Gaynor Williams, Mair Livingstone

        Treasurer  -  Gwen Hodgson, Wilma Poole-Gerlach,  Susan Cooke, Betty Beckinsale

        Committee Members  -  Wendy Bumsted, Dr Mike Butler, Diane Caley,  Beryl Gray, Louise Jones,  Alan Lloyd-Owen

John Owen was born in Aberteifi. After World War 2 he joined the RAF and trained as a pilot, flying one of the Vampire jets that regularly broke the sound barrier over my home in North Wales in those days. In 1952, he moved to Winnipeg, and pursued a career as a Real Estate Appraiser with Great West Life and with the Province of Manitoba. In retirement he devoted his time to his several hobbbies, including railway modelling; and to volunteer work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Western Canada Aviation Museum.  He liked planes and trains; and he bought a house next to railway tracks and near the airport, so he could sit in his yard and enjoy both at the same time. He remained an ardent Welsh Nationalist to the end of his life.  He died in November 1998.   

Gwen Hodgson remembers the ‘marvellous formal St David’s Day Banquets, always held in the huge ballroom of either the Royal Alexandra (demolished in 1971) or the Fort Garry Hotel. Young girls of 13 or 14 (whoever would fit the costume) sold daffodils in the hotel lobby, to be pinned on your gown or jacket. It was difficult to get fresh daffies here so early in the spring, so they changed to crêpe-paper flowers which were adequate and much cheaper. We nearly always had a guest speaker, a few other speeches, concert items, song fest and sometimes ballroom dancing - but there were always a few who carried hip flasks and ended up drinking too much. This was still in the ‘dirty thirties’ and semi-prohibition was still in effect. No alcohol could be served at the banquet - there was no bar in the hotel and the beer parlour was open to gentlemen only!!’



12 year old Gwen Davidson at

St David’s Day Banquet

March 1st, 1936




St David’s Day Banquet, 2009

with ‘Salem’

Donated to the Society by the late Herb Sanger



Gwen passed away, age 90, on January 1st, 2014