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Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen: The story behind the Welsh Saint of lovers

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Today (25 January) is Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen – the day of the Welsh Saint of lovers. But what’s the story behind Santes Dwynwen? Dr Rhiannon Ifans explains more.

Dr Rhiannon Ifans

When Cupid’s sharp arrows pierce the heart, to whom should we turn for advice and comfort? To the patron saint of lovers of course – Saint Dwynwen, whose church is on Llanddwyn, a tidal island off the west coast of Anglesey.

Dwynwen is the patron saint of Welsh lovers and her festival day is celebrated on 25 January. Over the centuries many have requested her help, including Dafydd ap Gwilym when he found it difficult to attract the married Morfudd as his sweetheart.

Dwynwen was brought up in Brecknockshire and was the daughter of an early medieval king, Brychan Brycheiniog; some say that he had at least a dozen children, others say as many as 36, and that all his daughters were beautiful. Dwynwen was particularly pretty and had a remarkably attractive personality – little wonder that Maelon Dafodrull fell in love with her. But her father Brychan refused to allow her to marry Maelon. Dwynwen was in a difficult situation: should she follow her heart, marry Maelon, and in so doing disobey and rebel against her father? Or should she accept his guidance?

She did not disobey her father. Dwynwen rejected Maelon, and as a consequence, some versions of the story say that Maelon raped her. Certainly, Maelon returned to his home in the north. Dwynwen was so sad that she asked God to make her forget Maelon and to freeze their love, and so it happened that Maelon was transformed into a block of ice.

Dwynwen prayed once more to God, and he granted her three wishes, that Maelon might be his usual self again; that she be inaugurated as the patron saint of lovers; and that she be allowed to live a single life (and to become a nun).

Because she had suffered in this way, Dwynwen was the ideal person to offer advice to lovers throughout the ages concerning their romantic problems. And so it was that lovers with a downcast heart would travel to Llanddwyn to be restored.

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Mediaeval Welsh bards have made reference in their poetry to those who crossed from the mainland to Anglesey in flimsy boats in mid-winter, the wind whipping up the waves, to consult with Dwynwen. On Llanddwyn island there is a small church dedicated to her, as well as a holy well, and the pilgrims of old would light a candle, offer a prayer and leave a gift in recognition of the help they had received from the saint. Little wonder that the prebendaries of Llanddwyn during the Middle Ages were so very rich!

Eglwys Santes Dwynwen, Llanddwyn Island (Image: Wikimedia / TuK Bassler)

Dr Rhiannon Ifans was a Dyson Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David until 2019, specialising in medieval literature and folk studies. She is now a full-time author. She has twice won the Tir na n-Og prize, and in 2019 won the Prose Medal at the Conwy County Eisteddfod for her novel Ingrid, a novel set in the German city of Stuttgart

(Lead image: Jess Bailey Designs / Pexels.com)

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Charity

Swansea student in triathlon challenge for Heart Research

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A student at University of Wales Trinity St David is taking on UWTSD Swansea Triathlon on 28-29th May to raise vital funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and put a positive spin on what’s been a tough time for her family.

Sophie Taylor, originally from Cardiff, who is studying a BA in Product and Furniture Design at the university’s Swansea campus, decided to raise money for the BHF because her sister Hollie’s partner has a heart condition and is grateful for the medical research and treatment which has enabled him to live a happy life.

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Alex Martin, who now lives in Abergavenny and is originally from Hereford, found out he had congenital heart disease just before his 24th birthday during a medical examination when he was in the process of joining the army.

Alex was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, and the discovery meant he couldn’t sign up. But thanks to progress in science, surgeons were able to replace his heart valve, giving Alex a future with his partner, Hollie.

Alex says, “From a very young age I’ve always wanted to join the army, however, this was turned on its head at the age of 23. After undergoing an army medical check, it was discovered that I had heart valve disease and I had to have open heart surgery to replace the valve. Through the diagnosis and surgery my girlfriend Hollie has been my rock. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and our relationship has never been stronger.

“When Sophie approached me about doing a triathlon last year, I was super excited for her. Like everything, it was postponed, and here we are less than 2 weeks away from Sophie attempting her first multi-sport event. It was made even more special when she told me, that she wanted to do it for me! When I say, ‘me’, I mean on behalf of me for the BHF. I thought, ‘what a lovely idea,’ and was more than happy to help in any way possible. Be it training advice or letting her use my kit for the big day. I could not be prouder of her and cannot wait to see all the hard work pay off on race day.

“Without people like Sophie doing events like this and raising money for the BHF who knows where I would be. So, thank you Sophie – Now let’s go and smash race day!”

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Alex and Hollie

Sophie says she’s taking on the challenge to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one, “Life so far for my family hasn’t been easy and my mental health has suffered. When we found out about Alex’s condition it was a big strain on my sister and I saw how much it affected her. Myself and Hollie are very close and have always been rather active, but this is one of the biggest things I have ever done in my life. I can’t say it’s been easy juggling my second year at university and training as I have had to balance my time well; but it’s the smile on my sister’s and Alex’s face that will make this all worth it as this is just the beginning of what I want to do for the British Heart Foundation.

“I think Alex is the main reason I am doing this as he’s always been inspiring for me when it comes to sport as he’s always encouraged me to explore in different activities, and since his operation he has been limited to the activities he can do. So this is me doing it for him and showing myself also what I am capable of.

“I just want to give something to those who are battling every day, because if we all did the same the world would be a different place.”

She adds, “Since it was established the BHF has helped halve the number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK each year, but sadly every day hundreds of people still lose their lives to these conditions. It’s only thanks to support from people like us that BHF-funded researchers can help create new treatments. £24 could pay for two hours of research by an early career scientist, but every pound helps so I wanted to take on this challenge to do as much as I can for people living with heart conditions.”

Alex’s partner, Sophie’s sister Hollie says, “I could not be prouder of my sister for getting out there and doing something she has never done before. More than anything I would like her to be proud of herself and realise how far she has come. Like many students, Soph has been struggling with her mental health since starting her degree during the height of covid. It really took its toll on her. However, she has used this triathlon as a challenge to help her overcome her struggles.

“When Sophie mentioned she would like to do the Triathlon for the British Heart Foundation, Alex and I were choked by the gesture, as the charity has been of huge support to us and our families over the last few years.

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“In November 2019, Alex was sat in an army medical room unaware that he was waiting to be told that his life was not going to turn out how he planned it to be. The medical uncovered the signs of a congenital heart condition known as a bicuspid aortic valve which caused the dilation of his ascending aorta. Through many consultations and appointments, it was clear that Alex required urgent treatment.

“In October 2020, with a number of setbacks due to the coronavirus global pandemic, Alex finally underwent open heart surgery at the age of 24. Since, his surgery, Alex has made a speedy recovery, and although the dream of an army career has been halted, he is able to live his life as close to normal as possible and looks to join Sophie in her next Triathlon Event, whenever that maybe.

“Both our families have recognised that without the support, research and aid offered from the British Heart Foundation and the cardiac specialist, the outcome of Alex’s story would be very different.”

Jayne Lewis BHF Fundraising Manager said: “We are so grateful to Sophie for supporting the BHF’s research. For more than 60 years the public’s generosity has funded BHF research that has turned ideas that once seemed like ‘science fiction’ into treatments that save lives every day. But millions of people are still waiting for the next breakthrough.

“Today in Wales around 340,000 people are living with the daily burden of heart and circulatory diseases. We urgently need the public’s support to keep our lifesaving research going, and to discover the treatments and cures of the future. It is only with donations from the public that the BHF can keep its lifesaving research going, helping us turn science fiction into reality.”

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To support Sophie, go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophie-taylor91

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Carmarthen

Carmarthen set-design student replicates 1980s British Rail cup for Michael Sheen film

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A student and a lecturer from The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) BA Set Design & Production course were involved in Sky Cinema’s recent production ‘Last Train To Christmas’.

The film ‘Last Train To Christmas,’ which was recently produced in Bay Studios, Swansea required as part of their production design a difficult to source and very specific prop, a 1980’s British Rail ‘MaxPax’ coffee cup.

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York Museum hold an original but could not release it in time for filming, therefore,  Art Director Gemma Clancy reached out to UWTSD’s Creative Industries degree programme Set & Production in Carmarthen to see if one could be modelled and 3D printed.  

Lecturer in Props and Scenic Construction, Dave Atkinson offered to take up the invaluable offer and generated a 3D CAD model of the desired cup but was limited by doing so just from photos. This was then 3D printed in-house and fully finished ready to be used as an action prop by Michael Sheen.  

On delivery of the prop cup, a collaborative industry link was established, and Dave continued to work on the set as a prop and scenery maker.  

Dave said, “There are so many films and TV series now being made in West Wales, I am really enjoying connecting the industry with the provisions we have at UWTSD. We have revalidated the provisions in Carmarthen and are launching them in September this year, this will open up more exciting opportunities to forge industry connections.”

Also during production, a paid student placement was offered, for a Second Year Set Design & Production student. Kayla Pratt was lucky enough to be invited to work within the art department across all skill areas from dressing, props, standby and construction throughout her summer break. 

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She adds, “When choosing a university, I wanted to study at a place that could help me get work experience. Despite all odds from the global pandemic, the university course BA Set Design and Production, helped me make my steps into the industry.

“With the support from my university tutors, they helped prepare me for my first day within the art department through to the end of Julian Kemp’s production, Last Train to Christmas.

“Every day within the feature film’s art department was a great day and they supported my learning in a range of on and off set roles throughout the 6 weeks in Swansea’s Bay studios.

“The experience, not only helped me develop as an artist but has also reassured me that this is the industry, I want to be in. Thanks all to the BA Set Design and Production tutors, I am more confident to take my next step as an industry artist.”

The University says that this collaboration is just one of many examples between themselves and a production company , and is a prime example of the importance for teaching, developing and promoting the digital capabilities within the creative industries on Carmarthen Campus.

They say that continual investment will only strengthen and further develop connections, and such support and growth will enable students and graduates from UWTSD to exceed the expectations of the industry. 

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Art Director Gemma Clancy said, “The whole production team would like to extend a huge thank you to UWTSD Carmarthen for their help in the production of The Last Train To Christmas. Kayla Pratt and Dave Atkinson joined the Art Department team and bought some fantastic skills with them. We were so happy to have them on board and incredibly appreciative of their local knowledge and 3D printing capabilities!

“Kayla was one of the most positive members of our team and always tackled the day’s tasks with enthusiasm and determination. Next time we’re shooting in Wales we’ll be calling on UWTSD Carmarthen again!”

(Lead image: Sky)

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Health

Professor Medwin Hughes appointed Chair of Citizen Voice Body

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The Vice-Chancellor of University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), Professor Medwin Hughes has been appointed Chair of a new body established by Welsh Government to represent the interests of the public in respect to health and social care.

The Citizen Voice Board for Health and Social Care is independent of Government, the NHS and local authorities but will work with them to support the continued improvement of person-centred services.

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It will be responsible for establishing a national body and infrastructure to engage in health and social care reform in Wales.

In a written statement issued by Welsh Government, Eluned Morgan, MS, Minister for Health and Social Services said: “Following my previous statement, published on 10 January 2022, I am pleased to announce, after a successful recruitment campaign, the appointment of Professor Medwin Hughes DL, as Chair of the Citizen Voice Body for Health and Social Care, Wales.

“This is an extremely important leadership role for the body responsible for representing the interests of the public in respect of health and social services from 1 April 2023.”

“I look forward to working with Professor Hughes. I am confident that his experience will enable him to establish the Citizen Voice Body for Health and Social Care, Wales as a leading organisation in representing the voices and opinions of the people in respect of health and social care services and support the continuous improvement of person-centred services”.

The next year will be spent building the required relationships, systems and foundations and the Minister will announce appointment of the remaining non-executive members in the next few weeks. Professor Hughes’ tenure will run for four years until 31 March 2026.

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Professor Hughes is the longest serving Vice-Chancellor in Wales and has played a significant role in the reconfiguration of Higher Education over the past 20 years. He is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales and UWTSD Group, a dual sector group of higher and further education institutions.

On his appointment, Professor Medwin Hughes has said: “I very much value the opportunity to serve in this role and the chance to establish a new national body that focuses on what matters most to people and ensures that the views of individuals and communities are at the very centre of health and social services. I look forward to working with the many partners and people involved in engaging with citizens and delivering their care as we develop the new body.”

Lead image: Professor Medwin Hughes (Image: UWTSD)

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