Fishguard v Cardiff for the 1936 National Eisteddfod
David V Goliath – Fishguard v Cardiff in the bid to host the 1936 Eisteddfod
Tom Matthews of the County School was an ardent “Eisteddfodwr”, and during his short stay in Fishguard mapped out plans, ably assisted by Thomas Lewis, J.P the Chemist, and Levi Evans J.P “The Echo”, for bringing Fishguard into the forefront of cultural Wales.
War intervened, conditions changed the size of the National Eisteddfod and there was a note of regret from the Press that rural Wales was unlikely to provide the setting for future Eisteddfodau, together with comments that Pembrokeshire, whilst boasting that it was the Premier County, lacked the courage to fulfil the role of host.
“OD” (Jones) writing in the Echo, described it as the old story of David & Goliath, David inevitably won! The matter, when passed before the Council, was classed as a thunderbolt; both preposterous and ludicrous that Fishguard should pit itself against Cardiff, especially as there were fears of a clash between the Royal (Welsh) Show and the National Eisteddfod. People were re-assured by a “remarkable” speech from the “arch diplomatist” Vincent Johns; there was support from all sections of the community and the Press, with rosy prospects after a great reception at Neath.
After 2 years of planning, in August 1936, Fishguard hosted the greatest of all Welsh Festivals, the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales. It was an historic event marked by record entries in many sections and especially outstanding in the Arts & Crafts section.
People from far & wide attended the opening of the Arts & Crafts section of the Eisteddfod, held in the Council School, and opened by Lady Evan Jones wife of Sir Evan Jones, Bart; the President of the Eisteddfod. Held in the same building, was the Exhibition of Contemporary Welsh Art which was opened by Mr J.B Mason, Director of the Tate Gallery, London. He said that the exhibitions and festivals had a special significance and importance at that time, and showed that the spirit of art in Wales was still a living flame which should be an example and stimulus to all who were in danger of being devoured by the monster of materialism. Moreover, Wales had discovered she could paint and had the distinction of numbering among her artists the greatest of living British painters, Mr Augustus John.
Two years after the highly successful hosting of the National Eisteddfod it would appear that an article was published in the Western Mail suggesting that Cardiff’s National Eisteddfod held in 1937 was a greater financial success than that of Fishguard the previous year. The following week, on the 16th December 1938, a letter was published which had been submitted by Hellier John of Goodwick House, Fishguard, which very ably put Cardiff’s finances in perspective !