About the Victoria Welsh Society

In 1979, an informal meeting of friends with shared interests about Wales and Welsh culture was held at the home of David and Margaret Lintern - this marked the regeneration of the Welsh Society in Victoria, British Columbia.

The original group was small but vibrant and energetic. It provided a focal point for the promotion of friendships and the interaction of those who wished to foster an awareness and appreciation of all that is Welsh.

Over time, the Victoria Welsh Society has grown into an active, non-profit association that encourages a variety of activities among a broad range of people.

The Society does not have an established and permanent meeting place, rather, it gathers in various locales dependent on the event and the calendar. Welsh costumes, flags, food, and hwyl can be produced to attest to a Welsh presence on various special occasions in and around Victoria throughout the year.

The Society's mandate involves:

  • celebrating and sharing the heritage of Welsh Canadians in Greater Victoria and surrounding areas
  • promoting the exchange of ideas between those interested in both the traditions and the modern developments of Wales
  • coordinating a selection of local, cultural and educational activities
  • supporting and developing links with other organizations that participate in multi-cultural events.
Click the following link to see the current Officers of the Board

For those interested in a more in depth history of the Victoria Welsh Society, read on...

Hanes Cymdeithas Gymraeg Victoria (History of the Victoria Welsh Society)
David Lintern – March, 2018

There has been a Welsh Society in Victoria since the late 1800s; it has had a number of reincarnations over the years. The first St David's Day Dinner that I can find reference to was in 1908 at the Driads Hotel, which was located where the Eaton's Centre was built (now called The Bay Centre).
For many years The Welsh Society was called the Cymrodorion Society – from Cyn-frodorion, which describes the ancient Britons. Many members were primarily Welsh speaking in the early years; now only three people are fluent. That decline in numbers is a reflection of Wales itself, where despite much encouragement from the Welsh Parliament, the number of people who speak Welsh as their first language is declining. This present Welsh Society of Victoria has been in existence since 1979. The previous society became inactive sometime in the 1960s.

We only have sketchy information about the earliest Welsh societies but luckily we have very detailed Minutes and financial statements from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. It is interesting to note the majority of the names mentioned over the years consist of....... Howells, Hopkins, Williams, Powell, Evans, Davies, Thomas, Rhys, Lewis, Jones, Griffiths and of course quite a number of Dais.
One striking difference with the early societies is that visiting the sick used to be a key function of their work. There was a special committee appointed every year. We have not made that a priority in recent years; perhaps we should have.
The other obvious difference is that one of the primary roles of the Society was to generate funds for a variety of local charities, not just to support the Society itself. Giving to specific charities has not been a function of our present Society. I note that in 1932 the charities mentioned were the Solarium and the Provincial Orphanage. I wonder if the change in giving reflects the rise of the Welfare State. Although people contribute to various charities on an individual basis we presume the government will look after those less fortunate. In the past Welsh people themselves could turn to the Welsh Society for financial help. There was a "Welfare Fund" for destitute members. It was also a priority to give free tickets to functions "for those less fortunate and old age pensioners". There were Christmas hampers for the "sick and needy".
It is interesting to compare the activities of our present Society with those of the past but in fact there are more similarities than differences.

Our present Society has been involved in numerous activities over the years which include - e.g. a St David's Dinner March 1st each year. The mayor had often attended and one time, the Lieutenant-Governor. There have been Christmas parties, Gymanfa Ganus (singing festivals) both here in Victoria and in Seattle and Vancouver. We have hosted 14 of the top Male Choirs over the years and on occasion provided billets also. The visiting choirs have sung at The Royal Theatre, Macpherson, Alix Goolden, the Farquhar Auditorium at UVic and at various churches. They have always attracted large audiences. The After Glow party after the concert was always memorable.

There have been a number of picnics over the years; Elk Lake was a very popular venue. We attended Bazaars and Fetes and sold various items, including Welsh Cakes.. Many of our volunteers were involved in Bingo for a number of years.

Groups have attended a Dinner theatre in Chemainus. There was a Wine tour in Cobble Hill. We visited Mid Island Welsh Society in Nanaimo. Groups participated in a number of Welsh events at the Vancouver Welsh Society. Presently we have regular Board meetings and an annual AGM. We have updated our By Laws and Constitution. We have a very good website which is kept current. We have a quarterly Welsh Society Newsletter. We've often had a stall at FolkFest and Saanich Fair and Hillside Mall and other events. There were Welsh lessons for a number of years. We have entered Floats in the Victoria Day Parade. We had 12 traditional costumes made and participated in fashion shows, one was at the Multi Cultural Centre. The Society hosted a large garden party for the Welsh contingent of the 1994 Commonwealth Games. There have been many other activities over the past 30 years, too numerous to mention them all.

Reading the old minutes you can't help making comparisons with the 1950s.
The old Welsh Society often took excursions to Port Angeles... the Fare on the Black Ball... $1.62.
Annual Membership in the Welsh Society... Men $1, Ladies 50 cents.
St David's Day Dinner $2.
There was Tambola not Bingo.
They had Community Singing after every meeting. They also had a Glee Club and a singing school (Ysgol Gan).

After a very active and successful 30 years sadly the present Society is going through a marked decline. The membership is at low levels, funds are drying up and our members are markedly aging (including the author of this article). I have given some thoughts to the factors that are affecting many ethnic societies:
1. People no longer look to their Societies for their social life. There is TV, movies, computers including chat lines, Facebook, games, electronic games, iPads.
2. Mothers almost all have full-time jobs.
3. Children are involved in numerous extracurricular activities.
4. People are not emigrating from Wales as in the past. When we came in the 60s Canada was very short of Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Tradesman of all kinds and had an open door policy, particularly to anyone from the British Isles.
5. Brits are not so motivated to emigrate anymore, the Standard of Living in both counties is very similar now.
6. The Welsh Choirs do not go on the International Tours as they used to. There are a variety of reasons but a major one is that as their members age Health Insurance becomes more costly especially in the States but also in Canada. A couple of choirs stated they had to cancel their trips to North America because of the cost of Health Insurance.

What of the future?

The people who were the main support of this present Society over the past 30 years are now elderly, in fact many of our regular members have died.

It is predicted that Canada is entering a period of shortage of all the professional disciplines and trades, but is it likely the shortfall will be made up by newcomers from Wales?

Other ethnic societies face similar challenges. It is difficult to see a potential for renewal for the Victoria Welsh Society but those who remain greatly cherish our Welsh heritage and we remain optimistic!

The following organisations have websites that are
relevant to Canada,
Wales and Welsh culture.
Please be aware that the Victoria Welsh Society is under no obligation to correct or up-date these sites if information they contain is found to be incorrect or out of date.