What in the Welsh Gymanfa Ganu?

Flock, I’m going to have to start calling myself Sheepie “The Rock” Niagara, aren’t I?

Way back in May, after stumbling upon a stone grave marker, we uncovered the life of Eliza Keig. Then, we went up to Youngstown to take a look at a stone wall in Lake Ontario bearing the name of Colonel Morrow.

Clearly, my new job is to decipher inscriptions on chunks of rock. Because of this, Rosemarie Lorenti (who is the absolutely wonderful person behind Niagara Falls Public Pianos) sent me on a quest to decipher a piece of slate sitting outside of Niagara Falls State Park.

Welsh Slate from the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu in Niagara Falls, NY

If you couldn’t tell from the dragon, the slate is Welsh.

1979 Welsh slate commemorating Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu in Niagara Falls, NY.

So you don’t have to strain your eyes reading the inscription, here is the full text:

This table of slate from the mountains of Wales commemorates the first Welsh hymn singing festival organized by the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu Association, Inc., and held here on 1 September 1929.
Unveiled by the The Rt. Hon George Thomas M.P., Speaker, British House of Commons.
The gift of the people of Wales, 1 September 1979.
“Deuwch, Canwn ir Aiglwydd”
“Come, Sing to the Lord”
This plaque was engraved on Welsh slate and produced by Llechwedd Slate Products, North Wales, Great Britain.

There is a secondary red plaque to the upper right of the slate with the following:

In Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu
September 3, 2004
To praise Thy name, O Lord and King we come
From near and far, where e’re may be our home;
Through all the years our heritage has taught us how
In hymns of love, to blend our voices now.
The Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu Association

What is the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu?

The Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu is a form of Cymanfa Ganu, or hymn singing festival. Welsh immigrants and descendants from all over North America travel every year to a city during Labor Day weekend. The festival now features everything from Welsh shopping, movies, food, and of course the grand concert. If you would like to know the linguistic nightmare that led “Cymanfa” to become “Gymanfa”, I highly recommend this Cymdeithas Madog article.

Now known as the North American Festival of Wales, the Gymanfa Ganu did indeed originate in Niagara Falls. The first event was held on September 1, 1929 on Goat Island. The total number of people in attendance varies by source, but was estimated to be between 3,000-4,000. This made it the largest gathering of its kind in North America.

Some fun facts about Niagara Falls in 1929:

  • The Mayor of Niagara Falls was William Laughlin.
  • Construction of the United Office Building was days from completion.
  • A gallon of gas was 25 cents, a loaf of bread was 9 cents, and a new Oldsmobile deluxe 4-door sedan was $1,105.

Due to its success, the National Gymanfa Ganu became and annual event. It returned to Niagara Falls from 1930-1932, and celebrated its 50th anniversary where it started in 1979.

In 2004, the Gymanfa Ganu celebrated its 75th anniversary in Buffalo, NY. This resulted in the smaller red plaque being created, and placed alongside the 1979 slate.

If you would like to see the plaques in person, they are located on the North side of the Gazebo across from the Turtle and Red Coach Inn on Old Main Street.

If you’d like to learn more about the current Welsh North American Association, you can visit their website here.

I’d like to thank Rosie again for suggesting the idea. This was a fun bit of history to cover. If you have any Niagara Falls history you’d like me to explore, let me know in the comments.

-Sheepie ❤

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