Cardigan People 54: Seamus Cunnane (1929-2021)

Father Seamus Cunnane served as Cardigan’s Roman Catholic parish priest for 37 years from 1962 until 1999. His contribution to all aspects of life in Cardigan over the decades was considerable. The present Catholic church and its hall were built in the early 1970s and Fr Cunnane was closely involved in much of the fundraising for the project. His lifelong dedication to the Catholic Church will, no doubt, be discussed elsewhere.

As a keen local historian, Fr Cunnane extensively researched the history of Cardigan and its castle and it is worth focusing on his pioneering role in revealing Cardigan’s medieval past. His knowledge of Latin and his fluency in Welsh allowed him to research original sources. This was crucial to him. Never rely on secondary sources! Once he discovered the facts it was important that the truth was clearly articulated. He never minced his words.

As far back as 1992 he wrote: “For over 10 years I have taught local history and I do not want my work undone by inaccurate captions and descriptions that will doubtless be copied by schoolchildren and others.”

He had a dim view of Emily Pritchard’s, Cardigan Priory in the Olden Days, 1904. 

“This was taken apart in 1905 when a reviewer commented: ‘The opening words of the first chapter are at once an indication of the author’s unfitness for her task.’
The trouble is that reviews disappear while the book remains and continues to mislead.”

He wrote a number of groundbreaking articles on medieval Cardigan including:

‘Ceredigion and the Old Faith’, Ceredigion, vol 12, 2, 1994, 3-34

‘The Topography of Mediaeval Cardigan’ in Carmarthenshire and Beyond: Studies in History and Archaeology in memory of Terry James, ed. Heather James and Patricia Moore, 2009, 204-23

He was also the author of:

Our Lady of Cardigan: a history and memoir, E. L. Jones, 2006, 56pp.

He enjoyed writing and arguing his case in the Tivy-side over the years, often disagreeing with published accounts of Cardigan history regardless of whether they were written by lay or academic historians.

The following is a list of some his letters and articles with comments:

‘The Four Gates’
The story behind Cardigan’s Teifi Gate; Wolf Gate; Bartholomew Gate and New Gate
31 Dec 1982

‘Llywelyn ein llyw olaf’
Llywelyn’s contact with Cardigan
December 1982

‘Pride of the Town’
It was time to make the Castle the pride of the town.
29 July 1983

A review of The Towns of Medieval Wales, Ian Soulsby, 1983:
After some introductory words of praise he states that in relation to the part on Cardigan, “the book contains serious errors because [the author] relies on articles and books, some of which are wrong, instead of going to the primary sources. Twice he misunderstands the sources he uses and thus invents new errors.”

  • ‘It is likely that … (Gilbert de Clare) founded the Benedictine priory and St Mary’s Church…’ He certainly didn’t.
  • ‘In 1165 the Welsh under Rhys ap Gruffudd expelled the English monks from their priory…’ No evidence (apart from Emily Pritchard’s book).
  • ‘burgage figure of 172 in 1308’. The figure of 172 is suspect.
  • ‘Here also (near College Row) was the North Gate … standing in 1843.’
    A misunderstanding of W. E. James’s Guide Book (1899) where he is referring to the turnpike gate at the top of Pendre.
  • Town walls: ‘At the corner of College Row and Queen’s Tce the wall turned south along the Mwldan’. Not quite.
  • On St Mary’s St he is absolutely wrong.
  • On Chancery Lane he is even more grievously in error.

His conclusion: “in a future edition rewrite the Cardigan section.”
29 July 1983

‘Throwing new light on the history of Cardigan.’
In answer to the Revd D J Roberts’ queries in his weekly articles in the Tivy-side concerning the town’s history, he explains the origins of Mwldan, Pendre, Bartholomew Gate and Wolf Gate.
15 February 1985

‘Henry Tudor’s march through Cardigan 500 years ago’
A detailed description of life in Cardigan on Henry Tudor’s visit.
9 August 1985

‘In defence of Welsh history’
He writes: “Today you published an article on the medieval history of Cardigan and its castle called ‘The lock and stay of all Wales’ on a page carrying the rather incrongruous title ‘News Extra’. Much of it was indeed news to me, but only in the sense that it is demonstrably untrue.”

He restricts his comments to twelve headings and ends: “It is time to show respect for fact, and it is a pity that the Tivy-side showed such little regard for it…”
1 June 1990

‘The Mystery of Dydd Iau Mawr (Great Thursday) celebration at Aber-porth.’
The Thursday before 15th August  – a Catholic celebration of Gŵyl Fair Gyntaf
9 August 1991

‘Statue not an idol and not adored’
Fr Cunnane disagreed with a caption written in the Time Tunnel exhibition where reference was made to ‘the existence of the idol: The Lady of the Taper’. His comment: “That is an untruth.  The statue was not an idol and was not adored.”
4 September 1992

‘The day they hanged the vicar’
An account of the trial of Sir Hugh David Coch, vicar of Llanarth, and his subsequent fate in being hung, drawn and quartered on Banc y Warren in 1592. 
28 May 1993

‘Cardigan development plan good news but…’
He writes: “We do not want hamfisted ‘development’ that ruins our heritage”
(and goes on to explain the origin of the name Chancery Lane or Suitor’s Lane)
21 July 1994

‘Monks arrived via Cardi Bach’
He corrects a few inaccuracies in a recent television programme concerning the Benedictine monks at Noyaddwilym and writes:
“Many locals did not like them, including the Tivy-side editor and several correspondents, but we must not tar everyone with the same brush.”
5 July 1996

‘Don’t dump part of our town’s history’
He writes: “Ceredigion wants to dump responsibility for a road named Bingham Lane. But there is no such place. Its name is Feidrfair … [and it is part] of the great medieval pilgrim route from Bardsey Island to St David’s.

Ceredigion [County Council] should publicise and enhance it. Instead it is ducking responsibility and some of us think this is shameful.”
27 November 2012

A few years back I attended a lecture by Prof Ralph Griffiths at the Catholic Hall under the auspices of Ceredigion History Society.  His account of Medieval Cardigan in the broader regional context was enlightening but in the post lecture questions it was clear who knew most about Cardigan. On the way out someone turned to me and said “I don’t think they chose the right person to give that talk today.”

But he was not in any way stuck in the Middle Ages. Recent research into the swinging sixties in Cardigan revealed that he was proud to shake the hand of Screaming Lord Sutch during his infamous visit to the town to perform at the Black Lion in April 1964.

The complete story of early Cardigan remains to be told, but Fr Cunnane has set a firm foundation for future historians.

RIP Seamus Cunnane.

TRIBUTES

Cannon Cunnane as a CHESS Player

25 December (1176, 1888, 1889, 2103) Merry Christmas to all who were born within the sound of the bells of St Mary’s

  • 25 December (Wed.) 1176 The first Eisteddfod

And then the Lord Rhys held a special feast at Cardigan, and he set two kinds of contests: one between the bards and the poets, and another between the harpists and the crowders and the pipers and various classes of string-music. And he set two chairs for the visitors in the contests. And those he enriched with great gifts. And then a young man from his own court won the victory for string-music. And the men of Gwynedd won the victory for poetry. And all the other minstrels received from the Lord Rhys as much as they asked, so that no one was refused. And that feast was proclaimed a year before it was held throughout Wales and England and Scotland and Ireland and many other lands.

1176 Brut y Tywysogyon

  • 25 (Tues.) 1888

CAPEL MAIR

A very successful concert was given in Capel Mair, in this town, on Christmas night, under the presidency of the Rev. W. Jones (Mayor). The building was well-filled, and excellent order was maintained throughout by the conductor, the Rev. T. J. Morris, which was certainly not the least pleasing feature of the gathering. The programme was contributed to by a number of local amateurs, assisted by Eos Myrnach, and a male party from Llanfyrnach, and it will not be considered invidious to say that it was in a great measure owing to their valuable assistance that the concert was one of the best that has been given in the town for some time.

Eos Myrnach possesses a capital voice, and sang several high-class songs with excellent taste and feeling. His rendering of “Alone on the raft” was particularly deserving of mention.

The Llanfyrnach male party, too, proved a great acquisition, and gave evidence of close and careful training, and their rendering of the choruses allotted to them was admirable. “Comrades Song of Hope,” and “Martyrs of the Arena” — the latter including a splendidly rendered quartet- fairly delighted the audience, and were deservedly encored. Mr. Davies led the Llanfyrnach party in the first chorus, and Eos Myrnach afterwards.

Among the locals, the Capel Mair party, led by Mr. Reynolds; Mr. W. Thomas and party, Mr. D. Charles and friends, and Mr. D. Davies and friends, were deserving of commendation, as were also Misses Lowther and Letitia Evans, and Mrs. Jones, and Messrs. W. Thomas, D. Thomas (Tyrhos), and T. Lewis. Miss Daniel and Miss Edith Daniel accompanied with much taste throughout the evening.

The following is the programme:

  • Pianoforte duet, The Little Sailor, Misses Daniel and Lowther;
  • glee, Croeso’r Boreu, Capel Mair Party;
  • solo, Gitana, Miss Lowther;
  • glee, “Beautiful Rain,” (encored and repeated) Mr. W. Thomas and party;
  • solo, “Llwybr yr Wyddfa,” (encored and sang Bwthyn bach melyn fy Nhad”)
  • Eos Myrnach quartet, “Geiriau Mam,”
  • Mr. D. Charles and friends solo,
  • Mr. D. Davies solo, Baban diwrnod oed,” (encored)
  • Mr. D. Thomas, Tyrhos .Song, Darby and Joan,”
  • Miss Letitia Evans chorus, “Comrades Song of Hope,” (encored)
  • Llanfyrnach Party solo, Jerusalem,”
  • Mr. T. Lewis; duet, “As it fell upon a day,”
  • Misses Lowther and Evans. Part 2-Glee, Yr Haf,”
  • Capel Mair Party duet, O Gartref yr Eryr,” (encored and sang a duet from Blodwen “)
  • Eos Myrnach and Mrs Jones solo, Hen Ffon fy Nain,” (encored)
  • Mr. D. Thomas, Tyrhos; solo, Alone on the Raft,” (encored)
  • Eos Myrnach; chorus, “Y Gof,”
  • Llanfyrnach Party; solo, Pleser-fad Niagara,”
  • Mr. W. Thomas;
  • trio, Tri Chymro,” (encored)
  • Mr. D. Davies and friends; chorus, “The Martyrs of the Arena,” (encored)
  • Llafyrnach Party
  • finale, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau,” air by Eos Myrnach and chorus by the audience.

Votes of thanks to the Chairman and those who took part concluded the proceedings (probably early Boxing Day!)

  • 25 (Wed.) 1889

BETHANIA CONCERT

A grand evening concert was given in Bethania Chapel on Christmas night, and there was a crowded audience. A letter was read from Mr. Morgan-Richardson, Noyadd-Wilym, who had been announced to preside, regretting his inability to attend, and inclosing £2 towards the funds. In the absence of the chairman, Mr. W. Lewis, Brecon Old Bank, was unanimously voted to the chair. The Rev. T. J. Morris acted as conductor.

The following was the programme :

  • Pianoforte solo, Miss Gwynne, R.A.M. solo, “Baner ein Gwlad,”Gwyn Alaw” (encored, and responded with “My Pretty Jane”);
  • solo, “Remember me,” Miss S. A. Esau;
  • solo, Death of Nelson,” Mr. Wm. Thomas (encored, and responded with a Welsh song);
  • solo, The Blind Girl to her harp,” Miss S. A. Jenkins (encored, and responded with “Trip, Trip”);
  • solo, “I had a dream,” Mrs. S. A. Owen;
  • solo, The White Squall,” Mr. W. Jones
  • solo, “O dywed im’, awel y Nefoedd,” Llinos Gwent;
  • solo competition, “Mair Magdalen,” ten competed, three singing on the stage, the best being Miss Lizzie Jenkins, Greenfield-square
  • duet, Martial Spirit,” Gwyn Alaw and Mr. William Thomas;
  • juvenile choir competition, Y Galwadau,” three choirs, namely, Bethania (led by Mr. William Jenkins), Tabernacle (led by Mr. John James), and Mount Zion (led by Mr. D. Ivor Evans), and the prize was divided between Bethania and Mount Zion
  • choirs quartet, Mount Zion Party duet, “Howel, Howet, Llinos Gwent and Gwyn Alaw (encored, and repeated);
  • solo, Pleserfad Niagara,” Mr. William Thomas;
  • solo, Good Shepherd,” Gwyn Alaw
  • solo competition, Y Morwr Lion,” five entries, prize awarded to Mr. William Jones
  • choral competition, Cwynfan Prydain,” two choirs competed, namely, Tabernacle (led by Mr. E. Ceredig Evans), and Bethania (led by Mr. William Jenkins), and the prize was awarded to Bethania Choir
  • song, Aunty,” Llinos Gwent (encored, and responded with The Donkey Cart”)
  • finale, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.”

It is but fair to say that the singing of Miss S. A. Jenkins (Llinos Gwent) was much admired she possesses a beautiful soprano voice of great power and compass, and should have a great future if she becomes a professional singer. Votes of thanks to the Chairman, Mr. Morgan-Richardson, the Conductor, Miss Gwynne (the accompanyist), and the singers, concluded the proceedings.

  • 25 1888 (Tues.)

THE WORKHOUSE.

On Christmas Day the inmates of the Workhouse were, as usual, through the generosity of Mr. Brigstoike, the much respected chairman of the Board of Guardians, treated to a splendid dinner, composed of roast beef, plum pudding, and beer, with two ounces of tobacco to those who smoked, and oranges to those who did not, and to the women and children.

Mr. Thomas Llewelyn and Mr. Lewis Davies superintended the distribution. A hearty vote of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Brigstocke for their kindness, to Messrs. Llewelyn and Davies for superintending, and to the master and matron for the great trouble they had taken in preparing the good things, were unanimously passed.

Dinner being over, Mr. John James, St. Dogmells, and his choir, attended, and several pieces were sung, to the great delight of the inmates.

  • 25 1909 Bethania

Bethania Christmas Night 1909

Bethania Christmas Night 1909

  • 25 (Wed.) 2013 Tonight it’s Downton Abbey v. Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (Progress or what?)

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL WHO HAVE READ THESE SNIPPETS OVER THE YEAR.

Next year  – more meat on these bones!

 

6 November (1968) 1st sod cut at site of new Catholic Church (1912) Pav opened

6 1968 (Wed.) 1st sod cut at site of new Catholic Church. Contract of £49, 700

PRIESTS:

  • Joseph Higgins 1930-32
  • John Tole 1932
  • Wilfred Brodie 1932-3
  • Basil Rowlands 1933-36
  • Thomas Williams 1936
  • Joseph Wedlake 1937-9
  • Thomas Canning 1940
  • James McAniff 1941
  • B. O’Connell 1942-5
  • Phillip Dwyer 1946-7
  • William Andrews 1947
  • Albin Kaltenbach 1947-51
  • George A. Anwyll 1951-9
  • Raymond Joyce (curate) 1951-9
  • John McHugh 1950-61??
  • Arthur Davies 1961
  • Seamus Cunanne 1962-99
  • Augustine Paikkatt 1999-2003
  • Jason Jones 2003-
  • Paul Joseph
  • 6 1912 (Wed.)  Pav (The Pavilion Cinema) opened at 7.30 by the Mayor Ivor Evans. In the interval Cardigan Male Voice Party (conductor H H Evans) sang ‘Martyrs of the Arena’. Admission 3d, 4d, and 6d. Children half-price. Sold to H D Claypole, Pembroke Dock in 1919 and he was responsible for forming the Cardigan Cinema Co. Ltd. First workers: Mechanic operator: Harold Squibbs; Hall and door keeper: Tom White Jones; Pay Box attendant: Fred Mulraine; Pianist: Morien Peregrine; Indoor attendants: John L Griffiths, W Johnson; engineer: Owen Williams
  • 6 1908 (Fri.) Burial of John Conwyson Roberts, 20 Quay St., 67 years old

23 July (1970) Our Lady of the Taper officially opened at 6.30pm

  • 23 1970 (Thurs.) Our Lady of the Taper officially opened 6.30. The ceremony was conducted by Rt Rev John E Petit MA, Bp of Menevia, assisted by Rt Rev Langton D Fox auxiliary Bp of Menevia.
  • 23 1968 (Mon.) Fire damages Rugby Club
  • 23 1678 (Tues.) Neptune of Ilfracombe took 15, 000 hilling stones to Dublin.

18 May (2009) Death of Dewi Maelor Lloyd, former headmaster

  • 18 2009 (Mon.) Death of Dewi Maelor Lloyd (79), former headmaster of the Secondary School (1979–90)
  • 18 1986 (Sun.) Inauguration of the National Shrine to Our Lady of the Taper by Most Rev John Aloysius Ward, Rt Rev James Hannigan, Rt Rev Daniel J Mullins
  • 18 1869 (Tues.)  Capel Mair John Daniel given contract. Cost £1,049 + materials from demolition of Old Chapel.