Aberystwyth Peace Pageant
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant
Place: Aberystwyth Castle Ruins (Aberystwyth) (Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, Wales)
Number of performances: 1
8 May 1935
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Producer [Pageant Master]: Stimson, Major
- Producer [Pageant Master]: Jones, Prof. Campbell
Campbell Jones was a professor in the department of Chemistry at the University College of Wales; Major Stimson was a Physical Training Instructor at the College
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- President: His Worship the Mayor, Alderman David Edwards
- Vice-Presidents: Col. B. Taylor Lloyd, Alderman J. Lewis Evans and Mr T.D. Jenkins, JP
- Chairman of the Executive Committee: Col. J.C. Rea
- Treasurer: Mr H. Morgan (Barclays Bank)
- Auditor: Mr Norman Greenwood (Borough Accountant)
- Secretary: Mr W. Jones Edwards (Publicity Bureau, Aberystwyth)
- Mr James Davies
- Alderman T.H. Edwards
- Mr T. Humphrey Edwards
- The Rev. Frank Edwards
- Alderman Griffith Ellis
- Councillor F.T. Ffoulkes
- Mr G.O. Fox
- Mr S.V. Galloway
- Mr D.J. Griffiths
- Mr W.H. Jones
- Mr Llewelyn Jones
- Alderman P.B. Loveday
- Councillor A.W. Miller
- Councillor T.L. Old
- Mr T.J. Samuel
- Mr J.R. Thomas
- Mr E.L Horsfall Turner
- Mr R.A. Wing
- Chairman and Representative to Executive: Alderman T.H. Edwards
- Secretary: Councillor T.L. Old
- Chairman: Mr W. Miall Jones
- Secretary: Mr R.S. Thomas, Cambrian News Ltd,
- Assistant Secretary: Mr E.W. Samuel
- Chairman: Dr George H Green, UCW
- Secretary: Mr E. Campbell Thomas, GWR
- Representative to Executive Committee: Mr S.V. Galloway
- Treasurer: Councillor J. Barclay Jenkins
- Chairman: Mr Llewelyn Jones, Borough Surveyor
- Secretary: Councillor T.J. Francis
- Chairman: Mr Tom Phillips
- Secretary: Mr James Morgan
- Assistant Secretary: Mr Alfred Evans
- Chairman: Mr G.O. Fox
- Secretary: Mr H.H. Hainge
- Chairman: Mrs D. Edwards (Mayoress)
- Secretaries: Mrs J. Lewis Evans and Mrs Stephen Evans
- Plus 12 women
Pageant Committee and Officers:
- Chairman: The Rev. Frank Edwards
- Hon. Secretaries: Mr J.R. Thomas and Mr W.H. Jones
- 8 women
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Green, George A.
Professor Green was from the College’s Education Department
Names of composers
- Parry, Hubert
Numbers of performers1250
1000 Cardiganshire children from 40 schools took part, plus 250 amateur actors.
Object of any funds raised
‘It is intended to use the profits of the Pageant, should there be any, to send two children from the elementary schools of Cardiganshire to Geneva during the summer vacation, to see for themselves the institutions which have grown up there to facilitate international co-operation for peace. The scheme for choosing the children will be developed by the Executive Committee of the Pageant as soon as it is known, if the money is available.’1
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
It appears from photos that there was no grandstand: spectators mostly stood or sat on the castle ruins.
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Reserved chairs: 3s. and 2s. Admission: 1s.
- Competitions in Connection with the Pageant:
- Four oaken plaques, carved by Demetrius Owen of Llanbrynmair, were awarded to the schools which were judged to have best represented the country they were allocated at the pageant.
- A silver trophy was given by Colonel J.C. Rea to the boy or girl who submitted the best essay on the topic of what they learned by taking part; and a foundation pen, box of water-colours, and books to a winner (under ten) who gave the best account of what they did in the pageant. Essays could be in Welsh or English.
- Prizes of 10s. and 5s. ere given for the best amateur photographs of the pageant.
- Prior to the performance the children of Cardiganshire who took part in the pageant marched hrough the mains streets of the town to the Castle Grounds, headed by the Aberystwyth Silver Band.
Episode I. Towards Peace
An announcer, following trumpets, explains that the pageant would take place within the castle – where a king (Edward I) had once dominated the people by force – and next to a memorial - of those who had sacrificed themselves in the First World War. The announcer goes on to explain that, throughout history, men and women had also challenged war, by insisting that there were better ways to secure justice. The announcer concludes by declaring that the pageant will show these better ways of ensuring peace.
The first incident shows a schoolboy fight that ends with the boys shaking hands. The announcer explains that it is the nature of men to fight, but that, after the anger has cooled, they can forgive and forget.
Joshua and military leaders of the Hebrews enter. Two spies sent by Joshua to Jericho return, and are interrogated by Joshua; their news leads the group to the unanimous decision to lead the army against the city. The Announcer explains that it was the desire to possess their own country that led the Hebrews to declare war on the Canaanites – conquest, he explains, being a frequent motive of war.
Arab raiders enter, in high spirits due to a heavy load of loot. The Announcer explains that desert peoples had always plundered the fields and villages of their richer neighbours – desire for plunder being a common motive of war.
Aztec warriors enter, leading prisoners (destined as sacrificial victims). The announcer explains that demand for human victims could be a cause for war.
Different warriors enter, and sell prisoners to Arab traders. The Announcer explains that the desire to enslave other men has been a motive of war
Louis XIV enters with courtiers, and then, at a distance, Napoleon Bonaparte. The Announcer explains how egotistical men led their nations and even continents into war.
The Hebrew prophet, Micah, enters with a few people following him. He preaches to the people, predicting the eventual futility of war. The Announcer adds that Micah understood that, in time, warring nations would instead learn to enjoy peace and quiet and their own lives.
Armed Romans and Sabines enter from opposite sides. The potential battle is stopped by women who attach themselves to their fathers and brothers on both sides, forcing the warring groups to reconcile. . The leaders marshal their men for the attack, and the armies advance towards each other… Suddenly a number of women rush into the arena between the two armies. The Announcer explains that Sabine women, married to Roman husbands, realised that war would mean the loss of husbands, fathers and brothers. The Announcer concludes that women had, throughout the ages, realised that war deprived them of those they love.
Vergil, crowned with laurel, walks into the arena and reads from a parchment. The Announcer declares that Vergil, the greatest Roman poet, saw a vision of a world at peace.
A crowd of Roman citizens enter the arena, and begin to watch a gladiatorial fight. A monk runs out of the ring and throws himself between the two men, but is murdered by the angry crowd. body is dragged away and cast aside. The two fighters now refuse to continue, to the anger of the crowd. The Announcer explains how the monk’s actions were a protest by the Church, and a successful one – since, soon after, an Imperial order ended the gladiatorial combats.
Attila, the Hun, accompanied by his military leaders, enters, ready to attack Rome. But the Pope, accompanied by priests and church officers, stops the Huns through debate. The Announcer explains that the Church’s great influence was enough to stop Attila from attacking.
a bishop and clerics enter from one side; and medieval military leaders from the other. After conferring and mutual courtesies, both sides withdraw. The Announcer explains that the Church couldn’t always prevent war, but could often persuade military leaders to observe holy days and observe a truce.
Chaucer’s ‘parfait knyghte,’ riding a horse led by a squire, enters. The Announcer explains that the combination of the Church and of the ideal of Chivalry purged elements of barbarism from war – though this did not last forever.
A company of Knights Hospitallers pass across the arena, followed by women in the dress of various orders of nursing sisterhoods. The Announcer explains that the Hospitallers and nurses upheld Christian ideals of mercy and tenderness and cared for the needy and hungry, the sick and the dying.
Dante Alighieri walks across the Arena, as the Announcer explains that he was one of the three supreme poets of the world. As well as his famous Inferno, the announcer adds, Dante expressed the idea of a federated Europe, living at peace, but organised for war in defence from those who threatened from outside.
William Blake enters and walks across the arena, as the Announcer explains that his famous poem Jerusalem was a clarion call to those who work for peace.
Florence Nightingale, with a company of nurses, walks across the arena. The Announcer explains that Nightingale helped to ameliorate the barbaries of war, and will now be remembered forever.
John Bright enters, and walks across the arena. The Announcer describes how the Quaker voiced, in Parliament, the view that war is wrong.
Henry Richard, of Tregaron, enters and walks to the Maen Llog, where he stands, whilst the announcer declares him a great apostle of peace through arbitration – the foundation stone after which all must build. Henry Richard mounts upon the Maen Llog and stands at its centre. Micah, Vergil, Dante, John Bright and William Blake are grouped about him. Round these are all the performers in the pageant. Led by the choir, the whole of the audience sings Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’. The performers join with them, and then march off the ground in procession to the singing.
Episode II. Ballet of War and Peace
A large cauldron stands in the centre of the arena. Round it are dancing, slowly and grotesquely, witch-like figures of Fear, Hatred, Jealousy, and Suspicion. They chant, as they throw into the cauldron inflammable materials. Rumour dances swiftly into the arena, followed by the War Maidens carrying unlighted torches. Rumour throws a spark into the cauldron. The contents burst at once into a great blaze. The War Maidens kindle their torches at the cauldron. The witches dance in exultation. The Maidens carry their flaming torches to the edges of the arena, and dance around it. Suddenly the figure of Peace appears in the gate-way. She is attended by figures representing Industry, Commerce, Science, Art, and a number of maidens. There is a dance in which the torch is wrested from the War Maiden, and dashed out against the ground. The War Maidens lie where they fall, at the arena’s edge… the Peace Maidens dance back to Peace. The extinguished torches and the defeated War Maidens remain at the edge of the arena. The finale of the dance which follows represents Peace in the centre, mounted on the Maen Llog. Her attendants are seated, grouped about her. The maidens dance in a circle around the group, and doves fly overhead.
Episode III. The World’s Children
Children representing the peoples of the world, march in and group around the Maen Llog. When they have taken their places, there is a brief moment of silence. Then, to the ‘March of the Men of Harlech,’ the children of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru march into the arena and group in front of the microphone tower. At the rear comes the Rev Gwilym Davies, who takes his place with the announcer at the microphone. The music stops and the announcer explains how Davies had begun the Annual Message of Peace, of the children of Wales to the children of the world, thirteen years ago. He adds that the pageant will help the message be delivered to the children of Cardiganshire Schools. The Rev. Gwilym Davies then takes his place at the microphone, and introduces the children of the world to the children of wales, and asks them to all join hands in a living chain of comradeship and goodwill. After a moment of silence a child mounts the Maen Llog and, speaking through the microphone, thanks the children of Wales for their message of Goodwill, and resolves to work with them and the world for peace. In order, one representative of each group of children assembled follows him. Through the gateway of the Castle enters a Welshmen. He walks to the Maen Llog, from where he cries to the assembled people, three times,
Llais uwch Adlai – A oes Heddwch?
Llef uwch Adlef – A oes Heddwch?
Gwaedd uwch Adwaedd – A oes Heddwch?
The people assembled, together with the children gathered about the Maeen Llog to represent the peoples of the world, cry together: ‘HEDDWCH.’
Key historical figures mentioned
- Joshua (6th or 7th century BCE) biblical prophet
- Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821)
- Louis XIV (1638-1715) king of France
- Micah (fl. c.737-696BCE) biblical prophet
- Publius Vergilius Maro, [Virgil] (70-19 BCE) Roman poet
- Dante Alighieri (c.1265-1321) Italian poet
- Attila [the Hun] (fl. 434-453) Eurasian magnate
- Leo I [St. Leo] (c. 400-461) Pope and saint
- Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910) reformer of Army Medical Services and of nursing organization
- Blake, William (1757–1827) engraver, artist, and poet
- Richard, Henry (1812–1888) politician
- Bright, John (1811–1889) politician
- Hubert Parry, ‘Jerusalem’, words by William Blake (Episode I).
- March of the Men of Harlech
Newspaper coverage of pageantWelsh Gazette
Cotton Factory Times
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir. Aberystwyth, 1935. National Library of Wales. V/1/64–5.
Price: 3d. Every copy of the souvenir was, apparently, sold.2
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- A Pageant of Peace (1935). National Library of Wales. V/1/64–5. Appears to be a copy just of the script for insertion in the souvenir. Priced at 3d. which would be strange, since the much larger souvenir was also 3d.
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir. Aberystwyth, 1935. Price: 3d. National Library of Wales. V/1/64–5.
- Album presented to Rev. Gwilym Davies. Photographs of Peace Pageant on the Aberystwyth Castle Grounds, Wednesday 8 May 1935. National Library of Wales. B6/6.
- Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
The Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant of 1935 took place in the ruins of the 13th-century castle. Performed only once, but to a full audience, it was judged an artistic and emotive success. While it contained elements of Welsh history, the characters and incidents were drawn from all over world, and were used in the service of a message of peace, rather than local or national pride. Still, the Mayor, Alderman David Edwards, found an opportunity to use the pageant as a reflection upon the civic patriotism of town, expressing his pleasure, though not surprise, at Aberystwyth giving ‘such a splendid lead to the counties of Wales and England.’3
Despite the Mayor’s bluster, Peace Pageants had begun to emerge in 1918, following the creation of the League of Arts for National and Civic Ceremonies, an organisation with the primary aim of creating a system through which the ‘national joys or aspirations’ of Britain could be expressed ‘through the co-operation of all the arts’.4 One of its first actions was to submit plans to a Parliamentary Committee appointed by the Cabinet to consider the question of peace celebrations.5 Theatrical commemoration loomed large in its suggestions, which were subsequently taken up by the government—from the performance of open-air Shakespearean plays in all of the London boroughs, to the Thames Pageant where 500 barges, decorated in honour of the mercantile marine, sailed down the river.6 Out of this river pageant, or procession, emerged the book Rejoice Greatly: How to Organise Public Ceremonies (1920). Published by the League, in conjunction with the British Institute of Industrial Art, its aim was to create a ‘nobler and more artistic form of public ceremony’.7 One chapter, written by the famous actor and producer Frank Benson, a prominent figurehead in the League’s founding, outlined the benefits of pageantry.8 A form of theatre with historic roots, Benson described how:
Pageantry shows the nation in its mating plumage. It marks the tides of National life. It shows us a people romancing about itself, striving to make the reality fit the dream or to materialise the vision. Because it is all this and much more, Pageantry enables us to appraise the degree of National vitality, estimate the quality, nature and intensity of National culture...9
In a nation suffering from ‘the prevailing paralysis of artistic expression’, Benson proposed ‘a yearly peace pageant, a pageant which should resume, symbolise and express all that is noblest in our national history.’10 He ended by declaring:
In a world, war-wounded, Pageantry is the greatest panacea, for it evokes, stimulates, gives a field for the expression of those creative forces by which the world was made, and of which humanity itself is the latest manifestation.11
In proposing theatrical community performances with historical underpinnings, Benson was clearly drawing on the by-then-established tradition of historical pageantry. In 1919 Great Peace Pageants organised by St Dunstan’s took place across Britain in major cities like Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, and Birmingham, and unique events were organised in places like Salisbury and Oxford.12 Throughout the inter-war period, peace pageants were organised regularly by the League of Nations Union.13
Aberystwyth’s peace pageant shared much in common with these other events. Indeed, though the pageant was not organised directly by the League of Nations Union, the local press reported that the ‘primary aim’ was to ‘state a case through pageantry for the existence of the League of Nations’.14 The Reverend Gwilym Davies, though not listed as an organiser or performer, was undoubtedly a key local figure in this respect. Thirteen years prior to the event he had retired from the ministry to devote himself to bringing about national peace. He joined with Lord David Davies in creating the Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union, headquartered at Aberystwyth, where he acted as its director until 1945. One of his first acts was to conceive of the peace message of the youth of Wales to the youth of the World, which took advantage of emerging wireless technology and was annually broadcast from 1922—and is still going today.15 Edwards, in his souvenir ‘Message’, mused that the pageant’s ‘dramatic rendering of incidents relating to peace and war’ would ‘promote intelligent thought and fruitful discussion of the pressing problems of our time. In reality, the narrative of the peace pageant sought to portray a much simpler story.
The pageant was split into three parts and began with ‘Towards Peace’, by far the longest episode. It started with an announcer declaring:
Here, within the mouldering walls of a castle by a soldier king [Edward I] to dominate a people by military force… Here, beside a monument dedicated to the perpetual remembrance of men of our own generation who gave their lives in the belief that their sacrifice was the last of its kind to be demanded of men… Here, it is dramatically fitting that we should present our Pageant of Peace.
He went on to explain that:
through the ages, men and women have challenged the war; insisting that there were better ways to secure justice between men… between nation and nation… To-day, we celebrate and review the efforts of those who have sought the better way, exhorting their fellows through example and precept to ‘seek peace and ensue it.’16
The following incidents first served to explain the various motives of war, mostly mimed as the announcer explained the significance of each. The first incident showed a group of schoolboys playing a game, fighting, and reconciling—an example, the announcer said, of how, ‘when anger has cooled’, men are ‘ready to forgive and forget.’ The following incidents were historical. First up were Joshua and the military leaders of the Hebrews. After interrogating two spies they had sent to infiltrate Jericho, the details he obtains leads him to send his army against the city. As the announcer explained, ‘Desire to possess a country of their own led the Hebrews to make war upon the Canaanite peoples. Conquest has, through the ages, been a frequent motive of war.’ Next up were a party of Arab raiders with booty, an example of ‘war motivated by the desire for plunder.’ A party of Aztec warriors, leading prisoners destined as sacrificial victims, symbolised the ‘demand for human victims’ as a cause of war. Arab slavers showed the desire of profit for war, while Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘men of colossal egotism’, were examples of how vanity, jealousy, and greed ‘plunged nations and even continents into war’.
After these displays of conflict, however, the narrative turned to those who had tried to stop war. The Hebrew prophet, Micah, walked into the arena and spoke to the audience, prophesising that eventually the time would come when men learned the futility of war, and would instead enjoy peace. The following incident was more thrilling; from opposite sides of the arena warriors marched in, one group representing the Romans and the other the Sabines. Just as they began to attack, a number of Sabine women rushed in between, forcing the hostilities to end. Married to Roman men, they realised that war between the two would inevitably mean the loss of husbands, fathers and brothers. This, according to the announcer, was an example of how ‘Throughout the ages, women have realised that war deprives them of those whom they love.’ Other episodes from the Roman period then followed: Vergil, the poet who saw the vision of a world at peace; and the abolishment of gladiatorism following the intervention of a fearless priest, who paid with his life by getting in the middle of a bloody contest. His sacrifice, ‘a single protest’, had the ability to abolish a custom which had endured for ages. Following the Romans was another religion-based incident, where the Pope persuaded Attila the Hun to not attack Rome—surely the only example of Attila the Hun and the Pope in a British pageant, not to mention in the same scene! A following scene where bishops and clerics persuaded medieval military leaders to make peace signified the same idea. Chaucer’s ‘parfait knyghte’ and then a company of Knights Hospitallers made much the same point, representing Christian ideals in fairness and courtesy in war, and mercy and tenderness in the care for the sick and dying. Dante Alighieri then walked across, the first to argue, according to the announcer, for a federate Europe living at peace but organised for war in defence of her ideals. William Blake then featured, invoked for his poem ‘Jerusalem’—‘a clarion call to those who work for peace’. Florence Nightingale, along with her nurses, walked across to remind the audience of the women who ‘strove to ameliorate the barbarities of war by caring for the sick and dying’. John Bright, the Quaker, was acknowledged for his voicing in Parliament the Christian view that war is wrong, despite the excitement of the Crimean War.
The final entrant was Henry Richard of Tregaron. Walking up to the Maen Llog (Logan Stone), the announcer informed the crowd that Richard was
honoured throughout Wales as her great apostle of peace… [whose] peculiar contribution to the cause of peace [was] to formulate as a practical policy an alternative to war—arbitration. And this formulation has been and is the foundation stone of all attempts made since his day to secure peace, to obtain justice between nations without recourse to war, and to employ might righteously. Henry Richard laid the foundations upon which all who come after him must build.
The other historical characters now grouped around Richard, as the audience, led by the choir, was encouraged to join in the singing of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’. Unlike most historical pageants, there was not a clear chronology to these ‘walk-on’s’; instead, the episode was organised thematically. The historical characters portrayed also had no specific relation to Aberystwyth, instead being chosen to signify attitudes across the past.
The second episode was an allegorical Ballet of War and Peace. It began with a large cauldron in the centre of the arena. Witch-like figures of Fear, Hatred, Jealousy, and Suspicion enter, and dance around the cauldron, chanting and throwing in flammable materials. A dancer representing Rumour swiftly enters into the arena, followed by War Maidens carrying unlighted torches. Rumour throws a spark into the cauldron. The contents burst at once into a great blaze. The War Maidens kindle their torches at the cauldron, as the witches dance in exultation. Suddenly the figure of Peace appears in the gate-way. She is attended by figures representing Industry, Commerce, Science, Art, as well as a number of her own maidens. There is a dance in which the torch is wrested from the War Maiden, and dashed out against the ground. The War Maidens lie where they fall, at the arena’s edge… the Peace Maidens dance back to Peace. The extinguished torches and the defeated War Maidens remain at the edge of the arena. Peace stands in the centre, triumphant, mounted on the Maen Llog. Her attendants are seated, grouped about her. The maidens dance in a circle around the group, and doves fly overhead.
The final scene brought the action to the present day, when 1000 children, in the national dress of over fifty different countries, march into the arena and take their place in front of the crowds. The announcer then introduced Gwilym Davies and announced that, in ten days’ time, the Fourteenth Annual Message of peace would be broadcast to the world. To signify this moment in pageantry, the Rev Gwilym Davies then took his place at the microphone, and addressed the children of the world in front of him:
From our playgrounds, schools and homes we, boys and girls of Wales, greet the boys and girls of all the world. Springtime has come once more to our little country; springtime with all its loveliness in trees and flowers. And we children are of the spring, too; for through us the world becomes young again. Shall we, then, on this Goodwill Day, all join hands in a living chain of comradeship encircling the whole earth? To-day we would also remember with gratitude those, in all countries, who have renewed life and enriched it by conquering disease and who, by their labours, have brought health and happiness to mankind. Science has made us neighbours: let goodwill keep us friends.
After a minute of silence, a child representative of each country mounted the Maen Llog and thanked the children of Wales for the message of goodwill. The pageant ended with a representative of Wales crying to the assembled people:
Llais uwch Adlai – A oes Heddwch?
Llef uwch Adlef – A oes Heddwch?
Gwaedd uwch Adwaedd – A oes Heddwch?
The people assembled, together with the children gathered about the Maen Llog to represent the peoples of the world, cry together: ‘HEDDWCH [peace].’
If there was a definite educational target of the pageant, it was the children. As the final scene made obvious, it was on the youth of the world that the future depended. The ‘final gesture’, as the Cambrian News described, was from ‘Young Wales to the future citizens of the world.’17 Not only did they take the bulk of the performing roles, with over 1000 drawn from local schools, they were also encouraged to enter a variety of competitions. Up for grabs for ‘the schools which… show the greatest merit in their representation of the country they have adopted’ in the final scene of the pageant were four oaken plaques, carved by 77 year-old Llanbrynmair local, Demetrius Owen. For the boy or girl who submitted the best essay on what they learnt by taking part in the pageant, there was a silver trophy donated by Colonel J.C. Rea, Chairman of the Executive Committee; and for children under ten who best described what they did in the pageant and what it taught them, there was an assorted goodies box of a fountain pen, watercolours, and books. In the event that the pageant made a profit, the Executive Committee even decided to use the money to send two children from the elementary schools to Geneva during the summer vacation, ‘to see for themselves the institutions which have grown up there to facilitate international co-operation for peace.’18 Prior to the pageant, the children who were taking part marched, in costume, to the castle ruins, headed by the Aberystwyth Silver Band, as onlookers ‘vociferously cheered’.19
Reception in the press was mostly positive. The Cambrian News waxed lyrical about the beauty of the pageant, describing it as ‘no mere pageantry of colour, but a lesson to the huge crowd which watched with intense interest.’20 When the choir began to sing the ‘well-known strains of Jerusalem… there was across the expectant crowd a whisper of joyousness and a fervent Amen.’21 But not everyone was thrilled. Particularly vociferous in their condemnation were a pair of students from the University College of Wales, based in the town, who described the whole event as ‘a glorious failure!’ Writing to the Western Mail letters page, their bone of contention was what they saw as anti-English sentiment and Welsh Nationalism, all the more deplorable as it was dressed up ‘in the guise of internationalism.’ Their first criticism was that, despite their being 50 countries represented in the final scene, ‘England was conspicuous by her absence.’ In a move that would raise the hackles of many a Welshman today, they finger wagged ‘we must not forget that Wales could do precious little for peace without the leadership of England.’ Now in a full-steam rant, they declared it appeared ‘characteristic of the Welsh to give credit where credit is not due and to withhold it where it is ’, by giving too much prominence to William Blake—‘a third-rate poet, who endowed literature with a quantity of Superfluous versification’—John Bright—‘whose contribution to peace is doubtful’ and, ‘to crown all’, Henry Richard, who was ‘unknown outside Wales.’ Whether these criticisms were fair or not, the point was clear: in any peace pageant, Wales should have been ‘content to take her due and humble place as a member of the family of nations.’22
Despite the mumblings of some of the students from the University, the event seems to have been a grand success. Press reportage was positive; every souvenir programme was sold; and the castle ruins were clearly packed with spectators ‘probably the largest crowd which has ever assembled in the Castle Grounds’.23
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir (Aberystwyth, 1935), 15.
- ‘Pageant of Peace’, Cambrian News, 10 May 1935. in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10. No page number.
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir (Aberystwyth, 1935), 9. National Library of Wales. V/1/64–5.
- ‘Art and Patriotism’, The Times, 25 March 1919, 15.
- Founded in 1918, its name was at first the League for National Music and Pageantry. The Times, 14 December 1918, 5.
- ‘Peace Day in London’, The Times, 15 April 1919, 9; ‘Peace Celebrations’, Hull Daily Mail, 12 April 1919, 4.
- T.L. Horabin, Rejoice Greatly: How to Organise Public Ceremonies (London, 1920).
- ‘Art and Patriotism’, 15.
- Frank Benson and Henry Wilson, ‘Pageantry’, in Horabin, Rejoice Greatly, 28.
- Ibid., 28–29.
- Ibid., 29.
- Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace (Nottingham, 1919) and proforma for same event; Children’s Peace Pageant at Salisbury (Salisbury, 1919) and proforma for same event; the Lewes Pageant of Peace, ‘Peace Pageant at Lewes’, Sussex Agricultural Express, 14 November 1919, 7; and the 'Tiverton Peace Pageant, ‘Tiverton Peace Pageant’, Western Times, 15 August 1919, 6.
- Helen McCarthy, ‘The League of Nations, Public Ritual and National Identity in Britain, c.1919–56’, Historical Journal 70 (2010), 108-132.
- ‘Children in Peace Pageant’ (unknown date) [no other details] in Pageants in Wales 1909–1949 [Scrapbook compiled by Dr D.R. Davies, date unknown], 23/1, 6, National Library of Wales.
- Mary Auronwy James, ‘DAVIES , GWILYM (1879–1955)’, Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Accessed online 28/9/2015 http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s2-DAVI-GWI-1879.html
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir, 9.
- ‘Pageant of Peace’, Cambrian News, 10 May 1935, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10. No page number.
- Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Peace Pageant Souvenir, 9.
- ‘Pageant of Peace’, Cambrian News, 10 May 1935.
- ‘Credit Where None is Due’, Western Mail, 11 May 1935, in Miscellaneous Pageants, Durrant's press cuttings, National Library of Wales. Box 10.
- ‘Pageant of Peace’, Cambrian News, 10 May 1935.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Aberystwyth Peace Pageant’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/947/