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This report is taken from PN Review 277, Volume 50 Number 5, May - June 2024.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
The annual National Eisteddfod, as I have mentioned before, is a huge undertaking that taxes the energy and ingenuity of locations anxious to serve as host. This year it will be Pontypridd’s turn, next Wrexham. In 1865, September 12–15, it was held at Aberystwyth. In early explorations of Aber during my first university term in 1952, I soon came across the stone circle erected for the opening ceremony of the 1865 ‘National’ in the grounds of the ruined castle overlooking the seafront, adjacent to Hen Coleg, the oddly romantic old university building. So far as I can gather, the site chosen for that grand eisteddfodic occasion was a little distance from the castle – ‘near the Market Hall’, that week’s North Wales Chronicle tells us. Judging from maps of the period this was probably at the junction of Market Street and Little Darkgate Street, rather than the town market’s current location, then labelled ‘Shambles’ – clearly not at that period a salubrious spot. The Chronicle was impressed by the pavilion erected for the occasion, ‘a magnificent structure… 36 yards wide by 50 long’ affording a platform thirty feet by fifty feet.

Elsewhere we are told it was nothing but ‘a skeleton of poles, beams, and rafters covered with an impervious coating of felt’ with ‘sheets of delicate canvas’ at intervals to let a little daylight enter. The interior was decorated with national flags, ‘festoons of laurels… (and) the shields of the fifteen tribes of Wales’. It had seating for four thousand and, undeterred by the long hours of travel involved, crowds ...

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