meeting reports 2017

Meeting Reports 2017

Cynan Jones 12 December 2017

Members learned with much sadness of the death of Gwyn Lewis, Past President of the Club and Honorary Member since 2009. Rtn Huw Spencer Lloyd gave a short address on Gwyn’s enthusiastic contribution to the work of the Club and his active engagement with the local community as JP. Parish and county councillor and respected sheep farmer, always keen to keep up with scientific advances to improve the health and hence quality of his animals. Members offered sincere condolences to Gwyn’s widow, Beatrice, and his daughter and grandchildren of whom he was so proud.

The guest speaker this week was renowned local writer,Cynan Jones, winner of the Welsh Book of the Year in 2015 and the BBC Short Story Prize in 2016. Cynan learned the hard technical skills of successful writing as a freelance copywriter in Glasgow where he had to turn his hand to a wide range of material for businesses and local agencies. His first book, ‘The Long Dry’ was published in 2006 after he convinced publishers that his concise almost poetic style and innovative use of language, rich in images derived from the people and landscape of Ceredigion, deserved a wider audience. Since then he has written four further novels and had his work published in over 20 countries and a range of foreign languages. The last two, ‘The Dig’ and ‘Cove’ have been published by Granta.

Cynan shared with members insights into his creative process, involving long periods of mental reworking before retiring to his shed for intensive periods of writing. He has had inevitable encounters with the fickle world of publishing (‘this work is too long/ short’) but is very pleased that his work has been internally acknowledged. He has contributed to the script of the BBC series ‘Hinterland’, where he experienced first hand the very different demands and financial rewards of writing for television. He is currently the holder of an RLF Fellowship in Aberystwyth University.

Rtn Hywel Wyn Jones offered sincere appreciation of the talk on behalf of Club members and wished Cynan long and continued success in his writing.




Stephen Fearn: Aberystwyth Robotics Club 21 November 2017

Members gave a warm welcome to Steve Fearn, whose topic this week was the Aberystwyth Robotics Club, organised in the Physics Department of Aberystwyth University. The Club has been running for more than four years now and is aimed at youngsters aged 12 and above. Currently some 30 children attend after school on Wednesdays, using the same lab facilities as undergraduate students.

The Club enables youngsters to experience different types of robot technology and its uses in the real world, multiple means of motion on land and sea, and the various forms of control, including autonomous, semi-autonomous and telepresence. They help design, create and programme machines which can interact with and learn from their environment. The Club sets out to engage youngsters in learning, encourage their creativity and build trust between leaders and participants.

University undergraduates act as student ambassadors and contribute enormously to the Club’s success and themselves gain skills which can help in future employment.

Steve brought along a part of a steel claw which the Club developed for its entry into the BBC’s ‘Robot Wars’ programme, which gave members a better idea of the size and strength of machine needed to compete successfully. He also gave a practical demonstration of robots operating in a confined place and interacting with each other according to their programming.

The Club won a prestigious national STEM award in 2016 and puts on a number of public shows each year, including an annual event on the Aber Promenade which always generates much interest.

It benefits enormously from the University’s involvement in the ExoMars 2020 project, major features of which have been designed and built here. Steve showed a number of parts of the Mars Rover which had been developed to enhance the quality of pictures to taken on the next expedition, calibrate colours to assist in the identification of samples and help in navigation of the surface of the planet.


Young Musicians Competition 14 November 2017

Club members and their guests recently enjoyed a wonderful evening’s musical entertainment when the first round of the Rotary Young Musicians Competition was held in the Marine Hotel. The performances were a credit to the talents of the young performers and all who support them.

After much careful deliberation by the adjudicators, Eirwen Hughes and Louise Amery, it was agreed that the following should proceed into the next round, to be held in Ysgol Penglais in January: Guto Ifan Lewis (vocalist), Erin Hassan (French horn).

Aberystwyth Rotary Club gratefully acknowledges the support of Cerdd Ystwyth in Aberystwyth in providing the prizes awarded on the night.



Matthew Newbold: Advancing Aberystwyth ar y blaen 31 October 2017

Members gave a warm welcome to Matthew Newbold who provided an overview of Advance Aberystwyth ar y Blaen, the company which has been set up to manage the second phase of the BID project over the years to March 2021.
The company is managed by a Board of Directors drawn from the local business community, with funding derived from a levy equivalent to 1% of business rates. This funding is expected to produce some £900,000 over the four years of the project to be spent on initiatives in the town. The four broad areas covered are improving access to facilities, promoting and marketing the town, developing stronger business opportunities and strengthening links between public and private bodies within the town.
A number of themed routes have already been identified: marketing and connectivity, the night time economy, digital tourism and identifying areas where participating businesses may reduce their expenditure (for example in energy and telecommunication costs). In this latter case, potential savings have more than covered the cost of the business levy.
Advance Aberystwyth ar y Blaen is working on a range of projects with local partners with the aim of adding value and increasing the impact of current activities. It is not intended to replace current spending by, for example, the town or county council. Additional money has been allocated to improving the town’s Christmas Lighting and extending the number of streets covered as well as promoting free parking in the run up to Christmas. The Board is seeking to extend the town’s visitor attractions and improve signage where it is perceived to be in need of upgrade.
There was a lively interchange of ideas and views after the presentation, reflecting the general desire to increase the attractiveness of the town and generate additional footfall for businesses.
Past President Richard Griffiths, on behalf of members, thanked Matthew for his informative talk and expressed the hope that the project would achieve positive and lasting outcomes for the town.



Emily Thomas RYLA Scholar 24 October 2017

The speaker at this week’s meeting was Emily Thomas, an Ysgol Penglais pupil from Bontgoch, who had been sponsored by the Club to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) programme in the Brecon Beacons last July.

Emily gave an excellent presentation on the activities she had taken part in and the key inter-personal skills she had developed on the RYLA course. Based on outdoor activities, youngsters were divided into teams, one of which took take the lead in organising the day’s events. Emily’s team was responsible for the gorge walking activity on the first full day of the course, the challenges of which she thoroughly enjoyed. Successive days were then spent caving, an evening climb up Pen y Fan and canoeing on the Brecon Canal. The final exercise was to design and build a boat from the minimal materials provided and row it across a river. The exercises were designed to encourage participants out of their comfort and to test themselves in a new environment. Those who pushed themselves the hardest undoubtedly gained the most.

Emily came away from the course with many new friends, increased self confidence and positive team building skills. She had to conquer her own fear of confined spaces in the caving experience, take on a leadership role when others were reluctant to do so and also become more aware of her own mental and physical limitations. The RYLA course is potentially a life changing challenge and offers participants memories and friendships which will last a lifetime.



Cllr Paul Hinge, Ceredigion Armed Forces Champion 10 October 2017


Members welcomed Cllr Paul Hinge to its meeting this week to hear about his work as Armed Forces Champion of Ceredigion. This role is focused on supporting members of the armed services and their families in a successful transition to civilian life, a task which is especially important in the case of servicemen and women who have had comparatively short periods of service.

The concept of an ‘armed forces covenant’ has been part of the UK political discourse since the early 2000s but has never been placed on a formal legislative footing. Gordon Brown has the idea of devolving it to local authorities as a ‘community covenant’ but successive governments have never really offered them enough additional financial support to enable them to do all that is needed.

Ceredigion has established a Community Covenant Board, of which Paul is the current chair. The Board brings together representatives from armed forces organisations, local health boards, housing and family organisations with a view to co-ordinating and improving support for those leaving the armed forces. Paul mentioned in particular one such organisation, ‘Change Step’, which offers peer mentoring to individuals adapting to civilian life.

As Ceredigion has no major military bases in area, the county can sometimes find it difficult to access support from the armed services themselves. Despite this the Board has achieved some successes, for example in working with Aberystwyth University’s Family Legal Network, offering support across Wales and in developing small recreational projects for ex-servicemen and women. It will continue to work with relevant organisations to identify gaps in existing provision and aim to improve provision wherever it could.

On behalf of the Club, Past President Derrick Whiting, himself an army veteran from the early 1950s, expressed his thanks to Paul for his presentation and offered his support as a patron of several service organisations



Beverly Dimmock: RSPB Ynys-Hir  3 October 2017


This week’s speaker was Beverly Dimmock, Visitor Experience Manager at the RSPB reserve at Ynys-Hir, who gave an excellent talk about the origins of the RSPB and the creation and ongoing development of the reserve at in the Dovey Valley, just outside the small village of Eglwys Fach.

RSPB owes its creation to the campaigning work of Mrs R Williamson and the Duchess of Portland, who in 1889 formed a society to raise awareness of the damage done to exotic birds by the fashion at that time of wearing feathers in women’s hats. By 1904, their society led to the creation the RSPB, now the largest environmental charity in Europe with over 1.2 million members.

Ynys-Hir was created as a bird reserve in 1969 through the efforts of three local bird enthusiasts, who recognised its potential as providing a range of bird habitats at the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. Extending over 800 hectares, the reserve encompasses woodland, saltmarsh, wetland and meadowland and its visitor centre attracts tourists from the UK and around the world. Its hosting of the BBC’s Springwatch programme over several seasons some 5 years ago increased its profile enormously and brought significant financial benefits to the area.

Spring and early summer are especially busy at the reserve as migratory birds arrive in large numbers from Africa to set up nests in the woodland, among them chiffchaffs, swallows and pied flycatchers. The winter brings in migratory birds from the north, including barnacle and Greenland white-fronted geese, goldeneye, teal, shovelers and wigeon.

Much work has been done in recent years to improve ground conditions for lapwing, including re-profiling of ditches, controlled water management and keeping sheep and cattle of key areas in the breeding season. This has brought considerable benefit not only to the lapwing and other birds but also to mammals such as brown hare and otters who frequently entertain visitors to the reserve.

Warm thanks were given to Beverly for her well illustrated and very interesting presentation




Professor Neil Glasser: Fieldwork in Antarctica 19 September 2017


Club members and their guests were delighted to welcome Professor Neil Glasser of the University’s Department of Geography and Earth Science as a guest speaker at a recent evening meeting. Neil is renowned across the world as a specialist in glaciology and has been honoured to have glacier named after him in Antarctica,

Neil’s talk focused on a recent field trip to Antarctica designed to gain a better understanding of past changes to the ice sheet with a view to extrapolating into the future as conditions change as a result of global warming. Antarctica is of course in a unique position as reserved solely for scientific exploration and is thus relatively protected from human interference. Since the creation of the Drake Passage some 20 million years ago, the continent has been isolated from the rest of the world and retains valuable evidence of past conditions. 99% of Antarctica is covered with ice, which in places is 4.5 kilometres deep and makes up 70% of the earth’s entire supply of fresh water. If all this ice were to melt it would raise global sea levels by some 60 metres. Neil assured us that is not going to happen any day so, despite quite significant loss of ice at the continent’s edge as oceans warm.

The field trip, part of the MAGIC-DML project, was a multi-national 8-man expedition, with scientists from Sweden, UK, Norway, Germany and the USA, based near a Swedish base in an area known as Queen Maude Land. Camped on the open ice for over 6 weeks, the team searched for samples of stable rock from ‘nunatuks’, peaks of ancient mountains projecting above the ice itself. The aim was to determine how long these rocks had been exposed above the ice using cosmogenic isotope testing and to use that data to determine ice changes in the past.

Neil explained that, despite months of intensive preparation, the practicalities of working in such an extreme location in harsh conditions required frequent changes to the team’s day to day plans but they were very pleased to have achieved their main objectives. The ensuing number crunching is at an advanced stage and results are expected shortly.

Besides the hard science, Neil provided wonderful insights into the practicalities of living in such a dangerous wilderness over an extended period and the dangers of transport from the camp itself to the peaks chosen for their research effort. Hidden crevasses were an ever-present concern, so the team rigged up a ground radar system extended in front of their specially prepared Toyota Hi-Lux vehicles as they moved carefully over the ice. These proved very successful in comparison with the usual Antarctic transport as they offered protection from the elements as well as reducing the need for large fuel dumps at key locations. When not in their vehicles, team members were always roped up if they walked in the open.

The visit was timed to coincide with Antarctic summer, with 24 hour daylight providing excellent opportunities for fieldwork. Even so the temperature at the camp rarely got above -30 degrees Celsius throughout their stay. At the end of the trip, the team flew back to South Africa, so they moved from -30 to +30 after a six hour flight.


John Bradshaw: Motorbike Trip across the USA  5 September 2017       


This week’s speaker was Rtn John Bradshaw, who gave a lively presentation about his recent trip from New York to Los Angeles by motorbike. This a was a long planned venture and complemented his earlier long distance trip from the UK to China, fulfilling a long held ambition to complete a circuit of the northern hemisphere by motorbike.

Having decided to do the trip on his own bike rather than hiring one in the USA, John’s first problem was negotiating the labyrinthine procedures of the US customs service, whose staff appeared singularly unsympathetic to his aims. It was only by hiring an agent who took him (and the customs staff!) through the necessary processes that he managed to get clearance for his bike and, after several days, begin the trip and set off from New York.

On his first night, John and his partner Aggie were unexpectedly invited to a celebratory dinner by descendants of the original Amish settlers in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which happened to be taking place in their hotel. They received a very warm welcome and enjoyed a delightful meal, even if the closest John got to the enormous ice cream dessert was to take a photo of it before it disappeared.

Very sadly, the next day Aggie was quite seriously injured in a dropped bike incident requiring emergency surgery on a broken elbow, which meant that she could no longer continue. After much heartsearching while she was recuperating in hospital, they agreed that she should return home to the UK while John carried on alone.

Over the coming days, John had to get used the quirks of US road signage the plethora of traffic lights and the difficulties of using satnav as a single rider, while attempting to enjoy the view. He found drivers in towns and cities remarkably polite in comparison with those in the UK and in Europe, while the traffic on freeways thundered along at high speed whenever it had the chance. The frequent rest areas and the almost total absence of service stations as we would recognise them were noticeable, requiring diversions off the freeway into towns whenever he needed food. Most US towns have no centre but are strung out over a long straight road with malls and eating places scattered along it.

He shared some views of the scenery he encountered from Texas on, varying from dry scrubland to woodland and great sandy deserts. The heat in New Mexico was especially intense to the extent that his bike stand actually sank into the tarmac over one lunch break and had to be physically hauled out before it became disappeared into the road. Further west he acquired some very interesting insights into US agricultural practices.

In all this, John achieved his ambition of riding along part of the old Route 66. The original historic highway has been upgraded in many places into a modern interstate and is no longer recognisable. In others, it has been bypassed and neglected so that it becomes very difficult to follow it for any length. John eventually reached the road’s end in Santa Monica on the Pacific and had to negotiate US customs once again to get his bike cleared for shipping from Los Angeles back to the UK.

John learned some valuable lessons on the trip: allow twice as much time as you originally think for any dealings with US customs, always plan for the unexpected and make sure you take out travel insurance with a reputable company. Only then can you sit back and enjoy the ride.



Ffion Edwards: Lionel White Scholarship 2016-7 22 August 2017           


This week’s speaker was Ffion Edwards, a former pupil of Ysgol Penweddig, now a student at Plymouth University. Ffion was a recipient of the Club’s Lionel White Scholarship in 2016/7. Lionel White was a former Club member who bequeathed money to set up a fund supporting young people from the area to undertake voluntary work overseas.

Ffion has recently completed a three week placement working with the East African Playgrounds charity helping build a children’s playground in Uganda. In doing so, she not only learned valuable building techniques such as mixing concrete, planning wood and cleaning tiles, but also worked with teachers and schoolchildren to maximise the impact of the playground on the local community. The construction period itself aroused much curiosity amongst local children and it was a major event for the town when the playground was eventually opened.  She especially enjoyed teaching the children playground games from Wales and being able to participate in theirs. The charity prides itself on its ongoing relationship with its partner communities to ensure high standards and continuity of use for the benefit of the children in very deprived areas.

Rotarian John Pugh Jones thanked Ffion for her enthusiastic and very interesting presentation. He was particularly pleased that the Club was able to offer local youngsters the chance to participate in such valuable work in disadvantaged communities overseas, enabling them to open new windows on the world and enjoy new experiences of great value to them in their future lives.


Rachel Rahman and Hannah Dee: The Process of Reminiscing 15 August 2017


This week’s speakers were Rachel Rahman and Hanna Dee of the University’s Departments of Psychology and Computer Science, who spoke of a joint research project they were undertaking evaluating the use of Virtual Reality in facilitating  reminiscing and memories amongst vulnerable older adults.

It is widely accepted that the act of reminiscing slows cognitive decline and improves well-being and quality of life amongst older people. Virtual Reality has become much more accessible in terms of cost and availability, using modern smart phones and head sets which can as cheap as £3 for cardboard or £30 for more durable versions. At this level they may become feasible for use in social care circumstances, for example both in care homes and at home in the case of otherwise isolated individuals. The increasing affordability and ease of use of 360 degree cameras adds to the potential of this development.

The joint project, still at the pilot stage, is intended to assess the likely benefits of using technology of this nature by trialling it with relatively healthy older people in order to assess the feasibility of a larger project involving vulnerable adults in a variety of individual circumstances.  If it proved viable, it was intended to offer the technology at minimal cost to those involved in the care sector.

Rotarians were invited to consider volunteering for the pilot project which offers the potential for significant benefits for older people, and a number have already done so, eager to assist in such worthwhile research.




Hannah Glasser, Lionel White Scholarship 2015-6 8 August 2017


This week members gave a warm welcome to Hannah Glasser who gave an excellent talk on her experiences in Madagascar earlier this year. Hannah had made the trip with the support of the Club’s Lionel White Scholarship Fund, established in memory of a former club member and aimed at young people undertaking humanitarian or environmental projects across the world.

Hannah explained that Madagascar is a very poor country of 24 million people, 70% of whom have an income of less than $1 per day, and has an adult literacy rate of only 60%.

She spent several weeks teaching at a local school in the remote north west of the country. Facilities there were very basic indeed but the children and adults she taught there were enthusiastic and eager to learn, despite the occasional knee-high water in the classroom after a major storm. The community was extremely welcoming to the team of volunteers working there and largely self-sufficient in food, particularly so as the nearest village was a 40 minute walk away over rough tracks only passable at low tide. The closest town as we would recognise it was several hours away by boat.

She spent part of her time there undertaking environmental surveys of amphibian and reptile species in the forests and comparative studies of lemur behaviour in protected areas and the wild. The data collected was input each day as part of a major ongoing research project on the island.

In between times, she managed some wonderful trips to exotic and beautiful locations on the island and made some friends for life from many different countries.

Hannah thanked the Club for its generous support to enable her to undertake this work. Club President Martin Davies wished every success in her studies at York University which she was expecting to start next month.


Jim Wallace: Menter Aberystwth 1 August 2017


This week the club gave a warm welcome to Jim Wallace, Director of Campus and Commercial Services at the University, who gave a talk on Menter Aberystwyth in his role as Chair and Treasurer of that organisation.

Since its foundation in 2004, Menter’s Board has consisted entirely of volunteers who give up their time to create and market the image of Aberystwyth and its surrounding area, building on its distinctive cultural characteristics and its role as a hub of great diversity, interest and beauty. It employs one part time Development Officer.


With core funding of less than £25,000 per year from the Town Council and the University, it currently focuses on three major signature events each year: the Aber First Awards (recognising success in the business and voluntary sectors, as well as worthy individuals within the town), the Summer Season in the Bandstand and the Christmas lights. In the context of the latter, Jim acknowledged the help of Rotary members in stewarding the switch on event over several years now. In addition, Menter has received funding for specific initiatives, for example the information boards put up around time some 10 years ago and the installation of new street furniture. It is also working closely with Arad Goch in the Far Old Line Festival/Gwyl Hen Linell Bell currently centred on the Prom, which has meant that for the first time its summer activities have extended over 11 weeks this year.


As with many voluntary organisations, Menter is keen to secure the help of enthusiastic people with relevant experience and expertise to serve on its board. People who may be interested in helping can get a fuller flavour of what Mentor does by looking at its website .It also recognises the need to continue to adapt so that it remains relevant to current circumstances and to work with recently established bodies (for example the Aberystwyth BID Board) to maximise the effectiveness of its efforts within its limited budget.





Visit of District Governor Maggie Hughes 18 July 2017


This week, members of the Club were delighted to welcome District Governor Maggie Hughes on her first visit to the Club in her new role.

Her first task was to acknowledge the Club’s efforts in the campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. This remained a priority for Rotary generally and the Gates Foundation had recently re-affirmed its ongoing support, both financial and moral, to the campaign. Cases had reduced to single figures each year but were proving difficult to eradicate completely as conflicts across the world made it extremely dangerous to reach the final few pockets. She paid tribute to aid workers who daily risked their lives to bring vaccines to crisis points in the hope of finally eradicating the disease completely.

Rotary will be organising a series of peace conferences across the world in support of one of its major aims, including one in Coventry in February 2018 which she hoped would attract a large audience and achieve tangible outcomes. In addition, Rotary was seeking to quantify not only the financial aid generated by its members but also the time given by its members to charities and community activities. By doing so, it was hoped to measure for the first time the true impact of Rotarians’ volunteering.

The District had set a number of priorities for the year, including tree planting and increasing membership, especially amongst younger people. This could involve the creation of new clubs or satellite groups which met at times to suit their members.

The District had set as fundraising priorities for this year:

the Tenovus Closer to Home initiative, enabling cancer sufferers to receive treatment more locally. This already operates well in Aberystwyth where the mobile treatment centre comes to Aberystwyth twice per month;

supporting the Rotary Foundation, 100 years old this week, which, from tiny beginnings, was now generating some $170 million annually;

continuing to support polio eradication.

DG Maggie also raised her legacy project, contributing to dementia awareness across Wales with the aim of enabling sufferers to improve their quality of life and stay independent for as long as possible.

She wished Aberystwyth well for all its activities this year. As the largest club in South Wales, it was well placed to make increasingly positive contributions in many ways to the work of Rotary generally and the district more locally.



Jeremy Turner, Arad Goch: Gwyl Hen Linell Bell 4 July 2017


The Club warmly welcomed Jeremy Turner, Artistic Director of Arad Goch, who spoke to us about a forthcoming event ‘Gwyl Hen Linell Bell/Far Old Line Festival to be held between 21 July and 5 August. The purpose of the Festival is to celebrate the many facets of Aberystwyth, past and present, with a series of artistic and performance events in and around the town but culminating in the Sea King’s Feast/Gwledd Gwyddno, a major public celebration on the promenade on the evening of Saturday 5 August.

Arad Goch is well placed to promote such a festival, with its focus on major performances for young audiences not only in Aberystwyth but around the world. It has been successful in winning significant funding from a range of sponsors to mount the Festival. 72 different events, all free of charge, have been organised over the 15 day period, ranging from gigs in the Bandstand by a number of excellent performers with connections with the town and Ceredigion more widely, to stories about the town and the legend of Cantref Gwaelod. Street artists and story-tellers will engage with townspeople and visitors alike to bring to life the vibrant history of Aberystwyth and the local area. Classes in beach sculpture and chalk art will be on offer, as will lessons in a specially commissioned folk dance to be staged at the height of the Feast. That evening, Cantref Gwaelod will be recreated on the Main Beach, to be washed away by the incoming tide, just as in the legend.

Jeremy emphasised that the festival is planned as a major community event. Local people are already being encouraged to provide short 100-word stories about the town and its people, many of which will appear or be told in the Giant Story Tree to be set up on the prom on various days over the Festival. Organisers are looking for volunteers to participate in any way and to assist in its promotion and organisation over the fortnight.

Full details can be found on

Club President Martin Davies wished Jeremy and Arad Goch every success in this major event and hoped that many Club members and local people will participate in and enjoy the Festival’s many events




Richard Morgan 20 June 2017

This week’s speaker was Past President Richard Morgan who gave a short presentation on one of the many highlights of his recent holiday, a trip through the Panama Canal. He used as his title the Canal’s motto, ‘A Country Divided,  the World United’.

Work first began on the canal in 1881 under the engineer, Ferdinand De Lesseps, who had completed the Suez Canal in 1869. Environmental conditions were very different from those in Egypt, however, and some 20,000 workers died in the first five years of construction, mostly due to disease. The unstable ground and heavy rain gave rise to frequent landslides, to such an extent that work was abandoned in 1889. De Lesseps and his main partner, Eiffel (of Tower fame), were accused of major fraud.

The scheme was revived 10 years later when the newly formed Republic of Panama agreed to lease ‘in perpetuity’ a 500 square mile strip of territory between the Pacific and the Atlantic to the USA for the construction of the canal.

Work was eventually completed in 1912, with the three sets of locks between the two oceans opening to ships up to 110 feet wide that year. Over time, tensions between the USA and Panama grew to such an extent that during Carter’s presidency (1977-81) the USA agreed to cede its sovereignty back to Panama in 1999. Since then, a major source of Panama’s revenue is derived from the 13,000 ships that pass through the canal each year generating $3.8 billion each year.

Fees for using the canal vary according to ship’s capacity and time of day. A 2,000 passenger cruise ship was charged almost $500,000 for a daytime crossing this year. Payment is due up front and significant numbers of ships are seen waiting in the open sea nearby awaiting cleared funds from their parent company before being allowed through.

Wider locks were opened in 2016 to enable much larger container ships to pass through, increasing the usefulness of the canal to world trade.

Alternative routes between the two oceans avoiding the notorious Cape Horn are currently being explored. One depends upon climate change reducing Arctic ice cover and making the North West Passage open to world trade for the first time; a second is the feasibility of a direct competitor across Nicaragua involving that country and a Chinese consortium, conservatively estimated to cost $50 billion. The government of Panama does not believe either is a serious threat to its revenue stream at present.

Dafydd Wyn Morgan: Twm Sion Cati  13 June 2017
The Speaker this week was Dafydd Wyn Morgan, who dressed as a highwayman, spoke about the legend of Twm Sion Cati. Twm, born Thomas Jones in 1530 at Porth y Ffynon near Tregaron, developed a reputation as highwayman, rascal, trickster and outlaw. He is often referred to as the Welsh Robin Hood, robbing the rich but seldom giving to the poor.
He received Royal Pardon from Elizabeth 1 in 1559 and in later life, as Thomas Jones, he cast off his villainous ways and developed a more respectable reputation as a wealthy landowner and a Justice of the Peace.
The community of Tregaron celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of Twm in 2009. Twm SIon Cati day is held each 17 May and an annual prize is presented to a Tregaron Primary School pupil for doing a good deed in Tregaron. The pupils have designed a Twm Town Trail which is regularly followed by visitors.
President Derrick Whiting thanked the speaker for his comprehensive presentation which was full of humour.


Visit to Royal Mint and Penderyn Whisky 23 May 2017


Members of Aberystwyth Rotary Club and friends recently enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Royal Mint (pictured above with our guide, Geraint) and the Penderyn Whisky Distillery, followed by an excellent meal at the Ffostrasol Arms on our return. Warm thanks were expressed to Rotarian Bob Hughes-Jones who organised the trip but was unfortunately unable to come along.


Dr Alan Axford: Hospice at Home Aberystwyth Volunteers 16 May 2017


This week’s speaker was Dr Alan Axford, a member of the club, who updated members on developments with Hospice at Home Aberystwyth Volunteers (HAHAV).

Since Alan came to the area in 1975 the number of hospital beds in the area has reduced from over 260 in Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Cardigan and Machynlleth to 130 in Aberystwyth alone today. Palliative care provision in hospitals has been lost completely as their management focus on a conveyor belt approach of treating patients and discharging them from hospital as rapidly as possible. There is no hospice in Mid Wales as prevailing wisdom is that its population base is insufficient to justify a full 24 hour care facility.

Alan and a team of like-minded people determined that care in the community can only be sufficiently realised where there is an appropriate level of support for carers and the terminally ill. They set about determining whether there was enough support in the area to set up a team of volunteers to provide that support. The initial meeting exceeded all expectations, with over 100 attending, 30 of whom volunteered on the spot. HAHAV was born with the primary aims and objectives of providing friendship and social and practical support alongside the palliative care team in Bronglais. As a registered charity, HAHAV relies on donations to fund its activities, with major input from the Bronglais League of Friends (£15,000), and £10,00 each from Aberystwyth Business Club and Aberystwyth Rotary Club itself. Many other local bodies have provided funding, from local churches and chapels to schools and generous individuals.

The first year of operation was very successful, with 60 volunteers trained, 70 families supported and a shop opened in Pier Street (larger premises will open this week, such has been the wealth of donations). HAHAV’s success has been recognised outside Aberystwyth and it now operates across Ceredigion and is expected to spread to Machynlleth imminently. Local volunteers are essential in this respect, to reduce travel time and transport costs. Year 2 thus far has seen a further 23 families supported, with referrals coming at the rate of seven per month.

Families are supported in a range of ways: 70% of volunteers’ time is spent sitting with those in care and providing relief for family carers, 9% shopping, 6% transport to appointments and 15% with odd jobs around the house, dog walking and gardening.

A major challenge facing the organisation is managing sustainable growth. The demand for support is ever present but difficult decisions have had to be made to limit growth to the resources available, both financial and in terms of the volunteers available. At present HAHAV has just one paid staff member, a part-time co-ordinator.

The Charity is examining the feasibility of setting up a Living Well Centre to provide day time support if premises can be found at the right price. This is seen a major enhancement of support for the terminally ill and their carers.

Vice President Martin Davies thanked Alan for his illuminating talk, congratulated him and the HAHAV team for their outstanding success in offering support to families in distressing circumstances and wished them every success for the future.


Professor john Williams: Older People and the Law 9 May 2017


This week’s speaker was Professor John Williams of the Law School in Aberystwyth University, discussing older people and the Law. He chose not to focus on the usual themes of wills and enduring power of attorney but on the absence of specific provisions for older people in English Law as it currently stands.  Most societies seem to have settled on 60 to 65 as being the start of old age, a range which millions in the developing world sadly fail to achieve. Wales is ahead of England in the treatment of older people, with the Older Persons’ Commissioner post (the first in the world) created to ensure that the Law works effectively for them. There is still much to be done though. The Wales Act defines older people as those aged 60 or above, the same as the World Health Organisation and Welsh local authorities are expected to have ‘due regard’ for the United Nations principles regarding older people.

The right to justice for older people remains problematic. Only 2% of cases of elderly abuse are prosecuted and it may be claimed that abuse in care homes has been largely decriminalised. Operation Jasmine, for example, revealed terrible circumstances in a number of care homes but led to no prosecutions at all. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes no special provision for older people, leaving them open to abuse in  domestic and institutional settings too. Of the 35,000 cases referred under that Declaration, only a dozen related specifically to older people.

Older people present significant challenges for the prison system, as their numbers increase at a higher rate than other age ranges. They serve time in prisons hopelessly unsuited for their physical and medical needs. It is widely acknowledged that people age 10 years faster under prison conditions in the UK.

The number of older people is expected to grow from 600 million today to more than 2 billion by 2050, presenting major challenges for countries across the world. Older people can suffer terrible abuse, with older women accused of witchcraft in some countries and a complete absence of support for older people in many.  This is despite the fact that, because of the HIV disaster in Africa, older people take on the role of parents who have succumbed to the disease.

In Britain, artificial boundaries between health and social care create major barriers to the effective provision of services to older people, with much time and effort wasted on determining which service is going to pay for essential needs, even when costs are quite trivial. In particular, Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the care sector as 25% of workers there are from EU countries. The nursing sector will be similarly affected

Research in the Law School at Aberystwyth University shows that older people have little say in the way they are treated once they lose their independence. Things are done to them without any opportunity for them to contribute to possible solutions. Another project is working on extending the principles of restorative justice in the case of elderly abuse by family members.

Professor Williams does not subscribe to the view that old people are a problem. Many still work and contribute enormously to the wealth and well-being of the country and provide significant financial and child care support to younger family members.

Incoming President Martin Davies thanked Professor Williams warmly for his enlightening and provocative talk delivered with the clear style very reminiscent of the classes he gave to him as a student.


Michael Freeman: A Pint of History 2 May 2017

This week’s speaker, Michael Freeman , served for 30 years as  Curator of the Ceredigion Museum.  The title of his talk, ‘A Pint of History, Please !’ explored the history of Ceredigion pubs which is being developed as a project coordinated by Ceredigion Local History Forum

‘Pint of History’ aims to gather information about the pubs in the county and gain a better understanding of the role of the pub in the community. The core of the project is the creation of an on-line database which currently has details of 960 places which are or used to be pubs, as well as photographs, pub signs, newspaper articles, maps and documents.

Licensed premises include inns which provided accommodation for travellers but no alcohol for locals, hotels, beerhalls , taverns which sold all kinds of alcohol, clubs, rail stations, off licences, grocers , chemists and vaults which sold alcohol in bulk.

Pubs were used as centres of the community, inquests, auctions, people paid and collected rent there and organised Friendly Societies. In the latter, funds were built up for retirement and invested and widows given money for burials.

An Act of 1881 closed pubs on Sundays in Wales.  Following pressure from the Temperance movement, a 1904 Act attempted to close many pubs but it took ten years to close one-third of the county’s pubs. In 1904 there were 304 pubs and 300 chapels!  With the onset of World War 1 licensing hours were severely restricted for the war effort and remained in place until 2003.

A well in Trefechan was the foundation of a brewery built by David Roberts who owned many pubs in and outside the county. Aberclydan, Llanon also had a brewery.

The speaker closed his talk with several anecdotes and posed the question why did the  majority of Welsh pubs have English names. Michael was warmly thanked by President Derrick.



Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan: New Life for Old College 21 March 2017

The University Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr Rhodri Llwyd Morgan spoke to members this week on New Life for the Old College. The College opened in October 1872 against the odds in the building built as an hotel by Thomas Savin, a railway entrepreneur, in 1864.

Dr Llwyd Morgan gave an overview of the repurposing of the Old College into a vibrant heritage and cultural centre. Plans include the creation of four distinct spaces inside the building to showcase an Events and Cultural exhibition, a Space and Science  centre, a University Museum and a creative enterprise facility. The Science centre will include a planetarium-the first in Wales.

A Welsh art exhibition, in conjunction with the National Library of Wales, will be staged each summer.

The aim is to complete the refurbishment in time for the 150th anniversary of the College in 2022. The estimated cost is £22m and a bid for £10m has been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, a decision is expected in April of this year.

The speaker was warmly thanked by Rtn Dr Hywel Davies for his presentation and wished the project every success.




Huw Watkins: Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus 14 March 2017

The Club gave a warm welcome to this week’s speaker, Huw Watkins, Project Director of the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus, a joint venture which has been developed with support from the University, BBSRC and the European Union.

The primary aim of AIEC is to support a community of ambitious, collaborative companies to bring new products to market in the agricultural technology, food and drink and biotechnology sectors. The new £40.5m development represents an investment of global significance in this field and will provide for 7500 square metres of space on the Gogerddan site, utilising the extensive experience of University scientists in IBERS and the Institutes of Geography and Earth Sciences and Maths, Physics and Computer Science.  It will provide a focus to drive forward collaboration, entrepreneurship and job creation through bringing new products and services to market in the food and agriculture sectors.

IBERS at Aberystwyth already has a world-wide reputation in these fields, with 358 staff, 1600+ students and annual research income of £20m, £8m of which already comes through industrial collaboration. It is ideally placed to ensure maximum benefit from this initiative. Its existing Seed Biobank will be upgraded as part of the initiative safeguarding its future and improving access to its resources. Huw mentioned that 65% of oat-based products in the UK market are derived from seeds developed in Aberystwyth.

Projects which have already been identified for AIEC will focus, amongst others, on the development of functional food (for animals and humans), improving food shelf life, reducing food waste and personalised nutrition to cope with specific needs.

Planning for AIEC is now well advanced: the company itself has been formally established, main contractors for its buildings have been chosen, and architectural design completed, subject to any planning issues which may be identified over the next few weeks. Building is due to start in August 2017, extending to April 2019 if all goes to plan.

In discussion, members raised the possible implications of Brexit for the development and the question of improving the road access from the Gogerddan crossroads.  It was acknowledged that Brexit posed some risks to the project if EU funding could not be accounted for promptly, while the impact of increased traffic on the minor road to Penrhyncoch would need to carefully factored in to the proposals




Lisa Ashton MBE: The Winnie Mabaso Foundation  7 March 2017

This week the Club gave a warm welcome to Lisa Ashton, who spoke to us about the Winnie Mabaso Foundation ( in South Africa.

Lisa first met Winnie in 2004 when she went to South Africa to work on a BBC programme marking the 10th anniversary of the end of Apartheid. She found a woman who single-handedly had devoted herself to caring for vulnerable in orphaned children in the township of Finetown, south of Johannesburg, providing them with food and love that was often missing in their own lives till then. At that time, there was a strong belief of men affected by HIV/Aids that sex with a virgin could cure their condition. As a result, girls who had lost their parents were often at risk of sexual assault. Winnie protected these children and her home soon became a haven for those at risk in the area.

After Winnie’s death in 2005, Lisa took on the task of building on her legacy by fundraising across the world while juggling her work with the BBC. Since 2013 she has been working full time for the Foundation.

Today, the Foundation runs a home for 22 children (Ilamula House), catering for girls between the ages of 3 and 17, with in-house care workers offering individual therapy programmes for those in need, as well as providing the much needed ‘Mabaso’ love for the children. It provides pre-school facilities for the local community, enabling parents to work and hence earn money to support their families, feeding stations for 500 children every day, a Granny Club for those who have stepped in to help where mothers have died, and a library for children and the wider community. It has established veggie gardens near the school to help families feed themselves and enjoy the benefits of growing plants and flowers.

Lisa is especially proud of the tremendous improvements made by those sometimes written off by the wider community and the education and employment successes achieved by the children as result of their hard work and the dedication put in by the Foundation and its supporters. The Foundation is always in search of sponsorship as a registered charity in the UK and a non-profit organisation in South Africa. Children at Ilumela House can be sponsored at £20 per month, while those attending the pre-school may be sponsored at £10 per month.

Rotarian Howard Jones thanked Lisa for her inspirational talk and the outstanding contribution made by the Foundation to the local community. Further information about the Foundation can be found at and it can be followed on Facebook under ‘The Winnie Mabaso Foundation’.




Sion Jobbins: St David’s Day Parade/Pared Gwyl Dewi 28 February 2017

This week Sion Jobbins spoke to members about Aberystwyth’s St David’s Day Parade, to be held this year on Saturday 4 March.

A native of Cardiff, Sion graduated from Aberystwyth in 1989 and was heavily involved in the town’s Film Festival, which ran successfully for many years. His experience in that venture was especially helpful in his being able, with fellow enthusiasts, to motivate people and generate a band of volunteers to contribute time and skills towards the Parade.

The Parade was intended to be a celebration of Wales and its people as well as providing a focus for Aberystwyth to promote its own identity. The evidence thus far has shown that not only do many people enjoy taking part in the Parade itself and marching through town but many others, locals and tourists alike, enjoy the great spectacle.

This year’s Parade would be the fifth since its inception in 2013 and the idea has spread to a number of other towns across Wales where they could build on the positive experience here in Aberystwyth.

Glan Davies had been chosen as the Parade Leader this year, in recognition of his contribution to Welsh language and culture over many years. Sion was especially thankful to Hywel Evans of Capel Dewi for providing a specially carved walking stick in acknowledgement of Glan’s position as Parade Leader.

While the Parade itself would start at 1pm at the top of Great Darkgate Street, there would be a number of activities over the day in town- music on Owain Glyndwr Square and various events in the new Bandstand on the Prom.

Hywel Jones thanked Sion for his obvious enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the Parade and wished him and his fellow organisers every success for this year’s event.




Wendell Junia: The Ebola Crisis in West Africa 21 February 2017

The Club gave a warm welcome to its meeting this week to Wendell Junia, a Microbiogist at Bronglais Hospital, who spoke of his experiences as a volunteer medical worker on two 5 week stints in Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola crisis from November 2014 to November 2015.

The first case of Ebola in West Africa was traced back to an 18 month old boy in Mollando in Guinea, who became ill on 26 December 2013, probably from contact with infected bush meat. Since the disease was unknown in that part of Africa, it took until 23 March 2014 for an emergency to be declared, by which time cases had been reported in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, and neighbouring countries, including Sierra Leone. The strain was identified as identical to that which caused the outbreak in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976.

It soon became apparent that a major contributing factor to the spread in West Africa was the particular way in which families came together to honour their dead and to prepare their bodies for burial.

A massive international health effort was mobilised, in which the UK played a significant part in providing funding and training through the Department of International Development and UK charities, including Save the Children. Wendell worked with agencies from other countries- USA, Ireland and Denmark. He especially praised local Sierra Leone health workers, who at great risk to themselves went out to communities to isolate cases and worked with bereaved families to ensure safe burial.

The protective suits worn by health workers, as seen on pictures worldwide, could be worn for no more than two hours at a time, in view of the debilitating dehydration they caused.

In addition, the UK provided a Royal Navy ship with extensive medical facilities to treat cases offshore near Freetown and built five treatment centres across Sierra Leone, with support from the Royal Engineers.

The international effort eventually proved successful in limiting the outbreak to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, apart from a very small number of cases in other countries caused by contact with sick people from these countries and health workers returning home. The outbreak was eradicated by the end of 2015, almost two years after it first broke out and following the death of some 10,000 people in the three countries.

In thanking Wendell for his talk, Lindsay Fletcher, Chair of the Club’s International Committee this year, acknowledged the bravery and dedication of all who contributed to ending the outbreak. The Club had provided funding to a number of projects in the area affected and had set aside money to support to a children’s hospital in Liberia He informed members that Wendell was shortly to undertake a placement in Papua New Guinea to work on TB control there and wished him every success in that enterprise and his future medical career.




Mr Dewi Hughes: New Member’s Talk 14 February 2017

It is a long tradition of Rotary that new members give a short talk on their background and career by way of introduction to other members. This week, Dewi Hughes shared fond memories of growing up in Denbighshire before taking up a teaching post in Ysgol Brynhyfryd Ruthin in the early 1970s as a Welsh medium teacher of Geography. This proved especially challenging at first owing to the limited teaching materials available in Welsh at that time, very different from today where substantial resources have been developed for Welsh medium teaching.

In 1978 he took up a post with the Development Board of Rural Wales, established to promote the economic revitalisation of Mid Wales at a time when many communities were suffering a drain of native talent in search of job opportunities elsewhere. His projects there included encouraging collaboration between theatres in the region to facilitate cultural events which would otherwise not have been viable, developing entrepreneurship amongst young people and supporting local initiatives to improve communications and TV reception across the area. It was very gratifying for him to see that sometimes even tiny amounts of seed corn funding from DBRW could result in significant improvements locally as communities worked together enthusiastically.

In the mid 1980s, Dewi moved on to Dyfed County Council as Assistant Education Officer where he witnessed a period of extraordinary change for education, with for example the National Curriculum, increasing computerisation, devolved powers to schools  never-ending financial pressures, more intrusive school inspections and enhanced roles for school governors.

After local government re-organisation in the mid 1990s he became Assistant Director of Education in Ceredigion where these trends continued to intensify. He mentioned his involvement in the development of the new Ysgol Penweddig in Aberystwyth, only made possible through PFI because of the pressures on local government funding. While this had been controversial at the time he acknowledged that without PFI Ysgol Penweddig would still be working in buildings condemned as Victorian at the dawn of the 20th century..



Ystwyth Cycling Club 31 January 2017

At this week’s meeting, Shelly Childs of the Ystwyth Cycling Club presented a cheque for £500 to the Club, to be used for local charitable purposes. Shelly explained that this money derived from the surplus generated by the Cycling Club from the very successful Aberystwyth Cyclefest in 2016. In addition, the Club had already donated £500 to the Wales Air Ambulance in recognition of its invaluable aid at an accident involving club members last year.

Aberystwyth Rotary has already decided to add this donation to the amount raised in its Christmas Collection which will be shortly distributed to local charities.




Aberystwyth Surf Lifesaving Club: Jeremy Turner 17 January 2017

Members gave a very warm welcome to Jeremy Turner, who spoke about his involvement with Aberystwyth Surf Lifesaving Club (ALSC).

A very active club with over 100 members, ALSC was founded in 1968, teaching youngsters essential lifesaving skills, both on and off the water, as well as training them in the extreme sport of surf lifesaving.

ALSC is one of 28 in Wales and the only one in Ceredigion. Members participate in major competitions and across Wales, the UK and internationally, with considerable success over the years. Children join from the age of 7 on and are taught to Know the Sea, learning about winds, tides, rip currents and signalling, along with essential first aid skills. They progress through various levels until at the age of 16 they can train for the national lifeguard qualification. With this they can operate on beaches across the world. Locally, ALSC works closely with RNLI to provide cover for beaches in Ceredigion, both on land and in the water.

The Club has an excellent gender balance and provides cover for many local events, including the Raft Race, triathlons and even in support of TV productions filmed in the area (eg  Y Gwyll/Hinterland). It aims to be accessible to all youngsters and runs training sessions on the Prom three times a week during the summer months. It is reliant on extensive fund raising by its members and their supporters and has succeeded in securing essential equipment through these efforts.

For its 50th anniversary in 2018, the Club is planning a major competition with clubs from across Wales and if possible internationally, which should be a significant to its profile in the town. It is searching for more suitable premises.

On behalf of the embers, Bob Hughes-Jones thanked Jeremy for his enjoyable and informative talk and acknowledged the success of ALSC members in improving safety on beaches in the area.




 ‘Music on the March’ Colonel (Rtd) G Kingston 10 January 2017

Members and their guests enjoyed an enthusiastically entertaining and informative talk on military marching music by Colonel Kingston, former Director of Army Music, who has retired to the New Quay area..

Colonel Kingston took us back to the early days of fife and drum bands in the 17th Century, where their duties included communicating orders on the battle field and especially setting the pace of an army’s advance in the face of the enemy. The key features of marching music on campaign are rhythm (pace), tune (readily memorable) and simpler harmonies (easily played).

He illustrated his talk with many examples of the different styles of marching music: concert march, with its quicker tempo and more complicated rhythms and harmonies, ceremonial march, for example at the Trooping of the Colour, and slow march, used for sombre occasions such as the Remembrance Day Service or state funerals.

Marching music was used to encourage factory production during both World Wars, especially among munition workers, as a means of raising morale and setting the pace of work. It has of course far wider social importance, being extensively used in film TV and radio productions (Top of the Form, Monty Python and even Star Wars, for example).

Many well known composers turned their hand to marching music, including Beethoven, Schubert, Fuecik and Elgar. Among the most recognisable in Britain is of course Colonel Bogey’s March, by Kenneth Alford, whose estate benefited enormously from its  unauthorised in ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, while it was still under copyright. In the USA, John Philip Sousa became known as the American March King for his numerous marching tunes and the design of the distinctive sousaphone, extensively used in American marching bands.

Colonel Kingston also played marches from France, Germany and the USA to illustrate the distinctive styles of each country.

The Club President, Derrick Whiting, gave warm thanks to Colonel Kingston, for his excellent and inspirational talk which the audience had found so enjoyable.


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