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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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Book Launch

15th August 2008

A good crowd, 30-35 in all, gathered at St. Mary’s for the launch of our book entitled "St. Mary the Virgin Church and Hill Fort at Caerau." We were fortunate that it was a warm, sunny summer afternoon. The weather had not been good for a few days before the event and, as it turned out, was not good in the days that followed.
The church beautifully cleaned.

Martin Birch (Bereavement Department) in the weeks prior to the book launch had deployed a team of workers to clean off all the graffiti from the walls of St. Mary’s, for which we are extremely grateful. The grave-diggers had also cut away the overhanging branches and vegetation on the walls of the tower and in the graveyard and lane. The preserved, ruinous church looked truly beautiful, and the setting serene, recalling its former dignity tranquillity (see our letter of thanks to Martin Birch). Rosemary and Delia made their speeches, see below transcript of the speeches.

Iona Gordon of Communities 1st (and Ken Pinches, a former parishioner of St. Mary’s) presented a lovely bouquet to Delia- with whom she had been liaising for some time, which was a very nice thought. Our thanks also to Iona and her team of volunteers who had earlier removed litter and debris from the site. Our thanks also to the Ely Police station for sending their representative, it was much appreciated.
Ken Pinches presenting flowers to Delia.

Canon Buttimore attended and addressed the group, saying that the preservation of St. Mary’s was witness to the strength of the Christian faith. It was a reminder of the times when St. Mary’s was used for services and the quiet contemplation one derives from such a peaceful atmosphere.

The Reverend Victor Jones was unfortunately unable to attend due to illness. He was very disappointed that he could not come – he was hoping the hospital would discharge him in time, but it was not to be. We hope that he is now on the road to recovery and that he will be able to make the trip another time. We will visit him shortly to take him a copy of the finished book.

Tony and Peter took photographs of the event for which we thank them.

Following the speeches there was time to chat to everyone. Many of those that attended were old acquaintances from the time when we lived in Caerau 40 years ago. We were very young teenagers then, belonging to the church youth club and attending Sunday services both during the Reverend Jones’ time as curate and others that followed. Some of us moved away from Caerau due to careers or marriage. We visit St. Mary’s as often as we can, but always on St. David’s Day 1st March, or as near to this date as possible, to record the condition of the church, and inform the authorities of any work that needs to be done.
Canon Buttimore says a few words.

Amongst those present were Jacqueline Snook and John Williams. We did not know all the people attending, but it was good to speak to everyone and find out their interests and connection with the church and hill fort.

Canon Buttimore led us in a short prayer before the gathering broke up.

We signed copies of the books for those who wanted us to, and the group bought all the books that we had carried up the hill with us. Further copies can be obtained here

Our thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a happy day! We look forward to seeing all who can make it on St. David’s Day 2009 for the annual inspection. Keep checking the website for ongoing information.

Rosemary's Speech

Rosemary and Delia make their speeches.
Good afternoon everyone. I am Rosemary.

The beginning of the Friends of St. Mary’s Church at Caerau reaches back to late 1994 following an article in the South Wales Echo. We determined to do our best to save this much loved church and landmark. It was not until 1999 that we set up the Friends and gave it its title.

Our first letter, back in early 1995 was to the then Lord Mayor of Cardiff urging the Council to act to save St. Mary’s. It was ten years or more later before any significant progress was made.

A break-through was made a few years ago when the Council wanted to reduce the level of the church, including the tower, to about 3 feet in height. This meant that the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings became involved. The Council were then not allowed to reduce the tower and it was restored. However, vandalism still remains a problem in the area.

We would also like to thank the Jewell family for donating the notes of the late Charles Jewell, prepared by his daughter Jean.

Last but not least we would like to thank all those who have shown an interest in our work over the years.

Thank you for coming.

Delia's Speech

Ken, Delia and Rosemary.
Welcome and thank you for coming to The Friends book launch.

First of all, we must tell you some sad news. Fr. Jones is unable to attend today due to illness.

We learnt on Wednesday after trying to contact him last week and over the weekend, that he was admitted to hospital two weeks ago with a serious condition. Although he was discharged yesterday, he is too weak to travel the long distance from his home on South Coast to be with us today.

I am sure he will not mind me sharing with you news of his recent tragic loss. His daughter, Ruth, died suddenly six weeks ago. I believe that the loss of his daughter, who lived near him, and to whom he was particularly close, not only lowered him spiritually, but also, not surprisingly, physically weakened his normally robust health.

I can tell you that he is bitterly disappointed not to be here today and has asked that we record or take pictures of the event. To this end, I have provided some cards for people to write a message, which we can pass on to him together with pictures of you all.

Our reason for gathering here today is to present to you the book which we have written to provide a permanent record of this much loved landmark. Those of you who have seen the short animated film made by the children of Trelai Primary School of the Hill Fort and church may recall the children’s comments noting that no history books have been written about the historic site in their midst. This makes the children sad as their own research has shown them how important this site is. We all want the hill fort and St. Mary’s, with all its ancient history, and the beauty spot on which it resides, to have the recognition it deserves.
The supporters gathered together (apologies to those off camera).

Our book, we hope, will put this right. It has a well researched account of the hill fort and St. Mary’s church and has drawn on references from scholastic works to ensure its accuracy. We have archive materials, not previously seen, given to us by Fr. Jones showing the love, and the willingness of the people of Ely and Caerau to give generously towards the rebuild of St. Mary’s, which was undertaken by Fr. Jones and his helpers in the late 1950’s/early 60’s. In his memoirs, which are reproduced in our book, Fr. Jones describes his determination to rebuild the church after seeing the communion rail intact amongst the rubble of the near derelict church.

We also describe our own campaign and that of the Echo Newspaper in the fight to keep St. Mary’s in a recognisable form, saving it from complete demolition.

We are pleased with the book, and hope you will be too.

We would like to remind you that The Friends is a not for profit organization and receipts from book sales will go to defray our publication and printing costs. Father Jones has written a lovely foreword, which sums up exactly our intentions in producing this book. You will be able to judge for yourselves when you buy your copy.

Finally my thanks to Iona, supporters, and voluntary groups for being here and making this occasion special. Now, please welcome Canon Buttimore who has agreed to say a few words in place of Father Jones.

Thank you.

Supporters mingle and chat.
Supporters mingle and chat.
Rosemary and Delia chat to officials after the ceremony.