Cowbridge Athletic Club was the setting for a truly unique and moving occasion last Friday (29 September) when the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, officially re-opened the newly-refurbished Fred Dunn Memorial Gates, sited at the entrance to the club off The Broad Shoard, Cowbridge.
The gate re-opening ceremony was the final act in a service of dedication for a memorial that honours former members of the club who have died in war. Also newly-refurbished, an adjacent pedestrian gate has been augmented with a bronze memorial plaque listing those members who have lost their lives in conflict.
Funding for the work carried out on the gates was provided by The Heritage Lottery Fund, Cowbridge Town Council and club members’ donations.
The gates were first hung in 1960 to mark the huge contribution made by cricketer, Fred Dunn, towards the revival of the club after the First World War. Over the years, the elements had taken their toll on the gates but now they are back to their very best, newly restored to provide a fitting memorial to past members of the Athletic Club. Today, the club encompasses cricket, rugby, squash and tennis sporting sections.
Attending the gates' re-opening ceremony last Friday was a large gathering of club members, friends and invited guests who witnessed a moving commemorative event.
Proceedings began in the Pavilion with Jeffrey Bird, President of Cowbridge Cricket Club, welcoming guests on behalf of the Athletic Club. In addition to Alun Cairns MP, the impressive gathering of guests included Jane Hutt AM and the Mayor of Cowbridge, Cllr Sian Vaughan, accompanied by her consort, Mr Robert Vaughan, representing the civic bodies.
Honouring the sport played by Fred Dunn, the game of cricket was represented by former President of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, David Morgan, along with Hugh Morris and Peter Hybart, Chief Executives of Glamorgan CCC and Cricket Wales respectively.
It was particularly poignant that Mrs Judy Davies was able to attend as her brother, Roy Watts, who lost his life in 1941, is among those named on the memorial plaque. The club was honoured also that Mrs Clarke, mother of Tom, who died in Afghanistan in 2014, was able to attend. Regrettably, Mrs Joyce Forster, sister of John Gwyn who died in Italy, was unable to travel from Cheltenham.
It had been hoped that there might have been a larger gathering of schoolchildren at the ceremony but the presence of pupils and staff from Ysgol Iolo Morgannwg added greatly to the event.
Following Jeffrey Bird's opening welcome, Dr Andrew Hignell, historian and scorer at Glamorgan CCC, enthralled the audience with an exceptional illustrated talk on how the First World War had affected Glamorgan, its sports clubs and personalities. It was a talk that combined the dignified nature of the occasion with a number of lighter anecdotes, catching perfectly the mood of the day.
Next, Jeffrey Bird described how Fred Dunn had revived the cricket club after the First World War despite losing his three brothers, Frank, Tom and Jack, along with team mates Albert Gibbs and Harold Moynan. The loss of former club members in the Second World War and Afghanistan were also referred to including that of George Pratt, who died in Italy in 1944.
The gathering then moved outside to club's main entrance where the Reverend David Boult, accompanied by the Reverend Heather Weddell and keyboard accompanist Sandra Williams conducted a short but perfectly set Service of Dedication for the Memorial Gates.
After the patriotic hymn ‘I vow to thee my country’, the poem ‘Vita Lamparda’ was read by Peter Knapp. The names inscribed on the plaque were read out with great dignity by Cowbridge Athletic Club Chairman, Lynn Thomas, followed by the laying of wreaths by representatives of the four sporting sections.
Alun Cairns MP then gave a short address before formally re-opening the gates, assisted by Jeffrey Bird. A stirring rendition of Cwm Rhondda brought the ceremony to a close.
Jeffrey Bird pointed out that the storyboard on the gates is already helping raise appreciation of the important role played by the Athletic Club and its present and sadly-departed former members within the wider history of the town of Cowbridge and the surrounding area.