23rd November, A Night to Remember: Temple Anniversary ‘Descendants’ Reunion’
23rd November 2022 witnessed a very special event in the history of the Temple of Peace, celebrating the history of the Temple of Peace – as WCIA’s supporters, volunteers and alumni welcomed descendants of the 3 figures who led the original opening of the Temple: founder David Davies, Architect Percy Thomas, and ‘Mother of Wales’ Minnie James. The evening was also the launchpad for a new supporter network, the ‘Friends of Wales’ Temple of Peace‘, who will be meeting and developing projects from the New Year forwards into the future.
As well as bringing together powerful and moving stories from the families – represented by Robin Paul, Al Lewis and Daniel Davies – the Anniversary event was introduced by WCIA’s Chief Executive Susie Ventris Field, and British Academy Fellow Dr Emma West – who will chair the Temple Friends network – who took the audience back to that stormy day in 1938, when a rainbow broke over Cardiff as the Temple opened. Singer Al Lewis performed a soaring acoustic rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’, composed in 1938; and the event culminated with the handover to WCIA of the original ‘golden key’ with which Minnie James had opened the building on this day 84 years ago.
WCIA are tremendously humbled to accept a donation of never-before-seen heritage artefacts and archives, the ‘Minnie James Collection’, saved over decades by Robin’s mother Daphne Paul whose kind legacy enabled this event to take place. Daniel Davies also bequeathed to the Temple an original 1935 Memorial presented to David Davies on his elevation to the peerage, to accompany the bronze bust displayed in the Temple’s Hall of Nations.
As a legacy of the evening itself, a memorial bench for Wales’ National Garden of Peace was unveiled by the youngest generation of Minnie James’ family, Millie (9) and Henry (5), which will be established in the Peace Garden in the New Year enabling visitors to sit, meet, work and contemplate this beautiful space with its memorials to Welsh peace makers.
The event also served as the formal unveiling of heritage interpretation throughout the building installed just prior to the COVID pandemic as a legacy of the the 2015-20 National Lottery Heritage Funded ‘Wales for Peace‘ project; and of cataloguing work undertaken on Safeguarding the Temple Archives and Collections over Summer 2022 by WCIA volunteers and student placements, funded by the Gwendoline and Margaret Margaret Davies Charity.
A playlist of short film features capturing this inspiring evening is now available on Youtube, or scroll down for embedded views.
Many participants in the evening remarked on how inspiring they found the sharing of stories, and meeting families with such a powerful connection to the Temple’s past. Hayley Richards was even inspired to write a poem, ‘Lest we Forget’, reproduced at the the bottom of this article (or can be downloaded here).
In a symbolic nod to the past, Cardiff’s civic centre was bathed in rainbows through the mornings either side of the Anniversary – with thanks to Jeanne Frossard, Minnie’s great-granddaughter, for the photo below! Our deepest thanks to the family of Minnie James and the estate of Daphne Paul, for enabling this inspiring evening to happen.
Temple84 Anniversary Event – short feature
Susie Ventris Field, WCIA – Welcome
Dr Emma West recounts the 1938 Opening
Robin Paul and the Family of Minnie James: ‘Mother of Wales’
Al Lewis, great grandson of Percy Thomas, sings ‘Over the Rainbow’
Daniel Davies and Temple Founder David Davies
Temple Friends Launch
Millie & Henry unveil Peace Garden Memorial Bench
‘Let We Forget’: Reflections on the Temple’s Anniversary, by Hayley Richards
Lest we Forget?
A memorial of stone baked from the blood of 35,000 lost sons.
A Temple without an altar, crafted by a flock of white doves etching peace into every column and pillar.
But even as the silver key turned in the lock, the thunderous march of jackboots boomed in the distance.
The sky falls down all around us with a deafening roar, shaking the earth beneath our feet.
Drowning the softly, whispering voices of souls echoing in the chamber of the crypt – never again, never again.
Flashes blazing like Dowlais ironworks on bonfire night.
Extinguishing the embers of hope and bolting the Temple door.
Fields of paper thin poppies hang their heads and weep.
What good remembering when the memories of men are short?
How easily forgotten the desolation, the stench of death, the mud and filth entrenched in our minds.
How easily forgotten the pain of a child leaving the safety of a mother’s womb through the joy of cradling a son in her arms.
But a mother’s memory is long and even the heavens cannot contain her tears of pain losing son after son after son after son.
A pain so fierce it is seared on your heart and lives on even after you depart the earthly world of men.
A pain fuelling your spirit which travels through ethereal barriers to greet us at your door. Thunder rumbling once more, you scold us – never give up.
As you open the door we step back in time to meet you.
A legacy of letters whose fragility betrays a strength more powerful than any stone monument. Fingers trembling as the letters unfold, turning page after page.
We stand at your shoulder, eyes filled with tears blurring the words and our hearts break in two.
How many other mothers stood in this spot? How many more?
But here are the doves, swooping down to keep the remembering alive.
Gently they pick up the mother’s pain carrying it as their constant companion. Way up high, they soar against the clearing sky.
In the distance, a song of rainbows brings hope.