September Monthly Meeting: The Royal Voluntary Service

Eleanor Parker gave a most interesting and enlightening insight into the work carried out by the Royal Voluntary Service.  It is difficult to move away from wishing to refer to the Service as the WRVS, perhaps because that was how it was known until 2013 when it was decided, because of the number of male volunteers, it should simply be known as the Royal Voluntary Service.

Founded in 1938 by Lady Stella Reading, and then known as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions, it is now the largest volunteering organisation in British history.  The Queen granted the organisation Royal status in 1966 in recognition of the work undertaken by the Service.  There was a time when each Hospital had a WRVS tea bar sadly now replaced by Costa!

Eleanor spoke in the main on the subject of befriending. The Service has become a leading organisation in the field of social care, and has around 20,000 volunteers who give of their time to help make communities stronger particularly providing support for older people to remain active.

A very interesting and thought provoking talk  

Penny Thomas  5th September2019


For the information of U3A Committee Members & Group Leaders:

National Workshop in Carmarthen
21st October 2019

The popular workshop ‘Interest Groups Matter’ is coming to Carmarthen on the 21st October 2019. Interest groups are the lifeblood of the U3A. How do you keep them vibrant and accessible and encourage people to lead? This workshop will help to provide an opportunity to discuss some of the challenges and how to respond. It will also provide opportunities for networking and learning from each other’s experiences.

The workshop is free to attend. Come along group leaders (or those interested in becoming a group leader) and group coordinators as well as committee members. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Click on the “Book Now” link below for further information and booking details.

For general advice and information about interest groups and the group leaders handbook visit the Trust website:


June Monthly Meeting: Withybush hospital to Saudi Arabia

Barry Vaughan was brought up on a farm near Clarbeston Road and attended Haverfordwest Grammar School so he is a familiar figure with many of our members.

Barry was employed as general manager at Withybush Hospital and when this job folded he found work in a very large, modern, high-tech hospital in the Royal Commission hospital Jubail, Saudi Arabia.  There are two directorates of the Royal Commission, Jubail is on the east coast near Kuwait and Bahrain and Yanbu, is on the west coast near Jeddah and the Holy City of Mecca.

There are very distinct rules which foreigners have to follow when living in Saudi Arabia.  Because he was in overall charge of the hospital he was the person who had to mediate with the authorities when a member of his staff knowingly or more often or not unknowingly broke one of these rules.  Some of the problems that he encountered had the audience in fits of laughter but the way he dealt with the problems was imaginative and could have had serious consequences if he hadn’t been so diplomatic.
He was in post during the first Gulf War and he vividly described the terror when the oil tanks at Kuwait were set alight, apparently the smoke was so dense that day was turned to night and the once prestine white hospital was turned black.

A big thank you is in order because Barry came to talk to us at very short notice, nevertheless, he gave us a fascinating insight into living and working in a country with such a different culture.

Jan Manning 

New Shared Learning Project launched looking at the Castles of Wales

My name is Ruth Smith. I am the leader of the craft group (Crafty Crafters) of Newcastle Emlyn U3A. For those of you who attended the All Wales Conference on 8th May, or have followed the Wales Coastline and Borders Celebration on Facebook, I coordinated the making of the Mwnt wall hanging which involved several of our members doing some part, whether knitting, patchwork, needle felting, fabric painting, embroidery, ribbon embroidery and embellishments, to complete it and, once all the component parts had been made, I stitched it all together and quilted it.

I hope by now that you have heard of the new Shared Learning Project, called Castles, that Chris Winner, our Welsh Trustee, introduced at the conference. The idea, that came from the group sat at our table, was to involve as many U3As from all over Wales as possible in making a “Castles Quilt” and I have agreed to take the idea further, to find out if there is any interest and coordinate the project. I’m now asking all Welsh U3As if they have a craft/sewing/quilting/art group or an individual person who would like to participate by creating a “picture” of a castle in their area which can then be joined with others to create a quilt, or perhaps we should call it a wall hanging as it would be intended to be hung up, not placed on a bed.
Suggested layout
I will limit the size of the picture to fit into a 10″ square. This will allow as many squares as possible to fit into a quilt size that I am happy to handle. (78” x 78”). I think less than 10″ would be too restrictive to produce something worthwhile. I’ve created an illustration of my idea using Excel and have attached a copy to give you an impression of what I would like to achieve. The pictures I’ve inserted are taken from Google just to illustrate the idea, not intended as suggestions of which castles should be included. I’ve tried to choose pictures showing different types of castles, parts of castles and also some old drawings/paintings which could be copied (please ensure there are no copyright issues) in order to show that it would be good to have a variety. Any medium can be used as long as it can be done on fabric or attached to fabric (but not so heavy that it distorts the fabric), e.g. patchwork, applique, knitting, crochet, embroidery, stumpwork, needleweaving, lace, painting (please use fabric paints), printing, felting, machine embroidery, ribbon embroidery, cross stitch. If cross stitch is used, this could be done on 14 count aida fabric and used instead of the calico. The greater the variety, the more interest is created.

I’ve chosen calico for the background of the squares because it’s neutral and it will be possible to paint or print on it as well if that’s what someone wants to do. I picked blue and yellow for the sashing and border as representative of U3A colours, it is a U3A project after all. I would also embroider the names of the castle underneath each in English and Welsh (if different).

10″ squares will allow for 36 castles to be represented which would be wonderful to achieve. If I have offers of more, the ones included in the quilt would be picked by a blind draw. The remaining squares could be finished as separate squares and made into cushions or put into a folder to be displayed at the same time. It would also be good to have a couple of paragraphs about each castle to accompany the quilt. I will ask for the squares to be returned to me by the end of October.

At the end of the Castles Self Learning Project, there will be the question of what to do with the wall hanging as it would be unfair for it to be kept by just one person/U3A. Suggestions so far are raffling it for charity (we would have to check if it is possible for U3As to hold this type of raffle), donate it to CADW as some Welsh castles are in their care, or possibly donating it to St Fagan’s who have items representing the activities of people in Wales.

I propose purchasing all the fabric myself and posting the squares to those taking part. I have worked out an approximate cost for the quilt of £160. This will depend on where the fabric is purchased from and how many U3As take part. I would need to ask if those U3A’s completing squares would be able to contribute towards the cost. If there are 36 U3As, the cost would be only £4 – £5 each. I will be able to confirm the amount when I know how many participants there are.

If your U3A, or someone in your U3A, is interested in taking part, please contact me directly at and I will be happy to discuss it further.


May Monthly Meeting: A walk around Haverfordwest

A talk by Robin Sheldrake

Robin Sheldrake is a well known authority on the history of Haverfordwest, having been the Chairman of the Civic Society.  With the assistance of photographs he had taken he took us along the Heritage Trail of Haverfordwest.

The trail commenced with a photograph of the Cleddau looking down stream and then turning back towards the weir, the large warehouse on the new quay, with a view of The Bristol Trader and the new Council Offices.  It is difficult to believe the quay saw sea going ships coming in on the tide, leaving their cargo at the warehouse and picking goods for transportation around the Country and beyond. 

It was delightful to be reminded of the old Haverfordwest, Foley House the substantial property in Goat Street designed by the famous architect John Nash, now standing empty with signs of decay visible.  The substantial properties in many parts of the town provided town houses for the landed gentry who, having visited the town, needed a residence in which to spend the night.  The Palace Cinema formerly the Corn Market, Temperance House, Hermon’s Hill House and others what a fascinating past the properties enjoyed.  Then the sadder part of our history, Union Hill so called because it led to the Union Workhouse.  A most interesting talk given by a gentleman who certainly knows his subject.

Penny Thomas 2nd May 2019

March Monthly Meeting – Pembroke Castle

A thousand years of history...

We are all very familiar with Pembroke Castle, a place where many of us have taken visitors.  Our Speaker for the month of March was Jon Williams General Manager of the Castle.  One thinks of historic buildings as having a curator rather than a General Manager but it became apparent that the Castle doesn’t function from simply being a well know Castle.  Jon, a local lad from Saundersfoot, explained he was a frequent visitor, with his parents, never dreaming for one moment that, in 2007, his career would take him to a managerial post.  It is a position which he clearly loves but uppermost in his mind is always ways to generate income to enable improvements and repairs to be carried out. 

To begin his talk we were show a short film documenting the history of the Castle narrated by none other than Eddie Butler who has a deep interest in Welsh History. 

Each year there are between 110,/120,000 visitors and Jon has some very inventive ideas for entertaining both adults and children.  The Castle is now providing a venue for outdoor concerts, weddings and of course, The Antiques Road Show. 

Penny Thomas 7th March 2019

Sue Thomas has passed away

Sue was an enthusiastic leader of  the Exercise to Music group which she took over from Gloria Droy and also a Stretch for Health group. She had a great sense of fun. She retired from both groups to enable her to have freedom to travel. Sadly her illness struck before this could happen.

February Monthly Meeting – National Trust Volunteering in Pembrokeshire

Ian Hextall – National Trust Volunteer

Ian Hextall gave a most interesting and sometimes humorous talk about his work as a National Trust Volunteer.  The National Trust owns some 7770 acres in North Pembrokeshire alone with very few fully employed Rangers   overseeing its’ management thus volunteers are a very important labour source.  The Southwood Estate is one of Ian’s favourite Trust properties he gives guided tours of the farmhouse and works alongside others on the land to include weeding the farmyard by hand, no herbicides are permitted!  With reference to an old Ordnance Survey Map it could be seen hedgerows had been removed leaving a large open field the Trust decided to reinstate the hedges, the work of planting many hundreds of trees fell to the Volunteers, the time of year chosen November, Ian showed a photograph of said Volunteers looking decidedly like mud larks!

 The National Trust helps to maintain and reinstate important historical sites for future generations to enjoy but it became apparent during Ian’s talk the Trust would struggle without the help of its’ many Volunteers.

Penny Thomas 7th February 2019

Joan Noyce has Passed Away

It is with sadness that we report that one of our members Joan Noyce passed away on Thursday, 7th February 2019. Joan was elected to the committee, but attended few meetings due to illness. She was a member of the Play Reading group, and also she attended the Cryptic Crossword group and the Ex Libris group, both curtailed through illness.

The funeral will be held at 11am on Monday, 25 February at St Mary’s Church, Haverfordwest .

January 2019 Monthly Meeting – Pembrokeshire Shipwrecks

The speaker at the January Meeting was Mr James Hedley-Phillips who gave an animated and most informative talk about shipwrecks off the coast of Pembrokeshire.  Surprisingly there are some 1000 wrecks.

However, he spoke, in the main, about the schooner Frederick constructed in 1833 for Sir John Tobin who, like some of the period, made his fortune from the slave trade.    The Frederick sailed from Liverpool bound for West Africa loaded with trinkets and muskets for trade, onward to America’s Southern States where the slaves where offloaded after which the schooner would return with cotton and other commodities.  The schooner sunk off the coast of Pembrokeshire having been caught in a gale. 

Schooners were replaced by steam ships, the next element of the talk concerned the ship “Nimrod”, constructed in 1843 just ten years after the Frederick but now with the benefit of steam propulsion with additional sails.  The Frederick too was to founder just off the coast near St David’s Head breaking in to three parts. 

James showed photographs of items recovered from the stern where the first class berths were to be found and the dining room, rows of silver spoons, serving utensils and forks but no knives! 

It is amazing to think what lies on the sea bed not far from where we paddle and to be told there are some 300/400 wrecks alone in the locality of Ramsey Sound, a really entertaining and interesting talk.

Penny Thomas 3rd January 2019