The Master’s Away Weekend at Portmeirion
18 – 20 May 2018

Each year the Master arranges a “weekend away” and the Company was blessed by the fact that the Master hails from North Wales and so that became the natural choice for the 2018 venture. The Company was doubly-blessed this year by the fact that the weather was stunning and showed that lovely part of the country at its very best.

We all arrived in Portmeirion on Friday afternoon after, for some, quite a long if very beautiful drive. After an informal supper many chose to take a walk in the balmy, early-summer air to wind down to a North Wales tempo (others enjoyed the services of a very knowledgeable barman).

After breakfast the next morning we set off for Plas Brondanw – only a 15 minute drive but what scenery! Plas Brondanw is a beautiful old house, parts of which date from the 16th Century and was the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect who conceived and built the village of Portmeirion. The house was originally built on the banks of the river Glaslyn but when the Cob was built to connect the road and the railway between Penrhyndeudraeth and Portmadoc, the river silted up as a consequence and there was a river-bank no more. The house now overlooks the resulting farmland.

Whilst Clough Williams-Ellis built Portmeirion in the form of an Italianate “fantasy”, his home at Brondanw was quite the opposite - a traditional, wooden-floored and quite solid manor house. We were given an expert guided tour of the house and a detailed history of both the house and of the Williams-Ellis family (which as one might have expected was quite extraordinary); many cousins still live in the area and Portmeirion is run by the son of Susan Williams-Ellis, the creator of the Portmeirion pottery company.

To add to our enjoyment, the gardens were particularly lovely to explore at this time of year.

After lunch in the sun in the gardens of Plas Brondanw we headed back to Portmeirion for a guided tour. It is a unique place in that it is constructed from a variety of Italianate arches, buildings, fountains and gardens that came from all over the United Kingdom – and even some from Italy. The village itself is well-known for the celebrities that have visited and stayed there (Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit in Portmeirion). However, it became particularly well-known to a much wider audience by being the location of the 1960s cult TV series “The Prisoner” written by and starring Patrick McGoohan (those of you who are of a certain age might remember the large, rolling white ball that stopped him escaping. There were no white balls but the open sands of the estuary are still there).

The formal black-tie dinner was held overlooking the river Dwyryd estuary that evening. Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas was the guest of honour (coincidentally, it was he that re-opened the hotel after its refurbishment). He has been a strong supporter of the Company’s aims and he is our sponsor for the Silver Jubilee concert to be performed by Ensemble Cymru followed by a reception being held on July 4 at the Senedd in Cardiff and we are most grateful to him.

Professor Prys Morgan, President of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, proposed the toast to the Company and the Master. He spoke most entertainingly and kept up the laughter quotient while remarking on the common objectives of the Cymmrodorion and the Company in relation to the promotion of education in Wales. The Master responded by welcoming the two distinguished guests and all those present to Portmeirion and North Wales. Portmeirion is a place very close to her heart as having been brought up nearby the hotel had been a focus for many family celebrations and happy memories, the reason she had chosen it for her Away Weekend. Portmeirion is a very special place.


Before dinner got under way, the guests had the delightful experience of a musical interlude performed by Steffan Llewellyn aged 14, one of the youngest singers to have received an award from the Company which he won in 2017. He entertained us unaccompanied with several songs in both English and Welsh; he has a beautiful voice and perfect pitch.

On Sunday, we all met for lunch in Criccieth at a restaurant whose architect was again Clough Williams-Ellis and the appearance of which reflected his interest in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright (whom he knew).

After lunch we drove the 30 minutes to another country home; Nanhoron – the home of Liveryman Bettina Harden and her husband, David.

This house has been in the family for more than 700 years. Thankfully, the next generation (who also have children) will probably take up the stewardship of this not-inconsiderable responsibility. The colourful gardens made up for the less than sunny day and the famous bluebell woods were at their best. We were entertained also by a superb jazz quartet made up of members of the Beaumaris Silver Band. They had recently returned from the continent where they came third in the European Brass Band Competition – that’s quite an achievement for the band of a small town – up against all those Oompah bands from “over there”.

Nearly all the raffle tickets were sold, and Liveryman and Chairman of the North Wales Committee, Andrew Richards, conducted a lively auction of valuable prizes (the Clerk and the Master were seen heads-together trying to make all the money tally).


An excellent tea was served of sandwiches, scones, cream cakes and good, old-fashioned Welsh tea. Who could ask for more?

An excellent preparation for the journey back home to London for my wife, Helen, and me.

Huw Wynne-Griffith