Chicago Welsh Societies
Chicago's Welsh Societies
The Welsh have a long and proud history in the state of Illinois, so in many ways it is unsurprising that Chicago is home to three separate Welsh societies that cater to various aspects of Welsh culture past and present:
The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago
The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago (CBS) is the oldest Welsh society in Chicago. It was founded in 1853 to 'afford pecuniary relief to Welsh people and their descendants...in indigent circumstances...and also for the purpose of effecting the social improvement of its members' (CBS by-laws 1906). Relief was provided to individuals and families who fell on hard times and every Welsh man, woman or child who died in the city or surrounding area without sufficient funds for a funeral was properly and respectfully buried. Money was raised through annual dues, tickets to concerts and picnics and from generous donations of members. It is one of the oldest cultural societies in Illinois. Officers and members of the society helped to organize an international eisteddfod (Welsh cultural festival) in Chicago in September 1893 on the grounds of the 'White City' at the World's Fair and Columbian Exposition.
The society holds an annual St. David's Day banquet around March 1, organizes a summer picnic, and mans a booth at Celtic Fest in Grant Park, Chicago in September to promote Wales and to educate Chicagoans about Wales and the Welsh. In November members of the society decorate the Welsh tree at the Museum of Science & Industry's annual 'Christmas Around the World' exhibition with symbols of Wales e.g. harps, red dragons, lovespoons, daffodils, and in the spring they hold a traditional Gymanfa Ganu (Singing Festival) in a local church to celebrate their love of singing. Board members are currently working on a project to catalogue Welsh graves in local cemeteries.
The Women’s Welsh Club of Illinois
The Women's Welsh Clubs of America originated in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Plans for the Illinois Club began in early spring of 1955 when a committee met at the home of Estelle Roberts Schubert. It was then called the Welsh Women's Club. The first open meeting was held on June 20, 1955 at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park. There were 63 women present. Within a short time 61 of them became charter members and many more joined that first year. The first President of the Women's Welsh Club of Illinois was Miss Myra Thomas. The Illinois Club is one of only a handful remaining in the country and continues to meet regularly.
The Chicago Tafia Welsh Society
The Chicago Tafia is an expatriate Welsh group that was formed in Chicago in 1999. As one of the youngest and consequently the most contemporary Welsh groups in North America, they are well-known to provide a real link to the present culture of Wales to the Chicago area.
The group’s activities are varied with social get-together s to watch Welsh sporting events and musicians in addition to the typical cultural events such as St. David’s Day. That is not to say that the traditional elements of Welsh culture are taken for granted by the group, over the years they have been involved with over a dozen concerts for Welsh male voice choirs in the Chicago area, including the Pendyrus, Penrhyn, Bangor, Black Mountain, Burlington and CF1 choirs at prominent Chicago venues.
In 2007 the group scored a double hit by attracting the former lead singer of Catatonia, Cerys Matthews to entertain the group at their annual St. David’s Day party and also the passing of Illinois General Assembly signing into law Bill HR0149 that proclaimed March 1, 2007, and each year thereafter, as St. David's Day in the State of Illinois and recognizing the Welsh contribution to the state.
In 2009, 2010 & 2011 The Chicago Tafia partnered with the British Consulate-General in Chicago and Colliers B&K to illuminate the iconic Wrigley Building red, white, and green (the colours of the Welsh flag) on Saint Davids Day on Sunday, March 1.
Other Welsh Societies in the region
- The Cambrian Heritage Society of Madison
- Welsh Club of the Milwaukee Area
- The Welsh Gymanfa Ganu Association of Wisconsin
- Saint David's Society of Greater St. Louis
- St. David’s Welsh Society of Michigan
- The Welsh Society of Greater Cincinnati
- Welsh Society of Central Ohio
- Madog Center for Welsh Studies
- The Chicago Tafia Welsh Society
- The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago
- The Welsh Womens Club of Illinois
- The Encyclopedia of Chicago - Welsh
- AmeriCymru The Welsh-American Social Network
Newspaper, Magazine & Internet Articles about Chicago Welsh Societies
- The Loyola Phoenix - Closer Look gets a glimpse of the 13th annual Chicago Celtic Fest (September 22, 2009)
- Annual kilt contest skirts the issue - The Chicago Tafia in the Chicago Sun Times (September 11 2009)
- British Consulate Press Release - Chicago marks St. David's Day with Welsh colors atop iconic Wrigley Building (March 02, 2009)
- BBC March 1, 2009 - Wales and world honour St David
- The Encyclopedia of Chicago - Welsh
- Xiles Magazine - May 2007
- BBC Wales - 28 February 2007 - St. David's Day - Chicago Style!
- The Western Mail - October 6 2003 - Chicago Tafia beats Welsh groups' decline
- The Western Mail - September 24 2003 - Chicago is now the Tafia's kinda town
- BBC Wales - September 24 2003 - Marchnata canu'r Cymry yn Chicago (article in Welsh)