who helped build the Cambrian Hall
By EIFION WILLIAMS
VANCOUVER - The 10 people whose names are enshrined on the cornerstone of the Cambrian Hall were all Welsh immigrants who prospered during Vancouver's rapid growth in the early part of the Nineteenth Century.
These nine men and one woman contributed materially and financially in 1929 to the building of a hall where Welsh people could gather and share part of their culture with the city.
In addition to their generosity in support of their Welsh heritage they also made significant contributions to their adopted city and to British Columbia.
One of these donors was Thomas Edwards, who gave the Society the building materials for the Hall. Trained as a carpenter and joiner, he became a pioneer builder and prominent businessman in Vancouver and later a highly respected funeral director.
Thomas Edwards was a miner's son from Llanelli, Wales. He arrived in Vancouver in 1889, followed in 1898 by his future wife Margaret, from Llangyfelach, just north of Swansea. They were married in the Presbyterian Church in Cumberland, Vancouver Island.
North Vancouver resident Anne Bosch, Thomas Edwards' granddaughter, was born a few years after the building of the Cambrian Hall.
She remembers her grandparents as very devout individuals who eschewed any form of theatrical entertainment, although she says they made an exception to attend a showing of the 1941 Oscar-winning movie How Green Was My Valley.
Last year Anne provided David Llewelyn Williams, editor of the Welsh Society newsletter, with some press clippings on events in her grandparents' lives.
One 1940 press report from a now defunct Vancouver newspaper, The Fairview News, reports that Thomas Edwards was one of the first to make a donation on behalf of himself and his wife to cover the cost of a fully equipped field ambulance for service at the front in the Second World War.
In 1948 a Welsh newspaper reported that Thomas Edwards, representing the Welsh community of Vancouver, was to present that year's Bardic Chair at the Bridgend National Eisteddfod.
The newspaper showed a photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, their daughter, Sarah Hutchinson, and granddaughter Anne (Bosch), being greeted on their arrival at Swansea High Street station.
The cost of the chair and its shipment to Wales was paid for through individual contributions by the Welsh of Vancouver. The Chair was made from Canadian black walnut and, in addition to a Welsh dragon design, bore symbols and motifs derived from the early totems of the West Coast First Nations.
Thomas Edwards was also in 1948 the first Leader of the Overseas Welsh at the National Eisteddfod, beginning the annual tradition of a ceremony welcoming Welsh exiles to the Eisteddfod.
Thomas Edwards belongs on the roster of those successful early Welsh immigrants such as department store owner Chris Spencer and philanthropist Jonathan Rogers who were long time patrons of the Vancouver Welsh Society and who also made valuable contributions to their adopted country.