Talk on ‘The Curious Case of the Eisteddfod Baton’ by Norena Shopland


In 1888 a conductor’s baton was created by a man the press dubbed the ‘Welsh Gold King’. Made of native gold and studded with precious jewels, it was a dazzling prize designed to raise awareness of the little-known National Eisteddfod Welsh Language Competition.

For four years choirs fought for it as the press avidly reported every win and loss, but instead of bringing unison it brought controversy.

The rising and falling fortunes of the Welsh Gold Kind tainted the competition for the coveted baton, as did the fights over the importance of a Welsh Language Competition in the National Eisteddfod.
Many people could not understand why such a valuable trophy should be consigned to such a minor contest. Nineteenth century choirs were the X-Factor of their day and the public was enthusiastic in supporting their favourites, even breaking into hooliganism following a loss.

Each win and loss of the baton created controversy, with accusations of foul play. Even when it was finally won choir members took to court in a battle for ownership, the verdict of which threatened to break apart traditional choir practices across the UK.

Norena examines the background and answers questions about her in-depth research on a subject that has few books published.


  • 45 minutes + 10 minutes Q&A

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