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100-year-old recreation association publishes book

 
Created on 03/02/2020 @ 09:32
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A group that has helped support and inspire recreation in Newtown and throughout Montgomeryshire is continuing to celebrate its 100th anniversary with the publication of its history.

The Montgomeryshire Community Regeneration Association (MCRA) was formed in July 1919 at a public meeting held in Newtown at what today is the Regent Cinema. 

MCRA then stood for Montgomeryshire County Recreation Association, but about ten years ago this was changed to the Montgomeryshire Community Regeneration Association. 

"The 100th anniversary was celebrated last year with a number of activities including a celebratory dinner at Gregynog, a conference addressing Recreation issues, an exhibition at Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown and now the publication of a history of the organisation," said Julie Turner.

"When formed, MCRA was very fortunate to receive the active patronage of the then MP for the County, Major David Davies (later the first Lord Davies), and his two sisters Gwendoline and Margaret.

"This made it possible for the MCRA to engage the services of a full-time Secretary and to actively work in a wide range of fields.  The continuing patronage of the Davies family also enabled the Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown to be built in the 1960s, as a memorial to Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who were great public benefactors."

The Association’s initial programme was very ambitious for a depopulated rural Welsh County like Montgomeryshire, in the post 1918 situation. It included promoting and reviving a whole range of sporting activities and providing playing fields, plus promoting interest in the arts, particularly music.

This resulted in the building of the County Pavilion on the Llanidloes Road in Newtown, which could hold not hundreds but a couple of thousand people. 

MCRA also encouraged youth activities, operated a mobile cinema and assisted with the building of village halls, often then called village institutes.

At least eighteen such halls were believed to have been built as a result of this programme including at Abermule, Arddleen, Bettws, Bwlchyffridd, Caersws, Carno, Churchstoke, Foel, Guilsfield, Llanbrynmair, Llandrinio, Llanfechain, Llansantffriad, New Mills, Penybontfawr, Trefeglwys, and Van.  Most of these halls were established by buying and erecting army surplus buildings, made surplus by the end of the Great War.

They served their communities almost untouched for fifty years or more, but nearly all were replaced in the last thirty years of the 20th century. 

Today the MCRA is responsible for Plas Dolerw, the voluntary sector centre for Montgomeryshire which is located in Newtown, the Newtown Textile Museum and also owns the Oriel Davies Gallery.  It also periodically runs county wide activities.

The history of the organisation is the subject of a recently published book “The Most Fruitful Experiment”, written by retired Aberystwyth academic Jenny Lane, with the support and help of the Aberystwyth University Professor of Modern History, Paul O’Leary.

It is a 165 page publication featuring pictures and maps and can be purchased from Plas Dolerw or the shop at the Oriel Davies Gallery.

Photo: Professor Paul O'Leary from Aberystwyth University and author Jenny Lane

 

 

 

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