Welsh exile who never forgot her roots

Vera Hughes

Vera Hughes

First published in News

ONE of the founding members of the Oxford Welsh Exiles has died aged 89.
Great-great-grandmother Vera Hughes (nee Tapscott) spent 12 years as the group’s secretary.

The group, which started in 1967, was responsible for raising more than £40,000 for charity and organised many St David’s Day choir performances in Oxford Town Hall.

Vera Hughes was born in Cardiff on March 8, 1925, the eldest of 16 siblings – and grew up in nearby Barry. After working at Woolworths, at the age of 18, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Force, stationed at Portreath in Cornwall, where she met her late husband, Idris, in 1943.

He was also from Wales, and they returned on December 16, 1943, to get married.

In 1945 they had their first son, Gwyn.

After a period of unemployment, Mr Hughes got a job with the Oxford Bus Company in 1946. Mrs Hughes joined her husband in Oxford in 1947 and they lived together in Cholsey Road, Cowley, her home for more than 50 years.

In 1948 a second son, Colin, was born, followed by their daughter Joyce in 1951.

During that time Mrs Hughes stayed at home and raised their children, while her husband later worked for British Road Transport.

In 1967, missing Welsh life, the couple founded the Oxford Welsh Exiles. The idea is said to have come to them during a social night at Cowley Workers’ Club.

The first choir night was held that year in the club with tickets costing eight shillings and a buffet put on by Mrs Hughes. It attracted a full house.

Afterwards they persuaded Welsh choirs to visit Oxford and sing twice a year and soon their activities expanded to include events, functions and concerts, eventually raising £42,000 for charity.

Their first charity concert, in 1972, raised £1,000 for the Churchill Hospital’s dialysis unit – £13,000 in today’s money.

The St David’s Day celebration continued at Oxford’s Town Hall until February, 1999, the year Mrs Hughes retired as the Welsh Exiles’ secretary. Mr Hughes died in 1987, aged 74.

Though she always embraced life in Oxford warmly, Mrs Hughes once told the local newspaper in Barry that she was a “Barry girl born and bred” and she was to continue visiting her home town throughout her life.

Her other hobbies included football, and she was a strong supporter of Arsenal, because her brother Derek played for the club 132 times, scoring 68 goals. He also played 14 times for Wales.

She died on March 11 at Isis Care Home, Cowley, where she had been living since May last year.

She is survived by five of her brothers, three sisters, her son Gwyn, 69, who lives in Cowley, and daughter Joyce, 62, who lives in the West Country, 10 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at St James Church, Cowley, on Wednesday, April 2 at 12.30pm and will be followed by cremation at Oxford Crematorium.

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