AN evening of tales inspired by the people and history of Severnside marked the start of a festival celebrating 75 years of the Chepstow Society.
It included “45 minutes of wildly exaggerated historical facts and wildly exaggerated personal anecdotes” from former teacher Tim Ryan.
Mr Ryan, who taught at Wyedean School for 22 years, opened the event last Wednesday (May 17) with an anecdote that made the case for the Three Tuns pub in Bridge Street, Chepstow being the inspiration for the inn at the world most famous school for wizards.
He said: “I worked at I was Joanne Rowling’s pastoral head.
“I did a disco once a month for 22 years and I told the sixth formers even though they were 18, they were not to drink in the pubs in Sedbury and they never did because if they did they would never go to another disco.
“My nickname was ‘Vicious but Fair’.
“And so they came to the Three Tuns.
“If you know your Potter, you know the pub in Hogwarts is the Three Broomsticks and a lot of what goes on around here is related to Joanne Rowling and the Potter books.”
Mr Ryan is also a leading figure in the project to restore the last survivng Severn ferry.
The evening also featured a rare showing of the 1981 film Forest Life by MelvilleWatts of Lydney.
The event at the Drill Hall in Lower Church Street opened with a celebration cake being cut to mark the milestone in the society’s history.
The Chepstow History Festival ran until Sunday (May 21)with a wide variety of events.
Historical re-enactments and fairs took place in and around the castle, and film and theatre shows, lots of stalls from local history groups and displays of old photos were on show at the town’s Drill Hall.
The Chepstow Society, which is the town’s local history and amenity society, hoped the events had stimulated residents’ memories of the town.
Events included films and talks about historic activities on the Wye and showings of the films of two of the spectacular son-et-lumiere shows that were made some 20 years ago.
Producer Ned Heywood introduced Echoes in the Stones and Most Loyal Knight which involved hundreds of local people..
There were also displays by local history groups at the Drill Hall.
On Sunday, families were invited to a re-enactment of life in Norman times, within the walls of Chepstow Castle itself.
Outside the Castle, in another re-enactment, there wereactivities by The Guild, a group of 17th century soldiers.
The Chepstow Society also started a process of capturing the memories of those who lived in the town in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Residents who remember those times were invited to the Drill Hall, to look at old photographs of the town, and contribute their own pictures and memories.
Guy Hamilton, who chairs the Chepstow Society, said: “We all know that Chepstow is a historic town, and for the last 75 years the Chepstow Society has been in the forefront of informing people about its history and the importance of protecting its unique environment.
“With this festival, we hope to involve many more people in the town, in discovering more about the area’s heritage – and we also hope that they will make their own contributions, in recalling the town as it used to be.”
The Chepstow Society - a small voluntary charity organised by local residents - was set up in 1948 by teacher and historian Ivor Waters and others. It established the town’s first museum, and published many books and booklets about the town, as well as setting up the trail marked by many plaques explaining Chepstow’s history.
The Society now holds regular monthly meetings and talks in the Drill Hall - open to all – and arranges social excursions, and walks around the historic town centre in the summer months.
Volunteers to help out are always welcome – and those who join the Society (£12 per year) will receive regular updates, discounted entry to our monthly talks, and – new this year – discounts on membership of Cadw.