CEO Christmas message
The English word ‘carol’ was derived from the Old French term ‘carole’ (1) which in turn was derived from Medieval Latin and ultimately Greek. Originally, it meant to ‘dance in a ring accompanied by singers and a flute-player’. The work widely regarded as the earliest Christmas Carol was composed in the 4th century AD, but the tradition that we associate with the celebration of Christmas is one conceived to a large extent by the Victorians. There are many well-known Christmas Carols that were written in the 17th or 18th centuries, but one of the more sombre is a poem written by Christina Rosetti in 1872 and set to music by Gustav Holst in 1906 – the instantly recognisable ‘In the bleak midwinter’.
The Victorians associated Christmas celebrations with the seasonal British weather rather than that of Bethlehem in Palestine, memorably corrected by Greg Lake with ‘I believe in Father Christmas’ in 1975! The Victorian perception of bleak or inhospitable was formed by the seasonal predominance of snow, an image now largely erased from memory and confined to the metrological record, with the notable exception of 2010 when snow lay on the ground not just for a few days but uncharacteristically for 21st century Wales, for most of December. Although snow is unlikely to render this winter ‘bleak’, most of 2020 has earned ‘bleak’ notoriety for a far more tragic reason.
Whenever people have gathered together in any semblance of density, pandemics have followed, including eight that have had a significant impact upon the world population in the last 2,500 years. In 165 AD the so-called ‘Antonine Plague’ (2,3), now believed to have been smallpox, began to ravage Western Europe. Although the ruling classes sponsored and constructed public baths, communal bathing in the Roman Empire was as much a cultural or political activity as it was for the benefit of hygiene. The situation was ‘bleak’ indeed as there was no concept of the existence of microbes and although soap was known to ancient civilisations, ancient Romans did not use it in public baths, indeed it was not until the 1780’s that soap was mass produced on an industrial scale.
The ‘Antonine Plague’ lasted for fifteen years and is estimated to have accounted for five million people or about 7% of the population of the Roman Empire. By the time of the arrival of the ‘Black Death’ in Europe in 1347, there was an awareness of person-to-person transmission. The Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio observed that ‘the mere touching of clothes’ was enough to kill 20 million people – between 30 and 60% of the population of Europe at that time. However, it was not until 1796 that a Gloucestershire surgeon by the name of Edward Jenner developed the process of vaccination (derived from ‘vacca’, Latin for ‘cow’) as an effective cure for smallpox by infecting people with the less virulent cowpox (4).
Tragically, in 2020 Wales has reported more than 120,000 cases and recorded more than 4,000 deaths as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic (5). Nine months on from the suspension of competitive rugby football as a contact sport, little has changed. Rugby football may not be the only community activity in Wales, but like communal bathing in ancient Rome, it is the lifeblood of the South Wales Valleys.
Amongst other things, players have missed the teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship that participation in competitive team sport provides. For us, as supporters, we have missed the emotions, the disappointment, the elation and the enjoyment that partisan spectatorship generates. Players and supporters alike, all, have missed the pre- and post-match social interaction deemed to be essential to our well-being and for which the game of rugby football is renowned and respected.
Ponty Rugby Limited together with Pontypridd RFC reiterate and extend best wishes to those who have been affected by Covid-19 and extends sincerest condolences to those who have suffered bereavement through the loss of a family member or other loved one.
One of the key messages of the season of Christmas has always been that of hope – hope in the future. 2020 may have been the bleakest of years in living memory but thanks to the resilience of people, the ingenuity of scientists and perhaps more than a little faith, 2021 promises a light at the end of the tunnel.
Ponty Rugby Limited and Pontypridd RFC extend ‘compliments of the Season’ to shareholders, supporters, business partners and sponsors, coaches, players, medical, logistical & support staff, bar staff, match-day stewards, the media group and indeed, all employees and volunteers.
Chief Executive Officer – Ponty Rugby Ltd
References: (1) etymonline.com
(3) www.cambridge .org