Avatar photo

Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

28th February 2020 Vienna, Austria

My Welsh Great-Grandfather, literature and football

1 March is St David’s Day, named after the patron saint of Wales who died in 589.  I’m part-Welsh: my great-grandfather John Derfel (photo above) came from the the town of Llanderfel in north Wales and was the son of the Welsh poet and political writer Robert Jones Derfel (for the Welsh-language Wikipedia entry, click here).

According to family lore, Robert Jones Derfel took the name “Derfel” because the winner of the Bardic poem at the national Eisteddfod, a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance, was encouraged to take his birthplace as a last name as  a distinction.  The name “Derfel” continues in our family to this day. I recently learned that a digital version of his works is in the archive of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. The Library is the home to important manuscripts in Welsh history. The Four Branches of the Mabinogi for example are the earliest prose stories in the literature of Britain.

During my time in Austria, connections to Wales have been less about literature and more about football. Shortly after my arrival in Vienna, I had the opportunity to watch an 2-2 draw at Vienna’s Ernst Happel stadium. I was enthusiastically supporting Wales as evidenced here. Marko Arnautovic who used to play in the premier league before moving to China scored both of Austria’s goals. A year later, Wales beat Austria in Cardiff 1-0. Unfortunately, both teams subsequently failed to qualify for the 2018 World cup in Russia. This year, however, both countries will compete in the Euro championships in the summer. In order to prepare for the tournament they will play a friendly match in Swansea 27 March. I am very much looking forward to watching – albeit most probably at home on TV rather than at the stadium.

Austrians planning to travel to Wales for the match (or general tourism!) are highly encouraged to try the excellent local cuisine. Welsh food products can also be found on the shelves of Austrian supermarkets

Wikipedia has a good page on Wales, illustrating one of the world’s coolest flags (featuring a red dragon) and national symbols including the daffodil and the leek.  You can find more about St David’s Day at the Wales.com portal. Finally, to anyone who has not visited Wales on holiday, I can strongly recommend it having spent my summer holidays there on numerous occasions.  A couple of photos illustrating the extreme beauty of North Wales are below.

3 comments on “My Welsh Great-Grandfather, literature and football

  1. Dear Leigh

    Your great great grandfather was born on a smallholding on the farm where my father was born and raised. I’ve emailed you some documents you may find interesting.

    1. Meirion- thanks so much for this interesting sheaf of documents. We are all a bit tied up with coronavirus and other issues at the moment but I will try to respond substantively a bit later. Leigh

      1. Dear Leigh

        Fully understand. An extremely worrying time for everybody. Best wishes. Meirion

Comments are closed.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.