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Freedom of the County Borough

Freedom of the County Borough

Nos Galan Road Races founder Bernard Baldwin MBE, with the 2014 UK Running Award, is to be granted the Freedom of the County Borough

The founder of the world famous and award-winning Nos Galan Road Races is to be granted the Freedom of the County Borough by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.

Bernard Baldwin MBE, 88, of Caegarw, Mountain Ash, is to receive the highest honour, an Honorary Freeman of Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Mr Baldwin is being recognised for his major contribution to the world of athletics and for his amazing foresight in 1958 to give us the lasting legacy of the world-famous and award-winning Nos Galan Road Races.

The event continues to promote our strong heritage and provides a major tourism boost to the County Borough every year.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Mayor, Cllr John Watts, will make the presentation to Mr Baldwin and his family at a special ceremony, to be held at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council headquarters at Clydach Vale, at a date yet to be arranged.

The Freedom of the Borough, bestowed by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, is only ever presented to distinguished individuals and groups. Past recipients include the South Wales Miners, tenor Stuart Burrows, The Royal Welsh, The Welsh Guards and author and playwright, the late Elaine Morgan OBE.

Mayor, Cllr John Watts, said: “It will be a huge honour to bestow such an honour on a man who has brought so much national and international recognition to Mountain Ash and to Rhondda Cynon Taf.

“It was Bernard Baldwin MBE who had the incredible foresight to dream up such an iconic event as the Nos Galan Road Races and to link it to the legend of a man reputed to have been the ‘Fastest Man on Earth.’

“That amazing concept has stood the test of time, with the Nos Galan Road Races, now organised by the Council and the Nos Galan Committee, as popular today as they have ever been.”

Bernard William Leighton-Baldwin was born, one of seven children, in Barry, South Wales in September 1925. He later married Pat Richards, of Mountain Ash, and they have one daughter Alison.

Bernard served in the Fleet Air Arm as a trainee air gunner during the Second World War and pursued a career in education after the War, studying at Caerleon Training College. He also became an accomplished cross country champion.

His teaching duties took him to Tintern Village School in the Wye Valley, later moving to Mill Street Secondary Modern School in Pontypridd, followed by a stint at Treforest Lower Comprehensive School.

It was while working as PE, Games and Music Master at Mill Street Secondary Modern School that he first came across the Welsh legend of Guto Nyth Bran – appropriately it was on St David’s Day, March 1, 1950.

Headteacher Dr Leonard Baden Collier had introduced the ‘new teacher’ to the school as an accomplished athlete, and at break-time one of the pupils told him about the famous runner being buried at St Gwynno’s Church, Llanwonno.

The seed had been firmly planted and the Nos Galan Road Races started in Mountain Ash on Wednesday, December 31, 1958, with Tom Richards as the first-ever Nos Galan Mystery Runner - the person who would represent the spirit of Guto Nyth Bran.

The first-ever Nos Galan Midnight Race consisted of 101 runners and got underway at exactly 11.46pm, with the competitors literally running into the New Year - a tradition that continued for many years.

It was the same year that the Empire Games were held in Cardiff, with Bernard Baldwin appointed as Press Officer for those Games.

A year later, Bernard also founded the Taff Street Dash in Pontypridd. The 100-yard sprint through the town centre lasted for 17 years and was revived for one more year in 1991.

Bernard Baldwin was presented with the MBE by The Queen at BuckinghamPalace in 1971 for his services to British athletics.

The Nos Galan Road Races continued until 1973, coming to an end due to health and safety reasons. But it returned in a blaze of glory in 1984. Called ‘Nos Galan Reborn’, the event had three Mystery Runners - David Bedford, Steve Jones and Lisa Hopkins, representing the Past, Present and Future.

Other famous celebrities to carry the torch as Nos Galan Mystery Runner over the years have included, Dai Greene, Alun Wyn Jones, Linford Christie, Nicole Cooke, Ron Jones, Kirstie Wade, David Hemery, John Hartson Shane Williams, Lillian Board, Lynne ‘The Leap’ Davies, Mary Rand, Ann Packer Brightwell and Stan Eldon - among many others.

Mr Baldwin retired as race organiser after many years, handing the reins over to the Local Authority. It continues to be run by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and the Nos Galan Committee, with Bernard Baldwin MBE appointed as Honorary President of the Nos Galan Road Races in 2006.

As well as being the man responsible for the Nos Galan Road Races and the Taff Street Dash, Mr Baldwin is also a well-respected local historian and author of many books, publications and newspaper and magazine articles.

He continues to live in Caegarw, Mountain Ash, surrounded by the love of his family and friends and a dedicated team of carers. He has gifted the town of Mountain Ash, the County Borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, and indeed the whole of Wales with a remarkable event that will become his lasting legacy.

The Nos Galan Road Races are now officially recognised as one of the ‘Top 500’ races in the world, alongside the likes of the iconic New York Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon and the Great North Run.

Earlier this year, the Nos Galan Road Races was voted ‘Britain’s Best Fun Run’ at the 2014 UK Running Awards.

Image Gallery of the 2013 Nos Galan Road Races

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