South East Wales

Nos Galan race founder Bernard Baldwin dies aged 91

Bernard Baldwin with author Gary Marsh Image copyright Gary Marsh
Image caption Bernard Baldwin with author Gary Marsh

The founder of the annual Nos Galan race in Rhondda Cynon Taff has died, aged 91.

Bernard Baldwin launched the 5km (3.1m) event in 1958 to celebrate the life of Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran.

The race attracts thousands of runners and spectators to Mountain Ash each New Year's Eve.

Mr Baldwin - who was made an MBE in 1971 - died at Cynon Valley Hospital on Tuesday.

"The legend of Bernard Baldwin MBE will live on forever alongside the legend of Guto Nyth Bran himself. The Nos Galan Road Races will be his lasting legacy to us all," said Gary Marsh, family friend and author of Guto: Story of the Nos Galan Road Races.

Mr Baldwin started the race, having fallen in love with the area after moving there as a child and developing a passion for athletics.

He was involved in the sport all his life, becoming Welsh AAA junior men's mile champion and participating in cross country events nationally.

NOS GALAN RACE

  • Founded by Barry-born Bernard Baldwin MBE in 1958
  • They commemorate the life of legendary Welsh athlete Guto Nyth Bran who died in tragic circumstances in 1737, aged 37
  • A mystery runner carries a lit torch from Guto Nyth Bran's burial place at St Gwynno's Church, Llanwonno, four miles (6.5km) into the town centre to represent his spirit
  • According to legend, the Llwyncelyn runner could catch a bird in flight and once ran to Pontypridd and back - about seven miles (11km) - before a kettle boiled
  • The event was halted between 1973 and 1984 due to traffic concerns

Mr Baldwin went on to become Team GB athletics manager and also played football nationally, with his contribution to athletics leading to him being honoured in 1971.

He started the Nos Galan Road Races to commemorate famed 18th Century runner Guto Nyth Bran, from Llwyncelyn.

It is traditionally started by a mystery runner - including Welsh rugby players, cycling champions and athletes - with Wales football manager Chris Coleman doing the honours this year.

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Media captionChris Coleman said he was "very excited" to take part in the 2017 race

Mr Baldwin was made the race's honorary patron in 2006.

"I feel deeply honoured to have been able to call Bernard a very close friend of mine for many years," author Mr Marsh added.

"Just like so many other people, the Nos Galan Road Races that he gifted us back in 1958 is very much a part of my childhood memories of growing up in Mountain Ash.

"My thoughts are very much with Bernard's family at this sad and difficult time but he has left us with such a wonderful event, which is as popular today as it was on that very first New Year's Eve in 1958."

Mr Baldwin's family said in a statement he had been "a passionate Welshman" who "meant so much to so many people".

They said they were "devastated to lose a husband and a father".

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