THE long-serving president of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod (LIME) is stepping down from the role.

Terry Waite, 81, is an English humanitarian and author who was awarded the MBE in 1982 and the CBE in 1992.

Mr Waite says retiring from the role with LIME a few weeks ago was the ‘hardest decision’ he’s ever had to make.

Having spent the last 15 years as president, he says his decision came as a result of Covid-19 directly ‘changing’ the future of what’s to come with LIME, which had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

An online event was introduced to help keep the international communities involved connected.

Mr Waite said: “Music has the capacity to breathe harmony into the soul and during good times and bad music has united the Welsh nation in a unique way. It should come as no surprise to anyone that following the second world war the people of Llangollen stretched out a hand to the world and invited people from across the globe to come to the town and share together in a gathering designed to promote harmony and peace throughout the world.

“Little did I know when I stepped onto that coach in 1948 that one day I would become President of one of the great music festivals of the world.

“My introduction to the International Eisteddfod came through the Warrington Male Voice Choir with whom I have been associated for many years. I came with them to Llangollen and later was invited to be a day President before finally being invited to be President.

“I do know that in all my time as President I have not missed one year and have stayed in Llangollen for the duration of the festival. That was not a duty. It was a pleasure.

“To recount my experiences would fill volumes. I have listened over the years as Bryn Terfel developed his extensive repertoire, as Alfie Bow moved from white tie and tails to a more casual form of dress, as Katherine Jenkins took the first steps to what has become an international career. There are dozens more I could mention.

“The competitors from overseas have been so very varied. Many came from areas that were being torn apart by warfare and found, through music, friends whom they thought were enemies.

"Then there are the local wonderful volunteers. I have made so many good friends amongst them and these friendships will continue across my lifetime. Each year it has been possible to thank the sponsors who have been magnificent.

"As for the audience-well, what can I say? Year by year they return and again, one had made so many good friendships with people not only from the British Isles but from across the world.

"Will I miss being President? Most certainly I shall. LIME has been one of the highlights of my year and to retire was one of the hardest decisions I have had to take for many a year.

"However, LIME, due to Covid and other factors, is at a point of change and given my age, I am 82 in 2021, it seemed the right time to step down and let a younger person take over from me.

"Wales has always had a special place in my affections and although I don’t speak one word of the language I like to think that during the past years I have been accepted as a member of the family of the Eisteddfod which, although it is rooted and located in Wales, extends across the world with the aim of uniting us all together in peace and harmony.

"As I say farewell I salute a great institution. Long may it continue."

Mr Waite's life-story is a highly interesting one.

In January 1987, he was captured in Beirut, Lebanon, whilst attempting to secure the release of hostages. He was kept in solitary confinement for four years and kept hostage in total for almost five years.

Born in 1939 in Cheshire, Mr Waite's formative years were spent in a small village where his father was the village policeman.

His primary and secondary education took place locally. He served for a brief period with the Grenadier Guards but had to retire on medical grounds. He entered the Church Army College in London in 1958 and studied theology.

He married Helen Watters in 1964. They have three daughters and a son. In 1969 he moved with his family to Africa where he was Advisor to the first Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Erica Sabiti.

The family moved to Rome in 1972 and he travelled the world advising organisations of the Roman Catholic Church on development - mainly in the fields of health and education.

He has travelled widely in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and North and South America and also holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of the City of London (1986), Kent at Canterbury (1986), Liverpool (1986), Durham (1992), Sussex (1992) and Yale (1992).

Mr Waite's first visit to Wales came when he was very young, when his grandmother decided to take him there on a day trip.

He recalls: "We got up very early in the morning and boarded the coach which obligingly stopped direct outside the front door of the little terraced house. Living as we did in Cheshire, Wales was on our doorstep and this visit was but the first of many made across the years.

"My paternal grandmother was a music teacher and during the years of the depression played the piano for the silent movies . She always wanted me to learn to play but as she lived far away from our home and also as we could not afford even a secondhand instrument I never played anything except the mouthorgan and a recorder at school.

"Music has however always been an important part of my life and of course that being so I was further attracted to a musical nation-Wales.

"My own father suffered considerably during the depression of the 1920’s and few nations know better that Wales the effect suffering can have on families and communities."

Dr Rhys Davies, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod chair, says they plan to bring Mr Waite back one last time post-Covid-19 to thank him properly for his service over the last 15 years. Dr Davies added that no replacement has yet been found for the role of president.