Master Gwilym o’r Afonydd Tair of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands died on August 12th at the age of 83.

Master Gwilym was best known as an archer of great skill and constant service. He held archery marshal offices from baronial to Kingdom to Society level. While his Royal Round average of 85 made him a Master Bowman, his most important contribution to the Society was as a teacher of archery.

One of his closest friends in the SCA, THL Laochlain Silverwolf, recounts, “Gwilym traveled to events throughout Æthelmearc, the East, and the Middle, where he was always on the range, teaching, coaching, and marshaling. He spent more time helping others than shooting, himself, and only really got to shoot at practices at his home.”

Master Juan Miguel Cezar remembers receiving a life lesson from Gwilym disguised as an archery lesson. “At one of my earlier Pennsics I was practicing at the clout with Gwilym. Out of each volley of 6 arrows he would hit the man-sized target in the clout one or two times. I was not at that skill level yet and was marveling at what he could do. He told me it was easy – just aim for the man if you want to hit it. I remarked that, at 100 yards, a man is a fairly small target to hit, and I was just happy to get [my arrows] in the clout. He corrected me, saying I was looking at it backwards. “Do not settle for the easier target, always aim for exactly what you want to achieve.” I have found that piece of advice to serve me well in a lot of aspects of life. I only hope I can have the same chance and insight to be able to do the same for others.”

Gwilym was in his mid-40s when he joined the SCA in the early 1980s, a time when most Scadians were in their 20s or 30s, but he participated with as much enthusiasm as younger people. Like many of us, he was a born Scadian without knowing it – witness the photo at right from his childhood. He had been involved in archery mundanely for over 25 years when he found the SCA.

Over the years, Gwilym was recognized with many awards, including the East’s Silver Crescent for service and Sagittarius for archery, as well as Æthelmearc’s Scarlet Guard and Sycamore. His Pelican in A.S. 36 was primarily for service to the archery community, as was his Court Barony in A.S. 41.

Gwilym with a household tabard.

He was a member of Duke Talymar gan y Llyn’s household, Holt Herotus, whose members are primarily from the Midrealm.

Gwilym’s interests encompassed more than just archery. “Gwilym was a fletcher, a calligrapher, and a brewer who also participated in thrown weapons, combat archery, and fencing,” said THL Laochlain. Gwilym was also one of the founding members of the Shire of Gryffyn’s Keep, which is sadly now defunct.

Lady Siobhan MacDermot recalls, “Master Baron (known to some affectionately as His Insufferable Smugness) Gwilym was one of our chosen family. He was truly one of the elder statesmen of Society, especially in this area, and it’s hard to comprehend the hole he leaves in his parting. The sheer amount of experience he had as a longtime member gave him astonishing depths of knowledge and wisdom to share. He gathered many of us into his fold and became our mentor and elder. But most of all, he was just a good friend.”

Gwilym set up an archery range in his yard and invited people to practice there, even adding lights so people could keep shooting after dark. But he also made his home a gathering place for people to hang out, holding movie nights for watching Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and other medieval themed films, and offering up his extensive library of books on medieval topics for people to browse. People would come over to shoot in all weather, even snow. Lady Siobhan says, “His home for many of us became our home. It was at his place that we could gather not just to use the ranges and to practice, but many pots of chili were made there and many bigger meals too, many movies watched, many conversations had, many informal meetings held, many crafts learned and practiced, and many friends met and made.”

Master Gwilym at a demo in 2016.

Gwilym was also a great resource at SCA demos. Lady Siobhan continues, “Gwilym was one of those people who could turn on the charm and draw anyone into a conversation, sometimes before they knew it. He was especially good at chatting up people who were new or simply curious, giving people unfamiliar with Society a glimpse of the staggering variety of interesting things to see and do should they join in or just stick around a little while longer. He could explain things to people at just about any level of familiarity without dropping into jargon or concepts that might be unfamiliar. That’s why Gwilym was out in front more often than not at demos. He had a story or three for just about any situation or occasion and rolled seamlessly through them, keeping people engaged, sometimes despite themselves.”

Lady Catalina Iannarella di Colliano remembers:

“He was not a perfect man.

His intelligence and stubbornness carried him far and either attracted people to him or away from him. He was not a perfect man.

His kindness and generosity were heart touching, his hugs of comfort endearing. At times he gave more than he had to assist the beleaguered. He would try his best to right someone’s life but would become frustrated if they would not “see” the path that would redeem them. He was not a perfect man.

He would cry at something touching, he would cry at his own life’s sorrows. He would do things his way, not taking heed of others warning him of consequences. He was not a perfect man.

He would take time to tenderly teach young people the finer art of archery. He would smile and get down to their level, even if it meant sitting himself on the ground. He would encourage them, push them subtly to do more than they thought they could.

He was a bit of a prankster and instigator. You knew he was up to something when he would get that twinkle in his eye and that grin on his face, and no one ever knew exactly what devilment he was formulating.

He would make what seemed to be off the wall suggestions to shy souls to get them out of their shells. He would introduce different types of people to each other to expand their horizons and learn something new.

He would shout from the mountaintops what he believed to be true, and fight like a wolf to defend his lot. He could offend as quickly as he could uplift. He was not a perfect man.

But he was my friend. And I loved him all the same. He was a giant presence in my life and my childrens’. He literally saved my life in my darkest moments. He took me in when I was ill and helped us when we seemed helpless. He always worried about us and became a bit downhearted when we no longer relied on him as much as we had. He had taught us to grow and we became independent. And it hurt him to longer be needed. He was not a perfect man, but in his own way he tried. It’s going to be near impossible to fill the void he left.”

Master Denys the Decadent said, “His smile and good humor are my main memories of Gwilym. I had a nice visit with him in May at his home. He shared his interests ranging from archery to model railroading. I will miss him.”

Lady Siobhan recounted a story that was quintessential Gwilym:

One year at War Practice when I was a small archer, I’d left my equipment behind at his place and didn’t realize it till I was already on site. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to participate, but I contented myself with watching.

Then in rolled Gwilym in his capped pickup truck. He parked to the side of the road, crawled out, and made a beeline for me. The scene went more or less thus:

“You’re doing the clout shoot coming up. Get your stuff and get in there.”

“But I’ve never done one before.”

“I know. Get in there when it comes up.”

“I didn’t bring my stuff.”

“I know. I did,” he said while thumbing behind him at his truck. “Go get it.”

Slightly befuddled but happy that he brought my equipment, I dug it out and ran the bow through a hasty inspection. When the time came to line up for the shoot, I still hesitated.

“There’s no way I’m going to be able to reach any of the targets,” I protested. I had a low pound draw for a bow. It wasn’t going to be able to shoot long distances and I knew it.

He herded me to the line and looked over the targets, and then put his head more or less over my shoulder. After scanning the sky, he pointed at a cloud in the distance. “Shoot that cloud.”

I just blinked. “It’s a clout shoot, not a cloud shoot.”

I just got a look. Those familiar with Gwilym all know what that look was. “Just shoot the [redacted] cloud,” he growled. Meep.

So I aimed at said cloud, which very nicely stayed in place for the duration of the round, and shot. Wouldn’t you know it, I actually won a prize! After collecting my plate of brownies, I came over and offered him one, which he readily took. After a minute of thoughtful munching, he patted me on the arm and said, “See kid, you can do it.”

As for me, I was still blinking and processing that. It never would have occurred to me to even try to compete in anything but the most basic of shoots by that point. When I said as much, he just smirked. “I know that too. But it helps if you at least try. We’ll work on the rest later.”

It wasn’t long after that, that I received a tassel from him, confirming me as one of his students.

Master Gwilym with THLord Laochlain

Mundanely, Bill Weichler worked at Westinghouse Research and Development Center in Technical Services and Scientific Glassblowing, where he received many patents over his 37 year career there. He had a model railroad in his basement, to which he was always adding features. He was also involved in French and Indian War re-enactment, with a keen interest in Native American culture. He is survived by his daughters, Barbara and Dawn, his son, Bill, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial gathering and pot luck will be held on Saturday, September 23rd at the Washington Township VFC in Apollo, PA starting at noon. Information is available at the Facebook event page. RSVPs are highly encouraged.

Master Gwilym’s obituary can be found here.

This article was written by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope. All photos courtesy of Lady Catalina Iannarella di Colliano.