Libraries gave us power, sang the Manic Street Preachers, but what really happens behind the bookshelves at Wales’ own cultural powerhouse, the National Library of Wales?
From novelists to genealogists, PhD students and poets, we spoke to some of the many and varied readers of the National Library of Wales to find out what they are up to behind the bookshelves.
Ifor ap Glyn, National Poet of Wales and television producer, director and presenter.
“I’m currently working on a book which is based on a unique resource held at the National Library of Wales; the world’s most extensive collection of letters in Welsh, written from the first part of the First World War.
There is a fascinating collection of 60-odd letters written by Captain Dafydd Jones from Carmarthenshire who was killed in Mametz Wood.
The book I’m writing is part factual, historical and part personal response and travelogue, as I am visiting all the places Captain Jones visited and describes in his letters, beginning at a hotel in Rhyl, one of the places where Welsh battalions were raised and trained. His first letters see him apologising to his parents for leaving his degree in Aberystwyth University to join the Army, but it’s what most of his contemporaries did at the time. I’m about halfway through the journey and the second leg will be the journey to the Somme. Researching the locations is not a completely straightforward task as censorship of letters meant many of the exact locations have been taken out.
“I first came across the collection of letters when I was working on a programme for S4C in 2008 called ‘Lleisiau o’r rhyfel mawr’ or ‘Voices of the Great War” and saw that these letters were one of the most comprehensive collections of the era.
“Researching and visiting the National Library in Aberystwyth is always interesting, and I’ve done lots of work there in the past using the screen archive when I researched the first Welsh language film Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman). However I have to say since digitisation and resources there recently being made available online, it has made the access process far easier. Not only does it mean I don’t always have to travel down from Caernarfon, the wordsearch facility means I don’t have to physically trawl through hundreds of copies of the Carmarthen Journal held there to find Caption Jones’ name, that would be hugely time consuming.”
This post is also available in: Welsh