A Tribute to Graham Thomas
Collections - Posted 25-05-2023
Graham Charles Gordon Thomas was born in Cardiff in 1941. After school and graduating with First Class Honours he went on to study at Trinity College Dublin. Graham spent a number of years in Dublin, as an MA student under the auspices of the Welsh Language Department at University College in Cardiff. He was researching the subject of ‘Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain’ (‘The Thirteen Treasures of the British Isles’), a series of items in late-medieval Welsh tradition. That meant doing a lot of research on folklore and he spent most of his time at the Irish Folklore Commission. Graham’s time in Ireland during the 1960s furnished him with many anecdotes, many involving nuns. He later studied here in Aberystwyth at the College of Librarianship before embarking on his first job at Liverpool University Library. He worked in a department where the medical journals were kept. Doctors from some Liverpool hospitals used to call him to ask him to look at the journals to see what the appropriate ‘dosages’ of some of the drugs were to give to their patients! This was very risky, as Graham’s eyesight was by his own admission not good at all at the time. Later he worked for the Board of Celtic Studies before joining the National Library of Wales as Research Assistant in 1974.
Graham’s scholarly contribution was very significant. His great work (which he had been working on since around 1974) of indexing all the Welsh prose texts in manuscripts was a huge project. The work he carried out on it was incredibly detailed. It would be fair to say that Graham knew more about the Welsh prose of the manuscripts than anyone else, ever. Fortunately his work is to be carried on by Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru.
He retired as Assistant Archivist in 2001 having written numerous articles for academic journals on charters and other medieval manuscripts. He published his magnum opus on ‘The Charters of the Abbey of Ystrad Marchell’ in 1997. After retirement in 2001 he continued to write and in 2014 published a translation of Bewnans Ke, a play in Cornish from c.1500 about the life of St Kea.
Graham was erudite, knowledgeable and an inspiring colleague. In retirement he continued to work on his prose index and other academic projects, often to the accompaniment of Handel. I was fortunate to meet Graham in 1992 when I started work in the National Library of Wales and struck up an immediate friendship and like many others benefitted greatly from his knowledge and especially his enthusiasm for the Library’s collections.
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