Discovering Welsh Archives in Brittany

Collections - Posted 10-01-2024

T. Gwynn Jones, Dyfnallt, O.M. Edwards, Ambrose Bebb, R. Williams Parry … just a few of the Welsh personalities whose archives are preserved in the National Library. But recently letters from them and other prominent Welsh figures came to light in Brittany, thanks to an international project investigating archives from Brittany held in Wales and those from Wales in Brittany. The project is led by the Centre de Recherche bretonne et celtique at the university in Brest, together with the Centre for Higher Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth, in partnership with the National Library and the Finistère archives in Quimper.



Over the years many Breton researchers have come to the National Library to use its extensive Breton holdings, but until now little information was available about the corresponding Welsh material in Brittany. The papers of the bard François Jaffrennou (‘Taldir’, 1879-1956) are a case in point. Half his archives are in the National Library, but the rest are in Quimper. And there, in his correspondence files for 1897 to 1927, we discovered a treasure trove of letters to Taldir from prominent Welsh men and women of the day. Many of them wrote in Welsh, knowing that Taldir had mastered the language. His correspondents included T. Gwynn Jones and Dyfnallt, whose connections with Brittany were already well known, but we also discovered amusing letters from R. Williams Parry and Sir Ifor Williams.



Another archive in Quimper is that of Francis Gourvil (1889-1984), who learnt Welsh in Dyffryn Ogwen between the two world wars. Not surprisingly his files included letters from Ambrose Bebb, Dyfnallt and other Welsh correspondents, and in many cases the other side of the correspondence can be read in the National Library.

So far we have only scratched the surface, and we expect to make more exciting discoveries as the project continues.


Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan

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