This post is a part of the Story of Wales series, which looks at different aspects of Welsh history, and how today’s Wales remembers, and shapes it. Subscribe to the blog on the right to ensure you don’t miss any posts.
Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is an exciting UK project that’s funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the British Library.
The National Library of Wales is proud to be one of the 10 Hub partners participating in the project where half a million rare and at risk sound recordings will be digitally preserved and 100,000 made available online.
From September 2018 until September 2021 the National Library of Wales will digitise, catalogue and assess rights for 5,000 sound recordings from Wales. They will include a range of subjects from oral history, lectures, dialect, poetry, radio sessions to Welsh pop and folk music.
We will preserve sound recordings that are held on obsolete medium and are under threat of physical degradation. Experts suggests we have no more than 15 years to save these sound collections before they will be lost forever.
Thanks to Unlocking Our Sound Heritage, we will be able to preserve and protect some of Wales’ sound recordings and make them publicly available. In order to fulfill this, we will be working with some of our partners in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Swansea and Tredegar.
While digitising the recordings we have unearthed some lost and forgotten interviews from people talking about their childhood memories back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, their school days, family life, communities, and local dialect.
Wales is a country with a variety of customs and traditions which are an important part of our culture and history. By saving these recordings we allow future generations to hear our past and learn about our history.
Stories about local customs from the 19th Century are being told, for instance the ‘Mari Lwyd’ a medieval folk custom, with the purpose of collecting money for the poor and homeless to make up for the lack of support from the government. A tall person was nominated to lead, holding the horse’s skull, with two others behind holding the offerings collected. The Mari Lwyd was last seen in New Quay in 1887.
A description of the ‘Ceffyl Pren’ can be heard. This was a wooden horse used as a practice of social justice. The aim was to punish those who did something against the spirit of society when the law could not. The rider and horse was made of wood and straw in order to represent the guilt. A hood was worn by those who carried the effigy, to hide their identity, and a procession took place through the public areas of the town leading to the home of the culprit, and three weeks later the effigy was burnt in front of the culprit’s house.
Thomas Williams talks about the ‘gogryddion’ (sievemakers) moving into the community and used for processing wheat. He recalls a tradition where a sixpence was thrown in with the wheat, and when the coin appeared it indicated the wheat was ready. The sieves were made out of split willow and the makers were known to be Mormons.
During the three years a wealth of history, traditions and heritage will be saved and without the means to preserve these recordings the first-hand accounts could be lost forever.
If you would like more information about the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project, please contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Smith, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Hub Project Manager
This post is also available in: Welsh