The transatlantic slave trade, which flourished between the 17th century and the 19th century, affected Wales in ways that are still not fully appreciated. It left its mark not only on the merchants, sailors, plantation owners and estate workers who were directly involved in it, but also on the rest of Welsh industry, commerce, society and daily life. Wales was known for its iron, wool and copper, all of which were often made into items that were traded for slaves or used in the slave ships and plantations, while the cotton and tobacco that were widely consumed at all levels of society in Wales were produced by slaves.
Evidence of the slave trade and its impact can be found in many of the Library’s collections, especially the archives of landed estates that owned slave plantations. Sometimes the references are clear, but often we need to scratch the surface before we can see the full picture. Work by historians such as Professor Chris Evans (Slave Wales: the Welsh and Atlantic slavery 1660-1850; University of Wales Press, 2010) has helped to uncover the story, but there is a lot still to be discovered in the archives. As UNESCO marks the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23, we take a look at some of the material relating to the slave trade in the Library’s collections.
The slave trade within the British empire was carried on across the world, from the East Indies to the Americas, and many Welsh people were involved in it. UNESCO emphasises the importance of the transatlantic trade because of its far-reaching impact on race relations today, so the focus of this blog is on the West Indies. Our collections also contain a wealth of information about the slave trade in other parts of the world.
From the beginning, many contemporary references to the slave trade were heavily coded by those involved in it. In 1692, for example, a joint stock company trading in Africa and the West Indies referred only to its ‘interests’ there (Tredegar Estate Records MSS and Docs 122); this was the time when the Royal African Company was at its height, monopolising the English and Welsh trade in African slaves – a statue of its Deputy Governor, Edward Colston, was famously pushed into the harbour in Bristol in 2020. Outwardly, and throughout the period, title deeds and financial transactions concerning plantations in places such as Montserrat, St Kitts and Dominica gave the impression that the properties were no different from manors in Gloucestershire or Monmouthshire (Gogerddan Estate Records MC2/1; Penty Park Estate Records 28; Nassau Senior Papers E714), and correspondence from the sugar plantations in Nevis and St Kitts often made very little if any mention of the presence of slaves (Bodrhyddan Estate Papers 58/1-143).
Similarly, letters from Navy officials to Charles Hayes, the Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company, mentioned French protests about British encroachments on their trade at Senegal in the mid-18th century without being explicit about what that trade was (Gogerddan Estate Papers GCB1/1). Even apparently innocent hydrographical charts of the West Indies, such as that drawn up by Joseph Smith Speer in 1774, conceal the dark reality of the world of slavery in which they were created (Aston Hall Estate Records 3503). At the same time, colonialists such as the Ottley family took great pride in their position as Establishment figures in Antigua, St Vincent, Grenada and other parts of the British West Indies (Ottley Family (Additional) Papers 1).
Slavery is far from invisible in the archives, however. A letter to Charles Hayes from William Slawman in 1747 openly invited him to engage in the supply of slaves from Gambia to Buenos Aires (Gogerddan Estate Papers GCB1/1), and sales of slaves were recorded (Nassau Senior Papers E732). Slaves were generally listed as possessions alongside livestock and mineral deposits in inventories and agreements (Peniarth Estate Records DK2), and Richard Swarton’s estate in Jamaica in the 1760s consisted mostly of slaves (Slebech Estate Records 3328-33). In 1785, William Knox of Slebech was party to the purchase of 100 slaves at a price of £54 10s. (NLW Deeds 1948); these slaves had already been taken from Georgia to Jamaica, and they were now to be delivered to South Carolina. The agents who conducted this business kept journals (Nassau Senior Papers E814) and sometimes recorded information about the health of slaves, but only in relation to how well they could work (Slebech Estate Records 8342-440). They saw slaves merely as financial assets, and complained about inflated prices and the difficulty of obtaining ‘seasoned slaves’ (Nassau Senior Papers E51, E64, E4).
The slavers were well aware that their rule was based on force, and they made it clear that they expected ‘runaway slaves’ to be suppressed (Nassau Senior Papers E74). West Indian planters and merchants petitioned the British government with their concerns when tensions between slaves and planters escalated in 1791 (Slebech Estate Records 11532-41) – a successful slave revolt a few months later in the French colony of Saint-Domingue eventually led to the establishment of the free state of Haiti – and the owners’ fears grew stronger during Britain’s wars with revolutionary France (Glansevern Estate Records 1010). When slaves in the West Indies first became free, it was through their own bloody struggle with European colonists.
There was always opposition in Wales to the slave trade, but it made little difference until the end of the 18th century. By that time, meetings calling for abolition, such as the one at Usk in 1792, were becoming more common (Tredegar Estate Records 64/346). Edward Williams or Iolo Morganwg was known for his strong opposition to the trade; not only did he speak, read and write on the subject, he also refused to sell his literary work to those whom he knew to be supporters of the trade in Bristol (Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo Manuscripts and Papers NLW MS 21282E/359, NLW MS 21396E/17, NLW MS 21392F/29, NLW MS 21400C/24-24a). His opinions were not shared by everyone, however. Many of the Welsh gentry and their agents had invested extensively in the plantations, and they argued that abolition would ruin the economy of Liverpool and other ports (Harpton Court Estate Records 2073).
The slave trade in the British empire was abolished in 1807, but slavery still persisted, and in some circumstances slaves could still be bought and sold. In October 1810, for example, Major General Thomas Picton – at that time fighting in Portugal with Wellington – made an agreement with members of the Delaforest family for the conveyance of plantations, buildings, implements, slaves, horses, mules and other effects in Trinidad, which had become a British colony in 1797 (Picton Family Records 19). Picton, a wealthy landowner who later became M.P. for Pembroke Boroughs, was well known for his cruelty and arbitrary brutality, especially to slaves, and he had been found guilty of approving the torture of a young girl called Luisa Calderón (who was not a slave) in Trinidad in 1801, but he had appealed against the conviction on a technicality and the case was never resolved. For many years he was best remembered for his part in the Peninsular war and his death at Waterloo, and a monument was erected in tribute to him in Carmarthen. There has recently been a campaign to remove it.
The cruel treatment of slaves in Jamaica was still being commented on in 1815 (Nassau Senior Papers E136), and the Royal Navy in the West Indies had to act against piracy and the slave trade – which the government now considered to be closely related – for years after that (Penralley Papers 219). The attention of abolitionists was now turning towards slavery itself, not only in the British empire but in the United States of America and elsewhere. The campaigners in Wales included the Independent minister Samuel Roberts (‘S.R.’) (NLW MS 9523A), but the most prominent individual in the Library’s collections is Thomas Clarkson, who travelled extensively for the Anti-Slavery Society (NLW MS 14984A) and dedicated his life to the cause, sometimes at great personal risk. It was Clarkson who galvanised the movement for abolition in Britain in the 1780s by collecting testimonies from sailors, which he knew would reveal not only the terrible conditions faced by crew members on board slave ships but also the treatment of the slaves themselves. Some of those Bristol and Liverpool sailors were Welsh.
These are just a few of the more easily accessible items in our collections. Many hidden stories still lie buried in the archives, waiting to be unearthed.
Wales’s involvement in slavery did not begin with the transatlantic trade. Medieval Welsh law – of which there are several manuscripts in the Library, such as Peniarth MS 28 – routinely took slaves for granted as a category of society, while narrative sources such as Brut y Tywysogyon (Peniarth MS 20) and Vita Griffini filii Conani (Peniarth MS 434E) tell of Vikings from Ireland taking people in Wales into slavery. Even the seventh-century lullaby Pais Dinogad, which is written in the voice of a woman singing to her child, refers to their eight slaves (‘wythgeith’) singing along with them (NLW Llyfr Aneirin, Cardiff MS 2.81).
Nor is the slave trade yet a thing of the past. In 2007 and 2008, as part of the Everywhere In Chains community project, Women in Jazz conducted a series of workshops in south Wales to raise awareness of human slavery and trafficking both in the past and in the modern world (Jazz Heritage Wales / Women’s Archive Wales 4/9). We hope that such additions to our collections will not be necessary in the future.
It was interesting to read a pamphlet, included in the Gladstone unbound volumes, by the eminent mathematician and physicist, George Stokes, titled On the bearing of the study of Natural Science and the contemplation of the discoveries to which that study leads on our religious ideas.
Stokes was eager to show his readers that scientific discoveries change but they don’t undermine religious belief. He believed that gaining knowledge of the laws of natural science helps people to appreciate religion and deepen their faith. He gives several examples to support this.
He starts by asking his readers to imagine an undiscovered island in the Pacific Ocean. He calls the island Irene. The Irenians are intelligent and deeply religious, but because they are cut off from the rest of the world, they don’t understand natural science. They valued the sense of sight and believed it was a special gift from the Creator.
Eventually, the island was discovered by the captain of a ship with a team of scientists on board. They got along well with the islanders and the scientists taught the Irenians much about physics. They taught them about optics, the existence of rays and the laws of reflection and refraction, also the formation of images by a telescope. After dissecting an eye, they showed that it acted just like an optical instrument in forming external objects on the retina. The Irenians had accepted the sense of sight as a direct gift from the Creator, but now they realised that their eyes acted like any other lifeless matter. They were forced to accept that so much they saw around them just obeyed the laws of nature.
After the scientists had left, the islanders started to form a more moderate opinion of what they had learned. Human reasoning had taught them that images had formed in the retina like those in optical instruments. But how were its parts so well adapted to fulfil this? They had become impressed with the evidence of design. There must have been a designer. They had learned to think of God in a different way. God accomplished his design by working with natural laws rather than against them.
Stokes then compares the state of the islanders with the state of his readers when new scientific discoveries are made. He implores his readers to keep a balanced mind between scientific evidence and religious ideas. This is good advice for us today.
Stokes discusses other scientific theories such as the conservation of energy and the theory of evolution to support his belief that a Creator lies behind the natural order of the world. The fact that one of the most renowned scientists of the nineteenth century saw fit to address this topic emphasises its importance to his readers then. It remains of much interest to us today (see the second item in the Bibliography).
Stokes, G.G. (1879) On the bearings of the Study of Natural Science and of the contemplation of the discoveries to which that study leads, on our religious ideas. London: E. Stanford.
Davies, Noel and Jones, T. Hefin (2017) Cristnogaeth a Gwyddoniaeth. Cardiff: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru.
The evolution of recording owes everything to Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), who invented the phonograph in December 1877. The concept of wax cylinders as the best medium to reproduce sound on disc came about through healthy competition between Alexander Graham Bell and Edison, who eventually pipped Bell to the patent post by releasing his 1888 ‘Perfected Phonograph’.
Although the phonograph’s initial use was either archival or for transcription, the turn of the 20th century opened a market for musical recordings with the advent of moulded cylinders, and hymns enjoyed a heyday at this time.
Sleuthing through some of these recordings was engaging, although the audio quality is understandably poor having been digitised by the Sound Archive from the original wax cylinders with all their imperfections. While the collection description identifies the type of music and the method of recording, there is no information about when these cylinders were recorded, by or for whom. Subsequent information provided in the recordings’ introductions brought some of the picture to light with snippets gleaned from between crackles of wax.
The collection consists of 4 sound files; the original wax cylinders have not been catalogued at National Library of Wales yet. Those cylinders may have more details written on them, identifying performers and dates, but in their absence, the fun of this exercise was in listening and then identifying the hymns before researching the poets and composers, as follows:
Hymn 1: “I am praying for you”, sung by two people with small orchestral accompaniment – mostly obscured by crackling. The announcer is unidentified and the names of the singers partially obscured although the tenor is clearly named Anthony. There is a reference to Hereford, either as place or patronym, but it was impossible to work out the name or the gender of the second singer. Although Hereford suggests the recording was made in the UK, the announcer is clearly American.
This is a Methodist hymn written by Samuel O’Malley Cluff (1860) and set to a tune by Ira David Sankey (1874).
Reverend Cluff was born in Dublin in 1837. He attended Trinity College and became an Anglican minister, pastoring at various locations in Ireland. In 1884, he became the leader of the Plymouth Brethren after which he married Anne Blake Edge, had four children and wrote over 1000 hymn texts and songs, composing many of the melodies as well. Ira Sankey came across “I am praying for you” while holding crusades in Scotland. Inspired by its words about prayer, he composed music for it and it became popular during subsequent crusades. The author credit was given in Sankey’s 1878 publication of Sacred Song & Solos as ‘S. O’M. Clough’.
Although the full hymn has four verses, this recording features only the first verse with a repeated refrain.
I have a Saviour, He’s pleading in glory,
A dear, loving Saviour, though earth-friends be few;
And now He is watching in tenderness o’er me,
But O, that my Saviour were your Saviour, too!
For you I am praying,
For you I am praying,
For you I am praying,
I’m praying for you.
Hymn 2: “Pass me not, O Gentle Saviour” – with this second recording, the announcer gives us a bit more information about the singers, who are the same as in the first recording. It is likely this is a husband-and-wife duo, Anthony & Ann Hereford of Hereford Records, but there is still no geographical location with which to find out more about them. It is also likely that the announcer is Thomas Edison himself because he has a distinctive voice, which can be compared with other online sources; whether Edison was recording in the UK, or if the Herefords were based in the USA is still unclear.
This hymn text was written by Fanny Crosby, who published her poems under an incredible number of pseudonyms, both male and female. Frances Jane Crosby was born in New York state in 1820 and was blinded during an illness at 6 weeks old. She subsequently received an excellent education from the New York Institute of the Blind. This was where she started writing hymn texts for her teacher of music, Dr Geoffrey Root. Between 1864 and her death in 1915, Fanny wrote over 8000 texts, making her the most prolific hymn writer in the English language. The hymn tune was composed by William Howard Doane – prolific composer, American industrialist and philanthropist who supported the work of evangelical campaigns, including those headed by Ira D Sankey, mentioned earlier.
Although another four-verse hymn, the Herefords have chosen to record verses one and four with repeated refrains and an instrumental interlude between verses. There is a charming outro featuring brass and percussion.
1 Pass me not, O gentle Saviour
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling
Do not pass me by.
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do no pass me by.
4 Thou the Spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in heav’n by Thee [Refrain]
Hymn 3: “Jesus, Lover of my Soul”, sung by tenor, Mr William McGillis. Unfortunately, his geographical location is obscured completely. The announcer’s voice is American, but different to Thomas Edison, so this cylinder may have been recorded by someone else working in the industry, or on Edison’s behalf.
The text for the hymn was written by Charles Wesley in 1740, published in a collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems. The eighteenth child of Anglican cleric and poet Samuel Wesley, Charles was the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley, and contributed the cornerstone of the Methodist hymnody; in fact, of the 770 hymns published in the Wesleyan Hymn Book, 623 were written by Charles, although this represents only 10% of his total output.
Recognised as one of Wesley’s finest hymns – also one of the earliest – it is thought to echo two life experiences of this so-called ‘Bard of Methodism’. The first was the arrival of a small songbird pursued by a hawk who flew through an open window and into Wesley’s arms as he was pondering spiritual difficulties: “let me to Thy bosom fly”; the second might relate to a faith-shattering tempest experienced by John and Charles while sailing on a missionary trip to the colony of Georgia in 1735. The brothers were impressed by a group of fellow passengers from Moravia who sang hymns throughout a raging storm. Wesley’s verses mention waters rolling, a “tempest” and the “storm of life”. But while the Moravians possessed the certainty of Salvation through their faith, John Wesley later confessed that they “had gone to Georgia to convert the people there, finding they themselves had need to be converted.”
This hymn was originally titled “In Temptation” and is a plea for sanctuary for all who are tempted, undeserving or requiring cleansing from sin because there is no other refuge. The tune used for this recording is now known as Celebration 167 in the Baptist Hymnal (2008). It was originally known as Martyn 220.127.116.11.D (reflecting the meter of the hymn) and was composed by Simeon Butler Marsh, who taught music to hundreds of adults and children in career spanning both New York State church and school system over the course of 30 years. McGillis sings verses one and three, with the accompaniment of a brass band.
1 Jesus, lover of my soul
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last.
3 Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick and lead the blind:
Just and holy is Thy name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.
Hymn 4: “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus” – this recording is so badly damaged (possibly due to previous use of the wax cylinder for other recordings) that it was almost impossible to identify the hymn or its tune. However, one clear line led to a text written by George Duffield in 1858, and once the full words were on screen, it was possible to hear enough of the rest to confirm the hymn as above. From there the tune was identified as one known as “Morning Light” written by George J Webb on a voyage from England to the USA in 1837.
Reverend Dr George Duffield (son of a Presbyterian Minister) was born in Pennsylvania in 1818 and followed in his father’s footsteps. When Duffield wrote “Stand Up”, he was a pastor in Philadelphia, but had been pastor of a parish in New Jersey where Webb was living, so the two may have met. According to an entry in Lyra sacra Americana (Cleveland, 1868, p. 298):
“I caught its inspiration from the dying words of that noble young clergyman, Rev. Dudley Atkins Tyng, rector of the Epiphany Church, Philadelphia, who died about 1854. His last words were, ‘Tell them to stand up for Jesus: now let us sing a hymn.’ As he had been much persecuted in those pro-slavery days for his persistent course in pleading the cause of the oppressed, it was thought that these words had a peculiar significance in his mind; as if he had said, ‘Stand up for Jesus in the person of the downtrodden slave.’ (Luke v. 18.)”
After Duffield gave the manuscript to his Sunday School Superintendent, it was first published as a small children’s handbill, where it became known as ‘Soldiers of the Cross’.
As far as can be made out from the timing and meter, the recording is of the first two verses, but both the identity of the singer and the announcer are completely obscured by damage. The singer has a high voice, and although it is impossible to say whether they are female or boy soprano, if a guess at their name were allowed, the candidates would be either Iris or Idris Edwards. The announcer, likewise, sounds more British than American, so this wax cylinder might have been one of the first to be recorded in the UK – after all, the first Phonograph & Gramophone Society was established in 1911 in West London, with many forming over the next decade with Thomas Edison as their patron.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus
ye soldiers of the cross;
lift high his royal banner,
it must not suffer loss:
from vict’ry unto vict’ry
his army he shall lead,
’til ev’ry foe is vanquished,
and Christ is Lord indeed.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict
in this his glorious day:
ye that are men now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose.
For those who wish to know more about the phonograph, there are many sources available in the library catalogue, including cylinder histories and personal histories of Edison and Bell, published by the City of London Phonograph and Gramaphone society; Ma Rainey’s phonograph – featured in an article looking at the legacy of black embodiment within the visual-sonic tradition; technical manuals for those who own or are restoring phonographic equipment; and phonographs and popular memory, a look at gathering oral history in America.
If it is agreed that the announcer of the first two cylinders held in this collection is Thomas Edison, and in keeping with other cylinders available to listen online of a similar religious nature, then it is probably safe to assume that these four recordings date from around 1908. By 1912, shortly after the UK caught up to the wax cylinder phenomenon, Edison was selling his commercial disc phonograph, and recording technology continued on its evolutionary path to the digital world we inhabit today.
Between 1961 and 1963, Rhodri Morgan, who later became leader of Welsh Labour and First Minister of Wales, studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks to a scholarship from the Thomas and Elizabeth Williams (Loughor School Board) Fund he was able to study and travel in the USA. A lack of applications from Loughor meant that the fund was opened up to residents of Swansea, providing Morgan with a wonderful opportunity. During his time in the USA, he wrote a series of letters to his family in Swansea.
A phone call from a member of the Welsh Political ArchiveAdvisory Committee came late last year saying that Rhodri’s brother, Professor Prys Morgan, was eager for a collection of 88 letters, written by Rhodri Morgan during this period should come to the National Library of Wales. Shortly afterwards a collection of letters, photographs and an explanatory note had reached my desk.
Receiving such packages is one of the reasons why I enjoy my work so much. It was a privilege to read about Rhodri Morgan’s adventures, his work and university life, meetings, and various trips. His travels across the country to Georgia, Iowa, California, New Orleans and Puerto Rico can be followed in the letters; most written neatly in Welsh on thin Aerogramme paper, and in the accompanying photographs. One letter is written from the United Nations Plaza in New York and another contains a draft essay for Prys to comment on!
The first letter from New York contains a description of the journey by ship from Rotterdam, with arrival a day and a half late. Rhodri noted that he missed seeing the Statue of Liberty! In another letter he talks about the big celebrations on St Patrick’s Day compared to a much quieter St David’s Day and in another from Berkley where he talks about meeting people from differing political groups such as the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and the Socialist Party Social Democratic Federation.
The letters provide an opportunity to see the world through Rhodri Morgan’s eyes, to see his political interests develop and to get an idea of the experiences and friends that influenced him. We are very grateful to Professor Prys Morgan for sharing them.
Thomas Pennant (1726-1798) has been described as the most prominent zoologist after John Ray and before Charles Darwin. He was born and spent the whole of his life at his family’s estate in Downing Hall near Whitford, Flintshire, but he travelled to Scotland, Cornwall and other parts of Britain, recording the antiquities and natural life he saw. The Library has an extensive collection of his works, including The British Zoology, A Tour in Scotland and A Tour in Wales.
In a recent auction we succeeded in purchasing an English Bible printed in 1619 with the signature “Thomas Pennant Esqr Downing” in elegant handwriting on one of the endpapers. Further on in the volume are more handwritten notes: “This Book for the Sarvents [sic] of Thos. Pennant Esqr of Downing” and also: “David Pennant Esqr His Booke In the year of Our Lord God 1751”. David was the name of Thomas Pennant’s son, but he was born in 1763, so this is probably the signature of Thomas Pennant’s father, also called David. So the volume probably spent many years in the home of the Pennant family. It is appropriate that it should now find a new home in the National Library with the works of this prominent Welshman.
This audio clip began with the first meeting of the Cardiff Business Club for the season. The unidentified male speaker gives a short introduction as to why they were there and gives an overview of the importance of rugby and community. He talks about the launch a few weeks earlier at Cardiff Bay, and how happy he was that so many new people were coming to see what they were all about. Lots of new members, Vice President and corporate members. I was not lost, even though I was straight into the clip with no context, and it captured my attention from the outset.
Towards the beginning of the clip, this quote stuck with me: ‘A great cross section of Welsh businesses, members of the Welsh government, people from sports, education, media and all kinds of fields of Welsh life’ – this is a poignant quote that shows how deeply the Rugby Society is entrenched in the community side of things. The man talks about how it is so important to attract people from all walks of life together. It shows that community is not just the people closest to you, but comes from the places you would least expect.
The speaker is at the top of the world of rugby, whilst the Rugby World Cup was occurring during the time of this recording, 2015. He mentions how productivity of Welsh spirit and patriotism has increased in businesses around the Wales matches, which in turn boosts morale. Cardiff embraced the spirit of the rugby tournament, which further promotes a sense of Welsh pride. He then introduces the new sponsor of the club, Catherine Finn, who takes the mic to talk a bit before introducing the speaker for the event. She took over from Matthew Hammond as the member of the PWC (Price Water House Coopers) for Wales and the West Country.
She refers to a slide in the room, where she talks about Brett Gosper, who went from an amateur rugby player in the days before rugby became a professional sports career, to a professional player who drove for the commercial success of rugby. This commercial success is tied to the World Cup and to Wales as a home nation, too.
Then, Brett Gosper takes over. He takes up the majority of the audio recording, documenting the objectives of World Rugby, and the opportunities offered by events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games. He continues, talking about the success of rugby in the entertainment sector, particularly in the uptake of the sport by women and children in a male dominated sport. He expands on Catherine’s earlier point about rugby’s growth in commercial markets and the ambition to inspire new audiences. Advertisement via social media greatly helped the campaign for the Rugby Union, particularly around the Olympics, and he spent a while expanding on that point. He continued, going into detail about how it was important that rugby had a long-term investment strategy, through digital and social engagement. Then, he expanded on how player welfare is extremely important in rugby moving from being a game regulator, as Gosper calls it, to a game promoter.
After that, the floor opens up to a Q&A session – the topics include investment to accession states of the EU in terms of rugby, which was very interesting to learn about, comparisons between football and rugby federations, i.e. World Rugby and FIFA, and engagement of rugby with the world. He also gave advice to in regards to their children’s sport of choice, as any sport a child wants to pursue is always important. He finished off with answering a question about bringing the flair back into the game.
There was a vote of thanks, and that was the conclusion of the clip. It was a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience and I felt like I was there in the atmosphere of being in an event like that. Especially since the world has been deprived of social events during the pandemic, it was really nice to hear the laughter, the background clinking of glasses and general noises of events such as the one that was happening with this Rugby Union. I can just imagine all the people included in their formal wear, having fun whilst also maintaining and creating new contacts.
This was a lovely second listening and I hope I have done this clip justice. I am enjoying writing these blogs posts, so stick around for the next one, and I will see you soon.
Alice Tucker, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage volunteer
Since the beginning of the year work has continued on digitising our collections and the following items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:
33 Ystrad Marchell charters have also been made available and can be accessed via the catalogue.
A selection of volumes relating to King Arthur were selected for digitization in 2019. The following 13 volumes are already available and the work of digitizing the remaining items will continue over the coming months:
The hills and uplands of Ceredigion keep us busy and happy as peaceful havens to walk and cycle but they didn’t used to be this empty. The stories of the ‘lost’ communities inhabiting our mountain uplands have been documented in a very special way: A wealth of ‘Story of the Forest’ sound archives are housed at the National Library in Aberystwyth.
Interviews with community members made in the early nineties reveal what life used to be like in the uplands. After a couple of minutes of listening, the whole world of a surprisingly recent bygone age of our ‘wild west’ starts coming to life. The interviews unveil a history of the mountain communities who farmed the wild uplands before they were planted with forestry and paved with roads. Many farms moved or were left empty when the uplands were planted after World War II and after the cripplingly harsh winter of 1947. The remnants of these crofts, farms, pens and ‘corrals’ can be seen as ruins around Strata Florida and Teifi Pools; on the Abergwesyn pass and the Cwm Elan mountain road. The busy, resilient and hard working mountain communities who inhabited them are still represented throughout the upland towns and villages.
We hear of Dai Jones, the last horseback postman, delivering a weekly round for the General Post Office into the late 1950s. This ‘pony express’ – ran 3 days a week. Horses were central to the hill farming existence, the ‘sheep station’ farms may seem ‘outlying’, but in fact, what appear now as isolated communities were very mobile and culturally central. Men, women and children owned hill ponies which could take them anywhere in the mountain range for the cost of some hill-grazed grass.
Accounts of dragging a forestry siren up the mountain at midnight to ‘serenade’ a bride-to-be gives a sense of both hard work and wild fun. A farmer tells of breaking horses-in double-quick in the exhausting bogland, and one forester recalls encountering the legendary Free Wales Army platoons on mountain manoeuvres.
The depth and strength of the bonds of these hill farming communities is described in their communal work – every summer there would be mass hand-shearings of up to two thousand sheep at a time, the households of the community all coming together to help each other.
Under a National Lottery Heritage grant, National Library of Wales has commissioned Mapping Land Voices, an art project that aims to encourage access to the archive through walking and drawing old mountain paths whilst listening to their relevant oral histories. These creative, remediations of the mountain legends will be geo-tagged and made in the places the voices describe. It is easy to get inspired.
Hosted by the Peoples’ Collection Wales, this new-from-old archive of shared art will be part of a searchable National Library/British Library database, indexing the original sound archives through a twenty-first century community response.
The Mapping Land Voices project works on a first-come, first-served basis: to sign up click here
To access the sound archive, all it takes is a reader’s ticket to the National Library. You can research which archives are relevant to your local woodlands, and hear stories which are guaranteed to transport you back in time. Visit the Library
Summer is here and with it comes the promise of finer weather. It could be said that commenting on the weather is one of our favourite pastimes here in Wales, and especially at this time of year when we are perhaps all wondering about the probability of a heatwave.
A look through the archives shows that our preoccupation with the weather is nothing new. One of the earliest mentions of a heatwave in Wales can be found in the medieval Welsh chronicle Brut Y Tywysogion (NLW Peniarth MS 20), which records that the year 720 saw a particularly hot summer (pan vu yr haf tessawc).
Gerald of Wales may have disagreed with this description – in the 12th century his Itinerarium Kambriae described the climate of the Welsh mountains as wet, cold, and windy, and remarked on the force of the winds (violenta ventorum) that never ceased to blow, which can be seen in a 14th-century copy, NLW MS 3024C (f. 59r).
Despite Gerald’s observation, hot weather remained much remarked upon in the centuries that followed, and July 1729 appears to have been a particular scorcher. Mary Davies wrote to her brother Adam Ottley of Pitchford Hall of her concern about the hot summer they were experiencing, and ‘not to hurry much about in town in hot weather for fear of put[t]ing y[ou]rself in a fever’.
This does however seem to be nothing compared to the summer of 1825. In August of that year, the antiquarian Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams) wrote in a letter to his son Taliesin that the weather was ‘so hot that many people have fallen dead in the fields and highways by the Coup de soleil (stroke of the Sun)’.
According to the records of the Llysdinam estate, the summer of 1875 was very different. On June 15th, 1875 came a storm so violent that that it caused Richard Lister Venables of Llysdinam to remark that ’I don’t think I ever saw in June such a tempest of wind and rain as we have had’, and noted that it left their barn ‘flat on the ground’. (Llysdinam B1459, pictured below). Just two months later, on the 16th August, Venables wrote that it was ‘the hottest day of the year, with every appearance of lasting’ (Llysdinam B1462).
A meteorological record for Aberystwyth compiled by the New Club, Cheltenham also confirms that 1875 was a warm summer, recording a temperature high of 76F (24.4C) on the 7th of July. However 1876 appears to have been even hotter, recording a maximum temperature of 91F (32.7C) on the 17th of July in Aberystwyth.
In more recent times, the threat of climate change has increasingly made the weather a hot topic of conversation (pun intended), and it seems that changeable weather patterns will continue to form part of our records and conversations for a long time to come.
Collecting websites, an occupation of the National Library of Wales for number of years by now, has provided us with an opportunity to explore collections and voices, for one reason or another, may be under-represented by our print collections. BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities across Wales being one such significant voice.
Nowadays, much electronic collecting is done via archiving websites for the UK Web Archive, a consortium of the six UK legal deposit libraries (the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Cambridge University Library, and Trinity College Dublin Library), which aims to collect all UK websites at least once a year.
This collecting of websites has enabled us to collect a plethora of information on BAME voices, communities, services and organisations across Wales. However, a further examination of the way we collected such websites provides a backdrop to the challenges we faced as National Libraries. Back in early 2000’s, when we began collecting websites, we included them within an online portal to validated websites. Crucially, despite providing access to these websites in the short term, we needed permission to archive websites to keep a permanent copy for future researchers. Websites were created quickly, changed regularly and sometimes disappeared altogether often without notice. This lack of permanence resulted in us losing this vital information. This so called ‘Digital Black Hole’ was to become our biggest challenge.
Looking back to our BAME collections in 2005, the websites often focused on, as today, on removing economic and social barriers to BAME communities across Wales. However, of the twenty or so BAME websites collected, many are no longer live, therefore regrettably lost to our collections. Even though we are aware of what existed c.2005, in most cases, we did not have permission to archive this content. The UK web Archive contains a snapshot of what we collected in the 2000s.
Thankfully, the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 went someway in addressing this issue and we are now entitled to copy UK-published material from the internet for archiving under Legal Deposit which is done through an automated process, known as web harvesting which collects millions of websites each year and billions of individual assets (pages, images, videos, pdfs etc.).
Returning to collecting BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) websites, we are now able to archive all websites that fall under the UK Web domain for researchers of the future. To improve access to BAME websites, the UK Web Archive have grouped them within a ‘Black and Asian Britain’ Collection, an ever-increasing growing collection which has over 750 websites listed, 138 of specific Welsh interest.
The National Library of Wales have collected a diverse collection of websites and a small number of twitter feeds covering BAME Organisations, Societies, Protest groups, Communities, Authors, Artists, Festivals, Music, Dance, Welfare, Education, to your local BAME Sports Clubs which have been archived by the UK Web Archive. This is a substantial increase from the handful of websites collected c.2005 to the hundreds that we collectively collect today along with the other UK Legal Deposit Libraries, but more importantly, have archived therefore available and accessible to researchers of the future.
There are still challenges. Access to websites archived under non-print legal deposit regulations is more restrictive than the internet in general. Even though we have archived the websites, most are only available to view on Library premises. Additionally, we contact website owners and request permission to make our archived copy publicly available through the UK Web Archive. We hope to have as many websites as possible accessible in this way.
It is good to say that this grouping of websites is one of our more valuable collections within the UK Web Archive but the wider aim is to encourage and build on our partnerships and feedback from external bodies and BAME communities to further develop and improve this collection of BAME related websites from across Wales and build on what we have so far collected. You are also most welcome to suggest any UK based website that you feel should be archived for the Black and Asian via the Save a website form to help us develop this collection of websites.
A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.
Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.