The papers of the senior civil servant Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans came to the Library in 2019, but thanks to the pandemic, it was only last summer that I had the opportunity to organise and catalogue them.
Sir Guildhaume had a very interesting and successful career. After he was injured in the First World War he went to work for Lloyd George and became a specialist on labour matters, serving in the Ministry of Labour and National Service, and representing the British Government on the International Labour Organisation. This gave him the opportunity to travel, make interesting international contacts and witness the occasional political spat.
Sir Guildhaume was a member of the governing body of the International Labour Organization at the time of the petroleum conference in Caracas, Venezuela, in April 1955. Although the representatives of employers and governments supported the bid to hold the conference there, representatives of trade unions had objected because of the treatment of union officials, including the imprisonment of a number of them, by the military government there which had come to power in a coup d’état in 1948. During the opening session the representative of the unions from the Netherlands, Mr Vermeulen, gave a speech drawing attention to the rights of workers in the country and a number of union leaders who were in prison. The response of the Venezuelan government was to send officers of the security forces to his hotel to escort him to the airport and to send him out of the country.
Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans Papers, D3/4
When the other representatives of the unions heard about this, they agreed not to take part in the main conference until he was allowed to come back and because of the International Labour Organisation’s constitution of the, the conference could not go ahead. Vermeulen spent over a week in Curacao while Sir Guildhaume and other officials tried to find some kind of resolution but despite suggested compromises and high level negotiations they were unable to broker an agreement that was acceptable to both Mr Vermeulen and the Venezuelan authorities.
Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans Papers, D3/1
Despite Sir Guildhaume’s efforts to persuade the authorities otherwise, Venezuela temporarily pulled out of the International Labour Organization but it seems that indirectly at least, the whole affair did have the effect that Mr Vermeulen and the union officials had been hoping for. In a letter from Sir Guildhaume to the British delegation in Geneva on 31 May he was able to report that a number of union officers had been released from prison adding in typical civil servant understatement:
“I like to think that I might have some partial responsibility for this happy result”.
The full story can be found in Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans Papers Series D3.
2022 was a busy year for the Library’s archivists. The easing of covid restrictions meant that they were able to spend the whole year cataloguing archives in earnest as well as undertaking their other responsibilities, so many more catalogues were produced than in the previous two years.
Here is a taste of the catalogues that were completed in 2022. Work continues on other catalogues as ever, including some substantial and important new archives and also small additions to existing catalogues. Details of recently catalogued manuscripts in the NLW MSS and NLW ex series will appear in another blog.
King John’s Abergavenny charter. There was a blog about the charter soon after we purchased it, and a more detailed article about it has also been published recently: D. J. Moore, ‘Abergavenny and Dunwallesland: a 1209 charter of king John’ in The Monmouthshire Antiquary: Proceedings of the Monmouthshire Antiquarian Association XXXVII (2022), 5-13
Papers of Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans (1894-1964), a senior civil servant, industrial relations expert and British representative to the International Labour Organisation, including records relating to the Local Government Commission for Wales, as well as a diplomatic spat in Venezuela with the ILO.
Administrative papers of the Aberystwyth, Pontypridd and Cardiff branches of Welsh Women’s Aid, referring to many issues affecting women and their children who use the service including domestic violence, social welfare and the law.
During the 1980s computer boom, a number of new companies emerged that began creating hardware for the general public. Previously, cost and size was a prohibiting factor, but with computers getting smaller and cheaper to manufacture, a new dawn for tech enthusiasts arose. One of these new companies was named Dragon Data, which was set up in the early 80s in South Wales by the toy company Mattoy.
They had some success with their Dragon 32 and Dragon 64 computers, but life would be short for this Dragon. Technical limitations meant that it would eventually trail behind its competitors, such as Sinclair and Commodore and the company began to struggle. During the mid-80s the company was purchased by Eurohand S.A. which then relocated its base to Spain. In 1987, the original company and name was finally discontinued following bankruptcy.
The National Library holds a number of titles that relate to the Dragon computer (see the photograph). Many of which dive deep into how to program using the machine.
Even though the Dragon’s life was short, its legacy and name lived on. Many social media creators on outlets such as Youtube display their detailed research of the company.
Duncan Smeed. 1983. Inside the Dragon.
George Knight. 1983. Learning to use the Dragon 32 Computer.
Keith Brain. 1984. Advanced sound & graphics for the Dragon computer: including machine code subroutine.
Keith Brain. 1984. Artificial intelligence on the Dragon computer: Make your micro think.
Keith Brain. 1984. Dragon 32 games master: Learn how to write your own top level games.
Tim Hartnell. 1984. Giant book of games for your Dragon.
Tim Langdell. 1982. 35 programs for the Dragon 32.
One of the books purchased recently for our rare book collections is Experiments and observations made in Britain, in order to obtain a rule for measuring heights with the barometer. The author was Colonel William Roy (1726-1790), surveyor and founder of the Ordnance Survey. The report was originally published in the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society in 1777, but the copy we have bought was published separately by J. Nichols the following year.
The experiments described in the report were carried out in various locations, including Schiehallion in Scotland and Snowdon in Wales. As well as descriptions of the experiments, the book includes tables of the measurements and maps of the mountains where they were made. It provides important evidence of the contribution of north Wales to scientific developments in the eighteenth century.
During the month of November, staff from the Library visited the National Library of Scotland to attend meetings to discuss operational and strategic matters relating to the Legal Deposit agency. The Agency collects legal deposit material from across the UK and Ireland to then distribute it to all of the legal deposit libraries.
The visit involved being shown around the main National Library of Scotland building on George IV Bridge, their second site at Causewayside, and also the agency itself.
Highlights of the trip included seeing the exhibitions area at the Library, which focused on modern Scottish authors, such as Ian Rankin. There was also an opportunity to discuss library practices. A behind the scenes tour provided an opportunity to visit their extensive storage areas and discuss issues such as how they are dealing with storage space. The Periodical Team also talked about how they dealt with the backlog created because of the Covid pandemic – an issue that all legal deposit libraries needed to manage.
Visiting the Agency building was also an interesting experience, seeing the Library’s own green crates being filled with new material, to be opened and processed the following week by Library staff.
The trip was very successful. It was an opportunity to discuss important matters relating the Agency and it also showed the importance of co-working and sharing knowledge. It was also a chance to meet up with other legal deposit librarians from across the UK and Ireland.
After 64 long years, the Welsh football team finally managed to qualify for their second World Cup tournament, this time held in Qatar. Now that the tournament has ended, I thought that I’d look back at their exploits via the Library’s updated Newsbank subscription, which now includes full image versions for certain titles. To access Newsbank, it is necessary to be an online member in Wales of the Library. See here for more information and here to register. Online members can access Newsbank and the other external resources through the Library’s A-Z of external resource page. They can do so by either being in the Library building or by logging in with their reader’s ticket.
Excitement and expectations were understandably high after such a long absence from the biggest competition in football. Having beaten Ukraine in the play-off finals, Welsh fans could finally look forward to seeing their team perform at the highest stage. In the lead up to the tournament, Dafydd Iwan’s iconic song “Yma o Hyd” was adopted as Wales’ World Cup anthem, and The Guardian interviewed him and other fans to discuss how everyone felt before the tournament.
Here it was, our first World Cup game since 1958! Thousands of Welsh fans had made the trip to be part of the Red Wall, and they and the fans here in Wales were raring for the game to start. However, it looked like the occasion got to the team, and the Americans took a deserved lead midway through the first half. A change was clearly needed in the second half, and the introduction of Kiefer Moore helped get Wales back into the game. With 10 minutes to go, Wales won a penalty after Gareth Bale was clumsily fouled. Bale calmly converted, and Welsh fans went wild. The game ended in a draw, and we had our first point!
After Iran conceded 6 goals in their opening game, Wales fans were quietly confident that they could get a result in this game. With excitement levels growing, the game was shown in schools and workplaces across Wales, due to the 10am kick off. Unfortunately, Iran had other ideas. They were clearly the better side, and they were only denied a goal by a combination of the woodwork and VAR. The situation got worse for Wales after Wayne Hennessey was sent off for clattering into Taremi, suffering the indignity of being the first player of the tournament to receive a red card. It was now a matter of damage limitation, and hanging on for a draw. Wales almost succeeded, but Iran scored 2 quickfire goals at the death to break Welsh hearts.
Having progressed from the group stages in the last 2 European Championships, the chances of doing so in Qatar were hanging by a thread. Any hopes of progressing to the knockout stages were dashed by their English neighbours, and just like that, it was over. Although things didn’t go to plan, this group of players will always be remembered as the team that finally got us back to where all Welsh football fans wanted to be. Diolch bois.
Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian
Steed of winter who the pale men carry.
Who are those that squire you?
Slow and ceaseless, yard by yard, house by house, and door by door.’
(Torchwood, episode 57, 21 December 2021)
This began as a chance conversation in the corridor; I was inspired by the Mari Lwyd because of Aberystwyth’s own procession and because I’m interested in the hybridisation of folktales and religion.
Two Mari Lwyds on the Prom, Aberystwyth, January 2022. Photo: Rasma Bertz
My interest in finding out whether the Grey Mare came from a time when two Popes celebrated the medieval Feast of the Ass – built on the foundation of Blessed Mary; the important role of the donkey leading to, and present at, the birth of Christ; the flight into Egypt and later, as transport for Jesus to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, will have to wait for another day.
Likewise, confirming the origin of the Mari (in the words of artist Robert Alwyn Hughes) as ‘a figure of ritual significance for a pagan fertility [tradition] …celebrating the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon.’
Instead, a ballad by Vernon Watkins became my focus because after reading it, I was haunted for days. That kind of impression cannot be ignored. But first: what is the Mari Lwyd?
She appears to be the love child of a Wassail and a Mummer’s rite – an intimidating horse skull, decorated and originally carried by six men (named like Morris-dancers with one fiddler) from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night or Hen Galan, the Welsh New Year on 13 January by the Julian calendar.
If the Mari knocks on your door, you must be quick-witted and sing back verses to prevent the mare from entering. Inevitably the host loses, and once inside, food and drink are provided.
The first item I found in the archives was a 1930 composition for timpani titled ‘The Prelude to the Ballad of the Mari Llwyd [sic]’ by Daniel Jones. There are two other references to the same title, and until the various publication dates are ordered, it is easy to assume that this piece was written to accompany the 1958 TV adaptation of Vernon Watkin’s 1941 poem ‘The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd’ by Douglas Cleverdon.
As a timpanist, I had to look at the sheet music. There is an addendum which reveals it to be ‘music for approaching and retreating footsteps’, but the mystery remains as to why it was written and if there was ever more than just a prelude!
Of Vernon Watkins, there is much more available: the original drafts of the ballad (NLW MS 21263E) and two versions of the TV script (NLW MS 22841), one with initials for each actor reciting the verses. Notes identify the Living as William Squire, Rachel Thomas, Haydn Jones, Jeffrey Segal and William Eedle, while the Dead were voiced by Aubrey Richards and Basil Jones.
Watkins, described by his close friend Dylan Thomas as ‘the most profound…Welshman writing poems in English’ was a codebreaker in WWII. In fact, he was stationed at Bletchley Park when he wrote this ballad, a fact that possibly explains his vivid geographical imagery – a homesickness maybe; also, the way in which Watkins turns perspective inside out.
Echoing the use of the Mari Lwyd as an archetype for the Blessed Mary, darker imagery is used for the holy, while light represents elements of society that we usually deem less reputable i.e., the outcasts, sinners and blasphemous.
Watkins wrote that ‘the singers came every year to my father’s house; and listening to them at midnight, I found myself imagining a horse’s skull decked with ribbons, followed and surrounded by all kinds of drunken claims and holy deceptions.’
To me, this hearkens more to the Celtic Samhain, but ‘the last breath of the year is their threshold, the moment of supreme forgiveness, confusion and understanding, the profane and sacred moment impossible to realize while the clock hands divide the Living from the Dead’ emphasises the evocativeness of this Welsh tradition.
In a signed document, Watkins added lines to be spoken by unseen figures in the wings as a prequel to the prologue in the dramatized version. This strophe/antistrophe begins: ‘Come to me, Mother of God: in an hour the Old Year ends.’ and ends: ‘The beggar is holy within this hour, the inner and culprit divine, even as I bolt the door on those hands, the handcuffs fall upon mine.’
Watkins weaves a thread of social consciousness throughout his ballad, just as he uses call and response – like the verse exchange on the doorstep – to contrast religious against secular concerns:
‘And the chattering speech of skull and spade
beckon the banished poor.
[Refrain] Sinner and saint, sinner and saint
A horse’s head in the frost.
Conscience counts the cost.’
A sinister refrain: ‘Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Hark at the hands of the Clock’ is used to switch the verses between earthly locations and pursuits with biblical imagery – stanza 23: ‘Starving we come from Gruffydd Bryn’ also mentions Felinfoel beer versus stanza 27: ‘for she knows all from the birth of the Flood’.
We are taken to Harlech’s bitter coast with Living reply:
‘White horses need white horse’s food:
We cannot feed a ghost.
Cast your Lwyd to the white spray’s crest
That pounds and rides the air.
Why should we break our lucky feast
For the braying of a mare?’
And to Hebron, Dolgellau, Kidwelly – ‘we bring from Cader Idris, and those ancient valleys, Mari of your sorrows, Queen of the starry fillies…’ – a continued overlay of sacred and profane.
Once the reader is aware of distinction between living and dead, the call and response becomes even clearer: the ghostly Mari’s duet professing to be holy, the living residents declaring her drunken and malicious.
‘Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari:
A sacred thing
Betrayed are the living, betrayed the dead
All are confused by a horse’s head.’
Out of all the items in the catalogue – including songbooks, arrangements of the Blessed Mary carol, and song and dance tune collections, Vernon Watkins’ ballad had the greatest effect on me personally, especially in emphasising the battle for the return of the Light at this time of year.
A Democratic Digital Infrastructure for Welsh Place-Names
Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park recently announced that they would no longer be using the English names for Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) or Eryri (Snowdonia) as part of a wider policy of adopting and safeguarding Welsh place names across the park.
This move has been broadly welcomed, especially here in Wales, and campaigners will be hoping that this bold move will empower others to follow suit. There is already talk of the Welsh football team adopting the use of ‘Cymru’ in both languages after the impending World Cup.
Such moves not only help to safeguard the Welsh language but to celebrate it, and to encourage visitors to engage with it.
The decision by Eryri National Park also raises some interesting questions. Will the rest of the tourism sector follow their lead? Or will they continue to use the English name? And what about education, the media and the government? We shall see.
As custodians of knowledge, the National Library of Wales is naturally invested in archiving official records, but when it comes to Welsh place names, these official records don’t always reflect popular culture and practice and are certainly slow to react to changing public expectations.
In terms of mapping, many official maps only use the English versions of Welsh place names. For example, despite a concerted effort in recent years, Ordnance Survey still lacks a lot of Welsh language data. In an effort to support the growing demand for Welsh language mapping and data the National Library is working on developing free and open data and mapping solutions for Welsh placenames. With funding from Welsh Government and in partnership with Mapio Cymru and Menter Iaith Môn we are engaging with crowd-sourced, community-governed data sets, Wikidata and Open Street Map, to help develop a Welsh language mapping solution. We’ve used our technical expertise to help align these two sources of Welsh place name data, and worked with Welsh Government open data and the Welsh Language Commission to increase the richness and diversity of the data.
And these data sets allow the community to decide on the form of placenames. On Wikipedia and Wikidata names are changed or adopted by an open democratic process – already there is a lively discussion on English Wikipedia about changing the title of the article on Yr Wyddfa. But the data sets also offer flexibility, a name can have many variants, including multiple ‘official’ names, and different names can be noted for different time periods. Consumers of the data then have a choice of what data they want to present on their map. Recently both the BBC and Welsh Government have used this open data to serve Welsh language maps to the public
We have also used this rich open data to ensure that Welsh Wicipedia has basic articles about (almost) all towns and villages in Wales. We recently created over 800 of these and are working with volunteers to enrich Welsh language content about our places. One of our volunteers has created dozens of articles about historic streets and buildings in Wrexham and we are planning an editing event in partnership with the Welsh Place-Name Society to further improve Wikipedia content about Welsh placenames, their history and their meaning. If you are interested in taking part, you can find out more here.
We will also be working with Menter Iaith Môn to teach school children how to add information about their community to Wikipedia in Welsh, and to collect sound bytes of children pronouncing their local placenames. These too will be made freely available on Wiki.
This project allows us to do more than simply archive and give access to records. This is about engaging with the public and supporting the development of digital infrastructure for Welsh placenames. This will also enable us to think about how we present our collections in the context of place and time. Another output of our work this year will be a prototype map for viewing our collections in both English and Welsh, which we hope will be a positive step towards the development of a truly bilingual search and discovery solution, with the flexibility to adapt quickly to positive change, like the recent renaming of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).
With the World Cup in Qatar on the horizon, it’s worth remembering that the National Library holds a number of World Cup and football-related items that the general public can read, view and enjoy when they visit the Library.
The Qatar World Cup is only the second time Wales have qualified for the competition, our only previous qualification being the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. The Library holds a number of items from that World Cup campaign, including programmes from the games, Football Association of Wales reports on qualification and the tournament itself, and for Swedish language readers the official book of the tournament, published in Sweden shortly after the tournament. We also hold a number of biographies published after the tournament by key players such as John Charles, Cliff Jones and Jack Kelsey. You can also find newspaper reports of the games and of the build-up to the competition in the newspapers collection.
The Library also holds more recent works associated with the Welsh football team and the World Cup, including paintings of team members by Owain Fôn Williams, recent national team match programmes, biographies of leading Welsh footballers, books on the history of the Wales football team and books on the history of the World Cup. For those of us who enjoyed collecting Panini stickers in our youth, the Library also holds a recently published facsimile of completed Panini sticker albums from each World Cup from 1970 onwards.
So, in between watching the games and supporting your national team, why not take some time out to visit the Library and explore some of the materials related to the competition held in its collections. A selection of items will be on display at the Library during the World Cup period and our collections can be browsed online (discover.library.wales) and in the Reading Room.
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.