Tag Archives: Rolf Harris

Augusta Hall and the traditional Welsh dress

Collections - Posted 01-03-2021

As today marks St David’s Day, I’m sure many of you – young and old – have dressed for the occasion, either by way of the increasingly popular Welsh rugby or football shirts, or the more traditional waistcoat and flat cap, or characteristic tall hat, apron and shawl that has come to embody our national dress. But what’s the history behind the traditional Welsh costume?

The costume is linked with Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover (also known by her bardic name, ‘Gwenynen Gwent’). She was an important patron and sponsor of folk culture in Wales during the nineteenth century, especially with regards to music and dance. She was born in Monmouthshire in 1802 and became an influential member of the Cymreigyddion y Fenni society, along with her friend Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc).

Today, she is primarily recognised for her image of the traditional Welsh costume. In her Eisteddfod-winning essay in 1834, ‘The Advantages resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and National Costumes of Wales’, she argued that women in Wales should wear clothes made from traditional Welsh wool, as opposed to the cheaper cotton fabrics that were becoming increasingly popular at the time. It is possible that she commissioned a series of watercolours of women’s costumes from various parts of Wales, including Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire, in the volume Dull-wisgoedd Cymreig by Cadwaladr (1830) [NLW Drawing vol. 299].



She tried to promote her vision of the Welsh dress, that included the typical hat, petticoat and bedgown, within her circle and beyond, but without much luck. Aside from forcing her servants in Llanover to dress in this way and compelling some of her closest acquaintances to do so also, it would appear that her efforts to popularise the dress on a larger scale were unsuccessful. It is debatable whether the evidence exists to support the common belief that she was responsible for its ‘invention’. Nonetheless, her version of the dress and perceived role in its popularity has become heavily linked with the story of Wales’ national costume and how it is recognised today.

Happy St David’s Day to all!


Further reading:

Michael Freeman, ‘Lady Llanover and the Welsh Costume Prints‘, The National Library of Wales Journal, vol. XXXIV, no. 2 (2007), pp. 235-252


The right Pryse? The changing surnames of the Pryse family of Gogerddan

Collections - Posted 17-02-2021

The late Fred Wedlock remarked on a comic folk song, ‘There’s a bit where it changes every chorus; never mind, just guess’. The same could be said of the Pryse family of Gogerddan, whose surname changed with every generation during the nineteenth century. The source of the confusion lies with three members of the family:

  • Pryse Pryse (1774-1849)
  • Pryse Loveden (1815-1855)
  • Sir Pryse Pryse (1838-1906)

Those are the names by which the three individuals were known at the time of their respective deaths. The changes of surname during their lifetimes have flummoxed the most eminent of scholars. This article will attempt to disentangle them for once and for all, with the help of the family portraits.

Pryse Pryse (1774-1849)

The first Pryse Pryse (1774-1849) began life as Pryse Loveden. He was the son of Edward Loveden Loveden of Buscot Park and his wife, Margaret Pryse of Gogerddan. Upon succeeding to the Gogerddan estate after the death of his mother in 1798 Pryse Loveden adopted the surname and arms of Pryse. This was in accordance with the will of his grandfather, Lewis Pryse (d. 1779). The first portrait shows Pryse Pryse as a young man, wearing late eighteenth century fashion.

The second portrait represents a much older Pryse Pryse [aged 52]. John Steegman dates the image to March 1826, from the edition of the Morning Chronicle newspaper which the subject is holding.



Pryse Loveden (1815-1855)

Pryse Loveden (1815-1855) was christened Pryse Pryse. He was the firstborn son of the elder Pryse Pryse and his second wife, Jane Cavallier. As the heir to Gogerddan and to his grandfather’s Buscot Park estate, this younger Pryse Pryse was entitled to bear the surname Loveden after his father’s death in 1849.

This first portrait shows Pryse Loveden as a young man in early Victorian clothing. Both Steegman and the NLW catalogue date the picture to 183.

The second picture, identified in the NLW catalogue as ‘Gentleman in Black Coat’ by J. Langton Barnard, 1856, represents a middle-aged Pryse Loveden. It just post-dates his death and may be a mourning portrait.



Sir Pryse Pryse (1838-1906)

Sir Pryse Pryse (1838-1906) began life as Pryse Loveden, named after his father. His mother was Margaretta Jane Rice of Llwyn-y-brain, Carmarthenshire. This younger Pryse Loveden was still a minor when his father died intestate in 1855. By a grant from the Royal College of Arms in 1863 he was entitled to bear the surname and arms of Pryse, whereupon he was known as Pryse Pryse. He became Sir Pryse Pryse, first Baronet of the second creation in 1866. The photographic portrait shows Sir Pryse Pryse in 1868.



The second image is one of a pair by Julius Hare, portraying Sir Pryse Pryse and Lady Pryse, c. 1901. The Gogerddan tenants had contributed to the cost of the paintings.

Sir Pryse named his eldest son Pryse Pryse Pryse, who died prematurely from an infected fox bite in 1900. Such an unambiguous name should end the confusion, you would think, but check out the entry for Gogerddan in Francis Jones Historic Cardiganshire Homes and their Families…!



John Steegman, A Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, Volume II : South Wales (Cardiff : National Museum of Wales, 1962)

David T.R. Lewis, The Families of Gogerddan in Cardiganshire and Aberglasney in Carmarthenshire (David T.R Lewis/Y Lolfa, 2020)

Francis Jones, Historic Cardiganshire Homes and their Families (Brawdy Books, 2000)

National Library of Wales, Gogerddan Estate Records, series GQA1


Hilary Peters
Assistant Archivist

New Digital Resources

Collections / Digitisation - Posted 09-02-2021

Although our building is closed at the moment a great deal of work has continued behind the scenes and since June the following items and collections have been made available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:

Archives and Manuscripts

Peniarth Collection

Wynn (of Gwydir) Papers: (1515-[c. 1684])

Almost 10,000 images of personal papers and papers relating to the public offices of members of the Wynn family of Gwydir, Caernarfonshire have been made available. 2,786 items from the Sir John Williams Group, 1519-1683 (NLW MSS 463-470) and the Panton Group, 1515- [c. 1699] (NLW MSS 9051-9069) can be found in the catalogue.

Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers

8 diaries in the Sir John Herbert Lewis Papers from the period 1925-1933 are now available:

Gareth Vaughan Jones Papers

Passport of Gareth Vaughan Jones, 1930-1934 (B5/3)

Printed Material

Early Welsh Books Collection

2,470 volumes are available on the catalogue, including the notable works of William Salesbury A dictionary in Englyshe and Welshe, [1547], Kynniver llith a ban [1551] a The descripcion of the sphere or frame of the worlde [ca. 1553]), the first part of Gruffydd Robert’s grammar, Dosparth byrr ar y rhann gyntaf i ramadeg cymraeg (1567), Drych y Prif Oesoedd [1716] and Cyd-gordiad egwyddorawl o’r Scrythurau [1730].


900 biographies are now available through the catalogue, including titles such as:

More biographies will be released over the coming months.

First World War

A selection of printed materials relating to the First World War have been released:

Maps and Graphic Material

Map collection

Idris Mathias’s manuscript map of the lower Teifi valley.

Portrait Collection

A further 970 items from the Portrait collection have been made available, including images of individuals such as: Cranogwen; “Old Ellen Lloyd”; Edward Ellis y Gof, Blaenau Ffestiniog inventor of the ‘car gwyllt’; Elizabeth Lloyd, ‘Beti Bwt’ and John Ballinger, S. K. Greenslade, Evan Davies Jones and Sir John Williams with the American Ambassador, the Hon. Whitelaw Reid at the National Library of Wales site, 1 November 1912.

Dictionary of Welsh Biography

16 new articles have been added to the website:


Morfudd Nia Jones (Digital Content Officer)

Marion Eames: the papers of a historical novelist

Collections - Posted 08-02-2021

This year marks one hundred years since the birth of Marion Eames. She was born in Penbedw on 5 February 1921 and is remembered by many as the author of Y Stafell Ddirgel, a set text in secondary schools across Wales some years ago. It was her first novel. More information about her life and career can be found on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

The National Library is not only home to Marion Eames’ published works, but also a collection of sound and film recordings, photographs and a bronze bust of her likeness by the late John Meirion Morris (which can be seen on the Art UK website), along with a numerous other manuscripts and papers.



Among the first group of papers, received as a gift by Marion Eames in 1988, was a complete draft of Y Stafell Ddirgel and, following her death in 2007, the Library received a further deposit of her papers from her nephew. This later group included an early typescript of Seren Gaeth, a novel inspired by a quotation from the autobiography of Ernest Jones, husband of Morfydd Llwyn Owen, the talented composer who died at a young age. This typescript, however, is incomplete, which only includes chapters 1 to 8 – what a shame for anyone who came across the first half of the draft copy of the novel!

But, through careful collecting over the years, the Library has fortunately been able to add items to the archive. Among the items included in later years in 2016 and 2018, are the second half of the novel (chapters 9-15) and, more significantly perhaps, an early manuscript draft of the novel also.

Through perseverance and patience, the Library has ensured that a more complete archive has been preserved, giving us a more comprehensive picture of the career of a novelist who we remember fondly on the centenary of her birth.

Rhys Davies
Assistant Archivist

Y Gadwyn

Discover Sound - Posted 01-02-2021

By Berwyn Morris and Eirian Roberts


During October 1992 a small number of enthusiastic volunteers met to discuss the possibility of producing a Welsh-language magazine on disc for those of us who are visually impaired. After some discussion, it was realised that more hands would be needed to fulfill the dream, and representatives were invited from every village and town within the old Denbighshire and across the border in Caernarfonshire. Many came together and it was clear from the outset that their enthusiasm was unmatched and it was decided to launch Y Gadwyn on St David’s Day 1993. With the help of BBC and S4C staff a series of day schools were held to train interviewees for the Gadwyn.

Initially some thirty copies were distributed but the Gadwyn spread like wildfire.



Soon around three hundred of the little yellow wallets were wandering all over Wales, to large parts of England, and overseas to Australia, New Zealand and Patagonia. It was clear from the listeners’ response that the service was highly valued. Nowadays new faces have joined the crew and enthusiasm is as infectious as ever.

The CD has something for everyone, including talks about nature and the environment, interesting interviews and also various music.

We also send a copy of the CD monthly to the Bangor Society for the Blind, and to the National Library in Aberystwyth. It is very encouraging to learn that the recordings are being digitised by the Library for their protection, and that they are available for the public to listen to them. We as a Committee greatly appreciate this.

(Berwyn Morris, Y Gadwyn Secretary)



Gruff Ellis was a regular contributor to the Gadwyn. Gruff was born and raised in the Ysbyty Ifan area, and his roots were very deep in his area.

He knew every part of his habitat and knew every species that lived in it. In February 2012 he described the scene he was facing:



A translation of the audio file can be found at the end of the blog.


He had a vast knowledge of all the natural history of the area whether it be flowers and vegetables, trees, animal or birds.



A translation of the audio file can be found at the end of the blog.


He took a great interest in all the local names around the area, names that would have been lost had he not put them down on paper to record them. He published two books “Yma Mae Nghalon” (Here is my heart) 1997 and 2008’s “Cynefin Gruff”, where we see his great love for his area and the nature.

He contributed monthly to the Gadwyn magazine for years with the listeners enjoying listening to the story of his journeys out into the nature world with his old dog, who was his loyal friend. He would see something shocking and break into a song or recite a piece of poetry that he remembered. Listeners would say that listening to Gruff tell his stories is as good as getting out into the middle of nature.

He would love to go to the National Eisteddfod. He competed on the hymn for years. He was a member of Côr Meibion ​​Llangwm and the Brythoniaid, was an elder in the Seion chapel in Ysbyty Ifan and went out to various societies to lecture about nature and everyone adored his homely way. He also contributed monthly to the local community newspaper “Yr Odyn” and was a regular contributor to Radio Cymru’s ‘Galwad Cynnar’ (Early call) program.

(Eirian Roberts, Y Gadwyn Chair)



Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project has been able to digitise the Gadwyn’s sound collection to preserve it for future generations. To hear more stories from Gruff and others you can listen to digital files from the Gadwyn in the reading room by appointment.


Translation: Gruff Ellis

I look down at the old parish and the village of Ysbyty Ifan and it’s a nice but a cold afternoon. I see smoke coming from various chimneys. People have been making fire in the afternoon like this, it’s nicer out here than in the house, I’m sure. And then I look up in the direction of Blaenau and Serw Valley on the left, then over the cefnan there is Cwm Eidda and I look forward to exploring many of them again next year, this year again. And I’m looking at Snowdon and Carneddau and the Benglog and I see just the summit of Snowdon, completely on the left, just to the left. I clearly see the Benglog, top of Tryfan. I see Carnedd Llywelyn and Carnedd Dafydd, Pen Llithrig y Wrach and Creigiau Gleision. Oh, here’s a scene for you. Wonderful.

Translation: Gruff Ellis

These old crows will soon start carrying to their nests. Especially the raven, during February. And the old kite will start carrying towards the end of the month. They will nest, I am sure, towards the end of March to April but the old raven is nesting early. The old raven is a very spectacular bird, although I don’t like them. They are old primitive birds in the crows’ family. But, there is something about them, they pair for their lives.


Remember Gigs? Collecting posters and fanzines

Collections / music - Posted 29-01-2021

While curating the ‘RECORD: Folk Protest and pop’ musical exhibition in 2018 we became aware that the stars of the show were the gig posters. Not only are they attractive and colorful items but they also record the history of the Welsh rock and pop scene. They answered all the questions about what, who, where, and when of the music scene. What were the bands called? Who were playing at the same gig? In which village hall was the gig held? Who organized the gigs? One of my favourite facts on the poster was the cost of the ticket eg £ 1.50 to see Jim O ‘Rouke and Meibion Mwnt at the Old Quarry Lampeter in 1984. Bargain!




The appeal to collect gig posters was launched in February 2020. Over 200 posters have now been received, most of them online. I would like to thank the following for contributing to the national collection. It has been a pleasure to be in contact with you all during the campaign.

Dan Griffiths, Huw Bebb, Rhodri Davies, Dylan Lewis, Scotch Funeral, Sioned Edwards Eisteddfod, Catrin Morris Clwb Ifor Bach, Rhys Williams Caerdydd, Meirion Wyn Jones, Elizabeth Nerys Bowen, Almon, Efa Lois, Dylan a Neil, Mei Mac, Rhys Mwyn, Emma Daman Tomos, Hayley Jenney, Peter Roberts, Richard Chitty, Rwth Williams, Heledd Parri, Prys Dafydd, Non Jones, Laura Nunez, Blue Amber, Nyree Waters, and Rhiannon Roberts.

Rhys Mwyn, Radio Cymru

Radio Cymru’s Recordiau Rhys Mwyn programme has been a great advertisement and boost to the campaign. Listen again to this 9 minute clip where I describe 4 noteworthy posters including Tŷ Gwydr, 3 Hẃr Doeth, Bedlam Lampeter Eisteddfod and Manics at Clwb Ifor.


Padarn Roc poster by Meirion Wyn Jones

Graphic Designers

A number of posters came directly from the graphic designers, with highlights including 24 posters and 7 SAIN record covers from the 1970’s and 1980’s by Meirion Wyn Jones; and 27 posters by graphic designer Richard Chitty featuring Bubblewrap Collective Cardiff Christmas gigs 2013-2019 posters, and Sŵn Festival 2011-2019 posters. Some of the TAFWYL posters were received from artist Efa Lois; ‘Miri Madog’ posters by Bedwyr from Almonia, and ‘Allan yn y Fan’ band posters by Hayley Jenney. A gallery of Meirion Wyn Jones’ posters will be displayed on the NLW channel on AM Cymru.

Rhys Williams’ Fanzine Collection

This collection of fanzines was received from Rhys Caerdydd / Rhys Williams who was responsible for the website Fanzine Ynfytyn. The Library has archived the website and we have received the original paper copies of the fanzines for the national collection . The collection contains the following fanzines: Amser Siocled, Yn Syth o’r Rhewgell , Llmych / Chymll / Ychmll / Hymllc, Dyfodol Dyddiol, Ish, Groucho neu Marks, Llanast, Rhech, Gwyn Erfyl yn y Glaw, Cen ar y Pen and ANKST 03.



Cofio Gigs ? (Remember gigs?)

Join us in this event to mark Welsh Language Music Day 2021 as Nia Mai Daniel (The Welsh Music Archive) looks back on the appeal and chats about organising gigs, designing gig posters and collecting fanzines with Rhys Mwyn (Radio Cymru), the artist Efa Lois and fanzine collector Rhys Williams.

Nia Mai Daniel
Programme Manager The Welsh Music Archive
nia.daniel@llyfrgell.cymru | Twitter @cerddllgc | @MusicNLW

Remembering the Abermule rail disaster

Collections - Posted 26-01-2021

A century ago, on Wednesday 26 January 1921, one of the worst railway accidents in Welsh history occurred. Thirty-six people were injured and 17 were killed in the head-on collision on the Cambrian Railways’ main line between Newtown and Abermule in Montgomeryshire. The accident was reported across the world and a number of changes to safety systems and working practices came about as a result. The disaster has been a case study in a number of books on railway safety, including Red for Danger by L. T. C. Rolt, which traces improvements in railway safety from the start of the 19th century to the 1960s.

The railway line across mid-Wales was a single track, used by trains travelling in both directions. A complex signalling system ensured that goods and passengers moved efficiently and that trains passed each other safely at stations with additional tracks. Train drivers were required to carry special metal tablets which gave them authority to travel on each section of the single track. At each station where trains could pass each other, there were machines which issued the metal tablets and ensured that only one tablet for each section of the line could be taken out at any one time. This made sure that there could only be one train on any section of single track at any one time.



The primary cause of the Abermule disaster was that the staff at Abermule station didn’t follow the rules about handling the tablet. As a result, the drivers of two trains thought they had authority to the travel along the same stretch of line. The express train from Aberystwyth left Newtown for Abermule carrying the correct tablet while the local train, which was headed towards Aberystwyth, entered the same single line section carrying the tablet for the line between Montgomery and Abermule. Neither the driver or the fireman of the local train checked that the tablet they had was the correct one – with disastrous results.

There are many documents in the Library related to the accident. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, they’re not available to access at present but there are many digital resources which tell the story of the accident, the investigation, and those involved that can be used from home.

The disaster was widely reported in the media. While our Welsh Newspapers Online only includes newspapers up to 1919, there are many articles available through the Library’s subscription to external online resources. The Times and the Mirror carried detailed reports, with the Mirror paying special attention to the death of Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest, a director of the Cambrian Railways Company and friend of the King, and pictures of the accident site. The Times sent a reporter to Montgomeryshire to interview the surviving railway staff and raised questions as to how the accident could have happened with the tablet system in operation. Many reports of funerals and the accident investigation followed over the next few months.



The Library’s print collection contains volumes of material on the accident, including articles and books such as Red for Danger by L. T. C. Rolt, and The Deadly Tablet by David Burkhill-Howarth. It’s interesting to note that the official history of the Cambrian Railways Co, The Story of the Cambrian by C. P. Gasquoine, only dedicates a paragraph to the disaster. A digital copy of the book is available from the Gutenburg Project.

The official report into the accident, written by the railways inspector Col. Pringle, is kept with the Parliamentary papers in the Library. The 28 pages are full of details and show the depth of the investigation. A digital copy is available from the Railways Archive, and of course Hansard notes the various questions raised in the House of Commons.

Among the non-digitised material in the Library is NLW Photo Album Railways 2, which includes photographs of the accident, while the Screen and Sound Archive holds television programmes such as Y Dydd (1967) and Your Century (2003). There is even a recording of a song The Ballad of Abermule Railway Disaster by Evan Andrew.

The Library has a connection with the Abermule disaster through Lord Davies of Llandinam. He was involved in establishing the Library, donated land for the building and served as its president from 1927, and was chairman of the Cambrian Railways Company at the time of the accident. His papers, which are held at the Library, contain his correspondence from the period and papers related to his various railway interests across Wales.

A century ago, newspapers were the primary means of finding our about the Abermule disaster. Modern communication technologies such as the web and digitisation mean we can browse those same reports from our homes today.


Rob Phillips
Welsh Political Archive

Ancient Princes and Modern Poets: The Music Manuscripts of David Harries

Collections - Posted 11-01-2021

David Harries, one of the foremost Welsh composers of the 20th century, produced a varied and unique catalogue of works throughout his long career. Harries’ inspirations came mainly from his Welsh roots, and this is reflected in his compositions, which include aspects of Welsh poetry and folk melodies as well as referencing wider influences such as Greek mythology.

Harries was born in 1933, brought up in Pembrokeshire and studied music at the University College Wales, Aberystwyth, from which he graduated in 1954. He would later go on to teach at the Welsh College of Music of Drama where he became its Head of Composition in 1985, and he continued to write compositions into the 1990s. As early as the 1950s his chamber and instrumental work showcased a variety of musical influences, including his Opus 1, ‘Introduction (Quasi Notturno) and Allegro Scherzoso for String Quintet’ (1952) which incorporated the traditional Welsh folk melodies Hun Gwenllian and Hela’r ‘Sgyfarnog. His interest in history and mythology is also apparent in these earlier compositions, with his Opus 3, ‘Incidental Music to Antigone’ (1953) being based on the 1944 play Antigone by Jean Anouilh, an adaptation of the work of Sophocles.

As well as instrumental scores, Harries also wrote a number of works for voice and piano, many of which were composed as interpretations of poems. In particular, 20th-century Anglo-Welsh poets feature in his work. His Opus 10, ‘Canticle for Voice and Piano: Words by Twentieth Century Anglo-Welsh Poets’ (1956-1961) includes melodies based on words from, among others, Dylan Thomas’ ‘Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed’ and R. S. Thomas’ ‘When I was a Child’. This poetic interest appears to have endured throughout Harries’ career, but he did not only use the words of Welsh poets. The works of the late 19th/early 20th-century Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore were used in his Opus 65, ‘Gitanjali Song Offerings: Six Poems of Rabindranath Tagore for Soprano & Chamber Orchestra’ (1993).

But possibly the most engaging of Harries’ works are those that bring medieval elements to life. The collection contains many pieces composed for a full orchestra, but the most prominent of them is his epic orchestral score Opus 48, ‘Princes of Gwynedd: Symphonic Impressions’, commissioned for the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Caernarfon in 1979. A note included with the collection explains that the work is arranged in four movements to convey a musical impression of four medieval princes of Gwynedd: Maelgwn Gwynedd (d. 547); Cadwaladr Fendigaid (d. 664); Owain Gwynedd (d. 1170); and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d. 1282). As inspiration, Harries used quotations from near-contemporary medieval writers and poets to construct each piece, including works by Gildas, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gwalchmai ap Meilyr, and Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch. This imaginative use of medieval texts brings these ancient princes to life in a unique and creative way.



Creativity runs throughout the pages of Harries’ compositions, not least due to his writing style. His drafts of scores are dotted with scribbles, notes, and doodles which often illustrate a musical point – one of the manuscripts for Opus 48 (David Harries Music Manuscripts, 5/3), for example, is decorated with a sketch of a howling wolf, signaling the end of the piece.

The music manuscripts of David Harries show creativity and breadth of composition across five decades. Perhaps above all, the collection shows how influences and inspirations from Welsh literature can be used to create musical pieces of art.

The full catalogue can be viewed in the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalogue.


Lucie Hobson
Trainee Archivist

The Michael Marks Poetry in a Celtic Language Award

Collections - Posted 18-12-2020

Congratulations to Rhys Iorwerth on winning the Michael Marks Poetry in a Celtic Language Award. He was awarded the prize on Monday the 14 December, during a virtual event from the British Library in London – and several other places – for his pamphlet carthen denau.

Though the Michael Marks Poetry Awards are well known in the English-publishing world this is only the second time that the Celtic language prize has been awarded. The Awards are sponsored by the  Michael Marks Charitable Trust and the chair of the trust, Marina, Lady Marks is the one who’s idea it was to have an award for poetry in a Celtic language. The National Library of Wales are glad to be part of the organisation of this award.



The Welsh judge Dafydd Pritchard said of two of the volumes: ‘Dy Galon Ofalus/Your Careful Heart, by Elinor Wyn Reynolds, and carthen denau, by Rhys Iorwerth, were pamphlets of high quality both in terms of content and look. It is hoped that they will inspire more poets and publishers to publish more often in this exciting format. Rhys Iorwerth is a very worthy winner.

It’s great to see Y Stamp press  coming to to the top once again this year. Are there any other pioneering poets or publishers who would like to venture into the world of poetry pamphlet publishing in the new year? Details of the 2020-21 competition will be available on the Wordsworth Trust website soon.

New Year Traditions in Wales

Discover Sound - Posted 16-12-2020

While digitising sound recordings the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage team 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. By saving these recordings we allow future generations to hear our past and learn about our history.

Wales is a country with a variety of customs and traditions which are an important part of our culture and history. One of these is the New Year’s tradition.

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 made from wood, with two others behind holding the offerings collected.

Listen to Myra Evans describing the Mari Lwyd in New Quay:


A transcription of this audio file can be found at the end of the blog.


Myra Evans recalls seeing the Mari Lwyd in New Quay in January 1887, this is one of the last sighting of the Mari Lwyd in the area.
Myra stated that the Mari Lwyd party met outside the town to start the procession into New Quay. Leading were the three men with the mare, followed by men, followed by boys over 12 years old. Each wearing a face mask so no one would recognise them.

Myra remembers that her father was away at sea in 1887, leaving just her and her mother in the house. She was told that if she wanted to see the procession that passed their home she had to be quiet and make sure no one saw her. Her mother then locked the doors to stop the men from entering the house.

The party entered every pub, large shops and rich families to ask for money for the poor. If they refused or did not give much, the party would force their way into the building and take anything they liked.

Myra saw the party pass her house from behind the curtains making sure to be quiet, and unseen. If they saw her the mother said that they would try and break into the house.


Calennig is another Welsh tradition, where children go from door to door on New Year’s Day, until noon, singing good wishes for the year ahead and given calennig in return. These would be either food or money.

One song sung in mid Wales was:

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi
Ac i bawb sydd yn y tŷ
Dyma fy nymuniad i
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi



A happy new year to you
And to everyone in the house
This is my wish
A happy new year to you


Margaret Davies parents did not allow her to go out to collect Calennig, but recalls children calling at her house and receiving a penny or a piece of bread.

While D.J. Morgan from Abermeurig, Talsarn remembers going out for the first time with his mother and four sisters. They woke at 5am to go around Abermeurig then around the neighboring farms. He remembers that the best farm he visited was Mrs. Griffiths, where they received a piece of cake for singing, and was allowed to take another piece home with them.



Jack Poole recalls getting up at dawn and going straight to the furthest house in the village working his way back, no matter what the weather was like. Everyone enjoyed and sung verses at every door.

Jack remembers seeing a widower and her five children going around asking for Calennig with bags on their backs. They collected food such as bread or cheese. Every child carried a load on their back.

Listen to Jack reciting the verse he used to recite:


A transcription of this audio file can be found at the end of the blog.


The audio recordings are part of the Ceredigion Library Oral history collection, and can be listened to here at the Library through appointment.



Transcription: Myra Evans
Well, a tall man was chosen to carry the horse’s head on his shoulders to lead the parade and two other men, one on each side, helped him walk in the middle of the road. One of them was taking care of the large leather purse he had to keep the money they had, another was a good rhymester seeking gifts of money and wine and cakes from the shopkeeper or the rich. The horse head had white linen over it, the eyes and ears decorated in leather and loose colorful ribbons hanging over the neck

Transcription: Mr. Jack Poole
We had sing or make some noise at every door, for example
Today is New Year’s Day, I come across you
To ask for the penny or a piece of bread and cheese
Oh don’t change countenance
Don’t change anything from your look
Before next New Year’s Day comes
Many will be in their grave
And then if you were in a hurry to go, you would say
Whole Calennig on New Years day morning, once, twice, three times
And then Happy New Year




About this blog

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.

About the blog