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Fake biographies, Welsh women writers and the Minerva Press

Collections - Posted 13-03-2023

Among the Welsh biographies recently digitised by the National Library is an 1817 biography of a Welsh orphan. The Life, Adventures and Vicissitudes, of Mary Charlton, the Welsh Orphan, Written by Herself and Dedicated to Her Own Sex, Whom She Hopes Will Honor Her Little Narrative, with a Candid Perusal (Rochester, 1817) is purportedly the biography of the early life of the bestselling late 18th/early 19th century author Mary Charlton. The biography covers Charlton’s childhood, the loss of both her parents, her attempted elopement with her first love, being tricked into an unhappy marriage, the return and loss of her first love, and finding redemption and happiness in a conventional bourgeois family life.

Part tragic romance, part tale of a young women’s triumph in the face of duplicity and adversity, and part morality tale warning against the dangers of elopement, the biography is most probably a work of fiction. Indeed, the consensus today is that Mary Charlton was almost certainly not its author. Now largely forgotten, Mary Charlton was a well-known author in her day, well-known enough for a publisher and anonymous author to publish a fake biography in order to profit from her name.

 


 

Mary Charlton, was a novelist, poet and translator who published 12 works with the Minerva Press between 1794 and 1813. Charlton also featured on the Minerva Press’ 1798 list of notable authors, a sign of the popularity of her novels with the general public. While the fake biography published in 1817 places her origins in the Abergavenny area, in reality very little is known about Charlton’s life, although her novel Rosella (1799) which includes an extended tour of Wales may indicate Welsh origins. However, it is just as likely that this Welsh setting can be attributed to the Celtic revival of the period.

 

The Minerva Press was a popular late 18th century/early 19th century publishing house, established in 1790 by William Lane. A by-word for cheap, popular fiction the Minerva Press specialised in the gothic novel, making great use of the circulating library in disseminating its works to the general public. The gothic novels published by Minerva Press also gave it a less than reputable reputation, most famously as the publisher of a number of the ‘horrid novels’ referenced in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

 

While Mary Charlton’s Welsh connections are unverifiable, two other Minerva Press authors had definite Welsh connections. The first was Anna Maria Bennett (1750?-1808), best known for her novel The Beggar Girl (1797), a work Samuel Coleridge was particularly appreciative of. Born around 1750 at Merthyr Tydfil, Bennett published five novels with Minerva Press, between 1785 and 1806, two of which, Anna: or Memoirs of a Welch Heiress (1785) and Ellen, Countess of Castle Howel (1794), had Welsh settings.

 

A second Minerva author with Welsh connections was Ann Hatton (1764-1838), better known as Ann of Swansea, author of Cambrian Pictures (1810). Born in Worcester to the Kimble acting family, Ann had to follow a different profession due to a disability. Ann lived an interesting and sometimes turbulent life, which involved a bigamous marriage, an attempted suicide in front of Westminster Abbey, and modelling and lecturing at Dr James Graham’s notorious Temple of Health and Hymen in Pall Mall. Experiencing periods of poverty, Ann was eventually provided a £90 a year stipend from her more famous siblings, the actors Sarah Siddons and John Phillip Kimble, on the condition that she live no nearer than 150 miles from London. This was partly due to her sister’s annoyance at Ann’s tendency to use her sister’s name in appeals for financial aid and to keep her sister’s name out of the London newspapers. Ann remarried and after a period in the United States, where she mixed in radical political circles, she returned to the UK, settling in Swansea in 1799. Her adoption of the moniker ‘Ann of Swansea’ for her written work attests to her identification with her new home.

 

In their day these three women writers were bestselling authors. Sitting outside the literary canon, the popular novels published by these women authors, and by Minerva Press in general, nevertheless provide us with a reflection of the popular tastes of their day. These were the works that the reading public lapped up in droves. The same can be said of the popular novels, penny dreadfuls, and other forms of cheap popular literature published throughout the nineteenth century.

 

Dr. Douglas Jones

Printed Collections Projects Manager

 

Further reading

Aaron, Jane – ‘The Rise and Fall of the ‘Noble Savage’ in Ann of Swansea’s Welsh Fictions’ in Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture 1780-1840, 22, 2017, pp.78-88.

Blakey, Dorothy – The Minerva Press 1790-1820, London, 1934.

‘Charlton, Mary’ in Janet Todd (Ed.) – A Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800, London, 1987, p. 83.

‘Charlton, Mary’ in Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy – The Feminist Companion to Literature in English, London, 1990, pp 197-198.

Henderson, Jim – ‘Ann of Swansea: A Life on the Edge’ in The National Library of Wales Journal, XXXIV (1), 2006.

The Life, Adventures and Vicissitudes, of Mary Charlton, the Welsh Orphan, Written by Herself and Dedicated to Her Own Sex, Whom She Hopes Will Honor Her Little Narrative, with a Candid Perusal, Rochester, 1817.

Rhydderch, Francesca – ‘Dual Nationality, Divided Identity: Ambivalent Narratives of Britishness in the Welsh Novels of Anna Maria Bennett’ in Welsh Writing in English, 3, 1997, pp. 1-17.

Named Entity Recognition for Placenames in Welsh Language Texts

Collections / Digitisation / News / Research - Posted 07-03-2023

Using Wikidata to structure Welsh placename data

The text we read when we view a web page, a blog or a journal article is full of rich and valuable information. Our brains are very good at processing and making sense of words in the context in which they are presented. We can tell when a word is a placename because we understand the sentence around it, and are expecting to see a place name. Also, we often already know the name of the place and could describe it in further detail from memory.

If computers could understand text as we do then they could be super useful in helping us find and understand information better. Technology such as Named Entity Recognition (NER), where machines are trained to recognise things like people, places and organizations by analyzing a whole text, is increasingly being used to turn plain text into a structured network of ‘things’, and this means machines can make a more complex analysis of text, much as we do.

As part of our ongoing Welsh Place Names project, which is funded by the Welsh Government, we were keen to explore how these new technologies and methodologies might be applied to Welsh language texts and to our own collections. With millions of pages of journals, newspapers and books already digitised, how might this technology help us improve our services for better research, discovery and interpretation?

Named Entity Recognition

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography was chosen for this experiment, as a (fairly) manageable corpus of about 5000 articles, packed with information about people and places. Most placenames have actually already been tagged as such in the mark-up for each page, which gives us a good benchmark for NER models to aim for, and a big corpus of place names for further analysis.

Identifying which words are placenames is the first step in this process. Those names then need to be reconciled against a database of names, which can give us access to a deeper, multilingual understanding of the place.

English language NER tools struggle to identify places in Welsh text for a number of reasons. Firstly they are not trained to understand grammatical mutations present in the Welsh language. For example, ‘Tregaron’ is the name of a town, in English and Welsh, however, if the text reads ‘yn Nhregaron’ it will not recognise the name due to the mutation (treiglo) of the first letter. Secondly, many placenames are different in Welsh (e.g. Cardiff is Caerdydd) and so models trained on English text simply won’t have the word in their vocabulary. Several English models were tested and many either didn’t recognise names, or assumed they were names of people.

We therefore experimented with ‘Cymrie’, part of the Welsh Government funded Welsh Natural Language Toolkit.

 

Extracting named entities from digital text using ‘Cymrie’

This was able to extract a number of Welsh placenames, including many with mutations. The text of 5 articles was analyzed in detail. On average the tool was able to extract approximately 67% of placenames. Of those place names identified, only 2% were not in fact places.

Some of the placenames it was unable to recognise were tagged as people or organizations, though this was at a lower rate than the English language model.

Reconciling the Data

Knowing what words are names of people or places is useful only to a point, because we still know nothing more than ‘it’s a place’. For the data to be really useful we need access to more information about each place, such as its name in other languages, its location on a map and the county, country or continent it is part of. We can then apply a unique identifier to each place and they become unique data entities.

To do this we need to take our long list of place names and attempt to reconcile them against a database which holds more information about them. In our case we are using Wikidata, which is home to one of the largest corpus of Welsh place names available. Wikidata is free for anyone to reuse and is structured as linked data.

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography contains around 80,000 instances of place names. Due to the practicalities of working with such a large dataset, I opted to work with the first 46,000 tagged places.

The tags in the Welsh Biography code often contained more than just the placename. They commonly included a Grid reference, the type of place (city, village etc) and the relation to that place being discussed in the article.

Obviously having all this information to hand makes the reconciliation process far more likely to succeed. As NER technology improves, it should be able to imply much of this information, by understanding the wider context in which the place name appears, but for now, we must accept that without this additional information, this process would have a far lower success rate.

Using Open Refine’s reconciliation tool we were able to compare our list of placenames to Wikidata. The software’s algorithm looks for similarities in spelling but also considers the likelihood of a match based on the popularity of its content. By transforming the grid references from our data into coordinates we were also able to instruct Open Refine to score matches based on their proximity. Places with matching names and proximity of less than a kilometre were mostly matched automatically. Our data on the type of place was also used to help the software make a judgement.

In order to give the reconciliation process the best chance of success some initial cleaning was done to remove mutations from the text. Much of this could be done using a series of transformations such as;

  • Nghaer – Caer
  • Nhre – Tre

Others require knowledge of the language and human input in order to avoid the corruption of other names. For example ‘Lan’ cannot be automatically changed to ‘Llan’ without corrupting other names such as ‘Lanishan’.

Other issues included the use of English language names in the Welsh text;

  • New England (Lloegr Newydd)
  • Bristol (Bryste)
  • Saint Brides (Sant y Brid)

There were also a number of placenames which had suggested matches, but had a high chance of also being the name of a property. For example;

  • Trawscoed (house, estate and community)
  • Cilgwyn (village in Powys, Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire AND a gentry house)
  • Ty-coch (area near Swansea and common house name)

short of reading each article in order to make a decision, there is currently no way to match such places with any certainty. However, such a manual process could be easily gamified as a crowd-sourcing task. Undertaking such tasks would also create training data for improving NER in the future.

 

Reconciling the data to Wikidata using OpenRefine

The result was an initial match of 25,000 names, to which a further 2000 were quickly added following a human review of high-scoring match suggestions. These matches include 2208 unique place names. Beyond this, an increasing amount of time would be required to match entries manually.

 

Matching placenames to unique identifiers allows us to examine the frequency of specific places in the text with greater accuracy

Utilizing the enriched data

Now that we have aligned our placenames to Wikidata entries for those places, we have access to a wealth of additional information. This extra information can be summarized in several categories;

  • Persistent ID – Being able to assign a unique Qid to each placename means we can treat each one as a unique entity, even if there are examples of multiple places with the same name.
  • External ID’s – Wikidata collects persistent Id’s from other institutions which hold information about the subject. This helps align and enrich data across multiple datasets.
  • Contextual information – This includes links to Wikipedia articles, openly licenced images and references to other authoritative works.
  • Structured Data – Wikidata contains a linked, structured ontology about its items, So places are linked to their administrative hierarchy and every other item in the dataset with a statement about that place.

 

This allows us to better understand the connections between people and place. In the example below a computer is able to understand that two people are connected to several common places through reference to these places in their Welsh Biography articles. The colour and thickness of the connecting strands also indicate the frequency of these references within each article.

 

 

When this approach is scaled up to the whole corpus we can see a hugely complex web of interconnections between people and places.

 

 

And since we now have access to coordinates for all our places, we can visualize these connections on a map. Below we see visualisations for an individual and for the whole collection using people’s birthplace as a starting point, connected to all other places mentioned in their articles.

 

 

Using the contextual information in place name tags we can make more granular queries, such as links between the place of birth and places of education mentioned in their articles. This highlights clear correlations to major centres of learning and further demonstrates the research potential of the data.

 

Conclusions

In conclusion, existing technology can accurately identify around 60-70% of Welsh place names in digital text. Training more advanced A.I. algorithms using larger place name vocabularies and a bigger corpus of training data may help to increase this percentage even further. Undertaking this process at scale would allow for further research and reconciliation work to take place and would also help to improve search and discovery functionality, but it does not identify unique places, only the instance of a place name.

In order to create notable benefits, the data must be reconciled against a database with data about specific places. With many duplications in place names in Wales and around the world this step is vital in creating connections to the correct places. It would seem that we don’t yet have the technology to automate this, in any language, with a high level of certainty. Several examples of pipelines being developed in order to identify entities in text and reconcile directly against Wikidata or other large datasets do exist, including a project by a colleague here at the National Library (link). However, they have faced the same kind of challenges.

Where additional supporting data already exists, like our Dictionary of Welsh Biography example it is possible to automate this to some degree but there is still a significant margin for error without human input.

Whilst accurate and complete identification of entities from a text is not yet possible, these processes offer value, as a stand alone activity or as part of a multidisciplinary approach, as a way of improving understanding of a text and improving search and discovery services for users.

Importantly, the ability to undertake this work on Welsh language texts is only possible with the continued development, adaptation and improvement of new technologies, and the availability of Open Access data sources such as Wikidata and Open Street Map as well as large corpora of Welsh language text for training machine learning algorithms.

 

Jason Evans, Open Data Manager

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Aurora Borealis, 1774

Uncategorized - Posted 01-03-2023

Though the Northern Lights are not often seen in Wales, especially at their most spectacular, they have been seen by many over the centuries. This is William Williams Pantycelyn’s description of them in his booklet Aurora Borealis, 1774. Williams’ mobile phone was rather primitive. It lacked Photoshop to stimulate his imagination – he obviously didn’t need it.

 

 

Robert Lacey

Head of Published Content Development

Dreaming up the Past: Imagining LGTBQ+ History

Collections - Posted 28-02-2023

As part of the celebrations for February‘s LGBTQ+ History month, the Library was proud to sponsor @AberrationAber’s Dreaming up the Past: imagining LGBTQ+ history event. This event on 18 February included performances by harpist, musician Cerys Hafana, a screening of ‘Ysbrydion’ (Spirits) by Amy Daniel, a talk from artist Sarah-Joy Ford about her textile installation ‘Beloved: Crafting Intimacies with the Ladies of Llangollen’, and Queer Tales from Wales’ latest production, ‘The Lost Knitters of Tregaron. In the afternoon, the event also included a Proud Writing Workshop, led by the historian and writer, Norena Shopland. Drawing on newspaper extracts relating to LGBTQ+ people that she discovered in Wales Newspapers Online, Norena encouraged us to create new works inspired by our responses to the extracts. My usual style of writing is directed towards the creation of business cases and strategic plans, so I found composing a creative story inspired by the Ladies of Llangollen extract to be a challenging, but very rewarding, experience. Other members of the workshop selected other extracts and perspectives, which proved how Library collections are a rich source of creativity. Some of the LGTBQ+ collections have been listed by Mair Jones in a previous blog post and there are many others which are available through searching the catalogues, so there are many sources for creativity within our rich and varied collections.

Another event to celebrate the contribution of LGTBQ+ people will be held at the Library on 7 March by the aforementioned Queer Tales, whose creative and informative shows have brought to life the hidden histories of LGBTQ+ people. The performance is inspired by the life of Amy Dillwyn, the cigar-smoking, industrialist, novelist and suffragist, Amy was a niece of Mary Dillwyn, the early Welsh female photographer whose Llysdinam photograph album is available at the Library. Tickets for the show are available on Ticketsource.

Sally McInnes (she/her) Chair, NLW Gender and LGBTQ+ Forum

Famous Welsh people

Collections - Posted 20-02-2023

I’ve always liked to research and learn new and interesting facts, so it was a great pleasure to be seconded to my current post, which is Project Officer for the Children’s Dictionary of Welsh Biography. In September last year The National Library of Wales received funding from the Welsh Government to deliver a project that would produce Welsh biographies for a younger audience, and here is a little background to the venture.

 

 

The main aim of the project is to adapt some of the content of The Dictionary of Welsh Biography, in order to create articles that are easier for children to understand and use. This work includes shortening and simplifying biographies for 100 prominent Welsh people, in Welsh and English, and the conditions of the grant require that at least half of them be women, and at least 10% of them from under-represented minorities, in order to ensure equality and diversity.

 

 

During the last three months I’ve been busy selecting leading Welsh historical figures who I think will be relevant to the education and interests of young users, and creating a summary of the highlights in the careers and lives of these individuals. Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly who will be in demand, but the list includes a variety of occupations, backgrounds, gender, periods and regions. The work can be very challenging, since the vast majority of the 5,000 or so articles in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography relate to white men. I had to search diligently to find those women and individuals from underrepresented minorities who have contributed significantly to various fields in Wales. Nevertheless, with the assistance of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography staff, we are on track to achieve the project’s objectives.

 

 

Although adapting and simplifying the content of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography is my main responsibility, there is a second part to the project. It was agreed in the initial application submitted to the Welsh Government that we would invite schools from all parts of Wales to become partners in the project by producing short films on notable Welsh individuals from their areas. Ten schools were chosen to represent different regions along the length and breadth of Wales, and we liaised with them, providing the necessary equipment and technical support required to finalise the work.

It is expected that the films will be completed by the summer holidays, ready for translation and subtitling. The articles and films will be placed on a website which is being produced especially for the project, and we hope that this will go live in October of this year: famouspeople.wales.

 

Betsan Sion

Children’s Biography Project Officer

David Jones’s ‘In Parenthesis’

Collections - Posted 14-02-2023

The National Library of Wales is home to the personal and literary papers, artistic works and personal library of the artist, engraver and poet David Jones (1895-1974), acquired in 1978 and 1985, together with more recent acquisitions such as his letters to Morag Owen and Valerie Wynne-Williams.

In May 2022 however the Library, with generous assistance from the Friends of the National Libraries, purchased at auction two items relating to Jones’s famous war poem In Parenthesis, namely a proof copy of the completed work and a draft radio script.

Jones was a veteran of the Western Front, having seen action with the 38th (Welsh) Division on the Somme and at Ypres. He was wounded in the leg during the attack on Mametz Wood on 10-11 July 1916 and his active service was ended by a bout of trench fever in February 1918.

Following the War he made his name as an artist and engraver. In about 1928, however, he began work on In Parenthesis, which became an epic poem recounting his wartime experiences, culminating in the Mametz Wood offensive. It is also dense with allusions to Welsh and English history and literature and Scripture. Its composition took him a decade and numerous drafts and was interrupted by a severe mental breakdown.

 

 

NLW MS 24193B

 

The first of our new acquisitions, an uncorrected proof copy of the book, dates from early 1937, when the poem was being prepared for the press. The other existing copies of the proofs are heavily emended and corrected; the new volume is ‘clean’, complete and bound and is inscribed on the front cover with the date ‘June 10, 1937’, the day of the book’s publication party.

On publication In Parenthesis was an immediate success and won the 1938 Hawthornden Prize. It was adapted for radio by Douglas Cleverdon but transmission was postponed twice, in 1939 and 1942, on account of the War. The third attempt went ahead on the Third Programme on 19 November 1946, with Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton among the cast. This had a pre-recorded introduction from David Jones and the second item acquired by the Library is a three page manuscript draft – probably the final draft – of this introduction. It contains numerous deletions and corrections but in essence it is very close to the script Jones recorded.

 

 

NLW MS 24194E

 

Both items have now been fully catalogued and, like the rest of his archive, are available to be read in the Library’s reading room. The proof copy and the radio introduction are now NLW MS 24193B and NLW MS 24194E respectively.

 

Rhys Jones

Assistant Curator of Manuscripts

 

This blog is also available in Welsh.

A 100 years on and still entertaining and informing

Collections - Posted 13-02-2023

There are many things which we take for granted in modern life – watching television programmes and listening to radio programmes and podcasts being some of them. The internet has made it easier to access many broadcast platforms, with social media driving comments and news. Few people in 1923 would have predicted that a local radio station broadcasting around Cardiff would grow to become a national institution at the centre of Welsh life. In 2023, the BBC in Wales celebrates its centenary, and what better way to mark this important historical milestone than to establish the Wales Broadcast Archive at the National Library of Wales.

Radio rules – the BBC begins broadcasting in Wales on 13 February 1923

Some may not know that the BBC began as a commercial company backed by Guglielmo Marconi, the famous pioneer of wireless broadcasting. It wasn’t until 1927 that the British Broadcasting Corporation was set up as a public service broadcaster with a Royal Charter to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. In the 1920s the technology was primitive and few people could afford their own wireless set which cost £7 (the equivalent of £334 today) and the 10 shillings radio licence fee (£23 today). However, radio became very popular with 2.5m licences issued by 1928 as coverage spread across the UK. The early radio pioneers had to experiment to find out what worked and the choice of programmes was very limited. However, at 5pm on 13 February 1923, only four months after the launch of the London station, 2LO, the British Broadcasting Company began broadcasting from Studio 5WA in 19 Castle Street, Cardiff.

At 9.30pm, Mostyn Thomas sang the folk song ‘Dafydd y Garreg Wen’. Fifty years later, he recalled that “I hardly had any time to practice, which made me extremely nervous, as in those days microphones weren’t simple things to use… but we simply had to be ready, the start time had been advertised in all the newspapers”. The programmes were only available within a 20-mile radius of the studio in Cardiff, and then Swansea in December 1924.

In the 1930s the BBC increased the number of transmitters and as a result, in 1937 it launched an all Wales radio service. The previous South Wales and the West service received many complaints from listeners in both Wales and England and people in Mid and North Wales couldn’t listen at all. The historian John Davies suggested that the first all Wales BBC radio service was an important moment in Wales being seen as a distinct nation.

The opening of the Bangor studio managed by the legendary Sam Jones in 1935 led to new Welsh language programmes during the Second World War when radio was used to keep up morale. Home grown talent such as Triawd y Coleg with Meredydd Evans (who later became the Head of BBC Light Entertainment in Wales) became national stars in Noson Lawen. The BBC Light Entertainment Unit moved from London to Bangor between 1941 to 1943 to avoid the Blitz, broadcasting popular shows including ITMA starring Tommy Handley, a radio super star of the time. In the 1950s, children’s programmes were broadcast between 5pm and 6pm with ‘SOS Galw Gari Tryfan’ by the Rev Idwal Jones proving to be hugely popular as a Welsh language equivalent of ‘Dick Barton – special agent’.

In 1945 for the first time, people in Wales could buy a Welsh version of the popular Radio Times which listed BBC programmes.

Radio has a competitor

Although mechanical television sets first appeared in 1929 with experiments by John Logie Baird, the BBC didn’t launch a television service until 1936 – with breaks between programmes to rest the eyes of viewers! This service closed down during the war years but in 1946, television was back – although not everywhere. It took time to build new transmitters and to grow an audience who were more used to listening to the radio. Television needed to attract new audiences and live outside broadcasts such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 encouraged people to buy television sets. It wasn’t until the Wenvoe transmitter opened on 15 August 1952 that people in South Wales could watch television for the first time, paying a licence fee of £2 (around £46 today).

Television in Wales in the 1950s struggled with a lack of coverage and mainly relied on programmes produced in London, as the BBC now competed with commercial television. The first commercial channel in Wales, Television Wales and the West (TWW), began broadcasting in 1958 in South East Wales. Appearing on the opening night were well-known Welsh stars Donald Houston, Stanley Baker and Harry Secombe. The BBC in Wales now needed to produce television content attractive to a Welsh audience.

‘Good Evening, here is the news in Wales today’

But it was in 1964 that television really took off with the beginning of BBC Cymru Wales as a separate service – although only 12 hours of additional programmes were produced with 7 hours in Welsh and 5 hours in English.

The 1960s was a time of social and political change in Wales. The BBC had a responsibility to broadcast the latest news but providing television news programmes in Wales hadn’t been done before. ‘Heddiw’ began in 1961 as a news magazine programme reporting national and international news in Welsh for the first time on television. Several famous broadcasters including Owen Edwards, Robin Jones and Hywel Gwynfryn presented the news. In 1962 ‘Wales Today’ started, sharing the slot with Points West for South West England as there was only one transmitter. That’s why the new BBC Cymru Wales service was so important. When presenter Brian Hoey spoke to viewers in October 1964, it was to Welsh viewers.

Bringing news stories to the screen was very difficult in the 1960s – everything was live, there were no autocues or computers, and the camera films were negative until they were broadcast live on the screen. No wonder the Radio Times warned viewers that ‘it may occasionally be untidy’! Yet over the years, presenters such as Brian Hoey who provided harrowing reports from the Aberfan disaster in 1966, David Parry-Jones, Sara Edwards and Jamie Owen became household names. People all over Wales now tuned in every night for the news and often stayed to be entertained by home grown programmes. Television was here to stay.

Dr Ywain Tomos
Interpretation Officer for the Wales Broadcast Archive

The Caracas Controversy

Collections - Posted 06-02-2023

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. 

 

Rob Phillips

The Welsh Political Archive

 

This blog is also available in Welsh.

 

Archives – New Catalogues

Collections - Posted 24-01-2023

 

A selection of the Library’s archival collections

 

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.

 

Aber Research Papers

Records of Aber Research, an organisation that conducted opinion polls and gathered statistical information on behalf of Plaid Cymru during the 1990s.

Archif Urdd Gobaith Cymru

A further addition to the extensive archive of the Welsh youth organisation.

Caryl and Herbert Roese Papers

Academic and research papers of the musician Caryl Roese and her husband, Herbert Roese.

David Harries Music MSS

An addition to the archive of the composer David Harries, including works by him and William Mathias.

Deian R. Hopkin Papers

An addition to the papers accumulated by the historian Sir Deian Hopkin, including a Llanelli Labour Party minute book for the meeting in which Jim Griffiths was selected as a candidate.

Emrys Bennett Owen Papers

Additional papers of the agriculturalist Emrys Bennett Owen (1911-1988), including material relating to his interests in music, farming and community matters.

 

 

Greg Hill Papers

Greg Hill Papers

Papers of the writer, poet and literary editor Greg Hill.

Hywel Ceri Jones Papers

Educational papers of Hywel Ceri Jones, an official with the European Commission.

Ivor T Rees Political Papers

Election literature from Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, 1928-1997, collected by the Reverend Ivor T. Rees.

 

 

Jenny Porter Papers

Jenny Porter Papers

Papers of Jenny Porter, co-ordinator of Cymru Pride Wales.

John Meirion Morris Papers

Papers of the sculptor, draughtsman and teacher John Meirion Morris (1936-2020).

Layers in the Landscape Archive

Papers created in relation to Layers in the Landscape, an interdisciplinary project that applied the concept of deep mapping to the submerged landscape of Cardigan Bay.

Lee Waters Papers

An addition to the papers of the politician and broadcaster Lee Waters.

Llangyndeyrn’s Fight for Victory Archive

A collection of material relating to the struggle of communities in the Gwendraeth Valley against the efforts of Swansea Corporation to create a reservoir there in the 1960s.

Lord MacDonald of Gwaenysgor Papers

Political and personal papers of Lord MacDonald of Gwaenysgor (1988-1966), including material relating to issues such as the unification of Newfoundland and Canada.

Mary Silyn Roberts Papers (Women’s Archive of Wales)

Personal and professional papers of the educational campaigner Mary Silyn Roberts (1877-1972), together with those of her husband, Robert (Silyn) Roberts.

 

 

NLW Deed 1962

NLW Deed 1962

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

Papurau Alun Eirug Davies

Literary and academic papers of the writer Alun Eirug Davies (1932-2019), together with personal and literary papers of his father, the Reverend T. Eirug Davies.

Papurau Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion

Records of the Aberystwyth publishing group which specialises in Welsh-language books.

Papurau D. Tecwyn Lloyd

A small addition to the literary archive of the writer Tecwyn Lloyd.

Papurau Elinor Bennett

Professional papers of the harpist Elinor Bennett.

Reverend D. S. Owen Papers

Papers of the Reverend David Samuel Owen (1887-1959), minister of Jewin Chapel, London.

Siân Phillips Papers

Personal and professional papers of the renowned actress Siân Phillips.

Sir Guildhaume Myrddin-Evans Papers

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.

Welsh Political Ephemera Collection

Further additions to the ephemera collection.

Welsh Women’s Aid Archive (Women’s Archive of Wales)

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.

 

David Moore (Archivist)

This blog is also available in Welsh.

 

 

A brief history of Dragon Data

Collections - Posted 23-01-2023

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.

Further reading/watching:

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.

Dragon user: the independent Dragon magazine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Data

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_32/64

https://www.nostalgianerd.com/the-dragon-32/

Nostaglia Nerd’s History of the Dragon 32/64: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifDQ,_OlUhTc

 

Ian Evans,

Shared Cataloguing Programme Manager.

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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.

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