Tag Archives: Wales

The Welsh Political Archive Annual Lecture 2021

Events - Posted 10-11-2021

This year’s Welsh Political Archive annual lecture was held on Tuesday 2nd November. Last year’s lecture had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 restrictions and replaced it with an online discussion panel, so Professor Paul O’Leary’s lecture was long awaited.

2020 was the first time in its history the lecture had to be postponed, and this year was the first time it was held outside Aberystwyth. The Senedd in Cardiff Bay was the venue for the 2021 lecture, entitled Lloyd George, Empire & the Making of Modern Ireland.

As Paul O’Leary noted Lloyd George had been active during his early career in campaigns for Welsh home rule and as chancellor had given financial support to the National Library. It was therefore fitting that the National Library should hold a lecture on Lloyd George at the Welsh Parliament.

Ireland had played a role in Lloyd George’s career since his election to the UK Parliament in 1890; he was passionate about home rule and was inspired by the Irish land agitators but the British Empire was central to his worldview. Paul O’Leary argued that while he sympathized with unionists in the north he believed that the United Kingdom was a nation of different nations but he did not see the countries of Britain, Wales, England Scotland and Ireland in the same way as the dominions such as Canada and Australia. Giving Ireland similar status was a step too far.

The Irish Consul General in Wales was watching the lecture remotely and the Llywydd of the Welsh Parliament, Elin Jones was in the audience.

The lecture was followed by interesting questions and a very useful discussion and a vote of thanks was offered by Dr Sam Blaxland, a member of the Welsh Political Archive Advisory Committee.

It is intended to publish on the pages of the Welsh Political Archive (along with previous lectures) on the Library’s website in the near future.

Rob Phillips
The Welsh Political Archive


The Town of Tredegar

Discover Sound - Posted

I was given three sound files relating to the town of Tredegar, all recorded in 1992, but so different in content that I asked if I could write three blogs to do each file justice.

The three files include the first CD released by the Tredegar Town Band, which had just won third place in the 1991 European Championships; a jingle written for the very last Garden Festival Wales; and a narration based on life-time resident William Cliff Smith’s memories of the Tredegar between 1912 and 1926. I am going to start with Mr Smith.

Tredegar is a town which maintains a hugely popular community following – not only does it have its championship brass band, but it is home to the Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice choir (started in the 1880s), at least three websites and several open forums which were very helpful for fact and name checking. Most of these are available through the umbrella site www.tredegar.co.uk which was set up in 1991.

My sound file is a clean copy (with added organ music) of a cassette tape recording available on YouTube. It begins with the narrator (presumed to be Barry Davies thanks to some investigative digging on one of the forum sites) saying:

“It could be truthfully said of Cliff Smith that he sincerely loved Tredegar, and this underlying dedication to Tredegar is evident in his two books: “Tredegar, My Town” and “Tredegar’s Yesterdays’.”



W C Smith “Tredegar’s Yesterdays” book cover – found on Amazon


Thus begins an interesting recollection of life after the turn of the century, up to and including the Great Miners’ Strike of 1926, covering all aspects from housing and living conditions, the daily routine of ‘the housewife’ (beginning at 5am) to the realities of washing day in a mining town. Men took care of their own clothes on Saturdays while the children were at one of the four cinemas in Tredegar, and the wives chatted with their neighbours, knowing their official washing day was on a Monday.

The descriptions and naming of the various hawkers – from food to underclothing to coal and oil – are interesting and detailed. There’s a real sense of neighbourhood during this timeframe. Each of Tredegar’s neighbourhoods had established door-to-door salespeople, including packmen who unrolled their wares on the stoop and women who came on their cobs from as far away as Crickhowell to sell chickens and vegetables. Commercial Street lives up to its name as the hub for shops, some of which were the pick-up locations for the vendors who then dispersed to their associated neighbourhood.

I particularly enjoyed the story about the fish mongers who came from Merthyr in a fleet of flat-top, horse drawn carts on Tuesdays and Fridays. Since there was a bylaw in Merthyr about unsold fish, there arose a tradition of these fish carts lining up, at the end of the route, outside a tea shop called The Rice Pudding owned by spinsters, the Misses Price. Their café served pudding for a penny and tea for a half penny and while the fish men enjoyed their break, elderly townsfolk would gather around the carts to see what was left. They were able to buy a fish for a penny, while the remainder was distributed for free to the poor.

Another section of the sound file was allocated to nicknames of the various hawkers, including Jack Lookup (who sold everything imaginable from his high cart and who serviced the whole town), Billy Dumpling (baker), Trevor the Milk (whose descendent was awarded an MBE to go with the appellation in 2008), Mott the Oil and others.

Townsfolk also earned memorable nicknames. There was Dai Backrent who collected for the Tredegar Iron & Coal Co., Billy Born-Drunk, Jackie Banjo and Jim Drummer, Billy Kidgloves (temperament or affectation?) and Dai Bluemark, so called because of a scar on his face which, because of coal dust impregnation, turned blue on healing. George Pierce became so well-known for his tall stories, that anyone caught telling a white lie was called a ‘george pudding’. The three Jones brothers of Whitworth were called Jimmy Hallelujah, Tommy Saviour and Billy Cow-and-Calf. The first two were converted at a Tent Appeal in 1912; presumably Billy missed out on that but due to his small holding was awarded a nickname too.

Cliff recalls the ice cream vendors on pedal carts, a similar cart was also used by Mrs Morris, the lady who ran a fish & chip cart with a tubular chimney – smoke billowing out “like a first world war naval dreadnaught.” Apparently, her chips were golden brown and her batter unrivalled. Then there were the milk ladies – Angelina and her sister, and the one-eyed cockle man from Dowlais. There was as much friendly competition between the fruit and veg sellers as there was on the allotments to see who could grow the biggest cabbage. Consequently, there was a greengrocer on almost every street.

The memoirs overall show a great spirit of community – every shop on the high street thriving, the poorest section of the population cared for in some way or other, but also the realities of living in a mining town. Towards the end of the file, the depravations experienced by the town due to major strikes in 1921 and 1926, bring home the importance of community pulling together.

Even before the lean years, allotments, chicken coops and pigsties were a common site around Tredegar. The allotments were cared for by the miners who began the growing year with a May Day celebration of digging and sowing seeds. I loved the description of the children going around with a soapbox trolley gathering up horse manure – deposited daily and imperative for the allotment plots. In some areas, the street sweeper would anticipate the trolley by shifting the manure into a tidy pile ready for collection on a street corner.

Side two of the sound file, which was digitised by the Sound Archive, is dedicated to stories of Cliff’s early work life in a brick kiln from the age of thirteen, and his love of dancing which started when he was fifteen.

Life was hard in these days – everyone worked from an early age and long hours, but they enjoyed life as well. There was a rhythm to the town; everyone knew the routine of industry into which home life fit as a harmony. The descant to this lifestyle was made from the moments of social pleasure, which came in the form of music (the band and choirs which had started in the late 1800s, glee parties, the dancehalls) and the cinemas – Palace, Workman’s Hall, Olympia and the Top Cinema (officially the Queen).

These were the days before talkies and Cliff’s adolescent heart was stolen by the actress, Pearl White. Although the films were silent, the audience were incredibly noisy with adults shouting to read the captions aloud for their unschooled friends and the pandemonium of the children on a sugar high screaming whenever the villain appeared on screen.

After the Saturday morning chores, eight-year-old Cliff and his sister would rush off to the closest sweet shop to load up on marble rocks before heading to the cinema for the weekly dose of Pearl’s serial “Trail of Hearts”. After the movie, the two would go to a fish shop on Commercial Street where they would gorge on “fish batter and chips strainings”. This part of the recording had me salivating!

By the time Cliff was a teenager, there was excellent choice in dancehalls – the Town Hall at the top or the Drill Hall at the bottom of Tredegar. The north end of town was looked after by a band leader named Tom James, and several times a year dances were held, under special licence, at the Crwsiad Hall at the catholic school.

Walking was popular and one of Cliff’s favourite summer routes would commence at the end of the afternoon shift crossing in Cefn Golau (now a nature reserve), descending into Rhymney, and then circling north to Princetown and Tafarnaubach. Cliff and his friends would arrive back home at Dukestown between 1am and 2am. Some days he got up at 3am to walk to the Dyffryn to pick mushrooms or winberries.



Proposed 9-mile walking route taken by Cliff Smith and his friends from the brickyards in Georgetown – using the OS map route planning open-source software


The end of the second side is depressing. By 1926, Cliff had been appointed secretary of a soup kitchen. Financial aid came from the Orpheus Choir which split into touring groups, holding concerts in London, Liverpool, and Birmingham, sending donations to the Cooperative Society, which in turn, bought the produce required for Tredegar’s four soup kitchens. Cliff’s post at Ebenezer Chapel fed 130 men and boys every day. Cliff relates the realities of the morning task of peeling five sacks of potatoes. The peelings went to a pig dealer who traded for a few packets of cigarettes, which were split between the men. Cliff passed his allocation on to his father.

The unemployed queued with their admission cards; some ate their stew or soup at tables, others brought a jug so they could take their allocation home, which would be watered down to feed the whole family. Another testament to the community spirit of Tredegar is in the words: “Through it all, the miners and their families bravely endured the hardships, exhibiting a spirit of unity and brotherhood which has not been surpassed.”

The sound file finishes with Barry Davies telling the listener that Cliff Smith died on 22 November 1990, aged 84. According to one of the Tredegar forum members, there are at least 24 other cassette tapes recorded by him. I am not sure if the National Library holds them all, or if they have been digitised, but he is an engaging narrator, and with subject matter like Cliff Smith, brings to life the joys and struggles of everyday Wales.


Rasma Bertz, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Volunteer



Decolonising Welsh Mapping

Collections - Posted 04-11-2021

Combining Wikidata and OpenStreetMap to improve Welsh language mapping services

Open data as a concept has developed rapidly in recent years, propelled further by the need for rapid, collaborative solutions during the pandemic. In many ways platforms like Wikidata and OpenStreetMap (OSM), which have been growing at pace for a number of years now, are leading this open data revolution. 

OSM is a crowd-sourced mapping dataset, where the public works together to build a rich open-access global map, which can be reused and adapted for free by all.

Wikidata is a huge linked open data set containing data about just about everything. Again, anyone can contribute and reuse for free, but perhaps the biggest difference here is that many organizations and other data aggregators also contribute. 

In both these datasets the name of each entity can be given in multiple languages, including Welsh. And additional variations in each language can also be added.

In Wales we have small but active communities of contributors to both projects, and both receive support from the Welsh Language Technology Unit at the Welsh Government. For a number of years the National Library of Wales has directly supported Wikidata by appointing a ‘National Wikimedian’.

The project currently underway is a partnership between the National Library of Wales and the Mapio Cymru team, funded by the Welsh Government.

Combining Wikidata with OSM allows us to build on the work of Mapio Cymru which has been developing a map of Wales using only Welsh language data held in the OSM database. By aligning and combining this with Wikidata the map can begin to grow further, offering more information to users through the medium of Welsh.

And this is important. Many places in Wales, be they towns, villages, hills or beaches have two names, or sometimes more. The names in Welsh are almost always the original place names, ancient in origin and steeped in history. These names are usually descriptive or refer to long lost saints, chieftains or fortresses. The English versions of place names are sometimes meaningless mutations of the Welsh originals or names imposed by medieval invaders or Victorian ‘modernisers’. Even today historic properties are renamed in English by their new owners and Welsh names are dropped from websites and maps in favour of English alternatives deemed to be ‘more easy to pronounce’. 

This project aims to decolonise mapping in Wales, not by erasing English place names from the record but giving users the option to view and explore a modern map of Wales solely through the medium of Welsh – a service that didn’t really exist until the launch of Mapio Cymru. 

So the first challenge with this project is actually to encourage communities to contribute their local Welsh place names to OSM or Wikidata so that they can be included in the map, and this is done through a series of discussions, workshops and editing events.

The technical aspect of combining Wikidata with OSM begins with aligning the two datasets. OSM allows you to add the corresponding Wikidata ID records for places in its database, and this lets us know which places are missing from either of the datasets, and more particularly, where Welsh language data is missing. By looking at Welsh places already aligned to Wikidata we were immediately able to add 5000 additional Welsh place names to the Mapio Cymru map tiles using Welsh labels from Wikidata and this number should continue to rise as more places in OSM are aligned to Wikidata and more Welsh names are added.

Rendering Wikidata names directly onto the OSM map tiles is one way of adding value to the Welsh map, and a way of uniting two distinct communities to the cause. However, we can also bring further value by adding a Wikidata skin on top of the OSM map. The additional layer allows us to render pins (or points) on the map for a number of different data types, such as transport hubs, medical services, beaches and historic buildings. It allows users to filter specific content types, and gives them the option to see many places that don’t yet have Welsh OSM data. The proof of concept map below shows how this might look;

Welsh language Wikidata overlay on top of the Mapio Cymru OSM map

Thinking further ahead, this type of interface could be easily adapted as a crowdsourcing tool, allowing the community to visualize gaps in the data and leading them to OSM or Wikidata to add the missing information.

Ultimately the map could also form the foundations of a Welsh language Sat-Nav system.

Making the connection with Wikidata also has plenty of extra potential, since it holds far more information than just coordinates and multilingual names, including images and links to Wikipedia articles. The concept below shows another way in which Wikidata could combine with OSM to connect users with relevant Welsh language Wikipedia articles.

A proof of concept for combining the Welsh OSM map with Welsh Wikipedia content. Credit; JB Robertson.

For this project we have also worked with the Welsh Language Commissioner to add standardized Welsh language place names to Wikidata, so these can also be displayed on the prototype map. In total over 10,000 Welsh place names have been added to Wikidata using Welsh Government Open Data and other Open Data sources and these can now be displayed on the prototype map.

We hope the development of the map can continue, and there is already interest from bilingual organizations in using the OSM Cymru map to enhance their Welsh language online services. 

This is a map that belongs to the people of Wales. It is a living entity and its existence is a testament to the strength of the Welsh language and the resolve of those who volunteer their time in order to ensure its future. The map is more than simply a record of Welsh names, it’s the basis for a rich, modern Welsh language mapping service, which can be developed and used by all.

Jason Evans
Open Data Manager

Tiger Bay: Search to find people recorded by Butetown History and Arts Centre

Collections / Discover Sound - Posted 29-10-2021

We need your help! The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project (UOSH) and the Tiger Bay Heritage and Cultural Exchange Organisation is working with freelancers to create a new piece of work inspired by the ‘Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club’ film and oral histories recorded from the area. We are trying to locate relatives of interviewees who were recorded by the late Butetown History and Arts Centre.

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a five-year project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the British Library. The project aims to preserve and provide access to sound recordings across the UK. Ten Network Audio Preservation Centres have been established across the UK and have received funding for three years to deal with the threat facing sound recordings. The project has focused on digitising and preserving rare unique sound recordings, those that are under threat of physical deterioration and those at risk of being lost because the playback equipment is no longer available.

One of the collections digitised by the National Library of Wales consists of oral history recordings relating to people who (used to) live and work in Tiger Bay, or Butetown, and the Cardiff Docks. The interviews conducted between 1984 and 2000 includes several projects such as life histories, Artists interviews, Second World War, Somali Elders and much more.

“The aim of digitising these oral histories is to preserve and make them accessible for future generations. Tiger Bay has developed over the Centuries and the past can now be heard by the voices of the community themselves” Alison Smith, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Hub Project Manager.

“The Heritage & Cultural Exchange is a community based organisation that actively encourages the participation of local people in the development of, and the ongoing use of the collection of oral history tapes and photographs so that everyone can see the achievements and tenacity of their ancestors. We tell the stories of the people who lived and worked in the Docks to schools, colleges and through exhibitions.

We want the world to know we are here and have been for a very long time.

The Heritage & Cultural Exchange wants to give full credit and show respect to those who shared their stories but we need help to identify some of them or their living relatives. Can you help us?” Gaynor Legall, Chair Tiger Bay Heritage & Cultural Exchange

These interviews are a significant piece of the city’s diverse history heard by the voices of everyday people from the Tiger Bay area. This call out is for interviewees or their relatives in order for us to use part of their stories. Do you have any information about James Sapo Mannay, Ronald Jenkins, Joan Duggan, Katie Anderson Johnson, Abbas Abdullah, Christopher Stevens, Sunday and Eva Dennis and Harry Jarret? If so, please contact us on uosh@llyfrgell.cymru

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Black Music at the National Library of Wales

Collections - Posted

Over the years the Screen and Sound Archive at the National Library of Wales have worked hard to ensure that all genres of music in Wales are represented in our collections. Here Dan Griffiths tells us about some of the Black Music held in our collections:

Dylan Thomas in the Libraries Electronic Resources

Collections - Posted 26-10-2021

One of the most famous Welshmen of the 20th century, Dylan Thomas, was born on this day in 1914. As today would have been his 107th birthday, I thought I’d delve into the Library’s collection of electronic resources to see what I could find about one of our most important poets.

Where best to start than this comprehensive entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. This gives an insight into his upbringing and education, and discusses his development as a poet, his rise to fame and his notorious behaviour which led to his untimely death at the age of 39:

Thomas was undoubtedly one of Swansea’s most famous sons, and this World Literature Today article from JSTOR walks us through the many locations in this ‘ugly, lovely town’ that are associated with him:

Under Milk Wood is probably Thomas’ most famous work, originally conceived as a play for radio. Shortly after its premiere on BBC Radio, it won the Prix Italia best for literary/dramatic programme. Due to its huge success, it was quickly adapted for stage and screen. This article from Critical Studies in Television (Sage Journals) analyses the transformation into these physical mediums, and whether they were as successful:

Following on from this article, I found a gushing Daily Mail review of the first complete UK performance of Under Milk Wood, held at London’s Old Vic in 1954. In the review, found in Gale Primary Sources, the reviewer states that he found the play in print to be an “unwieldy mass of adjectives”. It’s clear that the cast, which included his compatriot Richard Burton and Dame Sybil Thorndike, helped raise the play to another level. “On the stage, the magic of these eight voices set the ears ablaze with his verbal fireworks.” A gust of Wicked Welsh fun indeed!!

What better way to end than to leave you with this collection of quotes taken from Chambers Dictionary of Great Quotations, available via Credo Reference. They include quotes from Thomas’ various works, as well as a number of famous personal quotes:


Paul Jackson
Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

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Billy Boston and the forgotten heroes of Welsh rugby

Collections - Posted 21-10-2021

Billy Boston is one of the most talented and successful Welsh rugby players of all time, yet for many years his achievements were hardly recognised in Wales. His career is a great sporting story, and one that deserves to be told.

Billy was born in Butetown, Cardiff, in 1934, and became a rugby star in the 1950s and 1960s. His mother came from Cardiff’s Irish community, and his father was a black merchant seaman from Sierra Leone. As a boy, Billy played Rugby Union for Cardiff Internationals Athletic Club (CIACS), a club that reflected the multiracial nature of the Cardiff docklands. He was an exceptionally talented winger, with great speed, strength, balance and footballing intelligence, as well as a devastating sidestep. Billy played for Wales at Youth level, but his dream was to play for Cardiff, and perhaps one day for Wales. There was no doubt that he was good enough.

Billy never got the opportunity to fulfil his dream of playing for his beloved Cardiff RFC; the same was true of Johnny Freeman and Colin Dixon, other black players who went on from CIACS to have very successful careers in Rugby League. Further, no black player was selected to represent Wales at full international level in Rugby Union until the 1980s.

A bitter division had grown up between Rugby Union and Rugby League after they had split in 1895 – Union was an amateur game, while League was professional. Professionalism was banned in Union, and players who went to the north of England to play League – or who even spoke to a League scout – were ostracised. Union was strictly amateur, and the hypocrisy and the stigma remained until the game became professional in 1995. However, generations of Welsh rugby players – many of them black – found employment in Rugby League, especially at times when Wales was struggling economically.

When he was approached by the Rugby League club Wigan in 1953, Billy Boston did not want to go north and his mother refused their £1,000 offer. Billy would sign for £3,000 and no less. The Bostons hoped and expected this to put Wigan off, but the club was prepared to pay exceptional money for an exceptional player, and so the 19-year old Billy signed a League contract. Having done so, he knew that his dream of playing Union for Cardiff and Wales could never be realised. That night, he wept and could not sleep.

Billy made an immediate impact at Wigan, and became a League legend during his career there, which ended in 1968. He played wing, but unusually he could play centre or fly half just as well. He became less agile towards the end his career, but he kept his pace and developed his size and muscle and a powerful hand-off. He was the complete Rugby League threequarter, and he was often unstoppable.

The year after he signed for Wigan, he was selected to represent Great Britain, and his career statistics speak for themselves: a club record of 478 tries in 487 appearances (110 more than any other Wigan player in history); numerous domestic trophies; 30 international tries in 31 Test matches; a Great Britain tour record for tries scored in Australia; the first GB player to score 4 tries in a match against New Zealand; and a World Cup win in 1960. By the time he retired from Rugby League in 1970, Billy had scored 572 career tries in 562 appearances – only the winger Brian Bevan from Australia has ever scored more.

The people of Wigan embraced Billy as one of their own, not just because of his success on the field but because he was a team player who was both humble and approachable. Billy felt at home in Wigan, and ran a pub near the club ground when his playing days were over; he never came back to live in Wales. The population of Wigan was almost entirely white, but the rugby club had long been cosmopolitan and multiracial in outlook, as had Rugby League in general, and players came in from all over the world. Unfortunately, however, Billy did still experience racial discrimination, most notably when Great Britain played several matches in South Africa after the 1957 World Cup. The South Africans told Billy – who was already unwilling to take part in this leg of the tour because of apartheid, and was now carrying an injury – that his skin colour meant that he could not stay in the same hotel as the rest of the squad, and that he could not visit their hotel or play in any of the games. Billy rejected these terms. The GB team went to South Africa without him.

Ever since his early days at Wigan, Billy Boston has been revered in Rugby League. There are statues of him at Wembley and in Wigan, where one of the club’s stands is named after him, and he was one of the original members of both the Rugby League Hall of Fame and the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame. The city of Cardiff is also now recognising Billy’s achievements, and fortunately this has occurred during his lifetime. In December 2020, it was announced that there will be a statue depicting Billy Boston and two other Rugby League legends who came from the Cardiff docks area, Clive Sullivan and Gus Risman.

The Union game, however, has been very slow to recognise many of the Welsh players who have achieved great things in Rugby League. They include some of the greatest players in either code, but while their achievements in Rugby League are celebrated in the north of England, this has usually not been the case in Wales. They are forgotten heroes of Welsh rugby.

Although the story of Billy Boston and others can be discovered here in the Library using collections such as our, printed books and newspaper collections or some of the External E-resources that we subscribe to, we’re keen to develop collections relating to areas of Welsh life that are of national importance but have nevertheless been under represented, whether they relate to race, Rugby League or anything else. If you are able to help us with this, please get in touch.

Dr David Moore (Archivist)

Adjudication of Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Dolgellau

Discover Sound - Posted 12-10-2021

I will put my hand up right away and say that realistically, I bit off more than I could chew with this blog, mostly because I am an entry level Welsh learner, and these sound files, owing somewhat to their complexity and distortion from the digitisation process, require a more fluent speaker.

However, the process of listening to the sound files, which formed part of the adjudication process of the awdl [ode] competition at the 1949 National Eisteddfod in Dolgellau, was a good exercise for my brain. I also found listening to Sir Thomas Herbert Parry-Williams’ voice mesmerising; the words which I did understand painted a picture of his lack of enthusiasm with most of the candidates.

According to historian, Jan Morris, one of the most important events at the Eisteddfod is the ‘chairing of the bard’ – this honour is bestowed on the person who has written the best awdl, in strict meter, based on a theme set by the judges. In 1949, the theme was Y Graig [the rock]; the winning entry, according to the adjudication notes held at the National Library of Wales archives, was titled Coed y Gell which forms the basis for the second sound file in this collection.



‘TH Parry-Williams, number 11/41 from the National Library collection by Julian Sheppard’


Parry-Williams’ disappointment is reflected in his written introduction:

O’r ugain cynnig a ddebynwyd eleni nid oes ond rhyw hanner dwsin “o fewn terfynau gobaith”. Y mae gweddill yr ymgeiswyr i gyd ond un (sef Herbert sydd heb lunio awdl) wedi cynganeddu eu deunydd yn ddygn, ond nid oes ar eu gwaith raen digon gorffenedig i obeithio llwyddo mewn cystadleuaeth fel hon. (Parry-Williams, 1949, p.63)

Parry-Williams opinion that of the twenty entries received in 1949, only six had any redeemable merit “within the bounds of hope”. When the entrants became angry with his judgement, he maintained that their work was not of sufficient standard to succeed in a competition like the Eisteddfod. In fact, he wrote that his complaint is an old complaint – the competitors “mess up” so much that it’s hard to say anything useful about the entries.

In both sound files, Parry-Williams has a measured oration style which switches between his opinion and his recitation of parts of the entries. At the beginning of file one, he announces an entrant – Mr Pwyl, with presumably his address. I feel like an archaeologist, floundering to make sense of a language, knowing that I run the risk of misinterpretation and much of the first sound file for me, is obscure.

With the help of the printed adjudication notes, I muddle through. Early on, there is a reference to an ode title: Glan yr Afon [Riverside] – which points me to a section in the notes where Parry-Williams includes it in a party of five candidates, seen to be at the bottom of the top ten! He deems this poem elegant, but somewhat monotonous; having written the ode on the basis of Crist yn Graig [Christ is a rock], Parry-Williams opines that it is difficult to bring new life to an old theme, and criticises the poet for preaching from the Gospels, and waffling on the way to making a point. However, Parry-Williams appreciates the performer’s pleasantly clear, sweet singing style and encourages them to raise their tone up more before “mynd dow-dow yn dawel i’r diwedd”. (Parry-Williams, 1949, p.67)



At the end of sound file one, to the backdrop of whistling from the Dolgellau train, Parry-Williams mentions Y Graig Gibraltar [Rock of Gibraltar]. This is the subject of the ode titled Uwch y Lli, sung in three parts: Gwyryfdod [Virginity], Gwae [Woe], and Gobaith [Hope]. The singer is apparently a bit cumbersome and jerky, but not without the ability to draw a sense of place. In the notes, Parry-Williams illustrates this by including two verses; unfortunately, he does not read them in the recording, so we cannot listen to them here.

Sound file one seems to finish on a happier note, or at least Parry-Williams pauses, and the tone of his voice becomes lighter, less lecturer, more encouraging.

There is a false start to sound file two, but Parry-Williams recites a verse from the winning poem Coed y Gell in a beautiful singsong style and these match a transcription in his notes:



Druan o’r haf a’i feddal betalau
Rhyw ias ddiaros yw hedd ei oriau.
Dihuno gwig a mynd a wna’i gogau;
Gwywa, a bidd doreithiog y beddau.


Towards the end of this file, Parry-Williams changes tone of voice again and the word ‘foundation’ (sylfaen) occurs several times. He makes the audience chuckle a bit and ends his speech to thunderous applause.

It is a shame that the adjudication notes held in the archives do not match the sound files exactly, rather they appear to have been written as an essay after the fact. Apart from making my life easier in terms of transcribing the files (which I was unable to do), it might have made more sense of my assumption that the competitors’ interpretations of Y Graig include such geographical references as Gilbraltar, Ayers Rock, Clogwyn (near Caernarfon), Derwydd (near Ammanford), as well as a confusing discussion about whether various rocks, including Carreg y Drewi, are linked to Newport.



‘Sir T.H. Parry Williams plaque on North Road, Aberystwyth’


Sir Thomas Parry-Williams was a famous poet and scholar himself. He died in Aberystwth in 1975, at his home on North Road, after living a very full but slightly introverted life. He published Ugain o Gerddi [20 Poems] the same year he adjudicated the awdl competition. Some of his poems are about his own “transcendental view of life, especially in relation to the landscape of Snowdonia”. (Price, 2014) Perhaps this is why he was so parsimonious with his praise at the 1949 Dolgellau Eisteddfod.




Rasma Berts, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage volunteer


40th Anniversary of Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement

Collections - Posted 11-10-2021

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement, an influential pressure group whose members campaigned vigorously across Wales for an end to racism and the apartheid system in South Africa.  The group was originally a regional branch of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) but separated in 1981 adopting the name ‘The Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement (WAAM).’

Local groups and branches supporting the AAM had been active in Wales, based primarily in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.  They realised greater support could be achieved with a clear Welsh identity. The newly-formed group was active throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, campaigning for international action to help bring apartheid to an end.

In 2008, the archives of WAAM were deposited here through Hanef Bhamjee, one of its founding members and long-term Secretary. These extensive records reflect the Movement’s aims, aspirations and activities.  They include records of the group’s committees, correspondence with companies, public officials, politicians and individuals reflecting all aspects of WAAM’s activities. There is also a fascinating collection of newsletters, publicity material and ephemera, much of it unique.

The bulk of material documents WAAM’s campaigning activities. These campaigns included opposing rugby and cricket tours of South Africa, UK trade with South Africa and an end to nuclear and military collaboration.  Sustained campaigning was conducted for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners and included in the collection is the printed Order of Ceremony when Mandela was made Freeman of the Borough of Islwyn in 1986.

WAAM was dissolved in1994 following the first democratic elections in South Africa and its assets were transferred to ACTSA Wales, which continues to campaign and work for peace and democracy in Southern Africa.

WAAM Archive – https://archives.library.wales/index.php/wales-anti-apartheid-movement-papers

Lorena Troughton

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The Ivor Novello Archives

Collections / Exhibitions / music - Posted 04-10-2021

The Library recently acquired the papers of W. Macqueen-Pope (Popie) which relate to ‘Ivor: The Story of an Achievement‘, his biography of Ivor Novello, published by W. H. Allen, 1951. This important group of papers gives and insight into the life and popularity of the Welsh actor and composer Ivor Novello (1893-1951) who became one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. The papers include correspondence between Ivor Novello and Macqueen-Pope, but mainly comprise eulogies and reminiscences, from actors, socialites and those working in the arts, following Ivor’s death in 1951. Evidence of Novello’s popularity can be found amongst the letters sent to by Macqueen-Pope of those expressing an interest in an ‘Ivor Novello Fellowship’.

The papers have been catalogued and are available here: W. Macqueen-Pope (Ivor Novello) Papers (GB 0210 MACPOP)

Items on display in our current exhibition (2021) include correspondence (W. Macqueen-Pope file 1), financial papers (file 12/1) and signed programme (file 13); and a signed publicity photograph (NLW Ex 2980). The papers compliment other items relating to Ivor Novello and his mother, the singer, teacher and conductor Clara Novello Davies (1861-1943) in the Library’s collections.


Here is a list of the main collections of material relating to Ivor Novello at the National Library. Further information on our archives catalogue here https://archives.library.wales/

  • NLW MS 23204D.

Ivor Novello papers, 1932-1983. Papers relating to David Ivor Davies (Ivor Novello, 1893-1951), composer, actor and playwright, comprising an autograph extract from his play I Lived With You (London, 1932) (ff. 1-6); letters, 1979-1982, from associates of Ivor Novello, …. photographs of the Welsh National Opera’s production of ‘Dear Ivor’, 1983 (ff. 23-4); together with a copy of a memorial tribute to Ivor Novello and theatre programmes, 1933-45, of productions of his works.

  • NLW MS 23696E.

Ivor Novello letters, 1908-1955 (mostly 1938-1955) Seven letters and two telegrams, 1939-1950, from the composer, actor and playwright, Ivor Novello, to Dorothy and Evelyn Wright, containing mainly personal news (ff. 1-13); together with additional personal papers, 1908-1955, compiled by the Wrights, including twelve letters to them from Lloyd Williams, Novello’s secretary, [?1940]-[?1944] (ff. 5, 14-19 verso), actors Peter Graves, 1951-1955 (ff. 22-24 verso), Leslie Henson, 1942 (f. 25), and Barry Sinclair, 1943 (f. 26), and Neville Chamberlain, 1938 (ff. 20-21); also included are a memorial tribute to Ivor Novello, 1951 (ff. 27-28 verso), photographs of him and his associates, [1910s]-[1940s] (ff. 29-34), and press cuttings, 1939-1951 (ff. 39-46). The collection contains references to theatrical productions at Johannesburg, 1947 (f. 8), the Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth, [1940] (f. 14), the Palace Theatre, Manchester, [?1941] (f. 15), and the Adelphi Theatre, London, 1943 (f. 18).

  • NLW MS 24041D. Angus McBean, photographer Studio visitors book, 1949-1968, 1987 includes songwriter Ivor Novello (f. 11).
  • Dr Terence Rees Papers P3/4. Also P3/10 . Scrapbook, press cuttings, programmes and periodicals, 1925-1988, relating to the life and work of Ivor Novello. Also an obituary.
  • D. R. Davies Collection (Aberdare) of Drama . Scrap Books, 3/1, 52, 27/2 and 4/3 . Contains articles on Ivor Novello and his mother, Madame Clara Novello Davies.
  • Maxwell Fraser Papers, H/24. (and O/129). Volume of cuttings re Ivor Novello, 1944-70. And a paragraph on Ivor Novello.
  • Selwyn Jones Papers 2. Biographical material relating to Welsh musicians, including Ivor Novello .
  • NLW ex 2404. Papers relating to Ivor Novello, and his funeral 1951-2004.
  • NLW ex 2540. Madam Esther Cooper-Jones papers, 1911-2005, including certificates and concert programmes, biographical material, letters from Clara Novello Davies, her tutor, and newspaper cuttings relating to her son Ivor Novello.
  • Welsh National Opera Records, P1/29. And P2/47. ‘Dear Ivor’ production, 1982-1983.
  • Portraits: The portrait of Ivor Novello by Margaret Lindsay Williams 1888-1960 is displayed in our current exhibition Framed works of art collection MY20 and there is another Oil on canvas 1924 by Emile Vere Smith Framed works collection CD01.

Nia Mai Daniel
The Welsh Music Archive


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