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.
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.
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’.
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,  (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.
The Conservatives have been Wales’ second largest party for most of the last century, whether measured by share of the vote, the number of MPs elected and latterly the number of Assembly Members or Members of the Senedd. While exact figures are not easy to come by, it’s also likely that they would have been the second largest party in terms of grassroots members.
The Conservative Party in Wales has however, arguably been the subject of less study than Labour, the Liberals and Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, especially in the case of the members and grassroots activists who pounded the pavements, stuffed envelopes and raised funds to fight elections. This group was the subject of a fascinating online session given by Dr Sam Blaxland, lecturer, historian and member of the Welsh Political Archive’s advisory committee.
Sam has spent many hours researching the records of local Conservative associations in Wales to understand the foot soldiers of the Conservative Party in Wales at the National Library of Wales and gave a fascinating insight into the sometimes stereotypical and sometimes surprising attitudes of the party members. These ranged from mixed views on race, traditional attitudes on law and order to quite surprising views on Sunday trading.
While association records contained details for discussions on policy, there was also a surprising amount relating to fund raising and social activities. As well as organising fetes, carnivals and balls, local associations such as the Monmouth Unionist Association arranged trips to places as far afield as London, Spain and the Netherlands. It was also interesting to see the prominent role played by women in at grassroots level.
We had an interesting discussion with questions and comments by members of the audience and touched on a number of issues around the changing way people have engaged with politics, the demographics of Conservative support and the role that oral history projects can play in filling in the gaps in official records.
This year marks the centenary of the publication by J. Gwenogvryn Evans of his monochrome facsimile of the contents of the Black Book of Chirk (notwithstanding the 1909 imprinted on the title-page!). Through the generosity of a patron, and to mark the occasion, the National Library has published new digital images of the manuscript on our website.
This manuscript – Peniarth 29 – was once believed to be the earliest written in Welsh. Today, it is regarded as among the earliest, sharing a birthdate, as it were, with another Black Book, the rather more famous one from Carmarthen. Both were produced in the mid-thirteenth century, one in the South, and the other in North Wales.
The Chirk manuscript was written in Welsh, on parchment, by six scribes, in regular and professional style, although their familiarity with written Welsh may not have been fluent.
The volume contains legal texts relating to the king and his court, according to the ‘Venedotian’ or ‘Iorwerth’ code, associated with Gwynedd. The ‘king’ is a native ruler, one such as the young Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, known as ‘the last native Prince of Wales’, whose influence was becoming apparent at the time when the manuscript was written. Following the Law of the Court (reminiscent of those fine images in Peniarth 28, a contemporary Latin law manuscript), the scribes record laws that were relevant to ordinary inhabitants, including elements such as the values of wild and tame animals. A summary, text and translation is available on the Cyfraith Hywel website.
The manuscript also contains non-legal additions, such as proverbs, and Dafydd Benfras’s elegy on the death of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) in 1240, harking back perhaps to the ‘golden age’ of native law in the Gwynedd tradition.
But why is the volume associated with Chirk, in Denbighshire? The contents suggest affiliation with medieval North Wales, and by 1615, it was owned by John Edwards of Plas Newydd, Chirk, a scholar and recusant who lost many belongings by sequestration before his death in 1625. Llanstephan MS 68 is a copy of the manuscript, made by Francis Tate whilst the Black Book was owned by Edwards. Subsequently, probably via John Jones of Gellilyfdy, it became part of Robert Vaughan’s library at Hengwrt, and on the upper part of page 114 is part of his ornate inscription identifying the work as ‘Y llyfr du or Waun’ (the Black Book of Chirk).
The original black covers are long gone, but the remains of the binding leaves survive at the end of the manuscript.
In September 2000, the Library opened an exhibition to mark the 600th anniversary of Owain Glyn Dŵr’s proclamation as prince of Wales and the beginning of his rebellion against Henry IV and the English crown. Now, in 2021, it is 600 years since the last act of that rebellion: the acceptance of a royal pardon from Henry V by Owain’s son, Maredudd, in 1421.
Not much is known of Maredudd’s life. He is said to have been one of six sons of Owain (Peniarth MS 59), all of whom fought in the rebellion (NLW MS 2021B [Panton MS 53]), and Maredudd emerged as the main leader of the revolt from 1412. Support was now waning, however, and successes were few. In the years that followed, Maredudd and his father were reduced to living on the run in remote forests and moorlands, according to the chronicler Adam of Usk, and their prospects appeared bleak. Maredudd’s mother, Margaret Hanmer, his brother Gruffudd and his sister Catrin – Owain’s wife and children – had all been captured by royal forces and kept as hostages for several years, and they had then been left to die of starvation in custody when they were no longer considered useful. Nothing is known of the other brothers, except that they all seem to have died before Owain himself.
Owain was offered a royal pardon in 1415, but did not accept it, and he was not mentioned when further pardons were offered to Maredudd in 1416 and 1417. It appears that Owain had died in the meantime. Maredudd rejected the pardons offered to him and continued to hold out in Meirionnydd and Arfon, seeking help from the Scots and fugitive English Lollards as well as Welsh rebels. This revival of the revolt is likely to have been connected with French scheming against the English at the Council of Constance, but it did not last. By 1421, Maredudd had run out of options. He was offered a pardon in April of that year and accepted it, very likely because his supporters had had enough. The rebellion always depended upon local communities, officials and clerics as much as upon great landlords and military leaders, and all of these groups were involved in taking important decisions. In order to ease the final reconciliation, Maredudd’s pardon stated that he had not followed his father’s malice after Owain’s death, but had dwelt peaceably among the king’s subjects. In truth, the Welsh rebellion had lasted more than 20 years.
Maredudd’s pardon is not in the Library’s collections – it is kept with the Crown Patent Rolls at The National Archives in London (C 66, 9 Hen. V) – but there are a number of other pardons from the revolt in our collections, and they illustrate some of the complex story of the period (Gogerddan Estate Records JAA1/7; Chirk Castle F 9877; Elwes Papers 68; Wynnstay (1945 deposit) GX3, GX4, GX5, GX6 and GX8; Bettisfield Estate Records 202; Penrice and Margam Estate Records 243). Throughout the revolt, many of the rebels’ decisions were driven by local considerations rather than the national picture, and many Welshmen found it expedient to submit or change sides when circumstances required it. In some cases, rebels submitted at times when Glyn Dŵr controlled almost the whole of Wales, or within months of the Pennal letter which outlined his vision of an independent Wales, while others held out as late as 1420. Their motivations are often not clear to us, but this is gradually changing as historians delve deeper into the complex local networks of loyalties, rivalries and personal and community interests. There were major royal campaigns in 1403, and the rebellion suffered regular and significant military reverses from 1405 onwards, but this rarely tells the whole story behind Welsh submissions. Self-interest was often a key factor. While it was always made clear to the rebels that their rebellion had been treasonous, most of them were reinstated to their former status and possessions. At Cydweli in 1413, Henry Dwn took this a step further by taking advantage of his restoration as a royal official to fine his tenants for failing to support him while he had been in rebellion.
By 1413, Henry V was keen to offer pardons in Wales so that he could concentrate on his war in France. Many former rebels fought alongside him at Agincourt, including another Maredudd ab Owain who had been sheriff of Cardiganshire and had also held Aberystwyth for Glyn Dŵr. One man who was not among them was Maredudd ab Owain ap Gruffudd – the son of Glyn Dŵr. We do not know what became of him after he was pardoned in 1421.
The granting of pardons was one of the clearest assertions of royal authority and power, and as such it was treated with the utmost solemnity. The king’s administration was beginning to record many of its activities in vernacular English by the early fifteenth century, but all of the pardons in our collections were written in Latin.
The Library has a large collection of popular and academic books about Owain and his revolt, with significant recent additions including Dyddiau olaf Owain Glyndŵr by Professor Gruffydd Aled Williams (2015) and The rise and fall of Owain Glyn Dŵr: England, France and the Welsh Rebellion in the Lste Middle Ages by Gideon Brough (2017). There is still much that we do not know about the revolt, but many of the answers may lie in libraries and archives throughout Britain and Europe, not least within our own collections, especially our manuscripts of Welsh poetry.
In the same way that, for some, a picture paints a thousand words, it’s music, that for me is the conduit that transports me to other places, other times and other lives.
Whilst cataloguing the audio recordings of the Tiger Bay Collection from the Butetown History and Arts Centre oral history project I was lucky enough to stumble across a recording of Tiger Bay local and renowned jazz guitarist Victor Parker. The occasion was Victor’s birthday sometime in the mid-seventies (although his age and the actual date have been lost somewhere along the way). On the recording Victor and his band are found whiling away the afternoon in The Quebec Hotel on Bute Street, treating the assembled drinkers, dancers, singers and swooners to a free and easy, laid back run through their repertoire of jazz standards, blues and modern folk. It’s far from an organised, structured concert, the lengthy gaps between numbers see to that, but this relaxed format allows us to eavesdrop of the chatter of the crowd. The laughter, the snippets of gossip and fragments of tales, the layers upon layers of indistinct chat all make for one of the most evocative recordings that I have encountered throughout the whole collection.
Original Shelf Mark Identifier: 101-0021-024 : Catalogue Number: UNLW023/605 in Tiger Bay ‘Lectures and Events’ collection
Granted, this didn’t give us any hard and fast information, there were no detailed descriptions, stories or recollections that we may usually look for in a valuable oral history archive, it is without doubt that any factual, reasoned debate or discussion was the last thing on the minds of the attendees. However, it did offer us something different, something that an interview or a vox-pop never could. The hour and a half of this recording captures and evokes all kinds of imagery, memory and feeling. I’m old enough to remember the 1970s, and I am also able to remember afternoons just like the one captured here (albeit in my case it would have been traditional Irish folk music in a Mancunian shebeen) – but if I close my eyes and listen, I can still feel that 70s afternoon filling my senses. The scratchy polyester itch of my shirt collar, a thick fog of cigarette smoke stinging my eyes, the acrid breath of a companion who had maybe drunk a little too much, and then that clear easing of tensions as people drank, relaxed, danced and sang along to the vibrant, seductive rhythms of the band in the corner of the room. It all seems a lifetime ago, but this recording transports me right back to those heady days in an instant.
Image: from Tiger Bay – Victor Parker YouTube
That is the beauty of oral histories, and in particular audio archives; the written word may well provide a clear, distinct understanding, a route through imagination to empathy, but recordings like this will, for many spark memories of times long gone, and bring them all back, so vividly, in an instant.
A structured interview will often be interesting, important and offer a whole range of vital information that could otherwise have been lost with the passing of time, but a recording like this, which goes such a long way to evoking imagery and prompting memory is unparalleled. To me, above and beyond any number of structured discussions, this recording tells us as much, and maybe even more about how the community in 1970s Tiger Bay filled their leisure time and let down their hair.
John McMahon, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Cataloguer
Born in Ystrad Mynach in the Rhymney Valley, Mervyn Burtch (1929-2015) was a teacher and composer whose work embraced a wide range of genres including opera, concertos, string quartets, works for brass bands, and choral pieces. During a career spanning some sixty years he produced and arranged some 650 works, a significant proportion of which were written for community groups, children and friends. He was an early member of the Guild for Promotion of Welsh Music.
Mervyn Burtch attended the Lewis Grammar School at Pengam where he was taught music by David Wynne (1900-1983), one of Wales’s most significant composers. He studied at the University College Cardiff, and later secured the position of Head of Music at Lewis School for Girls. In 1979 he joining the staff at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff (now the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama). He was made a Fellow of the College following his retirement in 1989, and awarded the M.B.E in 2003 for his services to music and education in Wales and work as President of KidsOp.
As Director of the Welsh College of Music and Drama Schools’ Opera Programme, he produced such works as The Pied Piper and Alice in Wonderland, others had fantastic titles such as the The Dragon of Abercwmgoch; Percy the Martian; The Great Wine Gum Robbery; and Fred Fish and the Weather Bureau. Some of his most significant works were his Concertos and the cycle of seventeen string quartets which he composed during the period 1985 and 2013.
He married his wife Rita Jones when he was 74. Following a long illness, on 12 May 2015, Mervyn Burtch died aged of 85. His Funeral service was held at Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff on May 27. The Mervyn Burtch Trust was created with the sole purpose of Educating and promotion of the appreciation of the public in the music of Mervyn Burtch and the education of the public in the life of Mervyn Burtch.
Hello everyone. I come at you today with another blog post. This time, it is about Ken Jenkins, a singer who is singing his favourite Welsh folk songs and verse. Ken originally came from Rhondda Valley, so there is a multi-cultural crossover between Wales and Canada here. The audio recording was made on July 9th 1974, nearly 50 years ago, which adds another sense of nostalgia to the piece. The audio was quite old, but that wasn’t a bad thing as the sound file gave a feel of timelessness, as if the listener was being let into a secret about Ken’s love of music. It had very nostalgic, warm vibes and the crackling of the background tape was like a fire kindling and spitting on a cold night. Ken Jenkins is introduced, and begins to sing. He has a vibrato type voice, and is really good at singing.
After a minute or so, it switches to a female singer, who has a lovely voice. The lady, whose name I didn’t catch because the audio is too quiet, but she says that she brought it over from Wales, as her brother heard it from the boys of Bangor. The second one of these finished on a high note, which was a spectacular demonstration of her singing abilities. Then, she progresses to a song she learnt in school. The array of songs she demonstrates is wonderful. She says how as she has no one to accompany her in the song, so she has to come in the melody first then the verses. She can’t remember the name of the song, but she launches into singing it anyway.
Next, she explains that she would tell the crowd in performing her next song that it came from the Eisteddfod, a festival in Wales, where there were five competitors and she was watching the performances. She re-enacts the words she heard them say, but the talking is quite quiet, so is hard to discern exactly what is being said. However, I got the sense that it was a dynamic performance and the female singer is copying them very well. She talks about a choir in Canada that came from a small village in Wood River, that would get into the Welsh spirit, and they would have a free supper at the end of the day to celebrate. They would sing for another 2 and a half hours after the supper and talks about how other groups learned Welsh songs via English words at first. She remembers signing at the Welsh church and goes into detail about the multi-cultural society that is put in place in Canada. In this society, some of the people dressed up in Welsh costumes to sing a 10-minute song within a choir. At the end of the song, a group of 11 children joined the choir, for the grand finale, and sung ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Each ethnic group was asked to do one line of the chorus in Welsh. She talks about how there was a display of Welsh crafts in the auditorium, as well as Welsh food and other cultural items of significance. She mentions the Welsh cakes she makes, that could survive an international food fair, which she passed the recipe onto her friend, who in turn made them for said international food fair. On the packets of currants they used, they put on the original lady’s recipe for Welsh cakes, which is a really nice touch and honours the female singer.
I really liked the fact that there were snippets of different songs from both of them, and that they both still had their roots coming through as well as their accents from Wales, which shows that they are still connected to Wales even in Canada. This reminds me of one of the previous blog posts I did. A lovely cyclical end to this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, because I have enjoyed writing and listening to these audios. See you in the next one.
Alice Tucker, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Volunteer
The recent Covid lockdowns and self-isolation have left many of us to re-evaluate how we work on a day to day basis, needing to work from home I was lucky enough to become involved with the ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ (UOSH) project at the National Library of Wales.
The British Library led project is a UK-wide exercise that aims to preserve, digitise, and provide public access to a large part of the nation’s sound heritage, with my involvement focusing on the oral histories of Tiger Bay collected by the Butetown History and Arts Centre during the 1980s and 90s.
Whenever I discuss my work at the Library with people unfamiliar with our archives, their perception is often that our collections are focused on primarily academic, staid and quite dry material. The Tiger Bay oral histories definitively prove that idea wrong by giving a voice to the ‘ordinary’ people of a Welsh community that has developed over time to become perhaps one of the most interesting and unique communities in Wales.
The Tiger Bay oral history collection viewed as a whole offers much more than just a snapshot of a community throughout the twentieth century. Through first-hand accounts of residents, we learn how the area developed through migration and immigration to become what is regarded as one of the most multi-cultural and ethnically diverse in the United Kingdom, continually showing the social dynamics of different migrant communities melding to become one, whilst at the same time striving to retain their own distinct identity. Tied together through ongoing sociological and anthropological threads within the discussions the main thing that shines through is the individuality, the identity and the pride of the locals whose histories are recorded.
Subject areas covered by the collection are wonderfully diverse, and the recollections and reminiscences of the day to day lives of the interviewees document clearly a period in history that saw dramatic changes within society. Alongside stories from the Cardiff Docks, of the sea-farers and shipping industry, we hear discussed in exacting detail the impact of wartime on the area, evacuees tell of their time in the Welsh Valleys, whilst those left behind in The Bay speak vividly of air raids, with heartfelt tales of family and friends lost at sea or in bombing raids. We hear how the domestic role of women changed dramatically with wartime opportunities in munitions factories, and perhaps more importantly, how they never looked back once the war was over. More recent times are covered with the redevelopment of Tiger Bay as it became the place that we know today, the unease and reluctance of many to accept sweeping changes and re-structuring of the community and a way of life in the place that they call home is laid bare at public meetings and in discussion groups.
Everything is there, the gossip and chatter as locals reminisce, laugh and cry together, the music and the song as the sea-farers give us shanties and Victor Parker lights up the Quebec Hotel with his jazz standards, the pride and the passion, the anger and the fight as the Cardiff Three recount their story of wrongful conviction. This is the life of a community laid out in its entirety, the good times, and the bad.
There are many things that make a nation, the history, and the geography both play a major role, but what really gives a nation an identity is the people, all of the people. Yes, our academics, our poets and authors, our politicians and protesters, our musicians and our sports stars, they all bring awareness and leadership; but the beating heart of a nation is the people whose lives are inextricably entwined with the place on a day to day basis. These are the people who have openly, freely spoken up on these recordings, their life stories showing us where they came from, where they are now and where they are going. An absolute inspiration.
John McMahon, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Cataloguer
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.