Tomorrow sees the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster when an unstable spoil heap built over a stream suffered a catastrophic collapse inundating parts of the village and killing 144 people including 116 children at the Pantglas Junior School.
Such was the magnitude of the disaster, that five days later on the 26th October, a tribunal was established under Lord Justice Edmund Davies. One of the first requirements for the investigation was to have an accurate map of the location showing exactly what had happened. That very day an aerial survey was made of the site and this was used by the Ordnance Survey to create a set of three maps which were printed for use by the tribunal. The maps were ready in November just a month after the disaster.
The image below is a section of one of the sheets showing the area of the village most affected. Beside it is a section of the OS map published in 1919 for the same area, showing the school and houses which were destroyed. This comparison gives us a very clear picture of the level of devastation caused by the collapse.
This map is unique in being the only occasion where the Ordnance Survey has created a map in response to a particular event of this nature.
The National Library of Wales’ Education Service has launched a new online resource pack on Aberfan including these two maps. This resource pack can be used online or printed out and will allow pupils to visualise the effects of the disaster and place it into the appropriate geographical context. The pack is available to teachers on the Hwb website.
Half a century after the tragic Aberfan disaster two exhibitions are held at The National Library of Wales to commemorate those who lost their lives in one of the worst mining disasters in Wales during the 20th century.
Here’s a video which was broadcast live on Periscope, on 17 October 2016, which gives us an insight into what’s available in our ‘Aberfan: Black October‘ exhibition.
The second exhibition, ‘Aberfan: The Days After’ is a collection of photographs by I. C. Rapoport. These black and white photographs, poignantly illustrate the thoughts and feelings of the community in the days following the tragedy.
Both exhibitions will be shown in the Library until 14 January 2017.
To view more live broadcasts from the Library follow us on:
Bethan Rees ~ Digital Access
Many of us in our late fifties and early sixties were ourselves at primary school when we first heard of Aberfan, a mining village in the Taff Valley, and its primary school buried by a spoil tip. One hundred and sixteen children, nearly half the children at the school, and twenty eight adults were killed. Fifty years later, those children ought to still be the same age as us and their surviving classmates, able to have their own opinions on Brexit, Bake Off and Chris Coleman, to consider their children’s – or grandchildren’s – prospects, and worry about their pensions. Not that Aberfan was the largest coal industry disaster in Wales in the twentieth century – the anniversaries of those have just passed – Senghenydd (14 October 1913; 439 miners killed by an explosion, plus a rescuer later) and Gresford (22 September 1934; 266 men and boys killed by another explosion). But Aberfan felt, and feels, grotesque and peculiarly unnatural and was a high price paid for mis-management.
Image: © Mirrorpix.com
The Aberfan Disaster Tribunal was damning of senior NCB management:
“Blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board. This is shared, though in varying degrees, among the NCB headquarters, the South Western Divisional Board, and certain individuals … The legal liability of the NCB … is incontestable and uncontested.”
and of local colliery engineers, who had concentrated solely on the underground workings:
“We found that many witnesses … had been oblivious of what lay before their eyes. It did not enter their consciousness. They were like moles being asked about the habits of birds.”
The Library has long held collections relating to the Aberfan Parents’ & Residents’ Association, the Aberfan Disaster Fund, the Aberfan Disaster Memorial and Tŷ Toronto. Files relating to the disaster and the tribunal can also be found within individuals’ papers, including Lord Edmund-Davies, Rev. Evan Wyn Williams, John Morris, George Thomas, viscount Tonypandy, Professor Hutchinson and Glyn Simon, bishop of Llandaf (which are uncatalogued at present). Records are still coming to light, in some cases following the deaths of participants in the events, in other cases perhaps prompted by the anniversary. The Library recently received the Aberfan Disaster Papers, collected by William Tudor, secretary of the Aberfan Parents’ & Residents’ Association, which complement the Association’s official records, already here. And records relating to the Aberfan Tip Removal Committee have recently been promised to the Glamorgan Archives.
But personally, working in the Glamorgan Archive quarter of a century ago, half way between then and now, nothing brought the grotesqueness of the tragedy closer to home than handling the class registration books, dug out of the spoil, and still gritty to the touch.
As we approach the school half term holidays, why not pay a visit to The National Library of Wales to see what’s on offer?
Have fun in the Ukulele workshop! Organised in collaboration with Cered: Menter Iaith Ceredigion, this workshop is for the whole family with a welcome to all ages and musical ability and will be held on Thursday, October 27 at 1:00 pm.
Photo: Geinor Jenkins, Margaret Powell, Heather Davies, Jamie Holder, Lisa Colwell, Siân Williams
How about lunch at Caffi Pen Dinas? Caffi Pen Dinas is proud to introduce the new catering team to welcome you to the Library. This service is open to everyone from Monday – Saturday, offering freshly prepared food on site: hot and cold meals and drinks, sandwiches, and a range of tasty cakes.
A special menu will be introduced that will include children’s portions: a hot meal at a reasonable price and children’s boxes tailored especially for them.
Free activities are offered to the younger audience in the area of ‘Hafan’ throughout half term week. Here we see a stop motion animation game, a battleships style game, interactive digital tasks, and film and word game. See also the treasure hunt, with reward on completion to be collected from the Library shop.
Ukulele workshop tickets
Box Office: 01970 632 548
Caffi Pen Dinas opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 9.30am – 5.00pm
Saturday: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Generating Article Placeholders on the Welsh Wikipedia
The Welsh Language Wicipedia already punches above its weight with seventy thousand articles. That’s roughly one article for every eight Welsh speakers. But now a student in Germany has developed a new tool which can fill in the gaps on Wikipedia by borrowing data from another of Wikimedia’s projects – Wikidata.
The aim of this new feature is to increase the access to open and free knowledge in Wikipedia. The Article Placeholder will gather data, images and sources from Wikidata and display it Wikipedia style, making it easily readable and accessible.
Currently the Article Placeholder is being trialed on a few smaller Wikipedia’s and after a consultation with the Welsh Wicipedia community it was agreed that we would activate the new extension here in Wales.
The most obvious advantage of this functionality is the easy access to information which has not yet been included on Wicipedia, and with 20 million items in Wikidata, it’s not short on information. This in turn should encourage editors to create new articles using the information presented in the Article Placeholder.
But perhaps the most exciting aspect of using Wikidata to generate Wikipedia content, is that Wikidata speaks hundreds of languages, including Welsh! This means that many pages it generates on the Welsh Wikipedia appear entirely in Welsh.
If the Wikidata entry being used hasn’t yet been translated into Welsh, the Placeholder will display the information in English, however it is now easier than ever to link from the Placeholder to the Wikidata item and add a Welsh translation. And plans are underway to hold Translate-a-thons with Welsh speakers in order to translate more Wikidata items into Welsh.
It is hoped that embedding this feature into the Welsh language Wicipedia will provide Welsh speakers with a richer Wiki experience and will encourage more editors to create content and add Welsh translations to Wikidata, cementing the place of the Welsh language in the digital realm.
Wikimedian in Residence
National Library of Wales
On October 21st 2016, it will be 50 years to the day since the collapse of a colliery tip which killed 116 children and 28 adults in the village of Aberfan.
Staff at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales have been working to assist with commemorations in various ways, using material from its collections.
ITV Cymru Wales will screen a major peak time documentary ‘The Aberfan Young Wives’ Club’ on the 12th October 2016. This hour long film will include footage taken from the ITV collection here at the National Library of Wales. Earlier in the summer, staff from the film and video teams in the Archive worked to digitise news footage from the disaster at Aberfan, and of the aftermath, to help with the making of the programme. The film is due to be launched at a community screening in Aberfan itself on Monday 10th October, before its network showing.
From this work, we have also been able to contribute to the ‘Black October’ exhibition currently showing in the Gregynog annexe. A series of 52 striking still images taken from the film footage can be seen on display, giving a snapshot of the day, and the events that followed. The 9 minute film showing at this exhibition is a series of clips taken from TWW (ITV Cymru Wales) news footage showing fleeting moments from the tragedy and the events that followed.
The Archive have also recently purchased a new song for its collection – ‘Remembering Aberfan’ by Amy Goddard. The song, released on October 3rd, was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster, and all proceeds will be donated to the Aberfan Memorial Charity.
Mina Barnden, Film Assistant
The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales preserves and celebrates the sound and moving image heritage of Wales, making it accessible to a wide range of users for enjoyment and learning.
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The National Library of Wales has by now been buying access to e-resources for more than fifteen years. One of the earliest we offered was Early English Books Online which, despite the name, also includes every Welsh book from Yny lhyvyr hwnn in 1546 until the end of the seventeenth century.
Newspaper collections are popular with readers who undertake research on history, society, family history and many other subjects. The titles which the Library has access to include Y Faner, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Times.
Another popular resource is JSTOR which includes runs of scholarly periodicals on all sorts of subjects.
One of the considerations when offering resources such as these to users is that there should be enough variety in terms of subjects and interest level. Some of the resources such as CREDO and Encylopaedia Britannica offer general knowledge which is suitable for many people. Others such as British Standards Online offer specialist information for people involved in business, building, industry, local and central government. Statista is a similar resource which offers a variety of international statistics in different sectors. It is important that the Library offers remote access to as many of these resources as possible so that they reach a higher percentage of Wales’ population. These resources are not cheap and restricting their access to the population Wales enables them to be affordable. Despite this, there are some resources that are only available within the Library building. These include Ancestry and Find My Past.
It is important that these resources are used, so if you have any questions or suggestions do not be afraid to contact us.
Head of Collection Development.
This month marks ten years since the death of Kyffin Williams – arguably the greatest Welsh artist of the later twentieth century. As art historian Dr Gareth Lloyd Roderick stated he was in a popular sense the ‘national’ painter of Wales and was made Royal Academician in 1973. Born in Llangefni, Anglesey in 1918 Kyffin Williams stated in his memoir ‘Across the Straits’ that his life aim was to record the land and the people of his childhood. His use of a thick oil paint heavily applied onto the canvas with his palette knife was typical of Kyffin’s style and became iconographic. Through this unique application of paint one felt an intense energy flowing from his work. He was an expressionist painter and stated that the best works he created were when he allowed himself to be ‘…swept away into a fever of exuberance or even anger, the better the final result has been; while conscious thought has invariably brought disaster’. As an epileptic he felt an intense obsession to paint and was therefore a prolific painter- completing up to three paintings a week. One may also assume that the artist’s struggle with depression played its part in his works as well. Kyffin stated that there is a ‘…a seam of melancholy that is within most Welshmen, a melancholy that derives from the dark hills, the heavy clouds and the enveloping sea mists’.
The National Library and Kyffin had a close relationship and upon his death in 2006 a large section of his estate came to the Library. The National Library possesses the largest number of Kyffin Williams works in the world.
Assistant Art Curator
In the next few weeks I am due to finish the work of cataloguing the papers of the poet, antiquary and literary forger Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg, 1747-1826) and his son Taliesin Williams (Ab Iolo, 1787-1847).
Parts of this important and varied, if exceptionally disordered, collection have already been catalogued and are now NLW MSS 21271-21433. These include most of the more important manuscripts, sixteen volumes of correspondence and over forty volumes of miscellaneous papers. The remaining papers, some twenty-five boxes in all, have been occupying my time for the last few months.
Among the more interesting of these ‘new’ Iolo papers are music manuscripts (including an important collection of traditional music and a large group of Iolo’s own hymns and hymn tunes), some two dozen volumes of travel journals and agricultural notes (deriving from Iolo’s work with the Board of Agriculture and Gwallter Mechain), poetry and notes on a typically wide variety of subjects including bardism, the Welsh Triads, history, religion and literature.
Taliesin’s papers include numerous notebooks and manuscripts, which demonstrate his misguided adherence to his father’s interpretation of Welsh history and literature, tainted though they are by Iolo’s fabrications and inventions. There is also poetry in Welsh and English and papers concerning his various activities as a respected Merthyr Tydfil schoolmaster and eisteddfod adjudicator and competitor.
However the most surprising and perhaps poignant items I found are locks of hair belonging to Taliesin, his daughter Margaret and to ‘Little Ann’ (probably Taliesin’s granddaughter).
The complete catalogue of Iolo Morganwg and Taliesin ab Iolo’s papers is due to be completed in October 2016 and will be available here.
Rhys M. Jones
Assistant Manuscripts Librarian
Between September 2nd – 26th 1936, David Lloyd George made a visit to Germany. His stay included meeting Hitler on two occasions, moments from which are captured in this historic film taken by Lloyd George’s private secretary.
Click to view http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-visit-of-the-rt-hon-d-lloyd-george-om-mp-to-germany-september-2nd-26th-1936-1936/
Lloyd George, who visited Hitler alone on 4th September and then returned for tea on the 5th with his entourage, was accompanied on this trip by a number of people, including his son Gwilym, his daughter Megan, Dr Thomas Jones (Deputy Secretary to the cabinet), T P Conwell Evans (academic, German speaker, Secretary of the Anglo-German Fellowship), Bertrand Dawson/Lord Dawson of Penn (Royal Physician and author of a report published in 1920 on the provision of medical services nationwide, a report which was influential in discussions later on the setting up of the National Health Service) and his private secretary, A. J. Sylvester.
The size of the window in Hitler’s ‘Book Room’ in his newly revamped house – the Berghof (formerly Haus Wachenfeld) – may have given his visitors pause for thought. Here was a man operating, very obviously, on a grand and ambitious scale. But Lloyd George was impressed by the major works taking place under the National Socialist regime – motorways, new party headquarters, land reclamation – all of which were (forcibly) reducing unemployment, a problem shared by Britain.
The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales preserves and celebrates the sound and moving image heritage of Wales, making it accessible to a wide range of users for enjoyment and learning. Through the support of the BFI, and with National Lottery funding, this film has been digitised as part of the ‘Britain on Film’ project.
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