Posted - 19-02-2018 No Comments

Collections / New Accessions

A story from the diplomatic bag

Some twenty months ago an archive was transferred to the Library and for the past few weeks, I have been given the privileged task of arranging and then listing the papers. They are of the late T. Ifor Rees, the first British Ambassador to Bolivia.

It was expected that the collection would be interesting, not only for the fact that it would fill a number of gaps in the collection of his father, the musician J. T. Rees that was already here. However, whilst arranging his literary works, after removing some papers that were placed in a rusty springback binder that had held everything together for decades, there was a brown envelope placed at the bottom of the bundle.

Although “On His Britannic Majesty’s Service” was clearly marked on the envelope, it was assumed that it contained a further draft or notes belonging to one of the publications of T. Ifor Rees on Mexico, as that was the work in hand. But this envelope was in need of further attention. It was sealed, and that due to it being in a damp place sometime in the past and the glue reactive to re-seal the envelope. Or possibly, the envelope may not have been opened since it was originally sealed.

The envelope had to be opened to ensure that its contents were to be placed in the relevant group. It contained three carbon copies of a typescript letter written from the British Legation in La Paz following an expedition to Sajama. T. Ifor Rees was a British Minister at the time, and as one who enjoyed mountaineering and taking photographs in his leisure time, had the opportunity to walk the highest peak in Bolivia (21,500 feet) with four other companions. According to the report, it seems that this had been somewhat of an adventure to the mid-fifties diplomat from north Cardiganshire, which had a tragic end.

With the urge of finding out more about the event and being aware that he had published a book under the same name as this extinct volcano in 1960, it was somewhat surprising to read that he did not present the story as he did in that original report he wrote within a month of the historic adventure in August 1946.

However, this reminds us that reporting events of the past varies with the passage of time, and that one has to depend on the original sources that were created at the time to ascertain the full story – and ultimately, that’s why archives are so important.

D. Rhys Davies


It is intended to complete the work on this archive shortly and an online discovery resource will be published in the Spring.

Mae’r cofnod hwn hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg



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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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