Amgueddfa Blog: General

As Lambcam comes to a close for another year, we look back at the history of lambing in Wales.

 

Voices from the Archives is a series of articles with sound clips based on recordings in the Oral History Archive of St Fagans National Museum of History. They accompany agricultural activities and events at the Museum. The speakers were farmers who had usually lived all their lives in the same locality as where they had been born and grown up. Their descriptions, experiences, recollections, voices, accents were authentic and distinctive, from different parts of Wales, and from different times.

 

March is lambing time at the Museum’s working farm, Llwyn-yr-eos. Lambing time on a farm at the foot of the Black Mountains, south east Wales was described by William Powell when interviewed in 1978. He farmed Gellywellteg, near the village of Forest Coal Pit, a few miles north east of Abergavenny. To the north of the farm were the Black Mountains, and Sugar Loaf mountain to the south.

 

He kept 140 ewes, home-bred Hill Radnor sheep, the predominant breed in the area during his farming life. They had brown-grey faces, no wool on their heads, convex noses, sturdy legs, and were compact and hardy. Two or three Hill Radnor rams were also kept, brought in, and changed every two years.

 

In the first selection of clips from the interview, William Powell describes when lambing took place and how:

The ewes about to give birth had to be checked regularly in case they had any difficulties. Ideally lambs would be born by their two front legs and head coming out first. There could be complications if one or both front legs were pointing backwards, or if the two legs were coming out but not the head. William Powell gained a reputation locally for his expertise:

Sometimes a weak lamb could be adopted by a ewe whose own lamb had died using an age-old method:

 

Young lambs could be vulnerable to illnesses and diseases, such as running noses, known locally as ‘snuff’:

 

 

And finally, how many lambs could be produced from a flock of 140 ewes:

 

 

Yn ystod y 1970au cynnar aeth staff yr amgueddfa ati i recordio hen ffermwyr yn disgrifio ffermio yng Nghymru ar ddechrau’r ugeinfed ganrif cyn datblygiadau peiriannau ffermio o’r 1950au ymlaen. Mae’r recordiau yn cael ei chadw yn Archif Sain yr amgueddfa.

Yn 1975 holodd John Williams Davies y ffermwr Dan Theophilus am y profiad o ffermio defaid ar ddechrau’r ugeinfed ganrif.

Roedd Dan Theophilus yn byw ar fferm Allt Yr Erw, Rhandirmwyn, pentref yng ngogledd-ddwyrain Sir Gaerfyrddin.

Mae Dan Theophilus yn sôn am ofalu am y defaid adeg ŵyna, yr achosion mae’n meddwl sydd yn arwain at ddefaid yn cael trafferth i ddod ac ŵyn, a’r tywydd gwaethaf ar gyfer y tymor ŵyna.

Dan Theophilus, Allt Yr Erw, Rhandirmwyn

Mae’n dweud sut oedd perswadio defaid i fabwysiadu oen, y perthynas rhwng y ddafad a’r oen a pha mor ffyddlon byddai’r defaid i’r ŵyn ar ôl ŵyna wrth iddo droi’r defaid i’r mynydd.

The Museum holds a very significant library collection of Molluscan books, known collectively as the Tomlin Library. They were donated to the Museum in 1955 by John Read le Brockton Tomlin (1864-1954), a founder member of the Malacological Society of London, along with his extensive shell collection and archives.

 

To celebrate the Year of the Sea, we are focusing on some of the books in the Tomlin Library, and highlighting some of its treasures.

 

First up is Historiae sive synopsis methodica conchyliorum by Dr Martin Lister (1639-1712). Dr Lister was a physician to Queen Anne, who also had an interest in natural history and communicated with other leading naturalists of the time such as Edward Llwyd, John Ray, and Robert Hooke. He is generally thought to be the founder of conchology in England.

 

He had created a small version of this book for circulation to friends in 1685, but almost immediately began work on an expanded version which was produced from 1685 to 1692. This copy had 490 pages, with 1062 engraved copper plates, showing 2000 figures of molluscs.

 

The illustrations were the work of two of his daughters Susanna (1670-1738) and Anna (1671–1704). Their father had encouraged their drawing abilities, and they would have used the shells in his collection, or those sent by friends such as Sir Hans Sloane, from which to make their drawings. They were also responsible for etching or engraving the plates on copper and it is generally assumed that the printing was done by the family at home, rather than taken to a professional printing firm.

 

The publication of the first edition of Historiae Conchyliorum was a lengthy and laborious undertaking, it is an impressive feat for anyone to be involved in, but even more so for Susanna and Anna as it is thought that they were between the ages of 13 and 15 when production began. It was initially published in four books, or parts, and then a second, complete, edition was produced almost immediately and became available in 1697.

 

In 1712 Lister bequeathed the original copper plates to the Ashmolean Museum, and in 1770, the curator of the Museum, William Huddesford, published a third edition of the book. He reprinted the illustrations from the original plates, included additional notes from Lister’s manuscript, and dedicated it to the famous shell collector, the Duchess of Portland.

 

A final edition was produced in 1823, which included an index by Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855), the porcelain manufacturer whose shell collection is now housed in the Museum zoology department. This edition includes the notes from the Huddesford version and identifications of the species and remarks by the compiler. It is technically the fourth edition but is known generally as the third.

 

The Tomlin Library contains a copy of the first edition from 1685-1692, a copy of the 1770 Huddesford edition and two copies of the 1823 Dillwyn edition. For the duration of Women's History Month the 1685-1692 version will be on display in the Main Hall of National Museum Cardiff, along with a variety of shells from the zoology department.

Spring.  A beautiful season which epitomises re-birth and optimism, the awakening of nature to provide us with an array of stunning colours.   The Museum holds a collection of over 7000 superb botanical prints and drawings; several depict plants synonymous with the new season.

Principal Curator, Dr Heather Pardoe, from the Botany Section, Natural Sciences, has handpicked a seasonal range of exquisite botanical illustrations to reflect the delightful spring plants that are coming into flower. The Spring Collection provides an exclusive view of some of the illustrations that Botany holds behind the scenes; many are rarely on public display.

If you would like to see more of this beautiful collection, please follow the link below which will take you to the Print section of the online shop.  This also provides an opportunity to purchase a reproduction of one of these attractive images, as well as a wide range of other images from the Museum collections.

Museum Wales Prints

We are working towards providing a series of collections for you to enjoy - watch this space for more news!

Don’t forget to follow the Shop blog and Natural Sciences blog for regular updates!

What does ‘Wales and the Sea’ mean to me?

Well, quite simply, it’s a huge part of who I am!

Through my late father, I am the nephew, grandson, great nephew, great-grandson and great-great grandson of seafarers from the Ceredigion coastal village of Aber-porth.

They were all part of the massive, disproportionate even, contribution that Welsh seafarers made to the British merchant fleet during the two centuries 1750-1950.

Almost all reached the rank of master mariner, and over the centuries they commanded vessels that ranged in size from little coastal smacks that brought culm and limestone to Aber-porth in the 19th century, to the largest bulk carrier under the Red Ensign in the late 1960s.

One of them lies deep in the cold waters off Newfoundland where he drowned after his ship struck an iceberg. Another lies buried in the British cemetery at Chacarita in Buenos Aires, where he died whilst the Cardiff tramp he commanded was discharging Welsh coal to power Argentina’s railways and meat packing plants. Another had to deal with a murder on his ship after a dispute between two crew members over a gambling debt got way out of hand.

But mine is just not a story about seafaring men.

Communities like Aber-porth, where, at any one time in the early 20th century, up to half the village’s male population might be away at sea, were matriarchal communities, where strong women brought up families single-handed and endured the absence of their loved ones over extended periods. It is difficult to fathom the anguish and worry that they must have experienced on countless stormy nights, with thousands of miles of forbidding seas between them and their loved ones.

Nevertheless, there were advantages to being a captain’s wife! If their husband’s ship was in an UK or near-continental port, they would often travel to meet them for a brief interlude of conjugal company, taking advantage of their visits to sample the best shops with the latest fashions in Cardiff, Newcastle or Glasgow - even Antwerp or Hamburg!

And the wives of master mariners were always accorded the respect ashore that their husbands had at sea – my great-grandmother would always have been addressed as Mrs. Captain Jenkins!

With such an ancestry as this, it is ironic that accidents of employment meant that I was brought up miles from the sea in the heart of Montgomeryshire; visits to relatives in Aber-porth, when we fished for mackerel and set lobster pots, were confined to school holidays!

Montgomeryshire is my mother’s ancestral home; members of her family have been farming in the north of the former county since Elizabethan times at least, and one might think that the sea had little impact on their daily lives.

Nevertheless, in the mid-1880s, they had to leave their home, Ty Ucha' in the village of Llanwddyn, because the River Efyrnwy was being dammed to provide water for Liverpool, then at the height of its commercial success as one of Britain's foremost ports.

The impact of the sea extends far beyond our coasts, so this year’s event should be an event for all of Wales, not just our coastal communities.

Dr David Jenkins, Honorary Research Fellow.