: St Fagans Archive

The New Welsh

Radhika Mohanram, Principal Investigator, Refugee Wales: The Aftermath of Violence, 9 June 2021

Radhika Mohanram

I can trace the origin of this project, Refugee Wales, to 2009 when the civil war in Sri Lanka came to a bloody end when the government forces defeated the LTTE (Tamil Tigers).  The stories of the immense suffering of the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians flooded the media and, then, these stories disappeared.  Being an Indian Tamil myself, I followed the news of the final days of the civil war obsessively as these were narratives of my “cousins” in South Asia, and we were linked by language, culture, religion, food habits, mythology, families, and  with a commonality of memories and practices.  It is estimated that between 100,000-200,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in the UK, with a large number of them arriving as refugees from 1983 onwards.  The civil war in Sri Lanka lasted, off and on, for over 5 decades and Sri Lankan refugees who arrived in this country have lived here for more  than 2 generations.  

No sooner had the Sri Lankan civil war ended, then the Syrian civil war began in 2011 and it is still ongoing. The war has currently resulted in over 13 million Syrians who have been either internally displaced within Syria, or in neighbouring countries, or in Europe and the rest of the world.  Germany has over 800,000 Syrian refugees and the UK, a paltry 18,000-20,000 of them in 2021. The body count of Syrians who have died in this exodus is still not fully accounted for and the bottom of the Mediterranean sea, which is considered to be the deadliest migration route for refugees, has become a graveyard for them.  

Neither the Sri Lankan Tamil nor the Syrian refugees sought refuge in the UK so they could shop in Tesco and take jobs away from the locals.  They left their countries under desperate circumstances—the daily bombings, the kidnapping of children (and youth) by rebel soldiers forcing them into becoming child soldiers, the rape of women and children, the loss of jobs, homes, family members—spouses, children, parents, siblings--the lack of food, safety, and a full night’s sleep; it was the precarity of life.  

In Homo Sacer, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben points to the distinction made by the Ancient Greeks between bios (the form or manner in which life is lived and which assesses the richness of life) and zoë (the biological fact of life) and suggests that in contemporary life that distinction has collapsed.  So, life now only means bare life, zoë.  The biological fact of life with all its potentialities and possibilities has been erased.  For the French philosopher Michel Foucault, modern power is about “fostering life or disallowing it.”  This is how civilian populations in Sri Lanka and Syria were perceived by their governments—a full life disallowed for some of its citizens so that they are reduced to a bare life, their only possibility being to flee.  This is how refugees are perceived in the current political climate with hostile environment policies, to be seen as only deserving of a bare life, to show how unwelcome they are.  

If by moving away from their country results in a total and complete break from their past lives for the refugees, a rupture from their histories and cultures, what this project hopes to achieve is to allow refugees to connect their past to their present, give them a voice, and a sense of belonging and that people are, indeed, witnessing their trials.  The Museum with the richness of cultural life that it offers, through its resources, will assist in enabling refugees to become citizens of Wales, and help them to transform their lives in the country that is now their home; it will facilitate and contribute to them leading their lives into the fullest of its potentialities and possibilities.  

And those of us who already live in Wales, how will these newcomers change our lives? By hearing their stories, we, too, will reach further into our potentiality, of the richness of diversity, compassion, being good hosts and helping them go through their transformation and, in so doing, initiate new ways of being and becoming Welsh.

"Clapio Wyau" (Egg Clapping)

Meinwen Ruddock-Jones, 31 March 2020

Wooden Objects

We’re sure that you can think of many images surrounding us at the moment, in shops and in the media, associated with the Easter holiday:  colourful chocolate eggs, fluffy chicks and rabbits, white lillies and simnel cakes to name but a few.

But can you guess what the two wooden objects in the images on the right are?


Easter Customs

This week I have been listening to recordings in the Sound Archive relating to Easter Customs.  We have oral testimony on a wide variety of traditions:  holding “eisteddfods”; “creu gwely Crist” (creating Christ’s bed); singing Easter carols; cutting hair and trimming the beard on Maundy Thursday in order to look tidy for the Easter weekend; eating fish, “hongian bwnen” and walking to church barefooted on Good Friday; drinking water from a well with brown sugar on the Saturday before Easter; climbing a mountain to see the sun “dancing” at daybreak and wearing new clothes on Easter Sunday; playing “cnapan” (a game of Welsh hurling using a ball of hard wood) on the Sunday following Easter.


“Clapio Wyau” (“Egg Clapping”)

But the custom that really caught my attention was the practice of going “egg clapping” on Anglesey.  Going egg clapping before Easter was an extremely popular tradition among children years ago and the images on the right show the wooden egg clappers that the children would carry with them.

According to Elen Parry who was born in Gaerwen in 1895 and recorded by the Museum in 1965:

We would usually have an hour or two off school, maybe a day or two before the school would close so that we could go clapping before Easter.  You would nearly be doing it throughout the week, but there was one special day when the school would let you go clapping for an hour or two.  Nearly everybody would go clapping.  You’re father would have made you what we would call a ”clapper”.  And what was that?  A piece of wood with two more pieces either side so that it would “clap”, and that’s what a “clapper” was.

The children would travel around local farms (or any homestead that kept chickens).  They would knock on the door, shake their clappers and recite a short rhyme similar to this one:

Clap, clap, os gwelwch chi’n dda ga’i wŷ

Clap, clap, please may I have an egg

Geneth fychan (neu fachgen bychan) ar y plwy’

Young girl (or young boy) on the parish

And here’s another version of the rhyme from Huw D. Jones, Gaerwen:

Clep, Clep dau wŷ

Clap, Clap, two eggs

Bachgen bach ar y plwy’

Young boy on the parish

The door would be opened and the occupier would ask “And who do you belong to?”  After the children had answered, they would each receive an egg.  According to Elen Parry:

You would either have a small pitcher, a small can, or a basket with straw or grass on the bottom.  And then everybody would get an egg.  Well, by the time you’d finished, you might have a basket full of eggs.

The inhabitants of the home would usually recognise the children and if a brother or sister was missing, they would place an extra egg in the basket for siblings.  Mary Davies, from Bodorgan, born in 1894 and recorded by the Museum in 1974 recalls:

And if the family in the house knew these small children, knew their siblings, and some were missing, they would also give them an egg for those brothers or sisters.


Eggs on the Dresser

Having returned home, the children would give their mother the eggs and she would place them on the dresser.  The eldest child’s egg would be placed on the top shelf, the second eldest’s egg on the second shelf and so on.

With plenty of energy and determination, an impressive haul of eggs could be had.  Joseph Hughes, born in Beaumaris in 1880 and recorded by the Museum in 1959 remembers:

Some would be quite brazen-faced and would have been clapping solidly throughout the week.  They would have a hundred and twenty eggs.  I remember asking my wife’s brother, “Did you go clapping, Wil?”, “Well, yes”, he said.  “How well did you do?”, “Oh, I only got a hundred and fifty”.


A Type of Begging?

Even though most people would give the children eggs, some would refuse and answer the door with a disgruntled “Mae’r ieir yn gori” (“The hens are brooding”) or “Dydy’r gath ddim wedi dodwy eto” (“The cat hasn’t laid eggs yet”).  Some parents would also be wary of allowing their children to go clapping, considering it to be a type of begging.  This is what one interviewee had to say:

My father would never be happy for us to go because everybody knew who my father was.  Well, my father never liked the fact that we had been begging at doors, but we would still go



It’s great to see that the tradtion of clapping is now enjoying a revival on Anglesey.  It seems, for one week only, it’s still safe and acceptable in Wales to put all your eggs in one basket.

Noson Bluo / Noson Blufio

Meinwen Ruddock-Jones, 6 December 2019

Noson Bluo / Noson Bufio

Mae cyfoeth o draddodiadau yn gysylltiedig â’r Nadolig yng Nghymru; rhai a erys yn boblogaidd hyd heddiw, a rhai sydd wedi mynd yn brinach gydag amser.

Roedd y Noson Bluo (neu "blufio") yn achlysur cymdeithasol pwysig iawn mewn llawer ardal cyn y Nadolig yn y gorffennol.  Rhyw wythnos cyn y dathlu, byddai’r gymuned yn ymuno i bluo ac i baratoi’r gwyddau a’r twrcwns a fu’n tewhau dros yr Hydref i’w gwerthu cyn y diwrnod mawr.  Byddai rhai yn dechrau ben bore ac yn dod â’r gwaith i ben erbyn yr hwyr tra byddai eraill yn cymryd mantais o dawelwch yr oriau tywyll ac yn bwrw ati i bluo drwy’r nos a thacluso popeth yn oriau man y bore cyn dechrau ar dasgau’r diwrnod i ddod.

Roedd yr achlysur yn gyfle i deuluoedd ac i ffrindiau dreulio amser gyda’i gilydd.  Er bod y gwaith yn galed, roedd digon o sbort a sbri i’w gael i’r criw o amgylch y tân yn y gegin, neu o amgylch y gwresogydd mewn sied y tu allan, wrth sgwrsio, dweud jôcs, adrodd straeon, chwarae gemau llafar a chanu ambell i gân.  Dyma ychydig yn rhagor am y digwyddiad arbennig hwn gan ddau o siaradwyr yr Archif Sain:

Pluo yn Sir Drefaldwyn

Ganwyd Catherine Sydney Roberts yn Y Gardden, Llanerfyl, yn 1900.  Roedd yn un o 14 o blant.  Bu’n byw yn ardal Llanerfyl erioed.  Roedd yn wraig hynod ddiwylliedig ac fe’i holwyd gan Minwel Tibbott yn 1972 am fwydydd ar fferm fechan yn ystod cyfnod troad yr 20fed ganrif: 

Catherine Sydney Roberts, 1972

“Noson bluo, oedd hi’n noson fawr iawn.  Pluo gwydda te.  Fyddan ni wrthi drwy’r nos, dros nos oeddan ni’n neud.  Mi fydda na gymdeithas neilltuol a mi fyddan ni’n mynd er mwyn cael y gymdeithas ‘ddoch chi, te.  Yn ista ar y meincia, odd y dynion i gyd, a rownd bowt, a dwy lantarn neu dair yn hongian o’r llofft.  O, roedd hi’n gynnes reit yna achos oedd na gymaint o fobol a’r lanteri ‘ma, oen nhw’n cynhesu chi.  Ac erbyn y bore oeddan ni wedi gorffen y cwbwl a gallu glanhau fyny.  Doedd neb yn gwbod fod neb wedi bod yn pluo noson gynt bron te.  Hwyl anfarwol, adrodd rhyw hen benillion a … Hwyl anfarwol, noson pluo, ynte.”

Plufio yn Sir Benfro

Ganwyd Clifford Thomas yn 1905 mewn tyddyn bach o’r enw Bryn y Banc ym mhentref Mesur-y-Dorth, ger Croes-goch, Sir Benfro.  Aeth i’r ysgol yng Nghroes-goch i ddechrau ac yna i Ysgol Sir Tyddewi am flwyddyn.  Roedd yn sgwrsiwr heb ei ail ac fe’i holwyd gan Delyth James yn 1972 am arferion y Nadolig a'r Flwyddyn Newydd.

Dyma rai o’i atgofion yntau am y Noson Blufio:

Clifford Thomas, 1972

“Odd plufio yn dod ryw wythnos cyn Nadolig.  Gwydde a chwïed a twrcis.  Casglu wedyn, o, ryw ddwsin o fenywod i blufio o’r pentrefi a chwedyn, yng ngwaith i odd lladd y gwydde a’r twrcis a’u cario nhw iddyn nhw fel na bod nhw’n gorffod dod allan o’r pluf.  Odd stafell arbennig mâs, a yn yr ystafell honno on nhw’n plufio.  On ni’n gorffod gofalu bod heaters yndi’r noson cyn hynny, oil heaters fel bod y lle wedi’i dwymo ar eu cyfer nhw, a lampie pryd hynny, lantarne, oil lamps, i oleuo iddyn nhw oherwydd ch’mod, tua’r Nadolig yna ma’r tywydd yn dywyll iawn.   Ma’r dydd yn dywyll.  Dechre tua wyth i hanner awr wedi wyth, hyd wedd hi mlân bump o’r gloch, pump, chweech o’r gloch.  Gorffen wedyn.  Dod i ben â’r cyfan erbyn hynny.  A yn y blynydde cynta, odd na glanhau giblets ymlân, ar ôl hynny wedyn.  Wedi iddyn nhw ddod fewn a châl ‘u te, on nhw’n dechre ar y busnes hwn.  Pryd hynny on nhw’n câl ‘u gwerthu ar wahân i’r gwydde.  Swllt y pâr, swllt y set:  pen, dwy droed, afu a’r galon a’r lasog.”

Arferion Calan Mai

Meinwen Ruddock-Jones, 1 May 2019

Ar y cyntaf o Fai, dethlir Calan Mai.  Mae'r ŵyl yn nodi dechrau’r haf a chyfnod o ffrwythlondeb a thwf.  Mae toreth o draddodiadau yn gysylltiedig â’r ŵyl – rhai yn fwy rhyfedd na’i gilydd!  Dyma ddetholiad o ambell i arfer sydd ar gof a chadw yn Archifau AWC.

Canu am Gildwrn yn Nhreuddyn

Yn ardal Treuddyn, ar ddiwrnod Calan Mai, byddai plant yn gwisgo dillad llaes a mynd o ddrws i ddrws yn canu cân a chario cangen wedi ei hardduno â charpiau yn y gobaith o dderbyn ychydig o gildwrn neu rodd fechan gan berchennog y tŷ.  Dyma eiriau Alun J. Ingman, a anwyd yn Nhreuddyn yn 1906:

Ar ddydd Calan Mai, byddai rhai wedi paentio’u hwynebau ac yn gwisgo rhyw hen sgert a dillad llaes a mi oedd ganddyn nhw gangen, a charpiau arni hi, a mynd o ddrws i ddrws. Mi fydde ’na gân debyg i hyn: “Dawns sy’n sa’, y gangen ha’, am mor fychlawn neidio. Neidia di i ben y tŷ a mi neidia inna troso’”. Fydde hynny, a cildwrn, tipyn o gocos, yn rhwbath yn debyg i Calennig ond ar ddydd Calan Mai.

Derbyn Menyn yng Ngogledd Penfro

Yng Ngogledd Penfro, arferai gwragedd a phlant deithio o amgylch ffermdai yr ardal yn derbyn talpau o fenyn yn eu basynau.  Golygai hyn y byddai ganddynt ddigon o fenyn i roi ar eu bara am wythnosau i ddod.

Penglog Ceffyl i’r Ferch a’ch Digiodd

Yng Ngogledd Cymru, byddai gwŷr ifanc yn cael gafael ar benglog ceffyl ar noswyl Calan Mai ac yn ei hongian uwchben drws morwyn neu ddrws gwraig briod a oedd wedi eu digio. Yn aml, byddai enw’r ferch anffodus wedi ei glymu i’r penglog.

Colli Gwaed ar Galan Mai

Mae Mary Davies a anwyd yn Nantyfedwen, Trefeglwys, yn 1892, yn cofio y byddai ei Nain yn mynd pob blwyddyn i gael colli tipyn bach o waed adeg Calan Mai:

Glywos i’n nhad yn dweud ei fod yn gwybod am rywun oedd yn mynd i ryw gors, ac roedd y gelod yn cydiad yn y gors, ac roedd e’n eu gwerthu nhw i’r cemist.  Fydda’r cemist yn gwerthu nhw i fobol i dynnu gwaed.  Bydda’r gelod yn cael eu defnyddio yn reit ddiweddar yn bydda nhw.  Bydda Nain, mam ’y nhad, yn mynd pob blwyddyn i golli tipyn bach o waed.  O, odd hi’n well o lawer iawn wedyn odd hi’n meddwl.

Gofyn Bendith ar Amaethwyr

Ar y dydd hwn yn ardal Llangristiolus, cynhelid gwasanaeth yn y capel i ofyn bendith Duw ar ffermwyr yr ardal.

Rhwystro’r Wrach Rhag Hudo

Ar fore Calan Mai yn Llanwennog, byddai’n arfer addurno pen y drws blaen â dail gwyrdd er mwyn atal y “witsh” rhag dod i’r tŷ a'i hatal rhag rhoi hud ar y cartref fel na allai’r teulu gorddi trwy gydol yr haf.

Godro Defaid

Arferid godro defaid yn ystod yr wythnos gyntaf ar ôl ffair Galan Mai Llanfair-ym-Muallt ac yna eu gadael yn hesb nes fis Hydref.

“Cadw Gofid Mâs o’r Tŷ”

Yn ardal Cydweli, byddai rhai yn addurno y drws blaen gyda changhennau coed ynn er mwyn “cadw gofid mâs o’r tŷ” ac i atal gwrachod ac ysbrydion, a oedd yn arbennig o ddrygionus ar ddechrau Mai yn ôl y sôn, rhag chwarae triciau ar y trigolion.

Ffeiriau Cyflogi

Cynhelid ffeiriau cyflogi mewn llawer tref yng Nghymru ar ddiwrnod Calan Mai. Byddai gweision a morwynion yn cael eu cyflogi am flwyddyn ac yna’n dychwelyd i’r ffair mewn deuddeng mis neu symud i ardal arall er mwyn ceisio gwell cyflog.  Dyma eiriau Rhys Morgan, a anwyd yn 1875 yng Nghorneli Waelod, ger Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr:

Odd May Day pryd ’ny. Dydd Cala-Ma’. A dyna’r dydd on nhw’n ych dewis chi. Os och chi’n moin jobyn, och chi’n gofyn i’r fferm a on nhw’n setlo ar arian.  Odd pob un yn Ben-bont, odd gweision ffermydd a lot o’r ffermwyr hefyd 'ny. Bydde chi’n clywed “Ma ishe gwas yn New Park, ma ishe gwas yn y Grove”.  Wel nawr, och chi nawr yn mynd i edrych, bydde’r ffarmwr ddim yn dod atoch chi.    Pedwar ucen mlynedd yn ôl - dydd mawr.  Sdim sôn amdano fe nawr.      

The Cardiff Eisteddfod Chair: Inspired by St Fagans

Sioned Williams, 9 August 2018

The Cardiff 2018 National Eisteddfod Chair is sponsored by Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to the celebrate 70th birthday of St Fagans National Museum of History.

St Fagans has championed crafts in Wales since it opened in 1948, and sponsoring the chair for the National Eisteddfod in 2018 is a fitting celebration, which continues the Museum’s tradition of supporting Welsh craft and makers.

Chris Williams had the honour of designing and making the 2018 Chair. He lives in Pentre and has a workshop and gallery in Ynyshir, Rhondda - he works as a sculptor and is a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.

Elements of the chair were made at St Fagans National History Museum in a purpose built building, Gweithdy. This is a brand new sustainable building celebrating the skills of makers past and present - where visitors of all ages can experience traditional craft skills first-hand.

At Gweithdy, Chris demonstrated and shared the process of making the chair with visitors – a first in the history of making the National Eisteddfod chair.

Swipe, or tap the circles below as Chris explains the process of making the iconic Eisteddfod chair:

  • From the Hearth to the Stage

    The 2018 Eisteddfod Chair, through the eyes of its maker

  • The Inspiration

    The 2018 Eisteddfod Chair is inspired by Welsh stick chairs like this one, pictured at Cilewent Farmhouse at St Fagans.

  • Celebrating Welsh Makers

    This Welsh carthen, or blanket, was chosen for its beautiful repeating pattern - becoming the main motif for the chair

  • The rough materials - elm and ash - arriving at the workshop in Pentre

  • I designed the chair in Rhino 3D, so I could have an accurate model. This enabled me to take dimensions, to create jigs and templates for shaping the arms, spindles and legs

  • The seat and back are made from the same elm tree. Sanding the wood reveals the grain, and reveals any defects in the timber that need to be sanded away

  • I shaped the seat with a scorp and cabinet scraper at Gweithdy workshop at St Fagans. It was nice to share this experience of making the chair with the public

  • The seat and back were then engraved using a Co2 laser engraver - thank you to Caerphilly council for letting me use the engraver! The elaborate pattern was inspired by a blanket woven at Esgair Moel woollen mill in the 1960s. The mill (and the blanket) is now at St Fagans museum.

  • The clamping operation was complex and required a number of sash clamps to control the pressure

  • The text on the arms was also engraved with the laser engraver. This was done on a flat piece of ash which was laminated to the curved arms with many, many G clamps

  • Gluing the legs into place

  • Getting closer... The back is mortised into the seat

  • The arms are cut around the back to create a unique join, and glued into place. Then, the spindles are fitted with wedges, to be cleaned when the glue has dried

  • And here's the finished article - the 2018 Eisteddfod chair. Good luck to all the competitors!