Cymraeg

Dr J. Geraint Jenkins, 1929-2009

Dr John Geraint Jenkins, one of the foremost Welshmen in the museum world and a Fellow of the Museums Association, passed away on 15 August 2009.

Born to a Welsh-speaking seafaring family near Llangrannog in Ceredigion, he was educated at Cardigan Grammar School and at the university colleges of Swansea and Aberystwyth, from which he graduated with an MA.

He took up his first museum post at Leicester in 1952, moving soon afterwards to the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading where he undertook the research that led to his first major publication, The English Farm Wagon (1961).

He returned to Wales to join Iorwerth Peate as an assistant keeper at St Fagans. Here, he embarked on a comprehensive study of the Welsh woollen industry, which culminated not only in his monumental volume The Welsh Woollen Industry (1969), but also in the acquisition of the Cambrian Mills buildings at Dre-fach Felindre in 1976 - now Wales's National Wool Museum.

He played a major role in establishing the Society for Folk Life Studies and developed links with other open-air museums in Europe, particularly in Hungary.

In 1978 Geraint was appointed curator of the newly opened Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum in Cardiff's dockland. He would later claim that the years spent there were the happiest of his career; ‘Cardiff Bay' had not then been redeveloped and Geraint was as equally at home with wealthy shipowners as he was with Harry, manager of the decidedly dubious North Star Club next door to the Museum!

He became a member of the council of the International Congress of Maritime Museums and wrote a number of volumes on Welsh maritime history. He was awarded a D.Sc. (Econ) by the University of Wales in 1981.

In 1987 Geraint returned to St Fagans as a curator for five years before retiring. Typically, his retirement back to his native west Wales was not marked by indolence; he was High Sheriff of Dyfed in 1994-5, and involved himself in local politics, culminating in his chairmanship of Ceredigion County Council in 2002-03.

"Once met, never forgotten" - never was this saying truer of anyone than Geraint. He exuded an irrepressible bonhomie that was totally infectious. He was a sparkling raconteur, possessing a huge store of tales - respectable and otherwise! - reflecting his long and varied life. Wales has lost an incomparable ambassador, and the museum world one of its best-known figures. He leaves a widow, Nansi, and two sons, David and Gareth; another son, Richard, predeceased him in 2000.

Dr David Jenkins, Senior Curator, Industry Department, Amgueddfa Cymru