history

Frank Brangwyn’s British Empire Panels

March 9, 2018 9 Comments
Frank Brangwyn’s British Empire Panels

1          Introduction Most Swansea people are familiar with the British Empire Panels.  Many sitting through a dull patch in a concert in the Brangwyn Hall will have turned to ponder Frank Brangwyn’s enormous work.  In a few months’ time the Panels will get more exposure, as Marc Rees’s performance piece Nawr yr arwr / Now […]

Continue Reading »

Catherine Blake’s vision

February 23, 2018 1 Comment
Catherine Blake’s vision

Of all the astonishing visual images William Blake created, between the mid-1770s and his death in 1827, one of the most intriguing is a small sepia wash drawing (244 x 211mm) on a sheet of paper now in the Tate Gallery.  It’s usually known by the title A vision: the inspiration of the poet.  Since […]

Continue Reading »

Swansea’s rebel women

February 18, 2018 9 Comments
Swansea’s rebel women

For all their strengths in the campaign to gain votes for women Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst were by nature autocratic.  In 1907 some members of their Women’s Social and Political Union took exception to their announcement that the WSPU’s annual conference would be cancelled in future and that they themselves and their inner circle would […]

Continue Reading »

Dr Thurley crosses the border

January 28, 2018 10 Comments
Dr Thurley crosses the border

Last year Ken Skates AM, then the Cabinet member responsibility for culture, commissioned a museum director from London, Dr Simon Thurley, to make recommendations on the running of the National Museum of Wales.  (Technically the Museum’s latest English title is Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, a clumsy formulation which shows what trouble you get […]

Continue Reading »

Boy in a window

October 15, 2017 2 Comments
Boy in a window

An old, long-abandoned factory in Swansea’s Strand.  It has two storeys, a stone wall at its base and a corrugated roof.  Below, the windows are boarded or blacked out.  Upstairs, where ragged glass hangs in the smashed panes, one window frame’s open.  At its base a round-faced young boy, with dark hair and jug ears, […]

Continue Reading »

William Jones, Glynneath, 100 years on

October 8, 2017 0 Comments
William Jones, Glynneath, 100 years on

Almost exactly 100 years ago, at 6:25am on 25 October 1917, a terrible thing was done to a young man from Glynneath named William Jones.  A group of soldiers from the Worcestershire Regiment formed a firing squad and shot him dead as a punishment for deserting his post on the Western Front. William, probably a […]

Continue Reading »

Is it time for a National Trust of Wales?

September 1, 2017 2 Comments
Is it time for a National Trust of Wales?

There was a time when the National Trust was invulnerable and beyond criticism.  Its aims are so obviously virtuous, and the experience of visiting its sites so rewarding that anyone bold enough to question its ethos or ways of working would have been seen as eccentric.  The Trust is still one of the most popular […]

Continue Reading »

John Ystumllyn: an African in 18th century Eifionydd

August 27, 2017 8 Comments
John Ystumllyn: an African in 18th century Eifionydd

It wasn’t his real name, ‘John Ystumllyn’, but one the locals gave him. Another was ‘Jac Du’ or ‘Jack Black’. How he arrived, unwillingly, in north Wales is obscure. What is certain is that his origins were in Africa, and that he found a home for himself and his family in the Criccieth area in […]

Continue Reading »

Reading and silence

August 20, 2017 1 Comment
Reading and silence

I’m working my way, slowly – that seems the best way – through Sara Maitland’s A book of silence, and I’ve reached the part where she discusses the paradoxical relationship between reading and silence.  On the one hand, reading the way we do it today is a silent communion between writer and reader.  Silent, on […]

Continue Reading »

Mr Skates’s ring cycle

July 28, 2017 11 Comments
Mr Skates’s ring cycle

The row over the ‘Iron Ring’ proposed for Flint Castle seems to be over, so the time is right to think more calmly about what we’ve learnt. First, a quick summary of what happened (there is an ignominious prequel, which I’ll skip).  Cadw, responsible for safeguarding scheduled historic monuments in Wales, together with Visit Wales, the […]

Continue Reading »