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Erbyn Ebrill 1915, roedd sgil effeithiau’r Rhyfel Mawr i’w gweld a’u teimlo ar lawr gwlad Meirionnydd. Nepell o gartref Kate a’i theulu, fe agorwyd gwersyll i garcharorion rhyfel ar gyn safle distylldy whisgi yn Frongoch – rhyw ddwy filltir o’r Bala.

Yn y cof cenedlaethol, rydym yn dueddol o gysylltu Frongoch â’r Gwyddelod. Yma y carcharwyd arweinwyr blaenllaw Gwrthryfel y Pasg ym 1916. Ond yn wreiddiol, carchar i Almaenwyr oedd Frongoch. Bu’r awdurdodau wrthi am wythnosau yn gweddnewid yr hen ddistylldy ar eu cyfer.

Y Germans – Prysurdeb di-ail a welir yn hen waith whisgi Fron Goch, yn darparu lle i giwaid y fath sydd i ddyfod yma mewn rhyw fis eto. Wrth syllu oddeutu’r adeilad, a gweled rhwyd-waith o wifrau sydd yn ei amgylchu, gallai dyn feddwl mai haid o greaduriaid gwylltion a mileinig ydynt, ac yn ol a welaf, bydd yn haws i lygoden fynd o gêg cath nag i’r un o honynt ddiengyd. Diolch am hyny; y maent yn ddigon agos atom lle y maent, heb son am gartrefu yn ein hymyl fel hyn. Llan, 1 Ionawr 1915

Yn naturiol, roedd y wasg leol yn llawn erthyglau am ddyfodiad yr Almaenwyr i Frongoch. Wedi’r cyfan, hwn oedd un o’r gwersylloedd cyntaf o’i fath ym Mhrydain yn y cyfnod dan sylw. Gallwn ond ddychmygu chwilfrydedd a gofid y boblogaeth leol pan gyrhaeddodd yr Amlaenwyr cyntaf ar 25 Mawrth 1915.

Bydd dydd Iau diweddaf yn ddiwrnod i’w hir gofio yn ardaloedd y Bala, a bydd yr argraffiadau a wnaed ar feddyliau y cannoedd plant ac ereill yn rhwym o aros ar eu cof tra byddant byw, oblegid yr oedd amgylchiad yn un mor eithriadol, sef dyfodiad yn agos i bedwar cant o garcharorion rhyfel i wersyllfa Frongoch, yr hwn sydd o fewn dwy filltir a hanner i’r Bala… Deallwn fod llawer o’r carcharorion uchod wedi eu dal ar ol y frwydr fawr yn Neuve Chapelle. Cymro (Lerpwl a’r Wyddgrug) 7 Ebrill 1915

Er nad oedd Kate yn un i gofnodi cerrig milltir y rhyfel, mae cyfeiriad byr at yr Almaenwyr yn cyrraedd Frongoch yn ei dyddiadur (hynny a hanes coler ceffyl a'i chwpwrdd newydd!)

19 Ebrill – Dros 500 o garcharorion Germanaidd yn dod i Frongoch. Myfi yn mynd ir Post a mynd a choler ceffyl Berwyn House adref. Fewythr Hugh yn dod yma i weld y cwpwrdd.

Dyma un o'r ychydig gyfeiriadau uniongyrchol at y rhyfel yn y dyddiadur.

 

Update - Brinley the boy soldier

Elen Phillips, 15 April 2015

Back in February, I blogged about Brinley Rhys Edmunds – a teenager from Barry who was killed in action during the First World War. If you recall, he signed-up when he was under the legal recruitment age, re-enlisted soon after his 18th birthday, but lost his life in battle on 5 September 1918.

In recent weeks – thanks to a well-known genealogy website – I have been corresponding with two of Brinley’s descendants in the United States – one in Seattle, the other in Pennsylvania. As a curator, it’s always a thrill to reunite families with objects once owned by their ancestors. Better still if they in turn provide additional information for our records.

I was so pleased to receive from Brinley’s American relatives a scanned copy of this beautiful photograph of the Edmunds family in about 1905. The photograph shows six year old Brinley (seated) with his elder brother, William, in matching sailor suits, together with their parents, Evan and Christine. I’ve been researching Brinley and his family on-and-off for a number of years. It’s amazing to finally put faces to their names.

Here at St Fagans, we have several objects in the collection associated with Brinley’s wartime experiences, some of which will be on display in our redeveloped galleries in 2017. In addition to the pincushionnext of kin plaque and postcard I mentioned last time, we also have his campaign medals in the collection. The British War Medal and Victory Medal were awarded to him posthumously and sent in an envelope marked ‘On His Majesty’s Service’ to his father in about 1919-20.

He is wearing the medals in the portrait shown here which is currently being prepared for photography by Ruth James, Social History Conservator. The portrait was commissioned by Brinley’s parents after his death and was bequeathed to the Museum in 1989 by Eunice Edmunds, his younger sister. We will be using this image, along with the newly-discovered family photograph in America, in the new displays. Contemporary military voices and experiences will also be included in the gallery interpretation. I’ll be focussing on our exciting co-curation programme with the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme in the next instalment of this blog.

 

 

 

Studio portrait of the Edmunds family in about 1905. The father stands behind his wife and two children.

Studio photograph of the Edmunds family in about 1905. Brinley Rhys Edmunds is seated next to his mother. Courtesy of M. Baskin.

Victory Medal and British War Medal awarded to Brinley Rhys Edmunds.

Victory Medal and British War Medal awarded to Brinley Rhys Edmunds.

Ruth James, Social History Conservator, surface cleaning Brinley's portrait for photography. She is using a vacuum and a bush.

Ruth James, Social History Conservator, surface cleaning Brinley's portrait.

Adrian in the Amazon - part 4

Adrian Plant, 8 April 2015

We have now settled into a routine at the Yanayacu Biological Station. Our days are spent out in the forest collecting flies and in the evenings we examine the results of the days efforts, preserving the specimens and collating data about where and how we found them. Josenir and I are especially interested in a group of flies known as Hemerodromiinae and in our fieldwork efforts we mostly target streams, rivers and springs where we expect to find them.

The terrain in this part of the Andes is generally very steep and many of the stream banks have washed-out and slipped allowing a dense understorey of bamboo to grow. Because of this, simply getting into the streams can involve much machete work hacking through the vegetation and a slithering half-controlled descent of muddy slopes until we finally splash into the stream bed and can begin work. Our general procedure is to wade upstream using a net to sweep insects off surrounding vegetation, or selectively picking flies off wet rocks, wet moss etc. It is hard, dirty and wet work and we inevitably return soaked to the skin and mud-splattered but we have been rewarded by many interesting finds.

Yesterday we found perhaps 30-50 species (it’s not really possible to be more precise until we begin detailed examinations back in Cardiff and Manaus) and we think that around 90% of these will be completely new species that have yet to be described. I was particularly delighted to find no less than 5 new species of the genus Chelipoda. I have studied this genus intensively in the past and attempted to construct a ‘phylogenetic tree’ showing the systematic relationships between the living species and inferring the sequence of their evolution.

It is not yet clear if most South American species of Chelipoda evolved from ancestors that migrated south from North America in the distant past or if they have developed from so-called ‘Gondwanan’ species - ones which originated on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana before it broke apart and its fragments drifted apart to form modern day New Zealand, South Africa and Patagonia for example. Careful examination of the Ecuadorian species should reveal clues hidden in their anatomy as to which theory (if any) is correct.

Josenir and Eduardo studying collected samples

Adrian in the Amazon - part 3

Adrian Plant, 7 April 2015

In Quito we met up with the third member of our team Eduardo Carlo Amat Garcia, a specialist in blow-flies from Bogota, Columbia and together travelled with surprising ease to the Estacion Biologica Yanayacu, a biological research station on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Here the field work starts in earnest. This morning we were up early and after a breakfast punctuated by hummingbirds hovering around the outside breakfast table, headed off into the forest.

A couple of hours heavy machete work through steep dense bamboo-choked forest lead us to a high ridge covered with thick lush Andean forest, festooned with various creepers and epiphytic plants. This made an ideal place to place our first Malaise trap. These traps are constructed rather like a tent, insects flying or blown onto a central vane move up to a central ridge and are collected by placing a receiving bottle across a small hole at the top. While Josenir and I set out traps, Eduardo was placing a different kind of trap to catch his blow-flies - traps baited with a disgusting mixture of decomposing fish-heads and chicken giblets to which blow-flies are attracted to lay their eggs.

For the rest of the day we made/cut our way through the forest setting traps in different kinds of habitat in the hope that we will catch a greater variety of flies by sampling different areas. Now the traps are set, they will continue to work until we bring them down in a week’s time. They will continue to work even in the pouring rain when other means of sampling are difficult. And it has been raining all day, but despite this we have made a few early discoveries such as a very little-known genus of flies called Chvalaeae which none of us had seen before. And of course the other wildlife provided some consolation - including numerous spectacular birds and recent signs (tree scratching) of an Andean Bear. What a pity we did not see the actual animal. Maybe tomorrow! Now with traps set and forecast of better weather tomorrow, we are hopeful of an exciting time in the days ahead.

Yanayacu Research Station

Hummingbird feeders in front of Yanayacu Station

Adrian in the Amazon - part 2

Adrian Plant, 31 March 2015

Ecuador at last! Josemir Camara and I have now arrived in Quito, after a long dog-legging flight from Manaus up to Panama City and back down to Ecuador. While we arrange the logistics of our onward travels, we have a little time to explore some of the sights of the world’s highest capital city and to visit the insect collections at the museum of Quito’s Catholic University. The collections of museums around the World house a vast treasure-trove of knowledge and visits between curators of different museums can be significant in unlocking this knowledge for wider appreciation and usefulness.

Specialists such as myself and my Brazilian colleagues José Albertino Rafael and Josenir Câmara are able to provide insight into the significance of these collections, promote wider recognition of their value and significance as well as provide pointers to how their importance may be communicated to their own nationals. Of course we have a vested interest too - we get to see specimens of animals we have only ever dreamed of!

Sometimes we can arrange loans between our institutions to support our own research or to facilitate contact with others who have something to contribute to the understanding or interpretation of the collections. While it is certainly true that most of insect biodiversity has never been seen (or knowingly seen) by a human being, it is also true that a proportion of that unknown diversity is represented in museum collections and people like me and my Brazilian colleagues are in the very special situation of being able to recognize its importance.