26 February 2015,
On this day in 1917, Brinley Rhys Edmunds, an 18 year old groom from Barry, joined the army – one teenager among the 272,924 Welshmen who served during the First World War.
At the time, Brinley was living with his parents – Evan Edmunds and his Norwegian wife, Christine Sofia – at 7 Dunraven Street, a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Barry Docks. On the 1911 census, his father’s occupation is listed as Railway Engine Driver. From the census, we also learn that he, along with two of his four siblings, was a Welsh speaker.
Brinley’s Record of Service Paper – the form he completed at a Cardiff recruiting office on 26 February 1917 – shows that he was initially assigned to the 59th Training Reserve Battalion. As you can see, the recruiting officer mistakenly noted his name as Brindley, rather than Brinley – an error replicated in all subsequent military records. The Service Paper reveals an intriguing twist to Brinley’s story. It appears that he had enlisted once before, with the 18th Battalion The Welsh Regiment, but was discharged for being underage:
Have you ever served in any branch of His Majesty’s Forces, naval or military? If so, which?
Yes 18 Welch Discharged under age 16-11-15
By my calculations, Brinley was born in November 1898, therefore he would have been 17 years old, or thereabouts, when he was discharged from the 18th Battalion. He probably joined-up at the age of 16, but I have been unable to trace any online documents relating to his time as an underage teenage tommy.
Frustrations aside, we’re fortunate to have several objects in the collection which were donated to the Museum by Brinley’s family in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They are among the most powerful and poignant of all the First World War collections in our care. Although undated, the postcard shown here was almost certainly written by Brinley when he served with The Welsh Regiment. In July 1915, the 18th Battalion moved to Prees Heath training camp in Shropshire. This novelty postcard, addressed to Brinley’s parents, includes a set of pull-out images of the camp.
In addition to the postcard, we also have a beautiful pincushion made by Brinley as a gift for his mother. The centre features the insignia of The Welsh Regiment and the motto Gwell Angau na Chywilydd (Better Death than Dishonour). We don’t know where or why Brinley made this pincushion, but it’s possible that he was given the material and beads in kit format to alleviate boredom or to focus his mind.
We recently showed the pincushion and postcard to children whose parents are serving in the Armed Forces today. Both objects will be displayed in the redeveloped galleries here at St Fagans, alongside contemporary responses generated through partnership work with the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme. When asked to consider why Brinley may have made this pincushion for his mother, one young girl suggested it was his way of saying ‘I’m alive, don’t worry.’
Brinley Rhys Edmunds died on 5 September 1918 while serving with the Durham Light Infantry, a matter of weeks before the armistice and his twentieth birthday. He is buried at the Berlin South-Western Cemetery in Germany. With no grave to visit at home, his family preserved and displayed the pincushion under a glass dome. Like all families who lost a relative in the line of duty, Brinley’s parents received a bronze memorial plaque in recognition of his service, inscribed HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY RYHS EDMUNDS – the error made by the Cardiff recruiting officer compounded by the misspelling of his middle name, Rhys.
Remember, you can now access the Museum's First World War collections online. We'd love to hear from you if you have further information about Brinley Edmunds, or any other person or family represented in the collections.
23 January 2015,
Our pregnant ewes came in from the field just after Christmas for extra care, shelter and food - this is important for strong lamb development. The ewes were all scanned in the New Year so that we can separate them into two groups: those expecting a single lamb in one group, twins or triplets in the other. The blue and green marks on their backs are the farmer’s code for whose got what inside them.
There are currently about 100 breeding ewes in the flock and we expect 150+ lambs. Our ewes are 2 years old the first time they lamb. The gestation period for a sheep is 5 months - the ewes come into season in September and we put our rams in the field in with the girls on 1st October. This means lambing will commence in the first week of March. We choose this schedule in order to have lambs on show in the Museum's fields for Easter.
So for the next few weeks they’ll be loafing around in the shed eating and sleeping….
Sunbathing, and generally being pampered.
Somewhere in amongst them is Poopsie, one of our bottle fed lambs from two years ago. She got the name after pooping all over my leg the first time I fed her.
Sometimes hand reared lambs will stay very tame, but Poopsie has merged back into the flock. Just occasionally though, there’s a look in the eye that makes me think ‘maybe it’s you……’
15 January 2015,
In between Christmas and New Year our girls came in from the fields for pregnancy scans.
And the scores on the doors are……
We have three breeds of sheep at St Fagans and they’re all on the Rare Breeds List:
and Black Welsh Mountain.
We’re expecting our babies to start arriving in March,
so keep an eye on the website for more details nearer the time.
27 October 2014,
What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.
So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.
The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.
The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.
We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.
17 September 2014,
Elan volunteers with the St Fagans Youth Forum and spent some time with the Museum's Historic Buildings Unit and has blogged about her experience below;
Demonstrations from the Histioric Buildings Unit
As part of the Historic Buildings Demonstrations at Sain Ffagan, I visited Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf to see a carpenter at his work. When I arrived, he was busy working on a head of a door frame for the new Iron Age Village with wood that was sourced on site and freshly cut that morning. The work had to be done by hand without any aid from machines. He was more than happy to talk to us about his work and answer any of our questions. He talked about how he has done an NVQ in Historic Carpentry and that he has just finished his apprentiship after working at the museum for five years. His admiration towards the knowledge of the more experienced craftsmen was clear and he was aware that this knowledge came from experience not from qualifications.
He later explained how they brought buildings to the museum desribing the finished result as ‘flatpack buildings’ as they numbered the bricks around the sides before taking the building down and rebuilding it in Sain Ffagan using the Havorfordwest House and the Raglan Train Station as examples of this. The importance of conservation in this process was evident as he talked of only taking away what you needed whilst repairing historic buildings in order to keep their authenticity. He explained how the new developments happening in Sain Ffagan would lead to new work such as the Prince’s Palace from Anglesey where they would need to handle 480kg of timber! This was time well spent in order to understand how the building happens in Sain Ffagan.
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