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With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, many museums and galleries are busy planning events and activities to promote and celebrate the contribution of their volunteers. Here at St Fagans, volunteers play an active role in all aspects of our work. From whitewashing to thatching, rag-rug making to gardening, their skills and dedication are visible across the site.

A hundred years ago, volunteers were leaving their mark on St Fagans under very different circumstances. During the First World War, in 1916 the British Red Cross opened a 70 bed auxiliary hospital in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, staffed by Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses (known as VADs) from the local area.

The VAD scheme was formed in 1909 by the British Red Cross and the Order of St John, with the intention of providing additional nursing services in the event of war. Detachments (or units) were organised at county level, with each volunteer member receiving training in first aid and basic nursing skills. The first detachment to be established in Wales was formed at St Fagans Castle, of all places, in November 1909. The following year, two hundred VAD members from the county of Glamorgan took over the grounds for a training day. A reporter from the Cardiff Times witnessed the action:

An interesting demonstration was given in a field, showing how the wounded can be carried to the rear for treatment at hospital bases. Dr Sparrow explaining how first aid can be given without special provision of splints, bandages etc. A feature of the demonstration was a spring cart, lent by James Howells and Co Cardiff, which in less than seven minutes can be improvised for twenty-four wounded soldiers under cover. [Cardiff Times 24 September 1910]

Many of the nurses who volunteered at the St Fagans Red Cross Hospital during the war joined the VAD scheme at this early stage. One of whom was Mary Ann Dodd – known as Polly. She worked as a housemaid for the Windsor-Clive family in the Castle, but also did turns of duty at the hospital, as she recalled some 40 years later:

I used to cook and clean and one day a week I did the washing. Those soldiers’ socks were in a state, many had no heels in them at all. The soldiers only laughed and teased us, and when they got better, they tried to help us.

In July, we’ll be exploring some of these personal stories on-site through music and performance. The much-anticipated culmination of the Make an Aria project (in partnership with Music Theatre Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama) will give operatic life to the men and women who lived, worked and convalesced at the Castle during the war. The Make an Aria project is a first for the Museum - we don't often experiment with musical interpretation. Book your tickets now! And of course, don't forget about the First World War online catalogue. We’ve created a ‘volunteering’ tag to pull together all the collections relating to voluntary action during the First World War, both here at St Fagans and in communities across Wales.

On his death over 100 years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace was widely praised as the 'last of the great Victorians'. But who was he?

Wallace was many things - an intrepid explorer, a brilliant naturalist, a social activist - overall a remarkable man. In his time he collected over 125 000 animal specimens, published more than 800 articles and wrote 22 books.

He is most famously associated with co-discovering the process of evolution by natural selection alongside Charles Darwin. Yet we have all heard of Darwin, whilst Wallace had become more of a forgotten figure.

In 2013 AC-NMW produced an exhibition commemorating the life and work of this great man. This exhibition has now journeyed westwards to the Oriel y Parc Gallery in St Davids, and can be explored by visitors until the 25th November.

Yma yn Sain Ffagan, mae’r prosiect ail-ddatblygu (Creu Hanes) yn mynd yn ei flaen ar garlam. Tra bo’r cadwraethwyr yn asesu cyflwr y casgliadau a’r curaduron eraill yn cydlynu gyda’r dylunwyr, un o fy nhasgau i dros y flwyddyn nesaf fydd gweithio ar gyfres o brosiectau cymunedol ar gyfer yr orielau newydd. Yn y byd amgueddfaol, mae ’na enw ar gyfer y math yma o waith – cyd-guradu, neu cyd-greu.

Wrth gwrs, dyw gweithio gyda chymunedau ddim yn beth newydd i ni fel sefydliad. Dyma oedd hanfod dull Iorwerth Peate o guradu a sylfaen datblygu casgliadau’r Amgueddfa Werin yn y lle cyntaf. Yn 1937 – bron i ddegawd cyn agor giatiau Castell Sain Ffagan i bobl Cymru – aeth Peate ati i lunio holiadur a yrwyd at unigolion a sefydliadau ym mhob plwyf yng Nghymru yn gofyn am arferion a thraddodiadau eu milltir sgwâr. Dyma ddyfyniad ohono:

… rhaid i’r Amgueddfa wrth wybodaeth a gwrthrychau o bob plwyf yng Nghymru; rhaid iddi ddibynnu hefyd i raddau helaeth iawn ar gydweithrediad y Cymry mewn fferm a bwthyn, tref a phentref.

Mae’r ymatebion a ddaeth i law bellach yn rhan o archif lawysgrifau’r Amgueddfa, ynghyd â llythyron a llyfrau ateb – dau ddull arall a ddefnyddwyd gan Peate i gasglu gwybodaeth. Yn ei gyfnod, does dim dwywaith nad oedd yn arloesi mewn tir newydd.

Heddiw, mae rhaglen gymunedol yr Amgueddfa yn barhâd o’r etifeddiaeth hon, ond rydym yn gweithio mewn ffordd dra wahanol. Yn y cyfnod cynnar, pan fyddai gwybodaeth a chasgliadau yn cyrraedd yr Amgueddfa, llais y curadur fyddai'n dehongli a chyflwyno’r deunydd hwnnw. Er mor werthfawr yw’r cynnyrch a gasglwyd, perthynas un-ochrog i raddau oedd rhwng yr Amgueddfa a’i hysbyswyr cymunedol.

Bron i wythdeg mlynedd yn ddiweddarach, mae’r pwyslais wedi newid ac fe welir hyn yn glir yn y gwaith sy’n digwydd yma fel rhan o brosiect Creu Hanes. O fewn yr orielau newydd, bydd gofodau wedi eu curadu gan gymunedau ledled Cymru – eu lleisiau a’u gwrthrychau nhw fydd hanfod yr arddangosfeydd hyn. Yn ogystal, mae fforymau cyfranogol y prosiect – pwyllgorau yw’r rhain sy’n cynrychioli cynulleidfaoedd amrywiol yr Amgueddfa – wedi chwarae rhan bwysig yn y broses o ddewis a dethol gwrthrychau a themâu yr orielau newydd o’r cychwyn cyntaf. Yn syml, ein nod yw creu hanes gyda, yn hytrach nag ar gyfer, pobl Cymru.

Gyda hyn mewn golwg, wythnos yn ôl mi roeddwn i gyda’r gymuned yn Awyrlu’r Fali yn cynnal ail gyfarfod am eu mewnbwn nhw i’r rhaglen cyd-guradu. Mae’r gymuned yn y Fali yn unigryw gan fod yno gymysgedd o dros fil o weithwyr milwrol a sifilaidd. Dyma un o gyflogwyr mwyaf Ynys Môn. Rydym wedi rhoi camerau fideo i ddetholiad o staff yr orsaf i recordio diwrnod arferol yn eu bywyd gwaith. Hyd yn hyn, mae wyth adran yn cymryd rhan, gan gynnwys y frigâd dân, peilotiaid Sgwadron 208 a’r gwasanaeth arlwyo. Mi fydd eu ffilmiau ‘pry-ar-y-wal’ yn cael eu dangos am gyfnod yn un o’r orielau newydd, ynghyd â gwrthrychau o'u dewis nhw. Bydd y cyfan wedyn yn cael ei archifo a’i roi ar gof a chadw yn yr Amgueddfa, a'r gofod arddangos yn cael ei drosglwyddo i gymuned waith wahanol.

I glywed mwy am ein prosiectau cyd-guradu, cadwch lygad ar y blog dros y flwyddyn nesaf. Gallwch hefyd gadw ar y blaen gyda'r datblygiadau drwy ddilyn fy nghyfrif  Twitter @StFagansTextile a’r hashnod #CreuHanes. Cofiwch hefyd am fy nghyd-weithwyr sy'n trydar: @CuradurFflur, @archifsfarchive, @SF_Politics, @SF_Ystafelloedd, @SF_adeiladau, @WelshFurniture@CollectionsSF a @SF_Dogfennaeth. Rhwng pawb, fe gewch chi’r diweddaraf am y prosiect ail-ddatblygu a chipolwg ar weithgarwch un adran sy’n rhan o’r gymuned waith yma yn Sain Ffagan. 

Cefnogir y gwaith gydag Awyrlu'r Fali gan Gynllun Cyfamod Cymunedol y Lluoedd Arfog.

Wythnos nesaf bydd Caerffili a’r cylch yn croesawu Eisteddfod yr Urdd a dros 15,000 o blant a phobl ifanc i’r dref i gystadlu mewn cystadlaethau megis canu, dawnsio a pherfformio. Uchafbwynt yr ŵyl i lawer fydd seremoni’r coroni a chadeirio.

Ar y penwythnos yma, ganrif yn ôl, bu Kate hefyd yn ymweld ag Eisteddfod, sef Eisteddfod Llanuwchllyn 1915.

Enillydd cadair Eisteddfod Llanuwchllyn y diwrnod hynny oedd neb llai, nag Hedd Wyn, un o brif ffigurau llenyddol Cymru.

Y gadair yma oedd y bedwaredd gadair iddo ennill mewn eisteddfod leol, a’i ffugenw oedd ‘Fleur-de-lis’, enw a ddefnyddiodd sawl tro wrth gystadlu. Dyma hefyd oedd yr eildro iddo ennill cadair Eisteddfod Llanuwchllyn. Yn yr eisteddfod gyntaf, yn ôl llafar gwlad, bu’n rhaid cadeirio Hedd Wyn yn ei absenoldeb, oherwydd iddo adael yr eisteddfod yng nghwmni un o ferched y fro, ac aros allan gyda hi.

Derbyniodd glod aruthrol yn y ddwy eisteddfod. Meddai’r beirniad ym 1913:

Well done Hedd Wyn, dos yn mlaen hyd nes cyrhaedd Cadair Genedlaethol.

A dyna be wnaeth – yn 1915 aeth ati i geisio am Gadair Genedlaethol Eisteddfod Bangor ond ni ddaeth i’r brig y tro yna. T.H Parry Williams a gipiodd y gadair a’r goron y flwyddyn hynny.

Er iddo golli ym Mangor, ddwy flynedd yn ddiweddarach, bu iddo ennill Cadair Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Penbedw 1917, ond yn dorcalonnus, bu farw mewn brwydr yng ngwlad Belg rhai wythnosau ynghynt. Yn ystod y ddefod, gosodwyd gorchudd du dros y Gadair.

Bu eisteddfodau yn elfen bwysig o fywydau'r Gymru yn ystod y Rhyfel. Fe roddodd gyfle i bobl ddod at ei gilydd i fwynhau ag anghofio pryderon rhyfel, pe bai hynny ond am ysbaid fechan. Mewn cyfnod o ansicrwydd, dychryn a pherygl fe fydda’r eisteddfod yn corddi ymdeimlad o ysbryd cymunedol, nid yn unig ar y ffrynt Gartref ond hefyd i filwyr hiraethus o Gymru:

The Welshmen in khaki could not let Easter go by without his feast of song, and “somewhere in England” the lads from the Principality had a Welsh Divisional Eisteddfod. Cambrian Daily Leader, 25 Ebrill 1916  

This follows on from Marsli Owen's blog.

When we decided to do an event called ‘Through the Keyhole’ I thought about the different things I could show people in the historic houses of St Fagans.  I wanted something that linked the past and present, so I chose tea drinking and based myself in the parlour of Kennixton farmhouse.

At Kennixton, the parlour is decorated in the style of the 1750s – you might recognise it as Captain Blamey’s house in the recent Poldark tv serial.  I decided to do the event in costume to help bring the house to life, and laid the table for tea as they would have done in the 18th century.   

Tea has a very exciting history, inspiring fashion, fortune, revolution, and crime.  It was brought to this country in 1657 by Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of Charles II.  A bit like the Kate-effect of today it swiftly caught on as a fashionable drink.

Like a lot of popular things, tea was taxed very highly by the government.  Some unscrupulous dealers would try and make tea go further by adulterating it with hawthorn leaves or even dried sheep poo!  To combat the high tax on tea, many people in Wales would have bought their tea from smugglers.  It’s possible the residents of Kennixton got their tea the same way.  It was originally built on the Gower coast so smuggled tea would have been easily available. 

It wasn’t just the Welsh who objected to paying the high tax on tea; the Americans didn’t see why they should pay it either.  They showed their feelings by throwing British tea into Boston harbour - the Boston Tea Party – which kick-started the American War of Independence in 1775.

I loved doing this event and it generated some really interesting conversations with visitors. Just doing some day-to-day activities in the house made it feel much more like a home. But I have to confess I was relieved to get out of the dress at the end of the day - the large skirts and tight sleeves were so restricting.  I finished the day wearing my comfy jeans and enjoying a mug of tea curled up on the sofa!

There will be one last blog next week to follow on by Heulwen, who will be talking about the Prefab.