Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


On 7 July 2015, here at St Fagans, students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama will perform a series of 5 operatic arias inspired by the story of St Fagans Castle during the First World War, as part of MAKE AN ARIA.  

Unlike today, early twentieth century Wales was not considered a hotbed for operatic endeavour, musical Wales was associated with male voice choirs, brass bands and eisteddfodau.

One report on the subject of opera from 1910 even went so far as to say:

It has been frequently said that really good music is not appreciated by the people of Wales, for whom erotic musical comedy represents their highest tastes. Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser, 4 February 1910

Another newspaper reported a few years later:

The opera is of the theatre, and Wales still has its prejudice, I do think that Wales misses much by this attitude of aloofness…Wales has no further to go in choral singing. What we have to do now is to launch out, to widen our horizon. Cambrian Daily Leader, 11 April, 1913

However, on the global, cosmopolitan opera scene of the early decades of the century, there was one Welsh name on everyone’s lips, the mezzo-soprano, Madame Leila Megàne, known to her friends and family as Margaret Jones. Born in Bethesda in 1891, later to live in Pwllheli and Caernarfon, her roots were firmly planted in Wales.

She was trained in London and Paris before the First World War and later joined the company of the Grand Opera and toured extensively with them. For the Grand Opera’s production of Samson and Delilah in 1919 a new gown was commissioned for Leila. Before her death she gave the gown and its accessories to St Fagans National History Museum. As seen in the picture, the gown is a vivid orange with elaborate embroidery of purple, red, green and yellow.

The dress was made by Marie Muélle, arguably one of the best theatrical costumiers of the time. It was Muélle who made the iconic Ballets Russes costumes designed by the legendary artist Henri Matisse in 1920.

The New York Times reported in 1915:  

Muélle was known to every singer and every other stage favourite, too, who wants a distinctive Paris costume in which to create a new role. The New York Times, April 25, 1915.

Following the war, Leila returned to Pwllheli to perform at a special victory concert, much to the excitement and delight of the town. According to the newspapers of the time, the residents of Pwllheli were in such admiration of her that they queued eagerly for hours just to shake her hand.

Her professional career which captured the imagination of the world, was unfortunately short lived and soon after the First World War had ended she returned to Wales to live in comparative obscurity.

The bespoke Muélle gown however, remained very special to Leila throughout her life, and when she’d sing at concerts at local venues later in her life, she would always wear the dress whenever she sang arias from Samson and Delilah.

If Leila’s story has whet your appetite for opera, free tickets are now available for MAKE AN ARIA on 7 July 2015. Experimenting with opera and performance in the grounds of St Fagans Castle. An opportunity not to be missed. See What's On for further details.

By Claire Amundson, Learning Volunteer.

After deciding that teaching in schools was not my cup of tea, the question I was left with was, ‘What Now?’

With a background full of education related experience there seemed only one option; museum education. For someone just starting out in the museum sector, volunteering with the Learning and Events teams at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales has been an incredible step on the ladder. More than that, it has been an incredible experience altogether.


Through volunteering I have met new people, some like-minded individuals looking for pastures new and some simply enjoying volunteering in retirement or their spare time. For me, however, volunteering with the learning teams at National Museum Cardiff and St. Fagans has opened up a new world. Through volunteering I have gained an insight into what museum education is and how powerful these informal learning sessions can be for visitors.


In my time as a volunteer I have helped make Iron Age shields, helped to build a Wicker Man, and deliver summer sessions on the Mold Cape and other exhibitions. When the Mold Cape returned to Wales it was a chance to research the Bronze Age period further and ‘dig deeper’ into history I had only touched on previously. I also volunteered on a session on Pop Art, and it was amazing to see how many children had no idea what a CD was and yet hear the stories of parents and grandparents remembering cassettes and vinyl records.


Volunteering has truly made an impact. I have worked with people of all ages and discovered how rewarding it is to work with families in an informal learning heritage setting; something that complimented my earlier experience in formal learning as a teacher and teaching assistant. These experiences helped me towards obtaining the Wordsworth Trust Traineeship in 2014, and expanded on my experience at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.


Now, although still searching for that first break-through role, I have a wealth of experience behind me and memories that will last for years to come!

Yn ei dyddiadur heddiw, cyfeiria @DyddiadurKate fod “Win yn mynd i’r Pentre i help Grace olchi gwithbannau.”

Gorchwyl tymhorol oedd golchi gwrthbannau (blancedi). Tasg gweddol hawdd i ni heddiw â pheiriant golchi wrth law, ond nid felly yng nghyfnod Kate. Yn anffodus, ni ddisgrifiwyd y dasg arbennig hon wrth i Kate drafod prosesau golchi gyda Minwel Tibbot, nôl ym 1970. Fodd bynnag, ceir cyfeiriadau lu yn yr archif sain at y dasg o olchi blancedi, cwrlidau a llenni.

Gan fod gofyn am gymaint o ddŵr i’w golchi, byddai nifer fawr o wragedd mewn ardaloedd gwledig yn golchi’r blancedi yn yr afon, fel yr hen Beti Bwt druan. A pham lai? Roedd hi dipyn haws mynd â’r offer a’r eitemau oedd angen eu golchi i’r afon, yn hytrach na chario bwcedi di-ri o ddŵr i’r tŷ. Wedi cynnau tân i gynhesu’r dŵr, byddai’r blancedi’n cael eu golchi dwywaith mewn dŵr cynnes, gan eu rhwbio’n ofalus gyda sebon golchi. Dodwyd y blancedi yn yr afon i gael gwared ar y sebon, yna’r cam nesaf oedd gwasgu’r dŵr. Roedd angen bôn braich dau berson i wneud hyn, y naill yn gafael ym mhob pen ac yn gwasgu yn groes i’w gilydd. Wedi’r gwasgu, ysgwyd y blancedi i adfer y gweadedd gwlanog a’i rwystro rhag ‘matio’ wrth sychu ar lwyni gerllaw.

Does ryfedd fod angen help ar Grace heddiw ‘ma!



Ar 18 Mehefin 1915, cynhaliwyd ‘Sassiwn Plant’ yn Llidiardau, ger y Bala. Er nad oedd hi’n bresennol, fe wnaeth Kate Rowlands nodyn o’r achlysur yn ei dyddiadur:

Anfon dipyn o bysgod adref. Sassiwn Plant Llidiardau. Emrys yn cael mynd yno. Anwen ag Ella yno yn y Sassiwn Plant. Diwrnod hynod o braf. Mary Lizzie Pandy yn cael tarawiad o appendicitis.

Ar wefan Papurau Newydd Cymru Arlein, mae modd dod o hyd i erthyglau di-ri am gyfarfodydd o’u math yng nghapeli’r ardal. Yn Sasiwn Plant Moel-y-garnedd a’r Parc yn Mehefin 1914 holwyd y plant yn ‘fedrus ac i bwrpas’ am y 6ed a’r 7fed bennod o’r Rhodd Mam. Gyda’r nos, rhanwyd gwobrau a thystysgrifau, a chyn gorffen ‘anrhegwyd bob un o’r plant a ‘bun’ cyn iddynt gychwyn adref.’ Trît derbyniol ar ddiwedd diwrnod hir ddywedwn i!

Mewn cyfweliad llafar â’r Amgueddfa yn 1969, cyfeiriodd Kate Rowlands at bwysigrwydd cael dillad newydd ar gyfer rhai o brif ddigwyddiadau blynyddol y capel. Dyma ddyfyniad o’r cyfweliad dan sylw, gyda chyfeiriad penodol at un Sasiwn Plant cofiadwy o'i phlentyndod:

Lynn Davies: Oedd hi’n arferiad cael dillad newydd ar gyfer achlysuron arbennig?

Kate Rowlands: Diar oedd! A chadw dillad fyddech chi’n gael at achlysuron felly. Cadw nhw’n ddillad gore ynde. Oedd hi’n oes y dillad gore yn siwr yn de. Fydde nhw ond yn dod allan ar gyfer rwbeth hynod o bwysig ynde… cwarfodydd yn y Bala a rwbeth felly yn de… gwyl yr ysgol sul, sassiwn plant a rwbeth felly ynde wch chi… Dw i’n cofio ni’n dod i fyny ryw sassiwn plant o Llantisilio a wedi cael popeth ynde, a het wen reit smart. A wedyn mewn wageni o nhw’n mynd … a mi ddoth hi’n law mawr. Pan o’n i’n mynd adre, het goch o’genai. O’dd y papure’r trimmings wedi colli lliw i gyd! Dyne fo, dodd honno dda i ddim byd wedyn ynde.

A ninnau bron ar ddiwedd hanner cyntaf @DyddiadurKate, gobeithio eich bod yn mwynhau'r cynnwys hyd yn hyn. Mae llawer mwy i ddod, y llon a'r lleddf, felly lledaenwch y gair a chadwch lygad ar y blog.

We would like to offer volunteers the opportunity to get involved in caring for the museum collections on open display in the historic houses. We have a huge number of objects, including items made from pottery, glass, textiles, paper, wood and leather, all of which need constant care and repair.

We plan to use traditional housekeeping techniques as well as modern conservation methods to help keep our collection looking good.  No previous experience is required, all training will be provided.

New facilities are also being created for our housekeeping volunteers, providing a comfortable area to work as well as relax.

If you are interested in joining us, please follow this link to the application form and we look forward to hearing from you.
This is a pilot project so even if the initial days we offer are not suitable, please still register your interest as more opportunities will arise in the future.