Revue celtique obituary of John Gwenogvryn Evans, translated

I’m just ‘reading this into the record’, so I can link it from another post…

Obituary: JOHN GWENOGVRYN EVANS, J. Vendryes in Revue celtique 47, 1930. (Auto translated from the French and lightly polished for clarity)

Moins d’un an après sir John Morris Jones, John Gwenogvryn Evans entre à son tour dans l’éternel repos. Si ces deux bons Gallois se rencontrent aux Champs-Elysées, il faut espérer que leurs ombres, délivrées des passions terrestres, poursuivront dans le calme et la sérénité les discussions qu’ils menaient ici-bas si âprement. La violence qu’ils mettaient à se combattre, à se déni- grer, dépassait toute mesure. Comme le motif s’en ramenait tou- jours à l’interprétation d’un texte ou à la lecture d’un manuscrit, c’était pour tout spectateur impartial un sujet à la fois de tristesse et d’étonnement. Dans une polémique aussi excessive les torts étaient également partagés : on ne trouvait à qui donner raison. La postérité oubliera heureusement ces vaines disputes et ne retiendra d’eux que les bons services qu’ils ont, chacun dans leur genre, rendus à la philologie galloise.

Less than a year after Sir John Morris Jones, John Evans Gwenogvryn also turns to his eternal rest. If both Welsh good-men met in the Champs Elysees, it is to be hoped that from their ghostly shadows would depart all their earthly passions, and that they would continue in peace and quiet the discussions they had set down in print so fiercely. Put aside the violence that they put into their fight, which involved denigration beyond [any seemly] measure. Since the final pattern of meaning is always found in the reader’s own interpretation of a text or a manuscript, then their quarrel seemed to any impartial spectator a subject of both sadness and amazement. In such a controversy the excessive wrongs were evenly split: and no-one was right. Fortunately posterity will forget these vain disputes and we shall retain these men in our memory for the good service they have, each in their way, given to Welsh philology.

John Evans était né le 20 mars 1852 à Ffynnon Yelved, Llany- byther (Carmarthenshire), et fit son éducation première au Presby- terian Collège de Carmarthen. Entré de bonne heure dans le ministère sacerdotal, il fut quelque temps pasteur de l’Église uni- tarienne à Preston (Lancashire). Atteint de tuberculose pulmo- naire, il dut cesser son service paroissial, et les médecins lui déclarèrent qu’un dénouement fatal ne pourrait être retardé — et seulement retardé — que s’il se décidait à partir pour l’Australie. Il s’y décida. Mais l’amélioration de sa santé lui parut trop lente à venir; il quitta brusquement Melbourne le 6 février 1882 pour rentrer dans sa patrie et il débarqua à Gravesend le 25 mai suivant. Il se rendit alors à Oxford, brûlant de l’ardeur de l’étude ; il y retrouva son grand ami O.-M. Edwards, qui nous a laissé un portrait touchant de cet « invalide », pour lequel vingt minutes de lecture étaient alors une pénible épreuve. Mais cet invalide avait une énergie farouche; il s’entêta si bien au travail qu’il eut raison de sa mauvaise santé. A Oxford, dans l’entourage de sir John Rhys, il trouva des condisciples qui partageaient son ardeur et dont l’émulation l’excita. Il se proposa l’édition aussi exacte que possible des vieux textes gallois, si souvent maltraités dans les publications modernes, et il devint paléographe. C’est comme tel qu’il faut le juger pour apprécier tous ses mérites. Il publia successivement un facsimile autotype du Black Book of Carmarthen (R. Celt., IX, 297) puis, avec la collaboration de sir John Rhys, l’édition diplomatique des Mabinogion et des Bruts d’après le Red Book of Hergest (ibid., VIII, 192 ; IX, 290 ; XI, 504 ; XII, 294). Vint ensuite, toujours avec la collaboration de Rhys, l’édi- tion du Book of Llandav (ibid., XIV, 205). En 1894, il fut nommé inspecteur des documents en langue galloise, fonction qu’il occupa jusqu’en 1906. Prenant sa charge au sérieux, il entre- prit la vaste enquête qui porta sur environ 900 manuscrits et aboutit au monumental Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language, en deux volumes (ibid., XIX, 343 ; XXIV, 95 et XXXI, 533) : c’est son œuvre maîtresse ; elle est pour la philologie galloise d’une importance capitale.

John Evans was born 20th March 1852 at Ffynnon Yelved, Llanybyther (Carmarthenshire), and was educated first at the Presbyterian College in Carmarthen. He came early in the priestly ministry, and was for some time pastor of a Unitarian Church in Preston (Lancashire). Suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, he had to stop his parish work. Doctors declared to him that a fatal outcome could be delayed – and only delayed – if he decided to leave for Australia. He decided on it. But the improvement in his health seemed too slow in coming; so he abruptly left Melbourne on 6th February 1882 to return to his homeland. He landed at Gravesend on 25th May. He then went to Oxford, burning with the ardor of the study; there found his great friend O. M. Edwards, who left us a touching portrait of this “invalid”, a man for whom twenty minutes reading time were a painful ordeal. But this was an invalid with a fierce energy; he persisted in his scholarship and he had time to work because of ill health. At Oxford he became part of the entourage of Sir John Rhys, in whose company he found fellow students who shared his ardor and the interests which excited him. He also proposed the need for exact editions, as exact as as possible of the old Welsh texts – which were then so often abused in modern publications. He became a palaeographer, and it is on such work that we must judge and appreciate its merits. He successively published a facsimile autotype the Black Book of Carmarthen and with the collaboration of Sir John Rhys, a diplomatic edition of the Mabinogion and the ?? from the Red Book of Hergest. Then came, working in collaboration with Rhys, an edition of publishing the Book of Llandav. In 1894 he was appointed inspector of manuscripts in Welsh, a position he held until 1906. Taking his charge seriously, he undertook extensive investigation which brought about 900 manuscripts and leads into the monumental Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language in two volumes. It is his masterpiece; it is for the Welsh philologist a work of paramount importance.

Il avait épousé Edith Hunter, fille du principal du Presbyterian Collège de Carmarthen — elle mourut en 1923 — ; et il avait été s’installer dans le voisinage de Llanbedrog, en un lieu qu’il appela Tremvan. Sa maison était bâtie sur la hauteur dans un site mer- veilleux, dominant cette région si pittoresque du Carnarvonshire, ayant vue sur la mer de deux côtés et par un ciel clair permettant même, disait-il, de découvrir la côte d’Irlande. C’est là que tout en dirigeant attentivement l’exploitation de ses terres, il poursuivit sans relâche sa carrière d’éditeur de textes. Successivement parurent : les Mabinogion du White Book of Rhydderch (ibid., XXXI, ioé), le Book of Aneirin (ibid, XXXII, 209), le Book of Taliesin (ibid., XXXVII, 137), les poésies du Red Book of Hergest et les lois du Book of Chirk. Il a publié dans la Revue Celtique (t. XL et XLI) le manuscrit le plus ancien des Gogynfeirdd. C’est à Tremvan que la mort est venue le frapper en plein travail, le 25 mars 1930.

He married Edith Hunter, daughter of the principal of the Presbyterian College Carmarthen – she died in 1923 – and settled in the neighborhood of Llanbedrog, in a place he called Tremvan. His house was built on a site high up in a marvelous site overlooking this picturesque region of Carnarvonshire, with sea views from both sides and clear skies allowing him, he said, to sometimes discern the coast of Ireland. This is where – while careful directing the use of the surrounding lands – he continued relentlessly his career as a text editor. Successively he produced: the Mabinogion of the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin, the Book of Taliesin, the poems of the Red Book of Hergest and laws of the Book of Chirk. He has published in the Celtic Review the oldest manuscript of Gogynfeirdd. It was at Tremvan that death came while he was still hard at work, 25th March 1930.

Ses mérites comme paléographe étaient universellement reconnus ; ils lui valurent le doctorat honoris causa de l’Université d’Oxford (en 1903) et de l’Université de Galles. On peut regretter qu’ils n’aient pas suffi à son ambition. Les tentatives qu’il fit pour la critique et l’interprétation du Book of Aneirin et du Book ol Taliesin lurent des moins heureuses. Le meilleur service à rendre à sa mémoire est de n’en pas parler. Mais comme dernier titre de gloire, il faut signaler la part qu’il prit à la création de la! National Library of Wales à Aberystwyth. Dans une série d’articles publiés par le Western Mail en août 1928, il raconta: lui-même comment son action personnelle auprès de sir John Williams fut définitive. Il écrivait avec esprit et sa conversation avait beaucoup de piquant. Tous ceux qui ont pu le connaître de: près conserveront le souvenir d’un travailleur enthousiaste et obligeant.

His merits as palaeographer were universally recognized. They earned him an honorary doctorate from Oxford University (1903) and from the University of Wales. It is regrettable that these awards were not enough to stay his ambition. The attempts he made at the criticism and interpretation of the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin proved less happy. The best service we can render to his memory is not to talk [of the contention that these aroused]. But I have left to the last his other great claim to fame – it should be noted the part he played in creating the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. In a series of articles published by the Western Mail in August 1928, he told of how his personal appeal to Sir John Williams had clinched the matter. As a writer he wrote with wit and his conversation had a lot of pizzazz. All those who have known him will retain the memory of an enthusiastic and helpful worker.

— J. Vendryes.

Bury Bank added to the “at risk” register.

The hillfort at Bury Bank, north of Stone at Meaford, is a new addition to the 2016 official “at risk” register of historic sites.

“Declining: Generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems”, mostly arising from “scrub/tree growth”.

Since the time of John Leland’s travels in Tudor England the site has been known and written of as an ancient seat of the Anglian king of early Mercia, King Wulfhere (657-74 AD).

burybankview

From “A few jottings on some Staffordshire Camps” in North Staffordshire Naturalists’ Field Club, Annual Report and Transactions, 1892:

Dr. Plot in his Natural History of Staffordshire, published in 1686, thus quaintly describes this place: ” On the top of a hill there yet remains the ruins of a large castle, fortified with a double vallum and entrenchments, about 250 yards diameter, the gate seeming to have been on the west part of it where the side banks on each hand plainly appear : others fancy there was a second gate on the east side too ; though I could not perceive any probability for it, but on the south side there is a round conical hill, much like a tumulus cast up higher than all the rest of the work, which, according to the tradition of the country thereabout, was the seat of Ulferus [Wulfhere], King of Mercia …. Mr. Sampson Erdeswick asserts that he had seen an old writing relating to the foundation of the Priory of Stone that affiirms as much : which may, perhaps, be that of R. de Suggenhill and Petronel his wife, whereby they gave to the Church of S. Mary and S. Ulfade of Stone. Messuagium juxta montem qui dicitiur Ulferecester in terroris de Derlaston ; which index proves fully that this was the royal mansion of the said Ulferus who governed Mercia from the year of Christ 657 to 676, the Lowe (tumulus) adjoining being in all probability the place of his sepulture.”

The Association of British Counties

The Association of British Counties is “a society dedicated to promoting awareness of the continuing importance of the 92 traditional Counties of the United Kingdom.” Their basic aims are that:

  * the borders of the historic counties should be marked on maps and appropriately signed;

  * the geography of the historic counties should be adopted by writers, editors, publishers, organisations, and businesses for all suitable (non-administrative) purposes;

  * the historic counties should be the standard for use in studies of history, local history, historical geography and genealogy; and used in cataloguing, indexing and organising historical records and documents;

  * the historic counties should be used as the county line in all UK postal addresses.

These worthy aims are getting some traction, and the traditional counties are now once again publicly recognised by government. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said in a speech in 2013…

“… we are championing England’s traditional local identities which continue to run deep. Administrative restructuring by previous governments has sought to suppress and undermine such local identities. Today, on St George’s Day, we commemorate our patron saint and formally acknowledge the continuing role of our traditional counties in England’s public and cultural life.”

It has also been announced by government that traditional county names can be placed on road-signs. In 2014 the people of Cornwall were officially recognised as a people. From 2015 Staffordshire formally adopted and promoted May 1st as the ‘County Day’, branded and promoted as Staffordshire Day from 2016, and with a very major ‘A Day at the Lake’ celebration in North Staffordshire. In future we need to ensure that the marketing and map for each Staffordshire Day covers the country’s traditional rather than current boundaries. Journalists, writers and artists and others can all do their bit in such promotion. Sports coaches and teachers too, when naming new sports teams, school houses and suchlike. A simple website to help with that is the ABC’s excellent County-Wise: get to know the Historic Counties.

The ABC have an annual journal, free online, Our Counties : The Association of British Counties Annual.

I have to say that currently the ABC seems to have got a bit sidetracked into designing and promoting very naff new county flags. A flag has no emotional resonance whatsoever in somewhere like north Staffordshire, and frankly it feels like an unwarranted imposition into history. The flags also give cynical journalists the opportunity to make ‘the counties’ cause look incredibly cranky in the mainstream media. Their clunky and gaudy design also undermines the ‘cool factor’ needed to entice a critical mass of serious artists and writers to quietly take up the cause. But otherwise the ABC is a very worthy organisation and should be supported.


From The story of the shire, 1921.

Dr. J. Wilfred Jackson – pictures of the Peak

peakArbor Low, from the J.W. Jackson Collection.

dersb-2005-3-680Church Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, from the the J.W. Jackson Collection.

Pictures from the J.W. Jackson Collection at the Buxton Museum, in the north Midlands of England, a collection which is in the early stages of being digitized. They write of the stone circle picture that… “The location is Arbor Low, near Monyash [Neolithic, in the Peak District]. We think Jackson took original photo himself. We have a great number of his lantern slides at the museum, including other views of Arbor Low, but also many other places in the Peak District. We’re currently in the process of trying to digitise more of the collection so that we can share more online.”

Jackson was Dr. J. Wilfred Jackson (1880-1978).

The Arbor Low picture looks to me to be after about 1905, and probably the 1910s, judging by the wearing of a flat cap with a country suit.

The lower picture is of Church Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, near to the site of the discovery of the most ancient art in the British Isles. Below is my macro photo made in the British Museum, of the art found there. The shape of an Ice Age horse’s head, with a mane etched across the top. Found at Robin Hood Cave at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire.

crag_ice_age_art_uk

Why do we ignore Birmingham and the West Midlands?

An interesting theory today on “Why do we ignore Birmingham and the West Midlands?”. Because, the writer says, of the total mess we’ve made of our boundaries including our beloved traditional county boundaries. We’ve tinkered and tinkered until we ended up with the total mess that have today, exemplified by monstrosities such as the map of the Greater Birmingham LEP area.

“Without a common identity, city regions have struggled to create common institutions. Without those, they struggle to solve joint problems, or build a single economy.”

I think he’s broadly right, but needs to factor in the dire legacy of municipal socialism in places such as Birmingham and Stoke, and of course the sneering prejudice from London, which both scared away business investment. The lesson: don’t tinker with key boundaries that have been settled for a millennia or more.

Two free books on wassailing in England

Apple wassailing is an ancient tradition, taking the form of a New Year procession. I was pleased to see it revived recently in Stoke-on-Trent. The apple and fruit trees of a district are each visited in turn. The men sing to them, toast their health in cider and the boys tap their trunks with whippy sticks in a sun-wise direction, in order to ‘wake up’ the trees and ‘turn them back toward life’. The wonders of digitisation have recently turned up two excellent free books on the topic, written by a Cambridge academic and published by Manchester University Press.

* J. Rendel Harris, “Origin and meaning of apple cults”, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 1919, Vol.5, Nos. 1-2, pages 29-74. Later published as a pamphlet by Manchester University Press and Longmans.

* J. Rendel Harris, The Masque of the Apple, Manchester University Press, 1920. This attempts to embody the traditions and beliefs in a series of historically accurate masques (short plays).

wassailing-devon