Session 49: Ystafell 1
Cymru'r ugeinfed ganrif a llenyddiaeth gymharol / Twentieth-century Wales and comparative literature

Chair: Gerwyn Wiliams

Côr Merched y Streic: Women and choral activities during The Great ‘Bethesda’ Strike (1900–1903)

Catherine Elizabeth Jones
Prifysgol Bangor

During the nineteenth and early tweintieth centuries the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, Gwynedd, was the largest slate quarry in the world. At the height of its production, it employed upwards of 3000 workmen, most of whom lived in Dyffryn Ogwen (Ogwen Valley). Following years of industrial unease between quarrymen and aristocratic quarry-owner, George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant, 2nd Baron Penrhyn (1836–1907), tensions reached breaking point, resulting in The Great Strike (1900–1903). Due to the unparalleled employment opportunities offered by the quarry, industrial action had a detrimental effect throughout the locality, plunging thousands of families into extreme poverty.

Such destitution, inflicted on the entire region, had several consequences, one of which was an increased dependence on the charity of others, which forced a greater reliance on the work of local musicians who had a long-standing tradition of collaborating in support of their neighbours. The years of The Great Strike were no different. A unique feature at the time, however, were the widespread activities of a local choir of women, Côr Merched y Streic (‘The Women’s Strike Choir’) which consisted of some of Dyffryn Ogwen’s leading female vocalists who travelled to many of England’s industrial cities raising funds for the strikers and their families. This was the first women’s choir of its kind in Bethesda, capitalising on the increased performance opportunities which innovators such as Clara Novello Davies (1861–1943) had brought to the Welsh choral tradition during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

This paper aims to highlight the unique role of the ‘Women’s Strike Choir’ (Côr Merched y Streic), exploring their use of music to raise money for their cause, how they brought attention to the difficulties of their workmen back home in Wales, and to evaluate the impact that their activities had on musical development in early twentieth-century Dyffryn Ogwen.


‘Eu gwahaniaeth fydd eu grym’: Aled Jones Williams a Sergi Belbel

Hannah Sams
Prifysgol Abertawe

Nid yw edrych tua Chatalwnia yn beth newydd gan academyddion yng Nghymru. Yn wir, mae’n rhywbeth a wneir yn fynych mewn cyd-destunau sosieithyddol a gwleidyddol. Er hynny, prin yw’r cymariaethau diwylliannol sy’n amlygu’r potensial hwnnw, a phrinnach fyth ydynt yn nhermau’r theatr Gymraeg. Pwysleisiodd y diweddar R.M. Jones yn Ysbryd y Cwlwm (1998) un o fanteision posibl cyflwyno lens gymharol newydd trwy edrych tua Chatalwnia gan esbonio, ‘[fod] gan genhedloedd o’r fath [cenhedloedd lleiafrifol] wybodaeth arbennig am fywyd, a dylai’r hyn sy ganddyn nhw i’w ddweud fod o ddiddordeb cyffredinol, ac nid lleol yn unig.’ Nododd ymhellach mai ‘[e]u gwahaniaeth fydd eu grym.’ Gobaith y papur hwn yw cynnig cip o botensial edrych trwy’r lens newydd honno a’r modd y gallai hynny gyfrannu at ehangu gorwelion cymharol ym maes beirniadaeth y ddrama Gymraeg gyfoes. Eir ati i wneud hynny trwy graffu’n benodol ar waith dau ddramodydd sef Sergi Belbel o Gatalwnia ac Aled Jones Williams o Gymru gan ddangos mai eu gwahaniaeth yw eu grym a’r gwahaniaeth hwnnw hefyd sy’n golygu bod yna debygrwydd rhwng y ddau ddramodydd hyn.

'In coal we trust': coal miners in twentieth-century Welsh and Donbassian novels

Lelyzaveta Walther
Universität Leipzig

The image of coal miners became significant in both societies in the course of the twentieth century. Mining turned the poorly settled Donbass in the east of today's Ukraine into a most densely settled area: 'The Heart of Russia'. In the period of early Socialism (1917-1990) miners became a major society-building social group (cf. the Stakhanov movement) and were celebrated by the State. The collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) and the subsequent societal transformation changed also the image of the miner in literature. However, the current military conflict in Donbass reveals important and hitherto unexplored issues of the Donbassian post-socialist and post-mining society.

South Wales became the most powerful coal-exporting area in the world by the end of the nineteenth century, selling its products around the world. A significant majority in south Wales was employed in mining industries (mining, railways, steel). Intensive deindustrialisation in the 1980s worsened the working and social situation of the miners in South Wales tremendously. This was well reflected in Welsh prose.

In order to prove the claims made and elaborate on individual issues in times of transition four prose pieces were chosen for analysis: the novels Cwmardy (1937) by Lewis Jones, Small Mine (1962) by Menna Gallie, Всем смертям назло (Defying Death) 1967 by Vladislav Titov and the short story В недрах земли  (In the bowels of the earth, 1900) by Alexander Kuprin.