Learning Welsh at Nant Gwrtheyrn

Last month, just before the start of term, one of our Celtic Studies lecturers, Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh, took off to the beautiful Llŷn Peninsula for a week-long Welsh language course.
After attending Abersytwyth University’s month-long intensive Welsh course in August, Peadar headed north to Pen Llŷn, and to the unique village of Nant Gwrtheyrn, where an abandoned former quarrying village has become a National Welsh Language and Heritage Centre drawing people from all over the world to study Welsh short courses. Once an active quarry, Nant, perched between the rock face and the Irish Sea has been beautifully restored, as some of Peadar’s pictures attest:
‘It was a great to be able to visit Nant, and most especially to meet some of the local people who have made Nant Gwrtheyrn such a success story, dw i’n edrych ymalen at fynd yn ôl’, said Peadar.

Nant 1 (3) (480x640)Nant 2 (3) (640x480)Nant 3 (3) (640x480)Nant 4 (3) (640x480)

Irish Government Grant

Caerwyn Williams - The Irish Literary Tradition 1

The Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies has recently received an award from the Irish Government to support the teaching of Irish Language and Literature at Aberystwyth. An award of 93,000EUR will been made to Aberystwyth University over the next three years though an Irish government program which supports the teaching of Modern Irish. The award will also be used to create a number of language scholarships allowing Aberystwyth students to attend summer courses in an Irish-speaking area in Ireland.

Irish language and literature is a key focus in the work of the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies. Uniquely in Britain, Aberystwyth offers a joint honours degree scheme in Irish. The language also forms a core element in the Celtic Studies degree scheme and a popular option for those pursuing a degree in Welsh also. Irish at Aberystwyth is not a recent phenomenon, more than any other British university it has a strong tradition of Irish language studies. Staff of the Department have produced much important research over the years, but the most popular work is probably J. E. Caerwyn Williams’s The Irish Literary Tradition which has been published in Irish, Welsh and English, and is still used as the main textbook for Irish literature students in Irish universities. Williams was Chair of Irish at Aberystwyth between 1965 and 1979. More recently, the Department has forged links with Irish learners across Wales and England, providing regular teaching and support to groups based in Manchester, the West Midlands and London.

On the announcement of the award, Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh, Lecturer in Celtic Studies, said: ‘The award is a recognition of the high profile and hard work of Aberystwyth colleagues over the years in the study and teaching of Irish language and literature. This and our location in a strongly Welsh-speaking area make it an excellent choice for Celtic Studies students’.

Cathryn Charnell-White, Head of Welsh and Celtic Studies said ‘We are particularly pleased that the award will allow us to set us a named scholarship scheme allowing students to experience the Irish language in its heartland, and to bring that experience back to Aberystwyth with them’.

Further details on the student scholarships will be made available in due course.


National Student Survey 2016

Aberystwyth Top in UK for Teaching Welsh & Celtic Studies
The quality of teaching at Aberystwyth University’s Welsh & Celtic Studies Department is the best in the UK, according to a poll of UK students.

In the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS), overall satisfaction with the teaching of Welsh (Celtic Studies) was 100%, while assessment and feedback, and academic support were also given the highest mark.

The Department also received a top score of 100% for overall satisfaction, compared to a UK score of 86%.

Dr Cathryn Charnell-White, Head of the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University, said:
“As a Department we are delighted with the affirmation that our students have given us in the most recent NSS survey. The 100% rating for teaching reflects my colleagues’ commitment to engaging our students as well as sharing their passion for their particular areas of expertise in Welsh and Celtic Studies. The 100% rating for overall satisfaction speaks for itself.”

The NSS figures follow closely on the heels of the latest employability figures for UK universities which showed that 100% of graduates from the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies were in work or further study six months after leaving Aberystwyth University. Employability figures at Aberystwyth University.

Welsh and Celtic Studies English - NSS Graphic

The Department’s achievements have contributed to a wider success story at Aberystwyth University which is rated one of the top ten higher education institutions in the UK for overall student satisfaction and the best in Wales, according to the annual survey.

The results show that overall satisfaction amongst students at Aberystwyth University stands at 92% – that’s six percentage points higher than the UK figure of 86%.

The NSS collects data from 158 of the UK’s Higher Education Institutions and is recognised as an influential source of information for prospective students when considering their options.

If you’re interested in studying at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies and want to find out why our students are so satisfied with their courses, it’s not too late. We still have some clearing places left for the 2016-17 academic year or come along and visit us during one of our Open Days.

The National Student Survey is carried out annually by IPSOS Mori on behalf of the UK’s higher education funding councils and interviewing around 300,000 final year students in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It asks students to score their university across a wide range of measures including quality of teaching, assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, learning resources and personal development.

A new generation remembers a former student: Gwilym Williams B.A. (1890–1916)

A hundred years ago today, 22 May 1916, Gwilym Williams of Nant-yr-afr Fawr farm, Tre-lech a’r Betws Carmarthenshire was buried in Merville Cemetery, France. His family are marking the centenary of his death this weekend by visiting his grave.

Gwilym was a graduate of the Department of Welsh, Aberystwyth and a promising poet. He won numerous eisteddfodic chairs, including the Chair of the University Eisteddfod in 1912: his winning ode was entitled ‘Gwanwyn Bywyd’ (Springtime of life) and the competition was adjudicated by T. Gwynn Jones.

Gwilym Williams

Gwilym Williams

Gwilym graduated with honours in 1913 and taught at Newtown and Walsall near Birmingham. In July 1915 he joined the army and was made a lieutenant in the 17th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The battalion sailed for France in December, and in Mai 1916 Gwilym was in Fauquissart. He was injured in the throat by a bullet Saturday 20 May and died the following day in the hospital at Merville. Gwilym was buried at Merville Cemetery 22 May 1916; he was twenty six years old.

Amongst those mourning Gwilym was his friend, Jane Helen Rowlands of Porthaethwy who had been a student at the University College, Bangor and who dedicated her life to missionary work. She later became a well-respected Bengali scholar.

The two met as members of staff at Newtown Secondary School, and letters in the family archive attest to their close relationship. Indeed, Hefin Wyn M.A. believes that Helen Rowlands’s decision to become a missionary influenced Gwilym’s surprising decision to go to war.

Hefin Wyn says (translated from the Welsh):
“‘Helen of Anglesey’, as she was known, would send letters from Assam to the family every May for years following Gwilym’s death, in which she spoke about her feelings for him. In one letter she notes ‘Here is the most pure-hearted lad I ever knew’. One must conclude that a broken heart compelled Uncle Gwilym to go to the battlefield. His farewell stanza to his girlfriend attest the strength of his feelings:

Draw i randir yr India – mae Helen
Am hwylio o Walia;
O’n golwg ni. O gwylia
Hi dros y dŵr, Iesu da.
(Helen will sail from Gwalia/ to a region of India;/ out of our sight. Oh, good Jesus,/ watch over her at sea)”

Remembering Gwilym Williams
Gwilym Williams was the great uncle of another of the Department’s alumni, Hefin Wyn, and an event was held to remember Gwilym 18 May 2016 in the Old College where he had spent much time as a student. It was a pleasure to welcome Hefin Wyn and other members of Gwilym’s family to the event.

The event was led by Hefin Wyn who gave a splendid lecture interweaving personal research and family oral history: ‘O Nant-yr-afr i Merville: cofio Gwilym Williams B.A. 1890–1916’ (From Nant-yr-afr to Merville: remembering Gwilym Williams B.A. 1890–1916. Inconceivable numbers of men and boys were killed during the Great War and learning the details of one life like Gwilym Williams is a way of understanding the loss to families, communities and the nation.

A small exhibition of Gwilym Williams’s life and works was organised to coincide with the event, including the Eisteddfodic Chair that he won in 1912, a photograph of Gwilym in his military uniform, as well as numerous letters. The exhibition included two letters that he wrote from the trenches 18 Mai 1916, a tribute by D. J. Williams, as well as other documents and photographs from his students days at Aberystwyth.

The event was brought to a fitting close by staff and current students of the Department who read a selection of Gwilym’s own poems from the memorial volume Dan yr Helyg (1917), as well as original poems that were inspired by this former-students powerful story. Gwilym’s Poems can be read online as they are now available electronically on the National Library of Wales’s Wales1914 website: Dan yr Helyg (1917) on Wales1914.

Gwilym Wms darlleniadau
(From right to left: Hefin Wyn, Eurig Salisbury, Endaf Griffiths, Iestyn Tyne, Marged Tudur a Miriam Elin Jones)

Many thanks to Ceredigion Museum for the loan of the beautiful wooden display cabinets used in the exhibition.

Student Led Teaching Awards 2016

It is wonderful to be able to congratulate two of our colleagues in the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies on being highly commended in this year’s Student Led Teaching Awards: Mrs Rhian Haf Davies (Support Staff of the Year) a Dr Ian Hughes (Supervisor of the Year). The awards acknowledge their excellent work and we are glad of this opportunity to thank them and congratulate them both warmly.
Rhian ac Ian SLTA 2016
Dr Ian Hughes is about to retire and so this is also an opportunity to acknowledge his immense contribution to the Department. Ian is an inspiring language teacher (for both Welsh and Irish) and a clear and balanced interpreter of the Arthurian legends and the Mabinogi. As a scholar, he specialises in medieval Welsh prose and we look forward to reading his forthcoming volume, Bendigeiduran Uab Llyr, a Welsh edition of the second branch of the Mabinogi. We will miss his unstinting support and intelligent humour. As one current student eloquently stated, ‘Ian Hughes *%£#@! rocks!’

Comhghairdeachas agus go n-éirí leat, aireoidh muid uainn go mór tú

Many thanks to every one of our students who showed their appreciation by nominating Rhian and Ian this year!

Erasmus+ exchange at Aberystwyth – Juliana’s story

Sut mae! My name is Juliana and I am a student at Philipps-University Marburg, Germany where I study European Literatures, English Literature and – most importantly – Celtic Studies. As a student of those three things it was always my plan to spend one year abroad. And so I did! And I came to Aberystwyth. (Obviously, why else would some girl from Germany write an entry on this blog?)

I have to admit that at first, Aber was not my university of choice. I wanted to go to Dublin. (Sorry!) But I changed my mind quite quickly after our Head of Department and other students who have already been to Aber, recommended it to me by heart. And the truth is, I have never regretted this decision since.

I came to Aber in September of 2014 and as someone who had just left home to live in a different country for one year, I felt a little lost in my first few days. But with amazing flatmates it didn’t take me too long to feel at home. Especially because the Celtic Studies Department took me in and gave me a lot of advice and support. Through the Celtic Studies Society I felt even more welcome. Everything is so much more personal there. It felt so amazing, being in a place where the Celtic culture was and is still lived and preserved.

When I started university, I’d never heard of Celtic Studies before and I began studying them out of mere interest and curiosity. I stuck with them and I became more interested and curious with every semester. All the exciting experiences I made in Aber weigh in a lot on that. The people, the culture, the seaside…the sunsets! Overall I am just so grateful for this year.

And one little anecdote to finish: an old English teacher of mine spent her year abroad in Aberystwyth too. Years and years ago. And she still returns once a year every year since!
Juliana Dümler (Erasmus+ student)