Document of the month

Page updated on: 03/10/2023

Each month we will be showcasing one of the many highlights from within our archive collection.

Title: A May-Day Fairy Tale

Reference Numbers: PD12/1/2

Extracted from "May-day: A Fairy Tale" by A. S. Gulston, 1882, this beautiful illustration is just one of many depicting an enchanting scene.

Perhaps produced for his young children, this storybook is unfortunately incomplete. Passing in 1919, Alan Stepney Gulston of Derwydd was both an amateur artist, traveller, author, and even the High Sheriff of Carmarthen for a time!

Image depicting an enchanting banquet scene with a king and queen at the high table with arial acrobats, peacocks, trumpet players, and mythical winged creatures dining.

Title: To the moon and back (almost!)

Reference Number: ACC/8471

In April 1998 George Abbey, the Director of the Johnson Space Centre, USA, arranged for a photograph of Dylan Thomas to be flown on the shuttle 'Columbia'.

Borrowed from Carmarthenshire Museums along with a copy of 'Under Milk Wood', this photograph (taken from Skylab), was presented to Carmarthen Town Council by George Abbey as a gift.

Most interestingly, since 1998 was also the 40th Anniversary of NASA and the 20th Anniversary of the first female astronaut candidates, this photograph is also signed by 13 of the first 16 US female astronauts!

Satellite photograph of the earth from space with signatures encircling the image.

Title: A Mother’s Love

Reference Numbers: COEDMORE/2133

In this extract Mrs Daniel writes to her daughter, Clemena Lloyd of Coedmore, enquiring for an update regarding; Edie’s costume, the weather, horses, and dogs to name a few, but it is the final words “Your Mother” that cement its quizzing contents.

Dated 7th August of an unknown year, this letter is just a sample of the many that both Clemena and her brother, Daniel, sent and received from their mother in the late 1800’s.

Perhaps reread overtime by later generations, these letters offer a glimpse into the relationships between mother and child – the trials and tribulations, and of course, all things mundane.

Aged paper with cursive writing in black ink.

Title: Circus, Circus!

Reference Numbers: CDX/640

What a sight - a parade of elephants from the Bertram Mills’ circus walking through Notts Square in Carmarthen, 1882. Onlookers are clearly in awe, desperate to catch a glimpse of these magnificent animals.

There are even whispers that an elephant is buried beneath playing fields in Richmond Terrace and still lays there today, perhaps it’s one of the elephants pictured here?

Sepia photograph of a procession of elephants walking down a street in Carmarthen. One has a cannon strapped to its back, a crowd looks on in awe.

Title: Who says it doesn’t snow in Carmarthen?

Reference Numbers: Pictures/Carmarthen/1980s

Taken by a local resident of Parcmaen Street, Carmarthen on January 11th 1982, this scanned slide offers a glimpse into life during the ‘big freeze’ where it snowed solidly for over 36hrs! 

With cases of residents being snowed in and soldiers drafted to help dig families out of their homes, its perhaps best that we won’t be having a ‘White Christmas’ after all!

A red car at the forefront of the photograph covered in snow, followed by a line of cars seemingly parked outside a row of houses (also covered in snow).

Title: A Letter to Father Christmas

Reference Number: Aberglasney, box 31

Addressed to ‘Father Christmas’, this handwritten letter reminds us of the magic of the Festive Season. It reads;

“To Father Christmas, North Pole

Dear Father C’mas I should like very much to have a horse and a sword if you have got one left with much love and many kisses from George Carbery Pryse Rice XXXXXXXXX

PS if you have a pen left I should like one very very much”

George, the author of this letter, was born in 1905 and was the son of John Carbery Pugh Vaughan Pryse Rice of Llwynybrain near Llandovery. I do wonder if he ever did receive that horse and sword…

Title: Can you slip on a banana skin? 

Reference Number: CDX/1076/3/7 

According to modern research, yes, but Carmarthen was well ahead of the game. In the Bye-laws for Good Rule and Government of the county, published in the late nineteenth century, it was an offence to discard banana peel or “other dangerous substance” on any footway. 

Title: A Supernatural Story?

Reference Number: Derwydd add/ 71

“Sir Allan: A Supernatural Story” by Talbot Gwynne is a handwritten account of the adventures of Sir Allan, an English knight, and his exploits throughout England and France.

With odes to castles, battles and demons, squires, princes, and of course, the supernatural, this story, written approximately 1840-60, is a precursor to most fantasy fiction.

Title: Truth and Temperance, Love and Purity

Reference Number: CDX/1009/3

The Independent Order of Rechabites dates from 1835. It was founded by a group of Manchester Methodists with one of the founding principles being total abstinence from alcohol for all members. The Order took its name from the biblical Rechabites and each Lodge or branch of The Order was known as a Tent, reflecting the nomadic status of the biblical Rechabites. It operated as a Friendly Society providing working class members with health insurance and death benefits.

Title: Climb every mountain!

Reference Numbers: DSO/101/13 & CDX/36

The Sound of Music was performed by Carmarthen Youth Opera in 1994, but did you know Carmarthenshire has a connection to the von Trapp family? Alicemargit Hoyos married Ryle Morris of Bryn Myrddin, Abergwili in 1931. Alicemargit had a cousin, Agathe Breunner, who was the first wife of Georg Ritter von Trapp. (See Carmarthenshire Antiquary Vol. XLVIII (2012)).

Title: Born to be Wild

Reference Numbers: CDX/1042/9; CAC/ML/3

This month’s document shows Mrs Elizabeth Thomas (grandmother of Jeremy Rees a local Carmarthen draper) in a BSA motorcycle sidecar.

The BSA motorcycle (BX 31) was a 4¼ H.P. 500cc bought new by Jeremy Rees (Clifton House, Lammas Street) on 5 Jun. 1916. It was subsequently sold to David Davies, Ardwyn, Bronwydd Road on 1 Apr. 1920.

Title: A Memorable Match!

Reference Number: CDX/922/1/9

This document is a souvenir programme from 26th April 1972 to mark the rugby match held at the National Stadium, Cardiff, to commemorate the half century of the Welsh League of Youth, now known as the Urdd.

It notes that the two teams on the day were managed by Carwyn James, the notable Llanelli coach, and Barry John, the outside half for Cardiff and Wales.

Most interestingly, it was Barry John who scored the winning try with a mere 3 minutes left on the clock!

Title: A Royal Welcome

Reference Number: CTC/2/7/3/12

Taken during his visit to Carmarthen 3rd July 1969, H.R.H. Prince Charles can be seen greeted by the adorning public. Now, as he prepares to ascend to the British throne, we are sure to many a street party in Carmarthen in honour of King Charles III!

Title: A Family Affair

Reference Number: CDX/789, Box 145

CDX/789 is a collection of 300 glass plate photographs rescued in a garage sale in Llanelli in 1974. The example illustrated is a wedding between Edgar D James and Martha M Evans. Edgar was a colliery worker and the wedding was in Cefneithin, 3 April 1923.

Title: You Are What You Wear? 

Reference Number: CDX319/13/1 

This colour lithograph, known only as “Welsh Costumes No. 1”, is part of a series of prints published by Newman & Co. of London. 

Whilst this example depicts a group of women dressed in traditional Welsh attire, interestingly, is the use of what we might view as non-traditional colours like purple, green and yellow. 

Traditional Welsh dress largely consists of a black hat, shawl (usually red), and a white apron and worn on special occasions including the Eisteddfod and St David’s Day. Here however, these ladies appear to be showcasing their Welsh dress at market, perhaps indicative of their societal/social status. 

Coloured print of a group of 'Welsh ladies' at the market.

Title: The rose is red the violets blue

Reference Number: CAS/A19/41/p19
This Valentine’s card written to an unknown recipient by “one of the beautiful little ballet girls” (c. 1840), inside contains the poem;

The rose is red the violets blue
The devil’s black and so are you

When I consent to wed with you
Leaves shall be red and roses blue
Cats shall have wings & you have sense
To which I’m sure you’ve no pretence
You look just like a church-yard sprite
And is my valentines good night

One of the beautiful little ballet girls

Although it is unclear what exactly inspired this dark rhyme, we can only assume the recipient was not their Valentine...

Title: The Soppitt Psalter 

Reference Number: CDX974 

This 13th Century psalter, comprised of 144 skins, was given to the Carmarthen Antiquary Society by a Mrs Soppitt in memory of her late husband, Archard Matthew Charles Arthur Soppitt. 

Later repaired and rebound by the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, this book of psalms is now enclosed in a Moroccan leather ‘blue levant’ solander case, fitted with two brass catches. 

The page edges adorned with gold, and the volume lettered in gilt, this is perhaps one of Carmarthenshire Archives greatest treasures! 

Image of a beautifully illustrated page from the Soppitt Psalter.

Title: A Very Victorian Christmas! 

Reference Number: Derwydd H23, Derwydd SG5 & MUS/739 

In the 19th century, before festive Christmas cards became the norm, Victorians sometimes put a dark and twisted spin on their seasonal greetings. We have illustrated some examples of the more traditional images and some of the oddities in our collection.

A sample of some of the Victorian Christmas cards including; an angel, a cat chasing a mouse, 'Jack Frost', robins on a bicycle, and a traditional Father Christmas in white.

Title: Picton’s Tank?

Reference Number: Trinity College / photographs

The tank was a gift of the National War Savings Committee in appreciation of Carmarthen’s war savings efforts. A procession was formed to escort the tank to its home at Picton Monument but unfortunately broke down on the Quay. The procession proceeded without it.

The Mayor apologised, and had the great pleasure of accepting the tank as a reward for the town's war savings efforts with the townspeople asked to subscribe £50,000 towards the war effort but greatly exceeded this target by raising more than £250,000!

The tank was repaired later that day and made a slow but sure march to its resting place. 

Black and white photograph/ postcard of the tank situated beneath Picton's monument, Carmarthen.

Title: Bad Omens

Reference Number: CAS/A19/ Vol XLII (pg. 17)

A newspaper clipping from 1934, detailing the sighting of corpse-candles (Canwyll Corph or Cawyllau Cryff), in the Carmarthenshire area. These flickering lights, thought to foreshadow the death of an individual in Welsh Folklore, had previously been sighted in Llandyssul, Llanstephan, and Llandebie.

So, when you trick or treat this Halloween night, keep your eyes peeled for such a sight!

Image of newspaper clippings stuck onto a page.


Title: An Egyptian mystery 

Reference Number: CDX/433/4 

An Egyptian State Telegram found in the attic of 29 Quay Street, Carmarthen. It was sent in 1906 and reads 'Tell him to come to Isna on Sunday don't go to El-Mahamid'.

It was sent from Howard Carter to Ernest Harold Jones but who the ‘him’ is remains a mystery. 

Image of the Egyptian telegram

Title: Different times, different values

Reference Number: MUS/776

Edward Burdett Warren bequeathed the Bumper Hall estate in Jamaica to his brother Thomas Warren, wholesale druggist, of King Street, Carmarthen in 1836. Thomas was in partnership with his son Edward Burdett Warren trading as Thos. Warren & Son. Thomas was for many years connected with Bristol. 

A seemingly old piece of paper, with some handwritten text but mostly 'typed'. The subtitle reads "return of the number of slaves and estimated value thereof...".

Title: A policeman’s lot is not a happy one

Reference Number: MUS/113 

The work diary of Sergeant David Williams 1859 – 1960. Sergeant Williams was based in Carmarthen town and he records any disturbances, law breaking or any other unusual occurrences in the town. His daily routine includes checking on his police Constables, with whom he is often displeased for being intoxicated whilst on duty. He also regularly visits the mayor's office and attends the petty and quarter sessions as well as the assizes. 

Page from an old diary with the year and date written in large cursive writing.

Title: The Ping-Pong Flight

Reference Number: CDX/017/014

The aircraft, the Lady Peace, landed in a field near Llandeilo on 3 September 1936. The flight was part of an attempted cross Atlantic round trip from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn to Croydon, London and back, but the plane had to land owing to lack of fuel. However, despite this a record crossing time of 18 hours and 8 minutes was achieved.

The pilot was Henry Tindall Merrill, Eastern Airlines No. 1 pilot who by 1936 had flown 2,000,000 miles without injury. He retired in 1961 having reputedly flown more miles than any other pilot in commercial aviation history. The co-pilot was Harry Richman, known for his starring role as Harry Raymond in the 1930 film ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’.

It was called “The Ping-Pong Flight” because Richman and Merrill had stuffed every nook and cranny of the tail and wings with 41,000 ping-pong balls so that if they had to ditch in the Atlantic there would be enough buoyancy to float the plane. Many of these were autographed by either or both of them and surface occasionally for sale, one was apparently purchased recently by the editor of “The Table Tennis Collector: the Journal of the Table Tennis Collectors’ Society”. 

Black and white photograph of a crowd forming around an aeroplane (the Lady Peace), with two men front and centre.

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