On Saturday 6th April, Breesha Maddrell gave us a very interesting overview of Mona Douglas and the Welsh Connection. She suggested, to a large extent, that Mona was well-known for her Irish connections, with time spent in Dublin where Mona met a number of leading cultural figures and took her qualification in librarianship, and with her long friendship with Róisín ní Shé and Eibhlín ní Chathailriabhaigh.

However, Mona Douglas was present at Eisteddfod Penbedw in 1917, the dramatic occasion of Y Gadair Ddu, the Black Chair, following the death of the winning bard, Hedd Wyn. It was also the occasion on which the Celtic Congress was established. Mona became the corresponding secretary, using her position as Secretary of the Manx Society (Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh) to co-ordinate the participation of Manx delegates with other societies and individuals in the Island.

Photograph of Mona Douglas by Valerie Cottle.

Breesha Maddrell explained the significance of the Eisteddfod and Gorsedd y Beirdd to pan Celticism and the cachet that having been present at Y Gadair Ddu and having herself been received into Gorsedd y Beirdd with the bardic name, Mona Manaw, gave to Mona throughout the Celtic world, but particularly, of course, in Wales itself.

Whilst Mona spent some time in Harlech as personal secretary to A P Graves, it wasn’t a Welsh household. However, she followed the advice she received in Wales to go to London, where she promoted Manx culture at Cecil Sharp House and in her work with Arnold Foster in arranging Manx songs and music.

Music was an important part of Mona’s work and she enjoyed the friendship of telynores Eleanor Dwyryd, for example, and Welsh composer E L M Pritchard thought very highly of her poetry for which he made musical settings, including one performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at the 1935 Eisteddfod in Bangor. Breesha suggested that it would be a worthwhile project seeking out the settings which she had seen in Llyfergell Genedlaethol Cymru, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Breesha described her presentation as rather a ‘patchwork quilt’, but the pieces have to be chosen with a judicious eye and skilfully crafted together in a way which makes something which is not only useful in itself, but is pleasing to those who see it – and that was most certainly the case with Breesha’s very interesting presentation, myr shoh moylley as soylley jee as gura mie mooar eck!