Author: Craig Owen

Man, Mission and Movement: The Welsh League of Nations Union and Gwilym Davies

Wales’ World Peace Campaigns of the 1920s and 30s

Excerpt from Welsh League of Nations Union Report, 1927 – now displayed as a linen hanging in the vestibule of Wales’ Temple of Peace & Health.

 

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In the entrance vestibule of Wales’ Temple of Peace, visitors pass two intriguing linen hangings proclaiming the achievements of ‘Welsh Efforts for World Peace’ in the years that followed WW1 – each of which sound almost too big to be possible; each of which beg the question “what’s the story?” And perhaps most of all… How, What and Why?

 

How could a nation as small as Wales seemingly mobilise what sounds like every household and institution, in the pursuit of something as big and broad and seemingly unattainable as world peace?

Why this Wales-wide profusion of activity… and where did it go? Why don’t we know about it today… How could something so big fade from history, from our collective memory? Has it become subsumed within national identity?

What would it take today, in a world riven with conflicting and divided views from Brexit to Trump to Refugees and Equalities, to unite people once more around a shared mission of building a better world for future generations?

 

The Mission that started Wales’ Temple of Peace

Visitors arriving at the North Door of Wales’ Temple of Peace – entrance to the ‘Peace Wing’ occupied today by WCIA (the Welsh Centre for International Affairs) and Wales’ leading internationalist organisations – are greeted by a seemingly out-of-date letterbox, in itself a treasured part of the buiding’s heritage, that begs to be opened and reveal its stories… Its messages from the past. Join us to look through the letterbox… to the incredible movement whose mission inspired creation of the Temple of Peace, and whose founder perhaps deserves to go down in history as one of Wales’ and world’s most dynamic yet understated peacemakers: Gwilym Davies.

WLoNU letterbox at the Temple of Peace today.

The Welsh League of Nations Union (WLoNU) was first proposed from the stage of the National Eisteddfod (Festival of Wales), in Neath in 1919, by David Davies of Llandinam – a soldier returned from the trenches horrified by war, and determined to support his fellow countrymen and women in the pursuit not just of a end to WW1 at the Armistice – but that ‘Never Again’ should be translated into action that ensured a Great War would literally happen ‘Never Again’. A peace that would endure for future generations, and protect their own children.

“In the silent moments of our remembrance, we confronted the great phantom host which included the dearest friends of our youth. They would have become restive at the thought of what we – who know now what war means – are now doing to save their dear ones from a similar fate… They say:
“What are you doing about it all? Is it to be nothing… but the laying of wreaths and blowing of last posts?”

David Davies, 1937 Reunion of his Royal Welsh Fusiliers Battalion, Llandinam

It was a rallying cry that struck to the heart of an anguished nation in which every household had lost loved ones; and 3,000 people signed up on the Maes (festival site). One of those who came forward was a preacher from Cwmrhymni, the Rev Gwilym Davies – who saw in the Welsh League the not just the prospect, but the urgent human need for an organisation that could establish Wales as a “Missionary Nation to the World in the Spreading of Peace”. 

Wales had a long history of peacemakers; the ‘Apostle of Peace’ Henry Richard of Tregaron , MP for neighbouring Merthyr Tydfil, was one of a line of Welshmen to coordinate the internationally ground-breaking London Peace Society, of which he was secretary for 40 years. Inspired by figures such as Peace Society founder Joseph Tregellis Price of Neath, American peace leader Elihu Burritt and many other figures, Gwilym Davies shared with many a strong sense that Welsh identity was – and should be – inherently rooted in peace through an internationalist outlook.

And if World War 1 had taught any lessons, for many of the population in Wales it was that ‘law over war’ was only way forward. The time was right. The story of the campaigning movement itself follows; But at the heart of the movement one man emerged, who was considered by many the ‘dynamo’ of Wales’ internationalist movements through the Interwar years: Gwilym Davies (1879-1955).

By the late 1920s, the Welsh League of Nation Union would become one of Wales’ biggest membership organisations, with over 1,000 local community branches and 61,000 members actively campaigning on international issues of the day.

 

The Man at the Heart of the Mission

Portrait and tribute to Gwilym Davies on the 1962 cover of the 40th Annual Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill – digitised for viewing on People’s Collection Wales.

Co-founder of the Welsh League of Nations Union (alongside David Davies) in 1920, Gwilym Davies is chiefly celebrated today as founder of Wales’ annual ‘Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill’, and Urdd Gobaith Cymru – the Welsh youth movement – in 1922. Biographies of Gwilym Davies have traditionally taken quite a broad perspective of his many life achievements, involvement in Welsh civil society organisations and communities, and internationally – but usually focus in on his involvement with the Peace & Goodwill Message, which is now being more extensively researched.

However, the Welsh League of Nations Union between 1922 and 1939 grew into one of Wales’ most dynamic and widespread campaigning movements under his leadership, and this story has been little told – let alone Gwilym Davies’s role within it.

This feature seeks to explore this remarkable period of post-WW1 Peace Activism – and its ultimate contribution to the post-WW2 creation of the United Nations, international cooperation and Welsh identity over the 75 years since.

References on Gwilym Davies
Writings of Gwilym Davies

Welsh Outlook Magazine, October 1930 – carrying an article by Gwilym Davies entitled ‘Wales and the World’

Many important articles by him appeared in The Welsh Outlook, Yr Efrydydd, and Y Drysorfa; some of the Welsh ones were collected in Y Byd Ddoe a Heddiw (1938).

His article in Y Drysorfa, 1942, on the Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cymru) aroused considerable controversy. Other publications include:

  • International Education in the Schools of Wales and Monmouthshire (1926),
  • The Ordeal of Geneva (1933),
  • Intellectual co-operation between the Wars (1943), and
  • The Gregynog Conferences on International Education 1922-37 (1952),
  • as well as the annual reports of the Welsh national council of the League of Nations Union, 1923-39, and of the United Nations Association, 1943-46.

Early Life, Ministry and the Welsh School of Social Service

Gwilym Davies was born in Bedlinog, Merthyr Tydfil, and followed in his father’s footsteps as a Baptist preacher from 1895 before gaining a scholarship to Jesus College, Oxford where he was editor of the Baptist Outlook magazine – a foretaste of the prolific writing he would generate through his life. However, from his student days onwards Gwilym Davies suffered from poor health throughout much of his life – which perhaps makes his life achievements all the more remarkable. 

Blue Plaque in Carmarthen Town, celebrating Gwilym Davies’ time there as a preacher and peace campaigner

From 1906, he was ordained a Minister in Broadhaven, Pembrokeshire, going on to serve in Carmarthen, Abergavenny and Llandrindod Wells over the following decade. He struck up a close friendship with the young David Davies of Llandinam, recently elected Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire – an avid internationalist and energetic social reformer – who saw in Gwilym Davies a dynamic organiser who could help him realise his visions for improving Welsh society. In 1911, they founded the Welsh School of Social Services.

Gwilym Davies was a proud pacifist, and following World War One, he sought to play an activist role as a ‘missionary for the cause of international peace’ – carrying on the tradition of the Welsh pioneers Richard Price, Robert Owen, and Henry Richard. In 1922, he retired from Ministry, to found some of Wales’ most enduring internationalist movements.

Biographer J. E. Meredith compared Gwilym Davies and ‘Apostle of Peace’ Henry Richard’s backgrounds quite directly:

“With the neighbouring parliamentary MP of Henry Richard… both were sons of ministers of religion, both themselves were ordained minsters of a nonconformist denomination and gave up ministers in order to devote time to their causes they were both intellectually and mutually engaged in.”

Founding of the Welsh League of Nations Union, 1920-22

Plas Dinam in Powys, where Gwilym and David Davies met in January 1922 to agree the founding of an independent Welsh League of Nations Union

David Davies had first proposed the idea a ‘Welsh League of Nations Union’ at the National Eisteddfod in Neath in August 1918 – 4 months before the end of WW1. Given broad unease at the terms of the Paris Peace Process / Treaty of Versailles, which imposed crippling reparations on the people of Germany, many Welsh men and women were supportive of an International League of Nations in principle. Although a (25 May) 1920 meeting in Llandrindod Wells had formed a Committee linking to the London-based League of Nations Union, it seems (from records of discussions in 1921-22) this had not yet been translated into an effective campaigning body in Wales.

In January 1922, David Davies and Gwilym Davies met in Llandinam to set about founding and properly funding a distinct, national organisation that would ‘mobilise the people of Gwalia’ – independent, though complementary, to the UK Union.

International Peace Campaigns, 1922-39

A June 1922 letter from Gwilym Davies, on the early successes of the first Youth Peace & Goodwill Message, broadcast by Marconi Telegraph and picked up by the Eiffel Tower

From 1922, Gwilym Davies threw himself into organising a Campaign for World Peace unlike any the world had seen before: to involve every man, woman and child in Wales in a ‘mission for internationalism’. An enthusiastic adopter of new communications technologies, mass media and community outreach, as ‘Honorary Director’ of the Welsh League of Nations Union Gwilym Davies, created and coordinated a number of nationwide peace campaigns:

  • Wales Youth Message of Peace and Goodwill, initially called the ‘Wales Wireless Peace Message’, first broadcast on 18 May 1922 – chosen to mark Wales’ “World Peace Day,” as the annual anniversary of the 1899 Hague Peace Conference.
  • Gwilym Davies became the first person in history to radio broadcast in Welsh, on St David’s Day 1923, when he broadcast the
  • The Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America of 1923, signed by 390,296 women Wales-wide, calling for the USA to join and lead the League of Nations.
  • The world’s first Global Education / World Citizenship curriculum for teachers and schools, developed through establishing a Welsh Education Advisory Committee (WEAC). Annual Gregynog Conferences on International Education were hosted by the Davies Sisters of Llandinam, Gwendoline and Margaret, and facilitated by Gwilym Davies.
  • In 1926, Wales hosted the League of Nations International Peace Congress in Aberystwyth – the equivalent of a UN General Assembly today coming to mid-Wales.
  • From 1930, he supported Annie Hughes-Griffiths as Chair in developing the Women’s Advisory Committee, which after WW2 evolved into CEWC Cymru, the Council for Education in World Citizenship).
  • A Peace Campaign and Annual Offering across the Churches of Wales.
  • A 1925 Peace Memorial Petition of Wales’ Faith Leaders to the faith movements of America.
  • A 1929 general election manifesto for ‘Teachers and World Peace’
  • The 1935 Peace Ballot on the European Armaments Race.

The campaigning activities of the Welsh League of Nations Union can be explored through their Annual Reports 1922-45, digitised as part of WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project with support of volunteers. The original booklets can be viewed in the Temple of Peace Archives, and in the National Library of Wales – David Davies of Llandinam Papers – as well as digitised on People’s Collection Wales (below).

Welsh League of Nations Union (WLoNU) Annual Reports and Notable Events

1922
1923
1924
1925
1926
Founding of Welsh League of Nations Union

Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill first broadcast

Women’s Peace Petition campaign

Gregynog Teachers Conferences on International Education founded

Women’s Peace Delegation to America

‘Welsh Churches and World Peace’ Campaign

Faith Leaders Petition to America League of Nations Int’l Congress held in Aberystwyth

N Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage for ‘Law not War’

1927
1928
1929
1930
1931
WLoNU branches and membership reach their peak Temple of Peace proposed as Wales’ national memorial to fallen of WW1 David Davies commissions new WLoNU HQ – a ‘Temple of Peace’

‘Welsh Teachers and World Peace’ Manifesto published

Stock Market crash and onset of Great Depression WLoNU Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) established – see records of meetings

1932
1933
1934
1935
1936
Equity Tribunal Campaign Peace Ballot Campaign Festival of Youth

1937
1938
1939
1940
1941
Foundation Stone laid and construction starts on Wales’ Temple of Peace Opening of Wales Temple of Peace Outbreak of WW2; suspension of WLoNU activities WLoNU / Gwilym Davies invited to develop proposals for UNESCO

1942
1943
Image result for Lord Davies Memorial Fund
1944
1945
WLoNU – UNA Wales combined Annual Report
for 1943-1946
UNESCO Death of Lord David Davies, founder and sponsor of WLoNU.

Lord Davies Memorial Fund

WLoNU becomes United Nations Assoc (UNA) Wales

Inaugural meeting of UNA Wales, Oct 1945

Start of International Youth Service (IYS) and CEWC, the Council for Education in World Citizenship
 
Welsh Churches and World Peace – Campaign Booklet, 1924 Teachers and World Peace, 1929 Manifesto Wales’ Peace Ballot Bulletins, 1935 (see more detail below) UNESCO Proposals, 1941-45 Gwilym Davies’ Memorial Service, 1955

Wales’ Global Movement: Branches, Membership and Participation in Internationalism

A typical ‘Plan of Campaign’ developed by Gwilym Davies with local branches – this being the 1922-23 programme for the Newport WLoNU.

Gwilym Davies placed a particularly strong emphasis on grassroots community participation in the Welsh League of Nations Union, with a comprehensive programme of activities led by local branches and activists, including initiatives such as:

Welsh Branches and Membership Figures

The table below emerges from analysis of the membership figures drawn from the Welsh League of Nations Union Report through the interwar years (with thanks to Rob Laker, Swansea University). Years of particularly high membership are spotlighted in bold, with a peak of 61,262 in 1930, just prior to the Great Depression; and despite a drop in paid memberships the following year, the highest number of branches in Wales – 1,014 – was recorded in 1931-2. The peak in junior branches, at over 302 across Wales, was to come in 1938. Further explanation of the figures is below.

Year

1923

1924

1925

1926

1927

1928

1929

1930

1931-32

Adult Membership 18,110 26,345 31,299 34,999 36,689 39,223 41,822
43,050
14,051
Junior Membership 2,686 4,247 6,080 9,801 10,653 11,727 14,784
18,212
12,749
Total Membership 20,796 30,592 37,379 44,800 47,342 50,950 56,606
61,262
26,800
Community Branches 280 415 571 652 700 770
794
764 770
Junior Branches 20 39 77 133 149 176 202 233 244
Total Branches 300 454 648 785 849 946 996 997
1,014

Year

1933

1934

1935

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

Adult Membership 15,146 13,630 13,537 15,675 18,255 12,745 13,018 7,828 4,635
Junior Membership 9,264 9.026 9,290 6,780 9,216 3,881 2,342
Total Membership 24,410 13,630 13,537 24,701
27,545
19,525 22,234 11,709 6,977
Community Branches 621 479 533 538 498
Junior Branches 279 298 200
302
227
Total Branches 900 777 733 840 725

Whilst proving impressive participation figures from any analysis, they also highlight some changes, and reflections of the changing world environment within which the League of Nations Union was operating.

  • In 1930-31, the ‘apparent dip’ in membership was actually a change in presentation. Due to falling income, the Welsh League Council decided to measure paid memberships. It will be noted that the highest number of active local branches is the same year – suggesting voluntary and campaigner activity remained high.
  • However, as the Great Depression of 1930-31 took effect, this had 2 impacts: a sharp decrease in paid memberships, reflecting the unemployment and austerity situation; and some loss of faith in the League of Nations itself following the Manchuria Crisis.
  • Further reorganisation in 1934, and some presentational variations, result in some gaps in figures.
  • The highest paid members ever was marked in 1937, as Wales’ Temple of Peace was under construction – and as concerns escalated towards WW2.
  • With the outbreak of WW2, the Welsh League partially suspended work, although some figures are offered – though these may not represent similar measures of activity.
  • A general question / point of interest on Junior Membership Branches, is whether these were the predecessors, parallel organisations or the same local bodies as the Urdd Youth movements local Aelwyd’s or youth branches / chapters. Given the overlap in mission between the WLoNU, Peace Message and the Urdd, it seems quite possibly these local groups may be one and the same.
‘Daffodil Days’ and Funding of the Welsh League’s Peace Work

The funds of the League were generated through widespread Fundraising by Branches, through organising annual Daffodil Days for Peace (explored in depth by Swansea University History student Rob Laker. In 1927, branches Wales-wide contributed £1,507 12s 11d – approx. £93,000 today – towards the general running costs of the Welsh League, as well as funding their own local campaigns and activities.

 

View Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Swansea History student Rob Laker (zoom, or click on pins, to find specific communities).

As early as 1925, the Welsh League’s campaigning activities considerably outstripped their financial resources – which sometimes generated anxiety and frustration within the movement. However, David Davies regularly ‘bailed out’ the Welsh Council with donations to pay off the debts of increasingly ambitious campaigns that he believed essential to the preservation of peace, such as the Peace Ballot of 1935 (below).

However, this philanthropy-dependent model was not sustainable, and the post-WW2 United Nations Association (UNA) Wales were never able to replicate the levels of engagement – or indeed, campaign spending – of the Welsh League, particularly after the death in 1944 of Lord Davies.

 

The World’s First ‘Global Education’ Curriculum for Schools

League of Nations Headquarters in Geneva, 1920 (Wikimedia Commons)

Gwilym Davies travelled extensively in a role sometimes described as Welsh civil society’s ‘peace ambassador to the world’ – spending considerable time at the Headquarters of the League of Nations in Geneva, the ‘Palace of Nations’. He wrote regular updates on international affairs and current issues of peace and conflict for the bulletins of the Welsh League of Nations Union, as well as columns for the Welsh Outlook magazine, Headway (the journal of the UK League) Western Mail and many newspapers. His opinion pieces marked him out as one of Wales’ foremost influencers on international issues.

During the 1920s-30s, the work of the Welsh Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) in developing a ‘curriculum for schools that teaches the values and principles of the League of Nations’ drew worldwide acclaim – the world’s first Global Education, Global Citizenship or Peace Education curriculum programme, became a ‘model of best practice’ for educationalists worldwide. Starting in 1922, Annual ‘Gregynog Conferences on International Education’ were hosted by the Davies Sisters of Llandinam, Gwendoline and Margaret, and facilitated by Gwilym Davies.

Examples of Global Citizenship Education initiatives by the Welsh League that have survived ‘in the archives’ include:

From 1931, the Women’s Advisory Committee under the leadership of Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths, who had led the 1924 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition Delegation to America, played an increasingly lead role in coordinating the educational activities of the League in Wales. Beyond WW2, the 2 bodies (WAC and WEAC) came together under the auspices of CEWC Cymru – the Welsh Council for Education in World Citizenship – which has continued to support schools with global education to the present day, having as recently as 2015 merged into the Welsh Centre for International Affairs as the ‘Global Learning’ arm of WCIA’s work. A long and strong heritage indeed.

 

The Wales Peace Ballot of 1935

A high point of Welsh League of Nations campaigning work was the Peace Ballot of 1935 – a UK-wide initiative by the League of Nations Union, in which Wales sought to ‘lead the way’ – or to ‘Top the Polls’ as Gwilym Davies put it.

The aim of the Peace Ballot was to canvass – and influence – public opinion on the escalating European Arms Race, and the role of the League of Nations (and responsibilities of its member governments) to lead international efforts to maintain the fragile post-WW1 peace. The Ballot posed 5 questions to every man and woman over the age of 18, ascertaining the balance of views:

  1. For / against the League of Nations
  2. For / against all round Disarmament
  3. For / against abolition of naval and military Aircraft
  4. For / against abolition of private manufacture of Arms
  5. A – For / against Economic Action against Aggressor Nations
  6. B – For / against Military Action against Aggressor Nations

Welsh League of Nations Union branches and campaigners led canvassing efforts in every county of Wales, succeeding in securing 5 of the 10 highest constituency returns in the UK – including Anglesey, Aberdare, Swansea, Rhondda and Merthyr Tydfil.

“In total, 1,025,040 people in Wales voted in the Peace Ballot – 62.3% of eligible registered voters”

Digitised Peace Ballot Records

1935 Peace Ballot – Briefing for Households 1935 Peace Ballot – Canvassers’ Briefing ‘Peace Calls for Plain Answers to Simple Questions’ – 1935 Media Article Bulletin 2, Jan 22 1935 Bulletin 3, Feb 6 1935
Bulletin 4, Mar 9 1935 Bulletin 5, Apr 9 1935 Bulletin 6, June 7 1935 Bulletin 7, Oct 1935: ONWARD YMLAEN / ONWARD Bulletin, May 1936

View the 1935 Peace Ballot Archive on People’s Collection Wales

Whilst the Peace Ballot, and Wales’ leading role in it, was respected by many UK parliamentarians as an exceptional expression of democratic sentiment, in the fragile and fraught international political climate of the mid-1930s it was largely taken to justify an uneasy line of appeasement against the rise of Hitler, Mussolini and other aggressors. The 1936 Geneva Conference of the League of Nations, which followed the Abyssinia Crisis – the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy – was seen as a terminal failure of the League. But, as Gwilym Davies stated:

“No ‘Covenant’ can be made to work, if the nations will not work it.

It is not the League that has failed the nations; it is the nations that have failed the league.”

The dejection felt among Wales’ Peace campaigners was undoubtedly strong; however, the following passage gives a fascinating insight into the mind of this incredible man who managed to sustain the leadership and enthusiasm of a whole movement:

We who have worked for the League, who have served to the utmost of our strength, how are we to act now that we see our hopes dimmed and our plans frustrated?

The other day, I met a secretary of a branch who had done excellent work. He said that he was so disgusted with happenings in Geneva, he would do no more. The League had failed, the British Government had failed. Everything had failed. And he was giving up.

I felt sorry for him. He had not just that quality which makes a man stick to it in bitter weather, the teeth of the east wind. The conditions that prevail in Europe today are inifintely trying .. if we lack nerve to hold on grimly to our hopes, and struggle harder than ever for their realisation. Still that is the temper our fathers had for us, in winning the freedom of liberty that we enjoy. And that is the faith we must possess if we are to reap what we sow in the depressing days of disappointment.

“The League has proved itself useless.” VERY WELL! Let us here – and now – resolve that the League shall be made not only useful, but indispensable. Let us see present defeat a starting point for future victories. It is the challenge which face all of us, the “IF” with which we must wrestle… Wales accepts the Challenge.

 

Crowds gathered in the rain on 23 Nov 1938, to witness the historic opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace – by war-bereaved mother Minnie James from Dowlais, Merthyr.

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken,
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools;
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop to build them up with worn-out tools;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after you are gone;
and so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them – “HOLD ON!”

 

Following the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace in November 1938, Gwilym Davies’s expressed the hope that despite clouds of conflict on the horizon, this new headquarters for the Welsh League of Nations Union – and the Welsh people – would realise the hopes and dreams of generations

“…for a world free from the scourge of war, free from the scourge of disease. Free to foster friendship with our fellow human kind; to Unite the Nations of our world as one, and to shape our shared futures – together. And to never… never again forget the human cost of waging war before law; of ignoring internationalism… our common humanity.”  

Uniting Nations: World War 2, UNESCO and UNA

Palace of Nations, Geneva – UN Headquarters

During World War 2, the Welsh Education Committee under his direction was asked to draft a model constitution for an international education organisation. The draft submitted by Gwilym Davies greatly influenced the creation of UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Copies of a series of policy papers and drafts by Gwilym Davies between 1941-45, remain in the Temple of Peace collections, demonstrating how he fed in the ideas and experiences of Welsh educationalists as the concept developed prior to UNESCOs launch and 1st conference in Paris in Nov 1946.

Programme for the 1st Session of the UN General Assembly in London, at which Wales Temple of Peace Choir performed the opening service.

Following the end of World War 2, the Welsh League of Nations Union – whose work had been largely suspended through hostilities – regrouped under Gwilym Davies’ Chairmanship, and seamlessly transitioned to become UNA Wales – the United National Association Welsh National Council.

An executive committee meeting, and the last meeting of WLoNU / first conference of UNA Wales, were held over October 27-28 1946 at the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff – then just 8 years old. Finally, the Temple was to become the ‘peacebuilding headquarters’ that it had been intended as – although sadly, Lord Davies of Llandinam had passed away just months before his dream, shattered by WW2, finally started to reach fruition.

UNA Wales Quarterly Bulletin, 1949 – with the Temple of Peace on cover.

The first Annual General Meeting of UNA Wales was held in Wrexham over May 30-31 1947, and Gwilym Davies was returned as the first President of UNA Wales – with William (Bill) Arnold becoming the first Secretary of UNA Wales (and de facto ‘Director’ of the Temple of Peace).

It was decided to establish CEWC Cymru, the Council for Education in World Citizenship, as a separate but complementary body to UNA Wales, also operating from the Temple of Peace – so as to make a clearer distinction between educational and campaigning work (which had sometimes proven problematic prior to the outbreak of WW2).

The Temple of Peace and Health, meanwhile was going through similarly major revolutions in its South Wing – as the former Wales National Memorial Association for the eradication of Tuberculosis, established by David Davies in 1910, became one of the founding bodies of the new NHS National Health Service – for which the transitional authority through 1946-47 tasked with amalgamating all of Wales’ health bodies into the new service was headquartered in the Temple of Peace & Health. Following the NHS organisation, the Temple became the headquarters for the South Glamorgan Health Authority.

Passing and Legacy of Gwilym Davies (1955)

As late as 1942, in the midst of WW2, Gwilym Davies had married Mary Elizabeth Ellis, the second woman to be appointed an inspector of schools in Wales (she was granted permission to marry and to retain her post till 1943). They lived in 8 Marine Terrace, Aberystwyth.

He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in the 1948 Honours list by Prime Minister Clement Attlee, for his services to peacebuilding and the people of Wales.

Leaflet for Gwilym Davies’ Memorial Service, held at the Temple of Peace on 11 Feb 1955

For a man of such lifelong drive and dynamism, he suffered from poor health throughout much of his life; and on 29 January 1955, he passed away peacefully – and passed on his legacy of peace.

His memorial service was fittingly held in the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff, the building he was instrumental not only in creating – but in framing for a mission, to build a better world for generations to come. His ashes were scattered at Lavernock Point, Penarth, where the first Marconi radio message had been exchanged across water.

His peacebuilding work was to be carried forward by the United Nations Association (UNA) Wales, and CEWC (Council for Education in World Citizenship) at the Temple of Peace, both of which continue as the Welsh Centre for International Affairs today.

He ‘bequeathed’ the Youth Peace and Goodwill Message to be continued by the Urdd from 1956 onwards. It continues to be broadcast every year on May 18th, with participation from young people Wales-wide every year – as well as translations into many languages of the world, and responses from youth movements overseas.

The ‘Neges’ will be marking its centenary in 2022 – continuing a mission started by a modest man from Cwmrhymni, for a world of peace for future generations.

On May 18th, 2018, the Peace and Goodwill message of the young people of Wales was shared by Urdd Gobaith Cymru, from the young people of Mid Glamorgan. The message gives thanks for the opportunities available to young people and the hope that those opportunities are available to all young people – emphasising the need to listen to the voices of young people, and for young people to feel able to discuss and overcome problems.

View the 2019 Peace and Goodwill Message, Voice.

Author and Contributors

This article has been drawn together by Craig Owen, Peace Heritage Coordinator at WCIA from many volunteer and community contributors over the life of the Wales for Peace project 2014-19. Particular thanks are added for academic research by:

    • Stuart Booker, Swansea University History doctoral student, who completed digitisation and tagging of the Welsh League of Nations Union reports over Summer 2019.
    • Rob Laker, Swansea University History student, who researched the Welsh League of Nations Union branch activities and daffodil days as part of a summer 2019 heritage and archives placement with WCIA.
    • Dr Emma West, University of Birmingham, who drew together research and materials for the Temple of Peace’s 80th Anniversary programme and Gala Performance / reinterpretation, ‘A New Mecca’

United Nations Day 24 Oct 2019 – WCIA unveils ‘UN75’ Peace Heritage Programme for Wales for 2020 and Beyond

 

24 October every year marks United Nations Day internationally – the day on which the UN Charter came into being, beginning the great process of healing, reconciliation and rebuilding that followed World War Two. WCIA are marking this year’s UN Day by unveiling our plans to develop a new Wales-wide Peace Heritage programme for 2020-24, ‘UN75’ – and invite prospective partners, communities, volunteers and funders to join us in shaping a vision for marking Wales’ considerable contributions to internationalism and health post-WW2. This will link in to the United Nation’s own UN75: 2020 and Beyond campaign.

Events

Our series of regular ‘Temple Tours’ open day has begun – where visitors are welcome to join us for a tour of the Temple of Peace and Health and its stories, from 10.30am or over lunchtime. You can register here or turn up on the day.

WCIA supported Thursday 24th Oct evening event to mark UN Day by UNA Wales, now in the Sir John Percival Building, where Cymru’n Cofio Coordinator Sir Deian Hopkin will give his inspiring and insightful talk on ‘The Impact of WW1 on Wales’:

“United Nations Day highlights the enduring ideals of the UN Charter, which entered into force on this date 74 years ago. Amid stormy global seas, the Charter remains our shared moral anchor.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

UN Mosaic in the centre of Wales’ National Garden of Peace, created by UNA Exchange International Youth Service Volunteers in 1993

Wales’ Temple of Peace

Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was opened in November 1938 – just months before the outbreak of World War 2 shattered the hopes and dreams of many, as the world was once more engulfed in conflict a mere 20 years after “Never Again” had become the annual refrain of Remembrance. It seemed the Peace Heritage of the 1920s-30s movements for Welsh internationalism – much of which was explored through WCIA’s WW100 ‘Wales for Peace’ programme over 2014-19 – had been cast aside.

Remembering a Social Revolution

However, the end of hostilities swept in an era of enormous social change – with the founding of the United Nations, the National Health Service in the UK, establishment of Universal Charters of Human Rights, and the ‘beginning of the end’ for colonialism as many nations of world began the journey towards independence.  Many Welsh men and women played an instrumental role in these movements, with Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health at the Heart of activism and social change through the 1940s and 50s.

Out of the Ashes of Conflict – Building a Better World

As the UK prepares to mark the 75th and 80th anniversaries of many major WW2 events (between 2019 and 2025), WCIA will be focusing on what followed WW2: the desire to build a better world through the founding of the United Nations and universal charters of human rights, that have underpinned peaceful co-existence and global development to this day.

Welsh people have played a profound role in the story of the United Nations over the last 75 years. Between 2019 and 2024, WCIA will mark the anniversaries of a number of major UN events by exploring Wales’ heritage of action on human rights, community stories, local to global responses, and attitudes towards human rights and international cooperation now and looking to the future.

“By marking these anniversaries, we will continue to inspire the next generation of internationalists and hope to encourage more positive attitudes across Wales about the vital protections of human rights we have enjoyed for the last 75 years.”

Susie Ventris-Field, WCIA Chief Executive

Treasure Huns among the Archives

Through Wales for Peace, many thousands of items from the Temple Archives and Collections have been made publicly accessible on People’s Collection Wales, as well as on Flickr. A small selection of examples of these relevant to UN75 can be viewed via the links below:

Over Summer 2019, students from Swansea and Cardiff Universities began the challenge of cataloguing the Temple of Peace’s as-yet-unexplored archives from the post-WW2 era, and it is hoped many of these will also become available on People’s Collection over coming months.

WCIA Heritage Project Proposed Activities

Building on the HLF-funded Wales for Peace programme from 2014-19 – which marked the centenary of WW1 and uncovered hidden histories form Wales’ peace movements of the interwar years (1918-39) – WCIA will be seeking funding, project partners and developing work with community groups and volunteers to explore this next era of Wales’ internationalist peace heritage: the ‘United Nations’ era. Project activities we hope will include opportunities to:

  • Explore, catalogue, digitise, interpret and make publicly accessible the Temple of Peace Archives post-WW2, and related collections held in the National Library of Wales and elsewhere.
  • Where possible, gather oral histories from veterans and social activists of the 1950s-70s, with a focus on ‘building a better world’ and social change.
  • Develop academic networks and student research placements exploring post-WW2 peacebuilding and social change, and drawing lessons for today.
  • Develop creative digital storytelling, citizen journalism and creative writing projects that bring hidden histories to life, inspire activists and changemakers today, and inform policymaking.
  • Develop community arts and creative responses, and offer a platforms for display / sharing with public audiences in a way that inspires conversations about challenging contemporary world issues such as Brexit, Climate Change, social inclusion and equalities, and Human Rights.
  • Develop Touring Exhibitions that stimulate hidden histories projects, community conversations and critical thinking around Wales’ role in the World, from the perspective of specific communities (geographic and communities of interest).
  • Build a Digital Legacy of all heritage materials, stories and project activities, that is easily accessible and inspiring to current and future generations.
  • Develop Learning Materials and Classroom / School projects that support teachers to deliver the new Welsh curriculum by drawing on Welsh internationalism;
  • Facilitate Young Peacemakers Awards and Youth / Schools Conferences that enable shared learning between networks of young people, teachers and policy makers.
  • Ground the development and delivery of Wales’ International Strategy, in a deepened knowledge and understanding of Wales’ Internationalist heritage.

Marking Anniversaries

The table below draws together just some of the significant dates from the post-WW2 ‘peace building era’, that WCIA hope to mark over 2019-24 – and to draw inspiration from for work with communities and civil society groups to explore how these issues remain relevant, and how people can take action today.

WW2 Anniversaries / Significant Dates

80th Anniversary of outbreak of WW2 Sept 3rd 1939 Sept 3rd 2019 (80th)
“D-Day” 6th June 1944 6th June 2019 (75th)

6th Jun 2024 (80th)

Liberation of Auschwitz – Birkenau (marked by Holocaust Memorial Day) 27th Jan 1945 27th Jan 2020 (75th)
VE Day / end of WW2 in UK & Europe 8th May 1945 (VE Day) 8th May 2020 (75th)
Hiroshima Day – this is usually marked with an annual event at the National Eisteddfod. In 2020 this will be Tregaron, Ceredigion – also the birthplace of Welsh Peacemaker Henry Richard, whose statue in the town square is a place of pilgrimage for many peace activists. 6th August 1945 6th Aug 2020 (75th)
End of WW2 worldwide (Japan Day) August 15th 1945

Sept 2nd in USA

Aug 15th 2020 (75th)

United Nations Anniversaries / Significant Dates

Declaration of St James: the Inter-Allied Charter 12th June 1941 12th June 2021 (80th)
Atlantic Charter for World Organisation, Peace, Justice Labour, Economic & Social Security 14th August 1941 14th Aug 2019 (78th)

14th Aug 2021 (80th)

First ‘Declaration of United Nations’ 1st January 1942 1st Jan 2020 (78th)
Dumbarton Oaks Conference – UN structure agreed

Yalta Conference – UN Security agreed

7th October 1944

7th February 1945

7th Oct 2019 (75th)

7th Feb 2020 (75th)

Formation of UN in San Francisco (and United Nations Day annually) 24th October 1945 24th Oct 2020 (75th)
1st Session of UN General Assembly, London (organised by Welshmen Gladwyn Jebb and opened with a ‘peace performance’ by the Choir of Wales’ Temple of Peace) 10th January 1946 10th January 2021 (75th)
Founding of WHO World Health Organisation 7th April 1948 7th April 2020 (72nd)
UN Charter / Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris 10th Dec 1948 10th Dec 2023 (75th)
World Peace Day

(NB 2019 UN theme is Climate Action for Peace)

21st September 1981 21st September 2021 (40th)
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – see also UNICEF and SCF resources 20th November 1989 (signed)

2nd Sept 1990 (implemented)

20th Nov 2019 (30th)

2nd Sept 2020 (30th)

Welsh Civil Society & Communities – Significant post-WW2 Dates for Peace, Health & Internationalist Movements 

Temple of Peace opening (1938)

 

Wales’ National Garden of Peace opening (1988)

23rd November 1938 23rd Nov 2019 = 81st

23rd Nov 2020 = 82nd

etc

David Davies – Anniversary of passing of DD, founder of the Temple of Peace (was marked by WCIA + Gregynog Festival Lecture) 16th June 1944 16th June 2019 (75th)
Welsh League of Nations Union formally becomes UNA Wales 1945 (TBC)
Post-WW2 reopening of Temple of Peace 1945 (TBC)
Post-WW2 General election returns Clement Attlee / Labour Government, whose manifesto instituted sweeping social reforms including creation of NHS 5th July 1945 (GE)

26th July (results of GE)

26th July 2020 (75th)
NHS Transitional Authority set up in Temple of Peace, to oversee creation of NHS in Wales 1946 2021 (75th)
Founding of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod and the June 1947 June 2019 (72nd)

June 2022 (75th)

Unveiling of post-WW2 Temple of Peace plaque marking 1939 Empire Gold Medal for Architecture from RIBA, by David Davies’ widow Lady Henrietta Davies 1948 (TBC)
Founding of NHS and NHS Wales 5th July 1948 5th July 2020 (72nd)
First Germany – Wales people’s peace exchange, with Lubeck Choir coming to Llangollen July 1949 July 2019 (70th)
First Llangollen Children’s Peace Message 5th July 1952 5th July 2022 (70th)
Gwilym Davies’ memorial – passing of GD in 1955, and transfer of Youth Peace & Goodwill Message from former Welsh League of Nations Union to the Urdd. 26th January 1955 26th January 2020 (65th)
Founding of first of many post-WW2 Wales – Germany Town Twinning Associations founded with a Swansea Mannheim Exchange (Coventry-Dresden having originated in 1946) 9th August 1957 9th August 2022 (65th )

Get Involved / Further Information

To express interest in getting involved in the research, design and development of UN75, or for further information contact WCIA on 02920228549 or email walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk.

Daffodil Days of the 1920s-30s: Celebrating Wales-wide Community Activism on #WorldPeaceDay

Rob Laker, WCIA Archives Intern

Blog and research by WCIA Archives Intern Rob Laker, on placement with Wales for Peace from Swansea University History Dept over Summer 2019. Drawing on materials from the National Library of Wales and Temple of Peace Archives; and Annual Reports of the Welsh League of Nations Union 1922-45 on People’s Collection Wales, digitised by WCIA (with support of Swansea doctoral student Stuart Booker) for future open access and research. Final edit by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace.

This article is published as WCIA’s #Peacemakers #FridayFeature to mark World Peace Day 2019, celebrating Welsh global activism past, present and future.

 

 

 

The Story of Wales’ ‘Daffodil Days for Peace’

Daffodil beds in Wales’ National Garden of Peace, outside the National Temple of Peace and Health opened in Cardiff in 1938.

In the aftermath of the First World War, huge changes occurred in the way people in Britain perceived international issues. An iron resolve had been instilled across the United Kingdom: ‘never again’ was not just to be an ideal, but a tangible determination that everyone must actively work towards the preservation of world peace.

It was this desire which quickly led to a heightened interest in international engagement, and ultimately prompted everyday people across Wales to begin to hold ‘Daffodil Days’ in aid of the Welsh League of Nations Union. A uniquely Welsh response, these events embodied a form of outward looking patriotism – a pride in projecting Wales’s international credentials.

In the fifteen years which they occurred, League supporters organised at least one Daffodil Day in over 600 Welsh towns and villages, transforming the event into a cultural practice which pervaded every corner of the nation, up until the outbreak of World War Two.

View Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Swansea History student Rob Laker (zoom, or click on pins, to find communities near you. Further info on local activism can be gleaned from Welsh League of Nations Union reports, digitised by WCIA on People’s Collection Wales).

Origins, Development and Successes in the 1920s

The practice of selling daffodils for an international cause began as early as 1922, when volunteers from the Welsh League of Nations Union took to the streets of Cardiff to raise money to relieve the famine afflicting great swathes of Russia following the recent civil war.

By 1924, the sale of daffodils throughout the summer to raise money for the work of the WLNU had become a thriving tradition. Daffodil Days would frequently continue to occur until late September (despite the efforts of the executive committee to set a uniform national date in mid-May – tying in to the ‘Peace Day’ for the newly established Welsh Youth Message of Peace & Goodwill), and the event quickly cemented itself as an integral part of interwar Welsh culture.

1925 Map of Great Western Railway in Wales, National Library of Wales Blog

Transported by train across Wales, thousands of boxes of flowers – of both the cardboard and real variety – would arrive in each village in time to be distributed among the local volunteers involved with the Daffodil Day. Equipped with a wicker basket, a wooden tray, or sometimes even a cardboard box donated by a local confectionary shop, helpers would set out from nearby coordination centres, ready to spend their Saturday selling neatly packed daffodils.

School children in particular – despite being officially ‘barred’ from participating! – were a key component of Daffodil Days. Most organisers relished the chance to bolster their numbers with such a surplus of enthusiastic volunteers. Their cause was made clear by the labels across the front of each of their box – ‘for world peace’ – and their dedication plain for all to see by their presence on even the rainiest of weekends during the Welsh summer.

The choice of using a Welsh national symbol to promote an internationalist body was no accident. It conveyed a very deliberate and potent message: a declaration of Wales’ identity as a modern nation, committed, at its very core, to the pursuit of peace and international cooperation. It was a statement of Welsh public pride in their role at the forefront of internationalism.

As one newspaper report (1) on the 1925 Cardiff Daffodil Day put it:

“the national flower of Wales had become the international flower of peace. The purchase and wearing of a daffodil in this way expresses both pride in the nation’s past, and hope for its future.”

Communities Wales-wide who organised ‘Daffodil Days for Peace’ in 1926, from the Annual Report of the Welsh League of Nations Union

This outward looking patriotism was not confined to major centres such as Cardiff. In 1924 twenty-six Welsh towns held a Daffodil Day in aid of the Welsh League of Nations Union, yet this number had multiplied almost tenfold by 1927, with 249 Daffodil Days taking place all over Wales.

In just a few years, Daffodil Days had not only ‘blossomed’ into a recognised cultural event, but quickly become vital to financing the Welsh League of Nations Union, contributing over half the Council’s income for most of the interwar period. In 1927 alone, £1,877 16s 11d worth of daffodils were bought by the people of Wales in aid of the Union – equivalent to around 450,000 cardboard daffodils (2). A particularly impressive figure, given that the population of Wales was recorded to be 2,656,000 at the last census in 1921.

Despite the importance of their work, local Daffodil Days were certainly not the only manifestation of this tradition. Each year the Welsh League of Nations Union would set up a stall selling the flowers at the National Eisteddfod (3), as well as appearing at other national events such as the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show right up to 1939.

Rugby matches, furthermore, provided an opportunity for a truly national display of internationalism. This is highlighted in one report of the atmosphere in the national stadium on 9 April 1927 – the day of Wales’ first home game since the Five Nations tournament earlier that year:

‘Maybe it was because of the enthusiasm with which so good a Welsh Nationalist as Mr David Davies, M.P. has espoused the cause of the League of Nations Union – but whatever the cause, Wales has distinguished itself in its enthusiasm for the cause of world peace. That is why on Saturday in Cardiff everyone wore a daffodil as the insignia of the League of Nations’.

By the late 1920s, Daffodil Days had become a ubiquitous symbol in Welsh society – an established part of interwar culture. They were an emblem of internationalism which, far from conflicting with national identity, had become something to be worn as a display of patriotism – very much at home at a Saturday rugby match.

Women as Peacemakers and Leaders

Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths, Chair of the Welsh League of Nations Union, holding the Welsh Women’s Peace Memorial outside the White House in Washington, 1924, alongside Mrs Ruth Morgan, Miss Eluned Prys and Mrs. Mary Ellis. TI Ellis Collections, National Library of Wales

As well as their practical and cultural significance, Daffodil Days are also notable for the prominent role which women played in their organisation. From the work of Annie Hughes Griffiths and the success of the women’s peace petition to America, to the pioneering efforts of Winifred Coombe Tennant at the League of Nations Assembly, the women of Wales quickly became associated with peace activism. The Daffodil Days were no exception.

Local women often took the lead in organising events in their own area, coordinating volunteers and acting as the village representative in correspondence with the Cardiff headquarters. In this role, women would often chair local committees responsible for organising the event, affording them a remarkable level of influence in their local community.

The role of women was certainly not confined to local communities. During the 1920s, Daffodil Days were organised by the Women’s National Daffodil Day Committee, who were responsible for coordinating local organisers and solving the logistical challenges that came with sending boxes of daffodils to remote communities across Wales.

As time went by, and the contribution of Welsh women to the League of Nations became more formally recognised, the responsibility of Daffodil Days was taken over by the Women’s Advisory Committee. Founded in 1933, the Women’s Advisory Committee to the Welsh League of Nations Union was an official organising body which took over the work of a variety of less formally recognised women’s groups, including the National Daffodil Day committee. Under the aegis of Annie Hughes Griffiths, the Daffodil Day tradition would enjoy some of its most popular years but would also face its most disruptive challenges.

Trials, Resilience and Dogged Optimism in the 1930s

Cardiff Daffodil Day volunteers, pictured in ‘Young Workers for Peace’, Western Mail, 22 May 1933.

The end of the ‘roaring twenties’, and the onset of the Great Depression, ushered in profound changes to daily life throughout Wales and the world. Disposable incomes dried up as unemployment rose, squeezing the pockets of previously generous League supporters.

The economic downturn was accompanied not only by a noticeable fall in the average income generated by each daffodil day, but also saw a sharp decline in the number of towns which held one at all – particularly in industrial areas of Glamorganshire. The determination of the people of Wales to support the work of the Welsh League of Nations Union, however, remained undiminished. Even amid the economic turmoil engulfing the nation, local branches of the Union were still able to successfully coordinate 211 Daffodil Days across Wales.

In northern areas such as Anglesey, the number of daffodil days organised actually increased in 1930 in an attempt to counteract losses elsewhere, while many countryside towns – for example Crickhowell – held their first ever Daffodil Day in this year. Clearly then, the activities of the League were seen as more than simply a charitable cause to be supported in times of affluence. The fact that even in 1930, in the midst of economic crisis, the Welsh League of Nations Union was still able to sell £1707 17s 11d worth of stock – equivalent to almost 410,000 penny daffodils – is a testament to the commitment of interwar Wales to the internationalism of the League.

Over the next few years the Welsh League of Nations Union found ways to raise the profile of the Daffodil Days. In some areas sellers began to dress in the traditional national costumes of League members (4), highlighting the prevalence of grassroots activism in other member nations and providing daffodil wearers with a visual manifestation of the international community they were supporting. In Cardiff, plans were put in place (5) for a ‘Field of Hope’ – a field of daffodils planted on the green surrounding the castle – as a symbol of the future to compliment the monument to the past provided by the ‘Field of Remembrance’. As a result, the income from Daffodil Days began to steadily rise.

The Abyssinnia Crisis

Abyssinia Crisis, 1935 – Medical supplies at the front in Addis Ababa. Wikimedia Commons

The optimism inspired by such innovations was, however, badly shaken by the Abyssinia crisis of 1935. The failure of the League to act decisively during the crisis is often considered the beginning of the end for the organisation, resulting in a world-wide crisis of confidence in its authority over a community of nations increasingly turning their attention inwards in pursuit of individual national interest.

As the folders of frantic correspondence between the WLNU and local daffodil day organisers attest, Wales was not impervious to this pattern of disillusionment. Typical of such letters was that sent by the coordinator in Brynmafonwyd, who wrote to the Cardiff headquarters in 1936 (6) to inform them that the ‘definitely unfavourable’ public opinion of the League had forced him to postpone the Daffodil Day that year, as there was a lack of practical interest.’ Another organiser from Llangynwyd lamented (7) that previously enthusiastic local daffodil sellers now ‘absolutely refuse to have anything to do [with] selling for the League which had failed to help when help was needed’, forcing her to cancel the town’s Daffodil Day that year. Even in towns such as Wrexham, which did hold a Daffodil Day in 1936, organisers were forced to apologise for the meagre sums they raised (8), as

‘the people blame the League for the fate of the Abyssinians’.

The disenchantment of volunteers was not the only repercussion which the Abyssinia Crisis had on the Daffodil Day tradition. In September 1935 the Glamorganshire Chief Constable denied New Tredegar a permit to hold a Daffodil Day (9), on the grounds that it could not be considered a ‘charitable cause’; a first in the history of the tradition. As an internal Welsh League of Nations Union report noted, there had been ‘absolutely no difficulty in obtaining consent’ for Daffodil Days until the autumn of 1935, but suddenly the cause was deemed too controversial to raise money for. Barry, Tonypandy, Aberdare, and others quickly joined the list of towns which were denied permits by local authorities on these grounds (10), as the institution of the League of Nations and the ideal of world peace drifted further apart in the perceptions of ordinary people across Wales.

These problems encountered by Daffodil Day organisers in Wales clearly demonstrate a process of politicisation of the League issue taking place in 1935. To be in favour of peaceful international cooperation was no longer, necessarily, synonymous with being in favour of the League of Nations, transforming a once universal cause into a controversial issue.

“The Geneva disappointment”, as one Llandudno organiser termed it, had “shaken confidence in internationalism to its very core.”

Daffodil Days Appeal Leaflet for 1937, from the Welsh League of Nations Union to local organisers.

Yet, despite all the problems faced by the Welsh League of Nations Union, 1936 turned out to be one of the most successful years for Daffodil Days in the entire interwar period. The Union’s 1936-7 annual report lists over 300 days were held in towns across Wales, while many areas which were unable to hold an official event still managed to raise money through private lobbying of League supporters.Llanharan does care’ was the message of one organiser (11) – for while many people in Wales had become disenchanted with the League, there were also many for whom the crisis had only invigorated their desire to see the League succeed: ‘it rained almost all the day’ at the Llanharan Daffodil Day, but the organiser was still able to proudly report that ‘the sellers were splendid to stick it out’. Letters of encouragement, such as that from Pencader (12) signed ‘with best wishes for the success of the League’, continued to flood into Cardiff, many containing promises that their next Daffodil Day would be conducted with an even greater vigour in support of the Welsh League of Nations Union.

In 1938, the opening of Wales Temple of Peace & Health as the new headquarters for the Welsh League of Nations Union and ‘spiritual home’ for internationalists Wales-wide, offered a much needed moment of celebration, and reflection among challenging times. Over £12,000 was contributed from public subscriptions towards the construction of this forward looking monument to the fallen of WW1; and whilst WCIA have not yet found any records on how these subscriptions were gathered, it seems highly likely that Daffodil Days, and the Wales-wide internationalist movement they facilitated, were a huge part of creating this legacy.

On 23 Nov 1938, Mrs Minnie James from Dowlais turned a symbolic golden key to open the Temple of Peace, on behalf of bereaved mothers of Wales and the world. She expressed her hopes that it would continue to inspire future generations to action on peace, and to build a better world as the ultimate ‘act of remembrance’.

The Welsh sentiment of internationalism was still very much in bloom – determined to weather whatever storms the coming years would bring. The Welsh League of Nations Union continued to strive for the maintenance of peace right up until the outbreak of WW2 hostilities. Despite the war clouds gathering on the horizon, 206 towns and villages still organised Daffodil Days in the summer of 1939, raising over £820 for the Union in the hope that the fighting could still be prevented.

Yet as peace finally slipped from the grasp of those who strove to maintain it, so the Daffodil Days disappeared into history. Although one isolated event was still held in 1940, the Second World War effectively marked the end of “the Daffodil Day”; the wilting of a Welsh cultural tradition that for 15 years had bound nationality and internationalism into one electric identity.

Daffodil Days were a symbol of hope for the future; an affirmation of Wales’s place at the forefront of nations striving for conciliation; a statement that its people were amongst the vanguard in the quest for international harmony. Wales was a nation which refused to a give up on peace; a heritage to which the story of the Daffodil Days stands as testament.

World Peace Day and Climate Action Today

Wales Climate Strike Sept 2019 outside the Senedd

This weekend, as the world marks the UN International Day of Peace on Sept 21, WCIA carry forward this flame of internationalist community activism in joining the nationwide #ClimateStrike, in solidarity with #ExtinctionRebellion, children and Youth groups from all over Wales. The current Climate Crisis is the cause of our ‘future generations’ no less so than rebuilding world peace was the cause of the post-WW2 ‘United Nations generation‘ – all of whom grew up with daffodil days as a deep part of Welsh internationalist tradition and identity.

As Wales faces the challenge of shaping its post-Brexit role in the world, among deep community divisions and a changing UK, European and international scene, the for #Peacemakers to champion the needs of future generations – and to learn from and indeed be inspired by our past – remains as great today as ever.

References

[1] ‘International Emblem’ Western Mail, 3 August 1925, 9.

[2] This number is based on the sale of cardboard daffodils at one penny each, however the real figure is likely marginally lower, as a minority of daffodils sold were real flowers, which sold for three pence each.

[3] For correspondence regarding the League’s presence at the Eisteddfod see related documents in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Women’s National Daffodil day Committee, general correspondence, Feb. – Aug. 1928 [228]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/33.

[4] ‘Cardiff and the League of Nations’, Western Mail, 11 April 1927, 9.

[5] ‘Costumes of Many Lands’, Western Mail, 24 July 1930, 11.

[6] ‘League of Nations Union Daffodil Day Suggestion’, Western Mail, 13 December 1932, 9.

[7] Letter from Beryl M. Griffiths (Brynmafonwyd) to David Samways, 12 May 1936, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(1).

[8] Letter from Miss Olwen Evans (Llangynwyd) to David Samways, 8 May 1936, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(2).

[9] Letter from Robert Jones (Wrexham) to David Samways, 9 September 1936, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(2).

[10] Correspondence with Chief Constable of Glamorganshire, 30 September 1935, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(1).

‘Glamorgan Daffodil Days’ report (1935), found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(1).

[12] Letter from James Brown (Llanharran) to David Samways, 24 September 1935, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(1).

[13] For example, Letter from Bryn Davies (Pencader) to David Samways, 23 June 1936, found in ‘League of Nations Union and United Nations Association Records: Daffodil Days-letters, flag days, carnivals, stalls, etc., 1935-9, 1946-7 [88]’, Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, B1/54(4).

The ‘Great and the Good’: Opening Ceremony of Wales’ Temple of Peace, Nov 1938

Compiled by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace from research originally prepared by WCIA Volunteers Hannah Sweetapple (Summer 2016), Peter Garwood and ‘Temple Tours’ Volunteer Guide Frank Holloway, Summer 2017 and Anna Carlile, Autumn 2018; additional material researched by Temple Archivist Mari Lowe, Ffion Fielding, and Dr. Emma West, Birmingham University for our Nov 2018 ‘Wales for Peace’ exhibition. Final piece edited and developed by Craig Owen for WCIA’s ‘Peacemakers Features’ series.

DOWNLOAD PRINT-FRIENDLY PDF

Western Mail Souvenir Supplement, Nov 23rd 1938

In the months since the Temple80 Celebrations in Nov 2018 – marking the 80th Anniversary of the opening of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health on 23 November 1938 – there has been much interest in the Temple Archives, the original orders of service from the historic day and the digitised document collections assembled y Wales for Peace volunteers over 2014-19.

The purpose of this article is to bring these links together, and to offer a more depth and insight into the formal ceremonies and speeches made on the day, from the founder Lord Davies and ‘Mother of Wales’ Minnie James (who opened the Temple), to the addresses of the ‘Great and the Good’ – and who they were – as well messages from World Leaders such as US President Roosevelt and Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes.

It is important to read this whole article in the context of its historic setting in time. As the Temple of Peace opened in 1938, Hitler’s rise in Germany, alongside other crises had weakened the League of Nations, and World War Two was just 10 months from breaking out. But at this point, no one yet knew what was going to happen; would appeasement work? Many of the speeches refer to this climate of uncertainty.

Archive Materials and Links

Laying of the Foundation Stone, 1937

Laying the Temple of Peace Foundation Stone, April 1937

The foundation stone was laid by Lord Halifax Lord Privy Seal and Deputy Foreign Secretary, on Thursday, 8th April 1937. In the background of pictures are huts in which sandbags were being produced for air raid shelters – war preparations under way, a sign of the troubled times. His speech that day stated that:

“the new building would be symbolic of the dedication of thought to two great purposes – national health and international peace, both of which had become vital landmarks in the life of the people during the last twenty or thirty years. Nothing had been more remarkable than the way in which our common civic and national thought had come to rank physical health high because of the degree with which we recognised how important was the place that public health occupied in the capacity of our people to discharge worthily the duties of citizenship.

Twenty years previously anybody who tried to think internationally was in danger of being voted a theorist, a sentimentalist, and a crank. Now everybody knew that, whatever their political party and policy, it was imperative to appreciate the importance of international relations, because civilisation itself directly depended up the adjustments they might be able to make.

In a world where anxiety about security was leading everywhere to re-armament, those who loved peace needed to be strong if they were to make their voice heard. They must recognise that no final solution was going to be found by the determined removal of the causes of conflict that kept the world uneasy and unquiet. The basis of all true peace, and the only basis of true peace, mist be international good will and conciliation of the conflicting interests of nations.”

Opening Day of the Temple of Peace, 23 Nov 1938

Temple of Peace opening – Crowds gathered in the rain

The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health was the first building to be constructed in Britain to specifically intended to symbolise the devotion of Wales and its people to two great humanitarian causes. Designed by Cardiff Architect Sir Percy Thomas – and winning the 1939 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture – the completion of the Temple brought to fruition a conception which had been present for many years in the minds of its founders – in particular, Lord David Davies – and has provided a monument not to commemorate the deeds of the past and to express aspirations for the future.

“From the remotest ages mankind has endeavoured to symbolise its ideas through the medium of buildings and architecture. The Temple of Peace and Health was intended to be not merely an architectural ornament but the visible expression of two ideals. The first was crystalized in the tribute to the memory of King Edward VII in the form of national campaign to eradicate the scourge of tuberculosis from the Principality. The second was the crusade for world peace in which Wales has always played a leading part. It is therefore fitting that the first British building to be dedicated to these noble causes should have been erected on Welsh soil.”

Minnie James with Lord Davies (founder) and Percy Thomas (architect) prepares to open Wales’ Temple of Peace

The Temple was to serve as an outward and visible sign of the allegiance and loyalty of the people of Wales to the principles and objectives of the League of Nations. At the opening, Lord Davies said:

“It is not intended to be a mausoleum, and because, in 1938, dark clouds overshadowed Europe, that was no reason why we should have put up the shutters and draw down the blinds. On the contrary, this was the time for constancy and courage, this was a time when we, both as individuals and as a nation, should humbly re-dedicate ourselves to the service of the great tasks that lay before us. It was hoped that the Temple of Peace and Health would come to be regarded as the shrine of all that we hold most dear, and that it would prove to be of real service to the future welfare of humanity as the symbol of our determination to work for a better world.”

On the day a special train had left Paddington at 8.20 a.m. to arrive at Cardiff at 11.20 a.m. Then coaches were used to bring the party of mothers and other representatives to the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health.

The weather that day was a typical November day with a gale that had torn branches off trees in Cathays Park.

Many of the photographs and indeed film footage reflect the tempestuous weather of the day – with many media commentators observing how this reflected the context for international affairs in the stormy and uncertain times of 1938, although one article highlighted that a ‘rainbow had broken out’ at the Temple’s opening.

Alderman Sir Charles Bird

Alderman Sir Charles Bird, Chair of the WNMA

At 11.45 there was an introductory address on the Temple steps by Alderman Sir Charles H. Bird C.B.E, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He said:

“We are assembled here to day to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected.

It had been put into the heart of one man that some permanent memorial should be set up which not only enshrine the memories of the many Welshmen who gave their lives in the service of their country in the Great War but would at the same time serve the useful purposes of headquarters of two great Welsh National institutions.” He added that he “wished to place on record the gratitude of the people of Wales for Lord Davies’s great and varied public services to the Principality.

The first of the organisations is the King Edward VII Welsh National Memorial Association which has done so much to restore health and happiness to many of the Welsh people who had been stricken with tuberculosis, and in still increasing measure is being used to stem the tide of that dread disease in our midst.

“The second is the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations Union, a movement which under happier auspices, and with more loyal support, might have led the world into a great sense of security than exists at the present moment.

” Much thought has been given to the question as to who should be asked to unlock the door on the occasion of to-day’s function, and it was felt that no better choice could be made than some representative Welsh mother, to represent not only the mothers of Wales and the Empire, who lost their sons in the Great War, but also to the mothers of other countries, the loss of whose sons has brought such poignant sorrow to them, whatever their nationality may be.

” So it is that we have with us today Mrs James of Dowlais who lost three of her sons, and we are all happy in the knowledge that she has been spared to join with us in this ceremony of dedication.

” It is, therefore , with great sense of the honourable position to which I have been appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Welsh National Temple of peace and Health, that I now call upon Mr Percy Thomas, the architect of this building to present Mrs James with the key, and to request her to perform the opening ceremony.

Minnie James from Dowlais – Mother of Wales

Read more about ‘Minnie James and the Mothers of Wales and the World’ 

At the ceremony Mrs James was wearing a hat and holding a large bouquet of scarlet carnations given by the Hon. Lady Davies and was wearing all three sets of medals that had belonged to her sons.

She was presented with a Golden Key by Mr Percy Thomas, the Architect, to open the doors of the Temple. He said: “Mrs James I have pleasure in presenting you with this key and asking you to accept it as a little token of this what I know must be a memorable occasion for you.” Mrs James said “Thank you”. She gave a short speech:

“In the name of the women of Wales it is my privilege to open the building. I dedicate it to the memorial to those gallant men of all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war. I pray that it may come to be regarded by the people of my country both of our generation and of those that are to follow as a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the millions who sacrificed their all; in a great cause, and as a symbol of our determination, to strive for justice and peace in the future.”

Because she was speaking in a low voice, and despite the microphone, the newspapers reported that not all the hundreds of people present were able to hear her.

War bereaved mothers at the Temple

She then took the key from the presentation box and symbolically put the golden key into the lock of the bronze doors, pushed the door open and was the first person of those gathered outside to enter the newly opened temple of peace. The guests entered the Great Hall and sat down. Mrs James and the bereaved mothers then entered the Great Hall and the assembled crowd stood up as the bereaved mothers and other representatives entered. They walked down the central aisle to the platform. Hundreds of guests from all over the world stood up in tribute and respect.

Dedicating the Hall of Nations: Order of Service

Temple of Peace Hammond Organ, rediscovered in the Basement 2018

The Hammond organ was played by Mr W. H. Gabb, Organist and Master of the Choristers of Llandaff Cathedral, the music was arranged by Sir Walford Davies K.C.V.D. Mr H. W. Gabb began to play a hymn and the choir of Llandaff Cathedral, boys and men, began to sing. The first hymn was: “O God our help in ages past.”

The Dean of Llandaff, Very Rev. D.J. Jones read a passage, Micah 1-7, from the scriptures and the Archbishop of Wales, Dr C. A. H. Green, the Rev. Dr Robert Bond, president of the Federated Council of Free Churches, and the Reverend Harris Jerevitch offered dedicatory prayers.

The Rev. Dr Elvet Lewis spoke in Welsh and then ended his remarks in English, “So this day we dedicate this Temple for Peace and Health. Health will make for better peace and peace will make for better health, and then the blessing of God will come on all people around us in god fellowship, in kindness, and in a harmony that will last forever.”

 

The mothers chosen to represent countries from all over the world stood up and spoke. First was Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh speaking on behalf of the mothers of Great Britain, then spoke Mrs R Struben form the Union of South Africa, speaking for the British Commonwealth mothers. Mrs Cederlund of Sweden for the Scandinavian countries said: “In the name of the women of Scandinavia I associate myself with the dedication of this building. May it be a constant reminder to the people of Wales of their duty to further the cause of progress, freedom, peace, and justice and of the debt they owe to those who fell in the defence of these ideals.” Mrs Moller spoke for the U.S.A., and Madame Dumontier from France spoke for the European countries.

Five of the mothers – representing much of the world – read messages of goodwill from their areas, speaking in their own languages.

Viscount Cecil, League of Nations Union

At 12.00 noon, Viscount Cecil of Chelwood began a service of dedication and gave an address to those present. He said:

“The Temple inaugurated a new centre of happiness from which would radiate all over the world a new impulse. Here was no set-back in the progress of conquering disease, but unhappily, that could not be said in regard to the other ideal of the Temple of Peace. Peace was being assailed almost throughout the world, and it required courage and faith at such a time to erect the monument opened that day. It was a splendid gesture and an inspiration to those working for peace.

This was one of the occasions when he ought to recall that his ancestors came originally from Wales, but, unfortunately, they did not bequeath him that eloquence that was so common among Welshmen. All I can do today is to say a few simple words of what this building means to me. The touching and impressive images we have just received from the mothers is one aspect of it. This is a great memorial of the past, That is right and proper, but to my thinking its main significance is not in reference to the past, but in reference to the future. We are here to inaugurate, I hope, a new centre of health, from which will be radiated all over Wales, all over Britain, and in the end all over the world, a new stimulus for the two great causes in connection with which it has been built.

As far as health was concerned its importance (the Temple) was enormous. But that matter was simple. There is no controversy about it. We all desire to see the health of the people improve. We all know what great work had been achieved in connection with that White Man’s scourge- tuberculosis by the organisation with which Lord Davies has been so long and so honourably connected. That is a splendid thing. We hope that this building would assist in carrying forward that great work. No setback had occurred in the march of progress in that respect and we hope that march will continue and be accelerated in the future.

And then about the other great cause – the cause of Peace. Here one admits the matter is more difficult. Peace is being assailed almost throughout the world. We look around the nations – there is scarcely one that is not preparing desperately for war. Nor is that all. Wars are actually raging in the east and in the west. Surely it required great courage and faith at this time to erect a monument like this, the object of which is to further peace, particularly through the League of Nations. That seems to me, I must say, a splendid gesture.

Lord Davies asks us not to be cast down by the past but to turn our eyes to the future, to consider what each one of us can do, inspired by such great effort as this to further the cause of peace.

Let us consider what it is that we mean by peace. I believe no one here will contradict when I say peace is much more than the absence or escape from war, or even from the successive threats of war. We aim at something much more than that. We aim at a new spirit among all the nations of the world. No doubt in the old days all that statesmen could do was to turn from the threat of war when it arose, to ward it off as it were by successful diplomacy. That was all that could be done. But it was not satisfactory. We did the best we could in this and other countries under the old system.

But we cannot forget, least of all on an occasion like that this, that old system ended in the catastrophe of 1914.That was why the nations came together after the War to consider what could be done for the future, though they did many foolish things.

They did try to set up some new system that would be a barrier against war. That part of their work – though it is not as strong as we would wish – still exists in the League of Nations. It is unnecessary, I am sure, for me to remind you of what the League is, nor have I the time, nor is this the proper occasion to go into a detailed explanation or a defence of the League of Nations. It is enough for me to say that it was built on two great conceptions.

One was that the nations had more in common with each other than they had of opposition, and if they could only be brought to see it each one of them would flourish and get stronger and happier and better the more they could co-operate with one and other.

International co-operation – as you will see in the preamble of the Covenant – was put into the forefront of the plan by which nations should be welded together through the League. That was what was intended by this great institution. International co-operation was the primary base, and then, in order to bring forth its fruits, there was the other great idea that nations must combine with one and other in order to prevent invasion or aggression on any one of their number. Those were the two conceptions on which the League of Nations was built. I know some people think it was a kind of brain-wave of President Wilson’s – that he had produced a new-fangled scheme and all the rest of it. No one who has looked into the history of this question will think that for one moment. There is a vast array – a chain of authority going back to the earliest ages of civilisation – of those who have thought and considered this question, who came to the conclusion that the only way in which peace could be maintained was by some such combination of nations for this purpose. I cannot cite all the authorities but I can cite two.

The Late Lord Salisbury was one of the greatest authorities of his day on foreign affairs, and at the end of his life he made a speech at the Guildhall in London- I think it was about 1907 – reviewing the then position of international affairs. The situation was not very unlike what it is now, although much less acute. Nations were building armaments against one and other and preparing for war. He pointed out that they could only end in disaster. And then he said we must hope that they will turn from this futile policy and form some international constitution which by its great strength will secure peace for a long time. That was said long before the League of Nations came into existence. We could scarcely have had a more precise prophecy of what was essential to save the world from disaster. Then I will mention one other great authority – Lord Grey of Falodon. He lived to see the League established and, after it had been brought into existence, he said publicly: “If this had only existed in 1914, we might have been spared the war of that year.”

Those are statements showing the kind of authority that lies behind this great conception. Believe me, there are only two possible ways of dealing with international relations. One is for all the nations to treat one and other as enemies: for each to say “Let us struggle to the utmost, let us aim at the survival of the fittest, let us apply to international life the principles of the jungle.” That is the one conception and unhappily, it has great advocates at the present time.

The other conception is that the nations must combine together, that they must protect on another, that they must establish in international affairs, as they have established in national affairs, the Rule of law. These are the only two conceptions that exist effectively at the present time.

Who can doubt for which of those two exceptions we should work. Do not let us forget all that the League has done. Till a few years ago it advanced steadily in strength and reputation. Now the whole basis of the League, the conception of the Rule of law in international affairs, has been challenged. It is for us to say whether that challenge should succeed. This building is Lord Davies’ reply.

Here, he says, is this magnificent erection, in this great centre of effort, we will renew the fight, we will make it stronger and stronger, until we have established, first in this country, and then throughout the world, the conception that right is might and that justice will prevail.

Messages from World Leaders

A number of messages were then read out by Alderman Sir Charles Bird:

32nd US President Franklin D Roosevelt

President Roosevelt sent a congratulatory telegram through Mr Joseph Davies U.S.A. Ambassador in Belgium:

“President Roosevelt has authorised me to convey to the committee , Lord Davies and those associated with him his congratulations on this monument to the ideal of international peace, based upon law and order, in contrast to force. The President has expressed to me his belief that the achievements of past civilisations and the hopes for all future development of the human race depend on the projection and adoption of this ideal as a basic principle in relations between nations on earth.”

Billy Hughes, 7th Prime Minister of Australia 1915-23

The Right Hon. William M. Hughes of the Australian cabinet (7th Australian Prime minister) had sent a telegram:

“As a Welshman and a Freeman of Cardiff, I offer my congratulations and sincere hope that the project will be crowned with success.”

US Supreme Court Chief Justice 1930-41, Charles Evans Hughes

Mr Charles Evans Hughes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States sent a message:

“Heartiest congratulations on the establishment of the Temple of Health and Peace. May this Temple be not only memorial but a constant inspiration”.

David Lloyd George, UK Prime Minister 1916-22

Former Prime Minister and WW1 leader Mr Lloyd George sent a telegram stating:

“Wales owes gratitude to Lord Davies for the present munificence with which he has founded in our midst a Temple consecrated to the ideal of peace on earth and happiness amongst men.”

The guests then sang the Welsh National Anthem and concluded with the UK National Anthem. As they all left the organist played Handel’s “Occasional Overtures”.

 

Civic Luncheon at City Hall – Speeches and Toasts

At 1 p.m. they were at City Hall, where a civic reception was given by the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell J.P., and the Lady Mayoress of Cardiff and Corporation of the City of Cardiff.

 

 

 

 

Temple of Peace Luncheon at City Hall

At 1.15 p.m. they were given lunch. The menu was extensive:

  • Grapefruit Cocktail
  • Crème Portugaise
  • Sole Bonne Femme
  • Roast turkey Chipolata
  • Croquette Potatoes
  • Brussel Sprouts Green Peas
  • Passion Fruit Ice Souffle
  • Fresh Fruit Salad and Cream
  • Cheese and Biscuits
  • Coffee.

The first toast of the luncheon was given by the Chairman to “His Majesty The King”.

‘Wales and the Welsh People’

The second toast was to “Wales and the Welsh People” given by Professor Gilbert Murray, M.A., LL.D. and Senator The Hon. James J. Davis.

Professor Murray reminded the audience of his own Celtic descent and expressed his gratification at being enabled to participate in such a historic occasion.” One thing which is certainly striking in all thoughts about Wales, is that in an age of nationalism the Principality has always been but a moderate drinker of that heady wine. In Wales we find a great national consciousness, a national pride, but none of the excesses and no ill-feeling, even against those odd English people who surround the Celts in every side.

Professor Murray pointed out that the great strength of Welsh nationality lay in the preservation of its language, and made special reference to the message of peace and goodwill broadcast each year from the Children of Wales to boys and girls in other countries. He expressed his pride at being associated with Lord Cecil and Lord Davies in this latest effort to advance the great cause for world peace and concluded by congratulating the City of Cardiff upon having acquired such a magnificent collection of public buildings in Cathays Park.

The toast was supported by Senator James J. Davis, former United States Secretary of labour. Senator Davis drew attention to

“the utterance of Abraham Lincoln that Wales, (for its size) had contributed more to the development of America than any other country. He emphasised that sons of Wales were to be encountered in many of the most responsible positions – industrial, professional, public and political – of American life, and declared that every one of them was proud to claim the Principality as “home”. Senator Davis paid a cordial tribute to Lord Davies for his determined efforts to bring about the entry of the United States into the League of Nations and expressed his pleasure at being enabled on this unique occasion to take part in a new effort to promote the brotherhood of man.”

Responded to by Alderman William Jenkins, M.P. who spoke partly in Welsh, Sir William “congratulated those who were responsible for the organisation of the opening ceremony upon having selected a simple woman of the people to own a building which was intended to symbolise the yearning of the masses all over the world for peace and health. Wales, he continued, had always regarded its Temples as landmarks, and he was especially proud to think that the first great edifice to be erected in Britain should be situated in his own country.

Referring to the services rendered in the cause of internationalism by such great Welshmen as Henry Richard and Tregelis Price, Sir William declared that the people of Wales had always fought for Peace and urged his fellow-countrymen to emulate the sterling example of their predecessors in striving to achieve the success of the greatest all crusades.”

‘Toasts to the Temple’

Eloquent expressions of goodwill for the success of the movements to be housed in the new building were delivered by Lord Kennet, Lord Snell, and Lord Meston in proposing jointly a third toast to “The Welsh National temple of Peace and Health”.

Proposed by The Rt. Hon. Lord Kennet P.C., G.B.E., D.S.O., The Rt. Hon. Lord Snell, P.C., C.B.E. and The Rt. Hon. Lord Meston, K.C.S.I.; Responded to by The Rt. Hon. Lord Davies.

Lord Kennet

Lord Kennet suggested that, though it might seem unusual to drink the health of “marble, bricks and mortar”, they could all join in wishing well to the future of the noble enterprise whose inauguration they had just witnessed. After referring to the contribution made by architects, engineers, and artisans to the completion of “a beautiful and dignified building”, Lord Kennet bestowed especial praise upon Lord davies for having conceived the idea of erecting a great temple as a means of securing the advancement of those humanitarian causes in whose service he had already laboured indefatigably.

“We know, however, that there is nothing he desires less than praise. Let us therefore give him what he desires most – our heartfelt thanks and warm support in the task he has undertaken.” Lord Kennett expressed the profound gratitude he felt for the imaginative and creative spirit of the Corporation of Cardiff without whose co-operation it would have been impossible for Lord Davies’ conception to be realised. In reminding those present that as a former Minister of Health he had been given exceptional opportunities of realising the advantages conferred upon the community by its social services. “I know”, he said, “of no service rendered more efficiently and with more benefit to the community than that of King Edward VII Welsh National memorial Association. It is a unique institution. The world, so far as I know, has nothing to show elsewhere that is comparable with it.”

Lord Snell

Lord Snell dwelt upon the social and spiritual significance of the idea expressed in the new building. “We always think of a Temple as the dwelling place of the gods,” he said, ” but this Temple is to be sanctified by its application to the higher purposes of man, Solomon’s temple was no doubt grander, more widely acclaimed, but it was no more socially necessary, and its served no higher purpose than this Temple will serve if it rightly used….. This building will stand as a great moral witness of our desire for peace. It will uplift our spirits. It will stimulate us to perform the tasks required of us. It is at once a witness and a call to duty. It is an inspiration and a commandment. It be Messianic in its influence, in its faith and in its motive, for out of its creative power may spring a people’s health and a beauteous and blessed peace”

Lord Meston

Lord Meston laid special emphasis upon the international character of the gathering which had been brought together to participate in the opening ceremony. ” Your guests”, he said ” have assembled to-day from every quarter and from many lands. They are here representing no party, no prejudices, no class and no creed. We are all one bringing our congratulations, our devotion. “ He expressed the gratitude of the British “minorities” for the order and peace which had enabled them to develop their culture and maintain their national pride. In these circumstances it was, he felt, most fitting that a Welshman should have endowed Britain with its first great temple dedicated to the cause of international understanding. “To many of us” , he concluded, “it seems that the outlook has never been darker, but it may not be that the greatest darkness is just before dawn – that the dawn will break from this Temple here in Wales and that the divinity which it enshrines will soon set forth upon a flight which will cover all mankind?”

Lord David Davies’s Address

Lord Davies responded to the toast with a historic address that recognised the human foundations from which the Temple of Peace was inspired and built.

“My first and pleasant duty is to thank my friends who have proposed this toast, for their eloquent and moving speeches, and their far too kind and generous allusions to myself. We remember with gratitude the invaluable services Lord Kennet has rendered to his country, especially when he presided over the Ministry of Health. Lord Snell, whose wise and dignified utterances we always listen to with so much respect, is an old campaigner in the cause of justice, and, as you are aware, is now Leader of the Labour Party in the House of Lords, whilst Lord Meston, after a distinguished career as one of our proconsuls in India, has recently undertaken the much more formidable task of re-organising the Liberal Party. I am sure we are all proud to welcome them here today.

I also want to thank my old friends and colleagues, Lord Cecil and Professor Gilbert Murray, for their presence on this occasion. They are the pioneers and veterans of the Peace Movement. They belong to the Old Guard and the motto of the Old Guard is “no surrender!” We recollect that Lord Cecil was a member of the Commission which drafted the Covenant of The League. Unlike most Statesmen, he has never repudiated his offspring, but during the last 20 years, with an unrivalled staunchness and determination he has worked indefatigably for the success of The League. I venture to think that if other Statesmen had followed noble example, Europe and indeed, the world, would not be found in the horrible morass they are floundering in to-day.

“Then there is my old friend, Sir William Jenkins. Diolch yn fawr i chwi am eich araith bwysig iawn. Sir William and his friends have staunchly supported the Memorial Association ever since its inception. There are few, indeed, who possess such an intimate knowledge of our problems in South Wales, or who are so closely associated with our national institutions.

“Now I come to our friend and fellow Welshman, the Senator- another Davis, you will observe, who since he left his native shores has somehow lost an “e”.

First let us congratulate him on his recent electoral victory, when the great and historic state of Pennsylvania returned him again to Congress. We are proud of the Senator. First, because he is a Welshman. Secondly, because he has not forgotten the land of his birth, and thirdly, because as Minister of labour, and afterwards as Senator, he has attained to such high and responsible positions in the great republic of the West.

 

Franklin D Roosevelt

“We have been honoured today by a wonderful message from the President of the United States, for which we are indebted to another Welshman – and indeed, another davies – His Excellency Joseph Davies, the United States Ambassador to Belgium. I am sure we all deeply regret that he is unable, owing to a long-standing engagement, to deliver his President’s message to us in person, especially when we remember his eloquent and inspiring address at the National Eisteddfod. I am sure you will agree that Mr davies has already won for himself a place in the affections of our people.

 

 

 

Charles Evans Hughes

” I must now pass from the Davies’s to the Hughes’s. We are proud to have received the blessing of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. For many years Mr Charles Evan Hughes played a distinguished part in the political life of his country, where he is now regarded not only as an elder Statesman, but also as America’s foremost jurist. During his brilliant political career and afterwards during his difficult term of office as President of the Supreme Court, he has won the esteem, not only of his fellow-countrymen, but also of the world. We are indeed grateful that this mighty son of Sir Fon for his inspiring message.”

 

 

 

Billy Hughes

“And lastly I come to a great Welshman, who leaving Sir Drefaldwyn at an early age , made his home in the Antipodes, and became the Prime Minister of Australia. We still remember with gratitude the great services (William Morris Hughes) rendered to the British Commonwealth during the World War. He also has not forgotten the land of his fathers, and from the other side of the globe he has sent us a message of God -Speed. Let us then, in return, send our heartfelt thanks and greetings to these illustrious sons of Gwalia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you will desire me to express, on your behalf as well as my own, our sincere and grateful thanks to the Chief Magistrate of this great City – to you my Lord Mayor- for the kindness and generous hospitality which you have extended to us on this occasion. It is to you, Sir, and your colleagues on the City Council, that we are indebted for the splendid site in Cathays Park on which the Temple of Peace and Health has been erected. Without your help and co-operation the project would have fallen to the ground, and on behalf of the Memorial Association and the Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union. and, indeed, as I hope and believe, on behalf of the people of Wales, I beg to offer you and your colleagues our heartfelt thanks.

Cardiff Architect Sir Percy Thomas at the Temple of Peace Opening Ceremony

Nor can I forget the debt of gratitude we owe to Sir Charles Bird and his co-trustees for the care and devotion they have displayed in carrying out this enterprise. To Mr Percy Thomas we are indebted for the architectural design in which I think he has expressed, with dignity and simplicity, the ideas and aspirations for which this building stands. I am sure everyone will agree he has added another gem to the galaxy of public buildings in Cathays Park- unique, I believe, in this country, and a monument to the foresight and wise initiative of your City Fathers.

“May I also express our sincere thanks to the Contractors, Messrs. Turner and Company, for the excellence of their work, and to all our friends on the staff of the City Council, the British Legion, the “Western Mail,” the Memorial Association, the League of Nations Union and the New Commonwealth Society; especially to Sir Robert Webber, Mr Chamberlain, Mr Kennedy Hunt, Mr Alban, Mr Samways and Mr Foot, who have spared no efforts to ensure the success of our proceedings here today.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I must confess that the opening of the Temple of peace and Health is a long cherished desire. At last it is a dream come true. Of course it may be said, “Why was this waste of ointment made? Why was this money not spent in some more direct way for the alleviation of suffering and the propagation of the gospel of peace? Well, I believe that no crusade can prosper to the highest degree, no movement can secure the best results, unless it possesses a headquarters worthy of its high calling, and it is through the medium of art and architecture. Throughout The Ages mankind has demanded its Mecca of inspiration, for where the treasure is, there will the heart will be also. The Mecca we have opened today embodies two living ideas – Health and Peace.

Twenty-seven years ago the people of Wales decided to pay a tribute to that illustrious Sovereign, King Edward VII, in the form of a crusade against the terrible scourge of tuberculosis, which for years had ravaged our country. King Edward had said, ” If preventable , why not prevented?” That was our slogan, and it is stil our watchword.

At the outset the Memorial Association was a voluntary organisation, but with the passing of the National Insurance and other Acts of Parliament, it developed into a Statutory body which, in effect, is a joint or federal authority of all the contributing County and County Borough Councils In Wales. During the period of its existence the death rate from Tuberculosis in Wales and Monmouthshire has fallen from 1506 per million to 881 per million- a decrease of 42 per cent. I confess we could have wished for better and more speedy results but we believe that with adequate resources and with to cordial co-operation of every Local Authority, the day will come when, like leprosy, typhus and small-pox, this infectious disease will be entirely banished from our country. In the meantime the Temple of Health will stand as a constant reminder of our duty as individuals and as a nation to redeem this solemn pledge.

Dr Richard Price

I now come to the second idea enshrined in this building – the cause of Peace – which I believe is very dear to my fellow countrymen. We are now beginning to realise that a durable peace can only be founded upon the eternal principles of Equity and Justice. This was the doctrine preached two hundred years ago, in the 18th Century, by that great- and perhaps – the greatest – of all Welshmen, Dr Richard Price, mathematician, economist, publicist, author, philosopher and Divine, who has not only received the Freedom of the City Of London, an invitation from Congress to become a citizen of the United States, and a resolution of thanks from the National Assembly in Paris, but was also elected a member of the Royal Society. This is what he said in his book on Civil Liberty:

“Let every State with respect to all its internal concerns be continued independent of the rest; and let a general confederacy be formed by the appointment of a Senate, consisting of representatives from all the different States. Let this Senate possess the power of managing all other common concerns of the united state, and of judging and deciding between them, as a common Arbiter or Umpire, in all disputes; having at the same time, under its direction, the common force of the states to support its decisions.”

Neath Abbey Ironworks, founded by Tregellis Price

He was followed by Tregellis Price, the Ironmaster of Neath Abbey, and indefatigable philanthropist who in 1815 became one of the Founders of the Peace Society.

Henry Richard of Tregaron, the ‘Apostle of Peace’

We also remember that for 37 years Henry Richard of Tregaron, was the energetic Secretary of this Society, which in the middle of the last century held a series of peace conferences throughout Europe, and paved the way for the establishment of the Hague Tribunal and the League of Nations.

Therefore we have reason to be proud of the part our little country has played in the promotion of this great cause. Consequently, I venture to suggest it is fitting that the first building in Great Britain to be dedicated to the cause of Peace should be erected on Welsh soil. I make bold to say it is an example which other countries may well follow, because the Temple recalls to our minds the existence of another building, erected in another small country, on the shores of lake Geneva – the Headquarters of a Confederation of Nations who have joined together in a solemn League and Covenant to resist aggression, and to settle their disputes by an appeal to reason instead of to force.

Let Temples of Peace arise throughout the world. They will be a constant reminder to each nation of its duties and responsibilities, of its loyalty and allegiance to the cause of justice and peace.

“It is true that to-day we live in an anarchic world. When we look round we find every nation feverishly re-arming itself; two sanguinary wars are still in progress, and a third has just been concluded.

The wind of madness which blew upon the world twenty years ago is not yet still. In such circumstances, some people , no doubt, will marvel at our temerity. They may even regard us insane, becauie it was Rouseau, I think, who once said that “to be sane in a world of madmen is in itself a kind of madness.” But let us not be discouraged. I remember – in 1916 – listening to a speech by Mr Lloyd George, delivered at the National Eistedfodd. I am sure we all deeply regret he was unable to accept our invitation to be here today. This is what he said: “Why should we not sing during the War? Why especially should we not sing at this stage of the War? The blinds of Britain are not down yet, nor are they likely to be. The honour of Britain is not dead; her might is not broken; her destiny is not fulfilled; her ideals are not shattered.”

Western Mail Supplement photo spread

I can assure you, my friends, that this building is not intended to be a mausoleum, and because at the moment dark clouds overshadow Europe and the world, that there is no reason why we should put upper the shutters and draw the blinds. On the contrary, in a world of madmen let us display constancy and courage. Let us as individuals and as a nation, humbly dedicate ourselves anew to great task remaining before us. This League of Nations, this Peace Confederacy, this new Commonwealth of Nations, can only become a reality if it is enshrined in the hearts of the peoples. Governments come and Governments go, but the peoples go on forever.

That, I venture to suggest, is the significance of the opening ceremony we have witnessed this morning.

May I express our heartfelt thanks to the devoted Welsh mother, and the mothers of the Empire and of the world who so nobly supported her, for the unique and splendid services they have rendered in kindling the imagination of our people. Mothers know from personal experience the sorrow and anguish of the war. Nevertheless, they were prepared, and I believe, if the necessity arose – which, God forbid – they would still be prepared to undergo the same intense anxiety and mental suffering in order to preserve our liberties, and to rescue the weak from the tyranny of the strong. Like the Unknown Warrior, they invite us to dedicate ourselves to a noble and righteous cause.

Is it to much to hope that every man, woman and child, from one end of our beloved country to the other, shall participate in this act of self-dedication of the people, by the people, for the people, by making a pilgrimage to this shrine? There, in a spirit of humility and with contrite hearts, let us all enlist in that might army which knows no frontiers, and is marching steadily forward towards the Empire of Right and the Citadel of Peace.”

A Toast to Cardiff

The third and last toast to “The Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of Cardiff’ was proposed by Dr Thomas Jones, of Amlwch. He expressed his deep gratification that he should have been selected as the representative of North Wales to take part in proceedings which would become historic in the life of the Welsh people. After tracing the development of the present project which had been brought to final fruition in the opening ceremony, he returned thanks to the Cardiff Corporation and particularly to the successive Lord Mayors for the material contribution which they had made toward it success. He also stressed the close association which had always existed between the City of Cardiff and King Edward VII Memorial’s anti-tuberculosis campaign and expressed the earnest hope that the plans now under consideration for the erection in ” the metropolis of Wales” of a new Research Laboratory might speedily materialise.

In responding to the toast, The Lord Mayor (Alderman W.G. Howell) said:

“I want to thank Alderman Dr Thomas Jones very cordially for the kind and gracious way in which he proposed this toast. I would like to say that we in Cardiff are very proud of the valuable addition which has been made to-day to the beautiful specimens of architecture in Cathays Park. We congratulate Lord Davies upon the fruition of his labours, and upon the beauty of the building which has been erected, and we rejoice in the ideals of peace and health which it symbolises. This has been a great day for Cardiff and for Wales, for these twin ideals, so important to the well-being of a nation, have been crystallised in Temple which it is a joy to behold.

And we rejoice especially that this beautiful building has been evolved from the brain of a Cardiff man, one of our own people.

And particularly, do we welcome within our borders the women of courage from all parts of the Kingdom and from other countries who gave their sons in the service of their countries in the Great War and who gave themselves, in reality, made the supreme sacrifice. Wee glad to have the opportunity of meeting with them within the precincts of this City and shall honour and revere them and their sons as long as memory lasts. It may be some solace for them to know that the heart of this City beats in sympathy and in admiration for them.

It may be that by the proceedings of this day another blow may be struck in the cause of universal peace if the consecration of this wonderful building is to usher in more quickly the rule of law in international affairs and the reign of justice, equity and international righteousness. Then the work and labours of those who have promoted the building of the Temple of Peace and Health will have been fully and amply justified. It only remains for me to thank you all cordially for your presence and support to-day, for the many warm tributes that have been paid to this City which we so truly love and to wish success and prosperity to the great causes towards which such eloquent testimony has been borne by the various speakers.”

The event closed later that afternoon and the special train left Cardiff for London at 4.20 p.m.

League of Nations Union Evening Reception

The conclusion of the luncheon did not by any means bring the day’s proceedings to an end. It was followed by a reception at the Connaught Rooms, where Lord and Lady Davies acted as hosts to some hundreds of representatives of the Branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union from all parts of the country.

In the evening, what was described as, “the Union’s house warming” took place in the new Temple. With Mr Dudley Howe in the Chair, and Lord Davies as the principal speaker, the meting was a source of inspiration and renewed encouragement to those who have so loyally and devotedly served the cause of peace in the Principality. It began at 7 p.m. with a two minute silence, followed by a hymn, the Chairman’s’ address and an address by Lord Davies, following which a second hymn was sung.

“So ended a ceremony the memory of which will long endure in the minds of there Welsh people. But the ceremony itself was but the launching of a noble project. The task that now remains is to ensure that this national shrine shall become the focal point of our determination to serve those two great causes whose advancement it was erected to promote. Not until every Welsh man and woman and every Welsh child has made the pilgrimage to this modern Mecca, and there has renewed the pledge to fight valiantly for the achievement of the welfare of Wales and the peace of the world, will the new Temple have served its purpose.”

A Place of Pilgrimage, Remembrance, and Dedication to Peace

The Temple of Peace, and in particular the Crypt holding Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance, would become a place of pilgrimage for generations. The Author E.R.Eaton was the first to be given the opportunity to reflect on remembrance of conflict past, in the foundations of the building which would work towards peace in the future.

‘Thoughts from the Crypt’ by E.R.Eaton – the Book of Remembrance as a place of Pilgrimage

The Story of Minnie James and the Temple’s ‘Mothers of Peace’

Original research by WCIA Volunteer Peter Garwood, for WCIA’s ‘Women War & Peace’ exhibition at the Senedd, Aug-Sept 2017; additional material researched by Temple Archivist Mari Lowe, Ffion Fielding, Temple Tour Guide Volunteer Frank Holloway, and Dr. Emma West, Birmingham University; and volunteers at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum for our Oct 2017 ‘Wales for Peace’ exhibition. Final piece edited and developed by Craig Owen for WCIA’s ‘Peacemakers Features’ series.

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In November 1938 Minnie James from Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, was thrust into the limelight when Lord David Davies, founder of Wales’ Temple of Peace, decided that he would like to have a Welsh mother who had lost sons in the Great War to open the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health – on behalf of all mothers who had lost sons. She was the lead figure among 24 war-bereaved mothers from across the UK and Empire, who were invited following a publicity campaign through British Legion branches that the press sensationalised as the ‘search for our most tragic mothers’ – but fostered a nationwide recognition that despite the ‘men and military’ focus traditionally associated with remembrance, that women disproportionately bore the brunt of the impacts of war, and as leaders in peace making.

Who was Minnie James?

Minnie James was born as Minnie Annie Elizabeth Watkins on 3rd October 1866 at Merthyr Tydfil.

Minnie Watkins married William James, a bachelor, age 23 on 1st January 1891, at the Parish Church in the Parish of Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan. The 1911 census shows the family living in a seven roomed house, 8 Cross Francis Street, Dowlais. William is working as a Clerk, Minnie has no listed occupation. The parents have been married for 20 years and have had eight children, six of whom are still alive. David is 19 and single and working as a Draughtsman, John is age 16, single and working as a Apprentice Fitter, Thomas is still in school. There are two new children: Winifred James age 7 born Merthyr and William James , age 1 born Dowlais. The family are sufficiently well off to have a General Servant, one Elizabeth A. Murphy, age 22, a single woman, born Dowlais. Two children had died:

  • Elizabeth age 2 months who died and was buried 28th September 1901 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery Section.
  • Gwladys age 7, who died and was buried 6th March 1907 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery Section.

The impact of WW1 on the James family

In 1914 the Great War broke out and men were quick to enlist. Minnie’s first son, David James joined the Welsh Guards, enlisting at Merthyr. He entered the theatre of war on 17th August 1915 in France.

He had served in the Guards Division as part of the 3rd Guards Brigade, which was made up of 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers, 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards, 2nd Battalion Scotch Guards and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. He took part in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette – part of the 5-month Battle of the Somme – but was killed in action on 25th September 1916, age 24.

Western Mail article on the death of Private David James from Dowlais; and his entry in Wales’ WW1 Book of Remembrance.

Like many men who died in the conflict of 1914-1918, his body was never identified and he is named on the Thiepval Memorial. He was awarded the British Victory and War medal along with the 1915 Star. His death was reported in the Western Mail on 13th October 1916 (see aside).

The war ended in November 1918, but her second son Thomas James had joined the 13th Welsh Regiment and had been wounded in France – dying from his wounds, age 21, on Christmas Day 1918. He was also awarded the British Victory and War medal.

Her third son James, (known as Jack James) had joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers and entered the theatre of war on 1st December 1915. He was wounded during the war, and awarded the British Victory and War medal along with the 1915 Star and the Silver War Badge for wounds. He was discharged on 28th January 1919.

However, he died on 23rd June 1920 at 8 Cross Francis Street, age 24 with his father present, eighteen months after his brother Thomas. His death certificate records the fact that he was “Ex-Private Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Mining Engineers Pupil)”, and that the cause of death was “General Tuberculosis”. He was buried on 26th June 1920 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant.

All three sons who died in the Great War are listed in the Welsh WW1 Book of Remembrance held in the Crypt at Wales’ Temple of Peace to this day; and commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Minnie’s husband William James died at the age of 68; he had served as a Special Constable in the Great War and was buried on 20th November 1936 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant.

Minnie as the ‘Mother of Wales’

In November 1938 Minnie, was thrust into the limelight when Lord David Davies had decided that he would like a Welsh mother who had lost sons in the Great War to be the one to open the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health – on behalf of all mothers who had lost sons.

Minnie James was invited to see the Temple of Peace for a personal visit by Lord Davies on 10th November 1938. This was to give her an idea of what was expected, and to provide a news item to give extra publicity to the opening a few weeks away.

Interviewed by the press she explained that she had a “drawer of secrets”, at home in which she kept mementoes of her three sons who gave their lives for their country. This was their school certificates, fading letters from the front, little presents given to her by the boys when home on leave, and their medals. She stated that these items would be buried with her when she dies – that they were hers and belonged to no-one else.

She was taken down into the crypt where the Welsh book of remembrance would be placed. She told the press that she thought it was lovely. She thought her sons would be: “so proud of me – I am happy to be chosen for their sake.” She explained how her boys had served and died. She explained that on each Armistice Day she stays at home and during the two minutes silence goes to her sons bedroom alone but for the memory. She told the press that

“all who come into this building must feel strongly for peace. It will be lovely for the young people to come here. They will be so impressed. And the mothers and fathers, too, for the sake of their children must come here.” She explained that her three sons had worked at the Dowlais Works, where a tablet recorded their sacrifice.

As she left the Temple she turned for a moment to look at it again She said:

“I feel so happy for my sons. I shall feel them near me when I come back to open this beautiful building.”

Heart and Minds: ‘Tragic Mothers’ and ‘Queens of Peace’

The idea to ask an ordinary mother to be Wales’ ‘Queen of Peace’ originated in a rejection from a quite different kind of Queen. In 1937, whilst the Temple of Peace was under construction, Lord Davies had written to Buckingham Palace requesting the whether the young Princess Elizabeth, future monarch, might symbolically open the building. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’ secretary responded to the effect that Princess Elizabeth was too young; and that the family had already done a Royal tour of South Wales (in July 1937) and to return so soon may be perceived as favouritism.

Lord Davies was unimpressed at this perceived snub, stating curtly in a memo… “ I am minded to ask the oldest and poorest wife of an Ocean (Colliery) workman” to perform the task in their (majesties’) place.

His colleagues responded to say they thought the idea was “positively brilliant”… If this was to be a ‘Temple of the People’, then “a representative of the Welsh people – and the losses they had suffered through war – launching an enterprise for the people’s benefit” would be far more resonant (although in the same document there is also an awkwardly amusing comment that “a workman’s wife could hardly be expected to make sonorous speeches”reflective of the attitudes of the times, and showing how far the equality movement has shifted outlooks! Ed.). A PR company, Andrew Reid of London, was retained to run a campaign through the press, sensationalised in the British media as the ‘search for the nation’s most tragic mothers’.

It captured the public imagination and was a runaway success with the press, generating months and months of publicity from Scotland to South Africa and New Zealand, for the opening of a public building in Cardiff that might otherwise have received little more than regional coverage. Local and regional branches of the British Legion were instrumental in bringing to the fore, stories of the impact of war upon women and families worldwide.

The Temple of Peace became more than just a building… true to Lord Davies’ vision, it came to represent an idea, an outlook, a desire to bring people together to focus on building a better world –even as the clouds of World War 2 were gathering on the horizon.

Mothers of the World

 

Lord Davies invited a total of 24 mothers from all over the United Kingdom and allied countries to the opening, laying on a special train from London.

  • Mrs R Struben form the Union of South Africa, spoke on behalf of the British Commonwealth mothers.
  • Mrs Cederlund of Sweden represented mothers of the Scandinavian countries
  • Mrs Moller spoke for the women of the United States of America
  • Madame Dumontier from France spoke for mothers of the European countries.

Mothers of the United Kingdom

  • Representing Northern Ireland was Mrs Nixon of Portrush, Co. Antrim. Four out of five sons served and died in the Great War. Three were killed in action, one died from wounds received on active service. Her husband had served with Lord Roberts at Kandahar. Mrs Nixon wore 20 medals at the opening ceremony.
  • Representing the Scottish Highlands was Mrs Mary Lamont of Pitlochry (The home town of Lady Davies). Three sons served, one killed, one discharged, one wounded, one son still serving in India. I have identified one as 52268 Rifleman John Henry Lamont, who served with the 16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He died on 24th August 1918, age 19, and was buried at Bertenacre Military, Flertre. Cemetery. He was listed as the son of George and Mary Lunn Lamont, of Fonab stables, Pitlochry, Perthshire.
  • Representing North-East England was Mrs R. Gibson, of Newcastle on Tyne. Two sons served, both killed. Husband was with relief force sent for General Gordon, re-enlisted in the Great War. I have identified one as M2/104574 Serjeant Charles Thomas Gibson, M.M. Royal Army Service Corps. He died on 10th August 1918. age 35 and was buried in Gosforth (St. Nicholas) churchyard , Northumberland. He was listed as the son of the late Robert and Jane Gibson, of Brandling Village, Newcastle-on-Tyne; husband of Isabell Gibson, of Council Chambers, High St., Gosforth.
  • Representing North-West England was Mrs Rachael Houlgrave of Liverpool. Lost four sons in the War, one dying a prisoner in turkey, another dying after discharge. A fifth son served and survived. I have identified
    • 5364 Lance Serjeant Nathaniel Houlgrave, “C” Coy. 10th Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers. He died 29th June 1916, age 25. He was buried at the Morlancourt British Cemetery No.1. He was listed as the son of Francis and Rachel Houlgrave, of 424, Mill St., Dingle, Liverpool.
    • 5484 Private Samuel Houlgrave, 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. He died 7th July 1916, age 23. He was buried at the Thiepval memorial as he has no known grave. Listed as above.
    • 37051 Private W. Houlgrave, 3rd Battalion South Wales Borderers. He died 23rd April 1918, age 24. He was buried at the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery. He was listed as above
  • Representing the Midlands was Mrs G. Henson, of Cotgrave, Notts. Lost one of two sons. Daughter served in the W.A.A.C.
  • Representing East Anglia was Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Lost her only son in the first Territorial Unit to go into action 1914.
  • Representing London, Mrs Mary Sawyer, of Battersea, Daughter of a Crimean veteran. Had three sons serving, one killed, one subsequently died and one incapacitated. 653491 Rifleman Charles Louis Sawyer, “B” Coy, London Regiment (First Surrey Rifles), died 6th November 1917, age 25. He was buried at the Naval Trench Cemetery, Gavrelle. He was listed as the son of James and Mary Sawyer, of Battersea, London; husband of Annie Caroline Dennington (formerly Sawyer, nee Blake), of 62, Ford Mill Rd., Bellingham, Catford, London.

Grateful Mothers and Thankful Villages

The bereaved mothers were joined by Wales’ “most Grateful Mothers” – women whose entire families had returned from WW1 uninjured – and by representatives of Wales’ ‘Thankful Villages’ – just three communities whose WW1 servicemen all returned unscathed:

View BBC Feature on Thankful Villages of Wales, 2013

Press Coverage of the Temple of Peace Opening, November 1938 – view on Flickr.

Opening Day of the Temple of Peace, 23 Nov 1938

The Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health was the first building to be constructed in Britain to specifically intended to symbolise the devotion of Wales and its people to these two great humanitarian causes.

On the day a special train had left Paddington at 8.20 a.m. to arrive at Cardiff at 11.20 a.m. Then coaches were used to bring the party of mothers and other representatives to the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health. The weather that day was a typical November day – with a gale that had torn branches off trees in Cathays Park.

At 11.45 there was an introductory address on the Temple steps by Alderman Sir Charles H. Bird C.B.E, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He said, “We are assembled here to day to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected.

“Much thought has been given to the question as to who should be asked to unlock the door on the occasion of to-day’s function, and it was felt that no better choice could be made than some representative Welsh mother, to represent not only the mothers of Wales and the Empire, who lost their sons in the Great War, but also to the mothers of other countries, the loss of whose sons has brought such poignant sorrow to them, whatever their nationality may be.

“So it is that we have with us today Mrs James of Dowlais who lost three of her sons, and we are all happy in the knowledge that she has been spared to join with us in this ceremony of dedication.

“It is, therefore , with great sense of the honourable position to which I have been appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Welsh National Temple of peace and Health, that I now call upon Mr Percy Thomas, the architect of this building to present Mrs James with the key, and to request her to perform the opening ceremony.”

At the ceremony Mrs James was wearing a hat and holding a large bouquet of scarlet carnations given by the Hon. Lady Davies, and was wearing all three sets of medals that had belonged to her sons. She was presented with a Golden Key by Mr Percy Thomas, the architect, to open the doors of the Temple. He said: “Mrs James I have pleasure in presenting you with this key and asking you to accept it as a little token of this what I know must be a memorable occasion for you.” Mrs James said “Thank you”.

Mrs James spoke into the microphone to give her short, but historic speech:

“We are assembled here today to take part in the solemn dedication of this building for the noble purposes for which it was erected. In the name of the women of Wales it is my privilege to open the building. I dedicate it to the memorial to those gallant men of all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war. I pray that it may come to be regarded by the people of my country both of our generation and of those that are to follow as a constant reminder of the debt we owe to the millions who sacrificed their all; in a great cause, and as a symbol of our determination to strive for justice and peace in the future.”

Because she was speaking in a low voice, and despite the microphone, the newspapers reported that not all the hundreds of people present were able to hear her.

She then took the golden key from the presentation box and symbolically put the key into the lock of the great bronze doors, pushed the door open and was the first person of those gathered outside to enter the newly opened Temple of Peace. The guests entered the Great Hall and sat down.

Mrs James and the bereaved mothers then entered the Great Hall and the assembled crowd stood up as the bereaved mothers and other representatives entered. They walked down the central aisle to the platform. Hundreds of guests from all over the world stood up in tribute and respect.

Mothers gathered together outside; and processioning into the Temple

The Temple Opening Ceremony

The mothers chosen to represent countries from all over the world stood up and spoke. First was Mrs E. Lewer of Aldeburgh speaking on behalf of the mothers of Great Britain, then spoke Mrs R Struben from the Union of South Africa, speaking for the British Commonwealth mothers. Mrs Cederlund of Sweden, for the Scandinavian countries, said:

“In the name of the women of Scandinavia I associate myself with the dedication of this building. May it be a constant reminder to the people of Wales of their duty to further the cause of progress, freedom, peace, and justice and of the debt they owe to those who fell in the defence of these ideals.”

Mrs Moller spoke for the U.S.A., and Madame Dumontier from France spoke for the European countries.

Five of the mothers representing practically the whole world read messages of goodwill from their regions, speaking in their own languages.

At 12.00 noon Viscount Cecil of Chelwood began a service of dedication and gave an address to those present, followed by extensive speeches from a number of high profile figures, and messages from World Leaders (and Welsh figures) read out by Alderman Charles Bird – including US President Roosevelt, the US Ambassador to Europe Mr. Joseph Davies, the Rt Hon William Hughes of the Australian Cabinet, Mr Charles Evans Hughes, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, and finally Mr David Lloyd George, former Prime Minister.

The guests then sang the Welsh National Anthem and concluded with the National Anthem. As they all left the organist played Handel’s “Occasional Overtures”.

At 1 p.m. they were welcomed at City Hall, where a civic reception was given by the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell J.P., and the Lady Mayoress of Cardiff and Corporation of the City of Cardiff. At 1.15 p.m. they were given lunch, with a list of speeches and toasts almost as extensive as the mouthwatering menu:

Temple of Peace Opening Luncheon

Grapefruit Cocktail
Crème Portugaise
Sole Bonne Femme
Roast turkey Chipolata
Croquette Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts Green Peas
Passion Fruit Ice Souffle
Fresh Fruit Salad and Cream
Cheese and Biscuits
Coffee.

Among the many toasts and speeches, the Lord Mayor, Alderman W. G. Howell, made particular mention of the mothers:

“And particularly, do we welcome within our borders the women of courage from all parts of the Kingdom and from other countries who gave their sons in the service of their countries in the Great War and who gave themselves, in reality, made the supreme sacrifice. Wee glad to have the opportunity of meeting with them within the precincts of this City and shall honour and revere them and their sons as long as memory lasts. It may be some solace for them to know that the heart of this City beats in sympathy and in admiration for them.”

The event closed later that afternoon and the special train left Cardiff for London at 4.20 p.m. At 5 p.m. Lord and Lady Davies gave a reception at the Connaught Rooms to 500 representatives of the branches of the Welsh National Council of the League of Nations’ Union. That evening the League of Nations’ Union held a meeting at the Welsh National Temple of Peace, of the representatives of the branches of the Welsh Council of the League of Nations. It began at 7 p.m. with a two minute silence, followed by a hymn, the Chairman’s’ address and an address by Lord Davies.

It is presumed that Minnie James went home after the afternoon’s proceedings. She later told reporters that it had been a proud moment and said that:

“I felt every moment of it; but I had a duty to perform in the names of my sons and the mothers of the world. That helped me.”

Minnie James’ Later Life

Minnie does not appear to have had any further recorded involvement with the Temple of Peace, or other functions after the opening. She seems to have withdrawn from Welsh society in general, being quite a private person – but was obviously well known in the locality.

Her family were one of the first to have a television, and they would invite all the children in the street in to watch the programmes. Minnie James obviously was very fond of the children in the street and enjoyed watching the reactions of the children to the events on the television. She always held a Halloween party for the children and invited everyone to it. She was at the peace party in May 1945 held in Cross Francis street to celebrate the end of the second world war. She was pictured resplendent in a superb hat sitting with all the children at the street party.

Minnie James died at the age of 87 and was buried on 3rd April 1954 at Merthyr Tydfil Council Cemetery, Pant. Her death was reported in the Merthyr Express on April 10th 1954 (Page 16.) This mentions that she had opened the Temple of Peace in 1938 and that she had been an active spiritualist for over 71 years. It reveals that at the time of her death, her youngest son William was alive and that her daughter, Winifred, was also living.

The paper stated:

“It is difficult for those who knew her to realise life without Mrs James. She had known great sorrow in World War 1, her three sons, David, Jack and Tom made the supreme sacrifice. This experience merely enriched her life and was responsible for her many ministrations of good. He home was a sanctuary to many and the obvious tributes paid reveal the esteem in which she was held by her close as well as by far distant friends.

She will long be remembered for her gentleness, her immense triumph over personal sorrow and serenity of spirit. It was a privilege to have known her. Her home and wide circle of friends gaze sadly at the vacant chair but gratefully recall the lines:- “The memory of the just is blessed”. She will long be remembered as the heroine of the spirit who was so aptly chosen as official opener of the “The Temple of Peace”.

Her daughter and son, Winifred, known as “Winnie” and William , known as “Billy” never married and moved out of 8 Cross Francis Street in 1968. Her surviving children do not appear to have had any children themselves and with their eventual deaths, the James family passed into history.

“Inspired by Annie”: The Story of the 1924 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America

Welsh Women's Peace Petition of 1924 being presented in Washington
Welsh Women's Peace Petition of 1924 being presented in Washington

The 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, coordinated by the Welsh League of Nations Union, was signed by 390,296 women in a call for America to join and lead the League of Nations, to prevent the outbreak of another war in the aftermath of World War One. The Welsh delegation, led by Annie Jane Hughes-Griffiths (pictured above in Washington, March 1924) presented the Memorial to US President Calvin Coolidge, alongside the National League of Women’s Voters which represented millions of American women.

In 1923, with the horrors of World War 1 having galvanised a  generation against conflict, women of Wales organised an unprecedented campaign for world peace. 390,296 women – signed a memorial petition through the Welsh League of Nations Union – 30% of Welsh women – calling for America to join and lead the new League of Nations. This is the story of this jewel from the archive collections of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health.

The Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America is one of the most inspiring stories to have emerged through the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Wales for Peace’ programme over the WW100 centenary period from 2014-18. Led by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in partnership with 10 of Wales’ leading organisations, Wales for Peace explored how, in the 100 years since WW1, people had contributed to the search for peace – involving many hundreds of volunteers and community groups Wales-wide in uncovering and ‘joining up’, for the first time, the ‘national story’ of Wales’ rich peace heritage.

The Women’s Peace Petition itself has fascinated thousands of exhibition visitors, attracted the interest of politicians and academics, and inspired creation of a community-led campaign, ‘Heddwch Nain Mamgu‘ (which translates as ‘Grandma’s Peace’) which aims to involve Welsh women in taking action on peace today, towards the centenary in 2023-4. And early discussions are developing between the National Library of Wales and the Smithsonian Institute with a view to digitising the Petition signatures held in Washington, and perhaps even reuniting them with the Memorial Binding and Declaration held by WCIA, for the 2024 peace delegation centenary.

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Contents Quick References & Links

  • The Story of the Petition’s ‘Rediscovery’
  • The Story of ‘Women, War and Peace’
  • The Story of the 1923 Campaign – from the Archives:
    • Origin of the Idea; Creation of the Memorial; The Wales-wide Campaign; Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths
  • Annie’s Diary: The Story of the Peace Delegation to America
    • The Sendoff: London, Liverpool and the Transatlantic Voyage
    • New York: Welsh & American Women Unite
    • Washington: Presenting to the President
    • Peace Tour of the States: Chicago, Salt Lake City, West Coast & Homewards
  • The Impact of the Women’s Peace Petition
  • The Future: How can you Help?

The Story of the ‘Rediscovery’

In 2014, amidst research towards setting up the ‘Wales for Peace’ project, WCIA Chief Executive Martin Pollard (now Chief Executive of the Learned Society of Wales) was exploring old volumes in the library of Wales’ National Temple of Peace and Health. He drew out a Moroccan Leather binding bearing an incredibly tantalising gold leaf inscription:

YR APEL: ODDIWRTH FERCHED CYMRU A MYNWY AT FERCHED UNOL DALEITHIAU YR AMERICA
THE MEMORIAL FROM WALES SIGNED BY 390,296 WOMEN IN WALES AND MONMOUTHSHIRE,
TO THE WOMEN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Contained within, are just a few pages of vellum parchment illuminated in mediaeval style manuscript of Indian Ink, with a declaration of Peace and Solidarity between the women of Wales and America – calling for America to join and take a world-leading role in the League of Nations to forge ‘peace for future generations’ in the aftermath of WW1. Martin Pollard recalled:

“It was a breathtaking moment… This document commemorated a post-WW1 peacebuilding movement of vast ambition, far beyond anything we have witnessed in living memory. But how could such a story not be known as part of Wales’ story – and especially of the Temple of Peace? How could such a record have become forgotten in plain sight? Where were the signatures… and where might they be now? How was such a gargantuan effort coordinated? Who by… and who to? What happened, and what happened as a result? How might we find out…?”

The Story of ‘Women, War & Peace’

Volunteers and community groups Wales-wide helped to explore one of Wales’ most fascinating ‘hidden histories’ of peace; activism by Welsh women on the international stage to build a better world out of the ashes of WW1. It is poignant to consider these actions in the context of the early 1920s: Suffrage – the right to vote – had only been extended to ‘propertied women’ in 1918, and would not reach most women until 1928. Against this backdrop, the Peace Petition represents a hugely significant and bold movement to champion equality through elevating the voices of women to the international stage.

Supported by Ffion Fielding, as Exhibitions & Community Engagement Coordinator for the Wales for Peace project over 2015-18, volunteers uncovered archive materials and even Pathe newsreel footage of a 1926 North Wales Women’s Peace Pilgrimage. Volunteer blogs started to draw the story together:

By 2017, interest and momentum had snowballed further, as WCIA teamed up with International Photojournalist Lee Karen Stow to stage the ‘Women War & Peace’ Exhibition – unveiled at the Senedd in August 2017, alongside the 1418NOW ‘Poppies: Weeping Window’ sculptures from the Tower of London, visited by an estimated 80,000 people. The Women’s Peace Petition took centre stage, with the Memorial in a display case accompanied by a panel outlining its story.

The post-WW1, 1920s Women’s Peace Petition became a highlight within of a rich ‘peace heritage’ of movements and actions led by Welsh women, from those who supported WW1 Conscientious Objectors, to ‘What the Suffragists did next’, the Welsh League of Nations Union and Education Advisory Committees of the 1920s-30s, Peace Ballot of 1935, and particularly within the Anti Nuclear CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) from the 1950s onwards – in particular, the Wales led Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp from 1981-2000.

In drawing together the ‘whole story’ exhibition of Wales for Peace in 2018, it was therefore no coincidence that the central strand of the Peace Heritage rainbow, ‘Championing Equality’, brought together the story of the central role women have played in Welsh internationalism over the last 100 years.

The Story of the 1923 Peace Petition Campaign

Researching the story of the 1923 Women’s Peace Petition campaign itself has been an archival treasure hunt, involving many volunteers and researchers from Cardiff to Bangor and Aberystwyth.

Origin of the Petition Idea – 1922

Two sources record origins of the original idea of the Women’s Peace Petition: A letter of July 3rd 1922 from Rev Gwilym Davies, Organiser of the Welsh League of Nations Union, to Lord David Davies, WLoNU Chairman, proposing the idea; and an article in the ‘Welsh Outlook’ magazine of November 1923, which records that:

“It was at the Welsh School of Social Service held at Llandrindod Wells in August 1922, that the idea of initiating a peace movement among the women of Wales was first discussed,”

A “National Conference of Women” met in Aberystwyth on May 23 1923 to finalise plans for a Wales-wide campaign, appointing two organisers: Mrs Huw Pritchard of Pwllheli (for N Wales & Cardiganshire) and Mrs E. E. Poole of Cardiff (for South Wales & Monmouthshire). Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths and Lady Llewellyn as Honorary Treasurers, appealed for funds and received donations towards the costs of the nationwide campaign.

Within the archives of the Temple of Peace Library remain copies of signup leaflets that had been distributed to households, via county organising committees of the Welsh League of Nations Union; as well as personal copies of the Women’s Peace Petition Memorial Declaration for signatories to keep and display proudly in their households, or fold into their papers.

The Welsh League of Nations Union Yearbook for 1924 records the progress of the campaign both in Wales and America (images 10-12, yearbook pages 16-20). In total the petition was signed by 390,296 women in Wales and Monmouthshire, representing 30% of the female population (total Welsh population from the 1921 census being 2,656,000).

A ‘Peace of Art’ of Many Voices – 1923

The Memorial itself – the beautiful leather binding and vellum pages with illumination – were almost certainly produced at the then newly founded Gregynog Press, opened in 1922 by the Davies sisters of Llandinam, Gwendoline and Margaret – whose brother, David Davies, founded the Welsh League of Nations Union and would go on to found the Temple of Peace. Their incredible story is beautifully told in Trevor Fishlock’s book, A Gift of Sunlight – the story of the Davies’ sisters of Gregynog by Gwasg Gomer. The Women’s Peace Memorial is of an identical style and materials to others produced by the Gregynog Press.

A great Welsh Oak chest was designed by Mr J. A. Hallam, in which to convey the enormous number of signature forms to be conveyed to America, with the intention that the chest be presented to the National Museum in Washington – today better known worldwide as the Smithsonian Institute. Following correspondence between WCIA and the Smithsonian in 2016, it was established the chest was still held within the collections there, and in 2018, Jill Evans MEP had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian as part of a political delegation, and was able to witness the signature sheets still held within the chest.

Over 2019, through the lobbying efforts of Heddwch Nain Mamgu supported by WCIA, there has been a developing correspondence between the National Library of Wales and the Smithsonian Institute with a few to exploring scope for digitising the signature sheets, and / or organising a Wales-America project to uncover and share the story of the Welsh Peace Petition to America.

Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths – The Peace Delegation to America, 1924

Mrs. Hughes-Griffiths, 1920s. TI Ellis Papers, NLW

Regularly appearing in records and correspondence associated with the creation of the petition, Mrs Hughes-Griffiths was the Chair of the Welsh League of Nations Union during the mid-1920s. As was the convention of the 1920s however, on official records she is referred to by her husband’s name, Rev Peter Hughes Griffiths (1871-1937), who was a highly regarded Calvinistic Methodist Minister from Carmarthenshire.

Martin Pollard, original architect and author of the Wales for Peace project bid, during the Nov 2018 Temple 80th Anniversary programme, spotlighted Mrs Hughes Griffiths as his nomination for ‘Wales’ Most Inspiring Peacebuilder’:

“To choose one individual story of Wales’ peace builders that really stands out (from the hundreds gathered by Wales for Peace), I would have to choose Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths. That she is known to history only by her husband’s name (so far), rather than as a woman of clearly exceptional leadership and inspiration to thousands – a woman who was Chairman of the Welsh League of Nations Union, and oversaw the organisation of 390,296 women in signing the Peace Petition to America – is not only astonishing today, but a reminder of the journey that Welsh women have been led towards championing equality and having a voice – not just on equality issues, but on international affairs.” Martin Pollard, Learned Society of Wales

Annie Jane Ellis at Aberystwyth station in 1911-12 with friends: Jane Davies, Gwyneth Williams, Annie Jane (then known as Mrs T.E.Ellis) and Mary Ellis, who would join her on the Peace Delegation to America in 1924. TI Ellis Papers, NLW

Mentioned in a number of men’s biographical sketches and with over 71 references and 20 subject linstings in NLW Archive holdings, today Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths seems today highly deserving of her own biography! Born as Annie Jane Davies in 1873 in Llangeitho, Carmarthenshire, she was active in Welsh cultural and political life from an early age. In 1898 she married Thomas Edward Ellis (1859-99) from Bala, the Liberal MP for Merionethshire (1886-99), one of the first proponents of a legislative devolved Welsh Assembly, and Chief Whip for the Liberal Party (1894-95) during transition from Gladstone to Rosebery (see T.E.Ellis papers, NLW). They had one son, Thomas Iorwerth Ellis (1899-1970), who became a prominent educationalist, author and secretary of Undeb Cymru Fydd (the ‘New Wales Union’) from 1943-67. Tragically however, Tom Ellis’ health was fragile (having developed typhoid on a trip to  Egypt in 1890), and he died aged just 40 in Cannes France, 8 months before his son was born. Annie brought up her son as a widowed single mother, until on 24 October 1916 she remarried the Rev Peter Hughes Griffiths (1871-1937) from Ferryside, Carmarthenshire, a Methodist Minister in Charing Cross, London. Following WW1, Annie Hughes-Griffiths became hugely involved in international peace building efforts through the Welsh League of Nations Union (founded in 1922), becoming its Chair in 1923 and President of the WLoNU Women’s Committee.

From May 1923, she took on leadership of a Wales-wide campaign, coordinating the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition and Memorial to America. In March 1924, she led a ‘peace delegation’ of 3 women from Wales to America: Mrs Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths, Mrs Mary Ellis and Miss Eluned Prys.

The Impact of the Women’s Peace Petition

US President Calvin Coolidge with delegates of the 1925 ‘Conference on the Causes and Cure of War’ in Washington – Credit: Kai’s Coolidge Blog’

The Welsh League of Nations Union Report for 1925, ‘Wales and World Peace’ applauded the efforts of the Women’s Peace Delegation, and also carried a ‘letter of response’ (image 8 in scan / page 12 of yearbook) from Mrs Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Women Suffrage Association, following their first Conference on the Cause and Cure of War.

Held in 1925 by 9 organisations (representing 5 million American women) who were initially brought together for the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition delegation visit, the initial CCCW conference was so successful they were held annually until 1941. After WW2, the work of CCCW continued as the ‘Committee for Education on Lasting Peace’.

America did not ultimately sign up to the League of Nations; and the League is largely acknowledged to have failed due to lack of ‘buy-in’ from essential world powers (such as America, Germany and Japan), and through member governments ‘not playing by their own rules’ (such as France, Belgium, Germany, Russia and Italy). The Manchuria and Abyssinia Crises of the 1930s, and the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany that had been reeling from WW1 reparations, set the stage for World War Two.

However, the lessons of the League – and the vision expressed by the women’s movements of Wales and America in 1923-6 – was finally realised after WW2 with the founding of the United Nations, in which America has played a leading role through history (although recent withdrawals by the Trump Administration undermine progress on peace, human rights and climate change).

Annie’s Diary: The Story of the Peace Delegation to America

Craig Owen discovers Annie Hughes-Griffiths’ American Journal from 1924, in the National Library of Wales archives, June 2019.

In April 2019, Head of Wales for Peace Craig Owen was developing a reference resource for Peace Archives held in the National Library of Wales when he stumbled across a reference for Mrs Ellis ‘American Journal’, tagged “Peace Societies”, held in the archives of the “T I Ellis Papers” (Thomas Iorwerth Ellis, 1899-1970, who was the son of Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths).

SCOPE AND CONTENT: “Journal, February-March 1924, of Annie J. Hughes-Griffiths, recording her trip to America as part of the Welsh Women’s Peace Memorial, including the outward and return voyages. The journal contains references to Leila Mégane, including the part played by Hughes-Griffiths in Megane’s wedding to T. Osborne Roberts on 21 March 1924.” National Library of Wales Archives

View the digitised pages of Annie’s Diary here
View the draft transcription document here
  • This is currently on Google Docs , whilst work is ongoing to improve the quality of the record. Volunteer support with this detailed task (suited to individuals with digital confidence and good handwriting recognition / writing-up, proofing or online research skills) would be most welcome – if this sounds like your kind of challenge,
  • please email walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk!

A Book Club with a Difference

Annie’s Book Club evening, L-R: Tracy Pallant, Katy Watson, Craig Owen, Ffion Fielding, Jane Harries, Fi Fenton, Jenny Allen.

In early June 2019, a novel ‘Book Club’ evening gathered at the Temple of Peace – but a book club with a difference. Each of the participants agreed to transcribe a chapter, draw out highlights from Annie’s accounts, and briefly research historical references they could find online. As each shared a section, the story of Annie’s Journey unveiled – poignantly in her own “voice” as the whole group were reading from her pen, and experiencing the journey with her.

The session was filmed by Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham from Valley & Vale Community Arts, who will be creating a short video clip over August of “Annie’s Story”.

“It was quite emotional journey… with not already knowing each other’s sections, Annie’s journey literally unfolded for us like a live re-enactment of her own experiences. It was a lot of fun – her hugely understated writing style, observations and insights into the norms of the time, were captivating. She might reference “a lovely meal, with a pleasant group of people listening supportively”; and then you’d find via other sources she’d actually addressed a crowd of 500 American society leaders for over an hour. Then on a following page, a eulogy to the American Cafeteria. Annie’s Diary is a very personal insight into a time of huge hope and change.” Ffion Fielding, National Museum of Wales

Missing Pages?

During the Book Club session, it became apparent a few pages seemed to be missing as there were notable ‘gaps’ in the account (or cities that seemed to have quite ‘brief’ visits). On returning to the National Library in July 2019, Craig identified a further 7 pages in the Ellis Papers that had escaped digitisation – these are now added into the digitised set on Flickr, with the pages re-indexed by date rather than consecutively. Once transcription and indexing / tagging is complete, the diary will be uploaded to People’s Collection Wales for long-term accessibility.

The Sendoff: London, Liverpool and the Transatlantic Crossing

LMS Railway ‘Royal Scot’ – Wikimedia


A Saloon Carriage had been reserved for us through the extreme kindness of Mr Glynnne Roberts 
of Euston Station, & this was no ordinary saloon, but a Drawing Room with comfortable easy chairs, table… (research suggests he may have procured them a carriage from the stock of the Royal Train, by the then newly formed London Midland and Scottish Railway).  

Reporters were busy taking own notes, and several photos were taken by the Press Association. Mr. Goronwy Owen spoke a few words, summarising the gesture which was being dissipated between Wales and America, and wishing us God speed. I said a few words in reply, and fried thank them all adequately and fittingly. We then got aboard the train. (Annie also lists many of the ‘great and the good’ of Welsh society and political leaders who had turned up to Euston Station to wish the delegation on their way)

Mrs. Boyd Robson presented me with a beautiful bouquet of yellow daffodils tied with yellow shot green ribbon… (These beautiful daffodils become a signature of Annie’s appearances on the journey, surviving through to Washington ‘in perfect condition’!) 

White Star Liner RMS Cedric (Wikimedia Commons)

(In Liverpool) we got on the boat, the SS Cedric, And a representative of the White Star Line company made himself known to me and told me that the oak case containing the 390296 signatures was safely in the hold. Miss Prys, Mr Davis and myself were photographed several times.  Their return voyage to Liverpool incidentally would be on the RMS Olympic – sister ship to Titanic, which had sunk only 12 years earlier.

Leila Megane and her fiance Osborne Roberts also going on this boat she goes 1st class he 2nd class the line between 1st and 2nd is severely observed on the boat. (Leila Megane was a Welsh opera singer then at the height of her career; Annie would later play a role at their wedding). All our friends, our farewell friends, had to leave the boat about 3:15 and we left soon after 3:30 p.m. It was a dull day; but not wet. We steamed down the river and soon had tea. I found at the purser’s office about 15 telegrams, and just as many letters wishing me luck.

Annie goes on to describe the Transatlantic crossing, from Feb 2nd to Feb 11th – which was not smooth sailing. Felt sick and needy and did not go on deck a tall. Heavy rolling of boat. Took no meals in saloon, just sat about and slept and read novels. Had very little zest for anything“. However, by 10th Feb, “Had (Sunday) service in 1st Class Saloon. Leila Megane sang ‘O Fryniau Caersalem’ as a solo, & a few of us sang it over again as a chorus. After the service was over, a gentleman came & asked us if we were a Welsh choir on tour in the States… very tickled at this as our singing was truly atrocious.”

Arrival in New York: Women of Wales and America Unite

Arrival in New York – Wikimedia Commons

The Cedric took ten boats to push her up the river thro’ the ice’. Saw Statue of Liberty glowing in the sunlight. Bitterly cold wind, bright sunshine. Waited about until 12 – had hurried lunch. When at lunch, a press man came to me and said ‘Mrs Griffiths, I am from the press’. ‘I have nothing to say’, I said. ‘Oh!’ Said he – ‘we know your story of the Women of Wales Movement – but we want to take some photos – will you come to the top deck when you have finished?’ Agreed said I. So Eluned & I trotted up to the top deck 1st class – where we found four ranks of photographers awaiting us. There we were photographed quite twenty times – in different positions… and back again to 2nd class to await the coming of the Immigration Officers.

New York skyline, 1920s-30s – Wikimedia Commons

We went on Deck & had seen Marg Ellis, Mrs Tuttle, Miss Belle Baunch & other American ladies, who had come down to meet the deputation in the Customs Shed awaiting us. Eventually they got on board and there was much hand shaking & welcoming us. The ladies all wore daffodils – I had had the daffodil bouquet (from Euston) put in cold storage when I got on the Cedric & it was beautifully fresh for our arrival in New York, so I carried it in my hand and wore my best costume and hat to greet the American ladies.

My impressions of the American women I have met today is that they are genuine & sincere in their efforts to give the Movement all the support they can. Their reception of us was so spontaneous so natural & without any of the snide and affectation of English women. They accepted us at our highest value, as Ambassadors of Peace. They did not quiz and criticise us first and ‘gradually thaw’.

Rather a blizzard when we got to New York, but better weather towards evening. After dinner we went to the Ambassador’s Hotel. The Club is very comfortable but very warm; still one gets used to the warm atmosphere & dresses accordingly.

The following pages offer insights into Annie’s first few days in New York, with press interviews, ticket bookings and travel arrangements, meetings and lunches, and many fascinating observations on her impressions of America – such as Annie’s wonderment at the experience of a ‘Cafeaterea’. On February 18th, the delegation were received for a large luncheon organised by the National American Women Suffrage Association alongside 9 organisations (representing 5 million American women) – who would go on to work together to form the first Conference on the Cause and Cure of War. There the Welsh delegation presented the oak chest containing the 390,296 signatures, to the women of America:

The Oak Chest holding the 390,296 signatories to the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition

“After the luncheon we had speeches. Mrs Ruth Morgan introduced the delegation – & I gave them an address on the links that bind Wales & America together, & our act of memorial. It seemed to be appreciated. Then we three went up to the chest which had been placed on a dais & padlocks were unlocked, & we gave up the padlocks & the memorial to Mrs Ruth Morgan. Then the chest was inspected and the first question I was asked concering it was “Oes yma enwau o Sir Feirionydd” (where are the signatories from Merioneth?). Miss Sue [?] Harvard sang ‘Gwlad y Delyn‘ & ‘Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’ & thus ended one chapter in the history of the Memorial.

It was a truly thrilling gathering and one which in our wildest flights of imagination, we had never thought of on such a comprehensive scale.”

Washington: An Address with the President

Union Station, Washington DC – Wikimedia

From Penn Rail Road Station… Got on the 12.10 train for Washington – had lunch on the train – passed thro’ Baltimore, Philadelphia & other places. An un-interesting journey: Except for the two rivers that we crossed, houses all detached & wide acres of flat country partly covered by snow. Had a comfortable journey. Met at Washington station by Mrs Eastman & her car – & drove to the American Assoc of University Women’s Clubs.

Following a couple of days exploring Washington – visiting Lincoln’s Memorial, and paying their respects to former US President Woodrow Wilson, architect of the League of Nations, who had died on Feb 3rd 1924, 2 weeks prior to their visit – on February 21st 1924, the Welsh and American Women’s Peace Delegation met with the US President, Calvin Coolidge.  The following is Annie’s (hugely modest and understated) account of their meeting with the 30th President:

White House, 1920s postcard

We drove to the office of the League of Women Voters, where we were photographed. Then in charge of Mrs Morgan & Mrs Swiggelt, we all walked across to White House for an interview with President Coolidge. On entering we found the hall filled with people, reporters, photographers & others. We saw a man in charge – in plain clothes –no uniform here . . .We saw on his list of President’s Engagements for the day Feb 21st 1924: 12.15 – Mrs Hughes-Griffiths, Mrs Mary Ellis and Miss Pryce – we were shown into another room & waited there awhile with several other people, while the President’s secretary came out. Mr Sterns by name. He opened the door leading into the room where Mr Coolidge stood standing, awaiting our arrival – & we were introduced to him by Mrs Morgan.

He said words to this effect “ You are from Wales”.

I: Yes

He: And I have Welsh blood in my veins, having for an ancestor Nathaniel Davies. So you can’t get away from home.

30th US President, Calvin Coolidge (1923-29)

I: We are proud to own you as a fellow countryman.

He: Thank you, I am very glad to see you.

I: Producing the copy of the Memorial & showing it to him together with photograph of oak chest. “This is the copy of the memorial we have brought over from Women of Wales to the Women of America, and the chest containing the signatures. We hope you will allow the chest to be placed in the Smithsonian Institute for all time.”

He: I will do what I can to help you. I do not see what reason there is for it not to be placed there  – I was the President of the Institute. 

We then left the room, after being cordially pleasantly welcomed by the President, a quiet dignified man of middle height. Straight nose with the crease in his trousers a pleasant manner and voice. We went outside the White House & were besieged by an army of photographers – 9 in all. Were taken many many times. Shots have reached us this evening which are exceedingly good.

Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths holding the Welsh Women’s Peace Memorial outside the White House, following their meeting with US President Calvin Coolidge; alongside Mrs Ruth Morgan, Miss Eluned Prys and Mrs. Mary Ellis. TI Ellis Collections, NLW

 

Over the course of the day in Washington, following the meeting with the President:

We started for Arlington (Cemetery), a place about 4 miles from Washington, where sleep the silent hosts who died in the war for the Union. Then we drove back past the Lincoln Memorial where Eluned took some photos. From here we went to the Photographers who took our photos outside White House. I ordered some large ones & post cards. Thence to Washington Cathedral where we saw Woodrow Wilson’s tomb with the simple inscription: Woodrow Wilson,1856-1924 (he had died just 18 days before their visit)

A beautiful building in process of building – the money to be procured before continuing to build. From there back to Club lunch – where we were entertained by the alumni of Radcliffe College, the female part of Harvard University. Made a short speech after lunch, Mrs Doyle presided.

Car to Smithsonian Institute where we decided – !! – on a spot where the oak chest should be placed. Had very jolly drive – back to Club. Thence to Mr. & Mrs. La Follette’s– a Senator likely to be new President & lead new party (the US Progressive Party, 1924-34) a very nice couple.

George Washington Daycherry flavour (reference to ‘cherry pies’, traditionally associated with the National Holiday which celebrates the 1st President’s birthday) – large crowd Senators’ ladies standing in a row receiving the said. The best part of this house was the great sympathy with Peace movement – “we are all interested in it, but we have different ways of setting about it.” Went to George Washington Anniversary meeting in Memorial Hall

‘Peace Tour’ of the United States: A Month Spreading Wales’ Message, 22 Feb-22 March 1924

On Saturday, Feb 22nd 1924, Annie and her companions were ‘waved off’ from Washington on a ‘Welsh Women’s Peace Tour’ that would take in the whole of the United States over the course of 4 weeks.

Mrs. Ruth Morgan came to bid us goodbye, her last message being as follows:

“Our organisation, the National Council for Prevention of War, is trying to do one definite thing & is arranging an active Campaign to attempt to secure the sanction of the Senate for entrance into the Permanent Court of International Justice. Your visit to us has awakened a great deal of fresh interest, & will help our campaign forward greatly, for the success of such a campaign depends entirely upon popular interest, & your message to us has added that touch of drama which is necessary to arouse that interest.”

See below (the ‘Impact of the petition’) to find out the impact that this ‘statement of intent’ ultimately went on to have on have for the American Women’s Peace movements.

Chicago

Mrs. Thomas & I had been invited to meet the Deans of Women’s Colleges by Mrs. Kerr… Got to the 2nd floor where the guests, about 400 women, were assembled – but the most awful Babel of voices it has ever been my lot to hear. Prof. Merriam of Chicago University; a Dr. (Agnes) Wells, a woman of great distinction & President of the Assoc. of Women Deans, gave her report. Then Frau Schreibe gave an account of the need for brotherhood, being one of 35 members of the Reichstag 15 of which were school teachers. Then I was called upon to speak of the Memorial, did so for 15 minutes. Got home by 10.30. Very glad the ordeal was over… Mrs. Thomas said I did alright.

Colorado

Annie’s diary, particularly of their month’s American tour, is fascinating not only for its social commentary of the internationalist women’s movement, peace campaign and politics of the time, but for her observations of the natural environment, landscapes and cultures.

We now got to the Land of Canyons. Most wonderfully formed rocks of bright red colour. Most wonderful formation. Sphynx like in shape, formidable in appearance. Came to quite the most well-kept station on the (rail) road… ‘Morgan’ written in white stones on the station level… We hired a car & hied us to the Ogden Canyon, a distance of 11 miles. Our drive was an exceedingly well set up. Young man in knee breeches, & in passing thro the town called at his garage for his overcoat & splendid crown & yellow check coat. We drove up through the ravine or pass or canyon, thro’ snow covered rocks & hills, with here & there the hot steam appearing from the hot water springs higher up.

Salt Lake City

Mr John James is British Vice-Consul, a native of Swansea, born in Haverfordwest… Mr James told me we ought to have been at the St David’s Day Celebrations the previous evening. He wanted to see us take our message to the women of Utah: It was arranged that we two were to go… to the Mormon Temple grounds. Soon Mr Williams a Welshman from Brechfa, Carmarthenshire – the State Senator – arrived with his wife and son, in a fine motorcar… I had to tell the W.O.W. (women of Wales’) story… We went as far as the University on the hill, where one had a most splendid view of the city beneath the clearly cut snow clad mountains, like white icing so smooth and straight in appearance – a fine mist rising from the Lake in the distance was a most impressive picture.

San Francisco

We drove on to Stanford University which stands in its own grounds of 8000 acres. The buildings are of buff sandstone and they are grouped around open courts or quadrangles and are connected by continuous open arcades of arches and pillars. The no. of students at present is about 2500 – 2000 men, and 500 women…. Mr. Salisbury Williams from the harbour commission Presided, and there was singing and recitations and speeches. I spoke for about 20 minutes, and at close of meeting met Mr. & Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. Dunn is an old Aber student from Pontypool, knew me in Aber. Has been out in S F  Since August. Very homesick when I spoke to her.

Los Angeles

Almost as soon as I got into the (Gates) Hotel, a lady accosted me being anxious to have an interview with me for the Los Angeles Times. I sat and and talked with her and told her of our message, and of our visit to the Presidents Tomb in Washington. I announced that I was to speak in the evening service. The interview appeared in Monday’s paper, quite a nice article.

…through South Pasadena to 212 Brauch street. Chapel crowded. Mr. Jones’s son commenced the service very earnestly and prayerfully. Dr John Davis introduced me by questioning Sara and John Saunders, and brother john & myself. I then spoke for 40 minutes – without one note! – of our mission.

Went to office to get reservations and then drove to Hollywood. Went to West Coast Production studio, to Beverly Hills Hotel where they were shooting pictures in the garden… Then Santa Monica Ocean Park, Venice, where we went to a Chinese restaurant. Had Chow Mein and Tea in the Chinese-style. I didn’t enjoy it.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is beyond description in formation colour and effect… We went to a Morie Lecture given by 2 brothers, who had travelled through the Canyon from Colorado River right through the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 217 miles. We saw pictures of their wonderful experiences in 2 flat bottomed boats, and the many escapades they injured and narrow escapes they had. We went over to Hopi House (the Indian Centre), saw the Indians dance. And shook hands with the chief – who had a University training. He told us he had already 4 wives, but he was still on the market.

Niagara Falls… and and Engagement

At some point in their travels, their companion Eluned Prys (who was with them in Washington) had taken a separate path – with a fascinating development from the diary…!

We got off the train (at Niagara) and went into the station; and began wondering what we had better do about getting in touch with Eluned Prys, who had arranged to meet us at Buffalo that day. As Buffalo was 23 miles beyond Niagara, we decided to get off there and get in touch with Eluned at Lennox Hotel Buffalo – the place arranged for our meeting (They then explore Niagara Falls).

By that evening: “She was not there…. We then sent a long wire to Eluned.” By the following lunchtime: No sign of Eluned.” Finally, they decide to continue their onward train journey without her: “3.42pm when we left by train for Utica, leaving Georgette alone on the platform. We had a pleasant trip by train to Utica: passing through Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse – where Miss Carver and her brother in law came to see us pass through. Miss Carver looked well and bonnie and was very cheery and told us the news of Eluned’s engagement to an Austrian Count!! She told us she intended sailing for home on April 5th.” The diary shows they do finally succeed in reuniting with Eluned on Thursday March 20th, at the Women’s University Club in New York.

New York… and a Wedding

On their return to New York, from Wednesday 19th March 1924, they reconnected with their colleagues from the National American Women Suffrage Association

Mrs (Ruth) Morgan spoke of messages which should be sent by women of America to Women of Wales in reply to their message. These replies were (to be) provided for the Annual Meeting of the Welsh Council of the League of Nations Union – in Whit week. (view here the reply as it was published in Wales). 

We had some telephone calls to see to, including one from Leila Megane, who had decided to get married the following day, and wished me to give her away.We then dressed ourselves in our evening clothes, and … went to the League of Nations Nou Panhsa Dinner at the Baltimore Hotel. I was put to sit at the speakers table between Mr Frank Emerson and Mrs James Neal. After speeches by Mrs Vanderlip, Mrs Little and Mr Levenmore, I was called up to give a 2 mins speech . It was a case of “Play up Wales”.

In the morning we went down to White Star Offices and got our tickets stamped (for the RMS Olympic). After a very nice lunch, French looking, we four and Mr Schang, the best man, went in a taxi to the Welsh Chapel 120th Street. (Leila) Megane dressed in a covent courting costume, light fawn with felt hat to match. (Megane got the flowers meant for Eluned). Rev Jospeh Evans performed the ceremony in Welsh, and I gave the bride away. There were a few spectators – including Mr and Mrs Mrs Hughes, and Mrs Cobinga Bright and her little girl. At 5.30pm the bride and groom arrived and we had a sumptuous dinner.

We then all went along to the Welsh Church where a reception had been arranged in our honour – Dr Keigwhi Dr Keigwhi presided the Minister of one of the Presbyterian Churches in New York – Addresses of welcome were delivered by Rev. Josepth Evans on behalf of the Welsh Churches of the city, by ladies representing different societies. I spoke for about 25 minutes, giving the message.

This was Annie’s final ‘peace message’ from the women of Wales to the women of America, at the completion of their tour of the States; and the following morning they set sail for the 7 day voyage home to Liverpool, on the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic.

Notes Pages

The rear pages of Annie’s diary contain many notes and sketches from her travels, some of which seem to be from speeches she liked. One such note was on the recently deceased US President, who had founded the League of Nations just 4 years beforehand. Annie noted:

Woodrow Wilson was an idealist, and gladly suffered the fate of most idealists he said

“I would rather fail in a cause I know some day will triumph

than win in a cause I know some day will fail”

 

Thanks to our ‘Book Club’ Volunteers

Many thanks to the ‘Transcription Team’ and Book Club participants who volunteered many hours, over a short time frame, in order to transcribe, research and share Annie’s Diary.

  • Craig Owen, WCIA
  • Ffion Fielding, National Museum of Wales
  • Martin Pollard, Learned Society of Wales
  • Fi Fenton, National Museum of Wales
  • Jane Harries, WCIA Peace Schools Coordinator
  • Katy Watson, Alaw Primary School
  • Jenny Fletcher, Hub Cymru Africa
  • Stuart Booker, Swansea University Doctoral Researcher
  • Meinir Harries, National Assembly for Wales
  • Tracy Pallant, Valley & Vale Community Arts
  • Amy Peckham, Valley & Vale Community Arts

The Impact of the Women’s Peace Petition

US President Calvin Coolidge with delegates of the 1925 ‘Conference on the Causes and Cure of War’ in Washington – Credit: Kai’s Coolidge Blog’

The Welsh League of Nations Union Report for 1925, ‘Wales and World Peace’ applauded the efforts of the Women’s Peace Delegation, and also carried a ‘letter of response’ (image 8 in scan / page 12 of yearbook) from Mrs Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Women Suffrage Association, following their first Conference on the Cause and Cure of War.

Held in 1925 by 9 organisations (representing 5 million American women) who were initially brought together for the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition delegation visit, the initial CCCW conference was so successful they were held annually until 1941. After WW2, the work of CCCW continued as the ‘Committee for Education on Lasting Peace’.

America did not ultimately sign up to the League of Nations; and the League is largely acknowledged to have failed due to lack of ‘buy-in’ from essential world powers (such as America, Germany and Japan), and through member governments ‘not playing by their own rules’ (such as France, Belgium, Germany, Russia and Italy). The Manchuria and Abyssinia Crises of the 1930s, and the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany that had been reeling from WW1 reparations, set the stage for World War Two.

However, the lessons of the League – and the vision expressed by the women’s movements of Wales and America in 1923-6 – was finally realised after WW2 with the founding of the United Nations, in which America has played a leading role through history (although recent withdrawals by the Trump Administration undermine progress on peace, human rights and climate change).

 

Future Work – and Opportunities to Support

The film clip from the Book Club evening, sharing Annie’s American journey, should be available on WCIA’s Wales for Peace Youtube Channel from late August.

WCIA hope to build on this work alongside Heddwch Nain Mamgu, the National Library of Wales and other partners over coming years, so that by 2023 – the centenary of the Women’s Peace Petition – we can hope to fully tell its story, to inspire a new generation of women internationalists. We are seeking help from:

  • Writing Volunteers willing to improve the transcription of Annie’s Diary, so that it can be used as a learning and reference resource.
  • Research & Archives Volunteers willing to find press articles from the time (1923-25) in the Welsh, UK and American press.
  • Heritage advocates and digital volunteers in America, able to support ambitions to digitise the Welsh Peace Petition signatories held in Washington and create a database of signatories; and potentially to reunite the Memorial and the Chest of petition signatures for the 2023 centenary.
  • Family Tree researchers willing to trace relatives of signatories to the 1923 peace petition (once digitised).
  • Funders and Donors willing to resource development of a touring exhibition, events and opportunities for community participation in Wales in the lead to the centenary.
  • Community campaigners willing to support ‘Heddwch Nain Mamgu’ in creating a centenary Peace Memorial Petition, calling for recommitment to the principles of the United Nations for peace, human rights sustainable development and climate change.

Please email walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk if you feel able to contribute as the project gathers momentum. Most activity plans are dependent upon on securing funding (WCIA’s HLF project and funding finished in Summer 2019), but it is hoped that such an important and inspiring part of Wales’ Peace Heritage and national story will be considered a positive investment to ‘bring alive’ for future generations.