harpers, Cardiganshire

for other counties see harpers

Aberystwyth, 1791
At New Inn ‘entertained by a little girl with some Welsh songs’.
At Aberystwyth ‘in the hall of the inn a poor blind girl was playing on the harp most exquisitely, such airs as made Gray put his last hand to the unfinished ode of ‘The Bard’
Rogers, Samuel, Journey through Wales, 1791 (Chapter VI in Clayden, P.W., The Early Life of Samuel Rogers. (1887)), p. 191

Aberystwyth, Talbot, 1791
Here we had, for the first time since we entered Wales, the pleasure of hearing the music of the country, it its pure state, from a poor blind female harper. She could speak no English, nor play any English tunes except Captain Mackingtosh and the White Cockade. There was so much native simplicity in her appearance, and the features of sorrow were so visible in her countenance, that no one could behold her unmoved. She was led in by the waiter, dressed after the style of her country women, in a coarse woollen gown, and a hat of black beaver. She had seated herself in a corner of the room, and by an involuntary motion, I drew my chair close to hers.

A predilection for Welsh music would alone have disposed me to listen to the harp but our blind minstrel, with her untaught harmony, called forth all our admiration, and attention became the tribute of pity. When she touched the strings, she displayed all the execution and taste of the most refined master. Her mode of fingering was graceful, light, and elegant ; her cadences inexpressibly sweet. We never before heard such tones from the harp ; she ran through all the mazes of Welsh harmony, and delighted us with the songs of the bards of old. She seemed to celebrate the days of her forefathers, and fancy led me to interpret the tenor of her melody. It sung the fall of Llewellyn, and broke forth in a rapid tumultuous movement, expressive of the battles he fought, and the laurels he had won.

All at once she changed the strain ; the movement became slow, soft, and melancholy – it was a dirge for the memory of the slaughtered bards, the departed poets of other times. An air was introduced after a momentary pause, which vibrated upon our very heart strings. With trembling hands, and in a tone of peculiar melody, she told us the sad tale of her own distress. She sung the blessings of light, and portrayed in cadences the sorrows of the blind.

Without any support but her harp, deprived of her sight, friendless, and poor, she had wandered from place to place, depending entirely upon the charity of strangers. We were told that she contrived to obtain a decent livelihood by her talents for music, nor did we wonder at it for who can refuse pity to the sufferings of humanity when the voice of melody breaks forth in its behalf.
Clarke, Edward Daniel, (1769-1822), A Tour through the South of England, Wales and Part of Ireland, made during the Summer of 1791 (1793), p. 257-260

Aberystwyth, 1796
A few miles further on brought us to Aberystwyth. The evening continuing cold, and wet I was not induced to leave a warm fireside in search of new adventures, but knew when I was well. Tea coming in we enquired of the waiter for a blind female harper, who is celebrated in one of the Welsh Towns as the most extraordinary that ever was heard; anxious both see her, and to hear her, she was soon introduced, led in by the waiter, who brought her Welsh Harp. She is a mean looking, broad set little woman, and blind from her infancy; the parish in which she was born, subscribed to clothe her, and a Gentleman out of compassion received her into his family, and having a servant who played the harp, taught her by ear. She lived there till her master died; she was now the second time on the world, no home, and no friend to supply her wants; the mistress of this Inn, who felt her distress, gave her the run of her kitchen, she assists as chambermaid. Her musical talents bring guests to the House, and whether the mistress shares the spoils of a harp, we could not learn; her temper was good, and manners obliging. She played upon the three string harp, and her performance charmed us very much, but as might be expected plays without any grace, and is I think even awkward: she chiefly performs Welsh tunes, some Scotch but no English, except country dances, where she is most at home from constant practice. Mr Pennant mentions her in some of his works [is this correct? he didn’t come to Aberystwyth], Williams is her name.
Sykes, Lady, Journal of a Tour in Wales, 1796, Hull University, DDSY (3)/10/11, pp. 200-201

Aberystwyth, 1796
A young woman played to us upon the three-stringed harp, she has been blind from infancy. Her performance charmed us very much, but as might be expected plays without any grace and is I think even awkward, she is a little plain woman I believe Mr Pennant mentions her. Williams is her name.
Sykes, Christopher, Sir (1749-1801) Journal of a Tour In Wales, 1796, NLW MS 2258 C, typed transcription, p. 49-50

Aberystwyth, Talbot, 1801
Here for the first time we heard the Welch Harp, the Harper playing while the company dined.
Martyn, T., A Tour of South Wales, [1801], NLW MS 1340C, p.

Aberystwyth 1802 The Talbot inn
This has been one of our most interesting days and the close of it was not less agreeable. A very protracted dish of tea with a Welsh harp accompaniment was the luxury I allude to and it recalled to mind a similar evening formerly spent at Conwy [in 1800, see entry under Conwy].’
Gray, Jonathan, ‘Tour of the Western Counties of England and of South Wales in 1802’, North Yorkshire Record Office, ZGY/T4, p. 65

Aberystwyth 1812
a Harper was in the [inn] and would attend if we wished it, we commissioned him to procure her – a blind woman soon made her appearance, and exerted her musical talents for our amusement for half an hour with some wild Welsh airs.
Evill, William, Sketches of a Tour through part of North Wales in August 1812, NLW ms 24067, f. 18

Royal Hotel, Aberystwyth, 1815
On Thursday se’nnight, the principal gents of Aberystwyth dined at the Royal Hotel to celebrate the victory at Waterloo. Dinner was provided by Jacob Jones. The Band of the Royal Cardiganshire Artillery attended with Mr Wood on the Welsh harp.
Carmarthen Journal, 7.7.1815

Talbot, Aberystwyth, 1821
directly after dinner we sent for the harper from the Talbot who has regaled us with some most delightful Welsh airs. this instrument is the first real Welsh harp I have seen. It had three rows of strings which supply the place of pedals. The Harper (?Bloney) was a very experienced performer, and he won the silver harp at the Eisteddfod … at Carmarthen last year. He was a very intelligent, unassuming, obliging man.
Dickinson, J. D., Journal of a tour in Wales, September-October, 1821, NLW, ms 15569 B, pp. 21-22

Aberystwyth, 1823
A Welsh harper played during dinner.
Anon  1823, Cardiff Central Library, MS 4.349, vol 3, p. 42

Aberystwyth, 1825
Whilst we were at dinner a Welsh harper came and played to us
Anon, A Tour into mid Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS 4.350, p. 41

Aberystwyth, 11.7.1828
At 1.30 repaired to the [assembly] rooms – saw a true Welsh harp upon which a young man played for about 2 hours accompanied by the violin. The harp is of a very uncouth shape, thick in the sounding board – two rows of strings (one was not complete), which were the flats and sharps instead of pedals.’
Diary of Amelia Waddell (Lady Amelia Jackson), Royal Geographical Society, SSC/79, diary 6, p. 46

Aberystwyth, outside on Marine Terrace, 1835
music was naturally brought into discussion by the presence of a Welsh harper who had ravished us by throwing his fingers across the strings and producing some of the sweetest airs of the country.
Anon (Pedestres), A Pedestrian Tour of Thirteen Hundred and Forty Seven Miles through Wales and England, (1836), p. 365

Aberystwyth, Bell Vue, 1837
At the Belle Vue the harper came every day at 1 and played incessantly till 10 at night.
Rev Joseph Romilly’s Tour of Wales, 1837, Edited by Rev M.G.R. Morris, Llandysul, 1998, p. 58

Aberystwyth, Bell Vue, 1837
Almost immediately on our arrival at Aberystwyth we were gratified for the first time since our arrival in Wales by hearing the Welsh harp so celebrated for the beauty of its tomes and so appropriated to the wild and mountainous district in which it prevails.
{bards …  Harp revived in 1771 … Double row of strings}
It [the harp] was played at our Hotel by a round faced hearty looking Welsh man and it certainly made a very favourable impression on my mind.
Horace, Francis, Journal of a tour 1837, NLW MSS 11596B, p. 229 – 235

Aberystwyth 26.10.1833
A harpress of the name of Betsy Humphries played to us on the Welsh harp – she played beautifully and with infinite taste and execution which would have done honour to any performer of the highest ability –
4th Duke of Newcastle (1785-1851), diary, Nottingham archives, NE 2 F4, (1833), p. 256

Borth, March 30 1854 Madam, I humbly beg leave to state my case before as I wish to be there very much, I hope against this time that the ships came, that I may have the favour of playing a little to you again, I would stay as long as you please and as short as you please – as I am reduced to a very very low circumstances – my old woman is in bed entirely since three weeks ago, and we have nobody but ourselves at present – we are very poor indeed, no meat in the house at all these days only a few crusts that I can have about the village here and am obliged to walk about there foot-bare and in a most starving condition – my harp also is broken since that frosty weather when I was striving to go to Crosswood and by going down Llanbadarn hill I fell and broke my harp so that it is all gone. I humbly beg you will sympathise me at present I am Madam, yours truly, Jeremiah Jones.
NLW Evans and Griffin 12 (from Llangynfelin web site)

Lampeter, Black Lion, 1848
Put up at the Black Lion … entertained by some amateur … on the Welsh harp’.
Charles Lucey of Clapham, Journal of an excursion to Wales and Ireland, August, 1848 no 5, 23064 iD & iiE, p. 16

Gogerddan, 1836
I was much surprised to find the National Instrument, the harp, so little cultivated in the different spots I visited in Cardiganshire; in fact, one blind woman was the only person I heard play upon it; Nancy Felix of Gogerddan, to whose neat little cottage many parties make an afternoon excursion {by which she gains a living for herself and her two sisters}
Roscoe, Thomas, (1791-1871), Wanderings and Excursions in South Wales, (1836), p. 48 (1st edition)

near Gogerddan
Two miles out of the town [Aberystwyth] is an ivied cottage on the left of the road of Nancy, the blind harper at which tea etc can be obtained.
Cliffe, C.F.,The Book of South Wales, the Bristol Channel, Monmouthshire and the Wye (2nd edition, enlarged, 1848), p. 317

Gogerddan, 1852
Llanbadarn, Cottage of the blind harper (not in the 1867 edition)
Black’s Picturesque Guide through north and south Wales and Monmouthshire, (Edinburgh, 1852), (1874 edition, p. 207)

Gogerddan 1855
On our return home we stop about 2 miles from Aberystwyth, to visit the blind harper, an old woman, blind from her infancy. She offers tea and cake, and plays some Welsh airs on her harp.
Anon, diary of a visit to north Wales including Aberystwyth, formerly in the Benson collection,

Gogerddan, pre 1903
[In] the ivy covered cottage, on Rhiw Shon Sa’r, by the road side, just before the turning down the lane to Gogerddan [lived] two sisters named Felix. One was called Nanci’r delyn, i.e. Nancy of the harp. She was dark [blind]. She was known far and wide as a true harper, and was kept by the house of Gogerddan as their harpist. The other sister was a lady who told palms but she never would own to it.
Evans, G.E., (1903), Cardiganshire, A Personal Survey of some of its Antiquities, Chapels, Churches, Fonts, Plate and Registers, p. 89

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