Mary Davies - Welsh Folk Song Society Papers

Scope and Content

This collection consists of letters, articles and a scrapbook, which relate mainly to the Welsh Folk Song Society. The letters are addressed to Mary Davies from various people and concern the musical and folk song aspect of the National Eisteddfodau and matters relating to music and other business at the University College of North Wales. The scrapbook including press cuttings, articles, photographs and programmes etc illustrates the development of the Folk Song Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Davies, soprano, and one of the Welsh Folk Song Society's most inspirational personalities was born in London in 1855. Her early musical training was supervised by her father, the Merthyr born sculptor and musician Mynorydd, and continued after she won the Welsh choral scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. While there she won the Rosa Gold Medal and the Nilsson prize. Her professional debut was at one of Henry Brinley Richards' concerts in London in the late 1870s and in 1880, she performed the role of Marguerite in Faustat Manchester which was the first performance of Berlioz's opera in English and she quickly became one of the leading singers of her day. She first sang at the National Eisteddfod at Mold in 1873 and throughout her life afterwards was prominent at Eisteddfodau, also acting as adjudicator, particularly of folk song competitions.

In 1890, she retired from the concert stage, two years after her marriage to W. Cadwaladr Davies, first Registrar of the University College of North Wales (now the University of Wales, Bangor). They lived in Bangor for a year or two until her husband's ill health forced his resignation and their move back to London. While at Bangor she became aware of Dr Lloyd Williams and the society of students he had established, known as Y Cantorion or "The Songsters", who searched throughout north Wales for old songs and melodies. This sparked her enthusiasm for folk songs and led to the establishment of the Welsh Folk Song Society at Caernarfon in 1906, with Mary Davies as its president. Other founder members included Lady Herbert Lewis, Miss Morfydd Owen and Mrs Jane Williams. Since 1906 the Welsh Folk Song Society has been active in the preservation and promotion of the rich tradition of folk music in Wales, collecting and publishing a wide range of material. Mary Davies was awarded an honorary doctorate in music at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. She died in 1930.


Material is arranged according to record type and incorporated in chronological order into the General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts .

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all users

Acquisition Information

Presented to the University Archives, Bangor by the executors of Mary Davies.


Description compiled by Anne Lenaghan, November 2001

Other Finding Aids

Item level word-processed list is available at the Archives Department of the University of Wales, Bangor. Reference numbers: General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts: 4760-4761

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright conditions apply. Reprographics are made at the discretion of the Archivist.