Isalaw Papers

Scope and Content

The papers consist mainly of musical manuscripts and printed copies of melodies and tunes, anthems, solos and duets etc. composed by John Richards and others. Also included are manuscript copies of odes; exercise books, scrap books of newspaper cuttings and original bardic compositions in various hands; certificate of the Tonic Sol-fa College to John Richards, 1869; a list of subscribers to Isalaw's testimonial, 1894.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Richards, better known by his bardic name Isalaw, was born in a house called King's Head in Hirael, Bangor, Caernarfonshire. His father, Richard Richards came from Aberdaugleddau, Pembrokeshire and his mother, Mary, came from Llangwnadl in Llyn. He was educated at the British School in the Garth area of Bangor, Caernarfonshire and then went to Shoreland Road school, Birmingham, England for two years where his interest in music began under Mr Andrew Deakin, organist.When he returned to Bangor, he, and a Thomas Williams, started the first Sol-fa class in Bangor.

John Richards wrote immaculately and assisted a number of composers in transcribing and correcting their work. He also wrote a number of articles on music in various journals. He was a prolific composer and published Caneuon Isalaw. Much of his work appears in the hymn books of various denominations.

Isalaw died on 15 September 1901 and was buried at Glanadda Cemetery, Bangor.


The papers have been received and catalogued at different times and as a result are scattered amongst the General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts. There is no apparent system of arrangement.

Access Information

Open to all users

Acquisition Information

Items donated by Mr H. O. Hughes of Orme Road, Bangor, Mr G. A. Richards, Amlwch, Anglesey and Mrs E. A. Owen of Cowbridge, Glamorgan.


Description compiled by Elen Wyn Hughes, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An item level catalogue is available at the Department of Manuscripts of the University of Wales Bangor. Reference numbers : General Collection of Bangor Manuscripts 345-346, 1286, 13638-13678, 37983.