Among publications which were in the old Cardiff Free Library and have come to light recently are several original issues of An Claidheamh Soluis (“The sword of light”), the weekly newspaper of the Gaelic League. It was established in 1899, and had some distinguished editors – Eoin Mac Neill and Padraig Pearse being the first. Our copies come from the years 1912-1913, so they immediately predate some important years in both Irish and European history. Many of the contributors and the people who feature in the newspaper went on to take part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent events.
Most of the text is in Irish, with some articles and most of the advertisements being in English, and although the copies have suffered a little from the passage of time they are still mostly in good condition. The newspaper was printed on good quality paper for its time, and is illustrated throughout with photographs and cartoons. This picture of Edwardian ladies practising their shooting is actually of English women (with a suggestion that Irish women should follow their example):
As with all old newspapers and periodicals the advertisements are another great window on a vanished world: there are many relating to tobacco, for instance (one even claims to be selling Irish-grown tobacco). The Gaelic League was active in promoting Irish business and developed a trade mark which could be displayed to encourage support of home industries, especially Irish-speaking ones:
Cardiff’s officialdom was not traditionally very positive about the Welsh language in the early 20th century – and indeed later – so it is amusing to note that the wrapper which arrived from Dublin fully addressed in Welsh was “corrected” to English by the Cardiff Post Office: It is also interesting to note the broad interests of the public library at the time, including reaching out to make connections with other “Celtic” countries and to develop its own collections of material in the sister languages of Welsh.
This paper is a welcome addition to the collection of the Salisbury Library, and is an important source of Irish social history, despite being incomplete. We have a number of other, more recent, Irish language newspapers which will be added to our collection in the coming months.