Aberystwyth University launches Waldo Williams bursary

The Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University has launched a new bursary for students, thanks to the generosity of the family of renowned poet Waldo Williams.

Waldo Williams, c.1960s

Considered one of the finest Welsh poets, Waldo (1904–1971) made a remarkable contribution to the literature and culture of Wales, and to the cause of pacifism.

In his memory, the new bursary will award £500 during the first year of study to up to two students studying Welsh at Aberystwyth University, from beginners, through to intermediate and fluent speakers.

Despite having Welsh-speaking parents, Waldo and his siblings were raised in English. He learnt Welsh after the family moved from Haverfordwest to Mynachlog-ddu in 1911, and it was in Welsh that he later composed his poems.

From 1923–1927 he studied English at Aberystwyth University (then known as University College of Wales, Aberystwyth).  He then trained to be a teacher and went on to teach at schools across Pembrokeshire and elsewhere in the UK, before taking up a post as a lecturer with the Extra Mural Department at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth from 1953–63. 

On presenting the gift, Waldo’s relatives said: “As a family we’re delighted to be able to support students to join the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth, where they will learn more about the things that were so important to Waldo.”

Dr Cathryn Charnell-White, Head of the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: “We are very grateful to Waldo’s family for their generous gift which has been used to establish the Waldo Williams Bursary.  The bursary, which is worth £500 in the first year of academic study, will support undergraduates studying for single and joint honours degrees in the Department, and applications are welcomed from those just starting to learn Welsh through to first language Welsh speakers.”

Waldo published two volumes of poetry during his lifetime; a book of children’s poetry, Cerddi’r Plant, published along with E Llwyd Williams in 1936, and Dail Pren (Tree Leaves) in 1956.

A pacifist and conscientious objector, Waldo opposed paying income tax in protest against war and military conscription.  This resulted in his possessions being seized by bailiffs in lieu of his debts to the Inland Revenue, and two periods in jail in the early 1960s.

Dr Charnell-White explains: “To apply for the bursary, students will be able to submit work from a range of choices that reflect Waldo Williams’s own interests and creativity, as well as current specialism within our Department. Students will be able to choose any of the following: an essay on any aspect of Waldo Williams’ creative work or on any aspect of pacifism; a collection of creative work that responds to the topic of ‘peace’ or ‘pacifism’, or that responds directly to Waldo Williams’ own creative work; or translations into Welsh of literary works conveying a peaceful message. ”

Applications are invited by 31 January 2022 from students who begin their studies in autumn 2022.  Up to two awards will be made each academic year.  Information on how to apply is available at: www.aber.ac.uk/scholarships.

On Friday 24 September, the tenth Annual Waldo Lecture takes place online.  Co-organised by Cymdeithas Waldo Society and Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, this year acclaimed poet Ceri Wyn Jones will deliver a lecture entitled ‘Helbul Hunan’: Waldo, Barddoniaeth a Iechyd a Lles (‘Red Storms of Life’: Waldo, Poetry and Health and Wellbeing). Tickets for the event are available at: https://tocyn.cymru/cy/event/ee9e6a79-20f5-4b27-aa00-af696f359e13.