Thursday, December 28, 2017

50 Presidents now on-line

Back in November I commented that as part of our 150th Celebrations I was putting information about each of our presidents onto our website

At that point I had reached 25. now I have reached the milestone of 50 presidential write-ups on the site and learned an awful lot about the society and the history of Cardiff at the same time

I have continued to learn and am sharing it in the hope that others will find it as interesting as I have done, or at the very least it will be of use to future researchers and harder for people to ignore the truth of the past (as I have found in some academic white up's of some events)

I've added

  • The president who served in three wars as a doctor running three major hospitals as he did it 
  • The president who was the first director of the National Museum but did not live to see it built
  • The president who rented 2 islands (Grassholm and Skomer) to protect them for the future
  • The president who lost an eye in WWI
And many more

Why not take a look at and read about it for yourself

There are a lot of interesting people to come, but it is taking time to do this and I hope you will not mind me taking the rest of this 150th year to complete the task

Of course in so much work there may be mistakes I have made or information or links between people I have not found. if you spot anything please just drop me a note via the contact form (top right of the page) and I will happily sort things out 

Andy Kendall

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Inspired by the Wrigglers ...

Eirian has clearly been inspired by the Wriggle talk as she has been out taking pictures which she is kindly sharing with us

Out on the beach ... 

and in close up ...

And one of the wonderful models in the museum...

If anyone else has interesting wildlife pictures I can grant you access to create a post yourself, or you can do as Eirian  did and just email them to me to share with the rest of the members


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Spotted in a field

Does anyone know what causes these mounds.

I was walking in the area around Neuadd reservoirs and I noted that 2 fields were covered in them, but just those 2 fields, the ones either side were "normal" it looks like a tussock of some kind rather than any underlying rock or soil, but I presume some specific grass/moss etc. must be responsible.

Its interesting that the tree has a ring around it so there may be some environmental factor in terms of the tree taking up water or something. Anyway I know we have loads of experts around so I thought I would ask 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wriggle! The wonderful world of worms

What a good talk we had last night from Katie Mortimer Jones on the topic of Bristleworms and its certainly made me want to go and visit the exhibition at the museum

Katie gave us an introduction to worms at the beginning and it was fascinating to see yet another link to our history we are celebrating this years because one of the other of the three subclasses of Clitellata are the Hirudinea which are the leeches and are the source of the anti-coagulant Hirudin. This was discovered by Prof. John Berry Haycraft D.Sc., F.R.S.E. (1859-1922) our 34th President

She then explained in detail the many other forms of the bristle worms and whilst I knew they had some beautiful forms I was not aware of many aspects of the diversity and biology of them and it was really good to be learning about them from someone who is obviously a real global expert in them

(Picture of Hermodice carunculata Bristleworms by “prilfish”  Used under licence)

All in all a fascinating talk and one that really interested the members who were present with a lively discussion section at the end. 

Andy Kendall

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

25 Presidents online

As part of our 150th year celebrations I have been reading about and extracting information about our former presidents

I have now reached the milestone that the first 25 Presidents are now on-line and available to read on The Presidents Page

You can read about: -

  • The President who founded the Library
  • The President who worked out how to stop coal dust exploding
  • The President who campaigned for sewage to be treated before being put into the Severn estuary
  • The President who completed the first Flora of Glamorgan (with a lot of help from his daughter who also became a President in due course)
  • The President who was the first Chancellor of the University
  • The President who found the first Welsh Dinosaur remains
  • The President who beat Marconi to the wireless experiments at Lavernock
  • The President who designed the Old Library and thought he should have designed the town hall and the museum 
  • The President who was an expert on the brewing of sake
  • The President who was one of the first up the Matterhorn
  • The President who repaired an eye with an electromagnet
and many more fascinating facts 

As well as these first 25 there are the pages about some of our later presidents which were created for the exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum and are still on-line, and as I felt it was only right a brief summary about myself

(A word of warning the links at the bottom of the pages do not take you forward and back properly. I will be revising all of these once the exhibition is closed and I can do a tidy up not worrying about the pages we put live for the exhibition) 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

‘A most agreeable and enjoyable day’

As part of our 150th we have been partnering with a number of organizations and they are joining in with our celebrations

Recently I have had emails from Tony at the Glamorgan Archives who has penned a number of articles for their website based on our archive materials

I don't have any pictures from 1873, but that trip was led by a geologist so I hope you enjoy these geologists eye view of the Abbey with some pictures taken when Rhian and I had a day out there

These views show a range of building stones used at different places in the Abbey, and the impact that weathering has had on many of these stones. Many of the stones were not intended to be out in the weather because the structure would have had a roof, however some were clearly laid in different angles and you can see how water has got into the layers of rock and differentially weathered some of the layers

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Gall Ink: from Aleppo to Lindisfarne

by Bruce McDonald


The use of Oak galls in the production of Gall Ink is well documented. What is less clear, particularly as far as Britain is concerned, is where the galls came from. A widespread assumption that they were simply collected from the local countryside appears untenable. Likely sources are suggested here but further research is needed to fill in the gaps and address outstanding questions.


Galls have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years in the production of gall ink and used on documents such as The Lindisfarne Gospels, Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. Gall Ink required tannin and galls were the source of that tannin in most cases. It follows that the higher the tannin content, the better. Numerous sources describe how gall ink was and can still be made.


The first area of confusion is between the Oak Apple (Biorhiza pallida) and the Marble Gall (Andricus kollari). Photos of both are shown below. The Oak apple is quite large (up to 5 cm), but irregular, soft and spongy. The Marble Gall is smaller (up to 2 cm) and harder. Possibly because the Oak apple is more commonly known as a name (e.g. Oak apple Day) and the Marble Gall is common in the countryside, the two can often get mixed up. For example John Wright's 'A Natural History of the Hedgerow' (1) includes a photo (p. 208) of what is almost certainly a Marble Gall but is entitled the Oak apple gall. Stewart Wild (Stephens Collection) (2) gives a perfect description of a Marble gall - 'mainly dark tannin and resembles a Malteser' but refers to it as an Oak apple.

The Oak apple gall has been around for some time in the British countryside and was (and still is) included in Oak apple Day celebrations which had its origins in festivities linked to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

 Oak apple gall 

Marble Gall


Articles on gall ink usually show the Marble Gall as a constituent. The Tudor Merchants House in Tenby has a small display on gall ink and includes some Marble galls. The Woodland Trust ran a gall ink project in 2017 again featuring the Marble Gall. With the Marble Gall very common and widespread in the countryside many jump to the conclusion that they would have been easily collected in the surrounding area in earlier times.

However, this assumption does not take account of the fact that the Marble Gall would not have appeared in Britain until the 19th  century. This is because the gall-causing insect has a two-part life cycle and one of these requires the presence of the Turkey Oak which was only introduced in 1735. The gall wasp was not introduced until the 1830s in Devon as a source of tannin so the Marble gall would not have been widespread for some time.


Even when they did arrive the British marble galls would have had a relatively low tannin content, probably around 17%. In contrast the Aleppo Gall from the Middle East had at least three times this level  (see Cecidology article by Leach). Some estimates put it as high as 75%.  Oak apples have less than 5%. John Hill (1751) (3) contrasts the European and Aleppo galls commenting that the former are 'of much less value ... both in manufactures and in medicine'. He also states the 'Oriental' galls are 'brought from Aleppo'. This suggests that a source, if not the principal one, is the import of Aleppo galls. Support for this can be found in a variety of records. Leach (4) notes that as late as 1861 some 800 tons of Aleppo Galls were still being imported annually into the UK. Briggs (4) finds the volume as 50,000 cwt (2,500 ton) in 1880. 

Could the monks on Lindisfarne have been using imported Aleppo galls? Further research might confirm or refute this but it does seem plausible. Redfern (5) reports that Aleppo galls were a 'common article of trade' for the Egyptians in the 5th and 4th centuries BC as well as the Greek in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Pliny (1st century AD) suggests that for black dyes there was no substitute for the Aleppo Gall. Redfern again - 'Aleppo galls were exported all over Europe' ... ' Large quantities from the Mediterranean arrived in London'. Some of these were exported on to America which, although it had its own sources of galls, did not appear to use them for dyeing or ink-making. By 1914 the US was importing some $17,174 of Aleppo galls from Baghdad.


Before the 19th century there were no local sources of galls that could have provided sufficient tannin to make Gall ink effectively in Britain. Even when the Marble Gall began to appear in the 19th century it was nothing like as productive as the Aleppo gall. With evidence for the trade in Aleppo galls dating back some 2,500 years it seems reasonable to assume that they were the source of the ink used in the Lindisfarne Gospels, Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. Hopefully further research will provide additional data on the trade in Aleppo galls.

1. A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright, Profile Books, 2016

2. Online by Stewart Wild, Trustee of the Stephens Collection.

3. A History of the Materia Medica by John Hill, MD. 1751

4. Cecidology. The Journal of the British Plant Gall Society. Vol. 1. No 1. Spring 1986. pp 6-7 - Historical Uses of Plant Galls by Jonathan D Briggs. Pp 10-11 The Phenolic Contents of Some British Cynipid Galls by Dr. C K Leach.

5. Plant Galls by Margaret Redfern. Collins, 2011

Bruce McDonald

Wenvoe Wildlife Group

October 2017

Photos sourced online

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