- [c. 1919]-1995 / (Creation)
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Harri Webb (1920-1994) was a prominent poet and Welsh nationalist.
Harry Webb was born at Ty-coch Road in Sketty, Swansea, on 7 September 1920, the only child of William John Webb and Lucy Irene Gibbs. He began using the Welsh spelling of his forename from the 1950s onwards. After leaving Grammar School he went on to Magdalen College at Oxford where he read medieval and modern Romance languages. Following his graduation in 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Navy, eventually becoming a Petty Officer and serving for a time as an interpreter on a mission to the Free French Government. In August 1946 he left the Navy and spent some time in Scotland, where he discovered the work of Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978), the Scottish poet and patriot, whose writing had a profound effect upon him. He returned to Wales, and over the next few years worked at various places across South Wales before taking a job as an assistant librarian in Cheltenham in 1952. In 1954, he was appointed librarian at the Dowlais branch library in Merthyr Tydfil. Ten years later he became librarian at Mountain Ash Library where he remained until his early retirement in 1974.
Harri Webb's political career began in 1948 when he joined Plaid Cymru, but he soon became unhappy with the Party's pacifist stance and a year later helped to found the Welsh Republican Movement, editing their newspaper the Welsh Republican from 1949 until 1951. The Welsh Republicans were a small left-wing nationalist group, mainly ex-servicemen, who became well known in South Wales during the 1950s. With the decline of the Movement, and after his move to Cheltenham, Harri Webb joined the Labour Party in 1953. Over the next few years however he became increasingly dissatisfied with their views on self-government for Wales and re-joined Plaid Cymru in 1958, becoming editor of the Party's English language newspaper the Welsh Nation, 1961-1964, and eventually standing as a candidate for Pontypool in the General Election of 1970.
Harri Webb came to prominence as a poet during the late 1960s and early 1970s, even though he had begun writing poetry whilst in the Navy. He became a regular contributor to the magazine Poetry Wales, and published The Green Desert, perhaps the most celebrated collection of his work, in 1969. He also made some valuable contributions to the world of prose, including his lecture Dic Penderyn and the Merthyr Rising of 1831 (Swansea, 1956), and wrote a number of television and radio scripts, the most notable being 'How Green Was My Father' (1976). Whilst Harri Webb wrote largely in English he was fluent in Welsh. His most famous Welsh poem was Colli Iaith (Losing A Language), later put to music and recorded by the Welsh folk-singer Heather Jones.
In 1985 Harri Webb suffered a stroke, after which his health progressively deteriorated. He died at the St David's Nursing Home in Swansea on 31 December 1994.
It would appear that the material forming the initial deposit was gifted to Meic Stephens by Harri Webb sometime before 1989, which is when it was transferred to NLW. The additional material purchased by NLW in 1995, 1997 and 1999 would also appear to have been in Meic Stephens' possession, though it is not clear if this was acquired by him before or after Harri Webb's death.
The additional donation in 2004 appears to have been in the possession of Professor J. Gwyn Griffiths at the time of his death in June 2004. On arrival at NLW the material was separated from some of J. Gwyn Griffiths' own papers and accessioned separately.
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The dates of the fonds pre-date and post-date Harri Webb's life due to the fact that it contains a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings [c. 1919]-1974, as well as some material relating to the publication of his work and tribute events which occurred after his death.
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