D. R. Jones, 'Lady Ruth Herbert Lewis (1871-1946)

Article excerpt

D. R. Jones, 'Lady Ruth Herbert Lewis (1871-1946): Indefatigable Collector of Flintshire's Folk-Songs', Flintshire Historical Society Journal, 37 (2007), 106-68.

This article, in a Welsh periodical, is noted here because it might not otherwise have come to the attention of readers. Ruth Lewis, nee Caine, was born and brought up in Liverpool, and educated at Cambridge University. In 1897 she married Herbert Lewis, who became an MP, and was knighted in 1922. She learned Welsh, though not fluently, and joined the Welsh Folk-Song Society because the tunes appealed to her. In the summer of 1910 she bought an Edison Bell 'Gem' phonograph, and between then and 1935 (mainly up to 1914) she recorded around 150 songs, mostly in Welsh.

She herself only recorded the songs: the words were not always clear, so she needed an assistant with fluent Welsh; she did not feel able herself to transcribe the tunes reliably; and, though she preferred unaccompanied songs, she needed someone to provide accompaniments for her two publications. Nevertheless, within a short while she was recording with skill, encouraging her singers by working without haste and by first singing herself, and recording first an unwanted song of the contributor's choosing. …