Kate Bosse-Griffiths, made a unique contribution to twentieth-century Welsh literature and is remembered as an eminent Welsh Egyptologist.

Born 16 June 1910 she gained a doctorate in Classics and Egyptology in 1935 from the University of Munich. She then went on to begin work at the Egyptology and Archaeology Department of the Berlin State Museums, but she was dismissed when it was discovered that her mother was a Jew.

Having fled to Britain to escape the Nazis she found research work in London and Oxford, and while a senior member of Somerville College, Oxford she met fellow Egyptologist J. Gwyn Griffiths. They married in 1939 and made their home in Pentre, Rhondda where Griffiths had been raised. Eager to intigrate she learnt Welsh fluently and raised her children through the medium of Welsh.

During the Second World War, Bosse-Griffiths and her husband set up the Cadwgan Circle from their home in Pentre, an avant-garde literary and intellectual group whose members included Pennar Davies and Rhydwen Williams.

When her husband became a lecturer at Swansea University, the couple moved to Uplands and then Sketty in Swansea. Bosse-Griffiths became a member of Swansea Museum, where she was Keeper of Archaeology, a role she would undertake for 25 years. She helped bring Sir Henry Wellcome’s Egyptian collection, at the time held in storage, to the Department of Classics at Swansea, and would spend the next twenty years researching this 5,000 piece collection. This Wellcome collection is now housed at the Egypt Centre at Swansea University.

She began writing in Welsh as early as 1942, starting with Mudiadau Heddwch yn yr Almaen (“Peace Movements in Germany”, 1943). It was followed in 1951 by Bwlch yn y Llen Haiarn (“A Gap in the Iron Curtain”), which addressed the question of a united Germany at the height of the Cold War, and a travel book, Trem a Rwsia a Berlin (“A Glimpse at Russia and Berlin”, 1962), in which she gave her clear-eyed impressions of the Soviet Union and her native country.

Her main contribution to Welsh letters was her two novels, Anesmwyth Hoen (“Uneasy Colour”, 1941) and Mae’r Calon wrth y Llyw (“The Heart is at the Wheel”, 1957), and her two collections of short stories, Fy Chwaer Efa (“My Sister Eva”, 1944) and Cariadau (“Loves” 1995), published in her 85th year.

Kate Bosse-Griffiths was a formidable woman yet with a vivacious personality and genial disposition who shared her husband’s commitment to the cause of Plaid Cymru and was a staunch worker for the party at a local level.

Interesting facts:

  • She wrote extensively in Welsh on topics not usually treated by writers for whom it is the mother-tongue.
  • Though partly Jewish parentage she grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church and in a family noted for its high culture and liberal views; her father was an eminent gynaecologist.
  • Bosse-Griffiths was as distinguished as her husband in her chosen field and their home in the Sketty area of ​​Swansea, again became a meeting place for writers and political activists./li>

Kate Bosse-Griffiths originally came from Germany, and moved here in 1936. Her mother had Jewish blood, and Kate was sacked from her post as a museum curator in the centre of Berlin because of this. She became a refugee to Britain, in order to escape the Nazis and later obtained a post at St Andrews in Scotland, before studying Egyptology at Oxford. She was my great grandmother. At Oxford she met her husband, who was a Welshman, before moving to the Rhondda to live. She learnt Welsh fluently; she was eager to integrate, and ensure her new family belonged in Wales. She raised her children (including my grandfather) through the medium of Welsh. She wrote novels and other Welsh works. She is a true heroine to me. I think she’s incredible, the way she took pride in a new life and embraced Wales with open arms. Although she was a refugee, she became Welsh, and belonged here. We can be proud that Wales gave her such a welcome. She was brave, enthusiastic and wanted to contribute towards Welsh culture.

Greta Evans
Youth Parliament Member, South-East Wales
24th Jan 2019
Wonderful Welsh Women