CHAPTER 4: Dulcimers in the British Isles since 1800


Attempts to trace a Welsh dulcimer have so far been unrewarded.

Ann Rosser and Ann Griffiths, both experts on harp traditions, declared that they had never come across the instrument, nor any reference to it.

D. Roy Saer of the Welsh Folk Museum, St. Fagans, Cardiff, quoted the poetic uses of dwsmel and dwsmer from the 15th to 18th centuries, but said that he had not seen any Welsh dulcimers, nor were there any in the Museum's collection of instruments; furthermore, the 18thC. harper and music historian Edward Jones did not mention dulcimer or dwsmel in his list of instruments "anciently used in Wales" (40).

In telling the story of how he was recieved with his dulcimer in Wales, Leslie Evans also confirms, "

"No, there were no Welsh dulcimers ...

At first sight it seems rather strange that a language should have a name for an instrument which has never been played there, but there are parallels: so far as poets using a name out of its context is concerned, it seems unlikely that Coleridge, for instance, actually knew what a dulcimer was; and, the 'indigenous' Welsh names dwsmel and dysmer, may actually be no more than Welsh spellings of the French and English names doucemel and doussemer, comparable with the French ˇglise resulting in the Welsh eglwys.

In recent times John Davies was making dulcimers in Cardiff, and selling them via Musica Rara of London; Bernard Ellis of Dilwyn, Herefordshire is another Welsh instrument maker who produces some dulcimers.