Obituary: Kate Bosse-Griffiths

THE LITERATURE and culture of Wales have been enriched by many people born beyond its borders but few have made a contribution as distinguished as that of Kate Bosse-Griffiths. She not only learnt Welsh but made it the language of her home and wrote extensively in it on topics not usually treated by writers for whom it is the mother-tongue.

Born in Wittenberg-am-Elbe, Luther's town, a little to the north of Leipzig in what was to become East Germany, Kathe Bosse was of partly Jewish parentage but 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.

After receiving her secondary education at the local Gymnasium and studying at the University of Munich, where she took a doctorate in Classics and Egyptology in 1935, she joined the staff of the Egyptology and Archaeology Department in the Berlin State Museums but was dismissed when it was discovered that her mother was a Jew.

She arrived in Britain in 1936 and found research posts in Egyptology, first at the Petrie Museum at University College London, and later at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It was in Oxford, where she was a senior member of Somerville College, that she met the Welsh scholar J. Gwyn Griffiths.

Their home at Pentre in the Rhondda Valley became the meeting place of the Cadwgan Circle of writers who included Pennar Davies, later Principal of the Independents' Theological College in Swansea, and Rhydwen Williams, the poet and broadcaster. It was largely the initiative of Bosse-Griffiths who brought a European perspective to its discussions of literature, politics, religion and Welsh society.

The war years were a dark time for her: her mother was to die in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck; her doctor brother eventually escaped to Sweden. After the war, her husband joined the staff of the Classics Department at the University College, Swansea, where he was to remain for the rest of his career; he is now Professor Emeritus of Classics and Egyptology. Their home in the Sketty district of Swansea again became a meeting place for writers and political activists.

Bosse-Griffiths was as distinguished as her husband (who is also a poet and literary critic in Welsh) in her chosen field. For more than 25 years she was Keeper of Archaeology at Swansea Museum, where she gave special attention to the pre-historic and Roman collections and published a booklet, Twenty Thousand Years of Local History. In 1971 she was appointed Honorary Curator of the Wellcome Museum, formerly in the Department of Classics and Ancient History and now in the Egypt Centre at the University of Wales, Swansea, which is to be officially opened later this year.

It was Bosse-Griffiths who arranged for part of the Egyptian Collection made by Sir Henry Wellcome, the pharmaceutics millionaire, to be taken out of storage and rehoused at Swansea in 1971; she also compiled a catalogue of the 5,000 objects held there. The collection's centrepiece is the magnificently painted wooden coffin of Iw-s-hesw-mwt, a female musician of the 21st Dynasty, which the university acquired from the Royal Albert Museum, Exeter. She also tracked down, in the British Museum and the Brooklyn Museum respectively, a shabti figure and the musician's Book of the Dead from the Amun-ra temple at Karnak. Among her specialist publications are studies of the coffin, Egyptian amulets and ancient writing, articles in learned journals such as the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology and her book Tywysennau o'r Aifft ("Ears of Corn from Egypt", 1970).

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. Although of left-wing sympathies, she was highly critical of Stalinism and the Communist regime in East Germany.

Her main contribution to Welsh letters was her two novels, Anesmwyth Hoen ("Uneasy Colour", 1941) and Mae'r Calon wrth y Llyw ("The Harp 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. All her fiction is cosmopolitan in its attitudes and subject- matter, and refreshingly libertarian about sexual matters, although she did not consider herself a feminist. One of her last books was a study of witchcraft and folk-medicine, Byd y Dyn Hysbys ("The World of the Wizard", 1977).

Although formidably rigorous and perfectly capable of holding a conversation on the most erudite subjects in her adopted language, Kate Bosse-Griffiths was a woman of 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. Both their sons, Robat and Heini Gruffudd, are notable prose-writers in Welsh; one is a leading publisher of Welsh books and the other a tutor in the Department of Continuing Adult Education at the University of Swansea.

Kathe Bosse, Egyptologist and writer: born Wittenberg-am-Elbe, Germany 16 July 1910; married 1939 J. Gwyn Griffiths (two sons); died Swansea 4 April 1998.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice