Cardiff Alumni History via Student NewspapersUniversity College Magazine (1885-1903)
Cap and Gown (1903-1966)
The Wail (1926-65)
Niche publications (1950s-70s)
Gair Rhydd (1972-)
The first publication written by Cardiff University students was produced in 1885, just two years after the founding of University College of South Wales and Monmoutthshire in 1883. The opening editorial of the first issue states ‘we place the first number of our magazine in the hands of our readers in full confidence that it will receive a hearty reception, and in the hope that the magazine itself may have before it a long and useful career.’ This hope was to be realised. Since that first issue, Cardiff students have consistently produced some form of student publication throughout the twentieth century until the present day.
The first student magazine had humble beginnings. The conception of the Literary and Debating Society, a single, handwritten magazine was produced two or three times a term. The editor requested that submissions were written on standard size paper, so all entries could be bound into hard covers for publication. This single, unique copy was then made available in the University Library for readers to consult, and even contained blank pages at the rear for students to add their comments on the contents of that issue.
Archives such as these are a rich mine of information, not just on issues affecting student life, but on wider social changes, seen through the eyes of articulate, politically and socially engaged young people.The fact that almost every issue of this manuscript magazine survives is in large part due to the careful custodianship of our predecessors in the University Library.
University College Magazine, December 1885: Handwritten front cover
University College Magazine, March 1896: 'Women at the Universities', an address given by Mrs Henry Sidgwick, at the opening of Aberdare Hall.
Cap and Gown (1903-66)
Cap and Gown ran through the first half of the 20th century, and contains much commentary on the social changes experienced by students at this time. The newspaper comments on two world wars, and dealt with students’ religious, moral and ethical attitudes to war, as well as the personal struggle they experienced by continuing their studies while their contemporaries were fighting. In the 1950s, the paper evolved into a purely literary magazine, with Welsh language prose and verse well-represented.
University College Magazine, November 1909: 'Opening of the New College: Thursday, October 19th 1909'
Cap and Gown, May 1915: Extract from 'Our Policy' by Harry Gollop.
Cap and Gown, March 1920: 'How to Wear a Gown - Advice to Freshers'
Cap and Gown, January 1936: Cover page to commemorate the death of George V, ex-Chancellor of the University
Cap and Gown, December 1942: 'The Christian Challenge' by Harry Hill
The Wail (1926-65)
The Wail, an annual fundraising publication for Rag Week. In the early years, Cardiff Royal Infirmary was the main recipient of funds raised during Rag Week. Rag now supports a wide range of causes.
The Wail, 18-25 February 1933.
While Cap and Gown evolved into a literary magazine, Broadsheet took up the reins for student journalism. It was published during a period of great social change, from the end of the Second World War to the start of the 1970s. It documented political and social upheavals and students’ responses to these changes. Protest marches, sit-ins and hunger strikes are all documented. Changing social attitudes to race, gender and sexuality are recorded, as well as ongoing political issues both national and international, from the status of the Welsh language to the threat of nuclear war and apartheid in South Africa.
Broadsheet, May 1959: Students protest against the H-Bomb and University apartheid in South Africa
Broadsheet, March 1969: 'U.W. Students in 102 hour fast'. The protest was against the Investiture of Prince Charles. The female student on the front cover has made the headlines by arguing that women should be allowed to enter the clergy.
Niche publications (1950s-70s)
Ar Daf was the magazine for Welsh-speaking students. It contained essays, poems, prose and reviews. Its contributors include A. O. H. Jarman, who went on to become Professor and Head of the Welsh Department. Ar Daf was a joint venture between University College Cardiff and UWIST before the two Universities merged.
The Leech was the journal of the Cardiff Medical Students’ Club. It began in 1927, and contained informal yet academic articles on medical practice. It also included poems, prose, book reviews, comic sketches, sports news and social news concerning engagements, marriages and births.
Cardiff Link was a joint venture between UCC and UWIST in the period before, during and after the merger of the two Universities. It gives valuable insight into the experiences of students at other Cardiff institutions.
A range of niche publications produced between the 1950s and 1970s.
Gair Rhydd (1972-)
Gair Rhydd (Free Word) is the current incarnation of the student newspaper. It began in 1972 and continued to address global issues such as racism and sexism, and in addition began to take a much more active interest in the problems facing students. Rent strikes and an occupation of Main Building occurred in the 1980s as students saw their grants shrinking and the cost of living soaring. Cuts experienced by Universities nationwide meant that students’ experiences were changing dramatically. This continued into the 1990s and beyond with the abolition of grants and introduction of loans, fees and top-up fees.
The modern Gair Rhydd has a ‘watchdog’ function, looking out for students’ interests through its column ‘Investigations’. In the past, issues such as inadequate access for disabled students, identity theft and legislation allowing Universities to spy on students have been investigated. The paper runs regular campaigns on student health and personal safety, exposes scams aimed at students, and names and shames unscrupulous landlords and letting agents.
The paper’s current professional look is supported by a large amount of advertising, and is much more concerned than previous publications with the local and national media. It provides interviews with celebrities, listings and reviews of films, nightclubs, national festivals and gigs, websites, CDs and DVDs.
Gair Rhydd is run entirely by volunteers and serves a community of 25,000 students and 5,000 faculty. The paper won The Guardian award for Student Newspaper of the Year in 2005, and its columnists have won many individual awards from The Guardian and NUS/Press Association.
Photographs of the U.C. women's and men's hockey teams from the back sports page of Gair Rhydd.
Gair Rhydd, February 1983: 'Occupy!' This article urged students to occupy council buildings for 24 hours to protest against University cuts. 'Cardiff Students Arrested and Imprisoned' tells of female students arrested and inhumanely treated for protesting at Greenham Common.
Gair Rhydd, May 1999, 'History in the Making'. Votes from Cardiff students in the National Assembly for Wales elections are crucial in some key constituencies in the city, especially Cardiff Central.
Gair Rhydd, October 2006: 'Pressure and Prejudice'