Wil was elected Secretary of Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru in 1985 when it was little more than an entertaining but useful talking shop with a membership fee of just two pounds a year. He succeeded Mary Jones, the first Secretary, and remained in the post until 1997.
Wil, more than anyone else, developed and professionalised the Association and he had strong views about how this should be achieved. As he had taken and passed the examinations of both the Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), he was eager to see the Association tread a similar path and professionalise English/Welsh translation. In 1989 he persuaded Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru to establish an examination and assessment process to allow candidates to join. He also drafted the Association’s first constitution and other documents so essential for a growing and rapidly developing association.
Wil hailed from Cardiff and had learnt Welsh. At the University of Wales, Aberystwyth he gained a good degree, and an MA, in Welsh. Later, on leaving the teaching profession, he moved into translation. His first job was as a translator under Gareth Morris at the Anglesey Council’s Translation Unit before returning to Aberystwyth to take up a post as translator at his alma mater.
Wil’s hard work and perseverance were legendary. He ran a translation course at the University’s Department of Extra Mural Studies in Aberystwyth for a number of years, much to the benefit of a multitude of translators, and invited fellow members of Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru to act as tutors.
Wil died in 2003. His passing was a serious blow to the Association, its members and his many friends, and several of the processes he set up remain a vital part of the Association’s procedures to this day.
At the time of his death Ieuan Bryn paid him a tribute which reflected the feelings of many of his friends and colleagues and provides a fascinating insight into the importance Wil attached to the craft and quality of translation.
The Wil Petherbridge Memorial Prize, established in 2007, is awarded to the most promising candidate for Basic Membership, translation into Welsh, if the required standard is achieved.