Jonathan Swift said that he hated humanity but loved Tom, Dick and Harry. In my case, I would say that I hate Welsh speakers but love Heledd, Gethin and Glesni.
As one raised in a linguisticly mixed home in the coal mining village of Ynysybwl in south east Wales and who was a teacher in Ceredigion for some years, I have by now little patience for those who in self-pity mourn the decline of the Welsh language in rural Wales.
Over the past three or four years, to my surprise, my personal experiences and subjective impressions have been confirmed by two books – one by a Welsh speaking politician and one about a Welsh speaking politician.
The first is Mab y Pregethwr, Cynog Dafis’ autobiography. Here’s an excerpt from chapter three:
”As I was on the threshold of our O-lLevel exams, it was arranged for me to stay on in Aberaeron until the summer, where I would find accomodation with Jac and Olive Rees…While I was staying with Jac and Olive, their eldest child was being raised as a monoglot English speaker. When I went, the fledgeling free boarder raised bilingually without difficulty by an English speaking mother, to question Jac about this, his reply was that he had no choice as Olive did not speak Welsh, and anyway, the child would pick up Welsh in the street and in school. But it didn’t work out that way.”
And later, when Cynog started work as a teacher in Ysgol Cwm Tawe, we read:
”But the one I liked the most was Glyn Lloyd, a Mathematics graduate…Sheila (his wife) was from Cardiff, and didn’t speak Welsh. Like Jac Rees, Glyn, from the wholly Welsh speaking background of Rhiw-fawr, Cwmllynfell, was raising his two children as monoglot English speakers, but occasionally suffered pangs of conscience about it.”
This is one reader who didn’t share his ‘pangs’ when reading the sad story. The story reflected something that we see all the time among the hypocritical self-pitying Welsh speakers.
The next piece comes from Rhys Evans’ biography of Gwynfor Evans. Unlike the tearful insipid tone of the above excerpts, Rhys Evans’ description of Gwynfor arriving in Aberystwyth in October 1932 to begin his University course is a truly amusing masterpiece:
”He knew…he would have numerous opportunities to perfect his faultering Welsh there. But from the first day, Gwynfor was disappointed by Aberystwyth. There to meet him on the station platform was Gwyn Humphries-Jones, a boy from Bala who had shared accomodation with him for three years. Gwynfor expected the boy would act as a cultural guide for him, but it wasn’t to be. When Gwynfor asked him (in English) if he would be so good as to speak Welsh with him, he refused, saying he hadn’t the patience. Remembering hiis expectations regarding Welsh in his native area, discovering how things really were was a lesson to the freshman from Barry. It was kind landlady of Ceinfan, his lodgings on Trefor Road, not his Welsh speaking fellow-student, who helped him to perfect his Welsh.”
Fair play to the outspoken boy from Bala. He didn’t suffer from any ‘pangs of conscience’.
According to Ecclesiastes, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. And behold, on New Year’s Eve, 2006, on the Taro 9 programme Keith Davies, Director of the Welsh Baccalaureate, or Bagloriaeth Cymru, related a story about Welsh speaking parents in Cwm Gwendraeth who were, today, speaking English to their children. And last year Caryl Parry Jones raised fundamental questions concerning the language standard of pupils in traditionally Welsh speaking areas. In the wake of the discussion that followed, it became clear that some commentators also doubted the standard of Welsh spoken by some of the language’s emmisaries, namely the teachers, who have left rural Wales in order to culturize the crude small children of the south and the north east.
Nonetheless, what is even worse than this is the way many of our Welsh speaking communities’ small important people, intentionally or not, use the language either to keep others out or to keep them in their place. That place, naturally, is several steps beneath them! Indeed, in many Welsh speaking communities the ethos of the Freemasons is rampant throughout society. In the Macpherson report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the London Met were accused of ‘institutional racism’ ie, the racism was so innate and profound that the institution was not even aware of its existence.
These days, after living in west Wales for a quarter of a century more or less, the last thing I’d want to be is a ‘country boy’. That isn’t something that has developed recently. Years ago, I remember my father asking, “Rhys, why are you so nasty when you speak about the country?” I should explain that my mother and father were from a rural background.
Reading Rhys Evans’ and Cynog Dafis’ books and listening to Keith Davies on the telly supplied me with objective proof that there was a basis to the opinion I fostered about rural Wales. Before then I feared I might be mistaken. After all, aren’t rural Welsh speakers a friendly and welcoming folk? That’s exactly how they see themselves. But the ugly truth is that these Welsh people, collectively, use the Welsh language as a weapon – either to close people out or to make them second class citizens.
Ych a fi. With ‘friends’ like these, the Welsh language deserves better.
Source: Casau'r Cymry Cymraeg on Barn 2.0. Crossposted on Welsh Noted, where you can also find Welsh author Dewi Prysor's response to the article. Links to some related posts can also be found here.