Рефераты. Survival of the Welsh Language

occasion that the Welsh people had the power of acting independently of

English rule. From such a promising beginning to a national revolt came a

disappointing conclusion, even more upsetting because of the speed at which

Welsh hopes crumbled with the failure of the Tripartite Indenture. Henry

Percy (Hotspur) was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury, and the increasing

boldness and military skills of Henry's son, the English prince of Wales

and later Henry V, began to turn the tide against Glyndwr. Like so many of

his predecessors, Glyndwr was betrayed at home. It is not too comforting

for Welsh people of today to read that one of the staunchest allies of the

English king and enemy of Glyndwr was a man of Brecon, Dafydd Gam (later

killed at Agincourt, fighting for the English).

A sixth expedition into Wales undertaken by Prince Henry retook much of the

land captured by Owain, including many strategic castles. The boroughs with

their large populations of "settlers," had remained thoroughly English in

any case, and by the end of 1409, the Welsh rebellion had dwindled down to

a series of guerilla raids led by the mysterious figure of Owain, whose

wife and two daughters had been captured at Harlech and taken to London as

prisoners. Owain himself went into the mountains, becoming an outlaw. He

may have suffered an early death. for nothing is known of him either by the

Welsh or the English. He simply vanished from sight. According to an

anonymous writer in 1415," Very many say that he [Owain Glyndwr] died; the

seers say that he did not" (Annals of Owain Glyndwr). There has been much

speculation as to his fate and much guessing as to where he ended his final

days and was laid to rest.

There is an expression coined in the nineteenth century that describes a

Welshman who pretends to have forgotten his Welsh or who affects the loss

of his national identity in order to succeed in English society or who

wishes to be thought well of among his friends. Such a man is known as Dic

Sion Dafydd, (a term used in a satirical 19th century poem). The term was

unknown In fifteenth century Wales, but, owing to the harsh penal

legislation imposed upon them, following the abortive rebellion, it became

necessary for many Welshmen to petition Parliament to be "made English" so

that they could enjoy privileges restricted to Englishmen. These included

the right to buy and hold land according to English law.

Such petitions may have been distasteful to the patriotic Welsh, but for

the ambitious and socially mobile gentry rapidly emerging in Wales and on

the Marches, they were a necessary step for any chance of advancement. In

the military. At the same time, Welsh mercenaries, no longer fighting under

Glyndwr for an independent Wales, were highly sought after by the new king

Henry V for his campaigns in France. The skills of the Welsh archers in

such battles as Crecy and Agincourt is legendary.

Such examples of allegiance to their commander, the English sovereign, went

a long way in dispelling any latent thoughts of independence and helped

paved the way for the overwhelming Welsh allegiance to the Tudors

(themselves of Welsh descent) and to general acquiescence to the Acts of

Union. The year 1536 produced no great trauma for the Welsh; all the

ingredients for its acceptance had been put in place long before.

The so-called Act of Union of that year, and its corrected version of 1543

seemed inevitable. More than one historian has pointed out that union with

England had really been achieved by the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284. Those

historians who praise the Acts state that the Welsh people had now achieved

full equality before the law with their English counterparts. It opened

opportunities for individual advancement in all walks of life, and Welshmen

flocked to London to take full advantage of their chances.

The real purpose was to incorporate, finally and for all time, the

principality of Wales into the kingdom of England. A major part of this

decision was to abolish any legal distinction between the people on either

side of the new border. From henceforth, English law would be the only law

recognized by the courts of Wales. In addition, for the placing of the

administration of Wales in the hands of the Welsh gentry, it was necessary

to create a Welsh ruling class not only fluent in English, but who would

use it in all legal and civil matters.

Thus inevitably, the Welsh ruling class would be divorced from the language

of their country; as pointed out earlier, their eyes were focused on what

London or other large cities of England had to offer, not upon what

remained as crumbs to be scavenged in Wales itself, without a government of

its own, without a capital city, and without even a town large enough to

attract an opportunistic urban middle class, and saddled with a language

described by Parliament as "nothing like nor consonant to the natural

mother tongue used within this realm."

From 1536 on, English was to be the only language of the courts of Wales,

and those using the Welsh language were not to receive public office in the

territories of the king.

Part IV

It was the arrival of the Welsh Bible, however, that brought the language

back to a respected position.

In 1588, the translation of the whole Bible itself, the climax of the whole

movement, made Welsh the language of public worship and thus much more than

a generally despised peasant tongue. Perhaps it is to this that much of the

present-day strength of the Welsh language is owed, compared to Irish

(which did not get its own Bible until 1690) and Scots Gaelic (which had to

wait until 1801).

The Welsh Bible, a magnificent achievement, was completed after eight years

by William Morgan and a group of fellow scholars. In 1620 Dr John Davies of

Mallwyd and Richard Parry, Bishop of St. Asaph, produced a revision of

William Morgan's Bible. Most of the nearly one thousand copies of.the

earlier book had been lost or worn out, and this revised and corrected

edition is the version that countless generations of Welsh people have been

thoroughly immersed ever since, it has been as much a part of their lives

as the Authorized Version has been to the English-speaking peoples or

Luther's Bible to the Germans.

In 1630, the Welsh Bible, in a smaller version (Y Beibl Bach), was

introduced into homes in Wales and as the only book affordable to many

families, became the one book from which the majority of the people could

learn to read and write. Other, poorer families, unable to afford the

Bible, were able to share its contents in meetings held at the homes of

neighbors or in their churches or chapels. Later on, countless generations

of children were taught its contents in Sunday School. It is in this way,

therefore, that we can say the Welsh Bible "saved" the language from

possible extinction.

It has been touch and go all the way since, however, with determined

efforts coming from both sides of Offa's Dyke to stamp out the language for

ever. Yet every time the funeral bells have tolled, the language has

miraculously revived itself.

For the continued survival of the language, however, there had to be a

groundwork laid in the field of general education among the masses. There

were still too many people in Wales who could not read or write. As so

often in Welsh history, help came from outside the country itself.

In 1674, a charitable organization, the Welsh Trust, was set up in London

by Thomas Gouge to establish English schools in Wales and to publish books

"in Welsh." Over 500 books were printed in 1718 and 1721 at Trefhedyn and

Carmarthen respectively. Many of these were translations of popular English

works, Protestant tracts that encouraged private worship and prayers, but

along with the six major editions of the Bible that appeared during the

same period, they had the unpredicted effect of ensuring the survival of

the language in an age where many scholars were predicting its rapid

demise. Of equal importance were the cheap catechisms and prayer

books.highly prized by rural families who read them (along with the Beibl

Cymraegd) in family groups during the long, dark winter nights.

So successful were educators, benefactors and itinerant teachers that

perhaps as many as one third or more of the population of Wales could read

their scriptures by the time of Griffith Jones' death in 1761. Jones had

realized that preaching alone was insufficient to ensure his people's

salvation: they needed to read the scriptures for themselves. Though not

intended by such as Jones (the rector of Llanddowror and therefore not a

Nonconformist minister), his writings created a substantial Welsh reading

public primed and ready to receive the appeal of the ever-growing

Methodists, whose ability in such preachers as Hywel Harris was matched by

their eloquence in the pulpit, and who obviously filled a great need among

the masses.

One influential convert was Thomas Charles who joined in 1784, and who set

up the successful Sunday School movement in North Wales that had such a

profound and lasting influence on the language and culture of that region.

Another preacher of great influence was Daniel Rowland, who had converted

in 1737 after hearing a sermon by Griffith Jones. With Hywel Harris, he

assumed the leadership of the Methodist Revival. Rowland's enthusiasm along

with that of his colleagues, attracted thousands of converts, and though

their initial intention was to work within the framework of the established

church, opposition from their Bishops, all of whom had little real interest

in Wales and knew nothing of its language and culture, led finally to the

schism of 1811 when an independent union was founded.

This was the Calvinistic Methodist Church (today known as the Presbyterian

Church of Wales). Providing the excitement and fervor that the established

church had been lacking for so long, it did much to pave the way for the

rapid growth of the other non-conformist sects such as the Baptists and

Independents. The movement also was responsible for producing two names

that are outstanding in the cultural history of Wales: William Williams and

Ann Griffiths (dealt with at length in my History of Wales).

Part V

The result of the coming of heavy industry to south Wales in the 19th

century could not have been foreseen, especially its twofold effect on the

language and social life of the area. First, with so many Welsh speakers

moving into the area in search of jobs, bringing their language (and their

chapels) with them, a Welsh culture survived in many fields of valley


Such a heavy toll came to so many areas of the southern valleys. In the

counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth, the long, verdant valleys quickly

filled up with factories, mills, coal mines, iron smelting works (and

later, steel works), roads, railways, canals, and above all, people. Houses

began to spread along the narrow hillsides, filling every available space

upon which a house could be set, small houses, crammed together in row

after row, street after street, town after town all strung together on the

valley floor. Houses separated only spasmodically by the grocery store, the

somber, grey chapel, or the public house. Above them all loomed the

blackened hillsides and the slag heaps of waste coal or industrial refuse.

And all this brought about by the discovery of coal.

In the southern valleys, an Anglo-Welsh character came into being; one that

came to dominate the political, social and literary life of Wales, and it

was here also that a new and particular kind of Welshness was forged,

symbolized by the cloth-capped, heavy drinking, strike-prone, English-

speaking, rugby fanatic of the Valleys..To such a character, and to a

certain extent, to the majority of the three large urban areas of Cardiff,

Swansea and Newport, the people of the West and North, the Bible-toting,

chapel-going, teetotal, parsimonious, and above all Welsh-speaking were

totally alien beings who might have come from another planet. The

repercussions are felt strongly today as only one in five of the

inhabitants of Wales use Welsh as a language of everyday affairs.

In other areas, the Welsh language had been in decline for over 100 years.

In Flintshire, so near to the large urban areas of Merseyside and Cheshire

there had long been deliberate attempts to stamp out the Welsh language.

Other areas did not suffer the loss of the language.

Some of the letters published in The Cambrian in the mid 19th Century show

an attitude of many Englishmen towards the Welsh language that has

persisted until today. In one of them, the writer was amused by the

proposal to have the infant Prince of Wales (eldest son of Queen Victoria),

instructed in the Welsh language. He wrote that the prince, by trying to

pronounce the Welsh "ll" or "ch" would be perceived as having spasmodic

affections of the bronchial tubes "that would lead to quinsy or some

terrible disease of the lungs and jugulum and would alarm everyone."

Part VI

By the middle of the 19th century, Victoria's views notwithstanding, the

tide was running heavily against Welsh. In 1842, a Royal Commission,

looking into the state of education in Wales, noted that some Welsh boys

employed at mines in Breconshire were learning to read English at Sunday

School, but that they could speak only Welsh. This was intolerable to the


It was demanded in Parliament that an inquiry be conducted into the means

afforded to the laboring classes of Wales to acquire a knowledge of the

English tongue. The report of the Commissioners of Inquiry for South Wales

in 1844 lamented the fact that "The people's ignorance of the English

language practically prevents the working of the laws and institutions and

impedes the administration of justice." It didn't seem to occur to the

commissioners that it was their own ignorance of the language that was

obstructing justice!

The report led to another Royal Commission, conducted in 1847, which was to

have a lasting effect on the cultural and political life of Wales. The

report, in three volumes bound in blue covers, has become known as Brad y

Llyfrau Gleision (The Treachery of the Blue Books, for the three young and

inexperienced lawyers who conducted the report had no understanding of the

Welsh language, nor, it seems, did they understand non-conformity in

religious matters.

Bright, intelligent and well-read Welsh-speaking children were unable to

understand the questions put to them in English, and the surveyors pig-

headedly assumed that this was due to their ignorance. Their report

lamented what they considered to be the sad state of education in Wales,

the too-few schools, their deplorable condition, the unqualified teachers,

the lack of supplies and suitable English texts, and the irregular

attendance of the children. All these were attributed, along with

dirtiness, laziness, ignorance, superstition, promiscuity and immorality:

to Nonconformity, but in particular to the Welsh language.

One result, of course, of the publication of such "facts" led to so many of

its speakers being made to feel ashamed and embarrassed. The effects of the

controversy thus stirred up has lasted up until today; it certainly did

much ot bolster the position of those who agreed with much of the report

and who saw the language as the biggest drawback to the people of Wales.

One drastic remedy, the imposition of English-only Board Schools did much

to further has ten the decline of Welsh over a great part of the country.

In these schools, as in Flintshire a half century earlier, the "Welsh Not"

rule was imposed with severe penalties for speaking Welsh, including the

wearing of a wooden board, the old "Welsh lump" around one's neck.

In Caernarfon, Gwynedd, an area still predominantly Welsh-speaking in the

1990's, there is a high school named after Sir Hugh Owen, a pioneer in

education in Wales. Owen's untiring efforts to secure a university for

Wales led to a commission to promote the idea in 1854, the university

itself to be established through voluntary contributions. Owen's pleas to

the government for financial help were unheeded, and it was public

subscription that brought to fruition the old dream of Owain Glyndwr. In

1872 Aberystwyth University opened its doors to twenty-six students in a

very impressive building on the seafront designed as a hotel, but which was

fortunately vacant at the time. For the first few years of its existence,

the college depended greatly on voluntary contributions from the

nonconformist chapels, but it attracted many who would come to have

profound influence on the culture of their nation. In so many areas it

provided the foundations that led to the national revival of Wales in the

late 1890's.

The work of Owen M. Edwards, in a period of language decline, was crucial

in this renaissance. A native of Llanuwchllyn on the shores of Llyn Tegid

(Bala Lake), Oxford University lecturer and later Chief inspector of

Schools of the newly-created Welsh Board of Education, Edwards did much to

popularize the use of Welsh as an everyday language. Alarmed by the decline

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