Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Welsh Not.

In Wales, Welsh school children were punished for speaking their own language in the belief that the English Language would solve all their educational problems. They tried to kill its language and damned nearly succeeded, because in the nineteenth century their was a superficial belief that English was superior, and that English was the only language which should be used throughout the British Empire.
A report of 1847 which became known as the Treachery of the Blue Books written by English barristers who did not speak any Welsh between them castigated Welsh culture in general, and ., referred to the Welsh language as a drawback and that the moral condition of Welsh people would only improve with the introduction of English. The ' Welsh not ' consisted of a small piece of wood or slate inscribed with the letters 'W.N ', which was hung barbarically around the neck of any child caught speaking Welsh. At the end of the day , the child wearing the 'Welsh Not ' would be punished by the schoolteacher. It was a form of cultural genocide and it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that this draconian measure and attitude to Welsh slowly began to change.
I am glad to write ,however that after 2,500 years the Welsh language one of Europe's oldest is still here and going strong.

SIR OWEN M. EDWARDS (1858-1920)

on 'The Welsh Not'

'Word soon went around that a new boy, and a native one at that, had come to school. The eyes of several cruel children were upon me - I knew about them all, most were loud-mouthed children from the village - they are still the same. The teacher had told me, quietly, not to speak a word of Welsh; but those evil boys were doing everything they could do to make me shout and , at last, they succeeded. I lost my temper, and began to speak my mind to the traitorous cur who devised how to annoy me. As soon as I spoke my strong Welsh, everyone laughed, and some string with a heavy wooden token attached to it was put about my neck. I had no idea what it was; I had seen a similar token about a dog' neck to prevent it from running after sheep. Had this token been placed about my neck to prevent me from going home? Midday, the hour of release, came at last. The schoolmistress came there with a cane in her hand. She asked some question, and every servile child pointed his finger at me. Something like a smile came over her face when she saw the token about my neck. She recited to me some long riddle, of which I could not understand a word, she showed me the cane, but she did not touch me. The token was removed and I later understood that it had been placed about my neck because I had spoken Welsh.
That token was placed about my neck hundreds of times after that. This is how it was done: when anyone heard a child speaking a word of Welsh, he was to tell the teacher; and it was to remain about his neck until the person wearing it heard someone else speaking Welsh, then it would be put about his neck, poor soul . At the end of the school-day the one wearing it was to receive a blow with a cane across his hand. Every day the token, as if by its own volition, it found its way from every corner of the school to my neck. This is a comfort to me to this day: I never once attempted to have peace from that token by transferring it to someone else.'

' The Bells of Memory ( Clych Atgof, 1906)
in ' The Dragon's Pen ' by Bobi Jones and Gwyn Thomas.