David Davies and the Welsh Not

Whilst searching the Internet for some genealogical information I stumbled across a story in the Western Mail originally published over a week ago which would, at one time, have set the Welsh blogosphere alight. I'm not sure if the fact that the story was ignored is a reflection of how blogging is no longer au fait, or a reflection on the fact that the Western Mail has become such a voice piece for the anti Welsh that Welsh bloggers are ignoring it. I hope that it is the latter.

The story is headlined Welsh Not a myth to stir up prejudice against the British Government!

In the article David T C Davies MP claims that, an infamous 19th century school punishment handed out to children for speaking Welsh in class is largely a myth used to stir up anti-English prejudice. He Justifies this statement by claiming that:

Until the 1870 Education Act, the state had no involvement at all in schools, so whatever was observed by the inspectors who wrote the Blue Books had nothing to do with the Government.“The teachers who imposed the Welsh Not were Welsh and its imposition would have been done with the agreement of parents.“ Of course I have no sympathy with the Welsh Not, but it’s important to recognize that it wasn’t imposed by the British Government.”

The article is then followed by over 200 comments made by anti- Welsh trolls, many of whom are probably one individual posting under numerous monikers. Although, in fairness, some of those opposing the trolls also show a degree of ignorance about the truth about the Welsh Not and make unfounded remarks about Mr Davies himself.

Let's start with David Davies, himself. Mr Davies is a fairly fluent Welsh speaker, he is not an anti Welsh blow-in to Welsh politics or a stranger to Welsh culture. Indeed David's great, great, great grandfather the Rev Peter Williams, was the author of what is probably the most famous Welsh song in the world, Guide me o thou Great Redeemer (better known to rugby followers as Bread of Heaven) so David has every right to comment on Welsh culture. Secondly much of what the MP sid about the Welsh Not is factually correct.

As Mr Davies says the Welsh Not was never imposed by the British state on Welsh Schools. The person responsible for creating the myth of the Welsh Not, Sir O. M. Edwards, notes that some of those who thrashed him in Day School for speaking English were the same teachers who taught him how to read and write in Welsh in Sunday School, and recounts an incident when one of those who beat the English language into him admonished for speaking English, rather than Welsh, when they met on a train. The Welsh Not was used as a means of teaching English, rather than one of oppressing Welsh.

Where David Davies' argument fails is in his claim that the Welsh Not was never endorsed by the British state, because Until the 1870 Education Act, the state had no involvement at all in schools" which, with all respect is a load of tosh! Before 1870 schools were run by the Church – The Church of England was an integral part of the State at that time.

The Not punishment was invented by the Church, it was first used in monasteries to discourage the use of any native language in favour of the use of Latin. The origin of the Welsh Not also included an English Not!

After the dissoloution Anglican and then nonconformist missionaries used the practice throughout the Empire against hundreds of languages – many of which have become extinct because of Language Not practice as endorsed by the British Government.

I suspect that David Davies is not responsible for the Newspaper's headline Welsh Not a myth to stir up prejudice against the British Government because there is nothing in the article that suggests that David said anything like that, but the headline writer is way off the mark.

The Myth of the Welsh Not came from a True Brit who was a Liberal MP, His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and a Knight of the Realm – not quite the typical Radical Welsh Nat Extremist, but a person who was at the heart of the Brit Establishment and a confidant of the British Government, a person who would hardly stir up prejudice against the British Government!

That the Welsh Not, The Gaelic Not, The Afrikaans Not and hundreds of other Nots were used throughout the Empire in order to promote the use of English is not a myth!


  1. The welsh 'Not' has simply taken a more and less subtle form, via virulent anti-welsh language opposition from Welsh residents who only know English, and resent others who are bi-lingual, or the cost of providing the access the welsh speaker is entitled to. Not so much opposition (Because they cannot oppose), language support for poles, Hindus, Urdu, Bengali users etc and the 100 others in the UK, because curiously THEIR right of language access is in Law, it seems to have been missed welsh is ALSO protected in law.

    I think the welsh speaker is now getting it in the neck because the British population feels under extreme pressure to back up non-English speaking migrants and they need to express frustration y attacking their own historical languages and cultures, CRAZY !

    The welsh 'Not' was an overt and covert system of systematically erasing the welsh language, it was a policy of erasing the welsh language , which hasn't succeed... yet.

    1. Once again, add paranoia to xenophobia.

  2. You can ignore facts all you like, welsh is the whipping boy of the dissolutioned and resentful. People who have an strong identity, and are determined to save and continue to support. Not paranoia to support your own language in your own country surely.... being proud to be welsh is not xenophobia either. This is the rhetoric of envy.

  3. I agree that once again the WM has written a headline not supported by the article, but framed in the most anti-Welsh terms possible. I understand that many positions have been removed from Cardif to Canary Wharf - could it be that the sub-editors are amongst them, and those doing the job now are truly as ignorant of Welsh sensitivities as they appear? Whatever the answer, the National Newspaper of Wales is shedding native Welsh readers at a rate that will soon make it un-viable. Its demise will be sad but welcome when it comes.

  4. I don't find the demise of welsh and its culture welcome personally.... It's sad it is attacked so much. what is the national newspaper of Wales ? The daily mirror/the sun ?

  5. Well, I agree with you, Alwyn and MM for once. The Welsh Not is still in force or was until recently at a restaurant and a branch of Thomas Cook's in North Wales -and it's adult employees who are being persecuted. An English landlord in a Welsh pub recently threatened his customers with an airgun for speaking their own language.

    I once had a so-called friend -she turned out to be a compulsive thief and troublemaker- who belonged to the Chakma tribe of the Chittagong hill tracts. She told me that Chakma was not a written language, and also that it would be impossible to invent a script for it which cannot be correct.

    Yet this character said to me with deep condescenscion: ''You haven't got a word for television have you?'' I said,''Of course we have; it's 'teledu'.''Ms Chakma's serious response was ''Oh well, that doesn't count because it's a twentieth century invention.'' Yes, well so is television itself. Television is not mentioned in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale is it?

    Another idiot said to me,''Don't you think that if Welsh was a proper language, it would have a word fo orgasm?'' I replied ''Don't you think if English was a proper language, it would have a word for orgasm? Orgasm is Greek. If Englsih was a proper language, wouldn't it have words for table, kindergarten schadenfreude and labia minora?'' He didn't hear what I said and just said the same thing again.

    It's a myth that any languages are not fit for purpose. Throughout the British Empire, local languages hae been proscribed in schools,and children humiliated and painfully punished for speaking them. This was particularly true with First Nations children in Canadian residential schools.of course, Engish was forbidden in English schools after the Norman conquest.

    What I find particularly infuriating is the way deaf children were punished for speaking sign language at least as late as the 1970s. There was a story of a mother who told a teacher proudly that she had slapped her son hard for making signs at her.''By the way, what does this sign mean?'' she asked. The answer was ''I love you, Mummy.''

    For goodness' sake, Welsh Nots still exist in museums. Does David Davies think they have all been forged in recent years? Incidentaly, is it our Conserative MP in Monmouthshire or the other David Davies?

    Marianne Y Fenni

    1. I've always wondered what the English is for corgi, cromlech and eisteddfod. ;-)

  6. I'm a Welsh lad of 13 and know people in my village that actually had the welsh not and then been hit, also my friends grandad Geraint Jones of Trefor was arrested for protecting the welsh language, they are not lies