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!