DISCUSSION IN "WESTERN MAIL" — GEORGE BORROW — ROYAL EDUCATION
COMMISSION, 1887, AND NOTES ON THE EVIDENCE OF WELSH WITNESSES — DEATH OF D.
I. DAVIES — CYMMRODORION MEETING IN LONDON, AND THE PAPER OF INSPECTOR
EDWARDS — REPORT OF COMMISSIONERS AND CONCESSIONS TO WALES — ADDRESS OP
PRINCIPAL EDWARDS — PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE IN TEACHING WELSH.
In the previous Chapter I omitted to state that the publication of the
foregoing letters, in the Baner ac
Amserau Cymru, preceded in point of time the formation of the Society for
Utilizing the Welsh Language in education, of which the first general meeting
was held at Cardiff in the autumn of 1885. For a summary of its avowed
objects and principles, see Appendix G. It almost immediately received a very
encouraging measure of support from Welshmen, in almost all parts of
Welsh-Wales, and aroused a spirit of discussion in part ventilated in the
columns of the Western Mail, which,
as we have already seen, opposed its aims.
The Vicar of Ruabon, in a communication to the same paper, ably replied to a
correspondent who had urged the superior claims of French and German on Welsh
children. He says —
The proposal, as I understood it, was to introduce Welsh, not as a substitute
for English, but as an optional specific subject, and to say that a
smattering of French or German that could be acquired at an Elementary School
would be preferable for Welsh-speaking children to an accurate grammatical
knowledge of their own language would seem too absurd. It would probably be
generally admitted that accuracy and observation are the two most important
things to be aimed at in all mental training. And, regarded simply
162 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
as an educational instrument, what could there be for Welsh children that
would be more likely to conduce to the formation and strengthening of these
habits than their proper and systematic training in the grammatical laws and
construction of the grand old language in which they think and speak? There
can be no doubt a knowledge of the two languages adds very much to the
intelligence of the Welsh children. But this knowledge taught grammatically,
and, as your correspondent says, philologically, as far as such teaching
could be made suitable for children, would make the advantage they already
possess far greater. Your correspondent was wrong in saying that "every
English or foreign scholar who has mastered the language says that the
literature it contains, does not justify the time and labour of acquiring
it." Mr. George Borrow, quoted in your article of the 18th inst.,
thought differently. The last time I met him, on a pilgrimage to the grave of
Dr. Owain Pugh, at Nantglyn, some 25 years ago, I well remember his saying
that he considered that even the writings of Hugh Morris and Goronwy Owain
alone were quite sufficient to repay anyone for the study of the Welsh
language. This, however, is quite another question to giving Welsh children
the power of reading and writing their own language with accuracy and
Perhaps my readers will pardon my making a short digression, to give some
account of Geo. Borrow, although his book on Wild Wales is doubtless familiar to some of them. His father had
a military appointment in Ireland, where the son learnt some Irish, and
afterwards as a lawyer's clerk in one of the Eastern Counties of England, he
took up the study of Welsh, being assisted by a Welsh groom, whose
acquaintance he had formed.
As he was of Cornish descent on one side, he possessed a certain ingenium which I have no doubt much
facilitated the acquisition of Celtic languages. However that may be, he was
not content with a mere smattering of Welsh, but acquired a sufficiently
extensive knowledge of it, to read almost anything
CHAP. V. [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 163
in the bards. How did he attain what many Welshmen themselves fall short of?
By reading Dr. W. O. Pughe's "Coll
Gwynfa" ("Paradise Lost") twice side-by-side with the
original. Many years after he travelled in Spain and Portugal, and gave to
the world the records of his journeys in "The Bible in Spain," but
he never forgot his early love of Welsh; and in 1854 went a walking
expedition through the country. His work is marred by the introduction of a
good deal of public-house chat, but it betrays an acquaintance with Welsh
literature far more extensive than is to be found in the works of
half-informed English tourists of an earlier date, whose works are looked up
to as standards, and in vain we search Pennant and Nicholson, or such County Histories
as Fenton's and Coxe's for the kind of information we get here.
George Borrow did not go to gaze on half effaced effigies in parish meeting
houses, to describe the gables of manor houses, or even so much the beautiful
scenery of the country, as he went to see the people, knowing not merely their language but the character of
their literature; not merely so, but he was able to quote their poets from
the stores of his powerful memory, e.g.,
on the top of Snowdon, he repeats —
Oer yw'r eira ar Eryri, — o ryw
Ar awyr i rewi;
Oer yw'r ia ar riw 'r ri,
A'r Eira oer yw 'Ryri.
O Ri y 'Ryri yw'r oera, — o'r âr
Ar oror wir arwa;
O'r awyr a yr Eira,
O'i ryw i roi rew a'r ia.
and then relates how three or four English stood nigh with "grinning
scorn," and how he apostrophized a Welshman who came forward and shook
his hand. "I am not a Llydawan
164 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
[a Breton]. I wish I was, or anything but what I am, one of a nation amongst
whom any knowledge save what relates to money-making and over-reaching is
looked upon as a disgrace. I am ashamed to say that I am an Englishman.
Despite its blemishes Borrow's Wild
Wales still remains the only book in the whole circle of English
literature which illustrates fairly-well the literary side of the Welsh
character, though he almost entirely omits mention of nineteenth century
writers, nor can an introduction to this period suitable for English students
be found anywhere at present.
Matthew Arnold a few years later called the attention of the English public
to Welsh literature, but as he was unacquainted with the language he was
naturally unable to take a comprehensive view of it.
I will now select another letter from a well known Welshman, which is
valuable, because it is an unvarnished testimony to the result of these
parents' prejudices, which, unhappily, appear to be given way to, if not
fostered by some elementary teachers, if not school managers. Newspaper
correspondence, as a rule, is not worth reproducing, but I cannot debar
myself from using it on the present occasion, because it illustrates (1) the
intellectual and social history of Wales, in a certain part of the nineteenth
century, (2) the action of general principles, and is of assistance in
forming conclusions, which the mere ipse
dixit of the author would not warrant.
E. Roberts, of Pontypridd, wrote as follows: —
My good father, holding then the mistaken notion held by some still, that a
knowledge of Welsh would retard my progress in learning English, forbade me
to have anything to do with the Welsh language, and even went the length of
forbidding me to attend a Welsh Sunday School. Submitting to the parental
authority, I did not attend a Sunday School or attempt to learn Welsh until I
was about sixteen years of age, although
CHAP. V. [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 165
I was practically a monoglot Welsh lad. My education up to that period, I can
assure you, was anything but a pleasure, for the little I learnt was learnt
mechanically; the intellect had nothing to do with it. When I thought of
entering college I thought it high time that I should know something of what
grammar really was. I therefore procured Mr. R. Davies's Welsh Grammar, and
committed a great part of it to memory; but, this grammar being so erroneous
in many parts, I had but an indistinct
idea of what grammar really was, until I
began to translate from Latin into English. Then my eyes were opened
on the subject, and all that I had stored in my memory first became of any
use to me. But what a drudgery I had passed through previous to this! And
that simply because the familiar Welsh was not used as a medium for
explaining matters to me. I have thus given my experiences at some length,
because my own case is an illustration of the difficulty which a Welsh boy
meets with in trying to learn
English without the aid of his native tongue. It is my firm belief that if
what this Society aims at doing had been done in my youthful days, I would
have made a great deal more progress
intellectually and educationally, in English and in Welsh, than I
did. The sad experience of my youthful days makes me yearn for some method of
teaching Welsh boys similarly circumstanced in a more intelligent and
As a set off against this may be mentioned the opposing attitude to the
movement, which was taken by Professor Vance Smith of Carmarthen Presbyterian
College, although only a recent settler in the country, and ignorant of the
language. He met an able antagonist in Beriah G. Evans, the master of the
Llangadock Village School, but since attached to the staff of the South Wales Daily News. It is really
surprising that a person who must have possessed some educational
acquirements of an advanced character should have allowed his mind to be
blinded by prejudice, as to oppose the removal of an antiquated and effete
system of education
166 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] CHAP.
replete with both social and intellectual disadvantages, but which still more
or less leavens nearly all the educational institutions of Wales. "The
artificial propping up of the Welsh language" was a phrase used by Vance
Smith, which a real thinker sliould have scrupled to use. What is artificial,
is to purposely neglect the ordinary medium of thought, for the expression of
ideas until a sufficiently secure foundation for their reception has been
obtained through the use of another medium.
I quote the following from B. Gr. Evans's reply: — You will, I am sure,
readily concede that, being yourself only a recent coiner to Wales, you
cannot be expected to understand Welsh, questions so thoroughly as those who
have spent their lifetime among the people do. More than this, not being
yourself possessed of the key of the Welsh language, wherewith you might be
enabled to open for your students the door to further knowledge, you are
placed under a serious disadvantage for estimating its practical value as an
educational medium. Were the objects of the Society is to cultivate Welsh at
the expense of English, then there would be force in your reasoning.
'■' * I would appeal to you, sir, to throw the great, influence your
position as principal of so important a training institution in Wales gives
you to promote and not to obstruct a movement calculated to remove such
disabilities, and which has already secured the adhesion of leading
educationahsts who have enjoyed a hfe-long practical acquaintance with the
people, their language, and their needs.
In 1886, a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into the working of the
Education Acts, of which the late Henry Richard was a member. The subject of
bilingualism would probably, as usual, have been ignored had not that veteran
champion of Wales secured its insertion in the syllabus of the points of
enquiry. As a consqeuence, various Welshmen interested in the subject, were
asked to give evidence.* In the course of their examination it was clearly
indicated that room
CHAP. V.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 167
was open for the Government to make very considerable modification of these
regulations as applied to Welsh schools. In fact, scarcely anything but a
Code devised specially for Wales would have sufficed to remove all the
legitimate objections raised of the present course of Welsh Education.
The names of the witnesses who gave evidence on the bilingual question were
Ebenezer Morris, of Menai Bridge, Beriah G. Evans, Dan Isaac Davies, B.Sc,
Dr. Isambard Owen, M.A., D. Lewis (Rector of Merthyr), Archdeacon Griffiths,
T. Marchant Williams, Prof. H. Jones, of Bangor, and W. Williams, M.A. (Chief
Welsh Inspector of Schools).
The evidence of these witnesses contains opinions or facts nearly identical
with some which are noticed elsewhere in this book; but at the risk of being
thought guilty of repeating myself, I venture to give a digest of some of its
more salient features, which I believe will not be uninteresting to future
students of Welsh history, whether they be so now or not.
Among the disadvantages arising from the present# system of ignoring Welsh,
it was stated that—
It makes a child nervous and afraid to give expression to his thoughts.
Either he hates the language of his home or hates the foreign language. Evans.
Injury done is permanent. Majority leave school without literary knowledge of
either language. Do.
Contributions to the Welsh press of a low order, through inefficient
instruction, tend to debase the native purity of the language. Do.
If a teacher followed a well-defined system he would have no credit given him
in the report. Do.
* The evidence has been re-published from the Blue Book in a collected form, under the title of Bilingual Teaching in Welsh Elementary
Schools. Price 1s. J. E Southall, Newport, Mon.
# I say at present, because nearly
all these difficulties remain, while only a few schools teach Welsh.
168 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] CHAP. V.]
Does not give the language the status of honour and respect it should occupy
in the child's mind. Evans.
"The Welsh Sunday School is over-weighted, and has not only to teach
religion" but also reading. D. I.
Parents in ignorance. Fancy a man cannot have two mother-tongues. Contradicts
this from experience of his own family. Do.
Reason why, "gentry of Wales " do not command the influence they
ordinarily might, is that they give up the language before the people. Do.
Omission of Welsh from pupil teachers' examinations a serious practical
grievance. English girl from Cardiff to Bristol with a smattering of French
gets marks for it. A Welsh girl who knows her own language far more
thoroughly, gets no marks, and is shut out of her own college. Do.
Had it not been for the Welsh "Sunday” school, very little real work
would have been solidly done by our English schools. Griffiths.
Experience as Inspector of Schools in London, and as a teacher is, that
neither German or French can be taught satisfactorily in a public elementary
school under existing circumstances for many years. M. Williams.
Children often puzzled by anomalies in English Grammar, it would be a great
advantage if Welsh grammar were taught.
If it were taught it would remove the shyness of Welshmen, and improve them
Many teachers think teaching Welsh would involve a great deal of additional labour
* * I say, however, the teaching
of Welsh systematically would be helpful to them in every sense. Do.
Good of Wales dependent to a considerable extent on meeting the difficulty —
no community ever improved except
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 169
by developing the forces, intellectual and otherwise, that it possesses, and
Wales will never be made richer by neglecting its language; nor do I think
the English will be known better. For on the border counties where they do
leave their Welsh, or have done so, and become English, there is a
degradation of intelligence, because they do not really become English.
Prof. H. Jones.
Speaking of parents — the majority, especially the more intelligent, would
see the importance of teaching Welsh.
[re Candidates for Training College]. The Welsh are very much handicapped by
having to be examined in a language which is not their vernacular. Chief
Believes English might be more thoroughly acquired by the use of Welsh. Do.
Teaching Welsh as a special and class subject may prove a great blessing to
the children. Has not quite made up his mind on the subject. Would like those
who believe in it have a chance to try. E. Morris.
"They only learn to read like parrots." Do.
Thinks poetry should not be included in English. [Why could he not say, he
would substitute Welsh poetry?] Do.
Take number of chapels of four leading denominations, as 3511; of these 2853
are entirely Welsh, 898 English. Evans.
English chapels as a rule small, and ill-attended. Welsh services often
"Sunday" school the great educating medium for the Welsh-speaking
population here, they have obtained the only instruction in their own
language they have ever had. Do.
Welsh literature made accessible to them by "Sunday" teachers. Do
170 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
Wide-spread taste among working classes for Welsh literature and composition;
but absence of educational facilities to attain a grammatical knowledge of language. Do.
Better enunciation in reading found
in Welsh schools than in Gloucestershire. Davies.
Took a bilingual parish in Brecknockshire; found people could not read Welsh,
but anxious to have sermons in it. They have a fondness for the language — it
is the language of their inner soul, so to speak. Lewis.
Neath very much Anglicized, people do their shopping in English, but the
people will go perhaps in scores to an English chapel, but by hundreds to a
Welsh one. No predecessor of his [at Neath] could preach in Welsh with
anything like fluency for 50 years. Griffiths.
Englishmen as colliers — "before they have been underground six months
they come out as Welshmen." Do.
National virtues found to a greater extent in Llanelly than in more
Anglicized Swansea. Do.
Circulation of 100,000 (Welsh) newspapers every week: 60 years ago not one. Do.
The additional time and labour involved in carrying out our suggestions would
be trifling indeed. Williams.
Modern Welsh poets frequently have more power than they are able to manifest.
Welsh treatise on the philosophy of Hegel, another text book on Logic
commended. Conducted lectures in Welsh on Greek philosophy and on modern
ethics at Bangor; and "more admirable classes," chiefly of working
men, he never had. Did not know "any cultivated Welsh person" who
did not prefer to attend worship in the Welsh rather than in the English
Archdeacon Griffiths introduced into his evidence the utterances of an
eminent Welsh scholar, Robert Williams,
CHAP. V.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. l7l
a Vice-President of Lampeter, and of Bp. Thirlwall, which I have reserved
till last, so as not to break the continuity of the summary. These
authorities are quoted in the evidence (abridged) as under: —
"I have often known people whose reading language was English, but whose
speaking language was almost exclusively Welsh. What a confused medley of
words and things must thus be produced in their minds. How the eye of the
intellect must be dimmed, and its edge blunted, by the half caught gleams of
ideas and tangled mass of doubts thus presented, which it can neither see
distinctly nor decide with certainty. Can this be called education? or is it
giving the mind of our peasantry fair play?" Then another short passage
that I will read is this: "But what if, by our neglect of Welsh, we are
throwing away a great gift of Providence? Is there any reason why a people
should not learn and thoroughly understand a neighbouring language, without
immediately smothering their own?” Bishop Thirlwall held similar views and
contended that no Welsh child ought to be thrown entirely upon the
contingency that he may by the force of other circumstances than those of school
life acquire sufficient English to cultivate his mind by the means which that
language supplies, and that he ought not to be debarred in the meantime [by
want of elementary education] from the benefits that may be derived from
books in Welsh. He goes on to say. * * "I am fully convinced that no
maxims opposed to these will bear the test of experience; and I rejoice to
find that they begin to be more generally appreciated, and seem likely to
exercise a greater influence on the system of popular education, than they
have hitherto done.”
Six or seven weeks after this evidence was given, the earthly hopes of a
chief leader of the movement were shattered, a severe cold contracted in
London never left him, and Dan Isaac Davies expired 5 mo. (May) 28, 1887.
Very seldom indeed in the history of Wales has any individual risen so
quickly from comparative obscurity to a
172 WALES AND [CHAP. V.
position of such prominent note, and seldom has there been seen a funeral
which manifested so much wide-spread feeling, as well as sympathy with the
national aspirations which he represented. To an outsider, Cardiff may appear
to differ but little from Hull and Sunderland; to such an one the loss of an
educationalist, however great he may be in his own peculiar sphere, would
scarcely be regarded as anything like a public event.
On this occasion between two and three thousand people were gathered from
Swansea, Merthyr, the Rhondda Valley and other places, forming a procession a
mile in length. I will not here introduce any reports of the speeches
delivered on the occasion by various well-known Welshmen, some in Welsh and
some in English. But enough has been said to shew that there was an
indication of a remarkable amount of national feeling which would scarcely
have been expected, and I think it convincingly shewed that the principles he
represented were not simply the property of a few agitators or enthusiasts,
but very largely echoed by all classes in Wales — South Wales at least.
I venture, however, to give a short extract from "Morien" on the
event, which, although Morienic in its style, comes from the pen of a ready
In the scholastic circles of the Principality he had been long known and
admired; but at the time of his death, his name was rapidly becoming a
household one in the homes of his fellow-countrymen generally. His mind was
not too much imbued with "awen" to forget the practical in the
imaginative. WhUe others simply cried, " Oes y hyd i'r iaiih
Gymrafg." Mr. Dan Isaac Davies worked in the path of progress, and he
fell, to rise no more, whilst engaged in re-opening the national avenues of
the native language of the Welsh people. We had hoped that Wales had, at
last, found in him one sufficiently able and earnest to restore the Cymric
tongue to its ancient dignity as one of the learned languages of Europe, by
making it the channel by which the youth of Wales
[CHAP. V. [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 173
might reach quickly the vast treasures of knowledge contained to-day in the
English tongue. It is perfectly true that Mr. Davies had two objects in view
by his propaganda, namely, making use of the native language of the Welsh in
the work of education, and thereby facilitating the progress of Welsh
children in the paths of education, and also restoring its lost dignity among
scholars, of the great language of the Cambro-British people. * * Poor Dan
Isaac Davies! With tears we lament thy death; thy work is done, for,
doubtless, thou wert, in the mysterious ways of Providence, only to
inaugurate a movement which will be long associated with thy name. Thou wert
only to utter the old cry, "I'r lan
a'r gain faner goch!" Thy early death seems to sanctify the
movement! "Gorphwys, frawd, mewn
In 1887, Welsh education came very prominently before the Eisteddfod meeting
of the Cymmrodorion, held in London, and in the course of one of the meetings
a paper was read by W. Edwards, M.A., Government Inspector of Schools,
Merthyr Tydfil district, which I venture to insert here nearly entire.
As a whole, it is far too good a production to be consigned to the oblivion
of fugitive literature, such as is the fate of the large majority of papers
read at congresses and meetings of various kinds, except those perhaps of a
purely learned character, which mark stepping stones in the progress of any
particular art or branch of science.
Perhaps I shall be found fault with for taking up so much space with matter
which is not original. If so, I would say that one of the objects of this
book is not to present any one man's opinions or views on subjects which so
closely concern the educational future of Wales, but to collate expressions
from witnesses of very different antecedents, education, and circumstances, so that from
the whole a better judgment may be formed of the facts of the past, and of
the requirements of the future. Indeed there is a need for it. Much has been
174 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] CHAP. V.]
and written, and yet the subject is so far from being thrashed out that, it
is still one on which a definite verdict is yet to come.
From the point of view of a Government Inspector we scarcely expect
enthusiasm, but we have here something more necessary, viz., impartiality and
penetration. In reading it, one can only feel regret that at present the
enlightened standpoint of the author is far in advance of that of many
managers of schools, and of many Welsh teachers. He says —
As one of the Inspectors charged with the administration of the Education
Act, I beg to state that I regard the question of the utilization of Welsh
purely as an educational one. It has no necessary relation to party or to
sect. Nor do I appear here to join in any appeal for alteration in the
present Code, which is probably elastic enough to admit of any change of
practice that may be desired by the Society. What is really required now is a
discussion on the principle, and in a matter of so much importance no one
should stand aloof who can help the public to understand the principle and
the reason why it is advocated. It is with many an incontrovertible axiom
that the Welsh language is the bane of Wales, and that every friend should
aim at its extinction. Others admit that a language spoken by only a
thirtieth part of the population of these islands must essentially be a
disadvantage, through the limitations of intercourse which it imposes, even
although it were the most ancient and perfect language known to history. Let
it be conceded, not absolutely, but for the sake of argument, that it would
be beneficial for Wales if the native language were totally supplanted by
English, the question remains as to the best means of arriving at this
consummation. Now, there can be no doubt that the exclusion of Welsh from all
the elementary schools, from all the grammar schools, and from all the colleges,
is damaging to the vitality of the language. It operates in two ways: (1)
directly by subtracting so many hours every day from the time that would
otherwise have been spent in the practice of the native tongue; (2) by giving
the Welsh a low-caste character.
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 175
Welsh suffers in prestige from being totally ignored, when other subjects are
honoured, and a tendency will be formed in the case, at any rate, of some
children to speak bad English in preference to good Welsh. I cannot,
therefore, deny that the cumulative effects of what I may call the repressive
system, acting through many ages, will eventually destroy the Welsh language,
especially in combination with many other outside influences; such are set up
by the social and commercial intercourse with England, and the immensely
preponderating quantity of English literature.
But when this is agreed, how much time must be allowed for the completion of
the process? It is dangerous to prophesy, but I do not fear to affirm that
more than a hundred, perhaps two hundred, perhaps 500 years will be required to
achieve the death of Welsh. For it must be remembered that a repressive
policy, in order to gain its end with any degree of rapidity, must also be
complete. It is not enough to exclude Welsh from the schools and colleges. You
must also make it penal to speak Welsh at fairs and markets, to print Welsh
newspapers and books, to preach Welsh sermons. If you cannot or dare not do
this, the language will resist for centuries the effect of its banishment
It is a plausible assertion that children who hear and speak and read only
English at school, will become really familiar with that language, and
discard the vernacular for the rest of their lives. But no account is here
taken of the Welsh environment. Even while the child is attending school the
outside intercourse counter-balances to a considerable extent the effect of
school atmostphere. Nay at the school itself, during the time of recreation
Welsh is the language of play, as I have had many opportunities of observing
in my own district, which is far from the centre of Wales. It may be doubted
whether the child is subjected to English influence for more than five hours
in the day. He is probably more than double this time under the influence of
purely Welsh surroundings. When his school career ends, at the early age of
twelve or thirteen, the environment is wholly Welsh, and it is not merely
antecedently probable, but a matter of experience that in parts of
176 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE} CHAP. V.]
Merionethshire, and even of Glamorganshire, away from the towns, the child
frequently in a few months loses almost all his hold of English. Although
therefore it may be admitted that the day schools do exercise a decidedly
inimical effect upon the life of the Welsh language, it should at the same
time be remembered that their influence operates only during the third part
of the child's working day, and ceases altogether at a very early age.
If the schools were all boarding schools, so that the children might be
withdrawn from all contact with the Welsh stock from which they sprang, the
effect might conceivably be more measurable, hut even on this hypothesis the
Anglicizing influence would be incomplete, unless the children were confined
to separate cells when not under instruction. The people who are sanguine of
the speedy success of the present system do not realize the difficulty of
killing a language, which at the present moment is very far from moribund,
and may live as long as Dutch or Danish. The total neglect of Welsh will
surely help to sap the vigour of the language, but what happens during the
long era which must elapse before the end comes? A policy which gags the
mouth of a child, stupidly ignores the habits and associations of home, and
crushes every native sensibility, can only result in immense waste of energy,
in the lowering of the tone of the nation, and in a paralysis of the
intelligence of many generations of Welshmen. Is it fair that even a
barbarous dialect should be so ignored in education as Welsh is at present?
There is an outcry of sympathy if the children of Lapps and Poles are treated
in this way, but nearer home there is a case of outrage upon nature and
reason which is worthy of equal condemnation.
The blame rests upon the Welsh themselves for the continuance of this state
of things, for the Department has not yet refused to grant any concession
which has been asked for by the Society.
* * Words may be read to almost an unlimited extent without the
assimilation by the mind of the ideas to which they correspond. By the
bilingual method the link between the English word and
CHAP. V.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 177
the idea is established. In the study of any other foreign language this is
the method that would universally be adopted.
It has been urged that the best way to teach a child Prench is to send him to
school in France, where he would hear no English. But the cases are not
parallel. In one case the whole environment would be French, and the child
must learn French, as a child is sometimes taught to swim, by being thrown
into deep sea. You have not the struggle between the environment and the
school, which creates the chief obstacle in Wales.
The advocates of bilingual teaching recommend that in districts where Welsh
retains its hold as the common medium of intercourse, Welsh and English
should be taught in connection. Welsh as well as English reading books should
be used, the one set being idiomatic translations of the other. These books
are not merely an instrument of interpretation, but also subject matter for a
comparison of the grammar and idioms of the two languages. In some districts
Welsh is weak, or divides the field equally with English. There, Welsh would
be more advantageously taught as a specific subject to the highest standards
for its purely educational value, while in the lower standards Welsh might
occasionally be employed for purposes of illustration. In every town or
village where any Welsh is spoken an opportunity should be afforded of
learning to read and write Welsh correctly at some period of the school
course. It is not proposed by the Society to agitate for the compulsory
reading of Welsh, as it is feared by some. They wish to make the teaching
simply permissive. There are many prejudices to be overcome on the part of
school managers and teachers and parents before the movement in favour of
bilingual teaching becomes general.
There are some persons, be it observed, who make it a reproach that Welsh is
so seldom spoken correctly by the masses. Should it not rather be a matter of
wonder* that the idiom is so purely maintained when the only instruction in
Welsh is given in Sunday schools? But the same individuals inconsistently
oppose the only
* How true this is, those who know Wales can vouch.
178 WALES AND [CHAP. V
means by which the defects in the common speech can be cured.
As a matter of fact, the language of a Welsh peasant is far more correct than
that of his compeers in England. The Marquis of Bute said at the Cardiff
Eisteddfod, "For a man to speak Welsh, and willingly not to be able to
read or write it, is to confess himself a boor." This is a noble sentiment;
and it should put to shame those others who wish to keep down the Welsh as a
nation of boors, rather than grant the instruction which would save them from
the reproach. The bilingual idea is to be applied to schools of all grades.
Eor there should be no division of classes.
What has done so much mischief in Wales in times past and present is the
chasm existing between the English-speaking landowner and gentry and the
Welsh-speaking community. What separation of interests, material and
spiritual, has resulted from this cause!
Let the opportunity, at all events, be given to the children of all classes
to learn the rudiments of the language of the people. To a very numerous
class, viz., to those who are to become the ministers, the lawyers, the
doctors, and the teachers of Wales, instruction in Welsh will clearly be a
One strongly felt objection to the proposed Welsh-English instruction is that
although the object primarily is merely to utilize Welsh to learn Enghsh
better than to improve the general intelligence thereby, yet Welsh itself
will at the same time be improved. This is to some people a great rock of
offence. They are afraid that the longevity of Welsh will be favourably
affected when it is systematically taught, even in a parallel line with
Enghsh. Even if their fears are well founded, the objection cannot be
listened to, if it is true that only by biUngual instruction can a Welsh
child have an intelligent grasp of English. But I feel certain that the life
of Welsh will not be appreciably prolonged by its recognition in schools. The
status of the language will be raised, a more correct way of speaking will be
in vogue, but it is the very essence of biUngual teaching that it makes the
scholar facile in two
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. l79
languages. If Welsh will be strengthened, English will receive an accession
Tou may have a bilingual nation for any length of time, if by bihngual nation
is meant a nation, two sections of which speak different languages, but there
is no instance on record of a nation of bilinguals. Switzerland is no
example, for the bihngualism of Switzerland is only the overlapping of the
French and G-erman, and such a bilingualism is obUgatory along every border.
But when every Welshman knows English as well as he knows Welsh, and there is
no nucleus of monoglots to act as a preservative, the weaker language vdU
then rapidly die. But it will die a honourable death, instead of being
strangled in disgrace. Welsh will have done its work. The continuity of the
nation will have been preserved. The parents and the children will not have
been made strangers by the premature forcing of an alien language. The
children of the EngUsh resident will be brought into kindlier intimacy with
the children of the Cymry. Finally, time will have been given for the
transference of whatever is worthy in Welsh literature to the kindly keeping
of that universal inheritor, the language of England, in which the genius of
the Welsh will find a larger and more durable home.
What do you say, my readers, to having these lines written in gold on the
portals of every school and every college in Wales.
Zbe bilingual idea is to be applied to scbools ot all grades,
What say you to ousting, as ignorant or incapable, every school manager, be
he a high and mighty cleric or a village grocer, vrho will not subscribe to
this advice of the Inspector — " In every town or village where any
Welsh is spoken an opportunity should be oifered of learning to read and
write Welsh correctly at some period of the school course."
"Every town or village," recollect, includes those partially
populated by Somerset and Gloucester workmen, the presence
180 WALES AND [CHAP. V.
of whose children is supposed by some teachers to place an obstacle in the
development of the bilingual idea. Why should the children of the soil for
the supposed interests of these strangers be deprived of such opportunities
of reading and writing their mother-tongue as systematic instruction in it
can afford them.
What are you going to do to help fill up this social "chasm" that
the Inspector speaks of (the very expression which was running in the
writer's mind many months ago), caused by a portion of the people by habit,
association, and preference, speaking a language and reading a literature of
which the wealthy and influential are almost entirely ignorant? What are you
going to do to remove those prejudices of school managers, teachers, and
parents, which the same experienced authority tells us must be overcome
before the movement becomes general?
One of the objects of the volume is to call the attention of the Welsh people
to these inconsistencies, and blots upon their character as a practical people,
to the errors made venerable by the incrustations of centuries, to the need
of greater educational enlightenment, and to the desirability (I would here
even go further than Inspector Edwards), of not leaving the decision of these
matters, mainly in the hands of either managers, teachers, or parents, who
are frequently either from inexperience or ignorance, not the fittest
authorities to decide upon them.
Bear in mind, too, that the foregoing paper is not the product of the brain
of an impractical enthusiast, a mere theorist, as some of the opposers of
bilingualism in Wales are apt to class its advocates; it is the expression of
man who is pre-eminently entitled to a hearing though we may differ from him
on minor points. For instance, he appears to the writer to much under-rate
the influence of bilingual instruction in prolonging the life of the
language, but on the central point viz.,
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 181
the desirability of bilingualism, or teaching Welsh, not simply allowing its
use in explanatory processes becoming universal where the language is spoken,
and that it should be applied to schools of all classes, we agree.
If this had been done ten or fifteen years ago, we probably should not have
had the pitiable spectacle, alluded to elsewhere, of a well-to-do Welsh
publisher in Wales unable to read the books issuing from his own press, and
having to depend on the judgment of others as to their character, if he form
In some other points also I am incUned to differ from the author, as for
mstance where he advocates Welsh and English reading books being the
idiomatic translation of each other. To give an effective bilingual
education, this should only be partially the case; some pieces, particularly
poetry, should be inserted in each language and untranslated.
Second only in importance to the Inspector's paper was a short speech by the
then Warden of Llandovery College, in which he said that education in Wales
should be of a distinct, and national, and Welsh character: education was not
merely putting a number of facts and figures into the pupil's head, but
consisted also in the development of the mind: it was not creating, but
fashioning and forming raw material; it was impossible to educate a
Welsh-speaking Welshman unless a knowledge of the Welsh language were taken
into account: although from one point of view it might be a mistake to devote
two hours a week to teaching a boy Welsh, yet it would be found as a fact
that he learnt Latin and French all the quicker for having that knowledge.
Observe that the warden used these adjectives in characterizing what
education in Wales should be.
Distinct. National. Welsh.
Distinct means that there should be a clear essential
182 WALES AND [OHAP. V.
distinction between education in Wales and that over the border, which there
is not at present.
National means that it should be general throughout the country.
Welsh means that instruction in the Welsh language should form an integral
part of such distinct and national education.
These two advocates of biKngualism may be regarded as representative men,
both filling important educational positions, both having a claim on the
confidence of their countrymen.
Take another practical witness — Owen Owen, head master of Oswestry High
School in the Welsh portion of Shropshire. He was strongly in favour of
leaving education in Wales entirely to Welsh men and Welsh women. They should
aim at a "complete and thorough national system," leading step by
step from the village school to the University. I suppose that he also would
be considered both successful and practical in his profession.
In 1888 the Report of the Education Commissioners was issued, which shewed
that although it was composed entirely of Englishmen, with the single
exception of Henry Richard, they had been so thoroughly convinced of the
reasonableness of the demands of the Utilization Society, that almost every
point asked for was conceded to. They recommended —
That schools in Welsh districts should be allowed to teach reading and
writing of Welsh concurrently with English.
Permission to use bilingual reading-books.
Liberty to teach Welsh as a specific subject.
To adopt an optional scheme for English as a class subject, founded on the
principle of a graduated system of translation from Welsh into Enghsh for the
present acquirement of English grammar.
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 183
To teach Welsh with English as a class subject.
To include Welsh among the languages in which Queen's scholarships and
certificates of merit may be annexed. The next step to which the friends of
the movement turned their attention was to secure the adhesion of the
Government to these recommendations, so that it might be possible to give
them practical effect. In this work Sir John Puleston, M.P., himself of a
North Wales family noted in these pages, took an active share, and repeatedly
interviewed Sir W. Hart Dyke, the President of the Committee of Council on
The result, as is well known, was regarded as a complete success for the
principles of the Society; every recommendation of the Royal Commission being
adopted by the Government, with the exception of the inclusion of Welsh in
Queen's scholarship subjects for pupil teachers. This was a great omission,
but it is hoped that it may be remedied before long. As one of the South
Wales papers pointed out, these concessions in effect, open the door for a
thorough change in the whole system of Welsh elementary education, although
little prominence indeed is actually given them in the Code; but besides
embracing the afore-mentioned recommendations, in practice they give
advantages not quite apparent to one not familiar with elementary school
working, which are indicated by the following summary.
I. A grant of 4s. to be paid per head for each child passing in Welsh
Grammar, as a specific in Standards V., VI. and VII.
II. A grant of 2s. per child in the average of the whole school for
successful results in teaching English as a class subject by means of
translation from Welsh to English.
III. In all standards, and in all subjects, bilingual reading-books may be
used, and bilingual copybooks may be used in teaching writing.
184 WALES AND [CHAP. V.
IV. The geography of Wales may be taught up to Standard III., and the history
of Wales may be taught throughout the whole school, by means of books partly
Welsh and partly English, and a grant of 2s. per head on the average of the
whole school may be earned for each of these subjects if the results of the
examination are satisfactory.
V. Schools taking up the new method of teaching English as a class subject
may also claim the right to substitute translation from Welsh to English for
English composition in the elementary subjects, and thus reap a double
VI. Finally, the small village and country schools, so numerous in the
Principality, may, for the purpose of class teaching re-arrange the standards
into three groups, e.g., Group 1, Standards I., II.; Group 2, Standards III.,
IV.; Group 3, Standards V., VI., VIII. This will be a material relief to
In the Spring of 1889, after these concessions had been made known, a meeting
of the Utilization Society was held at Aberystwith, the Earl of Lisburn
taking the chair at the public meeting. At the previous members' meeting
Principal Edwards in the course of an admirable speech remarked —
It appears to me a real danger to the intellectual and moral life of the
Welsh people, this transition from "Welsh to English. Whatever may be
said about Welsh, it is a simple fact that Welsh is a literary language. It
has been found amply sufficient to express the most abstract truths of ethics
and religion. It is at once the symbol and the instrument of a civilization.
To regard such a language as an encumbrance, and not a most potent ally, in
the education of the people who think and worship in it, whose intellectual
and moral life is fashioned by the ideas it has conveyed to their minds, is
fatuous and guilty conduct. (Cheers.) To permit the people of Wales to lose
their knowledge of literary Welsh, the language of the Welsh Bible, so that
they will under-
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 185
stand no other Welsh than the laongrel patois of the streets, is to abandon
deliberately the creative influences of the past, to break for ever with the
enobling examples of our great men, to throw away the heritage of many
centuries, in order to start afresh forsooth from the low intellectual and
moral condition of savage tribes. Let English come into Wales and take
possession, if it can. But let the intellectual and moral life of the future
be the natural development of the past. This it cannot be if we foolishly and
criminally neglect to teach literary Welsh until we have accomplished the
task of teaching literary English. Hitherto, this most important work has
been done in Wales by Sunday schools. Putting aside for the moment the
spiritual interests of Wales, and regarding the question only in its
intellectual aspects, I do not hesitate to avow my strong conviction that all
sects and parties alike ought to acknowledge their indebtedness to our Welsh
Sunday schools and to their peculiar characteristics, and to make a great
effort to maintain their efficiency. But they cannot adequately meet the
demands of the age. The people must be taught, not only to read the Welsh of
Bishop Morgan, but also the Welsh of Goronwy Owain, and to feel in the very
depth of their being the creative influence of the past that should always be
present, and of the dead that never die.
What do you say, you lethargic officials and managers steeped in the
traditions of Whitehall? What do you say to these words of a man whom Wales
delights to honour? The people must (it is in your hands very largely to make
it a practical MUST) be taught not only to read the Welsh of Bishop Morgan,
but also the Welsh of Goronwy, or if Goronwy is too difficult, that of Islwyn
Time has amply justified the following: —
Having obtained all it asked from Government, the Society must take into
account the sluggishness of a considerable number of school managers, in whom
as in most officials, the vis inertiae is strong. Not indeed that the country
at large can be justly charged
186 WALES AND [CHAP. V.
with apathy. An intelligent observer made the remark that whereas the study
of Irish is but the hobby of a few antiquaries in Dublin, the entire people
of "Wales love their language and wish it to live. At the same time, the
Society will not find that all School Boards have enough foresight to see the
necessity for the immediate and full adoption of the concessions made in the
New Code. Public opinion must be continually formed and maintained on the
question, until the use of "Welsh in teaching English and the teaching
of "Welsh as a literary language become universal in "Welsh
speaking districts. But this will never be brought about unless suitable
text-books are provided. * * A strong and successful Society is an instrument
for good which ought not to be thrust aside too soon, and this Society will
not perish, so long as it adapts itself to the special wants of the time, and
performs its work with the same energy in the future as it has shown in the
Here again we have a man well known outside Wales, whom some of his friends
perchance, think too much of an Anglicizer, often occupying English pulpits,
yet not satisfied with the bare " utilization of Welsh to learn
English," but positively enforcing it as an educational maxim, that the
teaching of Welsh as a literary language should become universal in
jWelsh-speaking districts, and foreseeing that only by continued exertions
can the deleterious whims or caprices of local managers, and the vis inertias
of schoolmasters be overcome.
At the same meeting at Aberystwyth, Morgan Owen, Inspector of Board Schools,
said that he was pleased to see the interest many parents took in the
subject. In South Wales in many cases, though parents objected to see their
children doing home lessons in English subjects, they were very glad to find
a Welsh book brought home in their hands. This apparently conflicts with
other testimony as to parents' views. I conclude that the true solution of
the difficulty is, that in districts where the parents fear that their
children will grow up
OHAP. v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 187
monoglot Welsh, they are often opposed to any secular education in Welsh, but
where there is a danger of the children growing up monoglot English they are
glad of opportunities given at school to return to the old language.
Professor Roberts of Cardiff said —
The great and rapid success of the agitation indicated that the Welsh
language was destined to render another signal service to the nation, in
addition to its services in the past. During the past fifty years, in spite
of the fact that much of the cultured opinion of the country was for
relegating the language into neglect and decay, the body of the people and
their trusted leaders adopted another course. They in fact "
utiUzed" the language — not as a barrier to keep the people in darkness
— but as the sole available means of educating and informing the nation by
speech and in writing. By a flood of lectures and periodicals and other
literature, the people had been so educated that in no part of the kingdom
could the masses be said to be more inteUigent and better informed on all
general questions than in Wales. But while the people thus utiUzed their
language to their great and permanent benefit — it was wholly neglected and
ignored in the official system of education.
Yes, so wholly neglected and ignored that the " flood of [vernacular]
lectures and periodicals" have, in certain districts, become almost
things of the past, though the want of familiarity with the language in the
rising generation, which would have been induced by a Kttle education in it
T. E. WilUams, Abeiystwith, comparing Radnor with Cardigan, said —
Eadnor had lost its Welsh. By this time it had become EngUsh not only as far
as language was concerned, but the EngHsh spoken in the county was about the
poorest English they could get anywhere, and, educationally, it was one of
the lowest counties, if not the lowest in Wales. On the other hand, let them
take the county
188 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
of Cardigan. There they had Welsh spoken, and, educationally, Cardigan was
one of the highest counties in Wales.
Not merely so, he might have added, but Radnor and Cardigan resemble each
other ethnologically, perhaps, as much as any two counties in Wales, if so,
the inferiority of Radnor is not accounted for by difference of race.
Speaking at the public meeting. Professor Lloyd believed that the study of
Welsh grammar afforded a better mental training than the study of French or
They also wanted to utilize Welsh literature. English literature was no literature
to Welshmen who had grown up to mature years without a knowledge of the
English language. He did not understand the associations — the subtle
associations of the words; and he thought that was well illustrated by the
fact that the one English poet whom Welshmen knew something of and
appreciated was Milton, and the reason was that they understood the
background of Milton.
This may be true, but in fact English literature is "no literature"
to Englishmen who have grown up to mature years, without some previous
literary training in the very language they are supposed to speak. To enjoy
Milton, it is not simply necessary to be born in an Enghsh home, and to have
learnt to read and write.
The literature of the newspaper is accessible, but scarcely that represented by
more modern names, such as Cowper and Tennyson. Welshmen are often
recommended to learn English, or to value it for the sake of the literature;
but in point of fact the best English classics are not much read except by
the professional or leisured classes, and even at this fag-end of the
nineteenth century, perhaps less than ever, if we except co-temporary
writers, whereas a Welshman has less mental labour to go through to appreciate
writers of the same class and degree in his own language, than the Englishman
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 189
his; not that I am placing actual Welsh literature on a level with English,
but shewing its possibilities with regard to the mass of the people.
In the meetings of the Society for the Utilization of the Welsh Language
there has been generally a studious avoidance of praise of the language,
doubtless lest its claim on the public should be prejudiced by the
introduction of sentiment, but on this occasion it was reserved to a
foreigner to Wales, a Roman Catholic Priest (Hayde), of Cardiff, to fill up
the meed of admiration for the intrinsic beauties of the Welsh language. —
Respecting the Welsh language, he might say that he had never studied a
language in which he had felt more interest, more pleasure and more mental
training. The idioms and the structure of the language were so different from
those of other languages that by comparing them the student acquired strength
of mind, and that was the great end of education. ■■' * Welsh was
not only a most beautiful language, but would compare favourably with Itahan,
Spanish, Portuguese, German and others with which he was acquainted; and he
said further that if Welsh had been developed as German had been developed
during the past one hundred years by some of the greatest men who had ever
lived, and as EngUsh had been developed by the writings of Shakespeare and
others. Welsh to-day would have been looked upon as one of the most perfect
languages on the face of the earth.
He ended with a short address in Welsh, quoting —
Tra'r mor yn fur i'r bur hoff bau, O bydded i'r hen iaith barhau.
So much for the utterances of public men and officials. They are neither few
in number nor deficient in sense and quality. Supposing these expressions of
opinion, these marks of sympathy with a proposed public object, had been made
with a corresponding intensity in England, can we suppose for
190 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V,
a moment that the English character would have allowed the whole thing to
sink into partial oblivion?
Certainly not. There would either have been dissentient voices, strongly
biasing public opinion in the other direction, or else those who had put
their hands to the plough would not be satisfied, until with the sweat of
their brow, success had crowned their patient and constant endeavours.
Welsh people are not always made of that sort of mettle. They are not very
fond of facing wind and weather, and of actions as good and as sound as
words. I have spoken of public opinion; although a solution of this question
will affect every family in Welsh Wales, and a great many in English Wales,
it is not to be supposed that it is exactly one in which the mass of the
population have a mature judgment, but it certainly deserves to be met with a
distinctly active attitude, either of opposition or of positive countenance
and co-operation by intelligent persons interested in the conduct of Welsh
So far as opposition goes, few movements spread over a large area have
encountered less of an open and public kind. What then are the tangible
results before us in Wales? After the great exertions made by some friends of
the new Society; after the lapse of six years in the work of practically
reforming the system of elementary education, directly they amount to little
more than the following, viz.: —
1. The publication of two small text books* for teaching Welsh as a
specific subject, while the third advertised some years ago as "in
preparation," is still, so far as the author's information goes, lying
in the limbo of the future.
2. The introduction of Welsh as a specific subject into a few schools,
mostly in semi-Anglicized districts.
* Welsh Stage I., 1887. Welsh Stage II., 1889. Simkin Marshall and Co.,
London; 6d. each.
CHAP. V,] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 191
It will thus be seen that at the end of six years the great majority of the
rising generation is untouched, and unaffected by this incipient reformation.
This is at first sight discouraging. In reality, however, it is not quite so
much so as may appear, although direct results are extremely meagre.
Indirectly, there is reason to believe that the educational status of Welsh
has been somewhat raised, and a further place assigned to it in developing
the intelligence of children than previously. This cannot be however,
thoroughly and efficiently done without the use of Text Books, partly printed
in Welsh, in the actual course of instruction in elementary subjects.
The Bilingual Books which, in 1889, the Council of the Welsh Utilization
Society was to issue "without delay," are still not forthcoming,
and it is to be feared, notwithstanding the warm and zealous recognition of
the Society's claims on Wales, there will be a danger unless more energetic
and thoroughly systematic action is taken, of relapsing into a quiet and
slavish acquiescence in the status quo.
Thus far, some sort of a soporific has prevented the elementary schoolmasters
uniting, as they should do, and knocking at the door of the Society's Council
Chamber demanding the speedy issue of these Bilingual Books, and it is to be
feared that the apathy of the Department is partly responsible for this.
After receiving the report of the Royal Commissioners, which most clearly
shewed that various injuries were being inflicted on Wales, and a certain
amount of educational power allowed to run waste through the present method
being pursued; after the generous concessions made by the Government to the
claims of Wales, how is English-Welsh, as a class subject, treated in the Code?
Simply allowed a most insignificant place, just barely mentioned in a sort of
note. How is it treated in the Departmental instructions to Inspectors for
192 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
with all this weight of evidence, the permanent oiBcials at Whitehall would
tell the Inspectors that it was their duty to assist in inaugurating a
radical reform in the education of Wales, not in an authoritative way, but by
suggestions to school managers and teachers, and by recommendations that they
should endeavour, as soon as may be, to equip themselves for a better system
which promises to improve the knowledge of English as well as of Welsh. Did
they thus call attention to the first steps necessary to break up the fallow
No. Not by a single word. It was as if the said permanent officials, or
whosoever drafts out those instructions to the Inspectors, was desirous of
hushing the whole thing up, and in all probability the chiefs — "My
Lords," had too much to think of, to notice such an apparently trifling
It would, however, be injustice to Lord Cranbrook and Sir W. Hart Dyke, to
question the sincerity of the interest they have taken in the matter, but we
must come to the conclusion that if all the heads of the Department had
reciprocated these sentiments, it would have been easy to have given such
additional force to the movement that every schoolmaster and every manager in
Welsh Wales would have felt a certain amount of moral suasion to change
Beyond vice voce explanations &c., the work done has been entirely
confined to dealing with Welsh as a specific subject, i.e., teaching it as a
foreign language in the three higher Standards only. The uninformed reader
may need to be told that specifics are extra subjects, such as algebra,
agriculture, French, physiology and domestic economy, which are to a
considerable extent at the option of the School Board or managers. Success in
these is paid for by a grant per head from the Government.
It is practically found that specifics can only be attempted in few schools,
and many children leave school before entering
CHAP. V.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 193
Standard V. The Utilization Society was quite aware that much more would be
needed than the introduction of the specific, as they said in their memorial
to the Royal Commission in 1886: "We should however deeply deplore the
restriction of concession to Welsh needs to the introduction of the specific
subject only, as from the nature of the majority of the schools in Wales,
such concession would benefit but comparatively few."
To Gelligaer School Board, bordering on Monmouthshire, belongs the honour of
first introducing Welsh, viz., in 1885, before the issue of either of the
Text Books. Some gleanings of the experience gained there and elsewhere will
doubtless be interesting to the reader.
A Welsh schoolmaster thus commented upon the results of the first examination
in the Gelligaer schools: —
Here we have one School Board alone, without adequate text books, and with a
large admixture of English-speaking children among its pupils, passing over
82 per cent, in the first examination in Welsh as a specific subject, and
adding thereby a sum of twenty-one pounds to the school fund in additional
grants. In one instance 62 per cent, of the children examined spoke English
habitually at home, and yet 92 per cent of these English-speaking children
passed successfully in their first examination in Welsh! One purely English
child — a girl — was reported as having attained the third highest place in
percentage of marks for Welsh exercises.
One of the head masters under the Board evidently regarded the matter
something as a fad, and simply allowed two pupils to stand, but later on came
to see that it might be more useful and profitable than he had anticipated,
and successfully passed a considerable number.
In the report to the Education Department (Blue Book of 1888), Inspector
Edwards, of Merthyr, appears to be quoted as speaking favourably of the text
books of the Society; and
194 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
Inspector Bancroft remarked on the fact that children in the English speaking
parts of Pembrokeshire are often remarkably slow in answering one question in
The Chief Inspector in issuing the report, refers to the great slowness with
which the teaching of Welsh was spreading, and alludes to parents and
managers' objections, comprising the "popular delusion" spoken of
in Chap. IV. He adds very much to the purpose. "Surely a movement which
aims at improving what cannot now be considered satisfactory ought to have a
fair trial, and to be pushed forward by enlightened educationalists, without
waiting for a demand from the parents, most of whom naturally believe that
the present system must be the best that can be devised."
Of course it ought. I am very glad such a man is in such a position, and has
the good sense and boldness to make the remark. Ask the parents their opinion
about the land laws and the Established Church, or the labour movement, and
they have a right to be listened to, but it is a doctrine that should be most
strongly protested against, that they should dictate a system of education to
persons whose opportunities for forming a broad and liberal judgment are far
more extensive than theirs.
Parents in general have but a limited idea of what education, even such an
education as is possible and suitable for their circumstances in life, means:
they need strong minds to direct: so do many school managers, and this
narrowness of culture is one of the difficulties the Welsh has to contend
Inspector Pryce, of Carmarthenshire, in the same report, appears to
depreciate teaching Welsh, which was entirely excluded as a specific from his
district, but gives no reason except the unpopularity with parents, — not of
the language, but of its introduction into secular education.
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 195
In the Welsh Division Report for 1890, published in 1891, the Chief Inspector
alludes to the fact that "specific subjects are almost confined to
higher-grade Elementary Schools," such as those established in large
towns like Cardiff, where we should naturally expect to find not much Welsh
attempted, and that ordinary schools find sufficient to do without, while
teaching httle more than "elementary, and two class subjects," an
observation which accentuates the remark following, that the "full value
of the movement will not be attained till bilingual reading books be used in
the lower standards"; he even goes further than this, and says that his
experience has strengthened his conviction that advantage would accrue from
using "the child's knowledge of his own language in teaching not only
English but other languages as well."
Although specifics are thus handicapped, after listening to the Chief
Inspector, we will give some consideration to the reports of Inspectors.
The Carmarthen district Inspector says: "Welsh has not yet been chosen
as a specific subject in any school in my district. This is, no doubt, partly
owing to the children in the larger schools possessing a fair knowledge in
English, especially in the higher standards.". Now, in fact, if these
children are bilingual, the reason assigned is a poor one. He admits to
passing 408 in specific subjects; the boys in Algebra and animal physiology,
and the girls in domestic economy. Algebra, it is true, would teach them to
think, but so would Welsh, besides enlarging their powers of expression.
The Denbigh District Inspector says: "Welsh seems to be the popular
specific subject in my district * * * in one school, strange to say, an
English girl beat her Welsh fellows in this subject." This is simply the
Gelligaer experience repeated. If popular in the Denbighshire district, which
includes semi-Anglicized Ruabon, why not in Carmarthenshire,
196 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP. V.
where a convenient knowledge of both languages co-exists to a large extent?
If the reason assigned is that the children in the latter know Welsh already,
why not, on the same ground, say that they know English already in Llanelly
and Carmarthen, and refuse to teach them English composition.
The Pembroke District Inspector remarks on most of his schools, being unable
to go in for specific subjects, that Welsh would "probably be more
popular as a class subject, as there are but few scholars above the 5th
The Merthyr District Inspector (W. Edwards) says: That as things are at
present, Welsh is begun to be taught too late in a child's course, and that a
boy cannot take kindly to the conjugation of Welsh verbs, and the declension
of nouns, when he has not previously read a Welsh book, and become familiar
with the written form of the language, which he only knows colloquially.
What is said from the Carnarvon district, the "very headquarters of
modern Welsh literature, and Welsh writers the classic ground of llenorion a beirdd now, and perhaps for a long period, in the future?
Absolutely nothing. The Inspector has an English name, and though he may
possess a small knowledge of the language, it is believed that he rarely
In bilingual districts the subject is more likely to be popular with parents,
but the ogre of the English manager
or member of a School Board, who thinks he knows what the children want, but
wishes to checkmate Welsh, is still more likely to present itself. Perhaps he
is a colliery or tin-plate manager, or even a tradesman from across the
border, and it is not impossible that he will approach the subject with that
dogmatic assurance of a "little knowledge" which is sufficient to
be a "dangerous thing."
CHAP. v.] [WALES AND] HER LANGUAGE. 197
Mynyddislwyn School Board, for instance, took Welsh not long since. In the
only school under that Board, with which I am acquainted, it was a success,
the children were getting on well; but at the end of some five months,
without assigning a reason they stopped it, under an Englishman as chairman,
and one or more English members. It is true that one of the head-masters is
also an Englishman, and I heard he makes fun of their language to his Welsh
scholars. Perhaps the influence of the two combined, i.e., of two or three
ignorant persons who happened to be in positions of authority, was allowed to
turn the judgment of the Board back from the course on which it had entered.
I made it my business, shortly before hearing this, to call at another
Monmouthshire school where a different Board, though by no means warmly
attached to the Welsh idea gave the master liberty to teach Welsh as a
The sum of his testimony of the results of its introduction was:
1. That the children have a higher opinion of their language.
2. It is a success.
3. The children take an interest in it.
4. Their English is improved.
Now, if it is so in this school, why should it not be so in 1100 out of 1425
schools in Wales? Can anyone give a clear answer in the negative? I have read
carefully, a good deal bearing on the subject during the last six years, and
however much, invectives may be hurled, or contempt cast on those who work in
the direction of bringing this about, nothing has yet been written or said
which shews that the balance of evidence lies against the conclusion that
this is about the proportion of schools in which Welsh can be used, either as
a specific subject, or as a class subject side by side with English, or in
the process of teaching elementary subjects, i.e. reading, writing and
198 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP.
Into the 323 remainiag schools, perhaps it would be unwise to attempt to
introduce anything of the sort at present, though with even where a minority
of the population speak Welsh the Government concessions, still make it
possible to teach it.
A boy, John Smith, for instance, can read a page of a bilingual book in
BngUsh, if he knows nothing of Welsh. The next boy, David Hughes, half a page
in English and half in Welsh; perhaps with general benefit to the class.
The following table shews the progress of Welsh as a "specific"
during four years: — 1887 1888 1889 1890
No. of scholars 1
examined in I 192 369 403 450
Passed 140 253 285 271
We must not look on Welsh as a specific, simply as an arrangement for the
benefit of Welsh children. English children learn the language readily in
Welsh districts. Near the very Monmouthshire school above mentioned, I was
told that English children learnt Welsh with their fellows, and preferred
Children like those don't know much about nationality and sentiment — the
real pleasure, doubtless, arises from the second language awaking a hidden
spring of mental power, which they are able to enjoy without much effort.
Putting specifics now for the moment aside, how does the current Report deal
with other possible forms of teaching the language. Any thorough and widely
extended system is, perhaps, not possible until the publication of the Text
books, but in the meantime a little is possible in teaching English
composition, in lieu of which translation from English into
CHAP, v.] [WALES AND] HER
Welsh is allowed. All teachers, and managers ought to know that this is now
permissible, and does not necessarily require the use of specially prepared
school books to carry it out.
What does the Chief Inspector say? Why, that he is "surprised and disappointed" to find so few teachers availing
themselves of it, while he is fully persuaded that the results would be more
valuable than an attempt at Composition.
The Cardigan Inspector, weary of the insipid monotony of some portions of his
work, says, after speaking of certain teachers being not quite up to the mark
in English grammar, that in some cases of the sort "Welsh might very
well be attempted, for there are many teachers in the Welsh part of my
district who could make the subject interesting and beneficial to their
scholars. I should be glad if some tried it, only for the sake of a little variety." [i.e. tried Welsh as a
Lastly, I will note the recommendation of the Merthyr Inspector, which, if
carried into effect, would introduce Welsh into all standards and all
schools, because that language would be incidental to the compulsory subject,
reading. "It is, in my opinion, highly desirable that in all Welsh
schools one of the reading books should be wholly or partly in the
vernacular." He goes on to make the very sensible remark that parents
are not capable judges of the merits of the change — is convinced that a
Welsh child will not lose in a material sense, and will gain a great deal
intellectually, — the bulk of teachers in his district could with very slight
preparation qualify themselves for giving the bilingual instructions
sanctioned by the Code of 1890.
Now, what meaning can we attach to this backwardness, when no less than 339
of them gave affirmative answers as to the desirability of the introduction
of Welsh as a specific in
200 WALES AND [HER LANGUAGE] [CHAP.
1885? In part we must put it down to the
fact that some of them may be waiting the appearing of Text Books, and only a
few are in a position to introduce a specific to their schools. To be honest,
however, this leaves a large part of the problem unexplained. 1 would venture
on one hypothesis — they share that common inheritance of weak humanity, a
reluctance to launch out into the unknown when the known presents a plausible
amount of satisfaction and ease.
''' Illi robur et aes triplex
Circa pectus erat, qui fragilem truci Commisit pelage ratem Primus * * '•''
I would figure them like those children whose first introduction to the sea
is at one of those Welsh watering-places where fond mothers have succeeded in
steeling their own hearts to commit them to the care of some weather-beaten
mistress of a bathing-machine, to give the young hopefuls willhe, nillhe, a
good sousing into the briny deep.
Now some teachers are just in the position to profit by such a good sousing
metaphorically, but who will be able to play the part of Gwragedd glan y mor?
Of course, in view of the appearance of the long-looked for bilingual reading
books, and the consequent introduction of Welsh into all the standards, much
that I have vmtten here may read like ancient history, before the present
school generation has entirely left the benches. I must, nevertheless, treat
the question as it is, and not as it may be in a short time; only thus can
its bearings be grasped intellectually.
One cannot help strongly contrasting the extraordinary and popular
demonstration at the death of the late D. I. Davies,
* Horace, Carm. Lib. I. iii. — Around his heart were fixed stout oak and
threefold brass, who first to the wild ocean entrusted his frail skiff.
CHAP. V.] [WALES AND] HER
his being treated almost like a national hero, the long procession and the
imposing array of influential names who either honoured his memory by their
presence at the grave, or by written communications, with the small amount of
actual pains which have been taken by such to spread the views which he so
energetically and ably set forth, and to educate the country up to the
necessary degree of discrimination in a matter — apparently a detail of
education, but in reality one of great and unforeseen importance.
One cannot help, on the other hand, reflecting on the lethargy, shall I say
boorishness, displayed by a large majority of school managers in the face of
such clear representations as have been made in public, though they may not
have troubled to direct their reading to the quarters where non-official
statements would be likely to be found, or to the official representations
made by persons such as D. I. Davies, Chief Inspector Williams, and W.
Edwards, appointed by Government to superintend schools, and advise on any
point which the powers of the Code allow.
It is not the duty of the Inspectors (officially) to go and argue with these
managers, but has there not been a Society established for the express
object, amongst others, of educating public opinion? If it has failed in
taking proper steps to do that, and remained quiescent, whose fault is it?
Have the admirers of D. I. Davies's educational principles nothing to say or
do, and is the presence of an influential Englishman, or Anglicized Welshman
on a School Board, to quash all enquiry and linguistic enterprise in a
district? Wait a bit, and when the bilingual reading books are issued we
shall again have an opportunity of seeing what mettle Welsh educationalists
are made of.
To ponder, in an unreasoning way, over parents' objections is childish. There
are, however, some difficulties, one of the
202 WALES AND HER LANGUAGE. [CHAP.
principal ones of which is the want of previous training on the part of many
teachers. But most or all of them will gradually vanish in a few years, or be
greatly minimized under the influence of a special Code for Wales, and
special regulations for would-be teachers.
As the Chief Inspector has remarked, the movement has done good in inducing
some Inspectors to pay more attention to the scholars understanding what they
read in schools. This is good so far, but Wales needs more than this. The
scholars should not only understand that which it is attempted to teach them
in school, but also should have the advantage of systematic training in the
language which is taught them at home, and which for many, will form their
principal medium of communication for the remainder of their life. In short,
the efforts of school authorities should be directed not merely to enable the
scholars to understand English, but they should also not be afraid to
I will close the chapter by an extract* from a paper by one of the few
schoolmasters who has had this practical experience —
For the sake of our children, our chief care, who have so far been suffering
wrong at our hands, inasmuch as an ignorant zeal has hindered their true
progress, and we have taken from them the only means which they possessed of
becoming intelligently instructed, to wit, their language — the only proper
key to open the door of their minds — have slighted every thing that was dear
and sacred in their eyes; have robbed them of the self-confidence which was
necessary in order for them to grow up as men, and be men everywhere. Our cry
for them is, make their path straight by giving their language the position
it is worthy of in our educational system, that there may be more sympathy
between the hearth and the day school, because the latter will be a "home
from home" to the children, which it has not been in the past.
* Translated from "Cymraeg yn yr
Ysgolion Dyddiol," gan T. Clement Thomas, in Y Traethodydd Gor. 1890.