According to some of our leading historians the Welsh language died out in Radnorshire centuries ago. Take Glanmor Williams for example, who wrote of "border counties like Radnorshire which have been English in speech for some centuries" or Geraint H. Jenkins who, referring to the mid 18C, explained that "the language had receded westwards so rapidly in Radnorshire that it had vanished from the lips of all but the most aged inhabitants of the county."
Well there must be something about the Radnorshire air because some of those "aged inhabitants" were still alive and kicking at the time of the 1911 Census, a handful were even teenagers.
Regular readers will know I'm going over old ground here. It's quite correct that the Welsh language disappeared at an alarming rate in Radnorshire, as quickly as in Ireland where three generations could see a parish move from a 100% Irish speaking to virtually nil. Where the experts - beguiled by the language of church services - go wrong, is in placing that process of language shift a hundred years or more too soon.
One wet afternoon I spent a couple of hours noting down Radnorshire-born Welsh speakers in the 1911 Census, I gave up at around 600. Not all that 600 actually lived in Radnorshire, although there were still a fair number of locally born, let's call them indigenous, Welsh-speakers in the parishes of Cwmteuddwr, Rhaeadr and St Harmon - with the occasional Ned Maddrell and Dolly Pentreath in parishes further east.
Anyway let's get to the point of the post. There's a theory which gets repeated now and then that language shift in Radnorshire was facilitated by incomers, sometimes said to be Cromwellian soldiery settled in the county after our neighbour's Civil War. I don't think this theory stands up to much examination. Firstly because some of the most common 'English surnames' pre-date the civil war, while others belong to the very real 16C plantation in West Montgomeryshire. Look back at tax returns, wills etc and you'll find that the numbers of incomers settling in Radnorshire parishes were nowhere near enough to facilitate a language shift of their own accord.
And here my couple of hours spent noting down those 1911 Welsh-speaking, Radnorshire-born citizens might have had a purpose. Amongst the 600 we find long-established local surnames of English origin like Bound, Bufton, Bywater, Hamer, Hope, Ingram, Mantle, Mason, Webb, Wilding, Worthing and Wozencraft. Oh and Scott, descendants of a Renfrewshire family who turned up in the county in the early 19C and were perhaps the last incomers to be Cymricised in Radnorshire before the current revival.