Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Census Again

No Welsh Identity

The 'no Welsh identity' figures for Radnorshire make grim reading for those with a patriotic outlook.  Readers may well be reminded of J R Jones' comment about a particular bitter form of exile; that where, rather than leaving your own country, your country leaves you.  Here are the figures:

Abbeycwmhir 47%, Aberedw 49%, Beguildy 67%, Clyro 68%, Diserth 62%, Glasbury 52%, Gladestry 62%, Glascwm 47%,  Knighton 67%, Llanbadarn Fawr 49%, Llanbadarn Fynydd 44%, Llanbister 44%, Llanddewi Ystradenni 47%, Llandrindod 56%, Llanelwedd 40%, Llanfihangel Rhydithon 60%, Llangynllo 63%, Llanyre 51%, Nantmel 52%, New Radnor 71%, Old Radnor 71%, Painscastle 52%, Penybont 49%, Presteigne 76%, Rhayader 45%, St Harmon 49%, Whitton 71%.

Of course it's not all doom and gloom, the figures are inflated by cross border births and the non-Welsh element will be over-represented in the older age groups - people who, in the rather blunt words of Dafydd Iwan, have come to Wales to die.  I doubt if Radnorian folk have ever given a more ringing endorsement of their Welsh identity than they did in the census of 2011.  They may be a minority in much of their own land, but at least they see themselves as a Welsh minority.

Builth Hundred

Here are the figures for that little piece of Radnorshire that somehow ended up in Brecknockshire:

Builth Town:  Welsh only 52%, English only 15%, British only 20% - NWI 41%
Cilmeri:  Welsh only 45%, English only 21%, British only 25% - NWI 48%
Duhonw:  Welsh only 45%, English only 21%, British only 20% - NWI 49%
Llanafan:  Welsh only 51%, English only 14%, British only 21% - NWI 41%
Llangammarch:  Welsh only 42%, English only 18%, British only 29% - NWI 52%
Llanwrthwl:  Welsh only 35%, English only 19%, British only 29% - NWI 54%
Llanwrtyd:  Welsh only 34%, English only 25%, British only 27% - NWI 59%
Treflys:  Welsh only 46%, English only 21%, British only 21% - NWI 46%

NWI = % of population recording no Welsh identity.


Part of the charm of border towns like Knighton and Presteigne has been their long-standing mixed ethnicity, but what about Llanwrtyd?   In the 1911 census it was 80% Welsh speaking with 1 in 6 of its inhabitants not even  able to use the English tongue.  Even in 1951 after two World Wars and the depression Welsh was still spoken by two thirds of the town's inhabitants.  By 1971 the Welsh speaking population had fallen to 48%, while today it stands at an optimistic 18%.  According to the latest Estyn report no children at the local school come from Welsh speaking homes, and now we find that 59% of the population of this little town at the heart of Wales won't even claim any kind of Welsh identity.  This is what happens to a country's economy and culture when it allows its laws to be dictated by foreigners.

Welsh in England

Some folk have long asked that the Census enumerate Welsh speakers in England as well as those in Wales.  The 2011 census didn't do that, but it did require that the main language of the household be noted where it was not English.  With a Welsh born population living in England of 500K you'd expect around 50K to be Welsh speaking, infact the number recorded was just 8248.  No doubt this is an underestimation of the total number able to speak Welsh but at least it is a realistic figure and not overly inflated by patriotic zeal.  1310 of such folk live in London, but what about the Oswestry area.

As we have noted before Shropshire, rather than Cornwall, was the last county in England with indigenous speakers of a Celtic language, parishes such as Selattyn having home-grown Welsh speakers well into the 20C.  For example in 1946 five of the pupils at the local school were fluent Welsh speakers from Welsh speaking homes (cf present-day Llanwrtyd).  In 2011 just 10% of the inhabitants of Selattyn admitted to a Welsh identity, in nearby West Rhyn it was 15%, with 14% in St Martins and around 8% in Oswestry and Whittington.  Just over 200 residents of Oswestry and vicinity listed Welsh as the main language of their household.  Whether they were Salopians or incomers who knows?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Radnorian Identity

The detailed 2011 census figures for parishes and wards were published this morning, you can search them here.

A popular fancy amongst the chattering classes is to talk of multiple identities - people who feel, for example, European and British and Welsh.  Well, there's not much sign of that in the results for the census question on national identity.  Although people could opt for numerous combinations, around 90% opted for a single identity and in Radnorshire that meant choosing between Welsh, English and British.

Here are the figures for Radnorshire communities

Abbeycwmhir:  Welsh only 46%, English only 20%, British only 25%
Aberedw:  Welsh only 44%, English only 20%, British only 27%
Beguildy:  Welsh only 27%, English only 36%, British only 25%
Clyro:  Welsh only 27%, English only 32%, British only 28%
Diserth:   Welsh only 33%, English only 34%, British only 23%
Glasbury:  Welsh only 42%, English only 21%, British only 25%
Gladestry:  Welsh only 34%, English only 30%, British only 23%
Glascwm:  Welsh only 47%, English only 19%, British only 25%
Knighton:  Welsh only 28%, English only 38%, British only 22%
Llanbadarn Fawr:  Welsh only 46%, English only 23%, British only 21%
Llanbadarn Fynydd:  Welsh only 44%, English only 20%, British only 18%
Llanbister:  Welsh only 49%, English only 23%, British only 18%
Llanddewi Ystradenni:  Welsh only 47%, English only 24%, British only 19%
Llandrindod:  Welsh only 37%, English only 26%, British only 24%
Llanelwedd  Welsh only 54%, English only 18%, British only 18%
Llanfihangel Rhydithon:  Welsh only 35%, English only 27%, British only 26%
Llangynllo:  Welsh only 31%, English only 34%, British only 22%
Llanyre:  Welsh only 41%, English only 24%, British only 21%
Nantmel:  Welsh only 41%, English only 20%, British only 27%
New Radnor:  Welsh only 24%, English only 31%, British only 32%
Old Radnor:  Welsh only 24%, English only 35%, British only 30%
Painscastle:  Welsh only 40%, English only 24%, British only 22%
Penybont:  Welsh only 43%, English only 22%, British only 20%
Presteigne:  Welsh only 21%, English only 41%, British only 26%
Rhayader:  Welsh only 50%, English only 22%, British only 17%
St Harmon:  Welsh only 43%, English only 27%, British only 20%
Whitton:  Welsh only 25%, English only 32%, British only 32%

I guess you could look at these figures and conclude that the Radnorshire population consisted of a substantial minority of English with a majority Welsh population, many of whom identified as British.  You'd be wrong.

Infact the Welsh born, and I know the figures are skewed by births in Hereford hospital, are a minority - Rhayader and Llanelwedd with 56% Welsh born being top of the list - in Knighton just a third are Welsh born, in Presteigne just a quarter - in 21 of the 27 Radnorshire communities the Welsh born are in the minority.

A fairer characterisation would be to say that the ethnically Welsh are now a minority in Radnorshire ...... that these Welsh overwhelmingly* identify as Welsh only.....given that fact, we can also say that the Welsh are marginally more likely to chose a mixed identity than the English .... and that the English are more likely to chose a 'British only' identity than the Welsh.

Finally people choosing no 'Welsh identity' at all comprise the majority in sixteen of the twenty seven Radnorshire communities.  I'm searching for a phrase to describe this phenomenon, ethnic cleansing springs to mind.

*  It's not failsave but if we compare the total Welsh only identifiers as a % of the Welsh born we get only two communities where the figure is less than 80%  - Whitton (75%) and Llangynllo (77%), in eleven communities it is more than 90%, in Gladestry it's 111%.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Not often you see this ....

......... a politician talking sense about the banksters - and, last time I checked, the President of Iceland was actually on a lower* annual salary than the Chief Executive of Powys County Council.

* Icelandic President £95K, Powys CE between 124K and 132K

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nature Notes

An ice tower in a Radnorian bird bath:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Spies of Llandrindod?

The BBC's latest espionage offering Spies of Warsaw, with David Tennant somewhat miscast as a tough French military attaché, is set in the late 1930s as Europe prepares for war.  Meanwhile in Llandrindod .....

Our story, a true one as it happens, starts in Vienna in 1934, with the assassination of the Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in a Nazi inspired coup. While Dollfuss bled to death on the floor of his own office, his pregnant wife Alwine was holidaying in Italy with her two young children Eva and Rudi.  They were staying as guests of Mussolini and his wife Rachele.  It was left to the Italian dictator to break the news of her husband's murder to Frau Dollfuss.  Angered and fearing a German invasion of Austria in the wake of the failed coup, Mussolini mobilised a force of some 50000 men and sent them to the Tyrolean border.  This gave Hitler pause for thought and it was not until 1938 that German troops finally entered the country.  Frau Dollfuss, by then a mother of three, fled Austria for Budapest before eventually finding sanctuary in Llandrindod Wells.

The family lived at Trevaldwyn, a white and green villa in Montpelier Park, the home of a South African widow, long resident in the town, Mrs Murray-Parker.  Frau Dollfuss, "a most lovable person" according to a maid at the house, was said to be writing a book and it was perhaps this, townsfolk reasoned, which led to the appearance of a carload of mysterious strangers in the Spa in April 1939.  The strangers, one was described by a garage mechanic as "a typical German with cropped hair and glasses," began asking for Frau Dollfuss at guest houses and hotels.  Eventually they called at Trevaldwyn, by which time the Dollfuss family, accompanied by Mrs Murray-Parker, had already fled the town.

Eventually Frau Dollfuss must have returned to Llandrindod since newspaper photographs from 1940 show the family preparing to leave for Canada.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Old Logic

The surname Burgoyne is a reminder that to the south and east of Radnorshire lay districts which once had a decidedly French character - the name means a native of Bourgogne or Burgendy.  In Radnorshire, at least, it was often spelt Burgwyn or, as in the case of young Thomas of the Gobe* farm christened at Gladestry parish church on 17th June 1827, Burgwynne.

By the time Thomas reached Australia in 1849 he had a young wife, a sound knowledge of all aspects of the building trade - a speciality of his family - and was spelling his name as Burgoyne.  You can read more about him in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here.  To this we can only add that once, when confronted by a party of aborigine warriors, he impressed upon them the superiority of European weaponry by shooting their dog.  Thomas led his Independent (Country) Party in the South Australian assembly for 30 years, attributing his eventual defeat at the age of 88 to the fact that many hundreds of itinerant workers, engaged in building a railway, were on the electoral register.

* Does anyone know the origin of this placename?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Radnorian and the Ku Klux Klan

John Evans, originally of Esgair Rhiw, Nantmel (1867-1958) and later a Saskatchewan politician and member of the Canadian House of Commons between 1921 and 1930, was a radical, anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist voice who eventually left the Progressive Party to join the socialist CCF.

Why given this background was Evans accused of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and why does his comment in the Canadian Commons that the Klan's members were "not in any way what one might call hot-headed and they are absolutely against any violent or unconstitutional way of doings things" get quoted in various histories of racism in Canada?

It comes as a surprise to learn that the Klan was estimated to have 25,000 members in Saskatchewan in the late 1920s, this in a province with less than a million inhabitants.  The prairie Klan had only the most tenuous links with its American progenitor, although it adopted the same regalia and cross-burning antics.  It exploited fears about East European immigration and the influence of the Roman Catholic church in some of the province's public schools.  If John Evans sought to ride the Klan tiger - and he would have known of another popular, secretive, oath-bound society from his native parish, the Rebeccaites of Radnorshire - his political enemies rode it better; Evans' defeat in the 1930 General Election being put down to Klan backing for his Conservative opponent.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Musical Interlude

Synchronised Slurring

The BBC's Christmas drama offering Restless has been widely mocked for errors such as the sight of this lovely 1947 Truimph roadster trundling through wartime New Mexico ........ on the wrong side of the road.

Of more interest was the factual background against which the play was set, the Vanlo incident and, especially, British Security Coordination, Churchill's information/disinformation outfit operating in the United States.

It's doubtful if the practitioners of black and grey propaganda ever really went away, but surely they'd not waste their talents on anything as trivial as Wales and its ailing tongue?

Well, there have been some interesting newspaper articles concerning the Welsh language in the English press of late.  These usually hit on some minor incident or invention, which is suddenly thought important enough to raise blood pressure throughout Middle England ..... an obscure tweet complaining about school toilets in Ceredigion perhaps, or an arch-druid involved in a spat in a Pwllheli shop.  In the latest example an author moans about the Welsh Books Council and it makes the pages of, well, the usual offenders, the Telegraph and the Mail.

Are we to expect more of this synchronised slurring in the run-up to the Scottish Independence vote?  At least the most recent furore led me to this commaful "tribute" page.