Friday, October 10, 2008

Book of the Month

Ruth Bidgood's Parishes of the Buzzard was originally published in 2000, although I'm told that the book has recently been reprinted. Ostensibly a history of the two Abergwesyn parishes, in many ways it is a history of a much wider swathe of Builth Hundred.

The book is an example of the very best kind of local history, wide ranging, well-written and full of fascinating detail and insights into life in this, nowadays, remote part of Mid Wales. There is much in this book to hold the reader, I was particularly taken with the contrast between the village schoolmistress Esther Morgan - stoically teaching her Welsh speaking pupils God Save the Queen and the virtues of English nationalism - and a later supply teacher, the brusque but patriotic Annie James.

The appointment of Owen M Edwards as Chief Inspector of Schools for Wales in 1907 led to a far more sympathetic attitude to the use of Welsh in the classroom. It is no surprise to find Miss Bidgood recording an HMI's report of 1911 critical of Miss Morgan's exclusion of the language. Edwards himself visited the school and complimented Miss Morgan on having kept up her own knowledge of Welsh. A quick search of the on-line records shows Miss Morgan being born in 1856 in Llanddetty in the east of Breconshire and having taught for many years in West Bromwich. The change in culture from one that wanted the Welsh language Englished out of Wales must have been difficult for the head teacher.

At £10 this book is a bargain and should be snapped up by everyone interested in the history of Mid Wales.

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