Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welsh in Abbeycwmhir, 1901

Before the recent publication of the 1891 and 1901 census figures, opinions as to the fate of the Welsh language in Radnorshire were often based on prejudice rather than fact. Today we have a surer basis for understanding the process of language shift, at least for the west of the county, although even now eminent professors can still publish statements that are clearly at odds with the evidence.

Looking at the 1901 Census figures, we find a handful of locally born Welsh speakers, mostly in their 70s and 80s, living in Abbeycwmhir parish. On closer examination of earlier census data, a couple of these individuals are seen to have actually been born in the neighbouring parish of St Harmon and another in Llangurig. This still leaves three folk who were born in the parish, to locally born parents, and who never seem to have lived anywhere else. At the onset of the Twentieth Century they were the last traditional speakers of Radnorshire Welsh in the Clywedog valley, a tributary of the upper Ithon, and the last, as well, in the ancient cantref of Maelienydd.

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