Saturday, February 09, 2013

Gwalia Irredenta

As the recent programmes on S4C about Tryweryn made clear, the first direct action at the site was carried out by patriots from what commentators insist on calling anglicised Wales; in the case of Pritchard and Walters this being Monmouthshire.  I've already complained about the use of the term anglicisation to describe the process of language shift, see here.  If we want to see what anglicisation really means we have to look at somewhere like South Herefordshire and the national identity question in the recent census..

The last Welsh-speaking native of South Herefordshire is said to have died in the parish of Clodock in 1883.  Certainly there is documentary evidence to show that the language was spoken in places like Michaelchurch Escley and Craswall during the 18C and Welsh placenames and surnames are common throughout the area even today.  If more than 50000 natives of Cornwall could go to the trouble of writing-in a Cornish only identity in the 2011 Census, then surely there might be some evidence of a continuing Welsh identity in an area that spoke a Celtic language for just as long, if not longer, than Kernow?

In reality an English-only identity rules the roost throughout the old districts of Ewias and Erging.  Just as much of the population of eastern Germany is made up of thoroughly Germanised folk who happen to be of Slavonic and Baltic origin - Mrs Merkel for example - so South Herefordshire appears thoroughly anglicised, a people who no longer regard themselves as Welsh.

Is there any evidence of a continuing Welsh identity amongst even a small minority in the area?  There are a handful of parishes where the figure identifying as Welsh is greater than the figure born in Wales, but the numbers are small and there could be various explanations.  The most interesting anomaly are parishes where the number identifying as English-only is much lower than the Herefordshire average and the figure identifying as British-only is much greater.  Does this indicate some distinct ethnic awareness?  We also have to remember that, like rural Wales, Ewias and Erging are areas that attract incomers.  Anyway here are some figures for some of the parishes involved:

Herefordshire:  English-only 64% Welsh-only 4% British-only 16%
Clifford:  English-only 52% Welsh-only 8% British-only 28%
Cusop:  English-only 51% Welsh-only 15% British-only 19%
Dorstone:  English-only 54% Welsh-only 7% British-only 26%
Newton:  English-only 55% Welsh-only 9% British-only 27%
Abbeydore:  English-only 55% Welsh-only 5% British-only 23%
Longtown:  English-only 53% Welsh-only 11% British-only 21%
Llangarron:  English-only 56% Welsh-only 8% British-only 24%
Welsh Newton:  English-only 47% Welsh-only 8% British-only 30%
Ganarew:  English-only 50% Welsh-only 12% British-only 26%
Rowlestone:  English-only 50% Welsh-only 8% British-only 26% 

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