Friday, October 25, 2013

Welsh-Speaking Radnorians in the 1911 Census

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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Radnorian
I comment on Welsh Speaking in Radnorshire in the 1911 census
The 19th and 20th century saw more draconian laws against the Welsh with the Treachery of The Blue Books, and Welsh NOT. The Blue Books was an English government inquiry into Welsh school and education, it was headed by three none-Welsh speaking English Anglican men, who travel around Wales in 1846, and published their finding in what are known as Blue books, and presented them to the English parliament in 1847. Their conclusion of the report was detailed that schools in Wales were extremely inadequate, often with teachers speaking only English and using only English textbooks in areas where the children spoke only Welsh, and that Welsh-speakers had to rely on the Nonconformist Sunday Schools to acquire literacy. But it also concluded that the Welsh were ignorant, lazy and immoral, and that among the causes of this were the use of the Welsh language and nonconformity. [] More was to come with the implementation of the Welsh NOT in Welsh schools. It punished welsh children for speaking Welsh in School (this penal law hit home, and affected my family as my mother was one of the children who was punished by this law.) Children who broke the English only rule were severely punished and made to stand in a corner wearing a plaque around their necks with the words Welsh Not or the letters WN.[]
One also has to remember that at the end of Roman rule an estimated at 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 Brythoniaid/Welshmen inhabited Prydain/Britain. In 1630, the figure was less 350,000., and in the 1810/11 censors the population censors for Wales was less that 600,000 Welshmen where recorded in Wales. .
The answer for the decimation of the native Brython/Welsh can be found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, which states that, whole cities were annihilated and body where heaped in great mounds, as they scorch the land from East to west. However, until the early 20th century historians believed the decimation of the ancient Brython was done by genocide, but, modern historians think more of a migration, which does not fit the DNA findings. I have never in more that five decades of research in hanes/history believed otherwise of the brutality of the Germanic, who named us Brytwalas (British foreigner) or Walas or Wealas meaning Foreigner, a name that was to mutate to Welsh and Wales, which still means foreigner to this day. The link is to the Saxon chronicle 'A' manuscript, it is in Germanic, however, for dates 449, you can pick out the various spellings of Walas, Walum, or Bret, Bryt, Bretene, meaning Brython/Welsh.
Best Regards

Jero Jones, Mab Cymru

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