Saunders Lewis: Fate of the Language

From the February 1962 BBC radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith
Translation into English by G. Aled Williams

I have to start writing this and have to finish it before the returns of last year's census of the Welsh-speaking population of Wales are published. I shall presuppose that the figures which will shortly be published will shock and disappoint those of us who consider that Wales without the Welsh language will not be Wales. I shall also presuppose that Welsh will end as a living language, should the present trend continue, about the beginning of the twenty-first century, assuming that there will be people left in the island of Britain at that time.

Thus the policy laid down as the aim of the English Government in Wales in the measure called the Act of Union of England and Wales in 1536 will at last have succeeded. To give the Government its due, throughout some four centuries of governing Wales, despite every change of circumstance, despite every change in parliamentary method and in the means of government, despite every social revolution, it has never wavered in applying this policy of excluding the Welsh language as a language of administration from office, court and legal writing. A lawyer said in a court of law in 1773:

It has always been the policy of the legislature to introduce the English language into Wales.

Matthew Arnold, an Inspector of Schools, said in his official report in 1852:

It must always be the desire of a Government to render its dominions, as far as possible, homogeneous . . . Sooner or later, the difference of language between Wales and England will probably be effaced . . . an event which is socially and politically so desirable.

And even in the second half of the twentieth century, in 1952, in the Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, despite all the change there had been in the attitude and thinking of educational and cultural leaders, care was taken not to specify the Welsh language as an essential attribute of the Controller and Chairman for Wales.

I do not forget that there has been an enormous change in the schools. Today the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education fosters the Welsh language and urges it on the schools more than the Welsh local authorities. I shall speak later on about significance of that. But outside the world of the child and school it is English only which is essential for every post or administrative office in Wales. The principle of the Act of Union has not been relaxed at all, although there has been an important in the Government's attitude of mind.

Matthew Arnold was writing four years after the the Blue Books of 1847. His purpose was to support the recommendations of the Blue Books, and he laid emphasis on the fact that extermination of Welsh was a political policy. Let us turn to the Welsh people themselves, lest the mote in the Englishman's eye causes us not to see the beam in the eye of the Welshman. If you read the historical section of the report on The Welsh Language in Education and Life (1927) you will see today that the account of the sixteenth century hopelessly misinterprets the meaning of many of the Welsh Humanists' complaints about the condition of the Welsh language. But as to the quotation from the famous preface of Morris Kyffin who complained about the Welsh cleric

Who said that it were not proper to allow the printing Welsh book whatsoever, but he would that all the nation learn English and lose their Welsh.

-that is fair evidence of the opinion of the great majority of clerics and gentry concerning Tudor policy. William Salesbury and Bishop Morgan wrote in a similar vein. Siôn Tudur said as much in a cywydd. We know today that what was said in public and in print was not the true opinion of many of the subjects of Elizabeth the First. Her state was that of the sheriff; the spy, and the catchpole, and the wise man did not speak his mind. Besides, we have to interpret the Humanists' vocabulary.

It is proper that we should acknowledge two facts. First, that from the death of Elizabeth until the threshold of the twentieth century there was neither an attempt nor an intention by anyone of importance in Wales to undo in any way the bond that united Wales to England, nor opposition of any account to the principle of a united indivisible kingdom. After 1536 the concept of Wales as a nation, as an historical unit, ceased to be a memory, an ideal or a fact. Secondly, as a result neither was there any political attempt until the twentieth century to restore the status of the Welsh language or to win for it recognition in any way as an official or an administrative language. All Wales was satisfied with its complete suppression.

These two facts are closely connected. If England and Wales are one totally united kingdom - homogeneous is Matthew Arnold's word - then the existence of an historical Welsh language is a political stumbling-block, a reminder of a different state of affairs, a danger to the union. That was precisely what was said in the Act of Union, in the Blue Books, and many other times. But after the age of Elizabeth the First it was not said as often in Welsh. Welsh literature accepted one principle, it accepted the United Kingdom. The first major classic of the United Kingdom in Welsh is the Bardd Cwsc(1). The heroine of that classic is Queen Anne, with the Statute Book of England in one hand and the Bible in the other. Let us turn to a period which is much closer to us, when the Welsh national awakening demanded the Disestablishment of the State Church in the 1880 General Election. This was what a great-uncle of mine, John Thomas of Liverpool, said in an address at Caernarfon:

We are one great British nation, under one Government, represented in one common parliament, and our true strength lies in our unity . . . and I must say that I have but little sympathy with the cry raised these days for a Welsh parliamentary party.

His standpoint was identical with that of Matthew Arnold, except that Arnold was more logical - it was in English he spoke and he wished that Welsh should die.

By the eighteenth century there is plenty of evidence of the effects of the Act of Union on the language. In a Latin letter written in 1700, Thomas Sebastian Price of Llanfyllin said that Welsh had ceased to be used by that time by anyone except the common folk of low degree. At the time Ellis Wynne was finishing his translation of Jeremy Taylor's Rule and Exercises of Holy Living. In the third chapter he comes to a discussion of the duties of ‘those who have been given their share of high office,' and he says:

The duties of kings, judges, and rulers of Church and State, apart from their being long and complicated, are also irrelevant, more's the pity, where the Welsh language is concerned.

I bless Ellis Wynne for that ‘more's the pity', although he is just as inconsistent as John Thomas. You will remember that in the Bardd Cwsc he shows Welsh as the language of ambassadors and of the letters of kings. But, more's the pity however, those kings are the King of Hell and the King of Death: by this time they were the only rulers the Welsh language possessed.

So it was that the Act of Union excluded Welsh from the courts of rulers and the noble houses of the kingdom, and from the world of the leaders of society where every learning, skill, art and science were expounded. Mr. Alwyn Prosser has shown that Williams of Pantycelyn complained in a similar fashion:

Of all the arts which other countries study, and in which they have achieved great perfection, there is hardly a book in Welsh which shows what one of these arts consists of . . . How long will the Welsh tolerate such ignorance?

The Welsh did tolerate it. The Constitutions of the Society of Cymmrodorion (1755) were another attempt to restore breadth of interest and the culture of nobility to the Welsh language. In a letter to William Vaughan, Richard Morris said of them:

We, the Cymmrodorion, shall reveal to the world the value of this old language in such beautiful colours as it will be reckoned an honour henceforth to speak it amongst the learned and the nobility of the kingdom, aye, in the King's court, as was the custom of yore.

But Richard Morris, too, was disappointed and embittered. The Cymmrodorion failed to nurture a cultured Welsh-speaking middle class. And the next important document concerning the position and influence of Welsh is R. W. Lingen's large section in the Blue Books of 1847. The Betrayal of the Blue Books was the name given in Wales to this report. In his book Welsh and Scottish Nationalism, Sir Reginald Coupland maintains that it was the Betrayal of the Blue Books which stung Welsh nationalism awake. Indeed, Coupland is the only historian who has discussed the report in a fair and balanced manner. Hardly a single Welsh writer has yet acknowledged the truth, that these Blue Books are the most important nineteenth-century historical documents we possess, and that they contain a store of information that has not yet been used. All I shall do now is quote a page which is in direct descent from Ellis Wynne, Richard Morris and Williams of Pantycelyn, except that Lingen was writing in the middle of the industrial revolution in South Wales when thousands of the agricultural poor of rural Wales were flocking to the coal-mining and iron-working valleys:

My district exhibits the phenomenon of a peculiar language - here peculiar means belonging to a place or a group of people as distinct from any other - isolating the mass from the upper portion of society; and as a further phenomenon, it exhibits this mass engaged upon the most opposite occupations at points not very distant from each other; being, on the one side, rude and primitive agriculturists living poorly and thinly scattered; on the other, smelters and miners, wantoning in plenty, and congregated in the densest accumulations. An incessant tide of immigration sets in from the former extreme to the latter . . . Externally it would be impossible to exhibit a greater contrast . . . than by comparing the country between the rivers Towi and Teifi with Merthyr, Dowlais, Aberdare, Maesteg, Cwm Afon . . . Yet the families which are daily passing from the one scene to the other do not thereby change their relative position in society. A new field is opened to them, but not a wider. They are never masters . . . It is still the same people. Whether in the country or among the furnaces, the Welsh element is never found at the top of the social scale . . . Equally in his new as in his old home, his language keeps him under the hatches, being one in which he can neither acquire nor communicate the necessary information. It is a language of old-fashioned agriculture, of theology, and of simple rustic life, while all the world about him is English . . . He is left to live in an under-world of his own, and the march of society goes . . . completely over his head.

It is Lingen's accuracy and keen perception which strike us today. A little over half a century later Mr. D.J. Williams went to the coal mines of the Rhondda valley. There is nothing in his portrait of Ferndale at the beginning of the twentieth century in Yn Chwech ar Hugain Oed (Twenty-six Years of Age) which conflicts with the general picture drawn by Lingen in 1847. Neither the circumstances, nor the quality of life, nor the mode of living have changed very much. Lingen's description of Saturday and Sunday nights in Merthyr is astonishingly similar in essence to D. J. Williams's description of those nights in Ferndale. It is true that D.J. gives of his abundant sympathy and his love for human nature whatever its condition, and that Lingen analyses coldly without mincing his words. Lingen told the harsh truth about what he saw and heard, and he revealed the inevitable fate of the Welsh language and of Welsh-speaking society after three centuries of being kept with

the devil under the hatches,
safe, my lad, under lock and key.

Recently Professor Brinley Thomas has been showing that it was the industrial revolution which kept the Welsh language alive in the second half of the last century. Were it not for the coal-mining valleys and the industrial undertakings of the South the drift of people from rural Wales would have been the death of Welsh just as the famine in Ireland was the death of Irish. By 1911 considerably more than half the Welsh-speaking population of Wales was in the coal-mining areas, in Lingen's words ‘wantoning in plenty,' and that was why Thomas Gee's Gwyddoniadur (Encyclopaedia) and the extensive publication of works in Welsh was successful. Already in 1847 Lingen had observed this and foreseen more. The Welsh, he said, had no interest in politics. One witness told him that the Welshmen from the hills who went to join Frost's Chartists believed that their aim was to make for London, to fight one great battle there and win the kingdom. That, I think, is a connecting link with the poems of prognostication and the battle of Bosworth, and with the propaganda of the poets of the Wars of the Roses which carried Henry Tudor to London. Fare you well, Geoffrey of Monmouth, we have heard the final echo of your Brut! In one way this is the strangest and most exciting of the Blue Books' revelations. But as to contemporary politics, Lingen said that all political unrest in the Welsh coalfields was due to incoming Englishmen, thus anticipating the anglicization of the Labour movement which was to bring Keir Hardie from Glasgow to be a leader of the Welsh. The industrial areas did not contribute anything new either to Welsh social life or to the literature of the eisteddfodau. Life in the densely populated valleys was organized on the pattern of that of the rural areas, with the chapel as its focal point. Welsh Nonconformity was the bond which united town and country. And which at the same time kept them standing still.

It was the reaction against the Blue Books which initiated Welsh nationalism in the second half of the century; it must be confessed, too, that it was the Blue Books which triumphed. Despite the anger and wrath they engendered, despite the fervent protest provoked by their dark picture of Welsh Nonconformity, strangely enough the whole of Wales, and Welsh Noneonformity in particular, adopted all the policy and main recommendations of the baleful report. The nation's leaders, both laymen and ministers, devoted their energies to the utmost to the establishment of a thoroughly English educational system in every part of Wales, ranging from primary schools to normal colleges and three university colleges with a University Charter crowning it all. The money of the Welsh worker was collected towards the University Colleges. ‘He gave his. scanty penny to the college' so that his own son might not know his father's language or the tales of his forefathers or anything of ‘the echo of the songs of his distant youth.' It has often been said that the difference between the colleges of the University of Wales and the universities of the commercial and industrial cities of England is that the English institutions were created by the captains of industry and commerce whilst the colleges of Wales were built with the pennies of the ordinary people. Doubtless, there is truth in that; it only makes the tragedy more bitter. For the University of Wales, the principal creation of the national awakening of the ordinary people of Wales, is an ironic and bitter tragedy. Look at the University of Jerusalem today where Hebrew, which was a dead language long before Christ, is the medium of all instruction in the most subtle and modern sciences. Consider the universities of Switzerland, and those of Ghent and Louvain in Belgium. Then look at the University of Wales, now with its six colleges. What shall we say about the Welsh-speaking Welshman in the four principal colleges? What shall we say about the departments of Welsh themselves, despite all the attempt of the Board of Celtic Studies to create technical vocabularies? In cold blood one can only say what Lingen said in the Blue Books:

Equally in his new as in his old home his language keeps him under the hatches . . . His superiors are content simply to ignore his existence. He is left to live in an under-world of his own, and the march of society goes completely over his head.

That is the truth about the Welsh language in the University of Wales today; and it was Welsh Wales which created it, supported it, doted upon its honorary degrees, and is satisfied that its diploma of honour is a token of the degree of the language's degradation. The University of Wales is more responsible than any other institution for the fact that it is impossible for Welsh literature today to portray civilized life in full. The policy of the University of Wales is the policy of the 1536 Act of Union and the policy of Matthew Arnold and the Blue Books; and Welsh Wales is satisfied.

If we turn to the political aspects of the Welsh awakening in the last century we shall see exactly the same disregard for Welsh. Although the language was subjected to the ridicule and attack of judges, bishops and civil servants, no one arose to demand its rights in parliament or on platform. The anti-Welshness of the bishops and clergy of the State Church and their hostility 'towards the Welsh Language constituted a large part of the argument in favour of Disestablishment, and it contributed also to the Tithe Dispute. But the subject of Emrys ap Iwan's satire in 1891 was Cymru Fydd:

I ought to tell you that even many a Dic Siôn Dafydd had enrolled in half-Welsh societies of the Kumree Fidd type before 1890 . . . In order to gain publicity and in order to ride on the back of Welsh feeling onto committees, councils, and into Parliament, they condescended to end each speech by saying in partly understandable Welsh ‘The Welsh language for ever.' But that was all.

It may be that it was because of this that the Cymru Fydd societies included ‘The appointment of public officials who were proficient in Welsh' in their programme in 1894. Two years later at the Cymru Fydd conference there was a statement by the president of the Cardiff Liberal Association, an English businessman named Bird:

Throughout South Wales there are many thousands of English people . . . a cosmopolitan population who will never submit to the domination of Welsh ideas.

Thereupon Cymru Fydd was seized with apoplexy; soon afterwards, without having revived and without fuss, it departed this life.

Is there any tradition of defending the Welsh Language through political means? I am not asking if there is a tradition of praising the language in political speeches or by politicians on eisteddfod platforms. Rather I mean seeing the language as the English Government has always seen it, as a political matter, and from seeing it so raising it as a battle-standard.

The late John Arthur Price maintained that there was something of that spirit in the legal action brought by the churchwardens of Trefdraeth in Anglesey in 1773 against the appointment of a monoglot Englishman as parish priest. But it is in the letters and poems and tracts of Evan Evans (Ieuan Brydydd Hir) that we find explicit propaganda against the policy of turning the parish churches into means for extirpating the Welsh language. His friends feared for him, and he retorted:

The tract against the Anglian Bishops is, doubtless, too harsh; and it would be a little thing in their sight to cut me into two pieces . . . But I certainly wish that something of that kind had been published . . . One Richardson has published a book on behalf of the Irish, who suffer the same wrong as we do . . . I have a small paper . . . Written in Latin . . . the Letter of the Reverend Father Ioan Elphin, Apostolic Nuncio of the Society of Jesus to the Papist Welsh . . . in which he pours forth at length concerning the State of Religion in that country . . . This is exceedingly sharp.

In the following century there was the leadership of Michael Jones and the heroic experiment of the Welsh Colony in Patagonia:

There will be a chapel, a school, and a parliament building there, with the old language as the medium of worship and commerce, of teaching and government. A strong nation will grow there in a Welsh home.

Revolutionary words, a revolutionary programme. To this day our want of national consciousness and our lack of the pride of nationhood prevent us from understanding the significance and heroism of the Patagonian venture. Emrys ap Iwan was in the tradition of Michael Jones. As Evan Evans had attacked the Anglian Bishops so did Emrys attack the English causes of his denomination and go on to argue that the Welsh language was Wales's foremost political issue and the essence of her being, and that every political problem was secondary compared with that. So it was that he wrote the famous political pamphlet Breuddwyd Pabydd wrth ei Ewyllys (A Papist's Dream according to his Wish), and is it not perhaps correct to suggest that it was Father Ioan Elphin of the Society of Jesus in Ieuan Brydydd Hir's satire who gave Emrys ap Iwan the idea of Father Morgan of the Society of Jesus who tells the story of the revival of Welsh Wales in Breuddwyd Pabydd.

Coupland does not mention Ieuan Brydydd Hir except as one of the poets of the Morris circle. Michael Jones is to him ‘a somewhat eccentric Independent minister' and he does not have a word about Emrys ap Iwan. That shows in all fairness how ineffectual, how powerless, and how unimportant in Welsh political life and in the development of Welsh thought the tradition of defending the Welsh language has been. Its advocates have been considered odd, ‘somewhat eccentric' people treading a narrow path, the narrowness of nationalism and the narrowness of language, instead of the broad highway which leads to Westminster. The tradition of defending the Welsh language politically is a tradition of suffering, obloquy and persecution. In Wales everything can be forgiven except being seriously concerned about the language. That was the experience of Ieuan Brydydd Hir, Michael Jones and Emrys ap Iwan. Their only connecting link with the vast majority of their fellow-countrymen is the most untruthful national anthem in Europe.

Let us therefore turn to the present situation, the crisis of the language in the second half of the twentieth century. It is a weak situation. There was a time, in the period of the awakening of the ordinary people between 1860 and 1890, when it would have been practical to establish Welsh as the language of education and of the university, as the language of the new county councils, and as the language of industry. Such a thing did not enter the minds of the Welsh. Between the two World Wars I believed that the thing was not impossible, given time and a consistent policy followed for a generation or two. Today it is not possible. There have been enormous social changes in Wales in the last quarter of a century. Welsh in Wales is now a language in retreat, the language of a minority, and that a decreasing minority.

Let us consider again the present-day attitude of the Whitehall Government towards Welsh and then the attitude of people in Wales. The change in the Government's attitude has been greater than any change there has been in Wales. To be sure, Government interference with social life in the Welfare State is more far-reaching than was imagined possible in the last century. It is not only education of every kind and at every stage which is under Government care nowadays, but also all kinds of leisure activities, youth clubs and camps, adult education, theatres, art, and radio and television which reach almost every home in the kingdom. The culture of every area and region enjoys a certain amount of patronage. The Arts Council recognizes - although it does not do so generously - the claims of Welsh culture.

The result is that the Government has changed its attitude to a considerable degree. Matthew Arnold's assertion no longer represents the creed of Whitehall. The Welsh language is not considered a political stumbling-block any more. If a letter were written in Welsh and sent to the office of any Welsh local authority it is more than likely that the reply would be in English. If it were sent to any oflice in Whitehall or in Cathays Park,(2) it is more than possible that the reply would be in Welsh. Welsh can be offered for the Civil Service examination. In the schools it is now the Ministry of Education which urges the Welsh to become a bilingual nation, and so win the best of both worlds, the World of the English upper deck, and the world of the second-class Welsh deck, not quite under the hatches. By far the great majority of Welsh educational leaders, amongst them Welsh writers, see this as a magnanimous and worthy ideal. I am one of the stupid minority who see in it a respectable and peaceful death and a burial without mourning for the Welsh language.

One important lesson can be drawn from the Government's attitude. If Wales seriously demanded to have Welsh as an official language on a par with English, the opposition would not come from the Government or from the Civil Service. Naturally there would be a few muttered curses from clerks looking for a dictionary and from girl typists who were learning to spell, but their Civil Service has long since learnt to accept revolutionary changes in the British Empire as part of the daily routine. The opposition - harsh, vindictive and violent - would come from Wales.

But lest my flattery of the Government make anyone suspect that I aspire to the House of Lords, may I add another point? There is no hope of the Whitehall Government ever adopting a Welsh standpoint. It is no part of the Ministry' of Education's task to force the Welsh language on the schools of Wales, nor even to enforce the effective teaching of Welsh. It will urge, support and encourage, certainly. But offend the Carmarthenshire County Council? I doubt it. De minimis non curat lex. The Government will not lift a finger to save a minority which is as politically ineffectual, as wretchedly helpless and as unable to defend itself as is the Welsh-speaking minority in Wales.

Consider the question of the Tryweryn valley and Capel Celyn. What reason was there for the people of Wales to oppose Liverpool Corporation's plan to drown the valley and the village and turn the locality into a reservoir to serve the city's industries? It is true that the economic gain for Liverpool Corporation is enormous. It is true that co-operation between the county councils of North Wales a quarter of a century earlier could have established a better procedure to the advantage of their localities. It is the custom of the Welsh county councils to refuse to co-operate with each other unless they are forced to do so, and to reject as far as they can every attempt to change their constitution and procedure. But that was not the reason for rejecting Liverpool's plan either. The project would destroy a monoglot Welsh-speaking community in one of Merioneth's historical rural areas. To defend it is to defend a language, to defend a society, to defend homes and families. Today Wales cannot afford the destruction of Welsh-speaking homes. They are few and weak. Conferences of all the local authorities of Wales under the presidency of the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, protested against Liverpool's measure. The measure went through Parliament with ease. Liverpool is a great and populous city with immense political influence. What Government could weigh a small and poor Welsh rural community in the balance against the economic interests of Liverpool Corporation? It was not childish but dishonest to blame the Minister for Welsh Affairs because he did not block the measure. Tryweryn was our concern, our responsibility, and ours alone. But ‘We are not Irishmen,' said the journal of the people who were defending. Do you suppose that that was not observed in Government offices and noted there together with the other classical Welsh slogan ‘Bread before beauty'? What has been the result? Wales is today rent in twain on Sundays, Welsh-speaking Wales and English-speaking Wales. That is but proof that the Government has taken the measure of the feebleness of Welsh Wales and knows that it need not concern itself about it any more. And Gwylfa, the Menai and Snowdonia are now to be desecrated to feed Lancashire with electricity.

There is another reason why the Government need not concern itself about Welsh-speaking Wales. It can leave that to the Welsh local authorities and to the political parties in Wales. It was some of the Welsh members of Parliament who pressed upon the Government that Welsh was not essential even in posts in Wales connected with Welsh culture. The attacks made on the National Eisteddfod by several Welsh local authorities in South Wales are extremely significant. They refuse to contribute towards it or to give a grant towards it because it is a Welsh language institution. They demand that one out of its five days should be turned into an English day before they will contribute towards its maintenance in an honourable fashion. This is the type of spiritual and mental perversity which is the psychiatrist's bliss, but this spirit is on the increase in South Wales and can hasten the end of the Eisteddfod. It is not an official, legal or administrative institution. lt is the creation of Welsh-speaking Wales, the only remaining symbol of the historical unity of the Welsh nation, the only Welsh mythos. But several of the leaders of the political parties and local authorities in Wales are full of poison towards the Welsh language. And many thousands of steel, coal and nylon workers and workers in the various new industries do not even know of the language's existence any more. The attitude of mind of the county councils and local authorities of the Welsh-speaking parts is just as threatening. They have but one answer to the problem of the decline of the rural areas, that is to press on the Government to bring them factories and industries from England, and to invite the corporations of cities like Birmingham to establish satellite towns in Anglesey, Merioneth or Montgomeryshire., The Minister for Welsh Affairs does what he can with the aid of civil service departments to promote this policy; and not in vain either. But Lord Brecon himself has said that it is a pity that the Welsh-speaking districts do not do more to set up industries themselves instead of calling continually for aid from outside. I shall only say this about the present policy: it is another nail in the coffin of the Welsh language. There is no need to add that the whole economic tendency in Great Britain, with the ever-increasing centralization of industry, is to drive the Welsh language into a corner, ready to be thrown, like a worthless rag, on the dung-heap.

Is the position hopeless? It is, of course, if we are content to give up hope. There is nothing in the world more comfortable than to give up hope. For then one can go on to enjoy life.

The political tradition of the centuries and all present-day economic tendencies militate against the continued existence of Welsh. Nothing can change that except determination, will power, struggle, sacrifice and endeavour. May I call your attention to the story of Mr. and Mrs. Trefor Beasley? Mr. Beasley is a coal-miner. In April l952 he and his wife bought a cottage in Llangennech near Llanelli, a district where nine out of every ten of the population are Welsh-speaking. All the councillors on the rural council which controls Llangennech are Welsh-speaking: so too are the council officials. Therefore when a note demanding the local rates arrived from ‘The Rural District Council of Llanelly' Mrs. Beasley wrote to ask for it in Welsh. It was refused. She refused to pay the rates until she got it. She and Mr. Beasley were summoned more than a dozen times to appear before the magistrates' court. Mr. and Mrs. Beasley insisted that the court proceedings should be in Welsh. Three times did the bailiffs carry off furniture from their home, the furniture being worth much more than the rates which were demanded. This went on for eight years. In 1960 Mr. and Mrs. Beasley received a bilingual note demanding the local rates from (Cyngor Dosbarth Gwledig Llanelli, the Welsh on the bill being just as good as its English. It is not my right to say what was the financial cost of all this to Mr. and Mrs. Beasley. Friends, including solicitors and barristers, were very loyal. Their trouble became the subject of the country's attention, and the newspapers and radio and television plagued them continually. The court cases were interesting and important. For example, the rating officer's reply to Mr. Wynne Samuel: ‘The Council is not under any obligation to print rate demand notes in any language except English.'

In the middle of the last war, in October 1941 - as a result of Undeb Cymru Fydd's (Union of the Wales to Be) most important campaign - a petition was presented to Parliament, a petition signed by approximately four hundred thousand Welshmen, appealing for a law

placing the Welsh language on a footing of equality with the English language in all proceedings connected with the Administration of Justice and of Public Services in Wales.

But after the great labour, the collection of signatures, and the conferences, the Welsh members of Parliament went into conclave with Mr. Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary at the time. The result was the Welsh Courts Act of 1942, a parliamentary Act which disregarded the whole purpose of the petition and which still left English as the only official language of the courts and all the public services. That was what the Llanelli rating officer was referring to. The Welsh language can be saved. Welsh-speaking Wales is still quite an extensive part of Wales territorially, and the minority is not yet wholly unimportant. The example of Mr. and Mrs. Beasley shows how we should set about it. During Mrs. Beasley's eight years of endeavour only one other Welshman in the rural district asked for a rate demand in Welsh. This cannot be done reasonably except in those districts where Welsh-speakers are a substantial proportion of the population. Let us set about it in seriousness and without hesitation to make it impossible for the business of local and central government to continue without using Welsh. Let it be insisted upon that the rate demand should be in Welsh or in Welsh and English. Let the Postmaster-General be warned that annual licences will not be paid unless they are obtainable in Welsh. Let it be insisted upon that every summons to a court should be in Welsh. This is not a chance policy for individuals here and there. It would demand organizing and moving step by step, giving due warning and allowing time for changes. It is a policy for a movement, and that a movement in the areas where Welsh is the spoken language in daily use. Let it be demanded that every election communication and every oflicial form relating to local or parliamentary elections should be in Welsh. Let Welsh be raised as the chief administrative issue in district and county.

Perhaps you will say that this could never be done, that not enough Welshmen could be found to agree and to organize it as a campaign of importance and strength. Perhaps you are right. All I maintain is that this is the only political matter which it is worth a Welshman's while to trouble himself about today. I know the difficulties. There would be storms from every direction. It would be argued that such a campaign was killing our chances of attracting English factories to the Welsh-speaking rural areas, and that would doubtless be the case. It is easy to predict that the scorn and sneers of the English gutter journalist would be a daily burden. The anger of local authority officials and those of many county councils would be like the blustering of those in the Llanelli Rural District. Fines in courts would be heavy, and a refusal to pay them would bring expensive consequences, though no more expensive than fighting purposeless parliamentary elections. I do not deny that there would be a period of hatred, persecution and controversy in place of the brotherly love which is so manifest in Welsh political life today. It will be nothing less than a revolution to restore the Welsh language in Wales. Success is only possible through revolutionary methods. Perhaps the language would bring self-government in its wake - I don't know. In my opinion, if any kind of self-government for Wales were obtained before the Welsh language was acknowledged and used as an official language in local authority and state administration in the Welsh-speaking parts of our country, then the language would never achieve official status at all, and its demise would be quicker than it will be under English rule.

(1) Reference to The Visions of the Sleeping Bard (1703)
(2) The Administrative Centre of Wales in Cardiff

(c) BBC Publications