March 1st. Dydd Gwyl Dewi. St. David’s Day. The patron saint of Wales. The sun is shining. What a great day to be Welsh.
Even Google is getting in on the act.
In fact, what better day to ask a question – What is ‘Welsh’.
What is it that makes me inherently (and if you’ve ever met me, obviously) Welsh, and not English or British or whatever?
I’d like to first set out my biases – I’m Welsh, I was born in Wales (in St. Asaph/Llanelwy) and raised in Wales (Rhyl). I was taught through the Welsh language, from the age of 2 at Ysgol Dewi Sant in Rhyl, until graduating from the excellent Ysgol Uwchradd Glan Clwyd in Llanelwy at the age of 18. I am a proud and passionate Welshman.
I have no idea what it means to be Welsh.
I don’t want to distinguish myself in terms of an ‘other’. I want to stand for something, not merely be “not-English”.
I don’t believe Welshness is inherent in being born in Wales, speaking Welsh or being ethnically Welsh. I know people who meet all three who are English, British or other. I know people who meet none of those criteria, yet are some of the most passionate Welsh men and women you could ever care to meet. I speak English, it’s my first language, yet I’m not English. I speak Welsh, but that doesn’t inherently make me Welsh. I’m, ethnically, not really all that Welsh, being equally as much, if not more, English in my DNA. I don’t believe where you’re born should determine your nation.
I believe that being Welsh is open to anyone who feels, deep in their heart, a love of that glorious country, and an inherent Welshness in their heart.
But what is that Welshness.
So, today, I’m going to write a blog on some thoughts on this.
I’m asking you to contribute. Whether Welsh or not, give me your thoughts, your take on what it means to be Welsh.
1) Music and Culture are, obviously, core. From Welsh Male Voice Choirs, Katherine Jenkins, Charlotte Church, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey to Funeral for a Friend, Supper Furry Animals, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, Bullet for my Valentine, Manic Street Preachers, Lostprophets…. and our integral love of rugby. Like most things on this list, these aren’t unique to Wales, but it goes deep into the culture and psyche. It’s almost like there’s a single melody, a harmony, travelling through the hearts of each and every one…
2) Education is crucial for the Welsh. Going back to Owain Glyndwr, the political and military leader of Wales, who wanted a Parliament, separate church and two national universities for the country. We believe in education for the masses, even with William Morgan, Bishop of Llandaff and St. Asaph, who translated the Bible into Welsh.
3) Non-conformist religion is embedded in Wales – perhaps a relic of our Druidic celtic past, the Methodist revival of the 18th Century gave Wales a non-conformist, dissenting outlook on life.
5) Let’s face it, we’re a parochial bunch, rarely concerned with business outside our valley. We have to come to terms with this in a globalised world.
6) Hiraeth is one of those untranslatable words. It’s similar to… a mix between longing, homesickness and nostalgia. A desperate, tugging need, deep in your breast to be in this mythical, wonderful place… which may never have truly existed, but is so deep in your psyche you can never avoid it.
So that’s it for now. Just a few thoughts on a topic that’s made me wonder for a while…
So over to you…
What do you think makes the Welsh so… Welsh? Any comments welcome… unless they’re based around sheep jokes. Seriously guys, it gets tiring eventually.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
- “Music in your blood and poetry in your soul”: the beauty of Welsh English (oup.com)
- Soak the English: Welsh want paying for any water piped across the border (guardian.co.uk)
- Is there more to Welsh literature than Dylan Thomas?, Arts and Literature (visitwales.co.uk)