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Cymru am byth! (wales forever!)

Updated on August 27, 2013

Welsh Flag

Welsh Flag
Welsh Flag | Source

Wales is a country in the west of the British Isles.

Although it is not a kingdom in its own right, it is a principality, having the Prince of Wales (currently Prince Charles) as its figurehead.

It is a land steeped in mythology, history, music and tragedy.

Over the years the Welsh have been severely persecuted by the English and attempts have been made to eradicate the Welsh language.

However the Welsh are a strong, proud people, not being afraid to stand up for themselves, refusing to allow their culture to become a mere memory.

The Welsh are very proud of their culture and make every effort to keep it going by celebrating their saint's day, St David, and meeting together for music and poetry festivals.

History of Wales

The history of Wales begins with the arrival of people in the region many thousands of years ago.

These were the Neanderthals to be followed thousands of years later by Homo Sapiens.

Wales was occupied by the ancient Britons, later by the Celts, Romans, Vikings and Normans all of whom fought to achieve dominance of the land, leaving their mark on the country and its people.

Modern Welsh people regard themselves as being, in the main, Celts, largely because of the language which is mainly a Celtic one, with some English and Latin influence.

The Celts originated in Northern India, at the foot of the Himalayas, gradually migrating across Europe leaving their wake a wealth of clues in the form of artefacts and languages.

Edward the First of England, known as 'Longshanks' passed the Statute of Rhuddlan, which restricted Welsh laws, effectively making Wales a part of England even though its people had a distinct language and culture.

He then went on to build a series of magnificent stone castles, designed to keep the Welsh at bay. Caernarfon Castle is famous for the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

badge of the Prince of Wales
badge of the Prince of Wales | Source
Carnarfon Castle
Carnarfon Castle | Source

The Geography of Wales

North Wales in particular is a mountainous region, although the south, too has impressive hills, though of not such great height as the north.

The Snowdonia National Park is well worth a visit, having many excellent peaks worth climbing, especially Snowdon, the largest of them all.

Care should be taken when climbing in Snowdonia, as although it is called a 'park' it is not a playground by any stretch of the imagination. Walking can lethal especially in the winter when conditions are often very treacherous.

Always wear suitable clothing and footwear and check the weather forecast before you set off on your trip! Many an unwary walker has met their end in the mountains of Snowdonia...

However, don't let that put you off! If you can't manage the walk there is a train that will take you to the top of Snowdon, and a newly built cafe where you can enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery.

Below are two photos we took, one in the summer and one in the winter. Snowdon in the winter is a magical place.

Southern Snowdonia
Southern Snowdonia | Source
View towards Snowdon
View towards Snowdon | Source

The Welsh Language

The Welsh language is a very ancient language and to the outsider it seems like no other language they have ever heard! It has some similarities with Breton, another Celtic language spoken in parts of Brittany, France.

My father, who was from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales once held a reasonable conversation with an Breton onion seller who was selling his wares in the street where I was brought up!

Welsh and Breton are both distantly related to Hindi and it is said Indian and Welsh troops fighting side by side in WW1 were able to understand one another's languages.

As Welsh is such an old language, and for many years was pushed underground by the English, it has struggled to keep up with modern times. Many English words have been incorporated into the language, such as 'coffi' for coffee, or 'rhesin' meaning raisin.

That said, Welsh is a very beautiful language, with a very musical sound to the ear. It is well worth trying to get you tongue around it if you can!

Below is a video demonstrating the language with some lovely scenery thrown in!

Music and the Welsh

It is well known that the Welsh are a particularly musical race of people famed for their male voice choirs and Eisteddfods (festivals of music and poetry).

No-one can fail to be moved by the mellifluous sound of a Welsh Choir. It stirs you to the depths of your soul, bringing out emotions you never knew you had.

The Welsh are particularly good at pathos, probably because they have suffered so much at the hands of the English and latterly through losing many friends and family in pit disasters.

My great grandfather died in the pit aged only 33 after being hit by a coal wagon. His death left many children without a father and no income coming in for an already poor family.

Many families suffered in the same way. Disaster upon disaster hit mining communities when coal mining was at its heyday, and suffering has left its mark on the soul of the Welsh people, expressing itself poignantly through their music.

My father was a member of the Treorchy Male Voice Choir. At his funeral we played their rendering of Myfanwy, a beautiful Welsh love song.

Here they are singing it in the streets of Treorchy -

The lyrics to Myfanwy, in Welsh and English

Paham mae dicter, O Myfanwy,
Yn llenwi'th lygaid duon di?
A'th ruddiau tirion, O Myfanwy,
Heb wrido wrth fy ngweled i?
Pa le mae'r wên oedd ar dy wefus
Fu'n cynnau 'nghariad ffyddlon ffôl?
Pa le mae sain dy eiriau melys,
Fu'n denu'n nghalon ar dy ôl?

Why is it anger, O Myfanwy,
That fills your eyes so dark and clear?
Your gentle cheeks, O sweet Myfanwy,
Why blush they not when I draw near?
Where is the smile that once most tender
Kindled my love so fond, so true?
Where is the sound of your sweet words,
That drew my heart to follow you?

Pa beth a wneuthum, O Myfanwy
I haeddu gwg dy ddwyrudd hardd?
Ai chwarae oeddit, O Myfanwy
 thanau euraidd serch dy fardd?
Wyt eiddo im drwy gywir amod
Ai gormod cadw'th air i mi?
Ni cheisiaf fyth mo'th law, Myfanwy,
Heb gael dy galon gyda hi.

What have I done, O my Myfanwy,
To earn your frown? What is my blame?
Was it just play, my sweet Myfanwy,
To set your poet's love aflame?
You truly once to me were promised,
Is it too much to keep your part?
I wish no more your hand, Myfanwy,
If I no longer have your heart.

Myfanwy boed yr holl o'th fywyd
Dan heulwen ddisglair canol dydd.
A boed i rosyn gwridog iechyd
I ddawnsio ganmlwydd ar dy rudd.
Anghofia'r oll o'th addewidion
A wnest i rywun, 'ngeneth ddel,
A dyro'th law, Myfanwy dirion
I ddim ond dweud y gair "Ffarwél".

Myfanwy, may you spend your lifetime

Beneath the midday sunshine's glow,
And on your cheeks O may the roses
Dance for a hundred years or so.
Forget now all the words of promise
You made to one who loved you well,
Give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy,
But one last time, to say "farewell".

Typical Welsh Food

Every year on St David's Day (March 1st) I make Welsh Cakes.

Here is the recipe-

2 cups (260 grams) plain flour

1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter

1/3 cup (50 grams) currants or raisins

1/4 cup (40 grams) chopped Mixed Peel

1 large egg lightly beaten

2 - 4 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and mace. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the currants and mixed peel. Add the beaten egg and enough milk to form a light dough.

Knead the dough gently on a lightly floured surface and roll to a thickness of 1/4 inch (5 mm). Cut into rounds using a 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) cookie cutter.

Lightly butter a griddle, heavy frying pan, and heat to medium hot. Cook the welsh cakes for about 5 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown, but still soft in the middle. Immediately after baking, sprinkle with granulated white sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 20 - 2 1/2 inch cakes.

Famous Welsh People

The Welsh are particularly famed in the world of the arts.

Examples include Catherine Zeta-Jones, the Hollywood actress, Richard Burton, actor, Anthony Hopkins, actor, Bryn Terfel, opera singer and Dylan Thomas, poet.

Here is one of Thomas's most famous poems, written as an elegy upon his father's death -

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Below is a recording of Anthony Hopkins reading the poem -

I hope this hub has been of interest to you! There is so much to be said about Wales and her People.

As you may have gathered, Wales holds a place in my heart, having spent so much of my time as a child in the Rhondda Valley.

I was born in North London, but every summer holiday would be spent with my grandparents in Porth, in Glamorgan. I have so many happy memories of that time, and feel lucky to have experienced the close community which was so strong there up until recently. Like everywhere in the modern world, communities are dying, often as a result of local industry closing down.

Even as a young child I was free to roam the mountains behind my grandparent's house. We had a freedom then that modern children don't seem to have.

My family have been touched with tragedy and I don't want to forget them and their suffering.

One uncle, however, was different -

The son of a coal miner (my great grandfather who was killed), he started his working life as a boy in the pits.

However he had a phenomenal bass singing voice and his ambition was to leave coal mining and become a professional singer. He was an uneducated boy, how could he do that?

Years later he was able to work his passage on a ship to New York. On arrival in New York he earned his way singing in bars, finally managing to win a place at Rochester University to study music. He got his degree and went on to study opera, as well as teaching music and conducting choirs and orchestras. What an achievement- what a man!

This hub is dedicated to the memory of David Howells.

My uncle, as a small boy in Wales, and at his graduation in Rochester, NY.
My uncle, as a small boy in Wales, and at his graduation in Rochester, NY.

The Welsh National Anthem Sung at the Millenium Stadium


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