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Opinion

Bag it, bin it: Isn’t it time we stopped referring to ‘north’ and ‘south’ Wales?

24 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Keep Cymru. Tidy.

Stephen Price

I have a vivid memory of being on holiday in Majorca as a child – my family playing bingo in the hotel entertainment room one evening – dressed in our finery, unlimited drinks a-flowin’ and lobser-red Celtic skin a-nursin’.

When my mum excitedly shouted, ‘house’, she was asked where she came from, and answered as we all would have back then, proudly informing the entire room that she was from ‘south Wales’.

Incidentally, a chap from Neath got on the mic to sing Guantanamera by the Sandpipers towards the end of the night with the name switched to Ystalafera.

If only my memory was as good nowadays. Anyway, where was I?

Oh, Cala d’Or.. No, wait..

Reductive and silly

Being somewhat of a dog person, with two joyful mutts attached to my side for the best part of most days, one of the many nicknames I have for Beti, a dog I inherited from my mum, is ‘The Naughtiest Dog in South Wales’.

The nickname came about because a. she’s beautifully undisciplined and b. it sounds rather silly.

And that’s what north and south Wales sound like to me too: silly.

Beti Price – The Naughtiest Dog in South Wales

I managed to buy tickets for an anniversary screening of Twin Town at Brynmawr Market Hall Cinema last month (yes, I cried as Myfanwy sang out) – and hung around for the Q&A afterwards.

What struck me, during the rolling credits at the end, was the fact that the film was said to have been filmed ‘on location in South Wales.’

I’m not criticising – I only have praise for that film – it’s far from alone and merely a recent example. But on a world stage, presenting our country thusly time and time again presents confusion, and more sinisterly suggests division.

To pick two countries with a clear north and south divide, ‘our survey said…’ (I only asked myself and Beti).. North Korea and Northern Ireland.

Welsh Government approved

Wales’ new First Minister, Vaughan Gething took little time to announce his Ministerial team following his confirmation as First Minister.

Second only to concerns around the lack of focus Jeremy Miles MS’s role as Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy & Welsh Language has, commentary about the position of ‘Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport’ which is held by Ken Skates MS was equally ‘lively’ (i.e. scathing).

Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport – Ken Skates MS. Picture by the Welsh Government.

X user, Aled ap Dafydd, summed up his and many other people’s thoughts, saying: “Having a minister for north Wales (not even the north of Wales) only exposes the fact that the Labour Welsh Government doesn’t take the geographical area seriously.

Every Minister should have an eye on every part of Wales without exception.”

The very fact that a south Wales minister doesn’t exist suggests that eyes and focus below the imaginary north and south Wales line are covered – it’s the Gogs that need quietening.

Pin the tail on the donkey, that’ll do!

Comments beneath the post share my dismay.

“Exactly my thoughts, Aled. It’s divisive in such a small country.”

“Exactly. It’s a token gesture that actually reveals how low down the priority list the north is.”

Adre

When I’m in any part of Wales, I feel at home, and dare I say, a shared sense of ownership.

Welshness, for me, is an inheritance of the histories and mythologies of all of Wales’ towns, villages and counties. And, indeed, their futures.

And I see why many, particularly in the counties that constitute the woolly definition of ‘north Wales’ feel forgotten.

But coming from Blaenau Gwent, one of Wales’ most economically deprived counties, believe me, lack of political clout, investment, opportunity etc. is most certainly not a south v north issue.

Even within Blaenau Gwent, you’ll often hear people say ‘Ebbw Vale gets all the money’, while communities such as Nantyglo and Tredegar look on with envy.

‘Othered’

Sadly, I do find that it’s north Wales that has to use the ‘othered’ term the most.

The south is offered the free pass to simply use ‘Wales’ – whether geographically or even when it comes to an accent. The accents of south Wales are Welsh, the north Walians? ‘Oooh a bit too nuanced for us!’

Similarly, the language differences within Wales are presented as mutually unintelligible languages instead of simply being natural dialect and accent variations that any country might have.

North Wales Police logo

Granted, we’ve got official bodies, such as North Wales Police, so the monikers are here to stay for the time being, and the term is so deeply ingrained in every level of Wales that it’ll keep appearing.

But it’s so easy to reframe anything that might have a north or south label. Qualify it by the county and let’s get to know and normalise our county names instead if somewhere needs a little help with geographical pinpointing for the uninitiated, it’s that simple.

A divided country we might be politically, and certainly when it comes to connectivity, but on the world stage and within, can we please stop looking so silly?

Wales is one nation, and we need to start acting, and speaking like we mean it.

Wales (or preferably Cymru) is tidy as it is.


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Rebecca Riot
Rebecca Riot
16 days ago

Ha! Try living in MID Wales, many Welsh people south and north have no firm idea where it is. Which is a delight, as if people don’t know where it is, we are much less likely to be bothered by impertinent intruders who’ve never heard of us.

Last edited 16 days ago by Rebecca Riot
Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
16 days ago

Dw i’n enedigol o dde-orllewin Cymru ond dw i wrth fy modd yn ymweld a phob chwr a chornel arall o’n gwlad hyfryd ni hefyd, ac wrth wneud hynny dod i nabod y pobl lleol. Dw i’n temlo fy mod i ‘gartre ym mhobman! Dw i wedi cael llon bola o’r hen ddwli o ‘North Wales a South Wales: mae ‘Cymru’ yn ddigon i fi! ~ I’m born and bred in the south west of Wales but I thoroughly enjoy visiting every part of our beautiful country and thereby also getting to know the locals. I feel at home everywhere… Read more »

Nia James
Nia James
16 days ago

Internal Colonialism. All part of the ‘divide and rule’ agenda. Similarly galling when you hear Welsh people talk about “the north” and then describe places in Lancashire or Yorkshire – another country. The appointment of a Cabinet Secretary for North Wales (sic) is the final insult for those of us who view Cymru as an indivisible unit. Sad!

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
16 days ago

North and South Wales have always been kept apart. Travelling between the two has always been difficult – the main routes by road and rail go – east. Westminster has always wanted to forge the north with Liverpool and Manchester and the south with Bristol and the west country. We all know why this has happened, plunder and divide and conquer. As a nation we must now reconnect our country and the best way to do that is as an independent country.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Lerpwl prif ddinas Cymru.

Che Guevara's Fist
Che Guevara's Fist
16 days ago

I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately so I’m glad I’m not the only one who has observed this.

If England wanted to partition Cymru like it did with Ireland and helped to do with Korea and Vietnam, it wouldn’t be very hard in the event of a serious independence movement in order to keep their grubby, brigandish claws over us.

We get over our mental partition, we develop an ever closer unity, and wave hwyl fawr to this catastrophic, imperial industry that only ever goes in the favour of Lloegr’s capitalists.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
14 days ago

Lloyd George partitioned Ireland he called it the kindest cut of all.

Mawkernewek
Mawkernewek
16 days ago

Who is the minister for East Wales, West Wales and South Wales? I gather there are none. Surely this only invites not so serious questioning of him of exactly where the North of Wales begins and ends?

Marjorie Elizabeth Ward
Marjorie Elizabeth Ward
16 days ago

Few years ago now – my daughter’s hen, went to Caernarfon, bounced below (amazing) got sidelined outside a pub and told we weren’t Welsh. We are 100% Cymraig. More than, bit of hwyl – we are a country without borders of silliness after all these years aren’t we? Or Knot? (Welsh Know the Knot)

Ianto
Ianto
16 days ago

Jonathan Davies et al “went north” to play rugby league, but I never saw them as they were actually in England. In fact it proves the Anglocentricism of this state in that Manchester and such places are considered to be “in the north”. They are certainly in northern England but in the south of the UK. When people ask me which part of Wales I’m from, I might say Bangor, but usually I’ll reply “all of it”.

Martyn Vaughan
Martyn Vaughan
16 days ago

I agree with the article’s recommendation. However, the North/South dichotomy is partly due to the diabolical transport links between the areas, causing the north to look to Liverpool and the south to Bristol. I know the poor links only to well having recently driven from Bodelwyddan to Newport: it seemed like the journey would never end.

Shan Morgain
16 days ago

North and South Wales have always been divided by unavoidable physical geography – blimmin great mountains. To go between the two you creep along the coast. The economies are different, more industrial/ townie Dde more rural Gog and that produces different cultures. Our old legends like Henwen recognise the difference – the Great Sow gave the Gog harsh gifts the Dde fruitful ones. I can’t see the problem. Regions are regions and they differ.

Charles
Charles
16 days ago

You have fogotten Mid-Wales as usual!

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
16 days ago

Nicely done Stephen. In the late ‘90s, I wrote a letter to the Western Mail about how transport and coach firms include the terms South, Mid & North (possibly West) ahead of Wales on their vehicles whereas you would only ever see England & Scotland on theirs. I believe that letter led to two coach firms, one North and one South, amending the signing on their vehicles to Wales and possibly Cymru in the north case. My appreciation to those two companies but it seems that’s as far as it went. I don’t accept the argument that companies need to… Read more »

Erisian
Erisian
15 days ago

Even Dysgu Cymraeg makes you choose between courses for Gog & Hwntw.
While DuoLingo covers elements of both, it does seem a little biased toward the South.
I live in Sir Gar, but most of the Welsh music and books I consume come from the North.
It’s too small a country for meaningful subdivision.

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