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Opinion

Don’t listen to Gareth Davies: north and south Wales are united through history

11 May 2024 5 minute read
Wales fabs during the international friendly match against Gibraltar at the SToK Racecourse, Wrexham last October. Photo Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Niklas George, owner Welsh Histories

Gareth Davies, MS for the Vale of Clwyd, recently caused a stir by claiming that the majority of people within North Wales have ‘closer links with the North West of England and Midlands than they do with Cardiff.’

Whereas it is true that we in the north often view Cardiff (and, indeed, much of the south) as some “distant realm” separated from us by mountains, valleys, and an uninspiring railway line in desperate need of funding, it is untrue that we see them as more distant than any region of England.

In fact, there is far more that unites us and any claim to the contrary is either ignorance or gross dishonesty.

Historically speaking, the north and south of Wales have far more in common with each other than Davies lets on.

Myth

This myth that north and south are divided is a long-standing one typically the result of a politically motivated agenda normally perpetuated by the right of the political aisle.

However, we need not get political to disprove such claims by Mr. Davies but, rather, get historical (though, inevitably, some of this history is rooted in politics).

If you wish to find historical similarities between north and south, then what better way to begin than with our industrial history?

Both poles of the country fuelled the island of Great Britain during its long-gone glory days – Wales was, after all, the engine room of the British Empire whether we wish to admit it or not. The south, of course, is synonymous with coalmining and the north, too, has its own coalmining history (the Flintshire and Denbighshire Coalfields being examples of this).

The historic steelworks of the south were/are equally as prideful to the south as the slate mines are to the north. The remnants of our industrial past are visible to all throughout the country and the common claim that while the south was digging for coal the north was tending sheep is, again, dishonest.

Industrial past

Our industrial pasts are also both intrinsically linked through tragedy, too. The Senghenydd Colliery Disaster of 1913 killed 440 people at the Universal Colliery in Southeast Wales.

It was a tragic event not talked about enough today and, perhaps almost as tragic, was completely omitted from our school history curriculums. In the north, the Gresford Disaster of 1934 killed 266 men near Wrexham and is similarly ignored (though it did receive a warming nod in Season 2 of Welcome to Wrexham).

Furthermore, both north and south were victim of English establishment inflicted tragedy in the mid-20th century, too. The north had Capel Celyn in 1965 and the south had the heinous tragedy of Aberfan just one year later.

Both events occurred within such a short period of time that it is impossible to declare that the country wasn’t unified by such events. Does the northwest and/or midlands have two such disasters inflicted upon them by a neighbouring country within just one year? Perhaps not, but Wales does.

Capel Celyn

Speaking of Capel Celyn, one of the primary complaints by Welsh people in the north today is that we still provide water to Liverpool and the northwest. Someone from the south (and middle) might argue that this is eerily like their chief complaint about parts of the south (and middle) of Wales which provides water to Birmingham and the midlands.

We are also united by our unique Welsh culture and language. It is, after all, true that there are Welsh speakers all over the country, whether north, south, or middle. It is also true, however, that the number of Welsh speakers has been declining within all areas of Wales over a period of centuries and it would be very easy to make a unified case that this is a result of a historically oppressive English establishment which dates all the way back to Edward I in the late 13th century.

Edward’s Conquest of Wales in 1283 couples with Henry VIII’s Laws in Wales Acts of 1535-42 and was largely responsible for later oppressive measures taken against the language, such as the Welsh Not of the 19th and early 20th centuries. To make the case that North Wales is somehow cut off from South Wales (in anything other than railway lines which, once more, it is) is, for the last time, dishonest.

Wales comes together for all manner of reasons. From the Six Nations to the Eisteddfod, from European and World Cup Championships to the protective stance on all things Welsh that we share.

Historical figures

We celebrate Welsh historical figures like Betsi Cadwaladr and Margaret Haig Mackworth and the more recent celebrity figures of Michael Sheen and Dafydd Iwan – all of whom embodied and continue to embody what it means to be Welsh no matter the side of the country we find ourselves on.

Even in politics, we are mostly unified in a shared disdain for the political party Gareth Davies comes from and maybe, just maybe, this is part of the reason why he celebrates our divisions and neglects our unity.

There is a common theme here and, once more, one would be either ignorant or dishonest to deny the connections between the north and south. As explored, we are connected by coal, slate, water, and a shared Welsh identity that is not divided on the basis of north or south.


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Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
11 days ago

The British/English establishment has tried to divide Cymru for centuries, part of the divide and conquer philosophy of Empire. It failed. Yes, due to this policy North and South Wales have their differences but not enough to divide us completely. That is a testament to how strong we are as a nation, there are many countries in the world which would have succumb to such pressure but not us. It shows us we can become a very successful, united, independent country. We shouldn’t listen to these zealous politicians but strive for independence now.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
11 days ago

Great article!!

Annibendod
Annibendod
11 days ago

There is a very straightforward explanation for the deplorable politics Gareth Davies represents. That is the capitalist class of the UK. The UK is its creation. Its purpose was to expand the wealth of said class. It developed as that class grew and responded to its pursuit of wealth. Most of the history of the last 500 years can be explained by the rise of mercantilism and subsequent capitalism. The Empire, again, all about pursuit of wealth. In the 20th century, this capitalist class found that they could pursue yet more enrichment through the finance sector. Empire no longer of… Read more »

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
10 days ago

He is a Tory starting from Thatcher Government as a Nation a Country we where destroyed our industries and our infustructure neglected Blair labour did nothing to replace industries that where lost and now the present Tories are finishing us off with the likes of Tata Steel works shutting the cretin Tory Davie the Welsh sec in the Tory Government in London said the Welsh Labour government have put no money into we as a country do not get enough to run the Basics from London

Nia James
Nia James
10 days ago

The Tories and Labour love the north/south divisive narrative (Neil Kinnock was a staunch advocate of this language). Gething’s administration even has a Cabinet Secretary for North Wales. Key question, ‘where and what is “North Wales”?’ Try to define it, geographically or sociologically. It doesn’t exist. We have counties in the north of our country but there isn’t a North Wales as such.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago
Reply to  Nia James

Just a novel by Dornford Yates…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago

The numbers of casualties from the daily attrition in the quarries and mines far outnumber those unfortunates who died en mass…a fact not always appreciated…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

A true portrait of Cymru is the political and linguistic map of the country…

Riki
Riki
10 days ago

It’s all about fear, the Anglo Nationalists are afraid of a United Wales more than ever. They have seen what we are capable of for centuries and want to keep us reaching our full potential. This has never been about resources, it has never been about taking the land. It has all been about replacing the native British people with the Anglo. Also, Please stop saying Wales was conquered by Any King of England, it wasn’t. Wales was occupied from 1284 to 1409, and then the Britons conquered England at Bosworth Field in 1485. The Anglo have to claim conquest… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Riki
Riki
Riki
10 days ago

If we consistently call ourselves Foreign on our own island, I think the Anglo have already won, NO? If we allow for the ancient history of our island to be past of as English thanks to them being called British while we use a term they coined for us that has no historical basis. Yes! We have lost!

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
10 days ago

Sorry but i disagree with the writer- as a native person from North Wales i can say i have far more affiliation with North West England than South Wales. I have been to South Wales on very few occasions whereas i go to the North West Cities regularly. If i fly why would i go to Cardiff for example- everyone goes to Manchester or Liverpool. Looking back to ancient history as most nationalist writers do is totally irrelevant to people in the 21st century and to dismiss Gareth Davies views because he is a tory is missing the point.

Rob
Rob
9 days ago

You support Wales at rugby or football right? That’s what makes you affiliated with the South. The geography of Wales is no different to any other country. The people of Vancouver for example are geographically much closer to Seattle and Portland than they are to Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. But that doesn’t make them any less Canadian than any other part of the country. What Tories like Gareth Davies are doing is using Wales geography to undermine its ability to govern itself.

Riki
Riki
9 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Exactly, it’s sadly a rather easy thing to do to the weak minded. Yma O Hyd! Anglo supremacy will not win out, history has proved that, been trying to erase our people for over a thousand years now.

CapM
CapM
9 days ago

This is part of the Tory (and soon to be Labour) grand land and resources grab. https://northernpowerhouse.gov.uk/about/ Southern Swedes could say they have “far more affiliation with Eastern Denmark than Central Sweden because given your logic. Drive time from Malmo to Stockholm 6hrs 20mins; Malmo to Copenhagen 45mins Drive time from Wrecsam to Cardiff 3hrs 20mins; Wrecsam to Liverpool 55mins / Manchester 1hr 20mins. Regarding direct international flight destinations Malmo 13, Copenhagen over 130. Why would Swedes in southern Sweden go to Stockholm when Copenhagen is so convenient. Why isn’t southern Sweden the object of a grand land and resources… Read more »

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