Support our Nation today - please donate here
Opinion

Educate, celebrate, elucidate

04 May 2024 5 minute read
Gwynfor Evans leads a protest against the drowning of Tryweryn in Liverpool. Images courtesy of the National Library of Wales.

Gwern Gwynfil

My youngest daughter came home from her primary school last week energised by the history of Capel Celyn, the village drowned to provide water for Liverpool. She threw facts at me like confetti.

‘Did you know that there were 63 people living there at the time?’

‘You can see the ruins of the village in long, dry summers’

‘It was one of the last completely Welsh speaking communities in Wales’

‘Liverpool didn’t apologise for 50 years!’ – she was particularly outraged by this.

‘Almost every single Welsh MP was against and not one was in favour’

‘And after everything Liverpool sold the water to someone else for years!’ – this was also an outrage.

None of this would have been taught when I was in primary school. It is a hugely welcome change in our mentality and our reality.

She and her peers will grow up with an understanding of the relevance and meaning of the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn’ imagery now so liberally visible across Wales, a meaningful icon embedded in our popular culture.

I applaud this absolutely. We must teach our history to our children, the history of Wales, through a Welsh lens.

Let’s not stop here, time for us to take the next step in our journey towards re-affirming and renewing our collective cultural identity.

It will never be enough to simply rail at historic injustice, to wallow in the victimhood of being subject to Westminster and the enforced compliance of serving the needs of a Greater Britain, United Kingdom, Imperial culture. We should not accept being defined by subservience.

For Wales, see England should infuriate everyone who lives in Wales regardless of how they define their own identity. It diminishes the very place which we all call home.

Celebration

In schools and across society we must build a positive narrative of celebration. Let’s talk about the way in which Wales has positively influenced the wider world. Let’s talk about influential Welsh figures across the centuries and the incredibly outsized influence they have had globally.

Let’s move beyond just being proud of our sporting and entertainment greats and elevate our scientists, our philosophers, our artists. Let’s envision a Wales where we continue to influence, where we birth future influential scientists, thinkers and innovators.

This is important. Wales needs a confident, self possessed, assertive identity, fit for the 21st century. The world is smaller than it has ever been in communication and travel, every nation is within easy reach of every other nation.

In this context, defining ourselves well, as a confident and proud nation, is essential to building our success – to creating a recognisable and admired ‘brand Wales’. Confidence matters.

Opportunity

Cymru has a wonderful opportunity. We can shape and guide the world’s perception because, for most of the world, we are a ‘new’ nation.

We can write our own personality on to the way we are perceived because most of the world has not yet perceived of us.

And what an amazing nation to be! Millenia of history, an astounding depth of myths, magic and legends, a key driver of the industrial transformation in the 19th century, individuals who have played central roles in major events and discoveries spanning centuries.

Cymru has that essential ingredient so treasured and vital in a world of over abundant and manufactured content – authenticity.

Cymru is special.

Football and some Glamorous Assistants

The Red Wall and Football Association of Wales seem to have understood this intuitively. The Cymru away fans are a travelling band of exuberant, friendly, good spirited sport ambassadors. Meanwhile two global entertainment stars have broadcast Wrexham and a positive image of Wales and Welshness to a much wider audience through football.

This is great and we should all applaud this wholeheartedly. But these will ultimately be small splashes with ever decreasing ripples if they are isolated and insular.

We are a small enough nation for each and every one of us to be an ambassador for all the brilliance and wonder of Cymru. Consider the impact on global perception if everyone who ever meets someone who lives or harks from Cymru is told by us about all the amazing things we are, we have been and will become.

Shout loudly about your local heroes and the uniqueness of each part of Cymru. Understand how where you live fits into Cymru and our wider historic and cultural treasures – everything from the meaning of our placenames to which myths and legend are tied to whichever little piece of Cymru we call home.

A leg up and a boost from the famous or from football are welcome but we can all play a part.

Elucidate

For us to do this we must be equipped with the knowledge of our legends, our history, our achievements. We must have a shared vision of the bright future Cymru will have, the goals towards which we collectively strive as a modern nation. Not just in the sporting arena but socially, culturally, politically and economically.

This doesn’t exist right now. You’d be hard pressed to find two people with a matched vision of what and where Wales should be in 25 years. We have to change this. We must equip ourselves and our children with knowledge and understanding.

We must build a shared vision of our future which transcends politics, origins, upbringing and social status. We can disagree as much as we like about how we get there but let’s have a shared vision so that we have a clearly understood and positive target at which to aim.

Let’s define ourselves, grow into our own brave new Wales, and sell ourselves to the world with pride and confidence.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Davies.
John Davies.
17 days ago

It would be something to have Welsh history taught in Welsh schools. In my day it wasn’t. “History” was basically English, thinly disguised under the label “British”.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
17 days ago
Reply to  John Davies.

I can remember at primary school when I was around eight years of age there were some readers that were obviously even them pretty old. Owen Rhoscomyl’s Flame Bearers of Welsh History published in 1905 when it was still possible to be both Welsh and British seemingly with no contradiction in a way that became impossible post WWI.

The book can be downloaded here for free: https://ia800900.us.archive.org/14/items/flamebearerswel00rhosgoog/flamebearerswel00rhosgoog.pdf

Simon Hobson
Simon Hobson
15 days ago
Reply to  John Davies.

There are still tears in my eyes when I think of how ashamed my grandfather was when I asked him to teach me Welsh. And, my grandmother would get angry if ever I asked her about our Welsh heritage. For them they survived school and adult life through identifying as ‘British’. I believe we can build a Wales, a Cymru, which celebrates its history, culture and languages. Using those differences not as a point of division but the starting point for creating a future designed by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales. Based on community and ambition… Read more »

Geraint
Geraint
17 days ago

For many years the Welsh Heritage Schools Initiative has allowed schools in Wales to highlight and share the great work they have been doing in exploring Welsh history. It is worth looking at their website to see the huge and exciting range of projects that are produced every year.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
17 days ago

Coincidentally I came across this video on YouTube which is perhaps the most sensitive videos made about Tryweryn made by someone ochr draw Clawdd Offa:

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
17 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Oops, the link in the above post seems not to be working

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
16 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Not sure why it’s reporting as ‘This video is unavailable’ as the video most certainly is available. Search for ‘Why England erased this village’ by Faultline. It’s quite a long watch, 40 mins or so, but pretty in depth.

Mike Owen
Mike Owen
16 days ago

Wonderful and inspiring article. Diolch Gwern.

Gwern Gwynfil
Gwern Gwynfil
16 days ago
Reply to  Mike Owen

Diolch o galon Mike!

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
16 days ago

Wales has become a much more confident and proud country in recent years, but the fact that so many Welsh people are hesitant to adopt that pride and confidence shows what a number the Blue Books did on the nation’s psyche.

The need for a full-on Welsh history curriculum cannot be disputed; what’s concerning is the profound level of ignorance about their country that some Welsh people have, generally through no fault of their own. It’s encouraging news that schools are now trying to redress that failing.

Simon Hobson
Simon Hobson
15 days ago
Reply to  Rhosddu

This is a story repeated across the globe. History used as a means of indoctrination. Whether it is, ‘for Wales see England’ or ‘for Europe see Great War and WW2’… i.e., Europe is always a ‘problem’ or ‘threatening’. Both exclude the uniqueness and the collaborations which have built our world of today; for good and ill.
A future Wales must teach history and culture in the context of geopolitics and help children understand that the world is a complex place. Shaped by other human beings with their own emotions and vested interests.

Garry Jones
Garry Jones
16 days ago

Today’s primary school students will someday write the history of baby boomers like me. I’m nervous – given our legacy to them. 

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.