My real regret – I don’t speak Welsh

I have one great regret in life (having lived for nearly 71 years) – I did not concentrate on learning Welsh 60 years ago.

Personally I blame my teacher at Rhyl Grammar School. She was too pretty. I blame my Latin teacher for my failure to master Latin for the same reason.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder also explains my failure in French – ah what a beauty that French teacher was.

When you gaze on beauty you are oblivious to other joys.

As it happens I have never needed to be fluent in French. I have never been to France and am never likely to go.

Latin is not a problem but for different reasons. On gaining an interest in genealogy I discovered many records written in Latin. I managed to get hold of a Latin dictionary and have muddled my way through ever since.

Welsh is different.

Even at 11 I should have known I would regret not applying myself to the Welsh language.

There are many reasons:

♡ it would have been useful in my teens for chatting up some of those beautiful young ladies from Ysgol Glan Clwyd;

♡ it would have been useful for insulting non-Welsh speakers without them knowing they were being insulted;

♡ it would definitely have been useful for reading my great grandfather’s notes on his family history and his stories of family life in mid-Wales in the first part of the 19th century.

The real reason I regret not applying myself to the language of the land of my fathers is that it is a language of song, a language of love and a language of great antiquity.

I have tried to compensate for my lack of foresight over the decades by making efforts to learn Welsh.

At least now I can say odd useful phrases in Welsh. Such as wishing my darling wife goodnight in the language of my ancestors and greeting her in the morning.

I can also manage, with a Welsh dictionary and grammar book, to stumble through my great grandfather’s notebooks and one day I hope to read his penillion pieces, his sermons and other writings.

What it does show is how easy it is to lose a language.

My great grandfather, the Rev David Pierce, was born in Machynlleth the son of a shoemaker and began work as a weaver yet later he was listed in the census as a pauper.

He came back from poverty, went to college and became a schoolteacher and then a minister in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church.

His was a Welsh-speaking household but he had learned to speak English (for a time he was a teacher in Wolverhampton) and his son, my grandfather was bilingual.

Maybe it was because my grandmother was English and Welsh was not the usual language at home that my father only had a smattering of Welsh.

My mother, maiden name Lloyd, was part of a Liverpool Welsh family but it was her great grandfather, I think, who moved from Bagillt to Liverpool.

Although my father and I “lost” the language it did not mean we did not love the language – especially in song.

I have a large collection of Welsh choir music, including some recordings of a 1000 Welsh male voice choir from the Royal Albert Hall.

Most of them belonged to my father and some I had bought as presents for him.

To hear a Welsh male voice choir sing Myfanwy will still bring tears to my eyes.

What brought all this to my mind? The story of the Morgan family.

I’ll explain that next time.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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