Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Welsh in Me

Louise Gouge here, still exploring my ancestry, and having to work hard to find information about my Welsh lineage briefly mentioned by my parents and grandparents and confirmed by DNA.

Who are these people?

When I think of the Welsh, the only ideas that come to mind are towns with interesting and hard to pronounce spelling (with very few vowels to help us); homey thatched roof cottages; and gorgeous movie stars like Catherine Zeta Jones, Ioan Gruffud, and Anthony Hopkins. I also think of Kenneth Branagh, playing Shakespeare’s Henry V and proclaiming in Act IV, Scene 1, “I am a Welshman!” And of course we all know that the heir to the British throne has been designated the Prince or Princess of Wales since the sixteenth century (though possibly as far back as 1301). (Picture of Welsh clothing from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Welsh_costume)

But what other important information should we know about Wales?
Historically, the Welsh known to be a Celtic people, as are the Scots and Irish. The Celts were nomadic and traveled all over Europe, leaving their imprint in many places from Turkey to the British Isles. If you enjoy all things Celtic, you may want to invest in a wonderful BBC series called The Celts, a two-disk DVD set that transports you to a long distant past and explains much about how these people branched out into so many people groups. Find more information at http://is.gd/p1Ffgt, where I found the following information:

A very brief and ridiculously incomplete history

Like most of Europe, Wales emerged from the Dark Ages as a feudal society. Urban centers were few, with Cardiff boasting a whopping big population of 2,200 by 1300. Wales, you see, was an agrarian society, and most everyone lived and worked on a farm. Prior to the Norman invasion in 1066, women held a surprisingly high status in regard to property and rights over their children. In the 1500s, the Welsh became a part of the Protestant Reformation under England’s Tudor dynasty (though not during the reign of Mary I, of course). From that time on, with what is now called “the Act of Union,” the two countries almost seemed a single entity. The Welsh appear to have been more accepting of English rule than the Scots or Irish, and perhaps that helped them to blend. But please understand that I come to this conclusion from just a cursory online glance at Welsh history. If I were to speak to a Welshman, I would doubtless hear a very different viewpoint. (Picture above of Cardiff Castle by Million Moments (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)


This picture of a beautiful and majestic Welsh Cross is a free image from www.dreamstime.com/welsh-cross-stock-photography-imagefree6858802)

Sorry that I can't go deeper.
To keep this blog short, I’ve only scratched the surface of Welsh history, yet I have a strong conviction that any people group in my lineage deserves much deeper study. What really makes me sad about my Welsh connection is that I know of no celebrations in America that are attached to Wales, such at St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish in me or Scottish Highland Games for my Scottish roots. When I looked for "costumes," one "official" site said the “traditional” Welsh costumes are 19th century inventions. Again, it would take deeper research to discover the truth about that. On the other hand, a quick search for Welsh food comes up with lots of mutton and vegetable recipes (yum!) and the note that the Welsh love a hearty breakfast. So that's where I get my love of breakfast!

Regarding dances, I also learned that some Welsh religious reformers saw dancing as sinful and so abolished it. I'm guessing that they might have been abolishing the pagan rituals of the past, because the Welsh dancing I've found online is quite sweet and very similar to our energetic American folk and square dancing. Check out this YouTube video for a peek at the dancing and to listen to the announcer speaking in Welsh. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIOS19WzEZM

Regarding literature, one must of course mention Dylan Thomas and his lovely poetry. (I personally plan to “rage against the dying of the light” when my time comes!) Who hasn't studied him in lit classes? Also at YouTube, you can find video of the poet himself reciting his verses.

But what else?
Clearly, I need to do a deeper study of my Welsh ancestry. In the meantime, if you know anything about Welsh culture, please leave a comment and tell us all about it. I’m sure I’m not the only one lamenting my ignorance on the subject!


Florida author Louise M. Gouge (left at Busch Gardens/Tampa) writes historical romance for Harlequin’s Love Inspired imprint. She also teaches English and humanities at Valencia College in Kissimmee, Florida. Her July 2013 LIH novel is A Lady of Quality, a Regency romance.

11 comments:

  1. Interesting post, Louise. I know nothing about Wales or Welsh culture. I read some pretty interesting things on this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Wales
    I hope you are able to find tons more info about your Welsh ancestry. God bless.

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  2. Louise, unless someone is Welsh, or knowledgeable about the UK or their history, I'm pretty certain the average American would have a hard time placing Wales on a map! It's certainly in the shadow of cousins England, Scotland and Ireland (and Northern Ireland) Who else celebrates St. David's Day or longs to hear the Welsh tongue spoken, or knows it's a beautiful country full of mountains and green valleys? And who but those of us with Welsh ancestry could love that movie like we do? (How Green Was My Valley?)

    What a lovely post -- makes my heart very happy!

    I'm bringing a plate of Welsh cookies to share.
    (I've even gone to the Welsh National Convention in Wilkes Barre PA - what an event!)

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  3. Your post got me interested to look into Welsh history a bit! One thing I found very interesting is that the Bible was translated into Welsh in 1588, even before King James ordered it translated into English. That helped the Welsh language to continue.

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  4. like your info shared Louise, I am thinking that Tom Jones is welsh, am I right? I don't really know much about welsh history but looks interesting. I was surprised to see Bethany mention Bible translation as early as 1588 to welsh....
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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  5. Just getting ready to close out when I checked the winners for April and was surprised to find I am a winner, thanks so much for sharing...
    Paula O

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  6. Great post, Louise. I love Welsh history and really enjoy Celtic music. How great to have such a wonderful lineage in your history. There's supposed to be Scottish blood in our line, but I haven't found it yet.

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  7. So Interesting..I am with you - my Welsh history is lacking too...I'll have to look into that. truckredford(at)gmail(dot)Com

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  8. I commented on this already, but I guess I forgot to click 'publish'. :/
    I don't know anything about the Welsh. This was interesting and I pray that you are able to find out more about your Welsh ancestry. God bless.

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  9. I did not know there wasn't much Welsh history out there. Thank you for the informative article! :)
    Susan P

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  10. What lovely comments from all of you! Debra, I'm delighted to learn that we do have a Welsh convention here in the U. S., although Pennsylvania is a bit far for me to travel. Paula, I did see that bit about the 1588 Bible translation, but failed to mention it. Thank you both for sharing your info. Yes, I do remember the movie How Green Was My Valley. What a heartrending story! Thank you all for commenting.

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  11. I really know nothing about the Welsh, so thanks to you, Louise, I now know at least a little! My background is from Swedish/German roots, so Wales is rather far removed. However, I still find it very interesting.
    God bless,
    Betti
    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

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