Welsh – Wales Today

Wales - Today

Of all the parts of this series of articles about Wales and the Welsh, I found it the most difficult.  Defining the Wales of Today is not a simple task.  Wales is not a simple country.  It is diverse in culture, politics, religion, history, the arts, sports and all aspects of daily life. 
They say that wisdom comes with age.  I know that at my age of over 80 years, I have seen much happen in the world.  I don’t know if age does produce wisdom, but I do know that a long period of observation provides the opportunity to actually see and experience change.  Perhaps this defines wisdom, this ability to observe and evaluate these observations.
I have seen a definite change in Wales during my trips to Wales over the past fifty years.  I have also seen changes in my own country, the United States, and in my travels throughout the world.  I have the advantage of being retired military and I have lived and traveled in many countries.  The changes I have seen in Wales are similar to changes I have seen throughout the world.
In the 1959, the Kingston Trio produced a song called “The Merry Minuet”, containing these lyrics:  “They’re rioting in Africa. They’re starving in Spain. There are hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain. The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch. And I don’t like anybody very much!”
I grew up in this period.  Racism was rampant throughout my nation.  Even humor showed ethnic prejudice.  Jokes about, Irish, Italians, Poles, etc. were in a vein that portrayed all ethnic groups as ignorant and undesirable.  They poked fun at differences in accents and customs. This sick humor was even a major part of the media.  Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons portraying ethnic groups as almost subhuman.  According to these cartoonists, everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line were ignorant hillbillies wearing bib coveralls, and clod-hopper shoes, with missing teeth and corn-cob pipes! 
Overtime, I saw a change.  Much of what I grew up with became politically incorrect, and often punishable by law.  I still see in my travels that animosity exists.  When I was in Canada, I observed this between those living in Ontario and Quebec.  The French speakers in Quebec would not converse with me in English until they discovered that I was from the States.  Had I been Canadian, they would have continued to speak French and ignore me.  In Scotland at a party on New Year’s Eve, I was informed by a loud, slightly drunken Scot that I was from the “Land of the Almighty Dollar, and repeated the old English insult from WWII, “Over sexed and over here!”.  I reminded him that the U.S. and Scotland had both fought the English and that he only difference was that we won!  Needless to say, a glorious punch-up commenced that night!
The first time I was in Wales was during the “Troubles” in Ireland.  This period of conflict affected Wales at that time.  It increased the animosity between the Welsh and the English.  I remember English vacation homes being vandalized.   During my time in Wales, a English Journalist on BBC had the audacity to say on TV that the best thing in Wales is the sign that says “Welcome to England.”  Of course at that time, the Welsh reaction was one of anger.  Today, the Welsh would probably just shrug their shoulders and conclude that this was just a remark from a typical stupid Sacsonaidd (Saxon).  
The changes I saw over the years in the States were mirrored in Wales.  I think the most important change in Wales was the development of a strong sense of nationalism and a development of great pride in being Welsh.  During my time in Wales in 1960’s, Wales was still strongly connected to England.  The Welsh language was secondary and to the English insignificant.  The Welsh Language Act had a major impact in Wales.  The Welsh Language and the Welsh Language TV station is important and recognized as such.  Another highly significant change is the political position.  The Welsh Assembly  made Europe and especially the rest of Britain take notice of Wales.  The excellence of the Welsh in sports, both Football and Rugby made Wales a household word throughout the world.  Welsh sports affected the world.  The United States started a major league rugby league in 2016 with 12 teams.  I have a nephew playing professional rugby.  
This Welsh pride is very evident in Wales.  I rented a flat in Cardiff in the summer of 2019.  I never heard a disparaging word from tourists.  Wales, particularly in Cardiff was dynamic, busy and exciting.  That is Wales today.  The country is highly literate.  The countryside is beautiful.  I was in Bute Park in Cardiff and never saw a single piece of trash on the ground.  There were many people walking dogs.  Everyone had a bag to pick up after their dogs.  I saw groups of college students sitting on the lawn and talking, playing guitars and singing together.  They were able to talk to each other without needing a cellphone to communicate.  I WAS IMPRESSED!  This was a different Wales from the 1960’s, bustling with life, exciting and great fun.
You could see the Welsh pride in the tourist shops across from Cardiff Castle.  Welsh signs, Welsh handicrafts, Welsh Tee-shirts, etc. were abundant.  All the Welsh people who lived and worked there were very proud of the Welsh heritage.  
Welsh cuisine is great.  Nothing beats a Welsh breakfast.  What started as simple country fare is now gourmet quality.
As a Welshman, I understand why the English didn’t like the Welsh.  It is because we are smarter, better looking and very humble!
In conclusion:
Yes, there are many changes, industrialization has been replaced in a great part by tourism.  The natural beauty and its historical sites attract people from all over the world. Do you want to see castles?  Come to Wales.  Do you like legends with fairies and dragons ? Come to Wales.  Do you want to hear and maybe learn one of Europe’s oldest languages? Come to Wales. Do you want to see some of the most diverse and beautiful scenery in the world?  Come to Wales. Would you like to shop and eat in quaint villages?  Come to Wales.  Do you like quiet beaches and solitary hikes and horseback riding though the mountains?  Come to Wales.  Do you like to ride old fashioned small trains?  Come to Wales.  Do you really like music?  Come to Wales.
I can promise this.  A vacation in Wales in one you will cherish forever.
What has really changed?  Wales is no longer an English province.  It is now recognized by everyone as a country within the United Kingdom
Scroll to Top