“Rugby. Tom Jones. Male Voice Choirs. Shirley Bassey. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantisiliogogogch. Snowdonia. Prince of Wales. Anthony Hopkins. Daffodils. Sheep. Sheep Lovers. Coal. Slate Quarries. The Blaenau Ffestiniog Dinkey-Doo Miniature Railway.”
I am Welsh. No honestly I am – I cheer for Wales in the rugby and the football and laugh when England lose at anything so I must be Welsh of that there can be no doubt. The only thing sowing seeds of doubt in your mind might be the fact that I was born in Bristol and my mother was born in London and her parents born in Wigan and China.
“So you’re English!” I hear you cry – well I guess that if English nationality had any legal status then yes, I might be seen as being more English than Welsh and that I should be cheering my football team on to glorious failure at World Cup after World Cup – I mean at least England get to the World Cup finals – Wales? 1958 was the last time and (whisper it) we didn’t even qualify properly then – we got in through the back door via a special play off against Israel.
So am I Welsh then or not?
I am going to give two illustrations of why I consider myself to be Welsh, you may argue against them if you like but to be honest nothing will change how I feel inside, the joyful emotion I’ve felt when watching Wales beat England at The Arms Park, Wembley and Millennium Stadium, the total ecstasy felt hugging my Dad at the Millennium Stadium when we won the Grand Slam against France having felt nothing but love for my Dad when he gave me his ticket for the previous Grand Slam game against Ireland because he could only get one and he’d seen it all before and wanted to experience seeing Wales win a Grand Slam, drinking a two litre bottle of vodka with my friend Chris when the Welsh football team lost against Romania in 1993 and didn’t qualify for the World Cup in America – we’d all planned to drop out of college and go to follow Wales to the World Cup and it wasn’t going to happen.
Anyway I digress – here are my illustrations…
1) Windsor Davies.
If you asked somebody name a famous Welsh actor then they will probably go for Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins or Michael Sheen but come on the Welshest of all Welsh actors is Windsor Davies – nobody could be more Welsh, from It’ Ain’t Half Hot Man, through Grand Slam and onto the comedy masterpiece that was Never the Twain, Davies was Wales personified and is loved for it. And where was this Welsh behemoth born? West Ham.
Windsor Davies – still Welsh.
2) My Grandmother
My Mum’s mother was born in China in the early 20th century and the story of how this came to be has always fascinated me. My great-grandparents were there as Methodist missionaries spreading the Word and my Aunt Joan can still speak Mandarin from her time out there! My Grandmother once told the tale about going to the US in the 1950s at the height of Cold War paranoia and she had a spot of trouble getting into the place due to her Chinese birth. This was despite the fact that China didn’t become Communist until nearly 50 years after she was born!!!
Elizabeth Walker – a proud Englishwoman until the day she died and she hated the fact that she had to move to Wales when she became too ill to live in her remote North Yorkshire village. My sister and I thought it was hilarious especially as her mother had been born in Wales – hurrah!
When I was in primary school – Y Bont Faen Primary School, Cowbridge, 1976-1983 – I have no idea about the amount of times that we’d have this debate about nationality and I genuinely think that it has scarred me to this day. I had to fight (sometimes literally even though I’m a lover, not a fighter) for my nationality to be accepted:
“You can’t be Welsh, you were born in England so you’re English.”
“But my Dad’s Welsh and I support Wales and Swansea.”
“You support Swansea?!? You Jack bastard.”
Oh yes, that was the other thing, I lived in or near Cardiff until I was thirty and much as I love the place, my Dad’s family are from Swansea so along with a lifelong love of Joe’s ice cream I support the Whites and will be Jack ‘til I die. Do you have any idea how difficult this made my life? I found out last year – this is over twenty years since I left secondary school* in Cardiff – that one of my friends there also supported Swansea City – he never told me in our time together at school as he was so afraid of what might happen to him should the news leak out.
Anyway I was wondering about whether or not these conversations still take place in the Welsh primary schools of today, do children born in Welsh hospitals still dismiss the nationality of their classmates who for whatever reason were born to Welsh parents living in England but who then felt the hiraeth calling and moved back to Wales? I’ve heard possibly apocryphal stories of mums to be leaping on trains from Newcastle Upon Tyne to Cardiff to ensure that their first child was born in Wales – are any of these tales true?
So in summary – I’ve argued this poorly and so I’ll let this song speak for how I feel if you think I’m not Welsh.
*Just for your information we went to a Church school – the mighty Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School – we spit on Cantonian.