Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Irish were Right to Vote for their Independence 100 Years ago

It is now 2018, and 2018 is the centenary year of when the Irish people opted for their own independence in the General Election of December, 1918.

That election, the first British election in which all men, and any women at all, had the right to vote, saw Sinn Fein win 73 out of Ireland's 105 seats at Westminster.

The elected SF politicians, acting on their manifesto promise, created their own Irish Parliament, rather than attend Westminster, and subsequently declared Irish Independence in January the following year.

Sadly, the British government refused to recognise the authority of the democratically elected Irish parliament (The Dail) and there began the Irish war of Independence.   It's strange isn't it, given that the British Government had just fought a World War to defend the 'Rights of Small Nations?'

Certainly, there appears to be a fair number of people who view Ireland's struggle for Independence as one that wasn't  a just war, including, it seems, revisionist historians in the Republic Ireland itself.  I, however, will argue that the Irish War of Independence was a just war from the Irish side, and I do so as a Brit myself.

And for the simple reason that the Irish had voted for Independence in 1918, and the British Government just wasn't recognising it.  All that the British Government of the Day needed to do, was to acknowledge that Sinn Fein had won the Election, and that therefore, Sinn Fein had the right to govern Ireland, or at least excluding Unionist Ulster.

Instead what happened, was that Lloyd George's government refused to do that, the Irish War of Independence therefore started, and London subsequently sent in the Black and Tans.  Even during the Treaty negotiations at the end of the War of Independence, when London was finally willing to concede an Irish Free State, the British Prime Minister threatened to wage 'immediate and terrible war' on Ireland unless they agreed to his demands,  which included having the King of Great Britain as the Irish Head of State.

Now, excluding Unionist Ulster from the new Irish State was, I feel, reasonable and right, given that the Unionists there had voted to stay in the UK, but the other demands, I feel, were not.  Forcing Ireland to be have a Foreign King as its Head of State, and making nationalist areas like Derry be part of Northern Ireland, can only be described as anti-democratic.

And it was those demands which divided Irish opinion and led to the Irish Civil War.  The British further exacerbated the situation towards Civil War by forcing the Free State Army to shell the Four Courts and kill their own countrymen.  Thus, I would argue that it was the British Government that was directly to blame for both the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, and the divisions in Irish society that the latter caused.

Ireland, no doubt made the right decision the pursue Independence 100 years ago.  The Conscription Crisis of the spring of 1918 made it clear that mere Home Rule within the UK was not enough, since it would have still allowed the Central Government in London to conscript Irishmen to fight in the British Army whenever the former so pleased.

Therefore, who knows, if Ireland had stayed part of the UK, you might have had Irishmen being conscripted to suppress the Malayan Insurgency and Mau Mau Rebellion, the latter in which we British could have incarcerated as many as 1 million Kenyans, according to research by Caroline Elkins.

At least in our own timeline, those Irishmen who joined the British Army after Irish Independence did so because it was there own choice, and not because they were forced to - and this was due to the brave actions of Irish Nationalists 100 years ago.

I therefore feel that anyone who believes in Democracy and the Rights of Small Nations would agree that Ireland's struggle for Independence 100 years ago was a just one.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda


Rwy i'n ysgryfenni yr erthygl hon i ddymuno i chi gyd Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.    Dw i'n gobeithio bod chi gyd yn gallu teimlo yr ysbryd nadolig - Fi, yn bendant ac ers yr eira yn Lundain ychydig wythnosau yn ol.  

Mae hi wedi bod yn flwyddyn grêt i mi ac i'r blog yma.  Yn y dechrau 2017, Roedd gen y blog llai na 4,000 views.  Rwan, ym mis hydref, mae gen ni yn fwy na 94,000 views.  

Hefyd, mae 2017 wedi bod y flwyddyn lle wnes i raddio o'r Bryfysgol Aberystwyth gan 2:1 mewn Hanes ym mis Gorffenaf.  Roedd y dair flwyddyn yna yn amser lyfli a dw i'n methu fo'n iawn yn barod.  Gobeithio galla i ail-fynd yna.  

Rhwng rwan ac yr amser yna yn y ddyfodol, bydd i'n Tsieina i fod yn athro y saesneg i'r plant.  Wna i hedfan ym mis Ionawr y seithfed.  Bydd hi'n bennod mor gynhyrfus mewn bywyd ac bydd i yna yn ystod 15 mis.  Tipyn scary, ydw i'n cyfaddef.  

Mae hi wedi bod yn flwyddyn gynhyrfus i Gymru hefyd.  2017 - Y flwyddyn y dechrau Nation.Cymru gan Ifan Morgan Jones.   2017 - y flwyddyn y fuddugoliaeth Ben Lake yn Geredigion.  Rw i'n gobeithio bydd 2018 y flwyddyn lle gallwn ni adeiladu ar ben y llwyddiant 2017 a chreu llwyddiant yn yr ardaleodd newydd hefyd.  

Yn y Cyfamser, rwy'n ddymuno i chi gyd Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda, a rwan hefyd, mae rhaid i fi ymddiheuro am y ffaith bod Fy Nghymraeg fi ddim yn dda.  

I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I hope that you are feeling the Christmas spirit – I certainly have felt it since the snow in London earlier this month. 

It’s been a great year for Politics by Rebuttal.  At the beginning of 2017, this blog had only had less than 4,000 page views.  Now, that figure has jumped to over 94,000 page views.  

2017 has also been a very significant for me personally – it was the year in which I graduated with a 2:1 in history from Aberystwyth, exactly five months ago to the day; the 21st of July.  The three years there were a wonderful experience, and I can’t say I don’t miss it already.  Le’ts hope that I can go back one day.

Meanwhile, however, I will be starting my new job in China and I fly out on the seventh of January.  It’s an English-teaching job with classes of children under the age of 14.  It will certainly be a new chapter in my life, and I admit that it is not like anything that I have ever done before.

Either way, 2017 has certainly been an exciting year for Wales.  It was the year in which Ben Lake won Ceredigion, the year that Nation.Cymru was founded, but it was also the year in which rail electrification was cancelled between Cardiff and Swansea by a Westminster government who would rather spend the money on bribing the DUP and extending the Northern Line.  I just hope that 2018 will be a year in which the successes of 2017 will be built on, and a year in which new successes will arise.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and apologise for the fact that there will undoubtedly be mistakes in my Welsh above.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Stop Blaming the Welsh Language for the Language Divide in Wales

Having just watched the video of a non-Welsh-speaking Anglesey Councillor arguing that Welsh Language Policy has created an ‘linguistic apartheid’ in Wales, I thought that it would be high time to try to debunk the anti-Welsh-Language-campaigners’ favourite argument – namely that the survival and promotion of the Welsh Language is responsible for the language divides that exist in Wales.

First of all, what language did Wales speak when there last wasn’t a Language Divide in the country? Answer: Welsh - and it was the entry of the English Language into Wales that created the split.

Now, having two languages is no bad thing; on the contrary, Finland, Belgium and Switzerland are all either bilingual or multilingual, and they are better because of it.  I, myself a native English-Speaker, love learning languages, and am actively trying to become more multi-lingual, not less. 

But when the anti-Welsh-Language folk blame the Welsh language for dividing a country, and its communities, I think that it’s important that we respond to that argument, and not let Welsh get criticised merely for existing within its own country.  Welsh has done nothing wrong, so to speak. 

On the contrary, I would argue that the universality of English is what’s to blame for a divided Wales.  Far from uniting Wales, the universality of English is the reason why Wales today is a land divided between those who do still speak Welsh, and those who don’t.  And this divide does indeed exist both at a national level and at community level. 

Think about it.  In England, where I’m from, there is no universal, or even widely spoken, second language, and that is a good thing.  It means that if you are an immigrant or an ‘expat’, you pretty much have no choice but to learn the local language, English.  In England, there is no divide between those who do speak the local language, and those who don’t, since everyone has to speak it.

In Wales’s Welsh-speaking communities, however, everyone can also speak English, which is why most incomers in such areas don’t speak Welsh, even after living there for a long time.  And it’s that phenomenon that has created the division and even social tensions, within said communities.

The 1989 A Study of Language Contact And Social Networks in Ynys Môn, by Delyth Morris, which looked at the Welsh-speaking community of Brynwran, showed exactly that.  Indeed, the results showed that a number of the incomers were actually angry that the locals spoke to each other in a language that they didn’t understand and didn’t like the fact that Welsh was the language of many of the village’s clubs and societies. 

 Of course, in a fair and just situation, those incomers would have been forced to learn the local language and not think anything of it, yet, the universality of English as a second language prevented this ‘normal’ process of integration and assimilation from happening, and is therefore a direct cause of the social malaise.

But of course, in most of Wales, this phenomenon has not stopped there, and has instead resulted in the collapse of Welsh as the local vernacular all together.
That was why, when I was in Aberystwyth, I met so many locals who either couldn’t, or didn’t, speak Welsh.  And it was always for the same reason -  that one of their parents or grandparents had been an incomer, which meant that English had to be the language spoken at home from then on, and that therefore English was the first language of everyone in the family from that point onwards.

In a fair and normal situation, any such incomer would have had to learn the local language to communicate with the locals, and not the other way around, and the local language would have been the common language.  The universality of English is what prevented this, and is therefore a direct cause of the collapse of Welsh as the community language in Aberystwyth, in the South Wales coalfield, in Dolgellau, across most of Wales, in fact. 

Thus, if I had to blame one language for the language divide in Wales, I wouldn’t pick Welsh.  Rather, it is the universality of English that has led directly to a Wales that is a) divided into Welsh-Speaking and non-Welsh-speaking areas, and b) a Wales in which there is division within it’s remaining Welsh-Speaking communities, since the universality of English prevents the absorption of non-Welsh-speakers into the local Language and culture. 

Not only that, but a non-Welsh-Speaking Wales would have far more reason to be internally divided than a Welsh-Speaking one.  When Wales was majority Welsh-Speaking, north Walians, Mid-Walians and South-Walians had something obvious that united them, their language.  

Now, however, that most Welsh people no longer speak Welsh, that unifying influence is no longer there, and many in North-East Wales, for example, feel that they have more in common with people from the geographically closer Cheshire, Liverpool and Manchester, than with people from Cardiff.   
Thus, the collapse of the Welsh Language has greatly strengthened the divide between north, mid and south Wales. 

So, when somebody accuses the promotion or survival of the Welsh Language of being something that divides Wales, tell them that they, if anything, are accusing the wrong language.  

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Stop Blaming Retirees for the Decline of the Welsh Language

How the percentage of people able to speak Welsh in 
traditionally Welsh-speaking communities has fallen 
significantly since the 1960s.                                         
It seems that the factor most blamed for the decline of the Welsh Language is the in-migration of English retirees.  I, however, would argue that the effect of retiree in-migration on the survival of Welsh-speaking communities has been significantly overstated and indeed I would argue that it cannot possible be given the most blame for the language's demise.

Who are the non-Welsh-Speakers?
In a hypothetical situation where retirement migration is indeed the leading cause, you would sure see a drop in the percentage of Welsh-Speakers in the community.  But that drop would, logically, be concentrated among the over-65s, with younger age groups continuing to speak Welsh just as before, since, by definition, the under-65s are not going to be the retirees.

Is this scenario what has actually happened?  There are a handful of communities that genuinely do fit this pattern.  Take the Llyn Peninsula village of Tudweiliog, for example.  There, in 2013, 94.3% of children in the village primary school were from Welsh-speaking homes, while at the 2011 Census, only 73.9% of residents could speak Welsh.  Clearly, the school stats showed that that those residents of school-attending and parenting age were nearly all Welsh-Speaking, which suggests that the 2011 Census figure genuinely was brought down by non-Welsh retirees, and indeed, in 2011, 31.3% of the village's population was born outside Wales.

Thus, there are indeed communities, like Tudweiliog, where the percentage of Welsh-Speakers has fallen due to the in-migration of retirees; and where it has genuinely had nothing to do with any shift to English amongst the younger residents.  But the communities that follow this pattern are not very many.  They are also all rural, all in North West Wales, and all very Welsh-Speaking.  And yes that's right; wherever retirement in-migration has been the leading factor for the decline of Welsh, not much of a decline has actually happened at all, since the younger age groups, by definition, have not been affected.

But that is not what's happened in most areas that Welsh-Speaking half a century ago - instead it has largely been the percentage of children speaking Welsh at Home, a statistic given by School Data, that has plummeted, and it would be difficult to blame retirees for that.

The table below shows how the percentage of primary school children from Welsh-Speaking homes in the three counties of Dyfed has more than halved since the 1950s.

And similarly, on Anglesey, the percentage of primary school children speaking Welsh at Home has fallen from around three quarters mid-century, to just under 40% today, although the drop has slowed down significantly there.  This leaves Gwynedd as the only local authority area where a majority of children still speak Welsh at Home.

Yet are such Misconceptions Really that Unfounded?
Nevertheless, there clearly is a link between in-migration and the disappearance of Welsh-Speaking areas, and for me, as an English learner of Welsh who has lived in Aberystwyth, that is a great tragedy.  

Generally, the traditionally Welsh-speaking areas that are still Welsh-speaking now,  in terms of language spoken by children at home, are the very same areas where less than 30% of the population was born outside Wales, with places like Tudweiliog being the exception.

The link is particularly striking in Gwynedd, where all the areas where Welsh has collapsed are also areas of higher levels of in-migration.  Indeed, throughout the traditional Fro Gymraeg generally, it appears to be the case that when non-Welsh migration into a particular community increases, then the percentage of children from non-Welsh-speaking homes will skyrocket much faster.

The table below shows how this trend has played out by comparing three example communities not far from each other in southern Gwynedd.
Clearly in Dolgellau and Barmouth, in-migration has indeed been what's caused the percentage of children from Welsh-Speaking homes to drop, but it's not the over-65s who are the incomers bringing about the decline of Welsh; instead it's mainly school-aged children and their parents who are the non-Welsh-Speakers.  Similarly, the 2012 Estyn report on Ysgol Ardudwy, the secondary school in Harlech, a town where half the population was born outside Wales, stated that only 40% of children were from homes where at least one parent could speak Welsh.

Blaming the Wrong Kind of Migration
Clearly, where in-migration has actually led to the collapse of the Welsh Language, ie, in places like Harlech, Barmouth and Dolgellau, it has not been retirees who are to blame.  In places where retiree in-migration has been the cause of the decline of Welsh, like in Tudweiliog, Welsh has not actually died out at all, since there the younger age groups have continued speaking Welsh at Home just like before, while in Barmouth and Harlech, they have not.

Clearly then, retiree in-migration is the least harmful kind of in-migration with regards to the Welsh language since it does not affect the speech of younger age groups in the area in question.  And that begs the question, why do we blame retirees for the disappearance of Welsh-Speaking areas?

Whatever people's reasoning is, blaming the wrong people for anything is something that needs to stop.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

London-Aberystwyth direct trains should be re-instated with the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line

Aberystwyth Station before the Beeching Cuts - it had as many
as five platforms at its height.                                                     
With Plaid Cymru managing to get the Welsh Labour government to agree to a feasibility study on the re-opening of the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen line, perhaps this is a great opportunity to begin discussing the reinstatement of direct rail services between Aberystwyth and London.

You might think that having direct trains run between London and Aberystwyth would be quite far-fetched, but actually, such services did actually run until 1991.  More recently than that, Arriva Trains Wales tried to reinstate such a service, but the proposals were turned down by the Office of Rail Regulation in 2010. 

Those services, were of course, like the pre-1991 services, to run on the Cambrian Line between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, as, since the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, the Cambrian Line has been the only line linking the University town.  

But with proposals to reopen the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line nearing reality for the first time since its closure in 1965, for me the obvious question is, why only have 'local' trains run on such a route?  Why not reinstate direct London-Aberystwyth services via the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line and South Wales, once the line is there to do it?

Such a service would be a Welsh Nationalist's dream - it would link Aberystywth not only to London, but also, of course, to the Wales's capital, Cardiff, while Newport and Swansea would also be en route.  Wales would therefore have an intercity-level service connecting the 'capital of Mid-Wales' to the cities of South Wales, and wouldn't it be a bit insulting to Wales if the only trains doing that route were 'local' style trains?

Travelling from London to Aberystwyth via South Wales is not something without historical precedent.  When listening to online oral testimony of an evacuee who was moved from London to Aberystwyth during the Second World War, I noticed that she talked about travelling to Aberystwyth from Paddington station, suggesting that the default London-Aberystwyth journey back then was via the Great Western Main Line and South Wales.

If anything, that makes sense, doesn't it? After all, travelling by train from London to Aberystwyth via South Wales would have been more geographically direct than travelling via Shrewsbury and Machynlleth - the latter route is a tad circuitous since the section across Mid-Wales is actually further north than Aberystwyth itself.

There would be other benefits too.  At the moment, there is no competition on the Great Western Main Line (unlike on other main lines, such as the East Coast); GWR is the only company to run intercity trains out of London Paddington.  Assuming that the London-Aberystwyth trains were to be run by Arriva Trains Wales, as the alternate 2010 proposals envisaged, then that would, for the first time, result in customers on the London-Swansea corridor having a choice of company.

Thus I feel that with discussions on the re-opening of the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line in the air at the moment, it is high time that we also discuss reinstating direct services between Aberystwyth and London, and if possible, via the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen route itself.   

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Why don't they Speak Irish in Ireland?

In Slovenia, they speak Slovenian.  In Latvia, they speak Latvian.  In Finland, they speak Finnish.  Yet in Ireland, they don't speak Irish; instead, they speak English.  Well, there is a language called Irish, but hardly anyone speaks it anymore - less than 5% of the Irish population speaks Irish as their mother tongue.

Ireland's situation is quite unusual; it and Belarus are the only two countries in Europe where the nation's own ancestral language is not what most people speak today.  Ireland is also the only Majority-mother-tongue English-speaking country where most people are not, and never were, of British descent, unless you count Jamaican patois and Grenadan Creole, of course.

So why don't most people in Ireland speak Irish?  The obvious answer would be 'British Rule' - something which lasted in various degrees, from 1169 until 1922.  However, most countries in Europe were also under foreign rule for centuries - Finland, to name an example from the first paragraph, only gained independence in 1917, five years before Ireland, while Slovenia and Latvia only did so in 1991.  Their languages continued to be spoken by their respective peoples in spite of foreign rule, while Irish did not.

In fact, the situation in Ireland is quite extraordinary, and unlike any other other situation in Europe, at least outside the British Isles.  Even compared to regional languages, in say France or Spain, Irish was unlucky.

Whereas the demise of regional languages in France and Spain was largely a twentieth century event, aided by the modernisation changes that occurred then, the death of Irish was most definitely underway in the Eighteenth Century.

Indeed, as early as 1715, it could be remarked that "English is now so universally spoken by all the young Irish here that we may hope in the next generation Irish will be quite forgotten..." and the map on the right shows that Irish was already lost to large swathes of the country by 1800.

Another answer that might seem obvious is the Ulster Plantation - the settlement of mainly Scottish protestants in what is now Northern Ireland, leading to Northern Ireland being majority Protestant and Unionist.  But that doesn't explain why most of the rest of Ireland, and most catholics, no longer speak Irish.  On the contrary, as Reg Hindley described in The Death of the Irish Language: A Qualified Obituary, the death of Irish in Catholic Ireland started in Leinster, not Ulster.

After all, the settlement of Ethnic Swedes on the Finnish coast never resulted in the death of Finnish elsewhere in Finland.  Either way, for me, the fact that the Irish language was killed off so early, and even at all, in fact, defies all logic. In fact, language death in the British Isles generally has always been a puzzle for me.

In 1700, there were six non-English languages spoken in the British Isles (excluding the Channel Islands): Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Norn, the Nordic language of Orkney and Shetland.  By 1800, Cornish was extinct, and Norn, fifty years later.  By 1914, none of those six would be majority languages in their traditional territories.

In Italy, France, and Spain, regional language death only really happened in the century after that and it can all be easily explained by the great modernisation changes which occurred - compulsory education, industrialisation, urbanisation, the radio, television and increased inter-regional mobility.  In Ireland, Cornwall, and Orkney and Shetland, language change happened long before any of this modernisation, and therefore I can't help but ask how on earth it happened.

The decline of Welsh in Wales is the most recent case in the British Isles, and the only one which actually makes sense - it was so obviously linked to the industrial revolution, compulsory education and the in-migration of English-speakers.  When Catholic Ireland became English-speaking however, the population was overwhelmingly rural and pre-industrial - not a situation where you expect to find language change.

The other five minority languages, however, were all in areas that were not really effected by the industrial revolution, and indeed, their respective territories were either in remote areas of Mainland Britain or on the other islands of the British Isles.  You'd have therefore assumed that their chances of survival would have been greater than any regional language on mainland Europe, given their geography.  Yet their respective demises happened before that of Welsh and most definitely before that of regional languages in France and Spain.

So here is the perennial mystery: How on earth did English manage to kill off languages like Cornish, Norn and Irish, centuries before regional languages on the continent were killed off, and without the aid of any modernisation, when, if anything, the local languages of the British Isles had geography on their side?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Collapse of Welsh in Much of Southern Gwynedd

The district of Meirionydd, is
today part of  Gwynedd but 
was one of Wales's 13 count-
  ies before 1974.                       
Like the piece that I wrote on Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, this is not a topic that I would have liked to have to write about, but like with those two counties, this is also a topic that I feel needs to be discussed.

Meirionydd, the home of Hedd Wyn, of the endemic Gwyniad, of the beautiful moutains of southern Snowdonia such as Cadair Idris and Aran Fawddwy, and of Harlech castle, was for much of the 20th century, the most Welsh-speaking and least anglicised area of Wales.

Today however, much has changed and primary school children who speak Welsh at home are now in the minority, where in the rest of Gwynedd, a majority of children do still speak Welsh at home.

The following table shows how the percentage of primary school children speaking Welsh at Home in Meirionydd has fallen since the 1950s:

Table 1.

The situation in Meirionydd is, however, by no means uniform and the district is sharply divided geographically - schools in the north and east are very much majority Welsh-at-Home while those in southern and coastal Meirionydd on the whole are not.  This is generally true of both of urban and rural areas; here is how the percentage of primary school children speaking Welsh at home varies among the different towns in Meirionydd:

Table 2.

So why, how and when did so much of Meirionydd become Anglicised?

Some History
 As you can see, Meirionydd still had a majority of its Primary School children speaking Welsh at home in the mid 1970s, and possible much more recently than that given that the figure is still in the high 40s.  However, the beginnings of Anglicization go back much further than that.

Here are the percentages of children aged 3-4 years old in Meirionydd's urban districts who could speak Welsh in 1921
Table 3.
As you can see, even 96 years ago, Barmouth was already an anglicised town.  I happen to know that the percentage in 1911 was above 50%, but unfortunately the figures from 1911 are not available on the website HISTPOP.ORG and so I don't have the exact figure on me right now.  

Either way, the seaside resort of Barmouth was the first to be anglicised, with the other seaside resort, Tywyn being so later on, most likely during the interwar period.  Thus, during the Second World War, Merionydd was still a strongly Welsh-speaking county, but with its two resort towns being anglicised enclaves, perhaps a bit like the Costal Del Sol.  

As for the rural parishes on the Meirionydd coastline, in 1931, they were solidly Welsh-speaking, with a considerable number of them having more than 90% of their respective populations speaking Welsh.  However, their Anglicization would follow that of the resort towns, and by 1961, an obvious coast-hinterland divide had clearly emerged:  
The Percentage of the Population speaking Welsh
by parish in 1961.                                                  
Nevertheless, the hinterland of even Southern Meirionydd was still strongly Welsh-speaking at this time, and the town of Dolgellau had more than 80% of its inhabitants speaking Welsh in 1961, although this would drop to 73% by 1971.  

By the mid-1970s, however, the overall situation looked much like it does today.  By 1974, of the five secondary school catchment areas, only two had a majority of their primary school children speaking Welsh at home; Y Moelwyn (Ffestiniog area): 77%, Y Berwyn (Bala area): 78%, while the primary schools in the Dolgellau, Tywyn and Harlech areas were at 49%, 36% and 44%, respectively.  

The Town of Dolgellau
The 1974 figures also provide a breakdown of the number of schools in each area by Welsh-at-home levels.  The fact that six out of the ten primary schools in and around Dolgellau had Welsh-at-home majorities but that only 49% of pupil population of those ten schools put together spoke Welsh at home suggests that the largest of those ten schools, that Dolgellau town itself, was majority non-Welsh-at-home and that therefore the Anglicization of Dolgellau town happened rapidly between 1961 and 1974.

I've always been puzzled by the situation of Welsh in the town of Dolgellau.  On the one hand, in 2011, 64% of the town's population said that they could speak Welsh, suggesting that the town was majority Welsh-speaking, yet school figures clearly show otherwise.  Whenever I have asked people from Meirionydd about the situation there, they have said that it is indeed, 'not very Welsh.'

Accent Change
Indeed, recently, I encountered someone who remarked that in Dolgellau, they now speak with a 'strong Cockney/Manchester accent' but that in Barmouth it sounded more 'Brummie.'  Indeed, most of my friends at University who were from the anglicised areas of Gwynedd, such as Dolgellau, Barmouth and Harlech, had English-sounding accents, and one remarked that few/none of his school friends had had 'Welsh accents'.

It seems therefore, that not only is Meirionydd divided when it comes to language, it is also divided when it comes to accent - particularly among the younger generation.  Whereas people from Welsh-speaking areas will have 'strong Welsh accents' when they speak English, those from the Anglicised areas will often be mistaken for being English.

This situation is very different to South Wales, where most people's accents are distinctively 'Welsh-sounding' even though most people there are, of course, non-Welsh-speaking. 

The Future
Will Meirionydd's remaining Welsh-speaking communities stay Welsh-speaking or will they become like Dolgellau or Barmouth in the future?

The good news is that the percentage of primary school children in Blaenau Ffestiniog speaking Welsh at Home actually increased between 2013 and 2017, from 73.3% to 77.0%, suggesting that the regeneration of the town and the opening of the zip-world tourist attraction has not hurt the Welsh language there.

The bad news is what has happened elsewhere in northern Meirionydd.  Of the fourteen primary schools in this half of Meirionydd, ten saw a decrease during those four years, and in six schools it was a drop of more than 5%. 

In Hedd Wyn's home parish, the percentage of children speaking Welsh at home in the two primary schools (Ysgol Bro Hedd Wyn and Ysgol Edmwnd Prys) fell from 83.9% in 2013 to 72.6% in 2017, while in the town of Bala, the percentage of children speaking Welsh at Home from 60.3% to 49.6% just in those four years alone.  (!!)

That alone, is deeply worrying.