Prejudice against the Welsh - Sarah Woodbury

Prejudice against the Welsh

In 2004, an official map published by the European Union, “The Eurostat Statistical Compendium”, dropped Wales off into the Irish Sea.

At the time, the Welsh were pretty philosophical about it, and they have a long history of learning to be so.  You can see a larger image of the map here:

As a sequel, the BBC reported in January of 2005, three months later, that an insurance company had failed to insure someone in SE Wales–“Sentinel Card Protection told 71-year-old Bernard Zavishlock, from Abergavenny, last month that it could not renew the insurance policy he had held for 10 years because Wales was ‘an unknown country’.”

These are examples of computer error, compounded by individuals who didn’t notice that Wales was missing.  Real prejudice, however, has existed against Wales since the Norman conquest.   Prejudice in and of itself is a problem, but it is compounded by a power relationship.  So when the Welsh tell the joke:  “God said to the Welsh: ‘I am going to give you this glorious land of lakes and mountains.’ So where’s the catch, asked the Welsh? ‘Wait until you see the neighbours,’ replied God.”  This is very different from an English joke  which says, “What’s the only good thing to come out of Wales? The M4” because Wales was conquered by England in 1282. 

Prejudice against the Welsh–and in particular, the speaking of Welsh, was embedded in the Acts of ‘Union’ of 1534 and 1543:  “if and when they abandoned their own language and learned English, . . . the pressures of education and the law were added to those of commerce, therefore all combined to convince Welshmen that they had no civilised or ambitious future ahead of them except by claiming equality on those terms.”

I meant to write about prejudicial statements in the past, but the present is just so full of them, it only highlights the 1000 year history that divides the English and the Welsh:

“Television presenter Anne Robinson felt the Welsh nation was fair game in 2001 when on Paul Merton’s show Room 101 she branded them ‘irritating and annoying’. She called Wales ‘useless’ and posed the question: ‘What are they for?'” 

A.N. Wilson opined: ‘The Welsh have never made any significant contribution to any branch of knowledge, culture or entertainment. They have no architecture, no gastronomic tradition, no literature worthy of the name.’

AA Gill, the restaurant and TV critic, went further: ‘You can travel from Cardiff to Anglesey without ever stimulating a taste bud.’ He took particular exception to Rhyl, calling it ‘a town only a man driving a crane with a demolition ball would visit with a smile.’

Even David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, felt licensed to make a joke last year when he said that Colin Jackson, the world champion hurdler, had ‘succeeded despite being Welsh’. Welsh nationalists condemned Blunkett’s ‘flippant and imbecilic remarks’.

6 Replies to “Prejudice against the Welsh”

  1. The problem, of course, is that it’s not just ‘banter’ on either side. And everybody should care about it on both sides.

  2. I’m sorry, but i’m an englishman who has been living in wales for the last three years and i have been subjected to prejudice and even racism, if that’s possible! I cannot go out socially without my non-welshness being pointed out and have even been threatened because of it, so forgive me if i dont care about a bit of banter from TV and politicians

    1. I gather this answers the question of “What are they for?” From Wikipedia: “Giggs holds a host of football records, including that of being the most decorated player in English football history.” I’m glad someone’s paying attention 🙂

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