Away, sweet away, boyo

14th March 2003 at 00:00
"Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad...."

For readers not fluent in Welsh, these words begin the rousing chorus of Wales's national anthem "Land of my fathers". They are a moving example of the importance of the Welsh language to the country's identity.

In English, the chorus goes something like this:"Home, home, true am I to home" and continues "While seas secure the land so pure O may the old language endure".

And how nice it is to see Rhodri Williams, chairman of the Welsh Language Board - the government body set up to promote use of Welsh - doing his bit.

His son, Owain, is currently studying for his GCSEs at the Welsh-medium Gyfun Glantaf comprehensive in Cardiff. Next year, however, Owain is to move into the sixth form at a private school: Eton College, that most quintessentially English of institutions, where pupils can study Japanese, Portuguese, Latin, Ancient Greek and Russian. Welsh is not an option.

And so the Welsh nationalists have their knives out. Huw Lewis, chair of the Welsh Language Society pressure group, said: "It will make it difficult for Rhodri to be taken seriously in future."

Rhodri Williams himself knows better than to try and impress his own standards on his teenage son: "It was Owain's decision to apply to Eton. I just wish him the best." As the great poet Dylan Thomas once said: "The land of my fathers. My fathers can have it."

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