Despite the success of organizations such as Urdd, one problem has remained for the survival of Welsh ever since the Acts of Union in themiddle 1500's. The Welsh language has considered to be a great hindrance to one's feeling of Britishness. Even before the First World War, when British soldiers from all parts of the kingdom marched off under the Union Jack to fight the Boers in South Africa, the feeling took hold that "...side by side with the honourable contribution which the Welsh could make to the British Empire, the Welsh language could be considered an irrelevance..."
This idea was implanted even more firmly in the Welsh mind by the intention of the leaders of the Welsh-speaking community to show that the peculiarities of Welsh culture were not a threat to the unity and tranquility of the kingdom of Britain. When ideas of a separate government for the Welsh people began to take hold in the late 19th century, once again, the idea of a British national identity found itself overwhelming the purely local, isolated, and all too often ridiculed, aspirations of those who wished for a Welsh nationhood.
In mainly English-speaking South Wales in particular, feelings on the matter were sharply expressed. At a crucial meeting in Newport, Monmouthshire, in January 1898 it was firmly stated (by Robert Byrd) that there were thousands of true Liberals who would never submit "to the domination of Welsh ideas." With few exceptions, this seems to sum up the attitude of most Welsh politicians of the next one hundred years. There were too many in Wales whose close ties with English interests made the idea of home rule repugnant and one to be fought against at all costs.
Welsh-speaking Lloyd George, future Prime Minister, who was howled down at the meeting, questioned if the mass of the Welsh nation was willing to be dominated by a coalition of English capitalists who had made their fortunes in Wales. Yet even his motives were held with suspicion as being entirely self-serving. And, as a fluent Welsh speaker, he was mistrusted by many in the audience who looked with suspicion upon those who could speak a language that they could not.
In 1881, the Aberdare Commission's report showed that provisions for intermediate and higher education in Wales lagged behind those in the other parts of Britain; it suggested that there should be two new Welsh universities, Cardiff and Bangor. It was found, however, that there was a lack of adequately trained students for these new colleges and thus, in 1899 the Welsh Intermediate Act came into being that gave the new county councils the power to raise a levy (to be matched by the Government) for the provision of secondary schools.In 1896 came the Central Welsh Board to oversee these schools.
The result was that thousands of Welsh children from all levels of society were able to continue their education at a secondary level. Another result, however, was the continued decline of the status accorded the Welsh language, for the new secondary schools were thoroughly English, only very few even bothering to offer Welsh lessons. An educated class of Welsh people was thus created that fostered the cultural traditions of their country in the language of England.
In the meantime, in an age where radio and movies began to play important roles in the regular everyday life of the people of Wales, the language continued its precipitous decline. North Wales got its news from and followed the events in Liverpool; South Wales was more tied to happenings in Bristol or even London. Links between the two areas of Wales were practically non-existent; roads and rails went West to East, not North to South, and the flow of ideas and language went in the same directions. Any sense of a national Welsh identity was disappearing rapidly along with the language.
In an attempt to stop the rot, a new party came into being in 1925, Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Party of Wales) that was fiercely devoted to purely Welsh causes such as preservation of the language and culture. In 1926, Saunders Lewis took over the presidency, but the party received very little general support and, in some areas of Wales, was the object of ridicule. It was to take forty years before Plaid Cymru was taken seriously and gained its first seat in Parliament. Much had been happening until then to further erode Welsh as a common language and the idea of the Welsh as a common, united people worthy of their own government as part of a greater Britain.
The views of Henderson and Lewis, as imaginative and forward-looking as they were, did not appeal to the majority of the Welsh people' at the time, those who thought the politician and the poet were those of a very small minority indeed. In the meantime, the process of anglicization continued unabated; more people living in Wales considered themselves Anglo-Welsh than Welsh. Much of the blame (or for some,the praise), can be placed on the educational system that, even before the outset of the Second World War was geared to producing loyal Britons.
When World War ll finally arrived, there was much more unanimity of support throughout Britain than there had been for the First World War. And there was less trauma inflicted upon the people of Wales, for this was a crusade against Fascism and Nazism and Hitler that almost everyone could subscribe to. It was also a fight to preserve the Empire. The heavy bombing meant a large exodus of children from the targeted larger English cities into the more rural areas. In Wales, thousands of refugees learned Welsh, but in many areas their English language overwhelmed the local speech.or tipped the scales against its survival.
To counter the linguistic threat to the Welsh culture at Aberystwyth, a private Welsh-medium school was established.by Ifan ab Owen Edwards, the son of the famous educator. Apart from this little school, however, it wasn't until Llanelli Welsh School began in 1947 that the idea of teaching children through the medium of Welsh began to take hold in earnest. Other schools followed, so that by 1970, even Cardiff had its