In 19th century Wales there was little provision for education for ordinary people, except that provided by the churches. The National (Anglican) and British (Nonconformist) Societies ran Sunday Schools and voluntary classes, otherwise there were only Reformatory Schools for delinquents.
In recent posts I wrote
about the industrial explosion
and the consequent huge influx of
population to work in the refineries, mills, works, mines and factories. The
riots over the awful conditions led to a government look at education, among other things. It was felt that the Welsh language was divisive, and an attempt
was made to stamp it out.
It is not known how
widely it was used, but many schools used the 'Welsh Not'. This was a wooden
board with 'WN' on it, hung round a child's neck who was caught speaking Welsh.
The child could only get rid of it by passing it on to another child speaking
Welsh. The child left with the Welsh Not at the end of the day was given a
thrashing by the teacher.
Apart from preventing
children from using their native language, the practice of the Welsh Not
encouraged lying, tale telling, and spying on others. It was in use particularly
in Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Meirionnydd.
Although it was never
actually government policy, and was even condemned in a report, the Welsh Not
was in use for decades.
The Treason of the
The government report,
published in 1847 in traditional blue covers, made a scathing attack on the
standard of education in Wales. Some of the authors were Anglican clergymen, yet
Wales was largely Nonconformist, and none of the authors spoke Welsh.
They called the Welsh
lazy and immoral, ignorant and depraved. They decided that a large part of the
problem was the use of the Welsh language, and things would only improve when
all children were taught the English language. The report was condemned by the
Welsh as The Treason of the Blue Books.
Highlights of Welsh History by Phil Carradice]