Report of Commission of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales,1847
This report was published by three English university scholars into the educational system in Wales. The three were Lingen, Symons and Vaughan Johnson. The report unfairly drew attention to the inadequacy of Welsh education . One of their main points was that Welsh children , and often their teachers too, could not speak English. The report was produced in blue books, hence the name. Apart from , and because of, the understandable outrage of Welsh people the report helped to forge a greater sense of national identity and the publication was referred to as "The Treachery of the Blue Books" [Brad y Llyfrau Gleison]. One of the principal Welshmen who fought a campaign against the report was Evan Jones , better known as Ieuan Gwynedd, a minister and a journalist .. One of the report's statements was that Welsh was a " peculiar language isolating the masses from the upper portion of society". Sadly, for the Welsh language, faced with such criticism many people did opt for an education in the English language despite the efforts of Ieuan Gwynedd and others. [ Based on an article in"A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996]
Here is a list of the Cardiganshire parishes which have their individual sections of the report online.
Below are some of the overview sections of the Reports as far as they relate to Cardiganshire, together with Brecknock and Radnor.
- MODE OF INQUIRY [Brecknock, Cardigan, and Radnor]
- SCHOOLROOMS, etc. [Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire, Radnorshire]
- SYSTEM OF TEACHING:- THE SCHOOLMASTERS
- MORALS IN BRECKNOCKSHIRE, CARDIGANSHIRE & RADNORSHIRE
- THE WELSH LANGUAGE. Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire & Radnorshire
- Symons, Jelinger Cookson 1809-1860
Before entering upon the results of the inquiry, it may be expedient that I should explain to your Lordships the mode in which it was conducted.
We had each your Lordships' permission to appoint two Assistants conversant with the Welsh language. I had consequently the benefit, in the commencement of the inquiry, of the services of Mr. Penry, a Welsh gentleman at the head of a British and Foreign School of high reputation in London, whose practical knowledge of schools rendered his opinion of value to the inquiry. Some weeks elapsed before I could procure a suitable Assistant front Lampeter, My first Assistant from thence, Mr. Lewis, was transferred to Mr. Lingen, with whose district he was better acquainted. He was succeeded by Mr. Price, another of the students of Lampeter, who is still with me. Mr. Penry left me at the end of his engagement of three months, being unable to prolong his absence from London. He was temporarily succeeded by Mr. Watkins, the Agent of the Archdeacon of Brecknock, who acted as Assistant in the vicinity of that town.. In the middle of January I procured the active services of Mr. Jones, another of the students of Lampeter, who is also with me. I was also temporarily assisted by the Rev. Mr. Edwards and the Rev. Mr. Evans in collecting schedules in the county of Cardigan at Dissenting chapels.
The Duties of the Assistants
The duty prescribed to the Assistants was to visit a group of contiguous parishes, presenting themselves, in the first instance, to the clergyman if resident. They also were instructed to seek communication with the leading Dissenters, or, in the absence of these, the parish officers and chief farmers in the place. The first object of the Assistant by these means was to ascertain the number and locality of all the day and Sunday schools in the parish. He then visited the day-schools, and carefully filled up a schedule for each of them with answers to the various questions they contain; taking down the stay at school and the age of each child, seriatim. At the commencement of the inquiry it was required of the Assistants to examine and report on the day-schools. This was found to occupy too much time, and the attention of the Assistants was latterly directed exclusively to the schedules. I required, however, a short report to myself on each parish, with a statement of the names and number of the several schools ascertained, after diligent inquiry, to exist in it. The Sunday-school schedules were invariably filled up by the clergyman, superintendent, or other persons in authority in the school. The reports of the Assistants contained some slight notice of the character of the schools, which, with further verbal communication, together with the schedules, enabled me to direct my own investigations. In the Welsh districts one of the Assistants attended me in my visits to the schools as an interpreter.
Objects and mode pursued in examining of schools
It has been my object to devote the portion of my time applicable to school inspection, to such few schools only in a group of parishes as I believed might exemplify the features of a class, or exhibit the mental condition of the locality itself. My endeavour has been rather to examine a few schools thoroughly in each district, than to visit a great number with cursory inspection. In the examination of the children I have striven to test the cultivation of their minds and the extent of their information, as well as to estimate the amount of their scholastic attainments; for I conceived my province to be less that of an inspector of schools than an inquirer into education. I have deemed the mental condition of the children the primary object of attention, and that it would be better ascertained by measuring results than by minute observation of the means used to produce them , nevertheless I have not failed to note the organization, discipline,. method of instruction, capacity of the teacher, apparatus, and physical circumstances of each school I have seen. I have also recorded my remarks on these various points, together with what I deemed the more important features of my examination, in "Notes of Schools and Parishes"; the larger part of which I have ventured to append to this Report; for although they were written currente calamo from notes taken at the time, and are both crude and immethodical, they convey that impression made by the scholars and the school while freshly imprinted on my mind, and are therefore more faithfully descriptive of things as they were than any effort would be which I could now make to recast or ampfify them. For the same reason I have also selected and annexed some of the Reports of my Assistants, which either describe schools or exhibit the mental condition of the parishes they visited. All examinations have been essentially catechetical, and, having in view the catholic nature of the inquiry, they were no wise confined to the limited scope of the subject taught in the schools visited, but were extended to most branches of ordinary information.
Inspection of Sunday-schools
My mode of inspecting Sunday schools has been that of visiting a selection of them ; of observing and noting the system of instruction pursued in them; and of joining a class and questioning the scholars. This duty my Assistants have frequently shared, reporting to me the result of their observations.
Mode of ascertaining the capacity of the teachers
Alike in day and Sunday schools it has been my practice, in the first instance, to request and induce the master in the one, and the teacher in the other, to instruct their classes in their own accustomed manner, that I might have an opportunity of observing the system of teaching as well as of estimating the capacity of the teacher. I have also questioned the teachers closely on their mode of teaching, and especially as to the degree and manner in which oral and catechetical instruction is given by them. I have taken opportunities of going suddenly into schools, directing my attention to the occupation, at the moment, of the master, when wholly unprepared for a visitor, and selecting as much as possible the hours when the busiest work is usually going forward.
Mode of ascertaining the knowledge and education of the children
After the master or teacher had heard one or two classes read, and I had seen him give in his own way all the instruction I could prevail on him to exhibit, I have invariably requested permission to have the children to myself and to examine them ad libitum, which without a single exception has been willingly granted; and in a majority of cases I have been earnestly begged to examine the scholars myself before it comported with my object to release the teacher from the exercise of his functions. The lesson selected was almost invariably a chapter in the Bible in the first instance, and, with the exception of one or two superior schools, it was the only lesson capable of exhibition. When, upon asking a few simple initiatory questions on the subject of the lesson, I perceived any bashfulness or any very striking ignorance, or any reluctance to answer, I have made it a constant practice to promise pence to the children who in a short time should have answered the most promptly and the most correctly. I did this not only in cases of bashfulness, in order to counteract it, but in cases of gross ignorance, in order to test its reality. When assured by a child that it had never heard, for instance of the Apostles or of our Lord, or that it did not know the number of months or weeks in the year, or whether Ireland was a town, a man, or a country, I invariably offered a penny to that child if it would tell me rightly ; nor did I allow myself to be satisfied of its ignorance until its genuine anxiety to get the penny had prompted the wild guesses, copied verbatim at the time, and transferred to the Notes on Schools, where they will be found passim. I also made it a rule, where the clergyman was resident in a parish, to request the favour of his attendance with me at all church-schools, and at such other schools as he felt he could visit without intrusion, together with the patron of them, if any, in order that I might have a witness of what passed. The clergymen who assented to this request are often named in the "Notes of Schools."
Questions translated into Welsh
In all schools where any of the children examined were more familiar with the Welsh than the English language, my questions were invariably translated by the Assistant, or, in the rare cases where one of them was not present, then by the clergyman or the bystander most conversant with both languages. The questions were always expressed in the very simplest and most familiar terms which could be employed in both languages, so as to bring them perfectly within the scope of the child's comprehension, but at the same time without asking leading questions so is to suggest the answer. Where great ignorance has been displayed, I have generally proceeded until the clergyman or the master have admitted that the ignorance was fairly proved. I invariably requested that the best scholars in the school should be selected, so that I might test at once the maximum amount of learning.
Wherever the answers given have been either apparently or avowedly by rote, I have strictly interrogated the children on the meaning of the words used and the sense of the passage, applying the test and stimulus of the pence wherever needed. In this way many a flourishing exhibition has broken down, to the consternation of the master, and in some cases to the great discomfiture of those interested in the school. I have however felt very forcibly that the rote system is a constant cloak of ignorance - a gloss which not only veils the truth, but prevents improvement by concealing the need for it. I have, therefore, in all cases, striven to measure the real amount of mental exercise and mental apprehension, regardless to a great extent of its outward appearance. I have occupied no inconsiderable portion of each examination with the simple question " What does such a thing or such a word mean?" accompanied by every appliance of manner and inducement which, short of prompting the answers, could encourage and elicit them. By these means I venture to think that the real state of things has been. ascertained.
I have felt it essential to state to your Lordships thus briefly the means used in my examination into school teaching, and the information acquired, because the results are such as I feel need to be fortified and confirmed by a knowledge of the means employed to arrive at and test them. As regards the examination into the usual subjects taught, such as ciphering, writing, and reading, I have adopted the methods usually employed in the inspection of the mode of teaching, and the proficiency acquired in them ; and as regards arithmetic, I have striven to ascertain the degree in which the reason for the different rules was understood.
Examination of children and adults out of schools
I did not confine examination to children in school, but frequently examined them, and caused the Assistants to examine them, in parishes where there were no schools. The Sunday-schools, where grown-up persons constitute a large portion of the scholars, afforded me some slight insight into the information possessed by the adult classes. I desired to improve the means of ascertaining their mental state, and I therefore lost no available opportunity of engaging them in conversation wherever I met with them, and probing their amount of information and opinions. This was a work of some difficulty and delicacy; to the satisfactory execution of which my note-book was a complete barrier. The natural suspicion attaching to an Englishman questioning a peasant at all, and especially where it was known that he was likewise an emissary of the Government, generally closed their mouths the moment any attempt was made to reduce their answers to writing, unless my questions were confined to the means of education for their children, which always propitiated them. Sufficient however was elicited to give me a fair estimate of their minds and information. These personal inquiries were directed to the physical as well as moral condition of the inhabitants of the towns, villages, and huts I visited, but my opportunities were necessarily limited in point of time and number; and had I even been enabled to devote a much longer period to this wide field of investigation, it would have been probably insufficient to justify me in giving, from the data of my own observation, any safe estimate of the general state of intelligence and information of the poorer classes, taking into account "the amount, character, and condition of the population." It nevertheless appeared to me that a trustworthy knowledge of these facts would be ancillary if not essential to the full representation of the subject of my inquiry. Hopeless of obtaining this knowledge by means of the machinery and time at my command - already taxed to the uttermost in the discharge of the more immediate and pressing duties of the investigation -I was induced to enlarge and attest my own limited observation by recourse to the far more valuable experience and opinion of those who had long resided in the country, and who, from their position or occupation, were qualified to speak with confidence on the various points which belong to the social economy, or determine the moral condition, of the community around them. I accordingly took written evidence from various persons in widely different classes of life, in whose knowledge, intelligence and integrity I had reason to confide. This evidence was at first exclusively oral and given in answer to my questions but written down by me and signed by the deponent. One or two persons having requested me to send them written questions, in order that they might have more leisure to consider and mature their statements, I adopted this suggestion in all cases, abandoned further steps to obtain oral testimony, and addressed questions pertinent to the inquiry to several persons selected in different districts, with a view to its objects ; and am thereby enabled, without sacrifice of time, to present to your Lordships a body of information derived from men of intelligence, belonging to almost every variety of creed and station, which, whilst it elucidates the subjects of my commission, imports authority to its results.
While thus collecting evidence I bore in mind the desire expressed in my instructions that Her Majesty's Government and Parliament may be enabled, by having facts before them respecting the means of education in "connexion with the wants and circumstances of the population of the Principality, to consider what measures ought to be taken for the improvement of the existing means of Education in Wales". I therefore gave an opportunity for the expression of the opinion of the most competent persons to offer one, as to the best method by which such assistance might be applied, if Her Majesty's Government should be disposed to afford it. I was induced, moreover, to do this by the fact that a strong desire was frequently expressed by influential persons in different classes of society for Government aid ; and, although it was not a part of my prescribed duty to inquire into or report upon remedies, I thought it would probably assist the consideration of the subject mentioned in the instructions, if such desires, having been spontaneously expressed, were specifically stated. I have also, in conversation with the clergy, gentry, and commonalty, learned much of the opinions they respectively entertain. This subject, however, is one of grave importance, on which a lively interest is arising in Wales; and I forbear to exceed the precise limits of my duty by offering any comment upon it in this Report. The evidence will be found in the Appendix.
Mode of obtaining the statistics of day-schools
The statistics of day-schools were obtained, as I have partly described to your Lordships, by the Assistants, who procured them by personally visiting each school ; and, where the books were not sufficient for the purpose, by taking the ages and stay at school of each child separately. The remaining part of the schedule was filled up by communication with the clergyman, trustee, master, or other person most competent to give it. I used every endeavour to render the Assistants minutely careful in their inquiries, and in correctly noting the results. I frequently tested their work by personally visiting and retaking the numbers. Wherever I found or had reason to suspect errors, the Assistant was sent back to the school, or the parties belonging to it were written to by me, to discover and rectify it ; and I have great confidence that the result is substantially complete and accurate. The attendance of the children, nevertheless, fluctuates considerably, and schools spring up at particular seasons and disappear at others; no census of them at one period can, therefore, perfectly tally with the actual number at another period; and the statistics given present only the number and state of the schools when visited. Allowing, however, for every fluctuation on these accounts, I believe that the statistics are a fair approximation to the exact facts they profess to exhibit, and that, as regards the number of children at school, they exceed rather than fall short of the actual amount.
Exclusion of schools not for the working classes
It is to be borne in mind that all day-schools in which the scholars belonged to the higher or middle classes were excluded, as not being within the scope of the inquiry. On this ground, all the scholars, except three, were excluded from the statistics of the Ystrad Meyric school: likewise entire schools of a rank such as that of the Rev. Mr. Davies, of Adpar; of Mr. Heslop, of Hay; Mr. Edwards, of Aberystwyth; and many others.
The statistics of the Sunday-schools have been tested by frequent visits to chapels, at times when no visit was expected, both by myself and my assistants; and although exaggerations of the number may have been in some instances practised, I have found little reason to doubt its general correctness. It was found impractical to obtain the numbers in any other way than by the information of those persons who superintended the schools. They therefore are themselves responsible for any errors which may have been committed. That the numbers do not fall short of the actual amount is obvious from the fact that they are derived from the persons who are interested in swelling them. This desire may have occasionally existed; but I am persuaded that such feeling is isolated and rare, and has led to no material or general exaggeration of the returns. In some places it has been however impossible to avoid the enumeration of the same children in the Church and in the Dissenting Sunday-schools. This results from the circumstance of Church-schools being held in the morning and Dissenting-schools in the afternoon. In these cases the same children, in some places, attend both, and the fact was inside known to me at the time ; but I felt the difficulties to be insuperable of appropriating such children exclusively to either school: they have therefore been returned as belonging to both. The number therefore of the Sunday-school scholars slightly exceeds the actual amount at school. In order that no day-school for the lower classes, or Sunday-school, should escape our research, I caused the schedules for both day and Sunday schools to be inserted in the Welsh periodicals which circulate largely among the people ...
[Jelinger C Symons, chief commissioner in Brecknockshire, Cardiganshire & Radnorshire]
... There are some very good school-houses in my district. Those built at Aberystwyth and Borth, chiefly by the Mrs. Pritchards, aided by grants from the Committee of Council, the new one at Llangranog, the school-houses at Llanfihangel y creiddyn, Genour glyn, Llandygwidd, Hafod, Llangynider, Pencraig Brecknock; the model-school at Brecknock, the British school at Talgarth ; the national schools at Hay, Glasbury, and Aberystwyth, the school-house at Whitton, and a few others, are all either good and substantial enough for the purpose, or are very capable of being rendered so at a trifling expense. These school-houses are moreover held and secured mostly for terms of years. The great majority of schools are held under temporary occupation in rooms of private houses, which degenerate in Cardiganshire and the wild districts of Brecknockshire into mere outhouses, usually without any ceilings. and with ground floors, scarcely, if at all, superior to woodhouses, a purpose which they not unfrequently serve. In these rough schools there is no school furniture of any kind other than forms and tables of the clumsiest descriptions, sometimes a steep desk occupies the centre or side of the room for the purpose of writing. Some of the Church schools are held - as at Llanilar, in Cardiganshire; Llanfihangel ystrad, Llangattock, in Brecknockshire, &c.- in buildings erected for the purpose in churchyards ; but very frequently Church schools are held in cottages or rooms of houses rented for the purpose by the clergyman, as at Llanarth, Cardiganshire. Nothing can exceed the primitive disregard of all comfort, and of all the ordinary aids and implements of education, in a large majority of these schools. In many of them the floor is paved like a stable, and massive benches are notched and cut in every direction. In some there is a wide open chimney in the fashion of an Irish hut; and in several the thatched roof is far from water-tight. Until the winter was far advanced, although the weather was most severely cold and damp, fires were very rarely found in these desolate places in Cardiganshire. There are upon the whole a larger proportion of decent school-rooms in Brecknockshire than in other counties. In the north however, and in the greater part of Radnorshire, schools are held, if at all, usually at the end of the nave of the church, partitioned off for the purpose - as at Llandegley, Llanbadarn Fawr, Landilo fan, and others ; and sometimes, but not very often, the school is held in the church itself, as at Llanfihangel Tal y Llyn and Llandulais Tyr Abad. Several of the Adventure schools are held in Dissenting chapels.
[Statistical table of types of schoolroom throughout the three counties is here omitted. Ranges from 6 in church vestries to 86 in private houses]
Few necessary outbuildings
The necessary outbuildings exist only at a very few of the superior schools. Nine out of ten have none at all. Those which exist are usually very bad and insufficient. An utter disregard of decency necessarily results, and instances are by no means uncommon of consecrated ground, and the very walls of churches, being degraded.
Books, apparatus, &c.
The few superior schools alone are furnished with any approach to a sufficiency of books ; and maps and black boards, ball frames, and the ordinary apparatus of schools, exist alone in a very small number. Most of them are utterly devoid of improved appliances of instruction. A Welsh schoolmaster of the ordinary description thinks himself well supplied if he is provided with two long tables and one short table, two or three forms for the children, a chair for himself, a score of Bibles, slates, and Vyse's spelling-books, a few copy-books, and plenty of primers. Two or three Walkinghame's Tutor's Assistants, an old newspaper, a rod, and, if it be winter, a heap of peat in the corner, complete the sum of his wants and of the recognised requirements of the scholars. The area of the rooms is often ludicrously insufficient, at other times uncomfortably large. No sort of proportion is kept between space and numbers, as appears above. The accommodation for 15,563 children is subject to deduction for furniture in the adventure schools, which often encumbered the room. The ventilation of the generality of schools was seldom defective, the wind generally blew freely down the chimney and through the holes in the doors and windows. Occasionally in small rooms, and especially in dame-schools, the ventilation is imperfect, but this is not a prevailing evil.
Comparative character of Schoolhouses in the three counties
In Radnorshire the school-houses and the schools themselves improve in the of vicinity of Herefordshire, and disimprove towards the middle and western parts of the county, in which there are scarcely any schools to be found. In Brecknockshire schools improve also to the eastward, and decline both to the north and the south. In Cardiganshire there is uniformity of barrenness, except at Aberystwyth, which is an oasis in the wilderness.
Competency of the Schoolmasters
If the competence of a Welsh schoolmaster is to be measured by the standard of the popular estimation of his duties, perhaps almost as many exceed as fall short of it. But if it is not an undue expectation that a schoolmaster who professes to teach English should do more than make his scholars pronounce and spell English words without understanding their meaning, - that he should give them some degree of mental exercise - inform their minds on the subjects he professes to teach - acquaint them with the rules as well as the practice of arithmetic and at least endeavour to advance the younger as well as the older classes of his scholars - if these be not extravagant requirements for the qualifications of a schoolmaster, I have no hesitation in saying that there are very few persons worthy of that title in my district. I may safely say that there are not a dozen who are efficiently teaching even that which they profess to teach ; and that, if the standard extended to skilful reaching and all the improved methods of mental cultivation, there are in my judgement one or two only who approach to it.
System of teaching
With a few exceptions, there is no system of teaching in the schools in my district. The general plan is precisely that of the old-fashioned village dame-schools. The children sit in rows on forms, and save the master all sort of trouble by "reading their books" and in order that he may assure himself of their industry, they all read aloud. In the "Notes" on the Rhayader free-school I have cited the books which I found proceeding at once. Thus a Babel of tongues is kept going on all subjects, from Leviticus to the alphabet, in which any attempt to correct, or even to distinguish individual performances, would be perfectly hopeless. One by one the more forward children are brought to the master to "say their lesson," which generally consists of a long column in Vyse's Spelling Book, to be said and spelt by heart which is performed frequently with wonderful accuracy and rapidity and in a Welsh screech which seems expressly devised to annihilate all chance of expression or modulation of tone in reading. The Bible and Testament classes are generally once a-day called up to read to the master. The Holy Scriptures are, with a very few exceptions, the standard reading-book; and the great ambition of both master, scholar, and parents is that the greatest possible number should be reading in the Old Testament. It is a sort of premium diligentiae, awarded, as far as I could observe, in all but the very few superior schools, to the children who could gabble the most glibly; for I never found in any school, with three or four exceptions, the slightest effort made by master or mistress to teach the children to read well. In 45 schools out of 72 in Welsh districts, I found not the slightest attempt made to question the children, or to inform them on the subject on which they read, or even of the meaning of words: in each school they were grossly ignorant of it, and only a very few children in each were able to give the Welsh for ordinary English words. In these schools they were uttering the words of the Scriptures in English without the most remote conception of their meaning, any more than if they had been reading Greek; the Bible being used as a mere mechanical means of practising them in uttering English, and knowing the sounds of certain conformations of letters. Any effort to do more on the part of the master was often honestly disclaimed. In 16 the meaning of words was asked, so as to give the children some knowledge, but a most imperfect one, of the meaning of English words, but still without any attempt to question or instruct them in the sense of the chapter or subject of the lesson. In 11 only did I find any effort made to question on the meaning of the verses, and in ten instances, out of these eleven the questioning was confined to putting the verse into an interrogatory form, so that the book supplied the answer. "Jesus went up into the mountain" - "Who went up into the mountain?" I am perfectly within bounds in saying that, where there is any questioning or attempt at mental instruction at all, it is of this barren kind in nineteen cases out of twenty ; but that, in nine cases out of ten, there is no questioning or mental teaching of any kind. And the schoolmaster's wife at Bryngwyn, in Radnorshire, gave me the true reason why it is not attempted ; these parents do not wish it : they do not send their children to day-schools to get religious, or, in fact, any mental education; they send them purely from a money motive, that they may advance themselves more easily in life; and to this end, reading English, writing, and ciphering, are esteemed certain and sufficient means. The method of teaching the younger children is that of simply hearing them wade through their letters and entangle themselves in syllables long before they have learnt how they are put together. Ciphering is taught almost universally by the old method. In order, in fact, to have a just notion of the generality of Welsh schools, it is but necessary to recall the recollection of some village-school twenty years ago, where no dawn of the present epoch of improved teaching had ever penetrated. It is not attempted to teach the principles even of the simplest rules, except, I believe, in four or five schools in my entire district. I have found six children only, out of at least 800, who knew any shorter method of multiplying any figure by 10 or 100 than by setting down the multiplier under the multiplicand and proceeding on the old system; and I have found very few out of some hundreds, who, although they were able to work practice-sums, could find, for example, the amount of 36 or 72 at 6s. 8d. by any shorter means than multiplying by 6 and 6 or by 9 and 8. There is no training of thought: it is not exercised at all, however manifestly capacity and intelligence invite it. This is a prevailing defect in all departments of Welsh instruction. Everything is done by square and by rule, and as much as possible by rote, so as to give the scholar the most labour, and the master the least trouble.
The elliptical system
With the exception of one or two schools, there is no attempt to question elliptically, and where it is done, it is done tamely and barrenly, and without any previous description, narrative, or incident to stimulate intellect or excite inquiry. The mutual bearing of question and ellipsis is not understood; and instruction by means of the presentation of pictures to the child's mind by analysis and illustration is utterly foreign to Welsh instruction ; and is not only unpractised but unknown in my district, except in two or three schools at the utmost.
Moral training is equally wanting: the Welsh children require it, perhaps, more than any other children in the kingdom ; and are destitute of it. Schoolmasters are unaware that it forms any portion of education, and are wholly unable to afford it if they were. Mr. Stow's training system would do vast good in Wales, but, excepting at Aberystwyth, it is scarcely known.
The mode of reaching writing is to set the few children in a school, who can afford copy-books, to copy, as best they can, either engraved script or written copies ; usually the latter. The inattention of the master is generally manifested by the misspelling which grows down the page, and often by the increasing badness of the writing. I think I have seen three instances of Mulhauser's copy-books in use, and three only.
Tolerable schools without system
Sometimes, but very rarely, I have chanced to meet with a school where activity of intellect was manifest and an effort made to inform as well as teach, although system was deficient and improved methods little known. A pleasing instance occurred at the little road-side school at Penllwyn, in the parish of Llanbadarn fawr, Cardiganshire; and with much more pretension at Devynock, Brecknockshire. These instances are however rare. The few good schools I have seen, or rather schools which approach to good ones, are those where the teacher has been trained, and does substantially, though not always perfectly, adopt some system of teaching, such as Mr. Bevan's National School at Hay, the Wesleyan Training School at Aberystwyth, the National School at Llanelly (established by the benevolent exertions of Miss. Ansdell, the Brecon Model School and the girls' school there, the British School at Talgarth., and in very few others. It is needless to detail the character of these schools, especially as I have, in the Notes of Schools, stated the general results of my inspection of them. They each follow the characteristic features of the system to which they belong, but not always with its latest improvements. As regards the National Schools, the conductors of those which exist in this part of Wales for the most part adhere to the formality of Bell's system, and eschew class-rooms and galleries for oral instruction, and other appendages (essential, in my humble judgement, to efficient teaching), as if the National society and its schools were chained to the four corners of Dr. Bell's system and incapacitated from improvement. The National System is very much misrepresented by its schools in Wales. The excellent system of the Glasgow Training School is much more faithfully followed in its solitary representative at Aberystwyth, and so is the British and Foreign system in the School at Talgarth. None of these, however, are perfect schools of their class; and I can assert, with some degree of confidence, that no first-rate school of any kind exists in my district. I have seen no efficient oral instruction except in two or three schools, and there imperfectly administered from want of better means and apparatus, and in one case more energy and aptitude in the teacher.
The Monitorial System exists only in the few National and British Schools, and I have not been led to think more favourably of it from my observation of its operation in Wales. I believe the system to be essentially faulty and that it is an impediment to discipline, a hindrance to the proficiency of the best scholars in a school, who are doomed to the drudgery of teaching the alphabet and the primer, instead of making progress in the higher branches of instruction themselves. The monitors may usually be described as the most unfittest teachers. If education involves mental and moral culture, and requires skill, gentleness, patience, and kindness in order to gain access to and mastery over the minds it is designed to inform and mould, how is it to be reconciled with common sense that children should be chosen for such an office? And yet, wherever they are employed, no inconsiderable amount of the entire instruction given is intrusted to them,. I have seen even the use of the cane delegated to them in my district. They teach miserably. They are almost without an exception, wholly and manifestly incompetent for the work. I need not, however, dwell on this point, for the entire number of monitors in these counties is very inconsiderable.
Simultaneous instruction scarcely exists in the proper acceptation of the term. It has been applied to the usual habit of teaching in classes, in the tables, but with the exception of the Model School at Brecknock and the Wesleyan School at Aberystwyth, there is little or no simultaneous teaching or teaching in the gallery.
The schools are seldom visited by any one; occasionally by the Clergyman or Trustee where any exist, but only in rare cases. They are usually left to the sole control of the master. The following table gives a summary of the results of the tables as regards school government and discipline.
[Table omitted: shows statistics of conduct of religious instruction, the methods of instruction, the languages of instruction, and the types of visitation in each of the counties]
Want of system in Adventure and Dame Schools
No characteristic of any system belongs to the endowed or the adventure or dame schools: they are alike devoid of any system - those of Mrs. Bevan's charity peculiarly so. The itinerant masters are among the most unsystematic teachers I have seen. Notes of their schools are given in the parishes of Llanfihangel Nant Bran, Llandilo fawr, Llandyfrog, Llangoedmore, and Llanfihangel ystrad.
Discipline and punishments
Excepting in the very worst schools, the children were tolerably under the control of the master.
Beating, to a certain extent, is the prevailing kind of punishment; but I am not of opinion that it is by any means severely practised, or that cruelty is at all a common feature of Welsh schools. The children are generally self-willed and indulged by their parents, and a master disposed to severity is restrained by his interest. Indolence and inactivity, on the other hand, are predominant. The system of school discipline I have described leaves the master's time very much at his own disposal. The hum of voices which he keeps up passes current for vast industry with all passers-by. It is singular that in three or four instances only have I found a schoolmaster occupied in teaching on suddenly entering a school of the common class. I have far oftener found them reading an old newspaper, writing a letter or a bill, probably for some other person, reading a Welsh magazine, or doing nothing of any sort. At one school, near Aberystwyth, I was attracted, while passing along the road, by the boisterous noise in the school, and on entering it, found the whole of the scholars playing at blindsman's-buff, or some similar game, though the dust and confusion prevented me from ascertaining what it was. I found that the master was absent, and had gone to warm himself at a neighbouring cottage; and, on arriving, he said that he told them "to have a bit of play, just to warm them". Noise, incompatible with instruction, may be frequently heard outside, and at many yards distant from the greater number of Welsh schools in my district; and I very often found out which was the school by that means on entering a village.
Want of training of masters
The returns, of which the following is a summary, exhibit almost an entire absence of previous training enjoyed by the schoolmasters of Wales. 24 only of the 243 masters and mistresses of day-schools in my district have had any previous training at a model or normal school: of these the duration of previous training was ascertained in 18 cases, and it averaged less than five months each!
[Table omitted: shows for each county the numbers of teachers trained at Normal Schools, Model Schools, or untrained]
The notion that there is any necessity that a schoolmaster should learn his business is quite in its infancy in Wales. The established belief for centuries has been, that it requires no training at all; and that any one who can read and write, if he be disabled from every other pursuit, can be a schoolmaster at pleasure.
Previous callings of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses
That this is a practical belief is further evidenced by the almost total absence of any schoolmaster who has not been brought up to another and dissimilar calling, which he followed, in most cases, up to the time that he became a schoolmaster. A large portion of them are broken-down farmers, who in Wales, are a far poorer class and lower in station than in England. In the counties on which I am reporting, out of 140 schoolmasters there were 33 previously farmers, 7 attorneys' clerks, a relieving officer, a plasterer, a flannel-manufacturer, a postmaster, a parish clerk, an assistant-clerk to a union, a farm bailiff, 5 drapers and shopkeepers, 2 marines, an auctioneer, a gardener, 2 hatters, 2 soldiers, a harper, 3 carpenters, a clergyman, 3 grocers, a stonemason, 4 Baptist ministers, 8 labourers , a currier, a collier, a timber-merchant, 2 tailors, 2 shoemakers, a miner, a preacher, 2 weavers, 5 farm-servants, 7 excise-officers, 3 menservants, 2 sailors, a florist, a paper-maker, a music-master, a cabinetmaker, a builder, 2 students, a clerk in a counting house, and a painter and glazier; 21 only had been brought up as assistants or ushers in schools. Of 49 schoolmistresses, 7 had been sempstresses, 6 governesses, 1 dairymaid, 10 milliners, 9 housekeepers, 12 ordinary maidservants, 2 shopkeepers, and 2 only were originally in schools.
The previous occupation is not the only element in the unfitness of the existing race of schoolmasters for their office. They are often aged persons. The results of the inquiry into their ages are these:-
[Full table omitted: current average age in Brecknockshire was 41 for masters and 42 for mistresses; in Cardiganshire 35 for masters and 38 for mistresses; in Radnorshire 46 for masters and 37 for mistresses. Average ages at commencement of vocation in these same counties was 29, 25 and 31 for masters, and 31, 28 and 28 for mistresses.]
The schoolmasters poverty
The income of the schoolmasters in my district is one of the most striking features, as well as indices to the state of education, and the standard of opinion respecting it.The results of the inquiry on this head stand thus:-
[Full table is here omitted: shows total annual income from salaries, school-pence and other emoluments ranging in the three counties from £23 15s 2d to £26 10s 4d.]
There are a few, but a very few, competent salaries, which have unduly swollen the above average. They are chiefly as follow:-
Income of schoolmasters
Of the masters incomes of Endowed Schools, there is one, probably under-stated at 265l., at Ystrad Meyric; another at 150l., at Presteigne ; another of about 80l net, at Whitton ; one, a Baptist school of about 50l. at Hay ; and three others at about 40l. each. Of schools with trifling endowments and large subscriptions, the income of one at Knighton is 100l., and another at Hay 70l., both in connection with the established church. Of unendowed church schools, there are two where the masters' incomes amount to 50l, one where the master and his wife receive 72l., and another where the master has about 40l. There is one Dissenting school, the Wesleyan, at Aberystwyth, at which the master receives 52l, and one Calvinistic Methodist school where be has 60l.; there are two British schools where the master's salary is about 50l., and one about 40l. ; the master of an adventure school it Vaynor makes 70l. ; and at Clydach Works, Llanelly, the master and mistress receive altogether about 82l. I believe these are the only schoolmasters in the whole of my district who receive as much as 40l.- in other words, who are on a footing, in point of money or money's worth, with a gentleman's groom. The great majority of the masters derive incomes from their vocation ranging from 18l. to 25l. per annum ; and many have less than 15l. In these extreme cases, however, it is very usual to find that their livelihood is aided by gratuities, chiefly in food, from the farmers or shopkeepers, who pay in kind for trifling services, and not infrequently for teaching their sons to read, cipher, or write. The position of the majority of schoolmasters is one midway between a pauper and an able-bodied labourer. Nor does there appear to be any general desire to raise the standard of schoolmaster. The Rev. Mr. Bevan, of Hay, whose school is endowed simply to the amount of 4l, having resolved to support a good school, gave his master 70l. salary, and informed me that he was expostulated with for his extravagance! In the village of LIangynider, where Mr. Bailey, M.P., has built very neat substantial school-rooms and master's house, the master and the mistress (his wife) receive 30l. per annum, besides house rent free, between them both, Mr. Bailey supplying the deficit, after other subscriptions are solicited by the clergyman, and school-fees are obtained. A common labourer at the rolling. mills or puddling-furnaces at the ironworks can earn more in a week than an average schoolmaster in my district can earn in a month ; and so established is the conventional abasement of a schoolmaster, that even where the means exist of raising the standard they are often not applied ...
(Extracts, pages 58-60)
Morals in Brecknockshire
David Griffiths, a working-man at Builth, says -
"The chief part of the poorer classes about here would rather be idle; there is little saving among them, and those who save are regarded with envy and dislike by the rest. They drink all they can get in the public-houses, but less now than formerly. Temperance Societies have done little; none of the drunkards joined them except one man. Drunkenness extends to the women, more so now than formerly; these are young women, mostly 20 or 25 years of age, and unmarried. The young women are in general unsteady; nothing is thought of having a bastard, and, when in the family-way, they walk as publicly as a married woman; a good deal of this is attributable to the soldiers who were quartered here some time back; the mother of an illegitimate child is not generally married to the father. Public worship is generally attended, but the evening services are quitted by the younger people in a riotous manner, and much immorality then occurs. There are more filthy houses here, of the very poor, than in any other part of Wales. I was employed to inspect these houses in the time of the cholera. I found all that comes from a man's body in abundance inside the houses. There are no privies to these houses. There are mixens just outside the houses and open drains. There is not much desire of improvement among the old."
The Reverend Richard Lumley, Calvinistic Methodist Minister at Builth, says -
"The country people are anything but cleanly in their habits. It is not uncommon for the whole family among labourers to sleep in the same room without any distinction of sexes; and I have lately witnessed instances of the same habit among the classes immediately above them."
The Reverend James Morgan, Vicar of Talgarth, says -
"The standard of morality is certainly low; illegitimate children are by no means rare, and pregnancy before marriage is of common occurrence. It scarcely seems to be considered a sin, or even a disgrace, for a woman to be in the family-way by the man to whom she is engaged to be married. Drunkenness is but too prevalent, particularly on fair-days, and other similar occasions."
Edward W. Seymour, Esq., a Magistrate of Crickhowel, speaking of the mining district, says -
"The vices of lying, thieving, swearing,, and drunkenness, and the vastly increasing crime of illicit intercourse between the sexes, prevail to a great extent ; and these are by no means confined to the uneducated. Of their disregard of common decency I had an instance, among many which have come to my knowledge, in a case which was brought before me only the other; day, wherein it appeared that a young girl of sixteen, going on a visit to her sister (a married woman), was actually placed by her for many nights together in the same bed-room (without even a curtain between them) in which young labouring man (a lodger and a stranger) slept, which man was brought before me on a charge of stealing, the parties, with exception of the lodger, being to all appearances respectable, intelligent, and above the common order among the lower classes. Upon my expostulating with then on the impropriety of their subjecting a female under their protection to such indecency, the parties seemed rather astonished at the remark than sensible of their error."
The Reverend John Hughes, Curate of Llanelly, a mining parish, says -
"Their dwellings are almost universally destitute of those conveniences which are necessary to the health and comfort of mankind; and, from the practice of the males stripping to wash themselves in the presence of the females, the usual barriers between the sexes are done away with. and the result is shown in the frequency of illicit intercourse. Drunkenness is also prevalent, although not to so great an extent as formerly."
The Reverend George Howell, Curate of Llangattock, and Edward Davies, Esq., Agent to the Duke of Beaufort at Llangattock, say -
"There is certainly a laxity of morals here, which may be easily accounted for, and entirely attributable to the overwhelming number of beer-shops which are open at all times, and where people resort to, and remain to a very late hour. The consequence is that drunkenness leads to immoral language, and ends in quarrels and broils, &c.. Generally speaking they are strictly honest and-trustworthy."
The Reverend W. L. Bevin, Vicar of Hay, says -
"Drunkenness and illegitimacy are the prevailing vices of the neighbourhood. Very many of the poorer classes are ruined by this indulgence in the first, while the second is considered as a very venial offence. A promise of marriage on the part of the man seems to legitimatise the whole affair in the eyes of the parties themselves as well as in the estimation of their friends."
The Reverend James Denning, Curate of St. Mary's, Brecknock, says -
"The poor seem ignorant on most subjects, except how to cheat and speak evil of each other. They appear not to have an idea of what the comforts of life are. There are at least 2000 persons living in this town in a state of the greatest filth, and to all appearance they enjoy their filth and idleness, for they make no effort to get rid of it. From my experience of Ireland, I think there is a very great similarity between the lower order of Welsh and Irish - both are dirty, indolent, bigoted, and contented. The defect in morals which is most remarkable to a stranger is the double dealing. Truth is not regarded where money is concerned. The women drink quantities of gin."
The Reverend Lewis Havard, Roman Catholic Clergyman at Brecknock, says -
"The poor generally are given to drink, swearing, immodest talking, of which they seem not to be sensible of the impropriety and sinfulness. In their different chapels they often meet, but the general feeling is, that there is no effectual improvement of the heart and morals. The profound adoration of God, the respect for man arising from that principle, may, I think, be fairly said not to be understood."
The Reverend Rees Price, Curate of St. John's and St. David's, Brecknock, says -
"I am compelled to admit that want of veracity is no uncommon feature in their character: this appears usually in their artifices, and indirect and even open falsehoods in answer to questions put respecting their temporal circumstances. To this conduct, however, I have known many honourable exceptions - a willingness candidly to make known the resources of their livelihood. Drunkenness, I am sorry to say, is a sin that prevails to a very great extent among the males, and not unusually the females. Chastity does not appear to be highly valued by the younger portion, as may be learned from the condition of the females in many cases when presenting themselves for the performance of the marriage ceremony, and also from the number of illegitimate children presented for baptism."
The Reverend E. Davies, Professor at the Brecknock College, entertains a more favourable opinion: he says -
"I do not think their morals are generally defective. No doubt there are many immoral characters in the country, as many, I believe in proportion, among the middle and higher classes of society as among the poor, who are influenced in this respect by their superiors in knowledge and station. I believe the influence of bad example to be much more injurious to the morals of our poor than the want of education."
The Reverend Mr. Griffiths, the Principal of the College, says -
"Generally speaking, our calendars are not remarkable for their number of gross crimes; in fact, I believe quite the reverse. I am afraid, however, that social and domestic moralities are very low among us. The number of illegitimate children, when compared, with England, is astounding. There is also a great deal of drunkenness. On fair-days we often have fights innumerable about the streets. I am sorry to add, among the lower orders of boys, habits of gambling in a small way seem very much on the increase. I have not observed this elsewhere in Wales, but here it is doing incalculable mischief. It would be easy to adduce instances - I will only mention one: On a summer's Sunday afternoon, crowds of boys, who ought to be at school, may be seen in the fields near the town, playing cards, dice, &c., for halfpence or beer. In no town, either in England or Wales, have I seen this carried to such an extent. They are generally boys who have only learned just to read, and who therefore, being unable to find pleasure in reading, seem incapable of any higher amusement than gambling and drinking. As an index to character, nothing can be more significant than such habits."
The Reverend D. Parry, of Llywell, thinks that:
"The morals of a great number are defective, in respect of chastity, truth-telling, and veneration for God's sacred name. In proof of which, suffice it to allude to the number of illegitimate children in the country ; to the little reliance that can be placed on what is often said or spoken, provided the individual have some bias or interest in the matter; and to the frequent abuse of God's holy name in the common intercourse and transactions of life. These are facts well known to all observant minds, and loudly calling for some means of reformation."
Morals in Cardiganshire
In Cardiganshire the morals and habits of the people are not much better.
The very Reverend the Dean of St. David's says of many of the young persons in Sunday-schools that they are -
"Not only grossly ignorant on every other subject, but also grossly immoral. Many of these girls have bastard children; but this generally exists without promiscuous intercourse. Drunkenness is very general especially at the fairs. I think there cannot be any doubt that education, accompanied by religious instruction, would materially improve this state of things; and I think that the people would go to good schools if they existed."
Thomas Williams, Esq., Clerk to the Magistrates at Lampeter and Superintendent of the Independent Sunday-school, says -
"I do not think the moral state of the people low, but for want of education they practise a great deal of low cunning. Generally speaking they are honest. Bastardy cases are, however, very common. The women used to be ashamed of being in the family-way, but are not so now; and promiscuous intercourse is carried on to a very great degree."
Mr. Williams gives other particulars on this subject which will be found in his evidence in the Appendix [not included in these extracts].
The Reverend L. H. Davies, of Troed y Raur, says -
"They (the young people) often meet at evening schools in private houses for the preparation of the pwnc, and this tends to immoralities between the young persons of both sexes, who frequently spend the night afterwards in hay-lofts together. So prevalent is want of chastity among the females that, although I promised to return the marriage fee to all couples whose first child should be born after nine months from the marriage, only one in six years entitled themselves to claim it. Most of them were in the family-way, it is said to be a customary matter for them to have intercourse together on condition that they should marry if the woman becomes pregnant , but the marriage by no means always takes place. Morals are generally at a low ebb, but want of chastity is the giant sin of Wales. I believe that the best remedy for the want of morals and of education is that of the establishment of good schools such as I have described."
Richard Williams, Esq., M.D. and Coroner, says-
'The youth of both sexes are very unchaste, and do not consider promiscuous intercourse any disgrace, which is chiefly owing to the want of proper education; to the ancient practice of bundling, or courting in bed, still prevalent; to the construction of their dwellings; and to the bad example of their parents."
"The morals of the poor are generally indifferent. They are not disposed to Commit atrocious crimes. but are addicted to petty thefts and prevarication. In justice I should say that many strangers have informed me the lower. classes of Wales are far superior to those of the same class in other parts of the kingdom."
W. O. Brigstocke, Esq., Magistrate of Blaenpant, says-
"Morals generally very bad; intercourse between the sexes previous to marriage being very general; misconduct after marriage is of rare occurrence. Drunkenness is a very common vice, especially on market or fair days."
A somewhat more satisfactory account is given of the north part of the county by Mr. Owen Owen, of Taliessin:-
"The morals of the people are improving. It is common still for women to be in the family-way before their marriage, but this is not so much the case as it was. This intercourse is only with the man to whom they are attached, and a common woman would be scouted in any of the villages. The veracity of the people is not bad. In a great many places there is a desire for better education, but in several they are so poor that they are hopeless. If better means were afforded, the people would be prompted to take advantage of them by their ministers."
Morals in Radnorshire
In Radnorshire the morals of the people are of a very low standard.
The Archdeacon Venables, Chairman of Quarter Sessions, says -
"Their morals are at a very low ebb. An acknowledged thief is almost as well thought and as much employed as better characters by the lower orders."
The Reverend W. D. West, Curate of Presteigne, says -
"There is great laxity in the prevalent notions on the subject of sexual intercourse" - and he cites an instance which will be found in his evidence. He adds -
"Sexual lusts and drunkenness (which last I omitted above) being the popular vices, education, not mere instruction, might counteract them by creating other tastes."
Mr. Jones, the Superintendent of the Baptist Sunday school in Presteigne, makes a similar statement.
Sir William Cockburn, Bart., of New Radnor, a Magistrate, says -
"In the crime of bastardy I fear that the people of this country are pre-eminent. As magistrates and individuals we have done our best to discourage this vice, but the remedy is yet to be found. But excepting five or six cases of drunkards, and some of those conspicuous, I think that the rest of the population, of above 500 souls in this parish, are more than usually sober, temperate, industrious, civil, grateful, and orderly; and, with the exception of small wood "carrying" (as they term it), so honest, that I should fear no loss of any other kind of property, whether out of doors, or in the house even left open by night or day."
The Reverend R. Lister Venables, Vicar of Clyro, and a Magistrate, says -
"Crimes of violence are almost unknown, such as burglary, forcible robbery, or the use of the knife. Common assaults are frequent, usually arising from drunken quarrels. Petty thefts are not particularly numerous. Poultry-stealing and sheep-stealing prevail to a considerable extent. There is no rural police, and the parish constables are for the most part utterly useless, except for serving summonses, &c. Sheep and poultry stealers therefore very frequently escape with impunity. Drunkenness prevails to a lamentable extent, not so much among the lowest class, who are restrained by their poverty, as those who are in better circumstances. Every market or fair day affords too much proof of this assertion. Unchastity in the women is, I am sorry to say, a great stain upon our people. The number of bastard children is very great, as is shown by the application of young women for admission into the workhouse to be confined ..."
The Welsh language is a vast drawback to Wales, and a manifold barrier to the moral progress and commercial prosperity of the people. It is not easy to over-estimate its evil effects. It is the language of the Cymri, and anterior to that of the ancient Britons. It dissevers the people from intercourse which would greatly advance their civilisation, and bars the access of improving knowledge to their minds. As a proof of this, there is no Welsh literature worthy of the name. *
* A society called the Cwmreigyddion indeed exists, and holds meetings at Abergavenny, where a band of literati promote Welsh literature by making English speeches once a-year in its defence. Its proceedings are perfectly innocuous. One of its distinguished members has written a History of Wales, but couched in such antique phraseology that its sale it is said has never repaid the expense of printing it.
The only works generally read in the Welsh language are the Welsh monthly magazines, of which a list and description are given in the Appendix lettered H. They are much more talented than any other Welsh works extant, but convey, to a very limited extent, a knowledge of passing events, and are chiefly polemical and full of bitter sectarianism, and indulge a great deal in highly-coloured caricatures and personality. Nevertheless they have partially lifted the people from that perfect ignorance and utter vacuity of thought which otherwise would possess at least two-thirds of them. At the same time, these periodicals have used their monopoly as public instructors in moulding the popular mind, and confirming a natural partiality for polemics, which impedes the cultivation of a higher and more comprehensive taste and desire for general information. This has been conclusively proved by Mr Rees, the enterprising publisher at Llandovery. He commenced the publication of a periodical similar to the Penny Magazine in the Welsh language, but lost 200l. by it in a year. This was probably too short a trial of the experiment;... but it sufficiently evinces the difficulty of supplanting an established taste, by means however inoffensive.
... The difficulty could not, however, be insuperable, of maintaining an extensive circulation for a well written and very cheap magazine, at first, in the Welsh language, which should have in view these main objects:-1st The supply of well digested news without bias, and of useful general information, as well as instructive and interesting articles; 2nd Leading articles advocating the use and desirability or knowledge and better education for the people in the English language. Such a work, if judiciously written, might perhaps be made a very effective means of improving the people and furthering the English language.
Perjury in courts of justice
The evil of the Welsh language, as I have above stated, is obviously and fearfully great in courts of justice. The evidence given by Mr. Hill (No. 37) is borne out by every account I have heard on the subject; it distorts the truth, favours fraud, and abets perjury, which is frequently practised in courts, and escapes detection through the loop-holes of interpretation. This public exhibition of successful falsehood has a disastrous effect on public morals and regard for truth. The mockery of an English trial of a Welsh criminal by a Welsh jury, addressed by counsel and judge in English, is too gross and shocking to need comment. It is nevertheless a mockery which must continue until the people are taught in the English language; and that will not be done until there are efficient schools for the purpose. On the subject of this disastrous barrier to all moral improvement and popular progress in Wales, and the ease with which good schools would remove it, I may cite the following brief extracts from the unanimous evidence on the subject.
The Dean of St. David's says -
I do not think there is a very vivid desire for better instruction among the Welsh people, except for the purpose of learning English, and thereby bettering their condition in life, and obtaining situations to which an ignorance of the English language is a barrier. The natural capacity of the Welsh is great to a very wonderful degree. Archdeacon Williams, of Edinburgh, is, I have heard, of that opinion also, and that the Welsh have a great capacity for learning languages. They are very quick. Young men of 17 or 18 come to this college knowing very little of Latin or Greek, and in three years acquire a very respectable knowledge of these languages."
Mr. Williams, of Lampeter, says -
The Welsh language is a decided impediment to the mental improvement of the people, for the books we have are generally translations, very badly done, of English works; and these are very limited. No business can be done in the language. Children taught in English are much quicker than those who know only Welsh."
"I think that the people know the advantage of learning English, and that they understand that it would enable them to rise, in life. In agricultural life it is a great drawback not to know English. They cannot read the papers or know the prices. I believe that there is not a single Welsh weekly newspaper published in Wales. There are Welsh monthly magazines, which are chiefly controversial, and abuse each other and the opposite sects; they do more harm than good. They are generally read by the country people, and form the staple means of information. They are very deficient even for this purpose. There is very little original Welsh literature in Wales."
"If good education were given, the people are very capable of being instructed; and to have good natural abilities."
An erroneous notion prevails that the Dissenting ministers are averse to the English language being learnt.
The Reverend Mr. Evans, Independent Minister at Aberayron, says -
"There is a great desire among the poorer classes to learn the English language; there are many motives inducing them to do so, as they succeed better in life. I think it beneficial for them to learn English, but not to forget their own language. The people are very much for having better schools on a better system, according to the British and Foreign School Society's-plan."
The Reverend Mr. Denning, of St. Mary's, Brecknock, says -
"English is gaining ground, and until it is universally, spoken nothing effective can be done to raise the social character of the people; and for this reason the arts and sciences, agriculture, &c., are brought to perfection in England. If improvements are to be introduced here, they must be by persons who have acquired them through means of the English. language. All scientific books are written in English; medical men study in English; our courts of law pronounce judgement in English; in fact, in everything but language we are part and parcel of England. Teach English, and bigotry will be banished."
The Reverend Rees Price, of St. John's, Brecknock, says -
"Though a Welshman, I rejoice to witness its progress (the English language). When the English language shall supplant the Welsh, I doubt not that it will at the same time banish many prejudices that the people seem now to imbibe from their vernacular tongue, and improve their tastes and habits. Clergyman experience a difficulty in the performance of their duty in those parishes where the Welsh and English languages are spoken, more particularly when not thoroughly conversant with both languages: the consequence is, their ministrations in one language are defective. I may here observe that the really Welsh portion of the people are very tenacious of their native language, and would regard with displeasure any means of doing away with it."
The Reverend Mr. Griffiths, of the Dissenting College, Brecknock, says -
"It (the English language) is gaining ground in the border counties, but not so fast as Englishmen are apt to suppose. Very few pulpits or Sunday-schools have changed language within the memory of man. Until that is done, the English, however employed in ordinary matters of business, can have little effect on the formation of character. As to the desirableness of its being better taught, without entering on considerations of commerce or general literature, confessedly important as they are, perhaps you will forgive my taking an extract from the address published by the Llandovery conference (from which the following passage may be cited):-
'Hallowed by religion and rich with the magic of genius and associations of home, it-(the Welsh language) cannot be otherwise than dear to our hearts. It has done good service in its day, and the sooner that service is acknowledged the better for all parties concerned. If die it must, let it die fairly, peacefully and reputably. Attached to it as we are, few would wish to postpone its euthanasy But no sacrifice would be deemed too great to prevent its being murdered. At the best, the vanishing for ever of a language which has been spoken for thousands of years is a deeply touching event. There is a melancholy grandeur in the very idea, to which even as its bitterest enemies cannot be wholly insensible. What then must the actual fact be to those who have worshipped and loved in its accents from the earliest hours of childhood, and all whose fondest recollections and hopes are bound up in its existence?'
"Take (says Mr. Griffiths) one other example.-This very day I have heard of an overseer who has just been punished for not rightly administering a law which is only written in a language to which he is a stranger. He complains bitterly that, though neither he nor any of his friends around him ever had the means of learning anything but Welsh, he is compelled to administer English laws, and then severely punished for violating their letter. He did his best, but, from sheer inability to understand the language, he unfortunately exposed himself to ruin. Have not men in such circumstances a special claim to the sympathy and help of their legislators?"
The Reverend David Parry, Vicar of Llywell, one of the most eloquent Welsh preachers of the day, says-
"I think it desirable that it (the English language) should be better taught; for, all our accounts being kept in English, most books for the improvement of the mind being written in English and all public business being generally transacted in the English language, there can be little doubt but that a better teaching of it would confer great benefit on the principality."
I have endeavoured to estimate as nearly as possible the amount of the population in my district of whom English is the fireside language; and I believe it to be very nearly as follows :-
- In Brecknockshire, 23,500 out of 55,603 speak English.
- In Cardiganshire, 3,000 out of 68,766 speak English
- In Radnorshire, 23,000 out of 25,356 speak English
- Total 50,000 out of 149,725 speak English
Thus one-third of the whole number speak English. Of this amount, full one half always have spoken English, - Radnorshire, and many of the gentry and English residents, not being of Celtic origin. The Celtic race, therefore, who have learned English, are a mere fraction of the population, confined chiefly to the towns of Brecknock, Aberystwyth, Crickhowel, and Talgarth, and a small number of the people in the town of Cardigan, whose Celtic origin is questionable. It is impossible to calculate the real advance of the English over the native tongue with any precision; but, after weighing the various probabilities and indices, I am disposed to think, that in Brecknockshire and Cardiganshire, where there has been any Welsh to contend with, the English language has not displaced above one tenth part of it; nor do I believe that it will disuse itself over the whole country for one or two centuries to come, unless better means are taken to expedite its progress. These means would be found in thoroughly good schools for the purpose. They are desired by the people: and no reasonable doubt is entertained that a sound secular and religious education would raise their physical condition, and eventually remove their moral debasement.
If the Welsh people were well educated, and received the same attention and care which have been bestowed on others, they would in all probability assume a high rank among civilized communities.
I have the honour to be
Your Lordships' obedient humble servant,
JELINGER C. SYMONS
FROM: Dictionary of National Biography, 1898
Symons, Jelinger Cookson 1809-1860, miscellaneous writer, was born at West Ilsley, Berkshire, on 27 Aug. 1809. His father, Jelinger Symons, born at Low Leyton, Essex, in 1778, became vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire, in 1838, and died in London on 20 May 1851. He was the author of 'Synopsis Plantarum insulis Britannicis,' 1798 (Gent. Mag. 1851, ii. 211-12). The son was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. in 1832. In 1835 he received a commission from the home office to inquire into the state of the hand-loom weavers and manufacturers. To carry out this inquiry he traversed Lancashire and Scotland and parts of Switzerland. He subsequently held a tithe commissionership, and was a commissioner to inquire into the state of the mining population of the north of England. On 9 June 1843 he was called to the bar at the Middle Temple. He went the Oxford circuit, and attended the Gloucester quarter sessions. During this period of his life he was editor of the 'Law Magazine' until its union with the 'Law Review' in 1856. In 1846 he was appointed a commissioner to collect information as to the state of education in Wales. Lord Lansdowne was so much impressed with his reports that on 11 Feb. 1848 he made him one of her majesty's permanent inspectors of schools, an office he retained through life. In the establishment of reformatories for juvenile criminals he took great interest. He died at Malvern House, Great Malvern, on 7 April 1860, having married in 1845 Angelina, daughter of Edward Kendall, by whom he had Jelinger Edward, born in 1847, and other children.
His chief works are: 1. 'A Few Thoughts on Volition and Agency,' 1833. 2. 'Arts and Artizans at Home and Abroad, with Sketches of the Progress of Foreign Manufactures,' 1839. 3. 'Outlines of Popular Economy,' 1840. 4. 'The Attorney and Solicitors Act,' 6 & 7 Vict. cap. 73, with an analysis, notes, and index, 1843. 5. 'Parish Settlements and the Practice of Appeal,' 1844; 2nd edit. 1846. 6. 'Railway Liabilities as they affect Subscribers, Committees, Allottees, and Scripholders, inter se, and Third Parties,' 1846. 7. 'A Plea for Schools, which sets forth the Dearth of Education and the Growth of Crime,' 1847. 8. 'Tactics for the Times, as regards the Condition and Treatment of the Dangerous Classes,' 1849. 9. 'School Economy,' a practical treatise on the best mode of establishing and teaching schools, 1852. 10. 'A Scheme of Direct Taxation,' 1853. 11. 'The Industrial Capacities of South Wales,' 1855. 12. 'Lunar Motion, the whole Argument stated and illustrated by Diagrams,' 1856. 13. 'Sir Robert Peel as a Type of Statesmanship,' 1856. 14. 'Milford, Past, Present, and Future,' 1857. 15. 'William Burke, the author of "Junius," ' 1859. 16. 'Rough Types of English Life,' 1860. With R. G. Welford and others he published 'Reports of Cases in the Law of Real Property and Conveyancing argued and determined in all the Courts of Law and Equity,' 1846.
Contributor: GEORGE CLEMENT BOASE