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1964-1974 AD

The Labour Government under pressure, reluctantly created a Secretary of State for Wales with popular James Griffiths the first to occupy the position. The subsequent filling of the position by party hacks with no interest in Wales, merely using the post as a rung on the ladder to advancement, has not diminished the acknowledgement that Wales needed its own Secretary of State to address its own particular concerns.

At Carmarthen, in the election caused by the death of Lady Megan Lloyd George, the popular Gwynfor Evans of Plaid gained a majority over the Labour candidate that put him in Parliament. Westminster now had its first MP from a party born in and centered in Wales that put the interests of the Welsh people first.

1966: THE ABERFAN DISASTER (21 October)
At Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, 144 children and their teachers at the Pant-Glas Junior School were buried under a pile of slag (piled-up waste from the collieries) that, softened by heavy rain, slipped unnoticed down the mountain side. The tragedy, shocking the whole of Britain out of its complacency, hastened the ever-so-slow clean up of the industrial wastes in the South Wales valleys after the departure of the old industries.

The Hughes-Parry Report of 1965, The Legal Status of the Welsh Language recommended that "anything done in Welsh should have the same legal force as it would in English." This principle, somewhat diluted, was incorporated into the Welsh Language Act. Though the Act granted the right to testify in Welsh in Court, and the right to have official, government forms translated from English, in effect, it was hopelessly inadequate. Its inadequacies, however, whetted Welsh appetites for more and stirred up the activities of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg.

Professor Gittins, who supervised the author's teacher-training at Swansea University in the mid-1950's, headed the committee that produced the report Primary Education in Wales. It recommended that "every child should be given sufficient opportunity to reasonably bilingual by the end of the primary stage" As most Welsh children were monoglot English speakers, the implementation of the report in the more enlightened areas created a new generation of those who could speak Welsh by the time they were ready for entry into Secondary education. Some education authorities, such as West Glamorgan, were notoriously adverse to the idea. Their blinkered vision reflected more than 100 years of Anglicization.

Ever since Edward I made his son Prince of Wales and Count of Chester at Caernarfon Castle in 1300, the title Prince of Wales has been automatically confirmed upon the first-born son of the sovereign. In 191l, the spectacle came to the attention of the world when movie newsreels and radio broadcasts showed the ceremonies that invested the future Edward VIII at Caernarfon under the shrewd orchestration of Lloyd George. Even more hoopla attended the 1969 investiture of Charles, also at Caernarfon, which was televised to the world and in which the young prince was satirized in a popular song by Dafydd Iwan as "Carlo." Fair play for Charles, he did go to Wales to learn some of the language, an idea that had been suggested to the tutors of the future Charles II, and the future Edward VII (nothing came of the earlier suggestions).

Jimmy Wilde, whose nicknames include "the Mighty Atom," "the Tylorstown Terror," and The Ghost with a Hammer in his Hand," was the smallest and lightest world champion ever. Born at Tylorstown, Rhondda, on 15 May 1892, he fought at 98 lbs, having to give away a great deal of weight to his opponents in the ring, some of whom were almost twice his weight. It is claimed that Wilde fought 864 opponents, starting in the boxing booths at the Valleys fairgrounds. The only boxer from Britain to be accepted in the USA as the finest in his division (fly weight), he was rated by four top American sportswriters as the greatest boxer ever. During his career, Jimmy averaged one bout every eight days. He had begun fighting as a coal miner. He once stated that the hardest fight in his life was that with his wife Elizabeth after he had lost a huge amount of money gambling with fellow Welsh boxer Jim Driscoll.

In today's terms, though he won only two world titles, he would have won five versions of the world championships "in a week if he'd wanted to" according to famed English boxing reporter Reg Gutteridge.

In response to a heavy demand, mainly from Welsh-speaking mothers who saw the need for their children to be immersed in the language at a very early age, the Welsh Nursery School Movement Sefydlu Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin came into being in many areas of Wales. In many totally English-speaking areas, many parents sent their children to such nursery schools, themselves going to evening classes to learn the necessary phrases to continue Welsh at home. The success of such schools has helped stop the rapid decline of the language.

The victory of Gwynfor Evans at Carmarthen in 1966 victory meant that the Labour Party had better do something to hold on to its majority in Wales. Many of its respected leaders, including the very influential and popular James Griffiths, now supported the call for an elected assembly for Wales. There were setbacks in the campaign, particularly by the attitude of members from Southeast Wales, once again fearing loss of their own prestige. Self-government for Wales remained an anathema to such self-serving, short-sighted political opportunists, and Instead of getting an elected assembly, Wales had to be content with the reorganization of local government.

The old thirteen counties now became eight new ones; in addition, the old boroughs and urban and rural districts were replaced by district councils. In the sweeping changes, for which no referendum had been held, Flint and Denbigh lost their individual identities, becoming part of the larger administrative unit to be known as Clwyd; Monmouthshire now became Gwent; Pembroke, Cardigan and Carmarthen joined to form Dyfed; Merionydd, Caernarfon and Anglesey became Gwynedd; Radnor joined Brecon as Powys; and the heavily populated county of Glamorgan split into three parts: East, Central and South.


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