Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welsh at Westminster

This morning I 'appeared' on a phone-in on BBC Northern Ireland. It seems that I've inspired a new Northern Ireland MP to include a few words of Ulster-Scottish in his maiden speech. Must admit I didn't know there was such a language. One caller claimed it was no more than a dialect. Anyway, let me explain how I arrived in such an odd situation.

Last week, all new MPs joined in a 'familiarisation' session in the House of Commons Chamber. After a few presentations, we were invited to ask questions - as if it was a full blown session. I decided to flex my voice and ask whether I would be allowed to use a couple of sentences of Welsh in my maiden speech. Back came the answer that Mr Speaker might just allow it, if I were to translate any words spoken in the language of heaven into English, the official language of the House of Commons. I intend to give it a go, and hope that Mr Speaker exercises his now legendary generosity in allowing it. I can crawl with the best when needs be! After the meeting, other new MPs told me that they rather liked the idea, and might also try a few words of Yr Iaith Cymraeg. I hope Mr Speaker hasn't had enough of it by the time I deliver my own maiden speech.

So I've been speaking Welsh in three very different formal situations today - two minutes on Irish radio, giving Irish listeners a taste of our language, another three minutes for Newyddion about the Coalition agreement, and taking the oath before Mr Speaker in the house. Several of us did this. The oath has to be taken in English first, in order to make legal the taking of the oath in Welsh. Anyway, it seems I've had a bit of influence on what happens at Westminster already.


alanindyfed said...

There is no such thing as Ulster-Scottish.
The language of Ireland is Gaelic, or otherwise English.
Scottish Gaelic is very similar to Irish Gaelic, and related to Welsh,
though the Welsh "p" is substituted for the Irish "q", the difference between Brythonic and Goidelic Celtic.
Taoiseach = Tywysog
ceann = pen

Glyn Davies said...

Sorry Alan, it seems that its Ulster Scots. Have you heard of that?

alanindyfed said...

I looked it up and you are right. Apparently it is a dialect of English
spoken by at least 2% of the population.

Tscoah said...

Alanindyfed> I was about to ask you if you have ever spent time in Scotland, e.g., Glasgow. There's a HUGE link between people who identify themselves as Protestants in Scotland and Northern Ireland/Ulster. Specifically, the Protestant marches in Glasgow bear a striking resemblance to those in Ulster. I watched one form-up from my post-grad student digs on Kelvinhaugh Street – as the bands formed up in Kelvinhaugh Street in Glasgow's west-end they completely blocked the street, which caused problems because there was a fire-station at the end of the street and the bands were eventually moved to another street that lacked a fire station). I actually joined the Church of Scotland and worshipped for a time at one of their churches at the end of Kelvinhaugh Street – I often took a flat-mate or two to the Church (one was a Catholic from Canada) – timing our arrival with the end of evening service. I am ashamed to say I was so hungry for good tucker that I took full advantage of the wonderful feast put on in the basement hall of that wonderful church. We had good company – lots of other students were tucking in. I did miss my mum’s Welsh home cooking – but that church helped make up for the other six days of porridge (I ate porridge for breakfast and evening meal) – you could buy small sacks of Scottish oats – much cheaper than in England/Wales – a Spanish student thought the simmering oats were talking to him. He would stand there in front of the electric cooker and yell about it. I think the bubbling oats bothered him. The Italian student was never bothered by my oats – he was a ‘good laddie’ – would swear in Italian so you could never be offended by him! “They were the days my friends, I thought they would never end …”

Boyo said...

In case you do try it - "Iaith Gymraeg" is the correct mutation.