Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch, Fi, bererin gwael ei wedd, Nad oes ynof nerth na bywyd Fel yn gorwedd yn y bedd: Hollalluog, Hollalluog, Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan. Ydyw’r Un a’m cwyd i’r lan.
William Williams Pantycelyn. Methodist cleric. Author. Hymn-writer. And one of Wales’s greatest religious figures. He played an integral part in the Welsh Methodist Revival of the 18th century, and is best known today for writing the favourite hymn of Welsh rugby supporters, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Or Bread of Heaven as it’s commonly known. The above words are the original words of the hymn he wrote, entitled Arglwydd, arwain trwy’r anialwch.
Phil Carradice’s BBC history blog chronicles Pantycelyn’s life and the rise of the Calvinistic Methodists, from its beginnings as a Church of England movement to its break from that institution in 1811. This BBC Wales’s page on religion in Wales provides an insight into the first wave of great hymn-writers and preachers in the eighteenth century.
In his closing paragraph, Carradice offers a subtle, yet moving tribute to the man from Carmarthenshire who influenced so greatly Welsh Christianity.
“William Williams, Pantycelyn, died on 11 January 1791 and was buried in the churchyard at Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, just outside Llandovery. He remains one of the great figures of Welsh religion – indeed, one of the great figures of Welsh social history. Every year, when the Welsh rugby fans bawl out Bread Of Heaven, they are paying tribute to a remarkable and fascinating man.”
Pupils at Ysgol Gynradd Bodringallt in the Rhondda learn about the past
Almost all of us have studied history in school. Some, I’m sure, enjoyed it more than others, and some of you are currently in education trying to remember how many wives Henry VIII had. But sift through your history textbooks, how much of an emphasis is put on Welsh history? Not enough you might say? A fair amount maybe? Perhaps even too much?! Well its place on the curriculum may very well change after the education minister, Leighton Andrews, ordered a review into the way it’s taught in school. A little over a month on it’s time to look closer at what place Welsh history should be given.
Where’s the Welsh History?
The major exam body in Wales, the WJEC, suggests that of the eighteen optional GCSE units in the its syllabus, the five units that deal with Germany or the USA account for 72% of registrations in 2012/13. On the other hand the six units that deal with ‘Wales and England’ or Wales only, account for less than 15% of registrations.
Last year around 10,000 pupils in Wales sat the WJEC GCSE history paper. All these candidates would have sat at least one unit, 25%, on aspects of the history of Wales and England. The WJEC do offer one option specifically devoted to Welsh history in the twentieth century. Only 23 candidates sat the paper, all from one centre. Although these figures only account for the WJEC GCSE history syllabus over one year, they make for interesting reading.
John Geraint, one of The Story of Wales directors tweets about an exciting new initiative
At the same time over the last decade there has been a significant growth in interest in the history of Wales, culminating in the BBC’s The Story of Wales with Huw Edwards. Online educational resources to support the study of Welsh history have also continued to grow. The Welsh Government has invested heavily in digitization projects through the National Library of Wales and Cymal for instance. And on November 13th The Story of Wales Director announced via Twitter that they’re versioning the series for classroom use. What better time to consider the place of Welsh history within the curriculum?
The review group, led by Dr Elin Jones, will explore and advise on the future development of the history curriculum and report back in July 2013. The 13 member group was handpicked by Dr Jones and is made up of key individuals with experience in Welsh history and its teaching. The other members of the panel are:
Prof Angela John, Aberystwyth University;
Dr Sian Rhiannon Williams, Cardiff Metropolitan University;
Sion Jones, Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen;
Dr Hugh Griffiths, Ysgol Bro Myrddin;
Paul Nolan, History advisor;
Nia Williams, Education Coordinator, National Museum and Galleries of Wales;
Frank Olding, Blaenau Gwent Heritage Officer;
Dr Stephanie Ward, Cardiff University;
David Stacey, Olchfa Comprehensive School;
Dr Martin Johnes, UC Swansea;
William Rogers, Queen Street School, Blaenau Gwent;
Nicola Thomas, Cornist Park School
‘Lack of Resources’
So is there a lack of Welsh history in the current curriculum? Andrea May, history teacher and Assistant Head at Brynteg Comprehensive School in Bridgend said: “If you actually look at the kind of materials that you get [on Welsh history] they’re not engaging for the students. You’ve got things like NGFL which I think will probably grow even more, but that relies in many respects on teachers feeding into it as well. And if it isn’t being taught you’re not going to get that share in the resources.”
She added that as children went through the year groups there is a decline in how much Welsh history is studied. In Brynteg their A-level course offers only one aspect of Welsh history, and that as part of a unit on Britain.
Is the teaching of Welsh history being overlooked then? Dean Powell, a local historian from Llantrisant believes it is, especially at comprehensive level. Drawing from his own experiences he said: “By the time I went to Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari [a Welsh medium comprehensive] the curriculum was far far wider and then all of a sudden you’re learning everything from the French to the Russian revolution and the rise of Nazism… but actually what you ended up losing was the Welsh history aspect.”
A School Trip
As Dean explains, today’s children are incredibly lucky to have so many resources at their disposable. To see how history is brought to life I joined Year 3 from Ysgol Gynradd Bro Eirwg in Cardiff on their school trip to St Fagans National History Museum and spoke to their teacher Mrs Bethan Elis.
When the review was announced Oliver Hides on his Morning Call show on BBC Radio Wales spoke to Val Williams, a social historian and former teacher who said:
“Take Cardiff for instance; there are kids living in Cardiff whose families came from Somalia – what brought them here? What kept them here? How do they see the past of the city around them?” (Read the BBC story here)
Whether the curriculum changes or not, the opportunities for school children are endless. This map shows the number of museums and places of historical interest in South East Wales. If they don’t inspire our kids then what will?!
This is Huw Clarke. He’s 25 and from Cardigan, West Wales. He’s quite the character.
As you can see from the picture, Huw likes playing his guitar and reading little tiny books about Wales. But what you can’t see is that he is somewhat of a Cardiff geek – he loves the place. So you should join him, as I did, on his walking tour of the city. You won’t regret it.
I first met Huw at Mansion House on Richmond Road – the setting of Discover the Past’s first story – at a lecture on the Marquess of Bute. We got chatting and soon learned that he runs a walking tour of Cardiff. He gave me a leaflet which read ‘Explore 2000 Years of Hidden and Historical Cardiff’ – I couldn’t miss out.
Meeting Huw for that first time he didn’t really strike me as a workaholic, so when I discovered his tours ran twice a day from Tuesday to Sunday I was quite shocked. A thick beard, bracelets around his wrists, a worn brown leather jacket (which he bought from Hawkes Essentials, the city’s iconic menswear shop in Morgan Arcade) he came across as a sort of urban bohemian, a free spirit in a city. I wasn’t at all surprised when he later told me his first love was travelling. He’s just come back from a three month tour of South Africa. “Just my guitar and me” he told me.
Travelling is a big part of Huw’s life and one of the reasons why he started these tours. He told me about it when I met up with him (after going on one of the tours). I asked him where the idea had come from.
“It’s Interesting really, it basically snowballed from something tiny. In my halls of residence in Treforest (He attended Glamorgan University) I had loads of French, German, Polish, Indian and Chinese friends, and being from Cardigan it was a new experience for me. People started asking me about Wales and I started to become more self-conscious and self-aware about Wales than ever before. I was learning more about people from Germany, Poland etc. and they were asking about my country and I realised I didn’t know that much about it and I felt a little embarrassed. So I did more reading etc and through my world travelling it made me more interested in the history of Wales. There’s a famous Welsh saying, ‘Gorau Cymro, Cymro oddi cartref’ (Best Welshman, Welshman from home), meaning the longer you spend away from Wales the more you come to appreciate the country.
“I started working for a backpacker’s hostel (Nos Da Hostel) in Riverside the year I graduated, and I was there for three years. I became more interested in local tourism and what was going on in South Wales, and began suggesting places to visit. In 2007 I went to Latvia of all places, and went on a walking tour of Riga, the capital, led by a young, enthusiastic girl who worked at the hostel I was staying at. After that, I thought what a great idea. Like Cardiff, Riga has a small centre, and being so walkable I thought I could do the same. I did some more background reading on the city and visited placed like Cardiff Castle. I started in the summer of 2010 three times a week for about a year, then stopped due to other work commitments and have just started doing them again more recently.”
The Sunday after meeting Huw for the first time I attended one of his tours. I don’t want to give too much away because I want you to go on it yourself, but what I will say is there’s no way better to spend two hours of your day.
Spillers Records – The world’s oldest record shop
Although the past is the tour’s main focus it isn’t all about the traditional history of Cardiff. We were taken to Riverside Market as well as Cardiff Castle, the Millennium Stadium as well as National Museum Cardiff These are places which are only beginning their journey but are already a part of the city’s rich tapestry. We were taken to the world’s oldest record shop, Spillers Records also in Morgan Arcade, which was established in 1894. We were told where the best places to eat and drink are, the best post night out curry, even the best pub for atmosphere during a rugby international. Its as much about Cardiff today as it is about the city’s history.
2000 years of Cardiff history in one picture – Castle, Church and Stadium
Huw doesn’t charge a penny for his tours, but I’ll challenge you to try not tipping him – I guarantee you won’t be able to resist. The man’s an asset to this great city.
The tours leave Tuesday – Sunday at 10.00 and 14.00 from NosDa Hostel, Riverside. For more information call Huw on 07896532968.