Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Society and Friends of the Sunshine Coast Queensland

  I read with great interest the press notice which left me a bit bewildered as to the gist of the notice.

  Our Welsh Society are made up of ex-pats, some quite new arrivals in this country, others who emigrated many, many years ago.

  I find there are always members some returning for the first time since arriving here, others making one of their many trips.

  Our Society meet three times a year, St David's Day, our winter gathering, we finish up the year with an Xmas Party.

  On each of these occasions we are always interested to know of news from home. It is of great interest to find the varying differences described by the people who have made many returned trips, to those making the first trip [back home].

  My husband and I retuned for the second time in 1995, having emigrated in 1959. On our return in 1978 not a lot had happened since 1959. The welcome from family and friends and the warmth with which we were received was greatly appreciated.

  I was born in Blaina, my husband in Dowlais. We both grew up in the height of the depression. Our loyalty to both of our towns which suffered during that Great Depression. We as children were taught how much the sweat and toil of the men who helped to make Great Britain, the industrial nation that they were.

  The coal that was hewn, the iron and steel transported across the world we were proud. My father in my case who went down the mines at 12 years old, he was denied the benefit of a school education. At the age of 37 years was thrown on the scrap heap when the coal industry had out stripped its needs to export coal.

  It was in 1921 when the great depression started, for the first 10 years of my life my father did not work. With four children to feed, at the tender age of 15 years two of the eldest children were sent away to work to London, thereby leaving home. Those two eldest siblings were putting their feet under somebody else's table, because their father was unemployed, unable to feed them himself.

  We were poor, we didn't know it until somebody saw the plight of the people and told us we were poor, then the soup kitchens were opened.

  How well I remember seeing the men gathering together to march to the Houses of Parliament, a pitiful sight, as a child witnessing that day, those memories have never faded. They begged for work.

  When my husband and I arrived back in my home town in 1995 the shock we received at seeing the state of the valleys. The way the small towns had been robbed of their identity, the state of the roads, and footpaths. The famous words look! we have taken away the slag tips, only because men and children's lives had been lost in a tragedy that should never have happened.

  On arriving in Merthyr and Dolwais one wondered whether a bomb had gone off and nobody had cleared up the debris. A once famous town that had supplied the whole world with the commodities I had already mentioned. In the year 1995 when other countries were thriving this town was being left to rot.

  During the dark days of The Depression people had pride, the streets were swept, the garbage collected, the churches were full, people dreamt of one day when they would be lifted out of the despair that was not of their own making.

  When the war started in 1939 the call went out, give us more steel, iron and coal, and above all give us the human resources.

  Wales played their part as required, hoping for a better future for their children. Can one believe 56 years had gone by when the towns and valleys I have mentioned were being left to rot.

  In this so-called modern world the words World Travel play a big part. The British Isles has a lot to offer, but first of all we will pick out the best parts, let's get overseas people to come to see the green green grass of England, Oh! What about Wales? We will put that one in the too hard basket, and 56 years later it was still there. During our stay in Wales for what should have been a five week stay, it stretched for another six weeks, all due to my husband requiring an emergency operation. If we thought the state of the place was enough, the state of the treatment being handed out in the hospital system was appalling. Since returning my husband has suffered due to the treatment he received while a patient there.

  As visitors to the country we were not in a position to complain, we would have been classed ungrateful, while accepting the reciprocal agreement between out two countries.

  Yes! Some parts of Wales are being used as tourist attractions. North Wales, Mid-Wales, The Llanllogen Singing Festival, Cardiff, the new Stadium, Penarth. I have picked out a few places that has had plenty of help along the way, for their tourist trade. Is it true the money being given for extensive upgrading of Wales stops at Bridgend.

  Once again the valleys are being sacrificed. The glossy brochures, come and see for yourself one of the pits, you are invited to go down into the bowels of the earth, we guarantee you will be returned to the surface. Buy a small piece of coal as a memento of your visit. The coach moves on not to the valleys that have been neglected, we intend to do something about them one day, they say.

  In all fairness I understand some movement is afoot to do something about the state of the neglected valleys. Blaina and Nantyglo is a disgrace. This is feed back from the ex-pats on their return to Australia.

  The famous words from the then Prince of Wales when he travelled into Wales a week before he abdicated. [Something must be done.] What did he do? He up and left. Headlines.

  New Inquiry. The appeal has gone out to the different organisations tell us how we can promote Wales abroad.

  There is no need to tell the people where Wales is, it once was a nation and a mighty one at that. The hills were alive with music [excuse the pun]. Wales has given of their best. It is up to the people who run the country, to chose people of credence who are willing to give back to Wales the dignity that was once theirs by right.

  One may lay the blame on the modern world and the drugs, which is undermining the young people.

  As children, our wants were replaced by our need to survive, to be educated as was every Welsh parents dream for their children, to have a better life than they had had.

  My question to you as members of the committee: Why do you want to undertake an inquiry into the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad?

  Although neither my husband and I no longer live in Wales, you sending the Press Notice to us and wanting our comments from observation of what the UK Government should do to promote Wales, may I suggest you get stuck into doing the best you can do to see that all Wales is treated in a fair cut of the cake, and up grade the eye sore spots that had already been neglected by the Government.

  You are now a body within your own rights, put there by the people, you need to stand up and be counted, and earn the respect of your own kith and kin.

  You must remember we were denied the right to speak our own language. On Thursday morning we hold a Welsh class in my home. Our tutor is the Reverend Ilttyd Loveluck, the fun and laughter we derive, so much insight, into our very own language. I don't think I will be going back to put into practise that, that I have learned.

  We fly the Welsh Flag every day.

G O'Neill

25 August 2000

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