Nick W.

At the age of four and a half, I had the incredibly good fortune to be adopted by a couple from Anglesey, where I went on to spend most of my childhood and adolescence in their lovely home, although I was, unfortunately as it turned out, sent away to school in England.

Those times will never be forgotten. The stunning views across Afon Menai to the Carneddau range and, beyond, to Yr Wyddfa, and sweeping all the way round to the Great Orme; the seemingly long road journey to Amlwch to visit Nain; the days spent swimming off the pebble beach in the shadow of Trywn Du lighthouse (before the bell was silenced!!) and the occasional trip across to the mainland.

Memories of Bangor station in the age of steam trains linger on in the back of my mind, as I recall tearful farewells upon heading off to school or joyful reunions when stepping down off the Emerald Isle Express after the return journey at the end of term.

Then there was the wonderful little railway station in Amlwch, where the young anorak paid faithful homage to the little steam locomotives that brought the short trains from Bangor/Gaerwen and where delicious homemade scones were enjoyed, with a paned, at The Copper Kettle cafe, after the train had set off puffing its way back to Gaerwen or Bangor.

As for Nain, the formidable family matriarch, what an impression that astonishing lady made. Her kindness knew no bounds, but she was not a lady to be taken lightly. She was truly lovely and will always feature strongly in my recollections. I am sure that none of the ladies present during lengthy, sometimes quite heated, conversations in Cymraeg realised that I did pick up a few words, even then, although it was to be a few years later before my love of languages began to flourish.

One of the most striking memories I have of those days, strangely enough, was my response as a child to national anthems. I used to listen, standing when it was appropriate, to ‘God save the Queen’, even joined in some times, but the reaction was nothing like my response to ‘Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau’ from the very first time I heard it. It had passion and rhythm and it was deeply moving to hear those words sung with such fervour.

As a non-Welsh speaking pupil at school in Anglesey after education in England had lost its gloss, life could be quite difficult in a very Cymraeg-speaking community. Despite the fact that my mother could have talked anyone there under the table in fluent Amlwch Cymraeg, I was considered to be one of the ‘Saes’ and this brought its own problems in those troubled times.

Now that I have learned more of the history of Wales, my thinking about those times has undergone something of a U-turn and I can see far more clearly now why attitudes were as they were and why there was such strong support for Plaid Cymru.

In the past five years, as I have sought to find out something about my genetic roots, I discovered that 51% of my genetic makeup is ‘Celt’. This confirmed a suspicion that I had been harbouring for quite a while and it was partly this that shook me out of my half-hearted attempts at learning Cymraeg (usually just before the annual visit to a wonderful guest house near Llanerchymedd). Whilst ‘Celt’ may point to Welsh, Irish, Scottish, even Cornish/Breton ancestry, it was evidence of where I belong and it explains why I always feel ‘gartref’ as soon as I pass the sign at Hawarden that reads ‘Croeso i Gymru’.

That has been a significant finding and has led to my ultimately arriving at SSiW, after hearing of the results that some learners had achieved. I am always extremely hesitant about showing myself up, but confidence is growing and SSiW has been given glowing reports as a medium for overcoming lack of confidence. I am optimistic!