Welsh Language Activist Released from Prison

On Nov. 25th, 2009 Welsh language activist Osian Jones was imprisoned for 28 days for his part in local campaigns to promote the use of the Welsh language – Cymraeg or Gymraeg.  He is an organizer for Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society), a Welsh language rights organization headquartered in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion.  Jones had been fined over £1,000 for participating in campaigns of slogan painting, and stickering to exert pressure against a number of large businesses that refused to use Cymraeg in their advertising and signage.  “Ble Mae’r Gymraeg?” (Where’s the Welsh?) was one of the favorite slogans tattooed along superstore walls in Llangefni, Bangor, and Caernarfon.

 Tafod y Ddraig (Dragon’s Tongue) is the Cymdeithas logo. 

 Cymdeithas yr Iaith was founded in 1962 and has used non-violent direct action campaigns to pressure the regional government in Wales and various businesses to use the Welsh language.  Through road blockades, sit-ins, slogan painting, demonstrations, and a host of other tactics, Cymdeithas has won some extraordinary victories over the years.  Their first campaign was to get Cymraeg recognized as an official language and demanded Welsh language schools, government forms and signage, birth certificates, etc.  They demanded Welsh radio and television and won the establishment of Radio Cymru in 1977 and Welsh television station S4C in 1984 after intense protests on top of TV masts and inside TV studios.  Their flagship campaign continues to be making Welsh a full and official language in Wales. 

  Cymdeithas activists dump English only signs on the steps of the Cathays Park Welsh office, 1970 – 1972.

Cymraeg is a member the Brythonic branch of Celtic languages.  It is estimated to have approximately 750,000 speakers in Wales, England, and Chubut, Argentina.  Other languages in the British (Brythonic) group include Breton, Cornish, and Cumbric which is extinct.

Dy Iaith, Dy Hawl! – Your Language, Your Right!


  The Cymru (Wales) flag



  1. Brad B said,

    March 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Very cool post. I’m by no means a Welsh expert, but I think it would be better to refer to it as Cymraeg. Welsh, like other Celtic languages has initial mutation, meaning the first consonant often changes depending on its function in the sentence. So cymraeg becomes gymraeg when preceded by the definite article (as in your example “Ble mae’r gymraeg”) and other situations which I’m not sure of. Though I think the genitive case would do it as well.

    England has quite the history of suppressing the other languages of the Isles. Children were beaten in school for speaking Welsh or either of the Gaelics, for example. Welsh is probably the best off though of all the Celtic languages in both number of speakers and official usage.

    Oh and I was in Chubut in 1997 and spoke to some Welsh-Argentines my age. I think they were 3rd or 4th generation Welsh. They said that the town had hired a Welsh language teacher from Wales because the younger generations didn’t really speak and there wasn’t really anyone qualified to teach in town, but there was definitely a commitment to the language.

  2. thedialect said,

    March 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Brad – once again a very awesome and useful contribushe. I am inclined to take your suggestion about Cymraeg v. Gymraeg because I’ve come to be pretty impressed with your linguistic knowledge as well as your powers of extrapolation. However, I had a Welsh speaker (and friend of Osian Jones) look over this post first before I finalized it. He gave me some edits but didn’t suggest changing Gymreag to Cymraeg anywhere. I still think you’re probably right but if I can get him to post his suggestions on the matter, we’ll all learn a bit. Totally awesome story about meeting Welsh people in Argentina. Too cool.

    • Huw Jones said,

      April 5, 2010 at 11:33 am

      Diolch (Thanks) to ‘The Dialect’ and to Brad for the great posts and your interest in the Welsh language.

      Brad – Full marks for your explanation of Celtic grammar. Put over far better than I could have tried to explain.

      ‘Cymraeg’ (the name of the language) is a femanin noun .. It is usually with a C but can sometimes change to a G depending on what words go before hand. It’s bit like getting your head round the four cases in German or subjunctives in Spanish.. lots of grammar rules to make one subtle change to a single letter.

      And you’ve been to Chebut… wow! I would love to go.. one day maybe. The Welsh community was set about 130 years ago as an attempt to set up a “New Wales”. They managed to set up small communities that used Welsh as the medium of education / public administration at a time when it was not possible back home. At the height of the British Empire there was little hope for the Welsh to win any self-government at home, but the idea of relocating on indigenous peoples’ land still has to be put in the context of imperialism of the period.

      Many Welsh people get very misty eyed about romantic tales of some long lost relation having gone off to be a gaucho in Patagonia. The history of how the people made the trip to the other end of the world and survived in empty desert on arrival is incredible. They still use some Welsh in the area today, the town of Gaiman has just put up new Español/Cymraeg bi-lingual street signs!

      Pob hwyl!

  3. thedialect said,

    April 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Excellent exchange friends! I went back and changed the G’s to C’s after Brad and Huw’s suggestions. Full marks to both of you!

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