Well, surely one is or one isn’t! It’s actually far more complicated than that. Being Welsh isn’t a simple matter of your parents’ nationality, the location of your birth, or even where you live at present. Indeed, many nations of the world give the opportunity for citizens of another country to become naturalised citizens of their land and adopt a new nationality - once they go through a considerable number of hoops.
My passport confirms I am a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As an aside, I have discovered that since 1983 I am no longer a British subject but a British citizen. Concealed in all that complexity is that fact that qualifying people in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have the status of British citizen and there is no mechanism to become a naturalised citizen of just one of those three nations or one province. This is all beginning to get very complicated and I recommend you take five minutes out to watch The United Kingdom Explained. It’s a fun piece but beware of some inaccuracies such as Anglesey, the Isle of Wight and the Scottish islands NOT being part of Great Britain and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being “sovereign nations” with their own “Parliaments”. Ah, that it were so!
Anyway, I digress. This is all about me being Welsh. Was I born in Wales? No, sadly. I entered this world six weeks after the creation of the National Health Service (Architect: Aneurin Bevan – a Welshman) so I was free at the point of delivery which was Battle Hospital, Reading. My father? Born in London to English parents (with Irish and French one generation earlier). My mother, however, was born in Cilfynydd, a coal-mining community in the Rhondda Valley, to proud Welsh parents with many generations of North and South Welsh ancestry.
I loved our visits to South Wales as children and our times with our Welsh family and in the 1980s and early 90s I always felt at home when I travelled in Wales in my role of Wales Liaison Manager for the British Tourist Authority. The tipping point came when our elder son Mark moved to Llanberis in 2002. We visited regularly and both fell in love with North Wales and moved here in January 2007.
I realised almost immediately that for the first time in my life, I felt as if I’d truly come home. Some people scoff at the Welsh concept of hiraeth – a deep sense of longing for, and connectedness with, the land of Wales to its people and to its history. Hiraeth is probably the most tangible and real explanation I can give for my Welshness as it’s nothing to do with the more conventional Welsh icons. It’s only slightly connected with rugby – that’s only been the national sport since December 1905; it certainly has nothing to do with thick woollen shawls and silly tall hats – an invention of Lady Llanover in the 1830s; daffodils only became a Welsh emblem in 1911 courtesy of David Lloyd-George, and the Welsh flag was officially recognised in 1959!
No, I’m a Welshman because I know I am. I cry when I sing Calon Lân or Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. I’m profoundly moved when I hear Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Terfel or Cerys Matthews. I am joyously transported 1400 years into Celtic history when I sit in Penmon Priory and think of St Seriol and St Cybi in their daily meeting at Llanerchymedd after a 20 mile walk. I long for their connectedness with God and with the land.
It’s all summed up in a line from our National Anthem (also found on the edge of Welsh £1 coins) - Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad - True am I to my country.
Dw i'n Gymro balch.