Taffy Is A Welshman

This is another somewhat patriotic inclusion in my collection of poetry and prose, in the same vein as the Welsh national anthem. My grandmother had a large copy of this poem stuck to her kitchen door for years, before giving it to me because I liked it so much. This is something of a reply to the children’s nursery rhyme of the same name, which accuses poor Taffy of pilfering his neighbour’s beef. Here’s how things actually went down in Welsh history…

Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is no thief.
Someone came to Taffy’s house and stole a leg of beef.

Taffy made no protest, for he doesn’t like to row,
So the someone called on him again and stole the bloody cow.

They stole his coal and iron, they stole his pastures, too.
They even stole his language and flushed it down the loo.

Taffy is a Welshman, Taffy is a fool.
Taffy voted no, no, no when they offered him home rule.

Six days a week upon his knees Taffy dug for coal.
On the seventh he was kneeling, too, praying for his soul.

And now the mines are closing down and chapel’s had its day,
Taffy still lives upon his knees, for he knows no other way.

Now sometimes Taffy’s brother will start a row or so,
But you can bank on Taffy: he doesn’t want to know.

For when they hanged Penderyn[1] he had nothing much to say,
And when Saunders Lewis[2] went to jail he looked the other way.

Taffy is a Welshman who likes to be oppressed.
He was proud to tug his forelock to a Crawshay or a Guest[3].

They give him tinsel royals, so he has a pint of beer,
And sings God Bless the Prince of Wales as he joins the mob to cheer.

Now Taffy is a fighter when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt: Taffy’s seen them all.

He’s fought in France and Germany and many another land;
He’s fought by sea and fought by air and fought on desert sand.

He’s fought for many a foreign flag in many a foreign part,
For Taffy is a Welshman, proud of his fighting heart.

He’s fought the wide world over, he’s given blood and bone.
He’s fought for every bloody cause except his bloody own.

by Alun Rhys

[1] Dic Penderyn was hanged for stabbing a soldier with a bayonet during the Merthyr Rising of 1831. His execution was highly controversial; the soldier who was stabbed – and survived – could not identify his attacker, and the people of Merthyr Tydfil were so convinced of Penderyn’s innocence that 11,000 signed a petition for his release. Despite the flimsy case, the Home Secretary pressed ahead with the execution and in doing so assured both Penderyn’s martyrdom and a further breakdown in relations between Welsh workers and the authorities.

[2] Saunders Lewis was a committed Welsh nationalist who, besides becoming known for his works as a poet, dramatist, historian and literary critic, founded Plaid Cymru – the Welsh National Party. He won the hearts of the Welsh people when he opposed the building of a bombing school in Wales in 1936, saying that “the UK government was intent upon turning one of the ‘essential homes of Welsh culture, idiom, and literature’ into a place for promoting a barbaric method of warfare”. When the bombing school fell victim to arson, Lewis was one of the men sent to jail, and on his return he was welcomed back by a crowd over 15,000 strong.

[3] Crawshay and Guest were both very important families in South Wales, from the mid 1700’s onwards, when John Guest established his first ironworks under the control of the Crawshay family. A large percentage of the men living in the area would be involved with coal mining and iron production for the next 100 years. Even today when you visit some of the smaller towns and villages in the South Wales valleys, you can see evidence of these past industries, and almost everyone will know of a family member who was involved in some way.

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