Tell me who I am

fotocredit the history of the Welsh not

Tell me who I am I dare you

You never tell me who I could be

You never tell me who I could have been

Don’t tell me who I’m not

Who are you to tell me that?

Tell me who I am!


foto credit Wikipedia

During the 19th century the primary function of day schools in Wales was the teaching of English. It is said that the teaching of English in Welsh schools was generally supported by the Welsh public and parents who saw it as the language of economic advancement. Some schools practiced what we would now call total immersion language teaching and banned the use of Welsh in the school and playground to force children to use and become proficient in English. Some of these schools punished children caught speaking Welsh with the Welsh Not.

The Welsh Not was brought into use by teachers and school organisations, such as the National Society for Promoting Religious Education, rather than government policy, and its use came about via convention rather than law. The Not was used in schools from as early as 1798, throughout the early 1800s, as late as the 1870s.

The impact on Wales and its people of being — the first nation — to experience English colonisation was of course massive and profound. The lessons learned by England were to be used in Ireland and other colonies around the world.

Lament for the Girl of the Morning Sea.


A premonition of merciful peace has emerged

in the morning of this day.

And as if in agreement

your hand opens to the waves.

In a movement of gratitude,

a moment of quiet acceptance.

I have heard you sing

To the waves crests

Rise, rise from your depths

Rid me of all pain

I am alone wash over me.


In this bright early hour

you are at once transformed.

Peace adorns you,

rests on your face.

I have seen you whisper

to the open sky

touch me, cleanse me

rid me of all fear.

I am alone wash over me.

Your hair hangs tangled

stiffly on your eyes,

green-water droplets

trickle to your lips.

Your fingers grasp

the waters edge.

The shoreline pierces you,

Welcomes you, calls to you.

I am alone wash over me.

And you lying unseen

a curved silken spine

broken by spite

the savagery of indifference

and the brutality

of unmourned death

move without moving

knowing nothing, knowing nothing

in your quiet sadness.

I am alone wash over me.

I have heard you sing

to the waves crests

rise from your depths

rise from your submerged stillness.

I have heard you sing

to the open sky,

touch me, cleanse me,

rid me of all pain,

rid me of all fear.

I am alone wash over me.

Your mother cries for you in her silence

and mourns for another in her isolation.                          

I am alone wash over me.  


It seems like a long time since this poem was published in my collection “Uncertain Times” September 2016.  Even longer since I wrote this poem in 1980. It is with great sadness that we continue to witness the bodies of drowned people washed up on our shores – the bodies of migrants escaping war, political & religious persecution and the impact of climate change.   Peace be with them.