Earlier this week a party of schoolchildren from Tywyn, Meirionnydd, returning home from a trip to France, was delivered by mistake to Towyn on the north coast, almost 80 miles away. The story provided the local edition of the Cambrian News with its front page lead, and the story also made it to the BBC News and Wales Online.
A spokesman for the company that owns the bus, Llew Jones International Coaches of Llanrwst, explained the mistake by saying that the driver was “not from the area” and put Towyn not Tywyn into his SatNav. By ‘area’ I suspect the Llew Jones spokesman means Wales, for any driver familiar with northern Wales would, on hearing the name, ask himself, ‘Is that Tywyn or Towyn?’ And having established which one it was, would not need SatNav.
An irony here is that at one time the name of Tywyn was spelt the same way as the other place, but partly to avoid confusion the Meirionnydd community reverted to its correct Welsh spelling over forty years ago. The native Welsh welcomed the change, but there is noticeable resistance from the English who’ve moved to the area. Many of whom view the change of spelling as a concession to extremists, and perhaps the first step on the slippery slope to English colonists being murdered in their beds.
This resistance makes itself manifest in the names of those organisations with – how can I put it? – a very ‘British’ outlook, or run by persons susceptible to this unfortunate attitude. Such as the Towyn and Aberdovey Royal Air Forces Association. When at one go you can corrupt two Welsh place names then you know it’s due to more than just carelessness. For there is something fundamental at stake here – the Englishman’s ancient and God-given right to go abroad and mangle the local languages.
I guarantee that this week down in the bar of Abbaduvet golf club local RAFA members and others have been harrumphing into their whisky and sodas and reminding all and sundry that this would never have happened in ‘their day’, perhaps when returning from a raid on some defenceless German city. Never for one minute conceding that their intransigence and hostility to things Welsh is still contributing to the confusion that results in cock-ups like this.
Before finishing, another irony I’ve just noticed is that the Cambrian News made a big thing of coach company Llew Jones’ driver getting Welsh spellings wrong but, at the foot of their online version of the story, I found this:
UPDATE 20.04.13: I hear that the driver involved has been dismissed. Some might think that’s a bit harsh. Maybe the fault lies with his employer, for recruiting someone to drive around Wales who clearly doesn’t know our country. But nowadays, ignorance of Wales seems to be no obstacle to landing a job here, whether it’s as a coach driver, a council chief executive, a policeman or a postman. Which means cock-ups are inevitable; most of which – unlike this one – can be brushed under the carpet.