SchoolCategory: Land + People
By R. Llewellyn
Going in to a new school is a lot worse than drawing teeth, I am sure. That morning I would have given anything to grow wings and be a dragon fly, or anything without a tongue and hands. But Bron was with me so I could do nothing only follow behind, past the yellow-brick, long, low, big-narrow-windowed school building to the doors, and go into the dark with her. Inside it smelt of chalk.
Mr. Motshill was English, a tall man, thin in the leg, high of collar, and with long fair whiskers on both sides of his face, and a bald head, and no moustache.
He came out of his room as we went in.
“Are you looking for someone?” he asked her, in English, and as though his throat had a cord about it pulled tight.
“Yes”, Bron said, “this is my brother-in-law. His parents want him to join the school here.”
Then Mr. Motshill asked questions. Who was my father, and what did he do, how much could he afford, and things like that. Bron answered civil with a face like a white cloud, but I knew that if she had caught my eye we would have shouted laughing like fools, and that would have settled school.
“Well, Master Morgan”, Mr. Motshill said to me, with a big lump of my cheek between his fingers and thumb, and bending over me so that I could smell the snuff on him, “shall we take you?”
“Yes, sir”, I said.
“Very well”, he said. “To-morrow morning, with copies of references, fees, and fees to cover books, and bring pencils and pens with you. You will be examined as to the present state of your education, and remanded for a class. Fourteen eighteens?”
There was no sense in a question like that, for we had played figures ever since I could remember, and the tables I had known almost from the time I could walk.
So I told him, and he said slowly “Yes, yes. But say it in English, you understand.”
English grammar and composition is difficult even for the English, but worse and worse for a Welsh boy. He speaks, reads, writes, and he thinks in Welsh, at home, in the street, and in Chapel, and when he reads English he will understand it in Welsh, and when he speaks English, he will pronounce the words with pain and using crutches. So stupid are the English, who build schools for the Welsh, and insist, on pain of punishment, that English is to be spoken, and yet, for all their insistence, never give one lesson in the pronouncing and enunciation of the spoken word.
“You are to instruct his parents,” he said to Bron, “that he must on no account be allowed to speak that jargon in or out of school. English, please, at all times. Good morning.” And off he went, leaving Bron and me in the hall. From down at the far room, children were chanting arithmetic tables in a sing song. 1 could tell where they were from the sound and length of it. Bron looked down the hall at Mr. Motshill going round the corner, and turned about sharp, walking out and slamming the door in a stamping temper. “What is the matter, Bron?” I asked her.
“You heard what he said, boy,” Bron said, “to speak in English. What will your Dada say? You shall never go’ to that school. You shall see.”
From How Green Was My Valley, N Y, 1945.