Every country in the British Isles has a unique and storied history that’s helped shape its cultural identity. However, some are better known than others.
Most people know about Hadrian’s Wall or The Great Fire of London (sorry England all your history is pretty brutal), but less is known when it comes to Wales, the land of castles, daffodils and some banging rugby players.
Wales is a country filled with heaps of culture and history, some of which will make you look at this proud nation in a different way entirely. Here are five facts to make you question how much you know about Wales:
The Welsh language almost went extinct
Up until 1850, the Welsh language was spoken by 90% of the Welsh population, but this has slowly dwindled down to less than 25% over time. A 2001 census revealed the number of Welsh speakers to be 582,368, making linguists consider it an endangered language.
The language started disappearing due to reasons like education, social change, migration, language policy and among others. However, teaching Welsh in schools and universities and publishing books in Welsh has slowly revitalised the language amongst young people, so not all hope is lost for Cymraeg…
The Jack Daniels originates from Wales
As American as apple pie? Nope, as Welsh as Eccles cakes! Well, kind of. The man behind the name, Jasper ‘Jack’ Newton Daniel, was born in Swansea to Welsh and Scottish parents.
Jasper, or Jack to his friends, later emigrated to the States and got into the whiskey business, and although it may say ‘Tennessee’ on the label it’s nice to think that those early days in Wales had a bit of impact down the line.
Mount Everest was named after a Welshman
Sir. George Everest, the man, the myth, the legend, whose name is plastered over the largest mountain in the world, oddly enough had no direct impact on the naming of the mountain.
One of his employees, Andrew Scott Waugh, who made the first observations of the mountain, wrote to the Royal Geographical Society announcing the discovery and the belief that it was the highest in the world. In the letter he proposed that the mountain be named after Sir. George Everest, referring to him as “my illustrious predecessor” (jobsworth!).
One of the longest and most difficult-to-pronounce town names in the world is in Wales
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, yes you read that right, is the whopping 56 letter Welsh town name. The town name wasn’t always this impressive, going by Llanfairpwllgwyngyll for some time, which wasn’t any easier to pronounce.
You might be wondering what that actually means, and in English, it roughly translates to St Mary’s Church in the hollows of White Hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the red cave. Catchy.
Weirdly enough, this isn’t the longest town name in the world (although it is definitely one of the top contenders), Thailand has a town name consisting of 163 letters!
The White Lady of Ewenny
Whilst this might not exactly be a fact, it sure is an interesting story originating from the South of Wales. But prepare yourself, it does get a little bit spooky…
The White Lady of Ewenny, is a sinister ghost who resides in the grounds of the Ewenny priory. The lady appears in a constant state of turmoil and distress and is either seen wringing her hands together or pointing in the direction of the town. This story starts off with a man, who was traversing along the priory when he spots this White Lady, seeing her clear distress he asks if she’s in need of any aid. She requests the man hold her wrist and to not let go as they walk through the marshes. A sudden noise startles the man causing him to let go of the lady’s wrist to which she responds with a piercing screech, snarling the words “now I’m bound to the Earth for another 7 years...
So maybe just make sure to keep a firm grip if you ever find yourself escorting the White Lady to her final resting place!
Bottom line, Wales is cool. It’s got a storied history, beautiful countryside and some very student-friendly cities like Swansea, Lampeter and Cardiff.
If you want to experience Welsh student life for yourself, the University of Wales Trinity St David are now taking students for September 2023. Find out more here.