Welsh claim on first car…?
Few people outside of Wales have probably heard of the house-wife, writer and teacher Eileen Beasley who died earlier this year and her contributions to the Welsh language, which is a shame, as this woman was somewhat of a hero in her own rights and she deserves to be recognised as such.
Born in 1921, Eileen was the wife of a coal-miner who spent her life being a law-abiding citizen, bringing up her children through the Welsh language in her village of Llangennech. Having never done anything illegal in her entire life, she decided that enough was enough, and in 1952 she stated that until she received a bill and letter issued in Welsh from her council, she would from that point on refuse to pay her council taxes. She argued that as her village and the majority of her council district was Welsh speaking, she should have the right to use her own language when dealing with official bodies, such as the Council, and so, now 60 years ago, a campaign that would go on for eight years and that would be of huge importance to the Welsh language movement started.
Back in the 1950’s, the Welsh language was seen as backwards and had no real power in Wales and what started out as a polite, peaceful call for respect of one’s right to use one’s language in all spheres of life grew to include everything from hundreds of fines being issued to bailiffs storming into Eileen’s home on twelve occasions, stripping it bare of everything from tables and chairs to wedding gifts and personal photos. All this was done in an attempt to get Eileen to pay her Council Tax through the medium of English, but despite the strains of having all of her possessions ceased and trying to survive off a meagre coal miner’s salary, she refused to back down from her demands; i.e. for the Council to issue a bill in Welsh before she would pay. Her husband supported her fight wholeheartedly, and even spent a week in prison for refusing to pay a fine issued in English only for the non-payment of road-tax.
Then, finally, in 1960, the Council sent Eileen a bill and accompanying letter in Welsh, and on the day, Eileen went to the Council and gladly paid her council tax.
Eileen Beasley’s civil disobedience inspired hundreds of young Welsh speakers to continue the fight for the language, and while the language’s current official status cannot be fully attributed to Eileen, it is clear that without her eight years long peaceful resistance movement, it would perhaps never have become an official language in Wales.