I am leaving this posting as a lesson to myself, not to accept the research of others as gospel. I have now discovered through following through John Blease’s family tree and checking this against the documents on Ancestry that being One Eighth Welsh is just not true! He noted that John Smith’s wife was Ann M. Hawkins, not the Dinah Jones in my own tree. I checked against the marriage certificate of William Backler and Ann Maria Smith. John Smith is described as a miner thereon and the marriage was witnessed by his daughter Betsy Ellen Smith, who is Ann Maria Smith’s sister. This John Smith was born in Heather, Leicestershire and married Ann M. Hawkins from the Walsall area. They then lived in that area and he appears to have been a miner on Cannock Chase. The errors in the posting below are in italics.
There I am happily bowling along knowing my paternal grandparents were English and my maternal grandparents were Irish. Even I, as an accountant, can work out that at the age of 63, my ancestry is 50:50, with two votes each. I was born in England and whenever the two countries were in sporting adversity, I supported England, but when England were out or not participating, I am instinctively Irish. As I write, my long held assumptions have been thrown into disarray.
I have just discovered that my paternal great-grandmother, Ann Maria Smith, is Welsh. Not a mere hopping across the border for a generation, but from a long line of Monmouthshire born Smiths, from the rural hamlet of Tregare, so there is no doubt that I am one eighth Welsh.
Having lived in Pembrokeshire for four and a half years, in the era of Barry John, JJ Williams, JPR Williams and Gerald Davies, by the age of 36, I had lived in Wales for one eight of my time on this Earth, but as I have got older that ratio has diminished with time.
When living in Wales I played rugby at No. 8, but was soon moved to the more ponderous position of prop. I wonder whether I failed to notice that there was a small horizontal line on my shirt and above it a small number one to represent that I played at one eighth of the normal competence of a No. 8.
I also question my singing ability. Maybe when I was at Westham primary school in East Sussex, Eric Cheshire was right. He was immediately in front of me at choir practice and stepped backwards on to my toes to shut me up, because I was singing too loudly and out of tune. Maybe I do have one eighth of the ability of a member of a true Welsh Male Voice Choir.
Then I got to thinking. My ancestor was named Smith, not exactly a Welsh surname that trips off the tongue. Her father was called John Smith, reminiscent of the Yorkshire Brewery, where allegedly, a good pint of English ale can be purchased. Maybe a Smith did sneak across the border at some time, neutering my one eighth Welsh heritage.
Then there is the issue of Monmouthshire, always being disputed as not really being part of Wales. In an attempt to settle the issue once and for all, it was renamed Gwent. I am not so sure that this has been resolved. Maybe the Smiths who crossed into Gwent really believed they were still English.
Although I eventually felt Welsh when I lived in Pembrokeshire, I did live in the English speaking south of the county, in the bit known as Little England beyond Wales. I lived in Haverfordwest where there was a castle built as part of an East-West chain that was designed to keep the real Welsh out, penning them in the Presceli mountains in the north of the county. Maybe this made me a little less Welsh. I certainly felt frustrated when playing rugby against the schools in the northern part of the county when they spoke Welsh and I couldn’t understand.
So there you have it, one eighth Welsh, but with reservations. I still cheer for Wales when England and Ireland are done for, but what would you expect from someone who is half Irish by descent, three-eights English by descent and birth and one eighth Welsh by descent, with the added sympathy from living there? Duw, duw, I have just realised, as I pull on and lace up my daps, that my four younger brothers are also one eighth Welsh and I wonder what they will make of it, particularly Liam, who never lived there?