Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"All the water in Wye"

That's Shakespeare in the mouth of Fluellin the Welsh Captain in Henry V who some say was based on my ancestor, Dafydd [or David] Gam. The scene is a moving one as the Monarch, victorious after Agincourt, exults in his birth in Wales as Fluellen notes "All the water in Wye cannot wash your majesty's Welsh [b]lood out of your [b]ody, I can tell you that." Act IV, Scene 7, lines 2628-29.

As I've already blogged numerous times, my Welsh blood originates on the banks of the Wye just as did Prince Hal's. My dad's cousin just reminded me of the signature on an 1810 marriage record in Hay, Breconshire, that on close examination reveals that my 4th Great Grandfather probably spoke Welsh.

That's John Vaughan, christened 1789 in Hay, who died 1851, fortunately right after the Census in Llanfoist, Monmouthshire on the equally Welsh Usk, not far from the Wye.

It is of interest to note that John and Elenor actually signed their names for their marriage. But note also the first letter of John's last name. The Curate spelled it out clearly as "Vaughan," but this signature appears to begin with some other letter. Could it be an "F"? That would make him a likely Welsh speaker, not just a bad speller.

As I've explained here, the name in Welsh was originally "Fychan" pronounced pretty closely to how the dominant English would say "Vaughan" but with a guttural coughing in the middle to make it two syllables. Could it be that John mixed up his Welsh with his English transposing the "V" for an "F"? Makes sense to me. The fact that he actually signed evidences some level of education even if born illegitimate. The fact that he used "F" for a "V" indicates a clear level of Welsh.

The Water in Wye from the one-lane Clifford Toll Bridge near Hay-on-Wye. I'm wearing the button of the Monmouth Regiment I bought further down river next to the castle where Prince Hal was born. (Taken August 20, 2010.)

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