As part of my cultural immersion since I settled here in Wales, I have been doing some research into the Welsh nation and its culture, history and tradition. Here are some of my findings about great things we should be thankful to the Welsh for, always with a touch of humour:
• Leeks: Welsh laws as back as AD 900 impose penalties on any farmer not growing his leeks in a properly fenced field. Even earlier, around AD 250, the Welsh liked eating cooked leeks sprinkled with vinegar.
• Singing: Other people might warble a tune from time to time, but the Welsh can really sing. Just go to a rugby match and listen.
• Suspension bridges: The world’s first large suspension bridge was built in 1826 to carry the London – Holyhead Road over the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland.
• The Pontypool front row: These three rugby heroes not only formed the front row for Pontypool, but also for Wales and the British Lions. In the 1970s, they won 15 out of 19 international matches. They were Graham Price, Bobby Windsor and Charlie Faulkner.
• Beer cans: A method of packaging a beer into cans that did not affect the flavour of the precious liquid was pioneered by Felinfoel Brewery at Llanelli in 1935. Thirsty folk everywhere have been grateful ever since.
• Tongue-twister names: Welsh names can bamboozle English speakers. The village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on the Isle of Anglesey is more famous for its name than anything else.
• Tide power: Around 1550 a miller at Carew built a corn mill that was powered by a wheel turned by the tide flowing in and out of a narrow-necked pool. It operated for decades, but the idea did not catch on as most millers in Wales lived closer to a windy hill than a tidal pool.
• Accurate artillery: In 1776, at Bersham near Wrexham, John Wilkinson invented a machine that could bore accurate holes in metal. It was used to make precision cannon able to fire shells more accurately than ever before. Not everybody has been grateful for this invention – especially is they were the ones being shot at!
• Airborne radar: In 1940, Edward Bowen of Swansea developed a radar set small enough to fit into an aircraft and powerful enough to detect other aircraft. Aircraft now no longer bump into each other at night.
• Slate: Welsh slate replaced thatch as a roofing material in the 18th century. The rats, mice and birds that used to infest the straw now had nowhere to live, and thus ended many diseases passed on by the creatures to humans.
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