Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Griffith-Jones, Llanddowror: A Teacher and Father in Israel

As a parish clergyman, Griffith Jones took very seriously his duty to teach his people, not only through preaching the Word, but through instructing them in the truths of the Christian religion, regularly catechising the children of the parish. In the course of this, he discovered just how seriously ignorant the people were. Writing in March of 1738, Jones declared that:

"In this way, sir, it came to be discovered here, how deplorably ignorant the poor people are who cannot read, even where constant preaching is not wanting, while catechising in omitted. This melancholy discovery of the brutish, gross, and general ignorance in things pertaining to salvation, gave great thoughts of heart, and painful concern; the case being the same, if not worse, in most other places as here, and difficulties being found in teaching knowledge to those who cannot read, after many years' practice of the above method, it occurred at length to wish for rather [than] any hopeful prospect to set up, Welsh Charity Schools."

Griffith Jones was by no means the first person to try to set up schools in Wales. Illiteracy in a Protestant country is never a good thing. The Minister will become a priest by default, if he is one of the few people in the congregation who can read. Under the Commonwealth, the Act for the Propagation of the Gospel (1649) provided for schools to be set up in Wales, but these had ended with the Restoration, as had the schools organised after the restoration by Thomas Gouge under the auspices of the Welsh Trust. The SPCK, with which Griffith Jones had long been associated, had set up schools throughout Wales. These schools, however, were not popular with the people of Wales. They tended to take children away from any useful work around the home.

In addition, the schools taught in English. To teach a child to read in a language that was not spoken in the home or workplace proved a great deal harder than would have been the case if they had been taught in Welsh. Even Thomas Gouge's Welsh Trust, which had printed the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in Welsh. Schools were there, but they were flawed insttutions, containing fatal weaknesses. It was to this that Griffith Jones came.



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