Police in Wales had to remove demonstrators from the entrance of a courtroom after they disrupted proceedings inside. More than 40 people were dragged away from the Shire Hall in Carmarthen where preliminary proceedings were taking place in the Assizes court against eight members of the Welsh Language Society, which was founded on 4 August 1962.
The case, in which the eight were accused of conspiring to damage, remove or destroy English language road signs in Wales during a rally last December, is regarded as a major event in the struggle for greater recognition of the Welsh Language. But protesters, complaining that police had not allowed them access to the public gallery, did their best to disrupt proceedings by singing Welsh songs on the pavement outside.
One of the accused, Dafydd Iwan, who was also chairman of the Welsh Language Society, said: “We are here as Welshmen. What has brought us up against the law is that it is impossible today for a Welshman to live his life fully in his own language.
“The basis of this case is the rights of a Welshman in Wales.”
This was the first of several similar cases during the 1970s. One of the defendants, Rhodri Morgan, was acquitted of all charges. The remaining seven were all found guilty of conspiring to destroy road signs and given suspended sentences ranging from three to 12 months. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s hundreds of members of the Welsh Language Society were imprisoned for breaking the law with non-violent direct action.
From 1965, bilingual signs were allowed but only by special authorisation. The practice of displaying bilingual road signs on Welsh roads was adopted from 1972 following the troubles and remains today. It is estimated that all road signs in Wales will be bilingual by 2025. [news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/].
A history in pictures about the Welsh language protests, which began in 1963, can be found at www.walesonline.co.uk/.