Lowe Was Testifying in Welsh

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Ksenia Grigorieva

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Dear members of the forum,
I've run into an interesting thing. The fact is I often visit the "almost official" Ioan Gruffudd fansite (http://www.ioanonline.com), there's also a forum there. So I've found in THAT forum a phrase of a participant who said that during the U.S. Titanic inquiry, the language of the testimony of Harold Lowe was Welsh. Is that really true?
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Not that I know of. Certainly if he spoke Welsh, not only would there be a need for an interpreter, but very likely a stenographer who was fluent in the language to get it all down. Why bother with all that when the witness and the inquisitors were all english speakers?
 

Pat Winship

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May 14, 1999
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Lowe was born in Wales, but was of English descent. His father was from Cheshire, and Harold would have grown up speaking English at home. He did, however, speak Welsh fluently-- with an English accent.

He must have had something of a gift with languages. I recall either reading or hearing that at the end of his World War I naval service, his ship was sent to Vladivostok, where he picked up Russian-- which he mixed with the Welsh upon his return home. I am sure his neighbors were appalled and delighted!

(Now, Inger, did I get it right?)

Pat W
 
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Ksenia Grigorieva

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I am really sorry, I've already realized that I had understood some words on the Gruffudd forum wrong. The author of that thread meant that he read a book in Welsh about Lowe's testimony and translated to English the main essence of this book.

Pat - Inger already told me about that fact in Lowe's biography that he visited Vladivostok and learned some phrases in my mother tongue
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For me, it's also interesting and looking odd, as I can say that Russian is quite hard-to-learn language!

I also remember that Ioan Gruffudd had received a bit of criticism of his Lowe performance in James Cameron's movie because of his (Mr.Gruffudd's) thick Welsh accent that Lowe never spoke with...
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Spot on, Pat
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The Welsh was sometimes intermixed with the odd Russian word or phrase after the year in Vladivostok.

I'm not too critical myself of Gruffudd's performance - after all, Lowe's own son thought he was a gifted young actor who did a great job with the material he was given, even if he had some reservations as to how much like his father the end result was.

I think I've mentioned to you, Ksenia, that Boxhall and his father both sailed to Russian ports?
 
Dec 12, 1999
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"I'm not too critical myself of Gruffudd's performance - after all, Lowe's own son thought he was a gifted young actor who did a great job with the material he was given, even if he had some reservations as to how much like his father the end result was"

That is the real trick in the end. An actor can only work with the material he's given, and it's probably likely that Ioan was only given the barest of background material on Lowe. I don't even think he had a specific set of lines to work with, he was just given a couple, and told to improvise the rest of the scene. All in all, he managed to evoke the proper emotion necessary for what was required. Not half bad when you think about it. (And he was also going back and forth between filming Titanic, and doing Wilde, so the fact that he was even coherent is something to be commended. Going from kissing Stephen Fry to floating around in a tank of water in a boat...odd, indeed).

Although, I don't think the White Star officer's cap quite suited his nose...could just be me, though. :p
 
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Ksenia Grigorieva

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Inger - yes, you've mentioned about the Boxhalls (father and son) in connection with their visits to Russia
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About Ioan Gruffudd - I'm quite a huge fan of his talent (now I'm waiting for the King Arthur premiere in Russia, on August 18). And I was a little surprised when reading his words about that his terrific curly hair was hidden under the wig during his work in Titanic - because in Wilde, the director wanted him to have his hair long.

BTW Gruffudd also was to Ukraine once - doing Hornblower, and he told the amusing story about how some actors who had the hair cut very short were walking in the city (Sevastopol) and have been accepted for the members of the local mafia
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JHPravatiner

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Nov 2, 2001
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Zdrastvutye, Ksenia!

For my university class, it didn't seem that Russian was too horrible to learn once we got past the stumbling block of reading and writing Cyrillic. The lack of articles and the very simple past tense helped, I'm sure. :)

I understand Lowe a bit, as languages do tend to get a bit mixed if you've studied several of them...I was sitting for my mandated basic proficiency exam, and my professor seemed a bit amused when on a few occasions, I came out with some German word I'd learned in high school...usually followed by a chagrined, "Kak po'russkyi..."

Though I'm done with Russian courses, I still find that when I write English cursive, I do at times automatically segue into Cyrillic script. Force of habit, I suppose, huh?

I'd also heard about Ioan being mistaken for part of the Russian mafia due to his Hornblower hair extensions!
 

Inger Sheil

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I'll have to dig up the text of some of their postcards, Ksenia - off hand I can't recall if they recorded too many impressions of their visits to Russia, at least not in the pcs. Boxhall wrote rather good letters, but he didn't write quite the same lively short messages on postcards that Moody did.

Merchant seamen (and navy men) often intermix languages in their discourse, and are frequently able to at least get by in more than one language...or so friends of mine in profession suggest. Moody once grumbled that not everyone could be like a certain talented family member and 'know all the languages of Europe', but he attained at least some proficiency in Spanish (even if he did sometimes inadvertantly slip in the odd swear word - very embarrassing when talking to the signoritas, he noted).

While the attitude of the Anglo-Welsh and English towards the Welsh language has a chequered history (not begining or ending with a particularly notorious Times editorial), in the last couple of years of his formal schooling Lowe attended a new institution in Barmouth that encouraged bilingualism in the students. The progressive teachers knew that many Continental students, destined for clerical work, were fluent in at least two languages - in particular, attention was called to the language capabilities of German pupils. The headmaster felt that studying in both Welsh and English would give the students an advantage - "Being accustomed to think and speak in two languages, learning a new language is a comparatively small difficulty" was his observation on the matter. He also noted that "in order...to derive the full benefit from their bilingualism, they must study the two languages - Welsh and English - and compare them."

Lowe, while he had no intention of either going on to tertiary studies or working as a clerk (paths that were expected for most of the students at the school), seems to have derived some of the advantages that his instructor had hoped for.
 

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