Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus

Daffodils

Or Happy St David’s Day as we say in English. It’s a mere 137 miles from Victoria Coach Station to Cardiff according to How Far is it Between?, a handy little site to be found on the Travel and Tourism section of the Westminster Libraries Gateway and only two hours from Paddington by train so let’s spend a few minutes considering the our neighbour on Wales’ special day.

First, who was St David? Frankly, nobody has the faintest idea but that hasn’t stopped J. Wyn Evans  writing a long article about his cult for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (see the Biographies section of the Gateway). For those with short attention-spans (and that wouldn’t be any of us, obviously), it can be summarised by the first sentence – “Patron saint of Wales and founder of St David’s, is known from written sources dating from no earlier than the eighth century and an inscription which may be of the seventh.”

Moving on, let’s get the leeks and daffodils over with before we tackle more interesting matters. According to the National Museum of Wales

 ‘Both the sixth-century poet Taliesin and the thirteenth-century Red Book of Hergest extol the virtues of the leek, which, if eaten, encouraged good health and happiness. Small wonder, therefore, that a national respect grew around this plant, which was worn by the Welsh in the Battle of Crecy, and by 1536, when Henry VIII gave a leek to his daughter on 1 March, was already associated with St David’s Day. It is possible that the green and white family colours adopted by the Tudors were taken from their liking for the leek.

‘In comparison with the ancient Welsh associations of the leek, the daffodil has only recently assumed a position of national importance. An increasingly popular flower during the 19th century, especially among women, its status was elevated by the Welsh-born prime minister David Lloyd George, who wore it on St David’s Day and used it in ceremonies in 1911 to mark the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon.’

The proper Welsh connections of these excellent plants seem fairly tenuous so let’s move on to matters genuinely Cymric.  The Welsh have always  been known for their love of music and the excellent  Oxford Music Online, found in the Music section of the Gateway, has several fascinating articles about the history of Welsh music as well as biographies (with discographies) of individual performers such as Bryn Terfel, Tom Jones  and of course, the incomparable Dame Shirley Bassey. If your tastes are a little more folkie, the Naxos Music Library can offer such delights as Celtic Folk from Wales (in Welsh). Plus Dylan Thomas reading his own poetry.

Acting is another artistic talent the Welsh have excelled in. The small town of Port Talbot, an hour’s drive from Cardiff has produced three world class thespians – Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen. But the most notable artistic contribution is, of course, the revival of Doctor Who, helmed by Swansea’s  own Russell T Davies . Since 2005 Wales has been invaded approximately 347 times, (the first time, the threat was thwarted by our old friend Charles Dickens)  usually defended only by the motley crew of Torchwood. Check out the complete history of the series at its official site.

If this inspired to visit the Principality, why not check out the Transport   and Tourism section again? Using the excellent Transportdirect, you can plot your route there, either by car or by public transport. While Westminster Libraries has an excellent collection of travel books, it’s useful to know that you can find the full text of the Rough Guide to Wales (and other British guides) in KnowUK, one of our Exclusive Resources. And of course you wouldn’t want to visit Wales without knowing a bit of the lingo so, if your worked your way through all the Welsh language courses that the library lends out, it’s time to give Learning Nexus’s new language programmers  a go.

However you choose to celebrate St David’s Day, whether with leek soup, buying daffodils, listening to Tom Jones or watching Torchwood save the world by squabbling and being a bit rubbish, mwynhau!

[Nicky]

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