Two cheers for Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant

February 26, 2010 3 Comments »

Daffodils

March 1st, 2009. We are to watch Cardiff’s St David’s Day parade for the first time.

Outside Cardiff’s old City hall, I am asked to carry a large Welsh Flag. Happy to be part of the spectacle, I oblige. After some pleasant remarks from the Lord Mayor and others, we are on our way to the Bay.

All is well on the march to the Bay, although there are few spectators once we leave St Mary Street. It’s a bright day, and the flags of Saint David and the Red Dragon look fine against the blue sky.

The flag bearers are asked to line up on top of the Senedd’s steps. I am expecting a photo, but it transpires that we are expected to be some sort of honour guard behind a succession of political speakers.

At which point, I think of the Nuremberg rallies, those huge gatherings of Nazi leaders and supporters in 1930s Germany.

True, the scale is different. You cannot compare Dafydd Elis-Thomas telling hundreds that the Assembly must have more law making powers with Adolf Hitler in front of a crowd of half a million, spitting out his insane dreams of a racially pure Reich that will last a thousand years. Or compare civilian speakers calling for Welsh Independence with the hatred and militarism of the Nazis.

And yet, and yet…

I feel uneasy, and not just because I’d rather be in the pub than marooned here till the speeches end.

The parade should be a celebration of all our Welsh traditions, identity and culture on our Saint’s Day. It should not, in my view, be hijacked by political Nationalists using the enthusiasm of the crowd to push for their own agendas. We don’t all want ‘independence’. And many here in Cardiff are far from whole heartedly supportive of the Assembly.

I shan’t be marching this year.

The experience has led me to reflect a great deal since on what it means to me to be Welsh. Part of the Anglo-Welsh majority, who seem to be regarded by some as less Welsh and lesser citizens than the minority of Welsh speakers. I shall return to this theme in future posts.

But tonight, I shall be with my daughter in the Millennium Stadium fervently hoping, against the bookmakers’ published odds, for a Welsh victory against the French.

Have a good St David’s Day.

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3 Comments

  1. Marc Evans February 28, 2010 at 1:21 am - Reply

    If you don't go to this year's celebration of "our Welsh traditions, identity and culture .." (despite what you say in your blog, it is all those things) you'll miss out: ( see http://www.stdavidsday.org – Monday 1 March, 11.30 gather, 12.30 walk to Hayes, performances to follow).

    The Parade is supported by democratic bodies Cardiff Council and the Assembly for Wales. Itv is non-political (by constitution and rules of conduct). The 2010 event will be shorter, as will the speeches from the funding partners, made as civic leaders.

    Your recollections about 2009 event are wrong. Thousands came to enjoy the atmosphere, celebrating life in Wales and the heritage we want to share with our children. Assembly Members William Graham (Conservative) and Chris Franks (Plaid Cymru) spoke as Commissioners of the Assembly, with Henry Davies-Jones as Chair of the parade. His speech (in English) was proudly patriotic, aspirational and praised the Senedd – but was not in my view party political nor pro independence [ http://bit.ly/StDDP2009_Speech ]. The parade website itself has praise from all political persuasions.

  2. Marc Evans February 28, 2010 at 1:31 am - Reply

    So what 'agenda' are you really getting at? It would seem the mere presence of Welsh speakers makes you feel 'less Welsh' (the event wasn't even fully bilingual).
    It is shameful to attack a minority as you appear to do, with a smear invoking racist, genicidal Nazism. The abuse of power you infer is the opposite of the truth: my grandfather was made to be ashamed of Welsh and denied his children their heritage. 60 years later, I had to fight against the same prejudice which tried to prevent me learning Welsh in school.

    No one was made to feel 'less Welsh' by the Saint David's Day Parade in 2009, quite the opposite. Dewi's witness remains central to the parade: humility, faith, preparedness to make personal sacrifices for the sake of others and strength of national spirit based on civic morality, embracing those who enjoy any or all aspects of Welsh life.
    I look forward to you pointing out how speaking Welsh as well as other languages helps towards a better informed and more inclusive outlook.

  3. PaulSeligman March 1, 2010 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    I won't debate with Marc in the comments area. However, if the speech that I recall was not made by Lord Elis-Thomas, but perhaps by one of the other commissioners, then I apologise for that inaccuracy. My recollection of the content, calling for full law making powers to be given to the Senedd, is correct. Unfortunately, I can find no detailed reportage of the speeches outside the Senedd, except the film link that Marc provides – this is not the speech to which I referred (strangely, the clip of Henry Davies-Jones is initially partly obscured by an advert for 'exotic dancing videos').

    One clarification: I did not say that " the mere presence of Welsh speakers makes me feel 'less Welsh'" and this is not the case.

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