Saturday, 1 March 2014

St David's Day

March 1st is a special day in Wales, as it celebrates the Feast of St David, who died on this day in 569.  Traditionally, Welsh folk will wear a Daffodil or a Leek, usually ones made from felt (vegetable leeks being a tad large for the lapel!)  School children will celebrate the day by taking part in an Eisteddfod within their school  - a celebration of singing, reciting, folk dancing, musical prowess, poetry and acting. Children in Junior school dress up in traditional Welsh costume.

Of course, my children are grown up, and spread across the world now, and only G is still in Wales and I'm certain she won't have dressed up today!!!

 However, here in Carmarthen, when we went into Tesco for the weekend Telegraph newspaper, there was a Welsh Male Voice Choir singing their hearts out and collecting for charity.  I have to admit lingering by the magazines for four songs, as I was enjoying it so much.  I was hoping that they would sing the lovely Welsh lullaby, Suo Gan, although having listened to it later on Youtube, I think I would have been reaching for my hankie.  HERE is a link to Katherine Jenkins singing it, with a traditional Harp accompaniment.  The Bryn Terfil version is beautiful too, but if you want to run out of hankies, listen to the choir of King's College, Cambridge.

I started reading a library book recently which mentioned this song.  I couldn't get on with the book, but have a vivid picture of the pit disaster, and men and boys trapped below ground, singing Suo Gan in perfect harmony, very quietly,for comfort.  That picture haunts me still.

I would like to think that my Grandfather, George Hobbs, might have known this song well.  He was a coal miner around the early 1900s, when his family - his mother had been widowed and remarried, and her new husband and 2nd family -  moved to Aberbargoed for work.  She was born in Somerset (Galmington in Taunton in 1867), moved to London, married there, and then ended her days in Wales.  My mum could remember going to Wales for Christmas, all the children packed into their two up two down miner's house in Nenaddwen Street, and said that they would sleep top and tail in the bed.  My aunty was telling me a couple of weeks ago that the Christmas stockings for the children, hung on the end of the bed, were dirty smelly old mens' socks!!!

Grandad stayed until the Miner's Strike of 1912, but then walked to Newport and joined the Army.  His parents and family stayed on in Aberbargoed, although his brothers and half-brothers all joined up, from what I remember.  His stepfather -William Brown, died in 1952, aged 78, and his mother, Emily Martha Brown (previously Hobbs, maiden name Payton, of Glastonbury) predeceased him in 1946, aged 79.  I asked my aunty what she could remember about her - the photos show a stout lady with a marvellous complexion even well into her 70s (I know who I inherited mine from now)   She always wore black, apparently, and was very Victorian in her ways, and hardly spoke at all - just looked rather disapproving I think, but then as a child you might be inclined to think that.

Anyway, whether you have Welsh blood or no, a Happy St David's Day to you (albeit slightly late in the day to wish it!)


  1. Family history is fascinating. I sometimes think we have lost something of the simplicity of those days, but that is easy to say writing this in my warm well-lit house with plenty of fresh food in the fridge and everyone hale and hearty.
    Happy St David's Day to you too :-)

  2. Happy St. David's Day to you, too -- though I expect it's almost over, where you are. My in-laws lived in Llandudno. I love Wales. We keep two daffodil lapel pins handy for March 1 and have a plaque with 'Croeso' mounted on it by the front door.

  3. I must remember this for my son.
    It would be fun to send him a St. Davids wish !

    cheers, parsnip

  4. C/Tales - oh yes, we have certainly lost the simplicity of living as folk did 100 years ago. We might moan about the Nanny State, but at least there are some safety nets now (although from family experience, there are some deliberate blardy great holes cut in them for folk to fall through) and health care is immeasurably better.

    Chris - I've only been to Llandudno once, when the children were small. Nice spot though. You're one up on us, we dont have a "Croeso" plaque at the front door!

    parsnip - I hope your son enjoys it.

  5. Here in North Yorkshire BB it was our monthly Village Hall Coffee morning and every table had a little welsh flag on it in honour of S David's day, so we did remember you.
    Welsh male voice choirs - who can resist them. They are wonderful - is it something to do with the water they drink, or the air they breathe or something that makes them sing so beautifully?

  6. What a lovely bit of family history you have told. I love to hear a choir singing and almost prefer the male voice choirs as I find womens choirs can sometimes be a bit too high for my tastes.

  7. Pat - Welshmen (and women!) just seem to be born with wonderful singing voices! We do have pure air in these parts though (hence the ferns growing on the trees) and I can vouch for the pure water as we have spring water here. Who knows? Think of Richard Burton's wonderful speaking voice. There's lovely : )

    Suzie - like you, I prefer the male voice choir, and for the same reasons. I got quite choked in the supermarket yesterday and had to bury my head in a magazine.

  8. Happy St David's day to you too. By the way, I always had my Grandfather's sock as my stocking!

  9. Lovely post BB :D and I've loved all of your pictures in previous posts, however, they've stirred up the emotions a bit and I wish I was in Wales now!!!