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March 1, 2012

Happy St. David’s Day

This year, the Welsh people may be celebrating a recent Rugby triumph over England.

Cartoon leek

© Lucas Lopvet | Dreamstime.com

200 year ago, however, the Welsh in Liverpool gave “loyal toasts” to the Royal family and other British notables.

Liverpool , Friday, March 6, 1812  “On Monday last,” reported the Liverpool Mercury, “the anniversary of St. David’s was celebrated by the Cambrian inhabitants of this town with the accustomed formalities.”

“The Director and friends of the Welsh Charity School, the Children of the Institution, and the Broderion and Cambrian Clubs, went in procession to St. Paul’s Church, accompanies with bands of music.”

“The service was read in English by the Rev. Jon. Brooks, which was followed by an excellent sermon in the Welsh language , preached by the Rev. L. Pugh.”

After doing the society’s annual paperwork, “the friends of the society sat down to an excellent dinner at the Liverpool Arms Hotel.”

There the revellers gave a toast to “the King, Queen, and Royal Family, the Prince of Wales, patron of the Institution, and other loyal toasts were drank.”  They also drank to the health of the heads of the societies and gave “Handsom donations to charity.”  It appeared that “The evening was spent in great festivity.”

On the same day, the same newspaper reported that during the ten preceding years, the population had increased by 65,804 people, for a total of 607,380 people in the land of St. David.  (The population of Britain increased by 1,609,498, for a new total of 12,552,144.)

In 1902, the celebration of St. David’s Day was alive and well, in Oxford. “On St. David’s Day every loyal Welshman appears in morning chapel at Jesus College with a huge leek tied in the tassel of his cap.”

In 1912 in San Francisco, the preparations got underway ahead of time. “Exercises commemorative of the patriotic saint’s victory over the Saxons have been arranged to take place at the Scottish Hall, and an excellent programme will be presented on that occasion.  For many years past the Welsh residents have celebrated the day by giving a banquet at which the Governor of the State presided, but this year it has been decided to give a public entertainment.”

There were the usual talks by churchmen, and “The musical portion of the programme will receive especial attention, inasmuch as the Welsh are noted for their vocal abilities.  ‘The March of the Men of Harlech‘ will be sung by a chorus under the direction of J. C. Hughes, and solos will be rendered by Mrs. Annie Hope Jones, the Welsh soprano, and many others.”

There was also a bilingual element to the San Francisco St. David’s day celebrations.

“A brief address in the Welsh language will be delivered by Rev. Mr. Griffith.”

Later in 1912, “The Sons and Daughters of Wales society” planned an Eisteddfod in Barratt Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, to “observe the anniversay of St. David”, on the 3rd and 4th of March of 1913.

This was to be the first annual Eisteddfod of the town, and there were to be “at least $200” in prizes awarded to winners of “mixed choruses, children’s choirs, male choruses, quartettes, duets, soloists, instrumental selections, essays, poems and recitations.”

The “choruses of not less than forty-five voices”  were to sing ‘O Give Thanks Unto the Lord‘ by Evan Stephens and ‘The Summer’ by Gwilym Gwent for a prize of $100.  There was also a contest for “choruses of children under 16”, but the kids only got $40.  The Salt Lake Tribune, who covered the story, did not say if there were any plans for Welsh language activities.

This year, as always, Welsh people all over the world have many things to celebrate. (However, we don’t know how many Welsh people there are in Wales. The stastics people don’t think they’ll have the 2011 census results until July, and the full results won’t be available until 2013!  If it were 1812, they would have had the results by now, or at least by sometime next week. So much for the “speed” of modern technology and “quality” assurance.)

So put a leak in your pocket, warm up your vocal cords and get ready to defeat the Saxons!

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