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How did a song transform Saint David’s Day Celebrations around the world?

28 Jan 2024 6 minute read
A patriotic banner created by pupils of a former Amman Valley primary school has been presented to St Fagans National Museum of History.

Before 2004 Saint David’s Day (SDD) celebrations consisted of – ‘cawl’ and concerts, School Eisteddfods, Welsh cakes, wearing leeks and daffodils, little children dressing up in cute welsh bonnets, shawls and rugby jerseys, an occasional blast of ‘Calon Lan’ and so it had been for years as long as I can remember.

But in 2004 the very first National Saint David’s Day Parade (NSDDP) took place in Cardiff with a few hundred present (Organisers Gareth Westacott and Henry Jones Davies).

In 2005, whilst banging a replica of Saint David’s metal bell (Bangu) in the second NSDDP, broadcaster and performer Gwenno Dafydd decided she wanted to create a song, a bilingual anthem especially to celebrate our Patron Saint David’s Day, as there wasn’t a specific song in existence for this purpose at that time.

And this was the starting point for ‘Cenwch y Clychau i Dewi’ (Ring out the bells for Saint David) – (Words – Gwenno Dafydd. Music – Heulwen Thomas).

New tradition

At that time Gwenno had no idea that the publicity she would garner whilst promoting the song would be the origin point of promoting the growth of SDD parades, three County banners, Parades and School Banners and a new tradition she created in 2023 called #DaffyDipping4Dewi and that the song would became the central spider in a huge web of new SDD celebrations not only in Wales but also world-wide.

Following the first public performance of ‘Cenwch y Clychau i Dewi’ (CyC) by Gwenno and Heulwen in the 2005 NSDDP Gwenno was invited to join the parade committee and become the Schools Officer for the NSDDP which led to seven years of  voluntary service to the Committee.

During this period, through using her marketing and broadcasting skills and using the song as a lever to get HUGE publicity, not only in the media but also on television (Tinopolis television have been enormously supportive right from the beginning) the growth of the NSDDP exploded – by 2007 there were at least 300 children present which grew the crowd to around 1,500 not including the people who were watching.

The Pembrokeshire Banner – The First County Banner (2009)

Following this success, Gwenno and Gareth Westacott (representing the NSDDP) went into partnership with Cardiff City Council and the Senedd the NSDDP grew to around 6,000 on the Saturday (2008) and around 10,000 on the Sunday (2009).

In 2008 ‘Cenwch y Clychau i Dewi’ was launched at the Senedd by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas as the central part of a huge educational project by the NGfL (National Grid for Learning) about Saint David.

Since that time the song has been performed extensively, not only in Wales but around the world and it is now known as the Saint David’s Day Anthem (SDDA)

The SDDA has been an emissary for Wales and SDD and has been performed in Canada (Ottowa, Toronto), America (Scranton, Los Angeles – numerous times) Patagonia (Several times), Disneyland Paris (x2), Westminster, Llandaff Cathedral, Saint David’s Cathedral – several consecutive years, Brangwyn Hall and in parades, concerts and schools all over Wales – a powerful and sonorous part of SDD celebrations which can be performed anywhere in the world.

In 2016, as recognition of all her international work promoting SDD Gwenno was invited to become website Americymru’s SDD World Ambassador

Gwenno left the NSDDP committee in 2021 to focus on her own work (which had been badly neglected because of her commitment to the NSDDP) and focussed on other projects to promote SDD celebrations.

Since then, she has instigated three County Banners (Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Montgomeryshire) which are paraded triumphantly at the front of County SDD Parades, School parades and banners (The first School Banner is safely in the hands of San Ffagan since 2019).

In August 2022 the Montgomeryshire Banner was taken to its permanent home in Owain Glyndwr’s Parliament in Machynlleth

All are based on the words and images of the SDDA. A County Banner has been confirmed for 2025 for Anglesey and Gwynedd and Ceredigion are also showing interest.

In 2023 Gwenno instigated another new tradition in memory of David the ‘water man’ as he was called #DaffyDipping4Dewi and following singing the SDDA Gwenno led two groups of #DaffyDippers into the sea in Whitesands Bay, near Saint David’s and later  at the Blue Lagoon (Abereiddi), again in Pembrokeshire.

It is Gwenno’s hope that this will be a new fun tradition which will grow across the world with ex-pats. A gang of Welsh-learners in Washington USA is already keen to do some #DaffyDipping and on the 3rd March Alwen Pennant has created a special event in Trearddur, Anglesey, with a choir on the beach singing the SDDA before people rush into the sea with their daffodil head-dresses bobbing about in the ocean and grab a #DaffyDippingWelshCake and hot chocolate on their return.

However, one big question remains – how did the number of SDD Parades grow in Wales from three in 2014 (NSDDP in Cardiff, Aberystywth (Sion Jobbins) and the first Pwllheli Parade (Rhys Llewelyn) to over 25 parades recently.

Well here’s the reason. Gwenno Dafydd’s day job is as a freelance Leadership Coach and Trainer and on the 24th September 2014 she was invited by the Mentrau Iaith (Language Initiatives) to present a course on Networking to all the County organisers in Aberystwyth.

Following this, Gwenno asked the organiser Emily Cole if she could do a presentation about the SDD Celebrations that she had developed (Anthem, County and School Banners and Parades) and the following year the Mentrau Iaith started to organise parades all over Wales and they are growing more numerous every year.

So what will you be doing to make the SDDA the spider in your SDD celebrations?

  • Create County, Town or School banners and parade them proudly at the front of your parade or around the school yard before going in to have your school Eisteddfod?
  • Create a #DaffyDipping4Dewi event and get a local soloist or choir to sing the SDDA followed by some #DaffyDippingWelshCakes with other #DaffyDippers

You can buy all four versions of the SDDS here.

You can find out more about these new traditions here.

And if you want to buy a copy of ‘Mantra’ (Manon Ogwen Parry, Anna Cole and Tara Camm) singing the SDDA before or during your event you can find it here.

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