Thursday, 1 March 2012

St David's Day and related facts

A happy St David's Day to you all (sorry it's a bit late computer problems etc)..As you may know Ynys Môn council offices were closed today to celebrate our patron saint's day, no doubt using one of the 'extra statutory days' available to them.

But should St David Day be celebrated by a public holiday?

Wikipedia tell us: Cross-party support resulted in the National Assembly for Wales voting unanimously to make St. David's Day a public holiday in 2000. A poll conducted for Saint David's Day in 2006 found that 87% of people in Wales wanted it to be a bank holiday, with 65% prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this. A petition in 2007 to make St. David's Day a bank holiday was rejected by the office of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The following is from the National Archives:

Bank holidays were first introduced by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, which designated four holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland. These were Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, the 26th December, and Whit Monday (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and New Year's Day, Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August, and Christmas Day (Scotland). In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, both Christmas Day and Good Friday were traditional days of rest and Christian worship (as were Sundays) and did not need to be included in the Act.

Two additional days were subsequently appointed in Northern Ireland: St Patrick's Day (17 March) by a special Act of Parliament in 1903 and 12 July (Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690), by the Governor of Northern Ireland in 1926.

The 1871 Act was repealed 100 years later and its provisions incorporated into the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which remains the statutory basis for bank holidays. The following changes were introduced both then and subsequently:

1971 - Whit Monday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (which could fall anywhere between 11 May and 14 June) was formally replaced by a fixed spring holiday on the last Monday in May. The last Monday in August was formally made a bank holiday in place of the first Monday in August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In both cases, this followed a trial period of the new arrangements between 1965 and 1970

1973 - 2 January was created an additional bank holiday in Scotland by the 1971 Act. However, the provision did not come into effect until 1973.

1974 - New Year's Day became an additional bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Boxing Day became an additional bank holiday in Scotland.

1978 - the first Monday in May in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the last Monday in May in Scotland, became additional bank holidays.

Bank holidays designated since the 1971 Act are appointed each year by Royal Proclamation. The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne bank holiday is proclaimed annually by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

This year in order to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II diamond jubilee there is a special bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June 2012, with the late May bank holiday moving to Monday 4 June 2012.

But bank holidays cost money don't they? You may have read reports that the special bank holiday in June to celebrate the diamond jubilee may cost up to 0.5% of GDP. However according to the website The DCMS Impact Assessment estimates that the cost would be around £1.2 billion, which equates to around 0.08 per cent of GDP, but could be as high as £3.5 billion (0.25 per cent of GDP).

In May of last year a private bill by Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon, Conservative); the St George’s Day and St David’s Day Bill, was debated at the House of Commons. You can read a transcript of the debate about a second reading of  the bill at

In the debate Ian Austin (Dudley North, Labour) seems to think that..."Of course, the Welsh celebrate St David’s day with an Eisteddfod festival." - Or is that another example of taking what Wikipedia says as gospel.

In the debate the figure of £2.9 billion is mentioned as the cost of an additional bank holiday if it affects the whole of the UK. But does it have to affect the whole of the UK? - Scotland and Northern Ireland have   different bank holidays already, and why cant England have a bank holiday to celebrate St George, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a soldier in the Guard of Diocletian ( Wikipedia), and Wales celebrate St David's Day.

Maybe we should use St Patrick's Day as a template, which as we know is celebrated world wide, especially in the USA.

A report by BBC Wales today says:

US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife Ann will be celebrating St David's Day by eating specially delivered Welsh cakes. Mrs Romney, whose family comes from Maesteg, has been serving them as her husband's campaign crosses the country..

..The Romney's eldest son Tagg said it was an "unbelievably busy time" for his parents.

His father is the front-runner to win the Republican Party's nomination.

He said: "My wife Jen, who is also of Welsh descent, will be making Welsh cakes and sending a care package to my parents, who are travelling and unable to make them themselves"


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also sent a St David's Day message to Wales on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the United States.

"This is an opportunity to reaffirm the strong bonds that unite us and to reflect on the rich and varied contributions Welsh people have made to America over the centuries," she said.

"Several of our founding fathers - including former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams - were able to claim Welsh ancestry.

"Today, almost 2m people living in the US can trace their roots back to Wales. I am proud to say that I am one of them."

She said the United States was committed to "strengthening our partnership as we work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for all our people".

So maybe instead of seeing St David's Day as a 'burden' we should recognise the opportunity it gives us to celebrate all things welsh across the globe, starting with an official bank holiday?

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