Saint David's Day

1/03/13

To mark Saint David’s Day we spoke to Peter Griffiths of Hywel Griffiths & Sons, an independent Welsh funeral director.

Tell us a little about Saint David’s Day.

Saint David's CrossSt. David, {Dewi Sant in Welsh} the Patron Saint of Wales, was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop who lived in the sixth century and spread the word of Christianity throughout Wales.  The most famous story about Saint David is that, at one sermon to a huge congregation, the ground is said to have risen up so that everybody could see and hear him. Welsh National FlagHis Cathedral in St. David’s on the West coast of Pembrokeshire is one of the most beautiful churches in Wales.  Two pilgrimages to St. David’s is equivalent to one to Rome.  St David’s flag is a yellow cross on a black background which is not to be confused with, the Welsh National Flag which is of course, the Red Dragon.


The Welsh National emblem is the leek or daffodil which is worn with pride on March 1st, the day set aside to honour our Patron Saint.  There are many explanations for the emblems.Welsh National Emblem - The daffodil One is that, on the eve of a battle against the Saxons, St. David advised the Welsh to wear a leek in their caps to distinguish friend from foe. Rumour has it that at a later battle, in trying to countermand this advantage, the Saxons thought they would do the same. However, the Saxons picked daffodils which, before they flower, could be mistaken for leeks by the uninitiated.  By the time the battle came, the daffodils had flowered – you can guess the rest!

What does Saint David’s day mean to you personally?

St. David’s Day to me gives me an opportunity to reaffirm my Welshness; something akin to the reaffirmation of marriage vows, you reaffirm something you hold dear to you, years after you have embarked on the journey.  To my children a few years ago, and my grandchildren now, it gives them {the girls} an opportunity to wear the Welsh Costume, and the boys to dress in {traditionally} corduroy trousers with “iorks” {string tied beneath the knees}, waistcoat and flat cap.  Today however, there is a tendency towards the wearing of the Welsh rugby jersey. 

How is Saint David’s Day celebrated in Wales and specifically your area?

Schools will conduct an Eisteddfod, which is a cultural competition consisting of recitation and singing – solo and as groups; traditional dancing and art.  The adults don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate St. David’s Day.  Various societies and informal groups gather for dinner evenings with entertainment of traditional and contemporary Welsh singing and poetry.  The pinnacle of the Eisteddfod is the National Eisteddfod, held during the first week of August and is the largest cultural competition in Europe with all the competition being in the Welsh language.  I suppose this gives rise to the saying that “Welsh is a language too beautiful to be spoken, it has to be sung.”  There is of course, the Llangollen International Eisteddfod where groups from all parts of the world come to compete.  To be born Welsh is to be born privileged, not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with music in your blood and poetry in your soul.

How did you become involved in the funeral profession?

I count myself a “reluctant undertaker” as I was brought up in the building side of the family business which was established in 1875. I am the fourth generation of undertakers in my family,   since moving into the funeral side of the business some 25 years ago.

What do you find most challenging about your work and what is most rewarding?

Peter Griffiths of Hywel Griffiths & Sons, leading the cortege.I have strived to guide families through what is obviously a very low period in their lives, with the utmost of efficiency coupled with the minimum of fuss.  Being an independent, family run, business, we tend to know personally the families we come into contact with and deem it an honour and a privilege that people should entrust me with helping them through a difficult period.  Attention to detail is all important as it is essential that the day is trouble-free for the family, and that we relieve as much of the burden as possible.  It is vitally important that we offer a dignified but efficient service without intruding on the day. We are the funeral directors and, whilst {we hope} we are immensely valuable to the family on the day and in the period immediately prior to the funeral, we should not intrude, we are not the most important person on the day.

How do you view your role within your community?

I feel that I fill an important role in the Community in that I can be a “friend in need” to those I know, and can become one to those I meet for the first time due to bereavement.  I am proud to state that my son Rhodri has recently entered the business to continue the tradition which makes him the fifth generation of undertakers in the family.

Of course  my work, and the service provided would not be possible without my band of dedicated, like-minded staff.