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The Journey of St David's Message to the new Senedd in Cardiff Bay Ash Wednesday 1st March 2006

St David's Cathedral 8am on a cold St David's Day morning

The morning was cold and bright in the smallest City in Wales, which had not yet properly come to life, as the journey of St David's message began. People could hear the clatter of running feet as one of the messengers sped towards the Cathedral to be in time for the morning service.

A small congregation of faithful members of the Cathedral had assembled in the chancel, next to the shrine of St David, as they were joined by the messenger. The first communion service of the day at 8.00, was taken by the Very Reverend Wynn Evans, Dean of St David's.

As the service came to an end Wynn Evans beckoned to the messenger to read the letter which contained the wishes of the Bishop and Diocese of St David for the success of the new Senedd in Cardiff. This, they both agreed expressed very well the reason for the whole proposed journey.

The message starts its journey

Within minutes the Dean of St David's and the messenger were on their way through the Cathedral door, up the long path and ascending the long flight of steps to the Great Arch of the Precinct Gateway. Within another minute they were in the Square of the Cross, the centre of the City of St David's. There waiting for them were the Clerk of the City, David Menday and Councillor John George - the Mayor, stall holders preparing for the St David's Fair, some of the local business people and two other members of the group of messengers. As St David's citizens assembled a car arrived with Heather Jones, the rising star of Welsh athletics with her parents Mr and Mrs Jones, who had driven through snow on their way to this historical meeting.

David Menday, John Davies, Heather Jones and Wynn Evans

First of all the Very Reverend Wynn Evans read the letter from the Cathedral and then Councillor George read the Welsh version of a similar letter from the City of St David's. The English version was then read by David Menday. The letters were presented by Very Reverend Wynn Evans and Councillor George to Heather Jones, and the event was recorded with photographs.

Awaiting was a red estate, and a silver saloon car and the red car of Heather's parents all with St David's banners flying. The party, with Heather Jones and the messages then left the City of St David's along the road eastwards towards Haverfordwest and ultimately the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

Hywel Dda Society Members

Within three-quarters of an hour, the three cars arrived in the little town of Whitland, also known by its Welsh name Hendy-Gwyn ar Dāf - the Old White House on the Tāf. This was the site in 942 AD of the first Welsh National Assembly, called by king Hywel the Good, who had recently united the whole of Wales as a single kingdom. The aim of this first National Assembly, was to codify a standardised system of National Law - 'The Laws of Hywel Dda'. It was thus of great significance that the group of messengers should stop here to receive their third message for the new Senedd.

The messengers, with Heather Jones at their head, entered the Hywel Dda Centre as the snow flakes swirled around outside, and were greeted by a choir of young people from Whitland Primary School, townspeople, Officers and members of the Hywel Dda Society, the Town Mayor Councillor Conwil Harris and Councillor Roy Llywelyn Chairman of the Hywel Dda Committee. The letters from St. David's were read to the multitude by the Mayor, and the new message from the town of the oldest Welsh Assembly to the Newest Senedd was added. After tea, Bara Brith and Pice and a St David song from the schoolchildren, photographs were taken and two of the local Relay team Emily Mitchell and Nick Jones set off with copies of the message to run ahead of the party. Heather Jones' parents left the party at Whitland and Heather in the first of the two cars then left the small town on the old main road past the Primary School, where the children waved as the party gained speed onto the open road. The whole pageant had been organised by Ken Rees the secretary, and members of the Hywel Dda Society for this special day.

Silwyn Jones at Carmarthen

As the travellers approached Carmarthen much more snow was becoming obvious as a white blanket over the landscape. The Guild hall Square was echoing to the sound of a school choir singing and the unmistakable voice of Silwyn Thomas on the BBC live broadcast. The temporary stage in the middle of the square was under a large canvas marquee to keep the performers dry, there was a seated audience and standers by taking part in the event. Heather Jones and the messengers approached and were invited by Silwyn Thomas to the stage to receive the message from the town of Carmarthen. In true traditional English style, the Town Crier announced the event stumbling slightly of course with his pronunciation of anything Welsh. Councillor Phillip Grice the Mayor, read the message to Cardiff and the new Senedd, English first and pronounced the Welsh quite well. This part of the event had been organised by Catrin Bradley the Carmarthen Celebrations Officer.

Outside Swansea Guildhall

After the presentation, the messengers returned to their cars and turned south-east again on the main road to Swansea. The two cars passed through an increasingly snow-covered countryside, through heavy snow showers but also with bright sunshine.
The two cars, with their St David's banners still flying, entered the City of Swansea and along Kingsway to the City Hall in bright sunshine. There, the four messengers ascended the grand stairway and were directed to the Mayor's Parlour.

Tea and biscuits were provided and the Deputy Mayor Councillor Holly arrived. The travellers signed the visitors book and were photographed. Then Councillor Holly signed the letter from the City of Swansea to the Senedd - more group photographs, and yet more were taken of the group on the steps of the City Hall, before the messengers left on the next step of their journey.

Though there were heavy snow showers, the journey to Cardiff West Service Station was comparatively easily along the motorway.

The St David's Day messages join the St David's Day Parade through the streets of Cardiff on their way to the Senedd

Arriving at the Moto-way Service Station, the travellers were provided with food by the management and there waited to be joined by Jamie Baulch our Olympic Medal Winner. The staff of the Moto-way Service Station were called and photographs taken by the Manager and others.

The party then turned south to approach Cardiff City from Lecwith and straight to Clos Sophia off Cathedral Road, where the St David's Day Parade was due to start at 3.30.

Heather Jones & Jamie Baulch join the Cardiff St David's Day Parade

Gradually the square outside the Mochyn Du filled with people, banners, pipers and drummers. There were the replica bells of the Celtic Saints. Gradually the Mochyn Du emptied and the inmates joined the procession. Jamie Baulch and Heather Jones joined the parade next to the group of politicians, from Cardiff City Council, the Senedd, the House of Commons and the House of Lords in the middle of the column. The stately police officers in their yellow jackets and mounted on their large horses led and followed the procession and the column set off down Cathedral Road towards the City Centre.

The Parade arrives at the steps of the National Museum of Wales

The City roads were closed as the parade passed over the Taff Bridge, down Westgate Street, up St Mary's Street and along Duke Street. The parade continued up Kingsway, along Greyfriars Road and up Park Place to the steps of the National Museum of Wales. Workers in the offices and shops stopped work and waved from the windows, and pedestrians in the streets and people waiting in bus queues joined in the enjoyment of the day. Leaflets were handed to standers by explaining the life of our Patron Saint.

The congregation were welcomed by David Petersen, and a fine speech was given by John Owen, Roman Catholic Chaplain, which challenged us as citizens to recognise our ancient roots as a Nation. Gareth Westacott, one of the organising committee read out the letters delivered by Jamie and Heather from St David's Cathedral, St David's City, Whitland, Carmarthen and Swansea. Though a similar message was expected from Cardiff City, none appeared, which disappointed the organisers, but because the audience were not expecting one, they did not notice.

Revd John Owen, one of the two speakers to address the crowd

The second speech was by the renowned historian Hywel Teifi Edwards, who said that he looked forward to the day soon when thousands of the population turned out on this day to celebrate our Patron Saint's Day and their commitment to our Nation.

Unfortunately, four of the messengers were unable to stay to the end of the celebrations on the steps of the Museum, or even able to hear the end of Hywel's speech, for they had to be on the road again - towards the Senedd in Cardiff bay.

The red car with Jamie Baulch, Heather Jones and the other two turned down Bute Street and James Street, part of Old Cardiff to the Senedd.

HMS Westminster casting a dark shadow over the car park of the new Senedd

The carpark of the of Crickhowell House and the Senedd were overshadowed by the dark brooding shape of the warship 'HMS Westminster' which had come to 'celebrate' the opening of the Senedd. In a similar celebratory spirit, William the Conqueror went on 'pilgrimage' with a huge army to St David's in 1081.

Our new Senedd destination of all the messages of goodwill from St David and the people along the route to this fine city

The messengers were swept through the security cordon to the Neuadd - the main concourse of the Senedd, where people were arriving for a reception before guests were to attend a performance of the Opera Flying Dutchman at the Millennium Centre next door.

Lord Dafydd Ellis Thomas Presiding Officer of the Senedd greeted Jamie Baulch, Heather Jones and the other two messengers and received the formal letters from St David' Cathedral and the towns and Cities and said that they would be exhibited in the Senedd or in the Old Pierhead Building.

Their object achieved, the messengers all began to realise that the 'little thing', as Dewi would have said, which they had done had had huge significance. It is obvious that whatever some politicians wish to call the home of our new government, 'Senedd' is good enough for St David.

John H. Davies 5.3.2006