Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

St David’s Day leeks, 1800-1817

Excerpts from the diaries* of William Holland, born in Llaneillian, Denbighshire (now known as Llanelian y Rhos, Conwy), in 1746, and served as vicar of Over Stowey, Somerset,  from 1779 until his death in 1819.  The diaries are incomplete so in some years the entries for 1 March are missing.

Saturday March 1 1800:  This being the first of March and being a Welshman I must put a leek into my hat.

Saturday March 1 1806:  This is St David’s Day and I have a few leeks washed clean and put in water –  I have now got one in my hat being a Welshman and soon expect Mr and Mrs Davis here with leeks each of them.  We passed the day in great Sociability …  We had a dish of leeks for dinner and very good they were.

Sunday March 1 1807:  This is St David’s Day but being a Sunday I did not wear a leek in my hat.

Monday 26 February 1810:  I got to Stowgurcy and found Mr Davis at home and he prevailed on me to eat a bit of dinner with him on condition that he would eat with me on the First of March, being St David’s Day, we being both Welshmen and each is to have a tremendous leek in his hat.

Thursday March 1 1810:  This is St David’s Day, the Tutelary Saint of Wales …  I put a Leek in my hat after breakfast and rode to meet Mr Davis who is to dine with me, he is a Welshman from Carmarthenshire … Dyer is here today and dined here on account of St David and they all wear Leeks.

Tuesday March 1 1814:  I invited Mr Humphreys to come here this day to celebrate the first of March, he being a Welshman.  But he was afraid of the weather …  Poor Davis of Stowgurcy who used to celebrate this day with me by wearing a leek and dining with me cannot move from his home now being so infirm.

Friday March 1 1816:  This being the first of March I used to wear a Leek in my hat and had other Welshmen and Mr Davis to dine with me, but they are all gone and I do not chuse to distinguish myself now that I am old and alone.

Saturday March 1 1817:  This day came like a Lion, very rainy and windy, I did not stir out, neither did I wear a Leek as usual on this day, my old Welsh Acquaintances are gone.

*Jack Ayres (ed.), Paupers & Pig Killers –  The Diary of William Holland, A Somerset Parson, 1799-1818 (2003).

Image:  Brixton Market, London Borough of Lambeth, February 2023.