St David’s Day – Rediscovering ‘Daffodil Days for Peace’

A little known but fascinating ‘fun fact’ for St David’s Day, is the story of the Daffodil as not only a national symnbol for Wales, but one that for nearly 2 decades was also one of the most widespread peace symbols in the aftermath of World War One.

“the national flower of Wales had become the international flower of peace. The purchase and wearing of a daffodil in this way expresses both pride in the nation’s past, and hope for its future.”

Western Mail, 3rd August 1925

It was a symbolism that extended far beyond St David’s Day itself: to the generation who had survived the horrors and losses of the Great War, the annual blooming from dormant bulbs of bright yellow flowers across the valleys and hillsides of Wales each Spring, represented the hope of world peace and understanding for future generations. WLNU activists recognised these could only blossom if those bulbs, ‘seeds of hope’, were planted and nurtured – through widespread community involvement and outreach work.

Adopted by the Welsh League of Nations Union, WCIA’s predecessor body set up in the aftermath of World War One to galvanise public support for peace building, over 1,000 communities across Wales became active in the WLNU’s global activism, with 600 organising annual fundraising ‘Daffodil Days’ that resourced the campaigning activities of the Union.

The WLNU office in 6 Cathedral Road and later 8 Museum Place, Cardiff, would receive bulk orders for daffodil bulbs and cardboard lapel badges that would be despatched by train throughout the Welsh networks of the Great Western Railway and London Midland & Scottish Railways.

Communities Wales-wide who organised ‘Daffodil Days for Peace’ in 1927, from the Annual Report of the Welsh League of Nations Union

As Research Placement Rob Laker explained in his 2019 feature (below): “Transported by train across Wales, thousands of boxes of flowers – of both the cardboard and real variety – would arrive in each village in time to be distributed among the local volunteers involved with the Daffodil Day. Equipped with a wicker basket, a wooden tray, or sometimes even a cardboard box donated by a local confectionary shop, helpers would set out from nearby coordination centres, ready to spend their Saturday selling neatly packed daffodils.

School children in particular – despite being officially ‘barred’ from participating! – were a key component of Daffodil Days. Most organisers relished the chance to bolster their numbers with such a surplus of enthusiastic volunteers. Their cause was made clear by the labels across the front of each of their box – ‘for world peace’ – and their dedication plain for all to see by their presence on even the rainiest of weekends during the Welsh summer.

The choice of using a Welsh national symbol to promote an internationalist body was no accident. It conveyed a very deliberate and potent message: a declaration of Wales’ identity as a modern nation, committed, at its very core, to the pursuit of peace and international cooperation. It was a statement of Welsh public pride in their role at the forefront of internationalism.

Gwirfoddolwyr Diwrnod y Daffodil Caerdydd – ‘Young Workers for Peace’, Western Mail, 22 Mai 1933.

Within the Temple of Peace, one of the quotes on the walls to the Crypt of Remembrance recalls the words of German sculptor Kathe Kollwitz, which sum up powerfully the ‘raison d’etre’ of the Welsh League of Nations Union throughout the interwar era, and of the generations of Welsh peace activism over the 100 years since:

“Every war already carries within it the war which will answer it. Every war is answered by a new war, until everything, everything is smashed. Pacifism simply is not a matter of calm looking on; it is work, hard work.”

German Artist & Sculptor Kathe Kollwitz, 1867-1945

Explore the Story of Wales’ ‘Daffodil Days for Peace’, by Research Placement Rob Laker