Once again this year, Aberystwyth town council voted to lay a white peace poppy wreath at the war memorial. In truth, stalwarts on the council had a struggle getting their fellows to continue the tradition, which has a symbolic impact beyond the borders of Wales. Only two councillors, Mark Strong and Alun Williams, both of Plaid Cymru, attended the ceremony on 13 November.
Unless people lobby the council, the future of the ceremony remains uncertain. Once laid, the white poppy wreath is immediately reclaimed by the town clerk. In previous years when left in place, it has been stolen or vandalised.
This year, a request from Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network to have the ceremony on Sunday was refused. Next year AP&JN will repeat the request so that the white poppy wreath can be laid after the red poppy ceremony.
As the dominant institution involved in Armistice Day, the Royal British Legion will not countenance the white poppy wreath being laid as part of the same ceremony.
Rhidian Griffiths addressed a gathering of some forty people: “ ‘How happy they are, the people who work for peace’. Working for peace is purpose and reward in itself.”
Rhidian cited a letter from the Guardian of 6 November. The letter from ex-servicemen, including Ben Griffin from Wales, read: “The poppy appeal is once again subverting armistice day. A day that should be about peace and remembrance is turned into a month long drum roll of support for current wars…. Remembrance should be marked with the sentiment “never again.”
In Narbeth, Pembrokeshire Peace Group and supporters gathered at Howard Bowcott’s Landsker Cross to remember all victims of war.
Reverend Peter Lewis told the gathering, after a wreath of red and white poppies was laid: “The bringing of peace is not the work of one person, or one community only; it is not the work of somebody else; it is our work together.
“We have to see how we can save the world from war and from all things which lead to conflict at a personal, community and national level. We can only come to this through taking personal action.” Back in Aberystwyth, Côr Gobaith sang three songs at the white poppy ceremony, including their own arrangement of the popular folk song Ar Lan Y Môr with words that lose little in translation:
By the side of the sea I tell you
Hope will come with the waves
The children will return to play
And roses will bloom again