IWA Director Lee Waters asks Pennard Community Council to treat the burial of poet Nigel Jenkins as an exceptional case
Open letter to Dr Margaret Waymark, Clerk to Pennard Community Council
Dear Dr Waymark
Nigel Jenkins is to be buried on Monday. His last wish was to be laid to rest on the land in Pennard where he had once played as a child. As you know his family agreed to sell the land some time ago to benefit the whole community as a site for the Pennard Burial Ground. It seems a cruel irony that this act may well see him denied his final wish.
As one of Wales’ pre-eminent modern poets and cultural figures, Nigel’s association with the Gower was not a superficial, or a passing one. He we wrote widely about the rich history and heritage of the area, and lived, until his untimely death last week, just a few miles away.
Despite a huge number of emails to the community council to ask you to reconsider your refusal to allow Nigel to be buried in Pennard, you have issued a defiant statement restating your position that:
“there is a policy in place which was set out in order to ensure that Pennard Burial Ground remains open and available to residents for as long as possible. The policy, on this basis, was set many years ago that only those resident within the ward be eligible. The Council has a duty to treat every case impartially and to see that everybody is equal in death. There have been many exceptions sought and declined over the years and these families would unfortunately have been just as disappointed. We would also like to point out that, in addition to the standard response, every democratic avenue to make an exception was explored. Unfortunately, in this instance, it was the settled will of the majority of councillors that no exemptions be made to policy on the grounds of consistency”.
In response the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke has written asking you to reconsider to allow a shocked and grieving family to fulfil Nigel’s wish to be buried on his childhood land. In answer to your statement she wrote:
“Rules? There must be rules, but there must always be exceptions to rules in a civilised society. This permission, if granted, would not become a precedent, as there is no other Pennard poet needing burial on his ancestral land. The writers of Wales are gathering in their grief, and it is their collective request that this rule be set aside.
Please listen. Poets, and poetry lovers, will respect Pennard, will visit, will remember and will pause to spend a quiet moment of grief and gratitude to a place that can only increase its reputation for being civilised if you change your minds”.
Indeed, both the local AM, Edwina Hart, and the local MP, Martin Caton, have joined forces to ask you to show some compassion in applying your own rules in this case. In a letter to you they wrote: “Nigel Jenkins was a cultural and literary figure in Wales and beyond; his work has been translated into French, German, Hungarian, Dutch and Russian. Or to put it another way : Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi, Gwlad beirdd a chantorion enwogion o fri……(Land of my Fathers, So dear to me, A land of poets and minstrels, famed people)……
It would be a great shame if the words of our national anthem do not hold true for the late Nigel Jenkins in the land of his fathers.”
It strikes me that you may not have fully understood the depth of feeling that your decision would awaken. Far from being an act of weakness to respond to such feeling, I believe it would be seen as a mark of compassion and respect. It would not set a precedent for other cases as the circumstances are so unique.
Nigel is due to be buried within the churchyard at St. Mary’s Pennard on Monday. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is among many who are praying for a last minute change of heart to allow Nigel Jenkins to rest where he once played without care.
Nigel Jenkins was buried on 10th February 2014, at St. Mary’s Pennard