IWA Director Lee Waters asks Pennard Community Council to treat the burial of poet Nigel Jenkins as an exceptional case

February 6th, 2014

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.

Regards

 

Lee Waters

 

________

Nigel Jenkins was buried on 10th February 2014, at St. Mary’s Pennard

 

 

 

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40 Responses to:“An open letter to Pennard Community Council”

  1. Elizabeth Loxley says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Petty, bureaucratic behaviour with no empathy or compassion shown.

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  2. Ian says:

    There are exceptional circumstances for exceptional people, and Nigel Jenkins is one of them.

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  3. Rachel Rees-Jones says:

    Typical small minded mentality. Perhaps if those involved stepped down off their self-made pedestals for a moment and drew upon their own grief at losing a loved one they might see differently. As a Pennard resident, I have no objections. Surely aren’t these people meant to be a voice for their community? They are not doing anything to increase their popularity that is for sure!

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  4. Julie Wiliams says:

    How sad

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  5. CA Jones says:

    May I add my support for the late and respected, and loved, Nigel Jenkins to be granted his last wish.

    I beseech Pennard Community Council to please find it in your hearts to allow this quite exceptional request.

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  6. Dr. Jude Brigley says:

    Nigel should be granted this last request as one of our leading and iconic poets. No one is so associated with this area.

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  7. David Meurig Thomas says:

    daliwch ati Keep at it to get this last wish of a man who would have probably inherited the land in his own right, had these jacks in office not received it from his dad. Dafydd Meurig

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  8. Francesca Rhydderch says:

    I would urge Pennard Community Council to revoke their decision as a matter of urgency. I know they have received hundreds of emails and phone calls from individuals unable to believe that the last request of such an eminent writer who gave so much to our culture is being denied. It is ironic, and tragic, that a man who mapped his native land so eloquently for future generations should not be treated with the respect he has earned.

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  9. Jane Taylor says:

    It is time for you to be as selfless as Nigel, please reconsider, and grant him his last wish. It would bring a lot of comfort to his grieving family knowing that they have fulfilled his wish, and Nigel can rest in peace.

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  10. Vivyan Ellacott says:

    The Pennard Community Council has come to this decision because it is “the settled will of the majority of councillors”. But does this not smack of some arrogance?. Surely the councillors were elected to carry out the “settled will” of the people who voted for them and NOT to carry out their own personal wishes? It seems that the “settled will of the majority of the local community” is that Nigel should be buried in what was literally the land of HIS fathers – the old T.E. Jenkins’ Estate. To refuse this on the grounds that it is against their rules is perverse. The community should make the rules, and its elected representatives should carry out the community’s wishes.

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  11. Geoff Haden says:

    I have sent two emails asking why two years ago a relative of mine was buried in the community burial ground even though he lived in Killay. The second reply repealed the standard response but said that no decision could be made because the Clerk is on holiday. my response was along the lines that even the Pres of the US goes on holiday and leaves Someone else in charge of the nuclear button. l also said that is I didn’t get a reply within 24 hours the Press are welcome to the story
    l just. thought – l lived in Brown’s field for the first couple of years of my life – I wonder how many of the village council are Locals?

    (Report comment)

  12. Margot Morgan says:

    Diolch o galon, Heartfelt thanks.

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  13. Vicky Frampton says:

    Please, represent your community! Nigel was much loved and respected, it is an honour that he wished to be buried at Pennard and it does seem that people are passionate in theeir feelings that this wish is granted.

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  14. Stephen Olukunle Oladapo says:

    The singular decision to allow Nigel be laid to rest at a place close to his heart will only add value to the community. Very soon and I know very soon, the final resting place of Nigel will become a tourist attraction of sort where poets and lovers of poetry will visit, listen to the silence of the bold ground that swallowed the likes of Nigel and thereby draw inspiration from nature.
    Please let his last wish be granted.

    (Report comment)

  15. Sally McDonald says:

    This is a unique circumstance. PCC should relent or shame on them.

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  16. Fiona Owen says:

    I do hope Pennard Community Council will reconsider this, for all the reasons given in this letter. Nigel Jenkins and his family deserve to have this request honoured.

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  17. Rich says:

    Ask yourselves this: why do the rules exist? They exist to guide us to what is right without the need to spend time on repeated administrative thought – time can be spent for the betterment of the community. Rules are therefore good. Rules, however, are a human construct, made without foresight of all the unimaginable possibilities of the future, so rules are necessarily inadequate. We have such an example here. What remains therefore is only a question of whether the those applying the rules will recognise this. A mindless drone follows rules. A brilliant mind uses them, and makes new ones as necessary.
    Be brilliant.

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  18. Denni Turp says:

    Sometimes, for very special cases, exceptions should be made to rules. This is one of those occasions.

    (Report comment)

  19. Eira says:

    So many people really care that Nigel Jenkins be allowed his last wish. Is it really too much to ask? Please, please look into your hearts and reconsider.

    (Report comment)

  20. Michael says:

    As a resident of Pennard apparently I’m entitled to be buried in the Pennard community graveyard. I’ve told Pennard council that I’m willing to forgo this entitlement in favour of Nigel Jenkins – he can have my plot.

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  21. Ian Ambrose says:

    Another decision made with seemingly little thought or debate on the matter in question.

    Having recently stood down as a community councillor for Pennard, I have first-hand experience of the lack of debate that takes pace, at times, and the eagerness to make hasty decisions. It would seem that a ‘phone around of councillors’ was the method of debating and reaching a ‘democratic decision’ in this instance.

    I would urge the local people of Pennard to consider seriously the future role of ‘their’ community council.

    A vacancy for a councillor currently exists. Unless 10 members of the local electorate (Pennard) write to the Returning Officer by Monday asking for an election, then there is a risk that there will be another co-option of yet another ‘unelected’ councillor making such decisions on behalf of the people they serve.

    An election to fill the vacancies will be held if, within fourteen days (computed in accordance with Rule 2 of the Local Parish and Communities Rules 1986) after publication of this notice, a request for such an election is made in writing to the Returning Officer, Room 2.23, Civic Centre, Swansea, SA1 3SN by TEN electors for the electoral area in which the vacancy occurs. (Last day for receipt of requests is February 10th 2014.)

    If no such request in writing is received by the Returning Officer, the vacancy will be filled by the Community Council by co-option.

    (Report comment)

  22. Geraint Talfan Davies says:

    To accede to the request would be so patently in the overall interests of the Pennard community. Even Councils can and should display empathy and act with imagination.

    (Report comment)

  23. Meic Haines says:

    Am fychander meddwl! What nit-picking pettiness! Pennard could have been another Laugharne, another Collioure, another Sète. Insyead it has chosen to become Clochemerle-sur-mer.

    (Report comment)

  24. Neil regan says:

    Oh dear.

    (Report comment)

  25. Kathryn Gray says:

    I am utterly dismayed that the Council cannot see the manifest rightness in this case for an exception to be made. Nigel made an indisputably huge and unique contribution to the cultural life of Wales – delivered with grace and humility. His life touched many. He had a deeply personal connection with the land. I would remind the Council members that overturning a wrong decision is always an indicator of strength, not weakness. Please reconsider your position. Grant him his final wish, and honour him.

    (Report comment)

  26. Eira says:

    Michael … your generosity of spirit doesn’t seem to be mirrored by the Burial Grounds committee. I wonder if they will accept your gift … or stick to the ‘rules’?

    (Report comment)

  27. Ian Ambrose says:

    For those wishing to express their opinion about this issue to PCC in person, the council-run produce market provides an opportunity to ‘discuss community issues with local Community Councillors’. The next produce market takes place this Sunday 9th Feb 14 at Pennard Community Hall between 9.30am – 12.30pm

    It’s also a nice way to get some local produce and socialise with friends over a cuppa!

    pic.twitter.com/oJiIWtxF9i

    (Report comment)

  28. Caroline Oakley says:

    It seems only fair to respond to NJ’s last request given that his family were generous enough to dedicate the land in question to this purpose. Please rethink and respond with equal generosity.
    A putative poet from mid-Wales.

    (Report comment)

  29. BigO. says:

    While I would not wish to join in any of the personal invective that has been aimed at the local councillors, I believe there has been shown sufficient eloquence in some of the arguments to allow the council to quite openly, honestly and democratically change their minds. In particular I refer to the comment and final words from ‘Rich’ – “BE BRILLIANT”. You can do it. You must do it. “BE BRILLIANT”!

    (Report comment)

  30. D howell says:

    Many years ago Pennard school requested funding for a swimming pool. The request was not granted by the council but the community were told that if they raised half the funds then the council would pay the remainder. I genuinely believe they thought that that was the end of that. The community of Pennard, through fundraising and personal donations raised their half and as history now dictates some forty years on Pennard still has it’s swimming pool.
    My point is, that we as a community, can have our say and make a difference. Let’s get this decision overturned and see justice for a remarkable man.

    (Report comment)

  31. Menna Baines says:

    The totally unique circumstances in this case justify making an exception to the rule. Councillors, let a little imagination into your lives and grant Nigel his final wish.

    Mae modd gwneud eithriad i reolau weithiau ac mae’r amgylchiadau cwbl unigryw yn yr achos hwn yn galw am wneud hynny. Gynghorwyr, gadewch ychydig o ddychymyg i mewn i’ch bywydau a pharchwch ddymuniad olaf Nigel.

    (Report comment)

  32. Heather Parsons says:

    Where is the sanity in such ‘black and white’ thinking? Flexibility of behaviour and openness of thought is far more productive and healthy in a democratic society.

    (Report comment)

  33. Peter Finch says:

    There is still time, just about, for Pennard Council to reverse their decision. However everything points at them not doing this. Democracy is working its magic before our eyes. I despair.

    (Report comment)

  34. Vincent Murphy says:

    This kind of short sighted, petty, bureaucratic self-importance brings shame on them all …

    (Report comment)

  35. Christine Eales says:

    so if he was not born in Pennard but lived there when he dies he can be buried- if he is born there and family gives ancestral land for burials he is not entitled- WHAT BIGOTRY and WRITE OFF DEMOCRACY the whole PARISH COUNCIL SHOULD HANG THEIR HEADS IN SHAME . WOULD THEY HAVE DONE THAT TO DYLAN THOMAS HAD HE OF BEEN BORN IN PENNARD BUT DIED IN AMERICA I THINK NOT.

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  36. Jan Newton says:

    How sad that a place that meant so very much to Nigel finds itself unable to respect his wishes. This would have been a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much of himself to so many.

    (Report comment)

  37. Jess Ramthun says:

    I urge the council to please reconsider. This whole situation is so ridiculous. Nigel was an amazing artist/teacher/person, and he deserves to be buried here. It was his family’s property, and it is a burial ground — what good reason could they possibly have to deny this wish? Surely this would be a special case. They’re his ancestral lands — he has as much right to them as they do.

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  38. Les Barker says:

    I would have thought the family’s generosity deserved a similar act of generosity by the council; and does Pennard want to be known as the community that refused Nigel Jenkins, or as his home?

    (Report comment)

  39. Deian Hopkin says:

    Few of us will ever leave such a cultural legacy as Nigel Jenkins has done. His name will outlive the council which has declined his wishes and, yet, the irony is that the reputation of the community itself would benefit enormously from Nigel being buried there and his grave becoming a destination for those who loved his work and will continue to do so. Time to show imagination and vision, councillors ! Rise above your rules.

    (Report comment)

  40. David says:

    What’s happened in this case? I find the actions of Pennard CC to be quite disturbing.

    (Report comment)

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