Another bank holiday?

Today is Easter Monday – one of a pitifully small number of bank holidays that we enjoy in the UK.  The Republic of Ireland has 10 public holidays each year,  France has 11, Spain has 12, Denmark and Norway have 14 each, whilst Nepal has an astonishing 39. We are right at the bottom of the list with only 8 public holidays per year.

This year the Republic of Ireland introduced a new public holiday on the first Monday in February to celebrate St Brigid, Ireland’s only female patron saint. The date is also known in Gaelic traditions as Imbolc, and it marks the beginning of Spring.

The Government has launched a consultation on adding at least two further public holidays across the UK. The Lib Dem Voice team supports this proposal and would like to gather suggestions from our readers so we can submit a response.

The proposals are:

  1. To identify a public holiday in each of our nations on the date of the relevant patron saint. So England would celebrate  St George on 23rd April, Wales would celebrate St David on 1st March, Northern Ireland would celebrate St Patrick on 17th March, and Scotland would celebrate St Andrew on 30th November.
  2. To identify a further public holiday across the UK. The Government is looking for suggestions for suitable dates.

The second proposal has generated a lot of interest. We have come up with a number of suggestions between us but we would welcome further ideas from you. Please add to the comments below.

Here are some ideas to start you off:

5th March: St Piran. A 5th-century Cornish abbot and saint, possibly of Irish origin. He is the patron saint of tin-miners, and is also generally regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall, although Michael and Petroc also have some claim to this title. St Piran’s Day on 5th March is the national day of Cornwall. In 2014 Cornwall was recognised officially as a “national minority”.

23rd June: St Æthelthryth. The four national patron saints are all male so it would be good to mark a female saint, and one from the UK.  She was born a princess in Suffolk in 636, but became a nun and founded two abbeys in Ely. (Ed: It’s also my birthday)

15th July: St Swithun. From Winchester, he is considered the most British of saints in that he is associated with rain, mainly because of the tradition surrounding his day – if it rains on St Swithun’s Day then it will rain for a further 40 days. Swithun is, confusingly, actually the patron saint of drought, which is likely to be significant in future years. Also the pivotal date in David Nicholls’ popular novel One Day.

12th May: The Prime Minister’s birthday, variable but the current one may not make it that far.  We feel that Ed Davey’s public service since 1997 is more deserving. Since his birthday actually falls on Christmas Day, we propose that the bank holiday should be celebrated on 25th June instead, a suitable interval between Spring Bank Holiday and the school Summer holidays.

1st April: Flora Poil. The Victorian social reformer, who was an ardent Liberal and a friend of William Gladstone, deserves to be better known for her work with poisson.

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40 Comments

  • Mary Fulton 1st Apr '24 - 9:26am

    Scotland already has 9 bank holidays per year. The priority is not to add to that number – instead we need all the bank holidays to be full public holidays so everyone benefits.

  • Jenny Barnes 1st Apr '24 - 10:12am

    I vote for St Solstice 20/June

  • Peter Davies 1st Apr '24 - 10:35am

    St George’s day is a ridiculous idea for a bank holiday. It would generally be one or two weeks before May Day and sometimes two weeks after Easter Monday.

    Actually St George is a pretty stupid idea for a patron saint of England. He has no connection with the country. He appears to have bought his sainthood. He was made patron saint of England (and other places) because militaristic kings liked the idea of a saint in full armour.

    I’d like to recommend St Swithin as his replacement. He was an English bishop of Winchester. He got his sainthood for being an all-round good egg and has a feast day slap between the Late May and August bank holidays.

  • nvelope2003 1st Apr '24 - 11:00am

    What is the point of Bank Holidays in the modern world ? It often rains and some venues can be overcrowded. I don’t want the Government to tell me when I should have a day off. We should be allowed to take our days off when it suits us though probably most people would take Christmas Day, though some people have to work on that day to provide essential public services.

  • Catherine Crosland 1st Apr '24 - 11:05am

    We’d better not make St Swithun’s day a bank holiday, or it will *always* rain on Saint Swithun’s day!

  • Peter Davies 1st Apr '24 - 11:29am

    I believe in the entire meteorlogical record there is no instance of the weather on St Swithun’s day continuing for fourty consecutive days.

  • Peter Wrigley 1st Apr '24 - 11:36am

    I seriously and strongly recommend the 24th October, UNITED NATIONS DAY. The would reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of the institution we helped to establish – peace through international law and co-operation – and remind us that we are still a liberal nation which regards foreigners not as enemies but as partners in the quest for the development of a better world for everybody.

  • If we’re looking for saints, I vote for St Alban. Wonderfully ancient (3rd century), thought to have been a Roman citizen (European link), thought to have lived in an area of the Chilterns which resisted conquest by the Anglo-Saxons for some time (independence and self-determination), sheltered a priest who coverted him to Christianity and then escaped the Roman soldiers sent to arrest him (courage and conviction), finally captured, condemned to death and executed, but only after converting the first executioner who then refused to do the deed so that a second one had to be called in (persuasive powers in a difficult situation – Lib Dems are used to that!!). And for a long time was recognised as the most important English saint. He could even be regarded as the inspiration for a new town, given that after his death the town of St Albans developed at his burial site, supplanting the nearby Roman settlement of Verulamium.

  • Oh – and his ‘day’ is 22nd June – almost midsummer, after the exam season but before the summer holidays. Perfectly timed.

  • Thanks for all your wonderful comments. It is now past 12pm so I can reveal that Flora Poil is the winner.

  • I worked in Norway for a while. They had lots of public holidays, 14 as the article says, but if they happened to fall at the weekend, well, tough.

  • @Mary Fulton “so everyone benefits” Everyone? How do people who are self-employed, or not employed at all benefit from public holidays?

  • How about giving everybody their Birthday as holiday ( or some other nominated date)?
    Apart from Banks being closed, what does a “Bank Holiday ” mean anymore? LIke Sundays, everything seems to be open and staffed anyway. Why not just require that every employee be given more paid holiday? Bank holidays smack to much of the authoritarian centralised control which LibDems normally oppose.

  • @Margaret – agree St. Alban.
    Thus suggest using the feast day of 22nd June, which gives a good chance of good weather for people to enjoy. Although some may complain because that week is the last week of GCSEs.

  • Mary Fulton 1st Apr '24 - 1:07pm

    @Simon R
    I accept your point that only people who work for an employer can benefit from contractural days off work. That said, I am not the least bit concerned that those who do not work to support themselves and their families are unable to benefit from an extra paid day off work being granted to those who do.

  • There’s many BH early in the year and a marked paucity later on.
    Remembrance Monday in Nov, the day after Remembrance Sunday and an extra day for any who may have travelled for remembrance events to get home.

  • Has anybody calculated the economic consequences of this proposal ?

  • @Mary Reid. Just to say I for one spotted something fishy about Flora Poil 😉

  • @Mary Fulton. Thanks! But my real point was the equating of ‘everyone’ with ’employees’. I run my own business, so in financial terms bank holidays benefit me not one jot because I only get paid for work I actually do! In any case, I’m somewhat sceptical about the benefit even to employees: Collectively, we are only as wealthy as the wealth we produce – so an extra day of most-employees-not-working is inevitably going to translate into slightly lower standards of living all round.

    (And of course, I would imagine most people who work in retail/tourism-related industries don’t get bank holidays off anyway)

    To be clear, I do think that bank holidays are a good thing: They add a bit of variety to the year, create a nice atmosphere with many people able to go away/take long weekends/etc at the same time – especially when so many happen in Spring just as the weather is usually getting nicer. But the reason they feel so good is precisely because they don’t happen very often. If we started adding many more, the well-being benefits would likely rapidly diminish.

  • I agree with @Andy Wood; if we are to have an extra bank holiday then the Monday after remembrance Sunday would be a great idea.

  • @Mohammed Amin; Likewise for state agencies that move to the 4 day week, fine but daily pay should remain the same, private companies can do as they wish,my guess is outside hi tech or financial industries there won’t be much uptake in private industry.

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Apr '24 - 7:07pm

    @Mohammed Amin

    It would appear that various employers’ experiments with number of days worked each week might actually result in better productivity. So an extra public holiday might be beneficial to both employee and employer.

    Lighten up a bit!

  • To everyone commenting – check the date of this post!
    Think about the proposals – Ed Davey’s birthday is included.
    Work out an anagram of ‘Flora Poil’….

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Apr '24 - 7:33pm

    @Cassie
    What’s the problem? OK it might be foolish. Doesn’t mean we can’t also have a serious (or even humourous) discussion about public holidays does it?

  • I’m really sorry no-one supported St Æthelthryth’s day. Apart from it being my birthday, it would be wonderful to have a public holiday named after someone that no-one can either spell or pronounce.

  • @Nonconformistradical. I feel like I’ve fallen through the Looking Glass. Serious debate isn’t the usual reaction to April fool spoofs, is it? Unless, which I suspected, it’s by people who didn’t spot the joke.

  • Oh don’t worry @Cassie, I for one saw the joke. My excuse is that it was already after 12 pm and @Mary Reid had already posted the closing comment to the joke. 😉 Although it was a joke article, the question of another bank holiday is an interesting serious discussion in itself, so I don’t see the problem having that discussion!

  • @Mary: Whaddya mean, no-one can either spell or pronounce Æthelthryth? I feel personally hurt at the slight on my linguistic abilities. 🤣

    Although I do think we should have a campaign to bring back the old English letter æ – along with its fellows, þ, ƿ, ð and œ. It’s a linguistic travesty that such beautiful creations have been lost. Maybe it could be our missing unique policy that will bring us millions more votes?

  • Call me a liberal, but why should the state tell us when to take our holidays? I would much rather abolish 5 of them, and give everyone an extra week they can use when they want to.

  • George Colvin 2nd Apr '24 - 8:45am

    As usual somebody doesn’t know the devolved nature of the UK, Northern Ireland already has 17/3 St Patrick’s day as public holiday AND has the 12th July as well officially to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne (‘Orange’ parades are held that day)

  • I would suggest Monday after Remembrance Sunday. Call it “Armed Forces Day, or Veterans Day”

    If you wanted one in October. I would suggest “Trafalgar Day” for the Monday or Friday closest to 21st October

  • Stewart Reddaway 2nd Apr '24 - 12:31pm

    Bank holidays should be relatively few, and, apart perhaps from Xmas, never come in pairs that cause a disruptive 5 day weekend.

  • Stewart Reddaway 2nd Apr '24 - 12:33pm

    Correction, I should have said 4 day weekend.

  • nvelope2003 2nd Apr '24 - 4:53pm

    Tim Leunig: You would only need to abolish 4 of them if people are supposed to be working 4 days a week now !

  • @Cassie; or perhaps many did and just wanted to play a little bit?
    That said there is a campaign for additional bank holidays and whilst @Mary Reid’s shout is interesting I’d still go for the Monday after remembrance Sunday, though I accept that not withstanding climate change it would still be likely to be cold and wet ….. Not unlike other bank holidays😁

  • @nvelopope2003; 😀

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