Sixth Century Celtic Saint

Saint Elvis is an extremely obscure Celtic saint whose one claim to fame was that he performed the baptism of the rather better known Saint David, at Porth Clais in Dyfed, Wales. Or so it is claimed in the eleventh century life of Saint David written by one Rhyddferch, who dated the event to the year 454, which is probably at least fifty years too early, given that the best estimate of Saint David's death is very much towards the end of the sixth century.

As this Saint Elvis is described as the bishop of Munster in Ireland he was very probably the same gentleman known as Saint Ailbe to the Irish, described as the Bishop of Emly in Munster who died in either 527 or 541, depending on which particular example of the Irish Annals you choose to believe.

It is not uncommon to find the same Celtic saint known under two names, one Brythonic and the other Goidelic. Saint Patrick, for example may well be better known under the Brythonic version of his name, but to contemporary Gaels he was known as 'Cothraige'. (The notion that 'Padraic' or 'Padraig' is the Gaelic equivalent is based a later borrowing from the English.)

Some trace of Saint Elvis remains in Wales, as not far from the village named Solva on the south Pembrokeshire coast there is a 'St Elvis Farm' as well as a neolithic burial chamber that bears the name of 'St Elvis Cromlech'. Spookily enough, just twenty miles away to the north are the Preseli Hills.

This strange coincidence of the names 'Elvis' and 'Preseli' is not lost on some, who regard it as clear indication that some south Pembrokeshire family did at one time emigrate to North America, adopt the anglicized 'Presley' as their surname and retain sufficient memory of their Welsh roots to name one of their sons after the saintly Elvis.

Whether or not the renowned Elvis Presley was indeed of Welsh ancestry is not something I would care to venture an opinion on. There is an unfortunate tendency for some in Wales to clutch at the slenderest of straws to lay claim to anyone of the slightest fame or notoriety. Despite the fact that his mother was called Gladys and his grandmother a Mansell and therefore possibly related to the Mansell family from Gower in Glamorganshire one would tend to be rather sceptical of such claims.


SOURCES

Terry Breverton An A-Z Of Wales And The Welsh (Christopher Davies Ltd, 2000)
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Saint Ailbe at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01234b.htm
We Walk the Line:a Rambler's Guide to the Dylans, Bob and Thomas at http://www.touched.co.uk/pdf/walktheline.pdf

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