Saturday, September 05, 2015

A Radnorshire Pageant

I've seen pictures of the Builth Pageant before and not taken much notice of this Edwardian extravaganza (1909) performed by a cast of 1000.  An album covering the event is available online, see here, and it seems I was wrong to dismiss the event as an example of Breconian eccentricity.  Actually it seems to have been more of a Radnorshire effort, performed at Llanelwedd Hall with the local vicar as pageant director and the Reverend and Mrs J L Herbert of Diserth receiving second billing in the pageant programme.  It says something that when I was a young lad Jimmy Herbert was still spoken of with fondness by the older residents of Howey village.

It seems that pageants were all the rage in the 1900s, there's even a website covering their history and a recent article on the four nations history site outlines Welsh and Scottish variations on the theme.

The Builth pageant tells us little we didn't already know about Edwardian views of Welsh history - Ancient Britons in animal skins, Romans, Normans etc etc.  There were certainly plenty of Welsh references and songs - Druids, Saint Cewydd, Lord and Lady Llechryd (an interesting recognition of a barely recognized local  historical site - perhaps it was included since it was said to be the original home of the local Vaughan clans and the Chairman of the Finance Committee was a Vaughan)

Like old copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica Welsh history seems to have ended in 1282 but the real ommision were the common folk, just a couple of labourers in agricultural smocks who naturally ended up in the stocks. 

One highlight was a recreation of the old Diserth feast with dancing, a Mari Llwyd and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.  No wonder Jimmy Herbert was still remembered fondly in the parish some sixty years later and, of course, we were hardly past the era when the Society for the Suppression of Parish Feasts and Wakes rooted out such human excesses.

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