Saturday, December 27, 2014

Radnorshire's lost plygain tradition

If you were to sum up Wales with one of those fashionable hundred-object lists then surely a recording of this plygain carol would have to be included.

There was a time when the plygain tradition held sway in Radnorshire. Ffransis Payne recounted the evidence of a Glascwm farmer, born circa 1820, who recalled the Christmas morning plygain service held in the parish church. The church bells were rung from 3am until the service commenced at 05.30, then traditional carols and hymns would be sung in the highly illuminated building - a lesser known element of the tradition -  and all this in the Welsh language.

Rhayader's plygain was abandoned, seemingly because of drunkenness, while in Llanbister the service was called pelygen.  After the tradition retreated from the state church it lived on in the chapels and even farmhouses.  In St Harmon the local chapel was still holding plygain services in the 1870s and the Primitive Methodists of Presteigne persisted until the 1890s, although this last example would have certainly been conducted in English.


Anonymous said...

"In St Harmon the local chapel..."
which one?

radnorian said...

It's in the Radnorshire Transactions for 1934, a bit ambigious as to which one but almost certainly the Wesleyans.