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Actuality, Songs, in Welsh & English, with explanatory talk in English, about the extraordinary BEGGING HORSE, the Mari Lwyd, a house-visiting ceremony still extant in South Glamorgan. This recording, made by Peter Kennedy in 1956, captures the excitement, with the participants explaining the on-the-spot improvised verse-making, which includes socio-political commentary, making this is an important document. Tracks #7-12: Margaretta Thomas of Nantgarw remembers, not only the MARI LWYD, but also the songs & dances performed at the local fairs, as well as Harvest and Halloween customs.

The Mari Lwyd rec at Llangynwyd, nr Maesteg, Glamorgan, S Wales, 24/12/56.

1. Hushed conversation (in English) inside the farmhouse, before the arrival of the Begging Horse Party, between David and Thomas Jenkins - 1'44"

2. The Mari Lwyd Song (in Welsh) outside, led by William David Thomas, with reply verses from inside led by the farmer, David Jenkins - 13'24

3. Sounds of the Mari Lwyd Party entering the farmhouse - 1'51"

4. The Farewell Song (in Welsh) and sounds of exit from house - 0'40"

 5. Explanatory talk (in English) by David Thomas and David Jenkins - 6'41"

6. Further talk by Thomas Jenkins - 1'15"

7. Improvised verses (in Welsh) by David Jenkins & David Thomas with some versers answered in English - 3'27"

Margaretta Thomas, Nantgarw, 28/12/56

7. Talk (in English) about the Mari Lwyd at Nantgarw with Song (in Welsh) - 4'14"

8. Explanation and description of custom incl "Punch and Judy" - 3'08"

9. Talk about last performance & custom dying out - 2'30"

10. Talk about learning the Nantgarw Dances at the local Fair - 10'29"

11. Further talk about dances with 2 Songs (in Welsh) explained afterwards - 4'49"

12. Talk about Halloween "Ducking for apples", Nutting, Bonfires & other Customs, "Here we go round the Rose Bush" and final Song: "Coiminero" - 4'54"

All tracks recorded and edited by Peter Kennedy 1956 and first published by Folktrax 1975.

 The MARI LWYD ("Grey Mare" or "Grey Mary") involves a man carrying a decorated horse's skull, fixed on top of a pole, and completely covered by a white sheet. It is led by the Groom, a man with a whip, and accompanied by a number of singers, known as "the Party". Around Christmas and New Year, they go around the farms, pubs and big houses, where, once admitted, they are treated to food and drink. However, as the Party approaches a house, the occupants bar the doors and shutter the windows against their entry. Then they listen out for the arrival of the Party, and it is up to the head of the household to improvise verses in reply to those of the Party, making the song last as long as possible, before admitting them.

Iowerth Peate in MAN, Vol. XLVIII (London: Royal Anthropological Society: 1943) "The Mari Lwyd: A Suggested Explanation", pp.53-8, relates the custom to Wassailing and to a song which mentions the Virgin Mary, suggesting that the two customs have merged. A New Years Eve house-visting custom in Orkney (recorded in North Ronaldsay by Peter Kennedy in 1955) and also in Shetland, mention a "carrying horse" which perhaps refer to a similar type of begging custom there. The song has the chorus: "We are a' St. Mary's Men".

E.C.Cawte in RITUAL ANIMAL DISGUISES (D.S.Brewer for the Folklore Society: 1978) Chapter V, "The Mari Lwyd in South Wales", pp.94-109, includes a photograph taken at Llangynwyd early in the century. He gives a distribution map showing the places where Mari Lwyd customs have been reported and the Welsh-speaking areas. He also includes a detailed description of the part played by the "Punch and Judy" from Margaretta Thomas, given to him by her daughter, Dr. Ceinwen Thomas.

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