The story of Lady Llanover who did so much to promote Welsh traditions and culture.
The pictures should be shown in PowerPoint as the story is told. The ( ) shows when the slide should be changed. To attract pupils’ attention, we recommend the first slide is already on display as they enter.
Praise the Lord in everything
(Come and Praise no. 33)
From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. (Acts 17: 26)
An act of worship that can be used at any time of the year, but may be particularly suitable around March 1st, St David’s Day.
The Main Text
We all enjoy a celebration! There are all sorts of celebrations and special occasions. Some are big - some are small. Some are celebrated by families or groups of friends. Some are celebrated in our school. Some are celebrated by different religions. Some are celebrated by people belonging to a nation or a country. These are known as customs.
A lot of customs are traditional. This means that they have been celebrated for many, many years. Our ancestors handed them down to their children, and when they grew up, they handed them down to their children and so on, right up to the present day.
In Wales we have many special customs and traditions. Can you name some of them? (Take responses. Answers could include: wearing a leek or daffodil on St David’s Day, the Eisteddfod, the Mari Lwyd, Noson Lawen, hymn singing, male voice choirs, rugby, Welsh cakes and Teisen Lap.)
In today’s story we will hear about a special lady who did a lot to help people to remember and keep alive their old Welsh traditions. Her name was Lady Augusta Llanover. She lived in South Wales about 200 years ago in a village near Abergavenny, called Llanover. She lived with her husband, Benjamin Hall, who was Lord Llanover. The family lived in a very grand house in the village called Llanover Hall.
Even though she was from an English family, Lady Llanover loved everything to do with Wales. She was worried that the people of Wales were forgetting some of their traditions. So she tried in many different ways to encourage people not to forget them. These are some of the things she did:
Lady Llanover had not been brought up to speak Welsh. She very much wanted to learn. She asked her servants to speak to her only in Welsh and she had Welsh lessons. In that part of Wales at the time many people were not using the Welsh language. So that the people who worked for her would not forget their language, she brought in some new servants from Ceredigion, where Welsh was spoken every day. All the servants had to call her ‘Arglwyddes’, which means ‘her ladyship’.
Lady Llanover wanted people to wear traditional clothes. She travelled all over Wales to find out about the different styles of clothes that Welsh women wore. Then she painted pictures of them and made a book. All the people who lived and worked in her house or on her land had to wear traditional Welsh costume. One reason that she did this was to help the woollen mills to sell their cloth, from which the clothes were made. She built a woollen mill on her land to make the cloth for the servants’ uniforms.
Lady Llanover loved to listen to music. Her favourite instrument was the harp. She organised harp playing competitions at her house. Only people playing a traditional type of Welsh harp, called the triple harp, were allowed to enter the competitions. If they came along with a different type of harp they were disqualified and sent home.
There was always a harp player working at Llanover Hall. He played for the concerts and dances that she held, where all the guests dressed in Welsh costume and danced Welsh folk dances. One dance they especially liked performing was the Llanover Reel.
Lady Llanover believed that the Eisteddod was an important part of Welsh life. Every summer an eisteddfod was held near Llanover Hall. She gave some money to help organise it and took part in the competitions herself. At the Eisteddfod in Cardiff in 1834, she won a prize for writing an essay about the importance of Welsh customs. When people enter an eisteddfod competition, it’s normal to use a false name, known as a nom de plume. Lady Llanover’s nom-de-plume on this occasion was Gwenynen Gwent (the Bee of Gwent) After this she became known by this name throughout Wales.
Lady Llanover thought that the Welsh should be proud of their food. She published a book containing old recipes from different parts of Wales. It was called ‘The First Principles of Good Cookery’. The recipes included: roast mutton, chicken and leek pie and also more unusual dishes such as root of tongue soup and salt duck.
Lady Llanover encouraged people to celebrate the Mari Lwyd tradition in Llanover on New Year’s Eve. In this old tradition a horse’s skull is mounted on a pole and decorated with a white sheet and ribbons. Someone hides under the sheet and holds the pole. Someone else guides the horse and a group of friends go around the houses in the village. The Mari Lwyd knocks on doors and the group sings a special song to the people in each house. The people inside the have to answer by singing the same tune with some different words that they have made up. This goes on until someone is unable to think of any more words. Then the travellers move to the next house.
Lady Llanover’s husband was also keen to keep Welsh traditions alive. He wanted people be able to worship God in their own language. So he asked church leaders to make sure that the churches and chapels had some of their services in Welsh. He thought that the Bishop of Wales should be able to speak Welsh and live in Wales. Not all the church leaders agreed with him and he had some arguments with them about it.
Today, people still remember what Lady Llanover did to keep Welsh customs and traditions alive. She believed that God wanted people to love their country. If they were proud of it, she said, they would behave well and look after it.
So let us be thankful to God for the special customs and traditions that we have in Wales. Let us be thankful also for the rich variety of customs and traditions that there are in the wider world.
Thank you that we can enjoy celebrating our traditions and customs together.
We remember that although we are different in many ways, to you we are all the same. We know that you care equally about us all. Help us to love and respect each others’ differences and traditions.