Nantlle Valley History



The Plygain Service

From The Memories of Catherine Parry, Llanllyfni, 1989

I would go to St Rhedyw's Church for the Plygain before 6 a.m. but in 1970 it was changed to 7 a.m. A church service for the whole parish - the three churches, Llanllyfni, Penygroes and Talysarn uniting to sing carols; the congregation singing alternately with the soloists, duets or parties, and a few men and women reading part of the Holy Scripture. The season of peace and goodwill. The word Plygain derives from the Latin pulli cantus, that is to say the crowing of the cock at break of day.

Gathering together in the parish church of Llanllyfni for the Plygain service is an old custom. I would venture to say, after asking some of the oldest members of the church(and no one able to give a definite answer) and doing some arithmetic, that it is about two hundred years old. This continuing tradition is a notable feature of Llanllyfni. The fourth generation of the family of John Parry the sexton, who kept the Bermo Inn, keep the tradition alive. He had two sons, Pitar and Henry Richard Parry (the latter passed from us in 1952) who had enchanting voices, as did the whole family. They would sing duets, one singing tenor and the other singing the melody, and all would enjoy listening to them, especially "Carol y Blwch", and naturally his two daughters had the last two lines from the many verses of "Carol y Blwch" on the gravestone of their father, Henry Richard Parry in Gorffwysfa Cemetery, Llanllyfni. I was given permission to include the two lines, and here they are:

'Mae'r bedd yn dy goleu mae'r lamp yn y gell,
I’r saint i ail wisgo cyn mynd i le gwell.'

And there were Huw and Harri Parry, Liverpool House, two cousins of my father, but no relation to the family of the Bermo Inn. I remember them when I was a child singing 'Carol y BIwch' and my Uncle Harri beating the church floor with his stick to keep time. ( My Uncle Harri used the stick because he was crippled by rheumatism.) Unaccompanied singing was the practice in those days, and the church was overflowing with people.

Long may the special singing at the special time continue, that is to say singing carols on Christmas morning in Llanllyfni Church. It is difficult to imagine a better way to begin celebrating the Festival. I would like to add that Maldwyn Parry, (double winner of the most prestigious prize for solo singers at the National Eisteddfod) is a grandson of the said John Parry the sexton. It is he who keeps the family tradition alive, by leading and training parties for the Plygain service every year. He is also the organist of St. Rhedyw's, and very active with sacred song there.

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