NEWPORT city centre’s first Mari Lwyd was a massive success.

Despite only being a week in planning and a relatively unknown tradition, dozens of people turned out to welcome the Mari Lwyd.

South Wales Argus:

(Richard Atkin with Cassie in Newport Market)

Monty Dart, a historian who had been planning to bring the Mari Lwyd tradition to the city for years with her late husband Tom, was pleased with the turnout and to finally bring it to the people of Newport.

She said: “I’ve had a horse skull for a while, as my husband gave me one as a present. I’ve always thought that the tradition was interesting.”

South Wales Argus:

(Richard Atkin leading Cassie through Newport. Picture:

The leader of the procession, Richard Atkin, began the procession with the announcement – in English and Welsh – of Cassie - who was carried by Smartie Vader-, the Mari Lwyd aptly named after Casnewydd – Newport in Welsh, and that a surprise guest would be joining the event; Brecon’s Mari Lwyd – Mari Mawr, who stopped by in support.

South Wales Argus:

(Mari Mawr came from Brecon to support Cassie)

Speaking to the South Wales Argus towards the start of the event, Mr Atkin explained why he decided to bring the tradition to the city centre. He said: “It had to start at some point. I’ve been wanting to do it for the last 20 years.

“I’m hoping it gets bigger in future years. At the moment, we chose to not include the traditional singing aspect as it is so new to Newport but we are hoping to bring it in in the future.

“We need to do nice things for Newport and its nice to see the city embracing it.”

Families, the majority of whom were Welsh speakers with young children actively welcomed the ancient tradition – usually seen in villages like Chepstow – with some of the children being overheard saying that they had been learning about the tradition in their school.

One of the youngsters who was enjoying the event – four-year-old Joni Howells got to hold the reins as her parents – Lauren and Gavin Howells looked on.

South Wales Argus:

(Four-year-old Joni Howells holding Cassie's reins. Also pictured are organisers Monty Dart and Richard Atkin)

The pair, from Newport, had to come and see the procession after hearing about it.

Mr Howells said: “It is a very interesting tradition and we had to come and see it in the city centre.”

Dai Baulch, originally for Risca but living in Newport, was also pleased to see it, as was his youngest children.

“We knew about the tradition from seeing one in St Fagans and then saw that there was a Newport one from the Argus.

“Its exciting to see Welsh culture in an Anglicised part of Wales.

“It’s also lovely to hear Welsh being spoken in the city.”

People stopped and stared, followed along and were positive in their response, asking questions and embracing the strange visitor.


Haydee Martinez, a Mexican student living in Newport came to watch and said that she heard the Mari Lwyd tradition discussed on a Mexican podcast Leyendas Legendarias.

Throughout the procession, Mr Atkin would talk to Cassie and explain parts of the city – including the Chartist uprising at the Westgate Hotel.

South Wales Argus:

(A police officer took the reins of Cassie outside the Westgate Hotel)

After the procession, which ended at Ye Olde Murenger, Mr Atkin expressed his delight at the day.

He said: “It was great and I was please that people played along, including the police.

South Wales Argus:

(In true Mari Lwyd tradition, both were allowed into Ye Olde Murenger)

“I expected one or two naysayers because there always is, but there wasn’t at all. People were really supportive.”

John Powell, a councillor for Brecon who brough Mari Mawr to Newport explained that he has been travelling to various villages’ Mari Lwyd events.

He said: “I could see that it was the first for Newport and wanted to show my support.

“I like to see how different communities do the tradition and that it is now becoming more popular again. It started dying off around the wars and now it seems to be coming back again.”

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