“Hwp Ha Wen, Cadi Ha, Morys Stowt, Am yr uchla neidio, Hwp dene fo,
Fy ladal i, a’i ladal o, a ladal ges i fenthyg,
Cynffon buwch a chynffon llo a chynffon Rhisiart Parri go, Hwp dene fo.”
A line or two of a traditional song from Flintshire sung by the dancersas the menprocessed through the streets of the market town of Holywell on the first Saturday of May.
It is a living tradition that has continued and evolved with each new generation. The original team from Bagillt reportedlyused to start from the village early in the morning and dance along the way ready to dance in Holywellat three o’clock in the afternoon.
There are over two centuries of records of men from the mining communities ofwest Flintshire[particularly from Flint, Bagillt, Holywell, Mostyn and Llanasa] processing and dancing on the first day of May. Sometimes the activities would continue for up to two weeks as the men [with the help of the railway] went and danced to other communities, travelling as far as Bangor to collect a few pennies.
The dance consisted of pairs of men in two lines, with their faces blackened by the dust of the coal, or a burnt cork. They marched in white clothing, with one line wearing red ribbonsand the other with blue ribbonsstopping here and there to the song
With the dancers there were two characters; Billy, in a black dress and Cadi in girl’s clothes. The two characters would interact and collect money in a ladle whilst responding to the words of the songs.,
Their dance was competitive in nature with reference to ” jumping the highest”, ” jumping over your head ” or ” jumping over the style”. Other lines referred to the “ladal” or the ladle and to the collection of money.
The exact words varied from area to area and evolved over the years. Although this tradition is tied to the Welsh language and associated with communities where, just over a century ago, there was a large proportion of monolingual Welsh speakers – there is a record of using some English words.
Lines such as “On the first dayof May we’ll have a holiday” and “I wishie, I wish I, I wishI had a pennyo” conveya littleof the tradition to those who do notspeak Welsh.
In the eighteenth century LadyHerbert Lewis of Caerwysnotedthe song and dance after chatting with the masterof Holywell Poorhouse [later Lluesty hospital] and that version, continues to be used.
Although the practice lost its popularity after the First World War, many residents of the area remember seeing the performance of the Cadi Ha, or, even have a childhood recollection of wearing and performing the dance in accordance with the tradition.
Lois Blake, one of the founders of the Welsh Folk Dance Society, organised a performance of the Cadi Ha in 1936 in Mold to celebrate the centenary of Daniel Owen’s birth.
Thanks to Ieuan ap Siôn, a local singer, there was a revival in the 1970 and 80s. Basing the dance on the memories of his father and grandfather he collected a crew together to travel everyMay. They used to dance “somehow, somehow” rather than stick to a strict pattern and there were several appearances on television. Fifteen years later, following a conversation between the late Chris Baileyand the manager ofHolywell town centre, the current Cadi Ha Festival was launched.Chris Bailey worked with the late GeoffJenkins, leader of Dawnswyr Delyn in Mold toestablish an annualfestival. The festival was celebrated up until 2019 butdue to Covid19 the festival was unable to take placein 2020 or 2021.
Five schools took part in the first festival as well as local clog dancers and members of a folk dancing group from Mold, Dawnswyr Delyn . It has been a great success, and from building onexperiences it has become a popular festival.More schools joined in the following years with Ysgol Gwenffrwd from Holywell attendingall Cadi Ha Festivals.Support was received from fellow dancers in Anglesey Caernarfon, Llangadfan (Powys), Cardiff, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and Bridgend at differenttimes over the years.
There have also been visits by teamsof traditional dancers from Flanders in western Belgium, Brittany andthe Isleof Man.
We must not forget the loyal team of musicians, stewards,sound technicians , supporters, teachers and parents who have been so vital to the successofthe Cadi Ha.