The Hirlas Horn (the horn of plenty)

Mrs Alicia Needham presenting the Hirlas Horn to the Archdruid, 1899.
Mrs Alicia Needham (the Irish composer) presenting the Hirlas Horn (horn of plenty) to the Archdruid, Hwfa Môn, Cardiff 1899.

The Hirlas Horn is a symbol of the wine offered by Mam y Fro (the Mother of the area) hosting the National Eisteddfod to welcome the Gorsedd. Candidates are nominated for the role and chosen by a panel of gorseddogion.

It isn't certain when the rite was first enacted, but it is mentioned at Conway (the Chair of Gwynedd) in 1861.

Then, towards the end of the nineteenth century, Lord Tredegar (Ifor Hael yr Ail) announced that he intended to donate a Hirlas Horn, made by the designer and sculptor from Cardiff, W. Goscombe John. According to the artist, he was paid £359 for labour and materials. The Hirlas Horn was presented to Archdruid Hwfa Môn by Lord Tredegar in Cardiff in 1899.

It is described as an ox's horn (from South Africa) set in silver and resting on a huge silver dragon, which holds a large crystal ball in one claw. The coat of arms of the Tredegar family is emblazoned on it.

Carrying the Hirlas Horn on a bier in the Pontypool procession, 1924.
Carrying the Hirlas Horn on a bier in the Pontypool procession, 1924.

The Hirlas Horn was carried on a bier in Gorsedd processions during the first half of the twentieth century. In 1923 Arlunydd Pen-y-garn designed a beautiful red cloak for the presenter and a head-dress of gold lace was donated by Oswyn Afan.

In the early period the women chosen for the role of Presenter were gentlewomen e.g. Alicia Needham of Ireland, the Marchioness of Anglesey or the Mayoress of the town hosting the Eisteddfod.

When reforming the ceremonies in the thirties and enacting these changes in the fifties, Cynan called for a local 'Mam y Fro' to be chosen as the presenter.

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.